Catherine A. Warfield
Part 5 out of 9
such might be called this rustic retreat without sign, lodging, or
"Are we in the mansion of a decayed queen, or the log-hut of a wayside
innkeeper?" I questioned low of Marion.
"Both in one, it seems to me," was the reply. "But Madame Grambeau is no
curiosity, no novelty to me, I have stopped here so frequently. I ought
to have told you, before we came, not to be surprised."
Pausing at the door of a large, square room, from which voices
proceeded, she invited us with a singularly graceful though formal
courtesy to enter, smiling and pointing forward silently as she did so,
and then, like Major Favraud, she turned and abandoned us at the
door-sill, on which we stood riveted for a moment by the sound of a
vibrant and eager voice speaking some never-to-be-forgotten words.
"For the slave is the coral-insect of the South," said the voice within;
"insignificant in himself, he rears a giant structure--which will yet
cause the wreck of the ship of state, should its keel grate too closely
on that adamantine wall. '_L'etat c'est moi_,' said Louis XIV., and that
'slavery is the South' is as true an utterance. Our staple--our
patriarchal institution--our prosperity--are one and indissoluble, and
the sooner the issue comes the better for the nation!"
Standing with his hand on the back of a chair near the casement-window
of the large, low apartment, in close conversation with two other
gentlemen, was the speaker of these remarkable words, which embraced the
whole genius and policy of the South as it then existed, and which were
delivered in those clear and perfectly modulated tones that bespeak the
practised orator and the man of dominant energies.
I felt instinctively that I stood in the presence of one of the anointed
princes of the earth--felt it, and was thrilled.
"Do you know that gentleman, Marion?" I whispered, as we seated
ourselves on the old-fashioned settle, or rather sofa, in one corner of
the room, gazing admiringly, as I spoke, on the tall, slight figure,
with its air of power and poise, that stood at some distance, with
"No, I have no idea who it is, or who are his companions either," she
replied; "unless"--hesitating with scrutiny in her eyes--
"His companions, I do not care to question of them!--but that man
himself--the speaker--has a sovereign presence! Can it be possible--"
The entrance of Major Favraud interrupted further conjecture, for at the
sound of those emphatic boots the stranger turned, and for one moment
the splendor of his large dark eyes, in their iron framing, met my own,
then passed recognizingly on to rest on the face of Major Favraud, and
advancing with extended hands, made more cordial by his voice and smile,
he greeted him familiarly as "Victor."
Major Favraud stood for a moment spell-bound--then suddenly rushing
forward, flung his hat to the floor, caught the hand of the stranger
between his own and pressed it to his heart. (To his lips, I think, he
would fain have lifted it, falling on one knee, perchance, at the same
time, in a knightly fashion of hero-worship that modern reticence
forbids.) But he contented himself with exclaiming:
"Mr. Calhoun! best of friends, welcome back to Georgia!" And tears
started to his eyes and choked his utterance. Thus was my conjecture
confirmed. I never felt so thrilled, so elated, by any presence.
There was a momentary pause after this fervent greeting, emotional on
one part only.
"But why did you not meet me at Milledgeville?" asked Mr. Calhoun. "Most
of my friends in this vicinity sustained me there. I have been
discussing the great question again, Favraud, and I should have been
glad of your countenance."
"I have been detained at home of late by a cruel necessity," was the
faltering reply, "or I should never have played recreant to my old
"Good fortune spoiled me a fine lawyer in your case, Victor! But
introduce me to your wife. Remember, I have never had the pleasure of
meeting Madame Favraud," advancing, as he spoke, toward me, with his
hand on Major Favraud's shoulder (above whom he towered by a head),
courteously and impulsively.
"Miss Harz, Miss La Vigne, Miss Durand--Mr. Calhoun," said Major
Favraud, pale as death now, and trembling as he spoke. "These ladies are
friends of mine--one, a distant relative"--he hesitated--"within the
last six weeks I have had the misfortune to lose my wife, Mr. Calhoun.
You understand matters better now."
All conversation was cut short by this sudden announcement. Deeply
shocked, Mr. Calhoun led Major Favraud aside, with a brief apology to me
for his misapprehension, and they stood together, talking low, at the
extreme end of the apartment, affording me thus an admirable opportunity
for observing the _personnel_ of the great Southern leader, during the
brief space of time accorded by the change of stage-horses. For, with
his friends, he was then _en route_ for another appointment. He was
canvassing the State, with a view to a final rally of its resources,
preparatory to his last great effort--to scotch the serpent of the
North, which finally, however, wound its insidious folds around the
heart of brotherly affection, stifling it, as the snakes of fable were
sent to do the baby Hercules.
No picture of Mr. Calhoun has ever done him justice, although his
was a physiognomy that an artist could scarcely fail to make an extern
likeness of, from its remarkable characteristics. It was truly an
iron-bound face, condensed, powerful in every nerve, muscle, and
lineament, and fraught, beyond almost all others, with intellect and
resolution. But the glory and power of that glance and smile no painter
could convey--those attributes of man which more fully than aught else
betray the immortal soul!
Just as I beheld him that day, bending above Major Favraud in his
tender, half-paternal dignity and solicitude combined, soothing and
condoling with him (I could not doubt, from the expression of his
speaking countenance), I see him still in mental vision; nor can I
wonder more at the depth and strength of enthusiasm he awakened in the
hearts of his friends.
It belongs not to every great man to excite this devotion, yet, where it
blends with greatness, it is irresistible. Mohammed, Cyrus, Alexander,
Darius, Pericles, Napoleon, were thus magnetically gifted. I recall few
instances of others so distinguished in station who possessed this
power, which has its root, perhaps, after all, in the great
master-passion of mortality, the yearning for exalted sympathy, so
This observation of mine was but a glimpse at best, for the winding of
the stage-horn was the signal for Mr. Calhoun's departure, and I never
saw him more. But that glimpse alone opened to my eyes a mighty volume!
A few days before I should have rejected as wearisome the details to
which I listened with eagerness now, and which I even sought to elicit
as to Mr. Calhoun--his mode of life, his mountain-home, and his passion
for those heights he inhabited, and which, no doubt, contributed to
train his character to energy and strengthen his _physique_ to endure
its brain-burden. I heard with pleasure the account of one who had
passed much of his youth beneath his roof, and who, however
enthusiastic, was, in the very framing of his nature, strictly truthful
with regard to the mutual devotion of the master and slaves, the
invariable courtesy and sweetness of his deportment to his own family,
his justice and regard for the feelings of his lowest dependant, his
simplicity, his cheerfulness.
"A grave and even gloomy man in public life, he is all life and interest
in the social circle," said Major Favraud. "His range of thought is the
grandest and most unlimited, his powers of conversation are the rarest I
have ever met with. Yet he never refused, on any occasion, to answer
with minuteness the inquiries of the smallest child or most
insignificant dependant. 'Had he not been Alexander, he must have been
Parmenio.' Had fortune not struck out for him the path of a statesman,
he would have made the most impressive and perfect of teachers. As it
was, without the slightest approach to pedagogism, he involuntarily
instructed all who came near him, without effort or weariness on either
"Does he love music--poetry?" I asked.
"Oh, yes; Scottish songs and classic verse, especially, are his
delights. He has no affectation. His tastes are all his own--his
opinions all genuine. He is, indeed, a man of very varied attainment, as
well as great grasp of intellect. Yet, as you see, he likes his
opposites sometimes. Miss Harz," and he laid his hand proudly on his
own manly breast.
Talking thus in that large, low, scantily-furnished parlor, with its
split-bottomed chairs, in primitive frames (and in somewhat strange
contrast to its well-polished mahogany tables, dark with time, and walls
adorned with good engravings), with its floor freshly scoured and
sanded, while a simple deal stand in the centre bore a vase filled with
the rarest and most exquisite wild-flowers I had ever seen (from the
gorgeous amaryllis and hibiscus of these regions, down to wax-like
blossoms of fragile delicacy and beauty, whose very names I knew not),
and its many small diamond-paned casement-windows, all neatly curtained
with coarse white muslin bordered with blue, time passed unconsciously
until the noonday meal was announced.
We followed the Mercury of the establishment, a grave-looking little
yellow boy, who seemed to have grown prematurely old, from his constant
companionship, probably, with his preceptor and mistress, into a long,
low apartment in the rear of the dwelling, where a table was spread for
our party, with a damask cloth and napkins, decorated china and
cut-glass, that proved Madame Grambeau's personal superintendence; and
which elicited from Major Favraud, as he entered, a long, low whistle of
approval and surprise, and the exclamation "Heh! madame! you are
overwhelming us to-day with your magnificence."
I was amused with the response. "Sit down, Victor Favraud, and eat your
dinner Christian-like, without remarks! You have never got over the
spoiling you received when you lay wounded under this roof. I shall
indulge you no longer." Shaking her long forefinger at him. "Your
familiarity needs to be checked." Her manner of grave and kindly irony
removed all impression of rebuke from this speech, which Major Favraud
received very coolly, spoiled child that he really was, rubbing his
hands as he took the foot of the table. At the sight of the _bouilli_
before him, from which a savory steam ascended to his epicurean
nostrils, he said, notwithstanding: "Soup and _bouilli_ too! Ah, madame,
I see why you absented yourself so cruelly this morning. You have been
engaged in good works!"
"Only the sauces, Favraud!--_seulement les sauces_" "The sauces--it's
just that!--Tide is a mere charlatan in comparison," turning to me.
"Miss Harz, you never tasted any thing before like madame's soup and
sauces. I wish she would take me in partnership for a while, if only to
teach me the recipes that will otherwise die with her. What a restaurant
we two could keep together!"
"You are too unsteady, Favraud, for my _maitre d'hotel._ Your mind is
too much engrossed by the bubbles of politics, you would spoil all my
materials, and realize the old proverb that 'the devil sends cooks.' But
go to work like a good fellow, and carve the dish before you; by that
time the soup will be removed. I have a fine fish, however, in reserve
(let me announce this at once), for my end of the table."
"Here are croquets too, as I live," said Duganne, lifting a cover before
him and peeping in, then returning it quietly to its place. "Are you a
"Much more like a witch," she said, with gayety. "You young men, at
least, think every old, toothless gray-haired crone like me ready for
the stake, you know."
"Not when they make such steaks," said Dr. Durand, attacking the dish,
with its savory surroundings, before him.
"Ah! you make calembourgs, my good doctor.--What do you call them,
Favraud? It is one of the few English words I do not know--or forget. I
believe, to make them, however, is a medical peculiarity."
"Puns, madame, puns, not pills. Don't forget it now. It is time you were
beginning to master our language. You know you are almost grown up!" and
Favraud looked at her saucily.
"A language which madame speaks more perfectly than any foreigner I have
ever known," I remarked. She bowed in answer, well pleased.
In truth, the accent of Madame Grambeau was barely detectable, and her
phraseology was that of a well-translated book--correct, but not
idiomatic, and bearing about it the idiosyncrasy of the language from
which it was derived. She was evidently a person of culture and native
power of intellect combined, and her finely-moulded face, as well as
every gesture and tone, indicated superiority and character.
In that lonely wild, and beneath that lowly roof, there abode a spirit
able and worthy to lead the _coteries_ of the great, and to preside over
the councils of statesmen, and (to rise in climax) the drawing-room of
the _grande monde._ But it was her whim rather than her necessity to
tarry where she could alone be strictly independent, a _sine qua non_ of
The son she had led by the hand from New York to Georgia, and who,
standing by her side, distinctly remembered to have seen the head of the
Princess Lamballe borne on a pole through the streets of Paris, was now
a prominent member of the Legislature, and, through his rich wife, the
incumbent of a great plantation.
But the teachings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, that philosophic sign-post,
still influenced his mother, in her refusal to live under his splendid
roof, and partake of his bounty, however liberally offered.
"I have a home of my own," she said, "a few faithful servants, brains,
and energy still, besides a small account with General Curzon, in his
bank at Savannah, wherewith to meet emergencies; while these things
last, I will owe to no man or woman for bread or shelter. And, when
these depart, may the grave cover my bones, and the good God receive my
Books alone she accepted as gifts from her son, and of these, in a
little three-cornered library, she had a goodly store in the two
languages which she read with equal facility, if not delight.
She showed us this nook before we left, and I saw, lying face downward,
as she had recently left it, the volume she was then perusing at
intervals--one of Madame Sand's novels, "Les Mauprats," I remember, a
singular and powerful romance, then recently issued, whose root I have
always thought might be found in Walter Scott's "Rob Roy," and more
particularly in the Osbaldistone family commemorated in that work.
On suggesting this to Madame Grambeau, she too saw the resemblance I
spoke of, and she agreed, with me, that the coincidence of genius
furnished many such parallels, where no charge of plagiarism could be
attached to either side.
A few bottles of "wild-berry wine," as Elizabeth Barrett called such
fluids, were added to the dinner toward its close, and Marion begged
permission to have her basket of cakes and fruits brought in for
dessert, which else had been wanting to our repast; to which request
Madame Grambeau graciously acceded.
"I make no confections," she said, "but I have lived on the juices of
good meats, well prepared, with such vegetables as the Lord lets grow in
this poor region, many years, and behold I am old and still able to do
"And a little good wine, too, occasionally--eh, madame?" added Major
"When attainable, Favraud. You drank good wine yourself, when you were
here, and I partook with you moderately. But I buy none such. I drown
not, Clarence-like, even in butts of malmsey, my hard-earned gold; and I
own I am not fond of the juices of the muscadine of your hills;" and she
tapped her snuffbox.
"You are going to hear her talk now," whispered Favraud; "that is a
sign--equal to General Finistere's--the snuffbox tapping, I mean. The
oracle is beginning to arouse! Come! let me stir her further!" and he
inclined his head before her.
"I'll tell you what, madame, you must take a little cognac to keep off
the chills of age. I have some of the best, and will send you down a
demijohn, if you say the word; and in return you shall pray for me. I am
a great sinner, Miss Harz thinks."
"Miss Harz is correct; and we will both promise you our prayers. She,
too, is Catholic, I hope. No? I regret so, for her own sake; but your
brandy I reject, Victor; remember that, and offend me not by sending it.
You must not forget the fate of your malvoisie."
"Ah, madame, that was cruel! but I have forgiven you long since. I
think, however, that the grape-vines bore better that year than ever
before--thus watered, or wined, I mean.--Just think of it, Miss Harz! To
pour good wine round the roots of a Fontainebleau grape, rather than
replenish the springs of life with it! Was there ever waste like that
since Cleopatra dissolved her pearl in vinegar?"
"Miss Harz will agree with me that a principle that could not resist the
gift of a dozen bottles of choice wine was little worth. Of such stuff
was made not the fathers of your Revolution. But stay, there is an
explanation due to me, yet unrendered," she pursued. "I am a puzzled
_bourgeoise_, I confess," she said, shaking her head. "Come, Favraud,
explain. Who is this young lady?"
"A _bourgeoise_ also," I replied for him, anxious to turn the tide of
conversation into another channel for some reasons. "I had thought you
an expatriated marquise, at least, madame!" I continued. "As for me, I
am simply a governess."
"It is my glory, mademoiselle, to have been of that class to which
belonged Madame Roland herself, and which represented that _juste
milieu_ which maintained the balance of society in France. When the
dregs of the _bas peuple_ rose to the surface of the revolution,
commenced by the sound middle classes, we regarded the scum of
aristocracy as the smaller of the two evils. As soon as the true element
had ceased to assert itself in France, I fled forever from a land of
bloodshed and misrule, and took shelter under the broad wing of your
boasted American eagle."
"Which still continues to flap over you shelteringly, madame," I
rejoined, somewhat flippantly, I fear, "and will to the end, no doubt;
for, in its very organization, our country can never be subjected to the
fluctuations of other lands--revolt and revolution."
"I am not so certain of this," she observed, shaking her white head
slowly as she spoke, and, lifting a pinch of snuff from her
tortoise-shell box (the companion of her whole married life, as she
acquainted us), she inhaled it with an air of meditative
self-complacency, then offered it quietly to the gentlemen, who were
still sitting over their wine and peaches; passing by Marion, Alice
Durand, and myself, completely, in this ovation.
"Good snuff is not to be sneezed at," said Major Favraud. "None offered
to young ladies, it seems," taking a huge pinch, and thrusting it
bravely up his nostrils, as one takes a spoonful of unpleasant medicine.
Then contradicting his own assertion immediately afterward, he succeeded
in expelling most of it in a series of violent sternutatory spasms,
which left him breathless, red-faced, and watery-eyed, with a
handkerchief much begrimed.
But Madame Grambeau seemed not to have noticed this ridiculous
proceeding, which, of course, created momentary mirth at the expense of
the penitent Favraud, to whom Dr. Durand repeated the tantalizing
saying, that "it is a royal privilege to take snuff gracefully"--giving
the example as he spoke, in a mock-heroic manner, quite as absurd and
irrelevant as Favraud's own.
Lost in deep thought, and gently tapping her snuffbox as she mused--the
tripod of her inspiration, as it seemed--Madame Grambeau sat silently,
with what memories of the past and what insight into the future none can
know save those like herself grown hoary with wisdom and experience.
At last she spoke, addressing her remarks to me, as though the careless
words I had hazarded had just been spoken, and the attention of her
hearers undiverted by divers absurdities--among others the affected
gambols of Duganne--anxious to place himself in an agreeable aspect
before both of his _inamoratas_, past and present.
"I do not agree with you, mademoiselle. I am one of those who think
that in the very framing of this Constitution of ours the dragon's teeth
were sown, whose harvest is not yet produced. Mr. Calhoun, with his
prophetic eye, foresees that this crop of armed men is inevitable from
such germs, as does Mr. Clay, were he only frank, which he is not,
because he deludes himself--the most incurable and inexcusable of all
And she applied herself again assiduously to her snuffbox, tapping it
peremptorily before opening it, and, with a gloomy eye fixed on space,
"In all lands, from the time of Cassandra and Jeremiah up, there have
been prophets. Prophets for good and prophets for ill--of which some few
have been God-appointed, and the sayings of such alone have been
preserved. The rest vanish away into oblivion like chaff before the
wind--never mind what their achievement, what their boast.
"In this nation we have only two true prophets, Calhoun and Clay--both
men of equal might, and resolution, and intellect--gifted as beseems
their vocation, masterful and heroic; and to these all other men are
subordinate in the great designs of Providence."
"Where do you leave Mr. Webster, John Quincy Adams, General Jackson
himself, in such a category, madame?" I asked, eagerly.
"They are doing, or have done, the work God has appointed for them to
do, I suppose, mademoiselle; but they are accessories merely of the
times, and will pass away with the necessities of the moment."
"'The earth has bubbles as the water hath, and these are of them,'" said
Major Favraud aside, between his short, set teeth, nodding to me as he
spoke, and lending the next moment implicit attention to what Madame
Grambeau was saying; for the brief pause she had made for another pinch
of snuff was ended, and she continued impetuously, as if no interval had
"Clay is, unconsciously, I trust, for the honor of mankind, fulfilling
his destiny--this great prophet who still refuses to prophesy. He is
entering the wedge for what he declines to admit the possibility of--yet
there must be moments when that eye of power pierces the clouds of
prejudice and party, wherewith it seeks to blind its kingly vision, and
descries the horrors beyond as the result of the acts he is now
committing; and when such moments of clear conviction come to him, the
ambitious tool of a party, I envy not his sensations," and she shook her
head mournfully. "Not Napoleon at St. Helena, not Prometheus on his
rock, were more to be pitied than he! the man whose ambition shall never
know fruition, whose measures shall pass and leave no trace in less than
fifty years after he has ceased to exist--the splendid failure of our
She ceased for a moment, with her eye fixed on space, her hands clasped,
her whole face and manner uplifted, as if, indeed, on her likewise the
prophet's mantle had dropped from a chariot of fire.
"As to Calhoun--he is God-fearing," she continued, fervently. "In the
solitudes of a spiritual Mount Sinai, he has received the tablets of the
Lord, and bends every energy to their fulfillment. He, too,
foresees--not with an eye like Clay's, clear only at intervals--and
clouded by vanity, ambition, and sophistry, at other seasons--he, too,
foresees the coming of our doom! His clear vision embraces anarchy,
dissension, civil war, with all its attendant horrors, as the
consequence of man's injustice; and, like Moses, he beholds the promised
land into which he can never enter! Would that it were given to him to
appoint his Joshua, or even to see him face to face, recognizingly! But
this is not God's will. He lurks among the shadows yet--this Joshua of
the South, but God shall yet search him out and bring him visibly before
the people! Not while I live," she added, solemnly, "but within the
natural lives of all others who sit this day around my table!"
"She is equal to Madame Le Normand!" said Major Favraud, aside, nodding
approvingly at me.
"If one waits long enough, most prophecies may be fulfilled," I
ventured; "but, madame, your words point to results too terrible--too
unnatural, it seems to me, ever to be realized in these enlightened
times or in this land of moderation."
"Child," she responded, "blood asserts itself to the end of races. There
are two separate civilizations in this land, destined some day to come
in fearful conflict; and the wars of Scylla, of the Jews themselves,
shall be outdone in the horror and persistence of that strife of
partners--I will not say brothers--for there is no brotherhood of blood
between South and North, of which Clay and Calhoun stand forth to my
mind as distinct types. No union of the red and white roses possible."
"But you forget, madame, that Mr. Clay is a Western man, a Virginian, a
Kentuckian, and the representative of slave-holders," I remonstrated.
"His interests are coincident with those of the South. His hope of the
presidency itself vests in his constituents, and the wand would be
broken in his hand were he to lend himself to partiality of any kind.
Mr. Clay is a great patriot, I believe, Jacksonite though I am--he knows
no South nor North, nor East nor West, but the Union alone, solid and
"All this is true," she answered, "in one sense. It is thus he speaks,
and, like all partial parents, even thinks he feels toward his
offspring; but observe his acts narrowly from first to last. He has a
manufacturer's heart, with all his genius. He loves machinery--the sound
of the mill, the anvil, the spinning-jenny, the sight of the ship upon
the high-seas, or steamboat on the river, the roar of commerce, far more
than the work of the husbandman. We are an agricultural people, we of
the South and West--and especially we Southerners, with our poverty of
invention, our one staple, our otherwise helpless habits, incident to
the institution which, however it may be our curse, is still our wealth,
and to which, for the present time, we are bound, Ixion-like, by every
law of necessity. What does this tariff promise? Where will the profit
rest? Where will the loss fall crushingly? The slow torture of which we
read in histories of early times was like to this. Each day a weight was
added to that already lying on the breast of a strong man, bound on his
back by the cords of his oppressors, until relief and destruction came
together, and the man was crushed; such was the _peine forte et dure_."
"Calhoun is patriarchal, and is now placing all his individual
strength to the task of heaving off this incubus from the breast of our
body politic, but with small avail, for he has no lever to assist
him--no fulcrum whereon to rest it; otherwise he might say with
Archimedes, 'With these I could move a world.' He is unaided, this
eagled-eyed prophet of ours, looking sorrowfully, sagaciously down into
the ages! South Carolina is the Joseph, that his cruel brothers, the
remaining Southern States, have sold to the Egyptians, as a bond-slave.
But they shall yet come to drink of his cup, and eat of his bread of
opinion, in the famine of their Canaan. Nullification shall leave a
fitting successor, as Philip of Macedon left Alexander to carry out his
plans. The abolitionist and the slave-holder are as distinct as were
Charles I. and Cromwell, or Catharine de Medicis and Henry of Navarre.
The germ that Calhoun has planted shall lie long in the earth, perhaps,
but when it breaks the surface, it shall grow in one night to maturity,
like that in your so famous 'Mother Goose' story of 'Jack and his
Bean-stalk,' forming a ladder wherewith to scale the abode of giants and
slay them in their drunken sleep of security. But he who does this deed,
this Joshua of the Lord's, this fierce successor of our gentle Moses,
shall wade through his oceans of blood to gain the stone. God
knoweth--He only--how all this shall end, whether in success or
overthrow. It is so far wrapped in mystery."
As if she saw from some spiritual height the reign of terror she
predicted, she dropped her head upon her hands and closed her eyes, and
I felt my blood creep slowly through my veins as I followed her in
thought across the waste of woe and desolation. For there was something
in her manner, her voice (august and solemn with age and wisdom as these
were), that impressed all who heard, with or in spite of their own
consent, and for a time profound silence succeeded this harangue.
Dr. Durand was the first to recover himself. "I trust, my dear madame,"
he remarked, "that the substantial horrors realized in your youth still
cast their dark shadows over the coming years, and so deceive you into
prophecies that it is sad to hear from lips so reverent, and which, let
us all pray, may never be realized. You yourself will say amen to that,
I am convinced."
"Amen!" she murmured.
"Nonsense, Durand! don't play at hypocrite in your old age, after having
been a true man all your life," broke in Major Favraud. "What is a
conservative, after all, but a social parrot, who repeats 'wise saws and
modern instances,' until he believes himself possessed of the wisdom of
all the ages, and is incapable of conceiving of the existence even of an
"By-the-by," digressed Duganne, weary of discussion, "hear that old
fellow outside, how he is going on, Favraud, _a propos_ of poll parrots,
you know, as if all else, but the name of the bird, had been lost on his
ear. Just listen!"
"Yes, hear him, and be edified," was the sarcastic response of Favraud
to Duganne, who took no other notice, even if he understood the point,
than to lead the way to the portico, where swung the cage of the jolly
bird in question; and, headed by Madame Grambeau leaning on her cane, we
followed simultaneously, with the exception of Major Favraud, who
continued at the table with his cigar and cognac-flask, in sullen and
"Nutmegs and nullification!" shrieked the parrot, as we stood before
him. "Ha, ha, ha!"
"That is condensing the matter, certainly," I observed.
"_Bienvenu, compatriote!_" he repeated many times, laughing loudly, the
next moment, as if in mockery.
"What a fiend it is!" said Marion, timidly; "only look at its black
tongue, Miss Harz! Then what a laugh!"
"Danton! Danton! have you nothing to say to this strange lady?" said
Madame Grambeau, addressing her bird by name; "you must not neglect my
friends, Danton Pardi!"
"Bird of freedom, moulting--moulting!" was the whimsical rejoinder.
"Jackson! give us your paw, Old Hick--Hick--Hickory!"
"This is the stuff Major Favraud taught him," she apologized, "when he
used to lie on his porch day after day, after his hostile meeting with
Juarez, which took place on that hill," signifying the site of the duel
with her slender cane. "It was there they fought their duel, _a
l'outrance_, and I knew it not until too late! His wife was too ill to
come to him at that time, and the task of nursing him devolved on me,
since when, on maternal principles, the lad has grown into my
"The lad of forty-odd!" sneered Duganne, unnoticed, apparently, by the
aged lady, however, at the moment, but not without amusing other hearers
by this sally. Dr. Durand was especially delighted.
"For he is a boy at heart," she said later, "this same Victor Favraud of
ours," gazing reprovingly around. "Indeed, he is the only American I
have ever seen who possessed real _gaiete de coeur_, and for that, I
imagine, he must thank his French extraction."
"Calhoun and cotton!" "Coal and codfish!" shouted the parrot at the top
of his voice. "Catfish and coffee!"--"Rice cakes for breakfast"--"All in
my eye, Betty Martin"--"Yarns and Yankees"--"Shad and shin-plasters"--"Yams
and yaller boys," and so on, in a string of the most irrelevant
alliteration and folly, that, like much other nonsense, evoked peals
of laughter, by its unexpected utterance, and which at last mollified
and brought out Major Favraud himself, from his dignified retirement.
"You have ruined the morals of my bird," said Madame Grambeau,
reproachfully. "Approach, Favraud, and justify yourself. In former times
his discourse was discreet. He knew many wise proverbs and polite
salutations in French and English both, most of which he has discarded
in favor of your profane and foolish teachings. He is as bad as the
'Vert-vert' of Voltaire. I shall have to expel him soon, I fear."
"Danton, how can you so grieve your mistress?" remonstrated Major
Favraud, lifting at the same time an admonitory finger, at which
recognized signal, a part of past instructions probably, the parrot
burst forth at once in a series of the most grotesque and _outre_ oaths
ear ever heard, ending (by the aid of some prompting from his teacher)
by dismally croaking the fragment of a popular song thus travestied:
"My ole mistis dead and gone,
She lef to me her ole jawbone.
Says she, 'Charge up in dem yaller pines,
And slay dem Yankee Philistines!'"--
ending with the invariable _"Bon jour_," or "_Bienvenu, compatriote"_
and demoniac "Ha! ha! ha!"
"The memory of the creature is perfectly wonderful," I said. "Many
parrots have I seen, but never one like this before. It must have sprung
out of the Arabian Nights."
"I can teach any thing to every thing," digressed Major Favraud, "and
without severity; it is my specialty. I was meant for a trainer of
beasts, probably. I will get up an entertainment, I believe, in
opposition to the industrious fleas, called the 'Desperate Doves,' and
teach pigeons to muster, drill, and go through all the military motions.
I could do it easily, and so repair my broken fortunes. I have one
already at home that feigns death at the word of command. I have amused
myself for hours at a time with this bird.--Don't say a word, Miss
Harz," speaking low, "I see what you think of it all, but I have had to
cheat misery some way or other. It was a wretched device and waste of
existence, though. And when I see that great, distinguished man, who had
such hopes of me as a boy, I feel that I could creep into an auger-hole
for sheer shame of my extinguished promise."
"Not extinguished!" I murmured, "only under a cloud, still destined to
"Only in the grave," he said, sadly, "with the promise common to all
mankind;" and thus by gloomy glimpses I caught the truth.
We staid that night at the house of an aunt of Madame La Vigne's, who
received us cordially, entertained us sumptuously, and dismissed us
The next morning at sunrise we again set out for Savannah, into which
city we entered before the noonday heat, finding cool shelter and warm
welcome at once under the roof of General Curzon, the South's most
polished gentleman and finished man of letters, of whom it may be truly
said that, "Take him for all in all, we ne'er shall look upon his like
[Footnote 2: It need not for one moment be supposed that the opinions of
the author are represented through the extremist Favraud. To her Mr.
Bryant stands forth as the high-priest of American poetry.]
[Footnote 3: The tariff.]
[Footnote 4: Since writing the above, the admirable picture of Mr.
Healey has filled this void; and those who have seen good copies of this
work, executed for and by the order of Louis Philippe, may have a clear
idea of that glorious countenance, the like of which we shall not see
Perhaps it was from this very personal magnetism of which I have spoken
that Healey succeeded better with the portrait of Mr. Calhoun than any
of the others he was sent to this country to paint.]
[Footnote 5: It was about this time that Mr. Calhoun made his famous
anti-tariff crusade throughout the land, it may be remembered by some of
Before leaving the hospitable roof of General Curzon--beneath which I
tarried for several days--awaiting the tardy sailing of the
packet-steamer Kosciusko, bound for New York, circumstances determined
me to leave in the hands of my host a desk which I had intended to carry
with me, and which contained most of my treasures. First among these,
indisputably, in intrinsic value were my diamonds--"sole remnant of a
past magnificence;" but the miniatures of my father and mother, and
Mabel, in the cases of which locks of twisted hair--brown, and black,
and golden, and gray--were contained and combined (dear, imperishable
memorials of vitality in most instances when all the rest was dust and
ashes), and the early letters of my parents, together with the
carefully-kept diary I had written at Beauseincourt, ranked beyond these
even in my estimation.
The cause of this deposit of valuables was simply owing to the unstable
lock of my trunk, the condition of which was detected too late to have
it repaired before sailing. Madame Curzon had suggested to me the unsafe
nature of such custody for objects of price, if, indeed, I possessed
such at all. I told her then of my diamonds, and it was agreed between
us that these, at least, had better be deposited in the bank of her
husband, who would bring them to me himself a few months later--and on
reflection I concluded to add my desk, pictures, and papers, to my more
substantial treasures. These, at least, I felt assured no accident
should throw into the hands of Bainrothe.
On my way to the ship I left the carriage for a moment, in pursuance
with this idea, and, followed by King, the bearer of my large and
weighty desk, entered the banking-house of my host, and was shown at
once, by attentive clerks, to his peculiar sanctum. I told him my errand
in a few words.
"Keep it until called for, unless you hear from me in the interval," I
had said in allusion to my deposit, for he acknowledged the chances were
slight of his leaving home until the following year, notwithstanding
Madame Curzon's convictions.
"Called for by whom?" he asked, calmly.
"By Miriam Monfort in person or her order," I replied, laughingly, "This
is a mystery that, by-and-by, shall be explained to you."
"I understand something of that already," he rejoined. "Marion has been
whispering to the reeds, you know, or Madame Curzon, the same thing
nearly; but let us be earnest, as your time is short, and mine precious
to-day. Life is uncertain, and, young and strong as you are, or seem to
be, you cannot foresee one hour even of the future, or of your own
existence. Suppose Miriam Monfort neither comes in person nor sends her
order for its restoration--what, then, is to become of this
treasure-chest of hers?"
"You shall keep it then," I replied, unhesitatingly, "until my little
sister reaches her majority, and cause it to be placed in her own hands,
none other--or, stay, let her have it on the day before her marriage,
should this occur earlier than the time mentioned, or when she reaches
her eighteenth year in any case; but, above all things, be careful."
"So many conflicting directions confuse and mystify me, I confess. Come,
let me write down your wishes, and the matter can be arranged formally,
which is always best in any case. There, I think I have the gist of your
idea," he said a few moments later, as he pushed over to me a slip of
paper to read and sign, which done, I shook hands with him cordially,
preparing to go. "But your receipt--you have forgotten to take it up!"
"O General Curzon! the whole proceeding seems so ominous," I said,
turning back at the door to receive the proffered scrap, which, in
another moment, dropped from my nerveless fingers, while these, clasped
over my streaming eyes, forgot their office.
"My dear young lady," he remonstrated, "I am shocked. What can have
occurred to impress you thus? Not this mere routine of affairs,
surely?--Duncan, a glass of water here for Miss Monfort."
"I do not know, I am sure, why I should be so weak for such a trifle," I
said, after a few swallows of ice-water had somewhat restored my
equilibrium; "but I do feel very dismally about this voyage--have done
so ever since I left Beauseincourt. This is the last straw on the
camel's back, believe me, General Curzon. You must not reproach yourself
in the least--nor me; and now let me bid you farewell once more, perhaps
These words of mine were remembered later in a very different spirit
from that in which they were then received (one of incredulous
compassion)--remembered as are ever the last utterances of the doomed,
whether innocent or guilty, in solemn awe and reverential tenderness,
not unmingled with a superstitious faith in presentiment.
"Why, you look bluer than your very obvious veil, bluer than your
invisible school-marmish stockings, bluer than the skies, or a blue bag,
or Madame de Stael's 'Corinne,' or Byron's 'dark-blue ocean,'" said
Major Favraud, as he assisted me again into the carriage, where Dr.
Durand and Marion awaited me, for, as I have said, we were now on our
way to the vessel which was to bear me and my destinies forever from
that lovely Southern land in which I had seen and suffered so much.
Dr. Durand looked serious at the sight of my woful aspect, and Marion
mutely proffered her _vinaigrette_, gratefully accepted, as was the good
doctor's compassionate silence; but, as usual, Favraud, after having
once gotten fairly under weigh, ran on. "What is the use of bewailing
the inevitable?" he pursued. "We have all seen your _penchant_ for
Curzon, and his for you, for three days past; but Octavia is as tough as
_lignum-vitae,_ I regret to assure you, my dear Miss Harz, and your
chance is _as blue_ as your spirits, or the flames of snap-dragon, or
Marion's eyes. You will have to just put up with the captain, I fear,
for even the doctor there is in harness for life. Southern women, you
know, proverbially survive their husbands; and, as the suttee is out of
fashion, they sometimes have to marry Yankees as a _dernier ressort_ of
desperation! Of course, there are occasional sad exceptions"--looking
grave for a moment, and glancing at the black hat-band on the Panama hat
he was nursing on his knees, so as to let the breeze blow through his
silky, silver-streaked black hair--"but--but--in short, why will you all
look so doleful? Isn't it bad enough to feel so?"
"The loveliest fade earliest, we all know," and the tears were in his
honest, frivolous eyes, dashed away in the next moment as he exclaimed,
eagerly, "Why, there goes the Lamarque equipage, as I live! I had
forgotten all about it. The pleasantest woman in Savannah, young or old,
is to be your _compagnon de voyage_, Miss Harz, and the most determined
widower on record her escort; a perfect John Rogers of a man, with nine
little motherless children, her brother Raguet ('Rag,' as we called him
at school, on account of his prim stiffness, so that 'limber as a rag'
seemed a most preposterous saying in his vicinity). He is handsome,
however, and intelligent, a perfect gentleman, but on the mourners'
bench just now, like some others you know of"--heaving a deep sigh. "His
wife, poor thing, died last autumn--a pretty girl in her day was
Cornelia Huger! I was a little weak in that direction once
myself--before--that is, before--O doctor! what a trouble it is to
And again the small, fleet hand was dashed across the twinkling, tearful
eyes of this April day of a middle-aged man of the world--this modern
Mercutio--merry and mournful at once, as if there were two sides to his
every mood, like the famous shield of story. When we reached the quay
the Kosciusko was already getting up her steam, and, in less than an
hour afterward, the friends I loved were gone like dreams, the bustle of
departure was over, and, with lifted canvas and a puffing engine, we
were grandly steaming past the noble forts (poor Bertie's broach and
buckle, be it remembered) on our path of pride and power toward the
The weather was oppressively hot, and, for the first thirty-six hours,
scarcely a breath of wind lifted us on our way, so that the engine,
wholly incompetent to the work of both sails and machinery, bore us very
slowly on our northward ocean-flight. Indeed, the failure of this
engine to do its duty, at first, had sorely disheartened both captain
and crew as we found later, for upon its execution and energies, in the
beginning, had rested our entire dependence.
On the evening of the second day's voyage, a sudden and violent
thunder-storm occurred, not unusual in those latitudes; during the
raging of which our mainmast was struck by lightning, and wholly
The fire was extinguished in the only possible manner, by cutting it
away from the decks, letting it gently down upon them, deluging it, so
that our mast lay charred and blackened after its bath of sea-water,
like a mighty serpent stretched along the ship, from stem to stern, and
wrapped loosely in its shrouds. It did us good service later, though not
by defying the winds of heaven, nor spreading forth its snowy sails to
catch the tropic breezes.
Before many hours, it was destined to ride the waves in a shape that was
certainly never intended by those who chose it among many others--taper
and stately in its group of firs--to be the chief adornment of a gallant
ship, and lift a pointing finger to the stars themselves, as an index of
its might, and, with this exception, the hope of those it served--that
of a charred and blackened life raft.
The renewed freshness of the atmosphere, and the joyful upspringing of
the breezes, alone remained, at midnight, to tell the story of the
These tropic breezes came like benevolent fairies, to aid our groaning
Titan in his labors.
I can never rid myself for one moment of the idea that an engine really
works, with weary, reluctant strength like a genii slave, waiting
vengefully for the time of retaliation, which sooner or later is sure to
come; or of the visionary notion that a graceful, gliding ship, with
all sails set, receives the same pleasure from its own motion and beauty
that a snow-white swan must do "as down she bears before the gale," with
her white plumage and stately crest.
I think, if ever I am called to give a toast, it shall be "Sail-ships;
may their shadows never be less!" They are, indeed, a part of the
romance of ocean.
The moon was full, in the balmy summer night that succeeded the tempest,
and the ship's quarter-deck was crowded with the passengers of the
Kosciusko, enjoying to the utmost, as it seemed, the delicious,
newly-washed atmosphere, the moonlit heavens and sea, the
exquisitely-caressing softness of the tardily-awakened breezes that
filled the white sails of the vessel, and fluttered the silken scarf of
the maiden, with the same wooing breath of persuasive, subtle strength.
Around Miss Lamarque, the lady of whom Major Favraud had spoken so
admiringly, and to whose kindness he had committed me, a group had
gathered, chiefly of the young, not to be surpassed in any land for
manly bearing, graceful feminine beauty, gayety, wit, and refinement.
There was Helen Oscanyan, fair as a dream of Greece, in her serene,
marble perfectness of form and feature; and the lovely Mollie Cairns,
her cousin, small, dark, and sparkling--both under the care of that
stately gentleman, their uncle, Julius Severe, of Savannah; and there
were the sisters Percy, twins in age and appearance, with voices like
brook-ripples, and eyes like wood-violets, and feet of Chinese
minuteness and French perfection--the darlings and only joys of a mother
still beautiful, though sad in her widowhood, and gentle as the dove
that mourns its mate.
There was the brilliant Ralph Maxwell, whose jests, stinging and
slight, just glanced over the surface of society without inflicting a
wound, even as the skater's heel glides over ice, leaving its mark as it
goes, yet breaking no crust of frost; and there was the poetic dreamer
Dartmore, with his large, dark eyes, and moonlight face, and manner of
suffering serenity, on his way to put forth for fame, as he fondly
believed, his manuscript epic on the "Sorrows of the South."
All these, and more, were there gathering about the leader of their
home-society, on that alien deck, as securely as though they were
sitting in her own drawing-room at "Berthold," on one of her brilliant
How could they know--how could they dream the truth--or descry the
hidden skeleton at the festival, wreathed in flowers and veiled with
glittering, filmy draperies, which yet put forth its bony fingers to
beckon on and clutch them?
I too was joyous and unconscious as the rest, and for the first time for
many days felt the burden literally heaved rather than lifted away that
had oppressed me.
Was I not on my way to him in whose presence alone I lived my true life?
and what feeling of his morbid fancy was there that my hand could not
smooth away, when once entwined in his? Beauseincourt, and all its
shadows, had I not put behind me? The sunshine lay before, and in its
light and warmth I should still rejoice, as it was my birthright to do.
I was "fey" that night, as the Scotch say, when an unaccountable
lightness of mood precedes a heavy sorrow, which it so often does, as
well as the more usual mood, the presage of gloom. I felt that I had the
power to put aside all ills--to grapple with my fate, and compel back
my lost happiness. Truly my bosom's lord sat lightly on her throne, as
of late it had not been her wont to do.
Against my inclination had I been drawn into the current of that
youthful gayety, and now my bark floated without an effort on the
stream. I was in my own element again, and my powers were all
The small hours came--the happy group dispersed--not without many
interchanges of social compliment, much _badinage_, and merry plans for
the morrow. The monster Sea-sickness had been defied on the balmy
voyage, save in the brief interval of tempest, and his victors mocked
him, baffled as he was, with their purpose of amusement.
"We shall get up the band to-morrow evening," said Major Ravenel, "and
have a dance; the gallop would go grandly here. See what reach of
quarter-deck we have! There are Germans on board who play in concert
violins and wind-instruments."
"Suppose we dress as sea-nymphs," said Honoria Pyne; "enact a masque for
old Neptune's benefit? It would be so complimentary, you know; bring
down the house, no doubt. I have a sea-green tarlatan lying so
conveniently. Colonel Latrobe looks exactly like a Triton, with that
wondrous beard. A little alum sprinkled over its red-gold ground would
do wonders in the way of effect--would be gorgeous--wouldn't it, now,
"But all that could be done on shore as well, Miss Pyne," I replied, in
the way of reminiscence. "It is a pity to waste our opportunities of
observation now, in getting up costumes; and, for my part, I confess
that I have a wholesome dread of these sea-deities, and fear to
exasperate their finny feelings by reducing them to effigies. Thetis is
very spiteful, sometimes; and jealous, too, you remember."
Miss Pyne did not remember, but did not mean to be baffled either, she
would let Miss Harz know, even if that lady _did_ know more about
mythology than herself; and, if no one else would join her, meant to
play her _role_, of sea-nymph all alone, with Major Latrobe for her
Triton in waiting, tooting upon a conch-shell, and looking lovely! At
which compliment, open and above-board, poor Major Latrobe, who was over
head and ears in love with her, and a very ugly man, only bowed and
looked more silly than before, which seemed a work of supererogation.
After the rest were gone, Miss Lamarque and I concluded to promenade on
the nearly-deserted deck, in the moonlight, and let the excitement of
the evening die away through the medium of more serious conversation.
She was a woman of forty-five, still graceful and fine-looking, but
bearing few traces of earlier beauty, probably better to behold, in her
overripe maturity, than in the unfolding of her less attractive time of
bud and blossom. Self had been laid aside now (which it never can be
until the effervescence of youth and hope are over). She had accepted
her position of old maid and universal benefactress; and sustained it
nobly, gracefully. She was thoroughly well-bred and agreeable, very
vivacious, astute, and intelligent, rather than intellectual, yet she
had the capacity (had her training been different) to have been both of
I remember how it chanced that, after a long promenade, during which we
had discussed men, manners, books, customs, costumes, and politics, even
(that once tabooed subject for women, now free, to all), with infinite
zest and responsiveness that charmed us mutually, so that we swore
allegiance on the strength of this one day's rencontre, like two
school-girls or knights of old--remember how the dropping of her comb at
his feet caused Miss Lamarque to pause, compelling me to follow her
example, by reason of our intertwined arms, in front of the man at the
wheel, as he stooped to raise it and hand it to her with a seaman's bow.
His ready politeness, unusual for one in his station, determined us to
cultivate his maritime acquaintance, and in a short time we had drawn
forth the outlines of his story, simple and bare as this was of
His picturesque appearance had impressed us equally during the day, but
until now we had not met in concert about Christian Garth, for such we
soon found was the name of our polite pilot.
He was a Jerseyman, he told us, of German descent, married to the girl
of his heart, and living on the coast of that adventurous little State,
famous alike for its peaches and wrecks.
"Sall had a stocking full of money," he informed us, "silver, and
copper, and gold, when he married her, for her mother had been a famous
huckster--and never missed her post in the Philadelphia market for
thirty years, and this was her child's inheritance, and with this money
he had fixed up his old hut, till it looked 'e'en a'most inside like a
And now Sall wanted him to stay at home, he informed us, with her and
the children, but somehow or other he could never tarry long at the
hearth, for the sea pulled him like it was his mother, and the spell of
the tides was on him, and he must foller even if he went to his own
destruction, like them men that liquor lures to loss, or the love of
"All land service is dead when likened to the sea," he said, shaking his
great water-dog head, and looking out lovingly upon his idol. "But ships
a'n't like they oncst was, ladies," he added, "before men put these here
heavy iron ingines to work in 'em--it's like cropping a bird's wing to
make a river-boat of a ship, and a dead, dead shame to shorten sails
till it looks like a young gal dressed in breeches or any other
onnatural thing--for a sailing-ship and a full-flowing petticoat always
rise up in a true man's mind together--God bless them both, I say."
"To which we cordially say amen, of course," said Miss Lamarque,
laughing. "We should have been at a loss, however, Mr. Garth, but for
our engine during the dead calm preceding the storm, when our ship's
sails flapped so lazily about her masts, and she rocked like a baby's
cradle without making progress. It is well the engineer manoeuvred so
successfully while we lay fireless on the low rolling waves; but we are
speeding along merrily enough now, to make up for it all--I take comfort
"But not exactly in the right direction, though, to suit my stripe," he
said, turning his quid in his mouth as he looked out to leeward,
revealing, as he did so, a fine yet rugged profile relieved against the
silvery purple sheen of the moonlit sky.
"Do you see that dark object lying beyond" (our eyes mechanically
followed his), "so still on the water?" and he indicated it with the
pipe he held in one sinewy hand--for the native courtesy of the man had
involuntarily proffered us the homage of removing it from his lips, when
we addressed him.
"Yes--what is it? a wreck? a whale? a small volcanic island? Do
explain, Mr. Garth," said Miss Lamarque.
"Nothing but an iceberg, and we are bearing down upon it rather too
rapidly, it seems to me."
And so speaking, he turned his wheel in silence warily.
"But you have the command of the helm, and have nothing to do but--"
"Obey orders," he interrupted, grimly. "Ef the captain was to tell me to
run the ship to purgatory, I'd have to do it, you know."
"But surely the captain would not jeopardize the lives of a ship's
company, even if he likes warm latitudes, by ordering you to run foul of
an iceberg; and, if he did, you certainly would not dare to obey him
with the fear of God before your eyes?" remonstrated Miss Lamarque,
indignantly. "For my part I shall go to him immediately and desire him
to change his course--but after all I don't believe that dingy black
thing is an iceberg at all--an old hencoop rather, thrown over from some
merchant-ship, or a vast lump of charred wood. You are only trying to
"Ef you was to see it close enough, you would find it to shine equal to
the diamond on your hand; but I hope you never will, that's all--I hope
you never will, lady! I sot on a peak of that sort oncst myself for
three days in higher latitudes than this here--me and five others, all
that was spared from the wreck of the schooner Delta, and we felt our
convoy melting away beneath us, and courtesying e'en a'most even with
the sea, before the merchant-ship Osprey took us off, half starved, and
half frozen, and half roasted all at oncst! Them is onpleasant
rickollections, ladies, and it makes my blood creep to this day to see
an iceberg in konsikence; but a man must do his dooty, whatsomever do
betide. It was in the dead of night, and Hans Schuyler had the wheel, I
remember, when we went to pieces on that iceberg, all for disregarding
the captain's orders; you see, he meant to graze it like!"
"Graze it!" almost shrieked Miss Lamarque. "Did he think he was driving
a curricle? Graze it--Heaven, what rashness!"
"Don't--don't! Mr. Garth," I petitioned; "I shall never sleep a wink on
this ship if you continue your narrative."
"Do--do! Mr. Garth," entreated Miss Lamarque, whose penetration showed
her by this time that the pilot was only playing on our fears, for want
of a better instrument for his skill. "I quite enjoy the idea that you
have actually been astride a fragment of the arctic glacier, and that we
may perhaps make the acquaintance of a white bear ourselves when we get
near our iceberg, or a gentle seal. Wouldn't you like one for a pet,
"It is very cold," I said, digressively. "I feel the chill of that
fragment of Greenland freeze my marrow. I must go fetch my shawl; but
first reassure us, Mr. Garth, if possible."
He laughed. "I have paid you now for making fun of me to-day," he said,
saucily. "I saw your drawing of me in your books, and heerd the ladies
laughing. I peeped as I passed when Myers took the helm, and I wanted to
see what all the fun was about; then I said to myself, 'I will give her
a skeer for that if I have a chance'--but, all the same, the chill you
feel is a real one, for as sure as death that lump of darkness is an
iceberg. I have told you no yarn, as you will find out to-morrow when
you ask the captain. I'll steer you clear of the iceberg though, ladies,
never fear. Hans Schuyler has not got the wheel to-night--you see he was
three sheets in the wind anyhow, and the captain, says, 'Hans,' says he,
'don't tech another drop this night, or we'll never see another mornin'
till we are resurrected,' and so he turned into his hammock and swung
himself to sleep--a way he had, for he didn't keer for nothin' where his
comfort was concerned, having been raised up in the Injies."
"Come, Miss Lamarque," I interrupted. "I must not hear another word.
'Macbeth doth murder, sleep,' and I shall be nervous for a month after,
this. So, good-night, Mr. Garth, and be sure you merit your first name
by taking good care of us while we imitate the example of your worthy
captain and 'swing ourselves to sleep,' or rather let the waves perform
that office for us. I shall make it my care to-morrow morning early, if
you still hold the helm, to show you my sketch, and convince you that it
was never made for fun at all, but that it is a real portrait of a very
fine-looking seaman, a real viking in appearance, and somewhat better
than one at heart, I trust. I shall hope to earn your good opinion
instead of ill-will, when you have only seen my sketch."
"You have it already, you have it already, young gal--young miss, I
mean," he said, with a wave of the hand, which meant to be courteous, no
doubt, but seemed only defiant. "An' this much I kin say without injury
to Sall--that I'd rather hear you talk and see you smile, as I has been
watchin' of you constant do to-day, than go to the circus in New York,
or even to a Spanish bull-fight, or hear a Fourth-of-July oration,
or'tend camp-meetin'--and that's saying no little--an' no iceberg shall
come near you while Christian Garth lays a hand upon this helm. But
don't be skeered, ladies; no harm will come to the good ship Kosciusko."
"I declare our pilot is quite chivalrous, as far as you are concerned,
for I marked his glance, Miss Harz," said Miss Lamarque, archly, as we
turned our faces cabin-ward, under the protection of our helmsman's
promised vigilance. "See what it is to be young and pretty, and remark
the truth of the old proverb, as exemplified in his case, that 'extremes
meet.' Victoria herself is not more independent of me or my
position--established facts as both are in the eyes of some--than is
Christian Garth. To him, this outsider of the world of fashion, I am
only a homely old woman; no prestige comes in to garnish the unvarnished
fact--a plain old maid, my dear--with not even the remembrance of beauty
as a consolation, nor its remnant as a sign of past triumphs, 'only this
and nothing more,' as that wonderful man Poe makes his raven say. We
never find our level until we go among people who know and care nothing
about us, who have never 'heard of us'--that exordium of most greetings
from folks of our own class. It is absolutely refreshing to be so
unaffectedly despised and slighted--it does one a world of good, there
is no doubt of that, especially when one's grandfather was a
Revolutionary notability, and other antecedents of a piece--but men are
all alike at heart, only the worldly ones wear flimsy masks, you know,
and pretend to adore intellect and ugliness, when beauty is the only
thing they care for--all a sham, my dear, in any case."
"Yes, all alike," I repeated, making, as I spoke, one mental entire
reservation. "All _vain_ alike, I mean; flatter their vanity ever so
little and they are at your very feet, asking 'for more,' like Oliver
Twist; more bread for _amour propre_, the insatiable! It was that sketch
of mine that wrought the spell, though unintentionally, of course, and
the sly fellow knew very well that it was no caricature--that is, if he
peeped, as he pretends--but a tolerably correct likeness that might have
satisfied Sall herself. By-the-by, I have a great mind to bestow it upon
him as a 'sop for Cerberus,' should her jealousy ever be aroused by your
reports of his devotion to me, or admiration rather, most unequivocally
avowed, it must be acknowledged. I really had no intention of injuring
Sally, and, if you think it best, will make the _amende honorable_ by
being as cross as possible to him to-morrow."
"No, no, carry out your first intention and conciliate him; for,
remember, he has us in the hollow of his hand. Bestow the picture, by
all means, and just as many smiles and compliments as he can stand, or
you can afford to squander; for you are worse than a mermaid, Miss Harz,
for fascination, all the gentlemen say so; and, as to Captain
"They are malignants," I rejoined, ignoring purposely the last clause of
the sentence which I had interrupted; "and you are perfidious to hear
them slander me so. I hate fascinating people; they always make my flesh
crawl like serpents. The few I have known have been so very base." "Good
specimens of '_thorough_ bass,'" she interpolated, laughing.--"I am sure
I am glad I have no attributes of fascination, if a strange old work I
met with at Beauseincourt may be considered responsible. Did you ever
see it, Miss Lamarque, you who see every thing? Hieronymus Frascatorius
tells of certain families in Crete who fascinated by praising, and to
avert this evil influence some charm was used consisting of a magic
word (I suppose this was typical of humility, though related as
literal). This _naivete_ on the part of the old chronicler was simply
_impayable_, as Major Favraud would say, with his characteristic shrug.
One _Varius_ related (you see my theme has full possession of me, and
the book is, a collation of facts on the subject of fascination of all
kinds, even down to that of the serpent) that a friend of his saw a
fascinator with a look break in two a precious gem in the hands of a
lapidary--typical this, I suppose, of some fond, foolish, female heart.
Fire, according to this author, represents the quality of fascination;
and toads and moths are subject to its influence, as well as some higher
animals--deer, for instance, who are hunted successfully with torches;
and he relates, further, that in Abyssinia artificers of pottery and
iron are thus fearfully endowed, and are consequently forbidden to join
in the sacred rites of religion, as fire is their chief agent. Isn't
this a strange, quaint volume, to set before a king? and how do you like
my lecture delivered _extempore?_".
"Oh, vastly! but I did not know that was your style before. Don't
cultivate it, dear, if you hope to win manly hearts. Men like to do all
the lecturing themselves, and I find it diplomatic to feign profound
ignorance on all subjects, outside of a bandbox; it delights them so to
enlighten us. No wonder they fancy us fools when we feign foolishness so
admirably--lapwings that we are!"
"But I never do, in such society. My experience is different from yours.
I always pretend to know twice as much as I do, when they are about; it
bluffs them off, and they are credulous sometimes as well as ignorant,
notwithstanding their boasted acumen."
"Your lamp of experience needs trimming, my pretty Miriam," she said,
shaking her head, "if you really believe this. They never forgive
superiority, assumed or real; none but the noble ones, I mean; who, of
course, are in the minority. Give a pair of tongs pantaloons, and it
asserts itself. Trousers, my dear, are at the root of manly presumption.
I discovered that long ago. A man in petticoats would be as humble as a
woman. This is my theory, at least; take it for what it is worth. And
now to sleep, with what heart we may, an iceberg being in our vicinity;"
and, taking my face in her hand, she kissed me cordially. "It is very
early in our acquaintance for such manifestations to be allowable," she
said, kindly, "but I am a sort of spoiled child of society, and dare to
be natural. I consider that the best privilege that attaches to my
condition, that of the 'bell-wether' of Savannah _ton_--the
universally-accepted bore! You know--Favraud has told you, of course; he
always characterizes as he goes."
"He has called you the most agreeable woman in Savannah, I remember,
young or old, and was truly glad, on my account, to know that you were
on board. Of your brother he spoke very kindly also, even admiringly."
"Oh, yes, I know; but of Raguet there is little question now. His wife's
death has crushed him. I never saw so changed a man; he is half idiotic,
I believe; and I am with him now just to keep those children from
completing the work of destruction. Six little motherless ones--only
think--and as bad as they can possibly be; for poor Lucilla was no
manager. Isn't it strange, the influence those little cottony women get
over their husbands? You and I might try forever to establish such
absolute despotism, all in vain. It is your whimpering sort that rule
with the waving of a pocket-handkerchief; but poor, dear little woman,
she is powerless now; and I suppose the next will be like unto her.
Raguet would never look at any thing feminine that hadn't white eyes and
pink hair (yellow, I mean, of course)--his style, you know, being dark
and stern, he likes the downy, waxy kind. All this is shockingly
egotistical; but the question is, who that has a spark of individuality
is otherwise? Good-night, again, and may all sweet dreams attend you;
for my part, I never dream, being past the dreaming age, and realities
fortunately disappear with daylight; even cross children are wheedled
into quietness, and servants forget to fidget and giggle; and, for
mosquitoes, there are bars. Adieu."
And thus we parted, never to meet again in mutual mood like this!
Yet, had the free agency of which some men boast been ours, we had
scarcely chosen to face the awful change--to look into each other's eyes
through gathering death-doom!
Before my dreaming eyes was the terror of a hungry, crunching tooth,
fixed in the vessel's side, that of the iceberg, lying black in the
moonlight like a great coal crystal, grimly awaiting our approach, but
the reality, as well as the figment, had disappeared when I emerged at
sunrise from the suffocating cabin, to the atmosphere of the cool and
quiet quarter-deck, which had just undergone its matutinal.
Armed with an orange and a biscuit for physical refreshment, I depended
on sea and sky for my mental entertainment; and in my hand I bore a
slender scroll, destined as a propitiatory offering to our offended
I was glad to find again at the wheel our pilot of yesterday.
"Your iceberg has disappeared, Mr. Garth," I said, as I extended to him
the sketch I had made of his noble _physique_ the day before, "and here
is a picture for your wife, which she will see was not drawn for fun.
Women are sharper than men about such matters. There, I bestow it not
without regret." He received my offering with a smile, and nod of his
great curly head, opened it, gazed long and seriously upon it, and, with
the single word "Good," rolled it up again, and consigned it to some
bosom pocket in his flannel shirt, into which it seemed to glide as a
telescope into its case, revealing, as he did so, glimpses of a hairy
breast, and vigorous chest, more admirable for strength than beauty,
"I will keep it there," he said, "young miss," pressing it closely
against his side with his colossal hand, "until I get safe home to the
Jarseys, and to Sall, or go to Davy's locker, one or other, but which it
will be, young gal--young miss, I should be saying--is not for me to
"Nor for any one," I rejoined, solemnly; "all rests with God."
"With God and our engineer," he resumed, tersely; "them sails is of
little account, now the mainmast is struck away; them floppen
petticoats, wat the wind loves to play in and out, layin' along like a
lazy lubber that it is, and leaving its work for others to do. It was a
noble mast, though, while it stood--and you could smell the turpentine
blood in its heart to the very last. It was as limber as a sapling, and
never growed brittle, like some wood, with age and dryness. No storm
could splinter it, and it would fling itself over into the high waves
sometimes, rayther than snap and lash them like a whip. But there it
lies, burned with the fire of heaven's wrath, at last, and leaving its
fires of hell behind, in the heart of the Kosciusko."
"You have changed your mind on the subject of engines, Mr. Garth, I am
glad to see. Truly, ours seems to be doing giant's work; now we are
flying, to be sure."
"Rushing, not flying, young lady--that's the word; our wings are little
use to-day, you see, such as are left to us. Runnin' for dear life, we'd
better say, for that's the truth of the matter, and may the merciful
Lord speed us, and have in his care all helpless ones this day!"
The lifted hand, the bared head, the earnest accents, with which these
words were spoken, gave to this simple utterance of good-will all the
solemnity of a benediction or prayer.
I noticed that, after replacing his tarpaulin, the lips of Garth
continued to move silently, then were compressed gravely for a time,
while his eye, large, clear, and expressive, was fixed on space.
"Do you still see an iceberg, Mr. Garth? Do you really apprehend danger
for us now?" I asked, after studying his countenance for a moment; "or,
are you again desirous to try the nerves of your female passengers? I
think I must apply to the captain this time for information."
"Yes, danger," he replied, in low, sad tones, ignoring my last remark,
or perhaps not hearing it at all--"danger, compared with which an
iceberg might be considered in the light of a heavenly marcy. There is a
chance of grazing one of them snow-bowlders, or of its drifting away
from a ship, when the ripples reach it, or, if the wust comes, a body
can scramble overboard, and manage to live on the top of one of them
peaks, or in one of their ice-caves, with a few blankets, and a little
bread and junk and water, fur a space, so as to get a chance of meetin'
a ship, or a schooner; but, when there is something wrong in a ship's
heart, there ain't much hope for rescue, onless it comes from above."
He hesitated, smiling grimly, rolled his quid, crammed his hat down over
his eyes, and again addressed himself to his wheel, and, for a few
moments, I stood beside him silently.
"The ship is leaking, I suppose," I said at last, "so that you apprehend
her loss, perhaps," and my heart sank coldly within me, as I spoke;
"but, if this be true, why does not the captain apprise us? No, you are
quizzing me again, and very cruelly this time, very unwarrantably."
Yet I did not think exactly as I spoke, strive as I might to believe the
man in jest. Too much solemnity and sorrow both were discernible in his
worn and rugged features, hewn grandly as if from granite, to admit of a
hope like this. His words were earnest, and some great calamity was in
store, I could not doubt, or at least he apprehended such. For some time
he replied not, then, slowing pointing to the base of the stricken
mainmast, which still showed an elevation of some inches above the deck,
he revealed to me the truth without a word.
As my eyes followed his guiding finger, I saw, with terror unspeakable,
a thin blue wavering smoke-wreath, float upward from the floor, and,
after curling feebly about the truncated mast, disappear in the clear
sunlit atmosphere, again to arise from the same point, that of the
juncture of the mast and deck, creeping through some invisible crevice,
as it seemed to form itself eternally in filmy folds, and successively
elude the eye as soon as it shaped to sight. I understood him then.
There was fire in the heart of the ship, and I knew the hold was filled
with cotton; it was smouldering slowly, and our safety was a question of
Pale, transfixed, frozen, I lifted my eyes to the man, who seemed to
represent my fate for the moment. "Was it the lightning?" I asked, after
a pause, during which his pitying eye rested on me drearily. "Did the
fire occur in that way?"
"Yes, the lightning it was; and God's hand, which sent the shaft direct,
alone can deliver us."
I seemed to hear the voice of Bertie speak these words. Things grew
confused; I wavered as I stood, lifted my hand to my head; the face of
Christian Garth grew large and dim, then, faded utterly. I knew no more
until I found myself seated on a coil of rope, leaning against the
bulwark, while a young girl stood beside me, fanning and bathing my
face, and offering me a glass of water.
"You are better now," she said, kindly; "the man at the wheel called me
as I was passing, and pointed out your condition, and I led you here,
and ran for water. Being up so early is apt to disagree with some
"What are these people crawling about the deck for? Is all hope over, or
was it only a dream?" I asked.
"Oh, you are quite wild yet from your swoon; it is only the calkers
stopping up the seams, one of the captain's queer whims they say; but
how they are to dance to-night, those _magnificos_ I mean, without
ruining their slippers with this pitch, I cannot see! Thank Goodness! I
belong to a church, and am not of this party, and don't care on my own
account, nor does the captain, I believe. I was placed under his care at
Savannah, and I suppose it is only to stop the ball that--"
She was interrupted by the approach of the officer under discussion, but
he passed us gloomily and went on to inspect the workmen so unseasonably
employed, as it seemed, in a labor that, save in a case of long voyages,
is always performed in port.
His melancholy air, and the preoccupation of his manner, confirmed my
Again I sought the Ixion of the vessel, who calmly and stolidly
performed his duty as if, indeed, Fate directed, without a change of
feature now, or expression.
"Has the captain no hope of rescue, Mr. Garth?"
"Oh yes; he thinks we shall meet a ship or two between now and noon--we
'most always do, you know"--rolling his quid slowly, and hesitating for
a while; "keep heart, keep heart! I had thought from your face you were
stronger; besides, the pumps are doing good work in the hold: who knows
what may come of it, who knows?"
Alas! alas! I could not rise to the level of this dim hope. "Think of
the burning crowd, the sheet of flame, the terrible destruction!" I
murmured; "I must go now and apprise those poor wretches below that
their time is short; they have a right to know."
His vice-like hand was on my arm. "You do not go a step on such an
errand," he muttered. "It is the captain's business; he will 'tend to it
when the time comes, for he is a true man, and, the bravest sailor on
the line. He means to do what's right, never fear. It is my dooty to
hold you here until he comes, onless you promise me to be discreet."
"I shall be discreet, never fear--" and his grasp relaxed. I sped me
back to the coil of rope on which I had left my young companion,
intending to partake with her there my biscuit and orange, so needed now
I found in her stead (for she had departed in the interval) a
delicate-looking young woman, plain and poor, a widow evidently from the
style of her shabby mourning and sad expression of face, bearing in her
arms a weird and sickly-looking child, evidently a sufferer from spinal
disease--an infant as to size, but preternaturally old in countenance.
The steady gaze of its large and serious eyes affected me
magnetically--eyes that seemed ever seeking something that still eluded
them, and which now appeared to inquire into my very soul.
"Is your little boy ill, madam?" I asked at last; and at the sound of my
voice a smile broke over his small, sallow features, lending them
strange beauty, but dying away instantly again into an expression of
"Yes, very ill," she answered, clasping him tenderly as he clung to her
suddenly. "He has some settled trouble that no medicine reaches, and you
see how small and light he is. Many a twelve months' babe is heavier
than he, yet he is three years old come Monday next, and he is 'cute
beyond his years, it seems to me."
"You seem very weak and weary," I rejoined. "I noticed you yesterday
with interest, sitting all the time with your boy on your knee. You must
need exercise and rest. Go and walk now a little, while you can;" and I
stretched my arms for her baby.
To her surprise, evidently, he came to me willingly--attracted, no
doubt, by the gleam of the watch-chain about my neck, and still further
propitiated by a portion of my orange, which he greedily devoured.
In the mean time the poor, pale mother took a few turns on the
quarter-deck, and, disappearing therefrom a moment, returned with a
small supply of cakes and biscuits which she had sought in the steward's
An inspiration of Providence, no doubt, she thought this proceeding
later, which at the moment was only intended to anticipate the delay
attendant on all second-class meals.
These cakes, with a pains-taking diligence, if not
fore-thought--peculiar to all feeble animals, squirrels, sick children,
and the like--did he one by one cram, and compel into my pocket,
unconscious as I was at the moment of his miser-like proceeding
(instinctive, probably), which later I detected, to his infinite
rejoicing. In company with my slender purse, and bunch of useless keys,
a pencil, and a small memorandum-book, they remained _perdu_ until that
moment of accidental discovery arrived which was to test their value and
place it "far above that of rubies."
Light as a pithless nut seemed this little creature in my strong,
energetic arms, and yet his mother staggered beneath his weight.
She insisted, however, after a time, on resuming her charge of him, as
it was proper she should do, and then sat beside me, delivering herself
of a long string of complaints and grievances, after the fashion of all
second-rate, solitary people when secure of sympathy.
She overrated my benevolence on this occasion, however. I was lost in
painful reverie, and scarcely understood a word of her communication,
which I was obliged at last to cut short, for I had resolved, now that
my strength was recruited, on the only visible course remaining to me--I
would seek Miss Lamarque, confide to her the statement of Christian
Garth, relate to her what my eyes had seen, and be guided by her
determination and judgment, with those of her brother, a man of sense, I
saw, and whose instincts, no doubt, would all be sharpened by the
jeopardy of his children.
She was sitting up in her state-room when I knocked at the door, still
in her berth, the lower one--from which the upper shelf had been lifted
so as to afford her room and air--looking very Oriental and handsomer
than I ever had seen her, in her bright Madras night-turban and fine
white cambric wrapper richly trimmed.
Her face broke into smiles as soon as she beheld me; and she invited
me, in a way not to be resisted, so resolute and yet so kindly was it,
to partake with her of the hot coffee her maid was just handing her in
bed, in a small gilded cup, a portion of the service on the stand beside
"It is our Southern custom, you know, Miss Harz--always our _cafe noir_
before breakfast, as a safeguard against malaria. To be sure, there is
nothing of that sort to be apprehended at sea, but still habits are
inveterate; second nature, as the moralists and copy-books say, as if
there ever could be more than one. What nonsense these wiseacres talk,
to be sure! But there is cream, you see, for those who like it--boiled
down and bottled for the use of the children before leaving home--one of
Dominica's notions;" and here the smiling maid, with her little,
respectful courtesy, tendered me a reviving cup of Miss Lamarque's
morning beverage, Mocha, made to the last point of perfection, dripped
and filtered over a spirit-lamp by Dominica, the skillful and
"But you are very pale to-day, my child--what on earth can be the
matter?--There, Dominica, I thought I heard Florry cry! Go and help
Caliste get the children ready for a trot upon deck before breakfast,
and don't forget to give each one a gill of cream and a biscuit--or,
stay, twice as much for the two elder before they go up. It may be some
time before they get their regular morning meal.--They have to wait, you
know, Miss Harz, which is such rank injustice where children are
concerned. Patience never belongs to unreasoning creatures, unless an
instinct, as with animals; men have to learn its lessons through the
teachings of experience--that strictest of school-masters. Now, you see,
I have my lecturing-cap on, and am almost equal to you or Dr. Lardner
in my way. But it takes you to define fascination! I suppose Mrs.
Heavyside, however, could help you there--for nothing short of
witchcraft could account to me for her elopement with that dreary man!
To leave her sweet children, too, as if all the men on earth could be
worth to a true mother her teething baby's little toe or finger!"
"Would she never stop--never give one loop-hole for doubt to enter?" I
"But what in the world ails you--has Dunmore, the disconsolate, been
making love again? Has Captain Falconer declared himself too soon? and
do you hesitate, on account of Miss Moore? Don't let that consideration
influence you, I beg, for she is the greatest flirt in Savannah, the
truest to the vocation, and I like her for that, anyhow. Whatever a man
or woman has to do, let him or her do earnestly. That isn't exactly
Scripture, but near enough, don't you think so?" and she laughed
"I have been on deck this morning," I commenced, "Miss Lamarque, and saw
Christian Garth, and--"
"He has been terrifying and electrifying you again with his tale of
horrors--there, it is all out. Why, he is as sensational as 'Jane Eyre,'
this new English novel I am just reading," drawing it from under her
pillow and holding it aloft as she spoke. "Currer Bell is not more
mysteriously awful, but Garth is not artistic. I detected his intention
by the inconsistency of his expression of face, which bore no part in
his narrative, and at once exposed him, you must remember--"
"Oh, yes--but this time--"
"Nonsense, Miriam Harz! the iceberg is gone, I know. Why, what a nervous
coward you are, to be sure, with all that assumed bravery! I am twice
as courageous, I do believe, despite appearances; I really begin to be
of opinion that it is safer to be at sea than on land--now what do you
think of that for a heterodoxy?--A second cup? why, of course, and a
third, if you want it; I am delighted you like it. These little Sevres
toys are but thimbles, but I always carry them about with me by sea and
land, and have for years; I feel as if there were luck in them, not one
of the original three has been broken--there--there!--just as I was
boasting, too!--never mind, such accidents _will_ occur; but your pretty
pongee dress is sadly stained with the coffee; besides, as _you_ dropped
the cup, it is _your_ luck, not mine; and I want an odd saucer, anyhow,
to feed Desiree out of; she sleeps in that willow basket you see in the
corner of the state-room, Miss Harz, and is lazy, like her mistress, of
mornings.--Desiree! Desiree! peep out, can't you, now you have your
long-desired Sevres saucer to lap milk from?--She won't touch delft,
Miss Harz. She is the most fastidious little creature!"
"Alas! alas!" and I groaned aloud.
"Not taking on about that silly cup, I hope--no; what can it be then, a
megrim? No. Well, I can't imagine any thing worse, to save my life.
Here, let me read you this, it is fine--it is where Jane Eyre feels
herself deserted, and this comparison about 'the dried-up channel of a
river' thrills one. Just hear it;" and she was about commencing--
"Not now--not now, Miss Lamarque; stern realities demand our attention.
Lay your book aside, be calm, be firm, but listen to me seriously.
Christian Garth informs me, nor he alone--my own eyes have done the
rest--that the cotton in the hold has taken fire from the lightning
yesterday; has been slowly smouldering ever since the mast was
struck--and that the ship's hours are numbered!"
"O God! O God!" and she bowed her head upon her clasped and quivering
hands. "But, Captain Ambrose--he did not tell you so?" looking up
suddenly. "Christian Garth, indeed! his impudence is surprising--another
hoax, I suppose," and she tried to smile; "such a coarse creature, too!"
"We shall see, but for the present say nothing; only get up and dress as
quickly as you can, but it is important to be very quiet, for fear of
causing confusion. I have promised discretion."
"Call Dominica, then, for me, Miss Harz," gasping and stretching forth
her arms. "I can do nothing for myself--nothing--I am so weak, so
helpless. Yet I must believe he is--you are mistaken!"
"I trust it may prove so. But let me assist you; Dominica is best
employed making ready the little ones and giving them food--strengthening
them for the struggle. She will be nerveless if she knows the truth, and
you are not in a condition to conceal it."
"Just as you will, then. My trunk--will you be so kind as to unlock it
and give me out the tray--that picture? After that I can get along
I silently did as she desired, and saw her place a covered miniature
about her neck before she arose. Very few minutes sufficed this morning
for her toilet--usually a tedious and fastidious one--her dress, her
bonnet, her shawl, were hastily thrown on, her watch secured with the
few jewels lying upon the night-table; the rest of her valuables were
with other boxes in the hold, the repository of all unneeded baggage,
and these, of course, she could scarcely hope to save in case of fire,
even if lives were rescued.
Then, together, we went out, just in time to join the little troop of
young children and nurses on their way to the deck. Miss Lamarque did
not reply to their tumultuous greeting, but, silently taking the baby
Florry, her namesake, in her arms, kissed her many times. I had told her
while, she was dressing, of the smoke-wreaths about the base of the
broken mast, and she believed in the testimony my eyes had afforded me
far more than in the reports of Christian Garth. We did not encounter
Mr. Lamarque when we first went on deck; he had gone forward to smoke,
some one said; but Captain Ambrose was standing alone, telescope in
hand, and to him we addressed ourselves, quietly.
He seemed startled when I disclosed the result of my observation--for I
did not choose to commit the pilot--but he did not attempt to deny the
truth of the condition of things, and conjured us both to entire quiet
and composure, and, if possible, to absolute silence. The safety of five
hundred people, he said, depended on our discretion; the ship might not
ignite for days, if at all, he thought, so carefully had the air been
excluded from the cotton by the process of tight calking, so as to seal
it almost hermetically; indeed, the fire might be wholly extinguished by
the pumps, which were constantly at work, pouring streams of water
around and through the hold; and a panic would be equal to a fire in any
case. Such were his calmness and apparent faith in his own words, that
they did much to allay Miss Lamarque's fears. My own were little
soothed--I never doubted from the beginning what the end would be.
Mr. Lamarque approached us while the conference with the captain was
going on, and, under the seal of secrecy, the condition of affairs was
communicated to that gentleman.
I never saw a man so crushed and calm at the same time. His handsome
face seemed turned to stone--he scarcely spoke at all, and made no
inquiries. I think his mind, like mine, was made up to the worst. Yet he
commanded himself so far as to go to the breakfast-table and superintend
the meal of his little children, about whom he hung, like a mother-bird
who sees the shadow of a hawk above her brood, from that moment until
the _denoument_ of the drama separated us two forever.
Miss Lamarque and I sat down together on a bench, while the host of
hungry passengers crowded down to the cabin at the welcome summons of
the bell, and I was aware again of the pale widow and her patient child
standing near me.
A sudden thought occurred to me. This woman, more than any one among us,
needed the strengthening stimulus of good food, and this meal might be
her last on shipboard--on earth, perhaps--for a dull, low, ominous sound
began to make itself heard to my ear as soon as the murmur of the crowd
"Trust me with your child again while you go down and eat your breakfast
in my place to-day. It is a whim of mine. I have had coffee with this
lady in her state-room, and shall not appear at the table. You may bring
me a slice of bread, if you choose, when you come back, and one for
baby. Do not refuse me this favor."
Much pleased at my attention, as I could see, she went to the grand
first table, with its high-heaped salvers of snowy rolls and biscuit,
its delicate birds and fowls, its fragrant coffee and tea, so different
from the dregs of the humble board at which her second-class ticket
alone entitled her to appear; and, to save her from possible
humiliation, I wrote a line to the steward; so she feasted, no doubt, in
Again I enacted the _role_ of self-appointed nurse to a creature that
looked more like a fairy changeling than a flesh-and-blood creation.
"You are a strange woman, Miriam Harz! At such an hour as this, what
matters the quality of food?" said Miss Lamarque, sententiously. "After
all, what can that invalid and her child be to you in any case? They are
essentially common and mean. You never saw them before, and may never
see them again."
"In view of such a catastrophe as that before us, all distinctions fade,
Miss Lamarque. This is the last meal any one will take on the ship
Kosciusko--she is doomed! The woman might as well get strength for the
chance of saving herself and child. I doubt whether any second table
will be spread to-day!" I spoke with anguish.
"You cannot believe this! Why, after what the captain said, days may go
by before any real danger manifests itself! Ships must pass in the
interval--many ships may pass to-day, within a few hours, ready for our
relief, if needed; and see, the smoke has ceased to curl about your
broken main-mast! That shows convincingly that the fire is being gotten
"Oh, no! no! no! not with that low, terrible roaring in the hold. The
fire is gaining strength, and our agony will soon be over."
I sat with clasped hands and bowed head before her, insensible to her
words. I suppose she strove to strengthen me. I think she tried to
soothe. Failing in both, she rose and went away, and in her place came
Christian Garth, relieved from the helm, and stood a moment beside me.
"Don't be down-hearted, young gal, an' wait for me. Ef the Lord lets me,
I will save you, and the old lady, too; that is, ef she is your aunt or
mother or near of kin."
I shook my head drearily.
"You have no hope, then, Mr. Garth?"
"Hope? yes; the best of hope--the Christian's hope. God can do any thing
He pleases, we all know, and He may stretch forth his hand when all
seems dark; but Captain Ambrose is not one to run a risk of that sort,
so he has sent me to work upon a raft--one of two he is making for the
seamen if the wust comes to the wust. But you see, I have been on lost
ships afore now, an' I know there is no larboard nor starboard rules
when men are skeered. So I shall make my raft to hold the womenfolk, for
the boats will be for the sailors--mark my word--and them that's wise
will wait till the press is over and take the rafts."
"There are little children," I said; "six of them belonging to that lady
and Mr. Lamarque. Don't forget them, Mr. Garth, and the poor little
widow coming now to claim her baby; this miserable little creature I am
holding until she breakfasts. Don't lose sight of these, either, in the
crowd, if, indeed, we are obliged to have recourse to your raft."
"Pray rayther that it may float us all to safety," he said, sternly,
"for your best chance of being saved will be on that raft, if matters go
as I think they will. Trust me, for I will come;" and he passed away
just before the little widow came to my side again.
"I came up as soon as I could, to relieve you. I know how cross baby is
when he gets restless, and I was afraid you might tire of him. See! I
have brought his bread, and this waiter of tea and toast for you; now
you must take a mouthful."
She knew nothing of our danger, it was plain. "Did you leave the other
passengers at table?" I asked; "the captain, was he there?"
The question was never answered, for the attention of my interlocutor
was riveted now, as was my own, on the companion-way, from which a wild
and frightened-looking crowd was densely emerging, with a confused hum
of voices that announced their recognition of their impending danger.
The change of age, of pain, of woe, seemed sealed upon each aspect, as
one by one, and phantom-like, in rapid succession, those who had so
lately gone down to feast returned to the upper day, like grim ghosts
coming from a church-yard carnival.
It was a sight to stir the stoutest spirit.
At the close of the repast, the captain had announced the truth to his
passengers, and followed them now to enjoin them to firmness and
efficiency, both so greatly needed at this crisis.
Mounted on the capstan, he addressed them briefly, and not without
influence. Such was the power of his simple and manly bearing over these
distracted souls, that even the wildest listened with decorum.
This was no immigrant-ship, loaded with stolid or desperate men,
insensible of high teachings, and alone desirous of personal safety. Yet
the universal instinct asserted itself, and for the time courtesies were
set aside, and family affections were all that were regarded.
Miss Lamarque, pale, yet collected, now stood surrounded by the children
of her brother, leaning upon his arm while the captain spoke. Husbands
and wives were together, sisters and brothers, servants and their
masters--each group revealed its several household affinities. We only
were alone--the dreary little widow, whose name I never knew, and Miriam
Monfort; and on natural principles we clung together.
It is true that Miss Lamarque, by many signs, implored me to come to
her, but I would not. It was like intruding on a bed of death, I felt,
to break through ties of blood at such a time, by thrusting a foreign
presence amid devoted relatives; and I was too proud, or perhaps too
selfish, to intrude where I must be secondary, unless I took away
The captain had promised, in his brief address, to protect his
passengers to the utmost of his power--leaving the result with God. He
had entreated them to be calm, and to preserve order--so essential to
safety; had mentioned his confidence that a ship must pass before the
catastrophe could possibly occur; but added that, to prepare for the
worst, he had ordered the construction of two rafts--one for the use of
the seamen, the other for the reception of food and necessaries.
His plan was to attach these to the larger boats, and so provide against
want; in the certainty, however, that on such a route relief must soon
present itself, in the shape of ship or steamer.
He called on all able to abet his exertions to present themselves
forthwith, so that universal safety might be insured; not only by making
the rafts, but the securing of food upon them, and comforts for the
women and children, who represented so large a portion of the
passengers. He answered for the fidelity of his seamen with his life.
There was not one among them, he knew, who would lift a finger to
disobey him. He said these words in conclusion:
"And now, if there is any one present sufficiently imbued with the grace
of God to fix the anxious minds of these voyagers in prayer, such at
least of them as are powerless otherwise to aid our exertions, let him
appear and minister to their tribulation. This task is not for me,
although the holiest. My duties call me elsewhere."
So adjured, a man, whose wild, fanatical appearance had given rise to
the rumor that the famous "Lorenzo Dow" was on board, sprang on a
bulkhead, and commenced to exhort the crowd about him, from which a file
of pale, determined-looking men was slowly emerging to join the seamen
at the other end of the vessel in their efforts for the public weal. But
many lingered, either overcome and paralyzed by the stringency of
circumstances, or unequal to exertions from personal causes--aged men,
women, and children, chiefly--and to these the frenzied speaker
continued to address his words of exhortation and warning.
Such a tirade of terrible objurgation I felt was entirely out of place
in a scene like this, and calculated to excite the worst passions of the
human mind, instead of persuading it to serenity and submission, so
essential now; for to me the captain's last words represented the final
grace of the preacher, when, with closed eyes and outspread hands, he
dismissed his flock from the temple at the close of the services. From
that vessel and all that concerned it we were virtually enfranchised
from that moment--dismissed to destruction, so to speak, by fire or
flood, or rescue from beyond, as the case might be, to life or death, as
God willed--for the ship's mission was accomplished.
I shrank as far as possible from the wild, waving arms, the frenzied
eyes, the gaunt and wolfish aspect, the piercing, agonized voice of the
fanatic, who had assumed to himself the solemn office of soul-comforter
in a time of extremity. I saw from a distance his long, lank figure
writhing like a sapling in a storm, as it overtopped the crowd; but his
words were lost on my ear, and I sat leaning back against the bulwark
with folded hands, absorbed in my own thoughts, when a young girl,
bursting from the throng, came and threw herself down before me, and
buried her face in my lap, convulsed with sobs. When she looked up, I
recognized the young person who had bathed my face in the morning during
my partial swoon--a fair and lovely-looking girl of about eighteen
years, pallid and ill now with excitement.
"Oh, it is so terrible!" she cried; "I cannot--cannot bear it, and he
says we are all hopelessly lost unless we have repented; that there is
no death-bed salvation; and this is our death-bed, you know, for the
Spanish ship passed us without stopping, and we scarcely hope to see
another. O cruel, cruel fiends! to pretend they did not understand our
signals, and leave us to destruction."
And she clasped her hands in mute and bitter despair--no actress was
ever so impressive.
"We must make up our minds to the worst," I said, as calmly as I could.
"Then, if God sees fit to deliver us, we shall be all the more thankful.
You must not believe what this ignorant and panic-stricken man tells
you. Think of the thief on the cross whom Christ pardoned in dying."
"Then you hope to be permitted to see God! You dare to hope this?" she
asked, gazing into my very eyes, so closely did she come to me.
"Oh, surely in his own good time! I have done nothing so very wicked, I
hope, as to exclude me from my Father's face forever--have you? Now,
don't be frightened; speak calmly."
"I don't know--I don't know. I should be afraid not to call myself
desperately wicked at such a time; he says we all are, you know. We are
all miserable sinners."
"It is very abject to talk and feel thus, and I don't believe that God
approves of it," I said, indignantly. "He gives us self-respect, and
commands us to cherish it. Such abasement is unworthy of Christian
souls. It is very bitter to die, as young as we are; but, if we have
done our best to serve Him, we need--we ought not to be afraid to meet
She clung to my outstretched hand. She strengthened my spirit by the
fullness of her need. The feeble widow with her child, too, crept close
to me, weeping and trembling.
"Do not leave me," she entreated; "let us stay together to the very
"Nay, that may be a long time," I answered, smiling feebly, and nerved
for the first time to encouragement; "for the captain will do his best
to save his passengers--the women especially, I cannot doubt; and see
what bounteous provision he is making for their support!"
And I pointed to the piles of flour and sugar barrels, the boxes of
crackers and of hams; of figs and raisins, the hampers of wine and ale,
which were profusely piled on the quarter-deck ready for lowering to the
"He means to take care of us, you see, by the permission of Providence,"
I said, almost strengthened by this dependence, "and we will remain
calmly together, and drink whatever cup God offers us--humbly, I hope."
Yet, even as I spoke, my heart rebelled against the fiat of my fate, and
the young life within me rose up in fierce conflict with its doom.
At this moment of bitter strife of heart, Mr. Dunmore, the youthful poet
of whom I have already spoken, stood before me.
"I have found you at last," he said, "deputed as I am to do so by Miss
Lamarque. It is a point of honor with her to care for you personally in
this crisis. You know Major Favraud placed you under her care; besides
that, her regard for you impels this request. She bids me say--"
I interrupted him hastily.
"This is no time for ceremonials, truly, Mr. Dunmore; yet, had family
concurrence been perfect, it seems to me that her brother might have
undertaken this mission. I have no wish to thrust myself undesired into
any household circle at such a crisis."
"He is wholly absorbed with his children."
"As he ought to be, Mr. Dunmore, and, when the time of peril comes, it
is of their needs alone that he will and must think. I am alone in this
vessel, as I shall remain. I did not leave Savannah under Miss
Lamarque's care. She is very generous, very considerate, but I will not
embarrass her motions, nor yours, nor any one's. It is the duty of
Captain Ambrose to see to the welfare of his female passengers. I shall
not be forgotten among these--"
He stood before me with his knightly head uncovered, his handsome face
as calm as though he were a guest at a festival instead of a patient and
interested watcher at a funeral-pyre. His birth, his breeding, his
genius even, asserted themselves in that mortal hour. He was calm,
collected, serious, but not afraid.
"The peril will be great to all, of course," he said, quietly, "but no
gentleman will prefer his own safety to that of the most humble and
desolate woman on the ship. To you, Miss Harz, I devote my energies
to-day, to you and these ladies of your party, whoever they may be--,"
bowing gently as he spoke. "I may fail in delivering you from danger,
but it shall not be for want of effort on my part. Believe my words, I
have less care for life than most people, and now let me offer you my
escort through that maddened crowd (the rest may follow closely), to
reach Miss Lamarque."
"No, Mr. Dunmore, I _must_ remain just where I am, I have promised
myself to do so; this is much; and these unhappy women--they, like
myself, are alone, or seem to be. Should you see fit to do so, and be
willing to be so encumbered, you can return after a lapse of time; but
make no point of this, I entreat you. I think that Captain Ambrose will
observe good order and save his helpless ones first. You know he
There was a moment's pause, and movement of eye and hand, and then he
spoke again, very softly:
"Yes, and much more that can never be fulfilled, for already the cabin
is in flames, the companion-way is closed, and the fire in the hold is
making fearful headway. I have heard the seamen have sworn to secure the
boats; you are strong and resolute--be prepared for the very worst."
Then, speaking in his usual tone, he added: "Since the banner of Spain
passed near enough to show us the rampant lions and castles on its
crimson shield, and yet made no sign, I have had little hope of rescue
from a ship. It was ominous!"
"Not intended, then," I said, eagerly. "Oh, I am glad of this, at
least, for the honor of human nature."
"A strange consideration at such a time! You are a study to me, Miss
Harz; yours is not apathy, like mine, but true courage, even in this
death-struggle, and I will save you if I can, for you have a noble
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