The Complete PG Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Physician and Poet)
Part 34 out of 51
MURRAY BRADSHAW PLAYS HIS LAST CARD.
"How can I see that man this evening, Mr. Lindsay?"
"May I not be Clement, dearest? I would not see him at all, Myrtle.
I don't believe you will find much pleasure in listening to his fine
"I cannot endure it.--Kitty, tell him I am engaged, and cannot see
him this evening. No, no! don't say engaged, say very much
Kitty departed, communing with herself in this wise:--" Ockipied, is
it? An' that's what ye cahl it when ye 're kapin' company with one
young gintleman an' don't want another young gintleman to come in an'
help the two of ye? Ye won't get y'r pigs to market to-day, Mr.
Bridshaw, no, nor to-morrow, nayther, Mr. Bridshaw. It's Mrs.
Lindsay that Miss Myrtle is goin' to be,--an' a big cake there'll be
at the weddin' frosted all over,--won't ye be plased with a slice o'
that, Mr. Bridshaw?"
With these reflections in her mind, Mistress Kitty delivered her
message, not without a gleam of malicious intelligence in her look
that stung Mr. Bradshaw sharply. He had noticed a hat in the entry,
and a little stick by it which he remembered well as one he had seen
carried by Clement Lindsay. But he was used to concealing his
emotions, and he greeted the two older ladies who presently came into
the library so pleasantly, that no one who had not studied his face
long and carefully would have suspected the bitterness of heart that
lay hidden far down beneath his deceptive smile. He told Miss
Silence, with much apparent interest, the story of his journey. He
gave her an account of the progress of the case in which the estate
of which she inherited the principal portion was interested. He did
not tell her that a final decision which would settle the right to
the great claim might be expected at any moment, and he did not tell
her that there was very little doubt that it would be in favor of the
heirs of Malachi Withers. He was very sorry he could not see Miss
Hazard that evening,--hoped he should be more fortunate to-morrow
forenoon, when he intended to call again,--had a message for her from
one of her former school friends, which he was anxious to give her.
He exchanged certain looks and hints with Miss Cynthia, which led her
to withdraw and bring down the papers he had entrusted to her. At
the close of his visit, she followed him into the entry with a lamp,
as was her common custom.
"What's the meaning of all this, Cynthia? Is that fellow making love
"I'm afraid so, Mr. Bradshaw. He's been here several times, and they
seem to be getting intimate. I couldn't do anything to stop it."
"Give me the papers,--quick!"
Cynthia pulled the package from her pocket. Murray Bradshaw looked
sharply at it. A little crumpled,--crowded into her pocket. Seal
unbroken. All safe.
"I shall come again to-morrow forenoon. Another day and it will be
all up. The decision of the court will be known. It won't be my
fault if one visit is not enough.--You don't suppose Myrtle is in
love with this fellow?"
"She acts as--if she might be. You know he's broke with Susan Posey,
and there's nothing to hinder. If you ask my opinion, I think it's
your last chance: she is n't a girl to half do things, and if she has
taken to this man it will be hard to make her change her mind. But
she's young, and she has had a liking for you, and if you manage it
well there's no telling."
Two notes passed between Myrtle Hazard and Master Byles Gridley that
evening. Mistress Kitty Fagan, who had kept her ears pretty wide
open, carried them.
Murray Bradshaw went home in a very desperate state of feeling. He
had laid his plans, as he thought, with perfect skill, and the
certainty of their securing their end. These papers were to have
been taken from the envelope, and found in the garret just at the
right moment, either by Cynthia herself or one of the other members
of the family, who was to be led on, as it were accidentally, to the
discovery. The right moment must be close at hand. He was to offer
his hand--and heart, of course--to Myrtle, and it was to be accepted.
As soon as the decision of the land case was made known, or not long
afterwards, there was to be a search in the garret for papers, and
these were to be discovered in a certain dusty recess, where, of
course, they would have been placed by Miss Cynthia.
And now the one condition which gave any value to these arrangements
seemed like to fail. This obscure youth--this poor fool, who had
been on the point of marrying a simpleton to whom he had made a
boyish promise--was coming between him and the object of his long
pursuit,--the woman who had every attraction to draw him to herself.
It had been a matter of pride with Murray Bradshaw that he never lost
his temper so as to interfere with the precise course of action which
his cool judgment approved; but now he was almost beside himself with
passion. His labors, as he believed, had secured the favorable issue
of the great case so long pending. He had followed Myrtle through
her whole career, if not as her avowed lover, at least as one whose
friendship promised to flower in love in due season. The moment had
come when the scene and the characters in this village drama were to
undergo a change as sudden and as brilliant as is seen in those fairy
spectacles where the dark background changes to a golden palace and
the sober dresses are replaced by robes of regal splendor. The
change was fast approaching; but he, the enchanter, as he had thought
himself, found his wand broken, and his power given to another.
He could not sleep during that night. He paced his room, a prey to
jealousy and envy and rage, which his calm temperament had kept him
from feeling in their intensity up to this miserable hour. He
thought of all that a maddened nature can imagine to deaden its own
intolerable anguish. Of revenge. If Myrtle rejected his suit,
should he take her life on the spot, that she might never be
another's,--that neither man nor woman should ever triumph over him,
--the proud ambitious man, defeated, humbled, scorned? No! that was
a meanness of egotism which only the most vulgar souls could be
capable of. Should he challenge her lover? It was not the way of
the people and time, and ended in absurd complications, if anybody
was foolish enough to try it. Shoot him? The idea floated through
his mind, for he thought of everything; but he was a lawyer, and not
a fool, and had no idea of figuring in court as a criminal. Besides,
he was not a murderer,--cunning was his natural weapon, not violence.
He had a certain admiration of desperate crime in others, as showing
nerve and force, but he did not feel it to be his own style of doing
During the night he made every arrangement for leaving the village
the next day, in case he failed to make any impression on Myrtle
Hazard and found that his chance was gone. He wrote a letter to his
partner, telling him that he had left to join one of the regiments
forming in the city. He adjusted all his business matters so that
his partner should find as little trouble as possible. A little
before dawn he threw himself on the bed, but he could not sleep; and
he rose at sunrise, and finished his preparations for his departure
to the city.
The morning dragged along slowly. He could not go to the office, not
wishing to meet his partner again. After breakfast he dressed
himself with great care, for he meant to show himself in the best
possible aspect. Just before he left the house to go to The Poplars,
he took the sealed package from his trunk, broke open the envelope,
took from it a single paper,--it had some spots on it which
distinguished it from all the rest,--put it separately in his pocket,
and then the envelope containing the other papers. The calm smile be
wore on his features as he set forth cost him a greater effort than
he had ever made before to put it on. He was moulding his face to
the look with which he meant to present himself; and the muscles had
been sternly fixed so long that it was a task to bring them to their
habitual expression in company,--that of ingenuous good-nature.
He was shown into the parlor at The Poplars; and Kitty told Myrtle
that he had called and inquired for her and was waiting down stairs.
"Tell him I will be down presently," she said. "And, Kitty, now mind
just what I tell you. Leave your kitchen door open, so that you can
hear anything fall in the parlor. If you hear a book fall,--it will
be a heavy one, and will make some noise,--run straight up here to my
little chamber, and hang this red scarf out of the window. The left-
hand side-sash, mind, so that anybody can see it from the road. If
Mr. Gridley calls, show him into the parlor, no matter who is there."
Kitty Fagan looked amazingly intelligent, and promised that she would
do exactly as she was told. Myrtle followed her down stairs almost
immediately, and went into the parlor, where Mr. Bradshaw was
Never in his calmest moments had he worn a more insinuating smile on
his features than that with which he now greeted Myrtle. So gentle,
so gracious, so full of trust, such a completely natural expression
of a kind, genial character did it seem, that to any but an expert it
would have appeared impossible that such an effect could be produced
by the skilful balancing of half a dozen pairs of little muscles that
manage the lips and the corners of the mouth. The tones of his voice
were subdued into accord with the look of his features; his whole
manner was fascinating, as far as any conscious effort could make it
so. It was just one of those artificially pleasing effects that so
often pass with such as have little experience of life for the
genuine expression of character and feeling. But Myrtle had learned
the look that shapes itself on the features of one who loves with a
love that seeketh not its own, and she knew the difference between
acting and reality. She met his insinuating approach with a courtesy
so carefully ordered that it was of itself a sentence without appeal.
Artful persons often interpret sincere ones by their own standard.
Murray Bradshaw thought little of this somewhat formal address,--a
few minutes would break this thin film to pieces. He was not only a
suitor with a prize to gain, he was a colloquial artist about to
employ all the resources of his specialty.
He introduced the conversation in the most natural and easy way, by
giving her the message from a former school-mate to which he had
referred, coloring it so delicately, as he delivered it, that it
became an innocent-looking flattery. Myrtle found herself in a rose-
colored atmosphere, not from Murray Bradshaw's admiration, as it
seemed, but only reflected by his mind from another source. That was
one of his arts, always, if possible, to associate himself
incidentally, as it appeared, and unavoidably, with an agreeable
So Myrtle was betrayed into smiling and being pleased before he had
said a word about himself or his affairs. Then he told her of the
adventures and labors of his late expedition; of certain evidence
which at the very last moment he had unearthed, and which was very
probably the turning-point in the case. He could not help feeling
that she must eventually reap some benefit from the good fortune with
which his efforts had been attended. The thought that it might yet
be so had been a great source of encouragement to him,--it would
always be a great happiness to him to remember that he had done
anything to make her happy.
Myrtle was very glad that he had been so far successful,--she did not
know that it made much difference to her, but she was obliged to him
for the desire of serving her that he had expressed.
"My services are always yours, Miss Hazard. There is no sacrifice I
would not willingly make for your benefit. I have never had but one
feeling toward you. You cannot be ignorant of what that feeling is."
"I know, Mr. Bradshaw, it has been one of kindness. I have to thank
you for many friendly attentions, for which I hope I have never been
"Kindness is not all that I feel towards you, Miss Hazard. If that
were all, my lips would not tremble as they do now in telling you my
feelings.--I love you."
He sprang the great confession on Myrtle a little sooner than he had
meant. It was so hard to go on making phrases! Myrtle changed color
a little, for she was startled.
The seemingly involuntary movement she made brought her arm against a
large dictionary, which lay very near the edge of the table on which
it was resting. The book fell with a loud noise to the floor.
There it lay. The young man awaited her answer; he did not think of
polite forms at such a moment.
"It cannot be, Mr. Bradshaw,--it must not be. I have known you long,
and I am not ignorant of all your brilliant qualities, but you must
not speak to me of love. Your regard,--your friendly interest, tell
me that I shall always have these, but do not distress me with
offering more than these."
"I do not ask you to give me your love in return; I only ask you not
to bid me despair. Let me believe that the time may come' when you
will listen to me,--no matter how distant. You are young,--you have
a tender heart,--you would not doom one who only lives for you to
wretchedness,--so long that we have known each other. It cannot be
that any other has come between us--"
Myrtle blushed so deeply that there was no need of his finishing his
"Do you mean, Myrtle Hazard, that you have cast me aside for another?
--for this stranger--this artist--who was with you yesterday when I
came, bringing with me the story of all I had done for you, yes, for
you,--and was ignominiously refused the privilege of seeing you?"
Rage and jealousy had got the better of him this time. He rose as he
spoke, and looked upon her with such passion kindling in his eyes
that he seemed ready for any desperate act.
"I have thanked you for any services you may have rendered me, Mr.
Bradshaw," Myrtle answered, very calmly, "and I hope you will add one
more to them by sparing me this rude questioning. I wished to treat
you as a friend; I hope you will not render that impossible."
He had recovered himself for one more last effort. "I was impatient
overlook it, I beg you. I was thinking of all the happiness I have
labored to secure for you, and of the ruin to us both it would be if
you scornfully rejected the love I offer you,--if you refuse to leave
me any hope for the future,--if you insist on throwing yourself away
on this man, so lately pledged to another. I hold the key of all
your earthly fortunes in my hand. My love for you inspired me in all
that I have done, and, now that I come to lay the result of my labors
at your feet, you turn from me, and offer my reward to a stranger.
I do not ask you to say this day that you will be mine,--I would not
force your inclinations,--but I do ask you that you will hold
yourself free of all others, and listen to me as one who may yet be
more than a friend. Say so much as this, Myrtle, and you shall have
such a future as you never dreamed of. Fortune, position, all that
this world can give, shall be yours."
"Never! never! If you could offer me the whole world, or take away
from me all that the world can give, it would make no difference to
me. I cannot tell what power you hold over me, whether of life and
death, or of wealth and poverty; but after talking to me of love, I
should not have thought you would have wronged me by suggesting any
meaner motive. It is only because we have been on friendly terms so
long that I have listened to you as I have done. You have said more
than enough, and I beg you will allow me to put an end to this
She rose to leave the room. But Murray Bradshaw had gone too far to
control himself,--he listened only to the rage which blinded him.
"Not yet!" he said. "Stay one moment, and you shall know what your
pride and self-will have cost you!"
Myrtle stood, arrested, whether by fear, or curiosity, or the passive
subjection of her muscles to his imperious will, it would be hard to
Murray Bradshaw took out the spotted paper from his breast-pocket,
and held it up before her. "Look here!" he exclaimed. "This would
have made you rich,--it would have crowned you a queen in society,--
it would have given you all, and more than all, that you ever dreamed
of luxury, of splendor, of enjoyment; and I, who won it for you,
would have taught you how to make life yield every bliss it had in
store to your wishes. You reject my offer unconditionally?"
Myrtle expressed her negative only by a slight contemptuous movement.
Murray Bradshaw walked deliberately to the fireplace, and laid the
spotted paper upon the burning coals. It writhed and curled,
blackened, flamed, and in a moment was a cinder dropping into ashes.
He folded his arms, and stood looking at the wreck of Myrtle's
future, the work of his cruel hand. Strangely enough, Myrtle herself
was fascinated, as it were, by the apparent solemnity of this
mysterious sacrifice. She had kept her eyes steadily on him all the
time, and was still gazing at the altar on which her happiness had
been in some way offered up, when the door was opened by Kitty Fagan,
and Master Byles Gridley was ushered into the parlor.
"Too late, old man! "Murray Bradshaw exclaimed, in a hoarse and
savage voice, as he passed out of the room, and strode through the
entry and down the avenue. It was the last time the old gate of The
Poplars was to open or close for him. The same day he left the
village; and the next time his name was mentioned it was as an
officer in one of the regiments just raised and about marching to the
seat of war.
THE SPOTTED PAPER.
What Master Gridley may have said to Myrtle Hazard that served to
calm her after this exciting scene cannot now be recalled. That
Murray Bradshaw thought he was inflicting a deadly injury on her was
plain enough. That Master Gridley did succeed in convincing her that
no great harm had probably been done her is equally certain.
Like all bachelors who have lived a lonely life, Master Byles Gridley
had his habits, which nothing short of some terrestrial convulsion--
or perhaps, in his case, some instinct that drove him forth to help
somebody in trouble--could possibly derange. After his breakfast, he
always sat and read awhile,--the paper, if a new one came to hand, or
some pleasant old author,--if a little neglected by the world of
readers, he felt more at ease with him, and loved him all the better.
But on the morning after his interview with Myrtle Hazard, he had
received a letter which made him forget newspapers, old authors,
almost everything, for the moment. It was from the publisher with
whom he had had a conversation, it may be remembered, when he visited
the city, and was to this effect: That Our Firm propose to print and
stereotype the work originally published under the title of "Thoughts
on the Universe"; said work to be remodelled according to the plan
suggested by the Author, with the corrections, alterations,
omissions, and additions proposed by him; said work to be published
under the following title, to wit: ________ _________: said work to
be printed in 12mo, on paper of good quality, from new types, etc.,
etc., and for every copy thereof printed the author to receive, etc.,
Master Gridley sat as in a trance, reading this letter over and over,
to know if it could be really so. So it really was. His book had
disappeared from the market long ago, as the elm seeds that carpet
the ground and never germinate disappear. At last it had got a
certain value as a curiosity for book-hunters. Some one of them,
keener-eyed than the rest, had seen that there was a meaning and
virtue in this unsuccessful book, for which there was a new audience
educated since it had tried to breathe before its time. Out of this
had grown at last the publisher's proposal. It was too much: his
heart swelled with joy, and his eyes filled with tears.
How could he resist the temptation? He took down his own particular
copy of the book, which was yet to do him honor as its parent, and
began reading. As his eye fell on one paragraph after another, he
nodded approval of this sentiment or opinion, he shook his head as if
questioning whether this other were not to be modified or left out,
he condemned a third as being no longer true for him as when it was
written, and he sanctioned a fourth with his hearty approval. The
reader may like a few specimens from this early edition, now a
rarity. He shall have them, with Master Gridley's verbal comments.
The book, as its name implied, contained "Thoughts" rather than
consecutive trains of reasoning or continuous disquisitions. What he
read and remarked upon were a few of the more pointed statements
which stood out in the chapters he was turning over. The worth of
the book must not be judged by these almost random specimens.
"THE BEST THOUGHT, LIKE THE MOST PERFECT DIGESTION, IS DONE
UNCONSCIOUSLY.--Develop that.--Ideas at compound interest in the
mind.--Be aye sticking in an idea,--while you're sleeping it'll be
growing. Seed of a thought to-day,--flower to-morrow--next week--ten
years from now, etc.--Article by and by for the....
"CAN THE INFINITE BE SUPPOSED TO SHIFT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE
ULTIMATE DESTINY OF ANY CREATED THING TO THE FINITE? OUR THEOLOGIANS
PRETEND THAT IT CAN. I DOUBT.--Heretical. Stet.
"PROTESTANTISM MEANS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. BUT IT IS AFRAID OF ITS
OWN LOGIC.--Stet. No logical resting-place short of None of your
"THE SUPREME SELF-INDULGENCE IS TO SURRENDER THE WILL TO A SPIRITUAL
DIRECTOR.--Protestantism gave up a great luxury.--Did it though?
"ASIATIC MODES OF THOUGHT AND SPEECH DO NOT EXPRESS THE 'RELATIONS IN
WHICH THE AMERICAN FEELS HIM SELF TO STAND TO HIS SUPERIORS IN THIS
OR ANY OTHER SPHERE OF BEING. REPUBLICANISM MUST HAVE ITS OWN
RELIGIOUS PHRASEOLOGY, WHICH IS NOT THAT BORROWED FROM ORIENTAL
"IDOLS AND DOGMAS IN PLACE OF CHARACTER; PILLS AND THEORIES IN PLACE
OF WHOLESOME LIVING. SEE THE HISTORIES OF THEOLOGY AND MEDICINE
"'OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.' DO YOU MEAN TO SAY JEAN CHAUVIN,
'HEAVEN LIES ABOUT US IN OUR INFANCY'?
"WHY DO YOU COMPLAIN OF YOUR ORGANIZATION? YOUR SOUL WAS IN A HURRY,
AND MADE A RUSH FOR A BODY. THERE ARE PATIENT SPIRITS THAT HAVE
WAITED FROM ETERNITY, AND NEVER FOUND PARENTS FIT TO BE BORN OF.
--How do you know anything about all that? Dele.
"WHAT SWEET, SMOOTH VOICES THE NEGROES HAVE! A HUNDRED GENERATIONS
FED ON BANANAS.--COMPARE THEM WITH OUR APPLE-EATING WHITE FOLKS!--It
won't do. Bananas came from the West Indies.
"TO TELL A MAN'S TEMPERAMENT BY HIS HANDWRITING. SEE IF THE DOTS OF
HIS I'S RUN AHEAD OR NOT, AND IF THEY DO, HOW FAR.--I have tried
"MARRYING INTO SOME FAMILIES IS THE NEXT THING TO BEING CANONIZED.
--Not so true now as twenty or thirty years ago. As many bladders,
but more pins.
"FISH AND DANDIES ONLY KEEP ON ICE.--Who will take? Explain in note
how all warmth approaching blood heat spoils fops and flounders.
"FLYING IS A LOST ART AMONG MEN AND REPTILES. BATS FLY, AND MEN
OUGHT TO. TRY A LIGHT TURBINE. RISE A MILE STRAIGHT, FALL HALF A
MILE SLANTING,--RISE HALF A MILE STRAIGHT, FALL HALF A MILE SLANTING,
AND SO ON. OR SLANT UP AND SLANT DOWN.--Poh! You ain't such a fool
as to think that is new,--are you?
"Put in my telegraph project. Central station. Cables with
insulated wires running to it from different quarters of the city.
These form the centripetal system. From central station, wires to
all the livery stables, messenger stands, provision shops, etc., etc.
These form the centrifugal system. Any house may have a wire in the
nearest cable at small cost.
"DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED AFTER THE CONTINENTS HAVE GONE UNDER,
AND COME UP AGAIN, AND DRIED, AND BRED NEW RACES? HAVE YOUR NAME
STAMPED ON ALL YOUR PLATES AND CUPS AND SAUCERS. NOTHING OF YOU OR
YOURS WILL LAST LIKE THOSE. I NEVER SIT DOWN AT MY TABLE WITHOUT
LOOKING AT THE CHINA SERVICE, AND SAYING, 'HERE ARE MY MONUMENTS.
THAT BUTTER-DISH IS MY URN. THIS SOUP-PLATE IS MY MEMORIAL TABLET.'
NO NEED OF A SKELETON AT MY BANQUETS! I FEED FROM MY TOMBSTONE AND
READ MY EPITAPH AT THE BOTTOM OF EVERY TEACUP.--Good."
He fell into a revery as he finished reading this last sentence. He
thought of the dim and dread future,--all the changes that it would
bring to him, to all the living, to the face of the globe, to the
order of earthly things. He saw men of a new race, alien to all that
had ever lived, excavating with strange, vast engines the old
ocean-bed now become habitable land. And as the great scoops turned
out the earth they had fetched up from the unexplored depths, a relic
of a former simple civilization revealed the fact that here a tribe
of human beings had lived and perished.--Only the coffee-cup he had
in his hand half an hour ago.--Where would he be then? and Mrs.
Hopkins, and Gifted, and Susan, and everybody? and President
Buchanan? and the Boston State-House? and Broadway?--O Lord, Lord,
Lord! And the sun perceptibly smaller, according to the astronomers,
and the earth cooled down a number of degrees, and inconceivable arts
practised by men of a type yet undreamed of, and all the fighting
creeds merged in one great universal
A knock at his door interrupted his revery. Miss Susan Posey
informed him that a gentleman was waiting below who wished to see
"Show him up to my study, Susan Posey, if you please," said Master
Mr. Penhallow presented himself at Mr. Gridley's door with a
countenance expressive of a very high state of excitement.
"You have heard the news, Mr. Gridley, I suppose?"
"What news, Mr. Penhallow?"
"First, that my partner has left very unexpectedly to enlist in a
regiment just forming. Second, that the great land case is decided
in favor of the heirs of the late Malachi Withers."
"Your partner must have known about it yesterday?"
"He did, even before I knew it. He thought himself possessed of a
very important document, as you know, of which he has made, or means
to make, some use. You are aware of the artifice I employed to
prevent any possible evil consequences from any action of his.
I have the genuine document, of course. I wish you to go over with
me to The Poplars, and I should be glad to have good old Father
Pemberton go with us; for it is a serious matter, and will be a great
surprise to more than one of the family."
They walked together to the old house, where the old clergyman had
lived for more than half a century. He was used to being neglected
by the people who ran after his younger colleague; and the attention
paid him in asking him to be present on an important occasion, as he
understood this to be, pleased him greatly. He smoothed his long
white locks, and called a grand-daughter to help make him look fitly
for such an occasion, and, being at last got into his grandest Sunday
aspect, took his faithful staff, and set out with the two gentlemen
for The Poplars. On the way, Mr. Penhallow explained to him the
occasion of their visit, and the general character of the facts he
had to announce. He wished the venerable minister to prepare Miss
Silence Withers for a revelation which would materially change her
future prospects. He thought it might be well, also, if he would say
a few words to Myrtle Hazard, for whom a new life, with new and
untried temptations, was about to open. His business was, as a
lawyer, to make known to these parties the facts just come to his own
knowledge affecting their interests. He had asked Mr. Gridley to go
with him, as having intimate relations with one of the parties
referred to, and as having been the principal agent in securing to
that party the advantages which were to accrue to her from the new
turn of events. "You are a second parent to her, Mr. Gridley," he
said. "Your vigilance, your shrewdness, and your-spectacles have
saved her. I hope she knows the full extent of her obligations to
you, and that she will always look to you for counsel in all her
needs. She will want a wise friend, for she is to begin the world
What had happened, when she saw the three grave gentlemen at the door
early in the forenoon, Mistress Kitty Fagan could not guess.
Something relating to Miss Myrtle, no doubt: she wasn't goin' to be
married right off to Mr. Clement,--was she,--and no church, nor cake,
nor anything? The gentlemen were shown into the parlor. "Ask Miss
Withers to go into the library, Kitty," said Master Gridley.
"Dr. Pemberton wishes to speak with her." The good old man was
prepared for a scene with Miss Silence. He announced to her, in a
kind and delicate way, that she must make up her mind to the
disappointment of certain expectations which she had long
entertained, and which, as her lawyer, Mr. Penhallow, had come to
inform her and others, were to be finally relinquished from this
To his great surprise, Miss Silence received this communication
almost cheerfully. It seemed more like a relief to her than anything
else. Her one dread in this world was her "responsibility "; and the
thought that she might have to account for ten talents hereafter,
instead of one, had often of late been a positive distress to her.
There was also in her mind a secret disgust at the thought of the
hungry creatures who would swarm round her if she should ever be in a
position to bestow patronage. This had grown upon her as the habits
of lonely life gave her more and more of that fastidious dislike to
males in general, as such, which is not rare in maidens who have seen
the roses of more summers than politeness cares to mention.
Father Pemberton then asked if he could see Miss Myrtle Hazard a few
moments in the library before they went into the parlor, where they
were to meet Mr. Penhallow and Mr. Gridley, for the purpose of
receiving the lawyer's communication.
What change was this which Myrtle had undergone since love had
touched her heart, and her visions of worldly enjoyment had faded
before the thought of sharing and ennobling the life of one who was
worthy of her best affections,--of living for another, and of finding
her own noblest self in that divine office of woman? She had laid
aside the bracelet which she had so long worn as a kind of charm as
well as an ornament. One would have said her features had lost
something of that look of imperious beauty which had added to her
resemblance to the dead woman whose glowing portrait hung upon her
wall. And if it could be that, after so many generations, the blood
of her who had died for her faith could show in her descendants
veins, and the soul of that elect lady of her race look out from her
far-removed offspring's dark eyes, such a transfusion of the martyr's
life and spiritual being might well seem to manifest itself in Myrtle
The large-hearted old man forgot his scholastic theory of human
nature as he looked upon her face. He thought he saw in her the
dawning of that grace which some are born with; which some, like
Myrtle, only reach through many trials and dangers; which some seem
to show for a while and then lose; which too many never reach while
they wear the robes of earth, but which speaks of the kingdom of
heaven already begun in the heart of a child of earth. He told her
simply the story of the occurrences which had brought them together
in the old house, with the message the lawyer was to deliver to its
inmates. He wished to prepare her for what might have been too
sudden a surprise.
But Myrtle was not wholly unprepared for some such revelation. There
was little danger that any such announcement would throw her mind
from its balance after the inward conflict through which she had been
passing. For her lover had left her almost as soon as he had told
her the story of his passion, and the relation in which he stood to
her. He, too, had gone to answer his country's call to her children,
not driven away by crime and shame and despair, but quitting all--his
new-born happiness, the art in which he was an enthusiast, his
prospects of success and honor--to obey the higher command of duty.
War was to him, as to so many of the noble youth who went forth, only
organized barbarism, hateful but for the sacred cause which alone
redeemed it from the curse that blasted the first murderer. God only
knew the sacrifice such young men as he made.
How brief Myrtle's dream had been! She almost doubted, at some
moments, whether she would not awake from it, as from her other
visions, and find it all unreal. There was no need of fearing any
undue excitement of her mind after the alternations of feeling she
had just experienced. Nothing seemed of much moment to her which
could come from without,--her real world was within, and the light of
its day and the breath of its life came from her love, made holy by
the self-forgetfulness on both sides which was born with it.
Only one member of the household was in danger of finding the
excitement more than she could bear. Miss Cynthia knew that all
Murray Bradshaw's plans, in which he had taken care that she should
have a personal interest, had utterly failed. What he had done with
the means of revenge in his power,--if, indeed, they were still in
his power,--she did not know. She only knew that there had been a
terrible scene, and that he had gone, leaving it uncertain whether he
would ever return. It was with fear and trembling that she heard the
summons which went forth, that the whole family should meet in the
parlor to listen to a statement from Mr. Penhallow. They all
gathered as requested, and sat round the room, with the exception of
Mistress Kitty Fagan, who knew her place too well to be sittin' down
with the likes o' them, and stood with attentive ears in the doorway.
Mr. Penhallow then read from a printed paper the decision of the
Supreme Court in the land case so long pending, where the estate of
the late Malachi Withers was the claimant, against certain parties
pretending to hold under an ancient grant. The decision was in favor
of the estate.
"This gives a great property to the heirs," Mr. Penhallow remarked,
"and the question as to who these heirs are has to be opened. For
the will under which Silence Withers, sister of the deceased, has
inherited is dated some years previous to the decease, and it was not
very strange that a will of later date should be discovered. Such a
will has been discovered. It is the instrument I have here."
Myrtle Hazard opened her eyes very widely, for the paper Mr.
Penlallow held looked exactly like that which Murray Bradshaw had
burned, and, what was curious, had some spots on it just like some
she had noticed on that.
"This will," Mr. Penhallow said, "signed by witnesses dead or absent
from this place, makes a disposition of the testator's property in
some respects similar to that of the previous one, but with a single
change, which proves to be of very great importance."
Mr. Penhallow proceeded to read the will. The important change in
the disposition of the property was this: in case the land claim was
decided in favor of the estate, then, in addition to the small
provision made for Myrtle Hazard, the property so coming to the
estate should all go to her. There was no question about the
genuineness and the legal sufficiency of this instrument. Its date
was not very long after the preceding one, at a period when, as was
well known, he had almost given up the hope of gaining his case,
and when the property was of little value compared to that which it
had at present.
A long silence followed this reading. Then, to the surprise of all,
Miss Silence Withers rose, and went to Myrtle Hazard, and wished her
joy with every appearance of sincerity. She was relieved of a great
responsibility. Myrtle was young and could bear it better. She
hoped that her young relative would live long to enjoy the blessings
Providence had bestowed upon her, and to use them for the good of the
community, and especially the promotion of the education of deserving
youth. If some fitting person could be found to advise Myrtle, whose
affairs would require much care, it would be a great relief to her.
They all went up to Myrtle and congratulated her on her change of
fortune. Even Cynthia Badlam got out a phrase or two which passed
muster in the midst of the general excitement. As for Kitty Fagan,
she could not say a word, but caught Myrtle's hand and kissed it as
if it belonged to her own saint; and then, suddenly applying her
apron to her eyes, retreated from a scene which was too much for her,
in a state of complete mental beatitude and total bodily
Then Silence asked the old minister to make a prayer, and he
stretched his hands up to Heaven, and called down all the blessings
of Providence upon all the household, and especially upon this young
handmaiden, who was to be tried with prosperity, and would need all
aid from above to keep her from its dangers.
Then Mr. Penhallow asked Myrtle if she had any choice as to the
friend who should have charge of her affairs. Myrtle turned to
Master Byles Gridley, and said, "You have been my friend and
protector so far, will you continue to be so hereafter?"
Master Gridley tried very hard to begin a few words of thanks to her
for her preference, but finding his voice a little uncertain,
contented himself with pressing her hand and saying, "Most willingly,
my dear daughter!"
The same day the great news of Myrtle Hazard's accession to fortune
came out, the secret was told that she had promised herself in
marriage to Mr. Clement Lindsay. But her friends hardly knew how to
congratulate her on this last event. Her lover was gone, to risk his
life, not improbably to lose it, or to come home a wreck, crippled by
wounds, or worn out with disease.
Some of them wondered to see her so cheerful in such a moment of
trial. They could not know how the manly strength of Clement's
determination had nerved her for womanly endurance. They had not
learned that a great cause makes great souls, or reveals them to
themselves,--a lesson taught by so many noble examples in the times
that followed. Myrtle's only desire seemed to be to labor in some
way to help the soldiers and their families. She appeared to have
forgotten everything for this duty; she had no time for regrets, if
she were disposed to indulge them, and she hardly asked a question as
to the extent of the fortune which had fallen to her.
The next number of the "Banner and Oracle" contained two
announcements which she read with some interest when her attention
was called to them. They were as follows:
"A fair and accomplished daughter of this village comes, by the late
decision of the Supreme Court, into possession of a property
estimated at a million of dollars or more. It consists of a large
tract of land purchased many years ago by the late Malachi Withers,
now become of immense value by the growth of a city in its
neighborhood, the opening of mines, etc., etc. It is rumored that
the lovely and highly educated heiress has formed a connection
looking towards matrimony with a certain distinguished artist."
"Our distinguished young townsman, William Murray Bradshaw, Esq., has
been among the first to respond to the call of the country for
champions to defend her from traitors. We understand that he has
obtained a captaincy in the _th regiment, about to march to the
threatened seat of war. May victory perch on his banners!"
The two lovers, parted by their own self-sacrificing choice in the
very hour that promised to bring them so much happiness, labored for
the common cause during all the terrible years of warfare, one in the
camp and the field, the other in the not less needful work which the
good women carried on at home, or wherever their services were
needed. Clement--now Captain Lindsay--returned at the end of his
first campaign charged with a special office. Some months later,
after one of the great battles, he was sent home wounded. He wore
the leaf on his shoulder which entitled him to be called Major
Lindsay. He recovered from his wound only too rapidly, for Myrtle
had visited him daily in the military hospital where he had resided
for treatment; and it was bitter parting. The telegraph wires were
thrilling almost hourly with messages of death, and the long pine
boxes came by almost every train,--no need of asking what they held.
Once more he came, detailed on special duty, and this time with the
eagle on his shoulder,--he was Colonel Lindsay. The lovers could not
part again of their own free will. Some adventurous women had
followed their husbands to the camp, and Myrtle looked as if she
could play the part of the Maid of Saragossa on occasion. So Clement
asked her if she would return with him as his wife; and Myrtle
answered, with as much willingness to submit as a maiden might fairly
show under such circumstances, that she would do his bidding.
Thereupon, with the shortest possible legal notice, Father Pemberton
was sent for, and the ceremony was performed in the presence of a few
witnesses in the large parlor at The Poplars, which was adorned with
flowers, and hung round with all the portraits of the dead members of
the family, summoned as witnesses to the celebration. One witness
looked on with unmoved features, yet Myrtle thought there was a more
heavenly smile on her faded lips than she had ever seen before
beaming from the canvas,--it was Ann Holyoake, the martyr to her
faith, the guardian spirit of Myrtle's visions, who seemed to breathe
a holier benediction than any words--even those of the good old
Father Pemberton himself--could convey.
They went back together to the camp. From that period until the end
of the war, Myrtle passed her time between the life of the tent and
that of the hospital. In the offices of mercy which she performed
for the sick and the wounded and the dying, the dross of her nature
seemed to be burned away. The conflict of mingled lives in her blood
had ceased. No lawless impulses usurped the place of that serene
resolve which had grown strong by every exercise of its high
prerogative. If she had been called now to die for any worthy cause,
her race would have been ennobled by a second martyr, true to the
blood of her who died under the cruel Queen.
Many sad sights she saw in the great hospital where she passed some
months at intervals,--one never to be forgotten. An officer was
brought into the ward where she was in attendance. "Shot through the
lungs,--pretty nearly gone."
She went softly to his bedside. He was breathing with great
difficulty; his face was almost convulsed with the effort, but she
recognized him in a moment; it was Murray Bradshaw,--Captain
Bradshaw, as she knew by the bars on his coat flung upon the bed
where he had just been laid.
She addressed him by name, tenderly as if he had been a dear brother;
she saw on his face that hers were to be the last kind words he would
He turned his glazing eyes upon her. "Who are you?" he said in a
"An old friend," she answered; "you knew me as Myrtle Hazard."
He started. "You by my bedside! You caring for me!--for me, that
burned the title to your fortune to ashes before your eyes! You
can't forgive that,--I won't believe it! Don't you hate me, dying as
Myrtle was used to maintaining a perfect calmness of voice and
countenance, and she held her feelings firmly down. "I have nothing
to forgive you, Mr. Bradshaw. You may have meant to do me wrong, but
Providence raised up a protector for me. The paper you burned was
not the original,--it was a copy substituted for it--"
"And did the old man outwit me after all?" he cried out, rising
suddenly in bed, and clasping his hands behind his head to give him a
few more gasps of breath. "I knew he was cunning, but I thought I
was his match. It must have been Byles Gridley,--nobody else. And
so the old man beat me after all, and saved you from ruin! Thank God
that it came out so! Thank God! I can die now. Give me your hand,
She took his hand, and held it until it gently loosed its hold, and
he ceased to breathe. Myrtle's creed was a simple one, with more of
trust and love in it than of systematized articles of belief. She
cherished the fond hope that these last words of one who had erred so
miserably were a token of some blessed change which the influences of
the better world might carry onward until he should have outgrown the
sins and the weaknesses of his earthly career.
Soon after this she rejoined her husband in the camp. From time to
time they received stray copies of the "Banner and Oracle," which, to
Myrtle especially, were full of interest, even to the last
advertisement. A few paragraphs may be reproduced here which relate
to persons who have figured in this narrative.
"TEMPLE OF HYMEN.
"Married, on the 6th instant, Fordyce Hurlbut, M. D., to Olive, only
daughter of the Rev. Ambrose Eveleth. The editor of this paper
returns his acknowledgments for a bountiful slice of the wedding-
cake. May their shadows never be less!"
Not many weeks after this appeared the following:
"Died in this place, on the 28th instant, the venerable Lemuel
Hurlbut, M. D., at the great age of XCVI years.
"'With the ancient is wisdom, and in length of days understanding.'"
Myrtle recalled his kind care of her in her illness, and paid the
tribute of a sigh to his memory,--there was nothing in a death like
his to call for any aching regret.
The usual routine of small occurrences was duly recorded in the
village paper for some weeks longer, when she was startled and
shocked by receiving a number containing the following paragraph:
"It is known to our readers that the steeple of the old meeting-house
was struck by lightning about a month ago. The frame of the building
was a good deal jarred by the shock, but no danger was apprehended
from the injury it had received. On Sunday last the congregation
came together as usual. The Rev. Mr. Stoker was alone m the pulpit,
the Rev. Doctor Pemberton having been detained by slight
indisposition. The sermon was from the text, "The wolf also shall
dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid."
(Isaiah xi. 6.) The pastor described the millennium as--the reign of
love and peace, in eloquent and impressive language. He was in the
midst of the prayer which follows the sermon, and had jest put up a
petition that the spirit of affection and faith and trust might grow
up and prevail among the flock of which he was the shepherd, more
especially those dear lambs whom he gathered with his arm, and
carried in his bosom, when the old sounding-board, which had hung
safely for nearly a century,--loosened, no doubt by the bolt which
had fallen on the church,--broke from its fastenings, and fell with a
loud crash upon the pulpit, crushing the Rev. Mr. Stoker under its
ruins. The scene that followed beggars description. Cries and
shrieks resounded through the horse. Two or three young women
fainted entirely away. Mr. Penhallow, Deacon Rumrill, Gifted
Hopkins, Esq., and others, came forward immediately, and after much
effort succeeded in removing the wreck of the sounding-board, and
extricating their unfortunate pastor. He was not fatally injured, it
is hoped; but, sad to relate, he received such a violent blow upon
the spine of the back, that palsy of the lower extremities is like to
ensue. He is at present lying entirely helpless. Every attention is
paid to him by his affectionately devoted family."
Myrtle had hardly got over the pain which the reading of this
unfortunate occurrence gave her, when her eyes were gladdened by the
following pleasing piece of intelligence, contained in a subsequent
number of the village paper:
"The Reverend Doctor Pemberton performed the impressive rite of
baptism upon the first-born child of our distinguished townsman,
Gifted Hopkins, Esq., the Bard of Oxbow Village, and Mrs. Susan P.
Hopkins, his amiable and respected lady. The babe conducted himself
with singular propriety on this occasion. He received the Christian
name of Byron Tennyson Browning. May be prove worthy of his name and
The end of the war came at last, and found Colonel Lindsay among its
unharmed survivors. He returned with Myrtle to her native village,
and they established themselves, at the request of Miss Silence
Withers, in the old family mansion. Miss Cynthia, to whom Myrtle
made a generous allowance, had gone to live in a town not many miles
distant, where she had a kind of home on sufferance, as well as at
The Poplars. This was a convenience just then, because Nurse Byloe
was invited to stay with them for a month or two; and one nurse and
two single women under the same roof keep each other in a stew all
the time, as the old dame somewhat sharply remarked.
Master Byles Gridley had been appointed Myrtle's legal protector,
and, with the assistance of Mr. Penhallow, had brought the property
she inherited into a more manageable and productive form; so that,
when Clement began his fine studio behind the old mansion, he felt
that at least he could pursue his art, or arts, if he chose to give
himself to sculpture, without that dreadful hag, Necessity, standing
by him to pinch the features of all his ideals, and give them
something of her own likeness.
Silence Withers was more cheerful now that she had got rid of her
responsibility. She embellished her spare person a little more than
in former years. These young people looked so happy! Love was not
so unendurable, perhaps, after all. No woman need despair,--
especially if she has a house over her, and a snug little property.
A worthy man, a former missionary, of the best principles, but of a
slightly jocose and good-humored habit, thought that he could piece
his widowed years with the not insignificant, fraction of life left
to Miss Silence, to their mutual advantage. He came to the village,
therefore, where Father Pemberton was very glad to have him supply
the pulpit in the place of his unfortunate disabled colleague. The
courtship soon began, and was brisk enough; for the good man knew
there was no time to lose at his period of life,--or hers either, for
that matter. It was a rather odd specimen of love-making; for he was
constantly trying to subdue his features to a gravity which they were
not used to, and she was as constantly endeavoring to be as lively as
possible, with the innocent desire of pleasing her light-hearted
"Vieille fille fait jeune mariee." Silence was ten years younger as
a bride than she had seemed as a lone woman. One would have said she
had got out of the coach next to the hearse, and got into one some
half a dozen behind it,--where there is often good and reasonably
cheerful conversation going on about the virtues of the deceased, the
probable amount of his property, or the little slips he may have
committed, and where occasionally a subdued pleasantry at his expense
sets the four waistcoats shaking that were lifting with sighs a half-
hour ago in the house of mourning. But Miss Silence, that was,
thought that two families, with all the possible complications which
time might bring, would be better in separate establishments. She
therefore proposed selling The Poplars to Myrtle and her husband, and
removing to a house in the village, which would be large enough for
them, at least for the present. So the young folks bought the old
house, and paid a mighty good price for it; and enlarged it, and
beautified and glorified it, and one fine morning went together down
to the Widow Hopkins's, whose residence seemed in danger of being a
little crowded,--for Gifted lived there with his Susan,--and what had
happened might happen again,--and gave Master Byles Gridley a formal
and most persuasively worded invitation to come up and make his home
with them at The Poplars.
Now Master Gridley has been betrayed into palpable and undisguised
weakness at least once in the presence of this assembly, who are
looking upon him almost for the last time before they part from him,
and see his face no more. Let us not inquire too curiously, then,
how he received this kind proposition. It is enough, that, when he
found that a new study had been built on purpose for him, and a
sleeping-room attached to it so that he could live there without
disturbing anybody if he chose, he consented to remove there for a
while, and that he was there established amidst great rejoicing.
Cynthia Badlam had fallen of late into poor health. She found at
last that she was going; and as she had a little property of her
own,--as almost all poor relations have, only there is not enough of
it,--she was much exercised in her mind as to the final arrangements
to be made respecting its disposition. The Rev. Dr. Pemberton was
one day surprised by a message, that she wished to have an interview
with him. He rode over to the town in which she was residing, and
there had a long conversation with her upon this matter. When this
was settled, her mind seemed too be more at ease. She died with a
comfortable assurance that she was going to a better world, and with
a bitter conviction that it would be hard to find one that would
offer her a worse lot than being a poor relation in this.
Her little property was left to Rev. Eliphalet Pemberton and Jacob
Penhallow, Esq., to be by them employed for such charitable purposes
as they should elect, educational or other. Father Pemberton
preached an admirable funeral sermon, in which he praised her
virtues, known to this people among whom she had long lived, and
especially that crowning act by which she devoted all she had to
purposes of charity-and benevolence.
The old clergyman seemed to have renewed his youth since the
misfortune of his colleague had incapacitated him from labor. He
generally preached in the forenoon now, and to the great acceptance
of the people,--for the truth was that the honest minister who had
married Miss Silence was not young enough or good-looking enough to
be an object of personal attentions like the Rev. Joseph Bellamy
Stoker, and the old minister appeared to great advantage contrasted
with him in the pulpit. Poor Mr. Stoker was now helpless, faithfully
and tenderly waited upon by his own wife, who had regained her health
and strength,--in no small measure, perhaps, from the great need of
sympathy and active aid which her unfortunate husband now
experienced. It was an astonishment to herself when she found that
she who had so long been served was able to serve another. Some who
knew his errors thought his accident was a judgment; but others
believed that it was only a mercy in disguise,--it snatched him
roughly from his sin, but it opened his heart to gratitude towards
her whom his neglect could not alienate, and through gratitude to
repentance and better thoughts. Bathsheba had long ago promised
herself to Cyprian Eveleth; and, as he was about to become the rector
of a parish in the next town, the marriage was soon to take place.
How beautifully serene Master Byles Gridley's face was growing!
Clement loved to study its grand lines, which had so much strength
and fine humanity blended in them. He was so fascinated by their
noble expression that he sometimes seemed to forget himself, and
looked at him more like an artist taking his portrait than like an
admiring friend. He maintained that Master Gridley had a bigger bump
of benevolence and as large a one of cautiousness as the two people
most famous for the size of these organs on the phrenological chart
he showed him, and proved it, or nearly proved it, by careful
measurements of his head. Master Gridley laughed, and read him a
passage on the pseudo-sciences out of his book.
The disposal of Miss Cynthia's bequest was much discussed in the
village. Some wished the trustees would use it to lay the
foundations of a public library. Others thought it should be applied
for the relief of the families of soldiers who had fallen in the war.
Still another set would take it to build a monument to the memory of
those heroes. The trustees listened with the greatest candor to all
these gratuitous hints. It was, however, suggested, in a well-
written anonymous article which appeared in the village paper, that
it was desirable to follow the general lead of the testator's
apparent preference. The trustees were at liberty to do as they saw
fit; but, other things being equal, same educational object should be
If there were any orphan children in the place, it would seem to be
very proper to devote the moderate sum bequeathed to educating them.
The trustees recognized the justice of this suggestion. Why not
apply it to the instruction and maintenance of those two pretty and
promising children, virtually orphans, whom the charitable Mrs.
Hopkins had cared for so long without any recompense, and at a cost
which would soon become beyond her means? The good people of the
neighborhood accepted this as the best solution of the difficulty.
It was agreed upon at length by the trustees, that the Cynthia Badlam
Fund for Educational Purposes should be applied for the benefit of
the two foundlings, known as Isosceles and Helminthia Hopkins.
Master Bytes Gridley was greatly exercised about the two
"preposterous names," as he called them, which in a moment of
eccentric impulse he had given to these children of nature. He
ventured to hint as much to Mrs. Hopkins. The good dame was vastly
surprised. She thought they was about as pooty names as anybody had
had given 'em in the village. And they was so handy, spoke short,
Sossy and Minthy,--she never should know how to call 'em anything
"But my dear Mrs. Hopkins," Master Gridley urged, "if you knew the
meaning they have to the ears of scholars, you would see that I did
very wrong to apply such absurd names to my little fellow-creatures,
and that I am bound to rectify my error. More than that, my dear
madam, I mean to consult you as to the new names; and if we can fix
upon proper and pleasing ones, it is my intention to leave a pretty
legacy in my will to these interesting children."
"Mr. Gridley," said Mrs. Hopkins, "you're the best man I ever see, or
ever shall see, . . . except my poor dear Ammi . . . . I 'll
do jest as you say about that, or about anything else in all this
"Well, then, Mrs. Hopkins, what shall be the boy's name?"
"Byles Gridley Hopkins!" she answered instantly.
"Good Lord!" said Mr. Gridley, "think a minute, my dear madam. I
will not say one word,--only think a minute, and mention some name
that will not suggest quite so many winks and whispers."
She did think something less than a minute, and then said aloud,
"Abraham Lincoln Hopkins."
"Fifteen thousand children have been so christened during the past
year, on a moderate computation."
"Do think of some name yourself, Mr. Gridley; I shall like anything
that you like. To think of those dear babes having a fund--if that's
the right name--on purpose for 'em, and a promise of a legacy, I hope
they won't get that till they're a hundred year old!"
"What if we change Isosceles to Theodore, Mrs. Hopkins? That means
the gift of God, and the child has been a gift from Heaven, rather
than a burden."
Mrs. Hopkins seized her apron, and held it to her eyes. She was
weeping. "Theodore!" she said, "Theodore! My little brother's name,
that I buried when I was only eleven year old. Drownded. The
dearest little child that ever you see. I have got his little mug
with Theodore on it now. Kep' o' purpose. Our little Sossy shall
have it. Theodore P. Hopkins,--sha'n't it be, Mr. Gridley?"
"Well, if you say so; but why that P., Mrs. Hopkins? Theodore
Parker, is it?"
"Doesn't P. stand for Pemberton, and isn't Father Pemberton the best
man in the world--next to you, Mr. Gridley?"
"Well, well, Mrs. Hopkins, let it be so, if you are suited, I am.
Now about Helminthia; there can't be any doubt about what we ought to
call her,--surely the friend of orphans should be remembered in
naming one of the objects of her charity."
"Cynthia Badlam Fund Hopkins," said the good woman triumphantly,--"is
that what you mean?"
"Suppose we leave out one of the names,--four are too many. I think
the general opinion will be that Hehninthia should unite the names of
her two benefactresses,--Cynthia Badlam Hopkins."
"Why, law! Mr. Gridley, is n't that nice?--Minthy and Cynthy,--there
ain't but one letter of difference! Poor Cynthy would be pleased if
she could know that one of our babes was to be called after her. She
was dreadful fond of children."
On one of the sweetest Sundays that ever made Oxbow Village lovely,
the Rev. Dr. Eliphalet Pembertan was summoned to officiate at three
most interesting ceremonies,--a wedding and two christenings, one of
the latter a double one.
The first was celebrated at the house of the Rev. Mr. Stoker, between
the Rev. Cyprian Eveleth and Bathsheba, daughter of the first-named
clergyman. He could not be present on account of his great
infirmity, but the door of his chamber was left open that he might
hear the marriage service performed. The old, white-haired minister,
assisted, as the papers said, by the bridegroom's father, conducted
the ceremony according to the Episcopal form. When he came to those
solemn words in which the husband promises fidelity to the wife so
long as they both shall live, the nurse, who was watching, near the
poor father, saw him bury his face in his pillow, and heard him
murmur the words, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"
The christenings were both to take place at the same service, in the
old meeting-house. Colonel Clement Lindsay and Myrtle his wife came
in, and stout Nurse Byloe bore their sturdy infant in her arms. A
slip of paper was handed to the Reverend Doctor on which these words
were written:--"The name is Charles Hazard."
The solemn and touching rite was then performed; and Nurse Byloe
disappeared with the child, its forehead glistening with the dew of
Then, hand in hand, like the babes in the wood, marched up the
broad aisle--marshalled by Mrs. Hopkins in front, and Mrs. Gifted
Hopkins bringing up the rear--the two children hitherto known as
Isosceles and Helminthia. They had been well schooled, and, as the
mysterious and to them incomprehensible ceremony was enacted,
maintained the most stoical aspect of tranquillity. In Mrs.
Hopkins's words, "They looked like picters, and behaved like angels."
That evening, Sunday evening as it was, there was a quiet meeting of
some few friends at The Poplars. It was such a great occasion that
the Sabbatical rules, never strict about Sunday evening,--which was,
strictly speaking, secular time,--were relaxed. Father Pemberton was
there, and Master Byles Gridley, of course, and the Rev. Ambrose
Eveleth, with his son and his daughter-in-law, Bathsheba, and her
mother, now in comfortable health, aunt Silence and her husband,
Doctor Hurlbut and his wife (Olive Eveleth that was), Jacob
Penhallow, Esq., Mrs. Hopkins, her son and his wife (Susan Posey that
was), the senior deacon of the old church (the admirer of the great
Scott), the Editor-in-chief of the "Banner and Oracle," and in the
background Nurse Byloe and the privileged servant, Mistress Kitty
Fagan, with a few others whose names we need not mention.
The evening was made pleasant with sacred music, and the fatigues of
two long services repaired by such simple refections as would not
turn the holy day into a day of labor. A large paper copy of the new
edition of Byles Gridley's remarkable work was lying on the table.
He never looked so happy,--could anything fill his cup fuller? In
the course of the evening Clement spoke of the many trials through
which they had passed in common with vast numbers of their
countrymen, and some of those peculiar dangers which Myrtle had had
to encounter in the course of a life more eventful, and attended with
more risks, perhaps, than most of them imagined. But Myrtle, he
said, had always been specially cared for. He wished them to look
upon the semblance of that protecting spirit who had been faithful to
her in her gravest hours of trial and danger. If they would follow
him into one of the lesser apartments up stairs they would have an
opportunity to do so.
Myrtle wondered a little, but followed with the rest. They all
ascended to the little projecting chamber, through the window of
which her scarlet jacket caught the eyes of the boys paddling about
on the river in those early days when Cyprian Eveleth gave it the
name of the Fire-hang-bird's Nest.
The light fell softly but clearly on the dim and faded canvas from
which looked the saintly features of the martyred woman, whose
continued presence with her descendants was the old family legend.
But underneath it Myrtle was surprised to see a small table with some
closely covered object upon it. It was a mysterious arrangement,
made without any knowledge on her part.
"Now, then, Kitty!" Mr. Lindsay said.
Kitty Fagan, who had evidently been taught her part, stepped forward,
and removed the cloth which concealed the unknown object. It was a
lifelike marble bust of Master Byles Gridley.
"And this is what you have been working at so long,--is it, Clement?"
"Which is the image of your protector, Myrtle?", he answered,
Myrtle Hazard Lindsay walked up to the bust and kissed its marble
forehead, saying, "This is the face of my Guardian Angel."
A MORTAL ANTIPATHY
By Oliver Wendell Holmes
"A MORTAL ANTIPATHY" was a truly hazardous experiment. A very wise
and very distinguished physician who is as much at home in literature
as he is in science and the practice of medicine, wrote to me in
referring to this story: "I should have been afraid of my subject."
He did not explain himself, but I can easily understand that he felt
the improbability of the, physiological or pathological occurrence on
which the story is founded to be so great that the narrative could
hardly be rendered plausible. I felt the difficulty for myself as
well as for my readers, and it was only by recalling for our
consideration a series of extraordinary but well-authenticated facts
of somewhat similar character that I could hope to gain any serious
attention to so strange a narrative.
I need not recur to these wonderful stories. There is, however, one,
not to be found on record elsewhere, to which I would especially call
the reader's attention. It is that of the middle-aged man, who
assured me that he could never pass a tall hall clock without an
indefinable terror. While an infant in arms the heavy weight of one
of these tall clocks had fallen with aloud crash and produced an
impression on his nervous system which he had never got over.
The lasting effect of a shock received by the sense of sight or that
of hearing is conceivable enough.
But there is another sense, the nerves of which are in close relation
with the higher organs of consciousness. The strength of the
associations connected with the function of the first pair of nerves,
the olfactory, is familiar to most persons in their own experience
and as related by others. Now we know that every human being, as
well as every other living organism, carries its own distinguishing
atmosphere. If a man's friend does not know it, his dog does, and
can track him anywhere by it. This personal peculiarity varies with
the age and conditions of the individual. It may be agreeable or
otherwise, a source of attraction or repulsion, but its influence is
not less real, though far less obvious and less dominant, than in the
lower animals. It was an atmospheric impression of this nature which
associated itself with a terrible shock experienced by the infant
which became the subject of this story. The impression could not be
outgrown, but it might possibly be broken up by some sudden change in
the nervous system effected by a cause as potent as the one which had
produced the disordered condition.
This is the best key that I can furnish to a story which must have
puzzled some, repelled others, and failed to interest many who did
not suspect the true cause of the mysterious antipathy.
BEVERLY FARMS, MASS., August, 1891.
O. W. H.
A MORTAL ANTIPATHY.
FIRST OPENING OF THE NEW PORTFOLIO.
"And why the New Portfolio, I would ask?"
Pray, do you remember, when there was an accession to the nursery in
which you have a special interest, whether the new-comer was commonly
spoken of as a baby? Was it not, on the contrary, invariably, under
all conditions, in all companies, by the whole household, spoken of
as the baby? And was the small receptacle provided for it commonly
spoken of as a cradle; or was it not always called the cradle, as if
there were no other in existence?
Now this New Portfolio is the cradle in which I am to rock my
new-born thoughts, and from which I am to lift them carefully and
show them to callers, namely, to the whole family of readers
belonging to my list of intimates, and such other friends as may drop
in by accident. And so it shall have the definite article, and not
be lost in the mob of its fellows as a portfolio.
There are a few personal and incidental matters of which I wish to
say something before reaching the contents of the Portfolio, whatever
these may be. I have had other portfolios before this,--two, more
especially, and the first thing I beg leave to introduce relates to
Do not throw this volume down, or turn to another page, when I tell
you that the earliest of them, that of which I now am about to speak,
was opened more than fifty years ago. This is a very dangerous
confession, for fifty years make everything hopelessly old-fashioned,
without giving it the charm of real antiquity. If I could say a
hundred years, now, my readers would accept all I had to tell them
with a curious interest; but fifty years ago,--there are too many
talkative old people who know all about that time, and at best half a
century is a half-baked bit of ware. A coin-fancier would say that
your fifty-year-old facts have just enough of antiquity to spot them
with rust, and not enough to give them--the delicate and durable
patina which is time's exquisite enamel.
When the first Portfolio was opened the coin of the realm bore for
its legend,--or might have borne if the more devout hero-worshippers
could have had their way,--Andreas Jackson, Populi Gratia, Imp.
Caesrzr. Aug. Div., Max., etc., etc. I never happened to see any
gold or silver with that legend, but the truth is I was not very
familiarly acquainted with the precious metals at that period of my
career, and, there might have been a good deal of such coin in
circulation without my handling it, or knowing much about it.
Permit me to indulge in a few reminiscences of that far-off time.
In those days the Athenaeum Picture Gallery was a principal centre of
attraction to young Boston people and their visitors. Many of us got
our first ideas of art, to say nothing of our first lessons in the
comparatively innocent flirtations of our city's primitive period, in
that agreeable resort of amateurs and artists.
How the pictures on those walls in Pearl Street do keep their places
in the mind's gallery! Trumbull's Sortie of Gibraltar, with red
enough in it for one of our sunset after-glows; and Neagle's full-
length portrait of the blacksmith in his shirt-sleeves; and Copley's
long-waistcoated gentlemen and satin-clad ladies,--they looked like
gentlemen and ladies, too; and Stuart's florid merchants and high-
waisted matrons; and Allston's lovely Italian scenery and dreamy,
unimpassioned women, not forgetting Florimel in full flight on her
interminable rocking-horse,--you may still see her at the Art Museum;
and the rival landscapes of Doughty and Fisher, much talked of and
largely praised in those days; and the Murillo,--not from Marshal
Soup's collection; and the portrait of Annibale Caracci by himself,
which cost the Athenaeum a hundred dollars; and Cole's allegorical
pictures, and his immense and dreary canvas, in which the prostrate
shepherds and the angel in Joseph's coat of many colors look as if
they must have been thrown in for nothing; and West's brawny Lear
tearing his clothes to pieces. But why go on with the catalogue,
when most of these pictures can be seen either at the Athenaeum
building in Beacon Street or at the Art Gallery, and admired or
criticised perhaps more justly, certainly not more generously, than
in those earlier years when we looked at them through the japanned
If one happened to pass through Atkinson Street on his way to the
Athenaeum, he would notice a large, square, painted, brick house, in
which lived a leading representative of old-fashioned coleopterous
Calvinism, and from which emerged one of the liveliest of literary
butterflies. The father was editor of the "Boston Recorder," a very
respectable, but very far from amusing paper, most largely patronized
by that class of the community which spoke habitually of the first
day of the week as "the Sahbuth." The son was the editor of several
different periodicals in succession, none of them over severe or
serious, and of many pleasant books, filled with lively descriptions
of society, which be studied on the outside with a quick eye for form
and color, and with a certain amount of sentiment, not very deep, but
real, though somewhat frothed over by his worldly experiences.
Nathaniel Parker Willis was in full bloom when I opened my first
Portfolio. He had made himself known by his religious poetry,
published in his father's paper, I think, and signed "Roy." He had
started the "American Magazine," afterwards merged in the New York
Mirror." He had then left off writing scripture pieces, and taken to
lighter forms of verse. He had just written
"I'm twenty-two, I'm twenty-two,
They idly give me joy,
As if I should be glad to know
That I was less a boy."
He was young, therefore, and already famous. He came very near being
very handsome. He was tall; his hair, of light brown color, waved in
luxuriant abundance; his cheek was as rosy as if it had been painted
to show behind the footlights; he dressed with artistic elegance. He
was something between a remembrance of Count D'Orsay and an
anticipation of Oscar Wilde. There used to be in the gallery of the
Luxembourg a picture of Hippolytus and Phxdra, in which the beautiful
young man, who had kindled a passion in the heart of his wicked step-
mother, always reminded me of Willis, in spite of the shortcomings of
the living face as compared with the ideal. The painted youth is
still blooming on the canvas, but the fresh-cheecked, jaunty young
author of the year 1830 has long faded out of human sight. I took
the leaves which lie before me at this moment, as I write, from his
coffin, as it lay just outside the door of Saint Paul's Church, on a
sad, overclouded winter's day, in the year 1867. At that earlier
time, Willis was by far the most prominent young American author.
Cooper, Irving, Bryant, Dana, Halleck, Drake, had all done their best
work. Longfellow was not yet conspicuous. Lowell was a school-boy.
Emerson was unheard of. Whittier was beginning to make his way
against the writers with better educational advantages whom he was
destined to outdo and to outlive. Not one of the great histories,
which have done honor to our literature, had appeared. Our school-
books depended, so far as American authors were concerned, on
extracts from the orations and speeches of Webster and Everett; on
Bryant's Thanatopsis, his lines To a Waterfowl, and the Death of the
Flowers, Halleck's Marco Bozzaris, Red Jacket, and Burns; on Drake's
American Flag, and Percival's Coral Grove, and his Genius Sleeping
and Genius Waking,--and not getting very wide awake, either. These
could be depended upon. A few other copies of verses might be found,
but Dwight's "Columbia, Columbia," and Pierpont's Airs of Palestine,
were already effaced, as many of the favorites of our own day and
generation must soon be, by the great wave which the near future will
pour over the sands in which they still are legible.
About this time, in the year 1832, came out a small volume entitled
"Truth, a Gift for Scribblers," which made some talk for a while, and
is now chiefly valuable as a kind of literary tombstone on which may
be read the names of many whose renown has been buried with their
bones. The "London Athenaeum" spoke of it as having been described
as a "tomahawk sort of satire." As the author had been a trapper in
Missouri, he was familiarly acquainted with that weapon and the
warfare of its owners. Born in Boston, in 1804, the son of an army
officer, educated at West Point, he came back to his native city
about the year 1830. He wrote an article on Bryant's Poems for the
"North American Review," and another on the famous Indian chief,
Black Hawk. In this last-mentioned article he tells this story as
the great warrior told it himself. It was an incident of a fight
with the Osages.
"Standing by my father's side, I saw him kill his antagonist and tear
the scalp from his head. Fired with valor and ambition, I rushed
furiously upon another, smote him to the earth with my tomahawk, ran
my lance through his body, took off his scalp, and returned in
triumph to my father. He said nothing, but looked pleased."
This little red story describes very well Spelling's style of
literary warfare. His handling of his most conspicuous victim,
Willis, was very much like Black Hawk's way of dealing with the
Osage. He tomahawked him in heroics, ran him through in prose, and
scalped him in barbarous epigrams. Bryant and Halleck were
abundantly praised; hardly any one else escaped.
If the reader wishes to see the bubbles of reputation that were
floating, some of them gay with prismatic colors, half a century ago,
he will find in the pages of "Truth" a long catalogue of celebrities
he never heard of. I recognize only three names, of all which are
mentioned in the little book, as belonging to persons still living;
but as I have not read the obituaries of all the others, some of them
may be still flourishing in spite of Mr. Spelling's exterminating
onslaught. Time dealt as hardly with poor Spelling, who was not
without talent and instruction, as he had dealt with our authors. I
think he found shelter at last under a roof which held numerous
inmates, some of whom had seen better and many of whom had known
worse days than those which they were passing within its friendly and
not exclusive precincts. Such, at least, was the story I heard after
he disappeared from general observation.
That was the day of Souvenirs, Tokens, Forget-me-nots, Bijous, and
all that class of showy annuals. Short stories, slender poems, steel
engravings, on a level with the common fashion-plates of advertising
establishments, gilt edges, resplendent binding,--to manifestations
of this sort our lighter literature had very largely run for some
years. The "Scarlet Letter" was an unhinted possibility. The
"Voices of the Night" had not stirred the brooding silence; the
Concord seer was still in the lonely desert; most of the contributors
to those yearly volumes, which took up such pretentious positions on
the centre table, have shrunk into entire oblivion, or, at best, hold
their place in literature by a scrap or two in some omnivorous
What dreadful work Spelling made among those slight reputations,
floating in swollen tenuity on the surface of the stream, and
mirroring each other in reciprocal reflections! Violent, abusive as
he was, unjust to any against whom he happened to have a prejudice,
his castigation of the small litterateurs of that day was not
harmful, but rather of use. His attack on Willis very probably did
him good; he needed a little discipline, and though he got it too
unsparingly, some cautions came with it which were worth the stripes
he had to smart under. One noble writer Spelling treated with
rudeness, probably from some accidental pique, or equally
insignificant reason. I myself, one of the three survivors before
referred to, escaped with a love-pat, as the youngest son of the
Muse. Longfellow gets a brief nod of acknowledgment. Bailey, an
American writer, "who made long since a happy snatch at fame," which
must have been snatched away from him by envious time, for I cannot
identify him; Thatcher, who died early, leaving one poem, The Last
Request, not wholly unremembered; Miss Hannah F. Gould, a very
bright and agreeable writer of light verse,--all these are commended
to the keeping of that venerable public carrier, who finds his scythe
and hour-glass such a load that he generally drops the burdens
committed to his charge, after making a show of paying every possible
attention to them so long as he is kept in sight.
It was a good time to open a portfolio. But my old one had boyhood
written on every page. A single passionate outcry when the old
warship I had read about in the broadsides that were a part of our
kitchen literature, and in the "Naval Monument," was threatened with
demolition; a few verses suggested by the sight of old Major Melville
in his cocked hat and breeches, were the best scraps that came out of
that first Portfolio, which was soon closed that it should not
interfere with the duties of a profession authorized to claim all the
time and thought which would have been otherwise expended in filling
During a quarter of a century the first Portfolio remained closed for
the greater part of the time. Only now and then it would be taken up
and opened, and something drawn from it for a special occasion, more
particularly for the annual reunions of a certain class of which I
was a member.
In the year 1857, towards its close, the "Atlantic Monthly," which I
had the honor of naming, was started by the enterprising firm of
Phillips & Sampson, under the editorship of Mr. James Russell Lowell.
He thought that I might bring something out of my old Portfolio which
would be not unacceptable in the new magazine. I looked at the poor
old receptacle, which, partly from use and partly from neglect, had
lost its freshness, and seemed hardly presentable to the new company
expected to welcome the new-comer in the literary world of Boston,
the least provincial of American centres of learning and letters.
The gilded covering where the emblems of hope and aspiration had
looked so bright had faded; not wholly, perhaps, but how was the gold
become dim!---how was the most fine gold changed! Long devotion to
other pursuits had left little time for literature, and the waifs and
strays gathered from the old Portfolio had done little more than keep
alive the memory that such a source of supply was still in existence.
I looked at the old Portfolio, and said to myself, "Too late! too
late. This tarnished gold will never brighten, these battered covers
will stand no more wear and tear; close them, and leave them to the
spider and the book-worm."
In the mean time the nebula of the first quarter of the century had
condensed into the constellation of the middle of the same period.
When, a little while after the establishment of the new magazine, the
"Saturday Club" gathered about the long table at "Parker's," such a
representation of all that was best in American literature had never
been collected within so small a compass. Most of the Americans whom
educated foreigners cared to see-leaving out of consideration
official dignitaries, whose temporary importance makes them objects
of curiosity--were seated at that board. But the club did not yet
exist, and the "Atlantic Monthly" was an experiment. There had
already been several monthly periodicals, more or less successful and
permanent, among which "Putnam's Magazine" was conspicuous, owing its
success largely to the contributions of that very accomplished and
delightful writer, Mr. George William Curtis. That magazine, after a
somewhat prolonged and very honorable existence, had gone where all
periodicals go when they die, into the archives of the deaf, dumb,
and blind recording angel whose name is Oblivion. It had so well
deserved to live that its death was a surprise and a source of
regret. Could another monthly take its place and keep it when that,
with all its attractions and excellences, had died out, and left a
blank in our periodical literature which it would be very hard to
fill as well as that had filled it?
This was the experiment which the enterprising publishers ventured
upon, and I, who felt myself outside of the charmed circle drawn
around the scholars and poets of Cambridge and Concord, having given
myself to other studies and duties, wondered somewhat when Mr. Lowell
insisted upon my becoming a contributor. And so, yielding to a
pressure which I could not understand, and yet found myself unable to
resist, I promised to take a part in the new venture, as an
occasional writer in the columns of the new magazine.
That was the way in which the second Portfolio found its way to my
table, and was there opened in the autumn of the year 1857. I was
already at least
'Nel mezzo del cammin di mia, vita,'
when I risked myself, with many misgivings, in little-tried paths of
what looked at first like a wilderness, a selva oscura, where, if I
did not meet the lion or the wolf, I should be sure to find the
critic, the most dangerous of the carnivores, waiting to welcome me
after his own fashion.
The second Portfolio is closed and laid away. Perhaps it was hardly
worth while to provide and open a new one; but here it lies before
me, and I hope I may find something between its covers which will
justify me in coming once more before my old friends. But before I
open it I want to claim a little further indulgence.
There is a subject of profound interest to almost every writer, I
might say to almost every human being. No matter what his culture or
ignorance, no matter what his pursuit, no matter what his character,
the subject I refer to is one of which he rarely ceases to think,
and, if opportunity is offered, to talk. On this he is eloquent, if
on nothing else. The slow of speech becomes fluent; the torpid
listener becomes electric with vivacity, and alive all over with
The sagacious reader knows well what is coming after this prelude.
He is accustomed to the phrases with which the plausible visitor, who
has a subscription book in his pocket, prepares his victim for the
depressing disclosure of his real errand. He is not unacquainted
with the conversational amenities of the cordial and interesting
stranger, who, having had the misfortune of leaving his carpet-bag in
the cars, or of having his pocket picked at the station, finds
himself without the means of reaching that distant home where
affluence waits for him with its luxurious welcome, but to whom for
the moment the loan of some five and twenty dollars would be a
convenience and a favor for which his heart would ache with gratitude
during the brief interval between the loan and its repayment.
I wish to say a few words in my own person relating to some passages
in my own history, and more especially to some of the recent
experiences through which I have been passing.
What can justify one in addressing himself to the general public as
if it were his private correspondent? There are at least three
sufficient reasons: first, if he has a story to tell that everybody
wants to hear,--if be has been shipwrecked, or has been in a battle,
or has witnessed any interesting event, and can tell anything new
about it; secondly, if he can put in fitting words any common
experiences not already well told, so that readers will say, "Why,
yes! I have had that sensation, thought, emotion, a hundred times,
but I never heard it spoken of before, and I never saw any mention of
it in print;" and thirdly, anything one likes, provided he can so
tell it as to make it interesting.
I have no story to tell in this Introduction which can of itself
claim any general attention. My first pages relate the effect of a
certain literary experience upon myself,--a series of partial
metempsychoses of which I have been the subject. Next follows a
brief tribute to the memory of a very dear and renowned friend from
whom I have recently been parted. The rest of the Introduction will
be consecrated to the memory of my birthplace.
I have just finished a Memoir, which will appear soon after this page
is written, and will have been the subject of criticism long before
it is in the reader's hands. The experience of thinking another
man's thoughts continuously for a long time; of living one's self
into another man's life for a month, or a year, or more, is a very
curious one. No matter how much superior to the biographer his
subject may be, the man who writes the life feels himself, in a
certain sense, on the level of the person whose life he is writing.
One cannot fight over the battles of Marengo or Austerlitz with
Napoleon without feeling as if he himself had a fractional claim to
the victory, so real seems the transfer of his personality into that
of the conqueror while he reads. Still more must this identification
of "subject" and "object" take place when one is writing of a person
whose studies or occupations are not unlike his own.
Here are some of my metempsychoses:
Ten years ago I wrote what I called A Memorial Outline of a
remarkable student of nature. He was a born observer, and such are
far from common. He was also a man of great enthusiasm and
unwearying industry. His quick eye detected what others passed by
without notice: the Indian relic, where another would see only
pebbles and fragments; the rare mollusk, or reptile, which his
companion would poke with his cane, never suspecting that there was a
prize at the end of it. Getting his single facts together with
marvellous sagacity and long-breathed patience, he arranged them,
classified them, described them, studied them in their relations, and
before those around him were aware of it the collector was an
accomplished naturalist. When--he died his collections remained, and
they still remain, as his record in the hieratic language of science.
In writing this memoir the spirit of his quiet pursuits, the even
temper they bred in him, gained possession of my own mind, so that I
seemed to look at nature through his gold-bowed spectacles, and to
move about his beautifully ordered museum as if I had myself prepared
and arranged its specimens. I felt wise with his wisdom, fair-minded
with his calm impartiality; it seemed as if for the time his placid,
observant, inquiring, keen-sighted nature "slid into my soul," and if
I had looked at myself in the glass I should almost have expected to
see the image of the Hersey professor whose life and character I was
A few years hater I lived over the life of another friend in writing
a Memoir of which he was the subject. I saw him, the beautiful,
bright-eyed boy, with dark, waving hair; the youthful scholar, first
at Harvard, then at Gottingen and Berlin, the friend and companion of
Bismarck; the young author, making a dash for renown as a novelist,
and showing the elements which made his failures the promise of
success in a larger field of literary labor; the delving historian,
burying his fresh young manhood in the dusty alcoves of silent
libraries, to come forth in the face of Europe and America as one of
the leading historians of the time; the diplomatist, accomplished, of
captivating presence and manners, an ardent American, and in the time
of trial an impassioned and eloquent advocate of the cause of
freedom; reaching at last the summit of his ambition as minister at
the Court of Saint James. All this I seemed to share with him as I
tracked his career from his birthplace in Dorchester, and the house
in Walnut Street where he passed his boyhood, to the palaces of
Vienna and London. And then the cruel blow which struck him from the
place he adorned; the great sorrow that darkened his later years; the
invasion of illness, a threat that warned of danger, and after a
period of invalidism, during a part of which I shared his most
intimate daily life, the sudden, hardly unwelcome, final summons.
Did not my own consciousness migrate, or seem, at least, to transfer
itself into this brilliant life history, as I traced its glowing
record? I, too, seemed to feel the delight of carrying with me, as
if they were my own, the charms of a presence which made its own
welcome everywhere. I shared his heroic toils, I partook of his
literary and social triumphs, I was honored by the marks of
distinction which gathered about him, I was wronged by the indignity
from which he suffered, mourned with him in his sorrow, and thus,
after I had been living for months with his memory, I felt as if I
should carry a part of his being with me so long as my self-
consciousness might remain imprisoned in the ponderable elements.
The years passed away, and the influences derived from the
companionships I have spoken of had blended intimately with my own
current of being. Then there came to me a new experience in my
relations with an eminent member of the medical profession, whom I
met habitually for a long period, and to whose memory I consecrated a
few pages as a prelude to a work of his own, written under very
peculiar circumstances. He was the subject of a slow, torturing,
malignant, and almost necessarily fatal disease. Knowing well that
the mind would feed upon itself if it were not supplied with food
from without, he determined to write a treatise on a subject which
had greatly interested him, and which would oblige him to bestow much
of his time and thought upon it, if indeed he could hold out to
finish the work. During the period while he was engaged in writing
it, his wife, who had seemed in perfect health, died suddenly of
pneumonia. Physical suffering, mental distress, the prospect of
death at a near, if uncertain, time always before him, it was hard to
conceive a more terrible strain than that which he had to endure.
When, in the hour of his greatest need, his faithful companion, the
wife of many years of happy union, whose hand had smoothed his
pillow, whose voice had consoled and cheered him, was torn from him
after a few days of illness, I felt that my, friend's trial was such
that the cry of the man of many afflictions and temptations might
well have escaped from his lips: "I was at ease, but he hath broken
me asunder; he hath also taken me by my neck and shaken me to pieces,
and set me up for his mark. His archers compass me round about, he
cleaveth my reins asunder, and doth not spare; he poureth out my gall
upon the ground."
I had dreaded meeting him for the first time after this crushing
blow. What a lesson he gave me of patience under sufferings which
the fearful description of the Eastern poet does not picture too
vividly! We have been taught to admire the calm philosophy of
Haller, watching his faltering pulse as he lay dying; we have heard
the words of pious resignation said to have been uttered with his
last breath by Addison: but here was a trial, not of hours, or days,
or weeks, but of months, even years, of cruel pain, and in the midst
of its thick darkness the light of love, which had burned steadily at
his bedside, was suddenly extinguished.
There were times in which the thought would force itself upon my
consciousness, How long is the universe to look upon this dreadful
experiment of a malarious planet, with its unmeasurable freight of
suffering, its poisonous atmosphere, so sweet to breathe, so sure to
kill in a few scores of years at farthest, and its heart-breaking
woes which make even that brief space of time an eternity? There can
be but one answer that will meet this terrible question, which must
arise in every thinking nature that would fain "justify the ways of
God to men." So must it be until that
"one far-off divine event
To which the whole creation moves"
has become a reality, and the anthem in which there is no discordant
note shall be joined by a voice from every life made "perfect through
Such was the lesson into which I lived in those sad yet placid years
of companionship with my suffering and sorrowing friend, in retracing
which I seemed to find another existence mingled with my own.
And now for many months I have been living in daily relations of
intimacy with one who seems nearer to me since he has left us than
while he was here in living form and feature. I did not know how
difficult a task I had undertaken in venturing upon a memoir of a man
whom all, or almost all, agree upon as one of the great lights of the
New World, and whom very many regard as an unpredicted Messiah.
Never before was I so forcibly reminded of Carlyle's description of
the work of a newspaper editor,--that threshing of straw already
thrice beaten by the flails of other laborers in the same field.
What could be said that had not been said of "transcendentalism" and
of him who was regarded as its prophet; of the poet whom some admired
without understanding, a few understood, or thought they did, without
admiring, and many both understood and admired,--among these there
being not a small number who went far beyond admiration, and lost
themselves in devout worship? While one exalted him as "the greatest
man that ever lived," another, a friend, famous in the world of
letters, wrote expressly to caution me against the danger of
overrating a writer whom he is content to recognize as an American
Montaigne, and nothing more.
After finishing this Memoir, which has but just left my hands, I
would gladly have let my brain rest for a while. The wide range of
thought which belonged to the subject of the Memoir, the occasional
mysticism and the frequent tendency toward it, the sweep of
imagination and the sparkle of wit which kept his reader's mind on
the stretch, the union of prevailing good sense with exceptional
extravagances, the modest audacity of a nature that showed itself in
its naked truthfulness and was not ashamed, the feeling that I was in
the company of a sibylline intelligence which was discounting the
promises of the remote future long before they were due,--all this
made the task a grave one. But when I found myself amidst the
vortices of uncounted, various, bewildering judgments, Catholic and
Protestant, orthodox and liberal, scholarly from under the tree of
knowledge and instinctive from over the potato-hill; the passionate
enthusiasm of young adorers and the cool, if not cynical, estimate of
hardened critics, all intersecting each other as they whirled, each
around its own centre, I felt that it was indeed very difficult to
keep the faculties clear and the judgment unbiassed.
It is a great privilege to have lived so long in the society of such
a man. "He nothing common" said, "or mean." He was always the same
pure and high-souled companion. After being with him virtue seemed
as natural to man as its opposite did according to the old
theologies. But how to let one's self down from the high level of
such a character to one's own poor standard? I trust that the
influence of this long intellectual and spiritual companionship never
absolutely leaves one who has lived in it. It may come to him in the
form of self-reproach that he falls so far short of the superior
being who has been so long the object of his contemplation. But it
also carries him at times into the other's personality, so that he
finds himself thinking thoughts that are not his own, using phrases
which he has unconsciously borrowed, writing, it may be, as nearly
like his long-studied original as Julio Romano's painting was like
Raphael's; and all this with the unquestioning conviction that he is
talking from his own consciousness in his own natural way. So far as
tones and expressions and habits which belonged to the idiosyncrasy
of the original are borrowed by the student of his life, it is a
misfortune for the borrower. But to share the inmost consciousness
of a noble thinker, to scan one's self in the white light of a pure
and radiant soul,--this is indeed the highest form of teaching and
I have written these few memoirs, and I am grateful for all that they
have taught me. But let me write no more. There are but two
biographers who can tell the story of a man's or a woman's life. One
is the person himself or herself; the other is the Recording Angel.
The autobiographer cannot be trusted to tell the whole truth, though
he may tell nothing but the truth, and the Recording Angel never lets
his book go out of his own hands. As for myself, I would say to my
friends, in the Oriental phrase, "Live forever!" Yes, live forever,
and I, at least, shall not have to wrong your memories by my
imperfect record and unsatisfying commentary.
In connection with these biographies, or memoirs, more properly, in
which I have written of my departed friends, I hope my readers will
indulge me in another personal reminiscence. I have just lost my
dear and honored contemporary of the last century. A hundred years
ago this day, December 13, 1784, died the admirable and ever to be
remembered Dr. Samuel Johnson. The year 1709 was made ponderous and
illustrious in English biography by his birth. My own humble advent
to the world of protoplasm was in the year 1809 of the present
century. Summer was just ending when those four letters, "son b."
were written under the date of my birth, August 29th. Autumn had
just begun when my great pre-contemporary entered this un-Christian
universe and was made a member of the Christian church on the same
day, for he was born and baptized on the 18th of September.
Thus there was established a close bond of relationship between the
great English scholar and writer and myself. Year by year, and
almost month by month, my life has kept pace in this century with his
life in the last century. I had only to open my Boswell at any time,
and I knew just what Johnson at my age, twenty or fifty or seventy,
was thinking and doing; what were his feelings about life; what
changes the years had wrought in his body, his mind, his feelings,
his companionships, his reputation. It was for me a kind of unison
between two instruments, both playing that old familiar air, "Life,"
--one a bassoon, if you will, and the other an oaten pipe, if you
care to find an image for it, but still keeping pace with each other
until the players both grew old and gray. At last the thinner thread
of sound is heard by itself, and its deep accompaniment rolls out its
thunder no more.
I feel lonely now that my great companion and friend of so many years
has left me. I felt more intimately acquainted with him than I do
with many of my living friends. I can hardly remember when I did not
know him. I can see him in his bushy wig, exactly like that of the
Reverend Dr. Samuel Cooper (who died in December, 1783) as Copley
painted him,--he hangs there on my wall, over the revolving bookcase.
His ample coat, too, I see, with its broad flaps and many buttons and
generous cuffs, and beneath it the long, still more copiously
buttoned waistcoat, arching in front of the fine crescentic, almost
semi-lunar Falstaffian prominence, involving no less than a dozen of
the above-mentioned buttons, and the strong legs with their sturdy
calves, fitting columns of support to the massive body and solid,
capacious brain enthroned over it. I can hear him with his heavy
tread as he comes in to the Club, and a gap is widened to make room
for his portly figure. "A fine day," says Sir Joshua. "Sir," he
answers, "it seems propitious, but the atmosphere is humid and the
skies are nebulous," at which the great painter smiles, shifts his
trumpet, and takes a pinch of snuff.
Dear old massive, deep-voiced dogmatist and hypochondriac of the
eighteenth century, how one would like to sit at some ghastly Club,
between you and the bony, "mighty-mouthed," harsh-toned termagant and
dyspeptic of the nineteenth! The growl of the English mastiff and
the snarl of the Scotch terrier would make a duet which would enliven
the shores of Lethe. I wish I could find our "spiritualist's" paper
in the Portfolio, in which the two are brought together, but I hardly
know what I shall find when it is opened.
Yes, my life is a little less precious to me since I have lost that
dear old friend; and when the funeral train moves to Westminster
Abbey next Saturday, for I feel as if this were 1784, and not 1884,--
I seem to find myself following the hearse, one of the silent
Among the events which have rendered the past year memorable to me
has been the demolition of that venerable and interesting old
dwelling-house, precious for its intimate association with the
earliest stages of the war of the Revolution, and sacred to me as my
birthplace and the home of my boyhood.
The "Old Gambrel-roofed House" exists no longer. I remember saying
something, in one of a series of papers published long ago, about the
experience of dying out of a house,--of leaving it forever, as the
soul dies out of the body. We may die out of many houses, but the
house itself can die but once; and so real is the life of a house to
one who has dwelt in it, more especially the life of the house which
held him in dreamy infancy, in restless boyhood, in passionate
youth,--so real, I say, is its life, that it seems as if something
like a soul of it must outlast its perishing frame.
The slaughter of the Old Gambrel-roofed House was, I am ready to
admit, a case of justifiable domicide. Not the less was it to be
deplored by all who love the memories of the past. With its
destruction are obliterated some of the footprints of the heroes and
martyrs who took the first steps in the long and bloody march which
led us through the wilderness to the promised land of independent
nationality. Personally, I have a right to mourn for it as a part of
my life gone from me. My private grief for its loss would be a
matter for my solitary digestion, were it not that the experience
through which I have just passed is one so familiar to my fellow-
countrymen that, in telling my own reflections and feelings, I am
repeating those of great numbers of men and women who have had the
misfortune to outlive their birthplace.
It is a great blessing to be born surrounded by a natural horizon.
The Old Gambrel-roofed House could not boast an unbroken ring of
natural objects encircling it. Northerly it looked upon its own
outbuildings and some unpretending two-story houses which had been
its neighbors for a century and more. To the south of it the square
brick dormitories and the belfried hall of the university helped to
shut out the distant view. But the west windows gave a broad outlook
across the common, beyond which the historical "Washington elm" and
two companions in line with it, spread their leaves in summer and
their networks in winter. And far away rose the hills that bounded
the view, with the glimmer here and there of the white walls or the
illuminated casements of some embowered, half-hidden villa.
Eastwardly also, the prospect was, in my earlier remembrance, widely
open, and I have frequently seen the sunlit sails gliding along as if
through the level fields, for no water was visible. So there were
broad expanses on two sides at least, for my imagination to wander
I cannot help thinking that we carry our childhood's horizon with us
all our days. Among these western wooded hills my day-dreams built
their fairy palaces, and even now, as I look at them from my library
window, across the estuary of the Charles, I find myself in the
familiar home of my early visions. The "clouds of glory" which we
trail with us in after life need not be traced to a pre-natal state.
There is enough to account for them in that unconsciously remembered
period of existence before we have learned the hard limitations of
real life. Those earliest months in which we lived in sensations
without words, and ideas not fettered in sentences, have all the
freshness of proofs of an engraving "before the letter." I am very
thankful that the first part of my life was not passed shut in
between high walls and treading the unimpressible and unsympathetic
Our university town was very much like the real country, in those
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