After crossing the river, our path, with the perversity of all Spanish roads, instead of following up the valley of the stream, diverged widely to the right through a cluster or knot of hills, in which we were involved until we reached a rapid stream called Rio Guanupalapa, flowing through a narrow gorge, over a wild mass of stones and boulders. Here we breakfasted, picturesquely enough, and, resuming our course, soon emerged from the hilly labyrinth on a series of terraces, falling off like steps to the river on our left. They had been burned over, and the young grass was sprouting up, under the freshening influence of the early rain, in a carpet of translucent green. At a distance of four leagues from San Juan, after descending from terrace to terrace, we again reached the river, now flowing through a valley three hundred yards broad, and about fifty feet below the general level of the adjacent plateau. Here we found another fork in the stream: the principal body of water descending, as before, from the right, and called Rio Rancho Grande; the smaller stream, on the left, bearing the name of Rio Chaguiton; and the two forming the Rio Goascoran. Half a mile beyond the ford is a collection of three or four huts, called Rancho Grande. Here we stopped to determine our position. We were now at the foot of the "divide," and close to the pass, if such existed, of which we were in search. Immediately in front rose a high peak, destitute of trees, which the people called El Volcan. It had deep breaks or valleys on either side, evidently those of the streams to which I have alluded. Outside of these, the mountains, six or eight thousand feet in height, swept round in a majestic curve. Were there, then, two passes through the Cordilleras, separated by the conical peak of El Volcan? or did the great valley of the Goascoran divide here, only to waste itself away in narrow gorges, leaving a summit too high to be traversed except by mountain mules?
Strange to say, the occupants of the huts at Rancho Grande could give us no information on these points, but to all our inquiries only answered, "Quien sabe?" (Who knows?)—and pointed out to us the line of the mule-path, winding over the intervening hills and along the flank of El Volcan. Up to this time we had had comparatively small experience, and did not quite understand, what we afterwards came to know too well, that a Spanish road is perfect only when it runs over the highest and roughest ground that by any possibility may be selected between two given points.
We did not waste much time with the people of Rancho Grande, but urged on our mules as rapidly as possible. Turning abruptly to the right and leaving the plateau behind us, we advanced straight up the high ridge intervening between the two valleys, and thence in a zigzag course to the foot of El Volcan, a mass of igneous rock, protruded through the horizontal sandstone strata,—the gradual recession of which gives to the country the terraced character to which I have so often alluded. Leaving our mules here, H. and myself clambered up amongst rough and angular rocks, strewn in wildest disorder, to the bare and rugged summit of El Volcan. From this commanding position the view was unobstructed all the way back to the Pacific. The whole valley of the river, and line of our reconnaissance, the Portillo of Caridad, the Rock of Goascoran, the Volcano of Conchagua, and the high islands of the Bay of Fonseca, were all included in the view. Rancho Grande and the fork of the river appeared at our feet; and on the right hand and the left, extending upwards in nearly parallel directions, were the deep valleys of the rivers Rancho Grande and Chaguiton,—that of the former clothed with pines, while that of the latter presented only a succession of savannas, with here and there a group of forest-trees. Our view to the northward, however, was obstructed by hills and forests, and our ascent of El Volcan failed to give us a view of the Pass, which we knew must now be near at hand. We descended, therefore, and resumed our course,—anxiously, it is true, but with few of the serious misgivings which had beset us at Caridad.
The path wound around the base of El Volcan, on the level terrace or shelf from which it springs. As we advanced, we could distinctly perceive that the valley to our right rose gradually, with a gentle, but constant grade. At a distance of three miles it had nearly reached the level of the terrace along which we rode, and at the end of our fourth mile the terrace and the valley merged into each other, and the mule-path dipping into the waters of the stream, now reduced to a sparkling brook, resumed its direction on the opposite bank. We stopped here, in a natural park of tall pines, and lunched beneath their shade, drinking only the cool, clear water which murmured among the mossy stones at our feet. We needed no artificial stimulus; our spirits were high and buoyant; we had almost traced the Goascoran to its source; half an hour more must bring us to its fountain-head,—and then? We knew not exactly what then; but one thing was certain, that nothing in the form of a hill or mountain obstructed our advance, for the light, reflected from a clear sky, streamed horizontally between the tree-trunks in front, while on either hand the vistas were dark, and the outlines of gigantic mountains could be discerned towering to mid-heaven.
Half a mile farther on, crossing in the interval a number of little tributary streams, we came where the pines were more scattered; they soon disappeared, and we emerged upon an open glade or natural meadow. A high mountain, dark with forests, rose on our right; on the left was a long range of grassy hills; but in front all was clear! A government rancho, built under the shade of a couple of tall fruit-trees, stood in the middle of the savanna, and on its farther edge were the cane buildings of a cattle-hacienda, just visible through the wealth of plantain-trees by which they were surrounded, while the cattle themselves were dotted over the intervening space, cropping the young grass, which here looked brighter and fresher than in the valley below. Impulsively my mule pricked her ears forward, and broke into a rapid trot. Soon she stepped across the stream, which we had followed to its birthplace, now reduced to a trickling rivulet stealing out from a spring, "an eye of water," (ojo de agua,) coyly hidden away under a clump of trees draped with evergreen vines at the foot of the neighboring hills. I knew that we were at the "summit"; the faint swell of the savanna, scarcely perceptible to the eye, which supported the government rancho, it was clear, was the highest point between the two great oceans, and the cool breeze which fanned our foreheads was the expiring breath of the trade-winds coming all the way from the Bay of Honduras! My mule halted at the rancho; I threw the bridle over her neck, and went forward on foot; but I had not proceeded a hundred paces before my attention was arrested by the cheerful murmur of another little stream, also descending from the foot of the mountain at our right,—but this time, after traversing half the width of the savanna, it turned away suddenly to the north, and with a merry dash and sparkling leap started off on its journey to the Atlantic! In that direction, however, a forest of tall pines still shut off the view, and it was not until I reached the summit of one of the lateral hills that I could look over and beyond them. Then, for the first time, I saw the great plain of Comayagua, at a level some hundreds of feet below us, spreading away for a distance of forty miles, in a rich succession of savannas and cultivated grounds, dotted with villages, and intersected by dark waving lines of forest, marking the courses of the various streams that traverse it like the veins on an out-spread hand. At its northeastern extremity, its white walls now gleaming like silver in the sunlight, and anon subdued and distant under the shadow of a passing cloud, was the city of Comayagua, unmistakable, from its size, but especially from the imposing mass of its cathedral, as the principal town of the plain, and the capital of the Republic. Circling around this great plain, and, with the exception of only a narrow opening at its northern extremity, literally shutting it in like an amphitheatre, is a cincture of mountains, rising to the height of from three to six thousand feet,—a fitting frame-work for so grand a picture.
I returned slowly to the rancho, where my companions were preparing our encampment, and communicated to them the result of my observations. Singularly enough, there was no excitement; even H. forgot to inquire "what was the price of stock." But we took our dinner in calm satisfaction,—if four tortillas, three eggs, six onions, and a water-melon, the total results of Dolores's foraging expedition to the cattle-hacienda, equally divided between eight hungry men, can be called a dinner.
We spent the evening, a good part of the night, and the next day until afternoon, in determining our position and altitude, and in various explorations in both directions from the summit. We found that we were distant seventy-eight miles in a right line from La Union, and (barometrically) 2958 feet above mean-tide in the Pacific. We afterwards ascertained that the hut in which we passed the night is called Rancho Chiquito, and that name was accordingly given to this summit, and to the Pass, as distinguished from another break through the mountains, to the westward, which we subsequently discovered and designated as the Pass of Guajoca.
After Rancho Chiquito, the first town which is reached in the plain of Comayagua, entering it from this direction, is Lamani,—a small village, it is true, but delightfully situated in an open meadow, relieved only by fruit-trees and the stems of the nopal or palmated cactus, which here grows to a gigantic size, frequently reaching the height of twenty or thirty feet. The cabildo was in a state of extreme dilapidation, and we called on the first alcalde for better accommodations. He took us to the house of the padre, who was away from home, and installed us there. It was the best house in the place, whitewashed, and painted with figures of trees, men, animals, and birds, all in red ochre, and in a style of art truly archaic. The padre's two servants, an old woman and her boy, were the sole occupants of the establishment, and did not appear at all delighted to see us. According to their account, there was nothing in the house to eat; they had no tortillas, no eggs, no chickens, "absolutamente nada" (absolutely nothing). All this was affirmed with the greatest gravity, while a dozen fat fowls were distinctly visible through the open doorway, perched, for the night, among the bare limbs of the jocote trees in the court-yard. I pointed them out to the old woman, and, producing a handful of silver, told her that we were willing to pay for such as we required.
"Pero no puedo venderles." (But I can't sell them.)
Dolores meantime took a stick, knocked three of the finest from their perches, and quietly wrung their necks. I expected to see the old dame swoon away, or at least go off in a paroxysm of tears; but, instead of committing any such civilized folly, she silently took up her slaughtered innocents, dressed and cooked them, and thanked me profoundly for the medio each, which I handed her next morning. The lesson was not lost on us, in our subsequent travels; for we found it almost universal, that the lower classes are utterly indisposed to sell their domestic commodities. Their services may be purchased; but their chickens are above price. When, however, you have helped yourself, you are astonished to find how ridiculously small a sum will heal the wound you have made and atone for the loss you have inflicted.
From Lamani to Comayagua the road is direct, over a slightly undulating plain, subsiding gently to the north, and traversed nearly in its centre by the Rio Hanuya, fed by numerous tributaries falling from the mountains on either hand. We forded it at a distance of ten miles from Lamani, and were surprised to find it already a large and deep stream, frequently impassable for days and weeks together, during the season of rains. Half a mile beyond the ford we came to the Villa de San Antonio, a considerable place, and, next to the capital itself and the town of Las Piedras, the largest in the plain. Here we stopped at the house of the first alcalde, who gave us a cordial reception, and an ample dinner, in a civilized fashion,—that is to say, we had veritable plates, and knives and forks withal.
In Central America, curiosity is unchecked by our conventional laws, and the traveller soon ceases to be surprised at any of its manifestations, however extraordinary. When, therefore, a couple of dozen spectators, of all ages and both sexes, invaded the house of our host, and huddled around us while eating, we were in no degree astonished, but continued our meal as if unconscious of their presence. One yellow dame, however, was determined not to be ignored, and insisted on speaking English, of which she had a vocabulary of four or five words, picked up in her intercourse with American sailors at the port of Truxillo. We were hungry, and did not much heed her; whereupon she disappeared, as if piqued, but soon returned with what she evidently regarded as an irresistible appeal to our interest, in the shape of a blue-eyed, flaxen-haired child, perhaps three years old, perfectly naked, but which she placed triumphantly on the table before us.
"Mira estos caballeros! son paisanos tuyos, ninito!" (See these gentlemen, child! they are your countrymen!)
"Yes!" ejaculated the brat, to the infinite entertainment of the spectators, none of whom appeared to discover the slightest impropriety in the proceeding.
Of course, we had not come all the way to the Villa de San Antonio to set up our standard of what is moral or amusing; so we laughed also, and asked the mother to give us the history of the phenomenon. It was given without circumlocution; and we learned, in most direct phrase, that Captain —— of ——, who traded to Truxillo, was responsible for this early effort towards what H. called "the enlightenment of the country." So far from feeling ashamed of her escapade with the Captain, the mother gloried in it, and rather affected a social superiority over her less fortunate neighbors, in consequence. It is, however, but right to say, that the freedom with which matters of this sort are talked about in Central America does not necessarily imply that the people at large are less virtuous than in other countries. Honi soit qui mal y pense is a motto universally acted on; legs are called legs; and even the most delicate relations and complaints are spoken of and discussed without the slightest attempt at concealment or periphrasis. It is no doubt true, that marriage is far from general among the middle and lower classes; and a woman may live with a man in open concubinage without serious detriment to her character or position, so long as she remains faithful to him. It is only when she becomes "light o' love" and indiscriminate in her conduct, that she is avoided and despised. And although the remark may sound strangely to American ears, I have no question that this left-hand compact, on the whole, is here quite as well kept as the vows which have secured the formal sanction of the law and the Church.
[Footnote 1: But few statistics relating to this subject are in existence; but those few quite bear out these observations. According to the official returns of the District of Amatitlan in Guatemala, the whole number of births in that Department for the year 1858 was 1394, of which 581 were illegitimate!]
[To be continued.]
THE "CATTLE" TO THE "POET."[Footnote]
How do you know what the cow may know, As under the tasselled bough she lies, When earth is a-beat with the life below, When the orient mornings redden and glow, When the silent butterflies come and go,— The dreamy cow with the Juno eyes?
How do you know that she may not know That the meadow all over is lettered, "Love," Or hear the mystic syllable low In the grasses' growth and the waters' flow? How do you know that she may not know What the robin sings on the twig above?
[Footnote: See "The Poet's Friends," Atlantic Monthly, vol. v., p. 185.]
MORE WORDS ABOUT SHELLEY.
There is a moral or a lesson to be found in the life of almost every man, the chief duty of a biographer being to set forth and illustrate this; and a history of the commonest individual, if written truly, could not fail to be interesting to his fellows; for the feelings and aspirations of men are pretty much alike all the world over, and the elements of genius not very unequally distributed through the mass of mankind,—the thing itself being a development due to circumstances, very probably, as much as to anything singular in the man. But there are few good biographies extant; the writers, for the most part, contenting themselves with superficial facts, refusing or unable to follow the mind and motive powers of the subject,—or following these imperfectly. For this reason, they who would read the truest kind of biographies must turn to those written by men of themselves,—that is, the autobiographies; and these are, in fact, found to be among the most attractive specimens of literature in our language, or any other.
The life of any man is more or less of a mystery to other men, and one who would write it effectively must have been intimate with him from his youth onward. When the biography is that of a man of genius, the difficulty is greatly increased, even to the writer who has been his life-long familiar; for genius, by the necessity of its being, implies a departure in a variety of ways from the thoughts and rules of that regulated existence which is most favorable to the progress and welfare of men in the mass,—at least, as these are generally understood. But if the life-long intimacy be wanting in this instance, the task of the writer is the most difficult of all, and almost always a failure,—save in some rare case, where the writer and his subject have been men of a similar stamp.
Few biographies are written by the life-intimates of the dead. In most instances they are composed as tasks or duties by comparative strangers; or if now and then by the friends or associates of the subject, these are very likely the observers of only a part of his life, the seri studiorum of his latter or middle career, and unacquainted with that period when the strong lines of character are formed and the mental tendencies fixed. Boswell's "Life of Johnson" is considered one of the best performances of its kind in our language; but it is, after all, only half a biography, as it were. We have the pensioned and petted life of the rough and contemptuous man of genius,—whose great renown in English literature, by-the-by, is owing far more to that garrulous admirer of his than to his own works,—but we have little or nothing about those days of study or struggle when he taught and flogged little boys, or felt all the contumely excited by his shabby habiliments, or knocked down his publisher, or slept at night with a hungry stomach on a bulkhead in the company of the poor poet Savage. All the racier and stronger part of the man's history is slurred over. No doubt he would not encourage any prying into it, and neither cared to remember it himself nor wished others to do so. He had a sensitive horror of having his life written by an ignorant or unfriendly biographer, and even spoke of the justice of taking such a person's life by anticipation, as they tell us. Others, feeling a similar horror, and some of them conscious of the enmities they should leave behind them, have themselves written the obscurer portions of their own lives, like Hume, Gibbon, Gifford, Scott, Moore, Southey. These men must have felt, that, even at best, and with the fairest intentions, the task of the biographer is full of difficulties, and open to mistakes, uncertainties, and false conclusions without number.
The autobiographies are the best biographies. No doubt, self-love and some cowardly sensitiveness will operate on a man in speaking of his own doings; but all such drawbacks will still leave his narrative far more trustworthy, as regards the truth of character, than that of any other man: and this is more emphatically the case in proportion to the genius of the writer; for genius is naturally bold and true, the antipodes of anything like hypocrisy, and prone to speak out,—if it were but in defiance of hatred or misrepresentation, even though the better and more philosophic spirit were wanting. We should have better and more instructive autobiographies, if distinguished men were not deterred by the self-denying ordinance so generally accepted, that it is not becoming in any one to speak frankly of himself or his own convictions. We have no longer any of the strong, wayward egotists,—the St. Augustines, the Montaignes, the Rousseaus, the Mirabeaus, the Byrons; even the Cobbetts have died out. But the Carlyles and the Emersons preserve amongst us still the evidences of a stronger time.
There are two sorts of biographies, which may be described, in a rough way, as biographies of thought and biographies of action. It may not be a very difficult thing, perhaps, to write the life of a politician or a general, or even of a statesman or a great soldier. At any rate, the history of such a one is an easy matter, compared with that of a mere man of thought, of a man of genius. In the former case, we have the marked events, which are, as it were, the stepping-stones of biography,—events belonging to the narrative of the time,—and the individual receives a reflected light from many men and things. Dates and facts make the task of statement or commentary more easy to the writer, and his work more interesting to the general reader. But the case of the mere thinker, the man of inaction, whose sphere of achievement is for the most part a little room, and who produces his effects in a great measure in silence or solitude, is a very different one. The names of his publications, the dates of them, the number of them, the publisher's price for them, the critic's opinion of them, are meagre facts for the biographer; and if the man of genius be a man of quiet, sequestered life, the record of it will be only the more uninteresting to the reader. It is only when something painful has been suffered, something eccentric done and misunderstood and denounced or derided, that the biography rouses the languid interest of the public. Indeed, so imperfect and false are the plan and style of the literary biographies, that such opprobria are, as it were, necessary to them,—necessary stimulants of attention, and necessary shades of what would otherwise be a monotonous and ineffective picture; and thus the unlucky men of letters suffer posthumously for the stupidity of others as well as their faults or divergencies. When biographers have not facts, they are not unwilling to make use of fallacies: they set down "elephants for want of towns." Dean Swift is a case in point. Society has avenged itself by calumniating the man who spat upon its hypocrisies and rascalities; and to appease the wounded feelings of the world, he is attractively set down as a savage and a tyrant. Mr. Thackeray and others find such a verdict artistically suitable to their criticisms or their narratives, (a French author has written a romantic book about the Dean and Stella,) and so the man is still depicted and explained as the slayer of two poor innocent women, a sort of clerical Bluebeard, and the horrid ogre who proposed to kill and eat the fat Irish babies. Thackeray's plan of dissertation, indeed, was inconsistent with any displacing or disturbing of the preconceived notions; the success of it was, on the contrary, to be built upon the customary old impressions of the subject. Everybody is pleased to find his own idea in Thackeray, liking it all the better for the graphic way in which it is set forth and illustrated; and the result shows the shrewd artistic judgment of the critic, who apparently (especially in the Dean's case) understands his readers rather better than his theme. As for Swift,—though a fair knowledge of the man may be gleaned from the several biographies of him that we have, his life has not yet been fairly written and interpreted; and we believe the same may be said of most literary men of genius.
It must certainly be said of Shelley,—and this brings us to the beginning of our remarks. Not one man in ten thousand would be capable of writing the life of that poet as it should be written,—even supposing the biographer were one of his intimate friends. Shelley went entirely away from the ranks of society,—farther away than Byron, and was a man harder to be understood by the generality of men. An autobiography of such a man was more needed than that of any other; but we could not expect an autobiography from Shelley. He felt nothing but pain and sorrow in the retrospect of his life, and, like Byron, shrank from the task of explaining the mixture of self-will, injustice, falsehood, and impetuous defiance that made up the greater part of his history; and when he died, he left everything at sixes and sevens, as regarded his place and acts in the world. Accordingly, until lately, no one ventured forward with a biography of the departed poet, who has been for more than a generation looked on, as it were, through the medium of two lights: one, that of his poetry, which represents him as the loftiest and gentlest of minds; and the other, the imperfect notices of his life, which show him forth a cruel, headstrong, and reckless outlaw,—hooted at, anathematized, (and by his own father first,) driven out, like a leper in the Middle Ages, and deprived of the care of his children. In his case, however, the tendency to dwell upon and bring out the darker traits of biography does not exhibit itself in any remarkable way; and, on the whole, Shelley's character wears a mild and retiring rather than a defiant or fiendish aspect. The world is inclined to make allowances for him, on account of his beautiful poetry; and this is something of the justice which, on other grounds also, is probably due to him. Still, nobody has come forward to write his biography as it should be written; and we are yet to seek for the illustrated moral of a sensitive, unaccommodating, and impulsive being, rebelling against the rules of life and the general philosophy of his fellow-creatures, and shrinking with a shy, uncomprehended pride from the companionship of society. Shelley's disposition was a marked and rare one, but there is nothing of the riddle in it; for thousands, of his temperament, may always be found going strangely through the world, here and there, and the interpretation of such a character could be made extremely interesting, and even instructive, by any one capable of comprehending it.
After a considerable interval, some notices of Shelley have appeared, without, however, throwing much additional light on the wayward heart and pilgrimage of the poet. Mr. C.S. Middleton has published a book upon Shelley and his writings; Mr. T.J. Hogg has given a sketch of his life; and E.J. Trelawny some recollections of him, as well as of Byron. None of these pretends to explain that eccentric nature, or harmonize in any way his acts and his feelings; though a few things may be gathered that tend to make the biography somewhat more distinct than before, in some particulars. On the subject of his first unfortunate marriage, we are made aware that his wife was a self-willed, ill-taught young woman, who set her own father at defiance, and threw herself on the protection of such a wandering oddity as Percy Shelley. She was strong-minded, and brought with her into her husband's house her elder sister, also strong-minded, a ridiculous and insufferable duenna, whom Shelley hated with all his heart and soul, and wished dead and buried out of his sight,—finding, no doubt, his unsteady disposition controlled and thwarted by the voice and authority of his sister-in-law, who, knowing that her father furnished the young couple with their chief means of livelihood, would be all the more resolute in advising them or domineering over the migratory household. At last, these women grew tired of the moping and ineffectual youth who still remained poor and unsettled, with a father desperately healthy and inexorable, and all hope of the baronetcy very far off indeed; they grew tired of him and went away,—the wife, like Lady Byron, refusing to go back to such an aimless, rhapsodizing vagabond. With her natural decision of mind, aided and encouraged, very likely, by her astute relatives, she thought she saw good reasons for breaking and setting aside the contract which had united them; and no doubt the poor woman must have felt the hardship of living with such a melancholy outlaw. Having nothing in common with the devoted Emma, drawn in the ballad of "The Nut-brown Maid," she must have hated that wandering about from, place to place, living in lonely country-houses, under perpetual terror of robbers in the night, and subsisting for the most part on potatoes and Platonism; and she must have especially hated the Latin Grammar. She naturally thought, that, when she was married, she should have nothing more to say to exercises and lessons; but she found a pedagogue in Shelley, and the honeymoon saw her "attacking Latin" for the purpose of construing the poet Horace. How she must have hated all poets! She had other ideas,—ideas of ease, respectability, baronetcy; and her disappointment was greater than she could bear. Mr. Hogg says, she had a propensity to strong courses, and would talk of suicide in a speculative way. It is not difficult to discover the truth of that unfortunate union and disunion. Shelley, betrayed by the impulses of his enthusiast nature and the ignorant and deplorable credulity of a bookworm, allowed himself to be imposed upon by a designing boarding-school girl and her relatives, and everything followed as a matter of course. The unhappy wife recklessly broke the bond which she had as recklessly formed, and which the poet would have honorably and truly respected all his life; and then her passionate regret reacted fatally on herself,—and on him also, by a Nemesis not so very strange or unnatural, as the world goes.
[Footnote 1: Since this article was written, Mr. Peacock, an early friend of Shelley, has published a very different estimate of the character of Harriet Shelley. See Fraser's Magazine for March, 1860.]
The subject of Shelley's character is a delicate and a difficult one, and Mr. Hogg and Mr. Trelawny, especially, show their inability to understand it, by the way in which they put forward and dwell upon the poet's peculiarities. Trelawny, a hard-minded, thorough-paced man of the world, publishing garrulously in his old age what he was silent about in his better period, talks of the poet's oddity, awkwardness, and want of punctuality,—as if Percy were some clerkly man on 'Change; and Hogg, hilariously clever, says Shelley was so erratic, fragmentary, and unequal, that his character cannot be shown in any way but as the figures of a magic-lantern are shown on a wall,—Mr. Hogg's own style of description being the wall,—"O wall, O wall, O sweet and lovely wall!" He also tells us, to instance the poet's familiarity with the sex, a story of Shelley sitting with one of his lady friends and being plied with cups of tea by that fair sympathizer,—the poet talking and letting his saucer fall, and the lady wiping his perspiring face with a pocket-handkerchief. Such scraps of silly gossip are not biography; they may do for tea-table chit-chat, but show very feebly in the place where one looks for something like a philosophical criticism on the mind of so extraordinary a man as Shelley.
Genius alone can do justice to genius; and kindred genius alone will do it. There have been, no doubt, a great many writers of biography who had no objection to compensate their feelings for bygone slights or discourtesies, suffered from some wayward or inattentive superiority, some stroke of ridicule or malice. Literary antipathies do not die with the dead. The posthumous impression of Margaret Fuller Ossoli has been colored by some who sneer at her ways and pretensions, because there was probably something in her manner which displeased them in a personal way. She had certainly a very awkward fashion of blinking her eyes, and also "a mountainous me." It is very probable poor Edgar Poe has had his faults exaggerated by those who suffered from the critical superiority of his intellect; since some of those notices of him which tend most to fix his character as a reprobate, and appear in a laggard way in the English periodicals, were probably written by some of his own countrymen. It was a painful consciousness of this literary revenge that made H.W. Herbert, in his last agony, call on his brother-penmen for mercy on his remains, and that induces many of our public men to bring out their own memoirs or encourage others to do so. It looks like vainglory, but it is not such. The memoirs show a mortal dread of calumny or misrepresentation. Mr. Barnum, for instance, was more just to himself than anybody else would be. He showed that his doings were only of a piece with those of thousands around him in society; and this not unreasonable extenuation is one that few of his critics are apt to make use of in commenting on him and his dexterities of living. As for Shelley, he might have shunned or slighted or overlooked Mr. Trelawny in some painful or preoccupied moment, or offended the robust man of the world by the mere delicate shyness of his look; he might also have puzzled and bewildered Mr. Hogg, being, perhaps, puzzled and bewildered himself, by some subtile mental speculation,—unconscious that for these things he was yet to be brought to judgment and turned into ridicule, for the coming generation, by these familiar men,—these drilled and pipe-clayed familiar men. He might have tossed up a paradox or two to keep the muscles of his mind in exercise on a cold day, and his rapid intellect may have run away from his hearer, trampling on the conventions and platitudes in its course; but Mr. Hogg does not think he had fixed notions concerning anything. The poet did not nail his colors with a cheer to the mast of any of the great questions of the day, ethical or social, and therefore suffered the disparagements of those intelligent friends of his who have been taught to consider a well-defined rigidity of conviction and maintenance, in the midst of all these phenomena of our universe, telluric and uranological, as the test of everything valuable in human character and morals. And thus it has come about, that genius, with its native instincts of reason, truth, and common sense, is doomed to pay the penalty of its preeminence and its divergencies, and suffer at the hands of friends and enemies alike, from the show of those false appearances, insincerities, equivocations, which are its natural and proper antipathies.
Since the foregoing observations were written, the writer has seen a certain corroboration of them in the interesting "Memorials of Shelley," recently edited by Lady Shelley, and published by Ticknor and Fields. For, in the preface of this book, she takes occasion to speak of the misstatements of all those who have hitherto written on the subject of the poet, instancing the fallacies of Captain Medwin's book, and also, in an especial manner, though vaguely enough, the incorrectness, amounting to caricature, put forth by a later biographer, one of Shelley's oldest friends,—by which she evidently means to indicate Mr. Hogg. At the same time, the nature of her Ladyship's book is, involuntarily, an additional evidence of the difficulty that seems fated to attend all attempts to set forth or set right the character of Shelley. Indeed, she appears to be in some degree conscious of this; for she says, apologetically, that she has published the "Memorials" for the special purpose of neutralizing the misstatements and spirit of Mr. Hogg's work, and also lets us know that the time is not yet come for the publication of other and more important matter calculated to do justice to the character of Percy Bysshe Shelley.
It is only natural to think that Lady Shelley is not the person to write the biography of the poet, whose relationship to her is such a close one. She would far more willingly leave the events of his troubled life forever unremembered. Indeed, when we find, that, in her long widowhood of thirty years, Mrs. Shelley shrank from the task of writing the life of her husband, we can the more easily understand why any member of his family, especially a lady, should be the most unfit to undertake the task. Nobody could expect Lady Shelley to enter into those painful explanations necessary to it. Accordingly, in the work before us, we do not find any light thrown on those places where a person would be most anxious to see it. Lady Shelley slurs over the undutiful boyhood of the poet and the terrible sternness of his Mirabeau-father. She merely glances across the first foolish marriage and the catastrophe that closed it, as a bird flies over an abyss. On such subjects she cannot set about contradicting anybody.
But it is an ungrateful task to go on speaking of short-comings in a case like this, where the hardest critic in the world must sympathize with the feelings of the author, whatever becomes of the book. And yet the book will be very welcome to every one who regards it as a feminine offering of tender admiration and grief laid upon the grave of departed genius. Though not exactly the sort of personal history one would wish for from another hand, it is still valuable, as furnishing very interesting matter for a future biography. We have in it several new letters of Shelley's, some letters of Godwin's, and others of Mrs. Shelley's, together with a number of touching extracts from the diary of the latter. There are also two papers from the poet's pen: one an "Address to Lord Ellenborough" in defence of a man punished for having published Paine's "Age of Reason," and another an "Essay on Christianity." In the first, with all a boy's enthusiasm, he opposes the high abstract logic of truth and toleration to the hard government policy which tries to keep a reckless kind of semi-civilization in order, and cannot bring itself to believe, that, as yet, the broad principle of license is the one that can serve the cosmogony best. In the next he rather surprises the reader by exhibiting himself as the eulogist and expounder of Jesus Christ,—but not after the manner of Saint Paul. No doubt, the secular and semi-pagan tone of this dissertation will jar against the orthodoxy of a great many readers,—to whom, however, it will be interesting as a literary curiosity. But it is meant to show the character of Shelley in a more amiable light than that in which it is contemplated by the generality of people.
To explain Percy Bysshe Shelley, by telling us he was inconsequent, absurd, and odd in his manners, is as futile as to explain him by saying he was a strange, wonderful genius, of the Platonic or Pythagorean order, always soaring above the atmosphere of common men. To call a man of genius an inspired idiot or an inspired oddity is an easy, but false way of interpreting him. The truth of Shelley's character may be found by a more matter-of-fact investigation. He was naturally of a feeble constitution from childhood, and not addicted to the amusements of stronger boys; hence he became shy, and, when bullied or flouted by the others, sensitive and irritable, and given to secret reading and study, instead of play with those "little fiends that scoffed incessantly." These habits gave him the name of an oddity, and what is called a "Miss Molly," and the persecution that followed only made him more recluse and speculative, and disgusted with the ways and feelings of others. He began to have thoughts beyond his years, and was happy to think he had, in these, a compensation for what he suffered from his schoolfellows. With his hermit habits grew naturally a strong egotistical vanity, which he could as little repress as the other youths could repress their muscular propensities to exercise; and hence his eagerness to set forth the threadbare heretical theories he had found among his books. For supporting these with an insolent show of importunity, he was turned away from college, and soon left his father's home, with his father's curse to bear him company. Had the baronet been in the way of a lettre de cachet, like Mirabeau's father, he would certainly have had Percy put into Newgate and kept there.
The malediction of the old man seems to have clung to Shelley's mind to the end, and made him rebellious against everything bearing the paternal name. He assailed the Father of the Hebrew theocracy with amazing bitterness, and joined Prometheus in cursing and dethroning Zeus, the Olympian usurper. With him, tyrant and father were synonymous, and he has drawn the old Cenci, in the play of that name, with the same fierce, unfilial pencil, dipped in blood and wormwood. Shelley was by nature, self-instruction, and inexperience of life, impatient and full of impulse; and the sharp and violent measures by which they attempted to reclaim him only exasperated him the more against everything respected by his opponents and persecutors. Genius is by nature aggressive or retaliatory; and the young poet, writhing and laughing hysterically, like Demogorgon, returned the scorn of society with a scorn, the deeper and loftier in the end, that it grew calm and became the abiding principle of a philosophic life. It was the act of his father which drove Shelley into such open rebellion against gods and men. Very probably, though he might have lived an infidel in religious matters, like tens of thousands of his fellows, he would not have written, or, at least, published, such shocking things, if his father had been more patient with a youth so organized. But parents have a right to show a terrible anger when thwarted by their children, and in this case the father too much resembled the son in wilful impetuosity of temper. Turned out of his first home, Shelley went wandering forth by land and sea,—a reed shaken by the wind, a restless outcast yearning for repose and human sympathy, and in this way encountering the questionable accidents of his troubled, unguarded life, and gathering all the feverish inspiration of his melancholy and unfamiliar poetry.
With a sense of physical infirmity or defect which shaped the sequestered philosophy of the Cowpers, the Berangers, and others, the manlier minds of literature, including Byron himself, in some measure, Shelley felt he was not fit for the shock and hum of men and the greater or lesser legerdemain of life, and so turned shyly away to live and follow his plans and reveries apart, after the law of his being, violating in this way what may be called the common law of society, and meeting the fate of all nonconformists. He was slighted and ridiculed, and even suspected; for people in general, when they see a man go aside from the highway, maundering and talking to himself, think there must be a reason for it; they suppose him insane, or scornful, or meditating a murder,—in any case, one to be visited with hard thoughts; and thus baffled curiosity will grow uneasily into disgust, and into calumny, if not into some species of outrage,—and very naturally, after all; for man is, on the whole, made for society, and society has a sovereign right to take cognizance of him, his ways and his movements, as a matter of necessary surveillance.
The world will class men "in its coarse blacks and whites." Some mark Shelley with charcoal, others with chalk,—the former considering him a reprobate, the latter admiring him as a high-souled lover of human happiness and human liberty. But he was something of both together,—and would have been nothing without that worst part of him. He ran perversely counter to the lessons of his teachers, and acted in defiance of the regular opinions and habits of the world. He was too out-spoken, like all genius; whereas the world inculcates the high practical wisdom of a shut mouth and a secretive mind. Fontenelle, speaking according to the philosophy of the crowd, says, "A wise man, with his fist full of truths, would open only his little finger." Shelley opened his whole hand, in a fearless, unhappy manner; and was accordingly punished for ideas which multitudes entertain in a quiet way, saying nothing, and living in the odor of respectable opinion. With a mind that recoiled from anything like falsehood and injustice, he wanted prudence. And as, in the belief of the matter-of-fact Romans, no divinity is absent, if Prudentia be present, so it still seems that everything is wanting to a man, if he wants that. Shelley denied the commonly received Divinity, as all the world knows,—an Atheist of the most unpardonable stamp,—and has suffered in consequence; his life being considered a life of folly and vagary, and his punishment still enduring, as we may perceive from the tone and philosophy of his biographers, or rather his critics, who, not being able to comprehend such a simple savage, present his character as an oddity and a wonder,—an extravaganza that cannot be understood without some wall of the world's pattern and plastering to show it up against.
It is, to be sure, much easier and safer to regard Shelley's career in this way than to justify it, since the customs and opinions of the great majority must, after all, be the law and rule of the world. Shelley's apologist would be a bold man. Whether he shall ever have one is a question. At all events, he has not had a biographer as yet. His widow shrank from the task. Of those familiar friends of his, we can say that "no man's thought keeps the roadway better than theirs," and all to show how futile is the attempt to measure such a man with the footrule of the conventions. Shelley was a mutineer on board ship, and a deserter from the ranks; and he must, therefore, wait for a biographer, as other denounced and daring geniuses have waited for their audience or their epitaph.
A LEGEND OF NASSAU HALL.
"Turbine raptus ingenii."—Scaliger
The next morning there was queer talk about Clarian. Mac and I stared at each other when we heard it at breakfast, but still kept our own counsel in silence. Some late walkers had met him in the moonlight, crossing the campus at full speed, hatless, dripping wet, and flying like a ghost.
"I tell you," said our informant, a good enough fellow, and one not prone to be violently startled, "he scared me, as he flitted past. His eyes were like saucers, his hair wet and streaming behind him, his face white as a chalk-mark on Professor Cosine's blackboard. Depend on it, that boy's either going mad or has got into some desperate scrape."
"Pshaw!" growled Mac, "you were drunk,—couldn't see straight."
"Mr. Innocence was returning from some assignation, I suspect", remarked Zoile.
"If he had been, you'd have encountered him, Mr. Zoile," said Mac, curtly.
But I noticed my chum did not like this new feature in the case.
After this, until the time of my receiving the lad's invitation, I neither saw nor had communication with Clarian, nor did any others of us. If he left his room, it was solely at night; he had his meals sent to him, under pretence of illness, and admitted no one, except his own servant. This fellow, Dennis, spoke of him as looking exceedingly feeble and ill; and also remarked that he had apparently not been to bed for some days, but was mixing colors, or painting, the whole time. I went to his door several times; but was invariably refused admittance, and told, kindly, but firmly, that he would not be interrupted. Mac also tried to see him, but in vain.
"I caught a glimpse of that boy's face at his window just now," said he, one day, coming in after recitation. "You may depend upon it, there's something terribly wrong. My God, I was horrified, Ned! Did you ever see any one drown? No? Well, I did once,—a woman. She fell overboard from a Chesapeake steamboat in which I was coming up the Bay, and sank just before they reached her. I shall never forget her looks as she came up the last time, turned her white, despairing, death-stricken face towards us, screamed a wild nightmare scream, and went down. Clarian's face was just like hers. Depend upon it, there's something wrong. What can we do?"
Nothing, indeed, save what we did,—wait, until that pleasant morning came round and brought me Clarian's note. I could scarcely brook the slow laziness with which the day dragged by, as if it knew its own beauty, and lingered to enjoy it. At last, however, the night came, the hour also, and punctually with it came Dr. Thorne, a kindly young physician, and a man of much promise, well-read, prompt, clear-headed, resourceful, and enthusiastically attached to his profession Mac tucked a volume of Shakspeare under his arm, and we made our way to Clarian's room forthwith. Here we found about a dozen students, all known to us intimately. They were seated close to one another, conversing in low tones, and betraying upon their faces quite an anxiety of expectation. The door of the bedroom was closed, the curtain was lowered, and the only light in the room came from a shaded lamp, which was placed upon a small table in the recess to the right of the picture.
"What is this for?" inquired Dr. Thorne, pointing to a sort of salver resting upon a low tripod directly in front of the picture.
"Where is Clarian?" asked I.
"He looks awful," someone began in a whisper, when the lad's feeble voice called out from the bedroom,—
"Is it Ned and Mac?"
The door was pulled open, and Clarian came towards us.
"I am glad to see you, my friends. Dr. Thorne, you are truly welcome. Pray, be seated. Mac, here is your place, you and your Shakspeare," said he, indicating the chair and table in the recess.
I had held out my hand to the lad, but he turned away without taking it, and began to adjust the cords that moved the curtain.
"The tripod, Dr. Thorne," said he, with a sickly smile, "is a—a mere fancy of mine,—childish,—but in the salver I shall burn some pyrotechnic preparations, while the picture is being exhibited, by way of substitute for daylight. Excuse me a moment," added he, as he went into the bedroom again.
"Blount," said Dr. Thorne, in my ear, "why have you permitted this? What ails that boy? If he is not cared for soon, he will go crazy. Hush!—here he comes,—keep your eye on him."
Then, as Clarian came out, and stood in the bedroom doorway, quite near me, I remarked the terrible change since I had last seen him. He leaned against the door-frame, as if too weak to support himself erect; and I saw that his knees shook, his hands jerked, and his mouth twitched in a continual nervous unrest. He had on a handsome robe de chambre of maroon velvet, which he seldom wore about college, though it was very becoming to him, its long skirts falling nearly to his feet, while its ample folds were gathered about his waist, and secured with cord and tassel. His feet were thrust into neat slippers, and his collar rolled over a flowing black cravat a la Corsaire. His long hair, which was just now longer than usual, was evenly parted in the middle, like a girl's, and, combed out straight, fell down to his shoulders on either side. All this care and neatness of dress made the contrast of his face stand out the more strikingly. Its pallor was ghastly: no other word conveys the idea of it. His lips kept asunder, as we see them sometimes in persons prostrated by long illness, and the nether one quivered incessantly, as did the smaller facial muscles near the mouth. His eyes were sunken and surrounded by livid circles, but they themselves seemed consuming with the dry and thirsty fire of fever: hot, red, staring, they glided ever to and fro with a snake-like motion, as uncertain, wild, and painful, in their unresting search, as those of a wounded and captive hawk. The same restlessness, approaching in violence the ceaseless spasmodic habit of a confirmed Chorea, betrayed itself in all his movements, particularly in a way he had of glancing over his shoulder with a stealthy look of apprehension, and the frequent starts and shivers that interrupted him when talking. His voice also was changed, and in every way he gave evidence not only of disease of mind and body, but of a nervous system shattered almost beyond hope of reaction and recovery. Trembling for him, I rose and attempted to speak with him aside, but he waived me off, saying, with that sickly smile which I had never before seen him wear,—
"No, Ned,—you must not interrupt me to-night, neither you nor the rest,—for I am very weak and nervous and ill, and just now need all my strength for my picture, which, as it has cost me labor and pain,—much pain,—I wish to show in its best light. Macbeth's terror—it means more than it did the other night, Ned—but"—
Here he murmured an inarticulate word or two, recovering himself almost instantly, however, and resuming in a stronger voice,—
"Macbeth's doom is my picture. You will wonder I preferred the solid wall to canvas, perhaps,—but so did the genuine old artists. Lippo Lippi, and Giotto, and—why, Orcagna painted on graveyard walls; and I can almost fancy, sometimes, that this room is a vault, a tomb, a dungeon, where they torture people. Turn to the place, good Mac, Shakespeare's tragedy of 'Macbeth,' Act Third, Scene Fourth, and read the scene to us, as you know how to read; I will manage the accompaniments."
As he spoke, he touched the salver with a lighted match, so that a blue alcoholic flame flickered up before the curtain, making the poor lad's face seem more ghastly than ever.
"You must sit down, Clarian," cried Dr. Thorne, resolutely.
Clarian smiled again, that dim, uncertain smile, and answered,—
"Nay, Doctor, let me have my own way for an hour, and after that you shall govern me as your learned skill suggests. And do not be uneasy about my 'creamfaced' aspect, as I see Ned is: there is plentiful cause for it, beyond the feebleness of this very present, and to-night is not the first time I have worn these 'linen cheeks.' Read on, Mac."
We sat there in the dim light, breathless, awed,—for all of us saw the boy's agony, and were the more shocked that we were unable to understand it,—until, at last, in a voice made more impressive by its tremor, Mac began to read the terrible text,—to read as I had never heard him read before, until a fair chill entered our veins and ran back to our shuddering hearts from sympathy. Then, as he read on and painted the king and murderer together, while his voice waxed stronger and fuller, we saw Clarian step forward to the salver and busy with its lambent flame, till it blazed up with a broad, red light, that, shedding a weird splendor upon all around, and lending a supernatural effect to the room's deep shadows, the picture's funereal aspect, and the unearthly pallor of the boy's countenance, startled our eyes like the painful glare of midnight lightning.
"Thou canst not say, I did it! Never shake Thy gory locks at me!"
As the reader thrust the terror of these words upon us, all started back, for the curtain was plucked suddenly away, and there before us, not in Clarian's picture, it seemed, but in very truth, stood Macbeth, conscious of the murdered presence. Even the reader, absorbed as he was in his text, paused short, amazed; and I forgot that I had seen this picture, only knew that it was a living scene of terror. Doubtless much of this startling effect was the result of association, the agitation of anxiety, the influence of the impressive text, the suddenness of the apparition, the unusual light; but in the figure of Macbeth, at which alone we gazed, there was a life, a terrible significance, that outran all these causes. It was not in the posture, grand as that was,—not in the sin-stamped brow, rough with wrinkles like a storm-chafed sea,—not in the wiry hair, gray and half rising in haggard locks, like adders that in vain try to escape the foot that treads them down,—nor in the mouth, for that was hid behind the impotent guard of the upraised arm and clenched fist,—but in those painted eyes, into which, all-fascinated, we ever gazed, reading in them all that crouching terror, all the punishment of that spectral presence, all the poignant consciousness of his fate to whom such things could happen, to whom already his victims rise again,
"With twenty mortal murders on their crowns And push us from our stools!"
While I yet gazed, a sickening terror pervading me in the presence of these ghastly eyes, there came a voice, as if from afar,—"Read on!"—so consonant with the tone of my emotions, that I looked to see the figure itself take speech, until Mac, with a gasp, resumed. Still, as he read, the nightmare-spell possessed me, till a convulsive clutch upon my arm roused me, and instinctively, with the returning sense, I turned to Clarian.
Not too soon,—for then, in his own person, and in that strange glare, he was interpreting the picture to us. He stood, not thrown back like Macbeth, but drawn forward, on tiptoe, with neck reached out, form erect, but lax, one arm extended, and one long diaphanous finger pointing over our heads at something he saw behind us, but towards which, in the extremity of our terror, we dared not turn our eyes. He saw it,—more than saw it,—we knew, as we noted the scream swelling in his throat, yet dying away into an inarticulate breath ere it passed the blue and shaken lips,—he saw it, and those eyes of his, large enough in their wont, waxed larger still, wilder, madder with desperate affright, till every one of us, save the absorbed reader, recognized in them the nightmare horror of the picture,—knew that in Macbeth Clarian had drawn his own portrait! There he stood, drawn on, staring, pointing—
"Stop!" shouted Dr. Thorne, his voice hoarse and strident with emotion; but Mac, absorbed in his text, still read, flinging a fine and subtile emotion of scorn into the words,—
"O proper stuff! This is the very painting of your fear: This"——
"Triple fool! be silent!" cried Dr. Thorne again, springing to his feet,—while we, spell-bound, sat still and waited for the end. "Cease! do you not see?" cried he, seizing Mac.
But there stood Clarian yet, that red light upon his cheek and brow, that fixed stare of a real, unpainted horror in his speechless face, that long finger still pointing and trembling not,—there he stood, fixed, while one might count ten. Then over his blue lips, like a ghost from its tomb, stole a low and hissing whisper, that curdled our blood, and peopled all the room with dreadful things,—a low whisper that said,—
"Prithee, see there! behold! it comes! it comes!" Now he beckoned in the air, and called with a shuddering, smothered shriek,—"Come! I did it! come! Ha!" yelled he, plucking the spell from his limbs like a garment, and springing madly forward towards the door,—"Ha! touch me not! Off, I say, off!" He paused, gazed wildly round, flung his hand to his brow, and, while his eyes rolled till nothing but their whites were seen, while the purple veins swelled like mole-tracks in his forehead, and a bubbling froth began to gather about his lips, he tossed his arms in the air, gave shrieking utterance to the cry,—"O Christ! it is gone! it is gone!" and fell to the floor with a bound.
We sprang to him,—Thorne first of any.
"This is my place, gentlemen," said he, in quick, nervous tones. Then, taking the prostrate child into his arms, he carried him to his bed, laid him down, felt his pulse, and placed his head in Mac's arms. Returning then, he veiled the picture, flung the salver out of the window, and dismissed the huddled throng of frightened students, warning them to be silent as to the night's events. "Very likely Clarian will never see to-morrow; so be careful, lest you soil his memory."
"What does it mean, Thorne?" asked Mac, as the Doctor and I came again to the bedside. "It is nothing more than an overdose of cannabis or opium upon an excited nervous system, is it?"
Thorne looked at the delicate-limbed child who lay there in Mac's strong arms, wiped away the gathering froth from the lips, replaced the feebly quivering limbs, and, as he lingered over the pulse, replied,—
"He has been taking hashish?"
"He has taken it,—I do not say he is under its influence now."
"No,—he has not touched any stimulant. This is much worse than that,—this means epilepsy, Mac, and we may have to choose between death and idiocy."
He was still examining the boy, and showing Mac how to hold him most comfortably.
"If I could only get at the causes of this attack,—those, I mean, which lie deeper than the mere physical disorder,—if I could only find out what it is he has been doing,—and I could, easily, were I not afraid of directing suspicion towards him, or bringing about some unfortunate embarrassment"—
"What is it you suspect?" thundered Mac.
"Either some cruel trick has been played upon the boy, or he has been guilty of some act of madness"—
"Impossible!" cried we in a breath; "Clarian is as pure as Heaven."
"Look at him, Thorne!" said my good chum,—"look at the child's baby-face, so frank and earnest!—look at him! You dare not say an impure thought ever awoke in that brain, an impure word ever crossed those lips."
Dr. Thorne smiled sadly.
"There is no standard of reason to the enthusiast, my dear Mac; and here is one, of a surety. However, time will reveal; I wish I knew. Come, Ned, help me to mix some medicines here. Be careful to keep his head right, Mac, so as to have the circulation as free as possible."
While we were occupied in the front room, there came a stout double knock at the door, and when I opened it, Hullfish, the weather-beaten old constable of the borough, made his hesitating appearance. The Doctor gave me a quick glance, as if to say, "I told you so," and then returned the old man's bluff salutation. As soon as Hullfish saw him, he came forward with something like a sigh of relief, and said,—
"Ah, Doc, you here? 'Tar'n't a hoax, then, though I was mightily 'feared it was. Them students is the Devil for chivying of a feller,—beggin' your pardon, Mr. Blount. Have you got him yonder, Doctor?" said he, his keen eye noticing Mac and Clarian in the back room.
"What do you mean, Hullfish? Got whom?" asked Thorne, making me a sign to be quiet.
"The party, Sir, that was to be copped. I've got a blank warrant here, all right, and a pair of bracelets, in case of trouble."
"What fool's errand is this, old man?" asked the Doctor, sternly.
"What! you don't know about it? Lord! p'raps it's a sell, after all," said he, quite chopfallen. "But I've got my pay, anyhow, and there's no mistake in a V on the Princeton Bank. And here's the papers," said he, handing a note to the Doctor. "If that's slum, I'm done, that's all."
The Doctor glanced at the scrap of paper, then handed it to me, asking, "Is that his handwriting?"
It was a note, requiring Mr. Hullfish. to privately arrest a person guilty of a capital offence, until now concealed. If he was not brought to Hullfish's house between nine and ten that night, then Hullfish was to proceed to No.—North College, where he would be certain to find the party. The arrest must be made quietly. The handwriting was undoubtedly Clarian's, and I told Thorne as much.
"You see, gentlemen," said Hullfish, "I wouldn't 'a' taken no notice of it, ef it hadn't been for the money; but, thinks I, them students a'n't in the habit of sech costly jokes, and maybe there'll be some pinching to do, after all. So you mean to say it's a gam, do you, Doctor? May I be so bold as to inquire what yonder chap's holding on to 'tother about?"
"'Tother' is dangerously ill,—has a fit, Hullfish. He is the author of that note,—very probably was out of his mind when he wrote it."
"So? Pity! Very sick? Mayn't I see him?"
But, as he stepped forward, Thorne stood in the way and effectually intercepted his view. The constable smiled cunningly, as he drew back, and said,—
"You're sure 'ta'n't nothing else, then? Nobody's been getting rapped on the' head? Didn't see no blood, though,—that's true. Well, I don't like to be sold, that's a fact,—but there's no help for it. Here's the young man's change, Doctor,—warrant sixty-six, my fees one dollar."
Thorne carelessly asked if there had been any rows lately,—if he had heard of any one being hurt,—if they had been quiet recently along the canal; and being assured that there had been no disturbance of moment,—"only a little brush between Arch and Long Tobe, down to Gibe's,"—he handed the money back to Hullfish.
"Keep that yourself,—it is yours by rights. And, look you, mum's the word in this case, for two reasons: there's danger that the poor little fellow there is going to croak before long, and you'd be sorry to think you'd given trouble to a dead man; and what's more, if the boys get hold of this, there'll be no end of their chaffing. There's not a few of them would like to cook your goose for you,—I needn't tell you why; so, if you don't want them to get the flashest kind of a pull over you, why, you'll take my advice and keep dark."
"Nothing like slang, Ned, with the police or the prigging gentry. It gives them a wonderful respect for your opinion," said the Doctor, when Hullfish was gone. But his serious, almost stern look returned immediately, as he continued,—"Now to solve this mystery, and find out what this wretched boy has been doing. Come, you and Mac, help me to understand him."
When we had told the Doctor all we knew of the lad, he pondered long over our recital.
"One thing is certain," said he: "the boy is innocent in intention, whatever he has done, and we must stand by him,—you two particularly; for you are to blame, if he has got himself into any predicament."
"The boy has done nothing wrong, Thorne," said Mac, sturdily; "he may have been trapped, or got himself involved somehow, but he never could have committed any crime capable of superinducing such an attack as this."
The Doctor shook his head.
"You may be right, my friend,—and I hope you are, for the child's sake, for it will certainly kill him, if he has. But I never trust an intense imagination when morbidly excited, and I have read of some strange freaks done by persons under the influence of that infernal hashish. However, trust me, I shall find out what is the matter before long, and bring the boy round nicely. He is improving fast now, and all we have to do is to avert another attack."
Thank Heaven, in a day or two Clarian was pronounced to be out of danger, and promising rapid recovery. We had removed him to our rooms, as soon as the violence of the convulsion left him, in order to spare him the associations connected with his own abode. Still, the lad continued very weak, and Thorne said he had never seen so slight an attack followed by such extreme prostration. Then it did my heart good to see how my chum transformed himself into the tenderest, the most efficient of nurses. He laid aside entirely his brusque manner, talked in the softest tones, stole noiselessly about our rooms, and showed all the tender solicitude, all the quiet "handiness" of a gentle woman. I could see that Clarian loved to have him at his bedside, and to feel his caressing hand.
"You see, Ned," Mac would say, in a deprecatory tone that amused me vastly, "I really pity the poor little devil, and can't help doing all in my power for him. He's such a soft little ass,—confound Thorne! he makes me mad with his cursed suspicions!—and then the boy is out of place here in this rough-and-tumble tiltyard. Reminds me of a delicate wineglass crowded in among a ruck of ale flagons and battered quart-cups."
But, though we rejoiced to see that Clarian's health promised to be better than it had been for months, we did not fail to notice with regret and apprehension, that, as he grew physically better and mentally clearer, a darkening cloud settled over his whole being, until he seemed on the point of drowning in the depths of an irremediable dejection and despair. Besides this, he was ever on the point of telling us something, which he yet failed of courage to put into words; and Thorne, noticing this, when, one day, we were all seated round the bed, while the lad fixed his shaded, large, mournful eyes upon us with a painfully imploring look, said suddenly, his fingers upon Clarian's pulse,—
"You have something to say to us,—a confession to make, Clarian."
The boy flushed and shuddered, but did not falter, as he replied, "Yes."
"You must withhold it until you are well again. I know what it is."
Clarian quickly withdrew his hand from the Doctor's grasp.
"You know it, and yet here, touching me? Impossible! entirely impossible!"
"Oh, as to that," said Thorne, with a cool shrug of the shoulders, "you must remember that our relations are simply those of physician and patient. Other things have nought to do with it. And, as your physician, I require you to withhold the matter until you are well enough to face the world."
"No,—I must reap where I have sown. I have no right to impose upon my friends any longer."
"Bad news travel fast enough, Clarian, and there is no wisdom in losing a friend so long as you can retain him."
"I do not see the force of your reasoning, Dr. Thorne. I have enough to answer for, without the additional contumely of being called an impostor."
"For your mother's sake, Clarian, I command you to wait. Spare her what pain you can, at least."
"My mother! Oh, my God, do not name her! do not name her!"
And he burst into the only tears I ever saw him shed, hiding his face in the bed-clothes, and sobbing piteously.
"What does this mean?" said Mac, as soon as we were where Clarian could not hear us. "What have you found out?"
"Positively nothing more than you know already," answered Thorne.
"Nothing?" echoed Mac, very indignantly; "you speak very confidently for one having such poor grounds."
"My dear Mac," said Thorne, kindly, "do you think I am not as much concerned about Clarian as you are? Positively, I would give half I own to arrive at a satisfactory solution of this mystery. But what can we do? The boy believes himself a great criminal. Do you not see at once, that, if we permit him to confess his crime, he will insist upon taking himself out of our keeping,—commit suicide, get himself sent to the madhouse, or anyhow lose our care and our soothing influence? We cannot relieve him until we restore his strength and composure. All we can do now is to watch him, soothe him, and by all means stave off this confession until he is stronger. It would kill him to face a charge now. I am inquiring quietly, and, if anything serious has happened, shall be sure to find out his connection with it."
Though we rebelled against the Doctor's conclusions, we could not but see the prudence of the course he advised, and so we sat down to watch our poor little friend, gnawed with bitter anxiety, and feeling a sad consciousness that the disease itself under which he suffered was beyond our skilfullest surgery, and one that inevitably threatened the saddest consequences. A man has grand powers of recovery, so long as his spirit is free; but let him once be persuaded that his soul is chained down forever in adamantine fetters, and, though, like Prometheus, he may endure with silence, patience, even divinely, he is nevertheless utterly incapable of any positive effort towards recuperation. His faith becomes, by a subtile law of our being, his fact; the mountain is gifted with actual motion, and rewards the temerity of his zeal by falling upon him and crushing him forever. Such a person moves on, perchance, like a deep, noble river, in calm and silence, but still moves on, inevitably destined to lose himself in the common ocean. And this was the promise of Clarian's case. Whatever was his hidden woe, however trivial its rational results, or baseless its causes, it had beyond remedy seized upon his soul, and we knew, that, unless it could be done away with at the source, the end was certain: first the fury, then the apathy of madness. He was no longer tortured with a visible haunting presence, such as had borne him down on that fatal night, but we saw plainly that he had taken the spectre into his own breast, and nursed it, as a bosom serpent, upon his rapidly exhausting energies.
Happily for us,—ere Clarian was quite beyond recovery, while Mac still tore his hair in rage at his own impotence, while the Doctor still pursued his researches with the sedateness of a philosopher, and I was using what power I had to alleviate my little friend's misery,—that subtile and mysterious agency, which, in our blindness and need, we term Chance, interposed its offices, rolled away the cloud from the mystery, and, like a good angel, rescued Clarian, even as he was tottering upon the very brink of the dismal precipice to whose borders he had innocently strayed.
I shall never forget that pleasant June day. It was the first time that Clarian had been out since his illness; and I was his single companion, as he strayed slowly along through the college grounds, leaning tremulously upon my arm, dragging his feet languidly over the pebbled walks, and drinking in the warm, fresh, quivering air with a manner that, although apathetic, still spoke of some power of enjoyment. It was during the hour for the forenoon recitation, and the elm-shaded campus was entirely free of students. As Clarian walked along, his eyes bent down, I heard him murmuring that delicious verse of George Herbert's,—
"Sweet day! so cool, so calm, so bright, The bridal of the earth and sky! The dew shall weep thy fall to-night, For thou must die!"
"'For thou must die,'—so sad! And yet the thought itself of death is not that which saddens us so, do you think, Ned?" he went on, I hearing his words without heeding them,—for I was looking just then towards the outer gate next the President's house, through which I saw Dr. Thorne coming rapidly, accompanied by a stout, middle-aged man, having the dress and appearance of a well-to-do farmer,—"Not the thought, simply, 'Thou must die,'" repeated Clarian, in his plaintive murmur, "but the feeling that all this decay and death is of ourselves, and could be averted by ourselves, had we only self-control, could we only keep ourselves pure, and so be ever near God and of Him. There's cause for a deeper melancholy, poignanter tears than ever Jacques shed."
Dr. Thorne and his companion were now quite near, coming towards us on the same path, when I saw the stranger slap his thigh energetically and catch Thorne by the arm, while he exclaimed in tones of boisterous surprise,—
"Why, there's the very little chap, as I'm alive!"
I had half a glimpse of the Doctor's seizing his companion and clapping one hand over his mouth, as if to prevent him from saying more,—but it was too late. At the sound of the man's voice I felt Clarian bound electrically. He looked up,—over his face began to come again that terrible anguish of the night of the picture, but the muscles seemed too weak to bring it all back,—he grew limp against me,—his arms hung inert at his side,—a word that sounded like "Spare me!" gurgled in his throat,—a feeble shudder shook him, and, ere I could interpose my arm, he sank in a heap at my feet, white, and cold, and lifeless. Before I had raised him, Thorne and the man sprang to my aid, and the latter, bending over with eager haste, took the thin white hands in his own, half caressing them, half fearing to grasp them, speaking to him the while in tones of frightened entreaty, that, on any other occasion, would have been ludicrous enough.
"Come, now, my little man," said he,—"come, don't be afeard, don't be afeard of me! Dan Buckhurst won't harm ye, not for the world, poor child! Come, stand up! 'Twas all a joke. Come, come!—My God! Doctor, he a'n't dead, is he?" cried he to Thorne, in horror.
"If he is, you have killed him, you damned old fool, you!" responded Thorne, impetuously, thrusting the man aside with an angry gesture, and bending down to examine the lad's inert form. "Thank God, Ned," said he at last, "it is only a swoon this time, and we'll soon have him all right. We must get him to bed, though. Here, Buckhurst, you are the strongest; stop whimpering there, you old jackanapes, and bring him along."
Buckhurst quickly obeyed, lifting Clarian up in his arms as gently and tenderly as if he had been an infant, and following Thorne, who led the way to our rooms. There the lad was placed upon the bed with which he had become only too familiar, and the Doctor, by means of his restoratives, soon had the satisfaction of recalling breath and motion. As soon as the boy's sighs gave evidence of returning vitality, Thorne thrust us all from the room, including Mac, who had now come in from class, saying to Buckhurst,—
"Now, Sir, tell them all about it,—and wait here; I shall want you presently." With which words he closed the door upon us, and returned to his patient.
Mr. Buckhurst refused the chair tendered him by Mac, and paced up and down the room in a state of immense perturbation.
"Well, I never!" said he, "well, I never! It taken me all aback, Sir," added he, turning to me. "Did you ever see anything like it? Why, he's jest like a gal! Dang it, Sir! my Molly a'n't half as nervous as he is. I hope he'll get well,—I raelly do, now. I wouldn't hev had it happen for I dunno what, now, indeed!" And he resumed his walk, repeating to himself, "Well, I never! Who'd 'a' judged 'twas a child like that?"
"May I beg to know what you refer to, Mr. Buckhurst?" asked Mac, with considerable impatience in his tones.
"Eh,—what? He's mighty delicate, a'n't he?" said the man, with his thumb indicating the next room.
"Very delicate indeed, Sir,—perhaps you can explain the cause of his present attack," said I, angrily; for I had begun to think, from Buckhurst's manner, that he had been guilty of some practical joke upon Clarian. I saw the fire of a similar suspicion blazing in Mac's eyes; and I fear, had our conclusions been verified, the worthy Mr. Buckhurst would have fared very badly at our hands, spite the laws of hospitality.
"What! did he never tell you? Of course not, though, being sick ever sence, and thinking me dead, too. Well, I'll tell you: but mind, you mustn't banter the child about it, for he can't stand it,—though it's only a joke. Might have been serious, to be sure, but, as things turns out, a pretty good joke, to my notion,—though I'm rael sorry he's been so bad about it."
Mac rose, removed his coat, and marched deliberately up to our guest. "See here, Sir," said he in his deepest bass voice, which his dark frown made still more ominous, "do you mean us to infer that you have been making that child Clarian the victim of any of your infernal jokes, as you style them?"
Buckhurst stared a moment, and then, seeming to comprehend the drift of Mac's words, burst into a hearty laugh.
"No, Sir!" he shouted, "the shoe's on the other foot, thank the Lord! The boy himself played the joke, or trick, whatever it was. Dr. Thorne tells me he was kind of crazy, from drinking laudanum, or some sech pisonous matter. Howsever that was, I'm sure he didn't do it in airnest,—thought so from the very first,—and now I've had a good look at his face, I'd swear to it"
"What did he do?" asked Mac, hurriedly.
Buckhurst laughed in that hearty way of his. Said he,—
"I'll wager you a stack of hay agin them books yander you couldn't guess in a week now. What d'ye think it was? Ho! ho! Why, why, the little rascal shoved me into the canawl!"
"Shoved you into the canal!" echoed I, while Mac, looking first at him, then at me, finally burst into a peal of laughter, shouting the while,—
"Bravo! There's your 'experience' philosophy, Ned Blount! Catch me teaching milksops again! Go on, Buckhurst, tell us all about it."
"Yes," said Mr. Buckhurst, apparently quite pleased to see that we laughed with him. "It don't look like it was in the nature of things, somehow, does it? Fact, though, he did indeed. Shoved me right in, so quick I didn't know what the Devil was the matter, until I soused kersplash! and see him taking out over the drawbridge like mad."
"When was that, Mr. Buckhurst?"
"Jest inside of a month ago, Sir, one night."
"Sapperment, Ned! that was the time of the 'herb Pantagruelion'!— Well, what were you doing on the canal at that hour?" asked Mac, slyly.
"No, you needn't, now,—I see you wink at him,—honor bright. I'd been up to town, to take a mess o' clams at Giberson's, with maybe a sprinklin' of his apple-jack,—nothing else,—and I was on my way home,—to Skillman's tavern at the depot, you know,—and I'd jest stopped a piece, and was a-standing there, looking at the moon in the water, when he tipped me over. I tell you, I was mad when I crawled out wet as a rat; and if I'd ketched him then, you may depend upon it, I'd 'a' given his jacket a precious warming. As I said, he run off, but jest as I turned towards the tavern, I see him a-coming back, kinder wild-like; so I slipped behind a lumber-pile, hoping he might come over the bridge, so I could lay my fingers on him. The moon was about its highest, so I could see his face, plain as day,— white,—skim-milk warn't a circumstance to it,—and his eyes wide open as they could stretch. I tell you, he was wild! He looked up and down a bit, mumbled somethin' I couldn't make out, and then what do you think that boy did? Why, he jumped in, clothes and all, bold as a lion,—plainly to save me from drowning, and me all the time a-spyin' at him from behind a lumber-pile! He was sarching for me, I knowed, for he swum up and down jest about there for the space maybe of a quarter of an hour. And when he give it up at last, and come out, he kinder sunk down on the tow-path, and I heard him say plain enough, though he only whispered it,—jest like a woman actor I see down to York oncet, playin' in Guy something or other,—she was a sort of an old gypsy devil,—says he, 'I am a murderer, then!' Thinks I, 'Sonny, all but the murderer!' And as he stood up again, he 'peared to suffer so, his face was so white, and his knees so shaky, that I says to myself, 'Dan, you've carried the joke far enough.' So I sings out to him, and comes out from behind the lumber-stack, but, Lord bless ye! he jest peeped round over his shoulder oncet, gave a kind of chokin' scream like, and put out up the road as if the Devil was after him. I knowed it warn't no use to follow him, so I got on a dry shirt and went to bed. The next day I went home, and I'd mighty near forgot all about it, only today I came to see Dr. Thorne for somethin' to do my cold good, and he wantin' to know how I ketched it brought the whole matter back again."
"You're an old brick, Buckhurst!" cried Mac, giving the jovial farmer a thundering slap on the back, and a hearty grasp of his hand; "and you shall drink the boy's health with Ned and me this day, or I'll know the reason why. Ned Blount, a'n't it glorious? Said I not, you ill-omened bird, said I not, 'Il y a toujours un Dieu pour les enfans et pour les ivrognes'?—So you came down with Thorne to ease the poor little fellow's mind, did you, Buckhurst? That's right, and you shall see the picture, by Jove! And you'll say, when you see it, that such a picture were cheap at the cost of duckings for a dozen Buckhursts. Now tell me truly, what do you think made him push you in?
"Of course, it was the pison, Sir,—a baby like that wouldn't harm a flea. I thought maybe, until I see Dr. Thorne, that he done it out of mischieviousness, as boys will do, you know,—jest as they steal a feller's apples, and knock his turkeys of'n the roost,—but yander's not one of them kind; so he must 'a' been crazy, and I'm rael sorry he's been so bad put to about it,—I am, indeed."
Here the inner door was opened, and Thorne joined us, with a moisture about his eyes that he used afterwards to deny most vehemently.
"Buckhurst, he wants to see you; go in there," said he,—adding, in a lower tone, "Now, mind you, the child's delicate as spun glass; so be careful."
"Come in, Mr. Buckhurst," called Clarian.
The worthy farmer looked to right and left, as if he would much rather have made his escape, but, impelled by a shove from the Doctor, he ran his fingers through his coarse hair, and, with a very red and "I-wish-I-was-out-of-this" face, went in, closing the door behind him.
"Phew!" said Thorne, seating himself somewhat testily, after having filled and lighted a pipe,—"Phew! So that's over, and I a'n't sorry; it's as bad as reading the 'Diary of a Physician.' The boy will be all right now, and the lesson won't hurt him, though it has been a rough one. But no more metaphysics for him, Ned Blount! And, boys, let this be a warning to you. He's too brittle a toy to be handled in your rough fashion."
"You needn't tell us that, Thorne," said Mac, drawing a long breath. "Catch me kicking over children's baby-houses again, or telling 'em ghost-stories in the dark!"
"He vows never again to touch brush, crayon, or pencil; and if he is the devotee you describe him to be, Ned, I would not advise you to oppose him in his determination. You must keep him here till vacation, and next term he can exchange his room. Macbeth's company will never be very agreeable to him, I should judge; and it will not do to let him destroy the picture."
Thorne puffed away vigorously for a minute or two.
"That boy ought to turn preacher, Mac. He touched me nearer just now than I have been touched for an age.
"'His voice was a sweet tremble in mine ear, Made tunable with every saddest grief, Till those sad eyes, so spiritual and clear,'
almost persuaded me to follow the example of divine Achilles and 'refresh my soul with tears.' He has that tear-bringing privilege of genius, to a certainty."
And so it seemed, indeed; for presently the worthy Mr. Buckhurst made his reappearance in quite a sad state, mopping his red face and swollen eyes most vigorously with a figured cotton handkerchief, and proclaiming, with as much intelligibility as the cold in his head and the peculiar circumstances of the case would admit of, that he'd "be dagg'd ef he hadd't raver be chucked idto two cadawls dad 'ave dat iddocedt baby beggid his pardod about de codfouded duckid! Wat de hell did he care about gittid wet, he'd like to kdow? Dodsedse!—'twad all dud id fud, adyhow!"
——"And now you, my dear, dear friends," said Clarian, turning his sad, full eyes upon us, and calling us to his side, and to his arms.
But I shall draw a veil over that interview.
That night, after we had talked long and lovingly together, and were now sitting, each absorbed in his own thoughts, and emulating the quiet that reigned around college, Clarian softly joined us, and placed an open book in Mac's hands.
"Will you, dear Mac?" murmured he.
Then Mac, all full of solemn emotion, read through the grand periods of the Church Litany, and when he had finished, Clarian, with a thrilling "Let us pray," offered up such a thanksgiving as I had never heard, praying to the kind Father who had so mercifully extricated him, that our paths might still be enlightened, and our walks made humble and righteous.
"Clarian," said Mac, after a pause, when we were again on our feet,— he laid his hands on the boy's shoulders, as he spoke, and looked into his eyes,—"Clarian, would it have happened, if you had not taken that foul drug?"
Clarian shuddered, and covered up his face in his hands.
"Do not ask me, dear Mac! do not ask me! Oh, be sure, my aims, I thought, were noble, and myself I thought so pure!—but—I cannot say, Mac, I cannot say.
"'We are so weak, we know our motives least In their confused beginning.'"
"At least, Clarian," said Mac, after a while, his deep voice wonderfully refined with strong emotion, "at least, the picture was not painted in vain. Even as it is in the play, Banquo died that his issue might reign after him; and this lesson of ours will bear fruit far mightier than the trifling pains of its parturition. Ay, Clarian, your picture has not been vainly painted.—And now, Ned," said he, rising, "we must put our baby to bed; for he is to wake early to-morrow, and know himself a man!"
Doves on the sunny eaves are cooing, The chip-bird trills from the apple-tree, Blossoms are bursting and leaves renewing, And the crocus darts up the spring to see.
Spring has come with a smile of blessing, Kissing the earth with her soft warm breath, Till it blushes in flowers at her gentle caressing, And wakes from the winter's dream of death.
Spring has come! The rills, as they glisten, Sing to the pebbles and greening grass; Under the sward the violets listen, And dream of the sky as they hear her pass.
Coyest of roses feel her coming, Swelling their buds with a promise to her,— And the wild bee hears her, around them humming, And booms about with a joyous stir.
Oaks, that the bark of a century covers, Feel ye the spell, as ye groan and sigh? Say,—does her spirit that round you hovers Whisper of youth and love gone by?
Windows are open,—the pensive maiden Leans o'er the sill with a wistful sigh, Her heart with tender longings o'erladen, And a happy sadness, she knows not why.
For we and the trees are brothers in nature;— We feel in our veins the season's thrill In hopes that reach to a higher stature, In blind dim longings beyond our will.
Whence dost thou come, O joyous spirit? From realms beyond this human ken, To paint with beauty the earth we inherit, And soften to love the hearts of men?
Dear angel! that blowest with breath of gladness The trump to waken the year in its grave, Shall we not hear, after death's deep sadness, A voice as tender to gladden and save?
Dost thou not sing a constant promise That joy shall follow that other voice,— That nothing of good shall be taken from us, But all who hear it shall rise, to rejoice?
Mr. Choate's mind was so complex, peculiar, and original,—so foreign in temperament and spirit to the more representative traits of New England character,—so large, philosophic, and sagacious in vision and survey of great questions, and so dramatic and vehement in their exposition and enforcement,—so judicial and conservative in always maintaining in his arguments the balance and relation of interdependent principles, and so often in details marring the most exquisite poetry with the wildest extravagancies of style,—so free from mere vulgar tricks of effect, and so full of imaginative tricksiness and surprises,—so mischievous, subtle, mysterious, elusive, Protean,—that it is no wonder he has been more admired and more misunderstood than any eminent American of his time. It was because of these unaccustomed qualities of mind that matter-of-fact lawyers and judges came slowly but surely to Mr. Webster's conclusion, that he was "the most accomplished of American lawyers," whether arguing to courts or juries. In the same way, critically correct but unimaginative scholars, who "can pardon anything but a false quantity,"—who "see the hair on the rope, but not the rope," and detect minute errors, but not poetic apprehension,—admitted at last the fulness and variety of his scholastic attainments. And perhaps the finest tribute to the power and subtlety of his influence was, that, to the last, juries, who began cases by steeling themselves against it, and who ended by giving him their verdicts, maintained that they were not at all influenced by him,—so profound, so complete, and so unconscious had been the spell this man of genius had woven around them.
When it is remembered that a great lawyer in the United States is called upon (as he is not in England) to practise in all our courts, civil and criminal, law, equity, and admiralty, and, in addition to all the complicated questions between parties, involving life, liberty, and property, arising therein, that he is to know and discuss our whole scheme of government, from questions under its patent laws up to questions of jurisdiction and constitutional law,—it will be seen what a field there is for the exhibition of the highest talents, and how few lawyers in the country can become eminent in all these various and important departments of mental labor. In their whole extent Mr. Choate was not only thoroughly informed as a student and profound as a reasoner, but his genius produced such a fusion of imagination and understanding as to give creativeness to argumentation and philosophy to treatment of facts.