The Complete PG Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Physician and Poet)

Part 10 out of 51

to dream upon, to go crazy with, to beat one's brains out against.
Look at that pebble in it. From what cliff was it broken? On what
beach rolled by the waves of what ocean? How and when imbedded in
soft ooze, which itself became stone, and by-and-by was lifted into
bald summits and steep cliffs, such as you may see on Meetinghouse-
Hill any day--yes, and mark the scratches on their faces left when
the boulder-carrying glaciers planed the surface of the continent
with such rough tools that the storms have not worn the marks out of
it with all the polishing of ever so many thousand years?

Or as you pass a roadside ditch or pool in springtime, take from it
any bit of stick or straw which has lain undisturbed for a time.
Some little worm-shaped masses of clear jelly containing specks are
fastened to the stick: eggs of a small snail-like shell-fish. One
of these specks magnified proves to be a crystalline sphere with an
opaque mass in its centre. And while you are looking, the opaque
mass begins to stir, and by-and-by slowly to turn upon its axis like
a forming planet,--life beginning in the microcosm, as in the great
worlds of the firmament, with the revolution that turns the surface
in ceaseless round to the source of life and light.

A pebble and the spawn of a mollusk! Before you have solved their
mysteries, this earth where you first saw them may be a vitrified
slag, or a vapor diffused through the planetary spaces. Mysteries
are common enough, at any rate, whatever the boys in Roxbury and
Dorchester think of "brickbats" and the spawn of creatures that
live in roadside puddles.

But then a great many seeming mysteries are relatively perfectly
plain, when we can get at them so as to turn them over. How many
ghosts that "thick men's blood with cold" prove to be shirts hung
out to dry! How many mermaids have been made out of seals! How
many times have horse-mackerels been taken for the sea-serpent!

--Let me take the whole matter coolly, while I see what is the
matter with the patient. That is what I say to myself, as I draw a
chair to the bedside. The bed is an old-fashioned, dark mahogany
four-poster. It was never that which made the noise of something
moving. It is too heavy to be pushed about the room.--The Little
Gentleman was sitting, bolstered up by pillows, with his hands
clasped and their united palms resting on the back of the head, one
of the three or four positions specially affected by persons whose
breathing is difficult from disease of the heart or other causes.

Sit down, Sir,--he said,--sit down! I have come to the hill
Difficulty, Sir, and am fighting my way up.--His speech was
laborious and interrupted.

Don't talk,--I said,--except to answer my questions.--And I
proceeded to "prospect" for the marks of some local mischief, which
you know is at the bottom of all these attacks, though we do not
always find it. I suppose I go to work pretty much like other
professional folks of my temperament. Thus:

Wrist, if you please.--I was on his right side, but he presented
his left wrist, crossing it over the other.--I begin to count,
holding watch in left hand. One, two, three, four,--What a handsome
hand! wonder if that splendid stone is a carbuncle.--One, two,
three, four, five, six, seven,--Can't see much, it is so dark,
except one white object.--One, two, three, four,--Hang it! eighty
or ninety in the minute, I guess.--Tongue, if you please.--Tongue
is put out. Forget to look at it, or, rather, to take any
particular notice of it;--but what is that white object, with the
long arm stretching up as if pointing to the sky, just as Vesalius
and Spigelius and those old fellows used to put their skeletons? I
don't think anything of such objects, you know; but what should he
have it in his chamber for? As I had found his pulse irregular and
intermittent, I took out a stethoscope, which is a pocket-spyglass
for looking into people's chests with your ears, and laid it over
the place where the heart beats. I missed the usual beat of the
organ.--How is this?--I said,--where is your heart gone to?--He
took the stethoscope and shifted it across to the right side; there
was a displacement of the organ.--I am ill-packed,--he said;--there
was no room for my heart in its place as it is with other men.--God
help him!

It is hard to draw the line between scientific curiosity and the
desire for the patient's sake to learn all the details of his
condition. I must look at this patient's chest, and thump it and
listen to it. For this is a case of ectopia cordis, my boy,--
displacement of the heart; and it is n't every day you get a chance
to overhaul such an interesting malformation. And so I managed to
do my duty and satisfy my curiosity at the same time. The torso was
slight and deformed; the right arm attenuated,--the left full,
round, and of perfect symmetry. It had run away with the life of
the other limbs,--a common trick enough of Nature's, as I told you
before. If you see a man with legs withered from childhood, keep
out of the way of his arms, if you have a quarrel with him. He has
the strength of four limbs in two; and if he strikes you, it is an
arm-blow plus a kick administered from the shoulder instead of the
haunch, where it should have started from.

Still examining him as a patient, I kept my eyes about me to search
all parts of the chamber and went on with the double process, as
before.--Heart hits as hard as a fist,--bellows-sound over mitral
valves (professional terms you need not attend to).--What the deuse
is that long case for? Got his witch grandmother mummied in it?
And three big mahogany presses,--hey?--A diabolical suspicion came
over me which I had had once before,--that he might be one of our
modern alchemists,--you understand, make gold, you know, or what
looks like it, sometimes with the head of a king or queen or of
Liberty to embellish one side of the piece.--Don't I remember
hearing him shut a door and lock it once? What do you think was
kept under that lock? Let's have another look at his hand, to see
if there are any calluses.

One can tell a man's business, if it is a handicraft, very often by
just taking a look at his open hand. Ah! Four calluses at the end
of the fingers of the right hand. None on those of the left. Ah,
ha! What do those mean?

All this seems longer in the telling, of course, than it was in
fact. While I was making these observations of the objects around
me, I was also forming my opinion as to the kind of case with which
I had to deal.

There are three wicks, you know, to the lamp of a man's life: brain,
blood, and breath. Press the brain a little, its light goes out,
followed by both the others. Stop the heart a minute and out go all
three of the wicks. Choke the air out of the lungs, and presently
the fluid ceases to supply the other centres of flame, and all is
soon stagnation, cold, and darkness. The "tripod of life" a French
physiologist called these three organs. It is all clear enough
which leg of the tripod is going to break down here. I could tell
you exactly what the difficulty is;--which would be as intelligible
and amusing as a watchmaker's description of a diseased timekeeper
to a ploughman. It is enough to say, that I found just what I
expected to, and that I think this attack is only the prelude of
more serious consequences,--which expression means you very well
know what.

And now the secrets of this life hanging on a thread must surely
come out. If I have made a mystery where there was none, my
suspicions will be shamed, as they have often been before. If there
is anything strange, my visits will clear it up.

I sat an hour or two by the side of the Little Gentleman's bed,
after giving him some henbane to quiet his brain, and some foxglove,
which an imaginative French professor has called the "Opium of the
Heart." Under their influence he gradually fell into an uneasy,
half-waking slumber, the body fighting hard for every breath, and
the mind wandering off in strange fancies and old recollections,
which escaped from his lips in broken sentences.

--The last of 'em,--he said,--the last of 'em all,--thank God! And
the grave he lies in will look just as well as if he had been
straight. Dig it deep, old Martin, dig it deep,--and let it be as
long as other folks' graves. And mind you get the sods flat, old
man,--flat as ever a straight-backed young fellow was laid under.
And then, with a good tall slab at the head, and a foot-stone six
foot away from it, it'll look just as if there was a man underneath.

A man! Who said he was a man? No more men of that pattern to bear
his name!--Used to be a good-looking set enough.--Where 's all the
manhood and womanhood gone to since his great-grandfather was the
strongest man that sailed out of the town of Boston, and poor Leah
there the handsomest woman in Essex, if she was a witch?

--Give me some light,--he said,--more light. I want to see the

He had started either from a dream or a wandering reverie. I was
not unwilling to have more light in the apartment, and presently had
lighted an astral lamp that stood on a table.--He pointed to a
portrait hanging against the wall.--Look at her,--he said,--look at
her! Wasn't that a pretty neck to slip a hangman's noose over?

The portrait was of a young woman, something more than twenty years
old, perhaps. There were few pictures of any merit painted in New
England before the time of Smibert, and I am at a loss to know what
artist could have taken this half-length, which was evidently from
life. It was somewhat stiff and flat, but the grace of the figure
and the sweetness of the expression reminded me of the angels of the
early Florentine painters. She must have been of some
consideration, for she was dressed in paduasoy and lace with hanging
sleeves, and the old carved frame showed how the picture had been
prized by its former owners. A proud eye she had, with all her
sweetness.--I think it was that which hanged her, as his strong arm
hanged Minister George Burroughs;--but it may have been a little
mole on one cheek, which the artist had just hinted as a beauty
rather than a deformity. You know, I suppose, that nursling imps
addict themselves, after the fashion of young opossums, to these
little excrescences. "Witch-marks" were good evidence that a young
woman was one of the Devil's wet-nurses;--I should like to have seen
you make fun of them in those days!--Then she had a brooch in her
bodice, that might have been taken for some devilish amulet or
other; and she wore a ring upon one of her fingers, with a red stone
in it, that flamed as if the painter had dipped his pencil in fire;
--who knows but that it was given her by a midnight suitor fresh
from that fierce element, and licensed for a season to leave his
couch of flame to tempt the unsanctified hearts of earthly maidens
and brand their cheeks with the print of his scorching kisses?

She and I,--he said, as he looked steadfastly at the canvas,--she
and I are the last of 'em.--She will stay, and I shall go. They
never painted me,--except when the boys used to make pictures of me
with chalk on the board-fences. They said the doctors would want my
skeleton when I was dead.--You are my friend, if you are a doctor,
--a'n't you?

I just gave him my hand. I had not the heart to speak.

I want to lie still,--he said,--after I am put to bed upon the hill
yonder. Can't you have a great stone laid over me, as they did over
the first settlers in the old burying-ground at Dorchester, so as to
keep the wolves from digging them up? I never slept easy over the
sod;--I should like to lie quiet under it. And besides,--he said,
in a kind of scared whisper,--I don't want to have my bones stared
at, as my body has been. I don't doubt I was a remarkable case;
but, for God's sake, oh, for God's sake, don't let 'em make a show
of the cage I have been shut up in and looked through the bars of
for so many years.

I have heard it said that the art of healing makes men hard-hearted
and indifferent to human suffering. I am willing to own that there
is often a professional hardness in surgeons, just as there is in
theologians,--only much less in degree than in these last. It does
not commonly improve the sympathies of a man to be in the habit of
thrusting knives into his fellow-creatures and burning them with
red-hot irons, any more than it improves them to hold the blinding-
white cantery of Gehenna by its cool handle and score and crisp
young souls with it until they are scorched into the belief of--
Transubstantiation or the Immaculate Conception. And, to say the
plain truth, I think there are a good many coarse people in both
callings. A delicate nature will not commonly choose a pursuit
which implies the habitual infliction of suffering, so readily as
some gentler office. Yet, while I am writing this paragraph, there
passes by my window, on his daily errand of duty, not seeing me,
though I catch a glimpse of his manly features through the oval
glass of his chaise, as he drives by, a surgeon of skill and
standing, so friendly, so modest, so tenderhearted in all his ways,
that, if he had not approved himself at once adroit and firm, one
would have said he was of too kindly a mould to be the minister of
pain, even if he were saving pain.

You may be sure that some men, even among those who have chosen the
task of pruning their fellow-creatures, grow more and more
thoughtful and truly compassionate in the midst of their cruel
experience. They become less nervous, but more sympathetic. They
have a truer sensibility for others' pain, the more they study pain
and disease in the light of science. I have said this without
claiming any special growth in humanity for myself, though I do hope
I grow tenderer in my feelings as I grow older. At any rate, this
was not a time in which professional habits could keep down certain
instincts of older date than these.

This poor little man's appeal to my humanity against the supposed
rapacity of Science, which he feared would have her "specimen," if
his ghost should walk restlessly a thousand years, waiting for his
bones to be laid in the dust, touched my heart. But I felt bound to
speak cheerily.

--We won't die yet awhile, if we can help it,--I said,--and I trust
we can help it. But don't be afraid; if I live longest, I will see
that your resting place is kept sacred till the dandelions and
buttercups blow over you.

He seemed to have got his wits together by this time, and to have a
vague consciousness that he might have been saying more than he
meant for anybody's ears.--I have been talking a little wild, Sir,
eh? he said.--There is a great buzzing in my head with those drops
of yours, and I doubt if my tongue has not been a little looser than
I would have it, Sir. But I don't much want to live, Sir; that's
the truth of the matter, and it does rather please me to think that
fifty years from now nobody will know that the place where I lie
does n't hold as stout and straight a man as the best of 'em that
stretch out as if they were proud of the room they take. You may
get me well, if you can, Sir, if you think it worth while to try;
but I tell you there has been no time for this many a year when the
smell of fresh earth was not sweeter to me than all the flowers that
grow out of it. There's no anodyne like your good clean gravel,
Sir. But if you can keep me about awhile, and it amuses you to try,
you may show your skill upon me, if you like. There is a pleasure
or two that I love the daylight for, and I think the night is not
far off, at best.--I believe I shall sleep now; you may leave me,
and come, if you like, in the morning.

Before I passed out, I took one more glance round the apartment.
The beautiful face of the portrait looked at me, as portraits often
do, with a frightful kind of intelligence in its eyes. The drapery
fluttered on the still outstretched arm of the tall object near the
window;--a crack of this was open, no doubt, and some breath of wind
stirred the hanging folds. In my excited state, I seemed to see
something ominous in that arm pointing to the heavens. I thought of
the figures in the Dance of Death at Basle, and that other on the
panels of the covered Bridge at Lucerne, and it seemed to me that
the grim mask who mingles with every crowd and glides over every
threshold was pointing the sick man to his far home, and would soon
stretch out his bony hand and lead him or drag him on the unmeasured
journey towards it.

The fancy had possession of me, and I shivered again as when I first
entered the chamber. The picture and the shrouded shape; I saw only
these two objects. They were enough. The house was deadly still,
and the night-wind, blowing through an open window, struck me as
from a field of ice, at the moment I passed into the creaking
corridor. As I turned into the common passage, a white figure,
holding a lamp, stood full before me. I thought at first it was one
of those images made to stand in niches and hold a light in their
hands. But the illusion was momentary, and my eyes speedily
recovered from the shock of the bright flame and snowy drapery to
see that the figure was a breathing one. It was Iris, in one of her
statue-trances. She had come down, whether sleeping or waking, I
knew not at first, led by an instinct that told her she was wanted,-
-or, possibly, having overheard and interpreted the sound of our
movements,--or, it may be, having learned from the servant that
there was trouble which might ask for a woman's hand. I sometimes
think women have a sixth sense, which tells them that others, whom
they cannot see or hear, are in suffering. How surely we find them
at the bedside of the dying! How strongly does Nature plead for
them, that we should draw our first breath in their arms, as we sigh
away our last upon their faithful breasts!

With white, bare feet, her hair loosely knotted, clad as the
starlight knew her, and the morning when she rose from slumber, save
that she had twisted a scarf round her long dress, she stood still
as a stone before me, holding in one hand a lighted coil of
waxtaper, and in the other a silver goblet. I held my own lamp
close to her, as if she had been a figure of marble, and she did not
stir. There was no breach of propriety then, to scare the Poor
Relation with and breed scandal out of. She had been "warned in a
dream," doubtless suggested by her waking knowledge and the sounds
which had reached her exalted sense. There was nothing more natural
than that she should have risen and girdled her waist, and lighted
her taper, and found the silver goblet with "Ex dono pupillorum" on
it, from which she had taken her milk and possets through all her
childish years, and so gone blindly out to find her place at the
bedside,--a Sister of Charity without the cap and rosary; nay,
unknowing whither her feet were leading her, and with wide blank
eyes seeing nothing but the vision that beckoned her along.--Well,
I must wake her from her slumber or trance.--I called her name, but
she did not heed my voice.

The Devil put it into my head that I would kiss one handsome young
girl before I died, and now was my chance. She never would know it,
and I should carry the remembrance of it with me into the grave, and
a rose perhaps grow out of my dust, as a brier did out of Lord
Lovers, in memory of that immortal moment! Would it wake her from
her trance? and would she see me in the flush of my stolen triumph,
and hate and despise me ever after? Or should I carry off my trophy
undetected, and always from that time say to myself, when I looked
upon her in the glory of youth and the splendor of beauty, "My lips
have touched those roses and made their sweetness mine forever"?
You think my cheek was flushed, perhaps, and my eyes were glittering
with this midnight flash of opportunity. On the contrary, I believe
I was pale, very pale, and I know that I trembled. Ah, it is the
pale passions that are the fiercest,--it is the violence of the
chill that gives the measure of the fever! The fighting-boy of our
school always turned white when he went out to a pitched battle with
the bully of some neighboring village; but we knew what his
bloodless cheeks meant,--the blood was all in his stout heart,--he
was a slight boy, and there was not enough to redden his face and
fill his heart both at once.

Perhaps it is making a good deal of a slight matter, to tell the
internal conflicts in the heart of a quiet person something more
than juvenile and something less than senile, as to whether he
should be guilty of an impropriety, and, if he were, whether he
would get caught in his indiscretion. And yet the memory of the
kiss that Margaret of Scotland gave to Alain Chartier has lasted
four hundred years, and put it into the head of many an ill-favored
poet, whether Victoria, or Eugenie, would do as much by him, if she
happened to pass him when he was asleep. And have we ever forgotten
that the fresh cheek of the young John Milton tingled under the lips
of some high-born Italian beauty, who, I believe, did not think to
leave her card by the side of the slumbering youth, but has
bequeathed the memory of her pretty deed to all coming time? The
sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo
lasts a deal longer.

There is one disadvantage which the man of philosophical habits of
mind suffers, as compared with the man of action. While he is
taking an enlarged and rational view of the matter before him, he
lets his chance slip through his fingers. Iris woke up, of her own
accord, before I had made up my mind what I was going to do about

When I remember how charmingly she looked, I don't blame myself at
all for being tempted; but if I had been fool enough to yield to the
impulse, I should certainly have been ashamed to tell of it. She
did not know what to make of it, finding herself there alone, in
such guise, and me staring at her. She looked down at her white
robe and bare feet, and colored,--then at the goblet she held in her
hand, then at the taper; and at last her thoughts seemed to clear

I know it all,--she said.--He is going to die, and I must go and
sit by him. Nobody will care for him as I shall, and I have nobody
else to care for.

I assured her that nothing was needed for him that night but rest,
and persuaded her that the excitement of her presence could only do
harm. Let him sleep, and he would very probably awake better in the
morning. There was nothing to be said, for I spoke with authority;
and the young girl glided away with noiseless step and sought her
own chamber.

The tremor passed away from my limbs, and the blood began to burn in
my cheeks. The beautiful image which had so bewitched me faded
gradually from my imagination, and I returned to the still
perplexing mysteries of my little neighbor's chamber.

All was still there now. No plaintive sounds, no monotonous
murmurs, no shutting of windows and doors at strange hours, as if
something or somebody were coming in or going out, or there was
something to be hidden in those dark mahogany presses. Is there an
inner apartment that I have not seen? The way in which the house is
built might admit of it. As I thought it over, I at once imagined a
Bluebeard's chamber. Suppose, for instance, that the narrow
bookshelves to the right are really only a masked door, such as we
remember leading to the private study of one of our most
distinguished townsmen, who loved to steal away from his stately
library to that little silent cell. If this were lighted from
above, a person or persons might pass their days there without
attracting attention from the household, and wander where they
pleased at night,--to Copp's-Hill burial-ground, if they liked,--I
said to myself, laughing, and pulling the bed-clothes over my head.
There is no logic in superstitious-fancies any more than in dreams.
A she-ghost wouldn't want an inner chamber to herself. A live
woman, with a valuable soprano voice, wouldn't start off at night to
sprain her ankles over the old graves of the North-End cemetery.

It is all very easy for you, middle-aged reader, sitting over this
page in the broad daylight, to call me by all manner of asinine and
anserine unchristian names, because I had these fancies running
through my head. I don't care much for your abuse. The question is
not, what it is reasonable for a man to think about, but what he
actually does think about, in the dark, and when be is alone, and
his whole body seems but one great nerve of hearing, and he sees the
phosphorescent flashes of his own eyeballs as they turn suddenly in
the direction of the last strange noise,--what he actually does
think about, as he lies and recalls all the wild stories his head is
full of, his fancy hinting the most alarming conjectures to account
for the simplest facts about him, his common-sense laughing them to
scorn the next minute, but his mind still returning to them, under
one shape or another, until he gets very nervous and foolish, and
remembers how pleasant it used to be to have his mother come and
tuck him up and go and sit within call, so that she could hear him
at any minute, if he got very much scared and wanted her. Old
babies that we are!

Daylight will clear up all that lamp-light has left doubtful. I
longed for the morning to come, for I was more curious than ever.
So, between my fancies and anticipations, I had but a poor night of
it, and came down tired to the breakfast-table. My visit was not to
be made until after this morning hour; there was nothing urgent, so
the servant was ordered to tell me.

It was the first breakfast at which the high chair at the side of
Iris had been unoccupied.--You might jest as well take away that
chair,--said our landlady,--he'll never want it again. He acts like
a man that 's struck with death, 'n' I don't believe he 'll ever
come out of his chamber till he 's laid out and brought down a
corpse.--These good women do put things so plainly! There were two
or three words in her short remark that always sober people, and
suggest silence or brief moral reflections.

--Life is dreadful uncerting,--said the Poor Relation,--and pulled
in her social tentacles to concentrate her thoughts on this fact of
human history.

--If there was anything a fellah could do,--said the young man John,
so called,--a fellah 'd like the chance o' helpin' a little cripple
like that. He looks as if he couldn't turn over any handier than a
turtle that's laid on his back; and I guess there a'n't many people
that know how to lift better than I do. Ask him if he don't want
any watchers. I don't mind settin' up any more 'n a cat-owl. I was
up all night twice last month.

[My private opinion is, that there was no small amount of punch
absorbed on those two occasions, which I think I heard of at the
time];--but the offer is a kind one, and it is n't fair to question
how he would like sitting up without the punch and the company and
the songs and smoking. He means what he says, and it would be a
more considerable achievement for him to sit quietly all night by a
sick man than for a good many other people. I tell you this odd
thing: there are a good many persons, who, through the habit of
making other folks uncomfortable, by finding fault with all their
cheerful enjoyments, at last get up a kind of hostility to comfort
in general, even in their own persons. The correlative to loving
our neighbors as ourselves is hating ourselves as we hate our
neighbors. Look at old misers; first they starve their dependants,
and then themselves. So I think it more for a lively young fellow
to be ready to play nurse than for one of those useful but forlorn
martyrs who have taken a spite against themselves and love to
gratify it by fasting and watching.

--The time came at last for me to make my visit. I found Iris
sitting by the Little Gentleman's pillow. To my disappointment, the
room was darkened. He did not like the light, and would have the
shutters kept nearly closed. It was good enough for me; what
business had I to be indulging my curiosity, when I had nothing to
do but to exercise such skill as I possessed for the benefit of my
patient? There was not much to be said or done in such a case; but
I spoke as encouragingly as I could, as I think we are always bound
to do. He did not seem to pay any very anxious attention, but the
poor girl listened as if her own life and more than her own life
were depending on the words I uttered. She followed me out of the
room, when I had got through my visit.

How long?--she said.

Uncertain. Any time; to-day,--next week, next month,--I answered.
--One of those cases where the issue is not doubtful, but may be
sudden or slow.

The women of the house were kind, as women always are in trouble.
But Iris pretended that nobody could spare the time as well as she,
and kept her place, hour after hour, until the landlady insisted
that she'd be killin' herself, if she begun at that rate, 'n' haf to
give up, if she didn't want to be clean beat out in less 'n a week.

At the table we were graver than common. The high chair was set
back against the wall, and a gap left between that of the young girl
and her nearest neighbor's on the right. But the next morning, to
our great surprise, that good-looking young Marylander had very
quietly moved his own chair to the vacant place. I thought he was
creeping down that way, but I was not prepared for a leap spanning
such a tremendous parenthesis of boarders as this change of position
included. There was no denying that the youth and maiden were a
handsome pair, as they sat side by side. But whatever the young
girl may have thought of her new neighbor she never seemed for a
moment to forget the poor little friend who had been taken from her
side. There are women, and even girls, with whom it is of no use to
talk. One might as well reason with a bee as to the form of his
cell, or with an oriole as to the construction of his swinging nest,
as try to stir these creatures from their own way of doing their own
work. It was not a question with Iris, whether she was entitled by
any special relation or by the fitness of things to play the part of
a nurse. She was a wilful creature that must have her way in this
matter. And it so proved that it called for much patience and long
endurance to carry through the duties, say rather the kind offices,
the painful pleasures, which she had chosen as her share in the
household where accident had thrown her. She had that genius of
ministration which is the special province of certain women, marked
even among their helpful sisters by a soft, low voice, a quiet
footfall, a light hand, a cheering smile, and a ready self-surrender
to the objects of their care, which such trifles as their own food,
sleep, or habits of any kind never presume to interfere with.
Day after day, and too often through the long watches of the night,
she kept her place by the pillow.

That girl will kill herself over me, Sir,--said the poor Little
Gentleman to me, one day,--she will kill herself, Sir, if you don't
call in all the resources of your art to get me off as soon as may
be. I shall wear her out, Sir, with sitting in this close chamber
and watching when she ought to be sleeping, if you leave me to the
care of Nature without dosing me.

This was rather strange pleasantry, under the circumstances. But
there are certain persons whose existence is so out of parallel with
the larger laws in the midst of which it is moving, that life
becomes to them as death and death as life.--How am I getting
along?--he said, another morning. He lifted his shrivelled hand,
with the death's-head ring on it, and looked at it with a sad sort
of complacency. By this one movement, which I have seen repeatedly
of late, I know that his thoughts have gone before to another
condition, and that he is, as it were, looking back on the
infirmities of the body as accidents of the past. For, when he was
well, one might see him often looking at the handsome hand with the
flaming jewel on one of its fingers. The single well-shaped limb
was the source of that pleasure which in some form or other Nature
almost always grants to her least richly endowed children. Handsome
hair, eyes, complexion, feature, form, hand, foot, pleasant voice,
strength, grace, agility, intelligence,--how few there are that have
not just enough of one at least of these gifts to show them that the
good Mother, busy with her millions of children, has not quite
forgotten them! But now he was thinking of that other state, where,
free from all mortal impediments, the memory of his sorrowful burden
should be only as that of the case he has shed to the insect whose
"deep-damasked wings" beat off the golden dust of the lily-anthers,
as he flutters in the ecstasy of his new life over their full-blown
summer glories.

No human being can rest for any time in a state of equilibrium,
where the desire to live and that to depart just balance each other.
If one has a house, which he has lived and always means to live in,
he pleases himself with the thought of all the conveniences it
offers him, and thinks little of its wants and imperfections. But
once having made up his mind to move to a better, every incommodity
starts out upon him, until the very ground-plan of it seems to have
changed in his mind, and his thoughts and affections, each one of
them packing up its little bundle of circumstances, have quitted
their several chambers and nooks and migrated to the new home, long
before its apartments are ready to receive their coming tenant. It
is so with the body. Most persons have died before they expire,--
died to all earthly longings, so that the last breath is only, as it
were, the locking of the door of the already deserted mansion. The
fact of the tranquillity with which the great majority of dying
persons await this locking of those gates of life through which its
airy angels have been going and coming, from the moment of the first
cry, is familiar to those who have been often called upon to witness
the last period of life. Almost always there is a preparation made
by Nature for unearthing a soul, just as on the smaller scale there
is for the removal of a milktooth. The roots which hold human life
to earth are absorbed before it is lifted from its place. Some of
the dying are weary and want rest, the idea of which is almost
inseparable in the universal mind from death. Some are in pain, and
want to be rid of it, even though the anodyne be dropped, as in the
legend, from the sword of the Death-Angel. Some are stupid,
mercifully narcotized that they may go to sleep without long tossing
about. And some are strong in faith and hope, so that, as they draw
near the next world, they would fair hurry toward it, as the caravan
moves faster over the sands when the foremost travellers send word
along the file that water is in sight. Though each little party
that follows in a foot-track of its own will have it that the water
to which others think they are hastening is a mirage, not the less
has it been true in all ages and for human beings of every creed
which recognized a future, that those who have fallen worn out by
their march through the Desert have dreamed at least of a River of
Life, and thought they heard its murmurs as they lay dying.

The change from the clinging to the present to the welcoming of the
future comes very soon, for the most part, after all hope of life is
extinguished, provided this be left in good degree to Nature, and
not insolently and cruelly forced upon those who are attacked by
illness, on the strength of that odious foreknowledge often imparted
by science, before the white fruit whose core is ashes, and which we
call death, has set beneath the pallid and drooping flower of
sickness. There is a singular sagacity very often shown in a
patient's estimate of his own vital force. His physician knows the
state of his material frame well enough, perhaps,--that this or that
organ is more or less impaired or disintegrated; but the patient has
a sense that he can hold out so much longer,--sometimes that he must
and will live for a while, though by the logic of disease he ought
to die without any delay.

The Little Gentleman continued to fail, until it became plain that
his remaining days were few. I told the household what to expect.
There was a good deal of kind feeling expressed among the boarders,
in various modes, according to their characters and style of
sympathy. The landlady was urgent that he should try a certain
nostrum which had saved somebody's life in jest sech a case. The
Poor Relation wanted me to carry, as from her, a copy of "Allein's
Alarm," etc. I objected to the title, reminding her that it
offended people of old, so that more than twice as many of the book
were sold when they changed the name to "A Sure Guide to Heaven."
The good old gentleman whom I have mentioned before has come to the
time of life when many old men cry easily, and forget their tears as
children do.--He was a worthy gentleman,--he said,--a very worthy
gentleman, but unfortunate,--very unfortunate. Sadly deformed about
the spine and the feet. Had an impression that the late Lord Byron
had some malformation of this kind. Had heerd there was something
the matter with the ankle-j'ints of that nobleman, but he was a man
of talents. This gentleman seemed to be a man of talents. Could
not always agree with his statements,--thought he was a little over-
partial to this city, and had some free opinions; but was sorry to
lose him,--and if--there was anything--he--could--. In the midst of
these kind expressions, the gentleman with the diamond, the Koh-i-
noor, as we called him, asked, in a very unpleasant sort of way, how
the old boy was likely to cut up,--meaning what money our friend was
going to leave behind.

The young fellow John spoke up, to the effect that this was a
diabolish snobby question, when a man was dying and not dead.--To
this the Koh-i-noor replied, by asking if the other meant to insult
him. Whereto the young man John rejoined that he had no particul'r
intentions one way or t'other. -The Kohi-noor then suggested the
young man's stepping out into the yard, that he, the speaker, might
"slap his chops."--Let 'em alone, said young Maryland,--it 'll soon
be over, and they won't hurt each other much.--So they went out.

The Koh-i-noor entertained the very common idea, that, when one
quarrels with another, the simple thing to do is to knock the man
down, and there is the end of it. Now those who have watched such
encounters are aware of two things: first, that it is not so easy to
knock a man down as it is to talk about it; secondly, that, if you
do happen to knock a man down, there is a very good chance that he
will be angry, and get up and give you a thrashing.

So the Koh-i-noor thought he would begin, as soon as they got into
the yard, by knocking his man down, and with this intention swung
his arm round after the fashion of rustics and those unskilled in
the noble art, expecting the young fellow John to drop when his
fist, having completed a quarter of a circle, should come in contact
with the side of that young man's head. Unfortunately for this
theory, it happens that a blow struck out straight is as much
shorter, and therefore as much quicker than the rustic's swinging
blow, as the radius is shorter than the quarter of a circle. The
mathematical and mechanical corollary was, that the Koh-i-noor felt
something hard bring up suddenly against his right eye, which
something he could have sworn was a paving-stone, judging by his
sensations; and as this threw his person somewhat backwards, and the
young man John jerked his own head back a little, the swinging blow
had nothing to stop it; and as the Jewel staggered between the hit
he got and the blow he missed, he tripped and "went to grass," so
far as the back-yard of our boardinghouse was provided with that
vegetable. It was a signal illustration of that fatal mistake, so
frequent in young and ardent natures with inconspicuous calves and
negative pectorals, that they can settle most little quarrels on the
spot by "knocking the man down."

We are in the habit of handling our faces so carefully, that a heavy
blow, taking effect on that portion of the surface, produces a most
unpleasant surprise, which is accompanied with odd sensations, as of
seeing sparks, and a kind of electrical or ozone-like odor, half-
sulphurous in character, and which has given rise to a very vulgar
and profane threat sometimes heard from the lips of bullies. A
person not used to pugilistic gestures does not instantly recover
from this surprise. The Koh-i-noor exasperated by his failure, and
still a little confused by the smart hit he had received, but
furious, and confident of victory over a young fellow a good deal
lighter than himself, made a desperate rush to bear down all before
him and finish the contest at once. That is the way all angry
greenhorns and incompetent persons attempt to settle matters. It
does n't do, if the other fellow is only cool, moderately quick, and
has a very little science. It didn't do this time; for, as the
assailant rushed in with his arms flying everywhere, like the vans
of a windmill, be ran a prominent feature of his face against a fist
which was travelling in the other direction, and immediately after
struck the knuckles of the young man's other fist a severe blow with
the part of his person known as the epigastrium to one branch of
science and the bread-basket to another. This second round closed
the battle. The Koh-i-noor had got enough, which in such cases is
more than as good as a feast. The young fellow asked him if he was
satisfied, and held out his hand. But the other sulked, and
muttered something about revenge.--Jest as ye like,--said the young
man John.--Clap a slice o' raw beefsteak on to that mouse o' yours
'n' 't'll take down the swellin'. (Mouse is a technical term for a
bluish, oblong, rounded elevation occasioned by running one's
forehead or eyebrow against another's knuckles.) The young fellow
was particularly pleased that he had had an opportunity of trying
his proficiency in the art of self-defence without the gloves. The
Koh-i-noor did not favor us with his company for a day or two, being
confined to his chamber, it was said, by a slight feverish, attack.
He was chop-fallen always after this, and got negligent in his
person. The impression must have been a deep one; for it was
observed, that, when he came down again, his moustache and whiskers
had turned visibly white about the roots. In short, it disgraced
him, and rendered still more conspicuous a tendency to drinking, of
which he had been for some time suspected. This, and the disgust
which a young lady naturally feels at hearing that her lover has
been "licked by a fellah not half his size," induced the landlady's
daughter to take that decided step which produced a change in the
programme of her career I may hereafter allude to.

I never thought he would come to good, when I heard him attempting
to sneer at an unoffending city so respectable as Boston. After a
man begins to attack the State-House, when he gets bitter about the
Frog-Pond, you may be sure there is not much left of him. Poor
Edgar Poe died in the hospital soon after he got into this way of
talking; and so sure as you find an unfortunate fellow reduced to
this pass, you had better begin praying for him, and stop lending
him money, for he is on his last legs. Remember poor Edgar! He is
dead and gone; but the State-House has its cupola fresh-gilded, and
the Frog-Pond has got a fountain that squirts up a hundred feet into
the air and glorifies that humble sheet with a fine display of
provincial rainbows.

--I cannot fulfil my promise in this number. I expected to gratify
your curiosity, if you have become at all interested in these
puzzles, doubts, fancies, whims, or whatever you choose to call
them, of mine. Next month you shall hear all about it.

--It was evening, and I was going to the sick-chamber. As I paused
at the door before entering, I heard a sweet voice singing. It was
not the wild melody I had sometimes heard at midnight:--no, this was
the voice of Iris, and I could distinguish every word. I had seen
the verses in her book; the melody was new to me. Let me finish my
page with them.


O Love Divine, that stooped to share
Our sharpest pang, our bitterest tear,
On Thee we cast each earthborn care,
We smile at pain while Thou art near!

Though long the weary way we tread,
And sorrow crown each lingering year,
No path we shun, no darkness dread,
Our hearts still whispering, Thou art near!

When drooping pleasure turns to grief,
And trembling faith is changed to fear,
The murmuring wind, the quivering leaf
Shall softly tell us, Thou art near!

On Thee we fling our burdening woe,
O Love Divine, forever dear,
Content to suffer, while we know,
Living and dying, Thou art near!


A young fellow, born of good stock, in one of the more thoroughly
civilized portions of these United States of America, bred in good
principles, inheriting a social position which makes him at his ease
everywhere, means sufficient to educate him thoroughly without
taking away the stimulus to vigorous exertion, and with a good
opening in some honorable path of labor, is the finest sight our
private satellite has had the opportunity of inspecting on the
planet to which she belongs. In some respects it was better to be a
young Greek. If we may trust the old marbles, my friend with his
arm stretched over my head, above there, (in plaster of Paris,) or
the discobolus, whom one may see at the principal sculpture gallery
of this metropolis,--those Greek young men were of supreme beauty.
Their close curls, their elegantly set heads, column-like necks,
straight noses, short, curled lips, firm chins, deep chests, light
flanks, large muscles, small joints, were finer than anything we
ever see. It may well be questioned whether the human shape will
ever present itself again in a race of such perfect symmetry. But
the life of the youthful Greek was local, not planetary, like that
of the young American. He had a string of legends, in place of our
Gospels. He had no printed books, no newspaper, no steam caravans,
no forks, no soap, none of the thousand cheap conveniences which
have become matters of necessity to our modern civilization. Above
all things, if he aspired to know as well as to enjoy, he found
knowledge not diffused everywhere about him, so that a day's labor
would buy him more wisdom than a year could master, but held in
private hands, hoarded in precious manuscripts, to be sought for
only as gold is sought in narrow fissures, and in the beds of
brawling streams. Never, since man came into this atmosphere of
oxygen and azote, was there anything like the condition of the young
American of the nineteenth century. Having in possession or in
prospect the best part of half a world, with all its climates and
soils to choose from; equipped with wings of fire and smoke than fly
with him day and night, so that he counts his journey not in miles,
but in degrees, and sees the seasons change as the wild fowl sees
them in his annual flights; with huge leviathans always ready to
take him on their broad backs and push behind them with their
pectoral or caudal fins the waters that seam the continent or
separate the hemispheres; heir of all old civilizations, founder of
that new one which, if all the prophecies of the human heart are not
lies, is to be the noblest, as it is the last; isolated in space
from the races that are governed by dynasties whose divine right
grows out of human wrong, yet knit into the most absolute solidarity
with mankind of all times and places by the one great thought he
inherits as his national birthright; free to form and express his
opinions on almost every subject, and assured that he will soon
acquire the last franchise which men withhold from man,--that of
stating the laws of his spiritual being and the beliefs he accepts
without hindrance except from clearer views of truth,--he seems to
want nothing for a large, wholesome, noble, beneficent life. In
fact, the chief danger is that he will think the whole planet is
made for him, and forget that there are some possibilities left in
the debris of the old-world civilization which deserve a certain
respectful consideration at his hands.

The combing and clipping of this shaggy wild continent are in some
measure done for him by those who have gone before. Society has
subdivided itself enough to have a place for every form of talent.
Thus, if a man show the least sign of ability as a sculptor or a
painter, for instance, he finds the means of education and a demand
for his services. Even a man who knows nothing but science will be
provided for, if he does not think it necessary to hang about his
birthplace all his days,--which is a most unAmerican weakness. The
apron-strings of an American mother are made of India-rubber. Her
boy belongs where he is wanted; and that young Marylander of ours
spoke for all our young men, when he said that his home was wherever
the stars and stripes blew over his head.

And that leads me to say a few words of this young gentleman, who
made that audacious movement lately which I chronicled in my last
record,--jumping over the seats of I don't know how many boarders to
put himself in the place which the Little Gentleman's absence had
left vacant at the side of Iris. When a young man is found
habitually at the side of any one given young lady,--when he lingers
where she stays, and hastens when she leaves,--when his eyes follow
her as she moves and rest upon her when she is still,--when he
begins to grow a little timid, he who was so bold, and a little
pensive, he who was so gay, whenever accident finds them alone,--
when he thinks very often of the given young lady, and names her
very seldom,--

What do you say about it, my charming young expert in that sweet
science in which, perhaps, a long experience is not the first of

--But we don't know anything about this young man, except that he is
good-looking, and somewhat high-spirited, and strong-limbed, and has
a generous style of nature,--all very promising, but by no means
proving that he is a proper lover for Iris, whose heart we turned
inside out when we opened that sealed book of hers.

Ah, my dear young friend! When your mamma then, if you will believe
it, a very slight young lady, with very pretty hair and figure--came
and told her mamma that your papa had--had--asked No, no, no! she
could n't say it; but her mother--oh the depth of maternal sagacity!
--guessed it all without another word!--When your mother, I say,
came and told her mother she was engaged, and your grandmother told
your grandfather, how much did they know of the intimate nature of
the young gentleman to whom she had pledged her existence? I will
not be so hard as to ask how much your respected mamma knew at that
time of the intimate nature of your respected papa, though, if we
should compare a young girl's man-as-she-thinks-him with a forty-
summered matron's man-as-she-finds-him, I have my doubts as to
whether the second would be a facsimile of the first in most cases.

The idea that in this world each young person is to wait until he or
she finds that precise counterpart who alone of all creation was
meant for him or her, and then fall instantly in love with it, is
pretty enough, only it is not Nature's way. It is not at all
essential that all pairs of human beings should be, as we sometimes
say of particular couples, "born for each other." Sometimes a man
or a woman is made a great deal better and happier in the end for
having had to conquer the faults of the one beloved, and make the
fitness not found at first, by gradual assimilation. There is a
class of good women who have no right to marry perfectly good men,
because they have the power of saving those who would go to ruin but
for the guiding providence of a good wife. I have known many such
cases. It is the most momentous question a woman is ever called
upon to decide, whether the faults of the man she loves are beyond
remedy and will drag her down, or whether she is competent to be his
earthly redeemer and lift him to her own level.

A person of genius should marry a person of character. Genius does
not herd with genius. The musk-deer and the civet-cat are never
found in company. They don't care for strange scents,--they like
plain animals better than perfumed ones. Nay, if you will have the
kindness to notice, Nature has not gifted my lady musk-deer with the
personal peculiarity by which her lord is so widely known.

Now when genius allies itself with character, the world is very apt
to think character has the best of the bargain. A brilliant woman
marries a plain, manly fellow, with a simple intellectual
mechanism;--we have all seen such cases. The world often stares a
good deal and wonders. She should have taken that other, with a far
more complex mental machinery. She might have had a watch with the
philosophical compensation-balance, with the metaphysical index
which can split a second into tenths, with the musical chime which
can turn every quarter of an hour into melody. She has chosen a
plain one, that keeps good time, and that is all.

Let her alone! She knows what she is about. Genius has an
infinitely deeper reverence for character than character can have
for genius. To be sure, genius gets the world's praise, because its
work is a tangible product, to be bought, or had for nothing. It
bribes the common voice to praise it by presents of speeches, poems,
statues, pictures, or whatever it can please with. Character
evolves its best products for home consumption; but, mind you, it
takes a deal more to feed a family for thirty years than to make a
holiday feast for our neighbors once or twice in our lives. You
talk of the fire of genius. Many a blessed woman, who dies unsung
and unremembered, has given out more of the real vital heat that
keeps the life in human souls, without a spark flitting through her
humble chimney to tell the world about it, than would set a dozen
theories smoking, or a hundred odes simmering, in the brains of so
many men of genius. It is in latent caloric, if I may borrow a
philosophical expression, that many of the noblest hearts give out
the life that warms them. Cornelia's lips grow white, and her pulse
hardly warms her thin fingers,--but she has melted all the ice out
of the hearts of those young Gracchi, and her lost heat is in the
blood of her youthful heroes. We are always valuing the soul's
temperature by the thermometer of public deed or word. Yet the
great sun himself, when he pours his noonday beams upon some vast
hyaline boulder, rent from the eternal ice-quarries, and floating
toward the tropics, never warms it a fraction above the thirty-two
degrees of Fahrenheit that marked the moment when the first drop
trickled down its side.

How we all like the spirting up of a fountain, seemingly against the
law that makes water everywhere slide, roll, leap, tumble headlong,
to get as low as the earth will let it! That is genius. But what
is this transient upward movement, which gives us the glitter and
the rainbow, to that unsleeping, all-present force of gravity, the
same yesterday, to-day, and forever, (if the universe be eternal,)
--the great outspread hand of God himself, forcing all things down
into their places, and keeping them there? Such, in smaller
proportion, is the force of character to the fitful movements of
genius, as they are or have been linked to each other in many a
household, where one name was historic, and the other, let me say
the nobler, unknown, save by some faint reflected ray, borrowed from
its lustrous companion.

Oftentimes, as I have lain swinging on the water, in the swell of
the Chelsea ferry-boats, in that long, sharp-pointed, black cradle
in which I love to let the great mother rock me, I have seen a tall
ship glide by against the tide, as if drawn by some invisible
towline, with a hundred strong arms pulling it. Her sails hung
unfilled, her streamers were drooping, she had neither side-wheel
nor stern-wheel; still she moved on, stately, in serene triumph, as
if with her own life. But I knew that on the other side of the
ship, hidden beneath the great hulk that swam so majestically, there
was a little toiling steam-tug, with heart of fire and arms of iron,
that was hugging it close and dragging it bravely on; and I knew,
that, if the little steam-tug untwined her arms and left the tall
ship, it would wallow and roll about, and drift hither and thither,
and go off with the refluent tide, no man knows whither. And so I
have known more than one genius, high-decked, full-freighted, wide-
sailed, gay-pennoned, that, but for the bare toiling arms, and
brave, warm, beating heart of the faithful little wife, that nestled
close in his shadow, and clung to him, so that no wind or wave could
part them, and dragged him on against all the tide of circumstance,
would soon have gone down the stream and been heard of no more.
--No, I am too much a lover of genius, I sometimes think, and too
often get impatient with dull people, so that, in their weak talk,
where nothing is taken for granted, I look forward to some future
possible state of development, when a gesture passing between a
beatified human soul and an archangel shall signify as much as the
complete history of a planet, from the time when it curdled to the
time when its sun was burned out. And yet, when a strong brain is
weighed with a true heart, it seems to me like balancing a bubble
against a wedge of gold.

--It takes a very true man to be a fitting companion for a woman of
genius, but not a very great one. I am not sure that she will not
embroider her ideal better on a plain ground than on one with a
brilliant pattern already worked in its texture. But as the very
essence of genius is truthfulness, contact with realities, (which
are always ideas behind shows of form or language,) nothing is so
contemptible as falsehood and pretence in its eyes. Now it is not
easy to find a perfectly true woman, and it is very hard to find a
perfectly true man. And a woman of genius, who has the sagacity to
choose such a one as her companion, shows more of the divine gift in
so doing than in her finest talk or her most brilliant work of
letters or of art.

I have been a good while coming at a secret, for which I wished to
prepare you before telling it. I think there is a kindly feeling
growing up between Iris and our young Marylander. Not that I
suppose there is any distinct understanding between them, but that
the affinity which has drawn him from the remote corner where he sat
to the side of the young girl is quietly bringing their two natures
together. Just now she is all given up to another; but when he no
longer calls upon her daily thoughts and cares, I warn you not to be
surprised, if this bud of friendship open like the evening primrose,
with a sound as of a sudden stolen kiss, and lo! the flower of full-
blown love lies unfolded before you.

And now the days had come for our little friend, whose whims and
weaknesses had interested us, perhaps, as much as his better traits,
to make ready for that long journey which is easier to the cripple
than to the strong man, and on which none enters so willingly as he
who has borne the life-long load of infirmity during his earthly
pilgrimage. At this point, under most circumstances, I would close
the doors and draw the veil of privacy before the chamber where the
birth which we call death, out of life into the unknown world, is
working its mystery. But this friend of ours stood alone in the
world, and, as the last act of his life was mainly in harmony with
the rest of its drama, I do not here feel the force of the objection
commonly lying against that death-bed literature which forms the
staple of a certain portion of the press. Let me explain what I
mean, so that my readers may think for themselves a little, before
they accuse me of hasty expressions.

The Roman Catholic Church has certain formulas for its dying
children, to which almost all of them attach the greatest
importance. There is hardly a criminal so abandoned that he is not
anxious to receive the "consolations of religion" in his last hours.
Even if he be senseless, but still living, I think that the form is
gone through with, just as baptism is administered to the
unconscious new-born child. Now we do not quarrel with these forms.
We look with reverence and affection upon all symbols which give
peace and comfort to our fellow-creatures. But the value of the
new-born child's passive consent to the ceremony is null, as
testimony to the truth of a doctrine. The automatic closing of a
dying man's lips on the consecrated wafer proves nothing in favor of
the Real Presence, or any other dogma. And, speaking generally, the
evidence of dying men in favor of any belief is to be received with
great caution.

They commonly tell the truth about their present feelings, no doubt.
A dying man's deposition about anything he knows is good evidence.
But it is of much less consequence what a man thinks and says when
he is changed by pain, weakness, apprehension, than what he thinks
when he is truly and wholly himself. Most murderers die in a very
pious frame of mind, expecting to go to glory at once; yet no man
believes he shall meet a larger average of pirates and cut-throats
in the streets of the New Jerusalem than of honest folks that died
in their beds.

Unfortunately, there has been a very great tendency to make capital
of various kinds out of dying men's speeches. The lies that have
been put into their mouths for this purpose are endless. The prime
minister, whose last breath was spent in scolding his nurse, dies
with a magnificent apothegm on his lips, manufactured by a reporter.
Addison gets up a tableau and utters an admirable sentiment,--or
somebody makes the posthumous dying epigram for him. The incoherent
babble of green fields is translated into the language of stately
sentiment. One would think, all that dying men had to do was to say
the prettiest thing they could,--to make their rhetorical point,--
and then bow themselves politely out of the world.

Worse than this is the torturing of dying people to get their
evidence in favor of this or that favorite belief. The camp-
followers of proselyting sects have come in at the close of every
life where they could get in, to strip the languishing soul of its
thoughts, and carry them off as spoils. The Roman Catholic or other
priest who insists on the reception of his formula means kindly, we
trust, and very commonly succeeds in getting the acquiescence of the
subject of his spiritual surgery, but do not let us take the
testimony of people who are in the worst condition to form opinions
as evidence of the truth or falsehood of that which they accept. A
lame man's opinion of dancing is not good for much. A poor fellow
who can neither eat nor drink, who is sleepless and full of pains,
whose flesh has wasted from him, whose blood is like water, who is
gasping for breath, is not in a condition to judge fairly of human
life, which in all its main adjustments is intended for men in a
normal, healthy condition. It is a remark I have heard from the
wise Patriarch of the Medical Profession among us, that the moral
condition of patients with disease above the great breathing-muscle,
the diaphragm, is much more hopeful than that of patients with
disease below it, in the digestive organs. Many an honest ignorant
man has given us pathology when he thought he was giving us
psychology. With this preliminary caution I shall proceed to the
story of the Little Gentleman's leaving us.

When the divinity-student found that our fellow-boarder was not
likely to remain long with us, he, being a young man of tender
conscience and kindly nature, was not a little exercised on his
behalf. It was undeniable that on several occasions the Little
Gentleman had expressed himself with a good deal of freedom on a
class of subjects which, according to the divinity-student, he had
no right to form an opinion upon. He therefore considered his
future welfare in jeopardy.

The Muggletonian sect have a very odd way of dealing with people.
If I, the Professor, will only give in to the Muggletonian doctrine,
there shall be no question through all that persuasion that I am
competent to judge of that doctrine; nay, I shall be quoted as
evidence of its truth, while I live, and cited, after I am dead, as
testimony in its behalf. But if I utter any ever so slight Anti-
Muggletonian sentiment, then I become incompetent to form any
opinion on the matter. This, you cannot fail to observe, is exactly
the way the pseudo-sciences go to work, as explained in my Lecture
on Phrenology. Now I hold that he whose testimony would be accepted
in behalf of the Muggletonian doctrine has a right to be heard
against it. Whoso offers me any article of belief for my signature
implies that I am competent to form an opinion upon it; and if my
positive testimony in its favor is of any value, then my negative
testimony against it is also of value.

I thought my young friend's attitude was a little too much like that
of the Muggletonians. I also remarked a singular timidity on his
part lest somebody should "unsettle" somebody's faith,--as if faith
did not require exercise as much as any other living thing, and were
not all the better for a shaking up now and then. I don't mean that
it would be fair to bother Bridget, the wild Irish girl, or Joice
Heth, the centenarian, or any other intellectual non-combatant; but
all persons who proclaim a belief which passes judgment on their
neighbors must be ready to have it "unsettled," that is, questioned,
at all times and by anybody,--just as those who set up bars across a
thoroughfare must expect to have them taken down by every one who
wants to pass, if he is strong enough.

Besides, to think of trying to water-proof the American mind against
the questions that Heaven rains down upon it shows a misapprehension
of our new conditions. If to question everything be unlawful and
dangerous, we had better undeclare our independence at once; for
what the Declaration means is the right to question everything, even
the truth of its own fundamental proposition.

The old-world order of things is an arrangement of locks and canals,
where everything depends on keeping the gates shut, and so holding
the upper waters at their level; but the system under which the
young republican American is born trusts the whole unimpeded tide of
life to the great elemental influences, as the vast rivers of the
continent settle their own level in obedience to the laws that
govern the planet and the spheres that surround it.

The divinity-student was not quite up to the idea of the
commonwealth, as our young friend the Marylander, for instance,
understood it. He could not get rid of that notion of private
property in truth, with the right to fence it in, and put up a sign-
board, thus:


He took the young Marylander to task for going to the Church of the
Galileans, where he had several times accompanied Iris of late.

I am a Churchman,--the young man said,--by education and habit. I
love my old Church for many reasons, but most of all because I think
it has educated me out of its own forms into the spirit of its
highest teachings. I think I belong to the "Broad Church," if any
of you can tell what that means.

I had the rashness to attempt to answer the question myself.--Some
say the Broad Church means the collective mass of good people of all
denominations. Others say that such a definition is nonsense; that
a church is an organization, and the scattered good folks are no
organization at all. They think that men will eventually come
together on the basis of one or two or more common articles of
belief, and form a great unity. Do they see what this amounts to?
It means an equal division of intellect! It is mental agrarianism!
a thing that never was and never will be until national and
individual idiosyncrasies have ceased to exist. The man of thirty-
nine beliefs holds the man of one belief a pauper; he is not going
to give up thirty-eight of them for the sake of fraternizing with
the other in the temple which bears on its front, "Deo erexit
Voltaire." A church is a garden, I have heard it said, and the
illustration was neatly handled. Yes, and there is no such thing as
a broad garden. It must be fenced in, and whatever is fenced in is
narrow. You cannot have arctic and tropical plants growing together
in it, except by the forcing system, which is a mighty narrow piece
of business. You can't make a village or a parish or a family think
alike, yet you suppose that you can make a world pinch its beliefs
or pad them to a single pattern! Why, the very life of an
ecclesiastical organization is a life of induction, a state of
perpetually disturbed equilibrium kept up by another charged body in
the neighborhood. If the two bodies touch and share their
respective charges, down goes the index of the electrometer!

Do you know that every man has a religious belief peculiar to
himself? Smith is always a Smithite. He takes in exactly Smith's-
worth of knowledge, Smith's-worth of truth, of beauty, of divinity.
And Brown has from time immemorial been trying to burn him, to
excommunicate him, to anonymous-article him, because he did not take
in Brown's-worth of knowledge, truth, beauty, divinity. He cannot
do it, any more than a pint-pot can hold a quart, or a quart-pot be
filled by a pint. Iron is essentially the same everywhere and
always; but the sulphate of iron is never the same as the carbonate
of iron. Truth is invariable; but the Smithate of truth must always
differ from the Brownate of truth.

The wider the intellect, the larger and simpler the expressions in
which its knowledge is embodied. The inferior race, the degraded
and enslaved people, the small-minded individual, live in the
details which to larger minds and more advanced tribes of men reduce
themselves to axioms and laws. As races and individual minds must
always differ just as sulphates and carbonates do, I cannot see
ground for expecting the Broad Church to be founded on any fusion of
intellectual beliefs, which of course implies that those who hold
the larger number of doctrines as essential shall come down to those
who hold the smaller number. These doctrines are to the negative
aristocracy what the quarterings of their coats are to the positive
orders of nobility.

The Broad Church, I think, will never be based on anything that
requires the use of language. Freemasonry gives an idea of such a
church, and a brother is known and cared for in a strange land where
no word of his can be understood. The apostle of this church may be
a deaf mute carrying a cup of cold water to a thirsting
fellow-creature. The cup of cold water does not require to be
translated for a foreigner to understand it. I am afraid the only
Broad Church possible is one that has its creed in the heart, and
not in the head,--that we shall know its members by their fruits,
and not by their words. If you say this communion of well-doers is
no church, I can only answer, that all organized bodies have their
limits of size, and that when we find a man a hundred feet high and
thirty feet broad across the shoulders, we will look out for an
organization that shall include all Christendom.

Some of us do practically recognize a Broad Church and a Narrow
Church, however. The Narrow Church may be seen in the ship's boats
of humanity, in the long boat, in the jolly boat, in the captain's
gig, lying off the poor old vessel, thanking God that they are safe,
and reckoning how soon the hulk containing the mass of their
fellow-creatures will go down. The Broad Church is on board,
working hard at the pumps, and very slow to believe that the ship
will be swallowed up with so many poor people in it, fastened down
under the hatches ever since it floated.

--All this, of course, was nothing but my poor notion about these
matters. I am simply an "outsider," you know; only it doesn't do
very well for a nest of Hingham boxes to talk too much about
outsiders and insiders!

After this talk of ours, I think these two young people went pretty
regularly to the Church of the Galileans. Still they could not keep
away from the sweet harmonies and rhythmic litanies of Saint
Polycarp on the great Church festival-days; so that, between the
two, they were so much together, that the boarders began to make
remarks, and our landlady said to me, one day, that, though it was
noon of her business, them that had eyes couldn't help seein' that
there was somethin' goin', on between them two young people; she
thought the young man was a very likely young man, though jest what
his prospecs was was unbeknown to her; but she thought he must be
doing well, and rather guessed he would be able to take care of a
femily, if he didn't go to takin' a house; for a gentleman and his
wife could board a great deal cheaper than they could keep house;
--but then that girl was nothin' but a child, and wouldn't think of
bein' married this five year. They was good boarders, both of 'em,
paid regular, and was as pooty a couple as she ever laid eyes on.

--To come back to what I began to speak of before, -the divinity-
student was exercised in his mind about the Little Gentleman, and,
in the kindness of his heart,--for he was a good young man,--and in
the strength of his convictions,--for he took it for granted that he
and his crowd were right, and other folks and their crowd were
wrong,--he determined to bring the Little Gentleman round to his
faith before he died, if he could. So he sent word to the sick man,
that he should be pleased to visit him and have some conversation
with him; and received for answer that he would be welcome.

The divinity-student made him a visit, therefore and had a somewhat
remarkable interview with him, which I shall briefly relate, without
attempting to justify the positions taken by the Little Gentleman.
He found him weak, but calm. Iris sat silent by his pillow.

After the usual preliminaries, the divinity-student said; in a kind
way, that he was sorry to find him in failing health, that he felt
concerned for his soul, and was anxious to assist him in making
preparations for the great change awaiting him.

I thank you, Sir,--said the Little Gentleman, permit me to ask you,
what makes you think I am not ready for it, Sir, and that you can do
anything to help me, Sir?

I address you only as a fellow-man,--said the divinity-student,--and
therefore a fellow-sinner.

I am not a man, Sir!--said the Little Gentleman.--I was born into
this world the wreck of a man, and I shall not be judged with a race
to which I do not belong. Look at this!--he said, and held up his
withered arm.--See there!--and he pointed to his misshapen
extremities.--Lay your hand here!--and he laid his own on the
region of his misplaced heart.--I have known nothing of the life of
your race. When I first came to my consciousness, I found myself an
object of pity, or a sight to show. The first strange child I ever
remember hid its face and would not come near me. I was a broken-
hearted as well as broken-bodied boy. I grew into the emotions of
ripening youth, and all that I could have loved shrank from my
presence. I became a man in years, and had nothing in common with
manhood but its longings. My life is the dying pang of a worn-out
race, and I shall go down alone into the dust, out of this world of
men and women, without ever knowing the fellowship of the one or the
love of the other. I will not die with a lie rattling in my throat.
If another state of being has anything worse in store for me, I have
had a long apprenticeship to give me strength that I may bear it. I
don't believe it, Sir! I have too much faith for that. God has not
left me wholly without comfort, even here. I love this old place
where I was born;--the heart of the world beats under the three
hills of Boston, Sir! I love this great land, with so many tall men
in it, and so many good, noble women.--His eyes turned to the
silent figure by his pillow.--I have learned to accept meekly what
has been allotted to me, but I cannot honestly say that I think my
sin has been greater than my suffering. I bear the ignorance and
the evil-doing of whole generations in my single person. I never
drew a breath of air nor took a step that was not a punishment for
another's fault. I may have had many wrong thoughts, but I cannot
have done many wrong deeds,--for my cage has been a narrow one, and
I have paced it alone. I have looked through the bars and seen the
great world of men busy and happy, but I had no part in their
doings. I have known what it was to dream of the great passions;
but since my mother kissed me before she died, no woman's lips have
pressed my cheek,--nor ever will.

--The young girl's eyes glittered with a sudden film, and almost
without a thought, but with a warm human instinct that rushed up
into her face with her heart's blood, she bent over and kissed him.
It was the sacrament that washed out the memory of long years of
bitterness, and I should hold it an unworthy thought to defend her.
The Little Gentleman repaid her with the only tear any of us ever
saw him shed.

The divinity-student rose from his place, and, turning away from the
sick man, walked to the other side of the room, where he bowed his
head and was still. All the questions he had meant to ask had faded
from his memory. The tests he had. prepared by which to judge of
his fellow-creature's fitness for heaven seemed to have lost their
virtue. He could trust the crippled child of sorrow to the Infinite
Parent. The kiss of the fair-haired girl had been like a sign from
heaven, that angels watched over him whom he was presuming but a
moment before to summon before the tribunal of his private judgment.
Shall I pray with you?--he said, after a pause. A little before he
would have said, Shall I pray for you?--The Christian religion, as
taught by its Founder, is full of sentiment. So we must not blame
the divinity-student, if he was overcome by those yearnings of human
sympathy which predominate so much more in the sermons of the Master
than in the writings of his successors, and which have made the
parable of the Prodigal Son the consolation of mankind, as it has
been the stumbling-block of all exclusive doctrines.

Pray!--said the Little Gentleman.

The divinity-student prayed, in low, tender tones,

Iris and the Little Gentleman that God would look on his servant
lying helpless at the feet of his mercy; that He would remember his
long years of bondage in the flesh; that He would deal gently with
the bruised reed. Thou hast visited the sins of the fathers upon
this their child. Oh, turn away from him the penalties of his own
transgressions! Thou hast laid upon him, from infancy, the cross
which thy stronger children are called upon to take up; and now that
he is fainting under it, be Thou his stay, and do Thou succor him
that is tempted! Let his manifold infirmities come between him and
Thy judgment; in wrath remember mercy! If his eyes are not opened
to all Thy truth, let Thy compassion lighten the darkness that rests
upon him, even as it came through the word of thy Son to blind
Bartimeus, who sat by the wayside, begging!

Many more petitions he uttered, but all in the same subdued tone of
tenderness. In the presence of helpless suffering, and in the fast-
darkening shadow of the Destroyer, he forgot all but his Christian
humanity, and cared more about consoling his fellow-man than making
a proselyte of him.

This was the last prayer to which the Little Gentleman ever
listened. Some change was rapidly coming over him during this last
hour of which I have been speaking. The excitement of pleading his
cause before his self-elected spiritual adviser,--the emotion which
overcame him, when the young girl obeyed the sudden impulse of her
feelings and pressed her lips to his cheek,--the thoughts that
mastered him while the divinity-student poured out his soul for him
in prayer, might well hurry on the inevitable moment. When the
divinity-student had uttered his last petition, commending him to
the Father through his Son's intercession, he turned to look upon
him before leaving his chamber. His face was changed.--There is a
language of the human countenance which we all understand without an
interpreter, though the lineaments belong to the rudest savage that
ever stammered in an unknown barbaric dialect. By the stillness of
the sharpened features, by the blankness of the tearless eyes, by
the fixedness of the smileless mouth, by the deadening tints, by the
contracted brow, by the dilating nostril, we know that the soul is
soon to leave its mortal tenement, and is already closing up its
windows and putting out its fires.--Such was the aspect of the face
upon which the divinity-student looked, after the brief silence
which followed his prayer. The change had been rapid, though not
that abrupt one which is liable to happen at any moment in these
cases.--The sick man looked towards him.--Farewell,--he said,--I
thank you. Leave me alone with her.

When the divinity-student had gone, and the Little Gentleman found
himself alone with Iris, he lifted his hand to his neck, and took
from it, suspended by a slender chain, a quaint, antique-looking
key,--the same key I had once seen him holding. He gave this to
her, and pointed to a carved cabinet opposite his bed, one of those
that had so attracted my curious eyes and set me wondering as to
what it might contain.

Open it,--he said,--and light the lamp.--The young girl walked to
the cabinet and unlocked the door. A deep recess appeared, lined
with black velvet, against which stood in white relief an ivory
crucifix. A silver lamp hung over it. She lighted the lamp and
came back to the bedside. The dying man fixed his eyes upon the
figure of the dying Saviour.--Give me your hand, he said; and Iris
placed her right hand in his left. So they remained, until
presently his eyes lost their meaning, though they still remained
vacantly fixed upon the white image. Yet he held the young girl's
hand firmly, as if it were leading him through some deep-shadowed
valley and it was all he could cling to. But presently an
involuntary muscular contraction stole over him, and his terrible
dying grasp held the poor girl as if she were wedged in an engine of
torture. She pressed her lips together and sat still. The
inexorable hand held her tighter and tighter, until she felt as if
her own slender fingers would be crushed in its gripe. It was one
of the tortures of the Inquisition she was suffering, and she could
not stir from her place. Then, in her great anguish, she, too, cast
her eyes upon that dying figure, and, looking upon its pierced hands
and feet and side and lacerated forehead, she felt that she also
must suffer uncomplaining. In the moment of her sharpest pain she
did not forget the duties of her under office, but dried the dying
man's moist forehead with her handkerchief, even while the dews of
agony were glistening on her own. How long this lasted she never
could tell. Time and thirst are two things you and I talk about;
but the victims whom holy men and righteous judges used to stretch
on their engines knew better what they meant than you or I!--What
is that great bucket of water for? said the Marchioness de
Brinvilliers, before she was placed on the rack.--For you to
drink,--said the torturer to the little woman.--She could not think
that it would take such a flood to quench the fire in her and so
keep her alive for her confession. The torturer knew better than

After a time not to be counted in minutes, as the clock measures,--
without any warning,--there came a swift change of his features; his
face turned white, as the waters whiten when a sudden breath passes
over their still surface; the muscles instantly relaxed, and Iris,
released at once from her care for the sufferer and from his
unconscious grasp, fell senseless, with a feeble cry,--the only
utterance of her long agony.

Perhaps you sometimes wander in through the iron gates of the Copp's
Hill burial-ground. You love to stroll round among the graves that
crowd each other in the thickly peopled soil of that breezy summit.
You love to lean on the freestone slab which lies over the bones of
the Mathers,--to read the epitaph of stout William Clark, "Despiser
of Sorry Persons and little Actions,"--to stand by the stone grave
of sturdy Daniel Malcolm and look upon the splintered slab that
tells the old rebel's story,--to kneel by the triple stone that says
how the three Worthylakes, father, mother, and young daughter, died
on the same day and lie buried there; a mystery; the subject of a
moving ballad, by the late BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, as may be seen in his
autobiography, which will explain the secret of the triple
gravestone; though the old philosopher has made a mistake, unless
the stone is wrong.

Not very far from that you will find a fair mound, of dimensions fit
to hold a well-grown man. I will not tell you the inscription upon
the stone which stands at its head; for I do not wish you to be sure
of the resting-place of one who could not bear to think that he
should be known as a cripple among the dead, after being pointed at
so long among the living. There is one sign, it is true, by which,
if you have been a sagacious reader of these papers, you will at
once know it; but I fear you read carelessly, and must study them
more diligently before you will detect the hint to which I allude.

The Little Gentleman lies where he longed to lie, among the old
names and the old bones of the old Boston people. At the foot of
his resting-place is the river, alive with the wings and antennae of
its colossal water-insects; over opposite are the great war-ships,
and the heavy guns, which, when they roar, shake the soil in which
he lies; and in the steeple of Christ Church, hard by, are the sweet
chimes which are the Boston boy's Ranz des Vaches, whose echoes
follow him all the world over.

In Pace!

I, told you a good while ago that the Little Gentleman could not do
a better thing than to leave all his money, whatever it might be, to
the young girl who has since that established such a claim upon him.
He did not, however. A considerable bequest to one of our public
institutions keeps his name in grateful remembrance. The telescope
through which he was fond of watching the heavenly bodies, and the
movements of which had been the source of such odd fancies on my
part, is now the property of a Western College. You smile as you
think of my taking it for a fleshless human figure, when I saw its
tube pointing to the sky, and thought it was an arm, under the white
drapery thrown over it for protection. So do I smile now; I belong
to the numerous class who are prophets after the fact, and hold my
nightmares very cheap by daylight

I have received many letters of inquiry as to the sound resembling a
woman's voice, which occasioned me so many perplexities. Some
thought there was no question that he had a second apartment, in
which he had made an asylum for a deranged female relative. Others
were of opinion that he was, as I once suggested, a "Bluebeard" with
patriarchal tendencies, and I have even been censured for
introducing so Oriental an element into my record of boarding-house

Come in and see me, the Professor, some evening when I have nothing
else to do, and ask me to play you Tartini's Devil's Sonata on that
extraordinary instrument in my possession, well known to amateurs as
one of the masterpieces of Joseph Guarnerius. The vox humana of the
great Haerlem organ is very lifelike, and the same stop in the organ
of the Cambridge chapel might be mistaken in some of its tones for a
human voice; but I think you never heard anything come so near the
cry of a prima donna as the A string and the E string of this
instrument. A single fact will illustrate the resemblance. I was
executing some tours de force upon it one evening, when the
policeman of our district rang the bell sharply, and asked what was
the matter in the house. He had heard a woman's screams,--he was
sure of it. I had to make the instrument sing before his eyes
before he could be satisfied that he had not heard the cries of a
woman. The instrument was bequeathed to me by the Little Gentleman.
Whether it had anything to do with the sounds I heard coming from
his chamber, you can form your own opinion;--I have no other
conjecture to offer. It is not true that a second apartment with a
secret entrance was found; and the story of the veiled lady is the
invention of one of the Reporters.

Bridget, the housemaid, always insisted that he died a Catholic.
She had seen the crucifix, and believed that he prayed on his knees
before it. The last circumstance is very probably true; indeed,
there was a spot worn on the carpet just before this cabinet which
might be thus accounted for. Why he, whose whole life was a
crucifixion, should not love to look on that divine image of
blameless suffering, I cannot see; on the contrary, it seems to me
the most natural thing in the world that he should. But there are
those who want to make private property of everything, and can't
make up their minds that people who don't think as they do should
claim any interest in that infinite compassion expressed in the
central figure of the Christendom which includes us all.

The divinity-student expressed a hope before the boarders that he
should meet him in heaven.--The question is, whether he'll meet
you,--said the young fellow John, rather smartly. The divinity-
student had n't thought of that.

However, he is a worthy young man, and I trust I have shown him in a
kindly and respectful light. He will get a parish by-and-by; and,
as he is about to marry the sister of an old friend,--the
Schoolmistress, whom some of us remember,--and as all sorts of
expensive accidents happen to young married ministers, he will be
under bonds to the amount of his salary, which means starvation, if
they are forfeited, to think all his days as he thought when he was
settled,--unless the majority of his people change with him or in
advance of him. A hard ease, to which nothing could reconcile a
man, except that the faithful discharge of daily duties in his
personal relations with his parishioners will make him useful enough
in his way, though as a thinker he may cease to exist before he has
reached middle age.

--Iris went into mourning for the Little Gentleman. Although, as I
have said, he left the bulk of his property, by will, to a public
institution, he added a codicil, by which he disposed of various
pieces of property as tokens of kind remembrance. It was in this
way I became the possessor of the wonderful instrument I have spoken
of, which had been purchased for him out of an Italian convent. The
landlady was comforted with a small legacy. The following extract
relates to Iris: "in consideration of her manifold acts of
kindness, but only in token of grateful remembrance, and by no means
as a reward for services which cannot be compensated, a certain
messuage, with all the land thereto appertaining, situated in ______
Street, at the North End, so called, of Boston, aforesaid, the same
being the house in which I was born, but now inhabited by several
families, and known as 'The Rookery.'" Iris had also the crucifix,
the portrait, and the red-jewelled ring. The funeral or death's-
head ring was buried with him.

It was a good while, after the Little Gentleman was gone, before our
boarding-house recovered its wonted cheerfulness. There was a
flavor in his whims and local prejudices that we liked, even while
we smiled at them. It was hard to see the tall chair thrust away
among useless lumber, to dismantle his room, to take down the
picture of Leah, the handsome Witch of Essex, to move away the
massive shelves that held the books he loved, to pack up the tube
through which he used to study the silent stars, looking down at him
like the eyes of dumb creatures, with a kind of stupid half-
consciousness that did not worry him as did the eyes of men and
women,--and hardest of all to displace that sacred figure to which
his heart had always turned and found refuge, in the feelings it
inspired, from all the perplexities of his busy brain. It was hard,
but it had to be done.

And by-and-by we grew cheerful again, and the breakfast-table wore
something of its old look. The Koh-i-noor, as we named the
gentleman with the diamond, left us, however, soon after that
"little mill," as the young fellow John called it, where he came off
second best. His departure was no doubt hastened by a note from the
landlady's daughter, inclosing a lock of purple hair which she "had
valued as a pledge of affection, ere she knew the hollowness of the
vows he had breathed," speedily followed by another, inclosing the
landlady's bill. The next morning he was missing, as were his
limited wardrobe and the trunk that held it. Three empty bottles of
Mrs. Allen's celebrated preparation, each of them asserting, on its
word of honor as a bottle, that its former contents were "not a
dye," were all that was left to us of the Koh-i-noor.

From this time forward, the landlady's daughter manifested a decided
improvement in her style of carrying herself before the boarders.
She abolished the odious little flat, gummy side-curl. She left off
various articles of "jewelry." She began to help her mother in some
of her household duties. She became a regular attendant on the
ministrations of a very worthy clergyman, having been attracted to
his meetin' by witnessing a marriage ceremony in which he called a
man and a woman a "gentleman" and a "lady,"--a stroke of gentility
which quite overcame her. She even took a part in what she called a
Sabbath school, though it was held on Sunday, and by no means on
Saturday, as the name she intended to utter implied. All this,
which was very sincere, as I believe, on her part, and attended with
a great improvement in her character, ended in her bringing home a
young man, with straight, sandy hair, brushed so as to stand up
steeply above his forehead, wearing a pair of green spectacles, and
dressed in black broadcloth. His personal aspect, and a certain
solemnity of countenance, led me to think he must be a clergyman;
and as Master Benjamin Franklin blurted out before several of us
boarders, one day, that "Sis had got a beau," I was pleased at the
prospect of her becoming a minister's wife. On inquiry, however, I
found that the somewhat solemn look which I had noticed was indeed a
professional one, but not clerical. He was a young undertaker, who
had just succeeded to a thriving business. Things, I believe, are
going on well at this time of writing, and I am glad for the
landlady's daughter and her mother. Sextons and undertakers are the
cheerfullest people in the world at home, as comedians and circus-
clowns are the most melancholy in their domestic circle.

As our old boarding-house is still in existence, I do not feel at
liberty to give too minute a statement of the present condition of
each and all of its inmates. I am happy to say, however, that they
are all alive and well, up to this time. That amiable old gentleman
who sat opposite to me is growing older, as old men will, but still
smiles benignantly on all the boarders, and has come to be a kind of
father to all of them,--so that on his birthday there is always
something like a family festival. The Poor Relation, even, has
warmed into a filial feeling towards him, and on his last birthday
made him a beautiful present, namely, a very handsomely bound copy
of Blair's celebrated poem, "The Grave."

The young man John is still, as he says, "in fustrate fettle." I
saw him spar, not long since, at a private exhibition, and do
himself great credit in a set-to with Henry Finnegass, Esq., a
professional gentleman of celebrity. I am pleased to say that he
has been promoted to an upper clerkship, and, in consequence of his
rise in office, has taken an apartment somewhat lower down than
number "forty-'leven," as he facetiously called his attic. Whether
there is any truth, or not, in the story of his attachment to, and
favorable reception by, the daughter of the head of an extensive
wholesale grocer's establishment, I will not venture an opinion; I
may say, however, that I have met him repeatedly in company with a
very well-nourished and high-colored young lady, who, I understand,
is the daughter of the house in question.

Some of the boarders were of opinion that Iris did not return the
undisguised attentions of the handsome young Marylander. Instead of
fixing her eyes steadily on him, as she used to look upon the Little
Gentleman, she would turn them away, as if to avoid his own. They
often went to church together, it is true; but nobody, of course,
supposes there is any relation between religious sympathy and those
wretched "sentimental" movements of the human heart upon which it is
commonly agreed that nothing better is based than society,
civilization, friendship, the relation of husband and wife, and of
parent and child, and which many people must think were singularly
overrated by the Teacher of Nazareth, whose whole life, as I said
before, was full of sentiment, loving this or that young man,
pardoning this or that sinner, weeping over the dead, mourning for
the doomed city, blessing, and perhaps kissing, the little children,
so that the Gospels are still cried over almost as often as the last
work of fiction!

But one fine June morning there rumbled up to the door of our
boarding-house a hack containing a lady inside and a trunk on the
outside. It was our friend the lady-patroness of Miss Iris, the
same who had been called by her admiring pastor "The Model of all
the Virtues." Once a week she had written a letter, in a rather
formal hand, but full of good advice, to her young charge. And now
she had come to carry her away, thinking that she had learned all
she was likely to learn under her present course of teaching. The
Model, however, was to stay awhile,--a week, or more,--before they
should leave together.

Iris was obedient, as she was bound to be. She was respectful,
grateful, as a child is with a just, but not tender parent. Yet
something was wrong. She had one of her trances, and became statue-
like, as before, only the day after the Model's arrival. She was
wan and silent, tasted nothing at table, smiled as if by a forced
effort, and often looked vaguely away from those who were looking at
her, her eyes just glazed with the shining moisture of a tear that
must not be allowed to gather and fall. Was it grief at parting
from the place where her strange friendship had grown up with the
Little Gentleman? Yet she seemed to have become reconciled to his
loss, and rather to have a deep feeling of gratitude that she had
been permitted to care for him in his last weary days.

The Sunday after the Model's arrival, that lady had an attack of
headache, and was obliged to shut herself up in a darkened room
alone. Our two young friends took the opportunity to go together to
the Church of the Galileans. They said but little going,--
"collecting their thoughts" for the service, I devoutly hope. My
kind good friend the pastor preached that day one of his sermons
that make us all feel like brothers and sisters, and his text was
that affectionate one from John, "My little children, let us not
love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth." When
Iris and her friend came out of church, they were both pale, and
walked a space without speaking.

At last the young man said,--You and I are not little children,

She looked in his face an instant, as if startled, for there was
something strange in the tone of his voice. She smiled faintly, but
spoke never a word.

In deed and in truth, Iris,----

What shall a poor girl say or do, when a strong man falters in his
speech before her, and can do nothing better than hold out his hand
to finish his broken sentence?

The poor girl said nothing, but quietly laid her ungloved hand in
his,--the little soft white hand which had ministered so tenderly
and suffered so patiently.

The blood came back to the young man's cheeks, as he lifted it to
his lips, even as they walked there in the street, touched it gently
with them, and said, "It is mine!"

Iris did not contradict him.

The seasons pass by so rapidly, that I am startled to think how much
has happened since these events I was describing. Those two young
people would insist on having their own way about their own affairs,
notwithstanding the good lady, so justly called the Model, insisted
that the age of twenty-five years was as early as any discreet young
lady should think of incurring the responsibilities, etc., etc.
Long before Iris had reached that age, she was the wife of a young
Maryland engineer, directing some of the vast constructions of his
native State,--where he was growing rich fast enough to be able to
decline that famous Russian offer which would have made him a kind
of nabob in a few years. Iris does not write verse often, nowadays,
but she sometimes draws. The last sketch of hers I have seen in my
Southern visits was of two children, a boy and girl, the youngest
holding a silver goblet, like the one she held that evening when I--
I was so struck with her statue-like beauty. If in the later,
summer months you find the grass marked with footsteps around that
grave on Copp's Hill I told you of, and flowers scattered over it,
you may be sure that Iris is here on her annual visit to the home of
her childhood and that excellent lady whose only fault was, that
Nature had written out her list of virtues an ruled paper, and
forgotten to rub out the lines.

One thing more I must mention. Being on the Common, last Sunday, I
was attracted by the cheerful spectacle of a well-dressed and
somewhat youthful papa wheeling a very elegant little carriage
containing a stout baby. A buxom young lady watched them from one
of the stone seats, with an interest which could be nothing less
than maternal. I at once recognized my old friend, the young fellow
whom we called John. He was delighted to see me, introduced me to
"Madam," and would have the lusty infant out of the carriage, and
hold him up for me to look at.

Now, then,--he said to the two-year-old,--show the gentleman how you
hit from the shoulder. Whereupon the little imp pushed his fat fist
straight into my eye, to his father's intense satisfaction.

Fust-rate little chap,--said the papa.--Chip of the old block.
Regl'r little Johnny, you know.

I was so much pleased to find the young fellow settled in life, and
pushing about one of "them little articles" he had seemed to want so
much, that I took my "punishment" at the hands of the infant
pugilist with great equanimity.--And how is the old boarding-
house?--I asked.

A 1,--he answered.--Painted and papered as good as new. Gabs in
all the rooms up to the skyparlors. Old woman's layin' up money,
they say. Means to send Ben Franklin to college. Just then the
first bell rang for church, and my friend, who, I understand, has
become a most exemplary member of society, said he must be off to
get ready for meetin', and told the young one to "shake dada," which
he did with his closed fist, in a somewhat menacing manner. And so
the young man John, as we used to call him, took the pole of the
miniature carriage, and pushed the small pugilist before him
homewards, followed, in a somewhat leisurely way, by his pleasant-
looking lady-companion, and I sent a sigh and a smile after him.

That evening, as soon as it was dark, I could not help going round
by the old boarding-house. The "gahs" was lighted, but the
curtains, or more properly, the painted shades; were not down. And
so I stood there and looked in along the table where the boarders
sat at the evening meal,--our old breakfast-table, which some of us
feel as if we knew so well. There were new faces at it, but also
old and familiar ones.--The landlady, in a wonderfully smart cap,
looking young, comparatively speaking, and as if half the wrinkles
had been ironed out of her forehead.--Her daughter, in rather
dressy half-mourning, with a vast brooch of jet, got up, apparently,
to match the gentleman next her, who was in black costume and sandy
hair,--the last rising straight from his forehead, like the marble
flame one sometimes sees at the top of a funeral urn.--The Poor
Relation, not in absolute black, but in a stuff with specks of
white; as much as to say, that, if there were any more Hirams left
to sigh for her, there were pin-holes in the night of her despair,
through which a ray of hope might find its way to an adorer.
--Master Benjamin Franklin, grown taller of late, was in the act of
splitting his face open with a wedge of pie, so that his features
were seen to disadvantage for the moment.--The good old gentleman
was sitting still and thoughtful. All at once he turned his face
toward the window where I stood, and, just as if he had seen me,
smiled his benignant smile. It was a recollection of some past
pleasant moment; but it fell upon me like the blessing of a father.

I kissed my hand to them all, unseen as I stood in the outer
darkness; and as I turned and went my way, the table and all around
it faded into the realm of twilight shadows and of midnight dreams.


And so my year's record is finished. The Professor has talked less
than his predecessor, but he has heard and seen more. Thanks to all
those friends who from time to time have sent their messages of
kindly recognition and fellow-feeling! Peace to all such as may
have been vexed in spirit by any utterance these pages have
repeated! They will, doubtless, forget for the moment the
difference in the hues of truth we look at through our human prisms,
and join in singing (inwardly) this hymn to the Source of the light
we all need to lead us, and the warmth which alone can make us all


Lord of all being! throned afar,
Thy glory flames from sun and star,
Centre and soul of every sphere,
Yet to each loving heart how near!

Sun of our life, thy quickening ray
Sheds on our path the glow of day;
Star of our hope, thy softened light
Cheers the long watches of the night.

Our midnight is thy smile withdrawn;
Our noontide is thy gracious dawn;
Our rainbow arch thy mercy's sign;
All, save the clouds of sin, are thine!

Lord of all life, below, above,
Whose light is truth, whose warmth is love,
Before thy ever-blazing throne
We ask no lustre of our own.

Grant us thy truth to make us free,
And kindling hearts that burn for thee,
Till all thy living altars claim
One holy light, one heavenly flame.


by Oliver Wendell Holmes


In this, the third series of Breakfast-Table conversations, a slight
dramatic background shows off a few talkers and writers, aided by
certain silent supernumeraries. The machinery is much like that of
the two preceding series. Some of the characters must seem like old
acquaintances to those who have read the former papers. As I read
these over for the first time for a number of years, I notice one
character; presenting a class of beings who have greatly multiplied
during the interval which separates the earlier and later
Breakfast-Table papers,--I mean the scientific specialists. The
entomologist, who confines himself rigidly to the study of the
coleoptera, is intended to typify this class. The subdivision of
labor, which, as we used to be told, required fourteen different
workmen to make a single pin, has reached all branches of knowledge.
We find new terms in all the Professions, implying that special
provinces have been marked off, each having its own school of
students. In theology we have many curious subdivisions; among the
rest eschatology, that is to say, the geography, geology, etc., of
the "undiscovered country;" in medicine, if the surgeon who deals
with dislocations of the right shoulder declines to meddle with a
displacement on the other side, we are not surprised, but ring the
bell of the practitioner who devotes himself to injuries of the left

On the other hand, we have had or have the encyclopaedic
intelligences like Cuvier, Buckle, and more emphatically Herbert
Spencer, who take all knowledge, or large fields of it, to be their
province. The author of "Thoughts on the Universe" has something in
common with these, but he appears also to have a good deal about him
of what we call the humorist; that is, an individual with a somewhat
heterogeneous personality, in which various distinctly human elements
are mixed together, so as to form a kind of coherent and sometimes
pleasing whole, which is to a symmetrical character as a breccia is
to a mosaic.

As for the Young Astronomer, his rhythmical discourse may be taken as
expressing the reaction of what some would call "the natural man"
against the unnatural beliefs which he found in that lower world to
which be descended by day from his midnight home in the firmament.

I have endeavored to give fair play to the protest of gentle and
reverential conservatism in the letter of the Lady, which was not
copied from, but suggested by, one which I received long ago from a
lady bearing an honored name, and which I read thoughtfully and with
profound respect.

December, 1882.


It is now nearly twenty years since this book was published. Being
the third of the Breakfast-Table series, it could hardly be expected
to attract so much attention as the earlier volumes. Still, I had no
reason to be disappointed with its reception. It took its place with
the others, and was in some points a clearer exposition of my views
and feelings than either of the other books, its predecessors. The
poems "Homesick in Heaven" and the longer group of passages coming
from the midnight reveries of the Young Astronomer have thoughts in
them not so fully expressed elsewhere in my writings.

The first of these two poems is at war with our common modes of
thought. In looking forward to rejoining in a future state those
whom we have loved on earth,--as most of us hope and many of us
believe we shall,--we are apt to forget that the same individuality
is remembered by one relative as a babe, by another as an adult in
the strength of maturity, and by a third as a wreck with little left
except its infirmities and its affections. The main thought of this
poem is a painful one to some persons. They have so closely
associated life with its accidents that they expect to see their
departed friends in the costume of the time in which they best
remember them, and feel as if they should meet the spirit of their
grandfather with his wig and cane, as they habitually recall him to

The process of scientific specialization referred to and illustrated
in this record has been going on more actively than ever during these
last twenty years. We have only to look over the lists of the
Faculties and teachers of our Universities to see the subdivision of
labor carried out as never before. The movement is irresistible; it
brings with it exactness, exhaustive knowledge, a narrow but complete
self-satisfaction, with such accompanying faults as pedantry,
triviality, and the kind of partial blindness which belong to
intellectual myopia. The specialist is idealized almost into
sublimity in Browning's "Burial of the Grammarian." We never need
fear that he will undervalue himself. To be the supreme authority on
anything is a satisfaction to self-love next door to the precious
delusions of dementia. I have never pictured a character more
contented with himself than the "Scarabee" of this story.

BEVERLY FARMS, MASS., August 1, 1891.

O. W. H.



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