Atlantic Monthly Volume 6, No. 37, November, 1860
Part 3 out of 5
He turned and looked down at her with some surprise.
"You know we haven't much more time, and certainly"----
"Yes,--don't scold!--and if you are going to propose, I really think you
ought to, or else"----
"You think I ought to marry Miss Heath?"
"Why--I--well----Oh, dear! I wish I had held my peace!"
"That might have been advisable."
"Don't be offended now, Roger!"
"Is there any reason to suppose her--to suppose me"----
"Yes, there!" replied Mrs. McLean, desperately.
He was silent a moment.
"Good God, Kate!" said he, then, clasping his hands behind his head,
and looking up the deep transparence of the unanswering night. "What a
blessing it is that life don't last forever!"
"But it does, Roger," she uttered under her breath,--terrified at his
abrupt earnestness, and unwitting what storm she had aroused.
"The formula changes," he replied, with his old air, and retracing their
The guests were all gone. Helen Heath was eating an ice; he bent over
her chair and said,--
"Good-night, Miss Helen!"
"Oh, good-night, Mr. Raleigh! You are going? Well, we're all going soon.
What a glorious summer it has been! Aren't you sorry we must part?"
"Why must we part?" he asked in a lower tone. "Where is the necessity of
our parting? Why won't you stay forever, Helen?"
She turned and surveyed him quickly, while a red--whether of joy or
anger he could not tell--flashed up her cheek.
"Do you mean"----
"Miss Heath, I mean, will you marry me?"
"Mr. Raleigh, no!"
With a bow he passed on.
Mr. Raleigh trimmed the Arrow's sail, for the breeze had sunk again, and
swept slowly out with one oar suspended. A waning moon was rising behind
the trees, it fell upon the little quay that had been built that summer,
and seemed with its hollow beams still to continue the structure upon
the water. The Arrow floated in the shadow just beyond. Mr. Raleigh's
eyes were on the quay; he paused, nerveless, both oars trailing, a cold
damp starting on his forehead. Some one approached as if looking out
upon the dim sheet,--some one who, deceived by the false light, did not
know the end to be so near, and walked forward firmly and confidently.
Indeed, the quay had been erected in Mr. Laudersdale's absence. The
water was deep there, the bottom rocky.
"Shout and warn him of his peril!" urged a voice in Mr. Raleigh's heart.
"Let him drown!" urged another voice.
If he would have called, the sound died a murmur in his throat. His eyes
were on the advancing figure; it seemed as if that object were to be
forever branded on the retina. Still as he gazed, he was aware of
another form, one sitting on the quay, unseen in shadow like himself,
and seeing what he saw, and motionless as he. Would Mrs. Laudersdale
dip her hands in murder? It all passed in a second of time; at the next
breath he summoned every generous power in his body, sprang with the
leap of a wild creature, and confronted the recoiling man. Ere his foot
touched the quay, the second form had glided from the darkness, and
seized her husband's arm.
"A thousand pardons, Sir," said Mr. Raleigh, then. "I thought you were
in danger. Mrs. Laudersdale, good-night!"
It was an easy matter to regain the boat, to gather up his oars, and
shoot away. Till they faded from sight, he saw her still beside him;
and so they stood till the last echo of the dipping oars was muffled in
distance and lost.
Summer-nights are brief; breakfast was late on the next morning,--or
rather, Mrs. Laudersdale was late, as usual, to partake it.
"Shall I tell you some news?" asked Helen Heath.
She lifted her heavy eyes absently.
"Mrs. McLean has made her husband a millionnaire. There was an Indian
mail yesterday. Mr. Raleigh read his letters last night, after going
home. His uncle is dying,--old, unfortunate, forlorn. Mr. Raleigh has
abandoned everything, and must hew his own way in the world from this
day forward. He left this morning for India."
When you saw Mrs. Laudersdale for the first time, at a period thirteen
years later, would you have imagined her possessed of this little drama?
You fancy now that in this flash all the wealth of her soul burned out
and left her a mere volition and motive power? You are mistaken, as I
[To be continued.]
* * * * *
A silent, odor-laden air,
From heavy branches dropping balm;
A crowd of daisies, milky fair,
That sunward turn their faces calm,
So rapt, a bird alone may dare
To stir their rapture with its psalm.
So falls the perfect day of June,
To moonlit eve from dewy dawn;
With light winds rustling through the noon,
And conscious roses half-withdrawn
In blushing buds, that wake too soon,
And flaunt their hearts on every lawn.
The wide content of summer's bloom,
The peaceful glory of its prime,--
Yet over all a brooding gloom,
A desolation born of time,
As distant storm-caps tower and loom
And shroud the sun with heights sublime.
For they are vanished from the trees,
And vanished from the thronging flowers,
Whose tender tones thrilled every breeze,
And sped with mirth the flying hours;
No form nor shape my sad eye sees,
No faithful spirit haunts these bowers.
Alone, alone, in sun or dew!
One fled to heaven, of earth afraid;
And one to earth, with eyes untrue
And lips of faltering passion, strayed:
Nor shall the strenuous years renew
On any bough these leaves that fade.
Long summer-days shall come and go,--
No summer brings the dead again;
I listen for that voice's flow,
And ache at heart, with deepening pain;
And one fair face no more I know,
Still living sweet, but sweet in vain.
The law of expression is the law of degrees,--of much, more, and most.
Nature exists to the mind not as an absolute realization, but as a
condition, as something constantly becoming. It is neither entirely this
nor that. It is suggestive and prospective; a body in motion, and not an
object at rest. It draws the soul out and excites thought, because it
is embosomed in a heaven of possibilities, and interests without
satisfying. The landscape has a pleasure to us, because in the mind it
is canopied by the ideal, as it is here canopied by the sky.
The material universe seems a suspense, something arrested on the point
of transition from nonentity to absolute being,--wholly neither, but on
the confines of both, which is the condition of its being perceptible to
us. We are able to feel and use heat, because it is not entirely heat;
and we see light only when it is mixed and diluted with its opposite.
The condition of motion is that there be something at rest; else how
could there be any motion? The river flows, because its banks do not. We
use force, because it is only in part that which it would be. What could
we do with unmixed power? Absolute space is not cognizable to the mind;
we apprehend space only when limited and imprisoned in geometrical
figures. Absolute life we can have no conception of; the absolute must
come down and incarnate itself in the conditioned, and cease to be
absolute, before it comes within the plane of our knowledge. The
unconscious is not knowable; as soon as it is thought, it becomes
And this is God's art of expression. We can behold nothing pure; and all
that we see is compounded and mixed. Nature stands related to us at a
certain angle, and a little remove either way--back toward its grosser
side, or up toward its ideal tendency--would place it beyond our ken. It
is like the rainbow, which is a partial and an incomplete development,--
pure white light split up and its colors detached and dislocated, and
which is seen only from a certain stand-point.
We remark, therefore, that all things are made of one stuff, and on the
principle that a difference in degree produces a difference in kind.
From the clod and the rock up to the imponderable, to light and
electricity, the difference is only more or less of selection and
filtration. Every grade is a new refinement, the same law lifted to a
higher plane. The air is earth with some of the coarser elements purged
away. From the zooephyte up to man, more or less of spirit gives birth to
the intervening types of life. All motion is but degrees of gravitating
force; and the thousand colors with which the day paints the earth are
only more or less of light. All form aspires toward the circle, and
realizes it more or less perfectly. By more or less of heat the seasons
accomplish their wonderful transformations on the earth and in the air.
In the moral world, the eras and revolutions that check history are only
degrees in the development of a few simple principles; and the variety
of character that diversifies the world of men and manners springs from
a greater or less predominance of certain individual traits.
This law of degrees, pushed a little farther, amounts to detachment and
separation, and gives birth to contrast and comparison. This is one
aspect in which the law manifests itself in the individual. The chairs
and the pictures must come out from the wall before we can see them. The
tree must detach itself from the landscape, either by form or color,
before it becomes cognizable to us. There must be irregularity and
contrast. Our bodily senses relate us to things on this principle; they
require something brought out and disencumbered from the mass. The eye
cannot see where there is no shade, nor the hand feel where there is
no inequality of surface, nor the palate taste where there is no
predominance of flavor, nor the ear hear where there is no silence.
Montaigne has the following pertinent passage, which also comes
under this law:--"Whoever shall suppose a pack-thread equally strong
throughout, it is utterly impossible it should break; for where will you
have the breaking to begin? And that it should break altogether is not
The palpableness and availableness of an object are in proportion as it
is separated from its environments. We use water as a motive power by
detaching a part from the whole and placing ourselves in the way of its
tendency to unite again. All force and all motion are originated on
this principle. It is by gravity that we walk and move and overcome
resistance, and, in short, perform all mechanical action; yet the
condition is that we destroy the settled equilibrium of things for the
moment, and avail ourselves of the impulse that restores it again. The
woodman chops by controlling and breaking the force which he the next
moment yields to.
So in higher matters. We are conscious of pain and pleasure only through
the predominance of some feeling. There must be degrees and differences
again, and some part more relieved than another, to catch an expression
on. Entire pain or an equal degree of physical suffering in every part
of the body would be a perfect blank, complete numbness; and entire
pleasure we could not be conscious of, and for the same reason. How
could there be any contrast, any determining hue, any darker or brighter
side? If the waters of the earth were all at the same altitude, how
could there be any motion among the parts? Hence the fullest experience
is never defined, and cannot be spoken. It is like the sphere, which, as
it merges all possible form in itself, is properly of no form, as white
is no color, and cannot be grasped and used as parts and fragments can;
there are no angles and outlines to define and give emphasis.
Hence the pain or pleasure that is definitely shaped in the
consciousness and that can be spoken is necessarily partial, and does
not go the full circle of our being. We are not conscious of our health
and growth, because they are general and not local, and are not rendered
prominent by contrast.
The dictionary and the sciences, in fact the whole province of human
knowledge, hinge upon this principle. To know a thing is but to
separate and distinguish it from something else; and classifying and
systematizing are carrying the same law from the particular to the
general. We cannot know one thing alone; two ideas enter into every
distinct act of the understanding,--one latent and virtual, the
other active and at the surface. To use familiar examples, we cannot
distinguish white without having known black, nor evil without having
known good, nor beauty without having known deformity. Thus every
principle has two sides, like a penny, and one presupposes the other,
which it covers.
When we come to the intellect and the expression of thought, the
same law of detachment and separation prevails. In contemplation and
enjoyment there are unity and wholeness; but in thinking, never. Our
thoughts lie in us, like the granite rock in the earth, whole and
continuous, without break or rupture, and shaped by a law of the
spheres; but when they come to the surface in utterance, and can be
grasped and defined, they lose their entireness and become partial and
fragmentary, and hint a local and not a general law. We cannot speak
entire and unmixed truth, because utterance separates a part from the
whole, and consequently in a measure distorts and exaggerates and does
injustice to other truths. The moment we speak, we are one-sided and
liable to be assailed by the reverse side of the fact. Hence the
hostility that exists between different sects and religions; their
founders were each possessed of some measure of truth, and consequently
stood near to a common ground of agreement, but in the statement it
became vitiated and partial; and the more their disciples have expounded
and sought to lodge their principles in a logical system, the more they
have diverged from the primitive sentiment. If the sects would let logic
alone and appeal only to the consciousness of men, there would be no
very steep difference between them, and each would promote the good of
the other. But the moment we rest with the reason and the understanding
there must be opposition and divergence, for they apprehend things by
parts, and not by the mass; they deal with facts, and not with laws.
The fullest truth, as we have already hinted, never shapes itself into
words on our lips. What we can speak is generally only foam from the
surface, with more or less sediment in it; while the pure current flows
untouched beneath. The deepest depths in a man have no tongue. He is
like the sea, which finds expression only on its shoals and rocks; the
great heart of it has no voice, no utterance.
The religious creeds will never be reconciled by logic; the more
emphatically they are expressed, the more they differ. Ideas, in this
respect, resemble the trees, which branch and diverge more and more
widely as they proceed from the root and the germinal state. Men
are radically the same in their feelings and sentiments, but widely
different in their logic. Argument is reaction, and drives us farther
and farther apart.
As the intellect expresses by detachment and contrast, it follows,
that, the more emphatically an idea is expressed, the more it will be
disencumbered of other ideas and stand relieved like a bust chiselled
from a rock. It is suggestive and prospective, and, by being detached
itself, will relieve others and still others. It makes a breach in
the blank wall, and the whole is now pregnable. New possibilities are
opened, a new outlook into the universe. Nothing, so to speak, has
become something; one base metal has been transmuted into gold, and so
given us a purchase on every other. When one thought is spoken, all
others become speakable. After one atom was created, the universe would
grow of its own accord. The difficulty in writing is to utter the
first thought, to break the heavy silence, to overcome the settled
equilibrium, and disentangle one idea from the embarrassing many. It is
a struggle for life. There is no place to begin at. We are burdened with
unuttered and unutterable truth, but cannot, for the life of us, grasp
it. It is a battle with Chaos. We plant shaft after shaft, but to no
purpose. We get an idea half-defined, when it slips from us, and all is
blank again in that direction. We seem to be struggling with the force
of gravity, and to come not so near conquering as to being conquered.
But at last, when we are driven almost to despair, and in a semi-passive
state inwardly settling and composing ourselves, the thought comes. How
much is then revealed and becomes possible! New facts and forces are
commanded by it; much of our experience, that was before meaningless
and unavailable, assumes order and comes to our use; and as long as the
breach can be kept open and the detachment perfect, how easily we write!
But if we drop the thread of our idea without knotting it, or looping it
to some fact,--if we stop our work without leaving something inserted
to keep the breach open, how soon all becomes a blank! the wound heals
instantly; the equilibrium which we had for a moment arrested again
asserts itself, and our work is a fragment and must always remain so.
Neither wife nor friends nor fortune nor appetite should call one from
his work, when he is possessed by this spirit and can utter his thought.
We are caught up into these regions rarely enough; let us not come down
till we are obliged.
The fullest development of this law, as it appears in the intellect,
is Analogy. Analogy is the highest form of expression, the poetry of
speech; and is detachment carried so far that it goes full circle and
gives a sense of unity and wholeness again. It is the spheral form
appearing in thought. The idea is not only detached, but is wedded to
some outward object, so that spirit and matter mutually interpret each
other. Nothing can be explained by itself, or, in the economy of
Nature, is explained by itself. The night explains the day, and the day
interprets the night. Summer gives character to winter, and in winter we
best understand the spirit of summer. The shore defines and emphasizes
the sea, and the sea gives form and meaning to the shore.
To measure grain, we must have a bushel; and to confine water and air,
we must have other than water and air to do it with. The bird flies by
balancing itself against something else; the mountain is emphasized by
the valley; and one color is brought out and individualized by another.
Our mood of yesterday is understood and rendered available by our mood
of to-day; and what we now experience will be read aright only when seen
from the grounds of an opposite experience. Our life here will not be
duly appreciated and its meaning made clear till seen from the life
The spiritual canopies the material as the sky canopies the earth, and
is reached and expressed only by its aid. And this is Analogy,--the
marrying of opposite facts, the perception of the same law breaking out
in a thousand different forms,--the completing of the circle when only
a segment is given. The visible and the invisible make up one sphere of
which each is a part. We are related to both; our root is in one, our
top in the other. Our ideas date from spirit and appear in fact. The
ideal informs the actual. This is the way the intellect detaches and
gets expressed. It is not its own interpreter, and, like everything
else, is only one side of a law which is explained by the other side.
The mind is the cope and the world the draw, to use the language of the
moulder. The intellect uses the outward, as the sculptor uses marble, to
embody and speak its thought. It seizes upon a fact as upon a lever, to
separate and lift up some fraction of its meaning. From Nature, from
science, from experience, it traces laws, till they appear in itself,
and thus finds a thread to string its thought on.
Without Analogy, without this marrying of the inward and the outward,
there can be no speech, no expression. It is a necessity of our
condition. Spirit is cognizable by us only when endowed with a material
body; so an idea or a feeling can be stated only when it puts on the
form and definiteness of the sensuous, the empirical. Hence the highest
utterance is a perpetual marrying of thought with things, as in
poetry,--a lifting up of the actual and a bringing down of the
ideal,--giving a soul to the one and a body to the other. This takes
place more or less in all speech, but only with genius is it natural and
complete. Ordinary minds inherit their language and form of expression;
but with the poet, or natural sayer, a new step is taken, and new
analogies, new likenesses must be disclosed. He is distinguished from
the second-hand man by the fulness and completeness of his expression;
his words are round and embrace the two hemispheres, the actual and the
ideal. He points out analogies under our feet, and presents the near and
the remote wedded in every act of his mind. Nothing is old with him,
but Nature is forever new like the day, and gives him pure and fresh
thoughts as she gives him pure and fresh water. Hence the expressiveness
of poetry and its power over the human heart. It differs from prose only
in degree, not in essence. It goes farther and accomplishes more. It
is the blossom of which prose is the bud, and comes with sincerity,
simplicity, purity of motive, and a vital relation to Nature.
As men grow earnest and impassioned, and speak from their inmost heart,
and without any secondary ends, their language rises to the dignity of
poetry and employs tropes and figures. The more emphatic the statement,
the more the thought is linked with things. The ideas of men in their
ordinary mood are only half-expressed, like a stone propped up, but
still sod-bound; but when they are fired and glowing with the heat of
some great passion, the operation of the mind is more complete and the
detachment more perfect. The thought is not only evolved, but is thrown
into the air,--disencumbered from the understanding, and set off against
the clear blue of the imagination. Hence the direct and unequivocal
statement of a man writing under the impulse of some strong feeling, or
speaking to a thrilled and an excited audience. Nature, the world, his
experience, is no longer hard and flinty, but plastic and yielding, and
takes whatever impress his mind gives it. Facts float through his head
like half-pressed grapes in the wine-press, steeped and saturated with
meaning, and his expression becomes so round and complete as to astonish
himself in his calmer moments.
People differ not so much in material as in this power of expressing it.
The secret of the best writer lies in his art. He is not so much above
the common stature; his experience is no richer than ours; but he knows
how to put handles to his ideas, and we do not. Give a peasant his power
of expression, or of welding the world within to the world without, and
there would be no very precipitous inequality between them. The great
writer says what we feel, but could not utter. We have pearls that
lie no deeper than his, but have not his art of bringing them to the
surface. We are mostly like an inland lake that has no visible outlet;
while he is the same lake gifted with a copious channel.
The secret seems to lie in the temperament and in the transmuting and
modifying medium. More or less of filtration does it all. Nature makes
the poet, not by adding to, but by taking from; she takes all blur and
opacity out of him; condenses, intensifies; lifts his nerves nearer the
surface, sharpens his senses, and brings his whole organization to an
edge. Sufficient filtration would convert charcoal into diamonds; and we
shall everywhere find that the purest, most precious substances are the
result of a refining, sorting, condensing process.
Our expression is clogged by the rubbish in our minds, the foolish
personal matters we load the memory with. Ideas are not clearly defined,
as the drift-wood in the river spoils the reflected image. We feel
nothing intensely; our experience is a blur without distinct form and
outline; in short we are incumbered with too much clay. Hence, when
a slow disease burns the dross and earth out of one, how keen and
susceptible his organization becomes! The mud-wall grows transparent.
Our senses lose their obtuseness, our capacity both for experience and
expression is enlarged, and we not only live deeper, but nearer the
It appears, then, that, as a general rule, our ability to express
ourselves is in proportion to the fineness of our organization. Women,
for this reason, are more adequate in expressing themselves than men;
they stand removed one degree farther from the earth, and are conscious
of feelings and sentiments that are never defined in our minds; the
detachment is more perfect; shades and boundaries are more clearly
brought out, and consequently the statement is more round and full.
One's capacity for expression is also affected by his experience,--not
experience in time and space, but soul-experience,--joy, sorrow,
pleasure, pain, love, hope, aspiration, and all intense feeling by which
the genesis of the inward man unfolded. What one has lived, that alone
can he adequately say. The outward is the measure of the inward; it is
as the earth and sky: so much earth as we see, so much sky takes form
and outline. The spiritual, it is true, is illimitable, but the actual
is the measure of that part of which we are made conscious. Experience
furnishes the handle, but the intellect must supply the blade.
Intense feeling of any kind afterward gives us more entire command over
some thought or power within us. Every inundation of passion enriches
and gives us a deeper soil. The most painful experiences are generally
the most productive. Cutting teeth is by no means a pleasant operation,
yet it increases our tools. Our lives are not thoroughly shaped out and
individualized till we have lived and suffered in every part of us. A
great feeling reveals new powers in the soul, as a deep breath fills
air-cells in the lungs that are not reached by an ordinary inhalation.
Love first revealed the poetic gift in Novalis; and in reading the
Autobiography of Goethe, one can but notice the quickening of his powers
after every new experience: a new love was a new push given the shuttle,
and a new thread was added.
When we come nearer the surface of our subject and speak of language,
we remark that pure English, so far as such is possible, is the most
convenient and expressive. Saxon words cannot be used too plentifully.
They abridge and condense and smack of life and experience, and form the
nerve and sinew of the best writing of our day; while the Latin is the
fat. The Saxon puts small and convenient handles to things, handles that
are easy to grasp; while your ponderous Johnsonian phraseology distends
and exaggerates, and never peels the chaff from the wheat. Johnson's
periods act like a lever of the third kind,--the power applied always
exceeds the weight raised; while the terse, laconic style of later
writers is eminently a lever on the first principle, and gives the mind
the utmost purchase on the subject in hand.
The language of life, and of men who speak to be understood, should be
used more in our books. A great principle anchored to a common word or
a familiar illustration never looses its hold upon the mind; it is like
seeing the laws of Astronomy in the swing of a pendulum, or in the
motion of the boy's ball,--or the law of the tides and the seasons
appearing in the beating of the pulse, or in inspiring and expiring the
breath. The near and the remote are head and tail of the same law, and
good writing unites them, giving wholeness and continuity. The language
of the actual and the practical applied to the ideal brings it at once
within everybody's reach, tames it, and familiarizes it to the mind. If
the writers on metaphysics would deal more in our every-day speech, use
commoner illustrations, seek to find some interpreter of the feelings
and affections of the mind in Nature, out of the mind itself, and thus
keep the life-principle and the thought-principle constantly wedded,
making them mutually elucidate and explain each other, they would be far
more fruitful and satisfying. Cousin is the only writer we know of
who has made any attempt at this, and we believe him to be the most
consistent and intelligent metaphysician that has yet appeared. Surely,
one cannot reasonably object to the height in the heavens from which a
man steals his fire, if he can feed it with his own fuel and cook meat
with it. Though the genealogy of our ideas be traceable to Jove and
Olympus, they must marry their human sisters, the facts of common life
and experience, before they can be productive of anything positive and
Proverbs give us the best lessons in the art of expression. See what
vast truths and principles informing such simple and common facts! It
reminds one of suns and stars engraved on buttons and knife-handles.
Proverbs come from the character, and are alive and vascular. There
is blood and marrow in them. They give us pocket-editions of the most
voluminous truths. Theirs is a felicity of expression that comes only at
rare moments, and that is bought by long years of experience.
There is no waste material in a good proverb; it is clear meat, like an
egg,--a happy result of logic, with the logic left out; and the writer
who shall thus condense his wisdom, and as far as possible give the two
poles of thought in every expression, will most thoroughly reach men's
minds and hearts.
ITALIAN EXPERIENCES IN COLLECTING "OLD MASTERS."
As the taste for collecting objects of art is rapidly developing in
America, it may be not without profit to point out some of the pitfalls
which attend the amateur in this pursuit, especially in Italy, that
exhaustless quarry of "originals" and "old masters"; though it should be
remembered that a work of art may be both original and old and very bad
too,--its intrinsic worth being a separate question from its age and
authenticity. The results given are drawn from an actual experience of
The most obvious risk is from the counterfeiter,--not from the
vulgar shams distributed so widely over the world from the well-known
_manufactories_ of paintings in France, England, and other parts, which
can deceive only the most ignorant or credulous, but from talent itself
debased to forgery and trickery.
Many of the antique bronzes, terra-cottas, vases, classical and medieval
relics, so jealously cared for in the collections of Europe, are the
clever imitations of a poor and honest artist in one of the Italian
cities, whose miniature studio might almost be put inside one of our
old-fashioned omnibuses. His designs, taken from genuine antiques,
are reproduced with fidelity, and the coatings and marks of time
counterfeited by chemical means and skilful manipulation. He sells his
productions as imitations, at prices that barely provide him with daily
bread, eking out his subsistence by repairs and restorations, in which
he is equally happy. Living in obscurity, without the capital or
sagacity to make himself known to the public, he is at the mercy of
those who are interested in keeping him in privacy and buying his
artistic labors at the wages of a clodhopper. His own responsibility
goes not beyond fulfilling orders for the imitation of certain objects,
the process of which he frankly explains to the inquisitive visitor.
But, once in dishonest hands, antiquity and authenticity replace
modernism and imitation.
There are two ways of seduction and deceit. The one and safer for
the operator is the _suggestive,_ in which appearances are made by
consummate tact and artful flattery to excite the imagination of the
buyer so that he is led to believe what he desires without compromising
the agent. The other is positive intrigue and absolute lying, so nicely
done that the wealthy amateur is fleeced often in a fashion that confers
a pleasure, and which, though he may subsequently detect it, gives him
but a lame chance at redress. In most instances he deserves none. For,
stimulated by vanity or fashion, without any true regard for art, he
has offered so large a premium for a name, that it would indeed be
wonderful, if a corresponding supply were not created. The living artist
is sometimes sorely tempted to pander to illusions to secure that
appreciation which the world gives more lavishly to fashion than to
merit. Michel Angelo tested this disposition, even more current in
his time than now; though some say it was done unknown to him. At all
events, having finished the statue of a Cupid, after breaking off an
arm, it was buried, and in due time discovered, disinterred, and brought
to the notice of a distinguished Roman dignitary, who pronounced it to
be a genuine antique and paid a large price for it, well pleased, as he
had reason to be, with his prize. But afterwards, the deception being
exposed, and the proof by means of the missing arm given that it was
the work of the then unknown Florentine sculptor, the disenchanted
connoisseur was furiously indignant, and disposed to take prompt
vengeance upon the parties concerned.
To come back to our own day. Let us suppose a rich collector to have
arrived in some well-known Italian market for art,--picture-jockeying is
much the same everywhere,--in pursuit of "originals."
Great is the commotion among dealers and their _sensali_ or jackals.
These latter are versed in intrigue and mystification, with enough
intelligence to tell a good picture from a bad one, and a parrot-like
acquaintance with names and schools. They are of all classes, from the
decayed gentleman and artist, to shopkeepers, cobblers, cooks, and
tailors, who find in the large commissions gained a temptation to
forsake their petty legitimate callings for the lottery-like excitements
and _finesse_ of picture-dealing. No sooner has the stranger gone to his
hotel than a watch is put upon his movements, and bribery and cajolery
used to get access to him. It is the _sensale's_ business to discover
and offer pictures. He is supposed to know the locality of every one,
good or bad, in his neighborhood. However jealous of each other, all
are loyally pledged together to take in the stranger. Leagued with the
dealer, artist, owner, courier, or servant, with any one, in fact, that
by any possibility can stand between the buyer and his object, it has
become almost an impossibility, especially for transient visitors, to
purchase anything whatever without paying a heavy toll to intermediates.
When the conspiracy is widely extended, the augmentation of price above
what would be required in direct dealing with the owner is sometimes
double or even quadruple. Occasionally, however, by way of compensation
for their general evil, the _sensali,_ having scented a prize, offer it
first to the amateur, in view of their own increase of gain over what
the dealer would allow. In this way, good pictures not unfrequently
escape the merchant, and reach the collector at a lower price than if
they had gone directly to the former.
The _sensali_ are not without their use in another respect. So indirect
and underhand is the Italian's mode of dealing in these matters, and
so eccentric his notions as to value, that a foreigner is apt to be
speedily disgusted or driven away by the magnitude of demands which in
reality the seller never expects to realize. Hence the negotiation is
best done through an agent, the buyer having fixed his price, leaving
the _sensale_ to make what he can for himself. No purchaser, however,
should give heed to any statement about the history or authenticity of
the works offered to him through such channels, but rely both for value
and facts upon his own resources; otherwise he will be deceived to an
extent that would appear almost fabulous to the uninitiated.
Such are the preliminary difficulties that beset the amateur. We will
suppose him in connection with the seller, and trace his progress.
First, the quality of his judgment and the impressibility of his
imagination are tested by a series of experiments as delicate as the
atmospherical gauges of a barometer. He is of course not to be entrapped
by copies or fabrications. He has a shrewd distrust of dealers, and
therefore prefers to buy family pictures or originals directly from
chapels and convents. All Italians have a patriotic pride in getting
rid of trash at the expense of the foreigner. The more common baits to
entrap--by bringing pictures mysteriously boxed, grandly baptized, and
liberally decorated with aristocratic seals and eloquent with
academical certificates, anointed with refined flattery and obsequious
courtesy--having failed, his _Eccellenza_ being too knowing to be
seduced into buying the ostentatiously furbished-up _roba_ of shops,
they set about to accommodate him with originals from first hands.
By substituting old frames for new, dirtying the pictures, and other
ingenious processes familiar to the initiated, and then putting them out
to board in noble villas, antique palaces, or other localities the most
natural for good pictures to be _discovered_ in, spiced with a romance
of decayed family-grandeur,--by employing new agents, and by hints
sagaciously conveyed to the buyer, his curiosity is excited, hopes
raised, and, finally, with much trouble and enhanced expense, he
triumphantly carries off the very pictures which in a shop he could not
be tempted to look at for fear of being caught with chaff, but which
now, from a well-got-up romance, have acquired a peculiar value in
his eyes. Not that this sort of delicate mystification is reserved
exclusively for foreigners. For we have detected in an altar-piece,
borne away as a great prize by an Italian friend from a secluded
little chapel attached to a noble villa in the vicinity of Florence,
a worthless specimen of an old painter, from one of the secret
depositories of the city, which had long been wholly unsalable on any
Honest dealing exists in Italy, as elsewhere, and there are men whose
statements may safely be received. But let the purchaser be cautious
when led into out-of-the-way places to see newly found originals, and be
slow to give heed to stories of churches being permitted to sell this or
that work of art because they have a _facade_ to repair or an altar to
decorate,--and particularly if there be said anything of an inheritance
to divide, or a sad tale of family distress requiring the sacrifice of
long-cherished treasures, backed up by a well-gotten-up pantomime of
unlockings and lockings, passages through mysterious corridors and vast
halls, cautious showings amid a crowd of family-retainers or a retinue
of monks. Sometimes the most wary is thus seduced into offering tenfold
its worth for a common object thus seen by a carefully arranged light
and with artificial surroundings.
Many good pictures are still to be had in Italy, if properly approached
by those who know thoroughly the habits of the country. There are,
however, but two means of procuring them: either to pay their full
value as fixed by rival collectors, or to secure them by fortuitous
circumstances for trifling sums. The extraordinary chances of discovery
and the extreme variations of price attending this pursuit are curious
and instructive. A few examples are worth relating. In 1856, a small
picture, by Niccolo d'Alunno, was sold in Florence, by an artist to a
dealer, for forty dollars; in a few weeks resold to an Englishman
for five hundred; exhibited at the Manchester Exhibition, whence it
subsequently passed into the gallery of a distinguished personage for
twenty-five hundred dollars. The "Leda" of Leonardo, repainted from
motives of prudery by the great-grandfather of Louis-Philippe, was
bought at the sale of that ex-king's pictures in Paris, in 1849, for
thirty dollars, restored to its primitive condition, and sold, we are
informed, for one hundred thousand francs. Ten years ago, an Angel, by
the same artist, was found in the old-clothes market at Florence by an
artist, bought for a few pence, cleaned and sold to Prince Galitzin for
twenty-two thousand francs. The "Fortune" of Michel Angelo, or what was
supposed to be, not long since was discovered in the same locality in a
disastrous condition, secured for a few shillings, put in such order as
was possible, and parted with to a French gentleman for three hundred
dollars and a pension of one dollar a day during the lives of the seller
and his son. Quite recently one of Correggio's most beautiful works was
discovered under the canvas of a worthless picture acquired at a public
auction in Rome for a few dimes, at the sale by a princely family of
discarded pictures, and resold by its fortunate discoverer for fifteen
thousand dollars, although the original proprietor instituted a suit
against him for its recovery, but without success. In Florence, within
three years past, a fine portrait, by Titian, of the Doge Andrea Gritti,
was picked out from a large lot of worthless canvases for six dollars.
The Madonna del Gran Duca, at the Pitti, was bought by the father of
the late Grand Duke, with some other pictures, of a widow, for a few
dollars. Instances like these might be multiplied, to show that in all
times prizes do strangely and unexpectedly occur, and that pictures
in their fortunes resemble their authors, often passing from extreme
poverty into princely homes.
The changes in the money value placed upon the same works in different
epochs are also curious. Indeed, a history of the _caprices_ of art
would be vastly entertaining. In 1740, at the sale in Paris of M.
Crozat's collection, a drawing by Raphael brought only ten francs. The
same drawing, at the sale of the King of Holland's gallery, in 1850,
fetched fourteen thousand francs. For the "Ezekiel," Raphael, in 1510,
had but eight _scudi d' oro,_ equivalent now to thirty dollars. At
present, it would bring a fabulous sum, if sold. Within the memory of
those now living, gold background pictures of the schools of Giotto and
his successors, owing to the contempt the pseudo-classical French taste
had excited for them, were brought out of suppressed churches and
convents and publicly burned to obtain the trifling amount of gold which
remained in the ashes. Amateurs are now more inclined to pay their
weight in gold for such as have escaped the ravages of time and
Vandalism; and the same government that permitted this destruction in
1859 passed stringent decrees to prevent their leaving the country,
sequestering all in public buildings as national property.
Without cautious study and much well-paid-for experience, the stranger
has small chance of successfully coping with the artifices that beset
his every step. He must be well-grounded in the history of Italian
painting, and possess a practical knowledge of the technical execution
of its various masters. Haste and ignorance, united to wealth and
vanity, are a rich mine for the _sensali._ To such collectors
America--not to speak of Europe--owes many of its galleries of great
names, to the very natural astonishment and skepticism of the spectators
and the defamation of great reputations. Many of these purchases are
the speculations of couriers, who, having artfully inoculated their
employers with a taste for originals, take care to supply the demand,
greatly to the benefit of their own pockets and the gratitude of those
with whom they bring their masters into connection. We have been called
by a countryman to admire his gallery of Claudes, Poussins, Rembrandts,
Murillos, and Titians, for which he had expended a princely sum, but
which there was no difficulty in recognizing as the shop _roba_ got up
expressly to entrap the unwary. One picture, worth, perhaps, for mere
decoration, fifty dollars, had been secured as a great favor for
twenty-two hundred dollars, the "last price" asked for it being three
thousand. Another, by a feeble artist of the Carlo Dolce school, had
been converted, by a substitution of names and sundry touchings-up, into
a brilliant Guercino, at the cost of nearly one thousand dollars, of
which the owner got about one-third, the confederates pocketing the
Some amateurs deceive themselves after a manner which acquits the
dealer of any participation in their illusions. A gentleman entered a
well-known studio in Florence, not many years since, and inquired the
price of a picture.
"Sixty dollars: the painting is by Furini," was the reply.
"I will take it," said the gentleman, eagerly insisting upon paying for
it on the spot; which was no sooner done, than he turned round to the
amused artist and triumphantly exclaimed, "Do you know you have sold me
a Murillo for nothing?"
Benvenuti, President of the Academy of Florence, was once asked to
attest the originality of an Andrea brought to him by some speculators.
"I should be happy to gratify you, gentlemen," he replied, "but
unfortunately I saw the picture painted." Nevertheless, certificates
were obtained from more facile authorities, and the painting officially
baptized for a market.
Certificates and documents need to be received as cautiously as the
pictures themselves; perhaps more so,--for they are more easily forged.
When genuine, the former are valuable only as they are the opinions of
honest and competent judges; and both are trustworthy only so far as
they are attached to the pictures to which they legitimately belong.
Genuine pictures have been sold and their documentary evidence kept for
skilful imitations. We have even detected in certificates the fraudulent
substitution of names. And sometimes, when honestly given, their
testimony is of no value. One professional certificate in our
possession, of the last century, ascribes the portrait in question to
Masaccio or Sauti di Tito: as sensible a decision as if an English
critic had decided that a certain picture of his school was either by
Hogarth or Sir Thomas Lawrence. Cases are indeed rare, even in the
public galleries, in which, outside of the picture itself, there is any
trustworthy historical testimony as to its genealogy.
Counterfeits of the old masters of the later Italian schools, supported
by false evidence, have at various times deceived good judges and
obtained posts of honor in the galleries of Europe. Even when detected,
their owners do not always repudiate their spurious treasures. They give
their collections the benefit of doubts or of public ignorance. The most
noted imitator of this class was Micheli of Florence. In view of his
success and the use for a time made of his works, he must rank as
a forger, though they are now in esteem solely for their intrinsic
cleverness. Some still linger in remote galleries, with the savor of
authenticity about them. A Raphael of his make long graced the Imperial
Gallery of Russia. He did not confine himself to literal repetitions,
but concocted new "originals" by combining parts of several pictures
in worm-eaten panels or time-stained canvases, with such variations of
motive or design as their supposed authors would naturally have made
in repeating their ideas in fresher combinations,--sometimes leaving
portions unfinished, ingeniously dirtying their surfaces, and giving to
them that cracked-porcelain appearance common to the old masters.
One thus prepared was bought at his studio for one hundred dollars,
consigned to a priest in the country, in due time _discovered_, and the
rumor of a great master in an exceedingly dirty and somewhat dilapidated
state, but believed to be intact beneath the varnishes and grime of
centuries, brought to the ears of a Russian, who after a delicate and
wearisome negotiation obtained it for eight hundred dollars, and perhaps
paid half as much more to the manufacturer for cleaning and restoring
Another sort of deception is the alteration of pictures by artists
less-known or of inferior reputations to suit more fashionable and
profitable names. In this way many works of much local interest, and
often indeed of equal merit to those they are made to represent, are
exterminated, to the serious detriment of the history of art, Lombardy,
Umbria, and the Legations especially have suffered in this way.
Though no deception be intended, if pedigrees are lost, criticism is
often sorely perplexed to decide upon authorship. Out of the multitudes
of pictures in the European galleries, which are so decidedly baptized
in catalogues, the public would be surprised to learn how few
comparatively can be historically traced to their authors. The majority
are named upon the authority of local judges, whose acquaintance with
art may be limited to one speciality, or who rely upon such opinions
as can be gathered from the best available sources. Hence the frequent
changes in the nomenclatures. We cannot, therefore, accept such
documents as infallible, except in those cases where internal evidence
and historic record are alike unimpeachable.
The difficulty of deciding often arises from repetitions, and the
excellence of pupils painting from the designs of their masters, and not
unfrequently assisted by them. As we go back in art, this difficulty
increases, from the oblivion which has overtaken once well-known names,
and from the greater uniformity of processes and the more limited range
of motives of the earliest artists.
The great religious masters of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries
gathered around them crowds of scholars, who travelled with them from
city to city, partaking in their commissions and executing their
designs, especially of _ex-voto_ pictures, multiplied in that age by the
piety of noble families, to commemorate some special interposition of
divine power in their behalf and to honor their patron saints. Their
usual compositions were the Madonna enthroned with the infant Jesus in
her arms, surrounded by holy personages or angels, with the portraits
of those who ordered the paintings, in general of diminutive size to
express humility, and kneeling in adoration with clasped hands and
upraised eyes. Unless the characteristics of the master-hand are
unmistakable in this class of works, they are to be ranked as of the
schools of the great men whose general features they bear. And it must
not be forgotten that frequently pupils developed into distinguished
masters themselves. Taddeo Gaddi and Puccio Capanna worked under Giotto
while he lived, and afterwards acquired distinction in an independent
A like close relation between master and scholar, the effect of which
was to multiply works by joint labor, obtained among the contemporaries
of Raphael as well as of Giotto. The precise number of the genuine works
of Raphael, owing to the cleverness of many of his pupils, will perhaps
never be known. Coindet ascribes to him from one hundred and eighty to
two hundred Holy Families alone. Some writers compute the entire number
of his paintings at from five hundred to six hundred; others quote
twelve hundred as authentic. These exaggerated estimates only prove how
extremely popular his designs became and the great number of pictures
ordered from them, some of which no doubt had the advantage of being
touched by his hand, while all in some way or other bear his mental
Moreover, the great masters frequently changed their methods and styles,
so that one might be mistaken for another, and at times studied and
copied each other. Andrea del Sarto's copy of Raphael's Leo Tenth passed
undetected even by Giulio Romano, who had himself worked on the latter.
Rubens and Velasquez imitated and copied the great Italian masters,
particularly Paul Veronese and Titian; the Caracci and their followers
multiplied Correggios, Raphaels, and the chief Venetians; Girolamo da
Carpi of Ferrara the same; and all with a degree of success that has
greatly perplexed later generations: their own works, in turn, as they
became popular, experiencing from subsequent artists the same process of
multiplication. Of the celebrated Madonna of Loreto there are not fewer
than ten rival claimants for authenticity; while sketches, studies, and
works not directly imitated from, but partaking of the character of
great artists, and often clever enough to be confounded with their
undoubted works, are not rare. Portraits, being direct studies from
Nature, are difficult to decide upon. Hence it is that criticism is so
variable in its decisions.
Beside the above sources of perplexity, it encounters another obstacle
from the restorations pictures have undergone. Injured by time or
obscured by repeated varnishings, they often require some degree of
cleaning to make them intelligible. Unfortunately, in most instances,
the process is sheer assassination. Many of the best works of public
galleries have been subjected to scrubbings more analogous to the labors
of a washtub than to the delicate and scientific treatment requisite to
preserve intact the virgin surface of the painting. Mechanical operators
have passed over them with as little remorse as locusts blight fields
of grain. Their rude hands in numberless instances have skinned the
pictures, obliterating those peerless tints, lights, and shadows, and
those delicate but emphatic touches that bespeak the master-stroke,
leaving instead cold, blank, hard surfaces and outlines, opaque shadows
and crude coloring, out of tone, and in consequence with deteriorated
sentiment as well as execution. The profound knowledge and vigorous or
fairy-like handling which made their primary reputation are now forever
gone, leaving little behind them except the composition to sustain it in
competition with modern work. As bad, however, as is this wanton injury,
that of repainting is greater. Inadequate to replace the delicate work
he has rubbed off, to harmonize the whole and make it look fresh and
new, the restorer passes his own brush over the entire picture, and thus
finally obscures whatever of technical originality there might still
have been preserved after the cleaning. The extent of injury European
galleries have thus received is incalculable. One instance will suffice
as an example of many. Some years gone by, the Titian's Bella Donna of
the Pitti was intact. Unluckily it got into the hands of a professional
cleaner. A celebrated dealer happened to be standing by when it was
rehung. Looking at it, he exclaimed,--"Two weeks ago I would have given
the Grand Duke two thousand pounds for that picture on speculation; now
I would not give two hundred."
Each restoration displaces more of the original and replaces it with
the restorer. As the same hands generally have a monopoly of a public
gallery, the contents of some are beginning to acquire a strange
uniformity of external character, while the old masters in the same
degree are vanishing from them. These remarks, however, are more
applicable to past than to present systems; for a reform founded on true
artistic principles is being everywhere inaugurated.
Oil-paintings gradually deepen in tone; while tempera, if protected from
humidity, retain their brilliancy and clearness as long as the material
on which they rest endures. The true occupation of the restorer is to
put the work given to him in a condition as near as possible to its
original state, carefully abstaining from obliterating the legitimate
marks of age, and limiting himself to just what is sufficient for the
actual conservation of the picture. One of the chief needs of many old
pictures is the removal of old repaintings. This done, the less added
the better, unless, if a piece be wanting, it can be so harmonized with
the original as to escape observation. But this is a special art, and
to be done only by those acquainted with the old methods. In perfect
condition ancient paintings cannot be. We must receive them for what
they are, with the corrodings and changes of time upon them. How
interesting in this respect is the Sienese Gallery! Here the restorer
has been stayed, and we find the pictures genuine as time itself,
and more precious by far to the student than the most glaring and
"refreshed" surfaces of those works in other galleries which are the
wonder and admiration of superficial observers.
The greatest difficulty of the restorer is to harmonize _permanently_
the new vehicles with the old; for the fresh tints are always liable
to assume a different tone from the original, which have already been
chemically acted upon by time.
It may be said that the skill which can escape detection in restoration
is adequate to successful counterfeiting. This is true only in part;
for _mending_ is very different from _creating._ Instances, however, do
occur of such attempts; but they seldom long escape detection, and never
impose upon those who have experience in the arts of the restorer.
Some years ago a Roman artist for a while successfully passed off his
imitations of Claude, Salvator Rosa, and their schools, as originals,
at large prices, with the usual guaranties of authenticity. To disarm
suspicion, he was accustomed to allow himself to be seen at work only
upon cheap, vulgar pictures, pretending he was competent to nothing
better. Having sold one of his Claudes for four thousand dollars, the
trick being detected, he was threatened with a public prosecution, the
fear of which brought on his death.
The favorite field of the early masters was fresco-painting. Unlike
painting in oils, it has no resources of transparency, brilliancy, and
richness of coloring, but depends for its nobility of effect upon the
hardier virtues of art and the more robust genius of the artist. His
success lies in strong and eloquent design and composition, with but
feeble aid from color. Fresco and tempera paintings were chiefly
intended for the interiors of churches or public buildings, whose dim
light harmonized their more or less crude and positive tones. It was,
however, only through the breadth and freedom of wall-painting that the
ambition of the early masters was fully aroused and their powers
found ample scope. Out of it they created a world of art unknown
and unappreciable by those who cannot view it as it exists in the
consecrated localities and amid the solemn associations whence it
originated. All over Italy, by the road-side and in the sanctuary, there
exists untold treasure of this sort, pure, grand or quaint, telling
truth with the earnestness of conviction, and exhaling beauty through
aroused feeling and refined sentiment, overflowing with virgin power
and exalted efforts. Everywhere untransportable, often in localities
untrodden except by the feet of the stolid peasant or the heavy-jawed
monk, seen only by enthusiastic seekers, these monuments of a noble art
are once more being awakened into vital existence by the piety and taste
of a generation whose great joy it is to uncover and restore to the
light of day those precious remains which were so often barbarously
whitewashed by the clergy of the past two centuries, from no more cogent
motive than to give greater light to their churches. Especially in
Tuscany every souvenir of ancestral greatness is now cared for with a
jealous patriotism honorable alike to the feeling and knowledge of its
population. The chief desire of the country is now to reinvest her
republican monuments with the character and aspect which best recall her
olden freedom and enterprise. And the highest glory that can be bestowed
upon these monuments is their careful conservation or restoration as
they originally were designed; nothing being added or taken away except
to their loss.
Not merely patriotism, but selfish acquisition demands of Italy the
strict conservation of art. Her monuments are funds at interest for
posterity. Indeed, her livelihood depends in no stinted measure upon
her artistic attractions. And nowhere is there a livelier feeling for
artistic beauty, greater respect for the past, and a wider-spread
knowledge of art. In all times will other peoples come within her
borders to enjoy and study that which she can still so lavishly bestow.
Tourists soundly rate Italians for their sordid indifference to their
art, attributing to the people at large the spirit of the mercenary
or ignorant class with whom they are most in contact. It is true that
others may hear, as we have heard, from a noble marquis, in reply to a
question about his family-pictures, "Ask my majordomo; had your question
been about horses, I could have told you." They may meet aristocratic
personages not above acting the picture-dealer in a covert manner, and,
still worse, receive propositions to buy works of art robbed from public
places. But such instances are uncommon. The common feeling is an
enthusiastic pride in, and profound respect for, the names and the
works that have done so much for the good and glory of Italy. Even the
spirited deportment of the Signorina Borgherini, as told by Vasari,
towards a dealer, who, during the siege of Florence, attempted to get
possession of certain paintings belonging to her husband, to speculate
upon by sending them to the king of France, may still find its
counterpart in feeling, if not in fact, among some of the living
daughters of that city.
"How, then," she exclaimed, "dost thou, Giovanni Battista, thou vile
broker of frippery, miserable huckster of farthings, dost thou presume
to come hither with the intent to lay thy fingers on the ornaments which
belong to the chambers of gentlemen,--despoiling, as thou hast long
done and art ever doing, our city of the fairest ornaments to embellish
strange lands therewith? I prize these pictures from reverence to the
memory of my father-in-law, from whom I had them, and from the love I
bear to my husband; I mean to defend them, while I have life, with my
own blood. Away with thee, then, base creature of nothingness! If again
thou shouldest be so bold as to come on a similar errand to this house,
thou shalt be taught what is the respect due to the dwelling of a
gentleman, and that to thy serious discomfort; make sure of it!"
And so she drove the intriguing bargainer away, with "reproaches of such
intolerable bitterness, that the like had never before been hurled at
man alive." Be it remembered, too, that Vasari was a good judge of the
quality of a Florentine dame's scolding, for he had himself in his
younger days passed a painful apprenticeship under the weight of
Lucretia Feti's tongue.
Criticism is too often local in its tone, being pledged, as it were, to
the admiration of its favorite subjects and a corresponding disregard of
those with which it is not familiar. Particularly in Italy, where the
municipal feeling has been so strong, the partisans of each school were
greatly prejudiced. Each people also very naturally prefers its own to
another's art, and does not always question its motives of preference.
The Florentines have overlooked the merits of their rivals, the
Venetians and Sienese,--who, in turn, have reciprocated; while Italy,
as a whole, has had but small regard for the works of other nations.
England has been slow to recognize the great merits of the Southern
schools; and France, Holland, and Germany are equally in the bondage of
local tastes or transitory fashions. But true criticism is cosmopolitan.
It tests merit according to the standard of the nature on which it is
founded, not overlooking excellence in whatever respect or degree. A
truly catholic view of art is the result only of its universal study.
The critic may be just to all inspirations, and yet enjoy his own
preferences. But, as Blackwood observes, too many "are self-endowed with
the capacity to judge all matters relating to the fine arts just in
proportion to the extent of their ignorance, because it is not difficult
to condemn in general terms and to attain notoriety by shallow
pretence." Neither "the narrowness of sect nor the noise of party"
should be heard in this matter. As a great gallery should represent
all phases of art through their several stages of progress and decay,
meeting all wants and tastes, so criticism should be based upon a
foundation equally broad,--not proud of its erudition nor dictatorial,
but with due humility uttering its opinions, prompt to sustain them, and
yet ever ready to listen and learn.
"Old masters" are almost a by-word of doubt or contempt in America,
owing to the influx of cheap copies and pseudo-originals of no artistic
value whatever. It is the more important, therefore, that they should be
represented among us by such characteristic specimens as are still to
be procured. Some modern artists are jealous of or indifferent to past
genius, and sedulously disparage it in view of their own immediate
interests. Bayle St. John, in his "Louvre," relates that he heard an
associate of the Royal Academy deliberately and energetically declare,
that, if it were in his power, he would slash with his knife all the
works of the old masters, and thus compel people to buy modern. This
spirit is both ungenerous and impolitic. If neither respect nor care for
the works of departed talent be bestowed, what future has the living
talent itself to look forward to? Art is best nourished by a general
diffusion of aesthetic taste and feeling. There can be no invidious
rivalry between the dead and the living. Alfred Tennyson looks not with
evil eye upon John Milton. Why should a modern be jealous of a mediaeval
artist? The public can love and appreciate both. Nor should it be
forgotten that it is precisely in those countries where old art is most
appreciated that the modern is most liberally sustained.
"Patience hath borne the bruise, and I the stroke."
"I think she's a-sinkin', Doctor," sobbed old Aunt Rhody, the nurse, as
she came out of Mary Scranton's bed-room into the clean kitchen, where
Doctor Parker sat before the fire, a hand on either knee, staring at the
embers, and looking very grave.
Doctor Parker got up from the creaky chair, and went into the bed-room.
It was very small, very clean, and two sticks of wood on the old iron
dogs burned away gradually, and softened the cool April air.
Before this pretence of a fire sat an elderly woman, with grave, set
features, an expression of sense and firmness, but a keen dark eye that
raised question of her temper. Miss Lovina Perkins was her style, being
half-aunt to the unpleasant-colored baby she now tended, rolled up in
a flannel shawl, and permitted to be stupid undisturbedly, since its
mother was dying.
Dying, evidently; she had not been conscious for several hours. Her
baby had not had its welcome; she knew nothing, cared for nothing, felt
nothing but the chill of the blood that stood still in her veins, and
the choking of the heart that hardly beat.
Poor child! poor widow! Her head lay on the pillow, white as the linen,
but of a different tint,--the indescribable pallor that you know and
I know, who have seen it drawn over a dear face,--a tint that is best
unknown, that cannot be reproduced by pen or pencil. Yet, for all its
pallor, you saw at once that this face was still young, had been
lovely, a true New-England beauty, quaint and trim and delicate as the
slaty-gray snow-bird, with its white breast, and soft, bright eyes, that
haunts the dusky fir-trees and dazzling hill-side slopes when no other
bird dare show itself,--a quiet, shy creature, full of innocent trust
and endurance, its chirp and low repetition dearer than the gay song of
lark or robin, because a wintry song.
But Mary Perkins had never been called handsome in Deerfield; if they
said she was "a real pretty girl," it only meant kindly and gentle, in
the Connecticut vernacular; and Tom Scranton, the village joiner, was
first to find out that the delicate, oval face, with its profuse brown
hair, its mild hazel eyes, and smiling mouth, was "jest like a
pictur'." So Tom and Mary duly fell in love, got married,--nobody
objecting,--went West, and eight months afterward Mary came home with
a coffin. Tom had fallen from a ladder, been taken up and brought home
dead, and she had travelled back five hundred miles to bury him in
Deerfield, beside his father and mother; for he was their only son.
There were about a hundred dollars left for Mary. She could not
work now, and she went to board with her half-sister, the Deerfield
Mary Scranton was only nineteen; but she did not want to live,--not even
for her baby's sake. All her sunshine and her strength went out of this
world with Tom, and she had no energy to care to live without him. She
did not say so to her sister,--for Miss 'Viny would have scolded her
smartly,--nor did she tell Doctor Parker; but she prayed about it,
and kept it in her heart all those silent days that she sat sewing
baby-clothes, and looking forward to an hour that should, even through a
death-agony, take her to Tom. She thought the baby would die, too, and
then they should all be together;--for Mary had a positive temperament,
without hope, because without imagination; what she had possessed and
lost eclipsed with her all uncertainties of the future; and she thought
seven times of Tom where she once thought of her child, though she took
pains to make its garments ready, and knit its tiny socks, and lay the
lumbering old cradle, that she had been rocked in, with soft and warm
wrappings, lest, indeed, the child should live longer than its
mother. So she sat in Miss 'Viny's bed-room in an old rush-bottomed
rocking-chair, sewing and sewing, day after day, the persistent will and
intent to die working out its own fulfilling, her white lips growing
more and more bloodless, her transparent cheek more wan, and the
temples, from which her lustreless hair was carelessly knotted away,
getting more hollow and clear and sharp-angled.
And now she lay on the bed, one hand under her cheek, the other picking
restlessly at the blanket,--for consciousness was fluttering back.
"Give me the brandy, Aunt Rhody," said Doctor Parker, softly.
He poured a few drops into the spoon she brought, and held it to Mary's
lips. The potent fluid stung the nerves into life again, and quickened
the flickering circulation; her thin fingers lay quiet, her eyes opened
and looked clear and calm at the Doctor. He tried to rouse her with an
interest deeper to most women than their own agony or languor.
"You've got a nice little girl, Mary," said he, cheerfully.
The ghost of a smile lit her face.
"I'm content," said she, in a low whisper.
Aunt Rhody brought the baby and laid it on its mother's arm. The child
stirred and cried, but Mary took no notice; her eyes were fixed and
glazing. Suddenly she smiled a brilliant smile, stretched both arms
upward, dropping her baby from its place. Only for one moment that
recognizing look defied death and welcomed life; her arms dropped, her
jaw fell;--it was over.
"I guess you'd better take the baby into the kitchen, Miss Loviny," said
Aunt Rhody; "'tisn't considered lucky to keep 'em round where folks has
"Luck a'n't anything," grimly returned Lovina, who had squeezed her
tears back, lest the two or three that inclined to fall should spot the
baby's blanket; "but I'm goin' to take her out into the kitchen, because
I calculate to open the winder in here."
So the baby and Aunt 'Viny went out.
It was a new thing and a hard thing for Lovina Perkins to have a baby
on her hands; she would rather have charged herself with the care of a
farm, or the building of a house; she could work, she could order,
plan, regulate, and execute; but what to do with a baby? There it
lay, helpless, soft, incapable, not to be scolded, or worked, or made
responsible in any way, the most impracticable creature possible: a
kitten she could have put into a basket at night, and set in the shed;
a puppy she could and would have drowned; but a baby, an unlucky, red,
screeching creature, with a soul, was worse than all other evils.
However, she couldn't let it die; so she went after some milk, and, with
Aunt Rhody's help, after much patient disgust, taught the child how to
live, and it lived.
Mary Scranton was buried next to Tom, and the June grass grew over both
their graves, and people thought no more about it; only every now and
then Doctor Parker came to Miss Perkins's house to ask after "baby," who
grew daily fat and fair and smiling; and on one of these occasions he
met the minister, Parson Goodyear, who had come, as Miss 'Viny expressed
it, "o' purpose to take me to do, because I ha'n't presented the child
"Fact is," continued she, "I ha'n't an idea what _to_ call her. I don't
favor callin' of her Mary, because that was her mother's name, and I
couldn't think of two on 'em at once; and Scripter names are generally
rather ha'sh. Miss Parker, Doctor, kind of favored her bein' called
Aribelly, because there was one of that name rather come over in the
Mayflower; but I think it's too mighty for a child that's got to
work;--what do you say?"
"I think you're right, Miss 'Viny," said the Doctor, as gravely as he
"I don't believe in fine names myself. I should think you might do worse
than to call the baby Content;--that was your own mother's name, wasn't
it? and it was the last word Mary spoke."
"Well, now, that's quite an idea, Doctor! I guess I will."
"And you will present her on the first Sabbath in May?" said Parson
"Well, yes, if I'm spared," said Aunt 'Viny; and, being spared, on that
sweet May-Sunday she carried the smiling little child up the aisle of
the meeting-house, and had it baptized Content.
Strange to say,--yet not all strange,--before it was a year old, the
baby had found its way quite down into the middle of Aunt 'Viny's
heart. To be sure, it was a deal of trouble; it would ache and cry in a
reasonless way, when nobody could tell what ailed it; it would take a
great amount of caring-for with ungrateful silence and utter want
of demonstration for a long time;--but then it was so helpless!
--irresistible plea to a woman!--and under all Miss 'Viny's
rough exterior, her heart was as sweet as the kernel of a butternut,
though about as hard to discover. True, she was hard of feature, and
of speech, as hundreds of New-England women are. Their lives are hard,
their husbands are harder and stonier than the fields they half-reclaim
to raise their daily bread from, their existence is labor and endurance;
no grace, no beauty, no soft leisure or tender caress mitigates the
life that wears itself away on wash-tubs, cheese-presses, churns,
cooking-stoves, and poultry; but truth and strength and purity lie
clear in these rocky basins, and love lurks like a jewel at the
bottom,--visible only when some divine sun-ray lights it up,--love as
true and deep and healthy as it is silent and unknown.
So Miss 'Viny's hardness gave way before "baby." She could not feel
unmoved the tiny groping hands about her in the night, the soft beatings
of the little heart against her arm, the round downy head that would
nestle on her neck to be rocked asleep; she could not resist that
exquisite delight of miserable, exacting, feminine nature,--the
knowledge that one thing in the world loved her better than anybody
else. Sorry am I to betray this weakness of Aunt 'Viny's,--sorry to know
how many strong-minded, intellectual, highly educated and refined women
will object to this mean and jealous sentiment in a woman of like
passions with themselves. I know, myself, that a lofty love will regard
the good of the beloved object first, and itself last,--that jealousy
is a paltry and sinful emotion; but, my dear creatures, I can't help
it,--so it was. And if any one of you can, with a serene countenance
and calm mind, see your husband devote himself to a much prettier, more
agreeable, younger woman than yourself,--or hear your own baby scream
to go from you to somebody else,--or even behold your precious female
friend, your "congenial soul," as the Rosa Matilda literature hath
it, fascinated by a young woman or young man to the neglect of
yourself,--although in one and all of these instances the beloved object
seeks his or her best good,--then let that superhuman female throw a
stone at Aunt 'Viny;--but for the present she will not be lapidated.
Never, indeed, had she been quite as happy as now. Her life had been
a routine of hard work. Love and marriage had never looked over the
palings at her; and--to tell the truth--she had not suffered by their
neglect, in her own estimation. She was one of those supernumerary women
who are meant to do other people's work in life: servants, nurses,
consolers; accepting their part with unconscious humility as a matter
of course; quite as good as the Santas and Santissimas of legend and
chronicle, and not nearly so intrusive. So this new phase had its own
sweetness and special charm for Aunt 'Viny; the happiest hour in her
day lying between daylight and dark, when waistcoats and jackets and
trousers were laid aside, the dim light forbidding her to sew, and
economy delaying the lamp,--so she could with a clear conscience spare
half an hour, while the tea-kettle boiled, for undressing "baby,"
rubbing the little creature down,--much as a groom might have done,
only with a loving touch not kept for horses,--enduing it with a long
night-gown, and toasting its shell-pink feet at the fire, till, between
the luxury of ease and warmth and tending, "baby" cooed herself to
sleep, and lay along Miss 'Viny's lap like a petted kitten, the
firelight playing soft lights over its fair head, sealed eyelids, and
parted lips, tinting the relaxed arm and funny dimpled fist with a rosy
glow, while Aunt 'Viny's face took on a tender brooding gleam that
nobody who had seen her in church on Sunday, severely crunching fennel,
or looking daggers at naughty boys, could have believed possible. But
this expression is an odd wonder-worker. I saw but the other day a
bad-eyed, bronzed, "hard-favored" Yankee, with a head all angles, a
dirty face, the air of a terrified calf, and the habiliments of a poor
farmer; I looked at him aristocratically, and thanked the Lord for my
mind, my person, and my manners, in true Pharisaic triumph,--when his
little blue-eyed daughter came round the corner and pulled at the tail
of his ragged coat. Why, the man was transfigured! I wondered he was
willing to shake hands with me when I left him; I knew before that his
hands were brown and big and dirty, and mine were little and white and
soap-scented; but I thought afterwards I'd as lief have been Peter as
myself just then,--and I think so still. Wherefore, young ladies all,
learn from this that the true cestus, fabled----No! I shall make an
essay on that matter some day; I will not inflict it here.
So, by dint of hard work, Aunt 'Viny brought up her dead sister's child
in the way it should go, nor ever for one moment grudged her labor or
her time. Neither did she spoil Content by over-indulgence; her good
sense kept the child unharmed, taught her hardy and self-reliant
habits, made her useful all the time, and, even if Nature had not been
beforehand with her, would have made her happy. But 'Tenty had her
father's firm and sunny character; she never cried but for good reason,
and then screamed lustily and was over with it; fretting was out of the
question,--she did not know how; her special faults were a strong
will and a dogged obstinacy,--faults Miss 'Viny trained, instead of
eradicating; so that 'Tenty emerged from district-school into the
"'Cademy's" higher honors as healthy and happy an individual as ever
arrived at the goodly age of fourteen without a silk dress or a French
shoe to peacock herself withal. Every morning, rain or shine, she
carried her tin pail to Doctor Parker's for milk, hung on the
tea-kettle, set the table, wiped the dishes, weeded a bit of the
prolific onion-bed, then washed her hands and brushed her hair, put
on the green sun-bonnet or the blue hood, as the weather pleased, and
trotted off to school, where she plodded over fractions, and wearied
herself out with American history, and crammed geography, and wrote
copies, for a whole year, when Aunt 'Viny thought she might learn her
trade, being a stout girl of fifteen, and the 'Cademy knew her no more.
There is but little incident in a New-England village of the Deerfield
style and size,--full of commonplace people, who live commonplace lives,
in the same white and brown and red houses they were born in, and die
respectably in their beds, and are quietly buried among the mulleins
and dewberry-vines in the hill-side graveyard. Mary Scranton's life and
death, though they possessed the elements of a tragedy, were divested of
their tragic interest by this calm and pensive New-England atmosphere.
Nothing so romantic had happened there for many years, or did occur
again for more; yet nobody knew a romance had come and gone. People in
Deerfield lived their lives with a view to this world and the next,
after the old Puritanic fashion somewhat modified, and so preserved the
equilibrium. No special beauty of the town attracted summer-visitors.
It was a village of one street, intended to be straight, crossing a
decorous brook that turned the mill, and parting itself just below the
church and the "store," to accommodate a small "green," where the geese
waddled, hissed, and nibbled Mayweed all summer, and the boys played
ball sometimes after school. There was a post-office in the "store,"
beside boots, sugar, hams, tape, rake-tails, ploughs, St. Croix
molasses, lemons, calico, cheese, flour, straw hats, candles, lamp-oil,
crackers, and rum,--a good assortment of needles and thread, a shelf of
school-books, a seed-drawer, tinware strung from the ceiling, apples in
a barrel, coffee-mills and brooms in the windows, and hanging over the
counter, framed and glazed, the following remarkable placard, copied out
in a running hand:--
Credit Will be Given
This Store after
Under no circumstances whatever.
I cannot buy goods or do business without cash, and as the bulk of my
capital is now trusted out with the promise to pay which that promise
has never been full filled I deem it a duty to myself and my Cash paying
customers to sell goods for cash at the lowest market price.
I shall indeavor make it an interest of my customers to pay cash for
all goods purchas by them. I shall offer goods at reduced rates as an
inducement for all to pay cash.
If I am asked if I give credit I want this to be my answer
Distrust not, O reader! This is _verbatim et literatim_ a copy.
In front of the "store" was a hay-scale, across the way a tavern, and,
at respectful distances along the street, white or red houses, with the
inevitable front-door, south-door, kitchen-and shed-floor, lilacs and
altheas before the windows, fennel, tiger-lilies, sweet-brier, and
Bar_gun_dy rosebushes, with red "pinies" and livid hydrangeas, or now
and then a mat of stonecrop and "voilets" along the posy-bed that edged
cabbage and potato-plots, while, without the fence, Bouncing-Bets
adorned the road-side, or blue sea-pinks from the pasture-lot strayed
beyond its rails.
Nothing happened in Deerfield; so nothing happened to "'Tenty Scran',"
as the school-children nicknamed her. She earned her living now at
tailoring and dress-making; for Miss 'Viny was much "laid up with
rheumatiz," and could not go about as was her wont. Also, the art and
mystery of housekeeping became familiar to the child, and economy of
the domestic sort was a virtue she learned unconsciously by continual
practice. She went to church on Sundays in a clean calico frock and a
white cape, sat in the singers' seat and uplifted her voice in Lenox and
Mear, Wells and Bethesda, shared her fennel with the children in the
gallery, looked out the text in her Bible, and always thought Parson
Goodyear's sermon was intended for her good, and took it in accordingly.
I should like to say that 'Tenty Scran' was pretty; in fact, I have
always regarded it as one of the chief pleasures of a literary calling,
that you are not obliged to take people as they are, but can make them
to order, since it takes no more pen-scratches to describe luxuriant
curls and celestial eyes and roseate lips than it does to set forth much
less lovely things; but when it comes to stubborn facts, why, there you
have to come down to this world, and proceed accordingly,--so I must
say 'Tenty was not handsome. She had fresh rosy cheeks and small brown
eyes, hair to match the eyes, a nose undeniably pug, a full, wide mouth,
and strong, white teeth,--fortunately, since every one showed when she
laughed, and she laughed a great deal. Then she had a dumpy figure, and
good large hands and feet, a look of downright honesty and good-temper,
and a nice, clear voice in speech or singing, though she only sang
hymns. But for all this, every-body in Deerfield liked 'Tenty Scran';
old and young, men and maidens, all had a kindly welcome for her; and
though Aunt 'Viny did not say much, she felt the more.
But "everybody has their sorrers," as Hannah-Ann Hall remarked, in one
of her "'Cademy" compositions, and 'Tenty came to hers when she was
about twenty-two. Miss Lovina was almost bed-ridden with the rheumatism
that year, and 'Tenty had to come back twice a day from her work to see
to her, so that she made it up by staying evenings, against her usual
rules. Now about the middle of that May, Doctor Parker's scapegrace son
Ned came home from sea,--a great, lazy, handsome fellow, who had run
away from Deerfield in his fifteenth year, because it was so "darned
stupid," to use his own phrase. Doctor Parker was old, and Mrs. Parker
was old, too, but she called it nervous; and home was stupider than ever
to Ned, particularly as he had broken his ankle and was laid on the sofa
for a good six weeks at least. About the second of those weeks, Content
Scranton came to "do over" Mrs. Parker's summer-gowns, and put her caps
together after their semi-annual starching.
Of course 'Tenty sat in the "keeping-room," where the old sofa was;
and of course Ned had nothing better to do than to watch the gay, good
little bee at her toil, hear her involuntary snatches of hymn-singing,
laugh at her bright simplicity, and fall in love with her,
sailor-fashion,--"here to-day, and gone tomorrow."
'Tenty stayed a long time at Mrs. Parker's that summer; she seemed to
get on so slowly with her work, but, as Mrs. Parker said,--
"Why, the fact of it is, 'Tenty is so handy and so spry, I can't see
how to spare her. Ed'ard, he wants a sight of waitin' on; and I am so
nervous, and husband is afflicted with neuralogy, beside that he is
considerable in years, so we can't be around as we used to be; and
'Tenty steps about and gets Ed'ard his books, and his victuals, and
fixes his pillows, and keeps the light out of his eyes, so't he isn't
contented a moment of time without she's right there."
And while Mrs. Parker was conveying these ideas to Miss 'Viny, they were
being illustrated in her own house after this fashion:--
"'Tenty," (three weeks had abolished the Miss,) "won't you give me that
blue book off the shelf?"
'Tenty sprang up and handed the book, and went to her work again,
beginning under her breath to hum
"Sweet fields beyond"----
"Dear me! this pillow has slipped away. 'Tenty, won't you fix it?"
Jump the second;--the pillow is put straight under Ned's dark curls,
though he is so helpless she has to raise his head with one arm and
arrange the cushion with the other; then the seam and hymn recommence.
"Sweet fields beyond the swelling"---
"I wish I had a drink of cold water."
Jump the third;--'Tenty finishes her hymn on the way to the well, and
brings the water, and holds the invalid up to drink it, and then the
pillows fall again, and the book slips down, and everything goes wrong
and has to be re-arranged, and at length 'Tenty goes back to her place
by the window quite indisposed to sing, but glowing with a new, shy
pleasure, for Ned had looked up at her with those great gray eyes that
said so much more than his lips did, and laid his cheek against the
stubbed hand that arranged his pillows, and said,--"Oh, 'Tenty! how good
you are!" in tones that meant, "and how I love you!" as well, though he
did not say it.
So matters progressed from day to day, Ned needing more and more care,
till he made his first progress across the room with a cane and the
help of 'Tenty's shoulder; after which experiment he began to recover
rapidly, impelled by the prospect of getting away from that house and
being free to go where he chose again.
For 'Tenty had ceased to amuse or interest him as much as she had done;
six weeks had done away with the novelty of her deepening color and shy
dropping eyes; beside, she laughed less, almost ceased to sing, sighed
softly, and looked quiet and grave, instead of gay and unconscious.
It was the old fable of sport to the boys and death to the frogs. She
thought he was in earnest; he knew he was amusing himself.
Miss 'Viny noticed the change in her darling, but she was a woman who
had acquired wisdom by experience, and she said nothing; she only grew
more exacting of 'Tenty's presence, wanted her earlier in the evening,
found fault with her food, and behaved generally so unlike her usual
stern patience, that Content was really roused out of her dreaminess to
wonder what ailed Aunt 'Viny.
As soon as Ned Parker was able to get out of doors again, he was heard
of in every house in the village, making himself agreeable after his
own fashion,--drinking hard cider with the old farmers, praising their
wives' gingerbread and spruce-beer, holding skeins for the girls, going
on picnics, huckleberryings, fishing-excursions, apple-bees, riding Old
Boker, his father's horse, bare-backed down the street, playing ball
on the green, and frequenting singing-school with one pretty girl and
another, till all Deerfield shook its head and remarked that "That 'ere
Ned Parker was a master-hand for carryin' on." And 'Tenty sewed harder
What makes me always put love into a story, Aunt Grundy? Why, because
love is popular; because nine-tenths of the people who read smile to see
the first and faintest hint of the tender passion in what they read;
because a story without love is like bricks without straw; because
a life without it is a life no doubt comfortable to lead, but
uninteresting to hear. Love is your only democrat; Ethelinda in Fifth
Avenue, glittering with the clear splendor of diamonds, and rustling
like a white-birch-swamp with pale silks, gleaming through the twilight
before an opera, and looking violets at Sydney Hamilton over the top
of her inlaid fan, is no more thrilled and rapt and tortured by the
Disturber in Wings, than Biddy in the kitchen, holding tryst with her
"b'y" at the sink-room window. Thousands of years ago, Theseus left
Ariadne tearing the ripples of her amber-bright hair, and tossing her
white arms with the tossing surf, in a vain agony of distraction and
appeal: poets have sung the flirtation, painters have painted it; the
story is an eternal legend of pain and passion, illuminated with lucent
tints of age and the warm South, outlined with the statuesque purity of
classic scenery and classic diction: but I myself never for a moment
believed that Ariadne was a particle more unhappy or pitiable than
Nancy Bunker, our seamstress, was, when Hiram Fenn went West to peddle
essences, and married a female Hoosier whose father owned half a
prairie. They would by no means make as lovely a picture; for Nancy's
upper jaw projects, and she has a wart on her nose, very stiff black
hair, and a shingle figure, none of which adds grace to a scene; and
Hiram went off in the Slabtown stage, with a tin-box on his knees,
instead of in a shell-shaped boat with silken sails; but I know Nancy
reads love-stories with great zest, and I know she had a slow fever
after Hiram was married. For, after all, love is the same thing ever
since Paradise,--the unwearying tradition, the ever new presence, the
rapture or the anguish unspeakable; and while 'Tenty Scran' sat and
sewed at Squire Hall's new linen pantaloons, she set every stitch with a
sigh, and sewed on every button with a pang that would have made Ariadne
put both arms round her, and kiss her long and close, a sister in
bonds,--though purple robes with jewelled borders, crescented pearls,
and armlets of gold, would not have been at all congruous hugging a
sixpenny calico with a linen collar.
Not that Ned neglected 'Tenty; he could not follow her about from house
to house, and she had done sewing for his mother, and in the evening
Aunt 'Viny always needed her. But more than once he joined her after
church, walked home to the door with her, and cheered her simple soul
with his familiar looks and tones, and words of praise that made
Adriadne Scran' think Theseus Parker a little more than mere man,
something altogether adorable. However, she knew he was having a very
good time when he didn't see her at all. The real reason why she ached
and sighed over Squire Hall's pantaloons was, that she heard Ned in the
next room helping Hannah-Ann Hall pack up the dinner for their grand
Snake Hill picnic, and diverting the same Hannah-Ann with such wit and
humor and frolic, that she declared several times she should split, and
begged him not to be so funny.
Now 'Tenty never had a pleasant day, unless Ned was with her,--it had
got as far as that; and the idea that he could and did enjoy himself so
thoroughly and heartily without her was a dull pang that ate into her
soul continually, and made her forlorn. Oh, these women! these pitiful
creatures! not magnanimity enough in a whole race of them to be visible
to the naked eye! jealous dogs-in-the-manger! If they weren't useful
domestically, I should vote for having them exterminated from this great
generous world, and give place to some better institution, which no
doubt could be got up by the india-rubber companies or the scientific
conventions. But as Alphonso of Castile did not make the world, one must
take it as it is; and I will say, for the encouragement of philosophers,
that I have known one magnanimous woman, and she a beautiful woman,
So 'Tenty sewed, and ached, and made Aunt 'Viny's bed and her gruel,
read her Bible and prayed for Ned Parker, and thought she was growing
very old, till one night he asked her to go to singing-school with him;
whereupon she put on a pink calico dress, and began to recover her youth
They went to Master Solon's singing-school, it is true; but they never
got home to Aunt 'Viny's till half past nine, and 'Tenty never could
remember what tunes they sang; and the singers in church next Sunday
asked her why she didn't come in when she got as far as the door, and
'Tenty said she thought the benches were all full! Truth, stern tutor
of the historian, compels me to confess that 'Tenty and Ned Parker were
sitting on the meeting-house steps most of that evening, in a touching
attitude; for Ned was telling her how his ship had come into port and
was going to sail again for South America, and he had an offer to join
her as second mate; so he had got to say goodbye to his kind little
nurse, and so forth and so on, with admonitions never to forget him,
and how he never should forget her, and here was a little locket; and
finally, sobered by her stifled sobs, Ned bent down his handsome head,
and said, softly,--
"Won't you kiss me for good-bye, 'Tenty?"
Dear me! of course she kissed him, and thought how good he was to kiss
her, and told him so. Whereupon he got better and better; and when the
sexton came to ring the bell for nine o'clock, they only just heard his
steps in time to steal away unobserved through the starry darkness, and
go round past the pine-grove. So reaching home at the aforesaid late
hour, where Mr. Ned became good again when he stooped to unlatch the
gate, 'Tenty looked so fresh and rosy and sweet when she came in, that
Aunt 'Viny growled to herself, found fault with her gruel, scolded at
the blanket, tipped over the teacup, and worried 'Tenty back into stern
reality, till the girl stole off to her bed. Not to sleep,--oh, no!
Waste such sweetness on sleep? Never! She lay there, broad awake, and
thought it all over, and how very nice it was to have anybody love her
so much, and how she should like to be handsome and smart and worthy so
much honor, till the cock crowed for dawn, and then she fell asleep,
nowise daunted by the recollection that Ned had said nothing to her
except that she was as sweet as a ripe blackberry and as pretty as a
daisy; for to her innocent logic actions spoke louder than words, and
she knew that anybody who did so (?) must love her enough to marry her.
So Ned sailed for Valparaiso, and 'Tenty stayed at home. Aunt 'Viny got
no better in all those winter-snows and blows; they are not favorable to
rheumatism, these New-England airs; so 'Tenty had enough to do; but she
was happy and contented. And winter crept by and merged into spring,
and spring into autumn, before Deerfield heard any news of Ned Parker;
though, in the mean time, one report after another of his being engaged
to various girls, at length settling with marked weight on Hannah-Ann
Hall, spread over the village and was the theme of Sunday-noon
gossips and sewing-society meetings, greatly to 'Tenty's contempt and
amusement,--though the contempt was too bitter and the amusement too
tremulous to be pleasant. For did not she know better? People don't kiss
people when they don't like them: a self-evident proposition, but one
that required some assertion and repetition to weigh its right weight in
Poor little 'Tenty! In that cold November there came a letter to Doctor
Parker just as he was getting out of his gig, after a round of visits.
The postmaster, going home to dinner, handed it to him, and, going back
from dinner, was called in to lift him up-stairs to his bed. Ned Parker
had been wrecked off the Horn, the crew took to their boats, and only
one boat, with one surviving man to tell the tale, was picked up by a
whaler coming back to New Bedford from the Pacific; all the rest were
gone. Doctor Parker was old and feeble; this only child was all he had;
paralysis smote his body when the smitten mind bowed before that dire
knowledge, and he never looked up again. Content would have given
anything to go and nurse him; but she, too, was stunned, and in the
whirl of that great grief even Aunt 'Viny's demands were no more to her
than a dull mechanic routine that she could hardly force her trembling
steps to carry through. So she stayed at home, sewing all day and crying
all night, and looking generally miserable, though she said nothing; for
whom could she speak to? Aunt 'Viny had resolutely kept her suspicions
about Ned Parker to herself, though well she knew who had walked home
from meeting with 'Tenty in those pleasant autumn Sundays now gone,
pleasure and all. But Miss 'Viny believed in silence on such matters,
and had held her peace; now it was too late to break it. Nor was 'Tenty
disposed to tell her anything; for it occurred for the first time to her
innocent soul that she had nothing to tell. So they both went on their
way, with secret pity and still endurance.
After a brief illness of three days, poor old Doctor Parker's weary
soul and body gave out; he died on a Thursday afternoon, and, in
country-fashion, it was proposed to bury him on Sunday, from the church.
Sunday came, cold and raw and blustering. 'Tenty took her usual seat in
the gallery, but took it early, that she might see the "mourners" come
in and fill the front pews kept for them. She wiped away the tears from
her eyes, and looked on with a feeling of half envy, thinking of the son
to whom no funeral honors should ever now be paid, slumbering in the
cruel seas that break and roar about the Horn. She counted the bearers,
all known faces; she watched Parson Goodyear into the pulpit; she saw
Mrs. Parker on her brother's arm. But there was one other veiled female
figure, shrouded also in black, whose presence she could no way account
for; and when Parson Goodyear made his first long prayer, and sent up an
earnest petition for the doubly bereaved woman before him, what did he
mean by adding,--"And Thine other handmaid, in the bloom of her years
bereaved of hope and promise,--her whom Thou hast afflicted from afar
off, and made a widow before Thee"? What _did_ it mean? 'Tenty's
breath fluttered, and she turned cold. Just at that moment, one of her
neighbors murmured under her bonnet,--"That's Hanner-Ann, next to Miss
Parker; only to think how sly she's kep' it a hull year! And she engaged
to Ed'ard all that time! I wouldn't never ha' believed it, ef she hadn't
had his letters to show for't, an' a gold watch he gin her; an' Miss
Parker says she's knowed it all the time."
Little more did 'Tenty know of psalm or sermon; some whirling sounds
passed her, and then a rush of people. She was last to leave the church;
and when she got home, and went to make Miss 'Viny's tea, as she tilted
the long well-sweep down and up to draw her pail of water, she looked
earnestly down the depths of crystal, as if to see what lay below, then
quietly opened her left hand above it;--something bright fell, dashed
the clear drops from a fern that grew half-way down, tinkled against a
projecting stone, made a little splash, and was gone. 'Tenty took up her
pail and went into the shed; and Ned Parker's locket lies at the bottom
of the well, for all I know, to this day. Thenceforth 'Tenty cried no
more; though for many weeks she was grave, wretched, pining.
Winter set in with furious storms and heavy snows, but, strange to say,
Aunt 'Viny grew better; she could sit up; at length could move about;
and at last, one night when she sat by the fire knitting, suddenly
looked up at 'Tenty and said,--
"You haven't seen Miss Parker lately, have you, Content?"
'Tenty shivered a little.
"No, I have not, Aunt 'Viny."
"Well, it appears as though you should go and see her; she's a weakly
woman, but she can set her back up dreadful against the Lord's doings,
and I don't know but what such kind of people need comfortin' more 'n
others. It's a world full o' gales, this is, and everybody hasn't learnt
the grass's lesson, to bend when the wind blows."
"The Lord sends the wind, Aunt 'Viny."
"The Lord sends everything, only folks don't allow it; they'd ruther lay
it to the door of man, so's to feel free to worry. But the worst thing
He ever does send to people is their own way, 'Tenty; and you'll know it
before you die."
'Tenty turned away to her work, hardly convinced by Miss 'Viny's wisdom,
and inwardly thinking she should like to try her own way for all
that. However, 'Tenty suffered far less than she might have done, for
indignation helped her; the feeling that Ned Parker had deliberately
amused himself with her, while she was in mortal earnest, had lowered
him not a little from his height. Then Aunt 'Viny's care diverted her
sad thoughts from herself, by sending her upon daily errands to the poor
and the sick, so that 'Tenty's pleasant face and voice became the hope
of the hour to more than one poverty-stricken or dying woman; and so her
own grief, measured by theirs, shrank and withdrew itself day by day,
and became something she could now and then forget. And more than all,
her naturally sweet temperament and healthy organization helped her to
Myriads have died of a broken heart, no doubt, but it was
physiologically broken; grief torments into sleeplessness, sleeplessness
destroys the appetite, then strength goes, the circulation fails, and
any latent evil lurking in the constitution springs on the helpless and
willing victim and completes its work. This is a shockingly unromantic
and material view to take of the matter, and brings to nought poems by
the hundred and novels by the thousand; but is it not, after all, more
true to God and human nature to believe in this view than to think He
made men or women to be the sport of passion and circumstance, even to
'Tenty Scran' was too healthy to break her heart,--and too unselfish; so
she gradually recovered her bright bloom, and went to her work, and took
care of Aunt 'Viny, as energetically and gayly as ever. Hannah-Ann Hall
married a lawyer from Meriden, and moved away, quite consoled for Ned,
within three years; but 'Tenty favored no lovers, though one or two
approached her. There are some--women who are like the aloe,--their life
admits of but one passion. It comes late and lasts long, but never is
repeated; the bloom dies out of its resplendence and odor, but no second
flowering replaces it. She was one of these. But what one man lost in
her love, a thousand of her fellow-creatures gained. 'Tenty was the
Deerfield blessing, though she never knew it herself. All the sick
wanted her; all the children pulled at her gown, and smiled at her from
their plays; her heart and her hands were so full, no regret found place
to nestle there, and silence brooded dove-like over that sorrowful time
After a while, some ten years after Ned Parker's death, Miss 'Viny
took to her bed again,--this time never to rise. Slow consumption had
fastened on her, and she knew well what was before her, for so had her
mother died; but no saint was ever more patient than she. 'Tenty was
the best of nurses, and had even learned to speak of her aunt's death
without a tremor in her voice, the last triumph of her unselfishness;
for Miss 'Viny could bear no agitation, and yet needed to speak of the
event she neither dreaded nor desired.
"'Tenty," said she, one day, "I feel a sight easier to leave you than if
you'd married Ned Parker."
"Why, Aunty?" said Content, a light blush only testifying her surprise
at this address.
"Because he was a selfish feller; he always was. I believe some women
are better off to marry, though I can't say but what I believe a single
state is as good; but a woman that gets a real lazy, selfish feller gets
pretty near the worst thing there is. I seemed kind of hard, 'Tenty,
them days, but I had feelin' enough."
"I don't doubt but what you had, Aunt 'Viny; only one can't see far
ahead, you know, when it rains. I'm sure I've been as happy as a clam
these last six years, and I don't calculate to resk that by gettin'
married, never. Besides, I've learned what you used to call the grass's
lesson, pretty well."
Here Parson Goodyear interrupted the conversation, and it never was
resumed; for the week after, Miss 'Viny died, and Content was left alone
in her little house, "to battle with the world," as people say. But no
conflict ensued, since it takes two to make a quarrel, and 'Tenty was
on good terms with the Deerfield world. So she lived on, peaceful and
peace-making, till forty found her as comely and as happy as ever, a
source of perpetual wonder to the neighbors, who said of her, "She has
got the dreadfullest faculty of gettin' along I ever see," and thereby
solved the problem, for all except one, and that other one 'Tenty's
opposite in every trait, Miss Mehitable Hall, Hannah-Ann's older sister,
an old maid of the straitest sect, and one who was nowise sustained
under the inflictions of life by the consciousness of enough money to
support her, and friends to care for her approaching age.
It was Miss Hitty Hall's delight to be miserable: rather an Irish
expression, but the only one that suits her case. One bright October
afternoon she came over to see Content, bringing her blue knitting, sure
symptom of a visitation. 'Tenty welcomed her with her usual cordial
homeliness, gave her the easiest chair she had, and commenced
"Do lay off your things, Miss Hall, and set awhile; I haven't seen you
for quite a spell."
"Well, I don't really know how to," replied Miss Hitty. "I don't know
but what everything will go to rack while I'm away. My help is dreadful
poor,--I can't calculate for her noway. I shouldn't wonder if she was
settin' in the keepin'-room this minute, looking at my best books."
"Oh, I guess not, Miss Hitty. Now do let me take off your bunnet, and
make yourself easy. Bridget can't do much harm, and you're such a
"Well, I don't know but what I will,--there! Don't put yourself out for
me, 'Tenty,--I'll set right here. Dear me! what a clever house this is!
A'n't you lonesome? I do think it's dreadful to be left all alone in
this wicked world; it appears as though I couldn't endure it noways,
"Why, Miss Hitty! I'm sure you're extreme well off. Supposing, now, you
had married a poor man, and had to work all your life,--or a cross man,
always a-findin' fault, or"----
"Well, that's a consideration, re'lly.--Now there's Hanner-Ann's
husband,--he's always nag-naggin' at her for something she's done or
ha'n't done, the whole enduring time. She's real ailing, and he ha'n't
no patience,--but then he's got means, and she wants for nothing. She
had, to say, seven silk dresses, when I was there last time, and things
to match,--that's something.--But I'm sure you have to work as hard as
though you was a minister's wife, 'Tenty. I don't see how you do keep
"Oh, I like work, Miss Hitty. It kind of keeps my spirits up; and all
the folks in Deerfield are as clever to me as though I belonged to 'em.
I have my health, and I don't want for anything. I think I'm as well off
as the Queen."
"You haven't had no great of troubles," groaned Miss Hitty. "I've
suffered so many 'flictions I'm most tired out; them is what wears on
people, 'flictions by death."
"I don't know," meekly answered 'Tenty; "I've had some, but I haven't
laid 'em up much. I felt bad while they lasted; but I knew other folks's
was so much worse, I was kind of shy about feelin' too bad over my
"Well, you've got a real faculty at takin' things easy; now I'm one of
the feelin' kind. I set down often and often to knit, and get a-thinkin'
over times back, and things people said and did years ago, and how bad
I felt, till I feel jest so ag'in, and I get a-cryin' till it seems as
though I should screech right out, and I can't sleep, nor I can't do
"A'n't you borrowin' trouble a little bit, Miss Hitty? I've kind of
figured it out that it's best to let the things that's dead and done for
stay so. I don't know as we've got any call to remember 'em. 'The Lord
requireth that which is past,' it says in the Bible; and I've always
looked upon that as a kind of a hint to men that it wa'n't their
business, but the Lord's."
"Oh, it's all very well to talk, 'Tenty Scranton!--talk, do!--but
'tisn't so mighty easy to practise on't."
"Why, now, I think it's the easiest way, by a sight, Miss Hitty. I
didn't mean to cast it up against you, for I know it's partly natur',
but I do think folks can help natur' more'n they're generally willing
to allow. I know it does seem as if you couldn't help thinkin' about
troubles sometimes, and it's quite a chore to keep bright; but then it
seems so much more cheery not to be fretted over things you can't help,
and it is such a sight pleasanter for everybody else! I declare, it does
seem jest as though the Lord had made this world for folks to have a
good time in, only they don't all know how, and I always feel a call to
"You're a master-piece to talk, 'Tenty,--but it don't make the
difference with me it does with some folks; it seems as if I should ha'
had a better time almost any way beside my way. I get more and more
failin' every day,--I'm pretty near gone now. I don't know but what
I shall die any time. I suffer so with rheumatiz, and I'm troubled
considerable with a risin' of the lungs; and sometimes I do think I've
got a spine in my back, it aches and creaks so nights."
"Why, I was thinking, since you set here, Miss Hitty, how spry you be,
and you've got a real 'hullsome look to your face; I should say you'd
"Fat!" exclaimed the indignant spinster; "about as fat as a hen's
forehead! Why, Content Scranton! I'm dreadful poor,--poor as Job's
turkey; why, my arms is all bones and sinners."
"You don't say so! I guess that's knitting, Miss Hitty; you do knit
beautiful. Is that worsted or cotton you're at now?"
Praise allayed Miss Hitty's wounded self-pity. She grew amiable under
its slow-dropping dews always, as 'Tenty knew.
"Oh, this a'n't anything to boast of. I call this common knitting; it's
a pair of socks I promised Miss Warner for her boy. Speakin' of her boy
Ned makes me think;--have you heared the news, 'Tenty?"
"No, I haven't heared any."
"Well, it's jest like a story-book. Ned Parker,--he't was Doctor
Parker's son, an' promised to our Hanner-Ann,--he's turned up, it
appears. He wa'n't drownded, but he was washed ashore, and the Indians
they took him, and he wasn't able to get away for ten year; then a
whaler's crew catched sight of him, havin' slopped there, for water,
and took him aboard, and he's been the world over since. He calculated
everybody to Deerfield was dead and married, so he didn't come back; but
now he is a-comin' back, for he's lost a leg, and he's got some money,
and they say he is a-goin' to settle down here."
"Has he come yet, Miss Hitty?"
"No, they're expectin' of him to Miss Warner's every day;--you know she
was Miss Parker's half-brother's wife."
"Yes, I have heared she was. But, Miss Hitty, don't roll up your work."
"Oh, I must be a-goin',--it's time; my help will be standin' on her head
by this time, like enough. I don't see but what one Irish girl is about
as confinin' as seven children, I'm sure."
With which despairing remark, Miss Hitty put on her shawl and calash and
departed; while Content filled her teakettle and prepared for supper.
But while the kettle boiled, she sat down by the window, and thought
about Miss Hitty's news. Her first feeling was one of surprise at
herself, a sort of sad surprise, to feel how entirely the love that once
threatened to wreck her life had died out of it. Hard, indeed, it is to
believe that love can ever die! The young girl clings passionately even
to her grief, and rejects as an insult the idea that such deep regret
can become less in all a lifetime,--that love, immortal, vital,
all-pervading, can perish from its prime, and flutter away into dust
like the dead leaves of a rose. Yet is it not the less true. Time, cold
reason, bitter experience, all poison its life-springs; respect, esteem,
admiration, all turn away from a point that offers no foothold for their
clinging; and she who weeps to-day tears hot as life-blood ten years
hereafter may look with cool distaste at the past passion she has calmly
weighed and measured, and thank God that her wish failed and her
hope was cut down. Yet there is a certain price to pay for all such
experience, to such a heart as sat in the quieted bosom of Content. Had
it been possible for her to love again, she would have felt the change
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