Atlantic Monthly, Volume 11, Issue 67, May, 1863
Part 4 out of 5
them, the Productus, being very remarkable on account of the manner in
which one valve rises above the other. The wood-cut below represents such
a shell, looked at from the side of the flat valve, showing the straight
cut of the line of juncture between the valves and the rising curve of
the opposite one, which looks like a hooked beak when seen in profile.
Other species of Bivalves were also introduced, approaching more
nearly our Clams and Oysters, or, as they are called in scientific
nomenclature, the Lamellibranchiates. They differ from the Brachiopods
chiefly in the higher character of their breathing-apparatus; for they
have free gills, instead of the net-work of vessels on the lining skin
which serves as the organ of respiration in the Brachiopods. We shall
always find, that, in proportion as the functions are distinct, and, as
it were, individualized by having special organs appropriated to them,
animals rise in the scale of structure. The next class of Mollusks, the
Gasteropods, or Univalves, with spiral shells, were numerous, but,
from their brittle character, are seldom found in a good state of
The Chambered Shells, or the Cephalopods, represented chiefly in the
earlier periods by the straight Orthoceratites described in a previous
article, are now curled in a close coil, and the internal structure
of their chambers has become more complicated. The subjoined wood-cut
represents a characteristic Chambered Shell of the Carboniferous age.
Goniatites is the scientific name of these later forms. If we had looked
for them in the Devonian period, we should have found many with looser
coils than these, and some only slightly curved in the shape of a horn.
These, as well as the perfectly straight forms, still exist in the coal
period, but the Goniatites with close whorls are the more numerous and
The Articulates have gained their missing class since the close of the
Devonian period, for Insects have come in, and that division of the
Animal Kingdom is therefore complete, and represented by three classes,
as it is at present. Of the Worms little can be said; their traces are
found as before, but they are very imperfectly preserved. There are
still Trilobites, but they are very few in number, and other groups of
Crustacea have been added.
One of the most prominent of these new types bears a striking
resemblance to the Horse-Shoe Crab of present times.
I here present one of our common Horse-Shoe Crabs above one of these
old-world Crustaceans, and it will be seen, that, while the latter
preserves some of the Trilobitic characters, such as the marked
articulations on the posterior part of the body and their division into
three lobes, yet in the prominence of its anterior shield, its more
elongated form, and tapering extremity, it resembles its modern
representative. In some of them, however, there is no such sharp point
as is here figured, and the body terminates bluntly. There were a large
number of these Entomostraca in the Carboniferous period, a group which
is chiefly represented among living Crustacea by an exceedingly minute
kind of Shrimp; but in those days they were of the size of our Crabs and
Lobsters, or even larger, and the Horse-Shoe Crab still maintains their
claim to a place among the larger and more conspicuous members of the
The Insects were few, and, as I have said above, of a kind which seeks a
moist atmosphere, or whose larvae live altogether in water. They are not
usually well preserved, as will be seen from the broken character of
the one here represented, although the wood-cut is made from a better
specimen than is often found. We have, however, remains enough
to establish unquestionably the fact of their existence in the
Carboniferous period, and to show us that the type of Articulates was
already represented by all its classes.
Not so with the Vertebrates. Fishes abound, but their class still
consists, as before, of the Ganoids, those fishes of the earlier
periods built on the Gar-Pike and Sturgeon pattern, and the Selachians,
represented now by Sharks and Skates. In the Carboniferous period we
begin to find perfectly preserved specimens of the Ganoids, and the
adjoining wood-cut represents such a one. Of the old type of Selachians
we have again one lingering representative in our own times to give us
the clue to its ancestors,--as the Gar-Pike explains the old Ganoids,
and the Chambered Nautilus helps us to understand the Chambered Shells
of past times. The so-called Port-Jackson Shark has features which were
very characteristic of the Carboniferous Sharks and are lost in the
modern ones, so that it affords us a sort of link, as it were, and a
measure of comparison, between those now living and the more ancient
forms. It is an interesting fact that this only living representative of
the Carboniferous Shark should be found in New Holland, because it is
there, in that isolated continent, left apart, as it would seem, for a
special purpose, that we find reproduced for us most fully the character
of the Animal Kingdom in earlier creations.
The first Mammalia in the world were pouched animals, having that
extraordinary attachment to the mother after birth which characterizes
the Kangaroo. In New Holland almost all the Mammalia are pouched, and
have also the imperfect organization of the brain, as compared with the
other Mammalia, which accompanies that peculiar structural feature; and
although the American Opossum makes an exception to the rule, it is
nevertheless true that this type of the Animal Kingdom is now confined
almost exclusively to New Holland. Whether this living picture of old
creations in modern garb was meant to be educational for man or not, it
is at least well that we should take advantage of it in learning all it
has to teach us of the relations between the organic world of past and
There were a great variety of the Selachians in the Carboniferous
period. The wood-cuts below represent a tooth and a spine from one of
the most characteristic groups, but I have not thought it worth while to
enumerate or to figure others here, for there are no perfect specimens,
and their structural differences consist chiefly in the various form and
appearance of the teeth, scales, and spines, and would be uninteresting
to most of my readers. I would refer the more scientific ones, who may
care to know something of these details, to my investigations on Fossil
Fishes, published many years since under the title of "Recherches sur
les Poissons Fossiles."
Although the Vertebrate division of the Animal Kingdom still waited for
its higher classes, yet it had received one important addition since
the Silurian and Devonian periods. The Carboniferous marshes were not
without their reptilian inhabitants; but they were Reptiles of the
lowest class, the so-called Amphibians, those which are hatched from the
egg in an immature condition, undergoing metamorphosis after birth. They
have no hard scales, and lay a large number of eggs. I am unable to
present any figure of one of these ancient Reptiles, as they are found
in so imperfect a state of preservation that no plates have been made
from them. I would add in connection with this subject that I believe
a large number of animals found in the Carboniferous deposits, and
referred to the class of Reptiles, to be Fishes allied to Saurians.
Before leaving the Carboniferous period, let us see what territory the
United States has conquered from the Ocean during that time. All
its central portion, from Canada to Alabama, and from Western Iowa,
Missouri, and Arkansas to Eastern Virginia, was raised above the water.
But as yet the Alleghanies and the Rocky Mountains did not exist; a
great gulf ran up to the mouth of the Ohio, for the Mississippi had not
yet accumulated the soil for the fertile valley through which it was to
take its southern course; the Coral-Builders had still their work to do
in constructing the peninsula of Florida; and, indeed, all the borders
of the continent of North America, as well as a large part of its
Western territory, were still to be added. But although its central
portion held its ground and was never submerged again, yet the continent
was slowly subsiding during the middle geological periods, so that,
instead of enlarging gradually by the increase of deposits, its limits
remained much the same.
This accounts for the very scanty traces to be found in America of
the secondary deposits; for the Permian, Triassic, and Jurassic beds,
instead of being raised to form successive shores, along which their
deposits could be accumulated in regular sequence, as had been the case
with the Azoic, Silurian, and Devonian deposits in the northern part of
the United States, were constantly sinking, so that the Triassic settled
above the Permian, the Jurassic above the Triassic, and so on, each set
of strata thus covering over and concealing the preceding one. Though we
find the stratified rocks of these periods cropping out here and there,
where some violent disturbance or the abrading action of water has
torn asunder or worn away the overlying strata, yet we never find
them consecutively over any extensive region; and it is not till the
Cretaceous and earlier Tertiary periods that we find again a regular
succession of deposits around the shores of the continent, marking its
present outlines. It is, then, in Europe, where the sequence of their
beds is most complete, that we must seek to decipher the history of the
middle geological ages; and therefore, when I meet my readers again,
it will be in the Old World of civilization, though more recent in its
physical features than the one we leave.
* * * * *
I know not, Time and Space so intervene,
Whether, still waiting with a trust serene,
Thou bearest up thy fourscore years and ten,
Or, called at last, art now Heaven's citizen;
But, here or there, a pleasant thought of thee,
Like an old friend, all day has been with me.
The shy, still boy, for whom thy kindly hand
Smoothed his hard pathway to the wonder-land
Of thought and fancy, in gray manhood yet
Keeps green the memory of his early debt.
To-day, when truth and falsehood speak their words
Through hot-lipped cannon and the teeth of swords,
Listening with quickened heart and ear intent
To each sharp clause of that stern argument,
I still can hear at times a softer note
Of the old pastoral music round me float,
While through the hot gleam of our civil strife
Looms the green mirage of a simpler life.
As, at his alien post, the sentinel
Drops the old bucket in the homestead well,
And hears old voices in the winds that toss
Above his head the live-oak's beard of moss,
So, in our trial-time, and under skies
Shadowed by swords like Islam's paradise,
I wait and watch, and let my fancy stray
To milder scenes and youth's Arcadian day;
And howsoe'er the pencil dipped in dreams
Shades the brown woods or tints the sunset streams,
The country doctor in the foreground seems,
Whose ancient sulky down the village lanes
Dragged, like a war-car, captive ills and pains.
I could not paint the scenery of my song,
Mindless of one who looked thereon so long;
Who, night and day, on duty's lonely round,
Made friends o' th' woods and rocks, and knew the sound
Of each small brook, and what the hill-side trees
Said to the winds that touched their leafy keys;
Who saw so keenly and so well could paint
The village-folk, with all their humors quaint,--
The parson ambling on his wall-eyed roan,
Grave and erect, with white hair backward blown,--
The tough old boatman, half amphibious grown,--
The muttering witch-wife of the gossip's tale,
And the loud straggler levying his black mail,--
Old customs, habits, superstitions, fears,
All that lies buried under fifty years.
To thee, as is most fit, I bring my lay,
And, grateful, own the debt I cannot pay.
* * * * *
Over the wooded northern ridge,
Between its houses brown,
To the dark tunnel of the bridge
The street comes straggling down.
You catch a glimpse through birch and pine
Of gable, roof, and porch,
The tavern with its swinging sign,
The sharp horn of the church.
The river's steel-blue crescent curves
To meet, in ebb and flow,
The single broken wharf that serves
For sloop and gundelow.
With salt sea-scents along its shores
The heavy hay-boats crawl,
The long antennae of their oars
In lazy rise and fall.
Along the gray abutment's wall
The idle shad-net dries;
The toll-man in his cobbler's stall
Sits smoking with closed eyes.
You hear the pier's low undertone
Of waves that chafe and gnaw;
You start,--a skipper's horn is blown
To raise the creaking draw.
At times a blacksmith's anvil sounds
With slow and sluggard beat,
Or stage-coach on its dusty rounds
Wakes up the staring street.
A place for idle eyes and ears,
A cobwebbed nook of dreams;
Left by the stream whose waves are years
The stranded village seems.
And there, like other moss and rust,
The native dweller clings,
And keeps, in uninquiring trust,
The old, dull round of things.
The fisher drops his patient lines,
The farmer sows his grain,
Content to hear the murmuring pines
Instead of railroad-train.
Go where, along the tangled steep
That slopes against the west,
The hamlet's buried idlers sleep
In still profounder rest.
Throw back the locust's flowery plume,
The birch's pale-green scarf,
And break the web of brier and bloom
From name and epitaph.
A simple muster-roll of death,
Of pomp and romance shorn,
The dry, old names that common breath
Has cheapened and outworn.
Yet pause by one low mound and part
The wild vines o'er it laced,
And read the words by rustic art
Upon its headstone traced.
Haply yon white-haired villager
Of fourscore years can say
What means the noble name of her
Who sleeps with common clay.
An exile from the Gascon land
Found refuge here and rest,
And loved, of all the village band,
Its fairest and its best.
He knelt with her on Sabbath morns,
He worshipped through her eyes,
And on the pride that doubts and scorns
Stole in her faith's surprise.
Her simple daily life he saw
By homeliest duties tried,
In all things by an untaught law
Of fitness justified.
For her his rank aside he laid;
He took the hue and tone
Of lowly life and toil, and made
Her simple ways his own.
Yet still, in gay and careless ease,
To harvest-field or dance
He brought the gentle courtesies,
The nameless grace of France.
And she who taught him love not less
From him she loved in turn
Caught in her sweet unconsciousness
What love is quick to learn.
Each grew to each in pleased accord,
Nor knew the gazing town
If she looked upward to her lord
Or he to her looked down.
How sweet, when summer's day was o'er,
His violin's mirth and wail,
The walk on pleasant Newbury's shore,
The river's moonlit sail!
Ah! life is brief, though love be long
The altar and the bier,
The burial hymn and bridal song,
Were both in one short year!
Her rest is quiet on the hill
Beneath the locust's bloom;
Far off her lover sleeps as still
Within his scutcheoned tomb.
The Gascon lord, the village maid
In death still clasp their hands;
The love that levels rank and grade
Unites their severed lands.
What matter whose the hill-side grave,
Or whose the blazoned stone?
Forever to her western wave
Shall whisper blue Garonne!
O Love!--so hallowing every soil
That gives thy sweet flower room,
Wherever, nursed by ease or toil,
The human heart takes bloom!--
Plant of lost Eden, from the sod
Of sinful earth unriven,
White blossom of the trees of God
Dropped down to us from heaven!--
This tangled waste of mound and stone
Is holy for thy sake;
A sweetness which is all thy own
Breathes out from fern and brake.
And while ancestral pride shall twine
The Gascon's tomb with flowers,
Fall sweetly here, O song of mine,
With summer's bloom and showers!
And let the lines that severed seem
Unite again in thee,
As western wave and Gallic stream
Are mingled in one sea!
* * * * *
Once there was a great noise in our house,--a thumping and battering and
grating. It was my own self dragging my big trunk down from the garret.
I did it myself because I wanted it done. If I had said, "Halicarnassus,
will you fetch my trunk down?" he would have asked me what trunk? and
what did I want of it? and would not the other one be better? and
couldn't I wait till after dinner?--and so the trunk would probably have
had a three-days' journey from garret to basement. Now I am strong in
the wrists and weak in the temper; therefore I used the one and spared
the other, and got the trunk down-stairs myself. Halicarnassus heard the
uproar. He must have been deaf not to hear it; for the old ark banged
and bounced, and scraped the paint off the stairs, and pitched
head-foremost into the wall, and gouged out the plastering, and dinted
the mop-board, and was the most stupid, awkward, uncompromising,
unmanageable thing I ever got hold of in my life.
By the time I had zigzagged it into the back chamber, Halicarnassus
loomed up the back stairs. I stood hot and panting, with the inside of
my fingers tortured into burning leather, the skin rasped off three
knuckles, and a bruise on the back of my right hand, where the trunk had
crushed it against a sharp edge of the door-way.
"Now, then?" said Halicarnassus interrogatively.
"To be sure," I replied affirmatively.
He said no more, but went and looked up the garret-stairs. They bore
traces of a severe encounter, that must be confessed.
"Do you want me to give you a bit of advice?" he asked.
"No!" I answered promptly.
"Well, then, here it is. The next time you design to bring a trunk
downstairs, you would better cut away the underpinning, and knock out
the beams, and let the garret down into the cellar. It will make less
uproar, and not take so much to repair damages."
He intended to be severe. His words passed by me as the idle wind. I
perched on my trunk, took a pasteboard box-cover and fanned myself. I
was very warm. Halicarnassus sat down on the lowest stair and remained
silent several minutes, expecting a meek explanation, but, not getting
it, swallowed a bountiful piece of what is called in homely talk
"humble-pie," and said,--
"I should like to know what's in the wind now."
I make it a principle always to resent an insult and to welcome
repentance with equal alacrity. If people thrust out their horns at me
wantonly, they very soon run against a stone wall; but the moment they
show signs of contrition, I soften. It is the best way. Don't insist
that people shall grovel at your feet before you accept their apology.
That is not magnanimous. Let mercy temper justice. It is a hard thing
at best for human nature to go down into the Valley of Humiliation; and
although, when circumstances arise which make it the only fit place for
a person, I insist upon his going, still, no sooner does he actually
begin the descent than my sense of justice is appeased, my natural
sweetness of disposition resumes sway, and I trip along by his side
chatting as gayly as if I did not perceive it was the Valley of
Humiliation at all, but fancied it the Delectable Mountains. So, upon
the first symptoms of placability, I answered cordially,--
"Halicarnassus, it has been the ambition of my life to write a book of
travels. But to write a book of travels, one must first have travelled."
"Not at all," he responded. "With an atlas and an encyclopedia one can
travel around the world in his arm-chair."
"But one cannot have personal adventures," I said. "You can, indeed, sit
in your arm-chair and describe the crater of Vesuvius; but you cannot
tumble into the crater of Vesuvius from your arm-chair."
"I have never heard that it was necessary to tumble in, in order to have
a good view of the mountain."
"But it is necessary to do it, if one would make a readable book."
"Then I should let the book slide,--rather than slide myself."
"If you would do me the honor to listen," I said, scornful of his
paltry attempt at wit, "you would see that the book is the object of my
travelling. I travel to write. I do not write because I have travelled.
I am not going to subordinate my book to my adventures. My adventures
are going to be arranged beforehand with a view to my book."
"A most original way of getting up a book!"
"Not in the least. It is the most common thing in the world. Look at our
dear British cousins."
"And see them make guys of themselves. They visit a magnificent country
that is trying the experiment of the world, and write about their
shaving-soap and their babies' nurses."
"Just where they are right. Just why I like the race, from Trollope
down. They give you something to take hold of. I tell you,
Halicarnassus, it is the personality of the writer, and not the nature
of the scenery or of the institutions, that makes the interest. It
stands to reason. If it were not so, one book would be all that ever
need be written, and that book would be a census report. For a republic
is a republic, and Niagara is Niagara forever; but tell how you stood on
the chain-bridge at Niagara--if there is one there--and bought a cake of
shaving-soap from a tribe of Indians at a fabulous price, or how your
baby jumped from the arms of the careless nurse into the Falls, and
immediately your own individuality is thrown around the scenery, and it
acquires a human interest. It is always five miles from one place to
another, but that is mere almanac and statistics. Let a poet walk the
five miles, and narrate his experience with birds and bees and flowers
and grasses and water and sky, and it becomes literature. And let me
tell you further, Sir, a book of travels is just as interesting as the
person who writes it is interesting. It is not the countries, but the
persons, that are 'shown up.' You go to France and write a dull book.
I go to France and write a lively book. But France is the same. The
difference is in ourselves."
Halicarnassus glowered at me. I think I am not using strained or
extravagant language when I say that he glowered at me. Then he growled
"So your book of travels is just to put yourself into pickle."
"Say rather," I answered, with sweet humility,--"say rather it is to
shrine myself in amber. As the insignificant fly, encompassed with
molten glory, passes into a crystallized immortality, his own littleness
uplifted into loveliness by the beauty in which he is imprisoned, so I,
wrapped around by the glory of my land, may find myself niched into a
fame which my unattended and naked merit could never have claimed."
Halicarnassus was a little stunned, but, presently recovering himself,
suggested that I had travelled enough already to make out quite a
"Travelled!" I said, looking him steadily in the face,--"travelled!
I have been up to Tudiz huckleberrying; and once, when there was a
freshet, you took a superannuated broom and paddled me, around the
orchard in a leaky pig's trough!"
He could not deny it; so he laughed and said,--
"Ah, well!--ah, well! Suit yourself. Take your trunk and pitch into
Vesuvius, if you like. I won't stand in your way."
His acquiescence was ungraciously, and I believe I may say ambiguously,
expressed; but it mattered little, for in three days from that time I
took my trunk, Halicarnassus his cane, and we started on our travels. An
evil omen met us at the beginning. Just as I was stepping into the car,
I observed a violent smoke issuing from under it. I started back in
"They are only getting up steam," said Halicarnassus. "Always do, when
"I know better!" I answered briskly, for there was no time to be
circumlocutional. "They don't get up steam under the cars."
"Why not? Bet a sixpence you couldn't get Uncle Cain's dobbin out of his
jog-trot without building a fire under him."
"I know that wheel is on fire," I said, not to be turned from the direct
and certain line of assertion into the winding ways of argument.
"No matter," replied Halicarnassus, conceding everything, "we are
Upon the strength of which consolatory information I went in. By-and-by
a man entered and took a seat in front of us. "The box is all afire,"
chuckled he to his neighbor, as if it were a fine joke. By-and-by
several people who had been looking out of the windows drew in their
heads, rose, and went into the next car.
"What do you suppose they did that for?" I asked Halicarnassus.
"More aristocratical. Belong to old families. This is a new car, don't
you see? We are _parvenus_."
"Nothing of the sort," I rejoined. "This car is on fire, and they have
gone into the next one so as not to be burned up."
"They are not going to write books, and can afford to run away from
"But suppose I am burned up in my adventure?"
"Obviously, then, your book will end in smoke."
I ceased to talk, for I was provoked at his indifference. I leave every
impartial mind to judge for itself whether the circumstances were such
as to warrant composure. To be sure, somebody said the car was to
be left at Jeru; but Jeru was eight miles away, and any quantity of
mischief might be done before we reached it,--if, indeed, we were
not prevented from reaching it altogether. It was a mere question of
dynamics. Would dry wood be able to hold its own against a raging fire
for half an hour? Of course the conductor thought it would; but even
conductors are not infallible; and you may imagine how comfortable it
was to sit and know that a fire was in full blast beneath you, and to
look down every few minutes expecting to see the flames forking up under
your feet. I confess I was not without something like a hope that one
tongue of the devouring element would flare up far enough to give
Halicarnassus a start; but it did not. No casualty occurred. We reached
Jeru in safety; but that does not prove that there was no danger, or
that indifference was anything but the most foolish hardihood. If our
burning car had been in mid-ocean, serenity would have been sublimity,
but to stay in the midst of peril when two steps would take one out of
it is idiocy. And that there was peril is conclusively shown by the fact
that the very next day the Eastern Railroad Depot took fire and was
burned to the ground. I have in my own mind no doubt that it was a
continuation of the same fire, and if we had stayed in the car much
longer, we should have shared the same fate.
We found Jeru to be a pleasant city, with only one fault: the
inhabitants will crowd into a car before passengers can get out;
consequently the heads of the two columns collide near the car-door, and
there is a general choke. Otherwise Jeru is a delightful city. It is
famous for its beautiful women. Its railroad-station is a magnificent
piece of architecture. Its men are retired East-India merchants.
Everybody in Jeru is rich and has real estate. The houses in Jeru
are three stories high and face on the Common. People in Jeru are
well-dressed and well-bred, and they all came over in the Mayflower.
We stopped in Jeru five minutes.
When we were ready to continue our travels Halicarnassus seceded into
the smoking-car, and while the engine was shrieking off its inertia, a
small boy, laboring under great agitation, hurried in, darted up to me,
and, thrusting a pinchbeck ring with a pink glass in it into my face,
exclaimed, in a hoarse whisper,--
"A beautiful ring, Ma'am! I've just picked it up. Can't stop to find the
owner. Worth a dollar, Ma'am; but if you'll give me fifty cents"--
I rose fiercely, convulsively, in my seat, drew one long breath, but
whether he thought I was going to kill him,--I dare say I looked it,--or
whether he saw a sheriff behind, or a phantom gallows before, I know
not; but without waiting for the thunderbolt to strike, he rushed from
the car as precipitately as he had rushed in. I _was_ angry,--not
because I was to have been cheated, for I have been repeatedly and
atrociously cheated and only smiled, but because the rascal dared
attempt on me such a threadbare, ragged, shoddy trick as that. Do I
_look_ like a rough-hewn, unseasoned backwoodsman? Have I the air of
never having read a newspaper? Is there a patent innocence of eye-teeth
in my demeanor? Oh, Jeru! Jeru! Somewhere in your virtuous bosom you are
nourishing a viper, for I have felt his fangs. Woe unto you, if you do
not strangle him before he develops into mature anacondaism! In point of
natural history I am not sure that vipers do grow up anacondas, but
for the purposes of moral philosophy the development theory answers
In Boston a dreadful thing happened to me,--a thing too horrible to
relate. I have no reason to suppose that the outrage was intentional;
but if I were absolute monarch of all I survey, there is one house in
one street in Boston which I would have razed to the ground; and tobacco
I would banish forever from the haunts of civilization.
In Boston we had three hours to spare; so we sent our luggage,--that is,
my trunk--to the Worcester Depot, and walked leisurely ourselves. I had
a little shopping to do, to complete my outfit for the journey,--a very
little shopping,--only a nightcap or two. Ordinarily such a thing is
a matter of small moment, but in my case the subject had swollen
into unnatural dimensions. Nightcaps are not generally considered
healthy,--at least not by physicians. Nature has given to the head its
sufficient and appropriate covering, the hair. Anything more than this
injures the head, by confining the heat, preventing the soothing,
cooling contact of air, and so deranging the circulation of the blood.
Therefore I have always heeded the dictates of Nature, which I have
supposed to be to brush out the hair thoroughly at night and let it fly.
But there are serious disadvantages connected with this course. For
Nature will be sure to whisk the hair away from your ears where you want
it, and into your eyes where you don't want it, besides crowning you
with magnificent disorder in the morning. But as I have always believed
that no evil exists without its remedy, I had long been exercising my
inventive genius in attempts to produce a head-gear which should at once
protect the ears, confine the hair, and let the skull alone. I regret
to say that my experiments were an utter failure, notwithstanding the
amount of science and skill brought to bear upon them. One idea lay at
the basis of all my endeavors. Every combination, however elaborate or
intricate, resolved into its simplest elements, consisted of a pair of
rosettes laterally to keep the ears warm, a bag posteriorly to put the
hair into, and some kind of a string somewhere to hold the machine
together. Every possible shape into which lace or muslin or sheeting
could be cut or plaited or sewed or twisted, into which crewel or cord
could be crocheted or netted or tatted, I make bold to declare was
essayed, until things came to such a pass that every odd bit of dry
goods lying around the house was, in the absence of any positive
testimony on the subject, assumed to be one of my nightcaps,--an utterly
baseless assumption, because my achievements never went so far as
concrete capuality, but stopped short in the later stages of abstract
idealism. However, prejudice is stronger than truth; and, as I said,
every fragment of every fabric that could not give an account of itself
was charged with being a nightcap till it was proved to be a dishcloth
or a cart-rope. I at length surrendered at discretion, and remembered
that somewhere in my reading I had met with exquisite lace caps, and I
did not know but that from the combined fineness and strength of their
material they might answer the purpose, even if in form they should not
be everything that was desirable,--and I determined to ascertain, if
possible, whether such things existed anywhere out of poetry.
As you perceive, therefore, my Boston shopping was not every-day
trading. It was to mark the abandonment of an old and the inauguration
of a new line of policy. Thus it was with no ordinary interest that I
looked carefully at all the shops, and when I found one that seemed to
hold out a possibility of nightcaps, I went in. Halicarnassus obeyed the
hint which I pricked into him with the point of my parasol, and stopped
outside. The one place in the world where a man has no business to be is
the inside of a dry-goods shop. He never looks and never is so big and
bungling as there. A woman skips from silk to muslin, from muslin to
ribbons, from ribbons to table-cloths with the grace and agility of a
bird. She glides in and out among crowds of her sex, steers sweepingly
clear of all obstacles, and emerges triumphant. A man enters and
immediately becomes all boots and elbows. He needs as much room to turn
round in as the English iron-clad Warrior, and it takes him about as
long. He treads on all the flounces, runs against all the clerks, knocks
over all the children, and is generally under-foot. If he gets an idea
into his head, a Nims's battery cannot dislodge it. You thought of
buying a shawl; but a thousand considerations in the shape of raglans,
cloaks, talmas, pea-jackets, induce you to modify your views. He stands
by you. He hears all your inquiries and all the clerk's suggestions. The
whole process of your reasoning is visible to his naked eye. He sees the
sack, or visite, or cape put upon your shoulders and you walking off
in it, and when you are half-way home, he will mutter, in idiotic
amazement, "I thought you were going to buy a shawl!" It is enough to
drive one wild.
No! Halicarnassus is absurd and mulish in many things, but he knows
I will not be hampered with him when I am shopping, and he obeys the
smallest hint and stops outside.
To be sure, he puts my temper on the rack by standing with his hands in
his pockets, or by looking meek, or, likely as not, peering into the
shop-door after me with great staring eyes and parted lips; and this is
the most provoking of all. If there is anything vulgar, slipshod, and
shiftless, it is a man lounging about with his hands in his pockets. If
you have paws, stow them away; but if you are endowed with hands, learn
to carry them properly, or else cut them off. Nor can I abide a man's
looking as if he were under control. I want him to _be_ submissive, but
I don't want him to look so. I want him to do just as he is bidden, but
I want him to carry himself like the man and monarch he was made to be.
I want him to stay where he is put, yet not as if he were put there, but
as if he had taken his position deliberately. But, of all things, to
have a man act as if he were a clod just emerged for the first time from
his own barnyard! Upon this occasion, however, I was too much absorbed
in my errand to note anybody's demeanor, and I threaded straightway the
crowd of customers, went up to the counter, and inquired in a clear
"Have you lace nightcaps?"
The clerk looked at me with a troubled, bewildered glance, and made no
reply. I supposed he had not understood me, and repeated the question.
Then he answered, dubiously,--
"We have breakfast-caps."
It was my turn to look bewildered. What had I to do with breakfast-caps?
What connection was there between my question and his answer? What field
was there for any further inquiry? "Have you ox-bows?" imagine a farmer
to ask. "We have rainbows," says the shopman. "Have you cameo-pins?"
inquires the elegant Mrs. Jenkins. "We have linchpins." "Have you young
apple-trees?" asks the nursery-man. "We have whiffle-trees." If I had
wanted breakfast-caps, shouldn't I have asked for breakfast-caps? Or do
the Boston people take their breakfast at one o'clock in the morning? I
concluded that the man was demented, and marched out of the shop. When I
laid the matter before Halicarnassus, the following interesting colloquy
I. "What do you suppose it meant?"
H. "He took you for a North American Indian."
I. "What do you mean?"
H. "He did not understand your _patois_."
I. "What _patois_?"
H. "Your squaw dialect. You should have asked for a _bonnet de nuit_."
H. "People never talk about nightcaps in good society."
I was very warm, and Halicarnassus said he was tired; so we went into a
restaurant and ordered strawberries,--that luscious fruit, quivering on
the border-land of ambrosia and nectar.
"Doubtless," says honest, quaint, delightful Isaac,--and he never spoke
a truer word,--"doubtless, God might have made a better berry than a
strawberry, but, doubtless, God never did."
The bill of fare rated their excellence at fifteen cents.
"Not unreasonable," I pantomimed.
"Not if I pay for them," replied Halicarnassus.
Then we sat and amused ourselves after the usual brilliant fashion
of people who are waiting in hotel parlors, railroad-stations, and
restaurants. We surveyed the gilding and the carpet and the mirrors
and the curtains. We hazarded profound conjectures touching the people
assembled. We studied the bill of fare as if it contained the secret of
our army's delay upon the Potomac, and had just concluded that the first
crop of strawberries was exhausted and they were waiting for the second
crop to grow, when Hebe hove in sight with her nectared ambrosia in a
pair of cracked, browny-white saucers, with browny-green silver spoons.
I poured out what professed to be cream, but proved very low-spirited
milk, in which a few disheartened strawberries appeared _rari nantes_. I
looked at them in dismay. Then curiosity smote me, and I counted them.
"Cent apiece," said Halicarnassus.
I was not thinking of the cent, but I had promised myself a feast; and
what is a feast, susceptible of enumeration? Cleopatra was right. "That
love"--and the same is true of strawberries--"is beggarly which can be
reckoned." Infinity alone is glory.
"Perhaps the quality will atone for the quantity," said Halicarnassus,
scooping up at least half of his at one "arm-sweep."
"How do they taste?" I asked.
"Rather coppery," he answered.
"It is the spoons!" I exclaimed, in a fright. "They are German silver!
You will be poisoned!"--and knocked his out of his hand with such
instinctive, sudden violence that it flew to the other side of the room,
where an old gentleman sat over his newspaper and dinner.
He started, dropped his newspaper, and looked around in a maze.
Halicarnassus behaved beautifully,--I will give him the credit of it.
He went on with my spoon and his strawberries as unconcernedly as if
nothing had happened. I was conscious that I blushed, but my face was in
the shade, and nobody else knew it; and to this day I have no doubt
the old gentleman would have marvelled what sent that mysterious spoon
rattling against his table and whizzing between his boots, had not
Halicarnassus, when the uproar was over, conceived it his duty to go and
pick up the spoon and apologize for the accident, lest the gentleman
should fancy it an intentional rudeness. Partly to reward him for his
good behavior, partly because I never did think it worth while to
make two bites of a cherry, and partly because I did not fancy being
poisoned, I gave my fifteen berries to him. He devoured them with
"Does my spoon taste as badly as yours?" I asked.
"My spoon?" inquired he, innocently.
"Yes. You said before that they tasted coppery."
"I don't think," replied this unprincipled man,--"I don't think it
was the flavor of the spoon so much as of the coin which each berry
I could have boxed his ears.
I never made a more unsatisfactory investment in my life than the one I
made in that restaurant. I felt as if I had been swindled, and I said so
to Halicarnassus. He remarked that there was plenty of cream and sugar.
I answered curtly, that the cream was chiefly water, and the sugar
chiefly flour; but if they had been Simon Pure himself, was it anything
but an aggravation of the offence to have them with nothing to eat them
"You might do as they do in France,--carry away what you don't eat,
seeing you pay for it."
"A pocketful of milk and water would be both delightful and serviceable;
but I might take the sugar," I added, with a sudden thought, upsetting
the sugar-bowl into a "Boston Journal" which we had bought in the train.
"I can never use it, but it will be a consolation to reflect on."
Halicarnassus, who, though fertile in evil conceptions, lacks nerve to
put them into execution, was somewhat startled at this sudden change of
base. He had no idea that I should really act upon his suggestion, but
I did. I bundled the sugar into my pocket with a grim satisfaction;
and Halicarnassus paid his thirty cents, looking--and feeling, as he
afterwards told me--as if a policeman's gripe were on his shoulders. If
any restaurant in Boston recollects having been astonished at any time
during the summer of 1862 by an unaccountably empty sugar-bowl, I take
this occasion to explain the phenomenon. I gave the sugar afterwards to
a little beggar-girl, with a dime for a brace of lemons, and shook off
the dust of my feet against Boston at the "B. & W.R.R.D."
Boston is a beautiful city, situated on a peninsula at the head of
Massachusetts Bay. It has three streets: Cornhill, Washington, and
Beacon Streets. It has a Common and a Frog-Pond, and many sprightly
squirrels. Its streets are straight and cross each other like lines on
a chess-board. It has a State-House which is the finest edifice in the
world or out of it. It has one church, the Old South, which was built,
as its name indicates, before the Proclamation of Emancipation was
issued. It has one bookstore, a lofty and imposing pile, of the Egyptian
style (and date) of architecture, on the corner of Washington and
School Streets. It has one magazine, the "Atlantic Monthly," one
daily newspaper, the "Boston Journal," one religious weekly, the
"Congregationalist," and one orator, whose name is Train, a model of
chaste, compact, and classic elegance. In politics, it was a Webster
Whig, till Whig and Webster both went down, when it fell apart and
waited for something to turn up,--which proved to be drafting. Boston is
called the Athens of America. Its men are solid. Its women wear their
bonnets to bed, their nightcaps to breakfast, and talk Greek at dinner.
I spent two hours and a half in Boston, and I know.
We had a royal progress from Boston to Fontdale. Summer lay on the
shining hills and scattered benedictions. Plenty smiled up from a
thousand fertile fields. Patient oxen, with their soft, deep eyes, trod
heavily over mines of greater than Indian wealth. Kindly cows stood in
the grateful shade of cathedral elms, and gave thanks to God in their
dumb, fumbling way. Motherly, sleepy, stupid sheep lay on the plains,
little lambs rollicked out their short-lived youth around them, and no
premonition floated over from the adjoining pea-patch, nor any misgiving
of approaching mutton marred their happy heyday. Straight through the
piny forests, straight past the vocal orchards, right in among the
robins and the jays and the startled thrushes, we dashed inexorable, and
made harsh dissonance in the wild-wood orchestra; but not for that was
the music hushed, nor did one color fade. Brooks leaped in headlong
chase down the furrowed sides of gray old rocks, and glided whispering
beneath the sorrowful willows. Old trees renewed their youth in the
slight tenacious grasp of many a tremulous tendril, and, leaping lightly
above their topmost heights, vine laughed to vine, swaying dreamily in
the summer air; and not a vine nor brook nor hill nor forest but sent up
a sweet-smelling incense to its Maker. Not an ox or cow or lamb or bird
living its own dim life but lent its charm of unconscious grace to the
great picture that unfolded itself, mile after mile, in ever fresher
loveliness to ever unsated eyes. Well might the morning stars sing
together, and all the sons of God shout for joy, when first this grand
and perfect world swung free from its moorings, flung out its spotless
banner, and sailed majestic down the thronging skies. Yet, though but
once God spoke the world to life, the miracle of creation is still
incomplete. New every springtime, fresh every summer, the earth comes
forth as a bride adorned for her husband. Not only in the gray dawn of
our history, but now in the full brightness of its noon-day, may we hear
the voice of the Lord walking in the garden. I look out upon the gray
degraded fields left naked of the kindly snow, and inwardly ask: Can
these dry bones live again? And while the question is yet trembling on
my lips, lo! a Spirit breathes upon the earth, and beauty thrills into
bloom. Who shall lack faith in man's redemption, when every year the
earth is redeemed by unseen hands, and death is lost in resurrection?
To Fontdale sitting among her beautiful meadows we are borne swiftly on.
There we must tarry for the night, for I will not travel in the dark
when I can help it. I love it. There is no solitude in the world, or at
least I have never felt any, like standing alone in the door-way of
the rear car on a dark night, and rushing on through the
darkness,--darkness, darkness everywhere, and if one could only be sure
of rushing on till daylight doth appear! But with the frightful and not
remote possibility of bringing up in a crash and being buried under a
general huddle, one prefers daylight. You may not be able to get out of
the huddle even by daylight; but you will at least know where you are,
if there is anything of you left. So at Fontdale Halicarnassus branches
off temporarily on a business errand, and I stop for the night
You object to this? Some people do. For my part, I like it. You say you
don't want to turn your own house or your friend's house into a hotel.
If people want to see you, let them come and make a visit; if you want
to see them, you will go and make them one; but this touch and go,--what
is it worth? O foolish Galatians! much every way. For don't you see,
supposing the people are people you don't like, how much better it is to
have them come and sleep or dine and be gone than to have them before
your face and eyes for a week? An ill that is temporary is tolerable.
You could entertain the Evil One himself, if you were sure he would go
away after dinner. The trouble about him is not so much that he comes as
that he won't go. He hangs around. If you once open your door to him,
there is no getting rid of him; and some of his followers, it must be
confessed, are just like him. You must resist them both, or they will
never flee. But if they do flee after a day's tarry, do not complain.
You protest against turning your house into a hotel. Why, the hotelry
is the least irksome part of the whole business, when your guests are
uninteresting. It is not the supper or the bed that costs, but keeping
people going after supper is over and before bed-time is come. Never
complain, if you have nothing worse to do than to feed or house your
guests for a day or an hour.
On the other hand, if they are people you like, how much better to have
them come so than not to come at all! People cannot often make long
visits,--people that are worth anything,--people who use life; and they
are the only ones that are worth anything. And if you cannot get your
good things in the lump, are you going to refuse them altogether? By no
means. You are going to take them by driblets, and if you will only be
sensible and not pout, but keep your tin pan right side up, you will
find that golden showers will drizzle through all your life. So, with
never a nugget in your chest, you shall die rich. If you can stop
over-night with your friend, you have no sand-grain, but a very
respectable boulder. For a night is infinite. Daytime is well enough for
business, but it is little worth for happiness. You sit down to a book,
to a picture, to a friend, and the first you know it is time to get
dinner, or time to eat it, or time for the train, or you must put out
your dried apples, or set the bread to rising, or something breaks in
impertinently and chokes you off at flood-tide. But the night has no
end. Everything is done but that which you would be forever doing. The
curtains are drawn, the lamp is lighted and veiled into exquisite soft
shadowiness. All the world is far off. All its din and dole strike into
the bank of darkness that envelops you and are lost to your tranced
sense. In all the world are only your friend and you, and then you
strike out your oars, silver-sounding, into the shoreless night.
But the night comes to an end, you say. No, it does not. It is you that
come to an end. You grow sleepy, clod that you are. But as you don't
think, when you begin, that you ever shall grow sleepy, it is just the
same as if you never did. For you have no foreshadow of an inevitable
termination to your rapture, and so practically your night has no limit.
It is fastened at one end to the sunset, but the other end floats off
into eternity. And there really is no abrupt termination. You roll down
the inclined plane of your social happiness into the bosom of another
happiness,--sleep. Sleep for the sleepy is bliss just as truly as
society to the lonely. What in the distance would have seemed Purgatory,
once reached, is Paradise, and your happiness is continuous. Just as it
is in mending. Short-sighted, superficial, unreflecting people have a
way--which in time fossilizes into a principle--of mending everything as
soon as it comes up from the wash, a very unthrifty, uneconomical habit,
if you use the words thrift and economy in the only way in which they
ought to be used, namely, as applied to what is worth economizing. Time,
happiness, life, these are the only things to be thrifty about. But
I see people working and worrying over quince-marmalade and tucked
petticoats and embroidered chair-covers, things that perish with the
using and leave the user worse than they found him. This I call waste
and wicked prodigality. Life is too short to permit us to fret about
matters of no importance. Where these things can minister to the mind
and heart, they are a part of the soul's furniture; but where they only
pamper the appetite or the vanity or any foolish and hurtful lust,
they are foolish and hurtful. Be thrifty of comfort. Never allow an
opportunity for cheer, for pleasure, for intelligence, for benevolence,
for any kind of good, to go unimproved. Consider seriously whether the
sirup of your preserves or the juices of your own soul will do the
most to serve your race. It may be that they are compatible,--that the
concoction of the one shall provide the ascending sap of the other; but
if it is not so, if one must be sacrificed, do not hesitate a moment
as to which it shall be. If a peach does not become sweetmeat, it will
become something, it will not stay a withered, unsightly peach; but for
souls there is no transmigration out of fables. Once a soul, forever a
soul,--mean or mighty, shrivelled or full, it is for you to say. Money,
land, luxury, so far as they are money, land, and luxury, are worthless.
It is only as fast and as far as they are turned into life that they
So you are thriftless when you eagerly seize the first opportunity
to fritter away your time over old clothes. You precipitate yourself
unnecessarily against a disagreeable thing. For you are not going to put
your stockings on. Perhaps you will not need your buttons for a week,
and in a week you may have passed beyond the jurisdiction of buttons.
But even if you should not, let the buttons and the holes alone all the
same. For, first, the pleasant and profitable thing which you will do
instead is a funded capital which will roll you up a perpetual interest;
and secondly, the disagreeable duty is forever abolished. I say forever,
because, when you have gone without the button awhile, the inconvenience
it occasions will reconcile you to the necessity of sewing it on,--will
even go farther, and make it a positive relief amounting to positive
pleasure. Besides, every time you use it, for a long while after you
will have a delicious sense of satisfaction, such as accompanies the
sudden complete cessation of a dull, continuous pain. Thus what was at
best characterless routine, and most likely an exasperation, is turned
into actual delight, and adds to the sum of life. This is thrift. This
is economy. But, alas! few people understand the art of living. They
strive after system, wholeness, buttons, and neglect the weightier
matters of the higher law.
--I wonder how I got here, or how I am to get back again. I started for
Fontdale, and I find myself in a mending-basket. As I know no good in
tracing the same road back, we may as well strike a bee-line and begin
new at Fontdale.
We stopped at Fontdale a-cousining. I have a veil, a beautiful--_have_,
did I say? Alas! Troy _was_. But I must not anticipate--a beautiful veil
of brown tissue, none of your woolleny, gruff fabrics, fit only for
penance, but a silken gossamery cloud, soft as a baby's check. Yet
everybody fleers at it. Everybody has a joke about it. Everybody looks
at it, and holds it out at arms' length, and shakes it, and makes great
eyes at it, and says, "What in the world"--, and ends with a huge,
bouncing laugh. Why? One is ashamed of human nature at being forced to
confess. Because, to use a Gulliverism, it is longer by the breadth of
my nail than any of its contemporaries. In fact, it is two yards long.
That is all. Halicarnassus fired the first gun at it by saying that its
length was to enable one end of it to remain at home while the other end
went with me, so that neither of us should get lost. This is an
allusion to a habit which I and my property have of finding ourselves
individually and collectively left in the lurch. After this initial
shot, everybody considered himself at liberty to let off his rusty old
blunderbuss, and there was a constant peppering. But my veil never
lowered its colors nor curtailed its resources. Alas! what ridicule and
contumely failed to effect, destiny accomplished. Softness and plenitude
are no shields against the shafts of fate.
I went into the station waiting-room to write a note. I laid my bonnet,
my veil, my packages upon the table. I wrote my note. I went away. The
next morning, when I would have arrayed myself to resume my journey,
there was no veil. I remembered that I had taken it into the station
the night before, and that I had not taken it out. At the station we
inquired of the waiting-woman concerning it. It is as much as your life
is worth to ask these people about lost articles. They take it for
granted at the first blush that you mean to accuse them of stealing.
"Have you seen a brown veil lying about anywhere?" asked Crene, her
sweet bird-voice warbling out from her sweet rose-lips. "No, I 'a'n't
seen nothin' of it," says Gnome, with magnificent indifference.
"It was lost here last night," continues Crene, in a soliloquizing
undertone, pushing investigating glances beneath the sofas.
"I do' know nothin' about it. _I_ 'a'n't took it"; and the Gnome tosses
her head back defiantly. "I seen the lady when she was a-writin' of her
letter, and when she went out ther' wa'n't nothin' left on the table but
a hangkerchuf, and that wa'n't hern. I do' know nothin' about it, nor I
'a'n't seen nothin' of it."
Oh, no, my Gnome, you knew nothing of it; you did not take it. But since
no one accused you or even suspected you, why could you not have been
less aggressive and more sympathetic in your assertions? But we will
plough no longer in that field. The ploughshare has struck against a
rock and grits, denting its edge in vain. My veil is gone,--my ample,
historic, heroic veil. There is a woman in Fontdale who breathes air
filtered through--I will not say _stolen_ tissue, but certainly
through tissue which was obtained without rendering its owner any fair
equivalent. Does not every breeze that softly stirs its fluttering folds
say to her, "O friend, this veil is not yours, not yours," and still
sighingly, "not yours! Up among the northern hills, yonder towards the
sunset, sits the owner, sorrowful, weeping, wailing"? I believe I am
wading out into the Sally Waters of Mother Goosery; but, prose
or poetry, somewhere a woman,--and because nobody of taste could
surreptitiously possess herself of my veil, I have no doubt that she cut
it incontinently into two equal parts, and gave one to her sister, and
that there are two women,--nay, since niggardly souls have no sense of
grandeur and will shave down to microscopic dimensions, it is every way
probable that she divided it into three unequal parts, and took three
quarters of a yard for herself, three quarters for her sister, and gave
the remaining half-yard to her daughter, and that at this very moment
there are two women and a little girl taking their walks abroad under
the silken shadows of my veil! And yet there are people who profess to
disbelieve in total depravity.
Nor did the veil walk away alone. My trunk became imbued with the spirit
of adventure, and branched off on its own account up somewhere into
Vermont. I suppose it would have kept on and reached perhaps the North
Pole by this time, had not Crene's dark eyes--so pretty to look at that
one instinctively feels they ought not to be good for anything, if a
just impartiality is to be maintained, but they are--Crene's dark eyes
seen it tilting up into a baggage-crate and trundling off towards the
Green Mountains, but too late. Of course there was a formidable hitch in
the programme. A court of justice was improvised on the car-steps. I was
the plaintiff, Crene chief evidence, baggage-master both defendant and
examining-counsel. The case did not admit of a doubt. There was the
little insurmountable check whose brazen lips could speak no lie.
"Keep hold of that," whispered Crene, and a yoke of oxen could not have
drawn it from me.
"You are sure you had it marked for Fontdale," says Mr. Baggage-master.
I hold the impracticable check before his eyes in silence.
"Yes, well, it must have gone on to Albany."
"But it went away on that track," says Crene.
"Couldn't have gone on that track. Of course they wouldn't have carried
it away over there just to make it go wrong."
For me, I am easily persuaded and dissuaded. If he had told me that
it must have gone in such a direction, that it was a moral and mental
impossibility it should have gone in any other, and have said it times
enough, with a certain confidence and contempt of any other contingency,
I should gradually have lost faith in my own eyes, and said, "Well, I
suppose it did." But Crene is not to be asserted into yielding one inch,
and insists that the trunk went to Vermont and not to New York, and is
thoroughly unmanageable. Then the baggage-master, in anguish of soul,
trots out his subordinates, one after another,--
"Is this the man that wheeled the trunk away? Is this? Is this?"
The brawny-armed fellows hang back, and scowl, and muffle words in a
very suspicious manner, and protest they won't be got into a scrape. But
Crene has no scrape for them. She cannot swear to their identity. She
had eyes only for the trunk.
"Well," says Baggager, at his wits' end, "you let me take your check,
and I'll send the trunk on by express, when it comes."
I pity him, and relax my clutch.
"No," whispers Crene; "as long as you have your check, you as good as
have your trunk; but when you give that up, you have nothing. Keep that
till you see your trunk."
My clutch re-tightens.
"At any rate, you can wait till the next train, and see if it doesn't
come back. You'll get to your journey's end just as soon."
"Shall I? Well, I will," compliant as usual.
"No," interposes my good genius again. "Men are always saying that a
woman never goes when she engages to go. She is always a train later or
a train earlier, and you can't meet her."
Pliant to the last touch I say aloud,--
"No, I must go in this train"; and so I go trunkless and crest-fallen to
It is a dismal day, and Crene, to comfort me, puts into my hands two
books as companions by the way. They are Coventry Patmore's "Angel in
the House," "The Espousals and the Betrothal." I do not approve of
reading in the cars; but without is a dense, white, unvarying fog, and
within my heart it is not clear sunshine. So I turn to my books.
Did any one ever read them before? Somebody wrote a vile review of them
once, and gave the idea of a very puerile, ridiculous, apron-stringy
attempt at poetry. Whoever wrote that notice ought to be shot, for the
books are charming pure and homely and householdy, yet not effeminate.
Critics may sneer as much as they choose: it is such love as Vaughan's
that Honorias value. Because a woman's nature is not proof against
deterioration, because a large and long-continued infusion of gross
blood, and perhaps even the monotonous pressure of rough, pitiless,
degrading circumstances, may displace, eat out, rub off the delicacy of
a soul, may change its texture to unnatural coarseness and scatter ashes
for beauty, women do exist, victims rather than culprits, coarse against
their nature, hard, material, grasping, the saddest sight humanity can
see. Such a woman can accept coarse men. They may come courting on all
fours, and she will not be shocked. But women in the natural state want
men to stand god-like erect, to tread majestically, and live delicately,
Women do not often make an ado about this. They talk it over among
themselves, and take men as they are. They quietly soften them down,
and smooth them out, and polish them up, and make the best of them, and
simply and sedulously shut their eyes and make believe there isn't any
worst, or reason it away,--a great deal more than I should think they
would. But if you want to see the qualities that a woman, spontaneously
loves, the expression, the tone, the bearing that thoroughly satisfies
her self-respect, that not only secures her acquiescence, but arouses
her enthusiasm and commands her abdication, crucify the flesh, and read
Coventry Patmore. Not that he is the world's great poet, nor Arthur
Vaughan the ideal man; but this I do mean: that the delicacy, the
spirituality of his love, the scrupulous respectfulness of his demeanor,
his unfeigned inward humility, as far removed from servility on the one
side as from assumption on the other, and less the opponent than the
offspring of self-respect, his thorough gentleness, guilelessness,
deference, his manly, unselfish homage, are such qualities, and such
alone, as lead womanhood captive. Listen to me, you rattling, roaring,
rollicking Ralph Roister Doisters, you calm, inevitable Gradgrinds, as
smooth, as sharp, as bright as steel, and as soulless, and you men,
whoever, whatever, and wherever you are, with fibres of rope and nerves
of wire, there is many and many a woman who tolerates you because she
finds you, but there is nothing in her that ever goes out to seek you.
Be not deceived by her placability. "Here he is," she says to herself,
"and something must be done about it. Buried under Ossa and Pelion
somewhere he must be supposed to have a soul, and the sooner he is dug
into, the sooner it will be exhumed." So she digs. She would never have
made you, nor of her own free-will elected you; but being made, such as
you are, and on her hands in one way or another, she carves and chisels,
and strives to evoke from the block a breathing statue. She may succeed
so far as that you shall become her Frankenstein, a great, sad,
monstrous, incessant, inevitable caricature of her ideal, the monument
at once of her success and her failure, the object of her compassion,
the intimate sorrow of her soul, a vast and dreadful form into which
her creative power can breathe the breath of life, but not of sympathy.
Perhaps she loves you with a remorseful, pitying, protesting love, and
carries you on her shuddering shoulders to the grave. Probably, as she
is good and wise, you will never find it out. A limpid brook ripples in
beauty and bloom by the side of your muddy, stagnant self-complacence,
and you discern no essential difference. "Water's water," you say, with
your broad, stupid generalization, and go oozing along contentedly
through peat-bogs and meadow-ditches, mounting, perhaps, in moments
of inspiration, to the moderate sublimity of a cranberry-meadow, but
subsiding with entire satisfaction into a muck-puddle; and all the while
the little brook that you patronize when you are full-fed, and snub when
you are hungry, and look down upon always,--the little brook is singing
its own melody through grove and orchard and sweet wild-wood,--singing
with the birds and the blooms songs that you cannot hear; but they are
heard by the silent stars, singing on and on into a broader and deeper
destiny, till it pours, one day, its last earthly note, and becomes
forevermore the unutterable sea.
And you are nothing but a ditch.
No, my friend, Lucy will drive with you, and talk to you, and sing your
songs; she will take care of you, and pray for you, and cry when you
go to the war; if she is not your daughter or your sister, she will,
perhaps, in a moment of weakness or insanity, marry you; she will be a
faithful wife, and float you to the end; but if you wish to be her love,
her hero, her ideal, her delight, her spontaneity, her utter rest and
ultimatum, you must attune your soul to fine issues,--you must bring out
the angel in you, and keep the brute under. It is not that you shall
stop making shoes, and begin to write poetry. That is just as much
discrimination as you have. Tell you to be gentle, and you think we want
you to dissolve into milk-and-water; tell you to be polite, and you
infer hypocrisy; to be neat, and you leap over into dandyism, fancying
all the while that bluster is manliness. No, Sir. You may make shoes,
you may run engines, you may carry coals; you may blow the huntsman's
horn, hurl the base-ball, follow the plough, smite the anvil; your face
may be brown, your veins knotted, your hands grimed; and yet you may be
a hero. And, on the other hand, you may write verses and be a clown.
It is not necessary to feed on ambrosia in order to become divine;
nor shall one be accursed, though he drink of the ninefold Styx. The
Israelites ate angels' food in the wilderness, and remained stiff-necked
and uncircumcised in heart and ears. The white water-lily feeds on
slime, and unfolds a heavenly glory. Come as the June morning comes. It
has not picked its way daintily, passing only among the roses. It has
breathed up the whole earth. It has blown through the fields and the
barn-yards and all the common places of the land. It has shrunk from
nothing. Its purity has breasted and overborne all things, and so
mingled and harmonized all that it sweeps around your forehead and sinks
into your heart as soft and sweet and pure as the fragrancy of Paradise.
So come you, rough from the world's rough work, with all out-door airs
blowing around you, and all your earth-smells clinging to you, but with
a fine inward grace, so strong, so sweet, so salubrious that it meets
and masters all things, blending every faintest or foulest odor of
earthliness into the grateful incense of a pure and lofty life.
Thus I read and mused in the soft summer fog, and the first I knew the
cars had stopped, I was standing on the platform, and Coventry and his
knight were--where? Wandering up and down somewhere among the Berkshire
hills. At some junction of roads, I suppose, I left them on the
cushion, for I have never beheld them since. Tell me, O ye daughters of
Berkshire, have you seen them,--a princely pair, sore weary in your
mountain-land, but regal still, through all their travel-stain? I pray
you, entreat them hospitably, for their mission is "not of an age, but
for all time."
"The vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase,
and the heavens shall give their dew."
The fire of Freedom burns,
March to her altar now:
Bear on the sacred urns
Where all her sons must bow.
Woman of nerve and thought,
Bring in the urn your power!
By you is manhood taught
To meet this supreme hour.
Come with your sunlit life,
Maiden of gentle eye!
Bring to the gloom of strife
Light by which heroes die.
Give, rich men, proud and free,
Your children's costliest gem!
For Liberty shall be
Your heritage to them.
O friend, with heavy urn,
What offering bear you on?
The figure did not turn;
I heard a voice, "My son."
The fire of Freedom burns,
Her flame shall reach the heaven:
Heap up our sacred urns,
Though life for life be given!
ONLY AN IRISH GIRL!
"Oh, it's only an Irish girl!"
I flamed into a wrath far too intense for restraint. My whole soul rose
up and cried out against the Deacon's wife. I answered,--
"True. A small thing! But are lies and murder small things, Mrs. Adams?
Murderers, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie, are to be left outside
of the heavenly city. And, Mrs. Adams, suppose it should appear that
a woman of high respectability, moving in the best society, and most
excellent housekeeper, has both those two tickets for hell? Do you
remember the others that make up that horrible company in the last
chapter of Revelation? Mrs. Adams, _the girl is_ DEAD!"
The Deacon's wife's hard face had blazed instantly into passionate
scarlet. But I cared not for her, nor for man nor woman. For the words
_said themselves_, and thrilled and sounded fearful to me also; they
hurt me; they burnt from my tongue as melted iron might; and, scarcely
knowing it, I rose up and emphasized with my forefinger. And her face,
at those last four words, turned stony and whity-gray, like a corpse. I
thought she would die. Oh, it was awful to think so, and to feel that
she deserved it! For I did. I do now. For, reason as I will, I cannot
help feeling as if a tinge of the poor helpless child's blood was upon
my own garments. I do well to be angry. It is not that I desire any
personal revenge. But I have a feeling,--not pleasure, it is almost all
pity and pain,--but yet a feeling that sudden death or lingering death
would be small satisfaction of justice upon her for what she rendered to
Her strong, hard, cruel nature fought tigerishly up again from the
horrible blow of my news. She was frightened almost to swooning at the
thing that I told and my denunciation, and the deep answering stab of
her own conscience. But her angry iron will rallied with an effort which
must have been an agony; her face became human again, and, looking
straight and defiantly at me, she said, yet with difficulty,
"Ah! I'll see if my husband'll hev sech things said to me! That's all!"
And she turned and went straightway out of my house, erect and steady as
It may seem a trifling story, and its lesson a trifling one. But it is
not so,--neither trifling nor needless.
It is a rare thing, indeed, for a woman in this America to long and love
to have children. The only two women whom I know in this large town who
do are Mrs. O'Reilly, the mother of poor Bridget, and--one more.
Poor old Mrs. O'Reilly! She came to me this morning, and sat in my
kitchen, and cried so bitterly, and talked in her strong Corkonian
brogue, and rocked herself backwards and forwards, and shook abroad the
great lambent banners of her cap-border,--a grotesque old woman, but
sacred in her tender motherhood and her great grief. Her first coming
was to peddle blackberries in the summer. I asked her if she picked them
"Och thin and shure I've the childher to do that saam," said she. And
what wonderful music must the voice of her youth have been! It was deep
of intonation and heartfelt,--rich and smooth and thrilling yet, after
fifty years of poverty and toil. "And id's enough of thim that's in id!"
she added, with a curious air of satisfaction and reflectiveness.
"How many children have you?" I inquired.
She laughed and blushed, old woman though she was; and pride and deep
delight and love shone in her large, clear, gray eyes.
"I've fourteen darlins, thank God for ivery wan of thim! And it's a
purrty parthy they are!"
"Fourteen!" I exclaimed,--"how lovely!" I stopped short and blushed. My
heart had spoken. "But how "--I stopped again.
The old blackberry-woman answered me with tears and smiles. What a deep,
rich, loving heart was covered out of sight in her squalid life! It
makes me proud that I felt my heart and my love in some measure like
hers; and she saw it, too.
"An' it's yersilf, Ma'm, that has the mother's own heart in yez, to be
sure! An' I can see it in your eyes, Ma'm! But it's the thruth it's
mighty scarce intirely! I do be seein' the ladies that's not glad at all
for the dear childher that's sint 'em, and sure it's sthrange, Ma'm!
Indade, it was with the joy I did be cryin' over ivery wan o' me babies;
and I could aisy laugh at the pain, Ma'm! And sure now it's cryin' I am
betimes because I'll have no more!"
The dear, beautiful, dirty old woman! I cried and laughed with her, and
I bought ten times as many blackberries as I wanted; and Mrs. O'Reilly
and I were fast friends.
She and hers, her "ould man," her sons and her daughters, were
thenceforth our ready and devoted retainers, dexterous and efficient
in all manner of service, generous in acknowledging any return that we
could make them; respectful and self-respectful; true men and women
in their place, not unfit for a higher, and showing the same by their
demeanor in a low one.
They came in and went out among us for a long time, in casual
employments, until, with elaborate prefaces and doubtful apologetic
circumlocutions, shyly and hesitatingly, Mrs. O'Reilly managed to prefer
her petition that her youngest girl, Bridget, by name,--there were a few
junior boys,--might be taken into my family as a servant. I asked
the old woman a few questions about her daughter's experiences and
attainments in the household graces and economies; could not remember
her; thought I had seen all the "childher"; found that she had been
living with Mrs. Deacon Adams, and had not been at my house. It was only
for form's sake that I catechized; Bridget came, of course.
She was such a maiden as her mother must have been, one of Nature's own
ladies, but more refined in type, texture, and form, as the American
atmosphere and food and life always refine the children of European
stock,--slenderer, more delicate, finer of complexion, and with a soft,
exquisite sweetness of voice, more thrilling than her mother's, larger
and more robust heartfeltness of tone,--and with the same, but shyer
ways, and swift blushes and smiles. In one thing she differed: she was a
silent, reticent girl: her tears were not so quick as her mother's, nor
her words; she hid her thoughts. She had learned it of us secretive
Americans, or had inherited it of her father, a silent, though cheery
Her glossy wealth of dark-brown hair, her great brown eyes, long
eyelashes, sensitive, delicately cut, mobile red lips, oval face,
beautifully formed arms and hands, and lithe, graceful, lady-like
movements, were a sweet household picture, sunshiny with unfailing
good-will, and of a dexterous neat-handedness very rare in her people.
My husband was looking at her one day, and as she tripped away on some
errand he observed,--
"She is a graceful little saint. All her attitudes are beatitudes."
Bridget was pure and devout enough for the compliment; and I had not
been married so long but that I could excuse the evidence of his
observation of another, for the sake of the neatness of his phrase. I
should have thought the unconscious child incongruously lovely amongst
brooms and dust-pans, pots and kettles, suds and slops and dishwater,
had I not been about as much concerned among them myself.
Bridget had been with me only a day or two, when a friend and
fellow-matron, in the course of an afternoon call, apprised me that
there were reports that Bridget O'Reilly was a thief,--in fact, that she
had been turned away by Mrs. Adams for that very offence, which she told
me "out of kindness, and with no desire to injure the girl; but there is
so much wickedness among these Irish!" She had heard this tale, through
only one person, from Mrs. Adams herself.
This troubled me; yet I should have quickly forgotten it. I met the same
story in several other directions within a few days; and now it troubled
me more. Women are suspicious creatures. I don't like to confess it, but
it is true. Besides, servants do sometimes steal. And little foreign
blood of the oppressed nationalities has truth in it, or honesty. Why
should it? Why should the subjugated Irish, any more than the Southern
slaves, beaten down for centuries by brutal strength, seeking to
exterminate their religion and their speech, to terrify them out of
intelligence and independence, to crush them into permanent poverty
and ignorance,--why should they tell the truth or respect property?
Falsehood and theft are that cunning which is the natural and necessary
weapon of weakness. Their falsehood is their resistance, in the only
form that weakness can use, evasion instead of force. Their theft is the
taking of what is instinctively felt to be due; their gratification
of an instinct after justice; done secretly because they have not the
strength to demand openly. Such things are unnecessary in America,
no doubt. But habits survive emigration. They are to be deplored,
charitably and hopefully and tenderly cured as diseases, not attacked
and furiously struck and thrust at as wild beasts. Thus it might be with
Bridget, notwithstanding her great, clear, innocent eyes, and open,
honest ways. If she had grown up to think such doings harmless, she
would have no conscience about it. Conscience is very pliant to
education. It troubles no man for what he is trained to do.
So I felt these stories. I could not find it in my heart to talk to poor
Bridget about it. I could not tell her large-hearted old mother. This
reluctance was entirely involuntary, an instinct. I wish I had felt it
more clearly and obeyed it altogether! There is some fatal cloud of
human circumstance that covers up from our sight our just instinctive
perceptions,--makes us drive them out before the mechanical conclusions
of mere reason; and when our reason, our special human pride, has failed
us, we say in our sorrow, I see now; if I had only trusted my first
impulse!--What is this cloud? Is it original sin? I asked my husband.
He was writing his sermon. He stopped and told me with serious
interest,--"This cloud is that original or inbred sin which we receive
from Adam; obscuring and vitiating the free exercise of the originally
perfect faculties; wilting them down, as it were, from a high native
assimilation to the operative methods of the Divine Mind, to the
painful, creeping, mechanical procedures of the comparing and judging
reason. And this lost power is to be restored, we may expect, by the
regenerating force of conversion."
I know I've got this right; because, after Henry had thanked me for
my question, he said I was a good preaching-stock,--that the inquiry
"joggled up" his mind, and suggested just what fayed in with his sermon;
and afterwards I heard him preach it; and now I have copied it out of
his manuscript, and have it all correct and satisfactory. What will he
do to me, if he should see this in print? But I can't help it. And what
is more, I don't believe his theological stuff. If it were true, there
would not so many good people be such geese.
But whatever this cloud is, it now blinded and misguided me. I quietly,
very quietly, put away some little moneys that lay about,--locked up
nearly all my small stock of silver and my scanty jewelry,--locked
my bureau-drawers,--counted unobtrusively the weekly proceeds of the
washing,--and was extremely watchful against the least alteration of my
manner towards my poor pretty maid.
It might have been a week after this, when my husband said one morning
that Bridget's eyes were heavy, and she had moved with a start several
times, as though she were half-asleep. Now that he spoke, I saw it, and
wondered that I had not seen it before; but I think some men notice
things more quickly than women. I asked the child if she were well.
"Yes, Ma'am," she said, spiritlessly, "but my head aches."
I observed her; and she dragged herself about with difficulty, and was
painfully slow about her dishes. At tea-time I made her lie down in my
little back parlor and got the meal myself, and made her a nice cup of
tea. She slept a little, but grew flushed. Next morning she was not fit
to get up, but insisted that she was, and would not remain in bed. But
she ate nothing,--indeed, for a day or two she had not eaten,--and after
breakfast she grew faint, and then more flushed than ever; seemed likely
to have a hard run of fever; and I sent for my doctor,--a homoeopath.
He came, saw, queried, and prescribed. Doctor-like, he evaded my
inquiry what was the matter, so that I saw it was a serious case. On my
intimating as much, he said, with sudden decision,--
"I'll tell you what, Madam. She may be better by night. If not, you'd
better send for Bagford. He might do better for her than I."
I was extremely surprised, for Bagford is a vigorous allopath of the old
school, drastic, bloody,--and an uncompromising enemy of "that quack,"
as he called my grave young friend. I said as much. Doctor Nash smiled.
"Oh, I don't mind it, so long as the patients come to me. I can very
well afford to send him one now and then. The fact is, the Irish must
_feel_ their medicine. It's quite often that a raking dose will cure
'em, not because it's the right thing, but because it takes their
imagination with it. The Irish imagination goes with Bagford and against
me; and the wrong medicine with the imagination is better than the right
one against it. I care more about curing this child than I do about him.
Besides,"--and he grew grave,--"it may be no great favor to him."
I obliged him to tell me that he feared the attack would develop into
brain-fever; and he said something was on the girl's mind. As soon as
he was gone, I ran up to poor Bridget, whose sweet face and great brown
eyes were kindled, in her increasing fever, into a hot, fearful beauty;
and now I could see a steady, mournful, pained look contracting her
mouth and lifting the delicate lines of her eyebrows. Poor little girl!
I felt the same deep yearning sorrow which we have at the sufferings of
a little child, who seems to look in scared wonder at us, as if to ask,
What is this? and Why do you not help? When a child suffers, we feel a
sense of injustice done. Bridget's lips were dry. Her skin was so hot,
her whole frame so restless! And the silent misery of her eyes ate into
my very heart. I smoothed her pillow and bathed her head, and would fain
have comforted her, as if she had been my own little sister. But I could
plainly see that my help was not welcome. When, however, I had done all
that I could for her, I quietly told her that she was sick, and that I
wanted to have her get well,--that I saw something was troubling her,
and she must tell me what it was. I don't think the silent, enduring
thing would have spoken even then, if she had not seen that I was
crying. Her own tears came, too; and she briefly said,--
"You all think I'm a thief."
I assured her most earnestly to the contrary.
She turned her restless head over towards me again, and her great eyes,
all glittering with fever and pain, searched solemnly into mine; and she
"You all think I'm a thief. Yis, I saw you had locked up the money and
the silver. I saw you count the clane clothes that was washed in the
house. Wouldn't I be after seein' it? And they says so in the town."
It went to my heart to have done those things. All that I could say was
utterly in vain. She evidently _felt_ nothing of it to be true. She had
received a deep and cruel hurt; and the poor, wild, half-civilized, shy,
silent soul had not wherewith to reason on it. She only endured, and
held her peace, and let the fire burn; and her sensitive nerves had
allowed pain of mind to become severe physical disease. My words she
scarcely heard; my tears were to her only sympathy. She knew what she
had seen. Besides, her disease increased upon her. Almost from minute to
minute she grew more restless, and her increasing inattention to what
I said frightened as well as hurt me. The medicines of Dr. Nash were
useless. Before noon I sent for Dr. Bagford, who said it was decidedly
brain-fever,--that she must be leeched, and have ice at her head, and so
Ah, it was useless. She grew worse and worse; passed through one or two
long terrible days of frantic misery, crying and protesting against
false accusations with a lamenting voice that made us all cry, too; then
lay long in a stupid state, until the doctor said that now it would
be better for her to die, because, after such an attack, a brain so
sensitive would be disorganized,--she would be an idiot.
Her poor mother came and helped us wait on her. But neither care nor
medicine availed. Bridget died; and the funeral was from our house.
I was surprised by the lofty demeanor of Father MacMullen, the Irish
priest, the first I had ever met: a tall, gaunt, bony, black-haired,
hollow-eyed man, of inscrutable and guarded demeanor, who received with
absolute haughtiness the courtesies of my husband and the reverences of
his own flock. A few of his expressions might indicate a consciousness
that we had endeavored to deal kindly with poor little Bridget. But he
did not think so; or at least we know that he has so handled the matter
that we meet ill feeling on account of it.
The griefs for any such misfortune were, however, obscure and shallow in
comparison with my sorrow for the untimely quenching of Bridget's young
life, and my sympathy with her poor old mother. When I reasoned about
the affair, I could see that I had done nothing which would not be
commended by careful housekeepers. I could see it, but, in spite of me,
I could not feel it. I was tormented by vain wishes that I had done
otherwise. I could not help feeling as if her people charged me with her
blood,--as if I had been in some sense aiding in her death. Nor do I
even now escape obscure returns of the same inexpressibly sad pain.
The garnishing of sepulchres is an employment which by no means went out
with the Scribes and Pharisees. Under the circumstances, the death of my
pretty young maid, although she was only an Irish girl, produced a deep
impression in the village. Very soon, now that it could do no good,
it was generally agreed that the imputations against her were wholly
unfounded. It was pretty distinctly whispered that they had arisen out
of things said by Mrs. Deacon Adams, in her wrath, because Bridget had
left her service to enter mine; and I now ascertained that this Mrs.
Adams was a woman of bitter tongue, and enduring, hot, and unscrupulous
in anger and in revengefulness. I have inquired sufficiently; I know it
is true. The vulgar malice of a hard woman has murdered a fair and good
maiden with the invisible arrows of her wicked words.
But she begins already to be punished, coarse cast-iron as she is.
People do not exactly like to talk with her. She is growing thin. She
has been ill,--a thing, I am told, never dreamed of before. Of course
she reported to her husband the reproaches with which I had surprised
her on the very day of Bridget's death. She had called in by chance, and
had not even heard of her illness; had herself begun to retail to me the
kind of talk with which she had poisoned the village, not knowing that
her evil work was finished; and it was the scornful carelessness of her
reply to my first reproof that stung me to answer her so bitterly. It
was two weeks before good, white-haired, old Deacon Adams came to the
house of his pastor. His face looked careworn enough. He stayed long
in the study with my husband, and went away sadly. I happened to pass
through our little hall just as the Deacon opened the study-door to
depart; and I caught his last words, very sorrowful in tone,--
"She might git well, ef she could stop dreamin' on't, and git the weight
off 'm her mind. But words that's once spoken can't be called back as
you call the cows home at night."
SHALL WE COMPROMISE?
In that period of remote antiquity when all birds of the air and beasts
of the field were able to talk, it befell that a certain shepherd
suffered many losses through the constant depredations of a wolf.
Fearing at length that his means of subsistence would be quite taken
away, he devised a powerful trap for the creature, and set it with
wonderful cunning. He could hardly sleep that night for thinking of the
matter, and early next morning took a stout club in his hand, and set
forth to learn of his success; when, lo! on drawing near the spot, there
he saw the wolf, sure enough, a huge savage, fast held in the trap.
"Ah," cried he, with triumph, "now I have got you!"
The wolf held his peace until the other was quite near, and then in a
tone of the severest moral rebuke, and with a voice that was made quite
low and grave with its weight of judicial reprehension, said,--
"Is it you, then? Can it be one wearing the form of a man, who has laid
this wicked plot against the peace, nay, as I infer from that club,
against the very life, of an innocent creature? Behold what I suffer,
and how unjustly!--I, of all animals, whose life,--the sad state I
am now in constrains me against modesty to say it,--whose life is
notoriously a pattern of all the virtues;--I, too, ungrateful biped,
who have watched your flock through so many sleepless nights, lest some
ill-disposed dog might do harm to the helpless sheep and lambs!"
The shepherd, one of the simplest souls that ever lived, was utterly
confounded by this reproof, and hung his head with shame, unable, for
a season, to utter a word in his own defence. At length he managed to
"I pray your pardon, brother, but--but in truth I have lost a great many
lambs lately, and began to think my little ones at home would starve."
"How harder than stone is the heart of man!" murmured the wolf, as if to
Then, raising his voice, he went on to say,--
"I despair of reaching your conscience; nevertheless I will speak as if
I had hope. You never paid me anything for protecting your flock; it was
on my part a pure labor of love; and yet, because I cannot quite succeed
in guarding it against all the bad dogs that are about, you would take
And the creature put on such a look of meek suffering innocence that the
shepherd was touched to the very heart, and felt more guilty and abashed
than ever. He therefore said at once,--
"Brother, I fear that I have done you wrong; and if you will swear to
mind your own affairs, and not prey upon my flock, I will at once set
"My character ought to be a sufficient guaranty," answered the
quadruped, with much dignity; "but I submit, since I must, to your
unjust suspicions, and promise as you require."
So, lifting up his paw, he swore solemnly, by all the gods that wolves
worship, to keep his pledge. Thereupon the other set him free, with many
apologies and professions of confidence and friendship. Only a few days,
however, had passed before the shepherd, happening to mount a knoll,
saw at a little distance the self-same wolf eagerly devouring the warm
remains of a lamb.
"Villain! villain!" he shouted, in great wrath, "is this the way you
keep your oath? Did not you swear to mind your own business?"
"I am minding it," said the wolf, with a grin; "it is my business to eat
lambs; it should be yours not to believe in wolves' promises."
So saying, he seized upon the last fragment of the Iamb, and ran away as
fast as his legs would carry him.
_Moral_.--Shepherds who make compromises with wolves sell their mutton
at an exceedingly cheap market.
Now just such short-witted shepherds are we, the people of these free
American States, invited by numbers of citizens to become. Just such, do
I say? A thousand times more silly than such. Our national wolf meets us
with jaws that drip blood and eyes that glare hunger for more. Instead
of professing sanctity and innocence, it only howls immitigable hate and
steadfast resolution to devour. "Give me," it howls, "half the pasture
and flock for my own, with, of course, a supervision over the rest, and
a child or two when I am dainty; and I will be content,--until I want
In speaking of our "national wolf," we are using no mere rhetoric, but
are, in truth, getting at the very heart of the matter. This war, in
its final relations to human history, is an encounter between opposing
tendencies in man,--between the beast-of-prey that is in him and is
always seeking brute domination, on the one hand, and the rational and
moral elements of manhood, which ever urge toward the lawful supremacy,
on the other. This is a conflict as old as the world, and perhaps one
that, in some shape, will continue while the world lasts; and I have
tried in vain to think of a single recorded instance wherein the issue
was more simple, or the collision more direct, than in our own country
That principle in nature which makes the tiger tiger passes obviously
into man in virtue of the fact that he is on one side, on the side of
body and temperament, cousin to the tiger, as comparative anatomy shows.
This presence in man of a tiger-principle does not occur by a mistake,
for it is an admirable fuel or fire, an admirable generator of force,
which the higher powers may first master and then use. But at first it
assumes place in man wholly untamed and seemingly tameless, indisposed
for aught but sovereignty. Of course, having place in man, it passes,
and in the same crude state, into society. And thus it happens, that,
when the unconquerable affinities of men bring them together, this
principle arises in its brutal might, and strives to make itself central
But what is highest in man has its own inevitable urgency, as well as
what is lowest. It can never be left out of the account. Gravitation
is powerful and perpetual; but the pine pushes up in opposition to it
nevertheless. The forces of the inorganic realm strive with might to
keep their own; but organic life _will_ exist on the planet in their
despite, and will conquer from the earth what material it needs. And, in
like manner, no sooner do men aggregate than there begin to play back
and forth between them ideal or ascending forces, mediations of reason,
conscience, soul; and the ever growing interpretations of these appear
as courtesies, laws, moralities, worships,--as all the noble communities
which constitute a high social state. In fine, there is that in man
which seeks perpetually, for it seeks necessarily, to give the position
of centrality in society to the ideal principle of justice and to the
great charities of the human soul.
Hence a contest. Two antagonistic principles leap forth from the bosom
of man, so soon as men come together, seeking severally to establish
the law of social relationship. One of these is predaceous, brutal; the
other ideal, humane. One says, "Might makes Right"; the other, "Might
should serve Right." One looks upon mankind at large as a harvest to
be gathered for the behoof of a few, who are confederate only for that
purpose, even as wolves hunt in packs; the other regards humanity as
a growth to be fostered for its own sake and worth, and affirms that
superiority of strength is given for service, not for spoil. One makes
the _ego_ supreme; the other makes rational right supreme. One seeks
private gratification at any expense to higher values, even as the tiger
would, were it possible, draw and drink the blood of the universe as
soon as the blood of a cow; the other establishes an ideal estimate
of values, and places private gratification low on the scale. But the
deepest difference between them, the root of separation, remains to
be stated. It is the opposite climate they have of man in the pure
simplicity of his being. The predaceous principle says,--"Man is in and
of himself valueless; he attains value only by position, by subduing the
will of others to his own; and in subjecting others he destroys nothing
of worth, since those who are weak enough to fall are by that very fact
proved to be worthless." The humane or socializing principle, on the
contrary, says,--"Manhood is value; the essence of all value is found
in the individual soul; and therefore the final use of the world, of
society, of action, of all that man does and of all that surrounds
him, is to develop intelligence, to bring forth the mind and soul into
power,--in fine, to realize in each the spiritual possibilities of man."
True socialization now exists only as this nobler principle is
victorious. It exists only in proportion as force is lent to ideal
relations, relations prescribed by reason, conscience, and reverence for
the being of man,--only in proportion, therefore, as the total force
of the state kneels before each individual soul, and, without foolish
intermeddlings, or confusions of order, proffers protection, service,
succor. Here is a socialization flowing, self-poised, fertilizing; it is
full of gracious invitation to all, yet regulates all; it makes liberty
by making law; it produces and distributes privilege. Here there is not
only _community_, that is, the unity of many in the enjoyment of common
privilege, but there is more, there is positive fructification, there
is a wide, manifold, infinitely precious evocation of intelligence, of
moral power, and of all spiritual worth.
As, on the contrary, the baser principle triumphs, there is no genuine
socialization, but only a brute aggregation of subjection beneath and a
brute dominance of egotism above. Society is mocked and travestied, not
established, in proportion as force is lent to egotism. If anywhere
the power which we call _state_ set its heel on an innocent soul,--if
anywhere it suppress, instead of uniting intelligence,--if anywhere
it deny, though only to one individual, the privilege of becoming
human,--to such an extent it wars against society and civilization, to
such extent sets its face against the divine uses of the world.
Now the contest between these opposing principles is that which is
raging in our country this day. Of course, any broad territorial
representation of this must be of a very mixed quality. Our best
civilizations are badly mottled with stains of barbarism. In no state or
city can egotism, either of the hot-blooded or cold-blooded kind,--and
the latter is far the more virulent,--be far to seek. On the other hand,
no social system, thank God, can quite reverse the better instincts of
humanity; and it may be freely granted that even American slavery shades
off, here and there, into quite tender modifications. Yet not in all the
world could there possibly be found an antagonism so deep and intense as
exists here. The Old World seems to have thrown upon the shores of the
New its utmost extremes, its Oriental barbarisms and its orients and
auroras of hope and belief; so that here coexist what Asia was three
thousand years ago, and what Europe may be one thousand years hence. Let
us consider the actual _status_.
In certain localities of Southern Africa there is a remarkable fly, the
Tsetse fly. In the ordinary course of satisfying its hunger, this insect
punctures the skin of a horse, and the animal dies in consequence. A fly
makes a lunch, and a horse's life pays the price of the meal. This has
ever seemed to me to represent the beast-of-prey principle in Nature
more vigorously than any other fact. But in that system whose fangs
are now red with the blood of our brave there is an expression of this
principle not less enormous. It is the very Tsetse fly of civilization.
That a small minority of Southern men may make money without earning
it,--that a few thousand individuals may monopolize the cotton-market
of the world,--what a suppression and destruction of intelligence it
perpetrates I what consuming of spiritual possibilities! what mental
wreck and waste! Whites, too, suffer equally with blacks. Less
oppressed, they are perhaps even more demoralized. No parallel example
does the earth exhibit of the sacrifice of transcendent values for
In attempting to destroy free government and rational socialization in
America, this system is treading no new road, it is only proceeding on
the old. Its central law is that of destroying any value, however
great, for the sake of any gratification, however small. Accustomed to
battening on the hopes of humanity,--accustomed to taking stock in
human degradation, and declaring dividends upon enforced ignorance and
crime,--existing only while every canon of the common law is annulled,
and every precept of morals and civilization set at nought,--could it be
expected to pause just when, or rather just _because_, it had apparently
found the richest possible prey? Could it be expected to withhold its
fang for no other reason than that its fang was allured by a more
opulent artery than ever before? The simple truth is--and he knows
nothing about this controversy who fails to perceive such truth--that
the system whose hands are now armed against us has always borne these
arms in its heart; that the fang which is now bared has hitherto been
only concealed, not wanting; that the tree which is to-day in bloody
blossom is the same tree it ever was, and carried these blossoms in its
sap long ere spreading them upon its boughs.
To this predaceous system what do we oppose? We oppose a socialization
that has features,--I will say no more,--has _features_ of generous
breadth and promise, that are the best fruition of many countries and
centuries. Faults and drawbacks it has enough and to spare; conspicuous
among which may be named the vulgar and disgusting "negrophobia,"--a
mark of under-breeding which one hopes may not disgrace us always. But
let us be carried away by no mania for self-criticism. Two claims for
ourselves may be made. First, a higher grade of laws nowhere exists with
a less amount of coercive application,--exists, that is, by the rational
and constant choice of the whole people. Secondly, it may be questioned
whether anywhere in the world the development of intelligence and moral
force in the whole people is to a greater extent a national aim. But
abandoning all comparison with other peoples, this we may say with no
doubtful voice: We stand for the best ideas of the Old World in the New;
we stand for orderly-freedom and true socialization in America; we stand
for these, and with us these must here stand or fall.
Now, of course, we are not about to become the offscouring of the earth
by yielding these up to destruction. Of course, we shall not convert
ourselves into a nation of Iscariots, and give over civilization to
the bowie-knife, with the mere hope of so making money out of Southern
trade,--which we should not do,--and with the certainty of a gibbet in
history, to mention no greater penalty.
But refusing this perfidy, could we have avoided this war? No; for
it was simply our refusal of such perfidy which, so far as we are
concerned, brought the war on. The South, having ever since the
Mexican War stood with its sword half out of the scabbard, perpetually
threatening to give its edge,--having made it the chief problem of our
politics, by what gift or concession to purchase exemption from that
dreaded blade,--at last reached its ultimate demand. "Will you," it said
to the North, "abdicate the privileges of equal citizenship? Will
you give up this continent, territory, Free States and all, to our
predaceous, blood-eating system? Will you sell into slavery the elective
franchise itself? Will you sell the elective franchise itself into
slavery, and take for pay barely the poltroon's price, that of being
scornfully spared by the sword we stand ready to draw?" The
North excused itself politely. In the softest voice, but with a
soft-voicedness that did not wholly conceal an iron thread of
resolution, it declined to comply with that most modest demand. Then the
sword came out and struck at our life. "Was it matter of choice with us
whether we would fight? Not unless it were also matter of choice whether
we would become the very sweepings and blemish of creation.
"But we might have permitted secession." No, we could not. It was
clearly impracticable. "But why not?" _Because that would have been
to surrender the whole under the guise of giving up half_. Such a
concession could have meant to the people of the rebellious States, and,
in the existing state of national belief, could have meant to our very
selves, nothing other than this:--"We submit; do what you will; we are
shopkeepers and cowards; we must have your trade; and besides, though
expert in the use of yardsticks, we have not the nerve for handling
guns." From that moment we should have lost all authority on this
continent, and all respect on the other.
The English papers have blamed us for fighting; but had we failed to
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