Atlantic Monthly Volume 7, No. 40, February, 1861

Part 3 out of 5

sane, his wife declared that she could not return to him.

It is not necessary to dwell on the imputations Lord Byron spread abroad
at the time, and his biographer afterwards, against the parents of his
wife, and everybody belonging to them who could be supposed to have
the slightest influence over Lady Byron's views or feelings. Those
allegations were publicly shown by her to be false, nearly thirty years
ago. I refer to them now solely because they were the occasion of the
only public disclosure Lady Byron ever voluntarily made on any part of
the subject of her married life. It is needless to exhibit how different
in this respect was the conduct of her husband and his friends.

It became known by that statement, after some years, that, when Lady
Noel went to London, to see what could and ought to be done, she
obtained good legal opinions on the case, so far as she knew it. Those
opinions declared Lady Byron fully justified in refusing to rejoin her
husband. The parents, however, never knew the whole; and it was on yet
more substantial grounds that Lady Byron formed her resolution. The
facts were submitted, as the world has since known, as an A.B. case, to
Dr. Lushington and Sir Samuel Romilly; and those able lawyers and good
men peremptorily decided, that the wife, whoever she might be, must
never see her husband again. When they learned whose case it was, they
not only gave their full sanction to her refusal to return, but
declared that they would never countenance in any way a change in that
resolution. Dr. Lushington's statement to this effect appears in the
Appendix to Moore's "Life," as a part of Lady Byron's vindication of her

It was very hard on her to be compelled to speak at all. For six years
she had kept silence utterly, bearing all imputations without reply. But
when it was brought to her notice that her parents were charged with the
gravest offences by her husband's biographer, after the death of both,
and when no other near relative was in existence, she had no choice. She
must exonerate them. The testimony was, as she said, "extorted" from
her. The respect which had been felt for her during the first years of
silence was not impaired by this disclosure; but it was by one which
occurred a few years later. A statement on her domestic affairs was
published, in her name, in a magazine of large circulation.[A] It
did not really explain anything, while it seemed to break through a
dignified reserve which had won a high degree of general esteem. It
was believed that feminine weakness had prevailed at last; and her
reputation suffered accordingly with many who had till then regarded her
with favor and even reverence.

[Footnote A: _New Monthly Magazine_, 1836.]

This was the climax of the hardship of her case. She had no concern
whatever with this act of publication. It was one of poor Campbell's
disastrous pranks. He could not conceive how he could have done such a
thing, and was desperately sorry; but there was little good in that. The
mischief was done which could never be thoroughly repaired. She once
more suffered in silence; for she was not weak enough to complain of
irremediable evils. Nine years afterwards she wrote to a friend, who had
been no less unjustifiably betrayed,--"I am grieved for you, as regards
the actual position; but it will come right. I was myself made to
_appear_ responsible for a publication by Campbell, most unfairly, some
years ago; so that, if I had not imagination enough to enter into your
case, experience would have taught me to do so."

Those who are old enough to remember the year 1816 will easily recall
the fluctuations of opinion which took place as to the merits of the
husband and the wife, whose separation was as interesting to ten
thousand households as any family event of their own. Then, and for a
few years after, was Lady Byron the world's talk,--innocently, most
reluctantly, and unavoidably.

At first, while her influence left its impression on his mind, Lord
Byron did her some sort of justice,--fitful and partial, but very
precious to her then, no doubt,--and almost as precious now to the
friends who understood her. It was not till he was convinced that she
would never return, not till he began to quail under the world's ill
opinion, and especially, not till he felt secure that he might rely on
his wife's fidelity and mercy, her silence and magnanimity, that he
changed his tone to one of aspersion and contempt, and his mode of
attack to that of charming, amusing, or inflaming the public with verses
against her and her friends. We have his own testimony to her domestic
merits in the interval between the parting and his lapse into a state of
malignant feeling. In March, 1816, within two months after her leaving
him, Byron wrote thus to Moore:--

"I must set you right in one point, however. The fault was _not_--no,
nor even the misfortune--in my 'choice' (unless in choosing at all);
for I do not believe--and I must say it, in the very dregs of all this
bitter business--that there ever was a better, or even a brighter, a
kinder, or a more amiable and agreeable being than Lady B. I never had,
nor can have, any reproach to make her, while with me. Where there is
blame, it belongs to myself; and, if I cannot redeem, I must bear it."

To us, this is enough; and nothing that he wrote afterwards, in angry
and spiteful moods, can have the slightest effect on our impression of
her: but the case was otherwise at the time. Lord Byron's praise of her
to Moore was not known till the "Life" appeared; whereas pieces like
"The Chanty Ball," coming out from time to time, made the world suppose
that Lady Byron was one of those people, satirized in all literatures,
who violate domestic duty, and make up for it by philanthropic effort
and display. It is the prevalence of this impression to this day which
makes it necessary to present the reality of the case after the lapse of
many years. During Lady Byron's life, no one had a right to speak, if
she chose to be silent; but the more modest and shrinking she was
in regard to her own vindication, the stronger is the appeal to the
fidelity of her friends to see that her reputation does not suffer
through her magnanimity. We have guidance here in her own course in the
case of her parents. Abhorrent as all publicity was to her, she felt and
avowed the obligation to publish those facts of her life in which their
reputation was concerned. The duty is far more easy, but not less
imperative, to practise the same fidelity in regard to her, now that the
truth can be told of her without shocking her modesty. We may hear some
commonplaces about the feelings of the dead and the sensibilities of
survivors, as always happens in such cases: but the sensibilities of
survivors ought to relate, in the first place, to the fair fame of the
dead; and the feelings of the dead, having been duly respected during
life, merge after death into the general beauty of the self-sacrificing
character which would not utter the word by which the adverse judgment
of the world might have been reversed in a moment. While, at this day,
she is regarded as the cause of her husband's sins, by her coldness,
formality, and what not,--fidelity and love to her memory absolutely
require, not fresh disclosures of a private character, but a new
presentment of the evidence long ago given to the world by herself and
by her husband's very partial biographer. This is what I have done,
after thirty years more of life have proved the quality of her mind and

As she loved early, she loved steadily and forever. It was through that
love that her magnanimity was so transcendent. When Lord Byron was
dying, he said to his confidential servant, Fletcher, "Go to Lady
Byron,--you will see her, and say"----and here his voice faltered, and
for nearly twenty minutes he muttered words which it was impossible to
catch. The man was obliged to tell him that he had not understood a
syllable. Byron's distress was great; but, as he said, it was too late.
Fletcher, on his return to England, did "go to Lady Byron," and did
see her: but she could only pace the room in uncontrollable agitation,
striving to obtain voice to ask the questions which were surging in her
heart. She could not speak, and he was obliged to leave her. To those
with whom she conversed freely, and to whom she wrote familiarly, it
was strangely interesting to hear, or to read, lines and phrases from
Byron's poems dropped, like native speech, from her tongue or her pen.
Those well-remembered lines or phrases seemed new, and were wonderfully
moving, when coming from her to whom they must have been so much more
than to any one else. How she surmounted such acts as the publication of
"Fare thee well!" and certain others of his safe appeals to the public,
no one could exactly understand. That she forgave them, and loved him to
the end, is enough for us to know; for our interest is in the greatness
of her heart, and not in the littleness of his.

Her life thenceforth was one of unremitting bounty to society,
administered with as much skill and prudence as benevolence. As we
have seen, her parents died a few years after her return to them for
protection. She lived in retirement, changing her abode frequently,
partly for the benefit of her child's education and the promotion of her
benevolent schemes, and partly from a restlessness which was one of the
few signs of injury received from the spoiling of associations with
_home._ She felt a satisfaction which her friends rejoiced in, when her
daughter married Lord King, at present the Earl of Lovelace, in 1835;
and when grief upon grief followed in the appearance of mortal disease
in her only child, her quiet patience stood her in good stead, as
before. She even found strength to appropriate the blessings of the
occasion, and took comfort, as did her dying daughter, in the intimate
friendship which grew closer as the time of parting drew nigh. Lady
Lovelace died in 1852; and for her few remaining years, Lady Byron
was devoted to her grandchildren. But nearer calls never lessened her
interest in remoter objects. Her mind was of the large and clear quality
which could comprehend remote interests in their true proportions, and
achieve each aim as perfectly as if it were the only one. Her agents
used to say that it was impossible to mistake her directions; and thus
her business was usually well done. There was no room, in her case, for
the ordinary doubts, censures, and sneers about the misapplication of
bounty. Her taste did not lie in the "Charity Ball" direction; her funds
were not lavished in encouraging hypocrisy and improvidence among the
idle and worthless; and the quality of her charity was, in fact,
as admirable as its quantity. Her chief aim was the extension and
improvement of popular education; but there was no kind of misery that
she heard of that she did not palliate to the utmost, and no kind of
solace that her quick imagination and sympathy could devise that she did
not administer. In her methods, she united consideration and frankness
with singular success. For one instance among a thousand:--A lady with
whom she had had friendly relations some time before, and who became
impoverished in a quiet way by hopeless sickness, preferred poverty,
with an easy conscience, to a competency attended by some uncertainty
about the perfect rectitude of the resource. Lady Byron wrote to an
intermediate person exactly what she thought of the case. Whether the
judgment of the sufferer was right or mistaken was nobody's business but
her own: this was the first point. Next, a voluntary poverty could never
be pitied by anybody: that was the second. But it was painful to others
to think of the mortification to benevolent feelings which attends
poverty; and there could be no objection to arresting that pain.
Therefore she, Lady Byron, had lodged in a neighboring bank the sum of
one hundred pounds, to be used for benevolent purposes; and in order to
preclude all outside speculation, she had made the money payable to the
order of the intermediate person, so that the sufferer's name need not
appear at all. Five-and-thirty years of unremitting secret bounty like
this must make up a great amount of human happiness: but this was only
one of a wide variety of methods of doing good. It was the unconcealable
magnitude of her beneficence, and its wise quality, which made her a
second time the theme of English conversation in all honest households
within the four seas. Years ago, it was said far and wide, that Lady
Byron was doing more good than anybody else in England; and it was
difficult to imagine how anybody could do more. Lord Byron spent every
shilling that the law allowed him out of her property, while he lived,
and left away from her every shilling that he could deprive her of by
his will; yet she had eventually a large income at her command. In the
management of it she showed the same wise consideration that marked all
her practical decisions. She resolved to spend her whole income, seeing
how much the world needed help at the moment. Her care was for the
existing generation, rather than for a future one, which would have
its own friends. She usually declined trammelling herself with annual
subscriptions to charities, preferring to keep her freedom from year to
year, and to achieve definite objects by liberal bounty, rather than to
extend partial help over a large surface which she could not herself

It was her first industrial school that awakened the admiration of the
public, which had never ceased to take an interest in her, while sorely
misjudging her character. We hear much now--and everybody hears it with
pleasure--of the spread of education in "common things." But, long
before Miss Coutts inherited her wealth, long before a name was found
for such a method of training, Lady Byron had instituted the thing, and
put it in the way of making its own name. She was living at Ealing, in
Middlesex, in 1834; and there she opened one of the first industrial
schools in England, if not the very first. She sent out a master to
Switzerland, to be instructed in De Fellenburg's method. She took on
lease five acres of land, and spent several hundred pounds in rendering
the buildings upon it fit for the purposes of the school. A liberal
education was afforded to the children of artisans and laborers, during
the half of the day when they were not employed in the field or garden.
The allotments were rented by the boys, who raised and sold produce
which afforded them a considerable yearly profit, if they were good
workmen. Those who worked in the field earned wages,--their labor being
paid by the hour, according to the capability of the young laborer.
They kept their accounts of expenditure and receipts, and acquired good
habits of business, while learning the occupation of their lives. Some
mechanical trades were taught, as well as the arts of agriculture. Part
of the wisdom of the management lay in making the pupils pay. Of one
hundred pupils, half were boarders. They paid little more than half the
expense of their maintenance; and the day-scholars paid three-pence per
week. Of course, a large part of the expense was borne by Lady Byron,
besides the payments she made for children who could not otherwise have
entered the school. The establishment flourished steadily till 1852,
when the owner of the land required it back for building-purposes.
During the eighteen years that the Ealing schools were in action, they
did a world of good in the way of incitement and example. The Poor-Law
Commissioners pointed out their merits. Land-owners and other wealthy
persons visited them, and went home and set up similar establishments.
During those years, too, Lady Byron had herself been at work in various
directions, to the same purpose.

A more extensive industrial scheme was instituted on her Leicestershire
property; and not far off, she opened a girls' school, and an infant
school; and when a season of distress came, as such seasons are apt to
befall the poor Leicestershire stocking-weavers, Lady Byron fed the
children for months together, till they could resume their payments.
These schools were opened in 1840. The next year, she built a
school-house on her Warwickshire property; and five years later, she set
up an iron school-house on another Leicestershire estate. By this time,
her educational efforts were costing her several hundred pounds a year
in the mere maintenance of existing establishments; but this is the
smallest consideration in the case. She has sent out tribes of boys and
girls into life fit to do their part there with skill and credit and
comfort. Perhaps it is a still more important consideration, that scores
of teachers and trainers have been led into their vocation, and duly
prepared for it, by what they saw and learned in her schools. As for the
best and the worst of the Ealing boys,--the best have, in a few cases,
been received into the Battersea Training School, whence they could
enter on their career as teachers to the greatest advantage; and the
worst found their school a true reformatory, before reformatory schools
were heard of. At Bristol she bought a house for a reformatory
for girls; and there her friend, Miss Carpenter, faithfully and
energetically carries out her own and Lady Byron's aims, which were one
and the same.

There would be no end, if I were to catalogue the schemes of which these
are a specimen. It is of more consequence to observe that her mind was
never narrowed by her own acts, as the minds of benevolent people are so
apt to be. To the last, her interest in great political movements, at
home and abroad, was as vivid as ever. She watched every step won in
philosophy, every discovery in science, every token of social change and
progress, in every shape. Her mind was as liberal as her heart and hand,
No diversity of opinion troubled her; she was respectful to every sort
of individuality, and indulgent to all constitutional peculiarities.
It must have puzzled those who kept up the notion of her being
"strait-laced," to see how indulgent she was even to epicurean
tendencies,--the remotest of all from her own.

But I must stop; for I do not wish my honest memorial to degenerate into
panegyric.--Among her latest known acts were her gifts to the Sicilian
cause, and her manifestations on behalf of the antislavery cause in the
United States. Her kindness to William and Ellen Craft must be well
known there; and it is also related in the newspapers that she
bequeathed a legacy to a young American, to assist him under any
disadvantages he might suffer as an abolitionist.

All these deeds were done under a heavy burden of ill-health. Before
she had passed middle life, her lungs were believed to be irreparably
injured by partial ossification. She was subject to attacks so serious,
that each one for many years was expected to be the last. She arranged
her affairs in correspondence with her liabilities; so that the same
order would have been found, whether she died suddenly or after long

She was to receive one more accession of outward greatness before she
departed. She became Baroness Wentworth in November, 1856. This is one
of the facts of her history; but it is the least interesting to us, as
probably to her. We care more to know that her last days were bright in
honor, and cheered by the attachment of old friends, worthy to pay the
duty she deserved. Above all, it is consoling to know that she who so
long outlived her only child was blessed with the unremitting and tender
care of her granddaughter. She died on the sixteenth of May, 1860.

The portrait of Lady Byron, as she was at the time of her marriage, is
probably remembered by some of my readers. It is very engaging.
Her countenance afterwards became much worn; but its expression of
thoughtfulness and composure was very interesting. Her handwriting
accorded well with the character of her mind. It was clear, elegant,
and womanly. Her manners differed with circumstances. Her shrinking
sensitiveness might embarrass one visitor, while another would be
charmed with her easy, significant, and vivacious conversation. It
depended much on whom she talked with. The abiding certainty was, that
she had strength for the hardest of human trials, and the composure
which belongs to strength. For the rest, it is enough to point to her
deeds, and to the mourning of her friends round the chasm which her
departure has made in their life, and in the society in which it is
spent. All that could be done in the way of personal love and honor was
done while she lived; it only remains now to see that her name and fame
are permitted to shine forth at last in their proper light.


It is a good thing, said an aged Chinese Travelling Philosopher, for
every man, sooner or later, to get back again to his own tea-cup.
And Ling Ching Ki Hi Fum (for that was the name of the profound old
gentleman who said it) was right. Travel may be "the conversion of
money into mind,"--and happy the man who has turned much coin into that
precious commodity,--but it is a good thing, after being tossed about
the world from the Battery to Africa,--that dry nurse of lions, as
Horace calls her,--to anchor once more beside the old familiar tea-urn
on the old familiar tea-table. This is the only "steamy column" worth
hailing with a glad welcome after long absence from home, and fully
entitled to be heartily applauded for its "bubbling and loud-hissing"

We are not a Marco Polo or a William de Rubruquis, and we have no
wonders to tell of the Great Mogul or the Great Cham. We did not sail
for Messrs. Pride, Pomp, Circumstance, and Company; consequently, we
have no great exploits to recount. We have been wrecked at sea only once
in our many voyages, and, so far as we know our own tastes, do not care
to solicit aid again to be thrown into the same awkward situation. But
for a time we have been

"Placed far amid the melancholy main,"

and now we are among our own tea-cups. This is happiness enough for a
cold winter's night. Mid-ocean, and mid tea-cups! Stupendous change,
let us tell you, worthy friend, who never yet set sail where sharks and
other strange sea-cattle bob their noses above the brine,--who never
lived forty days in the bowels of a ship, unable to hold your head up to
the captain's bluff "good morning" or the steward's cheery "good night."
Sir Philip Sidney discourses of a riding-master he encountered in
Vienna, who spoke so eloquently of the noble animal he had to deal with,
that he almost persuaded Sir Philip to wish himself a horse. We have
known ancient mariners expatiate so lovingly on the frantic enjoyments
of the deep sea, that very youthful listeners have for the time resolved
to know no other existence. If the author of the "Arcadia" had been
permitted to become a prancing steed, he might, after the first
exhilarating canter, have lamented his equine state. How many a first
voyage, begun in hilarious impatience, has caused a bitter repentance!
The sea is an overrated element, and we have nothing to say in its
favor. Because we are out of its uneasy lap to-night, we almost resemble
in felicity Richter's _Walt_, who felt himself so happy, that he was
transported to the third heaven, and held the other two in his hand,
that he might give them away. To-morrow morning we shall not hear that
swashing, scaring sound directly overhead on the wet deck, which has so
often murdered our slumbers. Delectable the sensation that we don't care
a rope's-end "how many knots" we are going, and that our ears are so far
away from that eternal "Ay, ay, Sir!" "The whales," says old Chapman,
speaking of Neptune, "exulted under him, and knew their mighty king."
Let them exult, say we, and be blowed, and all due honor to their salt
sovereign! but of their personal acquaintance we are not ambitious. We
have met them now and then in the sixty thousand miles of their watery
playing-places we have passed over, and they are not pretty to look at.
Roll on, et cetera, et cetera,--and so will we, for the present, at
least, as far out of _your_ reach as possible.

Yes, wise denizen of the Celestial Empire, it is a good, nay, a great
thing, to return even to so small a home-object as an old tea-cup. As
we lift the bright brim to our so long absent lips, we repeat it. As we
pour out our second, our third, and our fourth, we say it again. Ling
Ching, you were right!

And now, as the rest of the household have all gone up bed-ward, and
left us with their good-night tones,

"Like flowers' voices, if they could but speak,"

we dip our pen into the cocked hat of the brave little bronze warrior
who has fed us many a year with ink from the place where his brains
ought to be. Pausing before we proceed to paper, we look around on our
household gods. The coal bursts into crackling fits of merriment, as we
thrust the poker between the iron ribs of the grate. It seems to say,
in the jolliest possible manner of which it is capable, "Oh, go no more
a-roaming, a-roaming, across the windy sea!" How odd it seems to be
sitting here again, listening to the old clock out there in the entry!
Often we seemed to hear it during the months that have flown away, when
we knew that "our ancient" was standing sentinel for Time in another
hemisphere. One night, dark and stormy on the Mediterranean, as we lay
wakeful and watchful in the little steamer that was bearing us painfully
through the noisy tempest towards Saint Peter's and the Colosseum,
suddenly, above the tumult of the voyage, our household monitor began
audibly and regularly, we thought, to mark the seconds. Then it must
have been only fancy. Now it is something more, and we know that our
mahogany friend is really wagging his brassy beard just outside the
door. We remember now, as we lay listening that rough night at sea, how
Milton's magic sounding line came to us beating a sad melody with the
old clock's imagined tramp,--

"The Lars and Lemures moan with midnight plaint."

Let the waves bark to-night far out on "the desolate, rainy seas,"--the
old clock is all right in the entry!

Landed, and all safe at last! our much-abused, lock-broken, unhinged
portmanteau unpacked and laid ignobly to rest under the household eaves!
Stay a moment,--let us pitch our inky passport into the fire. How it
writhes and grows black in the face! And now it will trouble its owner
no more forever. It was a foolish, extravagant companion, and we are
glad to be rid of it. One little blazing fragment lifts itself out
of the flame, and we can trace on the smouldering relic the stamp of
Austria. Go back again into the grate, and perish with the rest, dark

"We look round our quiet apartment, and wonder if it be all true, this
getting home again. We stir the fire once more to assure ourself that we
are not somewhere else,--that the street outside our window is not
known as Jermyn Street in the Haymarket,--or the Via Babuino near the
Pincio,--or Princes Street, near the Monument. How do we determine that
we are not dreaming, and that we shall not wake up to-morrow morning and
find ourself on the Arno? Perhaps we are _not_ really back again where
there are no

"Eremites and friars,
White, black, and gray, with all their trumpery."

Perhaps we are a flamingo, a banyan-tree, or a mandarin. But there
stands the tea-cup, and our identity is sure!

Here at last, then, for a live certainty! But how strange it all seems,
resting safely in our easy slippers, to recall some of the far-off
scenes so lately present to us! Yesterday was it, or a few weeks ago,
that this "excellent canopy," our modest roof, dwelt three thousand
miles away to the westward of us? At this moment stowed away in a
snuggery called our own; and then--how brief a period it seems! what a
small parenthesis in time--putting another man's latch-key into another
man's door, night after night, in a London fog, and feeling for the
unfamiliar aperture with all the sensation of an innocent housebreaker!
Muffled here in the oldest of dressing-gowns, that never lifted its
blessed arms ten rods from the spot where it was born; and only a few
weeks ago lolling out of C.R.'s college-window at Oxford, counting the
deer, as they nibbled the grass, and grouped themselves into beautiful
pictures on the sward of ancient Magdalen!

As we look into the red fire in the grate, we think of the scarlet
coats we saw not long ago in Stratford,--when E.F., kindest of men and
merriest of hosts, took us to the "meet." We gaze round the field again,
and enjoy the enlivening scene. White-haired and tall, our kind-hearted
friend walks his glossy mare up and down the turf. His stalwart sons,
with sport imbrowned, proud of their sire, call our attention to the
sparkle in the old man's eye. We are mounted on a fiery little animal,
and are half-frightened at the thought of what she may do with us when
the chase is high. Confident that a roll is inevitable, and that, with a
dislocated neck, enjoyment would be out of the question, we pull bridle,
and carefully dismount, hoping not to attract attention. Whereat all our
jolly English cousins beg to inquire, "What's the row?" We whisper to
the red-coated brave prancing near us, that "we have changed our mind,
and will not follow the hunt to-day,--another time we shall be most
happy,--just now we are not quite up to the mark,--next week we shall be
all right again," etc., etc. One of the lithe hounds, who seems to have
steel springs in his hind legs, looks contemptuously at the American
stranger, and turns up his long nose like a moral insinuation. Off they
fly! we watch the beautiful cavalcade bound over the brook and sweep
away into the woodland passes. Then we saunter down by the Avon, and
dream away the daylight in endless visions of long ago, when sweet Will
and his merry comrades moved about these pleasant haunts. Returning to
the hall, we find we have walked ten miles over the breezy country,
and knew it not,--so pleasant is the fragrant turf that has been often
pressed by the feet of Nature's best-beloved high-priest! Round the
mahogany tree that night we hear the hunters tell the glories of their
sport,--how their horses, like Homer's steeds,

"Devoured up the plain";

and we can hear now, in imagination, the voices of the deep-mouthed
hounds rising and swelling among the Warwick glens.

Neither can we forget, as we sit here musing, whose green English
carpet, down in Kent, we so lately rested on under the trees,--nor how
we wandered off with the lord of that hospitable manor to an old castle
hard by his grounds, and climbed with him to the turret-tops,--nor how
we heard him repeople in fancy the aged ruin, as we leaned over the
wall and looked into the desolate court-yard below. The world has given
audience to this man, thought we, for many a year; but one who has never
heard the sound of his laughing voice knows not half his wondrous power.
When he reads his "Christmas Carol," go far to hear him, judicious
friend, if you happen to be in England, and let us all hope together
that we shall have that keen gratification next year in America. To know
him is to love and esteem him tenfold more than if you only read of him.

Let us bear in mind, too, how happily the hours went by with us so
recently in the vine-embowered cottage of dear L.H., the beautiful old
man with silver hair,--

"As hoary frost with spangles doth attire
The mossy branches of an oak."

The sound of the poet's voice was like the musical fall of water in our
ears, and every sentence he uttered then is still a melody. As we sit
dreamily here, he speaks to us again of "life's morning march, when his
bosom was young," and of his later years, when his struggles were many
and keen, and only his pen was the lever which rolled poverty away from
his door. We can hear him, as we pause over this leaf, as we heard the
old clock that night at sea. He tells us of his cherished companions,
now all gone,--of Shelley, and Keats, and Charles Lamb, whom he
loved,--of Byron, and Coleridge, and the rest. As we sit at his little
table, he hands us a manuscript, and says it is the "Endymion," John
Keats's gift to himself. He reads to us from it some of his favorite
lines, and the tones of his voice are very tender over his dead friend's
poem. As we pass out of his door that evening, the moon falls on his
white locks, his thin hand rests for a moment on our shoulder, and we
hear him say very kindly, "God bless you!"

In London, not long after this, we meet again the bard of "Rimini," and
his discourse is still sweet as any dulcimer. Another old man is with
him, a poet also, whose songs are among the bravest in England's
Helicon. We observe how these two friends love each other, and as they
stand apart in the anteroom, the eldest with his arm around his brother
bard, we think it is a very pleasant sight, and not to be forgotten
ever. And when, a few months later, we are among the Alpine hills, and
word comes to us that L.H. is laid to rest in Kensal Green Churchyard,
we are grateful to have looked upon his cheerful countenance, and to
have heard him say, "God bless you!"

We cry your mercy, gayest of cities, with your bright Bois de Boulogne,
and your splendid _cafe's!_ We do not much affect your shows, but we
cannot dismiss forever the cheerful little room, cloud-environed almost,
up to which we have so often toiled, after days of hard walking among
the gaudy streets of the French capital. One pleasant scene, at least,
rises unbidden, as we recall the past. It is a brisk, healthy morning,
and we walk in the direction of the Tuileries. Bending our steps toward
the Palace, (it is yet early, and few loiterers are abroad in the leafy
avenues,) we observe a group of three persons, not at all distinguished
in their appearance, having a roystering good time in the Imperial
Garden. One of them is a little boy, with a chubby, laughing face, who
shouts loudly to his father, a grave, thoughtful gentleman, who runs
backwards, endeavoring to out-race his child. The mother, a fair-haired
woman, with her bonnet half loose in the wind, strives to attract the
boy's attention and win him to her side. They all run and leap in the
merry morning-air, and, as we watch them more nearly, we know them to
be the royal family out larking before Paris is astir. Play on, great
Emperor, sweet lady, and careless boy-prince! You have hung up a picture
in our gallery of memory, very pleasant to look at, this cold night in
America. May you always be as happy as when you romped together in the

The days that are fled still knock at the door and enter. We are walking
on the banks of the Esk, toward a friendly dwelling in Lasswade,--_Mavis
Bush_ they call the pretty place at the foot of the hill. A slight
figure, clad in black, waits for us at the garden-gate, and bids us
welcome in accents so kindly, that we, too, feel the magic influence of
his low, sweet voice,--an effect which Wordsworth described to us years
before as eloquence set to music. The face of our host is very pale,
and, when he puts his thin arm within ours, we feel how frail a body may
contain a spirit of fire. We go into his modest abode and listen to his
wonderful talk, wishing all the while that the hours were months, that
we might linger there, spellbound, day and night, before the master of
our English tongue. He proposes a ramble across the meadows to Roslin
Chapel, and on the way he discourses of the fascinating drug so
painfully associated with his name in literature,--of Christopher
North, in whose companionship he delighted among the Lakes,--of Elia,
whom he recalled as the most lovable man among his friends, and whom he
has well described elsewhere as a Diogenes with the heart of a Saint
John. In the dark evening he insists upon setting out with us on our
return to Edinburgh. When it grows late, and the mists are heavy on the
mountains, we stand together, clasping hands of farewell in the dim
road, the cold Scotch hills looming up all about us. As the small figure
of the English Opium-Eater glides away into the midnight distance, our
eyes strain after him to catch one more glimpse. The Esk roars, and we
hear his footsteps no longer.

The scene changes, as the clock strikes in the entry. We are lingering
in the piazza of the Winged Lion, and the bronze giants in their turret
overlooking the square raise their hammers and beat the solemn march of
Time. As we float away through the watery streets, old Shylock
shuffles across the bridge,--black barges glide by us in the silent
canals,--groups of unfamiliar faces lean from the balconies,--and we
hear the plashing waters lap the crumbling walls of Venice, with its
dead Doges and decaying palaces.

Again we stir the fire, and feel it is home all about us. But we like
to sit here and think of that rosy evening, last summer, when we came
walking into Interlachen, and beheld the ghost-like figure of the
Jungfrau issuing out of her cloudy palace to welcome the stars,--of a
cool, bright, autumnal morning on the western battlements overlooking
Genoa, the blue Mediterranean below mirroring the silent fleet that lay
so motionless on its bosom,--of a midnight visit to the Colosseum with
a band of German students, who bore torches in and out of the time-worn
arches, and sang their echoing songs to the full moon,--of days, how
many and how magical! when we awoke every morning to say, "We are in

But it grows late, and it is time now to give over these reflections. So
we wind up our watch, and put out the candle.

* * * * *


What is a dry-goods jobber? No wonder you ask. You have been hunting,
perhaps, for our peripatetic postoffice, and have stumbled upon Milk
Street and Devonshire Street and Franklin Street. You are almost ready
to believe in the lamp of Aladdin, that could build palaces in a night.
Looking up to the stately and costly structures which have usurped the
place of once familiar dwellings, and learning that they are, for the
most part, tenanted by dry-goods jobbers, you feel that for such huge
results there must needs be an adequate cause, and so you ask, What is a
dry-goods jobber?

It is more than a curious question. For parents desirous of finding
their true sphere for promising and for unpromising sons, it is
eminently a practical question. It is a question comprehensive of
dollars and cents,--also of bones and sinews, of muscles, nerves, and
brains, of headache, heartache, and the cyclopaedia of being, doing,
and enduring. An adequate answer to such a question must needs ask your
indulgence, for it cannot be condensed into a very few words.

A dry-goods jobber is a wholesale buyer and seller, for cash or for
approved credit, of all manner of goods, wares, and materials, large
and small, coarse and fine, foreign and domestic, which pertain to the
clothing, convenience, and garnishing, by night and by day, of men,
women, and children: from a button to a blanket; from a calico to a
carpet; from stockings to a head-dress; from an inside handkerchief to a
waterproof; from a piece of tape to a thousand bales of shirtings; not
forgetting linen, silk, or woollen fabrics, for drapery or upholstery,
for bed or table, including hundreds of items which time would fail me
to recite. All these the dry-goods jobber provides for his customer, the
retailer, who in his turn will dispense them to the consumer.

A really competent and successful dry-goods jobber, in the year of
grace, one thousand, eight hundred and sixty-one, is a new creation. He
is begotten of the times. Of him, as truly as of the poet, and with yet
more emphasis, it must be said, He is born, not made. He is a poet, a
philosopher, an artist, an engineer, a military commander, an advocate,
an attorney, a financier, a steam-engine, a telegraph-operator, a
servant-of-all-work, a Job, a Hercules, and a Bonaparte, rolled into

"Exaggeration!" do you say? Not at all.--You asked for information? You
shall have it, to your heart's content.

To a youth, for a time interrupted in his preparation for college, I

Never mind; this falls in exactly with my well-considered plan. You
shall go into a dry-goods store till your eyes recover strength; it will
be the best year's schooling of your life.

"How so?" was the dubious answer; "what can I learn there?"

Learn? Everything,--common sense included, which is generally excluded
from the University curriculum: for example, time, place, quantity, and
the worth of each. You shall learn length, breadth, and thickness; hard
and soft; pieces and yards; dozens and the fractions thereof; order and
confusion, cleanliness and dirt,--to love the one and hate the other;
materials, colors, and shades of color; patience, manners, decency
in general; system and method, and the relation these sustain to
independence; in short, that there is a vast deal more out of books than
in books; and, finally, that the man who knows only what is in books is
generally a lump of conceit, and of about as much weight in the scales
of actual life as the ashes of the Alexandrian library, or the worms in
any parchments that may have survived that conflagration.

"Whew!" was his ejaculation; "I didn't know there was so much."

I dare say not. Most of your limited days have passed under the training
of men who are in the like predicament,--whose notion of the chief end
of man is, to convert lively boys into thick dictionaries,--and who
honestly believe that the chief want of the age is your walking
dictionary. Any other type of humanity, they tell us, "won't pay."
Much they know of what will and what won't pay! This comes of partial
education,--of one-sided, of warped, and biased education. It puts one
out of patience, this arrogance of the University, this presuming
upon the ignorance of the million, this assertion of an indispensable
necessity to make the boy of the nineteenth century a mere expert in
some subdivision of one of the sciences. The obstinacy of an hereditary
absolutism, which the world has outgrown, still lingers in our schools
of learning. Let us admit the divine right of Science, admit the fitness
of a limited number of our youth to become high-priests in her temple,
but no divine right of fossil interpreters of Science to compel the
entire generation to disembowel their sons and make of these living
temples mere receptacles of Roman, Grecian, or Egyptian relics. We
don't believe that "mummy is medicinal," the Arabian doctor Haly to the
contrary notwithstanding. If it ever was, its day has gone by. Therefore
let all sensible people pray for a Cromwell,--not to pull down
University Science, but to set up the Commonwealth of Common Sense, to
subordinate the former to the latter, and to proclaim an education for
our own age and for its exigencies. Your dry-goods jobber stands in
violent contrast to your University man in the matter of practical
adaptation. His knowledge is no affair of dried specimens, but every
particle of it a living knowledge, ready, at a moment's warning, for all
or any of the demands of life.

You are perhaps thinking,--"Yes, that is supposable, because the lessons
learned by the jobber are limited to the common affairs of daily life,
are not prospective; because, belonging only to the passing day, they
are easily surveyed on all sides, and their full use realized at once;
in short, a mere matter of buying and selling goods: a very inferior
thing, as compared with the dignified and scholarly labors of the

How mistaken this estimate is will appear, as we advance to something
like a comprehensive survey of the dry-goods jobber's sphere.

First, then, he is a buyer of all manner of goods, wares, and materials
proper to his department in commerce. He is minutely informed in the
history of raw materials. He knows the countries from which they
come,--the adaptation of soils and climates to their raising,--the skill
of the cultivators,--the shipping usages,--the effect of transportation
by land and sea on raw materials, and on manufactured articles,--with
all the mysteries of insurance allowances and usages, the debentures
on exportation, and the duties on importation, in his own and in other
lands. His forecast is taxed to the utmost, as to what may be the
condition of his own market, six, twelve, or eighteen months from the
time of ordering goods, both as to the quantity which may be in market,
and as to the fashion, which is always changing,--and also as to the
condition of his customers to pay for goods, which will often depend
upon the fertility of the season. As respects home-purchases, he is
compelled to learn, or to suffer for the want of knowing, that the
difference between being a skilful, pleasant buyer and the opposite is a
profit or loss of from five to seven and a half or ten per cent.,--or,
in other words, the difference, oftentimes, between success and ruin,
between comfort and discomfort, between being a welcome and a hated
visitor, between being honored as an able merchant and contemned as a
mean man or an unmitigated bore.

Is your curiosity piqued to know wherein buyers thus contrasted may
differ? They differ endlessly, like the faces you meet on the street.
Thus, one man is born to an open, frank, friendly, and courteous manner;
another is cold, reserved, and suspicious. One is prompt, hilarious,
and provocative of every good feeling, whenever you chance to meet; the
other is slow, morose, and fit to waken every dormant antipathy in your
soul. An able buyer is, or becomes, observing to the last degree. He
knows the slightest differences in quality and in style, and possesses
an almost unerring taste,--knows the condition of the market,--knows
every holder of the article he wants, and the lowest price of each. He
knows the peculiarities of the seller,--his strong points and his weak
points, his wisdom and his foibles, his very temperament, and how it is
acted upon by his dinner or the want of it. He knows the estimate put
upon his own note by that seller. He knows what his note will sell for
in the street. He knows to a feather's weight the influence of each of
these items upon the mind of the seller of whom he wishes to make a
purchase. Talk about diplomacy!--there's not a man in any court in
Europe who knows his position, his fulcrum, and his lever, and the use
he can make of them, as this man knows. He can unravel any combination,
penetrate any disguise, surmount any obstacle. Beyond all other men, he
knows when to talk, and when to refrain from talking,--how to throw the
burden of negotiation on the seller,--how to get the goods he wants
at his own price, not at _his_ asking, but on _the suggestion of the
seller_, prompted by his own politely obvious unwillingness to have the
seller part with his merchandise at any price not entirely acceptable to

The incompetent man, on the other hand, is presuming, exacting, and
unfeeling. He not only desires, but asserts the desire, in the
very teeth of the seller, to have something which that seller has
predetermined that he shall not have. He fights a losing game from the
start. He will probably begin by depreciating the goods which he knows,
or should know, that the seller has reason to hold in high esteem. He
will be likely enough to compare them to some other goods which he knows
to be inferior. He will thus arouse a feeling of dislike, if not of
anger, where his interest should teach him to conciliate and soothe; and
if he sometimes carry his point, his very victory is in effect a defeat,
since it procures him an increased antipathy. This the judicious
buyer never does. He repudiates, as a mere half-truth, and a relic of
barbarism, the maxim, "There is no friendship in trade."

"But," you are asking, "do only those succeed who are born to these
extraordinary endowments? And those who do succeed, are they, in
fact, each and all of them, such wonderfully capable men as you have

If by success you mean mere money-making, it is not to be denied that
some men do that by an instinct, little, if at all, superior to that of
the dog who smells out a bone. There are exceptions to all rules; and
there are chances in all games, even in games of skill. Lord Timothy
Dexter, as he is facetiously called, shipped warming-pans to the West
Indies, in defiance of all geographical objections to the venture, and
made money by the shipment,--not because warming-pans were wanted there,
but because the natives mistook and used them for molasses-ladles. It
must be owned that a portion of the successful ones are _lucky_,--that
a portion of them use the blunt weapon of an indomitable will, as an
efficient substitute for the finer edge of that nice tact and good
manners which they lack. Their very rudeness seems to commend them to
the rude natures which confound refinement with trickery and assume that
brutality must needs be honest.

But there are other things to be said of buying. The dry-goods jobber
frequents the auction-room. If you have never seen a large sale of
dry-goods at auction, you have missed one of the remarkable incidents
of our day. You are not yet aware of how much an auctioneer and two or
three hundred jobbers can do and endure in the short space of three
hours. You must know that fifty or a hundred thousand dollars' worth of
goods may easily change owners in that time. You are not to dream of the
leisurely way of disposing of somebody's household-furniture or library,
which characterizes the doings of one or two of our fellow-citizens who
manage such matters within speaking distance of King's Chapel: but are
rather to picture to yourself a congregation of three hundred of the
promptest men in our Atlantic cities, with a sprinkling of Westerners
quite as wide awake for bargains, each of them having marked his
catalogue; an auctioneer who considers the sale of a hundred lots an
hour his proper _role_, and who is able to see the lip, eye, or finger
of the man whose note he covets, in spite of all sounds, signs, or
opaque bodies. The man of unquiet nerves or of exacting lungs would
do well to leave that arena to the hard-heads and cool-bloods who can
pursue their aim and secure their interests: undisturbed either by
the fractional rat-a-tat-tat of the auctioneer's "Twenty-seven
af--naf--naf--naf,--who'll give me thirty?" or by the banter and
comicalities which a humor-loving auctioneer will interject between
these bird-notes, without changing his key, or arresting his sale a
moment. If you would see the evidence of comprehensive and minute
knowledge, of good taste, quick wit, sound judgment, and electrical
decision, attend an auction-sale in New York some morning. There will be
no lack of fun to season the solemnity of business, nor of the mixture
of courtesy and selfishness usual in every gathering, whether for
philanthropic, scientific, or commercial purposes. Many dry-goods
jobbers will attend the sale with no intention of buying, but simply to
note the prices obtained, and, having traced the goods to their owners,
to get the same in better order and on better terms; the commission paid
to the auctioneer being divided, or wholly conceded by the seller to the
buyer, according to his estimate of the note.

A dry-goods buyer will sometimes spend a month in New York, the first
third or half of which he will devote to ascertaining what goods are in
the market, and what are to arrive; also to learning the mood of the
English, French, and Germans who hold the largest stocks. Sometimes
these gentlemen will make an early trial of their goods at auction.
Unsatisfactory results will rouse their phlegm or fire, and they declare
they will not send another piece of goods to auction, come what may. For
local or temporary reasons, buyers sometimes persist in holding back
till the season is so far advanced that the foreign gentlemen become
alarmed. Their credits in London, Paris, and Amsterdam are running out;
they are anxious to make remittances; and then ensues one of those
dry-goods panics so characteristic of New York and its mixed multitude;
an avalanche of goods descends upon the auction-rooms, and prices
drop ten, twenty, forty per cent., it may be, and the unlucky or
short-sighted men who made early purchases are in desperate haste to run
off their stocks before the market is irreparably broken down. Whether,
therefore, to buy early or late, in large or in small quantities, at
home or abroad,--are questions beset with difficulty. He who imports
largely may land his goods in a bare market and reap a golden harvest,
or in a market so glutted with goods that the large sums he counts out
to pay the duties may be but a fraction of the loss he knows to be

In addition to the problems belonging to time and place of purchasing,
to quantities and prices, there is a host of other problems begotten of
styles, of colors, of assortments, of texture and finish, of adaptation
to one market or another. The profit on a case of goods is often
sacrificed by the introduction or omission of one color or figure,
the presence or absence of which makes the merchandise desirable or
undesirable. Little less than omniscience will suffice to guard against
the sometimes sudden, and often most unaccountable, freaks of fashion,
whose fiat may doom a thing, in every respect admirably adapted to its
intended use, to irretrievable condemnation and loss of value. And when
you remember that the purchases of dry-goods must be made in very large
quantities, from a month to six or even twelve months before the buyer
can sell them, and that his sales are many times larger than his
capital, and most of them on long credit, you have before you a
combination of exigencies hardly to be paralleled elsewhere.

The crisis of 1857 brought a general collapse. Scores and scores of
jobbers failed; very few dared to buy goods. Mills were compelled to run
on short time, or to cease altogether. The country became bare of
the common necessaries of life. In process of time trade rallied.
Manufacturing recommenced; orders for goods poured in; and for a
twelve-month and more the manufacturer has had it all his own way. His
goods are all sold ahead, months ahead of his ability to manufacture.
He makes his own price, and chooses his customer. This operates not
unkindly on the jobbers who are wealthy and independent; but for those
who have but lately begun to mount the hill of difficulty, it offers one
more impediment. For, to men who have a great many goods to sell, it
is a matter of moment to secure the customers who can buy in large
quantities, and whose notes will bring the money of banks or private
capitalists as soon as offered. Against such buyers, men of limited
means and of only average business-ability have but a poor chance.
There will always be some articles of merchandise in the buying or
selling of which they cannot compete.

When a financial crisis overtakes the community, we hear much and sharp
censure of all _speculation_. Speculators, one and all, are forthwith
consigned to an abyss of obloquy. The virtuous public outside of trade
washes its hands of all participation in the iniquity. This same
virtuous public knows very little of what it is talking about. What is
speculation? Shall we say, in brief and in general, that it consists in
running risks, in taking extra-hazardous risks, on the chance of making
unusually large profits? Is it that men have abandoned the careful ways
of the fathers, and do not confine themselves to small stores, small
stocks, and cash transactions? And do you know who it is that has
compelled this change? That same public who denounce speculation in one
breath, and in the next clamor for goods at low prices, and force
the jobber into large stores and large sales at small profits as the
indispensable condition of his very existence.

Those who thus rail at speculation are generally quite unaware that
their own inexorable demand for goods at low prices is one of the
principal efficient causes of that of which they complain. They do not
know that the capacious maw of the insatiable public is yearly filled
with millions on millions of shirtings and sheetings, and other articles
of prime necessity, without one farthing of profit to the jobber. The
outside world reason from the assumption, that the jobber might, but
will not, avoid taking considerable risks. They do not consider,
for they do not know, how entirely all is changed from the days and
circumstances in which a very small business would suffice to maintain
the merchant. They do not consider, that, an immense amount of goods
being of compulsion sold without profit, a yet other huge amount must
be so sold as to compensate for this. Nor do they consider that the
possibility of doing this is often contingent upon the buyer's carefully
calculated probability of a rise in the article he is purchasing. Many a
time is the jobber enabled and inclined to purchase largely only by the
assurance that from the time of his purchase the price will be advanced.

The _selling_ of dry-goods is another department in high art about which
the ignorance of outsiders is ineffable. I was once asked, in the way
of courtesy and good neighborhood, to call on a clergyman in our
vicinity,--which I did. Desirous of doing his part in the matter of good
fellowship and smooth conversation, he began thus:--

"Well, now, Mr. Smith, you know all about business: I suppose, if I were
to go into a store to buy goods, nineteen men out of twenty would cheat
me, if they could; wouldn't they?"

"No, Sir!" I answered, with a swelling of indignation at the injustice,
a mingling of pity for the ignorance, and a foreboding of small benefit
from the preaching of a minister of the gospel who knew so little of the
world he lived in. "No, Sir; nineteen men in twenty would not cheat you,
if they could; for the best of all reasons,--it would be dead against
their own interest."

Not a day passes but the question is asked by our youths who are being
initiated in the routine of selling goods,--"Is this honest? Is that
honest? Is it honest to mark your goods as costing more than they do
cost? Is it honest to ask one man more than you ask another? Ought not
the same price to be named to every buyer? Isn't it cheating to get
twenty-five per cent. profit? Can a man sell goods without lying? Are
men compelled to lie and cheat a little in order to earn an honest
living?" What is the reason that these questions will keep coming up?
That they can no more be laid than Banquo's ghost? Here are some of the
reasons. First, and foremost, multitudes of young men, whose parents
followed the plough, the loom, or the anvil, have taken it into their
heads, that they will neither dig, hammer, nor ply the shuttle. To soil
their hands with manual labor they cannot abide. The sphere of commerce
looks to their longing eyes a better thing than lying down in green
pastures, or than a peaceful life beside still waters, procured by
laborious farming, or by any mechanical pursuit. Clean linen and stylish
apparel are inseparably associated in their minds with an easy and
elegant life, and so they pour into our cities, and the ranks of the
merchants are filled, and over-filled, many times. Once, the merchant
had only to procure an inviting stock, and his goods sold themselves.
He did not go after customers; they came to him; and it was a matter of
favor to them to supply their wants. Now, all that is changed. There are
many more merchants than are needed; buyers are in request; and buyers
whose credit is the best, to a very great extent, dictate the prices at
which they will buy. The question is no longer, How large a profit can
I get? but, How small a profit shall I accept? The competition for
customers is so fierce that the seller hardly dares ask any profit, for
fear his more anxious neighbor will undersell him. In order to attract
customers, one thing after another has been made "a leading article,"
a bait to be offered at cost or even less than cost,--that being
oftentimes the condition on which alone the purchaser will make a
beginning of buying.

"Jenkins," cried an anxious seller, "you don't buy anything of me, and I
can sell you as cheap as any. Here's a bale of sheetings now, at eight
cents, will do you good."

"How many have you got?"

"Oh, plenty."

"Well, how many?"

"Fifteen bales."

"Well, I'll take them."

"Come in and buy something more."

"No, nothing more to-day."

There was a loss of seventy-five dollars, and he did not dare buy more.

It will be obvious that the selling a part of one's goods at less than
cost enhances the necessity of getting a profit on the rest. But how
to do this, under the sharp scrutiny of a buyer who knows that his own
success, not to say his very existence, depends upon his paying no
profit possible to be avoided,--no profit, at all events, not certainly
paid by some sharp neighbor who is competing with him for the same

"But is there anything in all this," you are asking, "to preclude the
jobber's telling the truth?" Nothing. "Anything to preclude strict
honesty?" Nothing. "Why, then, do the questions you have quoted
continually recur?"

I answer: In order to get his share of the best custom in his line, the
dry-goods jobber has taken a store in the best position in town, at a
rent of from three to fifty thousand dollars a year; has hired men and
boys at all prices, from fifty dollars to five thousand,--and enough of
these to result in an aggregate of from five to fifty thousand dollars
a year for help, without which his business cannot be done. Add to
this the usual average for store-expenses of every name, and for
the family-expenses of two, five, or seven partners, and you find a
dry-goods firm under the necessity of getting out of their year's sales
somewhere from fifteen to a hundred and fifty thousand dollars profit,
before they shall have saved one cent to meet the losses of an
unfavorable season.

Now, though there is nothing even in all these urgencies to justify a
single lie or fraud, there is much to sharpen a man's wits to secure the
sale of his goods,--much to educate him in all manner of expedients to
baffle the inquiries of customers who would be offended, if they could
discover that he ever charged them the profit without which he could
never meet his expenses. And the jobber's problem is complicated by the
folly, universally prevalent among buyers, of expecting some partiality
or peculiarity of favor over their neighbors who are just as good as
themselves. Every dry-goods jobber knows that his customer's foolish
hope and expectation often demand three absurdities of him: first, the
assurance that he has the advantage over all other jobbers in a better
stock of goods, better bought; secondly, that he has a peculiar
friendship for himself; and thirdly, that, though of other men he must
needs get a profit, in his special instance he shall ask little or
none; and that, such is his regard for him, it is a matter of no moment
whether he live in Lowell or Louisiana, in New Bedford or Nebraska, or
whether he pay New England bank-notes within thirty days, or wild-cat
money and wild lands, which may be converted into cash, with more or
less expense and loss, somewhere between nine months and nine-and-twenty

And yet the uninitiated "can't understand how an honest merchant can
have two prices for the same goods." An honest man has but one price
for the same goods, and that is the cash price. All outside of that is
barter,--goods for notes. His first inquiry is, What is the market-value
of the note offered? True, he knows that many of the notes he takes
cannot be sold at all; but he also knows that the notes he is willing to
take will in the aggregate be guarantied by a reservation of one, two,
or three per cent., and that the note of the particular applicant for
credit will tend to swell or to diminish the rate; and he cannot afford
to exchange his goods for any note, except at a profit which will
guaranty its payment when due,--which, in other words, will make the
note equal in value to cash.

Now it is just because all business-contingencies cannot be worked into
an unvarying form, as regular as the multiplication-table, and as plain
to the apprehension of all men, that a vast amount of lying and of
dishonesty is imputed, where it does not exist. Merchants are much like
other men,--wise and unwise, far-sighted and short-sighted, selfish
and unselfish, honest and dishonest. But that they are as a class more
dishonest than other men is so far from being true, that I much doubt if
we should overstrain the matter, if we should affirm that they are
the most honest class of men in the community. There is much in their
training which contributes directly, and most efficiently, to this
result. Their very first lessons are in feet and inches, in pounds and
ounces, in exact calculations, in accounts and balances. Carelessness,
mistakes, inaccuracies, they are made to understand, are unpardonable
sins. The boy who goes into a store learns, for the first time, that
half a cent, a quarter of a cent, an eighth of a cent, may be a matter
of the gravest import. He finds a thorough book-keeper absolutely
refusing himself rest till he has detected an error of ten cents in a
business of six months. And every day's experience enforces the lesson.
It is giving what is due, and claiming what is due, from year's end to
year's end. Among merchants it is matter of common notoriety, that the
prompt and exact adherence to orders insisted on by merchants, and
prompt advice of receipt of business and of progress, cannot be expected
from our worthy brethren at the bar. (The few honorable exceptions are
respectfully informed that they are not referred to.) We do not expect
them to weigh or measure the needless annoyance to which they often
subject us, because they have never been, like ourselves, trained to
the use of weights and measures; and therefore we are not willing to
stigmatize them as dishonest, though they do, in fact, often steal
our time and strength and patience, by withholding an answer to a

None but those who are in the business know the assiduous attention with
which the dry-goods jobber follows up his customers. None but they know
the urgent necessity of doing this. The jobber may have travelled a
thousand miles to make his customer's acquaintance, and to prevail upon
him to come to Boston to make his purchases; and some neighbor, who
boards at the hotel he happens to make his resting-place, lights upon
him, shows him attention, tempts him with bargains not to be refused,
prevails upon him to make the bulk of his purchases of him, before
his first acquaintance even hears of his arrival. To guard against
disappointments such as this, the jobber sends his salesmen to live at
hotels, haunts the hotels himself, studies the hotel-register far more
assiduously than he can study his own comfort, or the comfort of his
wife and children. Of one such jobber it was said, facetiously,--"He
goes the round of all the hotels every morning with a lantern, to wake
up his customers." I had an errand one day at noon to such a devotee.
Inquiring for him in the counting-room, I was told by his book-keeper
to follow the stairs to the top of the store, and I should find him. I
mounted flight after flight to the attic, and there I found, not only
the man, but also one or two of his customers, surrounding a huge
packing-case, upon which they had extemporized a dinner, cold turkey
and tongue, and other edibles, taken standing, with plenty of fun for a
dessert. The next time we happened to meet, I said,--"So you take not
only time, but also customers, by the forelock!"

"Yes, to be sure," was his answer; "let 'em go to their hotel to dinner
in the middle of a bill, and somebody lights upon 'em, and carries 'em
off to buy elsewhere; or they begin to remember that it is a long way
home, feel homesick, slip off to New York as being so far on the way,
and that's the last you see of 'em. No, we're bound to see 'em through,
and no let-up till they've bought all they've got on their memorandum."

We have not yet touched the question of credit. To whom shall the jobber
sell his goods? It is the question of questions. Many a man who has
bought well, who in other respects has sold well, who possessed all
the characteristics which recommend a man to the confidence and to the
good-will of his fellows, has made shipwreck of his fortunes because of
his inability to meet this question. He sold his goods to men who never
paid him. To say that in this the most successful jobbers are governed
by an instinct, by an intuitive conviction which is superior to all
rules of judgment, would be to allege what it would be difficult to
prove. It would be less difficult to maintain that every competent
merchant, however unconscious of the fact, has a standard of judgment by
which he tries each applicant for credit. There are characteristics of
men who can safely be credited, entirely familiar to his thoughts. He
looks upon the man and instantly feels that he is or is not the man
for him. He thinks his decision an instinct, or an intuition, because,
through much practice, these mental operations have become so rapid as
to defy analysis. Not being infallible, he sometimes mistakes; and when
he so mistakes, he will be sure to say,--I made that loss because I
relied too much upon this characteristic, or because I did not allow
its proper weight to the absence of some other,--because I thought his
shrewdness or his honesty, his enterprise or his economy, would save
him: implying that he had observed some non-conformity to his standard,
but had relied upon some excellency in excess to make up for it.

What are the perplexities which beset the question, To whom shall the
jobber sell his goods? They are manifold; and some of them are peculiar
to our country. Our territory is very extensive; our population very
heterogeneous; the economy and close calculation which recommend a man
in Massachusetts may discredit him in Louisiana. The very countenance is
often a sure indication of character and of capacity, when it is one of
a class and a region whose peculiarities we thoroughly understand;
but coming to us from other classes and regions, we are often at
fault,--more especially in these latter days, when all strong-mindedness
is presumed to be foreshadowed in a stiff beard. Time was when something
could be inferred from a lip, a mouth, a chin,--when character could be
found in the contour and color of a cheek; but that time has passed.
The time was, when, among a homogeneous people, a few time-honored
characteristics were both relied on and insisted on: for example, good
parentage, good moral character, a thorough training, and superior
capacity, joined to industry, economy, sound judgment, and good manners.
But Young America has learned to make light of some of these, and to
dispense altogether with others of them.

Once the buyer was required to prove himself an honest, worthy, and
capable man. If he wanted credit, he must humbly sue for it, and prove
himself deserving of it; and no man thought of applying for it who was
not prepared to furnish irrefragable evidence. Once, a reference to some
respectable acquaintance would serve the purpose; and neighbors held
themselves bound to tell all they knew. The increase of merchants, and
fierce competition for customers, have changed this. Men now
regard their knowledge of other men as a part of their capital or
stock-in-trade. Their knowledge has been acquired at much cost of labor
and money; and they hold themselves absolved from all obligation to
give away what they have thus expensively acquired. Moreover, their
confidence has sometimes been betrayed, and their free communications
have been remorselessly used to their disadvantage. Alas, it cannot
be denied that even dry-goods jobbers, with all their extraordinary
endowments, are not quite perfect! for some of them will "state the
thing that is not," and others "convey" their neighbor's property into
their own coffers: men who prefer gain to godliness, and mistake much
money for respectability.

There are very few men, in certain sections of the country, who will
absolutely refuse to give a letter of introduction to a neighbor on the
simple ground of ill-desert. Men dread the ill-will of their neighbor,
and particularly the ill-will of an unscrupulous neighbor; so, when such
a neighbor asks a letter, they give it. I remember such a one bringing a
dozen or more letters, some of which contained the highest commendation.
The writer of one of these letters sent a private note, through the
mail, warning one of the persons addressed against the bearer of his own
commendatory letter. Those who had no warning sold, and lost. It would
be difficult to find a man, however unworthy, who could not, from some
quarter, obtain a very respectable letter of introduction. One of the
greatest rogues that ever came to Boston brought letters from two of
the foremost houses in New York to two firms second to none in Boston.
Neither of these gentlemen was in fault in the matter; the train had
been laid by some obliging cousin in a banking-house in London.

In making up our account of the difficulties with which a dry-goods
jobber has to deal, in conducting a successful business, it must be
distinctly stated, that on no man can he count for information which
will, however remotely or slightly, compromise the interest of the one
inquired of. Never, perhaps, was it so true as now, that "the seller has
need of a hundred eyes." The competent jobber uses his eyes first of all
upon the person of the man who desires to buy of him. He questions him
about himself, with such directness or indirectness as instinct and
experience dictate. He learns to discriminate between the sensitiveness
of the high-toned honest man and the sensitiveness of the rogue. Many
men of each class are inclined to resent and resist the catechism.
Strange as it may seem, the very men who would inexorably refuse a
credit to those who should decline to answer their inquiries are the men
most inclined to resent any inquiry about themselves. While they demand
the fullest and most particular information from their customers,
they wonder that others will not take them on their own estimate of

The jobber next directs his attention to the buyer's knowledge of goods:
of their quality, their style, their worth in market, and their fitness
for his own market; all of which will come to light, as he offers to
his notice the various articles he has for sale. He will improve the
opportunity to draw him out in general conversation, so guiding it as to
touch many points of importance, and yet not so as to betray a want of
confidence. He sounds him as to his knowledge of other merchants at home
and in the city; takes the names of his references,--of several, if he
can get them; puts himself in communication with men who know him, both
at his home and in the city. If he can harmonize the information derived
from all these sources into a consistent and satisfactory whole, he will
then do his utmost to secure his customer, both by selling him his goods
at a profit so small that he need have little fear of any neighbor's
underselling him, and also by granting every possible accommodation as
to the time and manner of payment.

A moderately thoughtful man will by this time begin to think the
elements of toil and of perplexity already suggested sufficient for the
time and strength of any man, and more than he would wish to undertake.
But experience alone could teach him in how many ways indulged customers
can and do manage to make the profit they pay so small, and the toil
and vexation they occasion so great, that the jobber is often put upon
weighing the question, Should I not be richer without them? Thus, for
example, some of them will affect to doubt that the jobber wishes to
sell to them, and propose, as a test, that he shall let them have
some choice article at the cost, or at less than the cost, now on one
pretext, and now on another,--intimating an indisposition to buy, if
they cannot be indulged in that one thing. If they carry their point,
that exceptional price is thenceforth claimed as the rule. Another day
the concession will be asked on something else; and by extending this
game so as to include a number of jobbers, these shrewd buyers will
manage to lay in an assorted stock on which there will have been little
or no profit to the sellers. To cap the climax of vexation, these
persons will very probably come in, after not many days, and propose
to cash their notes at double interest off. Only an official of
the Inquisition could turn the thumb-screw so many times, and so

But we have yet to consider the collection of debts. The jobber who has
not capital so ample as to buy only for cash is expected invariably to
settle his purchases by giving his note, payable at bank on a fixed day.
He pays it when due, or fails. Not so with his customers: multitudes
of them shrink from giving a note payable at bank, and some altogether
refuse to do so. They wish to buy on open account; or to give a note to
be paid at maturity, if convenient,--otherwise not. The number of really
prompt and punctual men, as compared with those who are otherwise, is
very small. The number of those who never fail is smaller still. The
collection-laws are completely alike, probably, in no two States. Some
of them appear to have been constructed for the accommodation, not of
honest creditors, but of dishonest debtors. In others, they are such as
to put each jobber in fear of every other,--a first attachment taking
all the property, if the debt be large enough, leaving little or
nothing, usually, for those who have been willing to give the debtor
such indulgence as might enable him to pay in full, were it granted by
all his creditors.

No jobber can open his letters in the morning in the certainty of
finding no tidings of a failure. No jobber, leaving his breakfast-table,
can assure his wife and children, sick or well, that he will dine or sup
with them; any one of a dozen railroad-trains may, for aught he knows,
be sweeping him away to some remote point, to battle with the mischances
of trade, the misfortunes of honest men, or the knavery of rogues and
the meshes of the law. Once in the cars, he casts his eye around in
uneasy expectation of finding some one or more of his neighbors bound on
the same errand. While yet peering over the seats in front of him, he is
unpleasantly startled by a slap on the shoulder, and, "Ah, John!
bound East? What's in the wind? Any ducks in these days?"
"Why,--yes,--no,--that is, I'm going down along,--little uncertain how
far,--depends on circumstances." "So, so,--I see,--mum's the word."
Well, neither is quite ready to trust the other,--neither quite ready to
know the worst; so long as a blow is suspended, it may not fall; and so,
with desperate exertions, they change the subject, converse on things
indifferent,--or subside into more or less moody meditations upon their
respective chances and prospects.

Any jobber who has seen service will tell you stories without number of
these vexatious experiences, sometimes dashed with the comical in no
common measure. He will tell you of how they arrived at the last town
on the railroad, some six or seven of them; of how not a word had been
lisped of their destination; of the stampede from the railroad-station
to the tavern; of the spirited bids for horses and wagons; of the
chop-fallen disappointment of the man for whom no vehicle remained; of
his steeple-chase a-bareback; and of their various successes with writs
and officers, in their rush for the store of the delinquent debtor. Of
three such Jehus, the story goes, that, two of them having bought the
monopoly of the inside of the only vehicle, and, in so doing, as they
thought, having utterly precluded any chance for the third, their
dauntless competitor instantly mounted with the driver, commenced
negotiations for the horse, which speedily resulted in a purchase, and
thereupon detached the horse from the vehicle, drove on, and effected a
first attachment, which secured his debt.

The occurrence of "a bad year" compels many a jobber to abandon his
store and home for one, two, or three months together, and visit his
customers scattered all over the land, to make collections. Then it is
that the power of persuasion, if possessed, is brought into efficient
use; discrimination, too, is demanded; good judgment, and power of
combination. For a debt that cannot be paid in money may possibly be
paid partly in money, or in merchandise of some sort, and in part
secured; and, among the securities offered, to choose those which will
involve the least delay is generally no easy matter.

To those who, without experience, are commencing a jobbing-business,
a capital of thirty, forty, or fifty thousand dollars seems an
inexhaustible fund. Experience teaches that an incautious and unskilful
man may easily bury even the largest of these sums in a single season.
If not actually lost, it has in effect ceased to be capital, because it
cannot be collected, and the notes he has taken are such as will not be

Success in the jobbing-business makes such demand on talent and capacity
as outsiders seldom dream of. Half-a-dozen Secretaries of State, with a
Governor and a President thrown in, would not suffice to constitute a
first-class jobbing-firm. The general or special incompetency of these
distinguished functionaries in their several spheres may probably be
covered by the capacity of their subordinates. The President of these
United States--of late years, at all events--is not supposed to be in
a position to know whether the will is or is not "a self-determining
power." But no jobbing-firm can thus cloak its deficiencies, or shirk
its responsibilities. Goods must be bought, and sold, and paid for; and
a master-spirit in each department, capable of penetrating to every
particular, and of controlling every subordinate, cannot be dispensed
with. He must know that every man to whom he delegates any portion of
his work is competent and trustworthy. He must be able to feel that the
thing which he deputes to each will be as surely and as faithfully done
as though done by his own hand. No criticism is more common or more
depreciatory than that "Such a one will not succeed, because he has
surrounded himself with incompetent men."

It is much to be regretted that it cannot be said, that no man can
succeed in the jobbing-business who is not a model of courtesy.
Unhappily, our community has not yet reached that elevation. But this
may with truth be affirmed,--that many a man fails for the want of
courtesy, and for the want of that good-will to his fellows from which
all real courtesy springs. There is small chance for any man to succeed
who does not command his own spirit. There is no chance whatever for
an indolent man; and, in the long run, little or no chance for the
dishonest man. The same must be said for the timid and for the rash man.
Nor can we offer any encouragement to the intermittent man. From year's
end to year's end, the dry-goods jobber finds himself necessitated to be
studying his stock and his ledger. He knows, that, while men sleep, the
enemy will be sowing tares. In his case, the flying moments are the
enemy, and bad stock and bad debts are the tares. To weed out each of
these is his unceasing care. And as both the one and the other are
forever choking the streams of income which should supply the means of
paying his own notes, his no less constant care is to provide such other
conduits as shall insure him always a full basin at the bank. Nobody but
a jobber can know the vexation of a jobber who cannot find money to cash
his notes when they are beginning to be thrown into the market at a
price a shade lower than his neighbor's notes are sold at.

In conclusion, a few material facts should be stated.

As a general proposition, it is not to be denied, that those who are
in haste to get rich will find in the dry-goods jobbing-business many
temptations and snares into which one may easily fall. A young man who
is not fortified by a faithful home-training, and by sound religious
principle, will be likely enough to degenerate into a heartless

While the young man who has been well trained at home, who appreciates
good manners, good morals, and good books, will derive immense advantage
in acquiring that quick discernment, that intuitive apprehension of
the rights and of the pleasure of others, and that nice tact, which
characterize the highest style of merchants,--he who has not been thus
prepared will be more than likely to mistake _brusquerie_ for manliness,
and brutality for the sublime of independence. As in a great house there
are vessels unto honor and also unto dishonor, so in the purlieus of
the dry-goods trade there are gentlemen who would honor and adorn any
society, and also men whose manners would shame Hottentots,--whose
language, innocent of all preference for Worcester or Webster, a terror
to all decent ideas, like scarecrows in corn-fields, is dressed in the
cast-off garments of the refuse of all classes.

Success in retailing does not necessarily qualify a man to succeed in
the dry-goods jobbing-business. The game is played on a much larger
scale; it includes other chances, and demands other qualifications,
natural and acquired. Instances are not wanting of men who, in the
smaller towns, had made to themselves a name and acquired an honorable
independence, sinking both capital and courage in their endeavors to
manage the business of a city-jobber.

It should be well remembered, that, while it is not indispensable to
success in the jobbing-business that each partner should be an expert
in every department of the business, in buying, selling, collecting,
paying, and book-keeping, it is absolutely necessary that each should
be such in his own department,--and that the firm, as a unit, should
include a completely competent man for each and every one of these
departments. The lack of the qualities which are indispensable to any
one of these may, and probably will, prove an abyss deep enough to
ingulf the largest commercial ship afloat.

Finally, to avoid disappointment, the man who would embark in the
dry-goods trade should make up his mind to meet every variety of
experience known to mortals, and to be daunted by nothing. He will
assuredly find fair winds and head winds, clear skies and cloudy skies,
head seas and cross seas as well as stern seas. A wind that justifies
studding-sails may change, without premonition, to a gale that will make
ribbons of top-sails and of storm-sails. The best crew afloat cannot
preclude all casualties, or exclude sleepless nights and cold sweats now
and then; but a quick eye, a cool head, a prompt hand, and indomitable
perseverance will overcome almost all things.


The wet trees hang above the walks
Purple with damps and earthish stains,
And strewn by moody, absent rains
With rose-leaves from the wild-grown stalks.

Unmown, in heavy, tangled swaths,
The ripe June-grass is wanton blown;
Snails slime the untrodden threshold-stone,
Along the sills hang drowsy moths.

Down the blank visage of the wall,
Where many a wavering trace appears
Like a forgotten trace of tears,
From swollen caves the slow drops crawl.

Where everything was wide before,
The curious wind, that comes and goes,
Finds all the latticed windows close,
Secret and close the bolted door.

And with the shrewd and curious wind,
That in the arched doorway cries,
And at the bolted portal tries,
And harks and listens at the blind,--

Forever lurks my thought about,
And in the ghostly middle-night
Finds all the hidden windows bright,
And sees the guests go in and out,--

And lingers till the pallid dawn,
And feels the mystery deeper there
In silent, gust-swept chambers, bare,
With all the midnight revel gone;

But wanders through the lonesome rooms,
Where harsh the astonished cricket calls,
And, from the hollows of the walls
Vanishing, stare unshapen glooms;

And lingers yet, and cannot come
Out of the drear and desolate place,
So full of ruin's solemn grace,
And haunted with the ghost of home.




Early the next morning Abel Stebbins made his appearance at Dudley
Venner's, and requested to see the maaen o' the haouse abaout somethin'
o' consequence. Mr. Venner sent word that the messenger should wait
below, and presently appeared in the study, where Abel was making
himself at home, as is the wont of the republican citizen, when he hides
the purple of empire beneath the apron of domestic service.

"Good mornin', Squire!" said Abel, as Mr. Venner entered. "My name's
Stebbins, 'n' I'm stoppin' f'r a spell 'ith ol' Doctor Kittredge."

"Well, Stebbins," said Mr. Dudley Venner, "have you brought any special
message from the Doctor?"

"Y' ha'n't heerd nothin' abaout it, Squire, d' ye mean t' say?" said
Abel,--beginning to suspect that he was the first to bring the news of
last evening's events.

"About--what?" asked Mr. Venner, with some interest.

"Dew tell, naow! Waal, that beats all! Why, that 'ere Portagee relation
o' yourn 'z been tryin' t' ketch a fellah 'n a slippernoose, 'n' got
ketched himself,--that's all. Y' ha'n't heerd noth'n' abaout it?"

"Sit down," said Mr. Dudley Venner, calmly, "and tell me all you have to

So Abel sat down and gave him an account of the events of the last
evening. It was a strange and terrible surprise to Dudley Venner to find
that his nephew, who had been an inmate of his house and the companion
of his daughter, was to all intents and purposes guilty of the gravest
of crimes. But the first shock was no sooner over than he began to think
what effect the news would have on Elsie. He imagined that there was a
kind of friendly feeling between them, and he feared some crisis would
be provoked in his daughter's mental condition by the discovery. He
would wait, however, until she came from her chamber, before disturbing
her with the evil tidings.

Abel did not forget his message with reference to the equipments of the
dead mustang.

"The' was some things on the hoss, Squire, that the man he ketched
said he didn' care no gre't abaout; but perhaps you'd like to have 'em
fetched to the mansion-haouse. Ef y' _didn'_ care abaout 'em, though,
I shouldn' min' keepin' on 'em; they might come handy some time or
'nother: they say, holt on t' anything for ten year 'n' there'll be some
kin' o' use for't."

"Keep everything," said Dudley Venner. "I don't want to see anything
belonging to that young man."

So Abel nodded to Mr. Venner, and left the study to find some of the men
about the stable to tell and talk over with them the events of the
last evening. He presently came upon Elbridge, chief of the equine
department, and driver of the family-coach.

"Good mornin', Abe," said Elbridge. "What's fetched y' daown here so
all-fired airly?"

"You're a darned pooty lot daown here, you be!" Abel answered. "Better
keep your Portagees t' home nex' time, ketchin' folks 'ith slippernooses
raoun' their necks, 'n' kerryin' knives 'n their boots!"

"What 'r' you jawin' abaout?" Elbridge said, looking up to see if he was
in earnest, and what he meant.

"Jawin' abaout? You'll find aout 'z soon 'z y' go into that 'ere stable
o' yourn! Y' won't curry that 'ere long-tailed black hoss no more; 'n'
y' won't set y'r eyes on the fellah that rid him, ag'in, in a hurry!"

Elbridge walked straight to the stable, without saying a word, found the
door unlocked, and went in.

"Th' critter's gone, sure enough!" he said. "Glad on't! The darndest,
kickin'est, bitin'est beast th't ever I see, 'r ever wan' t' see ag'in!
Good reddance! Don' wan' no snappin'-turkles in my stable! Whar's the
man gone th't brought the critter?"

"Whar he's gone? Guess y' better go 'n aaesk my ol' man; he kerried him
off laaes' night; 'n' when he comes back, mebbe he'll tell ye whar he's
gone tew!"

By this time Elbridge had found out that Abel was in earnest, and had
something to tell. He looked at the litter in the mustang's stall, then
at the crib.

"Ha'n't eat b't haaelf his feed. Ha'n't been daown on his straw. Must ha'
been took aout somewhere abaout ten 'r 'leven o'clock. I know that 'ere
critter's ways. The fellah's had him aout nights afore; b't I never
thought nothin' o' no mischief. He's a kin' o' haaelf Injin. What is 't
the chap's been a-doin' on? Tell 's all abaout it."

Abel sat down on a meal-chest, picked up a straw and put it into his
mouth. Elbridge sat down at the other end, pulled out his jackknife,
opened the penknife-blade, and began sticking it into the lid of the
meal-chest. The Doctor's man had a story to tell, and he meant to
get all the enjoyment out of it. So he told it with every luxury of
circumstance. Mr. Venner's man heard it all with open mouth. No listener
in the gardens of Stamboul could have found more rapture in a tale heard
amidst the perfume of roses and the voices of birds and tinkling of
fountains than Elbridge in following Abel's narrative, as they sat there
in the aromatic ammoniacal atmosphere of the stable, the grinding of the
horses' jaws keeping evenly on through it all, with now and then the
interruption of a stamping hoof, and at intervals a ringing crow from
the barnyard.

Elbridge stopped a minute to think, after Abel had finished.

"Who's took care o' them things that was on the hoss?" he said, gravely.

"Waael, Langden, he seemed to kin' o' think I'd ought to have 'em,--'n'
the Squire, he didn' seem to have no 'bjection; 'n' so,--waael, I
cal'late I sh'll jes' holt on to 'em myself; they a'n't good f'r much,
but they're cur'ous t' keep t' look at."

Mr. Venner's man did not appear much gratified by this arrangement,
especially as he had a shrewd suspicion that some of the ornaments of
the bridle were of precious metal, having made occasional examinations
of them with the edge of a file. But he did not see exactly what to do
about it, except to get them from Abel in the way of bargain.

"Waael, no,--they _a'n't_ good for much 'xcep' to look at. 'F y' ever rid
on that seddle once, y' wouldn' try it ag'in, very spry,--not 'f y'
c'd haaelp y'rsaaelf. I tried it,--darned 'f I sot daown f'r th' nex'
week,--eat all my victuals stan'in'. I sh'd like t' hev them things wal
enough to heng up 'n the stable; 'f y' want t' trade some day, fetch 'em
along daown."

Abel rather expected that Elbridge would have laid claim to the saddle
and bridle on the strength of some promise or other presumptive title,
and thought himself lucky to get off with only promising that he would
think abaout tradin'.

When Elbridge returned to the house, he found the family in a state of
great excitement. Mr. Venner had told Old Sophy, and she had informed
the other servants. Everybody knew what had happened, excepting Elsie.
Her father had charged them all to say nothing about it to her; he would
tell her, when she came down.

He heard her step at last,--a light, gliding step,--so light that her
coming was often unheard, except by those who perceived the faint rustle
that went with it. She was paler than common this morning, as she came
into her father's study.

After a few words of salutation, he said, quietly,--

"Elsie, my dear, your cousin Richard has left us."

She grew still paler, as she asked,--

"_Is he dead?_"

Dudley Venner started to see the expression with which Elsie put this

"He is living,--but dead to us from this day forward," said her father.

He proceeded to tell her, in a general way, the story he had just heard
from Abel. There could be no doubting it;--he remembered him as the
Doctor's man; and as Abel had seen all with his own eyes,--as Dick's
chamber, when unlocked with a spare key, was found empty, and his bed
had not been slept in, he accepted the whole account as true.

When he told of Dick's attempt on the young schoolmaster, ("You know
Mr. Langdon very well, Elsie,--a perfectly inoffensive young man, as I
understand,") Elsie turned her face away and slid along by the wall to
the window which looked out on the little grass-plot with the white
stone standing in it. Her father could not see her face, but he knew by
her movements that her dangerous mood was on her. When she heard the
sequel of the story, the discomfiture and capture of Dick, she turned
round for an instant, with a look of contempt and of something like
triumph upon her face. Her father saw that her cousin had become odious
to her. He knew well, by every change of her countenance, by her
movements, by every varying curve of her graceful figure, the
transitions from passion to repose, from fierce excitement to the dull
languor which often succeeded her threatening paroxysms.

She remained looking out at the window. A group of white fan-tailed
pigeons had lighted on the green plot before it and clustered about one
of their companions who lay on his back, fluttering in a strange way,
with outspread wings and twitching feet. Elsie uttered a faint cry;
these were her special favorites, and often fed from her hand. She threw
open the long window, sprang out, caught up the white fan-tail, and held
it to her bosom. The bird stretched himself out, and then lay still,
with open eyes, lifeless. She looked at him a moment, and, sliding in
through the open window and through the study, sought her own apartment,
where she locked herself in, and began to sob and moan like those that
weep. But the gracious solace of tears seemed to be denied her, and her
grief, like her anger, was a dull ache, longing, like that, to finish
itself with a fierce paroxysm, but wanting its natural outlet.

This seemingly trifling incident of the death of her favorite appeared
to change all the current of her thought. Whether it were the sight
of the dying bird, or the thought that her own agency might have been
concerned in it, or some deeper grief, which took this occasion to
declare itself,--some dark remorse or hopeless longing,--whatever it
might be, there was an unwonted tumult in her soul. To whom should
she go in her vague misery? Only to Him who knows all His creatures'
sorrows, and listens to the faintest human cry. She knelt, as she had
been taught to kneel from her childhood, and tried to pray. But her
thoughts refused to flow in the language of supplication. She could not
plead for herself as other women plead in their hours of anguish. She
rose like one who should stoop to drink, and find dust in the place of
water. Partly from restlessness, partly from an attraction she hardly
avowed to herself, she followed her usual habit and strolled listlessly
along to the school.

* * * * *

Of course everybody at the Institute was full of the terrible adventure
of the preceding evening. Mr. Bernard felt poorly enough; but he had
made it a point to show himself the next morning, as if nothing had
happened. Helen Darley knew nothing of it all until she had risen, when
the gossipy matron of the establishment made her acquainted with all its
details, embellished with such additional ornamental appendages as it
had caught up in transmission from lip to lip. She did not love to
betray her sensibilities, but she was pale and tremulous and very nearly
tearful when Mr. Bernard entered the sitting-room, showing on his
features traces of the violent shock he had received and the heavy
slumber from which he had risen with throbbing brows. What the poor
girl's impulse was, on seeing him, we need not inquire too curiously. If
he had been her own brother, she would have kissed him and cried on
his neck; but something held her back. There is no galvanism in
kiss-your-brother; it is copper against copper: but alien bloods develop
strange currents, when they flow close to each other, with only the
films that cover lip and cheek between them. Mr. Bernard, as some of us
may remember, violated the proprieties and laid himself open to reproach
by his enterprise with a bouncing village-girl, to whose rosy cheek an
honest smack was not probably an absolute novelty. He made it all up by
his discretion and good behavior now. He saw by Helen's moist eye and
trembling lip that her woman's heart was off its guard, and he knew,
by the infallible instinct of sex, that he should be forgiven, if
he thanked her for her sisterly sympathies in the most natural
way,--expressive, and at the same time economical of breath and
utterance. He would not give a false look to their friendship by any
such demonstration. Helen was a little older than he was, but the
aureole of young womanhood had not yet begun to fade from around her.
She was surrounded by that enchanted atmosphere into which the girl
walks with dreamy eyes, and out of which the woman passes with a
story written on her forehead. Some people think very little of these
refinements; they have not studied magnetism, and the law of the square
of the distance.

So Mr. Bernard thanked Helen for her interest without the aid of the
twenty-seventh letter of the alphabet,--the love labial,--the limping
consonant which it takes two to speak plain. Indeed, he scarcely let her
say a word, at first; for he saw that it was hard for her to conceal her
emotion. No wonder; he had come within a hair's-breadth of losing his
life, and he had been a very kind friend and a very dear companion to

There were some curious spiritual experiences connected with his last
evening's adventure, which were working very strongly in his mind. It
was borne in upon him irresistibly that he had been _dead_ since he had
seen Helen,--as dead as the son of the Widow of Nain before the bier was
touched and he sat up and began to speak. There was an interval
between two conscious moments which appeared to him like a temporary
annihilation, and the thoughts it suggested were worrying him with
strange perplexities.

He remembered seeing the dark figure on horseback rise in the saddle and
something leap from its hand. He remembered the thrill he felt as the
coil settled on his shoulders, and the sudden impulse which led him to
fire as he did. With the report of the pistol all became blank, until
he found himself in a strange, bewildered state, groping about for the
weapon, which he had a vague consciousness of having dropped. But,
according to Abel's account, there must have been an interval of some
minutes between these recollections, and he could not help asking, Where
was the mind, the soul, the thinking principle, all this time?

A man is stunned by a blow with a stick on the head. He becomes
unconscious. Another man gets a harder blow on the head from a bigger
stick, and it kills him. Does he become unconscious, too? If so, _when
does he come to his consciousness_? The man who has had a slight or
moderate blow comes to himself when the immediate shock passes off and
the organs begin to work again, or when a bit of the skull is pried up,
if that happens to be broken. Suppose the blow is hard enough to spoil
the brain and stop the play of the organs, what happens then?

A British captain was struck by a cannon-ball on the head, just as
he was giving an order, at the Battle of the Nile. Fifteen months
afterwards he was trephined at Greenwich Hospital, having been
insensible all that time. Immediately after the operation his
consciousness returned, and he at once began carrying out the order
he was giving when the shot struck him. Suppose he had never been
trephined, when would his intelligence have returned? When his breath
ceased and his heart stopped beating?

When Mr. Bernard said to Helen, "I have been dead since I saw you," it
startled her not a little; for his expression was that of perfect good
faith, and she feared that his mind was disordered. When he explained,
not as has been done just now, at length, but in a hurried, imperfect
way, the meaning of his strange assertion, and the fearful Sadduceeisms
which it had suggested to his mind, she looked troubled at first, and
then thoughtful. She did not feel able to answer all the difficulties he
raised, but she met them with that faith which is the strength as well
as the weakness of women,--which makes them weak in the hands of man,
but strong in the presence of the Unseen.

"It is a strange experience," she said; "but I once had something like
it. I fainted, and lost some five or ten minutes out of my life, as much
as if I had been dead. But when I came to myself, I was the same person
every way, in my recollections and character. So I suppose that loss of
consciousness is not death. And if I was born out of unconsciousness
into infancy with many _family_-traits of mind and body, I can believe,
from my own reason, even without help from Revelation, that I shall be
born again out of the unconsciousness of death with my _individual_
traits of mind and body. If death is, as it should seem to be, a loss of
consciousness, that does not shake my faith; for I have been put into a
body once already to fit me for living here, and I hope to be in some
way fitted after this life to enjoy a better one. But it is all trust in
God and in his Word. These are enough for me; I hope they are for you."

Helen was a minister's daughter, and familiar from her childhood with
this class of questions, especially with all the doubts and perplexities
which are sure to assail every thinking child bred in any inorganic
or not thoroughly vitalized faith,--as is too often the case with the
children of professional theologians. The kind of discipline they are
subjected to is like that of the Flat-Head Indian pappooses. At five or
ten or fifteen years old they put their hands up to their foreheads and
ask, What are they strapping down my brains in this way for? So they
tear off the sacred bandages of the great Flat-Head tribe, and there
follows a mighty rush of blood to the long-compressed region. This
accounts, in the most lucid manner, for those sudden freaks with which
certain children of this class astonish their worthy parents at the
period of life when they are growing fast, and, the frontal pressure
beginning to be felt as something intolerable, they tear off the holy

The hour for school came, and they went to the great hall for study.
It would not have occurred to Mr. Silas Peckham to ask his assistant
whether he felt well enough to attend to his duties; and Mr. Bernard
chose to be at his post. A little headache and confusion were all that
remained of his symptoms.

Later, in the course of the forenoon, Elsie Venner came and took her
place. The girls all stared at her,--naturally enough; for it was hardly
to have been expected that she would show herself, after such an event
in the household to which she belonged. Her expression was somewhat
peculiar, and, of course, was attributed to the shock her feelings had
undergone on hearing of the crime attempted by her cousin and daily
companion. When she was looking on her book, or on any indifferent
object, her countenance betrayed some inward disturbance, which knitted
her dark brows, and seemed to throw a deeper shadow over her features.
But, from time to time, she would lift her eyes toward Mr. Bernard, and
let them rest upon him, without a thought, seemingly, that she herself
was the subject of observation or remark. Then they seemed to lose their
cold glitter, and soften into a strange, dreamy tenderness. The deep
instincts of womanhood were striving to grope their way to the surface
of her being through all the alien influences which overlaid them.
She could be secret and cunning in working out any of her dangerous
impulses, but she did not know how to mask the unwonted feeling which
fixed her eyes and her thoughts upon the only person who had ever
reached the spring of her hidden sympathies.

The girls all looked at Elsie, whenever they could steal a glance
unperceived, and many of them were struck with this singular expression
her features wore. They had long whispered it around among each other
that she had a liking for the master; but there were too many of them of
whom something like this could be said, to make it very remarkable. Now,
however, when so many little hearts were fluttering at the thought
of the peril through which the handsome young master had so recently
passed, they were more alive than ever to the supposed relation between
him and the dark school-girl. Some had supposed there was a mutual
attachment between them; there was a story that they were secretly
betrothed, in accordance with the rumor which had been current in the
village. At any rate, some conflict was going on in that still, remote,
clouded soul, and all the girls who looked upon her face were impressed
and awed as they had never been before by the shadows that passed over

One of these girls was more strongly arrested by Elsie's look than the
others. This was a delicate, pallid creature, with a high forehead, and
wide-open pupils, which looked as if they could take in all the shapes
that flit in what, to common eyes, is darkness,--a girl said to be
_clairvoyant_ under certain influences. In the _recess_, as it was
called, or interval of suspended studies in the middle of the forenoon,
this girl carried her autograph-book,--for she had one of those
indispensable appendages of the boarding-school miss of every
degree,--and asked Elsie to write her name in it. She had an
irresistible feeling, that, sooner or later, and perhaps very soon,
there would attach an unusual interest to this autograph. Elsie took the
pen and wrote, in her sharp Italian hand,

_Elsie Venner, Infelix._

It was a remembrance, doubtless, of the forlorn queen of the "Aeneid";
but its coming to her thought in this way confirmed the sensitive
school-girl in her fears for Elsie, and she let fall a tear upon the
page before she closed it.

Of course, the keen and practised observation of Helen Darley could not
fail to notice the change of Elsie's manner and expression. She had long
seen that she was attracted to the young master, and had thought, as
the old Doctor did, that any impression which acted upon her affections
might be the means of awakening a new life in her singularly isolated
nature. Now, however, the concentration of the poor girl's thoughts upon
the one object which had had power to reach her deeper sensibilities was
so painfully revealed in her features, that Helen began to fear once
more, lest Mr. Bernard, in escaping the treacherous violence of an
assassin, had been left to the equally dangerous consequences of a
violent, engrossing passion in the breast of a young creature whose love
it would be ruin to admit and might be deadly to reject. She knew her
own heart too well to fear that any jealousy might mingle with her new
apprehensions. It was understood between Bernard and Helen that they
were too good friends to tamper with the silences and edging proximities
of love-making. She knew, too, the simply human, not masculine, interest
which Mr. Bernard took in Elsie; he had been frank with Helen, and more
than satisfied her that with all the pity and sympathy which overflowed
his soul, when he thought of the stricken girl, there mingled not one
drop of such love as a youth may feel for a maiden.

It may help the reader to gain some understanding of the anomalous
nature of Elsie Venner, if we look with Helen into Mr. Bernard's
opinions and feelings with reference to her, as they had shaped
themselves in his consciousness at the period of which we are speaking.

At first he had been impressed by her wild beauty, and the contrast of
all her looks and ways with those of the girls around her. Presently a
sense of some ill-defined personal element, which half attracted and
half repelled those who looked upon her, and especially those on whom
she looked, began to make itself obvious to him, as he soon found it was
painfully sensible to his more susceptible companion, the lady-teacher.
It was not merely in the cold light of her diamond eyes, but in all her
movements, in her graceful postures as she sat, in her costume, and, he
sometimes thought, even in her speech, that this obscure and exceptional
character betrayed itself. When Helen had said, that, if they were
living in times when human beings were subject to possession, she should
have thought there was something not human about Elsie, it struck an
unsuspected vein of thought in his own mind, which he hated to put in
words, but which was continually trying to articulate itself among the
dumb thoughts which lie under the perpetual stream of mental whispers.

Mr. Bernard's professional training had made him slow to accept
marvellous stories and many forms of superstition. Yet, as a man of
science, he well knew that just on the verge of the demonstrable facts
of physics and physiology there is a nebulous border-land which what
is called "common sense" perhaps does wisely not to enter, but which
uncommon sense, or the fine apprehension of privileged intelligences,
may cautiously explore, and in so doing find itself behind the scenes
which make up for the gazing world the show which is called Nature.

It was with something of this finer perception, perhaps with some degree
of imaginative exaltation, that he set himself to solving the problem
of Elsie's influence to attract and repel those around her. His letter
already submitted to the reader hints in what direction his thoughts
were disposed to turn. Here was a magnificent organization, superb
in vigorous womanhood, with a beauty such as never comes but after
generations of culture; yet through all this rich nature there ran some
alien current of influence, sinuous and dark, as when a clouded streak
seams the white marble of a perfect statue.

It would be needless to repeat the particular suggestions which had come
into his mind, as they must probably have come into those of the reader
who has noted the singularities of Elsie's tastes and personal traits.
The images which certain poets had dreamed of seemed to have become a
reality before his own eyes. Then came that unexplained adventure of The
Mountain,--almost like a dream in recollection, yet assuredly real in
some of its main incidents,--with all that it revealed or hinted. This
girl did not fear to visit the dreaded region, where danger lurked in
every nook and beneath every tuft of leaves. Did the tenants of the
fatal ledge recognize some mysterious affinity which made them tributary
to the cold glitter of her diamond eyes? Was she from her birth one of
those frightful children, such as he had read about, and the Professor
had told him of, who form unnatural friendships with cold, writhing
ophidians? There was no need of so unwelcome a thought as this; she had
drawn him away from the dark opening in the rock at the moment when he
seemed to be threatened by one of its malignant denizens; that was all
he could be sure of; the counter-fascination might have been a dream, a
fancy, a coincidence. All wonderful things soon grow doubtful in our own
minds, as do even common events, if great interests prove suddenly to
attach to their truth or falsehood.

--I, who am telling of these occurrences, saw a friend in the great
city, on the morning of a most memorable disaster, hours after the time
when the train which carried its victims to their doom had left. I
talked with him, and was for some minutes, at least, in his company.
When I reached home, I found that the story had gone before that he was
among the lost, and I alone could contradict it to his weeping friends
and relatives. I did contradict it; but, alas! I began soon to doubt
myself, penetrated by the contagion of their solicitude; my recollection
began to question itself; the order of events became dislocated; and
when I heard that he had reached home in safety, the relief was almost
as great to me as to those who had expected to see their own brother's
face no more.

Mr. Bernard was disposed, then, not to accept the thought of any odious
personal relationship of the kind which had suggested itself to him when
he wrote the letter referred to. That the girl had something of the
feral nature, her wild, lawless rambles in forbidden and blasted regions
of The Mountain at all hours, her familiarity with the lonely haunts
where any other human foot was so rarely seen, proved clearly enough.
But the more he thought of all her strange instincts and modes of being,
the more he became convinced that whatever alien impulse swayed her will
and modulated or diverted or displaced her affections came from some
impression that reached far back into the past, before the days when the
faithful Old Sophy had rocked her in the cradle. He believed that she
had brought her ruling tendency, whatever it was, into the world with

When the school was over and the girls had all gone, Helen lingered in
the school-room to speak with Mr. Bernard.

"Did you remark Elsie's ways this forenoon?" she said.

"No, not particularly; I have not noticed anything as sharply as I
commonly do; my head has been a little queer, and I have been thinking
over what we were talking about, and how near I came to solving the
great problem which every day makes clear to such multitudes of people.
What about Elsie?"

"Bernard, her liking for you is growing into a passion. I have studied
girls for a long while, and I know the difference between their passing
fancies and their real emotions. I told you, you remember, that Rosa
would have to leave us; we barely missed a scene, I think, if not a
whole tragedy, by her going at the right moment. But Elsie is infinitely


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