The Complete PG Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Physician and Poet)
Part 38 out of 51
"To most of those among us the explanations we are now about to give
are entirely superfluous. But there are some whose chief studies
have been in different directions, and who will not complain if
certain facts are mentioned which to the expert will seem
rudimentary, and which hardly require recapitulation to those who are
familiarly acquainted with the common text-books.
"The heart is the centre of every living movement in the higher
animals, and in man, furnishing in varying amount, or withholding to
a greater or less extent, the needful supplies to all parts of the
system. If its action is diminished to a certain degree, faintness
is the immediate consequence; if it is arrested, loss of
consciousness; if its action is not soon restored, death, of which
fainting plants the white flag, remains in possession of the system.
"How closely the heart is under the influence of the emotions we need
not go to science to learn, for all human experience and all
literature are overflowing with evidence that shows the extent of
this relation. Scripture is full of it; the heart in Hebrew poetry
represents the entire life, we might almost say. Not less forcible
is the language of Shakespeare, as for instance, in 'Measure for
"'Why does my blood thus muster to my heart,
Making it both unable for itself
And dispossessing all my other parts
Of necessary fitness?'
"More especially is the heart associated in every literature with the
passion of love. A famous old story is that of Galen, who was called
to the case of a young lady long ailing, and wasting away from some
cause the physicians who had already seen her were unable to make
out. The shrewd old practitioner suspected that love was at the
bottom of the young lady's malady. Many relatives and friends of
both sexes, all of them ready with their sympathy, came to see her.
The physician sat by her bedside during one of these visits, and in
an easy, natural way took her hand and placed a finger on her pulse.
It beat quietly enough until a certain comely young gentleman entered
the apartment, when it suddenly rose infrequency, and at the same
moment her hurried breathing, her changing color, pale and flushed by
turns, betrayed the profound agitation his presence excited. This
was enough for the sagacious Greek; love was the disease, the cure of
which by its like may be claimed as an anticipation of homoeopathy.
In the frontispiece to the fine old 'Junta' edition of the works of
Galen, you may find among the wood-cuts a representation of the
interesting scene, with the title Amantas Dignotio,--the diagnosis,
or recognition, of the lover.
"Love has many languages, but the heart talks through all of them.
The pallid or burning cheek tells of the failing or leaping fountain
which gives it color. The lovers at the 'Brookside' could hear each
other's hearts beating. When Genevieve, in Coleridge's poem, forgot
herself, and was beforehand with her suitor in her sudden embrace,
"'T was partly love and partly fear,
And partly 't was a bashful art,
That I might rather feel than see
The swelling of her heart'
"Always the heart, whether its hurried action is seen, or heard, or
felt. But it is not always in this way that the 'deceitful' organ
treats the lover.
"'Faint heart never won fair lady.'
"This saying was not meant, perhaps, to be taken literally, but it has
its literal truth. Many a lover has found his heart sink within
him,--lose all its force, and leave him weak as a child in his
emotion at the sight of the object of his affections. When Porphyro
looked upon Madeline at her prayers in the chapel, it was too much
"'She seemed a splendid angel, newly drest,
Save wings, for heaven:--Porphyro grew faint,
She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from earthly taint.'
"And in Balzac's novel, 'Cesar Birotteau,' the hero of the story
'fainted away for-joy at the moment when, under a linden-tree, at
Sceaux, Constance-Barbe-Josephine accepted him as her future
"One who faints is dead if he does not I come to,' and nothing is
more likely than that too susceptible lovers have actually gone off
in this way. Everything depends on how the heart behaves itself in
these and similar trying moments. The mechanism of its actions
becomes an interesting subject, therefore, to lovers of both sexes,
and to all who are capable of intense emotions.
"The heart is a great reservoir, which distributes food, drink, air,
and heat to every part of the system, in exchange for its waste
material. It knocks at the gate of every organ seventy or eighty
times in a minute, calling upon it to receive its supplies and unload
its refuse. Between it and the brain there is the closest relation.
The emotions, which act upon it as we have seen, govern it by a
mechanism only of late years thoroughly understood. This mechanism
can be made plain enough to the reader who is not afraid to believe
that he can understand it.
"The brain, as all know, is the seat of ideas, emotions, volition.
It is the great central telegraphic station with which many lesser
centres are in close relation, from which they receive, and to which
they transmit, their messages. The heart has its own little brains,
so to speak,--small collections of nervous substance which govern its
rhythmical motions under ordinary conditions. But these lesser
nervous centres are to a large extent dominated by influences
transmitted from certain groups of nerve-cells in the brain and its
"There are two among the special groups of nerve-cells which produce
directly opposite effects. One of these has the power of
accelerating the action of the heart, while the other has the power
of retarding or arresting this action. One acts as the spur, the
other as the bridle. According as one or the other predominates, the
action of the heart will be stimulated or restrained. Among the
great modern discoveries in physiology is that of the existence of a
distinct centre of inhibition, as the restraining influence over the
heart is called.
"The centre of inhibition plays a terrible part in the history of
cowardice and of unsuccessful love. No man can be brave without
blood to sustain his courage, any more than he can think, as the
German materialist says, not absurdly, without phosphorus. The
fainting lover must recover his circulation, or his lady will lend
him her smelling-salts and take a gallant with blood in his cheeks.
Porphyro got over his faintness before he ran away with Madeline, and
Cesar Birotteau was an accepted lover when he swooned with happiness:
but many an officer has been cashiered, and many a suitor has been
rejected, because the centre of inhibition has got the upper hand of
the centre of stimulation.
"In the well-known cases of deadly antipathy which have been
recorded, the most frequent cause has been the disturbed and
depressing influence of the centre of inhibition. Fainting at the
sight of blood is one of the commonest examples of this influence. A
single impression, in a very early period of atmospheric existence,--
perhaps, indirectly, before that period, as was said to have happened
in the case of James the First of England,--may establish a
communication between this centre and the heart which will remain
open ever afterwards. How does a footpath across a field establish
itself? Its curves are arbitrary, and what we call accidental, but
one after another follows it as if he were guided by a chart on which
it was laid down. So it is with this dangerous transit between the
centre of inhibition and the great organ of life. If once the path
is opened by the track of some profound impression, that same
impression, if repeated, or a similar one, is likely to find the old
footmarks and follow them. Habit only makes the path easier to
traverse, and thus the unreasoning terror of a child, of an infant,
may perpetuate itself in a timidity which shames the manhood of its
"The case before us is an exceptional and most remarkable example of
the effect of inhibition on the heart.
"We will not say that we believe it to be unique in the history of
the human race; on the contrary, we do not doubt that there have been
similar cases, and that in some rare instances sudden death has been
the consequence of seizures like that of the subject of this Report.
The case most like it is that of Colone Townsend, which is too well
known to require any lengthened description in this paper. It is
enough to recall the main facts. He could by a voluntary effort
suspend the action of his heart for a considerable period, during
which he lay like one dead, pulseless, and without motion. After a
time the circulation returned, and he does not seem to have been the
worse for his dangerous, or seemingly dangerous, experiment. But in
his case it was by an act of the will that the heart's action was
suspended. In the case before us it is an involuntary impulse
transmitted from the brain to the inhibiting centre, which arrests
the cardiac movements.
"What is like to be the further history of the case?
"The subject of this anomalous affliction is now more than twenty
years old. The chain of nervous actions has become firmly
established. It might have been hoped that the changes of
adolescence would have effected a transformation of the perverted
instinct. On the contrary, the whole force of this instinct throws
itself on the centre of inhibition, instead of quickening the heart-
beats, and sending the rush of youthful blood with fresh life through
the entire system to the throbbing finger-tips.
"Is it probable that time and circumstances will alter a habit of
nervous interactions so long established? We are disposed to think
that there is a chance of its being broken up. And we are not afraid
to say that we suspect the old gypsy woman, whose prophecy took such
hold of the patient's imagination, has hit upon the way in which the
"spell,' as she called it, is to be dissolved. She must, in all
probability, have had a hint of the 'antipatia' to which the youth
before her was a victim, and its cause, and if so, her guess as to
the probable mode in which the young man would obtain relief from his
unfortunate condition was the one which would naturally suggest
"If once the nervous impression which falls on the centre of
inhibition can be made to change its course, so as to follow its
natural channel, it will probably keep to that channel ever
afterwards. And this will, it is most likely, be effected by some
sudden, unexpected impression. If he were drowning, and a young
woman should rescue him, it is by no means impossible that the change
in the nervous current we have referred to might be brought about as
rapidly, as easily, as the reversal of the poles in a magnet, which
is effected in an instant. But he cannot be expected to throw
himself into the water just at the right moment when the 'fair lady'
of the gitana's prophecy is passing on the shore. Accident may
effect the cure which art seems incompetent to perform. It would not
be strange if in some future seizure he should never come back to
consciousness. But it is quite conceivable, on the other hand, that
a happier event may occur, that in a single moment the nervous
polarity may be reversed, the whole course of his life changed, and
his past terrible experiences be to him like a scarce-remembered
"This is one, of those cases in which it is very hard to determine
the wisest course to be pursued. The question is not unlike that
which arises in certain cases of dislocation of the bones of the
neck. Shall the unfortunate sufferer go all his days with his face
turned far round to the right or the left, or shall an attempt be
made to replace the dislocated bones? an attempt which may succeed,
or may cause instant death. The patient must be consulted as to
whether he will take the chance. The practitioner may be unwilling
to risk it, if the patient consents. Each case must be judged on its
own special grounds. We cannot think that this young man is doomed
to perpetual separation from the society of womanhood during the
period of its bloom and attraction. But to provoke another seizure
after his past experiences would be too much like committing suicide.
We fear that we must trust to the chapter of accidents. The strange
malady--for such it is--has become a second nature, and may require
as energetic a shock to displace it as it did to bring it into
existence. Time alone can solve this question, on which depends the
well-being and, it may be, the existence of a young man every way
fitted to be happy, and to give happiness, if restored to his true
DR. BUTTS REFLECTS.
Dr. Butts sat up late at night reading these papers and reflecting
upon them. He was profoundly impressed and tenderly affected by the
entire frankness, the absence of all attempt at concealment, which
Maurice showed in placing these papers at his disposal. He believed
that his patient would recover from this illness for which he had
been taking care of him. He thought deeply and earnestly of what he
could do for him after he should have regained his health and
There were references, in Maurice's own account of himself, which the
doctor called to mind with great interest after reading his brief
autobiography. Some one person--some young woman, it must be--had
produced a singular impression upon him since those earlier perilous
experiences through which he had passed. The doctor could not help
thinking of that meeting with Euthymia of which she had spoken to
him. Maurice, as she said, turned pale,--he clapped his hand to his
breast. He might have done so if be had met her chambermaid, or any
straggling damsel of the village. But Euthymia was not a young woman
to be looked upon with indifference. She held herself like a queen,
and walked like one, not a stage queen, but one born and bred to
self-reliance, and command of herself as well as others. One could
not pass her without being struck with her noble bearing and spirited
features. If she had known how Maurice trembled as he looked upon
her, in that conflict of attraction and uncontrollable dread,--if she
had known it! But what, even then, could she have done? Nothing but
get away from him as fast as she could. As it was, it was a long
time before his agitation subsided, and his heart beat with its
common force and frequency.
Dr. Butts was not a male gossip nor a matchmaking go-between. But he
could not help thinking what a pity it was that these two young
persons could not come together as other young people do in the
pairing season, and find out whether they cared for and were fitted
for each other. He did not pretend to settle this question in his
own mind, but the thought was a natural one. And here was a gulf
between them as deep and wide as that between Lazarus and Dives.
Would it ever be bridged over? This thought took possession of the
doctor's mind, and he imagined all sorts of ways of effecting some
experimental approximation between Maurice and Euthymia. From this
delicate subject he glanced off to certain general considerations
suggested by the extraordinary history he had been reading. He began
by speculating as to the possibility of the personal presence of an
individual making itself perceived by some channel other than any of
the five senses. The study of the natural sciences teaches those who
are devoted to them that the most insignificant facts may lead the
way to the discovery of the most important, all-pervading laws of the
universe. From the kick of a frog's hind leg to the amazing triumphs
which began with that seemingly trivial incident is a long, a very
long stride if Madam Galvani had not been in delicate health, which
was the occasion of her having some frog-broth prepared for her, the
world of to-day might not be in possession of the electric telegraph
and the light which blazes like the sun at high noon. A common-
looking occurrence, one seemingly unimportant, which had hitherto
passed unnoticed with the ordinary course of things, was the means of
introducing us to a new and vast realm of closely related phenomena.
It was like a key that we might have picked up, looking so simple
that it could hardly fit any lock but one of like simplicity, but
which should all at once throw back the bolts of the one lock which
had defied the most ingenious of our complex implements and open our
way into a hitherto unexplored territory.
It certainly was not through the eye alone that Maurice felt the
paralyzing influence. He could contemplate Euthymia from a distance,
as he did on the day of the boat-race, without any nervous
disturbance. A certain proximity was necessary for the influence to
be felt, as in the case of magnetism and electricity. An atmosphere
of danger surrounded every woman he approached during the period when
her sex exercises its most powerful attractions. How far did that
atmosphere extend, and through what channel did it act?
The key to the phenomena of this case, he believed, was to be found
in a fact as humble as that which gave birth to the science of
galvanism and its practical applications. The circumstances
connected with the very common antipathy to cats were as remarkable
in many points of view as the similar circumstances in the case of
Maurice Kirkwood. The subjects of that antipathy could not tell what
it was which disturbed their nervous system. All they knew was that
a sense of uneasiness, restlessness, oppression, came over them in
the presence of one of these animals. He remembered the fact already
mentioned, that persons sensitive to this impression can tell by
their feelings if a cat is concealed in the apartment in which they
may happen to be. It may be through some emanation. It may be
through the medium of some electrical disturbance. What if the
nerve-thrills passing through the whole system of the animal
propagate themselves to a certain distance without any more regard to
intervening solids than is shown by magnetism? A sieve lets sand
pass through it; a filter arrests sand, but lets fluids pass, glass
holds fluids, but lets light through; wood shuts out light, but
magnetic attraction goes through it as sand went through the sieve.
No good reasons can be given why the presence of a cat should not
betray itself to certain organizations, at a distance, through the
walls of a box in which the animal is shut up. We need not
disbelieve the stories which allege such an occurrence as a fact and
a not very infrequent one.
If the presence of a cat can produce its effects under these
circumstances, why should not that of a human being under similar
conditions, acting on certain constitutions, exercise its specific
influence? The doctor recalled a story told him by one of his
friends, a story which the friend himself heard from the lips of the
distinguished actor, the late Mr. Fechter. The actor maintained that
Rachel had no genius as an actress. It was all Samson's training and
study, according to him, which explained the secret of her wonderful
effectiveness on the stage. But magnetism, he said,--magnetism, she
was full of. He declared that he was made aware of her presence on
the stage, when he could not see her or know of her presence
otherwise, by this magnetic emanation. The doctor took the story for
what it was worth. There might very probably be exaggeration,
perhaps high imaginative coloring about it, but it was not a whit
more unlikely than the cat-stories, accepted as authentic. He
continued this train of thought into further developments. Into this
series of reflections we will try to follow him.
What is the meaning of the halo with which artists have surrounded
the heads of their pictured saints, of the aureoles which wraps them
like a luminous cloud? Is it not a recognition of the fact that
these holy personages diffuse their personality in the form of a
visible emanation, which reminds us of Milton's definition of light:
"Bright effluence of bright essence increate"?
The common use of the term influence would seem to imply the
existence of its correlative, effluence. There is no good reason
that I can see, the doctor said to himself, why among the forces
which work upon the nervous centres there should not be one which
acts at various distances from its source. It may not be visible
like the "glory" of the painters, it may not be appreciable by any
one of the five senses, and yet it may be felt by the person reached
by it as much as if it were a palpable presence,--more powerfully,
perhaps, from the mystery which belongs to its mode of action.
Why should not Maurice have been rendered restless and anxious by the
unseen nearness of a young woman who was in the next room to him,
just as the persons who have the dread of cats are made conscious of
their presence through some unknown channel? Is it anything strange
that the larger and more powerful organism should diffuse a
consciousness of its presence to some distance as well as the
slighter and feebler one? Is it strange that this mysterious
influence or effluence should belong especially or exclusively to the
period of complete womanhood in distinction from that of immaturity
or decadence? On the contrary, it seems to be in accordance with all
the analogies of nature,--analogies too often cruel in the sentence
they pass upon the human female.
Among the many curious thoughts which came up in the doctor's mind
was this, which made him smile as if it were a jest, but which he
felt very strongly had its serious side, and was involved with the
happiness or suffering of multitudes of youthful persons who die
without telling their secret:
How many young men have a mortal fear of woman, as woman, which they
never overcome, and in consequence of which the attraction which
draws man towards her, as strong in them as in others,--oftentimes,
in virtue of their peculiarly sensitive organizations, more potent in
them than in others of like age and conditions,--in consequence of
which fear, this attraction is completely neutralized, and all the
possibilities of doubled and indefinitely extended life depending
upon it are left unrealized! Think what numbers of young men in
Catholic countries devote themselves to lives of celibacy. Think how
many young men lose all their confidence in the presence of the young
woman to whom they are most attracted, and at last steal away from a
companionship which it is rapture to dream of and torture to endure,
so does the presence of the beloved object paralyze all the powers of
expression. Sorcerers have in all time and countries played on the
hopes and terrors of lovers. Once let loose a strong impulse on the
centre of inhibition, and the warrior who had faced bayonets and
batteries becomes a coward whom the well-dressed hero of the ball-
room and leader of the German will put to ignominious flight in five
minutes of easy, audacious familiarity with his lady-love.
Yes, the doctor went on with his reflections, I do not know that I
have seen the term Gynophobia before I opened this manuscript, but I
have seen the malady many times. Only one word has stood between
many a pair of young people and their lifelong happiness, and that
word has got as far as the lips, but the lips trembled and would not,
could not, shape that little word. All young women are not like
Coleridge's Genevieve, who knew how to help her lover out of his
difficulty, and said yes before he had asked for an answer. So the
wave which was to have wafted them on to the shore of Elysium has
just failed of landing them, and back they have been drawn into the
desolate ocean to meet no more on earth.
Love is the master-key, he went on thinking, love is the master-key
that opens the gates of happiness, of hatred, of jealousy, and, most
easily of all, the gate of fear. How terrible is the one fact of
beauty!--not only the historic wonder of beauty, that "burnt the
topless towers of Ilium "for the smile of Helen, and fired the
palaces of Babylon by the hand of Thais, but the beauty which springs
up in all times and places, and carries a torch and wears a serpent
for a wreath as truly as any of the Eumenides. Paint Beauty with her
foot upon a skull and a dragon coiled around her.
The doctor smiled at his own imposing classical allusions and
pictorial imagery. Drifting along from thought to thought, he
reflected on the probable consequences of the general knowledge of
Maurice Kirkwood's story, if it came before the public.
What a piece of work it would make among the lively youths of the
village, to be sure! What scoffing, what ridicule, what
embellishments, what fables, would follow in the trail of the story!
If the Interviewer got hold of it, how "The People's Perennial and
Household Inquisitor" would blaze with capitals in its next issue!
The young fellows' of the place would be disposed to make fun of the
whole matter. The young girls-the doctor hardly dared to think what
would happen when the story got about among them. "The Sachem" of
the solitary canoe, the bold horseman, the handsome hermit,--handsome
so far as the glimpses they had got of him went,--must needs be an
object of tender interest among them, now that he was ailing,
suffering, in danger of his life, away from friends,--poor fellow!
Little tokens of their regard had reached his sick-chamber; bunches
of flowers with dainty little notes, some of them pinkish, some
three-cornered, some of them with brief messages, others "criss-
crossed," were growing more frequent as it was understood that the
patient was likely to be convalescent before many days had passed.
If it should come to be understood that there was a deadly obstacle
to their coming into any personal relations with him, the doctor had
his doubts whether there were not those who would subject him to the
risk; for there were coquettes in the village,--strangers, visitors,
let us hope,--who would sacrifice anything or anybody to their vanity
and love of conquest.
AN INTIMATE CONVERSATION.
The illness from which Maurice had suffered left him in a state of
profound prostration. The doctor, who remembered the extreme danger
of any overexertion in such cases, hardly allowed him to lift his
head from the pillow. But his mind was gradually recovering its
balance, and he was able to hold some conversation with those about
him. His faithful Paolo had grown so thin in waiting upon him and
watching with him that the village children had to take a second look
at his face when they passed him to make sure that it was indeed
their old friend and no other. But as his master advanced towards
convalescence and the doctor assured him that he was going in all
probability to get well, Paolo's face began to recover something of
its old look and expression, and once more his pockets filled
themselves with comfits for his little circle of worshipping three
and four year old followers.
How is Mr. Kirkwood?" was the question with which he was always
greeted. In the worst periods of the fever be rarely left his
master. When he did, and the question was put to him, he would shake
his head sadly, sometimes without a word, sometimes with tears and
sobs and faltering words,--more like a brokenhearted child than a
stalwart man as he was, such a man as soldiers are made of in the
great Continental armies.
"He very bad,--he no eat nothing,--he--no say nothing,--he never be
no better," and all his Southern nature betrayed itself in a
passionate burst of lamentation. But now that he began to feel easy
about his master, his ready optimism declared itself no less
"He better every day now. He get well in few weeks, sure. You see
him on hoss in little while." The kind-hearted creature's life was
bound up in that of his "master," as he loved to call him, in
sovereign disregard of the comments of the natives, who held
themselves too high for any such recognition of another as their
better. They could not understand how he, so much their superior in
bodily presence, in air and manner, could speak of the man who
employed him in any other way than as "Kirkwood," without even
demeaning himself so far as to prefix a "Mr." to it. But "my
master" Maurice remained for Paolo in spite of the fact that all men
are born free and equal. And never was a servant more devoted to a
master than was Paolo to Maurice during the days of doubt and danger.
Since his improvement Maurice insisted upon his leaving his chamber
and getting out of the house, so as to breathe the fresh air of which
he was in so much need. It worried him to see his servant returning
after too short an absence. The attendant who had helped him in the
care of the patient was within call, and Paolo was almost driven out
of the house by the urgency of his master's command that he should
take plenty of exercise in the open air.
Notwithstanding the fact of Maurice's improved condition, although
the force of the disease had spent itself, the state of weakness to
which he had been reduced was a cause of some anxiety, and required
great precautions to be taken. He lay in bed, wasted, enfeebled to
such a degree that he had to be cared for very much as a child is
tended. Gradually his voice was coming back to him, so that he could
hold some conversation, as was before mentioned, with those about
him. The doctor waited for the right moment to make mention of the
manuscript which Maurice had submitted to him. Up to this time,
although it had been alluded to and the doctor had told him of the
intense interest with which he had read it, he had never ventured to
make it the subject of any long talk, such as would be liable to
fatigue his patient. But now he thought the time had come.
"I have been thinking," the doctor said, "of the singular seizures to
which you are liable, and as it is my business not merely to think
about such cases, but to do what I can to help any who may be capable
of receiving aid from my art, I wish to have some additional facts
about your history. And in the first place, will you allow me to ask
what led you to this particular place? It is so much less known to
the public at large than many other resorts that we naturally ask,
What brings this or that new visitor among us? We have no ill-
tasting, natural spring of bad water to be analyzed by the state
chemist and proclaimed as a specific. We have no great gambling-
houses, no racecourse (except that fox boats on the lake); we have no
coaching-club, no great balls, few lions of any kind, so we ask, What
brings this or that stranger here? And I think I may venture to ask
you whether any, special motive brought you among us, or whether it
was accident that determined your coming to this place."
"Certainly, doctor," Maurice answered, "I will tell you with great
pleasure. Last year I passed on the border of a great river. The
year before I lived in a lonely cottage at the side of the ocean. I
wanted this year to be by a lake. You heard the paper read at the
meeting of your society, or at least you heard of it,--for such
matters are always talked over in a village like this. You can judge
by that paper, or could, if it were before you, of the frame of mind
in which I came here. I was tired of the sullen indifference of the
ocean and the babbling egotism of the river, always hurrying along on
its own private business. I wanted the dreamy stillness of a large,
tranquil sheet of water that had nothing in particular to do, and
would leave me to myself and my thoughts. I had read somewhere about
the place, and the old Anchor Tavern, with its paternal landlord and
motherly landlady and old-fashioned household, and that, though it
was no longer open as a tavern, I could find a resting-place there
early in the season, at least for a few days, while I looked about me
for a quiet place in which I might pass my summer. I have found this
a pleasant residence. By being up early and out late I have kept
myself mainly in the solitude which has become my enforced habit of
life. The season has gone by too swiftly for me since my dream has
become a vision."
The doctor was sitting with his hand round Maurice's wrist, three
fingers on his pulse. As he spoke these last words he noticed that
the pulse fluttered a little,--beat irregularly a few times;
intermitted; became feeble and thready; while his cheek grew whiter
than the pallid bloodlessness of his long illness had left it.
"No more talk, now," he said. "You are too tired to be using your
voice. I will hear all the rest another time."
The doctor had interrupted Maurice at an interesting point. What did
he mean by saying that his dream had become a vision? This is what
the doctor was naturally curious, and professionally anxious, to
know. But his hand was still on his patient's pulse, which told him
unmistakably that the heart had taken the alarm and was losing its
energy under the depressing nervous influence. Presently, however,
it recovered its natural force and rhythm, and a faint flush came
back to the pale cheek. The doctor remembered the story of Galen,
and the young maiden whose complaint had puzzled the physicians.
The next day his patient was well enough to enter once more into
"You said something about a dream of yours which had become a
vision," said the doctor, with his fingers on his patient's wrist, as
before. He felt the artery leap, under his pressure, falter a
little, stop, then begin again, growing fuller in its beat. The
heart had felt the pull of the bridle, but the spur had roused it to
"You know the story of my past life, doctor," Maurice answered; "and,
I will tell you what is the vision which has taken the place of my
dreams. You remember the boat-race? I watched it from a distance,
but I held a powerful opera-glass in my hand, which brought the whole
crew of the young ladies' boat so close to me that I could see the
features, the figures, the movements, of every one of the rowers. I
saw the little coxswain fling her bouquet in the track of the other
boat,--you remember how the race was lost and won,--but I saw one
face among those young girls which drew me away from all the rest.
It was that of the young lady who pulled the bow oar, the captain of
the boat's crew. I have since learned her name, you know it well,--I
need not name her. Since that day I have had many distant glimpses
of her; and once I met her so squarely that the deadly sensation came
over me, and I felt that in another moment I should fall senseless at
her feet. But she passed on her way and I on mine, and the spasm
which had clutched my heart gradually left it, and I was as well as
before. You know that young lady, doctor?"
"I do; and she is a very noble creature. You are not the first young
man who has been fascinated, almost at a glance, by Miss Euthymia
Tower. And she is well worth knowing more intimately."
The doctor gave him a full account of the young lady, of her early
days, her character, her accomplishments. To all this he listened
devoutly, and when the doctor left him he said to himself,
"I will see her and speak with her, if it costs me my life."
"The Wonder" of the Corinna Institute had never willingly made a show
of her gymnastic accomplishments. Her feats, which were so much
admired, were only her natural exercise. Gradually the dumb-bells
others used became too light for her, the ropes she climbed too
short, the clubs she exercised with seemed as if they were made of
cork instead of being heavy wood, and all the tests and meters of
strength and agility had been strained beyond the standards which the
records of the school had marked as their historic maxima. It was
not her fault that she broke a dynamometer one day; she apologized
for it, but the teacher said he wished he could have a dozen broken
every year in the same way. The consciousness of her bodily strength
had made her very careful in her movements. The pressure of her hand
was never too hard for the tenderest little maiden whose palm was
against her own. So far from priding herself on her special gifts,
she was disposed to be ashamed of them. There were times and places
in which she could give full play to her muscles without fear or
reproach. She had her special costume for the boat and for the
woods. She would climb the rugged old hemlocks now and then for the
sake of a wide outlook, or to peep into the large nest where a hawk,
or it may be an eagle, was raising her little brood of air-pirates.
There were those who spoke of her wanderings in lonely places as an
unsafe exposure. One sometimes met doubtful characters about the
neighborhood, and stories were--told of occurrences which might well
frighten a young girl, and make her cautious of trusting herself
alone in the wild solitudes which surrounded the little village..
Those who knew Euthymia thought her quite equal to taking care of
herself. Her very look was enough to ensure the respect of any
vagabond who might cross her path, and if matters came to the worst
she would prove as dangerous as a panther.
But it was a pity to associate this class of thoughts with a noble
specimen of true womanhood. Health, beauty, strength, were fine
qualities, and in all these she was rich. She enjoyed all her
natural gifts, and thought little about them. Unwillingly, but over-
persuaded by some of her friends, she had allowed her arm and hand to
be modelled. The artists who saw the cast wondered if it would be
possible to get the bust of the maiden from whom it was taken.
Nobody would have dared to suggest such an idea to her except Lurida.
For Lurida sex was a trifling accident, to be disregarded not only in
the interests of humanity, but for the sake of art.
"It is a shame," she said to Euthymia, "that you will not let your
exquisitely moulded form be perpetuated in marble. You have no right
to withhold such a model from the contemplation of your fellow-
creatures. Think how rare it is to see a woman who truly represents
the divine idea! You belong to your race, and not to yourself,--at
least, your beauty is a gift not to be considered as a piece of
private property. Look at the so-called Venus of Milo. Do you
suppose the noble woman who was the original of that divinely chaste
statue felt any scruple about allowing the sculptor to reproduce her
pure, unblemished perfections?"
Euthymia was always patient with her imaginative friend. She
listened to her eloquent discourse, but she could not help blushing,
used as she was to Lurida's audacities. "The Terror's" brain had run
away with a large share of the blood which ought to have gone to the
nourishment of her general system. She could not help admiring,
almost worshipping, a companion whose being was rich in the womanly
developments with which nature had so economically endowed herself.
An impoverished organization carries with it certain neutral
qualities which make its subject appear, in the presence of complete
manhood and womanhood, like a deaf-mute among speaking persons. The
deep blush which crimsoned Euthymia's cheek at Lurida's suggestion
was in a strange contrast to her own undisturbed expression. There
was a range of sensibilities of which Lurida knew far less than she
did of those many and difficult studies which had absorbed her vital
forces. She was startled to see what an effect her proposal had
produced, for Euthymia was not only blushing, but there was a flame
in her eyes which she had hardly ever seen before.
"Is this only your own suggestion?" Euthymia said, "or has some one
been putting the idea into your head?" The truth was that she had
happened to meet the Interviewer at the Library, one day, and she was
offended by the long, searching stare with which that individual had
honored her. It occurred to her that he, or some such visitor to the
place, might have spoken of her to Lurida, or to some other person
who had repeated what was said to Lurida, as a good subject for the
art of the sculptor, and she felt all her maiden sensibilities
offended by the proposition. Lurida could not understand her
excitement, but she was startled by it. Natures which are
complementary of each other are liable to these accidental collisions
of feeling. They get along very well together, none the worse for
their differences, until all at once the tender spot of one or the
other is carelessly handled in utter unconsciousness on the part of
the aggressor, and the exclamation, the outcry, or the explosion
explains the situation altogether too emphatically. Such scenes did
not frequently occur between the two friends, and this little flurry
was soon over; but it served to warn Lurida that Miss Euthymia Tower
was not of that class of self-conscious beauties who would be ready
to dispute the empire of the Venus of Milo on her own ground, in
defences as scanty and insufficient as those of the marble divinity.
Euthymia had had admirers enough, at a distance, while at school, and
in the long vacations, near enough to find out that she was anything
but easy to make love to. She fairly frightened more than one rash
youth who was disposed to be too sentimental in her company. They
overdid flattery, which she was used to and tolerated, but which
cheapened the admirer in her estimation, and now and then betrayed
her into an expression which made him aware of the fact, and was a
discouragement to aggressive amiability. The real difficulty was
that not one of her adorers had ever greatly interested her. It
could not be that nature had made her insensible. It must have been
because the man who was made for her had never yet shown himself.
She was not easy to please, that was certain; and she was one of
those young women who will not accept as a lover one who but half
pleases them. She could not pick up the first stick that fell in her
way and take it to shape her ideal out of. Many of the good people
of the village doubted whether Euthymia would ever be married.
"There 's nothing good enough for her in this village," said the old
landlord of what had been the Anchor Tavern.
"She must wait till a prince comes along," the old landlady said in
reply. "She'd make as pretty a queen as any of them that's born to
it. Wouldn't she be splendid with a gold crown on her head, and
di'monds a glitterin' all over her! D' you remember how handsome she
looked in the tableau, when the fair was held for the Dorcas Society?
She had on an old dress of her grandma's,--they don't make anything.
half so handsome nowadays,--and she was just as pretty as a pictur'.
But what's the use of good looks if they scare away folks? The young
fellows think that such a handsome girl as that would cost ten times
as much to keep as a plain one. She must be dressed up like an
empress,--so they seem to think. It ain't so with Euthymy: she'd
look like a great lady dressed anyhow, and she has n't got any more
notions than the homeliest girl that ever stood before a glass to
look at herself."
In the humbler walks of Arrowhead Village society, similar opinions
were entertained of Miss Euthymia. The fresh-water fisherman
represented pretty well the average estimate of the class to which he
belonged. "I tell ye," said he to another gentleman of leisure,
whose chief occupation was to watch the coming and going of the
visitors to Arrowhead Village,--"I tell ye that girl ain't a gon to
put up with any o' them slab-sided fellahs that you see hangin'
raound to look at her every Sunday when she comes aout o' meetin'.
It's one o' them big gents from Boston or New York that'll step up
an' kerry her off."
In the mean time nothing could be further from the thoughts of
Euthymia than the prospect of an ambitious worldly alliance. The
ideals of young women cost them many and great disappointments, but
they save them very often from those lifelong companionships which
accident is constantly trying to force upon them, in spite of their
obvious unfitness. The higher the ideal, the less likely is the
commonplace neighbor who has the great advantage of easy access, or
the boarding-house acquaintance who can profit by those vacant hours
when the least interesting of visitors is better than absolute
loneliness,--the less likely are these undesirable personages to be
endured, pitied, and, if not embraced, accepted, for want of
something better. Euthymia found so much pleasure in the
intellectual companionship of Lurida, and felt her own prudence and
reserve so necessary to that independent young lady, that she had
been contented, so far, with friendship, and thought of love only in
an abstract sort of way. Beneath her abstractions there was a
capacity of loving which might have been inferred from the expression
of her features, the light that shone in her eyes, the tones of her
voice, all of which were full of the language which belongs to
susceptible natures. How many women never say to themselves that
they were born to love, until all at once the discovery opens upon
them, as the sense that he was born a painter is said to have dawned
suddenly upon Correggio!
Like all the rest of the village and its visitors, she could not help
thinking a good deal about the young man lying ill amongst strangers.
She was not one of those who had sent him the three-cornered notes or
even a bunch of flowers. She knew that he was receiving abounding
tokens of kindness and sympathy from different quarters, and a
certain inward feeling restrained her from joining in these
demonstrations. If he had been suffering from some deadly and
contagious malady she would have risked her life to help him, without
a thought that there was any wonderful heroism in such self-devotion.
Her friend Lurida might have been capable of the same sacrifice, but
it would be after reasoning with herself as to the obligations which
her sense of human rights and duties laid upon her, and fortifying
her courage with the memory of noble deeds recorded of women in
ancient and modern history. With Euthymia the primary human
instincts took precedence of all reasoning or reflection about them.
All her sympathies were excited by the thought of this forlorn
stranger in his solitude, but she felt the impossibility of giving
any complete expression to them. She thought of Mungo Park in the
African desert, and she envied the poor negress who not only pitied
him, but had the blessed opportunity of helping and consoling him.
How near were these two human creatures, each needing the other! How
near in bodily presence, how far apart in their lives, with a barrier
seemingly impassable between them!
THE MEETING OF MAURICE AND EUTHYMIA.
These autumnal fevers, which carry off a large number of our young
people every year, are treacherous and deceptive diseases. Not only
are they liable, as has been mentioned, to various accidental
complications which may prove suddenly fatal, but too often, after
convalescence seems to be established, relapses occur which are more
serious than the disease had appeared to be in its previous course.
One morning Dr. Butts found Maurice worse instead of better, as he
had hoped and expected to find him. Weak as he was, there was every
reason to fear the issue of this return of his threatening symptoms.
There was not much to do besides keeping up the little strength which
still remained. It was all needed.
Does the reader of these pages ever think of the work a sick man as
much as a well one has to perform while he is lying on his back and
taking what we call his "rest"? More than a thousand times an hour,
between a hundred and fifty and two hundred thousand times a week, he
has to lift the bars of the cage in which his breathing organs are
confined, to save himself from asphyxia. Rest! There is no rest
until the last long sigh tells those who look upon the dying that the
ceaseless daily task, to rest from which is death, is at last
finished. We are all galley-slaves, pulling at the levers of
respiration,--which, rising and falling like so many oars, drive us
across an unfathomable ocean from one unknown shore to another. No!
Never was a galley-slave so chained as we are to these four and
twenty oars, at which we must tug day and night all our life long
The doctor could not find any accidental cause to account for this
relapse. It presently occurred to him that there might be some local
source of infection which had brought on the complaint, and was still
keeping up the symptoms which were the ground of alarm. He
determined to remove Maurice to his own house, where he could be sure
of pure air, and where he himself could give more constant attention
to his patient during this critical period of his disease. It was a
risk to take, but he could be carried on a litter by careful men, and
remain wholly passive during the removal. Maurice signified his
assent, as he could hardly help doing,--for the doctor's suggestion
took pretty nearly the form of a command. He thought it a matter of
life and death, and was gently urgent for his patient's immediate
change of residence. The doctor insisted on having Maurice's books
and other movable articles carried to his own house, so that he
should be surrounded by familiar sights, and not worry himself about
what might happen to objects which he valued, if they were left
All these dispositions were quickly and quietly made, and everything
was ready for the transfer of the patient to the house of the
hospitable physician. Paolo was at the doctor's, superintending the
arrangement of Maurice's effects and making all ready for his master.
The nurse in attendance, a trustworthy man enough in the main,
finding his patient in a tranquil sleep, left his bedside for a
little fresh air. While he was at the door he heard a shouting which
excited his curiosity, and he followed the sound until he found
himself at the border of the lake. It was nothing very wonderful
which had caused the shouting. A Newfoundland dog had been showing
off his accomplishments, and some of the idlers were betting as to
the time it would take him to bring back to his master the various
floating objects which had been thrown as far from the shore as
possible. He watched the dog a few minutes, when his attention was
drawn to a light wherry, pulled by one young lady and steered by
another. It was making for the shore, which it would soon reach.
The attendant remembered all at once, that he had left his charge,
and just before the boat came to land he turned and hurried back to
the patient. Exactly how long he had been absent he could not have
said,--perhaps a quarter of an hour, perhaps longer; the time
appeared short to him, wearied with long sitting and watching.
It had seemed, when he stole away from Maurice's bedside, that he was
not in the least needed. The patient was lying perfectly quiet, and
to all appearance wanted nothing more than letting alone. It was
such a comfort to look at something besides the worn features of a
sick man, to hear something besides his labored breathing and faint,
half-whispered words, that the temptation to indulge in these
luxuries for a few minutes had proved irresistible.
Unfortunately, Maurice's slumbers did not remain tranquil during the
absence of the nurse. He very soon fell into a dream, which began
quietly enough, but in the course of the sudden transitions which
dreams are in the habit of undergoing became successively anxious,
distressing, terrifying. His earlier and later experiences came up
before him, fragmentary, incoherent, chaotic even, but vivid as
reality. He was at the bottom of a coal-mine in one of those long,
narrow galleries, or rather worm-holes, in which human beings pass a
large part of their lives, like so many larvae boring their way into
the beams and rafters of some old building. How close the air was in
the stifling passage through which he was crawling! The scene
changed, and he was climbing a slippery sheet of ice with desperate
effort, his foot on the floor of a shallow niche, his hold an icicle
ready to snap in an instant, an abyss below him waiting for his foot
to slip or the icicle to break. How thin the air seemed, how
desperately hard to breathe! He was thinking of Mont Blanc, it may
be, and the fearfully rarefied atmosphere which he remembered well as
one of the great trials in his mountain ascents. No, it was not Mont
Blanc,--it was not any one of the frozen Alpine summits; it was Hecla
that he was climbing
The smoke of the burning mountain was wrapping itself around him; he
was choking with its dense fumes; he heard the flames roaring around
him, he felt the hot lava beneath his feet, he uttered a faint cry,
The room was full of smoke. He was gasping for breath, strangling in
the smothering oven which his chamber had become.
The house was on fire!
He tried to call for help, but his voice failed him, and died away in
a whisper. He made a desperate effort, and rose so as to sit up in
the bed for an instant, but the effort was too much for him, and he
sank back upon his pillow, helpless. He felt that his hour had come,
for he could not live in this dreadful atmosphere, and he was left
alone. He could hear the crackle of fire as the flame crept along
from one partition to another. It was a cruel fate to be left to
perish in that way,--the fate that many a martyr had had to face,--to
be first strangled and then burned. Death had not the terror for him
that it has for most young persons. He was accustomed to thinking of
it calmly, sometimes wistfully, even to such a degree that the
thought of self-destruction had come upon him as a temptation. But
here was death in an unexpected and appalling shape. He did not know
before how much he cared to live. All his old recollections came
before him as it were in one long, vivid flash. The closed vista of
memory opened to its far horizon-line, and past and present were
pictured in a single instant of clear vision. The dread moment which
had blighted his life returned in all its terror. He felt the
convulsive spring in the form of a faint, impotent spasm,--the rush
of air,--the thorns of the stinging and lacerating cradle into which
he was precipitated. One after another those paralyzing seizures
which had been like deadening blows on the naked heart seemed to
repeat themselves, as real as at the moment of their occurrence. The
pictures passed in succession with such rapidity that they appeared
almost as if simultaneous. The vision of the "inward eye" was so
intensified in this moment of peril that an instant was like an hour
of common existence. Those who have been very near drowning know
well what this description means. The development of a photograph
may not explain it, but it illustrates the curious and familiar fact
of the revived recollections of the drowning man's experience. The
sensitive plate has taken one look at a scene, and remembers it all,
Every little circumstance is there,--the hoof in air, the wing in
flight, the leaf as it falls, the wave as it breaks. All there, but
invisible; potentially present, but impalpable, inappreciable, as if
not existing at all. A wash is poured over it, and the whole scene
comes out in all its perfection of detail. In those supreme moments
when death stares a man suddenly in the face the rush of unwonted
emotion floods the undeveloped pictures of vanished years, stored
away in the memory, the vast panorama of a lifetime, and in one swift
instant the past comes out as vividly as if it were again the
present. So it was at this moment with the sick man, as he lay
helpless and felt that he was left to die. For he saw no hope of
relief: the smoke was drifting in clouds into the room; the flames
were very near; if he was not reached and rescued immediately it was
all over with him.
His past life had flashed before him. Then all at once rose the
thought of his future,--of all its possibilities, of the vague hopes
which he had cherished of late that his mysterious doom would be
lifted from him. There was something, then, to be lived for,
something! There was a new life, it might be, in store for him, and
such a new life! He thought of all he was losing. Oh, could he but
have lived to know the meaning of love! And the passionate desire of
life came over him,--not the dread of death, but the longing for what
the future might yet have of happiness for him.
All this took place in the course of a very few moments. Dreams and
visions have little to do with measured time, and ten minutes,
possibly fifteen or twenty, were all that had passed since the
beginning of those nightmare terrors which were evidently suggested
by the suffocating air he was breathing.
What had happened? In the confusion of moving books and other
articles to the doctor's house, doors and windows had been forgotten.
Among the rest a window opening into the cellar, where some old
furniture had been left by a former occupant, had been left unclosed.
One of the lazy natives, who had lounged by the house smoking a bad
cigar, had thrown the burning stump in at this open window. He had
no particular intention of doing mischief, but he had that
indifference to consequences which is the next step above the
inclination to crime. The burning stump happened to fall among the
straw of an old mattress which had been ripped open. The smoker went
his way without looking behind him, and it so chanced that no other
person passed the house for some time. Presently the straw was in a
blaze, and from this the fire extended to the furniture, to the
stairway leading up from the cellar, and was working its way along
the entry under the stairs leading up to the apartment where Maurice
The blaze was fierce and swift, as it could not help being with such
a mass of combustibles,--loose straw from the mattress, dry old
furniture, and old warped floors which had been parching and
shrinking for a score or two of years. The whole house was, in the
common language of the newspaper reports, "a perfect tinder-box," and
would probably be a heap of ashes in half an hour. And there was
this unfortunate deserted sick man lying between life and death,
beyond all help unless some unexpected assistance should come to his
As the attendant drew near the house where Maurice was lying, he was
horror-struck to see dense volumes of smoke pouring out of the lower
windows. It was beginning to make its way through the upper windows,
also, and presently a tongue of fire shot out and streamed upward
along the side of the house. The man shrieked Fire! Fire! with all
his might, and rushed to the door of the building to make his way to
Maurice's room and save him. He penetrated but a short distance
when, blinded and choking with the smoke, he rushed headlong down the
stairs with a cry of despair that roused every man, woman, and child
within reach of a human voice. Out they came from their houses in
every quarter of the village. The shout of Fire! Fire! was the
chief aid lent by many of the young and old. Some caught up pails
and buckets: the more thoughtful ones filling them; the hastier
snatching them up empty, trusting to find water nearer the burning
Is the sick man moved?
This was the awful question first asked,--for in the little village
all knew that Maurice was about being transferred to the doctor's
house. The attendant, white as death, pointed to the chamber where
he had left him, and gasped out,
"He is there!"
A ladder! A ladder! was the general cry, and men and boys rushed
off in search of one. But a single minute was an age now, and there
was no ladder to be had without a delay of many minutes. The sick
man was going to be swallowed up in the flames before it could
possibly arrive. Some were going for a blanket or a coverlet, in the
hope that the young man might have strength enough to leap from the
window and be safely caught in it. The attendant shook his head, and
"He cannot move from his bed."
One of the visitors at the village,--a millionaire, it was said,--a
kind-hearted man, spoke in hoarse, broken tones:
"A thousand dollars to the man that will bring him from his chamber!"
The fresh-water fisherman muttered, "I should like to save the man
and to see the money, but it ain't a thaousan' dollars, nor ten
thaousan' dollars, that'll pay a fellah for burnin' to death,--or
even chokin' to death, anyhaow."
The carpenter, who knew the framework of every house in the village,
recent or old, shook his head.
"The stairs have been shored up," he said, "and when the fists that
holds 'em up goes, down they'll come. It ain't safe for no man to go
over them stairs. Hurry along your ladder,--that's your only
All was wild confusion around the burning house. The ladder they had
gone for was missing from its case,--a neighbor had carried it off
for the workmen who were shingling his roof. It would never get
there in time. There was a fire-engine, but it was nearly half a
mile from the lakeside settlement. Some were throwing on water in an
aimless, useless way; one was sending a thin stream through a garden
syringe: it seemed like doing something, at least. But all hope of
saving Maurice was fast giving way, so rapid was the progress of the
flames, so thick the cloud of smoke that filled the house and poured
from the windows. Nothing was heard but confused cries, shrieks of
women, all sorts of orders to do this and that, no one knowing what
was to be done. The ladder! The ladder! Five minutes more and it
will be too late!
In the mean time the alarm of fire had reached Paolo, and he had
stopped his work of arranging Maurice's books in the same way as that
in which they had stood in his apartment, and followed in the
direction of the sound, little thinking that his master was lying
helpless in the burning house. "Some chimney afire," he said to
himself; but he would go and take a look, at any rate.
Before Paolo had reached the scene of destruction and impending
death, two young women, in boating dresses of decidedly Bloomerish
aspect, had suddenly joined the throng. "The Wonder" and "The
Terror" of their school-days--Miss Euthymia rower and Miss Lurida
Vincent had just come from the shore, where they had left their
wherry. A few hurried words told them the fearful story. Maurice
Kirkwood was lying in the chamber to which every eye was turned,
unable to move, doomed to a dreadful death. All that could be hoped
was that he would perish by suffocation rather than by the flames,
which would soon be upon him. The man who had attended him had just
tried to reach his chamber, but had reeled back out of the door,
almost strangled by the smoke. A thousand dollars had been offered
to any one who would rescue the sick man, but no one had dared to
make the attempt; for the stairs might fall at any moment, if the
smoke did not blind and smother the man who passed them before they
The two young women looked each other in the face for one swift
"How can he be reached?" asked Lurida. "Is there nobody that will
venture his life to save a brother like that?"
"I will venture mine," said Euthymia.
"No! no!" shrieked Lurida,--"not you! not you! It is a man's work,
not yours! You shall not go!" Poor Lurida had forgotten all her
theories in this supreme moment. But Euthymia was not to be held
back. Taking a handkerchief from her neck, she dipped it in a pail
of water and bound it about her head. Then she took several deep
breaths of air, and filled her lungs as full as they would hold. She
knew she must not take a single breath in the choking atmosphere if
she could possibly help it, and Euthymia was noted for her power of
staying under water so long that more than once those who saw her
dive thought she would never come up again. So rapid were her
movements that they paralyzed the bystanders, who would forcibly have
prevented her from carrying out her purpose. Her imperious
determination was not to be resisted. And so Euthymia, a willing
martyr, if martyr she was to be, and not saviour, passed within the
veil that hid the sufferer.
Lurida turned deadly pale, and sank fainting to the ground. She was
the first, but not the only one, of her sex that fainted as Euthymia
disappeared in the smoke of the burning building. Even the rector
grew very white in the face,--so white that one of his vestry-men
begged him to sit down at once, and sprinkled a few drops of water on
his forehead, to his great disgust and manifest advantage. The old
landlady was crying and moaning, and her husband was wiping his eyes
and shaking his head sadly.
"She will nevar come out alive," he said solemnly.
"Nor dead, neither," added the carpenter. "Ther' won't be nothing
left of neither of 'em but ashes." And the carpenter hid his face in
The fresh-water fisherman had pulled out a rag which he called a
"hangkercher,"--it had served to carry bait that morning,--and was
making use of its best corner to dry the tears which were running
down his cheeks. The whole village was proud of Euthymia, and with
these more quiet signs of grief were mingled loud lamentations,
coming alike from old and young.
All this was not so much like a succession of events as it was like a
tableau. The lookers-on were stunned with its suddenness, and before
they had time to recover their bewildered senses all was lost, or
seemed lost. They felt that they should never look again on either
of those young faces.
The rector, not unfeeling by nature, but inveterately professional by
habit, had already recovered enough to be thinking of a text for the
funeral sermon. The first that occurred to him was this,--vaguely,
of course, in the background of consciousness:
"Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego came forth of the midst of the
The village undertaker was of naturally sober aspect and reflective
disposition. He had always been opposed to cremation, and here was a
funeral pile blazing before his eyes. He, too, had his human
sympathies, but in the distance his imagination pictured the final
ceremony, and how he himself should figure in a spectacle where the
usual centre piece of attraction would be wanting,--perhaps his own
services uncalled for.
Blame him not, you whose garden-patch is not watered with the tears
of mourners. The string of self-interest answers with its chord to
every sound; it vibrates with the funeral-bell, it finds itself
trembling to the wail of the De Profundis. Not always,--not always;
let us not be cynical in our judgments, but common human nature, we
may safely say, is subject to those secondary vibrations under the
most solemn and soul-subduing influences.
It seems as if we were doing great wrong to the scene we are
contemplating in delaying it by the description of little
circumstances and individual thoughts and feelings. But linger as we
may, we cannot compress into a chapter--we could not crowd into a
volume--all that passed through the minds and stirred the emotions of
the awe-struck company which was gathered about the scene of danger
and of terror. We are dealing with an impossibility: consciousness
is a surface; narrative is a line.
Maurice had given himself up for lost. His breathing was becoming
every moment more difficult, and he felt that his strength could hold
out but a few minutes longer.
"Robert!" he called in faint accents. But the attendant was not
there to answer.
"Paolo! Paolo!" But the faithful servant, who would have given his
life for his master, had not yet reached the place where the crowd
"Oh, for a breath of air! Oh, for an arm to lift me from this bed!
Too late! Too late!" he gasped, with what might have seemed his
"Not too late!" The soft voice reached his obscured consciousness as
if it had come down to him from heaven.
In a single instant he found himself rolled in a blanket and in the
arms of--a woman!
Out of the stifling chamber,--over the burning stairs,--close by the
tongues of fire that were lapping up all they could reach,--out into
the open air, he was borne swiftly and safely,--carried as easily as
if he had been a babe, in the strong arms of "The Wonder" of the
gymnasium, the captain of the Atalanta, who had little dreamed of the
use she was to make of her natural gifts and her school-girl
Such a cry as arose from the crowd of on-lookers! It was a sound
that none of them had ever heard before or could expect ever to hear
again, unless he should be one of the last boat-load rescued from a
sinking vessel. Then, those who had resisted the overflow of their
emotion, who had stood in white despair as they thought of these two
young lives soon to be wrapped in their burning shroud,--those stern
men--the old sea-captain, the hard-faced, moneymaking, cast-iron
tradesmen of the city counting-room--sobbed like hysteric women; it
was like a convulsion that overcame natures unused to those deeper
emotions which many who are capable of experiencing die without ever
This was the scene upon which the doctor and Paolo suddenly appeared
at the same moment.
As the fresh breeze passed over the face of the rescued patient, his
eyes opened wide, and his consciousness returned in almost
supernatural lucidity. Euthymia had sat down upon a bank, and was
still supporting him. His head was resting on her bosom. Through
his awakening senses stole the murmurs of the living cradle which
rocked him with the wavelike movements of respiration, the soft
susurrus of the air that entered with every breath, the double beat
of the heart which throbbed close to his ear. And every sense, and
every instinct, and every reviving pulse told him in language like a
revelation from another world that a woman's arms were around
him, and that it was life, and not death, which her embrace had
She would have disengaged him from her protecting hold, but the
doctor made her a peremptory sign, which he followed by a sharp
"Do not move him a hair's breadth," he said. "Wait until the litter
comes. Any sudden movement might be dangerous. Has anybody a brandy
flask about him?"
One or two members of the local temperance society looked rather
awkward, but did not come forward.
The fresh-water fisherman was the first who spoke.
"I han't got no brandy," he said, "but there's a drop or two of old
Medford rum in this here that you're welcome to, if it'll be of any
help. I alliz kerry a little on 't in case o' gettin' wet 'n'
So saying he held forth a flat bottle with the word Sarsaparilla
stamped on the green glass, but which contained half a pint or more
of the specific on which he relied in those very frequent exposures
which happen to persons of his calling.
The doctor motioned back Paolo, who would have rushed at once to the
aid of Maurice, and who was not wanted at that moment. So poor
Paolo, in an agony of fear for his master, was kept as quiet as
possible, and had to content himself with asking all sorts of
questions and repeating all the prayers he could think of to Our Lady
and to his holy namesake the Apostle.
The doctor wiped the mouth of the fisherman's bottle very carefully.
"Take a few drops of this cordial," he said, as he held it to his
patient's lips. "Hold him just so, Euthymia, without stirring. I
will watch him, and say when he is ready to be moved. The litter is
near by, waiting." Dr. Butts watched Maurice's pulse and color. The
"Old Medford" knew its business. It had knocked over its tens of
thousands; it had its redeeming virtue, and helped to set up a poor
fellow now and then. It did this for Maurice very effectively. When
he seemed somewhat restored, the doctor had the litter brought to his
side, and Euthymia softly resigned her helpless burden, which Paolo
and the attendant Robert lifted with the aid of the doctor, who
walked by the patient as he was borne to the home where Mrs. Butts
had made all ready for his reception.
As for poor Lurida, who had thought herself equal to the sanguinary
duties of the surgeon, she was left lying on the grass with an old
woman over her, working hard with fan and smelling-salts to bring her
back from her long fainting fit.
Why should not human nature be the same in Arrowhead Village as
elsewhere? It could not seem strange to the good people of that
place and their visitors that these two young persons, brought
together under circumstances that stirred up the deepest emotions of
which the human soul is capable, should become attached to each
other. But the bond between them was stronger than any knew, except
the good doctor, who had learned the great secret of Maurice's life.
For the first time since his infancy he had fully felt the charm
which the immediate presence of youthful womanhood carries with it.
He could hardly believe the fact when he found himself no longer the
subject of the terrifying seizures of which he had had many and
It was the doctor's business to save his patient's life, if he could
possibly do it. Maurice had been reduced to the most perilous state
of debility by the relapse which had interrupted his convalescence.
Only by what seemed almost a miracle had he survived the exposure to
suffocation and the mental anguish through which he had passed. It
was perfectly clear to Dr. Butts that if Maurice could see the young
woman to whom he owed his life, and, as the doctor felt assured, the
revolution in his nervous system which would be the beginning of a
new existence, it would be of far more value as a restorative agency
than any or all of the drugs in the pharmacopoeia. He told this to
Euthymia, and explained the matter to her parents and friends. She
must go with him on some of his visits. Her mother should go with
her, or her sister; but this was a case of life and death, and no
maidenly scruples must keep her from doing her duty.
The first of her visits to the sick, perhaps dying, man presented a
scene not unlike the picture before spoken of on the title-page of
the old edition of Galen. The doctor was perhaps the most agitated
of the little group. He went before the others, took his seat by the
bedside, and held the patient's wrist with his finger on the pulse.
As Euthymia entered it gave a single bound, fluttered for an instant
as if with a faint memory of its old habit, then throbbed full and
strong, comparatively, as if under the spur of some powerful
stimulus. Euthymia's task was a delicate one, but she knew how to
disguise its difficulty.
"Here is a flower I have brought you, Mr. Kirkwood," she said, and
handed him a white chrysanthemum. He took it from her hand, and
before she knew it he took her hand into his own, and held it with a
gentle constraint. What could she do? Here was the young man whose
life she had saved, at least for the moment, and who was yet in
danger from the disease which had almost worn out his powers of
"Sit down by Mr. Kirkwood's side," said the doctor. "He wants to
thank you, if he has strength to do it, for saving him from the death
which seemed inevitable."
Not many words could Maurice command. He was weak enough for womanly
tears, but their fountains no longer flowed; it was with him as with
the dying, whose eyes may light up, but rarely shed a tear.
The river which has found a new channel widens and deepens--it; it
lets the old water-course fill up, and never returns to its forsaken
bed. The tyrannous habit was broken. The prophecy of the gitana had
verified itself, and the ill a fair woman had wrought a fairer woman
bad conquered and abolished.
The history of Maurice Kirkwood loses its exceptional character from
the time of his restoration to his natural conditions. His
convalescence was very slow and gradual, but no further accident
interrupted its even progress. The season was over, the summer
visitors had left Arrowhead Village; the chrysanthemums were going
out of flower, the frosts had come, and Maurice was still beneath the
roof of the kind physician. The relation between him and his
preserver was so entirely apart from all common acquaintances and
friendships that no ordinary rules could apply to it. Euthymia
visited him often during the period of his extreme prostration.
"You must come every day," the doctor said. "He gains with every
visit you make him; he pines if you miss him for a single day." So
she came and sat by him, the doctor or good Mrs. Butts keeping her
company in his presence. He grew stronger,--began to sit up in bed;
and at last Euthymia found him dressed as in health, and beginning to
walk about the room. She was startled. She had thought of herself
as a kind of nurse, but the young gentleman could hardly be said to
need a nurse any longer. She had scruples about making any further
visits. She asked Lurida what she thought about it.
"Think about it?" said Lurida. "Why should n't you go to see a
brother as well as a sister, I should like to know? If you are
afraid to go to see Maurice Kirkwood, I am not afraid, at any rate.
If you would rather have me go than go yourself, I will do it, and
let people talk just as much as they want to. Shall I go instead of
Euthymia was not quite sure that this would be the best thing for the
patient. The doctor had told her he thought there were special
reasons for her own course in coming daily to see him. "I am
afraid," she said, "you are too bright to be safe for him in his
weak state. Your mind is such a stimulating one, you know. A dull
sort of person like myself is better for him just now. I will
continue visiting him as long as the doctor says it is important that
I should; but you must defend me, Lurida,--I know you can explain it
all so that people will not blame me."
Euthymia knew full well what the effect of Lurida's penetrating head-
voice would be in a convalescent's chamber. She knew how that active
mind of hers would set the young man's thoughts at work, when what he
wanted was rest of every faculty. Were not these good and sufficient
reasons for her decision? What others could there be?
So Euthymia kept on with her visits, until she blushed to see that
she was continuing her charitable office for one who was beginning to
look too well to be called an invalid. It was a dangerous condition
of affairs, and the busy tongues of the village gossips were free in
their comments. Free, but kindly, for the story of the rescue had
melted every heart; and what could be more natural than that these
two young people whom God had brought together in the dread moment of
peril should find it hard to tear themselves asunder after the hour
of danger was past? When gratitude is a bankrupt, love only can pay
his debts; and if Maurice gave his heart to Euthymia, would not she
receive it as payment in full?
The change which had taken place in the vital currents of Maurice
Kirkwood's system was as simple and solid a fact as the change in a
magnetic needle when the boreal becomes the austral pole, and the
austral the boreal. It was well, perhaps, that this change took
place while he was enfeebled by the wasting effects of long illness.
For all the long-defeated, disturbed, perverted instincts had found
their natural channel from the centre of consciousness to the organ
which throbs in response to every profound emotion. As his health
gradually returned, Euthymia could not help perceiving a flush in his
cheek, a glitter in his eyes, a something in the tone of his voice,
which altogether were a warning to the young maiden that the highway
of friendly intercourse was fast narrowing to a lane, at the head of
which her woman's eye could read plainly enough, "Dangerous passing."
"You look so much better to-day, Mr. Kirkwood," she said, "that I
think I had better not play Sister of Charity any longer. The next
time we meet I hope you will be strong enough to call on me."
She was frightened to see how pale he turned,--he was weaker than she
thought. There was a silence so profound and so long that Mrs. Butts
looked up from the stocking she was knitting. They had forgotten the
good woman's presence.
Presently Maurice spoke,--very faintly, but Mrs. Butts dropped a
stitch at the first word, and her knitting fell into her lap as she
listened to what followed.
"No! you must not leave me. You must never leave me. You saved my
life. But you have done more than that,--more than you know or can
ever know. To you I owe it that I am living; with you I live
henceforth, if I am to live at all. All I am, all I hope,--will you
take this poor offering from one who owes you everything, whose lips
never touched those of woman or breathed a word of love before you?"
What could Euthymia reply to this question, uttered with all the
depth of a passion which had never before found expression.
Not one syllable of answer did listening Mrs. Butts overhear. But
she told her husband afterwards that there was nothing in the
tableaux they had had in September to compare with what she then saw.
It was indeed a pleasing picture which those two young heads
presented as Euthymia gave her inarticulate but infinitely expressive
answer to the question of Maurice Kirkwood. The good-hearted woman
thought it time to leave the young people. Down went the stocking
with the needles in it; out of her lap tumbled the ball of worsted,
rolling along the floor with its yarn trailing after it, like some
village matron who goes about circulating from hearth to hearth,
leaving all along her track the story of the new engagement or of the
arrival of the last "little stranger."
Not many suns had set before it was told all through Arrowhead
Village that Maurice Kirkwood was the accepted lover of Euthymia
MISS LURIDA VINCENT TO MRS. EUTHYMIA KIRKWOOD.
ARROWHEAD VILLAGE, May 18.
MY DEAREST EUTHYMIA,--Who would have thought, when you broke your oar
as the Atalanta flashed by the Algonquin, last June, that before the
roses came again you would find yourself the wife of a fine scholar
and grand gentleman, and the head of a household such as that of
which you are the mistress? You must not forget your old Arrowhead
Village friends. What am I saying?---you forget them! No, dearest,
I know your heart too well for that! You are not one of those who
lay aside their old friendships as they do last years bonnet when
they get a new one. You have told me all about yourself and your
happiness, and now you want me to tell you about myself and what is
going on in our little place.
And first about myself. I have given up the idea of becoming a
doctor. I have studied mathematics so much that I have grown fond of
certainties, of demonstrations, and medicine deals chiefly in
probabilities. The practice of the art is so mixed up with the
deepest human interests that it is hard to pursue it with that even
poise of the intellect which is demanded by science. I want
knowledge pure and simple,--I do not fancy having it mixed. Neither
do I like the thought of passing my life in going from one scene of
suffering to another; I am not saintly enough for such a daily
martyrdom, nor callous enough to make it an easy occupation. I
fainted at the first operation I saw, and I have never wanted to see
another. I don't say that I wouldn't marry a physician, if the right
one asked me, but the young doctor is not forthcoming at present.
Yes, I think I might make a pretty good doctor's wife. I could teach
him a good deal about headaches and backaches and all sorts of
nervous revolutions, as the doctor says the French women call their
tantrums. I don't know but I should be willing to let him try his
new medicines on me. If he were a homeopath, I know I should; for if
a billionth of a grain of sugar won't begin to sweeten my tea or
coffee, I don't feel afraid that a billionth of a grain of anything
would poison me,--no, not if it were snake-venom; and if it were not
disgusting, I would swallow a handful of his lachesis globules, to
please my husband. But if I ever become a doctor's wife, my husband
will not be one of that kind of practitioners, you may be sure of
that, nor an "eclectic," nor a "faith-cure man." On the whole, I
don't think I want to be married at all. I don't like the male
animal very well (except such noble specimens as your husband). They
are all tyrants,--almost all,--so far as our sex is concerned, and I
often think we could get on better without them.
However, the creatures are useful in the Society. They send us
papers, some of them well worth reading. You have told me so often
that you would like to know how the Society is getting on, and to
read some of the papers sent to it if they happened to be
interesting, that I have laid aside one or two manuscripts expressly
for your perusal. You will get them by and by.
I am delighted to know that you keep Paolo with you. Arrowhead
Village misses him dreadfully, I can tell you. That is the reason
people become so attached to these servants with Southern sunlight in
their natures? I suppose life is not long enough to cool their blood
down to our Northern standard. Then they are so child-like, whereas
the native of these latitudes is never young after he is ten or
twelve years old. Mother says,--you know mother's old-fashioned
notions, and how shrewd and sensible she is in spite of them,--mother
says that when she was a girl families used to import young men and
young women from the country towns, who called themselves "helps,"
not servants,--no, that was Scriptural; "but they did n't know
everything down in Judee," and it is not good American language. She
says that these people would live in the same household until they
were married, and the women often remain in the same service until
they died or were old and worn out, and then, what with the money
they had saved and the care and assistance they got from their former
employers, would pass a decent and comfortable old age, and be buried
in the family lot. Mother has made up her mind to the change, but
grandmother is bitter about it. She says there never was a country
yet where the population was made up of "ladies" and "gentlemen," and
she does n't believe there can be; nor that putting a spread eagle on
a copper makes a gold dollar of it. She is a pessimist after her own
fashion. She thinks all sentiment is dying out of our people. No
loyalty for the sovereign, the king-post of the political edifice,
she says; no deep attachment between employer and employed; no
reverence of the humbler members of a household for its heads; and to
make sure of continued corruption and misery, what she calls
"universal suffrage" emptying all the sewers into the great aqueduct
we all must drink from. "Universal suffrage!" I suppose we women
don't belong to the universe! Wait until we get a chance at the
ballot-box, I tell grandma, and see if we don't wash out the sewers
before they reach the aqueduct! But my pen has run away with men I
was thinking of Paolo, and what a pleasant thing it is to have one of
those child-like, warm-hearted, attachable, cheerful, contented,
humble, faithful, companionable, but never presuming grownup children
of the South waiting on one, as if everything he could do for one was
a pleasure, and carrying a look of content in his face which makes
every one who meets him happier for a glimpse of his features.
It does seem a shame that the charming relation of master and
servant, intelligent authority and cheerful obedience, mutual
interest in each other's welfare, thankful recognition of all the
advantages which belong to domestic service in the better class of
families, should be almost wholly confined to aliens and their
immediate descendants. Why should Hannah think herself so much
better than Bridget? When they meet at the polls together, as they
will before long, they will begin to feel more of an equality than is
recognized at present. The native female turns her nose up at the
idea of "living out;" does she think herself so much superior to the
women of other nationalities? Our women will have to come to it,--so
grandmother says,--in another generation or two, and in a hundred
years, according to her prophecy, there will be a new set of old
"Miss Pollys" and "Miss Betseys" who have lived half a century in
the same families, respectful and respected, cherished, cared for in
time of need (citizens as well as servants, holding a ballot as well
as a broom, I tell her), and bringing back to us the lowly, underfoot
virtues of contentment and humility, which we do so need to carpet
the barren and hungry thoroughfare of our unstratified existence.
There, I have got a-going, and am forgetting all the news I have to
tell you. There is an engagement you will want to know all about.
It came to pass through our famous boat-race, which you and I
remember, and shall never forget as long as we live. It seems that
the young fellow who pulled the bow oar of that men's college boat
which we had the pleasure of beating got some glimpses of Georgina,
our handsome stroke oar. I believe he took it into his head that it
was she who threw the bouquet that won the race for us. He was, as
you know, greatly mistaken, and ought to have made love to me, only
he did n't. Well, it seems he came posting down to the Institute
just before the vacation was over, and there got a sight of Georgina.
I wonder whether she told him she didn't fling the bouquet! Anyhow,
the acquaintance began in that way, and now it seems that this young
fellow, good-looking and a bright scholar, but with a good many
months more to pass in college, is her captive. It was too bad.
Just think of my bouquet's going to another girl's credit! No
matter, the old Atalanta story was paid off, at any rate.
You want to know all about dear Dr. Butts. They say he has just been
offered a Professorship in one of the great medical colleges. I
asked him about it, and he did not say that he had or had not.
"But," said be, "suppose that I had been offered such a place; do you
think I ought to accept it and leave Arrowhead Village? Let us talk
it over," said he, "just as if I had had such an offer." I told him
he ought to stay. There are plenty of men that can get into a
Professor's chair, I said, and talk like Solomons to a class of
wondering pupils: but once get a really good doctor in a place, a man
who knows all about everybody, whether they have this or that
tendency, whether when they are sick they have a way of dying or a
way of getting well, what medicines agree with them and what drugs
they cannot take, whether they are of the sort that think nothing is
the matter with them until they are dead as smoked herring, or of the
sort that send for the minister if they get a stomach-ache from
eating too many cucumbers,--who knows all about all the people within
half a dozen miles (all the sensible ones, that is, who employ a
regular practitioner),--such a man as that, I say, is not to be
replaced like a missing piece out of a Springfield musket or a
Waltham watch. Don't go! said I. Stay here and save our precious
lives, if you can, or at least put us through in the proper way, so
that we needn't be ashamed of ourselves for dying, if we must die.
Well, Dr. Butts is not going to leave us. I hope you will have no
unwelcome occasion for his services,--you are never ill, you know,--
but, anyhow, he is going to be here, and no matter what happens he
will be on hand.
The village news is not of a very exciting character. Item 1. A new
house is put up over the ashes of the one in which your husband lived
while he was here. It was planned by one of the autochthonous
inhabitants with the most ingenious combination of inconveniences
that the natural man could educe from his original perversity of
intellect. To get at any one room you must pass through every other.
It is blind, or nearly so, on the only side which has a good
prospect, and commands a fine view of the barn and pigsty through
numerous windows. Item 2. We have a small fire-engine near the new
house which can be worked by a man or two, and would be equal to the
emergency of putting out a bunch of fire-crackers. Item 3. We have
a new ladder, in a bog, close to the new fire-engine, so if the new
house catches fire, like its predecessor, and there should happen to,
be a sick man on an upper floor, he can be got out without running
the risk of going up and down a burning staircase. What a blessed
thing it was that there was no fire-engine near by and no ladder at
hand on the day of the great rescue! If there had been, what a
change in your programme of life! You remember that "cup of tea
spilt on Mrs. Masham's apron," which we used to read of in one of
Everett's Orations, and all its wide-reaching consequences in the
affairs of Europe. I hunted up that cup of tea as diligently as ever
a Boston matron sought for the last leaves in her old caddy after the
tea-chests had been flung overboard at Griffin's wharf,--but no
matter about that, now. That is the way things come about in this
world. I must write a lecture on lucky mishaps, or, more elegantly,
fortunate calamities. It will be just the converse of that odd essay
of Swift's we read together, the awkward and stupid things done with
the best intentions. Perhaps I shall deliver the lecture in your
city: you will come and hear it, and bring him, won't
Always, your loving
MISS LURIDA VINCENT TO MRS. EUTHYMIA KIRKWOOD.
It seems forever since you left us, dearest Euthymia! And are you,
and is your husband, and Paolo,--good Paolo,--are you all as well and
happy as you have been and as you ought to be? I suppose our small
village seems a very quiet sort of place to pass the winter in, now
that you have become accustomed to the noise and gayety of a great
city. For all that, it is a pretty busy place this winter, I can
tell you. We have sleighing parties,--I never go to them, myself,
because I can't keep warm, and my mind freezes up when my blood cools
down below 95 or 96 deg. Fahrenheit. I had a great deal rather sit
by a good fire and read about Arctic discoveries. But I like very
well to hear the bells' jingling and to see the young people trying
to have a good time as hard as they do at a picnic. It may be that
they do, but to me a picnic is purgatory and a sleigh-ride that other
place, where, as my favorite Milton says, "frost performs the effect
of fire." I believe I have quoted him correctly; I ought to, for I
could repeat half his poems from memory once, if I cannot now.
You must have plenty of excitement in your city life. I suppose you
recognized yourself in one of the society columns of the "Household
Inquisitor:" "Mrs. E. K., very beautiful, in an elegant," etc., etc,
"with pearls," etc., etc.,--as if you were not the ornament of all
that you wear, no matter what it is!
I am so glad that you have married a scholar! Why should not
Maurice--you both tell me to call him so--take the diplomatic office
which has been offered him? It seems to me that he would find
himself in exactly the right place. He can talk in two or three
languages, has good manners, and a wife who--well, what shall I say
of Mrs. Kirkwood but that "she would be good company for a queen," as
our old friend the quondam landlady of the Anchor Tavern used to say?
I should so like to see you presented at Court! It seems to me that
I should be willing to hold your train for the sake of seeing you in
your court feathers and things.
As for myself, I have been thinking of late that I would become
either a professional lecturer or head mistress of a great school or
college for girls. I have tried the first business a little. Last
month I delivered a lecture on Quaternions. I got three for my
audience; two came over from the Institute, and one from that men's
college which they try to make out to be a university, and where no
female is admitted unless she belongs among the quadrupeds. I
enjoyed lecturing, but the subject is a difficult one, and I don't
think any one of them had any very clear notion of what I was talking
about, except Rhodora,--and I know she did n't. To tell the truth, I
was lecturing to instruct myself. I mean to try something easier
next time. I have thought of the Basque language and literature.
What do you say to that?
The Society goes on famously. We have had a paper presented and read
lately which has greatly amused some of us and provoked a few of the
weaker sort. The writer is that crabbed old Professor of Belles-
Lettres at that men's college over there. He is dreadfully hard on
the poor "poets," as they call themselves. It seems that a great
many young persons, and more especially a great many young girls, of
whom the Institute has furnished a considerable proportion, have
taken to sending him their rhymed productions to be criticised,--
expecting to be praised, no doubt, every one of them. I must give
you one of the sauciest extracts from his paper in his own words:
"It takes half my time to read the 'poems' sent me by young people of
both sexes. They would be more shy of doing it if they knew that I
recognize a tendency to rhyming as a common form of mental weakness,
and the publication of a thin volume of verse as prima facie evidence
of ambitious mediocrity, if not inferiority. Of course there are
exceptions to this rule of judgment, but I maintain that the
presumption is always against the rhymester as compared with the less
pretentious persons about him or her, busy with some useful calling,
--too busy to be tagging rhymed commonplaces together. Just now
there seems to be an epidemic of rhyming as bad as the dancing mania,
or the sweating sickness. After reading a certain amount of
manuscript verse one is disposed to anathematize the inventor of
homophonous syllabification. [This phrase made a great laugh when it
was read.] This, that is rhyming, must have been found out very
"'Where are you, Adam?'
"'Here am I, Madam;'
"but it can never have been habitually practised until after the Fall.
The intrusion of tintinnabulating terminations into the
conversational intercourse of men and angels would have spoiled
Paradise itself. Milton would not have them even in Paradise Lost,
you remember. For my own part, I wish certain rhymes could be
declared contraband of written or printed language. Nothing should
be allowed to be hurled at the world or whirled with it, or furled
upon it or curled over it; all eyes should be kept away from the
skies, in spite of os homini sublime dedit; youth should be coupled
with all the virtues except truth; earth should never be reminded of
her birth; death should never be allowed to stop a mortal's breath,
nor the bell to sound his knell, nor flowers from blossoming bowers
to wave over his grave or show their bloom upon his tomb. We have
rhyming dictionaries,--let us have one from which all rhymes are
rigorously excluded. The sight of a poor creature grubbing for
rhymes to fill up his sonnet, or to cram one of those voracious,
rhyme-swallowing rigmaroles which some of our drudging poetical
operatives have been exhausting themselves of late to satiate with
jingles, makes my head ache and my stomach rebel. Work, work of some
kind, is the business of men and women, not the making of jingles!
No,--no,--no! I want to see the young people in our schools and
academies and colleges, and the graduates of these institutions,
lifted up out of the little Dismal Swamp of self-contemplating and
self-indulging and self-commiserating emotionalism which is
surfeiting the land with those literary sandwiches,--thin slices of
tinkling sentimentality between two covers looking like hard-baked
gilt gingerbread. But what faces these young folks make up at my
good advice! They get tipsy on their rhymes. Nothing intoxicates
one like his--or her--own verses, and they hold on to their metre-
ballad-mongering as the fellows that inhale nitrous oxide hold on to
We laughed over this essay of the old Professor; though it hit us
pretty hard. The best part of the joke is that the old man himself
published a thin volume of poems when he was young, which there is
good reason to think he is not very proud of, as they say he buys up
all the copies he can find in the shops. No matter what they say, I
can't help agreeing with him about this great flood of "poetry," as
it calls itself, and looking at the rhyming mania much as he does.
How I do love real poetry! That is the reason hate rhymes which have
not a particle of it in them. The foolish scribblers that deal in
them are like bad workmen in a carpenter's shop. They not only turn
out bad jobs of work, but they spoil the tools for better workmen.
There is hardly a pair of rhymes in the English language that is not
so dulled and hacked and gapped by these 'prentice hands that a
master of the craft hates to touch them, and yet he cannot very well
do without them. I have not been besieged as the old Professor has
been with such multitudes of would-be-poetical aspirants that he
could not even read their manuscripts, but I have had a good many
letters containing verses, and I have warned the writers of the
delusion under which they were laboring.
You may like to know that I have just been translating some extracts
from the Greek Anthology. I send you a few specimens of my work,
with a Dedication to the Shade of Sappho. I hope you will find
something of the Greek rhythm in my versions, and that I have caught
a spark of inspiration from the impassioned Lesbian. I have found
great delight in this work, at any rate, and am never so happy as
when I read from my manuscript or repeat from memory the lines into
which I have transferred the thought of the men and women of two
thousand years ago, or given rhythmical expression to my own
rapturous feelings with regard to them. I must read you my
Dedication to the Shade of Sappho. I cannot help thinking that you
will like it better than either of my last two, The Song of the
Roses, or The Wail of the Weeds.
How I do miss you, dearest! I want you: I want you to listen to what
I have written; I want you to hear all about my plans for the future;
I want to look at you, and think how grand it must be to feel one's
self to be such a noble and beautiful-creature; I want to wander in
the woods with you, to float on the lake, to share your life and talk
over every day's doings with you. Alas! I feel that we have parted
as two friends part at a port of embarkation: they embrace, they kiss
each other's cheeks, they cover their faces and weep, they try to
speak good-by to each other, they watch from the pier and from the
deck; the two forms grow less and less, fainter and fainter in the
distance, two white handkerchiefs flutter once and again, and yet
once more, and the last visible link of the chain which binds them
has parted. Dear, dear, dearest Euthymia, my eyes are running over
with tears when I think that we may never, never meet again.
Don't you want some more items of village news? We are threatened
with an influx of stylish people: "Buttons" to answer the door-bell,
in place of the chamber-maid; "butler," in place of the "hired man;"
footman in top-boots and breeches, cockade on hat, arms folded a la
Napoleon; tandems, "drags," dogcarts, and go-carts of all sorts. It
is rather amusing to look at their ambitious displays, but it takes
away the good old country flavor of the place.
I don't believe you mean to try to astonish us when you come back to
spend your summers here. I suppose you must have a large house, and
I am sure you will have a beautiful one. I suppose you will have
some fine horses, and who would n't be glad to? But I do not believe
you will try to make your old Arrowhead Village friends stare their
eyes out of their heads with a display meant to outshine everybody
else that comes here. You can have a yacht on the lake, if you like,
but I hope you will pull a pair of oars in our old boat once in a
while, with me to steer you. I know you will be just the same dear-
Euthymia you always were and always must be. How happy you must make
such a man as Maurice Kirkwood! And how happy you ought to be with
him!--a man who knows what is in books, and who has seen for himself,
what is in men. If he has not seen so much of women, where could he
study all that is best in womanhood as he can in his own wife? Only
one thing that dear Euthymia lacks. She is not quite pronounced
enough in her views as to the rights and the wrongs of the sex. When
I visit you, as you say I shall, I mean to indoctrinate Maurice with
sound views on that subject. I have written an essay for the
Society, which I hope will go a good way towards answering all the
objections to female suffrage. I mean to read it to your husband, if
you will let me, as I know you will, and perhaps you would like to
hear it,--only you know my thoughts on the subject pretty well
With all sorts of kind messages to your dear husband, and love to
your precious self,
I am ever your
DR. BUTTS TO MRS. EUTHYMIA KIRKWOOD.
MY DEAR EUTHYMIA,--My pen refuses to call you by any other name.
Sweet-souled you are, and your Latinized Greek name is--the one which
truly designates you. I cannot tell you how we have followed you,
with what interest and delight through your travels, as you have told
their story in your letters to your mother. She has let us have the
privilege of reading them, and we have been with you in steamer,
yacht, felucca, gondola, Nile-boat; in all sorts of places, from
crowded capitals to "deserts where no men abide,"--everywhere keeping
company with you in your natural and pleasant descriptions of your
experiences. And now that you have returned to your home in the
great city I must write you a few lines of welcome, if nothing more.
You will find Arrowhead Village a good deal changed since you left
it. We are discovered by some of those over-rich people who make the
little place upon which they swarm a kind of rural city. When this
happens the consequences are striking,--some of them desirable and
some far otherwise. The effect of well-built, well-furnished, well-
kept houses and of handsome grounds always maintained in good order
about them shows itself in a large circuit around the fashionable
centre. Houses get on a new coat of paint, fences are kept in better
order, little plots of flowers show themselves where only ragged
weeds had rioted, the inhabitants present themselves in more comely
attire and drive in handsomer vehicles with more carefully groomed
horses. On the other hand, there is a natural jealousy on the part
of the natives of the region suddenly become fashionable. They have
seen the land they sold at farm prices by the acre coming to be
valued by the foot, like the corner lots in a city. Their simple and
humble modes of life look almost poverty-stricken in the glare of
wealth and luxury which so outshines their plain way of living. It
is true that many of them have found them selves richer than in
former days, when the neighborhood lived on its own resources. They
know how to avail themselves of their altered position, and soon
learn to charge city prices for country products; but nothing can
make people feel rich who see themselves surrounded by men whose
yearly income is many times their own whole capital. I think it
would be better if our rich men scattered themselves more than they
do,--buying large country estates, building houses and stables which
will make it easy to entertain their friends, and depending for
society on chosen guests rather than on the mob of millionaires who
come together for social rivalry. But I do not fret myself about it.
Society will stratify itself according to the laws of social
gravitation. It will take a generation or two more, perhaps, to
arrange the strata by precipitation and settlement, but we can always
depend on one principle to govern the arrangement of the layers.
People interested in the same things will naturally come together.
The youthful heirs of fortunes who keep splendid yachts have little
to talk about with the oarsman who pulls about on the lake or the
river. What does young Dives, who drives his four-in-hand and keeps
a stable full of horses, care about Lazarus, who feels rich in the
possession of a horse-railroad ticket? You know how we live at our
house, plainly, but with a certain degree of cultivated propriety.
We make no pretensions to what is called "style." We are still in
that social stratum where the article called "a napkin-ring" is
recognized as admissible at the dinner-table. That fact sufficiently
defines our modest pretensions. The napkin-ring is the boundary mark
between certain classes. But one evening Mrs. Butts and I went out
to a party given by the lady of a worthy family, where the napkin
itself was a newly introduced luxury. The conversation of the
hostess and her guests turned upon details of the kitchen and the
laundry; upon the best mode of raising bread, whether with "emptins"
(emptyings, yeast) or baking powder; about "bluing" and starching and
crimping, and similar matters. Poor Mrs. Butts! She knew nothing
more about such things than her hostess did about Shakespeare and the
musical glasses. What was the use of trying to enforce social
intercourse under such conditions? Incompatibility of temper has
been considered ground for a divorce; incompatibility of interests is
a sufficient warrant for social separation. The multimillionaires
have so much that is common among themselves, and so little that they
share with us of moderate means, that they will naturally form a
specialized class, and in virtue of their palaces, their picture-
galleries, their equipages, their yachts, their large hospitality,
constitute a kind of exclusive aristocracy. Religion, which ought to
be the great leveller, cannot reduce these elements to the same
grade. You may read in the parable, "Friend, how camest thou in
hither not having a wedding garment?" The modern version would be,
"How came you at Mrs. Billion's ball not having a dress on your back
which came from Paris?"
The little church has got a new stained window, a saint who reminds
me of Hamlet's uncle,--a thing "of shreds and patches," but rather
pretty to look at, with an inscription under it which is supposed to
be the name of the person in whose honor the window was placed in the
church. Smith was a worthy man and a faithful churchwarden, and I
hope posterity will be able to spell out his name on his monumental
window; but that old English lettering would puzzle Mephistopheles
himself, if he found himself before this memorial tribute, on the
inside,--you know he goes to church sometimes, if you remember your
The rector has come out, in a quiet way, as an evolutionist. He has
always been rather "broad" in his views, but cautious in their
expression. You can tell the three branches of the mother-island
church by the way they carry their heads. The low-church clergy look
down, as if they felt themselves to be worms of the dust; the high-
church priest drops his head on one side, after the pattern of the
mediaeval saints; the broad-church preacher looks forward and round
about him, as if he felt himself the heir of creation. Our rector
carries his head in the broad-church aspect, which I suppose is the
least open to the charge of affectation,--in fact, is the natural and
manly way of carrying it.
The Society has justified its name of Pansophian of late as never
before. Lurida has stirred up our little community and its
neighbors, so that we get essays on all sorts of subjects, poems and
stories in large numbers. I know all about it, for she often
consults me as to the merits of a particular contribution.
What is to be the fate of Lurida? I often think, with no little
interest and some degree of anxiety, about her future. Her body is
so frail and her mind so excessively and constantly active that I am
afraid one or the other will give way. I do not suppose she thinks
seriously of ever being married. She grows more and more zealous in
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