The Great Stone Face, et. al.
Nathaniel Hawthorne






THE first three numbers in this collection are tales of the White Hills
in New Hampshire. The passages from Sketches from Memory show
that Hawthorne had visited the mountains in one of his occasional
rambles from home, but there are no entries in his Note Books which
give accounts of such a visit. There is, however, among these notes
the following interesting paragraph, written in 1840 and clearly
foreshadowing The Great Stone Face:

'The semblance of a human face to be formed on the side of a
mountain, or in the fracture of a small stone, by a lusus naturae [freak
of nature]. The face is an object of curiosity for years or centuries,
and by and by a boy is born whose features gradually assume the
aspect of that portrait. At some critical juncture the resemblance is
found to be perfect. A prophecy may be connected.'

It is not impossible that this conceit occurred to Hawthorne before he
had himself seen the Old Man of the Mountain, or the Profile, in the
Franconia Notch which is generally associated in the minds of readers
with The Great Stone Face.

In The Ambitious Guest he has made use of the incident still told to
travellers through the Notch, of the destruction of the Willey family
in August, 1826. The house occupied by the family was on the slope
of a mountain, and after a long drought there was a terrible tempest
which not only raised the river to a great height but loosened the
surface of the mountain so that a great landslide took place. The
house was in the track of the slide, and the family rushed out of doors.
Had they remained within they would have been safe, for a ledge
above the house parted the avalanche so that it was diverted into two
paths and swept past the house on either side. Mr. and Mrs. Willey,
their five children, and two hired men were crushed under the weight
of earth, rocks, and trees.

In the Sketches from Memory Hawthorne gives an intimation of the
tale which he might write and did afterward write of The Great
Carbuncle. The paper is interesting as showing what were the actual
experiences out of which he formed his imaginative stories.



One afternoon, when the sun was going down, a mother and her little
boy sat at the door of their cottage, talking about the Great Stone
Face. They had but to lift their eyes, and there it was plainly to be
seen, though miles away, with the sunshine brightening all its
features. And what was the Great Stone Face? Embosomed amongst a
family of lofty mountains, there was a valley so spacious that it con-
tained many thousand inhabitants. Some of these good people dwelt
in log-huts, with the black forest all around them, on the steep and
difficult hillsides. Others had their homes in comfortable farm-
houses, and cultivated the rich soil on the gentle slopes or level
surfaces of the valley. Others, again, were congregated into populous
villages, where some wild, highland rivulet, tumbling down from its
birthplace in the upper mountain region, had been caught and tamed
by human cunning, and compelled to turn the machinery of cotton-
factories. The inhabitants of this valley, in short, were numerous, and
of many modes of life. But all of them, grown people and children,
had a kind of familiarity with the Great Stone Face, although some
possessed the gift of distinguishing this grand natural phenomenon
more perfectly than many of their neighbors.

The Great Stone Face, then, was a work of Nature in her mood of
majestie playfulness, formed on the perpendicular side of a mountain
by some immense rocks, which had been thrown together in such a
position as, when viewed at a proper distance, precisely to resemble
the features of the human countenance. It seemed as if an enormous
giant, or a Titan, had sculptured his own likeness on the precipice.
There was the broad arch of the forehead, a hundred feet in height;
the nose, with its long bridge; and the vast lips, which, if they could
have spoken, would have rolled their thunder accents from one end of
the valley to the other. True it is, that if the spectator approached too
near, he lost the outline of the gigantic visage, and could discern only
a heap of ponderous and gigantic rocks, piled in chaotic ruin one
upon another. Retracing his steps, however, the wondrous features
would again be seen; and the farther he withdrew from them, the
more like a human face, with all its original divinity intact, did they
appear; until, as it grew dim in the distance, with the clouds and
glorified vapor of the mountains clustering about it, the Great Stone
Face seemed positively to be alive.

It was a happy lot for children to grow up to manhood or womanhood
with the Great Stone Face before their eyes, for all the features were
noble, and the expression was at once grand and sweet, as if it were
the glow of a vast, warm heart, that embraced all mankind in its
affections, and had room for more. It was an education only to look
at it. According to the belief of many people, the valley owed much of
its fertility to this benign aspect that was continually beaming over
it, illuminating the clouds, and infusing its tenderness into the

As we began with saying, a mother and her little boy sat at their
cottage-door, gazing at the Great Stone Face, and talking about it. The
child's name was Ernest.

'Mother,' said he, while the Titanic visage miled on him, 'I wish that it
could speak, for it looks so very kindly that its voice must needs be
pleasant. If I were to See a man with such a face, I should love him
dearly.' 'If an old prophecy should come to pass,' answered his
mother, 'we may see a man, some time for other, with exactly such a
face as that.' 'What prophecy do you mean, dear mother?' eagerly
inquired Ernest. 'Pray tell me all about it!'

So his mother told him a story that her own mother had told to her,
when she herself was younger than little Ernest; a story, not of things
that were past, but of what was yet to come; a story, nevertheless, so
very old, that even the Indians, who formerly inhabited this valley,
had heard it from their forefathers, to whom, as they affirmed, it had
been murmured by the mountain streams, and whispered by the wind among
the tree-tops. The purport was, that, at some future day, a child
should be born hereabouts, who was destined to become the greatest and
noblest personage of his time, and whose countenance, in manhood,
should bear an exact resemblance to the Great Stone Face. Not a few
old-fashioned people, and young ones likewise, in the ardor of their
hopes, still cherished an enduring faith in this old prophecy. But
others, who had seen more of the world, had watched and waited till
they were weary, and had beheld no man with such a face, nor any man
that proved to be much greater or nobler than his neighbors, concluded
it to be nothing but an idle tale. At all events, the great man of the
prophecy had not yet appeared."

O mother, dear mother!' cried Ernest, clapping his hands above his
head, 'I do hope that I shall live to see him!

His mother was an affectionate and thoughtful woman, and felt that it
was wisest not to discourage the generous hopes of her little boy. So
she only said to him, 'Perhaps you may.'

And Ernest never forgot the story that his mother told him. It was
always in his mind, whenever he looked upon the Great Stone Face.
He spent his childhood in the log-cottage where he was born, and was
dutiful to his mother, and helpful to her in many things, assisting her
much with his little hands, and more with his loving heart. In this
manner, from a happy yet often pensive child, he grew up to be a
mild, quiet, unobtrusive boy, and sun-browned with labor in the
fields, but with more intelligence brightening his aspect than is seen
in many lads who have been taught at famous schools. Yet Ernest had
had no teacher, save only that the Great Stone Face became one to
him. When the toil of the day was over, he would gaze at it for hours,
until he began to imagine that those vast features recognized him, and
gave him a smile of kindness and encouragement, responsive to his
own look of veneration. We must not take upon us to affirm that this
was a mistake, although the Face may have looked no more kindly at
Ernest than at all the world besides. But the secret was that the boy's
tender and confiding simplicity discerned what other people could not
see; and thus the love, which was meant for all, became his peculiar

About this time there went a rumor throughout the valley, that the
great man, foretold from ages long ago, who was to bear a
resemblance to the Great Stone Face, had appeared at last. It seems
that, many years before, a young man had migrated from the valley
and settled at a distant seaport, where, after getting together a little
money, he had set up as a shopkeeper. His name but I could never
learn whether it was his real one, or a nickname that had grown out of
his habits and success in life--was Gathergold.

Being shrewd and active, and endowed by Providence with that
inscrutable faculty which develops itself in what the world calls luck,
he became an exceedingly rich merchant, and owner of a whole fleet
of bulky-bottomed ships. All the countries of the globe appeared to
join hands for the mere purpose of adding heap after heap to the
mountainous accumulation of this one man's wealth. The cold regions
of the north, almost within the gloom and shadow of the Arctic
Circle, sent him their tribute in the shape of furs; hot Africa sifted for
him the golden sands of her rivers, and gathered up the ivory tusks of
her great elephants out of the forests; the east came bringing him the
rich shawls, and spices, and teas, and the effulgence of diamonds, and
the gleaming purity of large pearls. The ocean, not to be behindhand
with the earth, yielded up her mighty whales, that Mr. Gathergold
might sell their oil, and make a profit on it. Be the original
commodity what it might, it was gold within his grasp. It might be
said of him, as of Midas, in the fable, that whatever he touched with
his finger immediately glistened, and grew yellow, and was changed
at once into sterling metal, or, which suited him still better, into piles
of coin. And, when Mr. Gathergold had become so very rich that it
would have taken him a hundred years only to count his wealth, he
bethought himself of his native valley, and resolved to go back
thither, and end his days where he was born. With this
purpose in view, he sent a skilful architect to build him such a palace
as should be fit for a man of his vast wealth to live in.

As I have said above, it had already been rumored in the' valley that
Mr. Gathergold had turned out to be the prophetic personage so long
and vainly looked for, and that his visage was the perfect and
undeniable similitude of the Great Stone Face. People were the more
ready to believe that this must needs be the fact, when they beheld the
splendid edifice that rose, as if by enchantment, on the site of his
father's old weather-beaten farmhouse. The exterior was of marble, so
dazzlingly white that it seemed as though the whole structure might
melt away in the sunshine, like those humbler ones which Mr.
Gathergold, in his young play-days, before his fingers were gifted
with the touch of transmutation, had been accustomed to build of
snow. It had a richly ornamented portico supported by tall pillars,
beneath which was a lofty door, studded with silver knobs, and made
of a kind of variegated wood that had been brought from beyond the
sea. The windows, from the floor to the ceiling of each stately
apartment, were composed, respectively' of but one enormous pane of
glass, so transparently pure that it was said to be a finer medium than
even the vacant atmosphere. Hardly anybody had been permitted to
see the interior of this palace; but it was reported, and with good
semblance of truth, to be far more gorgeous than the outside,
insomuch that whatever was iron or brass in other houses was silver
or gold in this; and Mr. Gathergold's bedchamber, especially, made
such a glittering appearance that no ordinary man would have been
able to close his eyes there. But, on the other hand, Mr. Gathergold
was now so inured to wealth, that perhaps he could not have closed
his eyes unless where the gleam of it was certain to find its way
beneath his eyelids.

In due time, the mansion was finished; next came the upholsterers,
with magnificent furniture; then, a whole troop of black and white
servants, the haringers of Mr. Gathergold, who, in his own majestic
person, was expected to arrive at sunset. Our friend Ernest,
meanwhile, had been deeply stirred by the idea that the great man, the
noble man, the man of prophecy, after so many ages of delay, was at
length to be made manifest to his native valley. He knew, boy as he
was, that there were a thousand ways in which Mr. Gathergold, with
his vast wealth, might transform himself into an angel of beneficence,
and assume a control over human affairs as wide and benignant as the
smile of the Great Stone Face. Full of faith and hope, Ernest doubted
not that what the people said was true, and that now he was to behold
the living likeness of those wondrous features on the mountainside.
While the boy was still gazing up the valley, and fancying, as he
always did, that the Great Stone Face returned his gaze and looked
kindly at him, the rumbling of wheels was heard, approaching swiftly
along the winding road.

'Here he comes!' cried a group of people who were assembled to
witness the arrival. 'Here comes the great Mr. Gathergold!'

A carriage, drawn by four horses, dashed round the turn of the road.
Within it, thrust partly out of the window, appeared the physiognomy
of the old man, with a skin as yellow as if his own Midas-hand had
transmuted it. He had a low forehead, small, sharp eyes, puckered
about with innumerable wrinkles, and very thin lips, which he made
still thinner by pressing them forcibly together.

The very image or the Great Stone Face!' shouted the people. 'Sure
enough, the old prophecy is true; and here we have the great man
come, at last!'

And, what greatly perplexed Ernest, they seemed actually to believe
that here was the likeness which they spoke of. By the roadside there
chanced to be an old beggar woman and two little beggar-children,
stragglers from some far-off region, who, as the carriage rolled
onward, held out their hands and lifted up their doleful voices, most
piteously beseeching charity. A yellow claw the very same that had
dawed together so much wealth- poked itself out of the coach-
window, and dropt some copper coins upon the ground; so that,
though the great man's name seems to have been Gathergold, he
might just as suitably have been nicknamed Scattercopper. Still,
nevertheless, with an earnest shout, and evidently with as much good
faith as ever, the people bellowed 'He is the very image of the Great
Stone Face!' But Ernest turned sadly from the wrinkled shrewdness of
that sordid visage, and gazed up the valley, where, amid a gathering
mist, gilded by the last sunbeams, he could still distinguish those
glorious features which had impressed themselves into his soul. Their
aspect cheered him. What did the benign lips seem to say?

'He will come! Fear not, Ernest; the man will come! '

The years went on, and Ernest ceased to be a boy. He had grown to be
a young man now. He attracted little notice from the other inhabitants
of the valley; for they saw nothing remarkable in his way of life, save
that, when the labor of the day was over, he still loved to go apart and
gaze and meditate upon the Great Stone Face. According to their idea
of the matter, it was a folly, indeed, but pardonable, inasmuch as
Ernest was industrious, kind, and neighborly, and neglected no duty
for the sake of indulging this idle habit. They knew not that the Great
Stone Face had become a teacher to him, and that the sentiment
which was expressed in it would enlarge the young man's heart, and
fill it with wider and deeper sympathies than other hearts. They knew
not that thence would come a better wisdom than could be learned
from books, and a better life than could be moulded on the defaced
example of other human lives. Neither did Ernest know that the
thoughts and affections which came to him so naturally, in the fields
and at the fireside, and wherever he communed with himself, were of
a higher tone than those which all men shared with him. A simple
soul -- simple as when his mother first taught him the old prophecy--
he beheld the marvellous features beaming adown the valley, and still
wondered that their human counterpart was so long in making his

By this time poor Mr. Gathergold was dead and buried; and the
oddest part of the matter was, that his wealth, which was the body and
spirit of his existence, had disappeared before his death, leaving
nothing of him but a living skeleton, covered over with a wrinkled,
yellow skin. Since the melting away of his gold, it had been very
generally conceded that there was no such striking resemblance, after
all, betwixt the ignoble features of the ruined merchant and that
majestic face upon the mountainside. So the people ceased to honor
him during his lifetime, and quietly consigned him to forgetfulness
after his decease. Once in a while, it is true, his memory was brought
up in connection with the magnificent palace which he had
built, and which had long ago been turned into a hotel for the
accommodation of strangers, multitudes of whom came, every
summer, to visit that famous natural curiosity, the Great Stone Face.
Thus, Mr. Gathergold being discredited and thrown into the shade,
the man of prophecy was yet to come.

It so happened that a native-born son of the valley, many years
before, had enlisted as a soldier, and, after a great deal of hard
fighting, had now become an illustrious commander. Whatever he
may be called in history, he was known in camps and on the
battlefield under the nickname of Old Blood-and-Thunder. This war-
worn veteran, being now infirm with age and wounds, and weary of
the turmoil of a military life, and of the roll of the drum and the
clangor of the trumpet, that had so long been ringing in his ears, had
lately signified a purpose of returning to his native valley, hoping to
find repose where he remembered to have left it. The inhabitants, his
old neighbors and their grown-up children, were resolved to welcome
the renowned warrior with a salute of cannon and a public dinner; and
all the more enthusiastically, it being affirmed that now, at last, the
likeness of the Great Stone Face had actually appeared. An aid-de-
camp of Old Blood-and-Thunder, travelling through the valley, was
said to have been struck with the resemblance. Moreover the
schoolmates and early acquaintances of the general were ready
to testify, on oath, that, to the best of their recollection, the aforesaid
general had been exceedingly like the majestic image, even when a
boy, only that the idea had never occurred to them at that period.
Great, therefore, was the excitement throughout the valley; and many
people, who had never once thought of glancing at the Great Stone
Face for years before, now spent their time in gazing at it, for the sake
of knowing exactly how General Blood-and-Thunder looked.

On the day of the great festival, Ernest, with all the other people of
the valley, left their work, and proceeded to the spot where the sylvan
banquet was prepared. As he approached, the loud voice of the Rev.
Dr. Battleblast was heard, beseeching a blessing on the good things
set before them, and on the distinguished friend of peace in whose
honor they were assembled. The tables were arranged in a cleared
space of the woods, shut in by the surrounding trees, except where a
vista opened eastward, and afforded a distant view of the Great Stone
Face. Over the general's chair, which was a relic from the home of
Washington, there was an arch of verdant boughs, with the laurel
profusely intermixed, and surmounted by his country's banner,
beneath which he had won his victories. Our friend Ernest raised
himself on his tiptoes, in hopes to get a glimpse of the celebrated
guest; but there was a mighty crowd about the tables anxious to hear
the toasts and speeches, and to catch any word that might fall from
the general in reply; and a volunteer company, doing duty as a guard,
pricked ruthlessly with their bayonets at any particularly quiet person
among the throng. So Ernest, being of an unobtrusive character, was
thrust quite into the background, where he could see no more of Old
Blood-and-Thunder's physiognomy than if it had been still blazing on
the battlefield. To console himself, he turned towards the Great Stone
Face, which, like a faithful and long-remembered friend, looked back
and smiled upon him through the vista of the forest. Meantime,
however, he could overhear the remarks of various individuals, who
were comparing the features of the hero with the face on the distant

"T is the same face, to a hair!' cried one man, cutting a caper for joy.

'Wonderfully like, that's a fact!' responded another.

'Like! why, I call it Old Blood-and-Thunder himself, in a monstrous
looking-glass!' cried a third.

'And why not? He's the greatest man of this or any other age, beyond
a doubt.'

And then all three of the speakers gave a great shout, which
communicated electricity to the crowd, and called forth a roar from a
thousand voices, that went reverberating for miles among the
mountains, until you might have supposed that the Great Stone Face
had poured its thunder-breath into the cry. All these comments, and
this vast enthusiasm, served the more to interest our friend; nor did he
think of questioning that now, at length, the mountain-visage had
found its human counterpart. It is true, Ernest had imagined that this
long-looked-for personage would appear in the character of a man of
peace, uttering wisdom, and doing good, and making people happy.
But, taking an habitual breadth of view, with all his simplicity, he
contended that providence should choose its own method of blessing
mankind, and could conceive that this great end might be effected
even by a warrior and a bloody sword, should inscrutable wisdom see
fit to order matters SO.

'The general! the general!' was now the cry. ' Hush! silence! Old
Blood-and-Thunder's going to make a speech.'

Even so; for, the cloth being removed, the general's health had been
drunk, amid shouts of applause, and he now stood upon his feet to
thank the company. Ernest saw him. There he was, over the shoulders
of the crowd, from the two glittering epaulets and embroidered collar
upward, beneath the arch of green boughs with intertwined laurel, and
the banner drooping as if to shade his brow! And there, too, visible in
the same glance, through the vista of the forest, appeared the Great
Stone Face! And was there, indeed, such a resemblance as the crowd
had testified? Alas, Ernest could not recognize it! He beheld a war-
worn and weather-beaten countenance, full of energy, and expressive
of an iron will; but the gentle wisdom, the deep, broad, tender
sympathies, were altogether wanting in Old Blood-and-Thunder's
visage; and even if the Great Stone Face had assumed his look of
stern command, the milder traits would still have tempered it.

' This is not the man of prophecy,' sighed Ernest to himself, as he
made his way out of the throng. 'And must the world wait longer yet?'

The mists had congregated about the distant mountainside, and there
were seen the grand and awful features of the Great Stone Face, awful
but benignant, as if a mighty angel were sitting among the hills, and
enrobing himself in a cloud-vesture of gold and purple. As he looked,
Ernest could hardly believe but that a smile beamed over the whole
visage, with a radiance still brightening, although without motion of
the lips. It was probably the effect of the western sunshine, melting
through the thinly diffused vapors that had swept between him and
the object that he gazed at. But- as it always did- the aspect of his
marvellous friend made Ernest as hopeful as if he had never hoped in

'Fear not, Ernest,' said his heart, even as if the Great Face were
whispering him- 'fear not, Ernest; he will come.'

More years sped swiftly and tranquilly away. Ernest still dwelt in his
native valley, and was now a man of middle age. By imperceptible
degrees, he had become known among the people. Now, as
heretofore, he labored for his bread, and was the same simple-hearted
man that he had always been. But he had thought and felt so much, he
had given so many of the best hours of his life to unworldly hopes for
some great good to mankind, that it seemed as though he had been
talking with the angels, and had imbibed a portion of their wisdom
unawares. It was visible in the calm and well-considered beneficence
of his daily life, the quiet stream of which had made a wide green
margin all along its course. Not a day passed by, that the world was
not the better because this man, humble as he was, had lived. He
never stepped aside from his own path, yet would always reach a
blessing to his neighbor. Almost involuntarily, too, he had become a
preacher. The pure and high simplicity of his thought, which, as one
of its manifestations, took shape in the good deeds that dropped
silently from his hand, flowed also forth in speech. He uttered truths
that wrought upon and moulded the lives of those who heard him. His
auditors, it may be, never suspected that Ernest, their own neighbor
and familiar friend, was more than an ordinary man; least of all did
Ernest himself suspect it; but, inevitably as the murmur of a rivulet,
came thoughts out of his mouth that no other human lips had spoken.

When the people's minds had had a little time to cool, they were ready
enough to acknowledge their mistake in imagining a similarity
between General Blood-and-Thunder's truculent physiognomy and
the benign visage on the mountain-side. But now, again, there were
reports and many paragraphs in the newspapers, affirming that the
likeness of the Great Stone Face had appeared upon the broad
shoulders of a certain eminent statesman. He, like Mr. Gathergold and
old Blood-and-Thunder, was a native of the valley, but had left it in
his early days, and taken up the trades of law and politics. Instead of
the rich man's wealth and the warrior's sword, he had but a tongue,
and it was mightier than both together. So wonderfully eloquent was
he, that whatever he might choose to say, his auditors had no choice
but to believe him; wrong looked like right, and right like wrong; for
when it pleased him, he could make a kind of illuminated fog with his
mere breath, and obscure the natural daylight with it. His tongue,
indeed, was a magic instrument: sometimes it rumbled like the
thunder; sometimes it warbled like the sweetest music. It was the
blast of war -- the song of peace; and it seemed to have a heart in it,
when there was no such matter. In good truth, he was a wondrous
man; and when his tongue had acquired him all other imaginable
success- when it had been heard in halls of state, and in the courts of
princes and potentates--after it had made him known all over the
world, even as a voice crying from shore to shore--it finally per-
suaded his countrymen to select him for the Presidency. Before this
time- indeed, as soon as he began to grow celebrated--his admirers
had found out the resemblance between him and the Great Stone
Face; and so much were they struck by it, that throughout the country
this distinguished gentleman was known by the name of Old Stony
Phiz. The phrase was considered as giving a highly favorable aspect
to his political prospects; for, as is likewise the case with the
Popedom, nobody ever becomes President without taking a name
other than his own.

While his friends were doing their best to make him President, Old
Stony Phiz, as he was called, set out on a visit to the valley where he
was born. Of course, he had no other object than to shake hands with
his fellow-citizens, and neither thought nor cared about any effect
which his progress through the country might have upon the election.
Magnificent preparations were made to receive the illustrious
statesman; a cavalcade of horsemen set forth to meet him at the
boundary line of the State, and all the people left their business and
gathered along the wayside to see him pass. Among these was Ernest.
Though more than once disappointed, as we have seen, he had such a
hopeful and confiding nature, that he was always ready to believe in
whatever seemed beautiful and good.

He kept his heart continually open, and thus was sure to catch the
blessing from on high when it should come. So now again, as
buoyantly as ever, he went forth to behold the likeness of the Great
Stone Face.

The cavalcade came prancing along the road, with a great clattering
of hoofs and a mighty cloud of dust, which rose up so dense and high
that the visage of the mountainside was completely hidden from
Ernest's eyes. All the great men of the neighborhood were there on
horseback; militia officers, in uniform; the member of Congress; the
sheriff of the county; the editors of newspapers; and many a farmer,
too, had mounted his patient steed, with his Sunday coat upon his
back. It really was a very brilliant spectacle, especially as there were
numerous banners flaunting over the cavalcade, on some of which
were gorgeous portraits of the illustrious statesman and the Great
Stone Face, smiling familiarly at one another, like two brothers. If the
pictures were to be trusted, the mutual resemblance, it must be
confessed, was marvellous. We must not forget to mention that there
was a band of music, which made the echoes of the mountains ring
and reverberate with the loud triumph of its strains; so that airy and
soul-thrilling melodies broke out among all the heights and hollows,
as if every nook of his native valley had found a voice, to welcome
the distinguished guest. But the grandest effect was when the far-off
mountain precipice flung back the music; for then the Great Stone
Face itself seemed to be swelling the triumphant chorus, in
acknowledgment, that, at length, the man of prophecy was come.

All this while the people were throwing up their hats and shouting,
with enthusiasm so contagious that the heart of Ernest kindled up, and
he likewise threw up his hat, and shouted, as loudly as the loudest,
'Huzza for the great man! Huzza for Old Stony Phiz!' But as yet he
had not seen him.

'Here he is, now!' cried those who stood near Ernest. 'There! There!
Look at Old Stony Phiz and then at the Old Man of the Mountain, and
see if they are not as like as two twin brothers!'

In the midst of all this gallant array came an open barouche, drawn by
four white horses; and in the barouche, with his massive head
uncovered, sat the illustrious statesman, Old Stony Phiz himself.

'Confess it,' said one of Ernest's neighbors to him, 'the Great Stone
Face has met its match at last!'

Now, it must be owned that, at his first glimpse of the countenance
which was bowing and smiling from the barouche, Ernest did fancy
that there was a resemblance between it and the old familiar face
upon the mountainside. The brow, with its massive depth and
loftiness, and all the other features, indeed, were boldly and strongly
hewn, as if in emulation of a more than heroic, of a Titanic model.
But the sublimity and stateliness, the grand expression of a divine
sympathy, that illuminated the mountain visage and etherealized its
ponderous granite substance into spirit, might here be sought in vain.
Something had been originally left out, or had departed. And
therefore the marvellously gifted statesman had always a weary
gloom in the deep caverns of his eyes, as of a child that has outgrown
its playthings or a man of mighty faculties and little aims, whose life,
with all its high performances, was vague and empty, because no high
purpose had endowed it with reality.

Still, Ernest's neighbor was thrusting his elbow into his side, and
pressing him for an answer.

'Confess! confess! Is not he the very picture of your Old Man of the

'No!' said Ernest, bluntly, 'I see little or no likeness.'

'Then so much the worse for the Great Stone Face!' answered his
neighbor; and again he set up a shout for Old Stony Phiz.

But Ernest turned away, melancholy, and almost despondent: for this
was the saddest of his disappointments, to behold a man who might
have fulfilled the prophecy, and had not willed to do so. Meantime,
the cavalcade, the banners, the music, and the barouches swept past
him, with the vociferous crowd in the rear, leaving the dust to settle
down, and the Great Stone Face to be revealed again, with the
grandeur that it had worn for untold centuries.

'Lo, here I am, Ernest!' the benign lips seemed to say. 'I have waited
longer than thou, and am not yet weary. Fear not; the man will come.'

The years hurried onward, treading in their haste on one another's
heels. And now they began to bring white hairs, and scatter them over
the head of Ernest; they made reverend wrinkles across his forehead,
and furrows in his cheeks. He was an aged man. But not in vain had
he grown old: more than the white hairs on his head were the sage
thoughts in his mind; his wrinkles and furrows were inscriptions that
Time had graved, and in which he had written legends of wisdom that
had been tested by the tenor of a life. And Ernest had ceased to be
obscure. Unsought for, undesired, had come the fame which so many
seek, and made him known in the great world, beyond the limits of
the valley in which he had dwelt so quietly. College professors, and
even the active men of cities, came from far to see and converse with
Ernest; for the report had gone abroad that this simple husbandman
had ideas unlike those of other men, not gained from books, but of a
higher tone- a tranquil and familiar majesty, as if he had been talking
with the angels as his daily friends. Whether it were sage, statesman,
or philanthropist, Ernest received these visitors with the gentle
sincerity that had characterized him from boyhood, and spoke freely
with them of whatever came uppermost, or lay deepest in his heart or
their own. While they talked together, his face would kindle,
unawares, and shine upon them, as with a mild evening light. Pensive
with the fulness of such discourse, his guests took leave and went
their way; and passing up the valley, paused to look at the Great
Stone Face, imagining that they had seen its likeness in a human
countenance, but could not remember where.

While Ernest had been growing up and growing old, a bountiful
Providence had granted a new poet to this earth. He, likewise, was a
native of the valley, but had spent the greater part of his life at a
distance from that romantic region, pouring out his sweet music amid
the bustle and din of cities. Often, however, did the mountains which
had been familiar to him in his childhood lift their snowy peaks into
the clear atmosphere of his poetry. Neither was the Great Stone Face
forgotten, for the poet had celebrated it in an ode, which was grand
enough to have been uttered by its own majestic lips. This man of
genius, we may say, had come down from heaven with wonderful
endowments. If he sang of a mountain, the eyes of all mankind beheld
a mightier grandeur reposing on its breast, or soaring to its summit,
than had before been seen there. If his theme were a lovely lake, a
celestial smile had now been thrown over it, to gleam forever on its
surface. If it were the vast old sea, even the deep immensity of its
dread bosom seemed to swell the higher, as if moved by the emotions
of the song. Thus the world assumed another and a better aspect from
the hour that the poet blessed it with his happy eyes. The Creator had
bestowed him, as the last best touch to his own handiwork. Creation
was not finished till the poet came to interpret, and so complete it.

The effect was no less high and beautiful, when his human brethren
were the subject of his verse. The man or woman, sordid with the
common dust of life, who crossed his daily path, and the little child
who played in it, were glorified if they beheld him in his mood of
poetic faith. He showed the golden links of the great chain that
intertwined them with an angelic kindred; he brought out the hidden
traits of a celestial birth that made them worthy of such kin. Some,
indeed, there were, who thought to show the soundness of their judg-
ment by affirming that all the beauty and dignity of the natural world
existed only in the poet's fancy. Let such men speak for themselves,
who undoubtedly appear to have been spawned forth by Nature with a
contemptuous bitterness; she plastered them up out of her refuse stuff,
after all the swine were made. As respects all things else, the peet's
ideal was the truest truth.

The songs of this poet found their way to Ernest. He read them after
his customary toil, seated on the bench before his cottage-door, where
for such a length of time he had filled his repose with thought, by
gazing at the Great Stone Face. And now as he read stanzas that
caused the soul to thrill within him, he lifted his eyes to the vast
countenance beaming on him so benignantly.

'O majestic friend,' he murmured, addressing the Great Stone Face, 'is
not this man worthy to resemble thee?'

The face seemed to smile, but answered not a word.

Now it happened that the poet, though he dwelt so far away, had not
only heard of Ernest, but had meditated much upon his character,
until he deemed nothing so desirable as to meet this man, whose
untaught wisdom walked hand in hand with the noble simplicity of
his life.

summer morning, therefore, he took passage by the railroad, and, in
the decline of the afternoon, alighted from the cars at no great
distance from Ernest's cottage. The great hotel, which had formerly
been the palace of Mr. Gathergold, was close at hand, but the poet,
with his carpetbag on his arm, inquired at once where Ernest dwelt,
and was resolved to be accepted as his guest.

Approaching the door, he there found the good old man, holding a
volume in his hand, which alternately he read, and then, with a finger
between the leaves, looked lovingly at the Great Stone Face.

'Good evening,' said the poet. 'Can you give a traveller a night's

'Willingly,' answered Ernest; and then he added, smiling, 'Methinks I
never saw the Great Stone Face look so hospitably at a stranger.'

The poet sat down on"the bench beside him, and he and Ernest talked
together. Often had the poet held intercourse with the wittiest and the
wisest, but never before with a man like Ernest, whose thoughts and
feelings gushed up with such a natural feeling, and who made great
truths so familiar by his simple utterance of them. Angels, as had
been so often said, seemed to have wrought with him at his labor in
the fields; angels seemed to have sat with him by the fireside; and,
dwelling with angels as friend with friends, he had imbibed the
sublimity of their ideas, and imbued it with the sweet and lowly
charm of household words. So thought the poet. And Ernest, on the
other hand, was moved and agitated by the living images which the
poet flung out of his mind, and which peopled all the air about the
cottage-door with shapes of beauty, both gay and pensive. The
sympathies of these two men instructed them with a profounder sense
than either could have attained alone. Their minds accorded into one
strain, and made delightful music which neither of them could have
claimed as all his own, nor distinguished his own share from the
other's. They led one another, as it were, into a high pavilion of their
thoughts, so remote, and hitherto so dim, that they had never entered
it before, and so beautiful that they desired to be there always.

As Ernest listened to the poet, he imagined that the Great Stone Face
was bending forward to listen too. He gazed earnestly into the poet's
glowing eyes.

'Who are you, my strangely gifted guest?' he said.

The poet laid his finger on the volume that Ernest had been reading.

'You have read these poems,' said he. 'You know me, then - for I
wrote them.'

Again, and still more earnestly than before, Ernest examined the
poet's features; then turned towards the Great Stone Face; then back,
with an uncertain aspect, to his guest. But his countenance fell; he
shook his head, and sighed.

'Wherefore are you sad?' inquired the poet. 'Because,' replied Ernest,
'all through life I have awaited the fulfilment of a prophecy; and,
when I read these poems, I hoped that it might be fulfilled in you.'

'You hoped,' answered the poet, faintly smiling, 'to find in me the
likeness of the Great Stone Face. And you are disappointed, as
formerly with Mr. Gathergold, and old Blood-and-Thunder, and Old
Stony Phiz. Yes, Ernest, it is my doom.

You must add my name to the illustrious three, and record another
failure of your hopes. For- in shame and sadness do I speak it, Ernest-
-I am not worthy to be typified by yonder benign and majestic image.'

'And why?' asked Ernest. He pointed to the volume. 'Are not those
thoughts divine?'

'They have a strain of the Divinity,' replied the poet. 'You can hear in
them the far-off echo of a heavenly song. But my life, dear Ernest,
has not corresponded with my thought. I have had grand dreams, but
they have been only dreams, because I have lived -- and that, too, by
my own choice among poor and mean realities. Sometimes, even --
shall I dare to say it?-- I lack faith in the grandeur, the beauty, and the
goodness, which my own works are said to have made more evident
in nature and in human life. Why, then, pure seeker of the good and
true, shouldst thou hope to find me, in yonder image of the divine?'

The poet spoke sadly, and his eyes were dim with tears. So, likewise,
were those of Ernest.

At the hour of sunset, as had long been his frequent custom, Ernest
was to discourse to an assemblage of the neighboring inhabitants in
the open air. He and the poet, arm in arm, still talking together as they
went along, proceeded to the spot. It was a small nook among the
hills, with a gray precipice behind, the stern front of which was
relieved by the pleasant foliage of many creeping plants that made a
tapestry for the naked rock, by hanging their festoons from all its
rugged angles. At a small elevation above the ground, set in a rich
framework of verdure, there appeared a niche, spacious enough to
admit a human figure, with freedom for such gestures as
spontaneously accompany earnest thought and genuine emotion. Into
this natural pulpit Ernest ascended, and threw a look of familiar
kindness around upon his audience. They stood, or sat, or reclined
upon the grass, as seemed good to each, with the departing sunshine
falling obliquely over them, and mingling its subdued cheerfulness
with the solemnity of a grove of ancient trees, beneath and amid the
boughs of which the golden rays were constrained to pass. In another
direction was seen the Great Stone Face, with the same cheer,
combined with the same solemnity, in its benignant aspect.

"Ernest began to speak, giving to the people of what was in his heart
and mind. His words had power, because they accorded with his
thoughts; and his thoughts had reality and depth, because they
harmonized with the life which he had always lived. It was not mere
breath that this preacher uttered; they were the words of life, because
a life of good deeds and holy love was melted into them. Pearls, pure
and rich, had been dissolved into this precious draught. The poet, as
he listened, felt that the being and character of Ernest were a nobler
strain of poetry than he had ever written.

His eyes glistening with tears, he gazed reverentially at the venerable
man, and said within himself that never was there an aspect so worthy
of a prophet and a sage as that mild, sweet, thoughtful countenance,
with the glory of white hair diffused about it. At a distance, but
distinctly to be seen, high up in the golden light of the setting sun,
appeared the Great Stone Face, with hoary mists around it, like the
white hairs around .the brow' of Ernest. Its look of grand beneficence
seemed to embrace the world.

At that moment, in sympathy with a thought which he was about to
utter, the face of Ernest assumed a grandeur of expression, so imbued
with benevolence, that the poet, by an irresistible impulse, threw his
arms aloft and shouted-

'Behold! Behold! Ernest is himself the likeness of the Great Stone

Then all the people looked and saw that what the deep-sighted poet
said was true. The prophecy was fulfilled. But Ernest, having finished
what he had to say, took the poet's arm, and walked slowly
homeward, still hoping that some wiser and better man than himself
would by and by appear, bearing a resemblance to the GREAT


One September night a family had gathered round their hearth, and
piled it high with the driftwood of mountain streams, the dry cones of
the pine, and the splintered ruins of great trees that had come crashing
down the precipice. Up the chimney roared the fire, and brightened
the room with its broad blaze. The faces of the father and mother had
a sober gladness; the children laughed; the eldest daughter was the
image of Happiness at seventeen; and the aged grandmother who sat
knitting in the warmest place, was the image of Happiness grown old.
They had found the 'herb, heart's-ease,' in the bleakest spot of all New
England. (This family were situated in the Notch of the White Hills,
where the wind was sharp throughout the year, and pitilessly cold in
the winter- giving their cottage all its fresh inclemency before it
descended on the valley of the Saco) They dwelt in a cold spot and a
dangerous one; for a mountain towered above their heads, so steep,
that the stones would often rumble down its sides and startle them at

The daughter had just uttered some simple jest that filled them all
with mirth, when the wind came through the Notch and seemed to
pause before their cottage- rattling the door, with a sound of wailing
and lamentation, before it passed into the valley. For a moment it
saddened them, though there was nothing unusual in the tones. But
the family were glad again when they perceived that the latch was
lifted by some traveller, whose footsteps had been unheard amid the
dreary blast which heralded his approach, and wailed as he was
entering, and went moaning away from the door.

Though they dwelt {n such a solitude, these people held daily
converse with the world. The romantic pass of the Notch is a great
artery, through which the life-blood of internal commerce is
continually throbbing between Maine, on one side, and the Green
Mountains and the shores of the St. Lawrence, on the other. The
stage-coach always drew up before the door of the cottage. The
wayfarer, with no companion but his staff, paused here to exchange a
word, that the sense of loneliness might not utterly overcome him ere
he could pass through the cleft of the mountain, or reach the first
house in the valley. And here the teamster, on his way to Portland
market, would put up for the night; and, if a bachelor, might sit an
hour beyond the usual bedtime, and steal a kiss from the mountain
maid at parting. It was one of those primitive taverns where the
traveller pays only for food and lodging, but meets with a homely
kindness beyond all price. When the footsteps were heard, therefore,
between the outer door and the inner one, the whole family rose up,
grandmother, children, and all, as if about to welcome some one who
belonged to them, and whose fate was linked with theirs.

The door was opened by a young man. His face at first wore the
melancholy expression, almost despondency, of one who travels a
wild and bleak road, at nightfall and alone, but soon brightened up
when he saw the kindly warmth of his reception. He felt his heart
spring forward to meet them all, from the old woman, who wiped a
chair with her apron, to the little child that held out its arms to him.
One glance and smile placed the stranger on a footing of innocent
familiarity with the eldest daughter.

'Ah, this fire is the right thing!' cried he; 'especially when there is
such a pleasant circle round it. I am quite benumbed; for the Notch is
just like the pipe of a great pair of bellows; it has blown a terrible
blast in my face all the way from Bartlett.'

'Then you are going towards Vermont?' said the master of the house,
as he helped to take a light knapsack off the young man's shoulders.

'Yes; to Burlington, and far enough beyond,' replied he. 'I meant to
have been at Ethan Crawford's tonight; but a pedestrian lingers along
such a road as this. It is no matter; for, when I saw this good fire, and
all your cheerful faces, I felt as if you had kindled it on purpose for
me, and were waiting my arrival. So I shall sit down among you, and
make myself at home.'

The frank-hearted stranger had just drawn his chair to the fire when
something like a heavy footstep was heard without, rushing down the
steep side of the mountain, as with long and rapid strides, and taking
such a leap in passing the cottage as to strike the opposite precipice.
The family held their breath, because they knew the sound, and their
guest held his by instinct.

'The old mountain has thrown a stone at us, for fear we should forget
him,' said the landlord, recovering himself. 'He sometimes nods his
head and threatens to come down; but we are old neighbors, and
agree together pretty well upon the whole. Besides we have a sure
place of refuge hard by if he should be coming in good earnest.'

Let us now suppose the stranger to have finished his supper of bear's
meat; and, by his natural felicity of manner, to have placed himself on
a footing of kindness with the whole family, so that they talked as
freely together as if he belonged to their mountain brood. He was of a
proud, yet gentle spirit -- haughty and reserved among the rich and
great; but ever ready to stoop his head to the lowly cottage door, and
be like a brother or a son at the poor man's fireside. In the household
of the Notch he found warmth and simplicity of feeling, the pervading
intelligence of New England, and a poetry of native growth, which
they had gathered when they little thought of it from the mountain
peaks and chasms, and at the very threshold of their romantic and
dangerous abode. He had travelled far and alone; his whole life,
indeed, had been a solitary path; for, with the lofty caution of his
nature, he had kept himself apart from those who might otherwise
have been his companions. The family, too, though so kind and
hospitable, had that consciousness of unity among themselves, and
separation from the world at large, which, in every domestic circle,
should still keep a holy place where no stranger may intrude. But this
evening a prophetic sympathy impelled the refined and educated
youth to pour out his heart before the simple mountaineers, and
constrained them to answer him with the same free confidence. And
thus it should have been. Is not the kindred of a common fate a closer
tie than that of birth?

The secret of the young man's character was a high and abstracted
ambition. He could have borne to live an undistinguished life, but not
to be forgotten in the grave. Yearning desire had been transformed to
hope; and hope, long cherished, had become like certainty, that,
obscurely as he journeyed now, a glory was to beam on all his
pathway- though not, perhaps, while he was treading it. But when
posterity should gaze back into the gloom of what was now the
present, they would trace the brightness of his footsteps, brightening
as meaner glories faded, and confess that a gifted one had passed
from his cradle to his tomb with none to recognize him.

'As yet,' cried the stranger -- his cheek glowing and his eye flashing
with enthusiasm- 'as yet, I have done nothing. Were I to vanish from
the earth tomorrow, none would know so much of me as you: that a
nameless youth came up at nightfall from the valley of the Saco, and
opened his heart to you in the evening, and passed through the Notch
by sunrise, and was seen no more. Not a soul would ask, 'Who was
he? Whither did the wanderer go?' But I cannot die till I have
achieved my destiny. Then, let Death come! I shall have built my

There was a continual flow of natural emotion, gushing forth amid
abstracted reverie, which enabled the family to understand this young
man's sentiments, though so foreign from their own. With quick
sensibility of the ludicrous, he blushed at the ardor into which he had
been betrayed.

'You laugh at me,' said he, taking the eldest daughter's hand, and
laughing himself. 'You think my ambition as nonsensical as if I were
to freeze myself to death on the top of Mount Washington, only that
people might spy at me from the country round about. And, truly, that
would be a noble pedestal for a man's statue!'

' It is better to sit here by this fire,' answered the girl, blushing, 'and be
comfortable and contented, though nobody thinks about us.'

'I suppose,' Said her father, after a fit of musing, ' there is something
natural in what the young man
says; and if my mind had been turned that way, I might have felt just
the same. It is strange, wife, how his talk has set my head running on
things that are pretty certain never to come to pass.'

'Perhaps they may,' observed the wife. 'Is the man thinking what he
will do when he is a widower? '

'No, no!' cried he, repelling the idea with reproachful kindness. 'When
I think of your death, Esther, I think of mine, too. But I was wishing
we had a good farm in Bartlett, or Bethlehem, or Littleton, or some
other township round the White Mountains; but not where they could
tumble on our heads. I should want to stand well with my neighbors
and be called Squire, and sent to General Court for a term or two; for
a plain, honest man may do as much good there as a lawyer. And
when I should be grown quite an old man, and you an old woman, so
as not to be long apart, I might die happy enough in my bed, and
leave you all crying around me. A slate gravestone would suit me as
well as a marble one -- with just my name and age, and a verse of a
hymn, and something to let people know that I lived an honest man
and died a Christian.'

'There now!' exclaimed the stranger; 'it is our nature to desire a
monument, be it slate or marble, or a pillar of granite, or a glorious
memory in the universal heart of man.'

'We're in a strange way, tonight,' said the wife, with tears in her eyes.
'They say it's a sign of something, when folks' minds go a wandering
so. Hark to the children!'

They listened accordingly. The younger children had been put to bed
in another room, but with an open door between, so that they could be
heard talking busily among themselves. One and all seemed to have
caught the infection from the fireside circle, and were outvying each
other in wild wishes, and childish projects of what they would do
when they came to be men and women. At length a little boy, instead
of addressing his brothers and sisters, called out to his mother.

'I'll tell you what I wish, mother,' cried he. 'I want you and father and
grandma'm, and all of us, and the stranger too, to start right away, and
go and take a drink out of the basin of the Flume!'

Nobody could help laughing at the child's notion of leaving a warm
bed, and dragging them from a cheerful fire, to visit the basin of the
Flume- a brook, which tumbles over the precipice, deep within the
Notch. The boy had hardly spoken "when a wagon rattled along the
road, and stopped a moment before the door. It appeared to contain
two or three men, who were cheering their hearts with the rough
chorus of a song, which resounded, in broken notes, between the
cliffs, while the singers hesitated whether to continue their journey or
put up here for the night.'

'Father,' said the girl, 'they are calling you by name.'

But the good man doubted whether they had really called him, and
was unwilling to show himself too solicitous of gain by inviting
people to patronize his house. He therefore did not hurry to the door;
and the lash being soon applied, the travellers plunged into the Notch,
still singing and laughing, though their music and mirth came back
drearily from the heart of the mountain.

'There, mother!' cried the boy, again. 'They'd have given us a ride to
the Flume.'

Again they laughed at the child's pertinacious fancy for a night
ramble. But it happened that a light cloud passed over the daughter's
spirit; she looked gravely into the fire, and drew a breath that was
almost a sigh. It forced its way, in spite of a little struggle to repress
it. Then starting and blushing, she looked quickly round the circle, as
if they had caught a glimpse into her bosom. The stranger asked what
she had been thinking of.

'Nothing,' answered she, with a downcast smile. 'Only I felt lonesome
just then.'

'Oh, I have always had a gift of feeling what is in other people's
hearts,' said he, half seriously. 'Shall I tell the secrets of yours? For I
know what to think when a young girl shivers by a warm hearth, and
complains of lonesomeness at her mother's side. Shall I put these
feelings into words?'

'They would not be a girl's feelings any longer if they could be put
into words,' replied the mountain nymph, laughing, but avoiding his

All this was said apart. Perhaps a germ of love was springing in their
hearts, so pure that it might blossom in Paradise, since it could not be
matured on earth; for women worship such gentle dignity as his; and
the proud, contemplative, yet kindly soul is oftenest captivated by
simplicity like hers. But while they spoke softly, and he was watching
the happy sadness, the lightsome shadows, the shy yearnings of a
maiden's nature, the wind through the Notch took a deeper and
drearier sound. It seemed, as the fanciful stranger said, like the choral
strain of the spirits of the blast, who in old Indian times had their
dwelling among these mountains, and made their heights and recesses
a sacred region. There was a wail along the road, as if a funeral were
passing. To chase away the gloom, the family threw pine branches on
their fire, till the dry leaves crackled and the flame arose, discovering
once again a scene of peace and humble happiness. The light hovered
about them fondly, and caressed them all. There were the little faces
of the children, peeping from their bed apart, and here the father's
frame of strength, the mother's subdued and careful mien, the high-
browed youth, the budding girl, and the good old grandam, still
knitting in the warmest place. The aged woman looked up from her
task, and, with fingers ever busy, was the next to speak.

'Old folks have their notions,' said she, 'as well as young ones. You've
been wishing and planning; and letting your heads run on one thing
and another, till you've set my mind a wandering too. Now what
should an old woman wish for, when she can go but a step or two
before she comes to her grave? Children, it will haunt me night and
day till I tell you.'

'What is it, mother?' cried the husband and wife at once.

Then the old woman, with an air of mystery which drew the circle
closer round the fire, informed them that she had provided her grave-
clothes some years before -- a nice linen shroud, a cap with a muslin
ruff, and everything of a finer sort than she had worn since her
wedding day. But this evening an old superstition had strangely
recurred to her. It used to be said, in her younger days, that if
anything were amiss with a corpse, if only the ruff were not smooth,
or the cap did not set right, the corpse in the coffin and beneath the
clods would strive to put up its cold hands and arrange it. The bare
thought made her nervous.

'Don't talk so, grandmother!' said the girl, shuddering.

'Now'--continued the old woman, with singular earnestness, yet
smiling strangely at her own folly--'I want one of you, my children-
when your mother is dressed and in the coffin -- I want one of you to
hold a looking-glass over my face. Who knows but I may take a
glimpse at myself, and see whether all's right?'

'Old and young, we dream of graves and monuments,' murmured the
stranger youth. 'I wonder how mariners feel when the ship is sinking,
and they, unknown and undistinguished, are to be buried together in
the ocean- that wide and nameless sepulchre?'

For a moment, the old woman's ghastly conception so engrossed the
minds of her hearers that a sound abroad in the night, rising like the
roar of a blast, had grown broad, deep, and terrible, before the fated
group were conscious of it. The house and all within it trembled; the
foundations of the earth seemed to be shaken, as if this awful sound
were the peal of the last trump. Young and old exchanged one wild
glance, and remained an instant, pale, affrighted, without utterance, or
power to move. Then the same shriek burst simultaneously from all
their lips.

'The Slide! The Slide!'

The simplest words must intimate, but not portray, the unutterable
horror of the catastrophe. The victims rushed from their cottage, and
sought refuge in what they deemed a safer spot -- where, in
contemplation of such an emergency, a sort of barrier had been
reared. Alas! they had quitted their security, and fled right into the
pathway of destruction. Down came the whole side of the mountain,
in a cataract of ruin. Just before it reached the house, the stream broke
into two branches -- shivered not a window there, but overwhelmed
the whole vicinity, blocked up the road, and annihilated everything in
its dreadful course. Long ere the thunder of the great Slide had ceased
to roar among the mountains, the mortal agony had been endured, and
the victims were at peace. Their bodies were never found.

The next morning, the light smoke was seen stealing from the cottage
chimney up the mountain side. Within, the fire was yet smouldering
on the hearth, and the chairs in a circle round it, as if the inhabitants
had but gone forth to view the devastation of the Slide, and would
shortly return, to thank Heaven for their miraculous escape. All had
left separate tokens, by which those who had known the family were
made to shed a tear for each. Who has not heard their name? (The
story has been told far and wide, and Will forever be a legend of these
mountains.) Poets have sung their fate.

There were circumstances which led some to suppose that a stranger
had been received into the cottage on this awful night, and had shared
the catastrophe of all its inmates. Others denied that there were
sufficient grounds for such a conjecture. Woe for the high-souled
youth, with his dream of Earthly Immortality! His name and person
utterly unknown; his history, his way of life, his plans, a mystery
never to be solved, his death and his existence equally a doubt!
Whose was the agony of that death moment?



(The Indian tradition, on which this somewhat extravagant tale is
founded, is both too wild and too beautiful to be adequately wrought
up in prose. Sullivan, in his History of Maine, written since the
Revolution, remarks, that even then the existence of the Great
Carbuncle was not entirely discredited.)

AT nightfall, once in the olden time, on the rugged side of one of the
Crystal Hills, a party of adventurers were refreshing themselves, after
a toilsome and fruitless quest for the Great Carbuncle. They had come
thither, not as friends nor partners in the enterprise, but each, save one
youthful pair, impelled by his own selfish and solitary longing for this
wondrous gem. Their feeling of brotherhood, however, was strong
enough to induce them to contribute a mutual aid in building a rude
hut of branches, and kindling a great fire of shattered pines, that had
drifted down the headlong current of the Amonoosuck, on the lower
bank of which they were to pass the night. There was but one of their
number, perhaps, who had become so estranged from natural
sympathies, by the absorbing spell of the pursuit, as to acknowledge
no satisfaction at the sight of human faces, in the remote and solitary
region whither they had ascended. A vast extent of wilderness lay
between them and the nearest settlement, while scant a mile above
their heads was that black verge where the hills throw off their shaggy
mantle of forest trees, and either robe themselves in clouds or tower
naked into the sky. The roar of the Amonoosuck would have been too
awful for endurance if only a solitary man had listened, while the
mountain stream talked with the wind.

The adventurers, therefore, exchanged hospitable greetings, and
welcomed one another to the hut, where each man was the host, and
all were the guests of the whole company. They spread their
individual supplies of food on the flat surface of a rock, and partook
of a general repast; at the close of which, a sentiment of good
fellowship was perceptible among the party, though repressed by the
idea, that the renewed search for the Great Carbuncle must make
them strangers again in the morning. Seven men and one young
woman, they warmed themselves together at the fire, which extended
its bright wall along the whole front of their wigwam. As they
observed the various and contrasted figures that made up the
assemblage, each man looking like a caricature of himself, in the
unsteady light that flickered over him, they came mutually to the
conclusion, that an odder society had never met, in city or wilderness,
on mountain or plain.

The eldest of the group, a tall, lean, weather-beaten man, some sixty
years of age, was clad in the skins of wild animals, whose fashion of
dress he did well to imitate, since the deer, the wolf, and the bear, had
long been his most intimate companions. He was one of those ill-
fated mortals, such as the Indians told of, whom, in their early youth,
the Great Carbuncle smote with a peculiar madness, and became the
passionate dream of their existence. All who visited that region knew
him as the Seeker and by no other name. As none could remember
when he first took up the search, there went a fable in the valley of
the Saco, that for his inordinate lust after the Great Carbuncle, he had
been condemned to wander among the mountains till the end of time,
still with the same feverish hopes at sunrise- the same despair at eve.
Near this miserable Seeker sat a little elderly personage, wearing a
high-crowned hat, shaped somewhat like a crucible. He was from
beyond the sea, a Doctor Cacaphodel, who had wilted and dried
himself into a mummy by continually stooping over charcoal
furnaces, and inhaling unwholesome fumes during his researches in
chemistry and alchemy. It was told of him, whether truly or not, that,
at the commencement of his studies, he had drained his body of all its
richest blood, and wasted it, with other inestimable ingredients, in an
unsuccessful experiment -- and had never been a well man since.
Another of the adventurers was Master bod Pigsnort, a weighty
merchant and selector Boston, and an elder of the famous Mr.
Norton's church. His enemies had a ridiculous story that Master
Pigsnort was accustomed to spend a whole hour after prayer time,
every morning and evening, in wallowing naked among an immense
quantity of pine-tree shillings, which were the earliest silver coinage
of Massachusetts. The fourth whom we shall notice had no name that
his companions knew of, and was chiefly distinguished by a sneer
that always contorted his thin visage, and by a prodigious pair of
spectacles, which were supposed to deform and discolor the whole
face of nature, to this gentleman's perception. The fifth adventurer
likewise lacked a name, which was the greater pity, as he appeared to
be a poet. He was a bright-eyed man, but woefully pined away, which
was no more than natural, if, as some people affirmed, his ordinary
diet was fog, morning mist, and a slice of the densest cloud within his
reach, sauced with moonshine, whenever he could get it. Certain it is,
that the poetry which flowed from him had a smack of all these
dainties. The sixth of the party was a young man of haughty mien,
and sat somewhat apart from the rest, wearing his plumed hat loftily
among his elders, while the fire glittered on the rich embroidery of his
dress and gleamed intensely on the jewelled pommel of his sword.
This was the Lord de Vere, who, when at home, was said to spend
much of his time in the burial vault of his dead progenitors,
rummaging their mouldy coffins in search of all the earthly pride and
vainglory that was hidden among bones and dust; so that, besides his
own share, he had the collected haughtiness of his whole line of

Lastly, there was a handsome youth in rustic garb, and by his side a
blooming little person, in whom a delicate shade of maiden reserve
was just melting into the rich glow of a young wife's affection. Her
name was Hannah, and her husband's Matthew; two homely names,
yet well enough adapted to the simple pair, who seemed strangely out
of place among the whimsical fraternity whose wits had been set agog
by the Great Carbuncle.

Beneath the shelter of one hut, in the bright blaze of the same fire, sat
this varied group of adventurers, all so intent upon a single object,
that, of whatever else they began to speak, their closing words were
sure to be illuminated with the Great Carbuncle. Several related the
circumstances that brought them thither. One had listened to a
traveller's tale of this marvellous stone in his own distant country, and
had immediately been seized with such a thirst for beholding it as
could only, be quenched in its intensest lustre. Another, so long ago
as when the famous Captain Smith visited these coasts, had seen it
blazing far at sea, and had felt no rest in all the intervening years till
now that he took up the search. A third, being camped on a hunting
expedition full forty miles south of the White Mountains, awoke at
midnight, and beheld the Great Carbuncle gleaming like a meteor, so
that the shadows of the trees fell backward from it. They spoke of the
innumerable attempts which had been made to reach the spot, and of
the singular fatality which had hitherto withheld success from all
adventurers, though it might seem so easy to follow to its source a
light that overpowered the moon, and almost matched the sun. It was
observable that each smiled scornfully at the madness of every other
in anticipating better fortune than the past, yet nourished a scarcely
hidden conviction that he would himself be the favored one. As if to
allay their too sanguine hopes, they recurred to the Indian traditions
that a spirit kept watch about the gem, and bewildered those who
sought it either by removing it from peak to peak of the higher hills,
or by calling up a mist from the enchanted lake over which it hung.
But these tales were deemed unworthy of credit, all professing to
believe that the search had been baffled by want of sagacity or
perseverance in the adventurers, or such other causes as might
naturally obstruct the passage to any given point among the
intricacies of forest, valley, and mountain.

In a pause of the conversation the wearer of the prodigious spectacles
looked round upon the party, making each individual, in turn, the
object of the sneer which invariably dwelt upon his countenance.

'So, fellow-pilgrims,' said he, 'here we are, seven wise men, and one
fair damsel- who, doubtless, is as wise as any graybeard of the
company: here we are, I say, all bound on the same goodly enterprise.
Methinks, now, it were not amiss that each of us declare what he
proposes to do with the Great Carbuncle, provided he have the good
hap to clutch it. What says our friend in the bear skin? How mean
you, good sir, to enjoy the prize which you have been seeking, the
Lord knows how long, among the Crystal Hills?'

'How enjoy it!' exclaimed the aged Seeker, bitterly. 'I hope for no
enjoyment from it; that folly has passed long ago! I keep up the
search for this accursed stone because the vain ambition of my youth
has become a fate upon me in old age. The pursuit alone is my
strength- the energy of my soul- the warmth of my blood- and the pith
and marrow of my bones! Were I to turn my back upon it I should fall
down dead on the hither side of the Notch, which is the gateway of
this mountain region. Yet not to have my wasted lifetime back again
would I give up my hopes of the Great Carbuncle! Having found it, i
shall bear it to a certain cavern that I wot of, and there, grasping it in
my arms, lie down and die, and keep it buried with me forever.'

'O wretch, regardless of the interests of science!' cried Doctor
Cacaphodel, with philosophic indignation. 'Thou art not worthy to
behold, even from afar off, the lustre of this most precious gem that
ever was concocted in the laboratory of Nature. Mine is the sole
purpose for which a wise man may desire the possession of the Great

Immediately on obtaining it -- for I have a presentiment, good people,
that the prize is reserved to crown my scientific reputation -- I shall
return to Europe, and employ my remaining years in reducing it to its
first elements. A portion of the stone will I grind to impalpable
powder; other parts shall be dissolved in acids, or whatever solvents
will act upon so admirable a composition; and the remainder I design
to melt in the crucible, or set on fire with the blow-pipe. By these
various methods I shall gain an accurate analysis, and finally bestow
the result of my labors upon the world in a folio volume.'

'Excellent!' quoth the man with the spectacles. 'Nor need you hesitate,
learned sir, on account of the necessary destruction of the gem; since
the perusal of your folio may teach every mother's son of us to
concoct a Great Carbuncle of his own.'

'But, verily,' said Master Ichabod Pigsnort, 'for mine own part I object
to the making of these counterfeits, as being calculated to reduce the
marketable value of the true gem. I tell ye frankly, sirs, I have an
interest in keeping up the price. Here have I quitted my regular traffic,
leaving my warehouse in the care of my clerks, and putting my credit
to great hazard, and, furthermore, have put myself in peril of death or
captivity by the accursed heathen savages--and all this without daring
to ask the prayers of the congregation, because the quest for the Great
Carbuncle is deemed little better than a traffic with the Evil One.
Now think ye that I would have done this grievous wrong to my soul,
body, reputation, and estate, without a reasonable chance of profit?'

' Not I, pious Master Pigsnort,' said the man with the spectacles. 'I
never laid such a great folly to thy charge.'

'Truly, I hope not,' said the merchant. 'Now, as touching this Great
Carbuncle, I am free to own that I have never had a glimpse of it; but
be it only the hundredth part so bright as people tell, it will surely
outvalue the Great Mogul's best diamond, which he holds at an
incalculable sum. Wherefore, I am minded to put the Great Carbuncle
on shipboard, and voyage with it to England, France, Spain, Italy, or
into Heathendom, if Providence should send me thither, and, in a
word, dispose of the gem to the best bidder among the potentates of
the earth, that he may place it among his crown jewels. If any of ye
have a wiser plan, let him expound it.'

'That have I, thou sordid man!' exclaimed the poet. ' Dost thou desire
nothing brighter than gold that thou wouldst transmute all this
ethereal lustre into such dross as thou wallowest in already? For
myself, hiding the jewel under my cloak, I shall hie me back to my
attic chamber, in one of the darksome alleys of London. There, night
and day, will I gaze upon it; my soul shall drink its radiance; it shall
be diffused throughout my intellectual powers, and gleam brightly in
every line of poesy that I indite. Thus, long ages after I am gone, the
splendor of the Great Carbuncle will blaze around my name?

'Well said, Master Poet!' cried he of the spectacles. 'Hide it under thy
cloak, sayest thou? Why, it will gleam through the holes, and make
thee look like a jack-o'-lantern!'

'To think!' ejaculated the Lord de Vere, rather to himself than his
companions, the best of whom he held utterly unworthy of his
intercourse- 'to think that a fellow in a tattered cloak should talk of
conveying the Great Carbuncle to a garret in Grub Street! Have not I
resolved within myself that the whole earth contains no fitter
ornament for the great hall of my ancestral castle? There shall it flame
for ages, making a noonday of midnight, glittering on the suits of
armor, the banners, and escutcheons, that hang around the wall, and
keeping bright the memory of heroes. Wherefore have all other
adventurers sought the prize in vain but that I might win it, and make
it a symbol of the glories of our lofty line? And never, on the diadem
of the White Mountains, did the Great Carbuncle hold a place half so
honored as is reserved for it in the hall of the De Veres!'

'It is a noble thought,' said the Cynic, with an obsequious sneer. 'Yet,
might I presume to say so, the gem would make a rare sepulchral
lamp, and would display the glories of your lordship's progenitors
more truly in the ancestral vault than in the castle hall.'

'Nay, forsooth,' observed Matthew, the young rustic, who sat hand in
hand with his bride, 'the gentleman has bethought himself of a
profitable use for this bright stone. Hannah here and I are seeking it
for a like purpose.'

'How, fellow!' exclaimed his lordship, in surprise. 'What castle hall
hast thou to hang it in?'

'No castle,' replied Matthew, 'but as neat a cottage as any within sight
of the Crystal Hills. Ye must know, friends, that Hannah and I, being
wedded the last week, have taken up the search of the Great
Carbuncle, because we shall need its light in the long winter
evenings; and it will be such a pretty thing to show the neighbors
when they visit us. It will shine through the house so that we may
pick up a pin in any corner, and will set all the windows aglowing as
if there were a great fire of pine knots in the chimney. And then how
pleasant, when we awake in the night, to be able to see one another's

There was a general smile among the adventurers at the simplicity of
the young couple's project in regard to this wondrous and invaluable
stone, with which the greatest monarch on earth might have been
proud to adorn his palace. Especially the man with spectacles, who
had sneered at all the company in turn, now twisted his visage into
such an expression of ill-natured mirth, that Matthew asked him,
rather peevishly, what he himself meant to do with the Great

'The Great Carbuncle!' answered the Cynic, with ineffable scorn.
'Why, you blockhead, there is no such thing in rerum natura. I have
come three thousand miles, and am resolved to set my foot on every
peak of these mountains, and poke my head into every chasm, for the
sole purpose of demonstrating to the satisfaction of any man one whit
less an ass than thyself that the Great Carbuncle is all a humbug!'

Vain and foolish were the motives that had brought most of the
adventurers to the Crystal Hills; but none so vain, so foolish, and so
impious too, as that of the scoffer with the prodigious spectacles. He
was one of those wretched and evil men whose yearnings are
downward to the darkness, instead of heavenward, and who, could
they but distinguish the lights which God hath kindled for us, would
count the midnight gloom their chiefest glory. As the Cynic spoke,
several of the party were startled by a gleam of red splendor, that
showed the huge shapes of the surrounding mountains and the rock-
bestrewn bed of the turbulent river with an illumination unlike that of
their fire on the trunks and black boughs of the forest trees. They
listened for the roll of thunder, but heard nothing, and were glad that
the tempest came not near them. The stars, those dial-points of
heaven, now warned the adventurers to close their eyes on the blazing
logs, and open them, in dreams, to the glow of the Great Carbuncle.

The young married couple had taken their lodgings in the farthest
corner of the wigwam, and were separated from the rest of the party
by a curtain of curiously-woven twigs, such as might have hung, in
deep festoons, around the bridal-bower of Eve. The modest little wife
had wrought this piece of tapestry while the other guests were talking.
She and her husband fell asleep with hands tenderly clasped, and
awoke from visions of unearthly radiance to meet the more blessed
light of one another's eyes. They awoke at the same instant, and with
one happy smile beaming over their two faces, which grew brighter
with their consciousness of the reality of life and love. But no sooner
did she recollect where they were, than the bride peeped through the
interstices of the leafy curtain, and saw that the outer room of the hut
was deserted.

'Up, dear Matthew!' cried she, in haste. 'The strange folk are all gone!
Up, this very minute, or we shall loose the Great Carbuncle!'

In truth, so little did these poor young people deserve the mighty
prize which had lured them thither, that they had slept peacefully all
night, and till the summits of the hills were glittering with sunshine;
while the other adventurers had tossed their limbs in feverish
wakefulness, or dreamed of climbing precipices, and set off to realize
their dreams with the earliest peep of dawn. But Matthew and
Hannah, after their calm rest, were as light as two young deer, and
merely stopped to say their prayers and wash themselves in a cold
pool of the Amonoosuck, and then to taste a morsel of food, ere they
turned their faces to the mountainside. It was a sweet emblem of
conjugal affection, as they toiled up the difficult ascent, gathering
strength from the mutual aid which they afforded. After several little
accidents, such as a torn robe, a lost shoe, and the entanglement of
Hannah's hair in a bough, they reached the upper verge of the forest,
and were now to pursue a more adventurous course. The innumerable
trunks and heavy foliage of the trees had hitherto shut in their
thoughts, which now shrank affrighted from the region of wind and
cloud and naked rocks and desolate sunshine, that rose immeasurably
above them. They gazed back at the obscure wilderness which they
had traversed, and longed to be buried again in its depths rather than
trust themselves to so vast and visible a solitude.

'Shall we go on?' said Matthew, throwing his arm round Hannah's
waist, both to protect her and to comfort his heart by drawing her
close to it.

But the little bride, simple as she was, had a woman's love of jewels,
and could not forego the hope of possessing the very brightest in the
world, in spite of the perils with which it must be won.

'Let us climb a little higher,' whispered she, yet tremulously, as she
turned her face upward to the lonely sky.

'Come, then,' said Matthew,mustering his manly courage and
drawing her along with him, for she became timid again the moment
that he grew bold.

And upward, accordingly, went the pilgrims of the Great Carbuncle,
now treading upon the tops and thickly-interwoven branches of dwarf
pines, which, by the growth of centuries, though mossy with age, had
barely reached three feet in altitude. Next, they came to masses and
fragments of naked rock heaped confusedly together, like a cairn
reared by giants in memory of a giant chief. In this bleak realm of
upper air nothing breathed, nothing grew; there was no life but what
was concentrated in their two hearts; they had climbed so high that
Nature herself seemed no longer to keep them company. She lingered
beneath them, within the verge of the forest trees, and sent a farewell
glance after her children as they strayed where her own green
footprints had never been. But soon they were to be hidden from her
eye. Densely and dark the mists began to gather below, casting black
spots of shadow on the vast landscape, and sailing heavily to one
centre, as if the loftiest mountain peak had summoned a council of its
kindred clouds. Finally, the vapors welded themselves, as it were, into
a mass, presenting the appearance of a pavement over which the
wanderers might have trodden, but where they would vainly have
sought an avenue to the blessed earth which they had lost. And the
lovers yearned to behold that green earth again, more intensely, alas!
than, beneath a clouded sky, they had ever desired a glimpse of
heaven. They even felt it a relief to their desolation when the mists,
creeping gradually up the mountain, concealed its lonely peak, and
thus annihilated, at least for them, the whole region of visible space.
But they drew closely together, with a fond and melancholy gaze,
dreading lest the universal cloud should snatch them from each other's

Still, perhaps, they would have been resolute to climb as far and as
high, between earth and heaven, as they could find foothold, if
Hannah's strength had not begun to fail, and with that, her courage
also. Her breath grew short. She refused to burden her husband with
her weight, but often tottered against his side, and recovered herself
each time by a feebler effort. At last, she sank down on one of the
rocky steps of the acclivity.

'We are lost, dear Matthew,' said she, mournfully. 'We shall never
find our way to the earth again. And oh how happy we might have
been in our cottage!'

'Dear heart! w we will yet be happy there,' answered Matthew. 'Look!
In this direction, the sunshine penetrates the dismal mist. By its aid, I
can direct our course to the passage of the Notch. Let us go back,
love, and dream no more of the Great Carbuncle!'

'The sun cannot be yonder[ said Hannah, with despondence. 'By this
time it must be noon. If there could ever be any sunshine here, it
would come from above our heads.'

'But look!' repeated Matthew, in a somewhat altered tone. 'It is
brightening every moment. If not sunshine, what can it be?'

Nor could the young bride any longer deny that a radiance was
breaking through the mist, and changing its dim hue to a dusky red,
which continually grew more vivid, as if brilliant particles were
interfused with the gloom. Now, also, the cloud began to roll away
from the mountain, while, as it heavily withdrew, one object after
another started out of its impenetrable obscurity into sight, with
precisely the effect of a new creation, before the indistinctness of the
old chaos had been completely swallowed up. As the process went
on, they saw the gleaming of water close at their feet, and found
themselves on the very border of a mountain lake, deep, bright, clear,
and calmly beautiful, spreading from brim to brim of a basin that had
been scooped out of the solid rock. A ray of glory flashed across its
surface. The pilgrims looked whence it should proceed, but closed
their eyes with a thrill of awful admiration, to exclude the fervid
splendor that glowed from the brow of a cliff impending over the
enchanted lake. For the simple pair had reached that lake of mystery,
and found the long-sought shrine of the Great Carbuncle!

They threw their arms around each other, and trembled at their own
success; for, as the legends of this wondrous gem rushed thick upon
their memory, they felt themselves marked out by fate and the
consciousness was fearful. Often, from childhood upward, they had
seen it shining like a distant star. And now that star was throwing its
intensest lustre on their hearts. They seemed changed to one another's
eyes, in the red brilliancy that flamed upon their cheeks, while it lent
the same fire to the lake, the rocks, and sky, and to the mists which
had rolled back before its power. But, with their next glance, they
beheld an object that drew their attention even from the mighty stone.
At the base of the cliff, directly beneath the Great Carbuncle,
appeared the figure of a man, with his arms extended in the act of
climbing, and his face turned upward, as if to drink the full gush of
splendor. But he stirred not, no more than if changed to marble.

'It is the Seeker,' whispered Hannah, convulsively grasping her
husband's arm. 'Matthew, he is dead.'

'The joy of success has killed him,' replied Matthew, trembling
violently. 'Or, perhaps, the very light of the Great Carbuncle was

'The Great Carbuncle,' cried a peevish voice behind them. 'The Great
Humbug! If you have found it, prithee point it out to me.

They turned their heads, and there was the Cynic, with his prodigious
spectacles set carefully on his nose, staring now at the lake, now at
the rocks, now at the distant masses of vapor, now right at the Great
Carbuncle itself, yet seemingly as unconscious of its light as if all the
scattered clouds were condensed about his person. Though its
radiance actually threw the shadow of the unbeliever at his own feet,
as he turned his back upon the glorious jewel, he would not be
convinced that there was the least glimmer there.

'Where is your Great Humbug?' he repeated. 'I challenge you to make
me see it!'

'There,' said Matthew, incensed at such perverse blindness, and
turning the Cynic round towards the illuminated cliff. 'Take off those
abominable spectacles, and you cannot help seeing it!'

Now these colored spectacles probably darkened the Cynic's sight, in
at least as great a degree as the smoked glasses through which people
gaze at an eclipse. With resolute bravado, however, he snatched them
from his nose, and fixed a bold stare full upon the ruddy blaze of the
Great Carbuncle. But scarcely had he encountered it, when, with a
deep, shuddering groan, he dropped his head, and pressed both hands
across his miserable eyes. Thenceforth there was, in very truth, no
light of the Great Carbuncle, nor any other light on earth, nor light of
heaven itself, for the poor Cynic. So long accustomed to View all
objects through a medium that deprived them of every glimpse of
brightness, a single flash of so glorious a phenomenon, striking upon
his naked vision, had blinded him forever.

'Matthew,' said Hannah, clinging to him, 'let us go hence!'

Matthew saw that she was faint, and kneeling down, supported her in
his arms, while he threw some of the thrillingly cold water of the
enchanted lake upon her face and bosom. It revived her, but could not
renovate her courage.

'Yes, dearest!' cried Matthew, pressing her tremulous form to his
breast- 'we will go hence, and return to our humble cottage. The
blessed sunshine and the quiet moonlight shall come through our
window. We will kindle the cheerful glow of our hearth, at eventide,
and be happy in its light. But never again will we desire more light
than all the world may share with us.'

'No,' said his bride, 'for how could we live by day, or sleep by night,
in this awful blaze of the Great Carbuncle!'

Out of the hollow of their hands, they drank each a draught from the
lake, which presented them its waters uncontaminated by an earthly
lip. Then, lending their guidance to the blinded Cynic, who uttered
not a word, and even stifled his groans in his own most wretched
heart, they began to descend the mountain. Yet, as they left the shore,
till then untrodden, of the spirit's lake, they threw a farewell glance
towards the cliff, and beheld the vapors gathering in dense volumes,
through which the gem burned duskily.

As touching the other pilgrims of the Great Carbuncle, the legend
goes on to tell, that the worshipful Master Ichabod Pigsnort soon gave
up the quest as a desperate speculation, and wisely resolved to betake
himself again to his warehouse, near the town dock, in Boston. But,
as he passed through the Notch of the mountains, a war party of
Indians captured our unlucky merchant, and carried him to Montreal,
there holding him in bondage, till, by the payment of a heavy ransom,
he had woefully subtracted from his hoard of pine-tree shillings. By
his long absence, moreover, his affairs had become so disordered that,
for the rest of his life, instead of wallowing in silver, he had seldom a
sixpence worth of copper. Doctor Cacaphodel, the alchemist, returned
to his laboratory with a prodigious fragment of granite, which he
ground to powder, dissolved in acids, melted in the crucible, and
burned with the blow-pipe, and published the result of his
experiments in one of the heaviest folios of the day. And, for all these
purposes, the gem itself could not have answered better than the
granite. The poet, by a somewhat similar mistake, made prize of a
great piece of ice, which he found in a sunless chasm of the
mountains, and swore that it corresponded, in all points, with his idea
of the Great Carbuncle. The critics say, that, if his poetry lacked the
splendor of the gem, it retained all the coldness of the ice. The Lord
de Vere went back to his ancestral hall, where he contented himself
with a wax-lighted chandelier, and filled, in due course of time,
another coffin in the ancestral vault. As the funeral torches gleamed
within that dark receptacle, there was no need of the Great Carbuncle
to show the vanity of earthly pomp.

The Cynic, having cast aside his spectacles, wandered about the
world, a miserable object, and was punished with an agonizing desire
of light, for the wilful blindness of his former life. The whole night
long, he would lift his splendor-blasted orbs to the moon and stars; he
turned his face eastward, at sunrise, as duly as a Persian idolater; he
made a pilgrimage to Rome, to witness the magnificent illumination
of St. Peter's Church; and finally perished in the great fire of London,
into the midst of which he had thrust himself, with the desperate idea
of catching one feeble ray from the blaze that was kindling earth and

Matthew and his bride spent many peaceful years, and were fond of
telling the legend of the Great Carbuncle. The tale, however, towards
the close of their lengthened lives, did not meet with the full credence
that had been accorded to it by those who remembered the ancient
lustre of the gem. For it is affirmed that, from the hour when two
mortals had shown themselves so simply wise as to reject a jewel
which would have dimmed all earthly things, its splendor waned.
When other pilgrims reached the cliff, they found only an opaque
stone, with particles of mica glittering on its surface. There is also a
tradition that, as the youthful pair departed, the gem was loosened
from the forehead of the cliff, and fell into the enchanted lake, and
that, at noontide, the Seeker's form may still be seen to bend over its
quenchless gleam.

Some few believe that this inestimable stone is blazing as of old, and
say that they have caught its radiance, like a flash of summer
lightning, far down the valley of the Saco. And be it owned that,
many a mile from the Crystal Hills, I saw a wondrous light around
their summits, and was lured, by the faith of poesy, to be the latest
pilgrim of the GREAT CARBUNCLE.



IT was now the middle of September. We had come since sunrise
from Bartlett, passing up through the valley of the Saco, which
extends between mountainous walls, sometimes with a steep ascent,
but often as level as a church aisleś All that day and two preceding
ones we had been loitering towards the heart of the White Mountains
-- those old crystal hills, whose mysterious brilliancy had gleamed
upon our distant wanderings before we thought of visiting them.
Height after height had risen and towered one above another till the
clouds began to hang below the peaks. Down their slopes were the
red pathways of the slides, those avalanches of earth, stones and trees,
which descend into the hollows, leaving vestiges of their track hardly
to be effaced by the vegetation of ages. We had mountains behind us
and mountains on each side, and a group of mightier ones ahead. Still
our road went up along the Saco, right towards the centre of that
group, as if to climb above the clouds in its passage to the farther

In old times the settlers used to be astounded by the inroads of the
northern Indians coming down upon them from this mountain rampart
through some defile known only to themselves. It is, indeed, a
wondrous path. A demon, it might be fancied, or one of the Titans,
was travelling up the valley, elbowing the heights carelessly aside as
he passed, till at length a great mountain took its stand directly across
his intended road. He tarries not for such an obstacle, but, rending it
asunder a thousand feet from peak to base, discloses its treasures of
hidden minerals, its sunless waters, all the secrets of the mountain's
inmost heart, with a mighty fracture of rugged precipices on each
side. This is the Notch of the White Hills. Shame on me that I have
attempted to describe it by so mean an image -- feeling, as I do, that it
is one of those symbolic scenes which lead the mind to the sentiment,
though not to the conception, of Omnipotence.

We had now reached a narrow passage, which showed almost the
appearance of having been cut by human strength and artifice in the
solid rock. There was a wall of granite on each side, high and
precipitous, especially on our right, and so smooth that a few
evergreens could hardly find foothold enough to grow there. This is
the entrance, or, in the direction we were going, the extremity, of the
romantic defile of the Notch. Before emerging from it, the rattling of
wheels approached behind us, and a stage-coach rumbled out of the
mountain, with seats on top and trunks behind, and a smart driver, in
a drab greatcoat, touching the wheel horses with the whipstock and
reining in the leaders. To my mind there was a sort of poetry in such
an incident, hardly inferior to what would have accompanied the
painted array of an Indian war party gliding forth from the same wild
chasm. All the passengers, except a very fat lady on the back seat, had
alighted. One was a mineralogist, a scientific, green-spectacled figure
in black, bearing a heavy hammer, with which he did great damage to
the precipices, and put the fragments in his pocket. Another was a
well-dressed young man, who carried an opera glass set in gold, and
seemed to be making a quotation from some of Byron's rhapsodies on
mountain scenery. There was also a trader, returning from Portland to
the upper part of Vermont; and a fair young girl, with a very faint
bloom like one of those pale and delicate flowers which sometimes
occur among alpine cliffs.

They disappeared, and we followed them, passing through a deep
pine forest, which for some miles allowed us to see nothing but its
own dismal shade. Towards nightfall we reached a level
amphitheatre, surrounded by a great rampart of hills, which shut out
the sunshine long before it left the external world. It was here that we
obtained our first view, except at a distance, of the principal group of
mountains. They are majestic, and even awful, when contemplated in
a proper mood, yet, by their breadth of base and the long ridges which
support them, give the idea of immense bulk rather than of towering
height. Mount Washington, indeed, looked near to heaven: he was
white with snow a mile downward, and had caught the only cloud that
was sailing through the atmosphere to veil his head. Let us forget the
other names of American statesmen that have been stamped upon
these hills, but still call the loftiest Washington. Mountains are Earth's
undecaying monuments. They must stand while she endures, and
never should be consecrated to the mere great men of their own age
and country, but to the mighty ones alone, whose glory is universal,
and whom all time will render illustrious.

The air, not often sultry in this elevated region, nearly two thousand
feet above the sea, was now sharp and cold, like that of a clear
November evening in the lowlands. By morning, probably, there
would be a frost, if not a snowfall, on the grass and rye, and an icy
surface over the standing water. I was glad to perceive a prospect of
comfortable quarters in a house which we were approaching, and of
pleasant company in the guests who were assembled at the door.

front of a good substantial farmhouse, of old date in that wild country.
A sign over the door denoted it to be the White Mountain Post Office
-- an establishment which distributes letters and newspapers to
perhaps a score of persons, comprising the population of two or three
townships among the hills. The broad and weighty antlers of a deer, 'a
stag of ten,' were fastened at the corner of the house; a fox's bushy tail
was nailed beneath them; and a huge black paw lay on the ground,
newly severed and still bleeding the trophy of a bear hunt. Among
several persons collected about the doorsteps, the most remarkable
was a sturdy mountaineer, of six feet two and corresponding bulk,
with a heavy set of features, such as might be moulded on his own
blacksmith's anvil, but yet indicative of mother wit and rough humor.
As we appeared, he uplifted a tin trumpet, four or five feet long, and
blew a tremendous blast, either in honor of our arrival or to awaken
an echo from the opposite hill.

Ethan Crawford's guests were of such a motley description as to form
quite a picturesque group, seldom seen together except at some place
like this, at once the pleasure house of fashionable tourists and the
homely inn of country travellers. Among the company at the door
were the mineralogist and the owner of the gold opera glass whom we
had encountered in the Notch; two Georgian gentlemen, who had
chilled their southern blood that morning on the top of Mount
Washington; a physician and his wife from Conway; a trader of
Burlington, and an old squire of the Green Mountains; and two young
married couples, all the way from Massachusetts, on the matrimonial
jaunt, Besides these strangers, the rugged county of Coos, in which
we were, was represented by half a dozen wood-cutters, who had
slain a bear in the forest and smitten off his paw.

I had joined the party, and had a moment's leisure to examine them
before the echo of Ethan's blast returned from the hill. Not one, but
many echoes had caught up the harsh and tuneless sound, untwisted
its complicated threads, and found a thousand aerial harmonies in one
stern trumpet tone. It was a distinct yet distant and dreamlike
symphony of melodious instruments, as if an airy band had been
hidden on the hillside and made faint music at the summons. No
subsequent trial produced so clear, delicate, and spiritual a concert as
the first. A field-piece was then discharged from the top of a
neighboring hill, and gave birth to one long reverberation, which ran
round the circle of mountains in an unbroken chain of sound and
rolled away without a separate echo. After these experiments, the cold
atmosphere drove us all into the house, with the keenest appetites for

It did one's heart good to see the great fires that were kindled in the
parlor and bar-room, especially the latter, where the fireplace was
built of rough stone, and might have contained the trunk of an old tree
for a backlog. A man keeps a comfortable hearth when his own forest
is at his very door. In the parlor, when the evening was fairly set in,
we held our hands before our eyes to shield them from the ruddy
glow, and began a pleasant variety of conversation. The mineralogist
and the physician talked about the invigorating qualities of the
mountain air, and its excellent effect on Ethan Crawford's father, an
old man of seventy-five, with the unbroken frame of middle life. The
two brides and the doctor's wife held a whispered discussion, which,
by their frequent titterings and a blush or two, seemed to have
reference to the trials or enjoyments of the matrimonial state. The
bridegrooms sat together in a corner, rigidly silent, like Quakers
whom the spirit moveth not, being still in the odd predicament of
bashfulness towards their own young wives. The Green Mountain
squire chose me for his companion, and described the difficulties he
had met with half a century ago in travelling from the Connecticut
River through the Notch to Conway, now a single day's journey,
though it had cost him eighteen. The Georgians held the album
between them, and favored us with the few specimens of its contents
which they considered ridiculous enough to be worth hearing. One
extract met with deserved applause. It was a 'Sonnet to the Snow on
Mount Washington,' and had been contributed that very afternoon,
bearing a signature of great distinction in magazines and annals. The
lines were elegant and full of fancy, but too remote from familiar
sentiment, and cold as their subject, resembling those curious
specimens of crystallized vapor which I observed next day on the
mountain top. The poet was understood to be the young gentleman of
the gold opera glass, who heard our laudatory remarks with the
composure of a veteran.

Such was our party, and such their ways of amusement. But on a
winter evening another set of guests assembled at the hearth where
these summer travellers were now sitting. I once had it in
contemplation to spend a month hereabouts, in sleighing time, for the
sake of studying the yeomen of New England, who then elbow each
other through the Notch by hundreds, on their way to Portland. There
could be no better school for such a place than Ethan Crawford's inn.
Let the student go thither in December, sit down with the teamsters at
their meals, share their evening merriment, and repose with them at
night when every bed has its three occupants, and parlor, barroom,
and kitchen are strewn with slumberers around the fire. Then let him
rise before daylight, button his greatcoat, muffle up his ears, and
stride with the departing caravan a mile or two, to see how sturdily
they make head against the blast. A treasure of characteristic traits
will repay all inconveniences, even should a frozen nose be of the

The conversation of our party soon became more animated and
sincere, and we recounted some traditions of the Indians, who
believed that the father and mother of their race were saved from a
deluge by ascending the peak of Mount Washington. The children of
that pair have been overwhelmed, and found no such refuge. In the
mythology of the savage, these mountains were afterwards considered
sacred and inaccessible, full of unearthly wonders, illuminated at
lofty heights by the blaze of precious stones, and inhabited by deities,
who sometimes shrouded themselves in the snowstorm and came
down on the lower world. There are few legends more poetical than
that of the' Great Carbuncle' of the White Mountains. The belief was
communicated to the English settlers, and is hardly yet extinct, that a
gem, of such immense size as to be seen shining miles away, hangs
from a rock over a clear, deep lake, high up among the hills. They
who had once beheld its splendor were inthralled with an unutterable
yearning to possess it. But a spirit guarded that inestimable jewel, and
bewildered the adventurer with a dark mist from the enchanted lake.
Thus life was worn away in the vain search for an unearthly treasure,
till at length the deluded one went up the mountain, still sanguine as
in youth, but returned no more. On this theme methinks I could frame
a tale with a deep moral.

The hearts of the palefaces would not thrill to these superstitions of
the red men, though we spoke of them in the centre of the haunted
region. The habits and sentiments of that departed people were too
distinct from those of their successors to find much real sympathy. It
has often been a matter of regret to me that I was shut out from the
most peculiar field of American fiction by an inability to see any
romance, or poetry, or grandeur, or beauty in the Indian character, at
least till such traits were pointed out by others. I do abhor an Indian
story. Yet no writer can be more secure of a permanent place in our
literature than the biographer of the Indian chiefs. His subject, as
referring to tribes which have mostly vanished from the earth, gives
him a right to be placed on a classic shelf, apart from the merits
which will sustain him there.

I made inquiries whether, in his researches about these parts, our
mineralogist had found the three 'Silver Hills' which an Indian
sachem sold to an Englishman nearly two hundred years ago, and the
treasure of which the posterity of the purchaser have been looking for
ever since. But the man of science had ransacked every hill along the
Saco, and knew nothing of these prodigious piles of wealth. By this
time, as usual with men on the eve of great adventure, we had
prolonged our session deep into the night, considering how early we
were to set out on our six miles' ride to the foot of Mount
Washington. There was now a general breaking up. I scrutinized the
faces of the two bridegrooms, and saw but little probability of their
leaving the bosom of earthly bliss, in the first week of the honeymoon
and at the frosty hour of three, to climb above the clouds; nor when I
felt how sharp the wind was as it rushed through a broken pane and
eddied between the chinks of my unplastered chamber, did I
anticipate much alacrity on my own part, though we were to seek for
the 'Great Carbuncle.'


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