Atlantic Monthly Volume 7, No. 39, January, 1861
Part 3 out of 5
spades and barrows just twice the size of those employed by their
Continental rivals, and were regularly paid double. Quetelet's
experiments with the dynamometer on university students showed the same
results: first ranked the Englishman, then the Frenchman, then the
Belgian, then the Russian, then the Southern European: for those races
of Southern Europe which once ruled the Eastern and the Western worlds
by physical and mental power have lost in strength as they have paused
in civilization, and the easy victories of our armies in Mexico show us
It is impossible to deny that the observations on this subject are yet
very imperfect; and the only thing to be claimed is, that they all point
one way. So far as absolute statistical tables go, the above-named
French observations have till recently stood almost alone, and have been
the main reliance. The just criticism has, however, been made, that the
subjects of these experiments were the inhabitants of New Holland and
Van Diemen's Land, by no means the strongest instances on the side of
barbarism. It is, therefore, fortunate that the French tables have now
been superseded by some more important comparisons, accurately made by
A.S. Thomson, M.D., Surgeon of the Fifty-Eighth Regiment of the British
Army, and printed in the seventeenth volume of the Journal of the London
The observations were made in New Zealand,--Dr. Thomson being stationed
there with his regiment, and being charged with the duty of vaccinating
all natives employed by the government. The islanders thus used for
experiment were to some extent picked men, as none but able-bodied
persons would have been selected for employ, and as they were, moreover,
(he states,) accustomed to lifting burdens, and better-fed than the
majority of their countrymen. The New Zealand race, as a whole, is
certainly a very favorable type of barbarism, having but just emerged
from an utterly savage condition, having been cannibals within one
generation, and being the very identical people among whom were recorded
those wonderful cures of flesh-wounds to which Emerson has referred.
Cook and all other navigators have praised their robust physical aspect,
and they undoubtedly, with the Fijians and the Tongans, stand at the
head of all island races. They are admitted to surpass our American
Indians, as well as the Kaffirs and the Joloffs, probably the finest
African races; and a careful comparison between New-Zealanders and
Anglo-Saxons will, therefore, approach as near to an _experimentum
crucis_ as any single set of observations can. The following tables have
been carefully prepared from those of Dr. Thomson, with the addition
of some scanty facts from other sources,--scanty, because, as Quetelet
indignantly observes, less pains have as yet been taken to measure
accurately the physical powers of man than those of any machine he has
constructed or any animal he has tamed.
HEIGHT. _Number measured. Average._
New-Zealanders................... 147 5 feet 6-3/4 inches.
Students at Edinburgh............ 800 5 " 7-1/10 "
Class of 1860. Cambridge (Mass.). 106 5 " 7-3/5 "
Students at Cambridge (Eng.)..... 80 5 " 8-3/5 "
New-Zealanders................... 146 140 pounds.
Soldiers 58th Regiment........... 1778 142 "
Class of 1860. Cambridge (Mass.). 106 142-1/2 "
Students at Cambridge (Eng.)..... 80 143 "
Men weighed at Boston (U.S.)
Mechanics' Fair, 1860 ......... 4369 146-3/4 "
Englishmen (Dr. Thomson)......... 2648 148 "
Cambridge, Eng. (a newspaper
statement) .................... ---- 151 "
Revolutionary officers at West
Point, August 10th, 1778,
given in "Milledulcia," p. 273.. 11 226 "
AREA OF CHEST.
New-Zealanders................... 151 35.36 inches.
Soldiers 58th Regiment........... 628 36.71 "
STRENGTH IN LIFTING.
New-Zealanders................... 31 367 pounds.
Students fit Edinburgh, aged 25.. ---- 416 "
Soldiers 58th Regiment........... 33 422 "
NOTE. The range of strength among the New-Zealanders was from 250
pounds to 420 pounds; among the soldiers, from 350 pounds to 504 pounds.
But it is the test of longevity which exhibits the greatest triumph for
civilization, because here the life-insurance tables furnish ample,
though comparatively recent statistics. Of course, in legendary ages all
lives were of enormous length; and the Hindoos in their sacred books
attribute to their progenitors a career of forty million years or
thereabouts,--what may safely be termed a ripe old age; for if a man
were still unripe after celebrating his forty-millionth birthday, he
might as well give it up. But from the beginning of accurate statistics
we know that the duration of life in any nation is a fair index of
its progress in civilization, Quetelet gives statistics, more or less
reliable, from every nation of Northern Europe, showing a gain of ten to
twenty-five per cent, during the last century. Where the tables are most
carefully prepared, the result is least equivocal. Thus, in Geneva,
where accurate registers have been kept for three hundred years, it
seems that from 1560 to 1600 the average lifetime of the citizens was
twenty-one years and two months; in the next century, twenty-five years
and nine months; in the century following, thirty-two years and nine
months; and in the year 1833, forty years and five months: thus nearly
doubling the average age of man in Geneva, within those three centuries
of social progress. In France, it is estimated, that, in spite of
revolutions and Napoleons, human life has been gaining at the rate
of two months a year for nearly a century. By a manuscript of the
fourteenth century, moreover, it is shown that the rate of mortality
in Paris was then one in sixteen,--one person dying annually to every
sixteen of the inhabitants. It is now one in thirty-two,--a gain of a
hundred per cent, in five hundred years. In England the progress
has been far more rapid. The rate of mortality in 1690 was one in
thirty-three; in 1780 it was one in forty; and it stands now at one in
sixty,--the healthiest condition in Europe,--while in half-barbarous
Russia the rate of mortality is one in twenty-seven. It would be easy to
multiply these statistics to any extent; but they all point one way, and
no medical statistician now pretends to oppose the dictum of Hufeland,
that "a certain degree of culture is physically necessary for man, and
promotes duration of life."
The simple result is, that the civilized man is physically superior to
the barbarian. There is now no evidence that there exists in any part of
the world a savage race who, taken as a whole, surpass or even equal the
Anglo-Saxon type in average physical condition; as there is also
none among whom the President elect of the United States and the
Commander-in-chief of his armies would not be regarded as remarkably
tall men, and Dr. Windship a remarkably strong one. "It is now well
known," says Prichard, "that all savage races have less muscular power
than civilized men." Johnstone in Northern Africa, and Cumming in
Southern Africa, could find no one to equal them in strength of arm.
At the Sandwich Islands, Ellis records, that, "when a boat manned by
English seamen and a canoe with natives left the shore together, the
canoe would uniformly leave the boat behind, but they would soon relax,
while the seamen, pulling steadily on, would pass them, but, if the
voyage took three hours, would invariably reach the destination first."
Certain races may have been regularly trained by position and necessity
in certain particular arts,--as Sandwich-Islanders in swimming, and our
Indians in running,--and may naturally surpass the average skill of
those who are comparatively out of practice in that speciality; yet it
is remarkable that their greatest feats even in these ways never seem
to surpass those achieved by picked specimens of civilization. The best
Indian runners could only equal Lewis and Clarke's men, and they have
been repeatedly beaten in prize-races within the last few years; while
the most remarkable aquatic feat on record is probably that of Mr.
Atkins of Liverpool, who recently dived to a depth of two hundred and
thirty feet, reappearing above water in one minute and eleven seconds.
In the wilderness and on the prairies, we find a general impression that
cultivation and refinement must weaken the race. Not at all; they simply
domesticate it. Domestication is not weakness. A strong hand does not
become less muscular under a kid glove; and a man who is a hero in a red
shirt will also be a hero in a white one. Civilization, imperfect as
it is, has already procured for us better food, better air, and better
behavior; it gives us physical training on system; and its mental
training, by refining the nervous organization, makes the same quantity
of muscular power go much farther. The young English ensigns and
lieutenants who at Waterloo (in the words of Wellington) "rushed to meet
death, as if it were a game of cricket," were the fruit of civilization.
They were representatives, indeed, of the aristocracy of their nation;
and here, where the aim of all institutions is to make the whole nation
an aristocracy, we must plan to secure the same splendid physical
superiority on a grander scale. It is in our power, by using even very
moderately for this purpose our magnificent machinery of common schools,
to give to the physical side of civilization an advantage which it has
possessed nowhere else, not even in England or Germany. It is not yet
time to suggest detailed plans on this subject, since the public mind
is not yet fully awake even to the demand. When the time comes, the
necessary provisions can be made easily,--at least, as regards boys;
for the physical training of girls is a far more difficult problem
The organization is more delicate and complicated, the embarrassments
greater, the observations less carefully made, the successes fewer,
the failures far more disastrous. Any intelligent and robust man may
undertake the physical training of fifty boys, however delicate their
organization, with a reasonable hope of rearing nearly all of them, by
easy and obvious methods, into a vigorous maturity; but what wise man
or woman can expect anything like the same proportion of success, at
present, with fifty American girls?
This is the most momentous health-problem with which we have to deal,--
to secure the proper physical advantages of civilization for American
women. Without this there can be no lasting progress. The Sandwich
Island proverb says,--
"If strong be the frame of the mother,
Her son shall make laws for the people."
But in this country, it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that
every man grows to maturity surrounded by a circle of invalid female
relatives, that he later finds himself the husband of an invalid wife
and the parent of invalid daughters, and that he comes at last to regard
invalidism, as Michelet coolly declares, the normal condition of that
sex,--as if the Almighty did not know how to create a woman. This, of
course, spreads a gloom over life. When I look at the morning throng of
schoolgirls in summer, hurrying through every street, with fresh, young
faces, and vesture of lilies, duly curled and straw-hatted and booted,
and turned off as patterns of perfection by proud mammas,--it is not sad
to me to think that all this young beauty must one day fade and die, for
there are spheres of life beyond this earth, I know, and the soul is
good to endure through more than one;--the sadness is in the unnatural
nearness of the decay, to foresee the living death of disease that is
waiting close at hand for so many, to know how terrible a proportion of
those fair children are walking unconsciously into a weary, wretched,
powerless, joyless, useless maturity. Among the myriad triumphs of
advancing civilization, there seems but one formidable danger, and that
It cannot be doubted, however, that the peril will pass by, with
advancing knowledge. In proportion to our national recklessness of
danger is the promptness with which remedial measures are adopted, when
they at last become indispensable. In the mean time, we must look for
proofs of the physical resources of woman into foreign and even
into savage lands. When an American mother tells me with pride, as
occasionally happens, that her daughter can walk two miles and back
without great fatigue, the very boast seems a tragedy; but when one
reads that Oberea, queen of the Sandwich Islands, lifted Captain Wallis
over a marsh as easily as if he had been a little child, there is a
slight sense of consolation. Brunhilde, in the "Nibelungen," binds her
offending lover with her girdle and slings him up to the wall. Cymburga,
wife of Duke Ernest of Lithuania, could crack nuts between her fingers,
and drive nails into a wall with her thumb;--whether she ever got her
husband under it is not recorded. Let me preserve from oblivion the
renown of my Lady Butterfield, who, about the year 1700, at Wanstead,
in Essex, (England,) thus advertised:--"This is to give notice to my
honored masters and ladies and loving friends, that my Lady Butterfield
gives a challenge to ride a horse, or leap a horse, or run afoot, or
_hollo_, with any woman in England seven years younger, but not a day
older, because I won't undervalue myself, being now 74 years of age."
Nor should be left unrecorded the high-born Scottish damsel whose
tradition still remains at the Castle of Huntingtower, in Scotland,
where two adjacent pinnacles still mark the Maiden's Leap. She sprang
from battlement to battlement, a distance of nine feet and four inches,
and eloped with her lover. Were a young lady to go through one of our
villages in a series of leaps like that, and were she to require her
lovers to follow in her footsteps, it is to be feared that she would die
Yet the transplanted race which has in two centuries stepped from Delft
Haven to San Francisco has no reason to be ashamed of its physical
achievements, the more especially as it has found time on the way for
one feat of labor and endurance which may be matched without fear
against any historic deed. When civilization took possession of
this continent, it found one vast coating of almost unbroken forest
overspreading it from shore to prairie. To make room for civilization,
that forest must go. What were Indians, however deadly,--what
starvation, however imminent,--what pestilence, however lurking,--to a
solid obstacle like this? No mere courage could cope with it, no mere
subtlety, no mere skill, no Yankee ingenuity, no labor-saving machine
with head for hands; but only firm, unwearying, bodily muscle to every
stroke. Tree by tree, in two centuries, that forest has been felled.
What were the Pyramids to that? There does not exist in history an
athletic feat so astonishing.
But there yet lingers upon this continent a forest of moral evil more
formidable, a barrier denser and darker, a Dismal Swamp of inhumanity,
a barbarism upon the soil, before which civilization has thus far been
compelled to pause,--happy, if it could even check its spread. Checked
at last, there comes from it a cry as if the light of day had turned to
darkness,--when the truth simply is, that darkness is being mastered and
surrounded by the light of day. Is it a good thing to "extend the area
of freedom" by pillaging some feeble Mexico? and does the phrase become
a bad one only when it means the peaceful progress of constitutional
liberty within our own borders? The phrases which oppression teaches
become the watchwords of freedom at last, and the triumph of
Civilization over Barbarism is the only Manifest Destiny of America.
WHO WAS CASPAR HAUSER?
Recent publications have again attracted our attention to a subject
which about thirty years ago was the cause of great excitement and
innumerable speculations. The very extraordinary advent, life, and death
of Caspar Hauser, the novelty and singularity of all his thoughts and
actions, and his charming innocence and amiability, interested at the
time all Europe in his behalf. Thrown upon the world in a state of utter
helplessness, he was adopted by one of the cities of Germany, and became
not only a universal pet, but a sight which people flocked from all
parts to see. It became a perfect fever, raging throughout Germany, and
extending also to other countries. The papers teemed with accounts and
conjectures. Innumerable essays and even books were written, almost
every one advancing a different theory for the solution of the mystery.
But his death was still more the occasion for their appearance, and for
some time thereafter they literally swarmed from the press. Every one
who had in any way come in contact with him, and a great many who knew
him by reputation only, thought themselves called upon to give their
views, so that in a little while the subject acquired almost a
literature of its own.
But this excitement gradually disappeared, and with it most of the
literature which it had called forth. There are a few names, however,
which occur frequently in connection with that of Caspar Hauser, to
whose opinions we shall subsequently call attention. They are Feuerbach,
Daumer, Merker, Stanhope, Binder, Meier, and Fuhrmann.[A] Of these,
Binder was his earliest protector; Feuerbach conducted the legal
investigations to which Caspar's mysterious appearance gave rise; Daumer
was for a long time his teacher and host; Stanhope adopted him; Meier
afterwards filled Daumer's place; and Fuhrmann was the clergyman who
attended his death-bed. Merker, though never thrown very closely in
contact with Caspar, was a Prussian Counsellor of Police, and as such
his opinion may perhaps have more than ordinary weight with some. Most
of them published their various opinions during Caspar's life or soon
after his death, and the subject was then allowed to sink to its proper
level and attract no further attention. Within a few years, however, it
has again been brought into prominent light by some new publications.
One of these is an essay written by Feuerbach and published in his works
edited by his son, in which he endeavors to prove that Caspar Hauser was
the son of the Grand Duchess Stephanie of Baden; another is a book by
Daumer, which he devotes entirely to the explosion of all theories that
have ever been advanced; and a third, by Dr. Eschricht, contends
that Caspar was at first an idiot and afterwards an impostor. Before
considering these different theories, let us recall the principal
incidents of his life. These have, indeed, been placed within the
reach of the English reader by the Earl of Stanhope's book and by a
translation of Feuerbach's "Kaspar Hauser. Beispiel eines Verbrechens am
Seelenleben des Menschen,"[B] published in Boston in 1832; but, as the
former has, we believe, obtained little circulation in this country, and
the latter is now probably out of print, a short account of the life of
this singular being may not be deemed amiss.
[Footnote A: Daumer, in his _Disclosures concerning Caspar Hauser_,
refers to a great many more than these; but it is impossible to follow
his example in so limited a space.]
[Footnote B: _Caspar Hauser. An Example of a Crime against the Life, of
On the 26th of May, 1828, a citizen of Nuremberg, while loitering in
front of his house in the outskirts of the town, saw, tottering towards
him, a lad of sixteen or seventeen years, coarsely and poorly clad. He
held in his hand a letter, which he presented to the citizen; but to
all questions as to who he was, whence he came, and what he wanted, he
replied only in an unintelligible jargon. The letter was addressed to
the captain of a cavalry company then stationed at Nuremberg, to whom
he was taken. It stated substantially, that a boy had been left at the
writer's door on the 7th of October, 1812, that the writer was a poor
laborer with a large family, but that he had nevertheless adopted the
boy, and had reared him in such strict seclusion from the world that not
even his existence was known. The letter said further, that, so far from
being able to answer, the lad could not even comprehend any questions
put to him. It therefore discouraged all attempts to obtain any
information in that way, and ended with the advice, that, according to
his desire, he should be made a dragoon, as his father had been before
him. Inclosed in this letter was a note, professedly by the mother, and
pretending to have been left with him, when, as an infant, Caspar Hauser
was first cast upon the world, but, in reality, as it was afterwards
proved, written by the same person. This note gave the date of his
birth, pleaded the poverty of the mother as an excuse for thus
abandoning her child, and contained the same request as to his joining a
cavalry regiment when he should arrive at the age of seventeen.
The first impression produced by Caspar's appearance and behavior was,
that he was some idiot or lunatic escaped from confinement; it remained
only to be shown whence he had escaped. In the mean time he was placed
under the protection of the police, who removed him to their guard-room.
There he showed no consciousness of what was going on around him; his
look was a dull, brutish stare; nor did he give any indication of
intelligence, until pen and paper were placed in his hand, when he wrote
clearly and repeatedly, "Kaspar Hauser." Since then he has been known by
When it became evident that the first conjectures concerning him were
wrong, strenuous efforts were made by the police to sound the mystery,
but without the slightest success. He himself could give no clue; for he
neither understood what others said nor could make himself understood.
With the exception of some six words, the sounds Caspar uttered were
entirely meaningless. He recognized none of the places where he had
been, no trace could be obtained of him elsewhere, and the most vigilant
search brought nothing to light. The surprise which his first appearance
produced increased as he became better known. It then became more and
more evident that he was neither an idiot nor a lunatic; at the same
time his manners were so peculiar, and his ignorance of civilized life
and his dislike for its customs so great, that all sorts of conjectures
were resorted to in order to explain the mystery.
It was ascertained that he must have been incarcerated in some dungeon,
entirely shut out from the light of the sun, which gave him great pain.
The structure of his body, the tenderness of his feet, and the great
difficulty and suffering which he experienced in walking, indicated
beyond a doubt that he had been kept in a sitting posture, with his legs
stretched straight out before him. His sustenance had been bread and
water; for he not only evinced great repugnance to any other food, but
the smallest quantity affected his constitution in the most violent
manner. It was also evident that he had never come in contact with human
beings, beyond what was necessary for supplying his immediate wants,
and, strange to say, teaching him to write.
That these inferences were well-founded was proved by the subsequent
disclosures of Caspar himself, after he had acquired a sufficient
command of language. The account he then gave was as follows.
"He neither knows who he is nor where his home is. It was only at
Nuremberg that he came into the world. Here he first learned, that,
besides himself and 'the man with whom he had always been,' there
existed other men and other creatures. As long as he can recollect, he
had always lived in a hole, (a small, low apartment, which he sometimes
calls a cage,) where he had always sat upon the ground, with bare feet,
and clothed only with a shirt and a pair of breeches. In his apartment,
he never heard a sound, whether produced by a man, by an animal, or by
anything else. He never saw the heavens, nor did there ever appear a
brightening (daylight) such as at Nuremberg, he never perceived any
difference between day and night, and much less did he ever get a sight
of the beautiful lights in the heavens. Whenever he awoke from sleep, he
found a loaf of bread and a pitcher of water by him. Sometimes his water
had a bad taste; whenever this was the case, he could no longer keep
his eyes open, but was compelled to fall asleep; and when he afterwards
awoke, he found that he had a clean shirt on, and that his nails had
[Footnote C: When he resided with Professor Daumer, a drop of opium in a
glass of water was administered to him. After swallowing a mouthful, he
exclaimed, "That water is nasty; it tastes exactly like the water I was
sometimes obliged to drink in my cage."]
"He never saw the face of the man who brought him his meat and drink. In
his hole he had two wooden horses and several ribbons. With these horses
he had always amused himself as long as he was awake; and his only
occupation was, to make them run by his side, and to arrange the ribbons
about them in different positions. Thus one day had passed the same as
another; but he had never felt the want of anything, had never been
sick, and--once only excepted--had never felt the sensation of pain.
Upon the whole, he had been much happier there than in the world, where
he was obliged to suffer so much. How long he had continued to live in
this situation he knew not; for he had had no knowledge of time. He
knew not when or how he came there. Nor had he any recollection of ever
having been in a different situation, or in any other than in that
place. The man with whom he had always been never did him any harm. Yet
one day, shortly before he was taken away, when he had been running his
horse too hard, and had made too much noise, the man came and struck
him upon his arm with a stick, or with a piece of wood; this caused the
wound which he brought with him to Nuremberg.
"Pretty nearly about the same time, the man once came into his prison,
placed a small table over his feet, and spread something white upon it,
which he now knows to have been paper; he then came behind him, so as
not to be seen by him, took hold of his hand, and moved it backwards and
forwards on the paper, with a thing (a lead pencil) which he had stuck
between his fingers. He (Hauser) was then ignorant of what it was; but
he was mightily pleased, when he saw the black figures which began to
appear upon the white paper. When he felt that his hand was free,
and the man was gone from him, he was so much pleased with this new
discovery, that he could never grow tired of drawing these figures
repeatedly upon the paper. This occupation almost made him neglect his
horses, although he did not know what those characters signified. The
man repeated his visits in the same manner several times.
"Another time the man came, lifted him from the place where he lay,
placed him on his feet, and endeavored to teach him to stand. This he
repeated at several different times. The manner in which he effected
this was the following: he seized him firmly around the breast, from
behind, placed his feet behind Caspar's feet, and lifted these, as in
"Finally, the man appeared once again, placed Caspar's hands over his
shoulders, tied them fast, and thus carried him on his back out of the
prison. He was carried up (or down) a hill. He knows not how he felt;
all became night, and he was laid upon his back."--By the expression,
"all became night," he meant that he fainted away. The little which
Caspar was able to relate in regard to his journey is not of any
particular interest, and we omit it here.
This is all that is known with any certainty of the early life of this
unfortunate being. The conjectures to which it has given rise will be
considered later. Let us first finish his history.
As was to be expected, Caspar Hauser's faculties developed very
gradually. His mind was in a torpor, and, placed suddenly amid, to
him, most exciting scenes, it was long before he could understand the
simplest phenomena of Nature. The unfolding of his mind was exactly like
that of a child. Feuerbach, in his book on Caspar Hauser, gives the main
features of this gradual development. We can only pick out a few.
It is remarkable that in the same proportion as he advanced in knowledge
and acquaintance with civilized life, the intensity of all his faculties
diminished. It was so with his memory. He was at first able to exhibit
most surprising feats. As an experiment, thirty, forty, and, on one
occasion, forty-five names of persons were mentioned to him, which he
afterwards repeated with all their titles,--to him, of course, entirely
meaningless. So, too, with his power of sight. At first, he was able to
see in the dark perfectly well, and much better than in the light of the
sun, which was very painful to him. He very frequently amused himself
at others groping in the dark, when he experienced not the slightest
difficulty. On one occasion, in the evening, he read the name on a
door-plate at the distance of one hundred and eighty paces. This
keenness of vision did not, however, retain its entire vigor, but
decreased as he became more accustomed to the sun. For some time after
he made his appearance he had no idea of perspective, but would clutch
like a child at objects far off. Nor had he any conception of the
beauties of Nature, which he afterwards explained by saying that it then
appeared to him like a mass of colors jumbled together. Nothing was
beautiful, unless it was red, except a starry heaven,--and the emotion
which he felt, on first beholding this, was truly touching. Until then,
he had invariably spoken of "the man with whom he had always been" with
feelings of affection; he longed to return to him, and looked upon all
his studies as merely a temporary thing; some day he would go back and
show the man how much he had learned. But when he first looked upon the
heavens, his tone became entirely changed, and he denounced the man
severely for never having shown him such beautiful things.
All his senses were thus at first wonderfully keen. It was so with his
hearing and smell. The latter was the source of most of his sufferings;
for, being so exceedingly sensitive, even the most scentless things made
him sick. He liked but one smell, that of bread, which had been his only
food for seventeen years. It was a long time, indeed, before he could
take any other food at all, and he only became accustomed to it very
The effect produced upon Caspar Hauser by contact with or proximity to
animals was also very curious. He was able to detect their presence
under singularly unfavorable circumstances. Metals, too, had a very
powerful effect upon him, and possessed for him a strong magnetic power.
But it is impossible to give all the details, however interesting; for
them we must refer to Feuerbach.
His mind, as has been already said, was at first sunk in almost
impenetrable darkness. He knew of but two divisions of earthly
things,--man and beast, "_bua_" and "_ross_." The former was a word
of his own. The latter, which is the German for _horse_, included
everything not human, whether animate or inanimate. Between these he for
a long time saw no difference. He could not understand why pictures and
statues did not move, and he regarded his toy-horses as living things.
To inanimate things impelled by foreign forces he ascribed volition.
Religion he, of course, had none. He possessed naturally a very amiable
character, and his thoughts and conduct were as pure as though guided by
the soundest system of morality. But he knew nothing of a God, and one
of the greatest difficulties Daumer had to encounter was instructing
him on this point. His untutored mind could not master the doctrines of
theology, and he was constantly puzzled by questions which he himself
suggested, and which his instructor often found it impossible to answer
Physically he was very weak. The shortest walk would fatigue him.
At first he could scarcely shuffle along at all, on account of the
tenderness of his feet, and because his body had always been kept in
one position. He so far overcame this, however, as to be able to walk a
little, though always with an effort. But on horseback he never became
tired. From the first time that he mounted a horse, he showed a love
for the exercise, and a power of endurance utterly at variance with all
other exhibitions of his strength; and he very soon acquired a degree
of skill which made him an object of envy to all the cavalry-officers
stationed in the neighborhood. So inconsistent and incomprehensible was
everything about Caspar Hauser!
In October, 1829, while residing in the family of Professor Daumer, an
attempt was made upon his life, which was only so far successful as to
give a very violent shock to his delicate constitution. The perpetrator
of the crime was never discovered. Caspar was afterwards adopted by the
Earl of Stanhope, and by him removed to Anspach. Feuerbach gives a very
interesting description of him, as he appeared at this time.
"In understanding a man, in knowledge a little child, and in many things
more ignorant than a child, the whole of his language and demeanor shows
often a strangely contrasted mingling of manly and childish behavior.
With a serious countenance and in a tone of great importance, he often
utters things which, coming from any other person of the same age, would
be called stupid or silly, but which, coming from him, always force upon
us a sad, compassionate smile. It is particularly farcical to hear him
speak of the future plans of his life,--of the manner in which, after
having learned a great deal and earned money, he intends to settle
himself with his wife, whom he considers as an indispensable part of
"Mild and gentle, without vicious inclinations, and without passions and
strong emotions, his quiet mind resembles the smooth mirror of a lake
in the stillness of a moonlight night. Incapable of hurting an animal,
compassionate even to the worm, which he is afraid to tread upon, timid
even to cowardice, he will nevertheless act regardless of consequences,
and even without forbearance, according to his own convictions, whenever
it becomes necessary to defend or to execute purposes which he has once
perceived and acknowledged to be right. If he feels himself annoyed in
any manner, he will long bear it patiently, and will try to get out of
the way of the person who is thus troublesome to him, or will endeavor
to effect a change in his conduct by mild expostulations; but, finally,
if he cannot help himself in any other manner, as soon as an opportunity
of doing so offers, he will very quietly slip off the bonds that confine
him,--yet without bearing the least malice against him who may have
injured him. He is obedient, obliging, and yielding; but the man who
accuses him wrongfully, or asserts to be true what he believes to be
untrue, need not expect, that, from mere complaisance, or from other
considerations, he will submit to injustice or to falsehood; he will
always modestly, but firmly, insist upon his right; or perhaps, if the
other seems inclined obstinately to maintain his ground against him, he
will silently leave him."
But the fate which had been pursuing this unfortunate being, and without
which the tragedy of his life would have been incomplete, overtook him
at last. On the 15th of December, 1833, he was induced by some unknown
person to meet him in a retired spot in the city of Anspach, under the
pretence that he should then have the secret of his parentage revealed
to him. The real object was his murder, and this time it was successful.
Caspar was stabbed to the heart. He still had sufficient strength left
to walk about a thousand paces; and, indeed, the wound was outwardly so
insignificant, that it was at first believed to be a mere scratch. This
strengthened an opinion which was then gradually gaining ground, that
Caspar was an impostor; for it was firmly believed by some that he had
inflicted this wound upon himself, as well as the one received in 1829,
in order to quicken the somewhat languishing interest taken in him. Nor
did they give up this opinion when the wound was found to be fatal. They
then boldly asserted that he had wounded himself more severely than
he had intended. And not content with simply maintaining this absurd
opinion, they taunted him with it on his death-bed, so that he was not
even allowed to die in peace. Nothing was wanting to fill his bitter
cup. How terrible must have been the mental torture to wring from
so resigned a soul the exclamation, "O God! O God! to die thus with
contumely and disgrace!" The German is still more expressive,--_"Ach,
Gott! ach, Gott! so abkratzen muessen mit Schimpf und Schande!"_
Such was the life of Caspar Hauser. For nearly seventeen years the
inmate of a dreary prison, shut out from the light, without a single
companion in his misery, drugged when it was necessary to change his
linen, with no food but bread,--for seventeen years did he thus exist,
--his mind a perfect blank. Suddenly cast upon the world, amid strange
beings whom he could not understand and by whom he was not understood,
he long knew scarcely a sensation save that of pain. And when at last
he did become accustomed to civilized life, and the darkness which
enshrouded him disappeared before the rays of light that found entrance
into his intellect, it was only to awake to a knowledge of the utter
misery of his position. He then saw himself a helpless orphan, the
inferior of all with whom he came in contact, and a dependant upon the
charity of others for his support. He awoke to find that he had lost
seventeen years of this beautiful life, seventeen years which he never
could recall,--that he never could take his stand amongst men as their
equal, but would always be regarded as an unhappy being meriting their
pity,--much like that felt for the pains of some suffering brute. Nor
was this all. During the few years that were granted him in our
world, persecuted by some unknown person, against whom he was
helpless,--knowing that his life was aimed at by some one, but unable
to protect himself, and at last falling a victim to the threatened
blow,--and, worst of all, charged on his death-bed with being an
impostor,--such was the life of Caspar Hauser!
Among the different opinions which have existed in regard to his origin,
the most noticeable are those advanced by Stanhope and Merker, and by
Daumer, Eschricht, and Feuerbach. The Earl of Stanhope's connection
with Caspar Hauser was a rather peculiar one. He made his appearance in
Nuremberg at the time the first attempt was made upon Caspar's life,
but took no particular notice of him, and left without having shown
any interest in him. On a second visit, about seven months later, he
suddenly became passionately attached to Caspar, showed most unusual
marks of fondness for him, and finally adopted him. He then removed him
to Anspach, and remained his protector until his death in December,
1833. The day after his burial, Stanhope appeared in Anspach, and took
particular pains to proclaim then, and subsequently at a judicial
investigation in Munich, and in several tracts, his belief that Caspar
was an impostor. This had already been maintained by Merker, the
Prussian Counsellor of Police. The theory which Stanhope now advanced
was, that Caspar was a journeyman tailor or glover, from some small
village on the Austrian side of the river Salzach. The reasons which he
assigns for his belief in the imposture are all derived from Caspar's
supposed want of integrity and veracity. They impeach the character of
Caspar living, and not of Caspar dead. Why, then, did Stanhope wait for
his death before he proclaimed the imposture? Why did he remain his
protector, and thus make himself a party to the fraud? His conduct is
not easily explained. On the other hand, there is little ground for
Daumer's conclusions. These are given at length in his "Disclosures
concerning Caspar Hauser," published in 1859, a book called forth by
attacks made upon him by Eschricht. Considering Stanhope's conduct, and
his endeavor after Caspar's death to induce Daumer to support his views
as to the imposture, and, upon his indignant refusal, making him twice
the object of a personal attack, Daumer thinks that there is reason to
believe Stanhope personally interested. He thinks that Caspar was the
legitimate heir to some great English estate and title, that he was
removed in order to make way for some one else, and that his murder was
intrusted to some person who had not the courage or the wickedness
to perpetrate it, but removed him first to Hungary and afterwards to
Germany, and supported him in the manner indicated, hoping that he would
not long survive. When, however, he grew up, his support became irksome
and he was cast upon the world. There he attracted so much attention,
that the instigator of the crime, dreading a disclosure, sought his
life again. When this proved unsuccessful, he was removed to Anspach;
Feuerbach, who had shown the greatest determination to sound the
mystery, was removed from the world, and at last the tragedy was made
complete in Caspar's own death. All this points to Stanhope. And yet
Daumer has not taken the trouble to inquire whether it agrees with the
family history. It is possible that he may be right; but his story
carries with it so much the air of improbability, that we cannot give it
credit without further proof.
In the seventh volume of Hitzig's "Annals of Criminal Jurisprudence,"
there is a communication from Lieutenant von Pirch, disclosing Caspar's
acquaintance with certain Hungarian words. A little while before this
announcement was made, a story had gone the rounds of the papers of
Germany, that a governess residing in Pesth had fainted away, when the
account of Caspar Hauser's appearance was related to her. All this
naturally attracted attention to Hungary as the probable place of his
birth; and it is for these reasons, that Feuerbach, Daumer, and others,
suppose that he spent some part of his childhood in that country. After
his death, Stanhope sent Lieutenant Hickel to Hungary to investigate the
matter, but no traces were discovered,--a proof, as Stanhope has it,
that these conclusions were groundless, and, according to Daumer,
another proof of Stanhope's complicity. He believes that the very
superficial search made by the order of Stanhope was intended to lull
suspicion and prevent a more strict search being made.
To return to the opinion advanced by Merker, and subsequently adopted by
Stanhope,--the thing is simply impossible. In the first place, it would
have been impossible for an impostor to elude discovery. To trace him
would have been the easiest thing in the world. With a vigilant police,
in a thickly settled country, how could a man leave his place of abode,
and travel, were it for ever so short a distance, without being known?
But this is the least consideration. Caspar's whole life, his intellect,
his body, the feats which he accomplished, when submitted to the most
searching tests, were a refutation of the charge. But when it is
added that he wounded himself in order to do away with suspicion, the
accusation becomes so absurd as scarcely to merit refutation. It is
answered by the fact, that it was proved, from the nature of the
wounds, in both cases, that self-infliction was impossible. Nor is it
conceivable that any one should have been able so long to deceive
people who were constantly with him and always on the alert. And it is
remarkable that they who saw most of Caspar, and knew him best, were
most firmly convinced of his integrity,--whilst his traducers were,
almost without an exception, men who had never known him intimately.
Feuerbach, Daumer, Binder, Meier, Fuhrmann, and many others, maintain
his honesty in the strongest terms.
On the other hand, it is said, that it is equally impossible for a
person to have been kept in any community in the manner in which it is
asserted that he was kept; discovery was inevitable. But it must be
remembered that this instance does not stand alone. If search were made,
many cases of the same kind might be collected. It is by no means so
rare an occurrence for persons to be kept secluded in such a manner as
to conceal their existence from the world. Daumer mentions two similar
cases which happened about the same time. The very year that Caspar
Hauser appeared, the son of a lawyer, named Fleischmann, just deceased,
was discovered in a retired chamber of the house. He was thirty-eight
years old, and had been confined there since his twelfth year. The other
case, also mentioned by Feuerbach, was still more distressing. Dr. Horn
saw, in the infirmary at Salzburg, a girl, twenty-two years of age, who
had been brought up in a pig-sty. One of her legs was quite crooked,
from her having sat with them crossed; she grunted like a hog; and her
actions were "brutishly unseemly in human dress." Daumer also relates a
third case, which was made the subject of a romantic story published in
a Nuremberg paper, but which, he says, lacks confirmation. It was the
discovery, in a secret place, of the grown-up son of a clergyman by his
housekeeper. Whether this be true or not, both Feuerbach and Daumer
believe that many similar instances do exist, which never come to light.
It is not impossible, therefore, that Caspar Hauser was confined in a
cellar to which none but his keeper sought entrance. Who would suspect
the existence of a human being, taught to be perfectly submissive and
quiet and to have no wants, in such a place, when even the existence
of the subterranean, prison itself was probably unknown? The cases
mentioned above were certainly more singular in this respect.
But Eschricht's opinion is the most peculiar of all. In his "Unverstand
mid schlechte Erziehung," he maintains that Caspar was an idiot until
he was brought to Nuremberg, that his mind was then strengthened and
developed, and that he was then transformed from an idiot into an
impostor. This is still more impossible than Stanhope's theory; for in
this case Daumer, Feuerbach, Hiltel the jailer, Binder the mayor, and
indeed all Caspar's earliest friends, instead of being victims of an
imposture, are made partakers in the fraud. No one acquainted with the
irreproachable character of these men could entertain the idea for a
minute; and when we remember that it was not one, but many, who must
have been parties to it, it becomes doubly impossible.
We come now to consider the opinion of Feuerbach; and we shall do it the
more carefully, because in it, we feel confident, lies the true solution
of the question. He was at the time President of the Court of Appeal of
the Circle of Rezat. He had risen to this honorable position gradually,
and it was the reward of his distinguished merit alone. His works on
criminal jurisprudence, and the penal code which he drew up for the
kingdom of Bavaria, and which was adopted by other states, had placed
him in the first rank of criminal lawyers. It was he who conducted
the first judicial investigations concerning Caspar Hauser. He was,
therefore, intimately acquainted with all the circumstances of the case,
and had ample opportunity to form a deliberate opinion. How the idea
originated, that Caspar Hauser belonged to the House of Baden, it is
difficult to say. Feuerbach never published it to the world. In his book
on Caspar Hauser he makes no mention of it; but in 1832 he addressed a
paper to Queen Caroline of Bavaria, headed, "Who might Caspar Hauser
be?" in which he endeavors to show that he was the son of the
Grand-Duchess Stephanie. This paper was, we believe, first published
in 1852, in his "Life and Works," by his son.[D] The first part of it
treats of Caspar's rank and position in general, and he comes to the
following conclusions. Caspar was a legitimate child. Had he been
illegitimate, less dangerous and far easier means would have been
resorted to for concealing his existence and suppressing a knowledge
of his parentage. And here we may add, that the supposition has never
prevailed that he was the offspring of a criminal connection, and that
these means were taken for suppressing the mother's disgrace. A note
which Caspar brought with him, when he appeared at Nuremberg, indicated
that such was the case, but it was so evidently a piece of deception
that it never obtained much credit. The second conclusion at which
Feuerbach arrives is, that people were implicated who had command of
great and unusual means,--means which could prompt an attempt at murder
in a crowded city and in the open day, and which could over-bribe all
rewards offered for a disclosure. Third, Caspar was a person on whose
life or death great interests depended, else there would not have been
such care to conceal his existence. Interest, and not revenge or hate,
was the motive. He must have been a person of high rank. To prove this,
Feuerbach refers to dreams of Caspar's. On one occasion, particularly,
he dreamt that he was conducted through a large castle, the appearance
of which he imagined that he recognized, and afterwards minutely
described. This Feuerbach thinks was only the awakening of past
recollections. It would be interesting to know whether any palace
corresponding to the description given exists. In the absence of such
knowledge, this point of Feuerbach's argument appears a rather weak one.
From the above propositions he concludes that Caspar was the legitimate
child of princely parents, who was removed in order to open the
succession to others, in whose way he stood.
[Footnote D: ANSELM RITTER VON FEUERBACH'S _Leben und Wirken, aus
seinen ausgedruckten Briefen, Tagebuechern, Vortraegen und Denkschriften,
veroeffentlicht von seinem Sohne_, LUDWIG FEUERBACH. Leipzig, 1852.]
The second division of the paper relates to the imprisonment, and
here he takes a ground entirely opposed to the opinions of others. He
believes that he was thus kept as a protection against some greater
evil. His wants were supplied, he was well taken care of, and his keeper
is therefore to be looked upon as his protector. Daumer sees in the
keeper nothing but a hired murderer, whose courage or whose wickedness
failed him. It is certainly difficult to imagine a kind friend immuring
one in a dark subterranean vault, feeding one on bread, excluding light,
fellowship, amusement, thoughts,--never saying a word, but studiously
allowing one's mind to become a dreary waste. It is a friendship to
which most of us would prefer death. We are therefore inclined to
think that Daumer is here in the right. But whatever the nature of his
imprisonment, the principal argument does not lose its force.
In the third place, Feuerbach speaks of the family to which Caspar must
have belonged. Just about the time of Caspar's birth, the eldest son of
the Grand-Duchess of Baden died an infant. His death was followed in
a few years by that of his only brother, leaving several sisters, who
could not inherit the duchy. By these deaths the old House of the
Zaehringer became extinct, and the offspring of a morganatic marriage
became the heirs to the throne. It was, therefore, for their interest
that the other branch should die out. In addition to this, the mother
of the new house was a woman of unbounded ambition and determined
character, and had a bitter hatred for the Grand-Duchess. Without laying
too much stress, then, upon the nearness in date of the elder child's
death and Caspar's birth, as given in the letter, there is reason to
suppose that they were the same person. There was every feeling of
interest to prompt the deed, there was the opportunity of sickness to
accomplish it in, and there was an unscrupulous woman to take advantage
of it. Is it, then, impossible that she, having command of the
house-hold, should have been able to substitute a dead for the living
child? Accept the proposition, and the mystery is solved; reject it, and
we are still groping in the dark. Nevertheless, there are circumstances
which, even then, are incapable of explanation; but it is the most
satisfactory theory, and certainly has less objections than the others.
Feuerbach came to this conclusion early; for his paper addressed to
Queen Caroline of Bavaria was written in 1832, the year before Caspar's
death. Delicacy forbade the open discussion of the question; but, even
at the time, this theory found many supporters. Some even went so far
as to say that Feuerbach's sudden death the same year was owing to the
indefatigable zeal with which he was ferreting out the mystery.
Of all the different explanations, then, which have been given, that of
Feuerbach seems to be the most satisfactory. At the same time, like the
rest, it is founded on conjecture. Its truth may never be proved. They
whose interest it was to suppress the matter thirty years ago, and who
resorted to such extreme measures in doing so, no doubt took ample
precaution that every trace should be erased. It is barely possible that
some confession or the discovery of some paper may cast light upon the
subject; but the length of time which has elapsed renders it exceedingly
improbable, and the mystery of Caspar Hauser, like the mysteries of the
Iron Mask and Junius, will always remain a fruitful source of conjecture
It may not be uninteresting to close this sketch with the consideration
of a point of law raised by Feuerbach in connection with the subject. It
will be recollected that he calls his book "Caspar Hauser. An Example
of a Crime against the Life of Man's Soul." The crime committed against
Caspar Hauser was, according to the Bavarian code, twofold. There was
the crime of _illegal imprisonment_, and the crime of _exposure_. And
here Feuerbach advances the doctrine, that it was not only the actual
confinement which amounted to illegal imprisonment, but that "we must
incontestably, and, indeed, principally, regard as such the cruel
withholding from him of the most ordinary gifts which Nature with a
liberal hand extends even to the most indigent,--the depriving him
of all the means of mental development and culture,--the unnatural
detention of a human soul in a state of irrational animality." "An
attempt," he says, "by artificial contrivances, to seclude a man from
Nature and from all intercourse with rational beings, to change
the course of his human destiny, and to withdraw from him all the
nourishment afforded by those spiritual substances which Nature has
appointed for food to the human mind, that it may grow and flourish,
and be instructed and developed and formed,--such an attempt must, even
quite independently of its actual consequences, be considered as,
in itself, a highly criminal invasion of man's most sacred and most
peculiar property,--of the freedom and the destiny of his soul.
...Inasmuch as the whole earlier part of his life was thus taken from
him, he may be said to have been the subject of a partial soul-murder."
This crime, if recognized, would, according to Feuerbach, far outweigh
the mere crime of illegal imprisonment, and the latter would be merged
Tittmann, in his "Hand-Book of Penal Law," also speaks of crimes against
the intellect, and particularly mentions the separation of a person from
all human society, if practised upon a child before it has learned to
speak and until the intellect Las become sealed up, as well as the
intentional rearing of a person to ignorance, as reducible to this head.
This was written before Caspar's case had occurred. He says, also, that
they are similar to cases of homicide; because the latter are punished
for destroying the rational being, and not the physical man. Murder and
the destruction of the intellect are, therefore, equally punishable. The
one merits the punishment of death as well as the other. Nor are we to
take the possibility of a cure into consideration, any more than we do
the possibility of extinguishing a fire. But where the law does not
prescribe the punishment of death irrespectively of the possibility of
recovery, the punishment would rarely exceed ten years in the House of
Correction. We must understand Tittmann's remarks, however, to refer
entirely to the law of Saxony,--that being the government under which he
lived, and the only one in whose criminal code this crime is recognized.
Feuerbach wished to have this murder of the soul inserted in the
criminal code of Bavaria as a punishable crime; but he was unsuccessful,
and the whole doctrine has subsequently been condemned. Mittermaier, in
a note to his edition of Feuerbach's "Text-Book of German Criminal Law,"
denies that there is any foundation for the distinction taken by him and
Tittmann. He says, that, in the first place, it has not such an actual
existence as is capable of proof; and, secondly, all crimes under it
can easily be reached by some other law. The last objection does not,
however, seem to be a very serious one. If, as Feuerbach says, the
crime against the soul is more heinous than that against the body, it
certainly deserves the first attention, even if the one is not merged in
the other. The crime being greater, the punishment would be greater;
and the demands of justice would no more be satisfied by the milder
punishment than if a murderer were prosecuted as a nuisance. The fact,
therefore, that the crime is reducible to some different head, is not an
objection. We meet with the most serious difficulty when we consider the
possibility of proof. Taking it for granted that the crime does exist in
the abstract, the only question is, whether it is of such a nature that
it would be expedient for government to take cognizance of it. The soul
being in its nature so far beyond the reach of man, and the difficulty
of ever proving the effect of human actions upon it, would seem to
indicate that it were better to allow a few exceptional cases to pass
unnoticed than to involve the criminal courts in endless and fruitless
inquiry. Upon the ground of expediency only should the crime go
unnoticed, and not because it can be reached in some other way. For
proof that it does exist, we can point to nothing more convincing than
the life of Caspar Hauser itself. No one can doubt that his soul was the
victim of a crime, for which the perpetrator, untouched by human laws,
stands accused before the throne of God.
* * * * *
Lying by the summer sea,
I had a dream of Italy.
Chalky cliffs and miles of sand,
Ragged reefs and salty caves,
And the sparkling emerald waves
Faded; and I seemed to stand,
Myself a languid Florentine,
In the heart of that fair land.
And in a garden cool and green,
Boccaccio's own enchanted place,
I met Pampenea face to face,--
A maid so lovely that to see
Her smile is to know Italy.
Her hair was like a coronet
Upon her Grecian forehead set,
Where one gem glistened sunnily,
Like Venice, when first seen at sea.
I saw within her violet eyes
The starlight of Italian skies,
And on her brow and breast and hand
The olive of her native land.
And knowing how, in other times,
Her lips were ripe with Tuscan rhymes
Of love and wine and dance, I spread
My mantle by an almond-tree:
"And here, beneath the rose," I said,
"I'll hear thy Tuscan melody!"
I heard a tale that was not told
In those ten dreamy days of old,
When Heaven, for some divine offence,
Smote Florence with the pestilence,
And in that garden's odorous shade
The dames of the Decameron,
With each a happy lover, strayed,
To laugh and sing, at sorest need,
To lie in the lilies, in the sun,
With glint of plume and golden brede.
And while she whispered in my ear,
The pleasant Arno murmured near,
The dewy, slim chameleons run
Through twenty colors in the sun,
The breezes broke the fountain's glass,
And woke Aeolian melodies,
And shook from out the scented trees
The bleached lemon-blossoms on the grass.
The tale? I have forgot the tale!--
A Lady all for love forlorn;
A Rosebud, and a Nightingale
That bruised his bosom on a thorn;
A pot of rubies buried deep;
A glen, a corpse, a child asleep;
A Monk, that was no monk at all,
I' the moonlight by a castle-wall;--
Kaleidoscopic hints, to be
Worked up in farce or tragedy.
Now while the sweet-eyed Tuscan wove
The gilded thread of her romance,
(Which I have lost by grievous chance,)
The one dear woman that I love,
Beside me in our seaside nook,
Closed a white finger in her book,
Half-vexed that she should read, and weep
For Petrarch, to a man asleep.
And scorning me, so tame and cold,
She rose, and wandered down the shore,
Her wine-dark drapery, fold in fold,
Imprisoned by an ivory hand;
And on a ridge of granite, half in sand,
She stood, and looked at Appledore.
And waking, I beheld her there
Sea-dreaming in the moted air,
A Siren sweet and debonair,
With wristlets woven of colored weeds,
And oblong lucent amber beads
Of sea-kelp shining in her hair.
And as I mused on dreams, and how
The something in us never sleeps,
But laughs or sings or moans or weeps,
She turned,--and on her breast and brow
I saw the tint that seemed not won
From kisses of New England sun;
I saw on brow and breast and hand
The olive of a sunnier land!
She turned,--and lo! within her eyes
The starlight of Italian skies!
Most dreams are dark, beyond the range
Of reason; oft we cannot tell
If they be born of heaven or hell;
But to my soul it seems not strange,
That, lying by the summer sea,
With that dark woman watching me,
I slept, and dreamed of Italy!
THE PROFESSOR'S STORY.
THE PERILOUS HOUR.
Up to this time Dick Venner had not decided on the particular mode
and the precise period of relieving himself from the unwarrantable
interference which threatened to defeat his plans. The luxury of feeling
that he had his man in his power was its own reward. One who watches
in the dark, outside, while his enemy, in utter unconsciousness, is
illuminating his apartment and himself so that every movement of his
head and every button on his coat can be seen and counted, especially
if he holds a loaded rifle in his hand, experiences a peculiar kind of
pleasure, which he naturally hates to bring to its climax by testing his
skill as a marksman upon the object of his attention.
Besides, Dick had two sides in his nature, almost as distinct as we
sometimes observe in those persons who are the subjects of the condition
known as _double consciousness_. On his New England side he was cunning
and calculating, always cautious, measuring his distance before he
risked his stroke, as nicely as if he were throwing his lasso. But
he was liable to intercurrent fits of jealousy and rage, such as the
light-hued races are hardly capable of conceiving,--blinding paroxysms
of passion, which for the time overmastered him, and which, if they
found no ready outlet, transformed themselves into the more dangerous
forces that worked through the instrumentality of his cool craftiness.
He had failed as yet in getting any positive evidence that there was any
relation between Elsie and the schoolmaster other than such as might
exist unsuspected and unblamed between a teacher and his pupil. A book,
or a note, even, did not prove the existence of any sentiment. At one
time he would be devoured by suspicions, at another he would try to
laugh himself out of them. And in the mean while he followed Elsie's
tastes as closely as he could, determined to make some impression upon
her,--to become a habit, a convenience, a necessity,--whatever might aid
him in the attainment of the one end which was now the aim of his life.
It was to humor one of her tastes already known to the reader, that he
said to her one morning,--"Come, Elsie, take your castanets, and let us
have a dance."
He had struck the right vein in the girl's fancy, for she was in the
mood for this exercise, and very willingly led the way into one of the
more empty apartments. What there was in this particular kind of dance
which excited her it might not be easy to guess; but those who looked in
with the old Doctor, on a former occasion, and saw her, will remember
that she was strangely carried away by it, and became almost fearful in
the vehemence of her passion. The sound of the castanets seemed to make
her alive all over. Dick knew well enough what the exhibition would
be, and was almost afraid of her at these moments; for it was like
the dancing mania of Eastern devotees, more than the ordinary light
amusement of joyous youth,--a convulsion of the body and the mind,
rather than a series of voluntary modulated motions.
Elsie rattled out the triple measure of a saraband. Her eyes began to
glitter more brilliantly, and her shape to undulate in freer curves.
Presently she noticed that Dick's look was fixed upon her necklace. His
face betrayed his curiosity; he was intent on solving the question, why
she always wore something about her neck. The chain of mosaics she had
on at that moment displaced itself at every step, and he was peering
with malignant, searching eagerness to see if an unsunned ring of
fairer hue than the rest of the surface, or any less easily explained
peculiarity, were hidden by her ornaments.
She stopped suddenly, caught the chain of mosaics and settled it hastily
in its place, flung down her castanets, drew herself back, and stood
looking at him, with her head a little on one side, and her eyes
narrowing in the way he had known so long and well.
"What is the matter, Cousin Elsie? What do you stop for?" he said.
Elsie did not answer, but kept her eyes on him, full of malicious light.
The jealousy which lay covered up under his surface--thoughts took this
opportunity to break out.
"You wouldn't act so, if you were dancing with Mr. Langdon,--would you,
Elsie?" he asked.
It was with some effort that he looked steadily at her to see the effect
of his question.
Elsie _colored_,--not much, but still perceptibly. Dick could not
remember that he had ever seen her show this mark of emotion before,
in all his experience of her fitful changes of mood. It had a singular
depth of significance, therefore, for him; he knew how hardly her color
came. Blushing means nothing, in some persons; in others, it betrays
a profound inward agitation,--a perturbation of the feelings far more
trying than the passions which with many easily moved persons break
forth in tears. All who have observed much are aware that some men, who
have seen a good deal of life in its less chastened aspects and are
anything but modest, will blush often and easily, while there are
delicate and sensitive women who can turn pale, or go into fits, if
necessary, but are very rarely seen to betray their feelings in their
cheeks, even when their expression shows that their inmost soul is
Presently she answered, abruptly and scornfully,--
"Mr. Langdon is a gentleman, and would not vex me as you do."
"A gentleman!" Dick answered, with the most insulting accent,--"a
gentleman! Come, Elsie, you've got the Dudley blood in your veins,
and it doesn't do for you to call this poor, sneaking schoolmaster a
He stopped short. Elsie's bosom was heaving, the faint flush on her
cheek was becoming a vivid glow. Whether it were shame or wrath, he saw
that he had reached some deep-lying centre of emotion. There was no
longer any doubt in his mind. With another girl these signs of confusion
might mean little or nothing; with her they were decisive and final.
Elsie Venner loved Bernard Langdon.
The sudden conviction, absolute, overwhelming, which rushed upon him,
had wellnigh led to an explosion of wrath, and perhaps some terrible
scene which might have fulfilled some of Old Sophy's predictions. This,
however, would never do. Dick's face whitened with his thoughts, but he
kept still until he could speak calmly.
"I've nothing against the young fellow," he said; "only I don't think
there's anything quite good enough to keep the company of people that
have the Dudley blood in them. You a'n't as proud as I am. I can't quite
make up my mind to call a schoolmaster a gentleman, though this one may
be well enough. I've nothing against him, at any rate."
Elsie made no answer, but glided out of the room and slid away to her
own apartment. She bolted the door and drew her curtains close. Then she
threw herself on the floor, and fell into a dull, slow ache of passion,
without tears, without words, almost without thoughts. So she remained,
perhaps, for a half-hour, at the end of which time it seemed that her
passion had become a sullen purpose. She arose, and, looking cautiously
round, went to the hearth, which was ornamented with curious old Dutch
tiles, with pictures of Scripture subjects. One of these represented
the lifting of the brazen serpent. She took a hair-pin from one of her
braids, and, insinuating its points under the edge of the tile, raised
it from its place. A small leaden box lay under the tile, which she
opened, and, taking from it a little white powder, which she folded in a
scrap of paper, replaced the box and the tile over it.
Whether Dick had by any means got a knowledge of this proceeding, or
whether he only suspected some unmentionable design on her part, there
is no sufficient means of determining. At any rate, when they met, an
hour or two after these occurrences, he could not help noticing how
easily she seemed to have got over her excitement. She was very pleasant
with him,--too pleasant, Dick thought. It was not Elsie's way to come
out of a fit of anger so easily as that. She had contrived some way of
letting off her spite; that was certain. Dick was pretty cunning, as Old
Sophy had said, and, whether or not he had any means of knowing Elsie's
private intentions, watched her closely, and was on his guard against
For the first time, he took certain precautions with reference to his
diet, such as were quite alien to his common habits. On coming to the
dinner-table, that day, he complained of headache, took but little food,
and refused the cup of coffee which Elsie offered him, saying that it
did not agree with him when he had these attacks.
Here was a new complication. Obviously enough, he could not live in this
way, suspecting everything but plain bread and water, and hardly feeling
safe in meddling with them. Not only had this school-keeping wretch come
between him and the scheme by which he was to secure his future fortune,
but his image had so infected his cousin's mind that she was ready to
try on him some of those tricks which, as he had heard hinted in the
village, she had once before put in practice upon a person who had
become odious to her.
Something must be done, and at once, to meet the double necessities of
this case. Every day, while the young girl was in these relations with
the young man, was only making matters worse. They could exchange words
and looks, they could arrange private interviews, they would be stooping
together over the same book, her hair touching his cheek, her breath
mingling with his, all the magnetic attractions drawing them together
with strange, invisible effluences. As her passion for the schoolmaster
increased, her dislike to him, her cousin, would grow with it, and all
his dangers would be multiplied. It was a fearful point he had reached.
He was tempted at one moment to give up all his plans and to disappear
suddenly from the place, leaving with the schoolmaster, who had
come between him and his object, an anonymous token of his personal
sentiments which would be remembered a good while in the history of the
town of Rockland. This was but a momentary thought; the great Dudley
property could not be given up in that way.
Something must happen at once to break up all this order of things. He
could think of but one Providential event adequate to the emergency,--an
event foreshadowed by various recent circumstances, but hitherto
floating in his mind only as a possibility. Its occurrence would at once
change the course of Elsie's feelings, providing her with something to
think of besides mischief, and remove the accursed obstacle which was
thwarting all his own projects. Every possible motive, then,--his
interest, his jealousy, his longing for revenge, and now his fears for
his own safety,--urged him to regard the happening of a certain casualty
as a matter of simple necessity. This was the self-destruction of Mr.
Such an event, though it might be surprising to many people, would not
be incredible, nor without many parallel cases. He was poor, a miserable
fag, under the control of that mean wretch up there at the school, who
looked as if he had sour buttermilk in his veins instead of blood. He
was in love with a girl above his station, rich, and of old family, but
strange in all her ways, and it was conceivable that he should become
suddenly jealous of her. Or she might have frightened him with some
display of her peculiarities which had filled him with a sudden
repugnance in the place of love. Any of these things were credible, and
would make a probable story enough,--so thought Dick over to himself
with the New-England half of his mind.
Unfortunately, men will not always take themselves out of the way when,
so far as their neighbors are concerned, it would be altogether the most
appropriate and graceful and acceptable service they could render. There
was at this particular moment no special reason for believing that the
schoolmaster meditated any violence to his own person. On the contrary,
there was good evidence that he was taking some care of himself. He was
looking well and in good spirits, and in the habit of amusing himself
and exercising, as if to keep up his standard of health, especially of
taking certain evening-walks, before referred to, at an hour when most
of the Rockland people had "retired," or, in vulgar language, "gone to
Dick Venner settled it, however, in his own mind, that Mr. Bernard
Langdon must lay violent hands upon himself. He even went so far as to
determine the precise hour, and the method in which the "rash act," as
it would undoubtedly be called in the next issue of "The Rockland
Weekly Universe," should be committed. Time,--_this evening._
Method,--asphyxia, by suspension. It was, unquestionably, taking a great
liberty with a man to decide that he should become _felo de se_ without
his own consent. Such, however, was the decision of Mr. Richard Venner
with regard to Mr. Bernard Langdon.
If everything went right, then, there would be a coroner's inquest
to-morrow upon what remained of that gentleman, found suspended to the
branch of a tree somewhere within a mile of the Apollinean Institute.
The "Weekly Universe" would have a startling paragraph announcing a
"SAD EVENT!!!" which had "thrown the town into an intense state of
excitement. Mr. Barnard Langden, a well known teacher at the Apollinean
Institute, was found, etc., etc. The vital spark was extinct. The
motive to the rash act can only be conjectured, but is supposed to be
disappointed affection. The name of an accomplished young lady of _the
highest respectability_ and great beauty is mentioned in connection with
this melancholy occurrence."
Dick Venner was at the tea-table that evening, as usual.--No, he would
take green tea, if she pleased,--the same as her father drank. It would
suit his headache better.--Nothing,--he was much obliged to her. He
would help himself,--which he did in a little different way from common,
naturally enough, on account of his headache. He noticed that Elsie
seemed a little nervous while she was rinsing some of the teacups before
"There's something going on in that witch's head;" he said to himself.
"I know her,--she'd be savage now, if she hadn't got some trick in hand.
Let's see how she looks to-morrow!"
Dick announced that he should go to bed early that evening, on account
of this confounded headache which had been troubling him so much. In
fact, he went up early, and locked his door after him, with as much
noise as he could make. He then changed some part of his dress, so that
it should be dark throughout, slipped off his boots, drew the lasso out
from the bottom of the contents of his trunk, and, carrying that and
his boots in his hand, opened his door softly, locked it after him, and
stole down the back-stairs, so as to get out of the house unnoticed. He
went straight to the stable and saddled the mustang. He took a rope from
the stable with him, mounted his horse, and set forth in the direction
of the Institute.
Mr. Bernard, as we have seen, had not been very profoundly impressed by
the old Doctor's cautions,--enough, however, to follow out some of his
hints which were not troublesome to attend to. He laughed at the idea of
carrying a loaded pistol about with him; but still it seemed only fair,
as the old Doctor thought so much of the matter, to humor him about it.
As for not going about when and where he liked, for fear he might have
some lurking enemy, that was a thing not to be listened to nor thought
of. There was nothing to be ashamed of or troubled about in any of his
relations with the school-girls. Elsie, no doubt, showed a kind of
attraction towards him, as did perhaps some others; but he had been
perfectly discreet, and no father or brother or lover had any just cause
of quarrel with him. To be sure, that dark young man at the Dudley
mansion-house looked as if he were his enemy, when he had met him; but
certainly there was nothing in their relations to each other, or in his
own to Elsie, that would be like to stir such malice in his mind as
would lead him to play any of his wild Southern tricks at his, Mr.
Bernard's, expense. Yet he had a vague feeling that this young man was
dangerous, and he had been given to understand that one of the risks he
ran was from that quarter.
On this particular evening, he had a strange, unusual sense of some
impending peril. His recent interview with the Doctor, certain remarks
that had been dropped in his hearing, but above all an unaccountable
impression upon his spirits, all combined to fill his mind with a
foreboding conviction that he was very near some overshadowing danger.
It was as the chill of the ice-mountain towards which the ship is
steering under full sail. He felt a strong impulse to see Helen Darley
and talk with her. She was in the common parlour, and, fortunately,
"Helen," he said,--for they were almost like brother and sister now,--"I
have been thinking what you would do, if I should have to leave the
school at short notice, or be taken away suddenly by any accident."
"Do?" she said, her cheek growing paler than its natural delicate
hue,--"why, I do not know how I could possibly consent to live here, if
you left us. Since you came, my life has been almost easy; before, it
was getting intolerable. You must not talk about going, my dear friend;
you have spoiled me for my place. Who is there here that I can have any
true society with, but you? You would not leave us for another school,
"No, no, my dear Helen," Mr. Bernard said; "if it depends on myself, I
shall stay out my full time, and enjoy your company and friendship. But
everything is uncertain in this world; I have been thinking that I might
be wanted elsewhere, and called when I did not think of it;--it was a
fancy, perhaps,--but I can't keep it out of my mind this evening. If any
of my fancies should come true, Helen, there are two or three messages
I want to leave with you. I have marked a book or two with a cross in
pencil on the fly-leaf;--these are for you. There is a little hymn-book
I should like to have you give to Elsie from me;--it may be a kind of
comfort to the poor girl."
Helen's eyes glistened as she interrupted him,--
"What do you mean? You must not talk so, Mr. Langdon. Why, you never
looked better in your life. Tell me now, you are not in earnest, are
you, but only trying a little sentiment on me?"
Mr. Bernard smiled, but rather sadly.
"About half in earnest," he said. "I have had some fancies in my
head,--superstitions, I suppose,--at any rate, it does no harm to tell
you what I should like to have done, if anything should happen,--very
likely nothing ever will. Send the rest of the books home, if you
please, and write a letter to my mother. And, Helen, you will find
one small volume in my desk enveloped and directed, you will see to
whom;--give this with your own hands; it is a keepsake."
The tears gathered in her eyes; she could not speak at first.
"Why, Bernard, my dear friend, my brother, it cannot be that you are in
danger? Tell me what it is, and, if I can share it with you, or counsel
you in any way, it will only be paying back the great debt I owe you.
No, no,--it can't be true,--you are tired and worried, and your spirits
have got depressed. I know what that is;--I was sure, one winter, that
I should die before spring; but I lived to see the dandelions
and buttercups go to seed. Come, tell me it was nothing but your
She felt a tear upon her cheek, but would not turn her face away from
him; it was the tear of a sister.
"I am really in earnest, Helen," he said. "I don't know that there is
the least reason in the world for these fancies. If they all go off and
nothing comes of them, you may laugh at me, if you like. But if there
should be any occasion, remember my requests. You don't believe in
presentiments, do you?"
"Oh, don't ask me, I beg you," Helen answered. "I have had a good many
frights for every one real misfortune I have suffered. Sometimes I have
thought I was warned beforehand of coming trouble, just as many people
are of changes in the weather, by some unaccountable feeling,--but not
often, and I don't like to talk about such things. I wouldn't think
about these fancies of yours. I don't believe you have exercised
enough;--don't you think it's confinement in the school has made you
"Perhaps it has; but it happens that I have thought more of exercise
lately, and have taken walks late in the evening, besides playing my old
gymnastic tricks every day."
They talked on many subjects, but through all he said Helen perceived a
pervading tone of sadness, and an expression as of a dreamy foreboding
of unknown evil. They parted at the usual hour, and went to their
several rooms. The sadness of Mr. Bernard had sunk into the heart
of Helen, and she mingled many tears with her prayers that evening,
earnestly entreating that he might be comforted in his days of trial and
protected in his hour of danger.
Mr. Bernard stayed in his room a short time before setting out for his
evening walk. His eye fell upon the Bible his mother had given him when
he left home, and he opened it in the New Testament at a venture. It
happened that the first words he read were these,--"_Lest, coming
suddenly, he find you sleeping_." In the state of mind in which he
was at the moment, the text startled him. It was like a supernatural
warning. He was not going to expose himself to any particular danger
this evening; a walk in a quiet village was as free from risk as Helen
Darley or his own mother could ask; yet he had an unaccountable feeling
of apprehension, without any definite object. At this moment he
remembered the old Doctor's counsel, which he had sometimes neglected,
and, blushing at the feeling which led him to do it, he took the pistol
his suspicious old friend had forced upon him, which he had put away
loaded, and, thrusting it into his pocket, set out upon his walk.
The moon was shining at intervals, for the night was partially clouded.
There seemed to be nobody stirring, though his attention was unusually
awake, and he could hear the whirr of the bats overhead, and the
pulsating croak of the frogs in the distant pools and marshes. Presently
he detected the sound of hoofs at some distance, and, looking forward,
saw a horseman coming in his direction. The moon was under a cloud at
the moment, and he could only observe that the horse and his rider
looked like a single dark object, and that they were moving along at an
easy pace. Mr. Bernard was really ashamed of himself, when he found his
hand on the butt of his pistol. When the horseman was within a hundred
and fifty yards of him, the moon shone out suddenly and revealed each
of them to the other. The rider paused for a moment, as if carefully
surveying the pedestrian, then suddenly put his horse to the full
gallop, and dashed towards him, rising at the same instant in his
stirrups and swinging something round his head,--what, Mr. Bernard could
not make out. It was a strange manoeuvre,--so strange and threatening in
aspect that the young man forgot his nervousness in an instant, cocked
his pistol, and waited to see what mischief all this meant. He did not
wait long. As the rider came rushing towards him, he made a rapid motion
and something leaped five-and-twenty feet through the air, in Mr.
Bernard's direction. In an instant he felt a ring, as of a rope or
thong, settle upon his shoulders. There was no time to think,--he would
be lost in another second. He raised his pistol and fired,--not at the
rider, but at the horse. His aim was true; the mustang gave one bound
and fell lifeless, shot through the head. The lasso was fastened to his
saddle, and his last bound threw Mr. Bernard violently to the earth,
where he lay motionless, as if stunned.
In the mean time, Dick Venner, who had been dashed down with his horse,
was trying to extricate himself,--one of his legs being held fast under
the animal, the long spur on his boot having caught in the saddle-cloth.
He found, however, that he could do nothing with his right arm, his
shoulder having been in some way injured in his fall. But his Southern
blood was up, and, as he saw Mr. Bernard move as if he were coming to
his senses, he struggled violently to free himself.
"I'll have the dog, yet," he said,--"only let me get at him with the
He had just succeeded in extricating his imprisoned leg, and was ready
to spring to his feet, when he was caught firmly by the throat, and,
looking up, saw a clumsy barbed weapon, commonly known as a hay-fork,
within an inch of his breast.
"Hold on there! What 'n thunder 'r' y' abaout, y' darned Portagee?" said
a voice, with a decided nasal tone in it, but sharp and resolute.
Dick looked from the weapon to the person who held it, and saw a sturdy,
plain man standing over him, with his teeth clinched, and his aspect
that of one all ready for mischief.
"Lay still, naow!" said Abel Stebbins, the Doctor's man; "'f y' don't,
I'll stick ye, 'z sure 'z y' 'r' alive! I been aaefter ye f'r a week, 'n'
I got y' naow! I knowed I'd ketch ye at some darned trick or 'nother
'fore I'd done 'ith ye!"
Dick lay perfectly still, feeling that he was crippled and helpless,
thinking all the time with the Yankee half of his mind what to do about
it. He saw Mr. Bernard lift his head and look around him. He would get
his senses again in a few minutes, very probably, and then he, Mr.
Richard Venner, would be done for.
"Let me up! let me up!" he cried, in a low, hurried voice,--"I'll give
you a hundred dollars in gold to let me go. The man a'n't hurt,--don't
you see him stirring? He'll come to himself in two minutes. Let me up!
I'll give you a hundred and fifty dollars in gold, now, here on the
spot,--and the watch out of my pocket; take it yourself, with your own
"I'll see y' darned fust! Ketch me lett'n' go!" was Abel's emphatic
answer. "Yeou lay still, 'n' wait t'll that man comes tew."
He kept the hay-fork ready for action at the slightest sign of
Mr. Bernard, in the mean time, had been getting, first his senses, and
then some Jew of his scattered wits, a little together.
"What is it?"--he said. "Who 'a hurt? What's happened?"
"Come along here 'z quick 'z y' ken," Abel answered, "'n' haaelp me fix
this fellah. Y' been hurt, y'rself, 'n' the' 's murder come pooty nigh
Mr. Bernard heard the answer, but presently stared about and asked
again, _"Who's hurt? What's happened?"_
"Y' 'r' hurt, y'rself, I tell ye," said Abel; "'n' the''s been a murder,
Mr. Bernard felt something about his neck, and, putting his hands up,
found the loop of the lasso, which he loosened, but did not think to
slip over his head, in the confusion of his perceptions and thoughts. It
was a wonder that it had not choked him, but he had fallen forward so as
to slacken it.
By this time he was getting some notion of what he was about, and
presently began looking round for his pistol, which had fallen. He
found it lying near him, cocked it mechanically, and walked, somewhat
unsteadily, towards the two men, who were keeping their position as
still as if they were performing in a _tableau._
"Quick, naow!" said Abel, who had heard the click of cocking the pistol,
and saw that he held it in his hand, as he came towards him. "Gi' me
that pistil, and yeon fetch that 'ere rope layin' there. I'll have this
here fellah fixed 'n less 'n two minutes."
Mr. Bernard did as Abel said,--stupidly and mechanically, for he was but
half right as yet. Abel pointed the pistol at Dick's head.
"Naow hold up y'r hands, yeou fellah," he said, "'n' keep 'em up, while
this man puts the rope raound y'r wrists."
Dick felt himself helpless, and, rather than have his disabled arm
roughly dealt with, held up his hands. Mr. Bernard did as Abel said; he
was in a purely passive state, and obeyed orders like a child. Abel then
secured the rope in a most thorough and satisfactory complication of
twists and knots.
"Naow get up, will ye?" he said; and the unfortunate Dick rose to his
_"Who's hurt? What's happened?"_ asked poor Mr. Bernard again, his
memory having been completely jarred out of him for the time.
"Come, look here naow, yeou, don' stan' aaeskin' questions over 'n'
over;--'t beats all I ha'n't I tol' y' a dozen times?"
As Abel spoke, he turned and looked at Mr. Bernard.
"Hullo! What 'n thunder's that'ere raoun' y'r neck? Ketched ye 'ith a
slippernoose, hey? Wal, if that a'n't the craowner! Hol' on a minute,
Cap'n, 'n' I'll show ye what that 'ere halter's good for."
Abel slipped the noose over Mr. Bernard's head, and put it round
the neck of the miserable Dick Venner, who made no sign of
resistance,--whether on account of the pain he was in, or from mere
helplessness, or because he was waiting for some unguarded moment to
escape,--since resistance seemed of no use.
"I'm go'n' to kerry y' home," said Abel; "th' ol' Doctor, he's got a
gre't cur'osity t' see ye. Jes' step along naow,--off that way, will
ye?--'n I'll hol' on t' th' bridle, f' fear y' sh'd run away."
He took hold of the leather thong, but found that it was fastened at the
other end to the saddle. This was too much for Abel.
"Wal, naow, yeou _be_ a pooty chap to hev raound! A fellah's neck in a
slippernoose at one eend of a halter, 'n' a boss on th' full spring at
He looked at him from head to foot as a naturalist inspects a new
specimen. His clothes had suffered in his fall, especially on the leg
which had been caught under the horse.
"Hullo! look o' there, naow! What's that 'ere stickin' aout o' y'r
It was nothing but the handle of an ugly knife, which Abel instantly
relieved him of.
The party now took up the line of march for old Doctor Kittredge's
house, Abel carrying the pistol and knife, and Mr. Bernard walking in
silence, still half-stunned, holding the hay-fork, which Abel had thrust
into his hand. It was all a dream to him as yet. He remembered the
horseman riding at him, and his firing the pistol; but whether he was
alive, and these walls around him belonged to the village of Rockland,
or whether he had passed the dark river, and was in a suburb of the New
Jerusalem, he could not as yet have told.
They were in the street where the Doctor's house was situated.
"I guess I'll fire off one o' these here berrils," said Abel.
Presently there was a noise of opening windows, and the nocturnal
headdresses of Rockland flowered out of them like so many developments
of the Night-blooming Cereus. White cotton caps and red bandanna
handkerchiefs were the prevailing forms of efflorescence. The main point
was that the village was waked up. The old Doctor always waked easily,
from long habit, and was the first among those who looked out to see
what had happened.
"Why, Abel!" he called out, "what have you got there? and what's all
this noise about?"
"We've ketched the Portagee!" Abel answered, as laconically as the hero
of Lake Erie in his famous dispatch. "Go in there, you fellah!"
The prisoner was marched into the house, and the Doctor, who had
bewitched his clothes upon him in a way that would have been miraculous
in anybody but a physician, was down in presentable form as soon as if
it had been a child in a fit that he was sent for.
"Richard Venner!" the Doctor exclaimed. "What is the meaning of all
this? Mr. Langdon, has anything happened to you?"
Mr. Bernard put his hand to his head.
"My mind is confused," he said. "I've had a fall.--Oh, yes!--wait a
minute and it will all come back to me."
"Sit down, sit down," the Doctor said. "Abel will tell me about it.
Slight concussion of the brain. Can't remember very well for an hour or
two,--will come right by to-morrow."
"Been stunded," Abel said. "He can't tell nothin'."
Abel then proceeded to give a Napoleonic bulletin of the recent combat
of cavalry and infantry and its results,--none slain, one captured.
The Doctor looked at the prisoner through his spectacles.
"What's the matter with your shoulder, Venner?"
Dick answered sullenly, that he didn't know,--fell on it when his horse
came down. The Doctor examined it as carefully as he could through his
"Out of joint. Untie his hands, Abel."
By this time a small alarm had spread among the neighbors, and there was
a circle around Dick, who glared about on the assembled honest people
like a hawk with a broken wing.
When the Doctor said, "Untie his hands," the circle widened perceptibly.
"Isn't it a leetle rash to give him the use of his hands? I see there's
females and children standin' near."
This was the remark of our old friend, Deacon Soper, who retired from
the front row, as he spoke, behind a respectable-looking, but somewhat
hastily dressed person of the defenceless sex, the female help of a
neighboring household, accompanied by a boy, whose unsmoothed shock of
hair looked like a last-year's crow's-nest.
But Abel untied his hands, in spite of the Deacon's considerate
"Now," said the Doctor, "the first thing is to put the joint back."
"Stop," said Deacon Soper,--"stop a minute. Don't you think it will be
safer--for the women-folks--jest to wait till mornin', afore you put
that j'int into the socket?"
Colonel Sprowle, who had been called by a special messenger, spoke up at
"Let the women-folks and the deacons go home, if they're scared, and put
the fellah's j'int in as quick as you like. I'll resk him, j'int in or
"I want one of you to go straight down to Dudley Venner's with a
message," the Doctor said. "I will have the young man's shoulder in
"Don't send that message!" said Dick, in a hoarse voice;--"do what you
like with my arm, but don't send that message! Let me go,--I can walk,
and I'll be off from this place. There's nobody hurt but I. Damn the
shoulder!--let me go! You shall never hear of me again!"
Mr. Bernard came forward.
"My friends," he said, "_I_ am not injured,--seriously, at least. Nobody
need complain against this man, if I don't. The Doctor will treat him
like a human being, at any rate; and then, if he will go, let him. There
are too many witnesses against him here for him to want to stay."
The Doctor, in the mean time, without saying a word to all this, had got
a towel round the shoulder and chest and another round the arm, and had
the bone replaced in a very few moments.
"Abel, put Cassia into the new chaise," he said, quietly. "My friends
and neighbors, leave this young man to me."
"Colonel Sprowle, you're a justice of the peace," said Deacon Soper,
"and you know what the law says in cases like this. I a'n't so clear
that it won't have to come afore the Grand Jury, whether we will or no."
"I guess we'll set that j'int to-morrow mornin'," said Colonel
Sprowle,--which made a laugh at the Deacon's expense, and virtually
settled the question.
"Now trust this young man in my care," said the old Doctor, "and go home
and finish your naps. I knew him when he was a boy, and, I'll answer for
it, he won't trouble you any more. The Dudley blood makes folks proud, I
can tell you, whatever else they are."
The good people so respected and believed in the Doctor that they left
the prisoner with him.
Presently, Cassia, the fast Morgan mare, came up to the front-door,
with the wheels of the new, light chaise flashing behind her in the
moonlight. The Doctor drove Dick forty miles at a stretch that night,
out of the limits of the State.
"Do you want money?" he said, before he left him.
Dick told him the secret of his golden belt.
"Where shall I send your trunk after you from your uncle's?"
Dick gave him a direction to a seaport town to which he himself was
going, to take passage for a port in South America.
"Good-bye, Richard," said the Doctor. "Try to learn something from
The Southern impulses in Dick's wild blood overcame him, and he kissed
the old Doctor on both cheeks, crying as only the children of the sun
can cry, after the first hours in the dewy morning of life. So Dick
Venner disappears from this story. An hour after dawn, Cassia pointed
her fine ears homeward, and struck into her square, honest trot, as
if she had not been doing anything more than her duty during her four
hours' stretch of the last night.
Abel was not in the habit of questioning the Doctor's decisions.
"It's all right," he said to Mr. Bernard. "The fellah's Squire Venner's
relation, anyhaow. Don't you want to wait here, jest a little while,
till I come back? The' 's a consid'able nice saddle 'n' bridle on a dead
hoss that's layin' daown there in the road, 'n' I guess the' a'n't no
use in lettin' on 'em spile,--so I'll jest step aout 'n' fetch 'em
along. I kind o' calc'late 't won't pay to take the cretur's shoes 'n'
hide off to-night,--'n' the' won't be much iron on that hoss's huffs an
haour after daylight, I'll bate ye a quarter."
"I'll walk along with you," said Mr. Bernard;--"I feel as if I could get
along well enough now."
So they set off together. There was a little crowd round the dead
mustang already, principally consisting of neighbors who had adjourned
from the Doctor's house to see the scene of the late adventure. In
addition to these, however, the assembly was honored by the presence of
Mr. Principal Silas Peckham, who had been called from his slumbers by
a message that Master Langdon was shot through the head by a
highway-robber, but had learned a true version of the story by this
time. His voice was at that moment heard above the rest,--sharp, but
thin, like bad cider-vinegar.
"I take charge of that property, I say. Master Langdon 's actin' under
my orders, and I claim that hoss and all that's on him. Hiram! jest slip
off that saddle and bridle, and carry 'em up to the Institoot, and bring
down a pair of pinchers and a file,--and--stop--fetch a pair of shears,
too; there's hoss-hair enough in that mane and tail to stuff a bolster
"You let that hoss alone!" spoke up Colonel Sprowle. "When a fellah
goes out huntin' and shoots a squirrel, do you think he's go'n' to
let another fellah pick him up and kerry him off? Not if he's got a
double-berril gun, and t'other berril ha'n't been fired off yet! I
should like to see the mahn that'll take off that seddle 'n' bridle,
excep' the one th't hez a fair right to the whole concern!"
Hiram was from one of the lean streaks in New Hampshire, and, not being
overfed in Mr. Silas Peckham's kitchen, was somewhat wanting in stamina,
as well as in stomach, for so doubtful an enterprise as undertaking to
carry out his employer's orders in the face of the Colonel's defiance.
Just then Mr. Bernard and Abel came up together.
"Here they be," said the Colonel. "Stan' beck, gentlemen!"
Mr. Bernard, who was pale and still a little confused, but gradually
becoming more like himself, stood and looked in silence for a moment.
All his thoughts seemed to be clearing themselves in this interval.
He took in the whole series of incidents: his own frightful risk; the
strange, instinctive, nay, Providential impulse which had led him so
suddenly to do the one only thing which could possibly have saved him;
the sudden appearance of the Doctor's man, but for which he might yet
have been lost; and the discomfiture and capture of his dangerous enemy.
It was all past now, and a feeling of pity rose in Mr. Bernard's heart.
"He loved that horse, no doubt," he said,--"and no wonder. A beautiful,
wild-looking creature! Take off those things that are on him, Abel, and
have them carried to Mr. Dudley Venner's. If he does not want them, you
may keep them yourself, for all that I have to say. One thing more. I
hope nobody will lift his hand against this noble creature to mutilate
him in any way. After you have taken off the saddle and bridle, Abel,
bury him just as he is. Under that old beech-tree will be a good place.
You'll see to it,--won't you, Abel?"
Abel nodded assent, and Mr. Bernard returned to the Institute, threw
himself in his clothes on the bed, and slept like one who is heavy with
Following Mr. Bernard's wishes, Abel at once took off the high-peaked
saddle and the richly ornamented bridle from the mustang. Then, with
the aid of two of three others, he removed him to the place indicated.
Spades and shovels were soon procured, and before the moon had set, the
wild horse of the Pampas was at rest under the turf at the wayside, in
the far village among the hills of New England.
* * * * *
I hung my verses in the wind;
Time and tide their faults may find.
All were winnowed through and through;
Five lines lasted sound and true;
Five were smelted in a pot
Than the South more fierce and hot.
These the Siroc could not melt,
Fire their fiercer flaming felt,
And their meaning was more white
Than July's meridian light.
Sunshine cannot bleach the snow,
Nor Time unmake what poets know.
Have you eyes to find the five
Which five thousand could survive?
RECOLLECTIONS OF KEATS.
_BY AN OLD SCHOOL-FELLOW._
In the village of Enfield, in Middlesex, ten miles on the north road
from London, was my father, John Clarke's school. The house had been
built by a West India merchant, in the latter end of the seventeenth or
beginning of the eighteenth century. It was of the better character of
the domestic architecture of that period,--the whole front being of the
purest red brick, wrought, by means of moulds, into rich designs of
flowers and pomegranates, with heads of cherubim over two niches in
the centre of the building. The elegance of the design and the perfect
finish of the structure were such as to secure its protection, when a
branch railway was brought from the Ware and Cambridge line to Enfield.
The old school-house was converted into the station-house, and the
railway company had the good taste to leave intact one of the few
remaining specimens of the graceful English domestic architecture of
long-gone days. Any of my readers who may happen to have a file of the
London "Illustrated News," may find in No. 360, March 3, 1849, a not
prodigiously enchanting wood-cut of the edifice.
Here it was that John Keats all but commenced and did complete his
school-education. He was born on the 29th of October, 1795; and I think
he was one of the little fellows who had not wholly emerged from the
child's costume upon being placed under my father's care. It will be
readily conceived difficult to recall from the "dark backward and
abysm" of nearly sixty years the general acts of perhaps the youngest
individual in a corporation of between seventy and eighty youngsters;
and very little more of Keats's child-life can I remember than that he
had a brisk, winning face, and was a favorite with all, particularly
with my mother.
His maternal grandfather, Jennings, was proprietor of a large
livery-stable, called "The Swan and Hoop," on the pavement in
Moorfields, opposite the entrance into Finsbury Circus. He had two sons
at my father's school. The elder was an officer in Duncan's ship in the
fight off Camperdown. After the battle, the Dutch Admiral, De Winter,
pointing to young Jennings, told Duncan that he had fired several
shots at that young man, and always missed his mark;--no credit to his
steadiness of aim; for Jennings, like his own admiral, was considerably
above the ordinary dimensions of stature.
Keats's father was the principal servant at the Swan and Hoop
Stables,--a man of so remarkably fine a common-sense and native
respectability, that I perfectly remember the warm terms in which his
demeanor used to be canvassed by my parents after he had been to visit
his boys. He was short of stature and well-knit in person, (John
resembling him both in make and feature,) with brown hair and dark hazel
eyes. He was killed by a fall from his horse, in returning from a visit
to the school. John's two brothers, George, older, and Thomas, younger
than himself, were like the mother,--who was tall, of good figure, with
large, oval face, sombre features, and grave in behavior. The last of
the family was a sister,--Fanny, I think, much younger than all,--of
whom I remember my mother once speaking with much fondness, for her
pretty, simple manners, while she was walking in the garden with her
brothers. She married Mr. Llanos, a Spanish refugee, the author of
"Don Esteban," and "Sandoval, the Free-Mason." He was a man of
liberal principles, attractive manners, and more than ordinary
accomplishments.--This is the amount of my knowledge and recollection of
In the early part of his school-life, John gave no extraordinary
indications of intellectual character; but it was remembered of him
afterwards, that there was ever present a determined and steady spirit
in all his undertakings; and, although of a strong and impulsive will,
I never knew it misdirected in his required pursuit of study. He was a
most orderly scholar. The future ramifications of that noble genius were
then closely shut in the seed, and greedily drinking in the moisture
which made it afterwards burst forth so kindly into luxuriance and
My father was in the habit, at each half-year's vacation, of bestowing
prizes upon those pupils who had performed the greatest quantity of
voluntary extra work; and such was Keats's indefatigable energy for the
last two or three successive half-years of his remaining at school,
that, upon each occasion, he took the first prize by a considerable
distance. He was at work before the first school-hour began, and that
was at seven o'clock; almost all the intervening times of recreation
were so devoted; and during the afternoon-holidays, when all were at
play, I have seen him in the school,--almost the only one,--at his Latin
or French translation; and so unconscious and regardless was he of the
consequences of this close and persevering application, that he never
would have taken the necessary exercise, had he not been sometimes
driven out by one of us for the purpose.
I have said that he was a favorite with all. Not the less beloved was he
for having a highly pugnacious spirit, which, when roused, was one of
the most picturesque exhibitions--off the stage--I ever saw. One of the
transports of that marvellous actor, Edmund Kean--whom, by the way,
he idolized--was its nearest resemblance; and the two were not very
dissimilar in face and figure. I remember, upon one occasion, when an
usher, on account of some impertinent behavior, had boxed his brother
Tom's ears, John rushed up, put himself in the received posture of
offence, and, I believe, struck the usher,--who could have put him into
his pocket. His passions at times were almost ungovernable; his brother
George, being considerably the taller and stronger, used frequently to
hold him down by main force, when he was in "one of his moods" and
was endeavoring to beat him. It was all, however, a wisp-of-straw
conflagration; for he had an intensely tender affection for his
brothers, and proved it upon the most trying occasions. He was not
merely the "favorite of all," like a pet prize-fighter, for his terrier
courage; but his high-mindedness, his utter unconsciousness of a mean
motive, his placability, his generosity, wrought so general a feeling in
his behalf, that I never heard a word of disapproval from any one who
had known him, superior or equal.
The latter part of the time--perhaps eighteen months--that he remained
at school, he occupied the hours during meals in reading. Thus his
_whole_ time was engrossed. He had a tolerably retentive memory, and the
quantity that he read was surprising. He must in those last months
have exhausted the school--library, which consisted principally of
abridgments of all the voyages and travels of any note; Mayor's
Collection; also his Universal History; Robertson's Histories of
Scotland, America, and Charles the Fifth; all Miss Edgeworth's
productions; together with many other works, equally well calculated for
youth, not necessary to be enumerated. The books, however, that were
his constantly recurrent sources of attraction were Tooke's "Pantheon,"
Lempriere's "Classical Dictionary," which he appeared to _learn_, and
Spence's "Polymetis." This was the store whence he acquired his perfect
intimacy with the Greek mythology; here was he "suckled In that creed
outworn"; for his amount of classical attainment extended no farther
than the "Aeneid"; with which epic, indeed, he was so fascinated, that
before leaving school he had _voluntarily_ translated in writing a
considerable portion. And yet I remember that at that early age,--mayhap
under fourteen,--notwithstanding and through all its incidental
attractiveness, he hazarded the opinion to me that there was feebleness
in the structure of the work. He must have gone through all the better
publications in the school-library, for he asked me to lend him some of
my own books; and I think I now see him at supper, (we had all our meals
in the school-room,) sitting back on the form, and holding the folio
volume of Burnet's "History of his own Time" between himself and the
table, eating his meal from beyond it. This work, and Leigh Hunt's
"Examiner" newspaper,--which my father took in, and I used to lend to
Keats,--I make no doubt laid the foundation of his love of civil and
religious liberty. He once told me, smiling, that one of his guardians,
being informed what books I had lent him to read, declared, that, if he
had fifty children, he would not send one of them to my father's school.
When he left us,--I think at fourteen years of age,--he was apprenticed
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