Atlantic Monthly, Volume 3, No. 19, May, 1859
Part 3 out of 5
in a shop under the charge of a grasping, unscrupulous man, where he
learned the rules of business which he followed afterwards with so much
success. The old-fashioned notions about the Golden Rule he was speedily
well rid of; for when his indiscreet frankness to customers was
observed, the rod taught him the folly of untimely truth-telling, if not
the propriety of smoothing the way to a bargain by a glib falsehood.
With such training, he grew up an expert salesman; and before he was of
age, after various changes in business, he became the confidential clerk
in a large wholesale house. Owing to unexpected reverses, the house
became embarrassed, and at length failed. The head of the firm went back
to his native town a broken-hearted man, and not long afterwards died,
leaving his family destitute. But Bullion, with a junior partner,
settled with the creditors, kept on with the business, and prospered.
Perhaps, if the widow had received what was rightfully hers, the juniors
would have had a smaller capital to begin upon,--Bullion knew; but the
account, if there was one, was past settlement by human tribunals, and
had gone upon the docket in the great Court of Review.
Wealth grows like the banian, sending down branches that take root on
all sides in the thrifty soil, and then become trunks themselves, and
the parents of ever-increasing boughs,--a sturdy forest in breadth, a
tree in unity. So Bullion grew and flourished. At the time of our story
he was rich enough to satisfy any moderate ambition; but he wished to
rear a colossal fortune, and the operations he was now concerned in
were fortunate beyond his expectations. But he was not satisfied. He
conceived the idea of carrying on the same stock-speculation in New
York on a larger scale, and made an arrangement with one of the leading
"bears" of that city; but he was careful to keep this a secret, most of
all from Fletcher and others of his associates at home. Fortune favored
him, as usual, and he promised himself a success that would make him a
monarch in the financial world. Under the excitement of the moment, he
had filled the baby hands of Fletcher's child with gold pieces. It was
as Fletcher said; his head was fairly turned by the glittering prospect
The associate in New York proposed to Bullion the purchase of a
controlling interest in a railroad; and Bullion, believing that the
depression had nearly reached its limit, and that affairs would soon
take a turn, agreed that it was best now to change their policy, and to
buy all the shares in this stock that should be offered while the price
was low, and keep them as an investment. He felt sure that he with the
New York capitalist had now money enough to "swing" all the shares in
market, and they each agreed to purchase all that should be brought
to the hammer in their respective cities. Following up his promise
faithfully, Bullion bought all the stock of the railroad that came into
State Street, and in this way rapidly exhausted his ready money. Then he
raised loans upon his other property, and still kept the market clear.
But he wondered that so many shares came to Boston for sale; for the
railroad was in a Western State, and few of the original holders were
New England men.
Bullion now met the first check in his career. Kerbstone, whose appeals
for help he had disregarded, and whose property had been wofully
depreciated by the course of the "bears," of whom Bullion was chief,
failed for a large sum. As he was treasurer of the Neversink Mills,
the stockholders and creditors of that corporation made an immediate
investigation of its accounts. Kerbstone was found to be a defaulter
to the amount of hundreds of thousands of dollars; the property was
gone,--undermined like a snow-bank in spring. The largest owner was
Bullion. He was overreached by his own shrewdness; and the hitherto
unlucky "bulls," who had had small cause to laugh, thought that it was
"sport to see the engineer
Hoist with his own petard,"--
better even than to have tossed him on their own horns.
Bullion made some wry faces; but the loss, though great, was not
ruinous. He was obliged, however, to take back the shares of the
factory-stock on which he had obtained loans for his New York
operations, and to substitute an equal amount of other securities,--thus
cramping his resources at a time when he needed every dollar to carry
out his vast plans.
In the multiplicity of his affairs, Bullion had almost forgotten
Fletcher, and left him to pursue his own course. But there was a man who
had not forgotten him, and who followed all his movements with vigilant
eyes. Sandford was convinced that Fletcher had in some way become
prosperous, and he now advanced to use the peculiar note as a draft on
the miserable debtor's funds. There was the same wily approach, the same
covert allusion to Fletcher's supposed resources, the same peremptory
demand, and the same ugly threat which had so desperately maddened him
when the subject was broached before. Fletcher felt the tightening of
the lasso, but could not free himself from the fatal noose. He must pay
whatever the cold-eyed creditor demanded. Two thousand dollars was the
sum asked for the acknowledgment of having appropriated five hundred.
Twopence for halfpenny has been accounted fair usury among the Jews; but
in Christian communities it is only crime that accumulates interest like
As a measure of precaution, Sandford had made a copy of the paper and
prepared an explanatory statement; these he now inclosed in an envelope,
in Fletcher's presence, and directed it to Messrs. Foggarty, Danforth,
and Dot. Then drawing out his watch, as if to make a careful computation
of time, he said,--
"Nine, ten, eleven,--yes,--at eleven, to-morrow, I shall expect to
receive the sum; otherwise I shall feel it my duty to send this letter
by a trusty hand. In fact, I suppose I have hardly done right in not
putting the gentlemen on their guard before."
A cold sweat covered Fletcher's shivering limbs, and for a moment he
stood irresolute; but recollecting Bullion, he rallied himself, and,
assenting to the proposition, bade Sandford good-bye; then, as the only
revenge practicable, he cursed him with the heartiest emphasis, when
his back was turned. Presently Tonsor came with the news of Kerbstone's
"The street is full of rumors," he said;--"Bullion is a large owner in
"Bosh!" said Fletcher,--"Bullion is in there for fifty thousand, to be
sure; but what is that? He has other property enough,--half a million,
"Still, a pebble brought down Goliath. A house in New York, worth a
million, failed yesterday for want of twenty-five thousand."
"Don't you be alarmed. Bullion knows. He isn't going to fail."
"I want to get ten thousand from him to take some shares I bought for
"Now; and he is not at his office."
"I'll get you the money from our house. I haven't deposited the funds
for to-day yet, and I'll put in a memorandum which Bullion will make
"Hadn't you better wait?"
"No; it doesn't matter. He's all right; and it isn't best to break his
orders for any ten thousand dollars."
Fletcher handed the money to the broker, and, as bank-hours were then
about over, he put his papers in order and went home.
"Lovey!" he exclaimed, upon meeting his wife, "I have been thinking
over what you said about getting my notes cashed. I believe I'll take
Bullion's offer and salt the money down. Probably, now, he will give me
a better trade, for there is considerable more due."
"Oh, John! how glad I am! You _will_ do it to-morrow,--won't you, now?"
"Yes, I'll settle with him to-morrow."
He was thinking of the fact that Tonsor had bought shares for Bullion,
and he wondered what the move meant. A house divided against itself
could not stand; and he said to himself, that a man must be uncommonly
deep to be a "bull" and a "bear" at the same time. There was no doubt
that Bullion had embarked in some speculation which he had not seen fit
to make known to his agent.
"There you go,--off into one of your fogs again!" said the wife,
noticing his suddenly abstracted air. "That's the way you have done for
the last three months,--ever since you began with that hateful man."
"I get to thinking about affairs, my little woman, and I don't want to
bother your simple head with them; so I go cruising off in the fog, as
you call it, by myself."
"Oh, if you once get through with that man's affairs, we'll have no more
"No, deary, we'll have summer weather and a smooth sea, I hope, for the
rest of our voyage."
"You see, John, I have been dreadfully anxious, more than I could tell
you. If anything goes wrong, I've always noticed that it isn't the big
people that have to suffer; it's the smaller ones that get caught."
"Yes, it's an old story; the big flies break out of the spider's net;
the little chaps hang there. But I'll settle up the business to-morrow.
I shall have enough to buy us a little house in the country,--a snug
box, with a garden; then I'll get a horse to drive about with, and we'll
take some comfort. Come, little woman, sit on my knee! Come, baby, here
is a knee for you, too!"
Holding them in his arms, he still mused upon the morrow, and once and
again charged his mind to remember "two thousand for Sandford, ten
thousand for Danforth and Dot!"
Alice did not feel the utter loneliness of her situation, until, as she
walked along, square after square, she encountered so many hundreds of
abstracted or curious or impudent faces, and reflected that it was upon
such people that her future support and comfort would depend. She tried
to discover in some countenance the impress of kindly benevolence;--not
that she proposed to risk so much as a question; but it was her first
experience with the busy world, and she wished to observe its ways,
when neither relationship nor personal interest was involved. Small
encouragement she would have felt to approach any that she met. Men of
middle-age walked by as in dreams, cold, unobservant, listless; the
younger ones, fuller of life, strode on with high heads, and flinging
glances that were harder to bear than stony indifference, even. Ladies
clothed in costly furs scanned the pretty face under the mourning bonnet
with prying eyes, or tossed her a hasty, scornful look. Shop-girls
giggled and stared. Boys rushed by, rudely jostling every passenger.
Old women in scanty petticoats that were fringed by no dressmaker, with
pinched faces and watery eyes, looked imploringly and hobbled along,
wrapping parcels of broken victual under their faded shawls.--A sorry
world Alice thought it. In the country, she had been used to receive a
kindly bow or a civil "Good-morning!" from every person she met; and the
isolation of the individual in the city was to her something unnatural,
She had cut out some boarding-house advertisements from the daily
papers, and her first care was to find a home suited to her slender
means. Reaching the door of the first on her list, she rang and was
shown into a small drawing-room, shabby-genteel in its furniture and
ornaments. Two seamstresses sat chattering around the centre-table;
while a ruddy young man, with greenish brown moustaches and sandy hair,
rested his clumsy boots on the fender, holding an open music-book in his
lap and a flute in his ill-kept and gaudily-ringed hands. The kitchen,
apparently, was not ventilated; and a mingled odor, beyond the analysis
of chemistry, came up into the entry and pervaded the hot and confined
atmosphere of the room. The landlady, a stout and resolute woman,
entered with a studied smile, which changed gradually to a cold
civility. Her eyes, unlike Banquo's, had a deal of speculation in them.
One might read the price-current in the busy wrinkles. Around her
pursed-up mouth lurked the knowledge of the number of available slices
in a sirloin,--the judgment of the lump of butter that should leave no
margin for prodigality. Warfare with market-men, shrewish watchfulness
over servants, economy scarcely removed from meanness at the table, all
were clearly indicated in her flushed and hard-featured face.
Alice was not familiar with such people; but she shrank from her by
instinct, as the first chicken fled from the first hawk. The landlady,
on her part, was equally suspicious, and, finding that Alice had no
relatives to depend upon, and that she expected to earn her own living,
was not at all solicitous to increase the number of her boarders.
"It's pootty hard to tell who's who, now-a-days," she said. "I have to
pay cash for all I set on the table, and I can't trust to fair promises.
Perhaps, though, you've got some _cousin_ that looks arter your bills?"
The flute-player exchanged knowing glances with the seamstresses.
All-unconscious of the taunt, Alice simply replied,--
"No, I have told you that I have no one to depend upon."
The landlady's mouth was primly set, and she merely exclaimed,--
"I think I'll look further," said Alice. "Good-morning."
Half-suppressed chuckles followed her, as she left the room. Sorely
grieved and indignant, she took her way to another house. Fortune this
time favored her. The landlady, a kind-hearted woman, was in mourning
for her only daughter, and with the first words she heard she felt
her heart drawn to the lovely and soft-voiced stranger. Without any
offensive inquiries, Alice was at once received, and an upper room
assigned to her. After sending for her trunk, she dressed for dinner.
The table presented specimens of all the familiar characters of
boarding-house life. There was the lawyer, sharp, observant, talkative,
ready for a joke or an argument. There was the solemn man of business,
who ate from a sense of duty, and scowled at the lawyer's bad puns. Near
him, with an absurdly youthful wig and opaque goggles, sat the Unknown;
his name, occupation, resources, and tastes alike a profound mystery.
Several dapper clerks, whose right ears drooped from having been used as
pen-racks, wearing stunning cravats, _outre_ brooches and shirt-studs,
learned in the lore of "two-forty" driving, were ranged opposite. Then
there was the jolly widow, who was the admiration of men of her own age,
but who cruelly gave all her smiles to the boys with newly-sprouting
chins. Near her sat the fastidious man, whose nostrils curled ominously
when any stain appeared on his napkin, or when anything sullied the
virgin purity of his own exclusive fork. His spectacles seemed to serve
as microscopes, made for the sole purpose of detecting some fatal speck
invisible to other eyes. There was the singer, with a neck like
a swan's, bowing with the gracious air that is acquired in the
acknowledgment of bouquets and _bravas_. The artist was her _vis-a-vis_,
powerful like Samson in his bushy locks, negligent with fore-thought,
wearing a massive seal-ring, and fragrant with the perfume of countless
pipes. The nice old maid near him turns away in disgust when she sees
his moustaches draggle in the soup.
Down the long row of faces Alice looked timidly, and at length fastened
her eyes upon a lady in mourning like herself. There is no physiognomist
like the frank, affectionate young man or woman who looks to find
appreciation and sympathy. It is not necessary, for such a purpose, to
speculate upon Grecian or Roman noses, thin or protruding lips, blue,
gray, or brown eyes; each soul knows its own sphere and the people that
belong in it; and a sure instinct or prescience guides us in our choice
of friends. Alice at a glance became conscious of an affinity, and
quietly waited till circumstances should bring her into associations
with the woman whom she hoped to make a friend.
It was not long before the occasion came. Not to make any mystery, it
was our old acquaintance, Mrs. Sandford, who attracted the gaze of
Alice, and who soon became her kindly adviser. Never was there a more
_motherly_ woman; and, as she was now almost a stranger in the house,
she attached herself to Alice with a warmth and an unobtrusive
solicitude that quite won the girl's heart. Alice lost no time in
procuring such work from a tailor as she felt competent to do, and
applied herself diligently to her task; but a very short trial convinced
her, that, at the "starvation prices" then paid for needlework, she
should not be able to earn even her board. Then came in the thoughtful
friend, who, after gently drawing out the facts of the case, furnished
her with sewing on which she could display her taste and skill. Day
after day new employment came through the same kind hands, until Alice
wondered how one wearer could want such a quantity of the various
nameless, tasteful articles in which all women feel so much pride.
It was not until long after, that she learned how the work had been
procured by her friend's active, but noiseless agency.
Not many days after their intimacy commenced, as Mrs. Sandford sat
watching Alice at her work, it occurred to her that there was a look of
tender sorrow, an unexplained melancholy, which her recent bereavement
did not wholly account for. Not that the girl was given to romantic
sighs or tragic starts, or that she carried a miniature for lachrymose
exercises; but it was evident that she had what we term "a history." She
was frank and cheerful, although there was palpably something kept
back, and her cheerfulness was like the mournful beauty of flowers that
blossom over graves. No sympathetic nature could refuse confidence to
Mrs. Sandford, and it was not long before she discovered that Alice had
passed through the golden gate to which all footsteps tend, and from
which no one comes back except with a change that colors all the after
"And so you are in love, poor child!" said Mrs. Sandford,
"I have been" (with a gentle emphasis).
"Ah, you think you are past it now, I suppose?"
"I sha'n't _forget_ soon,--I could not, if I would; but love is
over,--gone like yesterday's sunshine."
"But the sun shines again to-day."
"Well, if you prefer another comparison," said Alice, smiling
faintly,--"gone out like yesterday's fire."
"Fire lurks a long time in the ashes unseen, my dear."
Alice dropped her needle and looked steadily at her companion.
"I am young," she said; "yet I have outgrown the school-girl period.
The current of my life has flowed in a deep channel: the shallow little
brook may fancy its first spring-freshet to be a Niagara; but my
feelings have swelled with no transient overflow. I gave my utmost love
and devotion to a man I thought worthy. He treated me with neglect, and
at last falsified his word in offering his hand to another, I do not
hate him. I have none of that alchemy which changes despised love to
gall. But I could never forgive him, nor trust him again. And if he,
who seemed always so frank, so earnest, so tender, so single in his
aims,--if he could not be trusted, I do not know where I could rest my
heart and say,--'Here I am safe, whatever betide!'"
It was a strange thing for Alice to speak in such an exalted strain, and
she trembled as she tried to resume her sewing. The thread slipped and
knotted; the needle broke and pricked her finger; and then, feeling her
cheeks begin to glow, she laid down her work and turned to the window.
"Don't lose _all_ faith, Alice; there are true hearts in the world.
Perhaps this lover of yours, now, has repented and is striving to find
you. Or you may have been misinformed as to the extent of his treachery.
To take your own simile, you don't accuse the brook of fickleness merely
because it eddies around under some flowery bank; after it has made the
circle, it keeps on its steady course."
Alice only shook her head, still keeping her face averted to conceal the
tremor of her lips.
"But you haven't told me who this man is. How odd it would be, if I knew
"I would rather not have you know. The secret isn't a fatal one, to be
sure; but I prefer to keep it."
Suddenly she stepped back from the window, ashy pale, and gasping
hysterically. Mrs. Sandford rose hastily to assist her, and, as she
did so, noticed her old acquaintance, Mr. Greenleaf, on the opposite
sidewalk. She helped Alice to her seat and brought her a glass of
water, and, as she did so, in an instant the long track of the past was
illumined as by a flash of lightning. She saw the reason for Greenleaf's
conduct towards her sister-in-law, Marcia. She remembered his early
fascination, his long, vacillating resistance, his brief engagement, and
the stormy scene when it was broken. She had seen the thread of Fate
spun for each, without knowing that invisible strands connected them.
She had begun to read a tale of sorrow, but the page was torn, and now
she had finished it upon the chance-found fragment; the irregular and
jagged edges fitted together like mosaic-work.
What a mystery is Truth! A Lie may simulate its form or hue, and, taken
by itself, may deceive the most acute observer. But in the affairs of
the world, every fact is related; it meets and is joined by other facts
on every side,--the whole forming an harmonious figure in all its angles
and curves as well as in its gradations of color. Each truth slips
easily into its predestined place; a lie, however trivial, has no place;
its angles are belligerent, its colors false; it makes confusion, and is
thrown out as soon as the eye of the Master falls upon it.
"Did I speak?" she asked.
"No,--you said nothing."
"I am glad. I feared I had been foolish. It was a mere passing
Mrs. Sandford thought it was the _cause_ of the faintness that was
passing, but she prudently kept her discovery to herself.
Fletcher rose next morning betimes, after a night of fitful and
unrefreshing slumber. In his dreams he had sought Bullion in vain; that
substantial person seemed to have become a new Proteus, and to
escape, when nearly overtaken, by taking refuge in some unexpected
transformation. Sometimes the scene changed, and it was the dreamer that
was flying, while Sandford, shod with swiftness, pursued him, swinging
a lasso; and as often as the fierce hunter whirled the deadly coil,
Fletcher awoke with a suffocating sensation, and a cold sweat trickling
from his forehead. At breakfast, his wife noticed with intense anxiety
his sharpened features and his evident preoccupation of mind. He hurried
off, snatching a kiss from the baby and from the mother who held it, and
walked towards Bullion's office. He knew Bullion was an early riser,
and he felt sure of being able to see him before the usual hour of
commencing business. But the office was not even opened; and, looking
through the glass door, he saw that there was no fire in the grate. What
was the meaning of this? Going into the street, he met Tonsor near the
post-office. At the first sight of the broker's face, Fletcher's heart
seemed to stop beating.
"Good-morning, Fletcher. Bad business, this! I suppose you've heard.
Bullion went to protest yesterday. Hope you got wind of it in time, and
made all safe."
"Bullion failed!" exclaimed Fletcher, through his chattering teeth.
"Then I'm a ruined man!"
But a sudden thought struck him, and he asked eagerly,--
"But the money,--haven't you got it still?"
"No,--paid it over yesterday."
"Well, the shares, then?"
"No,--sorry to say, Bullion's clerk came for them not ten minutes before
I heard of the protest."
"O God!" groaned the unhappy man, "there is no hope! But you, Mr.
Tonsor, you are my friend; help me out of this! You can raise the
"Ten thousand dollars! It's a pretty large sum. I'm afraid I couldn't
"Try, my friend,--you shall never regret it."
Tonsor hesitated, and Fletcher's spirits rose. He watched the broker's
composed face with eyes that might pierce a mummy.
"What is the collateral?" asked Tonsor, slowly raising his wrinkled
"Bullion's notes for seventeen thousand dollars."
"And Bullion gone to protest."
"He'll come up again."
"Perhaps; but while he is down, I can't do anything with his paper. The
truth is, Fletcher, you ought not to have advanced the money for him.
Remember, I warned you when you were about to do it."
Fletcher did not look as though he found the "Balm of I-told-you-so"
"Now, if I were in your place, I would go and make a clean breast of it
to Danforth. It was wrong, though I know you didn't mean any harm. He
may be angry, but he won't touch you. You _can't_ raise ten thousand
dollars in these times,--not to save your soul."
"Keep your advice, and your money, too," said Fletcher, in sullen
despair. "I ask for bread, and you give me a stone. Your moral lecture
won't pay my debts."
He turned away abruptly and went again to Bullion's office. It was still
closed. Determined at all hazards to see the man for whom he had risked
so much, he went to his house on Beacon Hill. The servant said Mr.
Bullion was not at home. Fletcher did not believe it, but the door was
closed in his face before he could send a more urgent message, and with
a sinking heart he retraced his steps towards State Street.
The horror of his position was now fully before him. He could not
conceal his defalcation, and there was no longer a shadow of hope of
replacing the money. Many a time he had taken the risk of lending large
sums to brokers and others; but who would trust him, a man without
estate, in a time like this? In his terrible anxiety about the new
obligation, he had forgotten the old, until he chanced to observe
Sandford on the opposite sidewalk, strolling leisurely towards the
business quarter of the town. The ex-secretary made a barely-perceptible
bow, and, drawing out his watch, significantly turned the face towards
his debtor. It was enough; there was no need of words. It was a little
after ten o'clock; the fatal letter would be delivered at eleven!
Fletcher crossed the street and accosted Sandford, though not without
trepidation; for he shuddered like a swimmer within reach of a shark, as
he encountered those cold and pitiless eyes.
"Come to the office, Mr. Sandford, at eleven," he said. "The affair will
be settled then, and forever."
Mr. Sandford nodded and walked on. Fletcher, meanwhile, quivering with
agony, hurried to his employer's office. He scanned each face sharply
as he entered, and felt sure that the loss had not yet been discovered.
Going to his desk, he wrote and sealed a letter, and then went out,
saying he had some business with a lawyer overhead.
Mrs. Fletcher grew momently more uneasy, after her husband left the
house. A vague sense of coming evil oppressed her, until at length she
could bear it no longer; she left her child with the servant, and,
walking to the nearest stand, took a coach for State Street. On the way
she recalled again and again the muttered words she heard during the
night; she thought of the silent, comfortless breakfast, the hurried
good-bye; she felt again the pressure of his trembling lips upon her
own. Full of apprehension, she asked the coachman to call her husband
to the door. Answer was made by a clerk that Mr. Fletcher was out on
business, but was expected back presently. So she waited, looking out
of the carriage-window,--a sad face to see! The hands of the Old
State-House clock pointed at eleven, when Mr. Sandford punctually made
his appearance,--smooth, cheerful, and with a slight exhilaration, in
prospect of the two thousand dollars. Almost at the same moment Bullion
came also; for Tonsor, fearing that Fletcher would take some desperate
step, had been to the surly bankrupt's house and insisted upon his
coming down to see his unfortunate agent. Just at the office-door, and
opposite the carriage, met the two bankrupts, the disgraced "bull"
and the vanquished "bear." It was an odd look of recognition that
was exchanged between them; and if there was a shade of triumph in
Sandford's face, it was not to be wondered at. They stood at the door,
each motioning the other to enter first, when an unusual sound from the
adjoining entry caused both of them to stop, and one of them, at least,
to shiver. It was a sound of slow and hesitating, shuffling steps, as of
men carrying a burden. The steps came nearer. Both Bullion and Sandford
moved hurriedly to the spot. The men stopped in the doorway with their
burden, and in a moment, with frantic shrieks, Mrs. Fletcher rushed in
and fell upon the body of her husband!
"Good God! what's this?" exclaimed Bullion. "Dead?" He stooped down and
thrust his hand under the waistcoat. The heart was still! He shuddered
convulsively and drew back, covering his eyes. "Dead!"
Mr. Sandford seemed frozen to the threshold in speechless horror. There
was his debtor, free,--the old account settled forever! The pallid
temples would throb no more; the mobile lips had trembled their last;
the glancing, restless eyes had found a ghastly repose; the slender and
shapely frame, bereft of its active tenant, was limp and unresisting.
What a moment for the two men, as they stood over the corpse of their
Attracted by the unusual outcry, Mr. Danforth came hastily out of the
office, and stood, as it were, transfixed at the sight of the dead. The
men who had brought down the body at last found words to tell their
They were at work on the upper floor, when they heard a noise in one of
the adjoining rooms; as the apartment had been for some time unoccupied,
they were naturally surprised. After a while all sounds ceased, and
still no one came out to descend the stairs. Appalled by the silence,
they broke open the door, and discovered Fletcher hanging by the neck
from a coat-hook; a chair, overturned, had served as the scaffold from
which he had stepped into eternity. They took him down, but life was
already gone. A paper lay on his hat, with these words hastily pencilled
"On my desk is a letter that explains all. I'm off. Good-bye.
Mr. Danforth, hearing this, instantly went into his office, and
reappeared, reading a note addressed to him. Mr. Sandford, meanwhile,
was striving to raise the wretched woman to her feet, and to lead her
to the carriage. Mr. Bullion no longer whisked his defiant eyebrow, but
stood downcast, silent, and conscience-stricken.
"Listen a moment," said Mr. Danforth. "Here is a letter from our rash
friend, and, as it concerns you, gentlemen, I will read it. But first,
my dear Madam, let me help you into the carriage."
The prostrate woman made no answer, save by a slow rolling of her
body,--her sobs continuing without cessation. The letter was read:--
"To make a payment for shares bought by Mr. Bullion, I borrowed ten
thousand dollars from your house yesterday. Mr. Bullion has failed, and
does not protect me. He escapes, and I am left in the trap. I charge him
to pay my wife the notes he owes me. As he hopes to be saved, let him
consider that a debt of honor.
"But my death I lay at Sandford's door. He has followed me with a steady
bay, like a bloodhound. His claim is now settled forever, as I told him.
I don't ask God to forgive him;--I don't, and God won't. Let him live,
the cold-blooded wretch that he is; one world or another would make no
difference; for, to a devil like him, there is no heaven, no earth,
nothing but hell.
"My poor wife! See to her, if you have any pity for
"Look," said Mr. Danforth, holding the letter under the stony eyes of
Sandford,--"see where the tears blistered the paper!"
All the while, Mrs. Fletcher kept up an inarticulate moaning, though the
sound grew fainter from exhaustion.
"Let us stop this," said Bullion, seeing the gathering crowd of
passers-by. "Better be at home."
Pointing to the still prostrate woman, he, with Mr. Danforth, gently
raised her up and placed her in the carriage. She did not speak, but
murmured pleadingly, while her face wore a look of agonized longing, and
her outstretched hands clutched nervously.
"Poor thing!" said Mr. Danforth, his voice beginning to tremble,--"she
shall have her dead husband, if it is any comfort to her."
"That's right," said Bullion,--"carry him off before half-a-dozen
coroner-buzzards come to fight over him."
The body was laid in the carriage, the head she had so often caressed
resting in her lap, while her tears bathed the unconscious face, and
her groans became heart-rending. Still holding the carriage-door, Mr.
Danforth turned to Sandford, saying,--
"I don't know _what_ you have done, but his blood is on your soul. I
would rather be like him there, than you, on your feet.--Bullion, I
don't mind the ten thousand dollars; but was it just the manly thing to
leave a man that trusted you in this way to be sacrificed? Why didn't
you come down this morning? God forgive you!--Coachman, drive to
He stepped into the carriage, and away it rolled with its load of
Mr. Sandford found the glances of his companion and the bystanders quite
uncomfortable, and he slunk silently away. Failure and disgrace he
had met; but this was a position for which he had not the nerve.
The self-accusing Cain was not the only man who has exclaimed, "My
punishment is greater than I can bear." Flight was the only alternative
for Sandford. As long as he remained in Boston, every face seemed to
wear a look of condemnation. The mark was set upon him, and avenging
fiends pursued him. That very day he left the city in disguise. Through
what trials he passed will never be known. But destitute, friendless,
and broken-spirited, he wandered from city to city, a vagabond upon the
face of the earth. Nor did a sterner retribution long delay. In New
Orleans, he was so far reduced that he was obliged to earn a miserable
support in an oyster-saloon near the levee. One night, a fight began
between some drunken boatmen: and Sandford, though in no way concerned
in the affair, received a chance bullet in his forehead, and fell dead
without a word.
Bullion, at last, in spite of his armor of selfishness and stoicism, was
touched in a vital part. His dreams of wealth had vanished into air. The
confederate in New York in whom he had trusted had only made him a dupe.
Blindly following out his agreement, he found himself saddled with a
load of railroad-shares, useless for any present purpose, and all his
convertible property gone. The consciousness that he--the man of all
others who prided himself upon his sagacity--had been so easily
overreached was quite as humiliating as the idea of ruin itself. He
remembered Kerbstone's appeals, also, and now cursed his own stupidity
in refusing to aid him. There he had overreached himself; it was his own
stocks which he had thrown down to the "bears." And now, heaviest stroke
of all, Fletcher, his intrepid and chivalrous agent, who had stepped
into the breach for him, had paid for his indiscretion with his life.
The thought gave him a pang he had never felt, not even when he followed
his wife to the grave. Homeward he went, but slowly and almost without
volition. He recognized no acquaintances that he met, but walked on
abstractedly, fixing his eyes on vacancy with a look as mournful as his
iron features could wear. In his ears still rang those thrilling cries.
His hand, that had groped over that motionless heart, still felt a
creeping chill; it would not warm. And constantly an accusing voice
asked, "Why didn't you come down?"--and conscience repeated the question
in tones like those of a judge arraigning a criminal. He reached his
house and gave orders that no one should be admitted. In his room he
passed the day alone, drifting on an ocean of remorse, full of vague
purposes of repentance and restitution. Dinner passed unheeded, and
still he paced the silent chamber. With the approach of evening his
terrors increased; he rang for a servant and had the gas-burners
lighted. Still, in all the blaze, shapes would haunt him; they crouched
at the foot of his bed; they lurked behind his wardrobe-door. He dared
not look over his shoulder, but forced himself to stand up and face
what he so dreaded to see. He rang again and bade the servant bring
a screw-driver and take down the coat-hooks from the wardrobe; the
garments hanging there seemed to be men struggling in the agonies of
asphyxia. The slender thread of sound from the gas-burners seemed to be
changed to low, mournful cries, as of a woman over the dead. He turned
the gas down a little; then the shadows of the cannel-coal fire danced
like spectres on the ceiling. He jumped up and raised the lights again;
again the low, dismal monotone sang in his ears. He stopped them with
his fingers; again the persistent voice asked, "Why didn't you come
down?" Flakes fell off the coal in the grate in shapes like coffins;
the flames seemed to dart at him with their fiery tongues. He rang once
more, and when the servant came he bade him drink enough strong tea and
then take his chair by the fire.
"Touch me, if I groan," said he to the astonished John. "Keep awake
yourself, and hold your tongue. If you go to sleep or leave me, I'll
Then wrapping himself in his dressing-gown, he settled down in his
easy-chair for the night.
The night passed, as all nights will, and in the morning Mr. Bullion
was calmer. The first intelligence he received after breakfast was in a
message from Tonsor, delivered by a servant.
"Plaze, Sur, Mr. Tonsor's compliments, and he says the banks is
suspinded and money's to be asier."
"Send after Mr. Tonsor; overtake him, and ask him to come back. I want
to see him."
Tonsor returned, and they had a long conference. It now seemed probable
that stocks would be more buoyant and the "bulls" would have their turn.
Any considerable rise in shares would place Bullion on his feet and
enable him to resume payment. Most of his time-contracts had been met,
and the change would be of the greatest service to him. He placed his
shares, therefore, in Tonsor's hands with instructions to sell when
prices advanced. He then looked over the amount of his liabilities, and
saw, with some of his old exultation, that, if he could effect sales
at the rates he expected, he should have at least two hundred thousand
dollars after paying all his debts. Ambition again whispered to him,
that he might now take his old place in the business world, and perhaps
might more than retrieve his losses. But he thought of the last night,
and shrank from encountering a new brood of horrors. Firm in his new
purpose, he dismissed the broker and sent for his counsellor.
"My son," he meditated, "is a lawyer in good practice. He needs no
fortune. Twenty thousand will be enough for him; more than I had, which
wasn't a penny. My daughter is married rich. Didn't mean to have any
pauper son-in-law to be plaguing me. The same for her. The rest will
square those old accounts,--and the new one, too, on the book up yonder!
Best to fix it now, while I can muster the courage. If I once get the
money, I'm afraid I shouldn't do it. So my will shall set all these
matters right; and it shall be drawn and signed to-day."
That night Mr. Bullion needed no servant to watch with him. The ghosts
[To be concluded in the next number.]
* * * * *
FOR AN ALMS-CHEST MADE OF CAMPHOR-WOOD.
This fragrant box that breathes of India's balms
Hath one more fragrance, for it asketh alms;
But, though 'tis sweet and blessed to receive,
You know who said, "It is more blest to give":
Give, then, receive His blessing,--and for me
Thy silent boon sufficient blessing be!
If Ceylon's isle, that bears the bleeding trees,
With any perfume load the Orient breeze,--
If Heber's Muse, by Ceylon as he sailed,
A pleasant odor from the shore inhaled,--
More lives in me; for underneath my lid
A sweetness as of sacrifice is hid.
Thou gentle almoner, in passing by,
Smell of my wood, and scan me with thine eye;--
I, too, from Ceylon bear a spicy breath
That might put warmness in the lungs of death;
A simple chest of scented wood I seem,
But, oh! within me lurks a golden beam,--
A beam celestial, and a silver din,
As though imprisoned angels played within;
Hushed in my heart my fragrant secret dwells;
If thou wouldst learn it, Paul of Tarsus tells;--
No jangled brass nor tinkling cymbal sound,
For in my bosom Charity is found.
* * * * *
A TRIP TO CUBA.
Why one leaves home at all is a question that travellers are sure,
sooner or later, to ask themselves,--I mean, pleasure-travellers. Home,
where one has the "Transcript" every night, and the "Autocrat"
every month, opera, theatre, circus, and good society, in constant
rotation,--home, where everybody knows us, and the little good there is
to know about us,--finally, home, as seen regretfully for the last time,
with the gushing of long frozen friendships, the priceless kisses of
children, and the last sad look at dear baby's pale face through the
window-pane,--well, all this is left behind, and we review it as a
dream, while the railroad-train hurries us along to the spot where we
are to leave, not only this, but Winter, rude tyrant, with all our
precious hostages in his grasp. Soon the swift motion lulls our brains
into the accustomed muddle; we seem to be dragged along like a miserable
thread pulled through the eye of an ever-lasting needle,--through and
through, and never through,--while here and there, like painful knots,
the _depots_ stop us, the poor thread is arrested for a minute, and then
the pulling begins again. Or, in another dream, we are like fugitives
threading the gauntlet of the grim forests, while the ice-bound trees
essay a charge of bayonets on either side; but, under the guidance of
our fiery Mercury, we pass them as safely as ancient Priam passed the
outposts of the Greeks,--and New York, as hospitable as Achilles,
receives us in its mighty tent. Here we await the "Karnak," the British
Mail Company's new screw-steamer, bound for Havana, _via_ Nassau. At
length comes the welcome order to "be on board." We betake ourselves
thither,--the anchor is weighed, the gun fired, and we take leave of our
native land with a patriotic pang, which soon gives place to severer
I do not know why all celebrated people who write books of travels begin
by describing their days of sea-sickness. Dickens, George Combe, Fanny
Kemble, Mrs. Stowe, Miss Bremer, and many others, have opened in like
manner their valuable remarks on foreign countries. While intending to
avail myself of their privilege and example, I would, nevertheless,
suggest, for those who may come after me, that the subject of
sea-sickness should be embalmed in science, and enshrined in the crypt
of some modern encyclopaedia, so that future writers should refer to it
only as the Pang Unspeakable, for which _vide_ Ripley and Dana,
vol. ---, page ---. But, as I have already said, I shall speak of
sea-sickness in a hurried and picturesque manner, as follows:--
Who are these that sit by the long dinner-table in the forward cabin,
with a most unusual lack of interest in the bill of fare? Their eyes are
closed, mostly, their cheeks are pale, their lips are quite bloodless,
and to every offer of good cheer, their "No, thank you," is as faintly
uttered as are marriage-vows by maiden lips. Can they be the same that,
an hour ago, were so composed, so jovial, so full of dangerous defiance
to the old man of the sea? The officer who carves the roast-beef offers
at the same time a slice of fat;--this is too much; a panic runs through
the ranks, and the rout is instantaneous and complete. The ghost of what
each man was disappears through the trap-door of his state-room, and the
hell which the theatre faintly pictures behind the scenes begins in good
For to what but to Dante's "Inferno" can we liken this steamboat-cabin,
with its double row of pits, and its dismal captives? What are these
sighs, groans, and despairing noises, but the _alti guai_ rehearsed by
the poet? Its fiends are the stewards who rouse us from our perpetual
torpor with offers of food and praises of shadowy banquets,--"Nice
mutton-chop, Sir? roast-turkey? plate of soup?" Cries of "No, no!"
resound, and the wretched turn again, and groan. The philanthropist has
lost the movement of the age,--keeled up in an upper berth, convulsively
embracing a blanket, what conservative more immovable than he? The great
man of the party refrains from his large theories, which, like the
circles made by the stone thrown into the water, begin somewhere and end
nowhere. As we have said, he expounds himself no more, the significant
fore-finger is down, the eye no longer imprisons yours. But if you ask
him how he does, he shakes himself, as if, like Farinata,--
"avesse l' inferno in gran dispetto,"--
"he had a very contemptible opinion of hell." Let me not forget to add,
that it rains every day, that it blows every night, and that it rolls
through the twenty-four hours till the whole world seems as if turned
bottom upwards, clinging with its nails to chaos, and fearing to launch
away. The captain comes and says,--"It is true, you have a nasty, short,
chopping sea hereabouts; but you see, she is spinning away down South
jolly!" And this is the Gulf-Stream!
But all things have an end, and most things have two. After the third
day, a new development manifests itself. Various shapeless masses are
carried upstairs and suffered to fall like snow-flakes on the deck, and
to lie there in shivering heaps. From these larvae gradually emerge
features and voices,--the luncheon-bell at last stirs them with the
thrill of returning life. They look up, they lean up, they exchange
pensive smiles of recognition,--the steward comes, no fiend this time,
but a ministering angel, and, lo! the strong man eats broth, and the
weak woman clamors for pickled oysters. And so ends my description of
For, as for betraying the confidences of those sad days, as for telling
how wofully untrue Professors of Temperance were to their principles,
how the Apostle of Total Abstinence developed a brandy-flask, not
altogether new, what unsuccessful tipplings were attempted in the
desperation of nausea, and for what lady that stunning brandy-smasher
was mixed,--as for such tales out of school, I would have you know that
I am not the man to tell them.
Yet a portrait or so lingers in my mental repository;--let me throw them
in, to close off the lot.
No. 1. A sober Bostonian in the next state-room, whose assiduity with
his sea-sick wife reminds one of Cock-Robin, when he sent Jenny Wren
sops and wine. This person was last seen in a dressing-gown, square-cut
night-cap, and odd slippers, dancing up and down the state-room floor
with a cup of gruel, making wild passes with a spoon at an individual in
a berth, who never got any of the contents. Item, the gruel, in a moment
of excitement, finally ran in a stream upon the floor, and was wiped up
by the steward. Result not known, but disappointment is presumable.
No. 2. A stout lady, imprisoned by a board on a sofa nine inches wide,
called by a facetious friend "The Coffin." She complains that her sides
are tolerably battered in;--we hold our tongues, and think that the
board, too, has had a hard time of it. Yet she is a jolly soul, laughing
at her misfortunes, and chirruping to her baby. Her spirits keep up,
even when her dinner won't keep down. Her favorite expressions are "Good
George!" and "Oh, jolly!" She does not intend, she says, to lay in any
dry goods in Cuba, but means to eat up all the good victuals she comes
across. Though seen at present under unfavorable circumstances, she
inspires confidence as to her final accomplishment of this result.
No. 3. A woman, said to be of a literary turn of mind, in the
miserablest condition imaginable. Her clothes, flung at her by the
stewardess, seem to have hit in some places, and missed in others.
Her listless hands occasionally make an attempt to keep her draperies
together, and to pull her hat on her head; but though the intention is
evident, she accomplishes little by her motion. She is perpetually being
lugged about by a stout steward, who knocks her head against both sides
of the vessel, folds her up in the gangway, spreads her out on the deck,
and takes her up-stairs, down-stairs, and in my lady's chamber, where,
report says, he feeds her with a spoon, and comforts her with such
philosophy as he is master of. N.B. This woman, upon the first change of
weather, rose like a cork, dressed like a Christian, and toddled about
the deck in the easiest manner, sipping her grog, and cutting sly jokes
upon her late companions in misery,--is supposed by some to have been an
impostor, and, when ill-treated, announced intentions of writing a book.
No. 4, my last, is only a sketch;--circumstances allowed no more. Can
Grande, the great dog, has been got up out of the pit, where he worried
the stewardess and snapped at the friend who tried to pat him on the
head. Everybody asks where he is. Don't you see that heap of shawls
yonder, lying in the sun, and heated up to about 212 degrees Fahrenheit?
That slouched hat on top marks the spot where his head should lie,--by
treading cautiously in the opposite direction you may discover his
feet. All between is perfectly passive and harmless. His chief food is
pickles,--his only desire is rest. After all these years of controversy,
after all these battles, bravely fought and nobly won, you might write
with truth upon this moveless mound of woollens the pathetic words from
Pere la Chaise:--_Implora Pace_.
But no more at present, for land is in sight, and in my next you shall
hear how we found it, and what we saw at Nassau.
Nassau looked very green and pleasant to us after our voyage;--the eyes
enjoy a little fresh provision after so long a course of salt food. The
first view of land is little more than "the feeling of the thing,"--it
is matter of faith, rather than of sight. You are shown a dark and
distant line, near the horizon, without color or features. They say it
is land, and you believe it. But you come nearer and nearer,--you see
first the green of vegetation, then the form of the trees,--the harbor
at last opens its welcome arms,--the anchor is dropped,--the gun
fired,--the steam snuffed out. Led by a thread of sunshine, you have
walked the labyrinth of the waters, and all their gigantic dangers lie
We made Nassau at twelve o'clock, on the sixth day from our departure,
counting the first as one. The first feature discernible was a group
of tall cocoa-nut trees, with which the island is bounteously
feathered;--the second was a group of negroes in a small boat, steering
towards us with open-mouthed and white-toothed wonder. Nothing makes its
simple impression upon the mind sophisticated by education. The negroes,
as they came nearer, suggested only Christy's Minstrels, of whom
they were a tolerably faithful imitation,--while the cocoa-nut-trees
transported us to the Boston in Ravel-time, and we strained our eyes to
see the wonderful ape, Jocko, whose pathetic death, nightly repeated,
used to cheat the credulous Bostonians of time, tears, and treasure.
Despite the clumsiest management, the boat soon effected a junction with
our gangway, allowing some nameless official to come on board, and to go
through I know not what mysterious and indispensable formality. Other
boats then came, like a shoal of little fishes around the carcass of
a giant whale. There were many negroes, together with whites of every
grade; and some of our number, leaning over the side, saw for the first
time the raw material out of which Northern Humanitarians have spun so
fine a skein of compassion and sympathy.
Now we who write, and they for whom we write, are all orthodox upon this
mighty question; we have all made our confession of faith in private and
in public; we all, on suitable occasions, walk up and apply the match to
the keg of gun-powder which is to blow up the Union, but which, somehow,
at the critical moment, fails to ignite. But you must allow us one
heretical whisper,--very small and low. The negro of the North is an
ideal negro; it is the negro refined by white culture, elevated by white
blood, instructed even by white iniquity;--the negro among negroes is a
coarse, grinning, flat-footed, thick-skulled creature, ugly as Caliban,
lazy as the laziest of brutes, chiefly ambitious to be of no use to any
in the world. View him as you will, his stock in trade is small;--he has
but the tangible instincts of all creatures,--love of life, of ease, and
of offspring. For all else, he must go to school to the white race, and
his discipline must be long and laborious. Nassau, and all that we saw
of it, suggested to us the unwelcome question, whether compulsory labor
be not better than none. But as a question I gladly leave it, and return
to the simple narration of what befell.
There was a sort of eddy at the gangway of our steamer, made by the
conflicting tides of those who wanted to come on board and of those who
wanted to go on shore. We were among the number of the latter, but were
stopped and held by the button by one of the former, while those more
impatient or less sympathizing made their way to the small boats which
waited below. The individual in question had come alongside in a
handsome barge, rowed by a dozen stout blacks, in the undress uniform
of the Zouaves. These men, well drilled and disciplined, seemed of a
different sort from the sprawling, screaming creatures in the other
boats, and their bright red caps and white tunics became them well.
But he who now claimed my attention was of British birth and military
profession. His face was ardent, his pantaloons were of white flannel,
his expression of countenance was that of habitual discontent, but with
a twinkle of geniality in the eye which redeemed the Grumbler from the
usual tedium of his tribe. He accosted us as follows:--
"Go ashore? What for? To see something, eh? There's nothing to see;
the island isn't bigger than a nut-shell, and doesn't contain a single
prospect.--Go ashore and get some dinner? There isn't anything to eat
there.--Fruit? None to speak of; sour oranges and green bananas.--I went
to market last Saturday, and bought one cabbage, one banana, and half
a pig's head;--there's a market for you!--Fish? Oh, yes, if you like
it.--Turtle? Yes, you can get the Gallipagos turtle; it makes tolerable
soup, but has not the green fat, which, in _my_ opinion, is the most
important feature in turtle-soup.--Shops? You can't buy a pair of
scissors on the island, nor a baby's bottle;--broke mine the other day,
and tried to replace it; couldn't.--Society? There are lots of people to
call upon you, and bore you to death with returning their visits."
At last the Major went below, and we broke away, and were duly conveyed
to _terra firma_. It was Sunday, and late in the afternoon. The first
glimpse certainly seemed to confirm the Major's disparaging statements.
The town is small; the houses dingy and out of repair; the legend, that
paint costs nothing, is not received here; and whatever may have been
the original colors of the buildings, the climate has had its own
way with them for many a day. The barracks are superior in finish
to anything else we see. Government-House is a melancholy-looking
_caserne_, surrounded by a piazza, the grounds being adorned with a most
chunky and inhuman statue of Columbus. All the houses are surrounded by
verandas, from which pale children and languid women in muslins look
out, and incline us to ask what epidemic has visited the island and
swept the rose from every cheek. They are a pallid race, the Nassauese,
and retain little of the vigor of their English ancestry. One English
trait they exhibit,--the hospitality which has passed into a proverb;
another, perhaps,--the stanch adherence to the forms and doctrines of
Episcopacy. We enter the principal church;--they are just lighting it
for evening service; it is hung with candles, each burning in a clear
glass shade. The walls and ceiling are whitewashed, and contrast
prettily with the dark timbering of the roof. We would gladly have
staid to give thanks for our safe and prosperous voyage, but a black
rain-cloud warns us homeward,--not, however, until we have received a
kind invitation from one of the hospitable islanders to return the next
morning for a drive and breakfast.
Returning soon after sunrise to fulfil this promise, we encounter the
barracks, and are tempted to look in and see the sons of darkness
performing their evolutions. The morning drill is about half over. We
peep in,--the Colonel, a lean Don Quixote on a leaner Rosinante, dashes
up to us with a weak attempt at a canter; he courteously invites us to
come in and see all that is to be seen, and, lo! our friend the Major,
quite gallant in his sword and scarlet jacket, is detailed for our
service. The soldiers are black, and very black,--none of your dubious
American shades, ranging from clear salmon to _cafe au lait_ or even
to _cafe noir_. These are your good, satisfactory, African sables,
warranted not to change in the washing. Their Zouave costume is very
becoming, with the Oriental turban, caftan, and loose trousers; and the
Philosopher of our party remarks, that the African requires costume,
implying that the New Englander can stand alone, as can his clothes, in
their black rigidity. The officers are white, and the Major very polite;
he shows us the men, the arms, the kits, the quarters, and, having done
all that he can do for us, relinquishes us with a gallant bow to our
host of the drive and breakfast.
The drive does something to retrieve the character of the island. The
road is hard and even, overhung with glossy branches of strange trees
bearing unknown fruits, and studded on each side with pleasant villas
and with negro huts. There are lovely flowers everywhere, among which
the Hibiscus, called South-Sea Rose, and the Oleander, are most
frequent, and most brilliant. We see many tall groves of cocoa-nut,
and cast longing glances towards the fruit, which little negroes, with
surprising activity, attain and shake down. A sudden turn in the road
discloses a lovely view of the bay, with its wonderful green waters,
clear and bright as emerald;--there is a little beach, and boats lie
about, and groups of negroes are laughing and chattering,--quoting
stocks from the last fish-market, very likely. We purchase for half a
dollar a bunch of bananas, for which Ford or Palmer would ask us ten
dollars at least, and go rejoicing to our breakfast.
Our host is a physician of the island, English by birth, and retaining
his robust form and color in spite of a twenty-years' residence in the
warm climate. He has a pleasant family of sons and daughters, all in
health, but without a shade of pink in lips or cheeks. The breakfast
consists of excellent fried fish, fine Southern hominy,--not the pebbly
broken corn which our dealers impose under that name,--various hot
cakes, tea and coffee, bananas, sapodillas, and if there be anything
else not included in the present statement, let haste and want of time
excuse the omission. The conversation runs a good deal on the hopes of
increasing prosperity which the new mail-steamer opens to the eyes
of the Nassauese. Invalids, they say, will do better there than in
Cuba,--it is quieter, much cheaper, and the climate is milder. There
will be a hotel, very soon, where no attention will be spared, etc.,
etc. The Government will afford every facility, etc., etc. It seemed,
indeed, a friendly little place, with delicious air and sky, and a good,
reasonable, decent, English tone about it. Expenses moderate, ye fathers
of encroaching families. Negroes abundant and natural, ye students
of ethnological possibilities. Officers in red jackets, you young
ladies,--young ones, some of them. Why wouldn't you all try it,
especially as the captain of the "Karnak" is an excellent sailor, and
the kindest and manliest of conductors?
FROM NASSAU TO CUBA.
The breakfast being over, we recall the captain's parting admonition to
be on board by ten o'clock, with the significant gesture and roll of the
eye which clearly express that England expects every passenger to do his
duty. Now we know very well that the "Karnak" is not likely to weigh
anchor before twelve, at the soonest, but we dare not, for our lives,
disobey the captain. So, passing by yards filled with the huge Bahama
sponges, piles of wreck-timber, fishing-boats with strange fishes, red,
yellow, blue, and white, and tubs of aldermanic turtle, we attain the
shore, and, presently, the steamer. Here we find a large deputation of
the towns-people taking passage with us for a pleasure excursion to
Havana. The greater number are ladies and children. They come fluttering
on board, poor things, like butterflies, in gauzy dresses, hats, and
feathers, according to the custom of their country; one gentleman takes
four little daughters with him for a holiday. We ask ourselves whether
they know what an ugly beast the Gulf-Stream is, that they affront him
in such light armor. "Good heavens! how sick they will be!" we exclaim;
while they eye us askance, in our winter trim, and pronounce us slow,
and old fogies. With all the rashness of youth, they attack the
luncheon-table. So boisterous a popping of corks was never heard in all
our boisterous passage;--there is a chorus, too, of merry tongues and
shrill laughter. But we get fairly out to sea, where the wind, an
adverse one, is waiting for us, and at that gay table there is silence,
followed by a rush and disappearance. The worst cases are hurried out of
sight, and, going above, we find the disabled lying in groups about the
deck, the feather-hats discarded, the muslins crumpled, and we, the old
fogies, going to cover the fallen with shawls and blankets, to speak
words of consolation, and to implore the sufferers not to cure
themselves with brandy, soda-water, claret, and wine-bitters, in quick
succession,--which they, nevertheless, do, and consequently are no
better that day, nor the next.
But I am forgetting to chronicle a touching parting interview with the
Major, the last thing remembered in Nassau, and of course the last to be
forgotten anywhere. Our concluding words might best be recorded in the
form of a catechism of short questions and answers, to wit:--
"How long did the Major expect to stay in Nassau?"
"About six months."
"How long would he stay, if he had his own way?"
"What did he come for, then?"
"Oh, you buy into a nigger regiment for promotion."
These were the most important facts elicited by cross-examination. At
last we shook hands warmly, promising to meet again somewhere, and the
crimson-lined barge with the black Zouaves carried him away. In humbler
equipages depart the many black women who have visited the steamer, some
for amusement, some to sell the beautiful shell-work made on the island.
These may be termed, in general, as ugly a set of wenches as one could
wish not to see. They all wear palm-leaf hats stuck on their heads
without strings or ribbons, and their clothes are so ill-made that you
cannot help thinking that each has borrowed somebody else's dress, until
you see that the ill-fitting garments are the rule, not the exception.
But neither youth nor sea-sickness lasts forever. The forces of nature
rally on the second day, and the few who have taken no remedies recover
the use of their tongues and some of their faculties. From these I
gather what I shall here impart as
SERIOUS VIEWS OF THE BAHAMAS.
The principal exports of these favored islands are fruits, sponges,
molasses, and sugar. Their imports include most of the necessaries of
life, which come to them oftenest in the form of wrecks, by which they
obtain them at a small fraction of the original cost and value. For this
resource they are indebted to the famous Bahama Banks, which, to their
way of thinking, are institutions as important as the Bank of England
itself. These banks stand them in a handsome annual income, and
facilitate large discounts and transfers of property not contemplated by
the original possessors. One supposes that somebody must suffer by these
forced sales of large cargoes at prices ruinous to commerce,--but _who_
suffers is a point not easy to ascertain. There seems to be a good,
comfortable understanding all round. The owners say, "Go ahead, and
don't bother yourself,--she's insured." The captain has got his ship
aground in shoal water where she can't sink, and no harm done. The
friendly wreckers are close at hand to haul the cargo ashore. The
underwriter of the insurance company has shut his eyes and, opened his
mouth to receive a plum, which, being a good large one, will not let him
speak. And so the matter providentially comes to pass, and "enterprises
of great pith and moment" oftenest get no farther than the Bahamas.
Nassau produces neither hay nor corn,--these, together with butter,
flour, and tea, being brought chiefly from the United States. Politics,
of course, it has none. As to laws, the colonial system certainly needs
propping up,--for under its action a man may lead so shameless a life
of immorality as to compel his wife to leave him, and yet not be held
responsible for her support and that of the children she has borne him.
The principal points of interest are, first, the garrison,--secondly,
Government-House, with an occasional ball there,--and, third, one's
next-door neighbor, and his or her doings. The principal event in the
memory of the citizens seems to be a certain most desirable wreck, in
consequence of which, a diamond card-case worth fifteen hundred dollars
was sold for an eighth part of that sum, and laces whose current price
ranges from thirty to forty dollars a yard were purchased at will for
seventy-five cents. That was a wreck worth having! say the Nassauese.
The price of milk ranges from eighteen to twenty-five cents a
quart;--think of that, ye New England housekeepers! That precious
article, the pudding, is nearly unknown in the Nassauese economy; nor
is pie-crust so short as it might be, owing to the enormous price of
butter, which has been known to attain the sum of one dollar per pound.
Eggs are quoted at prices not commendable for large families with
small means. On the other hand, fruits, vegetables, and sugar-cane are
The Nassauese, on the whole, seem to be a kind-hearted and friendly set
of people, partly English, partly Southern in character, but with rather
a predominance of the latter ingredient in their composition. Their
women resemble the women of our own Southern States, but seem simpler
and more domestic in their habits,--while the men would make tolerable
Yankees, but would scarcely support President Buchanan, the Kansas
question, or the Filibustero movement. Physically, the race suffers and
degenerates under the influence of the warm climate. Cases of pulmonary
disease, asthma, and neuralgia are of frequent occurrence, and cold is
considered as curative to them as heat is to us. The diet, too, is not
that "giant ox-beef" which the Saxon race requires. Meat is rare, and
tough, unless brought from the States at high cost. We were forced to
the conclusion that no genuine English life can be supported upon a
_regime_ of fish and fruit,--or, in other words, no beef, no Bull, but
a very different sort of John, lantern-jawed, leather-skinned, and of
a thirsty complexion. It occurred to us, furthermore, that it is a
dolorous thing to live on a lonely little island, tied up like a wart on
the face of civilization,--no healthful stream of life coming and going
from the great body of the main land,--the same moral air to be breathed
over and over again, without renewal,--the same social elements turned
and returned in one tiresome kaleidoscope. Wherefore rejoice, ye
Continentals, and be thankful, and visit the Nassauese, bringing beef,
butter, and beauty,--bringing a few French muslins to replace the
coarse English fabrics, and buxom Irish girls to outwork the idle negro
women,--bringing new books, newspapers, and periodicals,--bringing the
Yankee lecturer, all expenses paid, and his drink found him. All these
good things, and more, the States have for the Nassauese, of whom we
must now take leave, for all hands have been piped on deck.
We have jolted for three weary days over the roughest of ocean-highways,
and Cuba, nay, Havana, is in sight. The worst cases are up, and begin to
talk about their sea-legs, now that the occasion for them is at an end.
Sobrina, the chief wit of our party, who would eat sour-sop, sapodilla,
orange, banana, cocoa-nut, and sugar-cane at Nassau, and who has lived
upon toddy of twenty-cocktail power ever since,--even she is seen,
clothed and in her right mind, sitting at the feet of the prophet she
loves, and going through the shawl-and-umbrella exercise. And here is
the Moro Castle, which guards the entrance of the harbor,--here go
the signals, answering to our own. Here comes the man with the
speaking-trumpet, who, understanding no English, yells out to our
captain, who understands no Spanish. The following is a free rendering
of their conversation:--
"Any Americans on board?"
"Yes, thank Heaven, plenty."
"How many are Filibusteros?"
"All of them."
"Bad luck to them, then!"
"The same to you!"
"_Caramba_" says the Spaniard.
"--------," says the Englishman.
And so the forms of diplomacy are fulfilled; and of Havana, more in my
[To be continued.]
THE PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST-TABLE.
WHAT HE SAID, WHAT HE HEARD, AND WHAT HE SAW.
_The Professor finds a Fly in his Teacup_.
I have a long theological talk to relate, which must be dull reading to
some of my young and vivacious friends. I don't know, however, that any
of them have entered into a contract to read all that I write, or that I
have promised always to write to please them. What if I should sometimes
write to please myself?
Now you must know that there are a great many things which interest me,
to some of which this or that particular class of readers may be totally
indifferent. I love Nature, and human nature, its thoughts, affections,
dreams, aspirations, delusions,--Art in all its forms,--_virtu_ in all
its eccentricities,--old stories from black-letter volumes and yellow
manuscripts, and new projects out of hot brains not yet imbedded in the
snows of age. I love the generous impulses of the reformer; but not less
does my imagination feed itself upon the old litanies, so often warmed
by the human breath upon which they were wafted to heaven that they glow
through our frames like our own heart's blood. I hope I love good men
and women; I know that they never speak a word to me, even if it be of
question or blame, that I do not take pleasantly, if it is expressed
with a reasonable amount of human kindness.
I have before me at this time a beautiful and affecting letter, which
I have hesitated to answer, though the postmark upon it gave its
direction, and the name is one which is known to all, in some of its
representatives. It contains no reproach, only a delicately-hinted fear.
Speak gently, as this dear lady has spoken, and there is no heart so
insensible that it does not answer to the appeal, no intellect so virile
that it does not own a certain allegiance to the claims of age, of
childhood, of sensitive and timid natures, when they plead with it not
to look at those sacred things by the broad daylight which they see in
mystic shadow. How grateful would it be to make perpetual peace with
these pleading saints and their confessors, by the simple act
that silences all complainings! Sleep, sleep, sleep! says the
Arch-Enchantress of them all,--and pours her dark and potent anodyne,
distilled over the fires that consumed her foes,--its large, round drops
changing, as we look, into the beads of her convert's rosary! Silence!
the pride of reason! cries another, whose whole life is spent in
reasoning down reason.
I hope I love good people, not for their sake, but for my own. And most
assuredly, if any deed of wrong or word of bitterness led me into an act
of disrespect towards that enlightened and excellent class of men who
make it their calling to teach goodness and their duty to practise it,
I should feel that I had done myself an injury rather than them. Go and
talk with any professional man holding any of the mediaeval creeds,
choosing one who wears upon his features the mark of inward and outward
health, who looks cheerful, intelligent, and kindly, and see how all
your prejudices melt away in his presence! It is impossible to come into
intimate relations with a large, sweet nature, such as you may often
find in this class, without longing to be at one with it in all its
modes of being and believing. But does it not occur to you that one may
love truth as he sees it, and his race as he views it, better than even
the sympathy and approbation of many good men whom he honors,--better
than sleeping to the sound of the Miserere or listening to the
repetition of an effete Confession of Faith?
The three learned professions have but recently emerged from a state of
_quasi_ barbarism. None of them like too well to be told of it, but it
must be sounded in their ears whenever they put on airs. When a man has
taken an overdose of laudanum, the doctors tell us to place him between
two persons who shall make him walk up and down incessantly; and if he
still cannot be kept from going to sleep, they say that a lash or two
over his back is of great assistance.
So we must keep the doctors awake by telling them that they have not
yet shaken off astrology and the doctrine of signatures, as is shown by
their prescriptions, and their use of nitrate of silver, which turns
epileptics into Ethiopians. If that is not enough, they must be given
over to the scourgers, who like their task and get good fees for it. A
few score years ago, sick people were made to swallow burnt toads and
powdered earth-worms and the expressed juice of wood-lice. The physician
of Charles I. and II. prescribed abominations not to be named.
Barbarism, as bad as that of Congo or Ashantee. Traces of this barbarism
linger even in the greatly improved medical science of our century. So
while the solemn farce of over-drugging is going on, the world over,
the harlequin pseudo-science jumps on to the stage, whip in hand, with
half-a-dozen somersets, and begins laying about him.
In 1817, perhaps you remember, the law of wager by battle was
unrepealed, and the rascally murderous, and worse than murderous, clown,
Abraham Thornton, put on his gauntlet in open court and defied the
appellant to lift the other which he threw down. It was not until the
reign of George II. that the statutes against witchcraft were repealed.
As for the English Court of Chancery, we know that its antiquated abuses
form one of the staples of common proverbs and popular literature.
So the laws and the lawyers have to be watched perpetually by public
opinion as much as the doctors do.
I don't think the other profession is an exception. When the Reverend
Mr. Cauvin and his associates burned my distinguished scientific
brother,--he was burned with green fagots, which made it rather slow and
painful,--it appears to me they were in a state of religious barbarism.
The dogmas of such people about the Father of Mankind and his creatures
are of no more account in my opinion than those of a council of Aztecs.
If a man picks your pocket, do you not consider him thereby disqualified
to pronounce any authoritative opinion on matters of ethics? If a man
hangs my ancient female relatives for sorcery, as they did in this
neighborhood a little while ago, or burns my instructor for not
believing as he does, I care no more for his religious edicts than I
should for those of any other barbarian.
Of course, a barbarian may hold many true opinions; but when the ideas
of the healing art, of the administration of justice, of Christian love,
could not exclude systematic poisoning, judicial duelling, and murder
for opinion's sake, I do not see how we can trust the verdict of that
time relating to any subject which involves the primal instincts
violated in these abominations and absurdities.--What if we are even now
in a state of _semi_-barbarism?
Perhaps some think we ought not to talk at table about such things.--I
am not so sure of that. Religion and government appear to me the two
subjects which of all others should belong to the common talk of people
who enjoy the blessings of freedom. Think, one moment. The earth is a
great factory-wheel, which, at every revolution on its axis, receives
fifty thousand raw souls and turns off nearly the same number worked up
more or less completely. There must be somewhere a population of two
hundred thousand million, perhaps ten or a hundred times as many,
earth-born intelligences. _Life_, as we call it, is nothing but the edge
of the boundless ocean of existence where it comes on soundings. In
this view, I do not see anything so fit to talk about, or half so
interesting, as that which relates to the innumerable majority of our
fellow-creatures, the dead-living, who are hundreds of thousands to one
of the live-living, and with whom we all potentially belong, though we
have got tangled for the present in some parcels of fibrine, albumen,
and phosphates, that keep us on the minority side of the house. In point
of fact, it is one of the many results of _Spiritualism_ to make
the permanent destiny of the race a matter of common reflection and
discourse, and a vehicle for the prevailing disbelief of the Middle-Age
doctrines on the subject. I cannot help thinking, when I remember how
many conversations my friend and myself have reported, that it would be
very extraordinary, if there were no mention of that class of subjects
which involves all that we have and all that we hope, not merely for
ourselves, but for the dear people whom we love best,--noble men, pure
and lovely women, ingenuous children,--about the destiny of nine-tenths
of whom you know the opinions that would have been taught by those old
man-roasting, woman-strangling dogmatists.--However, I fought this
matter with one of our boarders the other day, and I am going to report
* * * * *
The divinity-student came down, one morning, looking rather more serious
than usual. He said little at breakfast-time, but lingered after the
others, so that I, who am apt to be long at the table, found myself
alone with him.
When the rest were all gone, he turned his chair round towards mine, and
I am afraid,--he said,--you express yourself a little too freely on a
most important class of subjects. Is there not danger in introducing
discussions or allusions relating to matters of religion into common
Danger to what?--I asked.
Danger to truth,--he replied, after a slight pause.
I didn't know Truth was such an invalid,--I said.--How long is it since
she could only take the air in a close carriage, with a gentleman in
a black coat on the box? Let me tell you a story, adapted to young
persons, but which won't hurt older ones.
----There was a very little boy who had one of those balloons you may
have seen, which are filled with light gas, and are held by a string to
keep them from running off in aeronautic voyages on their own
account This little boy had a naughty brother, who said to him, one
day,--Brother, pull down your balloon, so that I can look at it and take
hold of it. Then the little boy pulled it down. Now the naughty brother
had a sharp pin in his hand, and he thrust it into the balloon, and all
the gas oozed out, so that there was nothing left but a shrivelled skin.
One evening, the little boy's father called him to the window to see the
moon, which pleased him very much; but presently he said,--Father, do
not pull the string and bring down the moon, for my naughty brother will
prick it, and then it will all shrivel up and we shall not see it any
Then his father laughed, and told him how the moon had been shining a
good while, and would shine a good while longer, and that all we could
do was to keep our windows clean, never letting the dust get too thick
on them, and especially to keep our eyes open, but that we could not
pull the moon down with a string, nor prick it with a pin.--Mind you
this, too, the moon is no man's private property, but is seen from a
good many parlor-windows.
----Truth is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at a touch; nay,
you may kick it about all day, like a football, and it will be round and
full at evening. Does not Mr. Bryant say, that Truth gets well if she is
run over by a locomotive, while Error dies of lockjaw if she scratches
her finger? I never heard that a mathematician was alarmed for the
safety of a demonstrated proposition. I think, generally, that fear
of open discussion implies feebleness of inward conviction, and great
sensitiveness to the expression of individual opinion is a mark of
----I am not so much afraid for truth,--said the divinity-student,--as
for the conceptions of truth in the minds of persons not accustomed to
judge wisely the opinions uttered before them.
Would you, then, banish all allusions to matters of this nature from the
society of people who come together habitually?
I would be very careful in introducing them,--said the divinity-student.
Yes, but friends of yours leave pamphlets in people's entries, to be
picked up by nervous misses and hysteric housemaids, full of doctrines
these people do not approve. Some of your friends stop little children
in the street, and give them books, which their parents, who have had
them baptized into the Christian fold and give them what they consider
proper religious instruction, do not think fit for them. One would say
it was fair enough to talk about matters thus forced upon people's
The divinity-student could not deny that this was what might be called
opening the subject to the discussion of intelligent people.
But,--he said,--the greatest objection is this, that persons who have
not made a professional study of theology are not competent to speak on
such subjects. Suppose a minister were to undertake to express opinions
on medical subjects, for instance, would you not think he was going
beyond his province?
I laughed,--for I remembered John Wesley's "sulphur and supplication,"
and so many other cases where ministers had meddled with
medicine,--sometimes well and sometimes ill, but, as a general rule,
with a tremendous lurch to quackery, owing to their very loose way of
admitting evidence,--that I could not help being amused.
I beg your pardon,--I said,--I do not wish to be impolite, but I was
thinking of their certificates to patent medicines. Let us look at this
If a minister had attended lectures on the theory and practice of
medicine, delivered by those who had studied it most deeply, for thirty
or forty years, at the rate of from fifty to one hundred a year,--if he
had been constantly reading and hearing read the most approved textbooks
on the subject,--if he had seen medicine actually practised according to
different methods, daily, for the same length of time,--I should think,
that, if a person of average understanding, he _was_ entitled to express
an opinion on the subject of medicine, or else that his instructors were
a set of ignorant and incompetent charlatans.
If, before a medical practitioner would allow me to enjoy the full
privileges of the healing art, he expected me to affirm my belief in a
considerable number of medical doctrines, drugs, and formulae, I should
think that he thereby implied my right to discuss the same, and my
ability to do so, if I knew how to express myself in English.
Suppose, for instance, the Medical Society should refuse to give us an
opiate, or to set a broken limb, until we had signed our belief in
a certain number of propositions,--of which we will say this is the
I. All men's teeth are naturally in a state of total decay or caries,
and, therefore, no man can bite until every one of them is extracted and
a new set is inserted according to the principles of dentistry adopted
by this Society.
I, for one, should want to discuss that before signing my name to it,
and I should say this:--Why, no, that isn't true. There are a good many
bad teeth, we all know, but a great many more good ones. You mustn't
trust the _dentists_; they are all the time looking at the people who
have bad teeth, and such as are suffering from toothache. The idea that
you must pull out every one of every nice young man and young woman's
natural teeth! Poh, poh! Nobody believes that. This tooth must be
straightened, that must be filled with gold, and this other perhaps
extracted; but it must be a very rare case, if they are all so bad as to
require extraction; and if they are, don't blame the poor soul for it!
Don't tell us, as some old dentists used to, that everybody not only
always has every tooth in his head good for nothing, but that he ought
to have his head cut off as a punishment for that misfortune! No, I
can't sign Number One. Give us Number Two.
II. We hold that no man can be well who does not agree with our views
of the efficacy of calomel, and who does not take the doses of it
prescribed in our tables, as there directed.
To which I demur, questioning why it should be so, and get for answer
the two following:--
III. Every man who does not take our prepared calomel, as prescribed by
us in our Constitution and By-Laws, is and must be a mass of disease
from head to foot; it being self-evident that he is simultaneously
affected with Apoplexy, Arthritis, Ascites, Asphyxia, and Atrophy; with
Borborygmus, Bronchitis, and Bulimia; with Cachexia, Carcinoma, and
Cretinismus; and so on through the alphabet, to Xerophthalmia and Zona,
with all possible and incompatible diseases which are necessary to make
up a totally morbid state; and he will certainly die, if he does not
take freely of our prepared calomel, to be obtained only of one of our
IV. No man shall be allowed to take our prepared calomel who does not
give in his solemn adhesion to each and all of the above-named and the
following propositions (from ten to a hundred) and show his mouth to
certain of our apothecaries, who have _not_ studied dentistry, to
examine whether all his teeth have been extracted and a new set inserted
according to our regulations.
Of course, the doctors have a right to say we shan't have any rhubarb,
if we don't sign their articles, and that, if, after signing them, we
express doubts (in public) about any of them, they will cut us off from
our jalap and squills,--but then to ask a fellow not to discuss the
propositions before he signs them is what I should call boiling it down
a little _too_ strong!
If we understand them, why can't we discuss them? If we can't understand
them, because we haven't taken a medical degree, what the Father of Lies
do they ask us to sign them for?
Just so with the graver profession. Every now and then some of its
members seem to lose common sense and common humanity. The laymen have
to keep setting the divines right constantly. Science, for instance,--in
other words, knowledge,--is not the enemy of religion; for, if so,
then religion would mean ignorance. But it is often the antagonist of
Everybody knows the story of early astronomy and the school-divines.
Come down a little later. Archbishop Usher, a very learned Protestant
prelate, tells us that the world was created on Sunday, the twenty-third
of October, four thousand and four years before the birth of Christ.
Deluge, December 7th, two thousand three hundred and forty-eight years
B.C.--Yes, and the earth stands on an elephant, and the elephant on a
tortoise. One statement is as near the truth as the other.
Again, there is nothing so brutalizing to some natures as _moral
surgery_. I have often wondered that Hogarth did not add one more
picture to his four stages of Cruelty. Those wretched fools, reverend
divines and others, who were strangling men and women for imaginary
crimes a little more than a century ago among us, were set right by a
layman, and very angry it made them to have him meddle.
The good people of Northampton had a very remarkable man for their
clergyman,--a man with a brain as nicely adjusted for certain mechanical
processes as Babbage's calculating machine. The commentary of the laymen
on the preaching and practising of Jonathan Edwards was, that, after
twenty-three years of endurance, they turned him out by a vote of twenty
to one, and passed a resolve that he should never preach for them again.
A man's logical and analytical adjustments are of little consequence,
compared to his primary relations with Nature and truth; and people have
sense enough to find it out in the long run; they know what "logic" is
In that miserable delusion referred to above, the reverend Aztecs and
Fijians argued rightly enough from their premises, no doubt, for many
men can do this. But common sense and common humanity were unfortunately
left out from their premises, and a layman had to supply them. A hundred
more years and many of the barbarisms still lingering among us will, of
course, have disappeared like witch-hanging. But people are sensitive
now, as they were then. You will see by this extract that the Rev.
Cotton Mather did not like intermeddling with his business very well.
"Let the _Levites_ of the Lord keep close to their Instructions," he
says, "and _God will smile thro' the loins of those that rise up against
them._ I will report unto you a Thing which many Hundreds among us know
to be true. The _Godly Minister_ of a certain Town in Connecticut, when
he had occasion to be absent on a _Lord's Day_ from his Flock, employ'd
an honest _Neighbour_ of some small Talents for a _Mechanick_, to read a
_Sermon_ out of some _good Book_ unto 'em. This _Honest_, whom they ever
counted also a _Pious Man_, had so much conceit of his _Talents_, that
instead of _Reading a Sermon_ appointed, he to the _Surprize_ of the
People, fell to _preaching one of his own_. For his Text he took these
Words, _'Despise not Prophecyings'_; and in his Preachment he betook
himself to bewail the _Envy of the Clergy_ in the Land, in that they did
not wish _all the Lord's People to be Prophets_, and call forth _Private
Brethren_ publickly to _prophesie_. While he was thus in the midst
of his Exercise, God smote him with horrible _Madness_; he was taken
ravingly distracted; the People were forc'd with violent Hands to
carry him home.... I will not mention his Name: He was reputed a Pious
Man."--This is one of Cotton's "Remarkable Judgments of God, on Several
Sorts of Offenders,"--and the next cases referred to are the Judgments
on the "Abominable Sacrilege" of not paying the Ministers' Salaries.
This sort of thing doesn't do here and now, you see, my young friend! We
talk about our free institutions;--they are nothing but a coarse outside
machinery to secure the freedom of individual thought. The President
of the United States is only the engine-driver of our broad-gauge
mail-train; and every honest, independent thinker has a seat in the
first-class cars behind him.
----There is something in what you say,--replied the
divinity-student;--and yet it seems to me there are places and times
where disputed doctrines of religion should not be introduced. You would
not attack a church dogma--say, Total Depravity--in a lyceum-lecture,
Certainly not; I should choose another place,--I answered.--But, mind
you, at this table I think it is very different. I shall express my
ideas on any subject I like. The laws of the lecture-room, to which my
friends and myself are always amenable, do not hold here. I shall not
often give arguments, but frequently opinions,--I trust with courtesy
and propriety, but, at any rate, with such natural forms of expression
as it has pleased the Almighty to bestow upon me.
A man's opinions, look you, are generally of much more value than his
arguments. These last are made by his brain, and perhaps he does not
believe the proposition they tend to prove,--as is often the case with
paid lawyers; but opinions are formed by our whole nature,--brain,
heart, instinct, brute life, everything all our experience has shaped
for us by contact with the whole circle of our being.
----There is one thing more,--said the divinity-student,--that I wished
to speak of; I mean that idea of yours, expressed some time since, of
_depolarizing_ the text of sacred books in order to judge them fairly.
May I ask why you do not try the experiment yourself?
Certainly,--I replied,--if it gives you any pleasure to ask foolish
questions. I think the ocean telegraph-wire ought to be laid and will be
laid, but I don't know that you have any right to ask me to go and
lay it. But, for that matter, I have heard a good deal of Scripture
depolarized in and out of the pulpit. I heard the Rev. Mr. F. once
depolarize the story of the Prodigal Son in Park-Street Church. Many
years afterwards, I heard him repeat the same or a similar depolarized
version in Rome, New York. I heard an admirable depolarization of the
story of the young man who "had great possessions" from the Rev. Mr. H.
in another pulpit, and felt that I had never half understood it before.
All paraphrases are more or less perfect depolarizations. But I tell you
this: the faith of our Christian community is not robust enough to
bear the turning of our most sacred language into its depolarized
equivalents. You have only to look back to Dr. Channing's famous
Baltimore discourse and remember the shrieks of blasphemy with which it
was greeted, to satisfy yourself on this point. Time, time only,
can gradually wean us from our _Epeolatry_, or word-worship, by
spiritualizing our ideas of the thing signified. Man is an idolater or
symbol-worshipper by nature, which, of course, is no fault of his; but
sooner or later all his local and temporary symbols must be ground to
powder, like the golden calf,--word-images as well as metal and wooden
ones. Rough work, iconoclasm,--but the only way to get at truth. It is,
indeed, as that quaint and rare old discourse, "A Summons for Sleepers,"
hath it, "no doubt a thankless office, and a verie unthriftie
occupation; _veritas odium parit_, truth never goeth without a scratcht
face; he that will be busie with _vae vobis_, let him looke shortly for
The very aim and end of our institutions is just this: that we may think
what we like and say what we think.
----Think what we like!--said the divinity-student;--think what we like!
What! against all human and divine authority?
Against all human versions of its own or any other authority. At our own
peril always, if we do not _like_ the right,--but not at the risk of
being hanged and quartered for political heresy, or broiled on green
fagots for ecclesiastical treason! Nay, we have got so far, that the
very word _heresy_ has fallen into comparative disuse among us.
And now, my young friend, let us shake hands and stop our discussion,
which we will not make a quarrel. I trust you know, or will learn, a
great many things in your profession which we common scholars do not
know; but mark this: when the common people of New England stop talking
politics and theology, it will be because they have got an Emperor to
teach them the one, and a Pope to teach them the other!
* * * * *
That was the end of my long conference with the divinity-student.
The next morning we got talking a little on the same subject, very
good-naturedly, as people return to a matter they have talked out.
You must look to yourself,--said the divinity-student,--if your
democratic notions get into print. You will be fired into from all
If it were only a bullet, with the marksman's name on it!--I said.--I
can't stop to pick out the peep-shot of the anonymous scribblers.
Right, Sir! right!--said Little Boston.--The scamps! I know the fellows.
They can't give fifty cents to one of the Antipodes, but they must have
it jingled along through everybody's palms all the way, till it reaches
him,--and forty cents of it get spilt, like the water out of the
fire-buckets passed along a "lane" at a fire;--but, when it comes to
anonymous defamation, putting lies into people's mouths, and then
advertising those people through the country as the authors of
them,--oh, then it is that they let not their left hand know what their
right hand doeth!
I don't like Ehud's style of doing business, Sir. He comes along with a
very sanctimonious look, Sir, with his "secret errand unto thee," and
his "message from God unto thee," and then pulls out his hidden knife
with that unsuspected left hand of his,--(the little gentleman
lifted his clenched left hand with the blood-red jewel on the
ring-finger,)--and runs it, blade and haft, into a man's stomach! Don't
meddle with these fellows, Sir. They are read mostly by persons whom you
would not reach, if you were to write ever so much. Let 'em alone. A man
whose opinions are not attacked is beneath contempt.
I hope so,--I said.--I got three pamphlets and innumerable squibs flung
at my head for attacking one of the pseudo-sciences, in former years.
When, by the permission of Providence, I held up to the professional
public the damnable facts connected with the conveyance of poison from
one young mother's chamber to another's,--for doing which humble office
I desire to be thankful that I have lived, though nothing else good
should ever come of my life,--I had to bear the sneers of those whose
position I had assailed, and, as I believe, have at last demolished, so
that nothing but the ghosts of dead women stir among the ruins.--What
would you do, if the folks without names kept at you, trying to get a
San Benito on to your shoulders that would fit you?--Would you stand
still in fly-time, or would you give a kick now and then?
Let 'em bite!--said Little Boston;--let 'em bite! It makes 'em hungry to
shake 'em off, and they settle down again as thick as ever and twice as
savage. Do you know what meddling with the folks without names, as you
call 'em, is like?--It is like riding at the _quintain_. You run full
tilt at the board, but the board is on a pivot, with a bag of sand on an
arm that balances it. The board gives way as soon as you touch it; and
before you have got by, the bag of sand comes round whack on the back of
your neck. "Ananias," for instance, pitches into your lecture, we will
say, in some paper taken by the people in your kitchen. Your servants
get saucy and negligent. If their newspaper calls you names, they need
not be so particular about shutting doors softly or boiling potatoes.
So you lose your temper, and come out in an article which you think is
going to finish "Ananias," proving him a booby who doesn't know enough
to understand even a lyceum-lecture, or else a person that tells lies.
Now you think you've got him! Not so fast. "Ananias" keeps still and
winks to "Shimei," and "Shimei" comes out in the paper which they take
in your neighbor's kitchen, ten times worse than t'other fellow. If you
meddle with "Shimei," he steps out, and next week appears "Rab-shakeh,"
an unsavory wretch; and now, at any rate, you find out what good
sense there was in Hezekiah's "Answer him not."--No, no,--keep your
temper.--So saying, the little gentleman doubled his left fist and
looked at it, as if he should like to hit something or somebody a most
pernicious punch with it.
Good!--said I.--Now let me give you some axioms I have arrived at, after
seeing something of a great many kinds of good folks.
----Of a hundred people of each of the different leading religious
sects, about the same proportion will be safe and pleasant persons to
deal and to live with.
----There are, at least, three real saints among the women to one among
the men, in every denomination.
----The spiritual standard of different classes I would reckon thus:--
1. The comfortably rich.
2. The decently comfortable.
3. The very rich, who are apt to be irreligious.
4. The very poor, who are apt to be immoral.
----The cut nails of machine-divinity may be driven in, but they won't
----The arguments which the greatest of our schoolmen could not refute
were two: the blood in men's veins, and the milk in women's breasts.
----Humility is the first of the virtues--for other people.
----Faith always implies the disbelief of a lesser fact in favor of
a greater. A little mind often sees the unbelief, without seeing the
belief, of a large one.
The Poor Relation had been fidgeting about and working her mouth while
all this was going on. She broke out in speech at this point.
I hate to hear folks talk so. I don't see that you are any better than a
I wish I were half as good as many heathens have been,--I said.--Dying
for a principle seems to me a higher degree of virtue than scolding for
it; and, the history of heathen races is full of instances where men
have laid down their lives for the love of their kind, of their country,
of truth, nay, even for simple manhood's sake, or to show their
obedience or fidelity. What would not such beings have done for the
souls of men, for the Christian commonwealth, for the King of Kings,
if they had lived in days of larger light? Which seems to you nearest
heaven, Socrates drinking his hemlock, Regulus going back to the enemy's
camp, or that old New England divine sitting comfortably in his study
and chuckling over his conceit of certain poor women, who had been
burned to death in his own town, going "roaring out of one fire into
I don't believe he said any such thing,--replied the Poor Relation.
It is hard to believe,--said I,--but it is true for all that. In another
hundred years it will be as incredible that men talked as we sometimes
hear them now.
_Cor facit theologum._ The heart makes the theologian. Every race,
every civilization, either has a new revelation of its own or a new
interpretation of an old one. Democratic America has a different
humanity from feudal Europe, and so must have a new divinity. See, for
one moment, how intelligence reacts on our faiths. The Bible was a
divining-book to our ancestors, and is so still in the hands of some of
the vulgar. The Puritans went to the Old Testament for their laws; the
Mormons go to it for their patriarchal institution. Every generation
dissolves something new and precipitates something once held in solution
from that great storehouse of temporary and permanent truths.
You may observe this: that the conversation of intelligent men of the
stricter sects is strangely in advance of the formulae that belong to
their organizations. So true is this, that I have doubts whether a large
proportion of them would not have been rather pleased than offended,
if they could have overheard our talk. For, look you, I think there is
hardly a professional teacher who will not in private conversation allow
a large part of what we have said, though it may frighten him in print;
and I know well what an under-current of secret sympathy gives vitality
to those poor words of mine which sometimes get a hearing.
I don't mind the exclamation of any old stager who drinks Madeira
worth from two to six Bibles a bottle, and burns, according to his own
premises, a dozen souls a year in the cigars with which he muddles his
brains. But for the good and true and intelligent men whom we see all
around us, laborious, self-denying, hopeful, helpful,--men who know
that the active mind of the century is tending more and more to the two
poles, Rome and Reason, the sovereign church or the free soul, authority
or personality, God in us or God in our masters, and that, though a
man may by accident _stand_ half-way between these two points, he must
_look_ one way or the other,--I don't believe they would take offence at
anything I have reported of our late conversation.
But supposing any one _do_ take offence at first sight, let him look
over these notes again, and see whether he is quite sure he does not
agree with most of these things that were said amongst us. If he agrees
with most of them, let him be patient with an opinion he does not
accept, or an expression or illustration a little too vivacious. I don't
know that I shall report any more conversations on these topics; but
I do insist on the right to express a civil opinion on this class of
subjects without giving offence, just when and where I please,--unless,
as in the lecture-room, there is an implied contract to keep clear of
doubtful matters. You didn't think a man could sit at a breakfast-table
doing nothing but making puns every morning for a year or two, and never
give a thought to the two thousand of his fellow-creatures who are
passing into another state during every hour that he sits talking and
laughing! Of course, the _one_ matter that a real human being cares for
is what is going to become of them and of him. And the plain truth is,
that a good many people are saying one thing about it and believing
----How do I know that? Why, I have known and loved to talk with good
people, all the way from Rome to Geneva in doctrine, as long as I can
remember. Besides, the real religion of the world comes from women much
more than from men,--from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our
souls in their bosoms. It is in their hearts that the "sentimental"
religion some people are so fond of sneering at has its source. The
sentiment of love, the sentiment of maternity, the sentiment of the
paramount obligation of the parent to the child as having called it into
existence, enhanced just in proportion to the power and knowledge of
the one and the weakness and ignorance of the other,--these are the
"sentiments" that have kept our soulless systems from driving men off to
die in holes like those that riddle the sides of the hill opposite
the Monastery of St. Saba, where the miserable victims of a
falsely-interpreted religion starved and withered in their delusion.
I have looked on the face of a saintly woman this very day, whose creed
many dread and hate, but whose life is lovely and noble beyond all
praise. When I remember the bitter words I have heard spoken against her
faith, by men who have an Inquisition which excommunicates those who ask
to leave their communion in peace, and an _Index Expurgatorius_ on which
this article may possibly have the honor of figuring,--and, far worse
than these, the reluctant, pharisaical confession, that it might perhaps
be _possible_ that one who so believed should be accepted of the
Creator,--and then recall the sweet peace and love that show through
all her looks, the price of untold sacrifices and labors,--and again
recollect how thousands of women, filled with the same spirit, die,
without a murmur, to earthly life, die to their own names even, that
they may know nothing but their holy duties,--while men are torturing
and denouncing their fellows, and while we can hear day and night the
clinking of the hammers that are trying, like the brute forces in the
"Prometheus," to rivet their adamantine wedges right through the breast
of human nature,--I have been ready to believe that we have even now a
new revelation, and the name of its Messiah is WOMAN!
* * * * *
----I should be sorry,--I remarked, a day or two afterwards, to the
divinity-student,--if anything I said tended in any way to foster any
jealousy between the professions, or to throw disrespect upon that one
on whose counsel and sympathies almost all of us lean in our moments
of trial. But we are false to our new conditions of life, if we do not
resolutely maintain our religious as well as our political freedom,
in the face of any and all supposed monopolies. Certain men will, of
course, say two things, if we do not take their views: first, that we
don't know anything about these matters; and, secondly, that we are not
so good as they are. They have a polarized phraseology for saying these
things, but it comes to precisely that. To which it may be answered, in
the first place, that we have good authority for saying that even babes
and sucklings know _something_; and, in the second, that, if there is a
mote or so to be removed from our premises, the courts and councils of
the last few years have found beams enough in some other quarters to
build a church that would hold all the good people in Boston and have
sticks enough left to make a bonfire for all the heretics.
As to that terrible depolarizing process of mine, of which we were
talking the other day, I will give you a specimen of one way of managing
Back to Full Books