Elsie Venner
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Physician and Poet)

Part 1 out of 8

This etext was produced by David Widger


By Oliver Wendell Holmes


This tale was published in successive parts in the "Atlantic
Monthly," under the name of "The Professor's Story," the first number
having appeared in the third week of December, 1859. The critic who
is curious in coincidences must refer to the Magazine for the date of
publication of the chapter he is examining.

In calling this narrative a "romance," the Author wishes to make sure
of being indulged in the common privileges of the poetic license.
Through all the disguise of fiction a grave scientific doctrine may
be detected lying beneath some of the delineations of character. He
has used this doctrine as a part of the machinery of his story
without pledging his absolute belief in it to the extent to which it
is asserted or implied. It was adopted as a convenient medium of
truth rather than as an accepted scientific conclusion. The reader
must judge for himself what is the value of various stories cited
from old authors. He must decide how much of what has been told he
can accept either as having actually happened, or as possible and
more or less probable. The Author must be permitted, however, to say
here, in his personal character, and as responsible to the students
of the human mind and body, that since this story has been in
progress he has received the most startling confirmation of the
possibility of the existence of a character like that which he had
drawn as a purely imaginary conception in Elsie Venner.

BOSTON, January, 1861.


This is the story which a dear old lady, my very good friend, spoke
of as "a medicated novel," and quite properly refused to read. I was
always pleased with her discriminating criticism. It is a medicated
novel, and if she wished to read for mere amusement and helpful
recreation there was no need of troubling herself with a story
written with a different end in view.

This story has called forth so many curious inquiries that it seems
worth while to answer the more important questions which have
occurred to its readers.

In the first place, it is not based on any well-ascertained
physiological fact. There are old fables about patients who have
barked like dogs or crowed like cocks, after being bitten or wounded
by those animals. There is nothing impossible in the idea that
Romulus and Remus may have imbibed wolfish traits of character from
the wet nurse the legend assigned them, but the legend is not sound
history, and the supposition is nothing more than a speculative
fancy. Still, there is a limbo of curious evidence bearing on the
subject of pre-natal influences sufficient to form the starting-point
of an imaginative composition.

The real aim, of the story was to test the doctrine of "original sin"
and human responsibility for the disordered volition coming under
that technical denomination. Was Elsie Venner, poisoned by the venom
of a crotalus before she was born, morally responsible for the
"volitional" aberrations, which translated into acts become what is
known as sin, and, it may be, what is punished as crime? If, on
presentation of the evidence, she becomes by the verdict of the human
conscience a proper object of divine pity and not of divine wrath, as
a subject of moral poisoning, wherein lies the difference between her
position at the bar of judgment, human or divine, and that of the
unfortunate victim who received a moral poison from a remote ancestor
before he drew his first breath?

It might be supposed that the character of Elsie Veneer was suggested
by some of the fabulous personages of classical or mediaeval story.
I remember that a French critic spoke of her as cette pauvre
Melusine. I ought to have been ashamed, perhaps, but I had, not the
slightest idea who Melusina was until I hunted up the story, and
found that she was a fairy, who for some offence was changed every
Saturday to a serpent from her waist downward. I was of course
familiar with Keats's Lamia, another imaginary being, the subject of
magical transformation into a serpent. My story was well advanced
before Hawthorne's wonderful "Marble Faun," which might be thought to
have furnished me with the hint of a mixed nature,--human, with an
alien element,--was published or known to me. So that my poor
heroine found her origin, not in fable or romance, but in a
physiological conception fertilized by a theological dogma.

I had the dissatisfaction of enjoying from a quiet corner a well-
meant effort to dramatize "Elsie Veneer." Unfortunately, a
physiological romance, as I knew beforehand, is hardly adapted for
the melodramatic efforts of stage representation. I can therefore
say, with perfect truth, that I was not disappointed. It is to the
mind, and not to the senses, that such a story must appeal, and all
attempts to render the character and events objective on the stage,
or to make them real by artistic illustrations, are almost of
necessity failures. The story has won the attention and enjoyed the
favor of a limited class of readers, and if it still continues to
interest others of the same tastes and habits of thought I can ask
nothing more of it.

January 23, 1883.


I have nothing of importance to add to the two preceding Prefaces.
The continued call for this story, which was not written for
popularity, but with a very serious purpose, has somewhat surprised
and, I need not add, gratified me. I can only restate the motive
idea of the tale in a little different language. Believing, as I do,
that our prevailing theologies are founded upon an utterly false view
of the relation of man to his Creator, I attempted to illustrate the
doctrine of inherited moral responsibility for other people's
misbehavior. I tried to make out a case for my poor Elsie, whom the
most hardened theologian would find it hard to blame for her
inherited ophidian tastes and tendencies. How, then, is he to blame
mankind for inheriting "sinfulness" from their first parents? May
not the serpent have bitten Eve before the birth of Cain, her first-
born? That would have made an excuse for Cain's children, as Elsie's
ante-natal misfortune made an excuse for her. But what difference
does it make in the child's responsibility whether his inherited
tendencies come from a snake-bite or some other source which he knew
nothing about and could not have prevented from acting? All this is
plain enough, and the only use of the story is to bring the dogma of
inherited guilt and its consequences into a clearer point of view.

But, after all, the tale must have proved readable as a story to
account for the large number of editions which it has reached.

Some readers have been curious about the locality the writer was
thought to have in view. No particular place was intended. Some of
the characters may have been thought to have been drawn from life;
but the personages mentioned are mostly composites, like Mr. Galton's
compound photographic likenesses, and are not calculated to provoke
scandal or suits for libel.

O. W. H.

BEVERLY FARMS, MASS., August 3, 1891.




There is nothing in New England corresponding at all to the feudal
aristocracies of the Old World. Whether it be owing to the stock
from which we were derived, or to the practical working of our
institutions, or to the abrogation of the technical "law of honor,"
which draws a sharp line between the personally responsible class of
"gentlemen" and the unnamed multitude of those who are not expected
to risk their lives for an abstraction,--whatever be the cause, we
have no such aristocracy here as that which grew up out of the
military systems of the Middle Ages.

What we mean by "aristocracy" is merely the richer part of the
community, that live in the tallest houses, drive real carriages,
(not "kerridges,") kidglove their hands, and French-bonnet their
ladies' heads, give parties where the persons who call them by the
above title are not invited, and have a provokingly easy way of
dressing, walking, talking, and nodding to people, as if they felt
entirely at home, and would not be embarrassed in the least, if they
met the Governor, or even the President of the United States, face to
face. Some of these great folks are really well-bred, some of them
are only purse-proud and assuming,--but they form a class, and are
named as above in the common speech.

It is in the nature of large fortunes to diminish rapidly, when
subdivided and distributed. A million is the unit of wealth, now and
here in America. It splits into four handsome properties; each of
these into four good inheritances; these, again, into scanty
competences for four ancient maidens,--with whom it is best the
family should die out, unless it can begin again as its great-
grandfather did. Now a million is a kind of golden cheese, which
represents in a compendious form the summer's growth of a fat meadow
of craft or commerce; and as this kind of meadow rarely bears more
than one crop, it is pretty certain that sons and grandsons will not
get another golden cheese out of it, whether they milk the same cows
or turn in new ones. In other words, the millionocracy, considered
in a large way, is not at all an affair of persons and families, but
a perpetual fact of money with a variable human element, which a
philosopher might leave out of consideration without falling into
serious error. Of course, this trivial and, fugitive fact of
personal wealth does not create a permanent class, unless some
special means are taken to arrest the process of disintegration in
the third generation. This is so rarely done, at least successfully,
that one need not live a very long life to see most of the rich
families he knew in childhood more or less reduced, and the millions
shifted into the hands of the country-boys who were sweeping stores
and carrying parcels when the now decayed gentry were driving their
chariots, eating their venison over silver chafing-dishes, drinking
Madeira chilled in embossed coolers, wearing their hair in powder,
and casing their legs in long boots with silken tassels.

There is, however, in New England, an aristocracy, if you choose to
call it so, which has a far greater character of permanence. It has
grown to be a caste,--not in any odious sense;--but, by the
repetition of the same influences, generation after generation, it
has acquired a distinct organization and physiognomy, which not to
recognize is mere stupidity, and not to be willing to describe would
show a distrust of the good-nature and intelligence of our readers,
who like to have us see all we can and tell all we see.

If you will look carefully at any class of students in one of our
colleges, you will have no difficulty in selecting specimens of two
different aspects of youthful manhood. Of course I shall choose
extreme cases to illustrate the contrast between them. In the first,
the figure is perhaps robust, but often otherwise,--inelegant, partly
from careless attitudes, partly from ill-dressing,--the face is
uncouth in feature, or at least common,--the mouth coarse and
unformed,--the eye unsympathetic, even if bright,--the movements of
the face are clumsy, like those of the limbs,--the voice is
unmusical,--and the enunciation as if the words were coarse castings,
instead of fine carvings. The youth of the other aspect is commonly
slender, his face is smooth, and apt to be pallid,--his features are
regular and of a certain delicacy,--his eye is bright and quick,--his
lips play over the thought he utters as a pianist's fingers dance
over their music, and his whole air, though it may be timid, and even
awkward, has nothing clownish. If you are a teacher, you know what
to expect from each of these young men. With equal willingness, the
first will be slow at learning; the second will take to his books as
a pointer or a setter to his field-work.

The first youth is the common country-boy, whose race has been bred
to bodily labor. Nature has adapted the family organization to the
kind of life it has lived. The hands and feet by constant use have
got more than their share of development,--the organs of thought and
expression less than their share. The finer instincts are latent and
must be developed. A youth of this kind is raw material in its first
stage of elaboration. You must not expect too much of any such.
Many of them have force of will and character, and become
distinguished in practical life; but very few of them ever become
great scholars. A scholar is, in a large proportion of cases, the
son of scholars or scholarly persons.

That is exactly what the other young man is. He comes of the Brahmin
caste of New England. This is the harmless, inoffensive, untitled
aristocracy referred to, and which many readers will at once
acknowledge. There are races of scholars among us, in which aptitude
for learning, and all these marks of it I have spoken of, are
congenital and hereditary. Their names are always on some college
catalogue or other. They break out every generation or two in some
learned labor which calls them up after they seem to have died out.
At last some newer name takes their place, it maybe,--but you inquire
a little and you find it is the blood of the Edwardses or the
Chauncys or the Ellerys or some of the old historic scholars,
disguised under the altered name of a female descendant.

There probably is not an experienced instructor anywhere in our
Northern States who will not recognize at once the truth of this
general distinction. But the reader who has never been a teacher
will very probably object, that some of our most illustrious public
men have come direct from the homespun-clad class of the people,--and
he may, perhaps, even find a noted scholar or two whose parents were
masters of the English alphabet, but of no other.

It is not fair to pit a few chosen families against the great
multitude of those who are continually working their way up into the
intellectual classes. The results which are habitually reached by
hereditary training are occasionally brought about without it. There
are natural filters as well as artificial ones; and though the great
rivers are commonly more or less turbid, if you will look long
enough, you may find a spring that sparkles as no water does which
drips through your apparatus of sands and sponges. So there are
families which refine themselves into intellectual aptitude without
having had much opportunity for intellectual acquirements. A series
of felicitous crosses develops an improved strain of blood, and
reaches its maximum perfection at last in the large uncombed youth
who goes to college and startles the hereditary class-leaders by
striding past them all. That is Nature's republicanism; thank God
for it, but do not let it make you illogical. The race of the
hereditary scholar has exchanged a certain portion of its animal
vigor for its new instincts, and it is hard to lead men without a
good deal of animal vigor. The scholar who comes by Nature's special
grace from an unworn stock of broad-chested sires and deep-bosomed
mothers must always overmatch an equal intelligence with a
compromised and lowered vitality. A man's breathing and digestive
apparatus (one is tempted to add muscular) are just as important to
him on the floor of the Senate as his thinking organs. You broke
down in your great speech, did you? Yes, your grandfather had an
attack of dyspepsia in '82, after working too hard on his famous
Election Sermon. All this does not touch the main fact: our scholars
come chiefly from a privileged order, just as our best fruits come
from well-known grafts, though now and then a seedling apple, like
the Northern Spy, or a seedling pear, like the Seckel, springs from a
nameless ancestry and grows to be the pride of all the gardens in the

Let me introduce you to a young man who belongs to the Brahmin caste
of New England.



Bernard C. Langdon, a young man attending Medical Lectures at the
school connected with one of our principal colleges, remained after
the Lecture one day and wished to speak with the Professor. He was a
student of mark,--first favorite of his year, as they say of the
Derby colts. There are in every class half a dozen bright faces to
which the teacher naturally, directs his discourse, and by the
intermediation of whose attention he seems to hold that of the mass
of listeners. Among these some one is pretty sure to take the lead,
by virtue of a personal magnetism, or some peculiarity of expression,
which places the face in quick sympathetic relations with the
lecturer. This was a young man with such a face; and I found,--for
you have guessed that I was the "Professor" above-mentioned,--that,
when there was anything difficult to be explained, or when I was
bringing out some favorite illustration of a nice point, (as, for
instance; when I compared the cell-growth, by which Nature builds up
a plant or an animal, to the glassblower's similar mode of
beginning,--always with a hollow sphere, or vesicle, whatever he is
going to make,) I naturally looked in his face and gauged my success
by its expression.

It was a handsome face,--a little too pale, perhaps, and would have
borne something more of fulness without becoming heavy. I put the
organization to which it belongs in Section B of Class 1 of my Anglo-
American Anthropology (unpublished). The jaw in this section is but
slightly narrowed,--just enough to make the width of the forehead
tell more decidedly. The moustache often grows vigorously, but the
whiskers are thin. The skin is like that of Jacob, rather than like
Esau's. One string of the animal nature has been taken away, but
this gives only a greater predominance to the intellectual chords.
To see just how the vital energy has been toned down, you must
contrast one of this section with a specimen of Section A of the same
class,--say, for instance, one of the old-fashioned, full-whiskered,
red-faced, roaring, big Commodores of the last generation, whom you
remember, at least by their portraits, in ruffled shirts, looking as
hearty as butchers and as plucky as bull-terriers, with their hair
combed straight up from their foreheads, which were not commonly very
high or broad. The special form of physical life I have been
describing gives you a right to expect more delicate perceptions and
a more reflective, nature than you commonly find in shaggy-throated
men, clad in heavy suits of muscles.

The student lingered in the lecture-room, looking all the time as if
he wanted to say something in private, and waiting for two or three
others, who were still hanging about, to be gone.

Something is wrong!---I said to myself, when I noticed his
expression.--Well, Mr. Langdon,--I said to him, when we were
alone,--can I do anything for you to-day?

You can, Sir,--he said.---I am going to leave the class, for the
present, and keep school.

Why, that 's a pity, and you so near graduating! You'd better stay
and finish this course and take your degree in the spring, rather
than break up your whole plan of study.

I can't help myself, Sir,--the young man answered.---There 's trouble
at home, and they cannot keep me here as they have done. So I must
look out for myself for a while. It's what I've done before, and am
ready to do again. I came to ask you for a certificate of my fitness
to teach a common school, or a high school, if you think I am up to
that. Are you willing to give it to me?

Willing? Yes, to be sure,--but I don't want you to go. Stay; we'll
make it easy for you. There's a fund will do something for you,
perhaps. Then you can take both the annual prizes, if you like,--and
claim them in money, if you want that more than medals.

I have thought it all over,--he answered,--and have pretty much made
up my mind to go.

A perfectly gentlemanly young man, of courteous address and mild
utterance, but means at least as much as he says. There are some
people whose rhetoric consists of a slight habitual under-statement.
I often tell Mrs. Professor that one of her "I think it's sos" is
worth the Bible-oath of all the rest of the household that they "know
it's so." When you find a person a little better than his word, a
little more liberal than his promise, a little more than borne out in
his statement by his facts, a little larger in deed than in speech,
you recognize a kind of eloquence in that person's utterance not laid
down in Blair or Campbell.

This was a proud fellow, self-trusting, sensitive, with family-
recollections that made him unwilling to accept the kind of aid which
many students would have thankfully welcomed. I knew him too well to
urge him, after the few words which implied that he was determined to
go. Besides, I have great confidence in young men who believe in
themselves, and are accustomed to rely on their own resources from an
early period. When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great
bully, the World, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often
surprised to find it come off in his hand, and that it was only tied
on to scare away timid adventurers. I have seen young men more than
once, who came to a great city without a single friend, support
themselves and pay for their education, lay up money in a few years,
grow rich enough to travel, and establish themselves in life, without
ever asking a dollar of any person which they had not earned. But
these are exceptional cases. There are horse-tamers, born so,--as we
all know; there are woman-tamers, who bewitch the sex as the pied
piper bedeviled the children of Hamelin; and there are world-tamers,
who can make any community, even a Yankee one, get down and let them
jump on its back as easily as Mr. Rarey saddled Cruiser.

Whether Langdon was of this sort or not I could not say positively;
but he had spirit, and, as I have said, a family-pride which would
not let him be dependent. The New England Brahmin caste often gets
blended with connections of political influence or commercial
distinction. It is a charming thing for the scholar, when his
fortune carries him in this way into some of the "old families" who
have fine old houses, and city-lots that have risen in the market,
and names written in all the stock-books of all the dividend-paying
companies. His narrow study expands into a stately library, his
books are counted by thousands instead of hundreds, and his favorites
are dressed in gilded calf in place of plebeian sheepskin or its
pauper substitutes of cloth and paper.

The Reverend Jedediah Langdon, grandfather of our young gentleman,
had made an advantageous alliance of this kind. Miss Dorothea
Wentworth had read one of his sermons which had been printed "by
request," and became deeply interested in the young author, whom she
had never seen. Out of this circumstance grew a correspondence, an
interview, a declaration, a matrimonial alliance, and a family of
half a dozen children. Wentworth Langdon, Esquire, was the oldest of
these, and lived in the old family-mansion. Unfortunately, that
principle of the diminution of estates by division, to which I have
referred, rendered it somewhat difficult to maintain the
establishment upon the fractional income which the proprietor
received from his share of the property. Wentworth Langdon, Esq.,
represented a certain intermediate condition of life not at all
infrequent in our old families. He was the connecting link between
the generation which lived in ease, and even a kind of state, upon
its own resources, and the new brood, which must live mainly by its
wits or industry, and make itself rich, or shabbily subside into that
lower stratum known to social geologists by a deposit of
Kidderminster carpets and the peculiar aspect of the fossils
constituting the family furniture and wardrobe. This slack-water
period of a race, which comes before the rapid ebb of its prosperity,
is familiar to all who live in cities. There are no more quiet,
inoffensive people than these children of rich families, just above
the necessity of active employment, yet not in a condition to place
their own children advantageously, if they happen to have families.
Many of them are content to live unmarried. Some mend their broken
fortunes by prudent alliances, and some leave a numerous progeny to
pass into the obscurity from which their ancestors emerged; so that
you may see on handcarts and cobblers' stalls names which, a few
generations back, were upon parchments with broad seals, and
tombstones with armorial bearings.

In a large city, this class of citizens is familiar to us in the
streets. They are very courteous in their salutations; they have
time enough to bow and take their hats off,--which, of course, no
businessman can afford to do. Their beavers are smoothly brushed,
and their boots well polished; all their appointments are tidy; they
look the respectable walking gentleman to perfection. They are prone
to habits,--they frequent reading-rooms,--insurance-offices,--they
walk the same streets at the same hours,--so that one becomes
familiar with their faces and persons, as a part of the street-

There is one curious circumstance, that all city-people must have
noticed, which is often illustrated in our experience of the slack-
water gentry. We shall know a certain person by his looks,
familiarly, for years, but never have learned his name. About this
person we shall have accumulated no little circumstantial knowledge;
--thus, his face, figure, gait, his mode of dressing, of saluting,
perhaps even of speaking, may be familiar to us; yet who he is we
know not. In another department of our consciousness, there is a
very familiar name, which we have never found the person to match.
We have heard it so often, that it has idealized itself, and become
one of that multitude of permanent shapes which walk the chambers of
the brain in velvet slippers in the company of Falstaff and Hamlet
and General Washington and Mr. Pickwick. Sometimes the person dies,
but the name lives on indefinitely. But now and then it happens,
perhaps after years of this independent existence of the name and its
shadowy image in the brain, on the one part, and the person and all
its real attributes, as we see them daily, on the other, that some
accident reveals their relation, and we find the name we have carried
so long in our memory belongs to the person we have known so long as
a fellow-citizen. Now the slack--water gentry are among the persons
most likely to be the subjects of this curious divorce of title and
reality,--for the reason, that, playing no important part in the
community, there is nothing to tie the floating name to the actual
individual, as is the case with the men who belong in any way to the
public, while yet their names have a certain historical currency, and
we cannot help meeting them, either in their haunts, or going to and
from them.

To this class belonged Wentworth Langdon, Esq. He had been "dead-
headed" into the world some fifty years ago, and had sat with his
hands in his pockets staring at the show ever since. I shall not
tell you, for reasons before hinted, the whole name of the place in
which he lived. I will only point you in the right direction, by
saying that there are three towns lying in a line with each other, as
you go "down East," each of them with a Port in its name, and each of
them having a peculiar interest which gives it individuality, in
addition to the Oriental character they have in common. I need not
tell you that these towns are Newburyport, Portsmouth, and Portland.
The Oriental character they have in common consists in their large,
square, palatial mansions, with sunny gardens round them. The two
first have seen better days. They are in perfect harmony with the
condition of weakened, but not impoverished, gentility. Each of them
is a "paradise of demi-fortunes." Each of them is of that
intermediate size between a village and a city which any place has
outgrown when the presence of a well-dressed stranger walking up and
down the main street ceases to be a matter of public curiosity and
private speculation, as frequently happens, during the busier months
of the year, in considerable commercial centres like Salem. They
both have grand old recollections to fall back upon,--times when they
looked forward to commercial greatness, and when the portly gentlemen
in cocked hats, who built their now decaying wharves and sent out
their ships all over the world, dreamed that their fast-growing port
was to be the Tyre or the Carthage of the rich British Colony. Great
houses, like that once lived in by Lord Timothy Dexter, in
Newburyport, remain as evidence of the fortunes amassed in these
places of old. Other mansions--like the Rockingham House in
Portsmouth (look at the white horse's tail before you mount the broad
staircase)--show that there was not only wealth, but style and state,
in these quiet old towns during the last century. It is not with any
thought of pity or depreciation that we speak of them as in a certain
sense decayed towns; they did not fulfil their early promise of
expansion, but they remain incomparably the most interesting places
of their size in any of the three northernmost New England States.
They have even now prosperity enough to keep them in good condition,
and offer the most attractive residences for quiet families, which,
if they had been English, would have lived in a palazzo at Genoa or
Pisa, or some other Continental Newburyport or Portsmouth.

As for the last of the three Ports, or Portland, it is getting too
prosperous to be as attractive as its less northerly neighbors.
Meant for a fine old town, to ripen like a Cheshire cheese within its
walls of ancient rind, burrowed by crooked alleys and mottled with
venerable mould, it seems likely to sacrifice its mellow future to a
vulgar material prosperity. Still it remains invested with many of
its old charms, as yet, and will forfeit its place among this
admirable trio only when it gets a hotel with unequivocal marks of
having been built and organized in the present century.

--It was one of the old square palaces of the North, in which Bernard
Langdon, the son of Wentworth, was born. If he had had the luck to
be an only child, he might have lived as his father had done, letting
his meagre competence smoulder on almost without consuming, like the
fuel in an air-tight stove. But after Master Bernard came Miss
Dorothea Elizabeth Wentworth Langdon, and then Master William
Pepperell Langdon, and others, equally well named,--a string of them,
looking, when they stood in a row in prayer-time, as if they would
fit a set of Pandean pipes, of from three feet upward in dimensions.
The door of the air-tight stove has to be opened, under such
circumstances, you may well suppose! So it happened that our young
man had been obliged, from an early period, to do something to
support himself, and found himself stopped short in his studies by
the inability of the good people at home to furnish him the present
means of support as a student.

You will understand now why the young man wanted me to give him a
certificate of his fitness to teach, and why I did not choose to urge
him to accept the aid which a meek country-boy from a family without
ante-Revolutionary recollections would have thankfully received. Go
he must,--that was plain enough. He would not be content otherwise.
He was not, however, to give up his studies; and as it is customary
to allow half-time to students engaged in school-keeping,--that is,
to count a year, so employed, if the student also keep on with his
professional studies, as equal to six months of the three years he is
expected to be under an instructor before applying for his degree,--
he would not necessarily lose more than a few months of time. He had
a small library of professional books, which he could take with him.

So he left my teaching and that of my estimable colleagues, carrying
with him my certificate, that Mr. Bernard C. Langdon was a young
gentleman of excellent moral character, of high intelligence and good
education, and that his services would be of great value in any
school, academy, or other institution, where young persons of-either
sex were to be instructed.

I confess, that expression, "either sex," ran a little thick, as I
may say, from my pen. For, although the young man bore a very fair
character, and there was no special cause for doubting his
discretion, I considered him altogether too good-looking, in the
first place, to be let loose in a roomful of young girls. I didn't
want him to fall in love just then--and if half a dozen girls fell in
love with him, as they most assuredly would, if brought into too near
relations with him, why, there was no telling what gratitude and
natural sensibility might bring about.

Certificates are, for the most part, like ostrich-eggs; the giver
never knows what is hatched out of them. But once in a thousand
times they act as curses are said to,--come home to roost. Give them
often enough, until it gets to be a mechanical business, and, some
day or other, you will get caught warranting somebody's ice not to
melt in any climate, or somebody's razors to be safe in the hands of
the youngest children.

I had an uneasy feeling, after giving this certificate. It might be
all right enough; but if it happened to end badly, I should always
reproach myself. There was a chance, certainly, that it would lead
him or others into danger or wretchedness. Any one who looked at
this young man could not fail to see that he was capable of
fascinating and being fascinated. Those large, dark eyes of his
would sink into the white soul of a young girl as the black cloth
sunk into the snow in Franklin's famous experiment. Or, on the other
hand, if the rays of a passionate nature should ever be concentrated
on them, they would be absorbed into the very depths of his nature,
and then his blood would turn to flame and burn his life out of him,
until his cheeks grew as white as the ashes that cover a burning

I wish I had not said either sex in my certificate. An academy for
young gentlemen, now; that sounds cool and unimaginative. A boys'
school, that would be a very good place for him;--some of them are
pretty rough, but there is nerve enough in that old Wentworth strain
of blood; he can give any country fellow, of the common stock, twenty
pounds, and hit him out of time in ten minutes. But to send such a
young fellow as that out a girl's-nesting! to give this falcon a free
pass into all the dove-cotes! I was a fool,--that's all.

I brooded over the mischief which might come out of these two words
until it seemed to me that they were charged with destiny. I could
hardly sleep for thinking what a train I might have been laying,
which might take a spark any day, and blow up nobody knows whose
peace or prospects. What I dreaded most was one of those miserable
matrimonial misalliances where a young fellow who does not know
himself as yet flings his magnificent future into the checked apron-
lap of some fresh-faced, half-bred country-girl, no more fit to be
mated with him than her father's horse to go in double harness with
Flora Temple. To think of the eagle's wings, being clipped so that
he shall never lift himself over the farm-yard fence! Such things
happen, and always must,--because, as one of us said awhile ago, a
man always loves, a woman, and a woman a man, unless some good reason
exists to the contrary. You think yourself a very fastidious young
man, my friend; but there are probably at least five-thousand young
women in these United States, any one of whom you would certainly
marry, if you were thrown much into her company, and nobody more
attractive were near, and she had no objection. And you, my dear
young lady, justly pride yourself on your discerning delicacy; but if
I should say that there are twenty thousand young men, any one of
whom, if he offered his hand and heart under favorable circumstances,
you would

"First endure, then pity, then embrace,"

I should be much more imprudent than I mean to be, and you would, no
doubt, throw down a story in which I hope to interest you.

I had settled it in my mind that this young fellow had a career
marked out for him. He should begin in the natural way, by taking
care of poor patients in one of the public charities, and work his
way up to a better kind of practice,--better, that is, in the vulgar,
worldly sense. The great and good Boerhaave used to say, as I
remember very well, that the poor were his best patients; for God was
their paymaster. But everybody is not as patient as Boerhaave, nor
as deserving; so that the rich, though not, perhaps, the best
patients, are good enough for common practitioners. I suppose
Boerhaave put up with them when he could not get poor ones, as he
left his daughter two millions of florins when he died.

Now if this young man once got into the wide streets, he would sweep
them clear of his rivals of the same standing; and as I was getting
indifferent to business, and old Dr. Kilham was growing careless, and
had once or twice prescribed morphine when he meant quinine, there
would soon be an opening into the Doctor's Paradise,--the streets
with only one side to them. Then I would have him strike a bold
stroke,--set up a nice little coach, and be driven round like a
first-class London doctor, instead of coasting about in a shabby one-
horse concern and casting anchor opposite his patients' doors like a
Cape Ann fishing-smack. By the time he was thirty, he would have
knocked the social pawns out of his way, and be ready to challenge a
wife from the row of great pieces in the background. I would not
have a man marry above his level, so as to become the appendage of a
powerful family-connection; but I would not have him marry until he
knew his level,--that is, again, looking at the matter in a purely
worldly point of view, and not taking the sentiments at all into
consideration. But remember, that a young man, using large
endowments wisely and fortunately, may put himself on a level with
the highest in the land in ten brilliant years of spirited,
unflagging labor. And to stand at the very top of your calling in a
great city is something in itself,--that is, if you like money, and
influence, and a seat on the platform at public lectures, and
gratuitous tickets to all sorts of places where you don't want to go,
and, what is a good deal better than any of these things, a sense of
power, limited, it may be, but absolute in its range, so that all the
Caesars and Napoleons would have to stand aside, if they came between
you and the exercise of your special vocation.

That is what I thought this young fellow might have come to; and now
I have let him go off into the country with my certificate, that he
is fit to teach in a school for either sex! Ten to one he will run
like a moth into a candle, right into one of those girls'-nests, and
get tangled up in some sentimental folly or other, and there will be
the end of him. Oh, yes! country doctor,--half a dollar a visit,--
drive, drive, drive all day,--get up at night and harness your own
horse,--drive again ten miles in a snow-storm, shake powders out of
two phials, (pulv. glycyrrhiz., pulv. gum. acac. as partes
equates,)--drive back again, if you don't happen to get stuck in a
drift, no home, no peace, no continuous meals, no unbroken sleep, no
Sunday, no holiday, no social intercourse, but one eternal jog, jog,
jog, in a sulky, until you feel like the mummy of an Indian who had
been buried in the sitting posture, and was dug up a hundred years
afterwards! Why did n't I warn him about love and all that nonsense?
Why didn't I tell him he had nothing to do with it, yet awhile? Why
did n't I hold up to him those awful examples I could have cited,
where poor young fellows who could just keep themselves afloat have
hung a matrimonial millstone round their necks, taking it for a life-
preserver? All this of two words in a certificate!



Whether the Student advertised for a school, or whether he fell in
with the advertisement of a school-committee, is not certain. At any
rate, it was not long before he found himself the head of a large
district, or, as it was called by the inhabitants, "deestric"
school, in the flourishing inland village of Pequawkett, or, as it is
commonly spelt, Pigwacket Centre. The natives of this place would be
surprised, if they should hear that any of the readers of a work
published in Boston were unacquainted with so remarkable a locality.
As, however, some copies of it may be read at a distance from this
distinguished metropolis, it may be well to give a few particulars
respecting the place, taken from the Universal Gazetteer.

"PIGWACKET, sometimes spelt Pequawkett. A post-village and township
in _________ Co., State of _________,situated in a fine agricultural
region, 2 thriving villages, Pigwacket Centre and Smithville, 3
churches, several school houses, and many handsome private
residences. Mink River runs through the town, navigable for small
boats after heavy rains. Muddy Pond at N. E. section, well stocked
with horn pouts, eels, and shiners. Products, beef, pork, butter,
cheese. Manufactures, shoe-pegs, clothes-pins, and tin-ware. Pop.

The reader may think there is nothing very remarkable implied in this
description. If, however he had read the town-history, by the Rev.
Jabez Grubb, he would have learned, that, like the celebrated Little
Pedlington, it was distinguished by many very remarkable advantages.

"The situation of Pigwacket is eminently beautiful, looking down the
lovely valley of Mink River, a tributary of the Musquash. The air is
salubrious, and many of the inhabitants have attained great age,
several having passed the allotted period of 'three-score years and
ten' before succumbing to any of the various 'ills that flesh is heir
to.' Widow Comfort Leevins died in 1836 AEt. LXXXVII. years.
Venus, an African, died in 1841, supposed to be C. years old. The
people are distinguished for intelligence, as has been frequently
remarked by eminent lyceum-lecturers, who have invariably spoken in
the highest terms of a Pigwacket audience. There is a public
library, containing nearly a hundred volumes, free to all
subscribers. The preached word is well attended, there is a
flourishing temperance society, and the schools are excellent. It is
a residence admirably adapted to refined families who relish the
beauties of Nature and the charms of society. The Honorable John
Smith, formerly a member of the State Senate, was a native of this

That is the way they all talk. After all, it is probably pretty much
like other inland New England towns in point of "salubrity,"--that
is, gives people their choice of dysentery or fever every autumn,
with a season-ticket for consumption, good all the year round. And
so of the other pretences. "Pigwacket audience," forsooth! Was
there ever an audience anywhere, though there wasn't a pair of eyes
in it brighter than pickled oysters, that did n't think it was
"distinguished for intelligence"?--"The preached word"! That means
the Rev. Jabez Grubb's sermons. "Temperance society"! "Excellent
schools"! Ah, that is just what we were talking about.

The truth was, that District No. 1, Pigwacket Centre, had had a good
deal of trouble of late with its schoolmasters. The committee had
done their best, but there were a number of well-grown and pretty
rough young fellows who had got the upper-hand of the masters, and
meant to keep it. Two dynasties had fallen before the uprising of
this fierce democracy. This was a thing that used to be not very
uncommon; but in so "intelligent" a community as that of Pigwacket
Centre, in an era of public libraries and lyceum-lectures, it was
portentous and alarming.

The rebellion began under the ferule of Master Weeks, a slender youth
from a country college, underfed, thin-blooded, sloping-shouldered,
knock-kneed, straight-haired, weak-bearded, pale-eyed, wide-pupilled,
half-colored; a common type enough in in-door races, not rich enough
to pick and choose in their alliances. Nature kills off a good many
of this sort in the first teething-time, a few in later childhood, a
good many again in early adolescence; but every now and then one runs
the gauntlet of her various diseases, or rather forms of one disease,
and grows up, as Master Weeks had done.

It was a very foolish thing for him to try to inflict personal
punishment on such a lusty young fellow as Abner Briggs, Junior, one
of the "hardest customers" in the way of a rough-and-tumble fight
that there were anywhere round. No doubt he had been insolent, but
it would have been better to overlook it. It pains me to report the
events which took place when the master made his rash attempt to
maintain his authority. Abner Briggs, Junior, was a great, hulking
fellow, who had been bred to butchering, but urged by his parents to
attend school, in order to learn the elegant accomplishments of
reading and writing, in which he was sadly deficient. He was in the
habit of talking and laughing pretty loud in school-hours, of
throwing wads of paper reduced to a pulp by a natural and easy
process, of occasional insolence and general negligence. One of the
soft, but unpleasant missiles just alluded to flew by the master's
head one morning, and flattened itself against the wall, where it
adhered in the form of a convex mass in alto rilievo. The master
looked round and saw the young butcher's arm in an attitude which
pointed to it unequivocally as the source from which the projectile
had taken its flight.

Master Weeks turned pale. He must "lick" Abner Briggs, Junior, or
abdicate. So he determined to lick Abner Briggs, Junior.

"Come here, Sir!" he said; "you have insulted me and outraged the
decency of the schoolroom often enough! Hold out your hand!"

The young fellow grinned and held it out. The master struck at it
with his black ruler, with a will in the blow and a snapping of the
eyes, as much as to say that he meant to make him smart this time.
The young fellow pulled his hand back as the ruler came down, and the
master hit himself a vicious blow with it on the right knee. There
are things no man can stand. The master caught the refractory youth
by the collar and began shaking him, or rather shaking himself
against him.

"Le' go o' that are coat, naow," said the fellow, "or I 'll make ye!
'T 'll take tew on yet' handle me, I tell ye, 'n' then ye caant dew
it!"--and the young pupil returned the master's attention by catching
hold of his collar.

When it comes to that, the best man, not exactly in the moral sense,
but rather in the material, and more especially the muscular point of
view, is very apt to have the best of it, irrespectively of the
merits of the case. So it happened now. The unfortunate
schoolmaster found himself taking the measure of the sanded floor,
amidst the general uproar of the school. From that moment his ferule
was broken, and the school-committee very soon had a vacancy to fill.

Master Pigeon, the successor of Master Weeks, was of better stature,
but loosely put together, and slender-limbed. A dreadfully nervous
kind of man he was, walked on tiptoe, started at sudden noises, was
distressed when he heard a whisper, had a quick, suspicious look, and
was always saying, "Hush?" and putting his hands to his ears. The
boys were not long in finding out this nervous weakness, of course.
In less than a week a regular system of torments was inaugurated,
full of the most diabolical malice and ingenuity. The exercises of
the conspirators varied from day to day, but consisted mainly of
foot-scraping, solos on the slate-pencil, (making it screech on the
slate,) falling of heavy books, attacks of coughing, banging of desk-
lids, boot-creaking, with sounds as of drawing a cork from time to
time, followed by suppressed chuckles.

Master Pigeon grew worse and worse under these inflictions. The
rascally boys always had an excuse for any one trick they were caught
at. "Could n' help coughin', Sir." "Slipped out o' m' han', Sir."
"Did n' go to, Sir." "Did n' dew't o' purpose, Sir." And so on,--
always the best of reasons for the most outrageous of behavior. The
master weighed himself at the grocer's on a platform balance, some
ten days after he began keeping the school. At the end of a week he
weighed himself again. He had lost two pounds. At the end of
another week he had lost five. He made a little calculation, based
on these data, from which he learned that in a certain number of
months, going on at this rate, he should come to weigh precisely
nothing at all; and as this was a sum in subtraction he did not care
to work out in practice, Master Pigeon took to himself wings and left
the school-committee in possession of a letter of resignation and a
vacant place to fill once more.

This was the school to which Mr. Bernard Langdon found himself
appointed as master. He accepted the place conditionally, with the
understanding that he should leave it at the end of a month, if he
were tired of it.

The advent of Master Langdon to Pigwacket Centre created a much more
lively sensation than had attended that of either of his
predecessors. Looks go a good way all the world over, and though
there were several good-looking people in the place, and Major Bush
was what the natives of the town called a "hahnsome mahn," that is,
big, fat, and red, yet the sight of a really elegant young fellow,
with the natural air which grows up with carefully-bred young
persons, was a novelty. The Brahmin blood which came from his
grandfather as well as from his mother, a direct descendant of the
old Flynt family, well known by the famous tutor, Henry Flynt, (see
Cat. Harv. Anno 1693,) had been enlivened and enriched by that of
the Wentworths, which had had a good deal of ripe old Madeira and
other generous elements mingled with it, so that it ran to gout
sometimes in the old folks and to high spirit, warm complexion, and
curly hair in some of the younger ones. The soft curling hair Mr.
Bernard had inherited,--something, perhaps, of the high spirit; but
that we shall have a chance of finding out by and by. But the long
sermons and the frugal board of his Brahmin ancestry, with his own
habits of study, had told upon his color, which was subdued to
something more of delicacy than one would care to see in a young
fellow with rough work before him. This, however, made him look more
interesting, or, as the young ladies at Major Bush's said,

When Mr. Bernard showed himself at meeting, on the first Sunday after
his arrival, it may be supposed that a good many eyes were turned
upon the young schoolmaster. There was something heroic in his
coming forward so readily to take a place which called for a strong
hand, and a prompt, steady will to guide it. In fact, his position
was that of a military chieftain on the eve of a battle. Everybody
knew everything in Pigwacket Centre; and it was an understood thing
that the young rebels meant to put down the new master, if they
could. It was natural that the two prettiest girls in the village,
called in the local dialect, as nearly as our limited alphabet will
represent it, Alminy Cutterr, and Arvilly Braowne, should feel and
express an interest in the good-looking stranger, and that, when
their flattering comments were repeated in the hearing of their
indigenous admirers, among whom were some of the older "boys" of the
school, it should not add to the amiable dispositions of the
turbulent youth.

Monday came, and the new schoolmaster was in his chair at the upper
end of the schoolhouse, on the raised platform. The rustics looked
at his handsome face, thoughtful, peaceful, pleasant, cheerful, but
sharply cut round the lips and proudly lighted about the eyes. The
ringleader of the mischief-makers, the young butcher who has before
figured in this narrative, looked at him stealthily, whenever he got
a chance to study him unobserved; for the truth was, he felt
uncomfortable, whenever he found the large, dark eyes fixed on his
own little, sharp, deep-set, gray ones. But he managed to study him
pretty well,--first his face, then his neck and shoulders, the set of
his arms, the narrowing at the loins, the make of his legs, and the
way he moved. In short, he examined him as he would have examined a
steer, to see what he could do and how he would cut up. If he could
only have gone to him and felt of his muscles, he would have been
entirely satisfied. He was not a very wise youth, but he did know
well enough, that, though big arms and legs are very good things,
there is something besides size that goes to make a man; and he had
heard stories of a fighting-man, called "The Spider," from his
attenuated proportions, who was yet a terrible hitter in the ring,
and had whipped many a big-limbed fellow, in and out of the roped

Nothing could be smoother than the way in which everything went on
for the first day or two. The new master was so kind and courteous,
he seemed to take everything in such a natural, easy way, that there
was no chance to pick a quarrel with him. He in the mean time
thought it best to watch the boys and young men for a day or two with
as little show of authority as possible. It was easy enough to see
that he would have occasion for it before long.

The schoolhouse was a grim, old, red, one-story building, perched on
a bare rock at the top of a hill,--partly because this was a
conspicuous site for the temple of learning, and partly because land
is cheap where there is no chance even for rye or buckwheat, and the
very sheep find nothing to nibble. About the little porch were
carved initials and dates, at various heights, from the stature of
nine to that of eighteen. Inside were old unpainted desks,--
unpainted, but browned with the umber of human contact,--and hacked
by innumerable jack-knives. It was long since the walls had been
whitewashed, as might be conjectured by the various traces left upon
them, wherever idle hands or sleepy heads could reach them. A
curious appearance was noticeable on various higher parts of the
wall: namely, a wart-like eruption, as one would be tempted to call
it, being in reality a crop of the soft missiles before mentioned,
which, adhering in considerable numbers, and hardening after the
usual fashion of papier-mache, formed at last permanent ornaments of
the edifice.

The young master's quick eye soon noticed that a particular part of
the wall was most favored with these ornamental appendages. Their
position pointed sufficiently clearly to the part of the room they
came from. In fact, there was a nest of young mutineers just there,
which must be broken up by a coup d'etat. This was easily effected
by redistributing the seats and arranging the scholars according to
classes, so that a mischievous fellow, charged full of the rebellious
imponderable, should find himself between two non-conductors, in the
shape of small boys of studious habits. It was managed quietly
enough, in such a plausible sort of way that its motive was not
thought of. But its effects were soon felt; and then began a system
of correspondence by signs, and the throwing of little scrawls done
up in pellets, and announced by preliminary a'h'ms! to call the
attention of the distant youth addressed. Some of these were
incendiary documents, devoting the schoolmaster to the lower
divinities, as "a stuck-up dandy," as "a purse-proud aristocrat," as
"a sight too big for his, etc.," and holding him up in a variety of
equally forcible phrases to the indignation of the youthful community
of School District No. 1, Pigwacket Centre.

Presently the draughtsman of the school set a caricature in
circulation, labelled, to prevent mistakes, with the schoolmaster's
name. An immense bell-crowned hat, and a long, pointed, swallow-
tailed coat showed that the artist had in his mind the conventional
dandy, as shown in prints of thirty or forty years ago, rather than
any actual human aspect of the time. But it was passed round among
the boys and made its laugh, helping of course to undermine the
master's authority, as "Punch" or the "Charivari" takes the dignity
out of an obnoxious minister. One morning, on going to the
schoolroom, Master Langdon found an enlarged copy of this sketch,
with its label, pinned on the door. He took it down, smiled a
little, put it into his pocket, and entered the schoolroom. An
insidious silence prevailed, which looked as if some plot were
brewing. The boys were ripe for mischief, but afraid. They had
really no fault to find with the master, except that he was dressed
like a gentleman, which a certain class of fellows always consider a
personal insult to themselves. But the older ones were evidently
plotting, and more than once the warning a'h'm! was heard, and a
dirty little scrap of paper rolled into a wad shot from one seat to
another. One of these happened to strike the stove-funnel, and
lodged on the master's desk. He was cool enough not to seem to
notice it. He secured it, however, and found an opportunity to look
at it, without being observed by the boys. It required no immediate

He who should have enjoyed the privilege of looking upon Mr. Bernard
Langdon the next morning, when his toilet was about half finished,
would have had a very pleasant gratuitous exhibition. First he
buckled the strap of his trousers pretty tightly. Then he took up a
pair of heavy dumb-bells, and swung them for a few minutes; then two
great "Indian clubs," with which he enacted all sorts of impossible-
looking feats. His limbs were not very large, nor his shoulders
remarkably broad; but if you knew as much of the muscles as all
persons who look at statues and pictures with a critical eye ought to
have learned,--if you knew the trapezius, lying diamond-shaped over
the back and shoulders like a monk's cowl,--or the deltoid, which
caps the shoulder like an epaulette,--or the triceps, which furnishes
the calf of the upper arm,--or the hard-knotted biceps,--any of the
great sculptural landmarks, in fact,--you would have said there was a
pretty show of them, beneath the white satiny skin of Mr. Bernard
Langdon. And if you had seen him, when he had laid down the Indian
clubs, catch hold of a leather strap that hung from the beam of the
old-fashioned ceiling,--and lift and lower himself over and over
again by his left hand alone, you might have thought it a very simple
and easy thing to do, until you tried to do it yourself. Mr. Bernard
looked at himself with the eye of an expert. "Pretty well!" he
said;--"not so much fallen off as I expected." Then he set up his
bolster in a very knowing sort of way, and delivered two or three
blows straight as rulers and swift as winks. "That will do," he
said. Then, as if determined to make a certainty of his condition,
he took a dynamometer from one of the drawers in his old veneered
bureau. First he squeezed it with his two hands. Then he placed it
on the floor and lifted, steadily, strongly. The springs creaked and
cracked; the index swept with a great stride far up into the high
figures of the scale; it was a good lift. He was satisfied. He sat
down on the edge of his bed and looked at his cleanly-shaped arms.
"If I strike one of those boobies, I am afraid I shall spoil him," he
said. Yet this young man, when weighed with his class at the
college, could barely turn one hundred and forty-two pounds in the
scale,--not a heavy weight, surely; but some of the middle weights,
as the present English champion, for instance, seem to be of a far
finer quality of muscle than the bulkier fellows.

The master took his breakfast with a good appetite that morning, but
was perhaps rather more quiet than usual. After breakfast he went
up-stairs and put, on a light loose frock, instead of that which he
commonly wore, which was a close-fitting and rather stylish one. On
his way to school he met Alminy Cutterr, who happened to be walking
in the other direction. "Good-morning, Miss Cutter," he said; for
she and another young lady had been introduced to him, on a former
occasion, in the usual phrase of polite society in presenting ladies
to gentlemen,--"Mr. Langdon, let me make y' acquainted with Miss
Cutterr;--let me make y' acquainted with Miss Braowne." So he said,
"Good-morning"; to which she replied, "Good-mornin', Mr. Langdon.
Haow's your haalth?" The answer to this question ought naturally to
have been the end of the talk; but Alminy Cutterr lingered and looked
as if she had something more on her mind.

A young fellow does not require a great experience to read a simple
country-girl's face as if it were a sign-board. Alminy was a good
soul, with red cheeks and bright eyes, kind-hearted as she could be,
and it was out of the question for her to hide her thoughts or
feelings like a fine lady. Her bright eyes were moist and her red
cheeks paler than their wont, as she said, with her lips quivering,
"Oh, Mr. Langdon, them boys 'll be the death of ye, if ye don't take

"Why, what's the matter, my dear?" said Mr. Bernard.---Don't think
there was anything very odd in that "my dear," at the second
interview with a village belle;--some of these woman-tamers call a
girl "My dear," after five minutes' acquaintance, and it sounds all
right as they say it. But you had better not try it at a venture.

It sounded all right to Alminy, as Mr. Bernard said it.---"I 'll tell
ye what's the mahtterr," she said, in a frightened voice. "Ahbner 's
go'n' to car' his dog, 'n' he'll set him on ye'z sure 'z y' 'r'
alive. 'T's the same cretur that haaf eat up Eben Squires's little
Jo, a year come nex' Faast day."

Now this last statement was undoubtedly overcolored; as little Jo
Squires was running about the village,--with an ugly scar on his arm,
it is true, where the beast had caught him with his teeth, on the
occasion of the child's taking liberties with him, as he had been
accustomed to do with a good-tempered Newfoundland dog, who seemed to
like being pulled and hauled round by children. After this the
creature was commonly muzzled, and, as he was fed on raw meat
chiefly, was always ready for a fight, which he was occasionally
indulged in, when anything stout enough to match him could be found
in any of the neighboring villages.

Tiger, or, more briefly, Tige, the property of Abner Briggs, Junior,
belonged to a species not distinctly named in scientific books, but
well known to our country-folks under the name "Yallah dog." They do
not use this expression as they would say black dog or white dog, but
with almost as definite a meaning as when they speak of a terrier or
a spaniel. A "yallah dog" is a large canine brute, of a dingy old-
flannel color, of no particular breed except his own, who hangs round
a tavern or a butcher's shop, or trots alongside of a team, looking
as if he were disgusted with the world, and the world with him. Our
inland population, while they tolerate him, speak of him with
contempt. Old ______ , of Meredith Bridge, used to twit the sun for
not shining on cloudy days, swearing, that, if he hung up his "yallah
dog," he would make a better show of daylight. A country fellow,
abusing a horse of his neighbor's, vowed, that, "if he had such a
hoss, he'd swap him for a `yallah dog,'--and then shoot the dog."

Tige was an ill-conditioned brute by nature, and art had not improved
him by cropping his ears and tail and investing him with a spiked
collar. He bore on his person, also, various not ornamental scars,
marks of old battles; for Tige had fight in him, as was said before,
and as might be guessed by a certain bluntness about the muzzle, with
a projection of the lower jaw, which looked as if there might be a
bull-dog stripe among the numerous bar-sinisters of his lineage.

It was hardly fair, however, to leave Alminy Cutterr waiting while
this piece of natural history was telling.--As she spoke of little
Jo, who had been "haaf eat up" by Tige, she could not contain her
sympathies, and began to cry.

"Why, my dear little soul," said Mr. Bernard, "what are you worried
about? I used to play with a bear when I was a boy; and the bear
used to hug me, and I used to kiss him,--so!"

It was too bad of Mr. Bernard, only the second time he had seen
Alminy; but her kind feelings had touched him, and that seemed the
most natural way of expressing his gratitude. Ahniny looked round to
see if anybody was near; she saw nobody, so of course it would do no
good to "holler." She saw nobody; but a stout young fellow, leading
a yellow dog, muzzled, saw her through a crack in a picket fence, not
a great way off the road. Many a year he had been "hangin' 'raoun'"
Alminy, and never did he see any encouraging look, or hear any
"Behave, naow!" or "Come, naow, a'n't ye 'shamed?" or other
forbidding phrase of acquiescence, such as village belles under stand
as well as ever did the nymph who fled to the willows in the eclogue
we all remember.

No wonder he was furious, when he saw the school master, who had
never seen the girl until within a week, touching with his lips those
rosy cheeks which he had never dared to approach. But that was all;
it was a sudden impulse; and the master turned away from the young
girl, laughing, and telling her not to fret herself about him,--he
would take care of himself.

So Master Langdon walked on toward his school-house, not displeased,
perhaps, with his little adventure, nor immensely elated by it; for
he was one of the natural class of the sex-subduers, and had had many
a smile without asking, which had been denied to the feeble youth who
try to win favor by pleading their passion in rhyme, and even to the
more formidable approaches of young officers in volunteer companies,
considered by many to be quite irresistible to the fair who have once
beheld them from their windows in the epaulettes and plumes and
sashes of the "Pigwacket Invincibles," or the "Hackmatack Rangers."

Master Langdon took his seat and began the exercises of his school.
The smaller boys recited their lessons well enough, but some of the
larger ones were negligent and surly. He noticed one or two of them
looking toward the door, as if expecting somebody or something in
that direction. At half past nine o'clock, Abner Briggs, Junior, who
had not yet shown himself, made his appearance. He was followed by
his "yallah dog," without his muzzle, who squatted down very grimly
near the door, and gave a wolfish look round the room, as if he were
considering which was the plumpest boy to begin with. The young
butcher, meanwhile, went to his seat, looking somewhat flushed,
except round the lips, which were hardly as red as common, and set
pretty sharply.

"Put out that dog, Abner Briggs!"--The master spoke as the captain
speaks to the helmsman, when there are rocks foaming at the lips,
right under his lee.

Abner Briggs answered as the helmsman answers, when he knows he has a
mutinous crew round him that mean to run the ship on the reef, and is
one of the mutineers himself. "Put him aout y'rself, 'f ye a'n't
afeard on him!"

The master stepped into the aisle: The great cur showed his teeth,--
and the devilish instincts of his old wolf-ancestry looked out of his
eyes, and flashed from his sharp tusks, and yawned in his wide mouth
and deep red gullet.

The movements of animals are so much quicker than those of human
beings commonly are, that they avoid blows as easily as one of us
steps out of the way of an ox-cart. It must be a very stupid dog
that lets himself be run over by a fast driver in his gig; he can
jump out of the wheel's way after the tire has already touched him.
So, while one is lifting a stick to strike or drawing back his foot
to kick, the beast makes his spring, and the blow or the kick comes
too late.

It was not so this time. The master was a fencer, and something of a
boxer; he had played at singlestick, and was used to watching an
adversary's eye and coming down on him without any of those
premonitory symptoms by which unpractised persons show long
beforehand what mischief they meditate.

"Out with you!" he said, fiercely,--and explained what he meant by a
sudden flash of his foot that clashed the yellow dog's white teeth
together like the springing of a bear-trap. The cur knew he had
found his master at the first word and glance, as low animals on four
legs, or a smaller number, always do; and the blow took him so by
surprise, that it curled him up in an instant, and he went bundling
out of the open schoolhouse-door with a most pitiable yelp, and his
stump of a tail shut down as close as his owner ever shut the short,
stubbed blade of his jack-knife.

It was time for the other cur to find who his master.

"Follow your dog, Abner Briggs!" said Master Langdon.

The stout butcher-youth looked round, but the rebels were all cowed
and sat still.

"I'll go when I'm ready," he said,--"'n' I guess I won't go afore I'm

"You're ready now," said Master Langdon, turning up his cuffs so that
the little boys noticed the yellow gleam of a pair of gold sleeve-
buttons, once worn by Colonel Percy Wentworth, famous in the Old
French War.

Abner Briggs, Junior, did not apparently think he was ready, at any
rate; for he rose up in his place, and stood with clenched fists,
defiant, as the master strode towards him. The master knew the
fellow was really frightened, for all his looks, and that he must
have no time to rally. So he caught him suddenly by the collar, and,
with one great pull, had him out over his desk and on the open floor.
He gave him a sharp fling backwards and stood looking at him.

The rough-and-tumble fighters all clinch, as everybody knows; and
Abner Briggs, Junior, was one of that kind. He remembered how he had
floored Master Weeks, and he had just "spunk" enough left in him to
try to repeat his former successful experiment an the new master. He
sprang at him, open-handed, to clutch him. So the master had to
strike,--once, but very hard, and just in the place to tell. No
doubt, the authority that doth hedge a schoolmaster added to the
effect of the blow; but the blow was itself a neat one, and did not
require to be repeated.

"Now go home," said the master, "and don't let me see you or your dog
here again." And he turned his cuffs down over the gold sleeve-

This finished the great Pigwacket Centre School rebellion. What
could be done with a master who was so pleasant as long as the boys
behaved decently, and such a terrible fellow when he got "riled," as
they called it? In a week's time everything was reduced to order,
and the school-committee were delighted. The master, however, had
received a proposition so much more agreeable and advantageous, that
he informed the committee he should leave at the end of his month,
having in his eye a sensible and energetic young college-graduate who
would be willing and fully competent to take his place.

So, at the expiration of the appointed time, Bernard Langdon, late
master of the School District No. 1, Pigwacket Centre, took his
departure from that place for another locality, whither we shall
follow him, carrying with him the regrets of the committee, of most
of the scholars, and of several young ladies; also two locks of hair,
sent unbeknown to payrents, one dark and one warmish auburn,
inscribed with the respective initials of Alminy Cutterr and Arvilly



The invitation which Mr. Bernard Langdon had accepted came from the
Board of Trustees of the "Apollinean Female Institute," a school for
the education of young ladies, situated in the flourishing town of
Rockland. This was an establishment on a considerable scale, in
which a hundred scholars or thereabouts were taught the ordinary
English branches, several of the modern languages, something of
Latin, if desired, with a little natural philosophy, metaphysics, and
rhetoric, to finish off with in the last year, and music at any time
when they would pay for it. At the close of their career in the
Institute, they were submitted to a grand public examination, and
received diplomas tied in blue ribbons, which proclaimed them with a
great flourish of capitals to be graduates of the Apollinean Female

Rockland was a town of no inconsiderable pretensions. It was
ennobled by lying at the foot of a mountain,--called by the working-
folks of the place "the Maounting,"--which sufficiently showed that
it was the principal high land of the district in which it was
situated. It lay to the south of this, and basked in the sunshine as
Italy stretches herself before the Alps. To pass from the town of
Tamarack on the north of the mountain to Rockland on the south was
like crossing from Coire to Chiavenna.

There is nothing gives glory and grandeur and romance and mystery to
a place like the impending presence of a high mountain. Our
beautiful Northampton with its fair meadows and noble stream is
lovely enough, but owes its surpassing attraction to those twin
summits which brood over it like living presences, looking down into
its streets as if they were its tutelary divinities, dressing and
undressing their green shrines, robing themselves in jubilant
sunshine or in sorrowing clouds, and doing penance in the snowy
shroud of winter, as if they had living hearts under their rocky ribs
and changed their mood like the children of the soil at their feet,
who grow up under their almost parental smiles and frowns. Happy is
the child whose first dreams of heaven are blended with the evening
glories of Mount Holyoke, when the sun is firing its treetops, and
gilding the white walls that mark its one human dwelling! If the
other and the wilder of the two summits has a scowl of terror in its
overhanging brows, yet is it a pleasing fear to look upon its savage
solitudes through the barred nursery-windows in the heart of the
sweet, companionable village.---And how the mountains love their
children! The sea is of a facile virtue, and will run to kiss the
first comer in any port he visits; but the chaste mountains sit
apart, and show their faces only in the midst of their own families.

The Mountain which kept watch to the north of Rockland lay waste and
almost inviolate through much of its domain. The catamount still
glared from the branches of its old hemlocks on the lesser beasts
that strayed beneath him. It was not long since a wolf had wandered
down, famished in the winter's dearth, and left a few bones and some
tufts of wool of what had been a lamb in the morning. Nay, there
were broad-footed tracks in the snow only two years previously, which
could not be mistaken;--the black bear alone could have set that
plantigrade seal, and little children must come home early from
school and play, for he is an indiscriminate feeder when he is
hungry, and a little child would not come amiss when other game was

But these occasional visitors may have been mere wanderers, which,
straying along in the woods by day, and perhaps stalking through the
streets of still villages by night, had worked their way along down
from the ragged mountain-spurs of higher latitudes. The one feature
of The Mountain that shed the brownest horror on its woods was the
existence of the terrible region known as Rattlesnake Ledge, and
still tenanted by those damnable reptiles, which distil a fiercer
venom under our cold northern sky than the cobra himself in the land
of tropical spices and poisons.

From the earliest settlement of the place, this fact had been, next
to the Indians, the reigning nightmare of the inhabitants. It was
easy enough, after a time, to drive away the savages; for
"a screeching Indian Divell," as our fathers called him, could not
crawl into the crack of a rock to escape from his pursuers. But the
venomous population of Rattlesnake Ledge had a Gibraltar for their
fortress that might have defied the siege-train dragged to the walls
of Sebastopol. In its deep embrasures and its impregnable easemates
they reared their families, they met in love or wrath, they twined
together in family knots, they hissed defiance in hostile clans, they
fed, slept, hibernated, and in due time died in peace. Many a foray
had the towns-people made, and many a stuffed skin was shown as a
trophy,--nay, there were families where the children's first toy was
made from the warning appendage that once vibrated to the wrath of
one of these "cruel serpents." Sometimes one of them, coaxed out by
a warm sun, would writhe himself down the hillside into the roads, up
the walks that led to houses,--worse than this, into the long grass,
where the barefooted mowers would soon pass with their swinging
scythes,--more rarely into houses, and on one memorable occasion,
early in the last century, into the meeting-house, where he took a
position on the pulpit-stairs,--as is narrated in the "Account of
Some Remarkable Providences," etc., where it is suggested that a
strong tendency of the Rev. Didymus Bean, the Minister at that time,
towards the Arminian Heresy may have had something to do with it, and
that the Serpent supposed to have been killed on the Pulpit-Stairs
was a false show of the Daemon's Contrivance, he having come in to
listen to a Discourse which was a sweet Savour in his Nostrils, and,
of course, not being capable of being killed Himself. Others said,
however, that, though there was good Reason to think it was a Damon,
yet he did come with Intent to bite the Heel of that faithful

One Gilson is said to have died of the bite of a rattlesnake in this
town early in the present century. After this there was a great
snake-hunt, in which very many of these venomous beasts were killed,
--one in particular, said to have been as big round as a stout man's
arm, and to have had no less than forty joints to his rattle,--
indicating, according to some, that he had lived forty years, but, if
we might put any faith in the Indian tradition, that he had killed
forty human beings,--an idle fancy, clearly. This hunt, however, had
no permanent effect in keeping down the serpent population.
Viviparous, creatures are a kind of specie-paying lot, but oviparous
ones only give their notes, as it were, for a future brood,--an egg
being, so to speak, a promise to pay a young one by and by, if
nothing happen. Now the domestic habits of the rattlesnake are not
studied very closely, for obvious reasons; but it is, no doubt, to
all intents and purposes oviparous. Consequently it has large
families, and is not easy to kill out.

In the year 184-, a melancholy proof was afforded to the inhabitants
of Rockland, that the brood which infested The Mountain was not
extirpated. A very interesting young married woman, detained at home
at the time by the state of her health, was bitten in the entry of
her own house by a rattlesnake which had found its way down from The
Mountain. Owing to the almost instant employment of powerful
remedies, the bite did not prove immediately fatal; but she died
within a few months of the time when she was bitten.

All this seemed to throw a lurid kind of shadow over The Mountain.
Yet, as many years passed without any accident, people grew
comparatively careless, and it might rather be said to add a fearful
kind of interest to the romantic hillside, that the banded reptiles,
which had been the terror of the red men for nobody knows how many
thousand years, were there still, with the same poison-bags and
spring-teeth at the white men's service, if they meddled with them.

The other natural features of Rockland were such as many of our
pleasant country-towns can boast of. A brook came tumbling down the
mountain-side and skirted the most thickly settled portion of the
village. In the parts of its course where it ran through the woods,
the water looked almost as brown as coffee flowing from its urn,--to
say like smoky quartz would perhaps give a better idea,--but in the
open plain it sparkled over the pebbles white as a queen's diamonds.
There were huckleberry-pastures on the lower flanks of The Mountain,
with plenty of the sweet-scented bayberry mingled with the other
bushes. In other fields grew great store of high-bush blackberries.
Along the roadside were bayberry-bushes, hung all over with bright
red coral pendants in autumn and far into the winter. Then there
were swamps set thick with dingy alders, where the three-leaved arum
and the skunk's-cabbage grew broad and succulent, shelving down into
black boggy pools here and there at the edge of which the green frog,
stupidest of his tribe, sat waiting to be victimized by boy or
snapping-turtle long after the shy and agile leopard-frog had taken
the six-foot spring that plumped him into the middle of the pool.
And on the neighboring banks the maiden-hair spread its flat disk of
embroidered fronds on the wire-like stem that glistened polished and
brown as the darkest tortoise-shell, and pale violets, cheated by the
cold skies of their hues and perfume, sunned themselves like white-
cheeked invalids. Over these rose the old forest-trees,--the maple,
scarred with the wounds which had drained away its sweet life-blood,
--the beech, its smooth gray bark mottled so as to look like the body
of one of those great snakes of old that used to frighten armies,
always the mark of lovers' knives, as in the days of Musidora and her
swain,--the yellow birch, rough as the breast of Silenus in old
marbles,--the wild cherry, its little bitter fruit lying unheeded at
its foot,--and, soaring over all, the huge, coarse-barked, splintery-
limbed, dark-mantled hemlock, in the depth of whose aerial solitudes
the crow brooded on her nest unscared, and the gray squirrel lived
unharmed till his incisors grew to look like ram's-horns.

Rockland would have been but half a town without its pond; Guinnepeg
Pond was the name of it, but the young ladies of the Apollinean
Institute were very anxious that it should be called Crystalline
Lake. It was here that the young folks used to sail in summer and
skate in winter; here, too, those queer, old, rum-scented good-for-
nothing, lazy, story-telling, half-vagabonds, who sawed a little wood
or dug a few potatoes now and then under the pretence of working for
their living, used to go and fish through the ice for pickerel every
winter. And here those three young people were drowned, a few
summers ago, by the upsetting of a sail-boat in a sudden flaw of
wind. There is not one of these smiling ponds which has not devoured
more youths and maidens than any of those monsters the ancients used
to tell such lies about. But it was a pretty pond, and never looked
more innocent--so the native "bard" of Rockland said in his elegy--
than on the morning when they found Sarah Jane and Ellen Maria
floating among the lily-pads.

The Apollinean Institute, or Institoot, as it was more commonly
called, was, in the language of its Prospectus, a "first-class
Educational Establishment." It employed a considerable corps of
instructors to rough out and finish the hundred young lady scholars
it sheltered beneath its roof. First, Mr. and Mrs. Peckham, the
Principal and the Matron of the school. Silas Peckham was a thorough
Yankee, born on a windy part of the coast, and reared chiefly on
salt-fish. Everybody knows the type of Yankee produced by this
climate and diet: thin, as if he had been split and dried; with an
ashen kind of complexion, like the tint of the food he is made of;
and about as sharp, tough, juiceless, and biting to deal with as the
other is to the taste. Silas Peckham kept a young ladies' school
exactly as he would have kept a hundred head of cattle,--for the
simple, unadorned purpose of making just as much money in just as few
years as could be safely done. Mr. Peckham gave very little personal
attention to the department of instruction, but was always busy with
contracts for flour and potatoes, beef and pork, and other nutritive
staples, the amount of which required for such an establishment was
enough to frighten a quartermaster. Mrs. Peckham was from the West,
raised on Indian corn and pork, which give a fuller outline and a
more humid temperament, but may perhaps be thought to render people a
little coarse-fibred. Her specialty was to look after the
feathering, cackling, roosting, rising, and general behavior of these
hundred chicks. An honest, ignorant woman, she could not have passed
an examination in the youngest class. So this distinguished
institution was under the charge of a commissary and a housekeeper,
and its real business was making money by taking young girls in as

Connected with this, however, was the incidental fact, which the
public took for the principal one, namely, the business of
instruction. Mr. Peckham knew well enough that it was just as well
to have good instructors as bad ones, so far as cost was concerned,
and a great deal better for the reputation of his feeding-
establishment. He tried to get the best he could without paying too
much, and, having got them, to screw all the work out of them that
could possibly be extracted.

There was a master for the English branches, with a young lady
assistant. There was another young lady who taught French, of the
ahvaung and baundahng style, which does not exactly smack of the
asphalt of the Boulevards. There was also a German teacher of music,
who sometimes helped in French of the ahfaung and bauntaung style,--
so that, between the two, the young ladies could hardly have been
mistaken for Parisians, by a Committee of the French Academy. The
German teacher also taught a Latin class after his fashion,--benna, a
ben, gahboot, ahead, and so forth.

The master for the English branches had lately left the school for
private reasons, which need not be here mentioned,--but he had gone,
at any rate, and it was his place which had been offered to Mr.
Bernard Langdon. The offer came just in season,--as, for various
causes, he was willing to leave the place where he had begun his new

It was on a fine morning that Mr. Bernard, ushered in by Mr. Peckham,
made his appearance in the great schoolroom of the Apollinean
Institute. A general rustle ran all round the seats when the
handsome young man was introduced. The principal carried him to the
desk of the young lady English assistant, Miss Darley by name, and
introduced him to her.

There was not a great deal of study done that day. The young lady
assistant had to point out to the new master the whole routine in
which the classes were engaged when their late teacher left, and
which had gone on as well as it could since. Then Master Langdon had
a great many questions to ask, some relating to his new duties, and
some, perhaps, implying a degree of curiosity not very unnatural
under the circumstances. The truth is, the general effect of the
schoolroom, with its scores of young girls, all their eyes naturally
centring on him with fixed or furtive glances, was enough to bewilder
and confuse a young man like Master Langdon, though he was not
destitute of self-possession, as we have already seen.

You cannot get together a hundred girls, taking them as they come,
from the comfortable and affluent classes, probably anywhere,
certainly not in New England, without seeing a good deal of beauty.
In fact, we very commonly mean by beauty the way young girls look
when there is nothing to hinder their looking as Nature meant them
to. And the great schoolroom of the Apollinean Institute did really
make so pretty a show on the morning when Master Langdon entered it,
that he might be pardoned for asking Miss Darley more questions about
his scholars than about their lessons.

There were girls of all ages: little creatures, some pallid and
delicate-looking, the offspring of invalid parents,--much given to
books, not much to mischief, commonly spoken of as particularly good
children, and contrasted with another sort, girls of more vigorous
organization, who were disposed to laughing and play, and required a
strong hand to manage them; then young growing misses of every shade
of Saxon complexion, and here and there one of more Southern hue:
blondes, some of them so translucent-looking that it seemed as if you
could see the souls in their bodies, like bubbles in glass, if souls
were objects of sight; brunettes, some with rose-red colors, and some
with that swarthy hue which often carries with it a heavily-shaded
lip, and which, with pure outlines and outspoken reliefs, gives us
some of our handsomest women,--the women whom ornaments of plain gold
adorn more than any other parures; and again, but only here and
there, one with dark hair and gray or blue eyes, a Celtic type,
perhaps, but found in our native stock occasionally; rarest of all, a
light-haired girl with dark eyes, hazel, brown, or of the color of
that mountain-brook spoken of in this chapter, where it ran through
shadowy woodlands. With these were to be seen at intervals some of
maturer years, full-blown flowers among the opening buds, with that
conscious look upon their faces which so many women wear during the
period when they never meet a single man without having his
monosyllable ready for him,--tied as they are, poor things! on the
rock of expectation, each of them an Andromeda waiting for her

"Who is that girl in ringlets,--the fourth in the third row on the
right?" said Master Langdon.

"Charlotte Ann Wood," said Miss Darley; "writes very pretty poems."

"Oh!--And the pink one, three seats from her? Looks bright; anything
in her?"

"Emma Dean,--day-scholar,--Squire Dean's daughter,--nice girl,--
second medal last year."

The master asked these two questions in a careless kind of way, and
did not seem to pay any too much attention to the answers.

"And who and what is that," he said,--"sitting a little apart
there,--that strange, wild-looking girl?"

This time he put the real question he wanted answered;--the other two
were asked at random, as masks for the third.

The lady-teacher's face changed;--one would have said she was
frightened or troubled. She looked at the girl doubtfully, as if she
might hear the master's question and its answer. But the girl did
not look up;--she was winding a gold chain about her wrist, and then
uncoiling it, as if in a kind of reverie.

Miss Darley drew close to the master and placed her hand so as to
hide her lips. "Don't look at her as if we were talking about her,"
she whispered softly; "that is Elsie Venner."



It was a comfort to get to a place with something like society, with
residences which had pretensions to elegance, with people of some
breeding, with a newspaper, and "stores" to advertise in it, and with
two or three churches to keep each other alive by wholesome
agitation. Rockland was such a place.

Some of the natural features of the town have been described already.
The Mountain, of course, was what gave it its character, and redeemed
it from wearing the commonplace expression which belongs to ordinary
country-villages. Beautiful, wild, invested with the mystery which
belongs to untrodden spaces, and with enough of terror to give it
dignity, it had yet closer relations with the town over which it
brooded than the passing stranger knew of. Thus, it made a local
climate by cutting off the northern winds and holding the sun's heat
like a garden-wall. Peachtrees, which, on the northern side of the
mountain, hardly ever came to fruit, ripened abundant crops in

But there was still another relation between the mountain and the
town at its foot, which strangers were not likely to hear alluded to,
and which was oftener thought of than spoken of by its inhabitants.
Those high-impending forests,--"hangers," as White of Selborne would
have called them,--sloping far upward and backward into the distance,
had always an air of menace blended with their wild beauty. It
seemed as if some heaven-scaling Titan had thrown his shaggy robe
over the bare, precipitous flanks of the rocky summit, and it might
at any moment slide like a garment flung carelessly on the nearest
chance-support, and, so sliding, crush the village out of being, as
the Rossberg when it tumbled over on the valley of Goldau.

Persons have been known to remove from the place, after a short
residence in it, because they were haunted day and night by the
thought of this awful green wall, piled up into the air over their
heads. They would lie awake of nights, thinking they heard the
muffed snapping of roots, as if a thousand acres of the mountain-side
were tugging to break away, like the snow from a house-roof, and a
hundred thousand trees were clinging with all their fibres to hold
back the soil just ready to peel away and crash down with all its
rocks and forest-growths. And yet, by one of those strange
contradictions we are constantly finding in human nature, there were
natives of the town who would come back thirty or forty years after
leaving it, just to nestle under this same threatening mountainside,
as old men sun themselves against southward-facing walls. The old
dreams and legends of danger added to the attraction. If the
mountain should ever slide, they had a kind of feeling as if they
ought to be there. It was a fascination like that which the
rattlesnake is said to exert.

This comparison naturally suggests the recollection of that other
source of danger which was an element in the every-day life of the
Rockland people. The folks in some of the neighboring towns had a
joke against them, that a Rocklander could n't hear a beanpod rattle
without saying, "The Lord have mercy on us! "It is very true, that
many a nervous old lady has had a terrible start, caused by some
mischievous young rogue's giving a sudden shake to one of these noisy
vegetable products in her immediate vicinity. Yet, strangely enough,
many persons missed the excitement of the possibility of a fatal bite
in other regions, where there were nothing but black and green and
striped snakes, mean ophidians, having the spite of the nobler
serpent without his venom,--poor crawling creatures, whom Nature
would not trust with a poison-bag. Many natives of Rockland did
unquestionably experience a certain gratification in this
infinitesimal sense of danger. It was noted that the old people
retained their hearing longer than in other places. Some said it was
the softened climate, but others believed it was owing to the habit
of keeping their ears open whenever they were walking through the
grass or in the woods. At any rate, a slight sense of danger is
often an agreeable stimulus. People sip their creme de noyau with a
peculiar tremulous pleasure, because there is a bare possibility that
it may contain prussic acid enough to knock them over; in which case
they will lie as dead as if a thunder-cloud had emptied itself into
the earth through their brain and marrow.

But Rockland had other features which helped to give it a special
character. First of all, there was one grand street which was its
chief glory. Elm Street it was called, naturally enough, for its
elms made a long, pointed-arched gallery of it through most of its
extent. No natural Gothic arch compares, for a moment, with that
formed by two American elms, where their lofty jets of foliage shoot
across each other's ascending curves, to intermingle their showery
flakes of green. When one looks through a long double row of these,
as in that lovely avenue which the poets of Yale remember so well,

"Oh, could the vista of my life but now as bright appear
As when I first through Temple Street looked down thine espalier!"

he beholds a temple not built with hands, fairer than any minster,
with all its clustered stems and flowering capitals, that ever grew
in stone.

Nobody knows New England who is not on terms of intimacy with one of
its elms. The elm comes nearer to having a soul than any other
vegetable creature among us. It loves man as man loves it. It is
modest and patient. It has a small flake of a seed which blows in
everywhere and makes arrangements for coming up by and by. So, in
spring, one finds a crop of baby-elms among his carrots and parsnips,
very weak and small compared to those succulent vegetables. The
baby-elms die, most of them, slain, unrecognized or unheeded, by hand
or hoe, as meekly as Herod's innocents. One of them gets overlooked,
perhaps, until it has established a kind of right to stay. Three
generations of carrot and parsnip consumers have passed away,
yourself among them, and now let your great-grandson look for the
baby-elm. Twenty-two feet of clean girth, three hundred and sixty
feet in the line that bounds its leafy circle, it covers the boy with
such a canopy as neither glossy-leafed oak nor insect-haunted linden
ever lifted into the summer skies.

Elm Street was the pride of Rockland, but not only on account of its
Gothic-arched vista. In this street were most of the great houses,
or "mansion-houses," as it was usual to call them. Along this
street, also, the more nicely kept and neatly painted dwellings were
chiefly congregated. It was the correct thing for a Rockland
dignitary to have a house in Elm Street. A New England "mansion-
house" is naturally square, with dormer windows projecting from the
roof, which has a balustrade with turned posts round it. It shows a
good breadth of front-yard before its door, as its owner shows a
respectable expanse of a clean shirt-front. It has a lateral margin
beyond its stables and offices, as its master wears his white wrist
bands showing beyond his coat-cuffs. It may not have what can
properly be called grounds, but it must have elbow-room, at any rate.
Without it, it is like a man who is always tight-buttoned for want of
any linen to show. The mansion-house which has had to "button itself
up tight in fences, for want of green or gravel margin," will be
advertising for boarders presently. The old English pattern of the
New England mansion-house, only on a somewhat grander scale, is Sir
Thomas Abney's place, where dear, good Dr. Watts said prayers for the
family, and wrote those blessed hymns of his that sing us into
consciousness in our cradles, and come back to us in sweet, single
verses, between the moments of wandering and of stupor, when we lie
dying, and sound over us when we can no longer hear them, bringing
grateful tears to the hot, aching eyes beneath the thick, black
veils, and carrying the holy calm with them which filled the good
man's heart, as he prayed and sung under the shelter of the old
English mansion-house. Next to the mansion-houses, came the two-
story trim, white-painted, "genteel" houses, which, being more
gossipy and less nicely bred, crowded close up to the street, instead
of standing back from it with arms akimbo, like the mansion-houses.
Their little front-yards were very commonly full of lilac and syringa
and other bushes, which were allowed to smother the lower story
almost to the exclusion of light and airy so that, what with small
windows and small windowpanes, and the darkness made by these choking
growths of shrubbery, the front parlors of some of these houses were
the most tomb-like, melancholy places that could be found anywhere
among the abodes of the living. Their garnishing was apt to assist
this impression. Large-patterned carpets, which always look
discontented in little rooms, haircloth furniture, black and shiny as
beetles' wing cases, and centre-tables, with a sullen oil-lamp of the
kind called astral by our imaginative ancestors, in the centre,--
these things were inevitable. In set piles round the lamp was ranged
the current literature of the day, in the form of Temperance
Documents, unbound numbers of one of the Unknown Public's Magazines
with worn-out steel engravings and high-colored fashion-plates, the
Poems of a distinguished British author whom it is unnecessary to
mention, a volume of sermons, or a novel or two, or both, according
to the tastes of the family, and the Good Book, which is always
Itself in the cheapest and commonest company. The father of the
family with his hand in the breast of his coat, the mother of the
same in a wide-bordered cap, sometimes a print of the Last Supper, by
no means Morghen's, or the Father of his Country, or the old General,
or the Defender of the Constitution, or an unknown clergyman with an
open book before him,--these were the usual ornaments of the walls,
the first two a matter of rigor, the others according to politics and
other tendencies.

This intermediate class of houses, wherever one finds them in New
England towns, are very apt to be cheerless and unsatisfactory. They
have neither the luxury of the mansion-house nor the comfort of the
farm-house. They are rarely kept at an agreeable temperature. The
mansion-house has large fireplaces and generous chimneys, and is open
to the sunshine. The farm-house makes no pretensions, but it has a
good warm kitchen, at any rate, and one can be comfortable there with
the rest of the family, without fear and without reproach. These
lesser country-houses of genteel aspirations are much given to patent
subterfuges of one kind and another to get heat without combustion.
The chilly parlor and the slippery hair-cloth seat take the life out
of the warmest welcome. If one would make these places wholesome,
happy, and cheerful, the first precept would be,--The dearest fuel,
plenty of it, and let half the heat go up the chimney. If you can't
afford this, don't try to live in a "genteel" fashion, but stick to
the ways of the honest farm-house.

There were a good many comfortable farm-houses scattered about
Rockland. The best of them were something of the following pattern,
which is too often superseded of late by a more pretentious, but
infinitely less pleasing kind of rustic architecture. A little back
from the road, seated directly on the green sod, rose a plain wooden
building, two stories in front, with a long roof sloping backwards to
within a few feet of the ground. This, like the "mansion-house," is
copied from an old English pattern. Cottages of this model may be
seen in Lancashire, for instance, always with the same honest, homely
look, as if their roofs acknowledged their relationship to the soil
out of which they sprung. The walls were unpainted, but turned by
the slow action of sun and air and rain to a quiet dove or slate
color. An old broken millstone at the door,--a well-sweep pointing
like a finger to the heavens, which the shining round of water
beneath looked up at like a dark unsleeping eye,--a single large elm
a little at one side,--a barn twice as big as the house,--a cattle-
yard, with

"The white horns tossing above the wall,"--

some fields, in pasture or in crops, with low stone walls round
them,--a row of beehives,--a gardenpatch, with roots, and currant-
bushes, and many-hued hollyhocks, and swollen-stemmed, globe-headed,
seedling onions, and marigolds and flower-de-luces, and lady's-
delights, and peonies, crowding in together, with southernwood in the
borders, and woodbine and hops and morning-glories climbing as they
got a chance,--these were the features by which the Rockland-born
children remembered the farm-house, when they had grown to be men.
Such are the recollections that come over poor sailor-boys crawling
out on reeling yards to reef topsails as their vessels stagger round
the stormy Cape; and such are the flitting images that make the eyes
of old country-born merchants look dim and dreamy, as they sit in
their city palaces, warm with the after-dinner flush of the red wave
out of which Memory arises, as Aphrodite arose from the green waves
of the ocean.

Two meeting-houses stood on two eminences, facing each other, and
looking like a couple of fighting-cocks with their necks straight up
in the air,--as if they would flap their roofs, the next thing, and
crow out of their upstretched steeples, and peck at each other's
glass eyes with their sharp-pointed weathercocks.

The first was a good pattern of the real old-fashioned New England
meeting-house. It was a large barn with windows, fronted by a square
tower crowned with a kind of wooden bell inverted and raised on legs,
out of which rose a slender spire with the sharp-billed weathercock
at its summit. Inside, tall, square pews with flapping seats, and a
gallery running round three sides of the building. On the fourth
side the pulpit, with a huge, dusty sounding-board hanging over it.
Here preached the Reverend Pierrepont Honeywood, D. D., successor,
after a number of generations, to the office and the parsonage of the
Reverend Didymus Bean, before mentioned, but not suspected of any of
his alleged heresies. He held to the old faith of the Puritans, and
occasionally delivered a discourse which was considered by the hard-
headed theologians of his parish to have settled the whole matter
fully and finally, so that now there was a good logical basis laid
down for the Millennium, which might begin at once upon the platform
of his demonstrations. Yet the Reverend Dr. Honeywood was fonder of
preaching plain, practical sermons about the duties of life, and
showing his Christianity in abundant good works among his people. It
was noticed by some few of his flock, not without comment, that the
great majority of his texts came from the Gospels, and this more and
more as he became interested in various benevolent enterprises which
brought him into relations with-ministers and kindhearted laymen of
other denominations. He was in fact a man of a very warm, open, and
exceedingly human disposition, and, although bred by a clerical
father, whose motto was "Sit anima mea cum Puritanis," he exercised
his human faculties in the harness of his ancient faith with such
freedom that the straps of it got so loose they did not interfere
greatly with the circulation of the warm blood through his system.
Once in a while he seemed to think it necessary to come out with a
grand doctrinal sermon, and them he would lapse away for a while into
preaching on men's duties to each other and to society, and hit hard,
perhaps, at some of the actual vices of the time and place, and
insist with such tenderness and eloquence on the great depth and
breadth of true Christian love and charity, that his oldest deacon
shook his head, and wished he had shown as much interest when he was
preaching, three Sabbaths back, on Predestinaticn, or in his
discourse against the Sabellians. But he was sound in the faith; no
doubt of that. Did he not preside at the council held in the town of
Tamarack, on the other side of the mountain, which expelled its
clergyman for maintaining heretical doctrines? As presiding officer,
he did not vote, of course, but there was no doubt that he was all
right; he had some of the Edwards blood in him, and that couldn't
very well let him go wrong.

The meeting-house on the other and opposite summit was of a more
modern style, considered by many a great improvement on the old New
England model, so that it is not uncommon for a country parish to
pull down its old meeting-house, which has been preached in for a
hundred years or so, and put up one of these more elegant edifices.
The new building was in what may be called the florid shingle-Gothic
manner. Its pinnacles and crockets and other ornaments were, like
the body of the building, all of pine wood,--an admirable material,
as it is very soft and easily worked, and can be painted of any color
desired. Inside, the walls were stuccoed in imitation of stone,--
first a dark brown square, then two light brown squares, then another
dark brown square, and so on, to represent the accidental differences
of shade always noticeable in the real stones of which walls are
built. To be sure, the architect could not help getting his party-
colored squares in almost as regular rhythmical order as those of a
chess-board; but nobody can avoid doing things in a systematic and
serial way; indeed, people who wish to plant trees in natural chimps
know very well that they cannot keep from making regular lines and
symmetrical figures, unless by some trick or other, as that one of
throwing a peck of potatoes up into the air and sticking in a tree
wherever a potato happens to fall. The pews of this meeting-house
were the usual oblong ones, where people sit close together, with a
ledge before them to support their hymn-books, liable only to
occasional contact with the back of the next pew's heads or bonnets,
and a place running under the seat of that pew where hats could be
deposited,--always at the risk of the owner, in case of injury by
boots or crickets.

In this meeting-house preached the Reverend Chauncy Fairweather, a
divine of the "Liberal" school, as it is commonly called, bred at
that famous college which used to be thought, twenty or thirty years
ago, to have the monopoly of training young men in the milder forms
of heresy. His ministrations were attended with decency, but not
followed with enthusiasm. "The beauty of virtue" got to be an old
story at last. "The moral dignity of human nature" ceased to excite
a thrill of satisfaction, after some hundred repetitions. It grew to
be a dull business, this preaching against stealing and intemperance,
while he knew very well that the thieves were prowling round orchards
and empty houses, instead of being there to hear the sermon, and that
the drunkards, being rarely church-goers, get little good by the
statistics and eloquent appeals of the preacher. Every now and then,
however, the Reverend Mr. Fairweather let off a polemic discourse
against his neighbor opposite, which waked his people up a little;
but it was a languid congregation, at best,--very apt to stay away
from meeting in the afternoon, and not at all given to extra evening
services. The minister, unlike his rival of the other side of the
way, was a down-hearted and timid kind of man. He went on preaching
as he had been taught to preach, but he had misgivings at times.
There was a little Roman Catholic church at the foot of the hill
where his own was placed, which he always had to pass on Sundays. He
could never look on the thronging multitudes that crowded its pews
and aisles or knelt bare-headed on its steps, without a longing to
get in among them and go down on his knees and enjoy that luxury of
devotional contact which makes a worshipping throng as different from
the same numbers praying apart as a bed of coals is from a trail of
scattered cinders.

"Oh, if I could but huddle in with those poor laborers and working-
women! "he would say to himself. "If I could but breathe that
atmosphere, stifling though it be, yet made holy by ancient litanies,
and cloudy with the smoke of hallowed incense, for one hour, instead
of droning over these moral precepts to my half-sleeping
congregation!" The intellectual isolation of his sect preyed upon
him; for, of all terrible things to natures like his, the most
terrible is to belong to a minority. No person that looked at his
thin and sallow cheek, his sunken and sad eye, his tremulous lip, his
contracted forehead, or who heard his querulous, though not unmusical
voice, could fail to see that his life was an uneasy one, that he was
engaged in some inward conflict. His dark, melancholic aspect
contrasted with his seemingly cheerful creed, and was all the more
striking, as the worthy Dr. Honeywood, professing a belief which made
him a passenger on board a shipwrecked planet, was yet a most good-
humored and companionable gentleman, whose laugh on week-days did one
as much good to listen to as the best sermon he ever delivered on a

A mile or two from the centre of Rockland was a pretty little
Episcopal church, with a roof like a wedge of cheese, a square tower,
a stained window, and a trained rector, who read the service with
such ventral depth of utterance and rrreduplication of the rrresonant
letter, that his own mother would not have known him for her son, if
the good woman had not ironed his surplice and put it on with her own

There were two public-houses in the place: one dignified with the
name of the Mountain House, somewhat frequented by city people in the
summer months, large-fronted, three-storied, balconied, boasting a
distinct ladies'-drawing-room, and spreading a table d'hote of some
pretensions; the other, "Pollard's Tahvern," in the common speech,--a
two-story building, with a bar-room, once famous, where there was a
great smell of hay and boots and pipes and all other bucolic-flavored
elements,--where games of checkers were played on the back of the
bellows with red and white kernels of corn, or with beans and coffee,
where a man slept in a box-settle at night, to wake up early
passengers,--where teamsters came in, with wooden-handled whips and
coarse frocks, reinforcing the bucolic flavor of the atmosphere, and
middle-aged male gossips, sometimes including the squire of the
neighboring law-office, gathered to exchange a question or two about
the news, and then fall into that solemn state of suspended animation
which the temperance bar-rooms of modern days produce in human
beings, as the Grotta del Cane does in dogs in the well-known
experiments related by travellers. This bar-room used to be famous
for drinking and storytelling, and sometimes fighting, in old times.
That was when there were rows of decanters on the shelf behind the
bar, and a hissing vessel of hot water ready, to make punch, and
three or four loggerheads (long irons clubbed at the end) were always
lying in the fire in the cold season, waiting to be plunged into
sputtering and foaming mugs of flip,--a goodly compound; speaking
according to the flesh, made with beer and sugar, and a certain


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