The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. I., No. 3, January 1858
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Joshua Hutchinson, Robert Prince and Distributed Proofreaders
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS
VOL. I--JANUARY, 1858.--NO. III.
NOTES ON DOMESTIC ARCHITECTURE.
If building many houses could teach us to build them well, surely we
ought to excel in this matter. Never was there such a house-building
people. In other countries the laws interfere,--or customs,
traditions, and circumstances as strong as laws; either capital is
wanting, or the possession of land, or there are already houses
enough. If a man inherit a house, he is not likely to build another,--
nor if he inherit nothing but a place in an inevitable line of
lifelong hand-to-mouth toil. In such countries houses are built
wholesale by capitalists, and only by a small minority for themselves.
And where the man inherits no house, he at least inherits the
traditional pattern of one, or the nature of the soil decides the
main points; as you cannot build of brick where there is no clay,
nor of wood where there are no forests. But here every man builds a
house for himself, and every one freely according to his whims. Many
materials are nearly equally cheap, and all styles and ways of
building equally open to us; at least the general appearance of most
should be known to us, for we have tried nearly all. Our public
opinion is singularly impartial and cosmopolitan, or perhaps we
should rather say knowing and unscrupulous. All that is demanded of
a house is, that it should be of an "improved style," or at least
"something different," Nothing will excuse it, if old-fashioned,--
and hardly anything condemn it, if it have novelty enough.
And this latitude is not confined to the owner's scheme of his house,
but extends also to the executive department. In other countries,
however extravagant your fancy, you are brought within some bounds
when you come to carry it out; for the architect and the builder have
been trained to certain rules and forms, and these will enter into
all they do. But here every man is an architect who can handle a
T-square, and every man a builder who can use a plane or a trowel;
and the chances are that the owner thinks he can do all as well as
either of them. For if every man in England thinks he can write a
leading article, much more every Yankee thinks he can build a house.
Never was such freedom from the rule of tradition. A fair field and
no favor; whatever that can accomplish we shall have.
The result, it must be confessed, is not gratifying. For if you
sometimes find a man who is satisfied with his own house, yet his
neighbors sneer at it, and he at his neighbors' houses. And even with
himself it does not usually wear well. The common case is that even
he accepts it as a confessed failure, or at best a compromise. And
if he does not confess the failure, (for association, pride,
use-and-wont reconcile one to much), the house confesses it. For
what else but self-confessed failures are these thin wooden or cheap
brick walls, temporarily disguised as massive stone,--this roof,
leaking from the snow-bank retained by the Gothic parapet, or the
insufficient slope which the "Italian style" demands?
There is no lack of endeavor to make the house look well. People
will sacrifice almost anything to that. They will strive their
chambers into the roof,--they will have windows where they do not
want them, or leave them out where they do,--in our tropical summers
they will endure the glare and heat of the sun, rather than that
blinds should interfere with the moulded window-caps, or with the
style generally,--they will break up the outline with useless and
expensive irregularity,--they will have brackets that support nothing,
and balconies and look-outs upon which no one ever steps after the
carpenter leaves them,--all for the sake of pleasing the eye. And
all this without any real and lasting success,--with a success,
indeed, that seems often in an inverse ratio to the effort. If a man
have a pig-stye to build, or a log-house in the woods, he may hit
upon an agreeable outline; but let him set out freely and with all
deliberation to build something that shall be beautiful, and he fails.
Not that the failure is peculiar at all to us. In Europe there may,
perhaps, be less bad taste,--though I am not sure of that; but there,
and everywhere, I think, the memorable houses, among those of recent
date, are not those carefully elaborated for effect,--the
premeditated irregularity of the English Gothic, the trig regularity
of the French Pseudo-Classic, or the studied rusticity of Germany,--
but such as seem to have grown of themselves out of the place where
they stand,--Swiss _chalets_, Mexican or Manila plantation-houses,
Italian farm-houses, built, nobody knows when or by whom, and built
without any thought of attracting attention. And here I think we get
a hint as to the reason of their success. For a house is not a
monument, that it should seek to draw attention to itself,--but the
dwelling-place of men upon the earth; and it must show itself to be
wholly secondary to its purpose.
We have had a good deal of exhortation lately, now getting rather
wearisome, about avoiding pretence in architecture, and that we
should let things show for what they are. The avoidance of pretence
should begin farther back. If the house is _all_ pretence, we shall
not help it by "frankness of treatment" in details.
The house is the sign of man's entering into possession of the earth.
A houseless savage, living on wild game and accidental fruits, is an
alien in nature, or a minor not yet come to his estate. As soon as
he begins to cultivate the soil he builds him a house,--no longer a
hut or a cave but the work of his own hands, and as permanent as his
tenure of the cultivated field. If that is to descend to his children,
the house must be so built as to endure accordingly. It is the
material expression of the _status_ of the family,--such people in
such a place. Hence the two-fold requirement of fitness for its use
and of harmony with its surroundings. A log-house is the appropriate
dwelling of the lumberer in the woods; but transplant it to a
suburban lawn and it becomes an absurdity, and a double absurdity.
It is not in harmony with the place, nor fit for the use of the
citizen. Nothing more satisfactory in their place than the old
English parish-churches; but transfer one of them from its natural
atmosphere and surroundings to the midst of one of our raw villages
or bustling cities, exposed to the sudden and violent changes of our
climate,--the open timber roof admitting the heat and the cold, and
the stone walls bedewed with condensed moisture,-and after the first
pleasant impression of the moment is over, there is left only a
painful feeling of mimicry, not to be removed by any precision of
copying, nor by the feeble attempts at ivy in the corners.
This is all evident enough, and in principle generally admitted; but
we dodge the application of the principle, because we are not ready
to admit to ourselves, what history, apart from any reasoning, would
show us, that those importations are failures, and that not
accidentally in these particular cases, leaving the hope of better
success for the next trial, but necessarily, and because they are
All good architecture must be the gradual growth of its country and
its age,--the accumulation of men's experience, adding and leaving
out from generation to generation. The air of permanence and stability
that we admire in it must be gained by a slow and solid growth.
It is the product, not of any one man's skill, but of a nation's;
and its type, accordingly, must be gradually formed.
But in this, as in everything else, there must be an aim, and one
persisted in, else no experience is gained. A mere succession of
generations will do nothing, if for each of them the whole problem
is changed. The man of to-day cannot profit by his father's
experience in the building of his house, if his culture, his habits,
his associates, are different from his father's,--much less if they
have changed since his own youth, and are changing from year to year.
He will not imitate, he will not forbear to alter. On such shifting
sands no enduring structure is possible, but only a tent for the
We talk of the laws of architecture; but the fundamental law of all,
and one that is sure to be obeyed, is, that the dwelling shall
typify man's appropriation of the earth and its products,--what we
call property. A man's house is naturally just as fixed a quantity
as the kind and the amount of his possessions, and no more so. The
style of it, depending on the inherited ideas of the class to
which he belongs, will be as formed and as fixed as that class.
Then where there is no fixed class, and where the property of
every man is constantly varying, our quantity will be just so
variable, and the true type of our architecture will be the
tent,--of the frame-and-clapboard variety suited to the climate.
For good architecture, then, we need castes in society, and fixed
ways of living. We see the effect in the old parsonages in England,
where from year to year have dwelt men of the same class, education,
income, tastes, and circumstances generally, and so bringing from
generation to generation nearly the same requirements, with the
unessential changes brought in from time to time by new wants or
individual fancies, here and there putting out a bay-window or
adding a wing, but always in the spirit of the original building,
and the whole getting each year more weather-stained and ivy-grown,
and so toned into more complete harmony with the landscape, yet
still living and expansive.
It may be said that the result is here a partly accidental one, and
not a matter of art. But domestic architecture is only half-way a
fine art. It does not aim at a beauty of the monumental kind, as a
statue, a triumphal arch, or even a temple does. Its primary aim is
shelter, to house man in nature,--and it forms, as it were, the
connecting link between him and the outward world. Its results,
therefore, are partly the free artistic production, and partly
retain unmodified their material character. In the image carved by
the sculptor, the stone or wood used derive little of their effect
from the original material; the important character is that imparted
to them by his skill. Still more the canvas and pigments of the
painter. But in architecture the wood and stone still fulfil the
offices of covering, connecting, and supporting, as they did in the
tree and the quarry, and their physical properties play an essential
part in the work. The house, therefore, is a work of art only half
emancipated from nature, and must depend on nature for much of its
beauty also. It must not be isolated, as something merely to be
looked at, apart from its position and its material use.
The common mistake in our houses is, that they are designed, as
inexperienced persons choose their paper-hangings, to be something
of themselves, and not as mere background, as they should be. Thus
it is that people seek to beautify their houses by ornamenting them,
as a vulgar person sticks himself over with jewelry. A man's house
is only a wider kind of dress; and as we do not call a man
well-dressed when we are forced to see his dress before we see him,
so a house cannot be satisfactory when it isolates itself from its
inmates and from the landscape. In such houses, the more _effort_
the worse they are; they may cheat us for the moment, but the oftener
we see them the less we like them. Does not the uncomfortable
sensation with which fine houses so often oppress us arise from the
vague feeling that the owner has built himself out of his house, and
his house out of the landscape?
Hence it is mostly the novices that build the fine houses. A man of
sense, I think, will generally build his second house plainer than
his first. Not that he desires, perhaps, any the less what he
desired before, but he is more alive to the difficulties and to the
cost, and takes refuge in the safety of a lower scale. His
experience has taught him that where he succeeded best he was really
farthest from the end he sought. The fine house requires that its
accessories should be in kind. All things within and without, the
approach, the grounds, the furniture, must be brought up to the same
pitch, and kept there. And when all is done, it is not done, but
forever demands retouching. What is got in this kind cannot be paid
for with money, nor finished once for all, but is a never-sated
absorbent of time, thought, life. And it attacks the owner, too; he
must conform, in his dress, his equipage, and his habits generally;
he must be as fine as his house. The nicer his taste the more any
incongruity will offend him, and the greater the danger of his
becoming more or less an appendage to his house.
Much of that chronic ailment of our society, the "trials of
housekeeping," is traceable to this source. This is a complicated
trouble, and probably other causes have their share in it. But we
cannot fail to recognize in these seemingly accidental obstructions
a stern, but beneficent adjustment of our circumstances to enforce a
simplicity which we should else neglect. One cannot greatly
deprecate the terrors of high rents and long bills, and the
sufferings from clumsy and careless domestics, if they help to keep
down senseless profusion and display.
Our problem is, in truth, one of greater difficulty than at first
appears. For we are each of us striving to do, by the skill and
forethought of one man, what naturally accomplishes itself in a
succession of generations and with the aid of circumstances. It is
from our freedom that the trouble arises. Were our society composed
of few classes, widely and permanently distinct, a fitting style for
each would naturally arise and become established and perfected.
There would be fewer occasions for new houses, and the new house
would be less novel in style, and so two difficulties would be
overcome. For novelty of style is a drawback to effect, as tending
to isolate the house; and a new house is always at a disadvantage.
Nature, in any case, is slow to adopt our handiwork into the
landscape; sometimes the assimilation is so difficult that it must
be ruined for its original purpose before it will be accepted.
Sooner or later, indeed, it will be accepted. For though most of our
buildings seem even in decay to resist the harmonizing hand of Nature,
and to grow only ghastly and not venerable in dilapidation, yet
leave them long enough and what of beauty was possible to them will
appear, though it be only a crumbling heap of bricks where the
chimney stood, or the grassy slope where the cellar-wall has fallen
It is for this reason that persons of taste have taken pains to face
their houses with weather-stained and lichen-crusted stone, or
invent proper names for them, in imitation of the English
manor-houses. But Nature is jealous of this helping, and neither the
lichens nor the names will stick, for the reason that they never
grew there. They cannot be naturalized without naturalizing their
conditions. The gray ancestral houses of England are the beautiful
symbols of the permanence of family and of caste. They are the
embodiments of traditional institutions and culture. When we speak
of the House of Stanley or of Howard, the expression is not wholly
figurative. We do not mean simply the men and women of these families,
but the whole complex of this manifold environment which has
descended to them and in the midst of which they have grown up,--no
more to be separated from it than the polyp from the coral stem.
All this is centralized and has its expression in the House.
Now as these conditions are not our conditions, the attempt to build
fine houses is an attempt to import an effect where the cause has
not existed. Our position is that of a perpetually shifting
population,--the mass shifting and the individuals shifting, in place,
circumstances, requirements. The movement is inevitable, and,
whether desirable or not, we must conform to it. So we naturally
build cheaply and slightly, that the house be not an incumbrance
rather than a furtherance to our life. It is agreeable to the
feelings to be well rooted and established, and the results in
outward appearance are agreeable. But it is not desirable to be so
niched into the rock, that a change of fortune, or even a change in
the direction of a town-road, shall leave us high and dry, like the
fossils of the Norwegian cliffs, but rather, like the shell-fish of
our beaches, free to travel up and down with the tide.
The imitating of foreign examples comes from no real, heart-felt
demand, but only from a fancied or simulated demand,--from tradition,
association; at second-hand in one shape or another. It is at bottom
something of the same flunkeyism that in a more exaggerated form
assumes heraldic bearings and puts its servants into livery.
It may well reconcile us to our deprivation to remember at what cost
these things we admire are established and kept up. The imagination
is pleased with this stability; but it is bought too dear, if
progress is to be sacrificed to it, if the freedom and the true
lives of the members are to be merged in the family, and if they are
to be the stones of which the house is built. It is not desirable to
be _adscriptus glebes_, whether the bonds be physical or only moral
ones. We may well be content to have our limits free, even though
our architecture suffer for it. It is better that houses should
belong to men, and not men to houses.
But whether we are content or not, it is evident that all hope of
improvement lies in the tendency, somewhat noticeable of late, to
the abnegation of exotic styles and graces. We have survived the
Parthenon pattern, and there seems to be a prospect that we shall
outlive the Gothic cottage. Even the Anglo-Italian bracketed villa
has seen its palmiest days apparently, and exhausted most of its
variations. We are in an extremely chaotic state just now; but there
seems to be an inclination towards more rational ways, at least in
the plans and general arrangement of houses.
Of course mere negation cannot carry us far. We sometimes hear it
said that it is as easy for a house to look well as to look ill, and
those who say this seem to think that the failure is due solely to
want of due consideration of the problem on the part of our builders,
and that we have but to leave out their blunders to get at a
satisfactory result. But if we look at the facts of the case, we
find the builders have some reason on their side.
Nothing can be more unsightly than the stalky, staring houses of our
villages, with their plain gable-roofs, of a pitch neither high
enough nor low enough for beauty, and disfigured, moreover, by mere
excrescences of attic windows, and over the whole structure the
awkward angularity, and the look of barren, mindless conformity and
uniformity in the general outlines, and the meagre, frittered effect
inherent in the material. But when we come to build, we find that
the blockheads who invented this style, or no-style, have got at the
cheapest way of supplying the first imperative demands of the people
for whom they build,--namely, to be walled in and roofed
weather-tight, and with a decent neatness, but without much care
that the house should be solid and enduring,--for it cannot well be
so flimsy as not to outlast the owner's needs. He does not look to
it as the habitation of his children,--hardly as his own for his
lifetime,--but as a present shelter, easily and quickly got ready,
and as easily plucked up and carried off again. The common-law of
England looks upon a house as real estate, as part of the soil; but
with us it is hardly a fixture.
Surely nothing can be more simple and common-sense than an ordinary
New England house, but at the same time nothing can be uglier. The
outline, the material, the color and texture of the surface are at
all points opposed to breadth of effect or harmony with the
surroundings. There is neither mass nor elegance; there are no lines
of union with the ground; the meagre monotony of the lines of
shingles and clapboards making subdivisions too small to be
impressive, and too large to be overlooked,-and finally, the paint,
of which the outside really consists, thrusting forward its chalky
blankness, as it were a standing defiance of all possibility of
assimilation,--all combine to form something that shall forever
remain a blot in the landscape.
Evidently it is not merely a more common-sense treatment that we want;
for here is sufficient simplicity, but a simplicity barren of all
satisfaction. And singularly enough, it seems, with all its
meagreness, to pass easily into an ostentatious display. In these
houses there is no thought of "architecture"; that is considered as
something quite apart, and not essential to the well-building of the
house. But for this very reason matters are not much changed when
the owner determines to spend something for looks. The house remains
at bottom the same rude mass, with the "architecture" tacked on It
is not that the owner has any deeper or different sentiment towards
his dwelling, but merely that he has a desire to make a flourish
before the eyes of beholders. There is no heartfelt interest in all
this on his part; it gives him no pleasure; how, then, should it
please the spectator?
The case is the same, whether it be the coarse ornamentation of the
cheap cottage, or the work of the fashionable architect; we feel
that the decoration is superficial and may be dispensed with, and
then, however skillful, it becomes superfluous. The more elaborate
the worse, for attention is the more drawn to the failure.
What is wanted for any real progress is not so much a greater skill
in our house-builders, as more thoughtful consideration on the part
of the house-owners of what truly interests them in the house. We do
not stop to examine what really weighs with us, but on some fancied
necessity hasten to do superfluous things. What is it that we really
care for in the building of our houses? Is it not, that, like dress,
or manners, they should facilitate, and not impede the business
of life? We do not wish to be compelled to think of them by
themselves either as good or bad, but to get rid of any obstruction
from them. They are to be lived in, not looked at; and their beauty
must grow as naturally from their use as the flower from its stem,
so that it shall not be possible to say where the one ends and
the other begins. Not that beauty will come of itself; there must be
the feeling to be satisfied before any satisfaction will come.
But we shall not help it by pretending the feeling, nor by trying
to persuade others or ourselves that we are pleased with what has
been pleasing to other nations and under other circumstances.
Our poverty, if poverty it be, is not disgraceful, until we attempt
to conceal it by our affectation of foreign airs and graces.
MAYA, THE PRINCESS.
The sea floated its foam-caps upon the gray shore, and murmured its
inarticulate love-stories all day to the dumb rocks above; the blue
sky was bordered with saffron sunrises, pink sunsets, silver
moon-fringes, or spangled with careless stars; the air was full of
south-winds that had fluttered the hearts of a thousand roses and a
million violets with long, deep kisses, and then flung the delicate
odors abroad to tell their exploits, and set the butterflies mad
with jealousy, and the bees crazy with avarice. And all this bloom
was upon the country of Larrierepensee, when Queen Lura's little
daughter came to life in the Topaz Palace that stood on Sunrise Hills,
and was King Joconde's summer pavilion.
Now there was no searching far and wide for godfathers, godmothers,
and a name, as there is when the princesses of this world are born:
for, in the first place, Larrierepensee was a country of pious
heathen, and full of fairies; the people worshipped an Idea, and
invited the fairy folk to all their parties, as we who are proper
here invite the clergy; only the fairy folk did not get behind the
door, or leave the room, when dancing commenced.
And the reason why this princess was born to a name, as well as to a
kingdom, was, that, long ago, the people who kept records in
Larrierepensee were much troubled by the ladies of that land never
growing old: they staid at thirty for ten years; at forty, for twenty;
and all died before fifty, which made much confusion in dates,--
especially when some women were called upon to tell traditions, the
only sort of history endured in that kingdom; because it was against
the law to write either lies or romances, though you might hear and
tell them, if you would, and some people would; although to call a
man a historian there was the same thing as to say, "You lie!" here.
But as I was saying, this evergreen way into which the women fell
caused much trouble, and the Twelve Sages made a law that for six
hundred years every female child born in any month of the
seventy-two hundred following should be named by the name ordained
for that month; and then they made a long list, containing
seventy-two hundred names of women, and locked it up in the box of
Great Designs, which stood always under the king's throne; and
thenceforward, at the beginning of every month, the Twelve Sages
unlocked the box, consulted the paper, and sent a herald through the
town to proclaim the girl-name for that month. So this saved a world
of trouble; for if some wrinkled old maid should say, "And that
happened long ago, some time before I was born," all her gossips
laughed, and cried out, "Ho! ho! there's a historian! do we not all
know you were a born Allia, ten years before that date?"--and then
the old maid was put to shame.
Now it happened well for Queen Lura's lovely daughter, that on her
birth-month was written the gracious name of Maya, for it seemed
well to fit her grace and delicacy, while but few in that country
knew its sad Oriental depth, or that it had any meaning at all.
It was all one flush of dawn upon Sunrise Hills, when the
maids-of-honor, in curls and white frocks, began to strew the great
Hall of Amethyst with geranium leaves, and arrange light tripods of
gold for the fairies, who were that day gathered from all
Larrierepensee to see and gift the new princess. The Queen had
written notes to them on spicy magnolia-petals, and now the
head-nurse and the grand-equerry wheeled her couch of state into the
Hall of Amethyst, that she might receive the tender wishes of the
good fairies, while yet the sweet languor of her motherhood kept her
from the fresh wind and bright dew out of doors.
The couch of state was fashioned like a great rose of crimson velvet;
only where there should have been the gold anthers of the flower lay
the lovely Queen, wrapped in a mantle of canary-birds' down, and
nested on one arm slept the Child of the Kingdom, Maya. Presently a
cloud of honey-bees swept through the wide windows, and settling
upon the ceiling began a murmurous song, when, one by one, the
flower-fairies entered, and flitting to their tripods, each garlanded
with her own blossom, awaited the coming of their Head,--the Fairy
As the Queen perceived their delay, a sudden pang crossed her pale
and tranquil brow.
"Ah!" said she, to the nurse-in-chief, Mrs. Lita, "my poor baby, Maya!
What have I done? I have neglected to ask the Fairy Anima, and now
she will come in anger, and give my child an evil gift, unless
"Do not fear, Madam!" said Mrs. Lita, "your nerves are weak,--take a
So she gave the Queen a red glass full of honeybell whiskey; but she
called it a fine name, like Rose-dew, or Tears-of-Flax, and then
Queen Lura drank it down nicely;--so much depends on names, even in
But as Mrs. Lita set away the glass, the bees upon the ceiling began
to buzz in a most angry manner, and rally about the queen-bee; the
south-wind cried round the palace corner; and a strange light, like
the sun shining when it rains, threw a lurid glow over the graceful
fairy forms. Then the door of the hall flung open, and a beautiful,
wrathful shape crossed the threshold;--it was the Fairy Anima. Where
she gathered the gauzes that made her rainbow vest, or the
water-diamonds that gemmed her night-black hair, or the sun-fringed
cloud of purple that was her robe, no fay or mortal knew; but they
knew well the power of her presence, and grew pale at her anger.
With swift feet she neared the couch of state, but her steps
lingered as she saw within those crimson leaves the delicate,
fear-pale face of the Queen, and her sleeping child.
"Always rose-folded!" she murmured, "and I tread the winds abroad! A
fair bud, and I am but a stately stem! You were foolish and frail,
Queen Lura, that you sent me no word of your harvest-time; now I
come angry. Show me the child!"
Mrs. Lita, with awed steps, drew near, and lifted the baby in her
arms, and the child's soft hazel eyes looked with grave innocence at
Anima. Truly, the Princess was a lovely piece of nature: her hair,
like fine silk, fell in dark, yet gilded tresses from her snow-white
brow; her eyes were thoughtless, tender, serene; her lips red as the
heart of a peach; her skin so fair that it seemed stained with
violets where the blue veins crept lovingly beneath; and her dimpled
checks were flushed with sleep like the sunset sky.
Anima looked at the baby.--"Ah! too much, too much!" said she.
"Queen Lura, a butterfly can eat honey only; let us have a higher
life for the Princess of Larrierepensee. Maya, I give thee for a
birth-gift another crown. Receive the Spark!"
Queen Lura shrieked; but Anima stretching out her wand, a snake of
black diamonds, with a blood-red head, touched the child's eyes, and
from the serpent's rapid tongue a spark of fire darted into either
eye, and sunk deeper and deeper,--for two tears flowed above, and
hung on Maya's silky lashes, as she looked with a preternatural
expression of reproach at the Fairy.
Now all was confusion. Queen Lura tried to faint,--she knew it was
proper,--and the grand-equerry rang all the palace bells in a row.
Anima gave no glance at the little Princess, who still sat upright
in Mrs. Lita's petrified arms, but went proudly from the hall alone.
The flower-fairies dropped their wands with one sonorous clang upon
the floor, and with bitter sighs and wringing hands flitted one
after another to the portal, bewailing, as they went, their wasted
gifts and powers.
"Why should I give her beauty?" cried the Fairy Rose; "all eyes will
be dazzled with the Spark; who will know on what form it shines?"
So the red rose dropped and died.
"Why should I bring her innocence?" said the Fairy Lily; "the Spark
will burn all evil from her, thought and deed!"
Then the white lily dropped and died.
"Is there any use to her in grace?" wept the Fairy Eglantine;
"the Spark will melt away all mortal grossness, till she is light
and graceful as the clouds above."
And the eglantine wreaths dropped and died.
"She will never want humility," said the Fairy Violet; "for she will
find too soon that the Spark is a curse as well as a crown!"
So the violet dropped and died.
Then the Sun-dew denied her pity; the blue Forget-me not, constancy;
the Iris, pride; the Butter-cup, gold; the Passion-flower, love; the
Amaranth, hope: all because the Spark should gift her with every one
of these, and burn the gift in deeply. So they all dropped and died;
and she could never know the flowers of life,--only its fires.
But in the end of all this flight came a ray of consolation, like
the star that heralds dawn, springing upward on the skirt of night's
blackest hour. The raging bees that had swarmed upon the golden
chandelier returned to the ceiling and their song; the scattered
flowers revived and scented the air: for the Fairy Cordis came,--too
late, but welcome; her face bright with flushes of vivid, but
uncertain rose,--her deep gray eyes brimming with motherhood, a
sister's fondness, and the ardor of a child. The tenderest
garden-spider-webs made her a robe, full of little common blue-eyed
flowers, and in her gold-brown hair rested a light circle of such
blooms as beguile the winter days of the poor and the desolate, and
put forth their sweetest buds by the garret window, or the bedside
of a sick man.
Mrs. Lita nearly dropped the baby, in her great relief of mind; but
Cordis caught it, and looked at its brilliant face with tears.
"Ah, Head of the Fairies, help me!" murmured Queen Lura, extending
her arms toward Cordis; for she had kept one eye open wide enough to
see what would happen while she fainted away.
"All I can, I will," said the kindly fairy, speaking in the same key
that a lark sings in. So she sat down upon a white velvet mushroom
and fell to thinking, while Maya, the Princess, looked at her from
the rose where she lay, and the Queen, having pushed her down robe
safely out of the way, leaned her head on her hand, and very
properly cried as much as six tears.
Soon, like a sunbeam, Cordis looked up. "I can give the Princess a
counter-charm, Queen Lura," said she,--"but it is not sure. Look you!
she will have a lonely life,--for the Spark burns, as well as shines,
and the only way to mend that matter is to give the fire better fuel
than herself. For some long years yet, she must keep herself in
peace and the shade; but when she is a woman, and the Spark can no
more be hidden,--since to be a woman is to have power and pain,--
then let her veil herself, and with a staff and scrip go abroad into
the world, for her time is come. Now in this kingdom of
Larrierepensee there stand many houses, all empty, but swept and
garnished, and a fire laid ready on the hearth for the hand of the
Coming to kindle. But sometimes, nay, often, this fire is a cheat:
for there be men who carve the semblance of it in stone, and are so
content to have the chill for the blaze all their lives; and on some
hearths the logs are green wood, set up before their time; and on
some they are but ashes, for the fire has burned and died, and left
the ghostly shape of boughs behind; and sometimes, again, they are
but icicles clothed in bark, to save the shame of the possessor. But
there are some hearths laid with dry and goodly timber; and if the
Princess Maya does not fail, but chooses a real and honest heap of
wood, and kindles it from the Spark within her, then will she have a
most perfect life; for the fire that consumes her shall leave its
evil work, and make the light and warmth of a household, and rescue
her forever from the accursed crown of the Spark. But I grieve to
tell you, yet one of my name cannot lie--if the Princess mistake the
false for the true, if she flashes her fire upon stone, or ice, or
embers, either the Spark will recoil and burn her to ashes, or it
will die where she placed it and turn her to stone, or--worst fate
of all, yet likeliest to befall the tenderest and best--it will
reenter her at her lips, and turn her whole nature to the bitterness
of gall, so that neither food shall refresh her, sleep rest her,
water quench her thirst, nor fire warm her body. Is it worth the
trial? or shall she live and burn slowly to her death, with the
unquenchable fire of the Spark?"
"Ah! let her, at the least, try for that perfect life," said Queen
Then the Fairy Cordis drew from her delicate finger a ring of
twisted gold, in which was set an opal wrought into the shape of a
heart, and in it palpitated, like throbbing blood, one scarlet flash
"Let her keep this always on her hand," said Cordis. "It will serve
to test the truth of the fire she strives to kindle; for if it be
not true wood, this heart will grow cold, the throb cease, the glow
become dim. The talisman may, will, save her, unless in the madness
of joy she forget to ask its aid, or the Spark flashing upon its
surface seems to create anew the fire within, and thus deceives her."
So the Fairy put the ring upon Queen Lura's hand, and kissed Maya's
fair brow, already shaded with sleep. The bees upon the ceiling
followed her, dropping honey as they went; the maids-of-honor
wheeled away the couch of state; the castle-maids swept up the fading
leaves and blossoms, drew the tulip-tree curtains down, fastened the
great door with a sandal-wood bar, sprinkled the corridors with
rosewater; and by moonrise, when the nightingales sung loud from the
laurel thickets, all the country slept,--even Maya; but the Spark
burned bright, and she dreamed.
So the night came on, and many another night, and many a new day,--
till Maya, grown a girl, looked onward to the life before her with
strange foreboding, for still the Spark burned.
Hitherto it had been but a glad light on all things, except men and
women; for into their souls the Spark looked too far, and Maya's
open brow was shadowed deeply and often with sorrows not her own,
and her heart ached many a day for pains she could not or dared not
relieve; but if she were left alone, the illumination of the Spark
filled everything about her with glory. The sky's rapturous blue,
the vivid tints of grass and leaves, the dismaying splendor of
blood-red roses, the milky strawberry-flower, the brilliant
whiteness of the lily, the turquoise eyes of water-plants,--all
these gave her a pleasure intense as pain; and the songs of the winds,
the love-whispers of June midnights, the gathering roar of autumn
tempests, the rattle of thunder, the breathless and lurid pause
before a tropic storm,--all these the Spark enhanced and vivified;
till, seeing how blest in herself and the company of Nature the
Child of the Kingdom grew, Queen Lura deliberated silently and long
whether she should return the gift of the Fairy Cordis, and let Maya
live so tranquil and ignorant forever, or whether she should awaken
her from her dreams, and set her on her way through the world.
But now the Princess Maya began to grow pale and listless. Her eyes
shone brighter than ever, but she was consumed with a feverish
longing to see new and strange things. On her knees, and weeping,
she implored her mother to release her from the court routine, and
let her wander in the woods and watch the village children play.
So Queen Lura, having now another little daughter, named Maddala,
who was just like all other children, and a great comfort to her
mother, was the more inclined to grant Maya's prayer. She therefore
told Maya all that was before her, and having put upon her tiny
finger the fairy-ring, bade the tiring-woman take off her velvet robe,
and the gold circlet in her hair, and clothe her in a russet suit of
serge, with a gray kirtle and hood. King Joconde was gone to the wars.
Queen Lura cried a little, the Princess Maddala laughed, and Maya
went out alone,--not lonely, for the Spark burned high and clear,
and showed all the legends written on the world everywhere, and Maya
read them as she went.
Out on the wide plain she passed many little houses; but through all
their low casements the red gleam of a fire shone, and on the
door-steps clustered happy children, or a peasant bride with warm
blushes on her cheek sat spinning, or a young mother with pensive
eyes lulled her baby to its twilight sleep and sheltered it with
One of these kindly cottages harbored Maya for the night; and then
her way at dawn lay through a vast forest, where the dim tree-trunks
stretched far away till they grew undefined as a gray cloud, and
only here and there the sunshine strewed its elf-gold on ferns and
mosses, feathery and soft as strange plumage and costly velvet.
Sometimes a little brook with bubbling laughter crept across her
path and slid over the black rocks, gurgling and dimpling in the
shadow or sparkling in the sun, while fish, red and gold-speckled,
swam noiseless as dreams, and darting water-spiders, poised a moment
on the surface, cast a glittering diamond reflection on the yellow
The way grew long, and Maya weary. The new leaves of opalescent tint
shed odors of faint and passionate sweetness; the birds sang
love-songs that smote the sense like a caress; a warm wind yearned
and complained in the pine boughs far above her; yet her heart grew
heavy, and her eyes dim; she was sick for home;--not for the palace
and the court; not for her mother and Maddala; but for home;--she
knew her exile, and wept to return.
That night, and for many nights, she slept in the forest; and when
at length she came out upon the plain beyond, she was pale and wan,
her dark eyes drooped, her slender figure was bowed and languid, and
only the mark upon her brow, where the coronet had fretted its
whiteness, betrayed that Maya was a princess born.
And now dwellings began to dot the country: brown cottages, with
clinging vines; villas, aerial and cloud-tinted, with pointed roofs
and capricious windows; huts, in which some poor wretch from his bed
of straw looked out upon the wasteful luxury of his neighbor, and,
loathing his bitter crust and turbid water, saw feasts spread in the
open air, where tropic fruits and beaded wine mocked his feverish
thirst; and palaces of stainless marble, rising tower upon tower, and
turret over turret, like the pearly heaps of cloud before a storm,
while the wind swept from their gilded lattices bursts of festal
music, the chorus that receives a bride, or the triumphal notes of a
All these Maya passed by, for no door was open, and no fireless
hearth revealed; but before night dropped her starry veil, she had
travelled to a mansion whose door was set wide, and, within, a cold
hearth was piled with boughs of oak and beech. The opal upon Maya's
finger grew dim, but she moved toward the unlit wood, and at her
approach the false pretence betrayed itself; the ice glared before
her, and chilled her to the soul, as its shroud of bark fell off.
She fled over the threshold, and the house-spirit laughed with
bitter mirth; but the Spark was safe.
Now came thronging streets, and many an open portal wooed Maya, but
wooed in vain. Once, upon the steps of a quaint and picturesque
cottage stood an artist, with eyes that flashed heaven's own azure,
and lit his waving curls with a gleam of gold. His pleading look
tempted the Child of the Kingdom with potent affinities of land and
likeness; his fair cottage called her from wall and casement, with
the spiritual eyes of ideal faces looking down upon her, forever
changeless and forever pure; but when, from purest pity, kindness,
and beauty-love, she would have drawn near the hearth, a sigh like
the passing of a soul shivered by her, and before its breath the
shapely embers fell to dust, the hearth beneath was heaped with ashes,
and with tearful lids Maya turned away, and the house-spirit, weeping,
closed the door behind her.
Long days and nights passed ere she essayed again; and then, weary
and faint with home-woe, she lingered on the steps of a lofty house
whose carved door was swung open, whose jasper hearthstone was
heaped with goodly logs, and beside it, on the soft flower-strewn
skin of a panther, slept a youth beautiful as Adonis, and in his
sleep ever murmuring, "Mother!" Maya's heart yearned with a kindred
pang. She, too, was orphaned in her soul, and she would gladly have
lit the fire upon this lonely hearth, and companioned the solitude
of the sleeper; but, alas! the boughs still wore their summer garland,
and from each severed end slow tears of dryad-life distilled
honeyedly upon the stone beneath. Of such withes and saplings comes
no living fire! Maya, smiling, set a kiss upon the boy-sleeper's brow,
but the Spark lay quiet, and the house-spirit flung a blooming
cherry-bough after its departing guest.
The year was now wellnigh run. The Princess Maya despaired of home.
The earth seemed a harsh stepmother, and its children rather stones
than clay. A vague sense of some fearful barrier between herself and
her kind haunted the woman's soul within her, and the unquenchable
flames of the Spark seemed to girdle her with a defence that drove
away even friendly ingress. Night and day she wept, oppressed with
loneliness. She knew not how to speak the tongues of men, though
well she understood their significance. Only little children mated
rightly with her divine infancy; only the mute glories of nature
satisfied for a moment her brooding soul. The celestial impulses
within her beat their wings in futile longing for freedom, and with
inexpressible anguish she uttered her griefs aloud, or sung them to
such plaintive strains that all who heard wept in sympathy. Yet she
had no home.
After many days she came upon a broad, champaign, fertile land, where,
on a gentle knoll, among budding orchards, and fields green with
winter grains, stood a low, wide-eaved house, with gay parterres and
clipped hedges around it, all ordered with artistic harmony, while
over chimney and cornice crept wreaths of glossy ivy, every deep
green leaf veined with streaks of light, and its graceful sprays
clasping and clinging wherever they touched the chiselled stone
beneath. Upon the lawn opened a broad, low door, and the southern sun
streamed inward, showing the carved panels of the fireplace and its
red hearth, where heavy boughs of wood and splinters from the heart
of the pine lay ready for the hand of the Coming to kindle. Upon the
threshold, plucking out the dead leaves of the ivy, stood one from
whose face strength, and beauty, and guile that the guileless knew
not, shone sunlike upon Maya; and as she faltered and paused, he
spoke a welcome to her in her own language, and held toward her the
clasping hand of help. A thrill of mad joy cleft the heart of the
Princess, a glow of incarnate summer dyed with rose her cheek and lip,
the Spark blazed through her brimming eyes, weariness vanished.
"Home! home!" sung her rapt lips; and in the delirious ecstasy of
the hour she pressed toward the hearth, laid down her scrip and
staff upon the heaped wood, flung herself on the red stone, and,
heedless of the opal talisman, flashed outward from her joyful eyes
the Spark,--the Crown, the Curse! So a forked tongue of lightning
speeds from its rain-fringed cloud, and cleaves the oak to its centre;
so the blaze of a meteor rushes through mid-heaven, and--is gone!
The Spark lit, quivered, sunk, and flashed again; but the wood lay
unlighted beneath it. Maya gasped for breath, and with the long
respiration the Spark returned, lit upon her lips, seared them like
a hot iron, and entered into her heart,--the blighting canker of her
fate, a bitterness in flesh and spirit forevermore.
Writhing with anguish and contempt, she turned away from the wrought
stone whose semblance had beguiled her to her mortal loss; and as
she passed from the step, another hand lit a consuming blaze beneath
her staff and scrip, sending a sword of flame after her to the
threshold, and the house-spirit shrieked aloud, "Only stones
together strike fire, Maya!"--while from the casement above looked
forth two faces, false and fair, with eyes of azure ice, and
disdainful smiles, and bound together by a curling serpent, that
ringed itself in portentous symbol about their waists.
With star-like eyes, proud lips, and erect head, Maya went out. Her
laugh rang loud; her song soared in wild and mocking cadence to the
stars; her rigid brow wore scorn like a coronal of flame; and with a
scathed nature she trod the streets of the city, mixed with its
wondering crowds, made the Spark a blaze and a marvel in all lands,--
but hid the opal in her bosom; for its scarlet spot of life-blood
had dropped away, and the jewel was broken across.
So the wide world heard of Maya, the Child of the Kingdom, and from
land to land men carried the stinging arrows of her wit, or
signalled the beacon-fires of her scorn, while seas and shores
unknown echoed her mad and rapt music, or answered the veiled agony
that derided itself with choruses of laughter, from every mystic
whisper of the wave, or roar of falling headlands.
And then she fled away, lest, in the turbulent whirl of life, the
Curse should craze, and not slay her. For sleep had vanished with
wordless moans and frighted aspect from her pillow,--or if it dared,
standing afar off, to cast its pallid shadow there, still there was
neither rest nor refreshing in the troubled spell. Nor could the
thirst that consumed her quench itself with red wine or crystal water,
translucent grapes or the crimson fruits that summer kisses into
sweetness with her heats; forever longing, and forever unsated, it
parched her lips and burnt her gasping mouth, but there was no
draught to allay it And even so food failed of its office. Kindly
hands brought to her, whose queenliness asserted itself to their
souls with an innocent loftiness, careless of pomp or insignia, all
delicate dates and exquisite viands; but neither the keen and
stimulating odors of savory meat, the crisp whiteness of freshest
bread, nor the slow-dropping gold of honeycomb could tempt her to eat.
The simplest peasant's fare, in measure too scanty for a linnet,
sustained her life; but the Curse lit even upon her food, and those
lips of fire burned all things in their touch to tasteless ashes.
So she fled away; for the forest was cool and lonely, and even as
she learned the lies and treacheries of men, so she longed to leave
them behind her and die in bitterness less bitter for its solitude.
But Maya fled not from herself: the winds wailed like the crying of
despair in her harp-voiced pines; the shining oak-leaves rustled
hisses upon her unstrung ear; the timid forest-creatures, who own no
rule but patient love and caresses, hid from her defiant step and
dazzling eye; and when she knew herself in no wise healed by the
ministries of Nature, in the very apathy of desperation she flung
herself by the clear fountain that had already fallen upon her lips
and cooled them with bitter water, and hiding her head under the
broad, fresh leaves of a calla that bent its marble cups above her
knitted brow and loosened hair, she lay in deathlike trance, till the
Fairy Anima swept her feet with fringed garments, and cast the
serpent wand writhing and glittering upon her breast.
"Wake, Maya!" said the organ-tones of the Spark-Bringer; and Maya
"So! the Spark galls thee?" resumed those deep, bitter-sweet tones;
and for answer the Princess Maya held toward her, with accusing eyes,
the broken, bloodless opal.
"Cordis's folly!" retorted Anima. "Thou hadst done best without it,
Maya; the Spark abides no other fate but shining. Yet there is a
little hope for thee. Wilt thou die of the bitter fire, or wilt thou
turn beggar-maid? The sleep that charity lends to its couch shall
rest thee; the draught a child brings shall slake thy thirst; the
food pity offers shall strengthen and renew. But these are not the
gifts a Princess receives; she who gathers them must veil the Crown,
shroud the Spark, conceal the Curse, and in torn robes, with bare
and bleeding feet, beg the crumbs of life from door to door. Wilt
thou take up this trade?"
Maya rose up from the leaves of the cool lily, and put aside the
veiling masse, of her hair.
"I will go!" she whispered, flutelike for hope beat a living pulse
in her brain.
So with scrip and hood she went out of the forest and begged of the
world's bounty such life as a beggar-maid may endure.
Long ago the King and Queen died in Larrierepensee, and there the
Princess Maddala reigns with a goodly Prince beside her, nor cares
for her lost sister; but songless, discrowned, desolate, Maya walks
All ye whose fires burn bright on the hearth, whose dwellings ring
with child-laughter, or are hushed with love-whispers and the peace
of home, pity the Princess Maya! Give her food and shelter; charm
away the bitter flames that consume her life and soul; drop tears
and alms together into the little wasted hand that pleads with dumb
eloquence for its possessor; and even while ye pity and protect,
revere that fretted mark of the Crown that still consecrates to the
awful solitude of sorrow Maya, the Child of the Kingdom!
* * * * *
This song of mine
Is a Song of the Vine,
To be sung by the glowing embers
Of wayside inns,
When the rain begins
To darken the drear Novembers.
It is not a song
Of the Scuppernong,
From warm Carolinian valleys,--
Nor the Isabel
And the Muscatel
That bask in our garden alleys,--
Nor the red Mustang,
Whose clusters hang
O'er the waves of the Colorado,
And the fiery flood
Of whose purple blood
Has a dash of Spanish bravado.
For richest and best
Is the wine of the West,
That grows by the Beautiful River;
Whose sweet perfume
Fills all the room
With a benison on the giver.
And as hollow trees
Are the haunts of bees
Forever going and coming,
So this crystal hive
Is all alive
With a swarming and buzzing and humming.
Very good in their way
Are the Verzenay,
And the Sillery soft and creamy;
But Catawba wine
Has a taste more divine,
More dulcet, delicious, and dreamy.
There grows no vine
By the haunted Rhine,
By Danube or Guadalquivir,
Nor on island or cape,
That bears such a grape
As grows by the Beautiful River.
Drugged is their juice
For foreign use,
When shipped o'er the reeling Atlantic,
To rack our brains
With the fever pains
That have driven the Old World frantic.
To the sewers and sinks
With all such drinks,
And after them tumble the mixer!
For a poison malign
Is such Borgia wine,
Or at best but a Devil's Elixir.
While pure as a spring
Is the wine I sing,
And to praise it, one needs but name it;
For Catawba wine
Has need of no sign,
No tavern-bush to proclaim it
And this Song of the Vine,
This greeting of mine,
The winds and the birds shall deliver
To the Queen of the West,
In her garlands dressed,
On the banks of the Beautiful River.
* * * * *
THE WINDS AND THE WEATHER.
_The Physical Geography of the Sea_. By M. F. MAURY. New York:
Harper & Brothers. 1857.
_Climatology of the United States and of the Temperate Latitudes
of the North American Continent_. By LORIN BLODGET. Philadelphia: J.
B. Lippincott & Co. 1857.
_Proceedings of the British Association for the Advancement of
An eloquent philosopher, depicting the deplorable results that would
follow, if some future materialist were "to succeed in displaying to
us a mechanical system of the human mind, as comprehensive,
intelligible, and satisfactory as the Newtonian mechanism of the
heavens," exclaims, "Fallen from their elevation, Art and Science
and Virtue would no longer be to man the objects of a genuine and
reflective adoration." We are led, in reflecting upon the far more
probable success of the meteorologist, to similar forebodings upon
the dulness and sameness to which social intercourse will be reduced
when the weather philosophers shall succeed in subjecting the changes
of the atmosphere to rules and predictions,--when the rain shall
fall where it is expected, the wind blow no longer "where it listeth,"
and wayward man no longer find his counterpart in nature. But we
console ourselves by contemplating the difficulties of the problem,
and the improbability, that, in our generation at least, we shall be
deprived of these subjects of general news and universal interest.
During the last half-century, the progress of experimental
philosophy in the direction of the weather, though its results are
for the most part of a negative character, has yet been sufficient
to excite the apprehensions of the philanthropist. We have unlearned
many fables and false theories, and have made great advancement in
that knowledge of our ignorance, which is the only true foundation
of positive science.
The moon has been deposed from the executive chair, though she still
has her supporters and advocates; and an innumerable host of minor
causes are found to constitute, upon strictly republican principles,
the ruling power of the winds and the rain. That regularity, however
complicated, which reason still demands, and expects even from the
weather, is not found to be so simple as our rules and signs of the
weather indicate; for the operation of these innumerable causes is
so complicated, that the repetition of similar phenomena or similar
combinations of causes, to any great extent, is the most improbable
of events. Perhaps the meteorologist will ultimately find that
Nature has succeeded, in what seems, indeed, to be her aim, in
completely retracing her steps, and reducing the operation of that
simple and regular system of causes, which she brought out of chaos,
back to a confusion of detail, from which all law and regularity are
Meteorological observations have, however, determined many regular
and constant causes and a few regular phenomena. The method pursued
in these investigations is, for the most part, the elimination, by
general averages, of limited and temporary changes in the elements
of the weather, and the determination of those changes which depend
upon the constant influences of locality, of season, and of constant
or slowly varying causes. These constant influences constitute the
climate; and the study of climates is thus the first step towards
the solution of the problem of the weather. Climates, in their
changes and distribution, are very important elements in the
determination of the movements of the weather, and are to the
meteorologist what the elements of the planetary orbits are to the
astronomer; but, unlike planetary perturbations, the weather makes
the most reckless excursions from its averages, and obscures them by
a most inconsequent and incalculable fickleness.
Whether mechanical science will hereafter succeed in calculating
these perturbations of climate, as we may style the weather, or will
find the problem beyond its capacity, it will yet, doubtless, account
for much that is now obscure, as observation brings the facts more
distinctly to view. We propose to give a brief general survey of the
mechanics of the atmosphere in its present state, and to indicate
the nature and limits of our knowledge on this subject.
Among the first noticed and most remarkable features of regularity
in atmospheric changes are constant, periodic, and prevailing winds.
The most remarkable instances of these are the trade-winds of the
torrid zone, the monsoons of the Indian Ocean, and the prevailing
southwest wind of our northern temperate latitudes. Of these, the
trade-winds are the most important to science, as furnishing the key
to that general explanation of the winds which was first advanced by
the distinguished Halley.
In Halley's celebrated theory, the trade-winds are explained as the
effects of the unequal distribution of the sun's heat in different
latitudes. The air of the equator, heated more than the northern or
southern air, expands more, and overflows, moving in the upper
regions of the atmosphere toward the poles; while the lower, colder
air on both sides moves toward the equator to preserve equilibrium.
Thus an extensive circulation is carried on. The air that moves from
the equator in the upper atmosphere, gradually sinking to the surface
of the earth, finally ceases to move toward the poles, and returns
as an undercurrent to the equator, where it again rises and moves
toward the poles.
Now the air of the equator, moving with the earth's rotary motion,
has a greater velocity than the earth itself at high northern or
southern latitudes, and consequently appears to gain an eastward
motion in its progress toward the poles. Without friction, this
relative eastward motion would increase as the air moves toward the
poles, and diminish at the same rate as the air returns, till at the
equator the velocity of the earth and of the air would again be equal;
but friction reduces the motion of the returning air to that of the
earth, at or near the calms of the tropics; so that the air, passing
the tropics, gains a relative westward motion in its further
progress through the torrid zone. The southwestward motion thus
produced between the tropic of Cancer and the equator is the
Now, according to this theory, the prevailing winds of our temperate
latitudes ought to have a southeastward motion as far as the calms
of Cancer or "the horse latitudes." Moreover, instead of these calms,
there should still be a southward motion. But observation has shown,
that though the prevailing lower winds of our latitude move eastward,
still their motion is toward the north rather than the south; so
that they appear to contradict the theory by which the trade-winds
To account for these anomalies, Lieut. Maury has invented a very
ingenious hypothesis, which is published in his "Physical Geography
of the Sea." He supposes that the air, which passes from the equator
toward the poles in the upper regions of the atmosphere, is brought
down to the surface of the earth beyond the calms of the tropics,
and that it thence proceeds with an increasing eastward motion,
appearing in our northern hemisphere as the prevailing northeastward
winds. Approaching the poles with a spiral motion, the air there
rises, according to this hypothesis, in a vortex, and returns toward
the equator in the upper atmosphere, gradually acquiring a westward
motion; till, returning to the tropics, it is again brought down to
the earth, and thence proceeds, with a still increasing westward
motion, as the trade-winds. At the equator the air rises again, and,
according to Lieut. Maury, crosses to the other side, and proceeds
through a similar course in the other hemisphere.
The rising of the air at the equator is supposed to cause the
equatorial rains; and the drought of the tropics is also explained
by that descent of the air, in these latitudes, which this
Now although this hypothesis explains the phenomena, it has still
met with great opposition. The motions which Lieut. Maury supposes
can hardly be accounted for without resorting, as is usual in such
cases, to electricity or magnetism,-to some occult cause, or some
occult operation of a known cause. Moreover, it has been difficult
for the mechanical philosopher to understand how the winds manage to
cross each other, as Lieut. Maury supposes them to do, at the
equator and the tropics, without getting into "entangling alliances."
If this hypothesis were advanced, not as a physical explanation of
the phenomena, but, like the epicycles and eccentrics of Ptolemy,
"to save the appearances," its ingenuity would be greatly to its
author's credit; but, like the epicycles and eccentrics, though it
represents the phenomena well enough, it contradicts laws of motion,
now well known, which ought to be familiar to every physical
philosopher. But these speculations of Lieut. Maury will now be
superseded by a new theory of atmospheric movements, an account of
which was presented by its author, Mr. J. Thompson, at the recent
meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. 
[Footnote 1: A fuller discussion of this theory the author
reserved for the Royal Society. The _London Athenaeum_ gives a brief
abstract of his paper, in its report of the proceedings of the
Mr. Thompson's theory takes account of forces, hitherto unnoticed,
which are generated by the eastward circulation of the atmosphere in
high latitudes. He shows that these forces cause the prevailing
northeastward under-current of our latitudes, while above this, yet
below the highest northeastward current, the air ought still to move
southward according to Halley's theory.
This under-current is not the immediate effect of differences of
temperature, but a secondary effect induced by the friction of the
earth's surface and the continual deflection of the air's eastward
motion from a great circle, (in which the air tends to move,) into
the small circle of the latitude, in which the air actually does move.
The force of this deflection, measured by the centrifugal force of
the air as it circulates around the pole, retards the movement from
the equator, and finally wholly suspends it; so that the upper air
circulates around in the higher latitudes as water may be made to
circulate in a pail; and the air is drawn away from the polar
regions as this circulatory motion is communicated to it, and tends
to accumulate in the middle latitudes, as the circulating water is
heaped up around the sides of the pail. Hence, in the middle
latitudes there is a greater weight of air than at the poles, and
this tends to press the lower air to higher latitudes. Centrifugal
force, however, balances this pressure, so long as the lower air
moves with the velocity of the upper strata; but as the friction of
the earth retards its motion and diminishes its centrifugal force,
it gradually yields to the pressure of the air above it, and moves
toward the poles. Near the polar circles it is again retarded by its
increasing centrifugal force, and it returns through the middle
regions of the atmosphere.
Thus there are two systems of atmospheric circulation in each
hemisphere. The principal one extends from the equator to high
middle latitudes and partly overlies the other, which extends from
the tropical calms to the polar circles. These two circulations move
in opposite directions; like two wheels, when one communicates its
motion to the other by the contact of their circumferences.
In the middle latitudes the lower current of the principal
circulation lies upon the upper current of the secondary circulation,
and both move together toward the equator. This principal lower
current first touches the earth's surface beyond the tropical calms,
and having lost its relative eastward motion and now tending westward,
it appears as the trade-wind, very regular and constant; while the
upper secondary current returns, without reaching the tropics, as an
undercurrent, and in our latitude appears as the prevailing
northeastward wind,--a very feeble motion, usually lost in the
weather winds and other disturbances, and only appearing distinctly
in the general average.
Mr. Thompson illustrates the effect of the friction of the earth's
surface on the eastward circulation of the air by a very simple
experiment with a pail of water. If we put into the pail grains of
any material a little heavier than water, and then give the water a
rotatory motion by stirring it, the grains ought, by the centrifugal
force imparted to them, to collect around the sides of the pail; but,
sinking to the bottom, they do in fact tend to collect at the centre,
carried inward by those currents which the friction of the sides and
bottom indirectly produces.
Thus Mr. Thompson's beautiful and philosophical theory completes
that of Halley, and explains all those apparent anomalies which have
hitherto seemed irreconcilable with the only rational account of the
trade-winds. The rainless calms of the tropics are explained by this
theory without that crossing and interference of winds which Lieut.
Maury supposes; for the secondary circulation returns as an
under-current toward the poles without reaching the tropics, and the
dry lower current of the principal circulation passes over the
tropical latitudes, in its gradual descent, before it reaches the
earth as the trade-winds.
These trade-winds, absorbing moisture from the sea, precipitate it
as they rise again, and produce the constant equatorial rains; and
these rains, doubtless, tend much more powerfully than the mere
unequal distribution of heat to direct the wind toward the equator;
for the fall of rain rapidly diminishes the pressure of the air and
disturbs its equilibrium, so that violent winds are frequently
observed to blow toward rainy districts. Thus, primarily, the unequal
distribution of heat, and, more immediately, the equatorial rains
cause the principal circulation of our atmosphere; and this
indirectly produces the secondary circulation of Mr. Thompson's
theory. Both these regular movements are, however, greatly disturbed,
and especially the latter, by winds which are occasioned by local
and irregular rains.
In these movements and their causes we have the general outline of
our subject, within which we must now sketch the weather. The causes
of atmospheric movement, which we have thus far considered, are the
unequal distribution of the sun's heat, the absorption and
precipitation of moisture, the direct and the inductive action of
the earth's rotation and friction. If to these we should add the
tidal action of the sun's and moon's attractions, we should perhaps
complete the list of _vera causae_ which are certainly known to
exert a more or less general influence upon the atmosphere. But this
short list is long enough, as we shall soon see.
If the earth were wholly covered with water of a uniform depth, its
climates would be distributed with greater regularity, and the
perturbations of climate would be comparatively small and regular;
though even under such circumstances there would still exist a
tendency to discontinuity and complexity of movements from that
influence of rain, the peculiar character of which we shall soon
The irregular distribution of land and water, and the peculiar
action of each in imparting the heat of the sun to the incumbent air,--
the irregular distribution of plains and mountains, and their various
effects in different positions and at different altitudes,--the
distribution of heat effected by ocean currents,--all these tend to
produce permanent derangements of climate and great irregularities
in the weather. To these we must add what the astronomer calls
disturbing actions of the second order,--effects of the disturbances
themselves upon the action of the disturbing agencies,--effects of
the irregular winds upon the distribution of heat and rain, and upon
the action of lands and seas, mountains and plains. Though such
disturbances are comparatively insignificant in the motions of the
planets, yet in the weather they are often more important than the
The aggregate and permanent effect of all these disturbing causes,
primary and secondary, is seen in that irregular distribution of
climates, which the tortuous isothermal lines and the mottled
raincharts illustrate. The isothermal lines may be regarded as the
topographical delineations of that bed of temperatures down which
the upper atmosphere flows from the equator toward the poles, till
its downward tendency is balanced by the centrifugal force of its
eastward motion. This irregular bed shifts from month to month, from
day to day, and even from hour to hour; and the lines that are drawn
on the maps are only averages for the year or the season.
In the midst of these irregular, but continuous agencies, the rain
introduces a peculiar discontinuity, and turns irregularity into
discord. We have shown that the rain is an immediate cause of wind;
but how is the rain itself produced? For so marked an effect we
naturally seek a special cause; but no adequate single cause has
ever been discovered. The combination of many conditions, probably,
is necessary, such as a peculiar distribution of heat and moisture
and atmospheric movements; though the immediate cause of the fall of
rain is doubtless the rising, and consequent expansion and cooling,
of the saturated air.
The winds that blow hither and thither, vainly striving to restore
equilibrium to the atmosphere, burden themselves with the moisture
they absorb from the seas; and this moisture absorbs their heat,
retards their motion, and slowly modifies the forces which impel them.
Now when the saturated air, extending far above the surface of the
earth, and carried in its movements still higher, is relieved of an
incumbent weight of air, it becomes rarefied, and its temperature
and capacity for moisture are simultaneously diminished; its moisture,
suddenly precipitated, appears as a cloud, the particles of which
collect into rain-drops and fall to the earth. Thus the air suddenly
loses much of its weight, and instead of restoring equilibrium to
the troubled atmosphere, it introduces a new source of disturbance.
Though the weight of the air is diminished by the fall of rain, yet
the bulk is increased by the expansive force of the latent heat
which the condensed vapors set free. Thus the rainy air expands
upwards and flows outwards, and no longer able to balance the
pressure of the surrounding air, it is carried still higher by
inblowing winds, which rise in turn and continue the process, often
extending the storm over vast areas. The force of these movements is
measured partly by the force of latent heat set free, and partly by
the mechanical power of the rain-fall, a very small fraction of
which constitutes the water-power of all our rivers. Such a fruitful
source of disturbance, generated by so slight an accident as the
upward movement of the saturated air, expanded by its own agency to
so great an extent, so sudden and discontinuous in its action, so
obscure in its origin, and so distinct in its effects,--such a
phenomenon defies the powers of mathematical prediction, and rouses
all the winds to sedition.
A storm not only disturbs the lower winds, but its influences reach
even to the upper movements. The sudden expansion and rising of the
rainy air delay these movements, which afterwards react as violent
The forces stored away by the gradual rise of vapor and its
absorption of heat, and then suddenly exhibited in a mechanical form
by the effects of rain, afford an illustration of that principle of
conservation and economy of power, of which there are so many
examples in modern science. No power is ever destroyed. Whether
exhibited as heat or mechanical force, in the products and forces of
chemical or of vital action, in movement or in altered conditions of
motion,--whether changed by the growth of plants into fuel or into
food, and converted again to heat by combustion or by vital processes,
and brought out as mechanical power in the steam-engine or in the
horse,--it is still the same power, and is measured in each of its
forms by an invariable standard. It first appears as the heat of the
sun, and a portion escapes at once back into space, while the rest
passes first through a series of transformations. A part is changed
into moving winds or into suspended vapor, and a part into fuel or
food. From conditions of motion it is changed into motion; from
motion it is changed by friction or resistance into heat, electric
force, molecular vibrations, or into new conditions of motion, and
passing through its course of changes, it remains embroiled in its
permanent effects or escapes into space as heat.
Though mechanical science will probably never be able to predict the
beginning or duration of storms, it will yet, doubtless, be able to
account for all their general features, and for such distinct local
peculiarities as observation may determine. Great advancement has
already been made in the determination of prevailing winds and in
the study of storms. Two theories have been brought forward upon the
general movements of storms; both have been proved, to the entire
satisfaction of their advocates, by the storms themselves; and
probably both are, with some limitations, true. The first of these
theories we have already described. According to it, the winds move
inward toward the centre of the storm; according to the other theory,
they blow in a circumference around the centre.
Observations upon storms of small extent, such as thunder-storms or
tornadoes, show very clearly that the winds blow toward the stormy
district. But when observations are made upon the winds within the
district of such extensive storms as sometimes visit the United
States, the directions of the wind are found to be so various, that
the advocates of either theory, making due allowance for local
disturbances, can triumphantly refute their adversaries. In such
storms there are doubtless many centres or maxima of rain, and
whether the wind move around or toward these centres, it would
inevitably get confused.
The opinion, that the winds move around the central point or line of
the storm, was strenuously maintained by the late Mr. Redfield,
whose activity in his favorite pursuit has connected his name
inseparably with meteorology. Others have maintained the same opinion,
and the rotatory motion of the tropical hurricanes is offered as a
principal proof. It is obvious from the causes of motion already
considered, that, if the air is carried far, by its tendency toward a
rainy district, it will acquire a secondary relative motion from its
change of latitude; and this, in our hemisphere, if the air move
toward the south, will be westward,-if toward the north, eastward.
Hence the motion of the air from both directions toward a stormy
district is deflected to the right side of the storm; and this gives
rise to that motion from right to left which is observed in the
hurricanes of the northern hemisphere.
To suppose, as many do, that regular winds, arising from constant
and extensive causes, can come into bodily conflict and preserve
their identity and original impetus for days, without immediate and
strongly impelling forces to sustain their motion, implies a
profound ignorance of mechanical science, and is little better than
those ancient superstitions which gave a personal identity to the
winds. The momentum of ordinary winds is a feeble force in
comparison with those forces of pressure and friction which
continually modify it. Hence sudden changes in the direction and
intensity of winds must primarily arise from similar changes in
these forces. But there are no known forces which change so suddenly,
except the pressure and latent heat of suspended vapor; and therefore
the fall of rain is the only adequate known cause of those
storm-winds which, interpolated among the gentler winds, keep the
atmosphere in perpetual commotion.
Storms have, however, certain habits and peculiarities, more or less
regular and distinct, which depend upon locality and season. And
this is what ought to be expected; for, though the storms themselves
are essentially anomalous, yet many of the causes which cooperate to
induce them are constant or periodic, while others are subject to
but slight perturbations. It is obvious that no more moisture can be
precipitated than has been evaporated, and that the winds only gain
suddenly by the fall of rain the forces which they have lost at their
leisure in the absorption of moisture. Thus the rage of the storm is
kept within bounds, and though the exact period at which the winds
are set free cannot be determined, yet their force and frequency
must be subject to certain limitations. The study of the habits and
peculiarities of storms is of the greatest importance to navigation
and agriculture, and these arts have already been benefited by the
labors of the meteorologist.
The lawlessness of the weather, within certain limitations, though
discouraging to the physical philosopher, has yet its bright side
for the student of final causes. The uses of the weather and its
adaptation to organic life are subjects of untiring interest. The
progression of the seasons, varied by differences of latitude, is
also diversified and adapted to a fuller development of organic
variety by irregularities of climate.
The regular alternations of day and night, summer and winter, dry
seasons and wet, are adapted to those alternations of organic
functions which belong to the economy of life. The vital forces of
plants and of the lower orders of animals have not that
self-determining capacity of change which is necessary to the
complete development of life; but they persist in their present mode
of action, and, when they are not modified by outward changes,
reduce life to its simplest phases. Changes of growth are effected
by those apparent hardships to which life is subject; and progression
in new directions is effected by retrogression in previous modes of
growth. The old leaves and branches must fall, the wood must be
frost-bitten or dried, the substance of seeds must wither and then
decay, the action of leaves must every night be reversed, vines and
branches must be shaken by the winds, that the energies and the
materials of new forms of life may be rendered active and available.
Some of the outward changes of nature are regular and periodic, while
others, without law or method, are apparently adapted by their
diversity to draw out the unlimited capacities and varieties of life;
so that as inorganic nature approaches a regulated confusion, the
more it tends to bring forth that perfect order, of which fragments
appear in the incomplete system of actual organic life.
The classification of organic forms presents to the naturalist, not
the structure of a regular though incomplete development, but the
broken and fragmentary form of a ruin. We may suppose, then, with a
recent physiological writer, that the creation of those organic
forms which constitute this fragmentary system was effected in the
midst of an elemental storm, a regulated confusion, uniting all the
external conditions which the highest capacities and the greatest
varieties of organized life require for their fullest development;
and that as the storm subsided into a simpler, but less genial
diversity,--into the weather,--whole orders and genera and species
sank with it from the ranks of possible organic forms. The weather,
fallen from its high estate, no longer able to develope, much less to
create new forms, can only sustain those that are left to its care.
Man finds himself everywhere mirrored in nature. Wayward, inconstant,
always seeking rest, always impelled by new evils, the greatest of
which he himself creates,-protecting and cherishing or blighting and
destroying the fragmentary life of a fallen nature,--incapable
himself of creating new capacities, but nourishing in prosperity and
quickening in adversity those that are left,-he sees the workings of
his own life in the strife of the elements. His powers and activities
are related to his spiritual capacities, as inorganic movements are
related to an organizing life. The resurrection of his higher nature
is like a new creation, secret, sudden, inconsequent. "The wind
bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but
canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every
one that is born of the Spirit."
* * * * *
AKIN BY MARRIAGE [Continued]
The designs of Mr. Elam Hunt upon the hand of Laura Stebbins have
already been mentioned, in a former chapter of this history, as well
as the fact that his hopes were encouraged by Mrs. Jaynes who
(to make no secret of the matter) had pledged her word to the
enamored Elam, that when he should be settled in a parish of his own,
Laura should be added to complete the sum of his felicity.
To this agreement Laura herself was not a party; nay, her consent
had never been so much as asked; for though Elam knew that marriage
by proxy was impossible, and, indeed, would doubtless have preferred
to be the bridegroom at his own wedding, he had no objection
whatever to a vicarious courtship; for he was not a forward suitor,
delighting to prattle of his pains to his fair tormentor, as the way
of many is. But touching all the terms and conditions of this
contract Laura was informed by Mrs. Jaynes, who, when the other
protested with tears and sobs against this disposition of her person
without even asking her leave thereto, replied, with a quiet voice
and manner, that she had the right to make the promise in Laura's
name, and had done so upon due consideration.
This ominous reserve frightened Laura far more than an angry reply
would have done; for when her sister spoke with such brief decision,
it was a sign that her mind was made up; and Laura knew full well
the resolute purpose with which Mrs. Jaynes was wont to pursue any
design that she had once formed. She distrusted her own ability to
withstand her sister's inflexible will, and felt a secret misgiving,
that, in spite of herself, she would by some means be forced or
persuaded to yield at last. This very lack of faith in her own power
of resistance caused her more distress and terror than all her other
fears. Sometimes she almost fancied a spell of enchantment had been
put upon her, which would render all her efforts to escape her fate
as unavailing as the struggles of a gnat in a spider's web.
A friend in time of trouble is like a staff to one that is lame or
weary. But when Laura, in these straits, leaned upon her dearest
friend, Cornelia, for aid and comfort, she found but a broken reed;
for, instead of words of consolation and encouragement, Cornelia
uttered only dismal prophecies that Laura was surely doomed to be
the young parson's bride.
"If you only had another lover to run away with, now," said she,
"why, then it would be delightful to have your sister act as she does;
but, as it is, I'm sure I don't see any way to avoid it."
"Nor I," cried Laura, sinking still deeper in despair. "Oh, dear!
what shall I do?"
"In novels, you know," pursued Cornelia, "where there's a cruel,
tyrannical father, like your sister, there's always a hero in love
with the heroine----"
"I'm sure I wish there was a hero in love with me," said Laura,
thinking of her own hero in regimentals. "I'd run away with him,"
she added, with animation, "if-if both his legs were shot off,"-not
considering duly, I dare say, how greatly such a dreadful mutilation,
however glorious in itself, would conflict with the rapid locomotion
essential to her plan of elopement.
But when Tira Blake came to be told of Laura's trouble, and the
reasons of it, that sage and prudent friend gave counsel that
cheered her like a cordial, telling her it would be sinful to marry
a man whom she disliked so heartily, and that in such a matter no
one had the right to demand or enforce obedience.
"It's bad enough to be married when you're willin'," said she;
"but when you a'n't willin', there's no law nor no gospel to make you."
"But if Maria should compel me, what should I do?" cried Laura, to
whom her sister's will seemed more mighty than both law and gospel.
"She can't," replied Statira, sententiously; "she can't. Her 'yes,'
in such a case, is only good for herself; it can't make you any
man's wife.-What shall you do? Why, nothin',--nothin' in the world.
If they should bring bridegroom and parson, and stand you up side of
him by main force, (which of course is foolish to think of their
doing so, only I suppose it just to show you what I mean,) even in
such a case you needn't do anything. Keep your mouth shut and your
head from bobbin', and there a'n't lawyers, nor squires, nor parsons,
nor parsons' wives either for that matter, enough in all Connecticut
to marry you to a mouse, let alone a man. Humph!" added Miss Blake,'
with scornful accent, "I should like to see 'em set out to marry me
to anybody I didn't want to have!"
There was nothing in all that Tira said which Laura did not know
before; but it was uttered in such a way that it sounded in her ears
like a new revelation, filling her heart with peace and comfort, and
inspiring her with hope and courage. The magic spell that had
enthralled her spirit was broken by the power of a few cheery,
confident, assuring words. A heavy weight seemed lifted from her
heart, and, relieved from the pressure, her spirits rose, joyous and
elastic. The shadow was dispelled which had darkened her future, and
the sun seemed to shine brighter and the birds to sing more sweetly.
She herself was changed,-or at least it was hard to believe she was
the same Laura Stebbins who, the night before, had cried herself to
sleep, and whose doleful visage, that very morning, had looked out
at her from the mirror. She flew at Tira in a transport, and,
without asking her leave, kissed her twenty times in less than a
minute, after a fashion that (I say it with reverence) would have
tantalized even a deacon. She clapped her hands, she laughed, she
danced, she went swaying on tiptoe around the room with a jaunty step,
singing and keeping time to a waltz tune; and finally, pausing near
the window, she doubled a tiny fist, as white as a snowball,
bringing it down into the rosy palm of her other hand with a gesture
of resolute determination, at the same time uttering, through closed
teeth and with compressed and puckered lips, an oft-repeated vow,
that, never, _never_, the longest day she lived, would she marry
Elam Hunt, to please anybody,--as her sister Maria (said she, with a
saucy toss of the head) would find, if she tried to make her!
I doubt greatly, whether, if Laura had known what I am now going to
tell my reader, she would have indulged in such vivacious pranks,
and bold, defiant words: namely, that Mrs. Jaynes was hearing
everything she said, and, in fact, had listened to and taken special
heed of nearly the whole conversation, a part of which has been set
forth above. Coming through the wicket in the garden fence, on an
errand to the Bugbee kitchen, the sound of her own name, in Laura's
excited tones, struck Mrs. Jaynes's ear and excited her curiosity.
Walking nearer to the house, and concealing herself behind a little
thicket of lilac bushes, near the open window of Statira's bedroom,
she was enabled to hear with distinctness almost every word uttered
by the unconscious conspirators, who were plotting against the
fulfilment of her cherished project.
There is good reason for believing that what Mrs. Jaynes overheard,
while lying in ambush, as has been related, excited in her heart
emotions of indignation and resentment. Be that as it may, no trace
of displeasure was visible upon her face or in her voice or manner,
when, a few minutes afterwards, she stood by the side of the
unsuspicious Tira, in the back veranda of the house, holding in her
hand a plate containing a pat of butter she had just borrowed from
the Doctor's housekeeper, while the latter, peeping through the
curtain of vine-leaves, gazed at as pretty a spectacle as just then
could have been seen anywhere in Belfield. On the grassplot, in the
shade of a great cherry-tree, Laura and Helen were playing at graces.
Both were full of frolicsome glee; the former, with spirits in their
first glad rebound from recent despondency, being wild with gayety,
enjoying the sport no less than the merry child, her playmate.
Laura's glowing face was fairly radiant with beauty, and her figure
was unconsciously displayed in such a variety of bewitching
attitudes and dainty postures, that even a pair of frisky kittens,
that had been chasing each other round the grassplot and up and down
the stems of the cherry-trees, ceased their gambols and lay still,
crouching in the grass, and watching her graceful motions, as if
taking heed for future imitation. If Kit and Tabby really did regard
Laura with admiration and complacency, it was more than I can say
for Mrs. Jaynes, in whose heart a secret rage was burning, though
her aspect and demeanor were as placid and demure as if the butter
she held in her hand would not have melted in her pursed-up mouth.
Mrs. Jaynes, for reasons of her own, thought proper to keep
her temper in control, abstaining from any manifestation of
displeasure for a much longer time than while she remained
standing in the back veranda of Doctor Bugbee's house. She did not
think it prudent to apprise Laura that her rebellious conference
with Statira had been discovered, nor to forbid her from holding
further communication with her evil counsellors; but contented
herself, for the present, with keeping a stricter watch over her
sister's conduct, by practising with increased rigor and vigilance
that efficient system of tactics hereinbefore commemorated, by which
the ardor of Laura's chance admirers was repressed and their
advances repelled, and by alluding, from time to time, to Laura's
prospective nuptials, as to an event predestined and inevitable, or,
at least, no less sure to come to pass than if Laura herself had
engaged her hand to Mr. Hunt of her own free will and accord, and
was only waiting to be asked to name the wedding-day.
It was many months after Elam left the shady height of East Windsor
Hill before he received a call to settle; for though he preached in
different parts on trial, before many congregations that were
destitute of pastors, none of these fastidious flocks would listen
to his voice a second time, or agree to choose him for its shepherd.
At last, however, the people of Walbury, a town in Windham County,
lying nearly twenty miles from Belfield, made choice of Mr. Hunt to
be their spiritual guide, and accordingly extended to him an
invitation to be ordained and installed as the settled minister over
their ancient parish. Upon receiving this proposal, Elam at once
despatched a letter to his friend and ally, Mrs. Jaynes, informing
her of his good fortune, and suggesting that Laura should at once
bestir herself in preparations for their wedding, in order that this
blissful event might precede his ordination. Then, after waiting for
the lapse of that period of decorous delay which immemorial usage
has prescribed in such cases, he indited an epistle to the church in
Walbury, stating, in proper and accustomed form, that his native
humility inclined him to refuse their request; but that, after a
wrestle with his inclinations, he had got the better of them, and
had resolved to sacrifice his own wishes and feelings, and to enter
the field of labor to which the Israel in Walbury had invited him.
A year and more had elapsed since Laura, encouraged by Tira Blake's
assuring words, had begun to hope that a better fate was in store
for her than to become the wife of a man she detested. Meanwhile,
Elam had often come to Belfield, sometimes preaching a sermon for
Mr. Jaynes, and going away again, after a brief sojourn, without
having opened his mouth to Laura to speak of love or marriage. At
his later visits it was evident that he was inclined to despond
about his prospects of getting a settlement, and Laura began to
entertain strong hopes that he never would be successful; for she
would have given up all the chances of beholding her military hero
in person, and would have been content to live a maid forever,
continually waiting for Elara, if she could have been assured the
time would never come for him to claim her.
But, one morning, after breakfast, having made her bed and arranged
her chamber, singing blithely all the while, she was just going to
sit down by the window with her sewing, when Mrs. Jaynes came in
with a letter in her hand. Laura guessed at once that the letter was
from Elam, and that it contained the news of which the reader has
been apprised already. Though she did not need to read the letter in
order to inform herself of its contents, she took it in her hand,
when her sister bade her read, it, and made a pretence of obedience,
shuddering, meanwhile, with disgust and terror. At last she came to
the conclusion of the epistle, where Elam had mentioned his desire
to be married before being ordained, and had subscribed himself as
united in gospel bonds to the worthy lady to whom the letter was
addressed. Then, folding up the paper with trembling hands, she held
it towards her sister, without daring to look up, or to say a word.
"Now, Laura," asked Mrs. Jaynes, in a quiet tone, "when can you be
ready to be married?"
Laura tried to speak, and looked up, with a pale, frightened face,
into her sister's impassive countenance. Her white lips failed to
form the words she strove to utter.
"When shall the wedding be?" said Mrs. Jaynes, with a smile of
affected sportiveness. "Name the happy day, my love."
"Happy day!" repeated poor Laura. "Oh, Maria!"
"Why, what's the matter, child?" said Mrs. Jaynes; "what are you
"Oh, dear, dear sister!" sobbed Laura, falling on her knees at
Mrs. Jaynes's feet, "do hear me! You are my mother, for you fill her
"I have endeavored to do so," said Mrs. Jaynes.
"Then, for God's sake, don't make me marry this horrid man!" pursued
Laura. "Don't tell me that I must! Don't force me to such a fate!"
And with many passionate words, like these, Laura implored her
sister not to lay any command upon her to marry Elam Hunt.
"Hush, Laura! hush, my dear child!" said Mrs. Jaynes, who had
anticipated this scene, and was well prepared with her replies.
"Be calm; you behave absurdly. I have no power to force you to marry
any man. I don't expect to compel you to accept Mr. Hunt for a
husband. For at least two years past I had supposed, however, that
it was your intention to do so. If you have changed your mind, and
if you wish to break an engagement that has subsisted so long,
whether for or without cause, I cannot prevent it. You have read so
many foolish romances, that your head is turned, and you fancy
yourself a heroine in distress. But let me tell you, my dear, that
in real life, here, in New England, a woman cannot be forced to marry.
So calm your transports, wipe your eyes, and get up from your knees.
I'm not to be kneeled to, pray remember."
Laura did as she was told,--so much abashed that she dared not look
up. To increase her confusion, her sister began to laugh.
"I beg your pardon, dear," said she, "but, ha, ha, ha! it was so
funny!--like a scene in a play, I should think."
"I know I've been silly, Maria," said Laura, weeping again,--with
shame, this time.
"Never mind, dear," said her sister, in a kind tone, "we're all
silly sometimes. You'll never be guilty of the folly again, at any
rate, of supposing that girls can be married, in spite of themselves,
by cruel sisters; eh, Laura?"
"Oh, Maria, do forgive me!" cried Laura, blushing crimson. "I was so
"Well, let it all go," said Mrs. Jaynes, kissing her. "Now we'll
talk about this letter. Tell me why you don't wish to marry Mr. Hunt.
If you have any good reason against it, I'm sure I don't desire it;
though, I confess, having supposed so long it was a settled thing, I
had set my heart upon it. Perhaps this disappointment has been sent
to me for some wise purpose," added Mrs. Jaynes, with a pious sigh.
Thus encouraged, Laura opened her heart and began to talk, saying
that she didn't like Mr. Hunt, that she didn't love him, that she
disliked him, and hated him, and that he was hateful, and horrid, and
awful, and dreadful, and so homely, and pale, and pimpled, and, ugh!
she should never like him, nor love him, but always dislike him, and
hate him. And on she went in this manner, till her fervor was cooled,
and she had exhausted, by frequent repetition, every form of speech
capable of expressing her great repugnance to a union with Elam Hunt.
In conclusion, she said she was willing never to marry, but would
remain with her sister and work for her and the children all her life.
"Thank you, dear," said Mrs. Jaynes. "We'll talk of your kind offer
presently; and you will see, I think, that I have no desire that you
should live and die an old maid, even in case you do not marry
"I'm sure I'd rather than not," said Laura, with a twinge of
conscience at the thought of her hero.
"Have you said all that you've got to say?" asked Mrs. Jaynes, very
Laura looked up into her sister's grave, sober face, and felt a
chill of vague apprehension begin to take the place of the hopeful
glow in her heart.
"Eh?" said Mrs. Jaynes, inquiringly.
"Y--yes," faltered Laura, "only this,--I don't like him, and he's
such a horrid, disgusting man,--and--and--that's all, I believe,
except that I don't like him, and think he's so disagreeable,--and--
oh, yes! there's another thing,--he wears blue spectacles,--ugh!
"Is there anything more?" said Mrs. Jaynes, still speaking with the
same even, quiet voice.
"N--no," said Laura, "only I--" and here she paused.
"Don't like him," added Mrs. Jaynes, supplying the words.
"Yes, that's it," said Laura. "I know I'm foolish, but--"
"It's much to confess it," said Mrs. Jaynes. "Now that I've
patiently heard all that you have to say, I wish to be heard a few
words in favor of a dear and worthy friend of mine, against whom you
appear to entertain a groundless antipathy."
"No, not groundless," interposed Laura.
"Well, I'll agree that a pale, studious face and blue spectacles are
good reasons for hating a man. Now let me say a word or two in his
favor, notwithstanding, and also in favor of a plan which I had
supposed was agreed upon, and which I dislike extremely to see
abandoned. You have reasons against it, which you have stated. I
have reasons for it, which I will state. But first answer me two or
three simple questions, 'yes' or 'no,'--will you, dear?"
And Laura assenting, she went on to ask if Mr. Hunt was not good,
and pious, and of blameless life and reputation; extorting from
Laura an affirmative reply to each separate inquiry.
"He's all these good qualities, then, to offset the complexion of
his face and spectacles," resumed Mrs. Jaynes. "Now let us look at
the matter in a worldly point of view. He is able to give you not
only a place, but the very highest position in society; he can offer
you, not wealth, but competence, which is better than either poverty
or riches. Why, my dear, there are a hundred girls in this town,
many of whom excel you in everything which men think desirable in a
wife, except, perhaps, the poor, perishable quality of beauty,--
girls of good family, rich, or likely to be so, intelligent, well
educated, some of them, to say the least, almost as pretty as you,
any one of whom would think herself honored by this offer which you
despise; for most people are aware that to be a minister's wife, in
New England, is, my dear, to occupy, as I have just said, the very
summit of the social structure."
Here Mrs. Jaynes made a period, and watched the effect of her words.
After a pause she resumed by alluding to Laura's offer to remain
with her always, without marrying; and while poor Laura listened
with a feeling as if the very earth was sinking beneath her feet,
Mrs. Jaynes reminded her that she was a penniless orphan, who had
been maintained for years by the bounty of one upon whom she had no
claim, except that she was the sister of his wife.
"I have no right, you know, my dear," continued Mrs. Jaynes,
"to tell you that you may stay here longer. Jabez, doubtless, would
bid you remain and welcome, as he told you to come and welcome. But
young women are usually expected to marry, at or near your age. It
is probable, indeed I know, that, at the time you came, this event
was thought of, and taken into account. Mr. Jaynes is Mr. Hunt's
warm friend and admirer. He expects that you are going to marry this
good friend. What will be his reflections when he learns that you
prefer to remain here, a pensioner upon his income, rather than to
marry such a man as Mr. Hunt, whose only demerits are his blue
spectacles and pale complexion?"
Here Laura turned so white, and looked so woful, that her tormentor
paused, in apprehension that the poor girl was going to swoon.
"Oh, my God! what shall I do?" cried Laura, beating her palms
together, in sore distress.
"You know," resumed Mrs. Jaynes, watching her sister carefully, and
speaking softly, "you know that Mr. Jaynes's salary is not large. It
used to be more than sufficient for our wants, but the children are
getting to be more expensive every year. Their clothes cost more,
and the boys, at least, ought soon to go away to school, and Jabez
has set his heart upon sending Newton to college. If--well, never
mind, dear, I'll say no more; but when I think of this offer of
Mr. Hunt,--such a good offer, especially to one in your circumstances,
from such a worthy, talented, pious young clergyman, whose
preference Julia Bramhall or Cornelia Bugbee, with their thousands,
would be glad to win,--who is going to be settled in a good old
parish, like Walbury, and receive at once a salary almost as large,
I dare say, as Mr. Jaynes's,--I _do_ say, Laura, that you ought to
give better reasons for refusing him, nay, for jilting him, after a
two-years' engagement, than that his cheeks are pale and his
spectacles blue. We love you, Laura, and are willing to give you a
home and the best we can afford to eat and drink and wear, but
Mr. Hunt loves you as well, or better, and offers you more than we
have it in our power to bestow. Take the day for reflection.
To-morrow Mr. Hunt will be here. Think, my child, whether you will
be justified in rejecting this offer. Your refusal, bear in mind,
imposes upon others a sacrifice of something more than childish
whims and silly prejudices. In order that you may have time and
opportunity to give this important matter due consideration, you had
better remain in your chamber. But don't fancy yourself a prisoner.
If you choose to see any one that calls, you can do so. But, my dear,
I cannot permit you to go and seek those who, from spite and malice
against me, would take delight in giving you evil counsel."
With this sharp innuendo against Tira Blake, in which she thought
she might now safely indulge, Mrs. Jaynes concluded her speech and
went out softly, leaving poor Laura in a stupor of despair, sitting
with her hands clasped in her lap and her head drooping on her bosom.
At last, looking up with a glance so woful that one would scarcely
have known her, Laura perceived she was alone. She rose, went to the
door and locked it, standing for a moment trembling, until of a
sudden she fell a-crying piteously, and began to walk to and fro
across her chamber, wringing her hands like one distraught, and
sometimes throwing herself upon the bed, wailing and moaning all the
while as if her heart would break indeed. And, truly, she had some
reason for the violence of her grief. Not being a thoughtful person,
nor given to meditation, she had never before duly considered that
her maintenance was a matter of cost and calculation to those who
provided it, nor reflected that she had no rightful claim upon those
who gave her shelter, food, and clothing. She had been thankful to
her protectors for their kindness, but the sentiment she entertained
for them was more like filial love than gratitude. For the first
time she realized that she was a pensioner on another's bounty, and
felt the sharp sting of conscious dependence.
At length, growing more calm after the first passionate outbreak of
frantic sorrow had subsided, she dried her eyes and sat down on
purpose to think. Poor child! Serious deliberation was a new
exercise to her mind. Besides, her head ached, her brain seemed in a
whirl, and her heart was so full and heavy she wanted to do nothing
but cry with all her might till the burden was gone. But think she
must, and knitting her brows and stilling her sobs, she tried to
think. What could she do? Oh, if she could but ask Tira! But what
good could Tira do? What could she tell her? It was not her sister
that was forcing her, but Fate itself! All that her sister had told
her was true, every word. The tone of her voice, her manner, had
been unusually kind and gentle. There was nothing she had said that
she could be blamed for saying. Tira herself must admit that it was
all true and reasonable,--but, oh, how very dreadful! Then she
conjured up to view the image of Elam Hunt,--his lank, slim figure,
arrayed in sombre black,--his pale, cadaverous visage, spotted with
pimples and blue blotches of close-shaven beard,--his spectral
glance of admiration through those detestable blue spectacles. She
imagined that she felt the clammy touch of his long, skinny fingers,
and cold, flabby palm. She reflected upon the probability, nay, the
certainty, that she must marry this man, for whom she felt such an
invincible repugnance, and in a frenzy of dismay and terror she
screamed aloud and started up as if to fly. Then, recollecting
herself, she sank down moaning.--Oh, heavens! she thought, there was
no escape, no help! How wretched she was! how utterly miserable! all
alone, alone, in such a dreary, lonesome world, with no home, nor
father, nor mother, nor brother,--with only a sister who had a
husband and children, whom she loved, as she ought, far better than
she did her. There was nobody to whom she was the dearest of all,--
nobody, except Elam Hunt, whom she hated and loathed with all her
heart, and the very thought of whose love made her shudder. What
could she do? To stay and be a burden for her friends to support was
worse than anything. That, at least, she was resolved to do no longer.
If she were only strong enough, she would go where nobody knew her
and work at housework, or in a factory, or anywhere. Oh, if she only
knew enough to teach school! She should like that. It would be so
pleasant to have the children love her, and bring her flowers to put
upon her desk! But, oh, dear! she didn't know enough, she feared.
For all that she had graduated at the Academy, she never dared to
write a letter without looking up all the hard words of it in the
Back to Full Books