This is the way the Greeks made that Line which represents to "the capable eye" the true Attic civilization. And when we examine the innumerable lines of Grecian architecture, we find that they never for an instant lost sight of this Ideal. The fine humanity of it was everywhere present, and mingled not only with such grand and heroic lines as those of the sloping pediments and long-drawn entablatures of the Parthenon and Theseion, bending them into curves so subtilely modulated that our coarse perceptions did not perceive the variations from the dead straight lines till the careful admeasurements of Penrose and Cockerel and their confreres of France assured us of the fact,—not only did it make these enormous harp-strings vibrate with deep human soul-music, but there is not an abstract line in moulding, column, or vase, belonging to old Greece or the islands of the Aegean or Ionia or the colonies of Italy, which does not have the same intensity of meaning, the same statuesque Life of thought. Besides, I very much doubt if the same line, in all its parts and proportions, is ever repeated twice,—certainly not with any emphasis; and this is following out the great law of our existence, which varies the emotion infinitely with the occasion which produced it. Let us suppose, for example, that a moulding was needed to crown a column with fitting glory and grace. Now the capital of a column may fairly be called the throne of Ideal expression; it is the cour d'honneur of Art. The architect in this emergency did not set himself at "the antique," and seek for authorities, and reproduce and copy; for he desired not only an abstract line of Beauty there, but a line which in every respect should answer all the requirements of its peculiar position, a line which should have its individual and essential relationships with the other lines around it, those of shaft, architrave, frieze, and cornice, should swell its fitting melody into the great fugue. And so, between the summit of the long shaft and that square block, the abacus, on which reposes the dead weight of the lintel of Greece, the Doric echinus was fashioned, crowning the serene Atlas-labor of the column with exquisite glory, and uniting the upright and horizontal masses of the order with a marriage ring, whose beauty is its perfect fitness. The profile of this moulding may be rudely likened to the upper and middle parts of the line assumed as the representative of the Greek Ideal. But it varied ever with the exigency of circumstances. Over the short and solid shafts of Paestum, it became flat and almost horizontal; they needed there an expression of emphatic and sudden grace; they meet the abacus with a moulding of passionate energy, in which the soft undulations of Beauty are nearly lost in a masculine earnestness of purpose. On the other hand, the more slender and feminine columns of the Parthenon glide into the echinus with gentleness and sweetness, crown themselves with a diadem of chastity, as if it grew there by Fate, preordained from the base of the shaft, like a flower from the root. It was created as with "the Dorian mood of soft recorders." Between these two extremes there is an infinity of change, everywhere modified and governed by "the study of imagination."
The same characteristics of nervous grace and severe intellectual restraint are found wherever the true Greek artist put his hand and his heart to work. Every moulding bears the impress of utter refinement, and modulates the light which falls upon it with exquisite and harmonious gradations of shade. The sun, as it touches it, makes visible music there, as if it were the harp of Memnon,—now giving us a shadow-line sharp, strict, and defined, now drawing along a beam of quick and dazzling light, and now dying away softly and insensibly into cool shade again. All the phenomena of reflected lights, half lights, and broken lights are brought in and attuned to the great daedal melody of the edifice. The antiquities of Attica afford nothing frivolous or capricious or merely fanciful, no playful extravagances or wanton meanderings of line; but ever loyal to the purity of a high Ideal, they present to us, even from their ruins, a wonderful and very evident Unity of expression, pervading and governing every possible mood and manner of thought. No phase of Art that ever existed gives us a line so very human and simple in itself as this Greek type, and so pliable to all the uses of monumental language. If this type were a mere mathematical type, its applicability to the expression of human emotions would be limited to a formalism absolutely fatal to the freedom of thought in Art. But because it has its birth in intense Love, in refined appreciation of all the movements of Life and all the utterances of Creation, because it is the humanized essence of these motions and developments, it becomes thus an inestimable Unity, containing within itself the germs of a new world of ever new delight.
When this type in Greek Art was brought to bear on the interpretation of natural forms into architectural language, we shall curiously discover that the creative pride of the artist and his reverence for the integrity of his Ideal were so great, that he not only subjected these forms to a rigid subservience to the abstract line till Nature was nearly lost in Art, but the immediate adoption of these forms under any circumstances was limited to some three or four of the most ordinary vegetable productions of Greece and to one sea-shell. This wise reserve and self-restraint, among the boundless riches of a delicious climate and a soil teeming with fertility, present to us the best proof of the fastidious purity of artistic intentions. Nature poured out at the feet of the Greek artist a most plenteous offering, and the lap of Flora overflowed for him with tempting garlands of Beauty; but he did not gather these up with any greedy and indiscriminate hand, he did not intoxicate himself at the harvest of the vineyard. Full of the divinity of high purpose, and intent upon the nobler aim of creating a pure work of Art, he considered serenely what were his needs for decoration, took lovingly a few of the most ordinary forms, and, studying the creative sentiment of them, breathed a new and immortal life into them, and tenderly and hesitatingly applied them to the work of illustrating his grand Ideal. These leaves and flowers were selected not for their own sake, though he felt them to be beautiful, but for the decorative motive they suggested, the humanity there was in them, and the harmony they had with the emergencies of his design. The design was not bent to accommodate them, but they were translated and lifted up into the sphere of Art.
A drawing of the Ionic capitals of the temple of Minerva Polias in the Erechtheum is accessible to nearly everybody. It is well to turn to it and see what use the Greeks, under such impulses, made of the Wild Honeysuckle and of Sea-Shells. Perhaps this capital affords one of the most instructive epitomes of Greek Art, inasmuch as in its composition use is made of so much that Nature gave, and those gifts are so tenderly modelled and wrought into such exquisite harmony and eloquent repose. Examine the volute: this is the nearest approach to a mathematical result that can be found in Grecian architecture; yet this very approximation is one of the greatest triumphs of Art. No geometrical rule has been discovered which can exactly produce the spirals of the Erechtheum, nor can they be found in shells. In avoiding the exuberance of the latter and the rigid formalism of the former, a work of human thought and Love has been evolved. Follow one of these volutes with your eye from its centre outwards, taking all its congeries of lines into companionship; you find your sympathies at once strangely engaged. There is an intoxication in the gradual and melodious expansion of these curves. They seem to be full of destiny, bearing you along, as upon an inevitable tide, towards some larger sphere of action. Ere you have grown weary with the monotony of the spiral, you find that the system of lines which compose it gradually leave their obedience to the centrifugal forces of the volute, and, assuming new relationships of parts, sweep gracefully across the summit of the shaft, and become presently entangled in the reversed motion of the other volute, at whose centre Ariadne seems to stand, gathering together all the clues of this labyrinth of Beauty. This may seem fanciful to one who regards these things as matters of formalism. But inasmuch as, to the studious eye of affection, they suggest human action and human sympathies, this is a proof that they had their birth in some corresponding affection. It is the inanimate body of Geometry made spiritual and living by the Love of the human heart. And when a later generation reduced the Ionic volutes to rule, and endeavored to inscribe them with the gyrations of the compass, they have no further interest for us, save as a mathematical problem with an unknown value equal to a mysterious symbol x, in which the soul takes no comfort. But true Art, using the volute, inevitably makes it eloquent with an intensity of meaning, a delicacy of expression, which awaken certain very inward and very poetic sentiments, akin to those from which it was evolved in the process of creation. When we reasonably regard the printed words of an author, we not only behold an ingenious collection of alphabetical symbols, but are placed by them in direct contact with the mind which brought them together, and, for the moment, our train of thought so entirely coincides with that of the writer, that, though perhaps he died centuries ago, he may be said to live again in us. This great work of architectural Art has the same immortal life; and though it may not so often find a heart capable of discerning the sentiment and intention of it under the outward lines, yet that heart, when found, is touched very deeply and very tenderly. We imbibe the creative impulse of the artist, and the beautiful thing has a new life in our affections. Studying it, we become artists and poets ere we are aware. The alphabet becomes a living soul.
Under the volutes of this capital, and belting the top of the shaft, is a broad band of ornamentation, so happy and effectual in its uses, and so pure and perfect in its details, that a careful examination of it will, perhaps, afford us some knowledge of that spiritual essence in the antique Ideal out of which arose the silent and motionless Beauty of Greek marbles.
Here are brought together the sentiments of certain vegetable productions of Greece, but sentiments so entirely subordinated to the flexure of the abstract line, that their natural significance is almost lost in a new and more human meaning. Here is the Honeysuckle, the wildest, the most elastic and undulating of plants, under the severe discipline of order and artistic symmetry, assuming a strict and chaste propriety, a formal elegance, which render it at once monumental and dignified. The harmonious succession and repetition of parts, the graceful contrasts of curves and the strict poise and balance of them, their unity in variety, their entire subjection to aesthetic laws, their serious and emphatic earnestness of purpose,—these qualities combine in the creation of one of the purest works of Art ever conceived by the human mind. It is called the Ionic Anthemion, and suggests in its composition all the creative powers of Greece. Its value is not alone in the sensuous gratification of the eye, as with the Arabesque tangles of the Alhambra, but it is more especially in its complete intellectual expression, the evidence there is in it of thoughtfulness and judgment and deliberate care. The inventor studied not alone the plant, but his own spiritual relationships with it; and ere he made his interpretation, he considered how, in mythological traditions, each flower once bore a human shape, and how Daphne and Syrinx, Narcissus and Philemon, and those other idyllic beings, were eased of the stress of human emotions by becoming Laurels and Reeds and Daffodils and sturdy Oaks, and how human nature was thus diffused through all created things and was epigrammatically expressed in them.
"And he, with many feelings, many thoughts, Made up a meditative joy, and found Religious meanings in the forms of Nature."
Like Faustus, he was permitted to look into her deep bosom, as into the bosom of a friend,—to find his brothers in the still wood, in the air, and in the water,—to see himself and the mysterious wonders of his own breast in the movements of the elements. And so he took Nature as a figurative exponent of humanity, and extracted the symbolic truths from her productions, and used them nobly in his Art.
Garbett, an English aesthetical writer, assures us that the Anthemion bears not the slightest resemblance to the Honeysuckle or any other plant, "being no representation of anything in Nature, but simply the necessary result of the complete and systematic attempt to combine unity and variety by the principle of gradation." But here he speaks like a geometer, and not like an artist. He seeks rather for the resemblance of form than the resemblance of spirit, and, failing to realize the object of his search, he endeavors to find a cause for this exquisite effect in pure reason. With equal perversity, Poe endeavored to persuade the public that his "Raven" was the result of mere aesthetical deductions!
And here the old burden of our song must once again be heard: If we would know the golden secret of the Greek Ideal, we must ourselves first learn how to love with the wisdom and chastity of old Hellenic passion. We must sacrifice Taste and Fancy and Prejudice, whose specious superficialities are embodied in the errors of modern Art,—we must sacrifice these at the shrine of the true Aphrodite; else the modern Procrustes will continue to stretch and torture Greek Lines on geometrical beds, and the aesthetic Pharisees around us will still crucify the Greek Ideal.
[To be continued.]
THE ROSE ENTHRONED.
It melts and seethes, the chaos that shall grow To adamant beneath the house of life: In hissing hatred atoms clash, and go To meet intenser strife.
And ere that fever leaves the granite veins, Down thunders o'er the waste a torrid sea: Now Flood, now Fire, alternate despot reigns,— Immortal foes to be.
Built by the warring elements, they rise, The massive earth-foundations, tier on tier, Where slimy monsters with unhuman eyes Their hideous heads uprear.
The building of the world is not for you That glare upon each other, and devour: Race floating after race fades out of view, Till beauty springs from power
Meanwhile from crumbling rocks and shoals of death Shoots up rank verdure to the hidden sun; The gulfs are eddying to the vague, sweet breath Of richer life begun,—
Richer and sweeter far than aught before, Though rooted in the grave of what has been. Unnumbered burials yet must heap Earth's floor, Ere she her heir shall win;
And ever nobler lives and deaths more grand For nourishment of that which is to come: While 'mid the ruins of the work she planned Sits Nature, blind and dumb.
For whom or what she plans, she knows no more Than any mother of her unborn child; Yet beautiful forewarnings murmur o'er Her desolations wild.
Slowly the clamor and the clash subside: Earth's restlessness her patient hopes subdue: Mild oceans shoreward heave a pulse-like tide: The skies are veined with blue.
And life works through the growing quietness To bring some darling mystery into form: Beauty her fairest Possible would dress In colors pure and warm.
Within the depths of palpitating seas A tender tint;—anon a line of grace Some lovely thought from its dull atom frees, The coming joy to trace;—
A pencilled moss on tablets of the sand, Such as shall veil the unbudded maiden-blush Of beauty yet to gladden the green land;— A breathing, through the hush,
Of some sealed perfume longing to burst out And give its prisoned rapture to the air;— A brooding hope, a promise through a doubt Is whispered everywhere.
And, every dawn a shade more clear, the skies A flush as from the heart of heaven disclose: Through earth and sea and air a message flies, Prophetic of the Rose.
At last a morning comes of sunshine still, When not a dew-drop trembles on the grass; When all winds sleep, and every pool and rill Is like a burnished glass
Where a long-looked-for guest may lean to gaze; When day on earth rests royally,—a crown Of molten glory, flashing diamond rays, From heaven let lightly down.
In golden silence, breathless, all things stand. What answer meets this questioning repose? A sudden gush of light and odors bland, And, lo! the Rose! the Rose!
The birds break into canticles around; The winds lift Jubilate to the skies: For, twin-born with the rose on Eden-ground, Love blooms in human eyes.
Life's marvellous queen-flower blossoms only so, In dust of low ideals rooted fast. Ever the Beautiful is moulded slow From truth in errors past.
What fiery fields of Chaos must be won, What battling Titans rear themselves a tomb, What births and resurrections greet the sun, Before the rose can bloom!
And of some wonder-blossom yet we dream, Whereof the time that is infolds the seed,— Some flower of light, to which the rose shall seem A fair and fragile weed.
A BAG OF MEAL.
I often wonder what was the appearance of Saul's mother, when she walked up the narrow aisle of the meeting-house and presented her boy's brow for the mystic drops that sealed him with the name of Saul.
Saul isn't a common name. It is well,—for Saul is not an ordinary man,—and—Saul is my husband.
We came in the cool of an evening upon the brink of the swift river that flows past the village of Skylight.
The silence of a nearing experience brooded over my spirit; for Saul's home was a vast unknown to me, and I fain would have delayed awhile its coming.
I wonder if the primal motion of unknown powers, like electricity, for instance, is spiral. Have you ever seen it winding out of a pair of human eyes, knowing that every fresh coil was a spring of the soul, and felt it fixing itself deeper and deeper in your own, until you knew that you were held by it?
Perhaps not. I have: as when Saul turned to me in the cool of that evening, and drew my eyes away, by the power I have spoken of, from the West, where the orange of sunset was fading into twilight.
I have felt it otherwise. A horse was standing, surrounded by snow; the biting winds were cutting across the common, and the blanket with which he had been covered had fallen from him, and lay on the snow. He had turned his head toward the place where it lay, and his eyes were fixed upon it with such power, that, if that blanket had been endowed with one particle of sensation, it would have got up, and folded itself, without a murmur, around the shivering animal. Such a picture as it was! Just then, I would have been Rosa Bonheur; but being as I was, I couldn't be expected to blanket a horse in a crowded street, could I?
We were on the brink of the river. Saul drew my eyes away, and said,—
"You are unhappy, Lucy."
"No," I answered,—"not that."
"That does not content me. May I ask what troubles you?"
I aroused myself to reason. Saul is never satisfied, unless I assign a reason for any mood I am in.
"Saul!" I questioned, "why do the mortals that we call Poets write, and why do non-Poets, like ourselves, sigh over the melancholy days of autumn, and why are we silent and thoughtful every time we think enough of the setting sun to watch its going down?"
"Simply because the winter coming is cold and dreary, in the one case,—and in the other, there are several reasons. Some natures dread the darkness; others have not accomplished the wishes or the work of the day."
"I don't think you go below the surface," I ventured. "It seems to me that the entire reason is simple want of faith, a vague uncertainty as to the coming back of the dried-up leaf and flower, when they perish, and a fear, though unexpressed, that the sun is going down out of your sight for the last time, and you would hold it a little longer."
"Would you now to-night, Lucy?"
"If I could."
My husband did not speak again for a long time, and gradually I went back into my individuality.
We came upon an eminence outside the river-valley, and within sight of the village.
"Is it well? do you like it?" asked Saul.
The village was nested in among the elms to such a degree that I could only reply,—
"I am certain that I shall, when I find out what it is."
Saul stayed the impatient horse at the point where we then were, and, indicating a height above and a depth below, told me the legend of the naming of his village.
It was given thus:—
"A long time ago, when the soundless tread of the moccason walked fearlessly over the bed of echoes in this valley, two warriors, Wabausee and Waubeeneemah, came one day upon the river, at its opposite sides. Both were, weary with the march; both wore the glory of many scalps. Their belts were heavy with wampum, their hearts were heavy with hate. Wabausee was down amid the dark pines that grew beside the river's brink. Waubeeneemah was upon the high land above the river. With folded arms and unmoved faces they stood, whilst in successive flashes across the stream their eyes met, until Wabausee slowly opened out his arms, and, clasping a towering tree, cried out, 'I see sky!' and he steadfastly fixed his gaze upon the crevices of brightness that urged their way down amid the pines over his head.
"Waubeeneemah turned his eyes over the broad valley, and answered the cry with, 'I see light!'
"Thus they stood, one with his eyes downward, the other with his intent on the sky, and fast and furious ran the river, swollen with the meltings of many snows, and fierce and quick rang the battle-cries of 'I see sky!' 'I see light!'
"A white man was near; his cabin lay just below; he had climbed a tree above Waubeeneemah and remained a silent witness of this wordy war, until, looking up the river, he saw a canoe that had broken from its fastenings and was rushing down to the rapids below. It contained the families of the two warriors, who were helplessly striving against the swift flow of waters.
"The white man spoke, and the warriors listened. He cried, 'Look to your canoe! and see Skylight!'
"Through the pines rushed Wabausee, and down the river-bank Waubeeneemah, and into the tide, until they met the coming canoe, across whose birchen bow they gave the grasp of peace, and ever since that time Indian and white man have called this place Skylight."
"Where are the Indians now?" I could not help asking,—and yet with no purpose, beyond expression of the thought question.
The shadows were gathering, the eyelids of the day were closing. Saul caught me up again through the shadows into those eyes of his, and answered,—
"Here, Lucy! I am a pale form of Waubeeneemah! I know it! I feel it now! I sometimes ache for foemen and the wilds."
Why do I think of that time to-night on the Big Blue, far away from Skylight, and imagine that the prairie airs are ringing with the echoes of the great cries that are heard in my native land, "I see North!" and "I see South!" and there is no white man of them all high enough to see the United States?
I've wandered! Let me think,—yes, I have it! My thought began with trying to fancy Saul's mother taking him to baptism.
She was dead, when I went to Skylight, her son's wife.
She went into the higher life at thirty-three of the threescore-and-ten cycle of the human period. How young to die!
The longer we live, the stronger grows the wish to live. And why not? When the circle is almost ended, and all the momentum of threescore-and-ten is gained, why not pass the line and enter into second childhood? What more beautiful truth in Nature's I Am, than obedience to this law?
I've another fancy on the Big Blue to-night. It is a place for fancies. I remember—a long time ago it seems, and yet I am not so old as Saul's mother—the first knowledge that I had of life. I saw the sun come up one morning out of the sea, and with it there came out of the night of my past a consciousness. I was a soul, and held relations separate from other souls to that risen sun and that sea. From that hour I grew into life. A growth from the Unseen came to me with every day, born I knew not how into my soul. I sent out nothing to people the future. All came to me.
Is this true, this faith or fancy that God sends a tidal wave through man, bringing with it from Heaven's ocean fragments set afloat from its shore to lodge in our lives, until there comes an ebb, and then begin our hopes and desires all to tend heavenward, or elsewhere? Have you never felt, do you not now feel, that there is more of yourself somewhere else than there is upon the Earth?
I like to think thus, when I see a person ill, or in sorrow, or weighed down with weary griefs. I like to think that that which is ebbing here is flowing and ripening into fitness for the freed soul in that land where there shall be "no more sea."
In insanity, does the kind Lord remove all from this world in order to fit up the new life more gloriously? and are those whom most we pity clasped the closest in the Living Arms?
It may be,—there is such comfort in possibilities.
Will Saul come to-night? I am all alone on the Big Blue. There's not another settled claim for miles away.
The August sun drank up the moisture from our corn-fields, took out the blood of our prairie-grasses, and God sent no cooling rains. Why?
Skylight was charmful for a while. I had forgotten Saul's assertion that he was a pale shadow of Waubeeneemah, as we forget a dream of our latest sleep.
At my home Aunt Carter appeared one day, and said she had "come to spend the afternoon and stay to tea"; and she seated her amplitude of being in Saul's favorite chair, and began to count the stitches in the heel of the twenty-fourth stocking that she assured me "she had knit every stitch of since the night she saw my husband lift me down at the gate just outside the window." Her blue eyes went down deeper and deeper into the bluer yarn her fingers were threading; and after a long pause, during which I had forgotten her presence, and was counting out the hours on the face of the clock which the slow hands must travel over before Saul would be at home, suddenly she looked up and began with,—
There was something startling in her voice. I knew it was the first drop of a coming flood, and I fortified myself. She went on repeating,—
"Mrs. Monten! I've been thinking, for a great long while, that it isn't right for you to go on living with that man, without knowing what he is. And I for one have got up to the point of coming right over here and telling you of it to once."
I could not help the involuntary question of—
"Is my husband an evil man?"
"Evil! I should think he might be, when he has got"——
"Stay, Mrs. Carter!" I interrupted. "I will hear no news of my husband that he does not choose to give me. Only one question,—Do you know of any action that my husband has done that is wrong or wicked?"
Aunt Carter forgot her blue eyes and her bluer yarn, for she stopped her knitting, and her eyes changed to gray in my sight, as she ejaculated,—
"He's got Indian blood in him! I should think you'd be afraid he'd scalp you, if you didn't do just as he told you to. Everybody in Skylight is just as sorry for you as ever they can be."
Aunt Carter paused. An open door announced my husband's unexpected presence.
Aunt Carter rolled up her twenty-fourth twin of a stocking, and, hastily declaring that "she'd always noticed that 't was better to visit people when they was alone," she made all possible effort to escape before Saul came in.
My husband an Indian! I looked at him anew. He wore the same presence that he did when first I saw him, a twelve-month before. There was no outward trace of the savage, as he came to welcome me; and I forgot my thought presently, as I listened to his words.
"I am tired of this life," he said; "let us go."
"Anywhere, where we can breathe. I feel pent up here. I long to hunt something wild and free as I would be. Shall it be to the prairies, Lucy?"
"Will you live on the hunt?" I asked.
"I had not thought of that. No; I'll build you a"——And he paused.
I laughed, and added,—
"Let us have it, Saul. A wigwam?"
"Why not, indeed, Saul? I am content,—let us go."
On the morrow I began the work of preparation. I was sitting upon the carpet, where I had cast all our treasures of knowledge, in the various guises of the printer's and binder's art, and was selecting the books that I fondly thought would be essential to my existence, when Saul came in.
He looked down upon me with that look that always drinks up my sight into his, and said,—
"You are sorry to go, Lucy. I will stay."
"No, Saul, I wish to go. You shall teach me the pleasures of wild life; and who knows but I shall like it so well that we will give up civilization for it? Where shall I pack all these books?"
"Leave them all," he said. "We will close the house as it is, until we come back." And I left them all at home.
In the heart of these preparations an insane desire came into my mind to know something of Saul's ancestors, and there was but one way to know, namely, by asking, which I would not do of human soul. Thus it came to pass that I was driven out, between this would of my mind and wouldn't of my soul, to search for some knowledge from inanimate things. The last night before our departure I became particularly restless and unsatisfied. I went to the place of burial of the villagers, where I found duly recorded on two stones the names of Saul's parents, Richard Monten and Agnes Monten, his wife.
There was nothing Indian there, and I went home once more to the place that had been so happy until the spirit of inquiry grew stronger than I. That night I watched Saul, until he grew restless, and asked me why I did so.
I evaded direct reply, and on the morrow we were wheeling westward.
From the instant we left the line of man's art, Saul became another person. All the romance and the glory in his nature blossomed out gorgeously, and I grew glad and gay with him. We crossed the Missouri. We traversed the river-land to Fort Leavenworth, amid cottonwoods, oaks, and elms which it would have done Dr. Holmes's heart and arms good to see and measure.
"Will you ride, Lucy? will you try the prairie?" asked Saul, the morning following our arrival in Fort Leavenworth.
I signified my pleasure, and mounted a brave black mustang, written all over with liberty. We had ridden out the dew of the morning, and for miles not one word had been spoken, the only sound in the stillness having been the hoofs' echo on the prairie-grass, when Saul rode close to me, and, laying his hand on my pony's head, spoke in a deep, strange voice that put my soul into expectancy, for I had heard the same once before in my life.
"Lucy," he said, "I sometimes think that I have done a great wrong in taking you into my keeping; for I must accept these calls to wildness that come over me at intervals."
"Have you ever been here before?" I asked.
"Twice, Lucy, I have crossed the American Desert, and lain down to sleep at the foot of the Rocky Mountains."
"You are not going there now?" I almost gasped.
"Why not? Can't you go with me?"
Oh, how my spirit recoiled at the thought of the Desert! Wild animals processioned through my brain in endless circles. All the stories of Indian ferocity that ever I had heard came into my consciousness, as it is said all the past events of life do in the drowning, and I had no time to hesitate. The decision of my lifetime gathered into that instant. Saul or nothing; and bravely I answered,—did I not?—when, with brightening eyes, I said, "Let us on!"—and shaking the hand from my saddle-bow, I gave my prairie friend leave to fly.
"Lucy! Lucy!" cried Saul, and he soon overtook me,—"Lucy, I sought you as the thirsting man seeks water on the desert; and I have sought to bless you, almost as Hagar blessed the Angel,—almost as the devout soul blesses God, when it finds a spring that He has made to rise out of the sands. Having found you, I was content. I thought that I could live always, as other men do, in the tameness of Town and Law; but I could not, unless you refused to go with me into the Nature that my spirit demands as a part of its own life."
"Saul, you know that you can go without me,—else I should not wish to go. I go, not because I am a necessity to you, but a free-born soul, that wills to go where you go."
The grave Professor (for I whisper it here to-night, with only the wind to hear, that Saul is a Professor in a famed seat of learning not many leagues away from the Atlantic coast) looked down at me with a vague, puzzled air, for an instant, then said,—
"I see! It is so, Lucy. You have divined the secret. I am not to let you know that I cannot live without you,—and, if you can, you are to make me think that you only tolerate me."
"What of it? Isn't it almost true? I sometimes think, that, if ever we are in heaven, effort to remain there will be necessary to its full joy. We are always crying for rest, when effort is the only pleasure worth possessing."
"You are right, and you are wrong. Let us leave mental philosophy with mankind, who have to do with it. Just now, I am willing to confess that I need you, and you are to do as you will. Come! let us look into this thicket."
And leading the way, Saul rode presently under a tall cotton wood-tree, and, lifting for me the low-hanging branches of a black-jack, I entered an amphitheatre whose walls were leaves of living green domed in blue, with a river-aisle winding through.
I had not time to take in all the joy of the circle, before it was evidenced that Saul had premeditated the scene. A fire of twigs sent up a spicy perfume. A camp-kettle stood beside the fire, and a creature stood beside it. A yellow savage I should have said, but for my husband's welcome. Never in our home library did brother-professor ever receive warmer grasp of hand than I knew this Indian met. They used words, in speaking, that were unknown to me. Presently I perceived that an introduction was pending. That being over, the Indian, Meotona, pointed to a swinging-chair, built for me out of the wealth of grapevine. It was cushioned with the velvet of the buffalo-grass.
"Tell me how to thank him," I said to Saul.
Meotona immediately replied,—"Me no thank,—him," pointing to Saul.
I laid my sun-wearied head against the vine, and through half-closed eyes watched in delicious rest the preparations for dinner. My prairie-horse mistook my comfort for his own. I found his length of liberty included my chair-cushion, and I gave him tuft after tuft, until something like justice seemed to penetrate into his soul,—for he heroically refused the last morsel, and wandered away into the next arc of his liberty.
"If all the days are to be like this, how delicious it will be!" I said, as Saul came to me with choice bits of prairie fare.
"Not this," he said. "Wait until we hunt the buffalo!—that wakes up the spirit of man!"
"But I am not a man, and you must excuse me from hunting buffalo," I could not help saying, as I slid out of the grapevine chair to the grass, beside Saul; for verily, I believed that he had forgotten that I was a woman, and a child of the Puritans.
No more words were spoken until our repast was over. Meotona gathered up the furniture of our dining-room, and with us returned toward Fort Leavenworth. The summer sun was setting when we drew near the Missouri. I thought I had disappointed Saul. At the last moment I ventured to ask,—
"Why did you return? I would have gone on. I wished it."
My husband's face lit into a quick smile, then gloomed as quickly, and he said,—
"I smile at your simplicity in imagining that I ventured out, without consulting you, for the Rocky Mountains. I frown to think that my wife believes that I could go into danger with her, and only one right arm to defend her. No! I went to-day to try you. I couldn't ask you within any four-walled shelter. I wanted the wide expanse to be your only shield before I could trust you. I wanted you to face the foe. Again I ask, Shall we go? Answer from your own individuality, not mine."
"I will go."
It was the spirit that spoke; for neither heart nor flesh could have braved the fancied dangers.
A week went by, and every moment of the time Saul was elate and busy, providing for me in every possible way, devising comforts that exceeded my imagination, remembering every idiosyncrasy that I had given expression to in his hearing. Under the guard of the United States mail, we left Fort Leavenworth. Meotona, the yellow savage, went with us. Oh, the delight of those days! it comes to me now, and I almost forget that I am alone on the Big Blue, and that those hours have gone down among "the froth and rainbows" of the past, bearing with them a part of my life. There were nights when I was afloat in the bark of my spirit, and wandering up and on, until I met Half-Way Angels that bade me back to Earth; and then I would wander away into dreams, watched by the stars and Saul,—for in those first days he never wearied in his care. By day I wandered through a garden of flowers untended by man, whose only keepers were butterflies and birds. Indian faces and forms no longer made me tremble. I grew to see beauty in them, as they dashed by the train, intent on the hunt.
We encamped beside Stranger Creek, on the banks of the Wakarusa, and on the Great Divide separating the Osage from the Wakarusa Valley.
After we left Council Grove, Meotona, I noticed, was on the watch, constantly peering off into the illimitable distance. One day I learned the cause. An exclamation from the Indian led me to look at him. For once, fire flashed out of his eyes,—he had forgotten himself. He was in ecstasy as he saw a party advancing over the prairie.
"Here they come! Now for the heart of the wilderness!" exclaimed my husband, as they rode up.
"We are not going away from the guard?" I ventured to suggest, as chief after chief came up. I knew them in their wild orders, having by this time learned something of Indian customs. They were equipped for the Plains, and among their number I distinguished two white men.
"I know them,—they are safe and true, Lucy,—fear nothing!" whispered Saul close to my whitening cheek; and afterwards we turned aside from the Santa Fe trail to the north of the American Desert.
My husband did not leave me for an instant that afternoon; and I, simple-minded woman, tried to look as happy—well, as a woman and a professor's wife could look under the circumstances. The wings of my tent that night were spread to the breeze that swept low and cool across the Divide.
The next day we came to the lodges of the Indians. Swarthy-faced girls and women came to greet us. It was evident that many of them had never before seen a white woman. As evening came on, I noticed in one group outside the principal lodge an unusual amount of grimace that was incomprehensible, until, very timidly, a little girl left the crowd. Half-way toward me she stopped and turned back, but again the violent gesticulations were enacted, when the child made a sudden evolution in my direction, and with one hard finger rubbed the back of my hand, until I thought myself quite a Spartan; then looking at her own finger, doubtfully at first, she ran back, and went from one to another, showing her finger. The design was evident. Indians (the women, at least) have some curiosity;—they thought me painted white. I forgave them.
We went five hundred miles from this lodge into the wilderness,—two of the squaws accompanying us, for my comfort.
At last came the sight of buffaloes, feeding on the short tufts of grass on the Grand Prairie. My heart grew sick with the shout that rang from a hundred Indian throats, and—must I write it?—from Saul's.
"Stay!" said Saul, and he left me a guard, and was away without one word of farewell.
Night came down, and he was not returned. The stars shone out of the vault like "red-hot diamonds," and on the sight no vision, to the ear no sound.
The women pitched my tent. The guard lit the fire. They brought me savory bits of food, and coffee. My throat was tightened, I could not eat, and I arose and went out into the night alone. I lost all sense of fear, as I wandered away. The prairie had just been burned, and I knew must be free from serpents and other reptiles: beyond these I had no thought. I turned once to see the little dot of fire-light, to see the one point of canvas, my shelter and my home. At last I grew very weary, and remember having lain down, and having thought that the stars were raining down upon me, so near did they seem,—and one after one, constellation mingled with constellation, until I fancied a storm of stars was circling over my head.
I started with a sudden spasm, as a sound burst upon me, wild, ringing, dreadful. A hundred Indians were uttering a war-cry, and, as I lay there, with my head pressed to the burnt sod, I felt the shudder of earth from many hoofs. I turned in the direction whence they were coming;—raise my head from the ground I dared not. All was darkness. Could I possibly escape? Not if I moved. Where I was, there might be a chance that they would pass to the right or the left. On, on they came, and I knew the cry,—it was for vengeance. Feebly, like a setting star, gleamed the watch-fire of my guard in the distance. Suddenly it went down. They had heard the alarm. How awfully my heart kept time to the nearing echo of the many footfalls! My eyes must have been fastened on the West. I saw dark heads rise first above the earth-line, then the moving arms of the horsemen. I heard the ring of weapons, and saw them coming directly over the place where I lay; but I did not stir,—it was as if I had been bound with an equator to the ground. Something struck my arm and was gone. The troop passed by.
It was morning. A low, deep breathing betokened something near me. I opened my eyes, and saw the face of my husband,—but, oh, how changed! I heard him say, "The Lord hear my vow, and record my prayer!"
All that day I lay there, on the prairie, Saul sitting beside me, shielding me from, the sun, and giving me drops of coolness, which the Indians pressed from herbs and shrubs that grew not far away. I was in a dream, and when the stars arose they lifted me up and bore me away. I knew it was to the eastward. I felt no resistance in my nature, as I always do when going to the west, either voluntarily or otherwise. We came, after many days, to the Indian lodge. I never saw the guard again, that I left in peace, when I was driven out to wander, because I felt wretched and lonely to be deserted for the chase by my husband. They were carried into captivity by the hostile Sioux. There was mourning in the lodge. An Indian mother, whose daughter had gone with me, sat down in the ashes of sorrow, and moved not for two days; then she arose, and, scattering dust from the earth toward the setting sun, she went into her wigwam and they gave her food.
It was September before I was able to leave the place whither they carried me. My arm was cut with the hoof of the flying horse, and when Saul found me, I had fainted; I was dying from loss of blood, which his coming only had stayed. After I grew stronger, I closely observed my husband.
I never saw such an ache, such a strife, as week after week hunting-parties went out in the morning and returned at evening with their game. Saul grew reserved and silent when I begged him to go, to leave me for a day.
"It is of no use, Lucy; I made a vow, and I must keep it. This Indian blood within me must be subdued; it has met a stronger current on the way, and must mingle with it."
He said no more on the subject, and I would not question him. We took our last walk on the prairie. Everything was in readiness for our departure to meet the expected United States mail-train. We returned to the lodge, and Saul left me for a few minutes to make some last arrangements with Meotona. An old Indian woman, whose eyes I had often noticed on me, crept stealthily in at my tent-door, and said to me in English,—
"Let me be welcome; I come to teach you."
I knew that among her tribe she had the reputation of a prophetess, but I had never heard her speak English.
"I am waiting to hear," I said; and this woman fixed her sad, solemn eyes on me and said,—
"Child of the pale man, a great many moons ago, when my eyes were bright like the little quiver-flower, and the young warriors sought me in my father's wigwam, I had a sister. Her name he called Luella. The chiefs of the tribe were going for a grand hunt on the Huron. Some pale men from across the lake came to join them. One of them looked on Luella, and her eyes grew soft and sad. She wrapped her blanket about her, and walked often under the stars at night. Through the winter, she would not talk with the young chiefs; and when the leaves grew again, the pale men came back, and Luella walked again under the stars. She learned English, and no one knew who taught her.
"The hunt went on again until the snow came; and when the pale men left the lodge, Luella was lost from the wigwam. The warriors went in pursuit, but they came back without Luella. She was not with the pale-faces. Many moons came and went, and one night I heard a voice singing in the distance. I knew it was Luella, and she led a child by her side, and he said soft English words. She would not come into the lodge. She only came to tell me that she was with the white man who loved her, that she was content, and to show me her boy; and Luella walked away into the night again, and I told no one.
"I made many moccasons, and wove baskets of twigs; and when Uncas, the chief of the tribe, my father, went to the great hunting-ground beyond the Sun, then I gathered up my moccasons, and went out before the gate opened to let the light through. I left the wigwam for Luella. I hated white people; I hated the white man who stole Luella from me; but the pale-faces took my moccasons, and gave me white wampum, and with that I crossed the lake, and went from town to town, and everywhere I showed the people this,"—and the wrinkled woman extended her hand to me; but, at the instant, Saul lifted the tent-curtain and came in. She hid her hand under her blanket, and, wrapping it closely about her, walked out without a glance to testify that ever she had spoken.
Saul asked me the cause of this visit, and I was about to tell him, when there arose in the lodges without such screams and cries as brought all the population into the air. The Indian woman who so lately had left my tent lay on the ground, in the apparent extreme of agony.
"Let the pale-face come," said the knot of savages around her; "it is for her she calls."
My husband interpreted the words for me, and in doubt and fear I went to her. Her screams had ceased; she held her hands tightly over her heart, as if there had been the spasms of pain. She rolled her eyes around to see if any one was within hearing, and then said,—
"I had fear that you would tell him; stay a little, and let me tell you now. I went on after Luella until I found her. I had the name of the white man to guide me. She was living as the pale-faces live, in a great town of many lodges.
"I saw with my eyes that she was happy, and then I walked many moons back to the Huron, and rowed across the lake in a canoe that I found in the woods.
"Luella came back again. I don't know how she found the way alone, but she came into the wigwam when the leaves were falling, and before the buds grew again she went to Uncas in the West. I asked her about the white man, and she shook her head and hid her eyes. I asked her for the boy, and she threw open her arms wide, to show me he was not there. Look!" said the woman, "I am dying; I'm very old; I ought to have walked with Luella this long time. Listen,—let me teach you. The pale face that you look into has eyes like my Luella. Take care! When he would walk under the stars alone, go not with him. When he would hunt bison, give him all the prairie; don't stand at the wigwam-door to keep him in. And when you are far away beyond my people, you may see this,"—and she handed to me the small parcel from close to her wild heart. I took it.
"You'll keep it for Luella's sake. She held it close when she went away; now I'm going, there's no one else to care. Bring it with you, when the Great Spirit calls."
I could win no more words from the woman. She spoke to those who came to her, and Saul said she told them that I had "taken away the torment."
"I shall think my Lucy witches somebody beside poor Saul," said my husband; and he gave a sigh as he stood in the tent-door, and watched the westering moon for the last time.
In the morning they told us that the Prophetess had gone into the light beyond the Sun.
Saul went in to see her, and as he came back to me I saw that he was not in a mood for words. Our farewell was very silent. Meotona went with us. Once again, bounding over the prairie, my heart grew lighter than it had been for many days; but I had no opportunity to examine Luella's treasure.
We met the long caravan of wagons on the summit of the Great Divide, and it was joy to unite my fate once more with that of my countrymen. Saul saw this, and said,—
"Know now, Lucy, that you have the portion meted out to me, when I saw the freemen of the wild coming. Your pleasure is that of civilization; mine was that of barbaric life. I bid adieu to it henceforth,"—and my brave husband, at this instant, looked out upon the head-waters of the Neosho, where Nature, when she built up the world, must have made a storehouse of material, and never came back for her treasures, they lie so magnificently rolled over the land.
Saul's eyes gathered up the view, as if they were, what they are, memory's absorbents, and said, sadly,—
"It is for the last time, Lucy!"
We went into corral the next evening by the side of a grassy mound covered with low-growing shrubs.
Afterwards Saul wandered out alone. I would have gone with him; but at the instant I put my face outside the tent-door, the memory of the Indian woman's caution came to me, and with it the opportunity to examine Luella's secret.
I entered my tent, lighted the little lamp that had travelled a thousand miles and never done service till now, and opened Luella's treasure. It was wrapped in soft white fur, bound about with the long, dried grass that grows beside the Huron. A scroll of parchment was rolled within it, faded, yellow, and old. I opened it, with a smile at my strange inheritance.
At the first glance, I thought I had before me some Indian hieroglyphics; but bringing back from the place of its long obscurity the little knowledge of the French language that I held in possession, I deciphered, that, "fourscore years before, beside the froth of the Huron Water, Father Kino had performed the marriage-rite upon Luella, daughter of Uncas, of the Dacotahs, and Richard Monten, of Montreal." Below the certificate of the priest of the Church were strange characters beyond my power to decipher.
With trembling I looked out for Saul's return. Here, upon the banks of the Neosho, I had learned the secret which my life in the East had hidden so long.
A certain kind, of guiltiness came over me, as Saul drew near, breaking down with every tread the sun-cured grass,—a sense of unworthiness, to hold in my hand a possession which essentially was his, and which he had not freely given me.
"I will not look into his eyes with a veil lying in the air," I said, very quietly to myself; and so, when my husband saw the burning of the little lamp and asked the cause, I told him all the story of the Indian woman, and put into his hand her gift to me. Saul's mind was preoccupied; he paid very little attention to the story; but when I gave him the white-furred scroll, and he opened it, then the grave professor——Well, it is better that I do not put into words what followed, even here, on the Big Blue.
An hour afterwards Saul spoke. He said,—
"Lucy, you have given me the key of my life, I knew my Indian blood, but I knew not whence it came; therefore I said nothing to you. I remember being tormented by it, when a boy, but never knew by what right. Let me translate for you this Indian register of—let me see—my grandmother's marriage. 'Ten moons from the lost moon, and many sleeps from the life of the big Huron Water, the Great Spirit called Luella to walk with a son of the Pale-Faces. The mystery [the priest] met them, and told them to go on to the Sun. They are gone in the path of the lost moons.'"
"Let us go to Skylight by the way of Montreal," I suggested.
Saul said, "It is well."
At the Missouri I laid aside my prairie costume, and assumed the raiment of fashion.
We found in Canada pleasant people bearing our name, and they welcomed us as relatives.
Richard Monten lay beside a fixed cloud of marble; and although Luella's sister had said she died far away, yet her name was beneath her husband's.
Tradition told us of the beautiful Indian wife with eyes like light,—and how her husband took her, every year, alone with him into the wilds,—and how, when they came back, and the winter snows fell, she would sit all day beside him, with her eyes on figures and letters, whilst her impatient fingers were threading her long hair, and memory shook her head at the attempted education, perhaps wisely and well.
When Mr. Monten died, and left her houses and lands, she turned away from them all, and, leading her boy by the hand, went out of her home and was seen no more until long after, when Father Kino, a kind old priest, going home late one night from a dying soul, in passing the cloud of marble, heard faint moans coming out of it, and, going near, found an Indian woman, in festive dress, like a chief's daughter, kneeling there. A few minutes afterwards, when Father Kino came back with an assistant, there were no more moans, for Luella had "gone on to the Sun."
The fate of the little boy was never known until then, and then it was only known that he had lived and died and was buried in Skylight.
We found houses and lands, but no record that they were ours. So we left them under British rule, and returned to Skylight, to our cottage and duty.
Aunt Carter came in before we had been an hour at home. I think she watched the opportunity of Saul's absence to find me alone.
"See!" she exclaimed, holding up to my view a small eminence of stockings, "see what I have done, while you've just been going about the world doing nothing at all!" And with a really warm shake of my hand, Aunt Carter seated herself, for the second time, in Saul's chair.
"Why, I've been knitting too!" I said, in extenuation.
"What?" asked Aunt Carter. "Some new-fashioned thing or other, I'll warrant."
"No,—something that is as old as Eve."
"Who ever beard of Eve's knitting? The Bible doesn't say one word about it, Mrs. Monten. Besides, I don't think little Cain and Abel wore stockings at all."
"I did not say that Eve knit in Paradise. I only said I'd been knitting at something as old as Eve. I meant the thread of life. Here comes my husband to tell you how industrious I have been."
Saul led Aunt Carter on to talk of her youth, and gradually of his father, until he had learned all that she knew of his history. It was very little: only that a fur-trader and a party of Dacotahs came to the village, she had heard her father say, to sell their skins, bringing a brown little boy with them; that the child fell sick with scarlet fever, and they left him to the mercy of the village people, and never came back for him, although they had said they would.
Did Luella give her boy away?—Never, I was convinced, and Saul likewise.
Saul went back into his round of professional duties, and with much heart for a while.
Delighted with civilization, and peopled with memories, and joyous with the divine plumage ever hovering around me, my life ran on. I watched Saul narrowly. He would often take up his hat, after hours of application to science, and rush out of the house, as if a mission lay before him. He would come back, and devote himself to me, as if he were conscious of some neglect in his absence. I planned short excursions all over the adjacent country. I became addicted to angling, because I saw Saul liked it. There were many righteous eyeballs that reproved me for wandering in places not fit for a woman, and Aunt Carter became exceedingly disturbed, even to the point of remonstrance.
"You're spoiling your husband," she would say,—"he'll not know but what you are a squaw," she said to me one day, in true distress.
However, I endured it delightfully for three years. Saul received in one week four letters, each containing the offer of a professor's chair in a desirable institution.
For many months I had seen the spell weaving around my good husband; I had seen it flash out of his eyes; I had heard its undertone in his voice; I had felt it in his whole manner, and I knew the hour of battle was near.
I was strong, and I came to the rescue. It was on this wise. Hearken! is he coming? No, it is only the wind coming up the Big Blue.
We sat in our Skylight door in an April evening,—unwise, perhaps,—but we were there. Saul had taken down that wild warble of Longfellow's, "Hiawatha." He read to me until the moon came up; then he threw down the book, and said, "Pshaw!"
"What is that for, Saul?" I asked, in some surprise.
"It is not for the book,—for myself, Lucy. I had better not have opened it Let us go and talk with the Doctor." And we went.
Saul had not answered his letters on the chair question, and I put up a petition.
"I think I never felt so well as when I was in Kansas," I said. "Really, Saul, I've felt a strong inclination to cough for some time, every morning. The climate of Kansas is wonderfully curative for pulmonary difficulties. I wish you would go out there now, and build a log cabin, plant a few miles of maize, gather it in, and then, when the season is over, come back and go to ——. You know they value you too highly not to wait your time."
I saw a slow kindling up in Saul's eyes, but an instant later it had gone down, and he said, looking into mine,—
"Do you really and truly wish this, Lucy?"
And Lucy answered,—
"I really and truly wish it, Saul."
We came hither with the violets and bluebirds. My wigwam points to the sky. We have roamed on the prairies, and wandered in the timber-lands. Under the heavens of the Big Blue we have drunk "the wine of life all day," and "been lighted off" to hemlock-boughs "by the jewels in the cup."
Oh, this life that is passing, passing in unseen marches on to the Great Plains where we shall corral forever! I've just opened my cabin-door to look for Saul; he's been gone ten days. The drought came; our maize withered and died. Ten miles away, there is a town; two houses are there. We left our vast-wilderness lodge to Nature in October, and turned our faces eastward. Reaching the town, we found Azrael hovering there. It was impossible to go on and leave such suffering, and we stayed. While we waited, winter came along, tossing her white mail over the prairie, and we were prisoned. Azrael folded his pinions, and carried in them two souls out of the town of two houses. Afterward, Saul and I came back to our home. I kindled the fire, and Saul went forth to earn our daily food. Life began to grow painfully earnest. The supply of wheaten flour waxed less and less, and I sometimes wished—no, I did not wish that I was a widow, I only wished for flour.
I began to look for manna, and it came,—not "small and white, about the size of coriander-seed," but in the form of the flying life of yesterday.
I have cried many tears over eyes that were shut for me, but I've never been sorry that I came hither.
At last, no more wings came flying over the prairie. Saul came home without food. That was ten days ago. He carried me the next morning to the village, to leave me there, till he should return,—then retraced the ten miles through the snow, and went for food.
I stayed until there was no more for the children to eat. I could not abide that, and this morning I stole away. I've come the ten miles through the snow to light the fire, that Saul may not pass by, and go on to the town this cold night. Where is he now? Not perishing, dying on the prairie, as I was once, when he found me? I'll walk and see. It is so lone outside, there is such an awful sound in the voice of stillness, and Saul is not in sight!
Where is my life now? Since Saul went away, so much of it has gone, I feel as if more of myself were there than here. Why couldn't I go on thinking? It was such relief! The moon is up at last. A low rumble over the dried grass, like a great wave treading on sand. I am faint. I have tightened my dress, to keep out hunger, every hour of this day. Those starving children! God pity them! A higher wave of sound,—surely 'tis not fancy. I will look out. The moon shines on a prairie sail, a gleam of canvas. Another roll of the broad wheel, and Saul is here.
"Send the man on quickly," I cried; "the children are starving in the town."
"And you?" said Saul.
The power of his eyes is almost gone. I scarcely heed them. I see—a bag of meal.
NAPOLEON THE THIRD
On the 6th of October, 1840, a young man was brought up for sentence in one of the highest courts of Europe, before which he had been tried, and by which he had been found guilty of one of the greatest crimes that can be charged upon any human being, though the world seldom visits it with moral condemnation. The young man was Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the court was the French Chamber of Peers, and the sentence was imprisonment for life. Had the French government of that day felt strong enough to act strongly, the condemned would have been treated as the Neapolitans treated Murat, and as the Mexicans treated Yturbide. He would have been perpetually imprisoned, but his prison would have been "that which the sexton makes." But the Orleans dynasty was never strong, and its head was seldom able to act boldly. To execute a Bonaparte, the undoubted heir of the Emperor, required nerve such as no French government had exhibited since that day on which Marechal Ney had been shot; and there were seven hundred thousand foreign soldiers in France when that piece of judicial butchery was resolved upon. The army might not be ready to join a Bonaparte, but it could not be relied upon to guard the scaffold on which he should be sent to die. The people might not be ready to overthrow Louis Philippe, to give his place to Louis Napoleon, but it did not follow that they would have seen the latter's execution with satisfaction, because they desired peace, and he had fallen into the habit of breaking it. The enthusiasm that was created in France by the arrival in that country of the remains of Napoleon I., not three months after the coming Napoleon III. had been sent to the fortress of Ham, showed how difficult a matter it would have been to proceed capitally against the Prince. Louis Philippe has been praised for sparing him; but the praise is undeserved. Certainly, the King of the French was not a cruel man, and it was with sincere regret that he signed the death-warrants of men who had sought his own life, and who had murdered his friends; but it would have been no act of cruelty, had he sent his rival to the guillotine. When a man makes a throw for a crown, he accepts what is staked, against it,—a coffin. Nothing is better established than this, that, when a sovereign is assailed, the intention of the assailant being his overthrow, that sovereign has a perfect right to put his rival to death, if he succeed in obtaining possession of his person. The most confirmed believer in Richard III.'s demoniac character would not think of adding the execution of Richmond to his crimes, had Plantagenet, and not Tudor, triumphed on Bosworth Field. James II. has never been blamed for causing Monmouth to be put to death, but for having complied with his nephew's request for a personal interview, at which he refused to grant his further request for a mitigation of punishment. Murat's death was an unnecessary act, but Ferdinand of Naples has never been censured for it. Had Louis Philippe followed these examples, and those of a hundred similar cases, he could not have been charged with undue severity in the exercise of his power for the conservation of his own rights, and the maintenance of the tranquillity, not of France alone, but of Europe, and of the world, which the triumph of a Bonaparte might have perilled. He spared the future Emperor's life, not from any considerations of a chivalric character, but because he durst not take it. He feared that the blood of the offender would more than atone for his offence, and he would not throw into the political caldron so rich a material, dreading the effects of its presence there. Then the Orleans party and the Imperial party not only marched with each other, but often crossed and ran into each other; and it was not safe to run the risk of offending the first by an attempt to punish its occasional ally. There was, too, something of the ludicrous in the Boulogne affair, which enabled government to regard the chief offender with cheap compassion. Louis Philippe is entitled to no credit, on the score of mercy, for his conduct in 1840,—for the decision of the Court of Peers was his inspiration; but he acted wisely,—so wisely, that, if he had done as well in 1848, his grandson would at this moment have been King of the French, and the Emperor that is a wanderer, with nothing but a character for flightiness and a capacity for failure to distinguish him from the herd, while many would have regarded him as a madman. But the end was not then, and the hand of Fate was not even near that curtain which was to be raised for the disclosure of events destined to shake and to change the world.
The defence of Louis Napoleon was conducted by M. Berryer, the great leader of the Legitimists, who, twenty-five years before, had aided in the defence of Ney, and who, nearly twenty years later, defended Montalembert, his client of 1840 being in this last case the prosecutor. In his speech in defence of the Prince, this first of French orators and advocates made use of language, the recollection of which in after-days must have been attended with very conflicting emotions. Addressing himself to the judges, he said,—"Standing where I do, I do not think that the claims of the name in which this project was attempted can possibly fall humiliated by the disdainful expressions of the Procureur General. You make remarks upon the weakness of the means employed, of the poverty of the whole enterprise, which made all hope of success ridiculous. Well, if success is anything, I will say to you who are men,—you, who are the first men in the state,—you, who are members of a great political body,—there is an inevitable and eternal Arbitrator between every judge and every accused who stands before him;—before giving your judgment, now, being in presence of this Arbitrator, and in face of the country, which will hear your decrees, tell me this, without regard now to weakness of means, but with the rights of the case, the laws, and the institution before your eyes, and with your hands upon your hearts, as standing before your God, and in presence of us, who know you, will you say this:—'If he had succeeded, if his pretended right had triumphed, I would have denied him and it,—I would have refused all share in his power,—I would have denied and rejected him'? For my part, I accept the supreme arbitration I have mentioned; and whoever there may be amongst you, who, before their God, and before their country, will say to me,—'If he had succeeded, I would have denied him,'—such a one will I accept for judge in this case." In making this sweeping challenge, M. Berryer knew that he was hitting the Court of Peers hard, for it contained men who had been leading Napoleonists in the days of the Empire, and others who wore ready to join any government which should be powerful enough to establish itself; while it left the Legitimists, the orator's own party, unharmed. They were the only men, according to M. Berryer's theory of defence, who would have furnished an impartial tribunal for the trial of his client; for they alone, with strict truth, could have said that they would deny his right, and refuse to share in his power, no matter at what time he should succeed in accomplishing his designs.
Had the French Peers been gifted with that power of mental vision which enables men to see into the future, they would not have been disposed to condemn the man who stood before them in 1840. Could it have been made known to them that in eight years he would be elected President of the French Republic by nearly five and a half millions of votes,—that in twelve years he would become Emperor of the French,—that in fifteen years he would, as the ally of England, have struck down the Russian hegemony,—and that in twenty years he would be the conqueror of Austria, and have called the Kingdom of Italy into existence, while his enmity was dreaded and his friendship desired by all the nations of the earth, and the fate of the Popedom was in his hands,—had these things been so much as dreamed of by his judges, they would have formed the most lenient of tribunals, and have suffered him to depart in peace. They are not to be charged with a lack of wisdom in not foreseeing what must have appeared to be the ravings of lunacy, had it been deliberately set down by some inspired prophet. Neither the man nor his cause commanded much respect. We, who know that the French Emperor is the first man of the age, as well in intellect as in position, have no right to sneer at the men of 1840 because they looked upon him as a feeble pretender. He had made two attempts to place himself at the head of the French nation, and in each instance his failure had been so signal, and in some respects so ridiculous, that it was impossible to regard him as the representative of a living principle. Even those who thought him a man of talent could account for his want of success only by supposing that Imperialism was no longer powerful in France, and that his appeals were made to an extinct party. The soldiery, amongst whom the traditions of the Empire were supposed to be strong, had evinced no desire to substitute a Bonaparte for a Bourbon of the younger branch; and as to the peasantry, who showed themselves so fanatically Bonapartean in 1848, and in 1851-2, they were never thought of at all. France consisted of the government, the army, the bourgeoisie, and the skeleton colleges of electors; and so long as they were agreed, nothing was to be feared either from Prince Louis Napoleon or from the Comte de Chambord. We think this was a sound view of affairs, and that the French government of 1841 might have been the French government of 1861, had not the parties to the combination that ruled France in 1841 quarrelled. It was the loss of the support of the middle class that caused Louis Philippe to lose his throne in the most ignominious manner; and that support the monarch would not have forfeited, but for the persistence of M. Guizot in a policy which it would have been difficult to maintain under any circumstances, and which was enfeebled in 1847-8 by the gross corruption of some of its principal supporters. That the bourgeoisie intended to subvert the throne they had established, for the benefit of either the Republicans or the Imperialists, is not to be supposed; but their natural disgust with the wickedness of the government as it was at the beginning of 1848, and with the refusal of the minister to allow even the peaceful discussion of the reform question, was the occasion of the kingdom's fall, and of the establishment, first of the shadowy Republic, and then of the solid Empire.
The events of 1848 furnished to Louis Napoleon the place whereon to stand, whence to move the French world. He must have lived and died an exile, but for the Revolution of February. The ability with which he profited by events suffices to show that he is entitled to be considered a great man as well as a great sovereign. That he had been born in the purple, and that he bore a great name, and that through the occurrence of several deaths he had become the legitimate heir of Napoleon, were favorable circumstances, and helped not a little to promote his purpose; but they could not alone have made him Emperor of the French, and the world's arbiter. There must have been extraordinary talent in the man who aspired as he did, or he would have failed as completely in 1848 as he had failed in 1836 and in 1840. But the real power of the man came out as soon as he found a standing-place. Previously to 1848, he could act only as a criminal in seeking his proper place, as he believed it to be. He had first to conquer before he could attempt to govern,—and to conquer, too, with the means of his enemy. All this was changed in 1848. Then he was safe in France, as he had been in England, and began the political race on equal terms with such men as Cavaignac and Ledru-Rollin. That he soon passed far ahead of them was, perhaps, as much due to circumstances as to his political abilities. The name of Bonaparte was associated with the idea of the restoration of order and prosperity, and this helped him with that large class of persons, embracing both rich men and poor men, who not only believe that "order is Heaven's first law," but that under certain conditions it is the supreme law, for the maintenance of which all other laws are to be set aside and disregarded. These men, whose organ and exponent was M. Cesar Romieu, who called so loudly for cannon to put down the revolutionists,—"even if it should come from Russia!"—and whose type of perfection is the churchyard, were all fanatical supporters of "the coming man," and they assisted him along the course with all their might and strength. No matter how swiftly he drove, his chariot-wheels seemed to them to tarry. The very arguments that were made use of to induce other men to act against the rising Bonaparte were those which had the most effect in binding them to his cause. He would establish a cannonarchy, would he? Well, a cannonarchy was exactly what they desired, provided its powers should be directed, not against foreign monarchs, but against domestic Republicans. That a government of which he should be the head would disregard the constitution, would shackle the press, would limit speech, and would suppress the Assembly, was an argument in his favor, that, to their minds, was irresistible. Had they thought of the Russian War, and of the Italian War, and of the extinction of the Pope's temporal power, and of the liberal home-policy that was adopted in 1860, as things possible to occur, Louis Napoleon would have remained Louis Napoleon to the end of his days, for all the support he would have received at their hands. They wished for a sort of high-constable, whose business it should be to maintain order by breaking the heads or seizing the persons of all who did not take their view of men's political duties. It is the custom to speak of this class of men as if they were peculiar to France, and to say that their existence there is one of the many reasons why that country can never long enjoy a period of constitutional liberty. This is not just to France. The French are a great people, who have their faults, but who are in no sense more servile than are Americans, or Englishmen, or Germans. Extreme disciples of order, men who are ready to sacrifice everything else for the privileges of making and spending or hoarding money in peace, are to be found in all countries; and nowhere are they more numerous, and nowhere is their influence greater or more noxious, than in the United States. The difference of populations considered, there are as many of them in Boston as in Paris; and our breed is ready to go as far in sacrificing freedom, and in treating right with contempt, as were their French brothers of 1848. The infirmity belongs, not to French nature, but to human nature.
Louis Napoleon received not a little assistance, in the early part of his French career, from the strongest of his political enemies. The friends of both branches of the Bourbons were his friends—at that time, and for their own purposes. A restoration was what they desired, and they held that it would be easier to convert the Comte de Chambord or the Comte de Paris into a king as the consequence of another Bonapartean usurpation, than as the consequence of the Republic's continuance. Louis Napoleon was to destroy the Republic, and they were to destroy him, with the aid of foreign armies. The fate which Cicero wished for Octavius, that he should be elevated and then destroyed, was what they meant for him. They counted upon the effect of that reaction which so soon set in against the revolutions of 1848, and which they did not believe would spare any government which had grown out of any one of those revolutions. They also believed the Prince to be a fool, and thought he would be a much easier person to be disposed of, after he had been sufficiently used, than any one of his rivals. They overrated their own power as much as they underrated his abilities; and down to the last moment, and when the contest had become one for life or death, they bore themselves as if they were sure that they were acting against a man who had been elevated solely through the force of circumstances, and who could not maintain his position. The coup d'etat opened their eyes, but it was not until the event of the Russian War had secured for the Emperor the first place in Europe, that they became convinced that in the man who was the ruler of France they had a master. Even now, when the condition of every country within the circle of civilization bears evidence to the vast weight of Imperial France, it is not difficult to find Frenchmen who declare that the Emperor is a mere adventurer, and that he is only "a lucky fellow." If they are right, what shall we think of all France? Does the reign of Napoleon III. serve only to illustrate the proverb, that among the blind the one-eyed man is a king?
The manner in which the French President became Emperor of the French has been much criticized. That some of his deeds, at the close of 1851, and in the early part of 1852, deserve censure, few of his intelligent admirers will be disposed to deny. His defence is, that it was impossible for him to act differently without forfeiting his life. The contest, in 1851, had assumed such a character, that it was evident that the one party or the other must be destroyed. We have M. Guizot's authority for saying that in French political contests no quarter is ever given, and that the vanquished become as the dead. French history shows that there is no exaggeration in this statement, and that every political leader in France must fight for his life as well as for his post, the loss of the latter placing the former in great peril. This is a characteristic of French politics to which sufficient attention has not been paid, in discussing the morality of French statesmen. In England, for many generations, and in the United States, down to the decision of the last Presidential election, a constitutional opposition was as much a political institution, and as completely a part of the machinery of government, as the administration itself. Formerly, opposition was not without its dangers in England, and, whichever party had possession of the government, it sought to crush out its opponents with all the vigor and venom of an American slavocrat. Charles I. sent Sir John Eliot to the Tower, by way of punishing him for the opposition he had made to unconstitutional government; and there he died, and there he was buried. The execution of Strafford, though as just a deed as ever was performed, must be allowed to have resulted from proceedings that belong to French politics rather than to those of England since the times of the Tudors. All through the reigns of the Stuart kings, and down to the Revolution, parties fought for safety as well as for spoils. A defeat was then often followed by a butchery. Hume, speaking of the political warfare that happened just before the Revolution of 1688, says that the "two parties, actuated by mutual rage, but cooped up within the narrow limits of the law, levelled with poisoned daggers the most deadly blows against each other's breast, and buried in their factious divisions all regard to truth, honor, and humanity." This evil was gradually, but surely, removed from English politics by the triumph of the constitutional party. It lingered, however, for half a century, and after the accession of the House of Hanover caused the impeachment of Oxford and the exile of Bolingbroke and Ormond. The last pronounced appearance of it was in 1742, when Sir Robert Walpole's enemies, not content with his political fall, sought his life. They failed utterly, and for one hundred and twenty years the course of English politics has been strictly constitutional, an opposition party being, as it were, the complement of the administration or ministry. The same party divisions that existed in England under George II. substantially exist under the grand-daughter of his grandson. So has it been in the United States, though it would not be difficult to show that none of our parties have been so free from approaching to the verge of illegality as English parties have been since 1714; and the conduct of the present American opposition is simply detestable, and has destroyed the national constitution.
The French began their political imitation of the English in 1789. As in most imitations, caricature has largely predominated in it. The one thing that might advantageously have been imitated they have altogether neglected. They never have been able to comprehend the nature and the purpose of an opposition party, and hence every such party that has come into existence in France has been treated by the governing party as if it were composed of enemies of the State. When the Jacobins sent the Girondins to the scaffold, and when Robespierre and St. Just sent Danton and Desmoulins to the same place, and when the Thermidorians so disposed of Robespierre and St. Just, they did no more than has been done by other French political leaders, except that their measures were more trenchant than have been those of later statesmen of their country. The reason why the Revolution led to a military despotism was, that no party would tolerate its political foes, much less protect them in the exercise of the right of free discussion and legal action. The execution of Louis XVI. was but a solitary incident in the game that was played by the most excitable political gamblers that ever converted a nation into a card-table. He was slain, not so much because he was a king, or had been one, as because he was the natural chief of the Royal party, a party which the Republicans would not spare. Party after party rose and fell, the leaders perishing under the guillotine, or flying from their country, or being sent to Guiana. Despotism came as a relief to the people who were thus tormented by the bloody freaks of men who were energetic only as murderers. There probably never was a more popular government than Bonaparte's Consulship, in its first days. Soon, however, the old evil renewed itself in full force. A few men, the most conspicuous of whom was Carnot, confined their opposition to the policy of the government, and kept themselves within the limits of the law; but others were less scrupulous, and labored for the destruction of the government, and compassed the death of the governors. Jacobins were as bad as Royalists, and Royalists were no better than Jacobins. Confusion was as much the object of the party of order as it was that of the party of disorder. Men of all ranks, opinions, parties, and conditions were among the conspirators of those days, or in some way encouraged the conspirators, from Cadoudal, a hero of the Vendee, to Moreau, the hero of the Black Forest and Hohenlinden. The vigorous, and in some instances tyrannical, action of the government put a stop to this kind of opposition for some years. The seizure and execution of the Duc d'Enghien, though in itself not to be approved, was followed by a cessation of Royalist attempts against the person of the chief of the State. It was one of those terrible lessons by which constituted power sometimes teaches its enemies that the force of lawlessness is not necessarily confined to one side in a political controversy. Nothing contributed more to the establishment of the Empire than the violence of Bonaparte's enemies, as they favored the plan of establishing an hereditary monarchy, the existence of which should not be bound up with the existence of an individual. During the reign of Napoleon I. the opposition was quiet, but it was organized, and its conduct was from first to last illegal, as it corresponded with the banished princes, and with the foreign enemies of France. The Mallet affair, in 1812, which came so very near effecting the Emperor's dethronement when he was in the midst of his Russian disasters, shows how frail was his tenure of power when he was absent from Paris, and how extensive were the ramifications of the informal conspiracy that existed against him. "You have found the tail, but not the head," were the words in which the bold conspirator let his judges know that the danger was not over. The Legislative Body endeavored to act as an opposition party in France after the disasters of 1813, and the Emperor, after giving them a lecture, dismissed them. The Allies would never have dared to cross the French frontier, had they not been advised of the existence of disaffection, which was ready to become treason, in their enemy's country. The opposition to Louis XVIII.'s government was highly treasonable in its character; and so was that which Napoleon encountered during the Hundred Days. When the second Restoration had been effected, the French government found itself in a strange predicament. The extraordinary Chamber of Deputies which then met, "the Impracticable Chamber," was so intensely royalist in its sentiments, that it alarmed every reasonable friend of monarchy in Europe. It would have subjected the king himself to its will, in order that it might be free to punish the enemies of royalty with even more vigor and cruelty than the Jacobins had punished its friends. There was to be a revival of the Terror by the party which had suffered in 1793, and for the purpose of exterminating imperialists, republicans, and moderate monarchists. Lord Macaulay has compared this Chamber with the first English Parliament that was called after the restoration of the House of Stuart. The comparison is unfair to the Parliament. There had been a long and a bitter war between parties in England, and the Cavaliers remembered, because they were events of yesterday, the terrible series of defeats they had experienced, from Edgehill to Worcester. Between the date of the Battle of Worcester and the date of the Restoration there were less than nine years. The same generation that saw Charles I. beheaded saw Charles II. enter Whitehall. England had changed but little in the twenty years that elapsed between the meeting of the Long Parliament and the dissolution of the Convention Parliament. Very different was it in France. There parties had had no fighting in the field, save in Brittany and the Vendee. There the change had been as complete as if it had been half a century in the making. Twenty-three years had passed away since the fall of the monarchy, when the Impracticable Chamber met, to legislate for a new France in the spirit of the worst period of the reigns of the worst Bourbons. These ultra-royalists would have had their way, and the massacres of the Protestants would have been accompanied or followed by the destruction of all parties save the victors, but for the existence of circumstances which it is even now painful for Frenchmen to think of. The Allies occupied the country, and their influence was thrown in behalf of moderate counsels. The good-nature of Louis XVIII. was supported by the sound common-sense of Wellington, and by the humanity of Alexander; and so but few persons were punished for political offences. The conduct of the Chamber showed that the Deputies had no just conception of the nature either of a ministry or of an opposition. So it was, though with less violence, throughout the period known as the Restoration; and the Polignac movement of 1830, which led to the fall of the elder Bourbons, was a coup d'etat, the object being the destruction of the Charter. In Louis Philippe's reign, there were facts upon facts that establish the proposition that no French party then clearly comprehended the character of a political opposition; and it was the attempt of M. Guizot to prevent even the discussion of the reform question that was the occasion, though not the cause, of the Revolution of 1848. No sooner had the Republic been established than the Royalists began to conspire against its existence, while the Republicans themselves were far from being united, the Reds hating the Blues quite as intensely as they hated the Whites, or old Royalists; and beyond even the Reds were large numbers of men who, for the lack of a more definite name, have been called Socialists, who wanted something as vehemently as Brutus desired his purposes, but who would probably have been much puzzled to say what that something was, had the question been put to them by the agent of a power willing and able to gratify their wish.
It was into such a political chaos as this that Louis Napoleon found himself plunged in 1848. He had a difficult part to fill; and that he did not succeed in satisfying most of those who had been most prominent in elevating him was inevitable from the discrepancy between his views of his position and their views of it. They had intended him to be a tool, and he was determined to be master of all the land. There was a contest for power, which ended in the coup d'etat of 1851. Victory waited on the heir of her old favorite. The contest was marked by many deeds, on both sides, not defensible on strict moral grounds, but which bear too close a resemblance to the ordinary course of French politics to admit of the actors being sweepingly condemned, as if they had poisoned a pure fountain. Neither party could afford to act with fairness, because each party was convinced that the other was seeking its destruction, according to the usual rule of Gallic political warfare. That the world should have heard much of the errors of the victor, while those of the vanquished have been charitably passed over, is but natural. Victors become objects of envy, while pity is the feeling that is created by thoughts of their foes. It is only in America that the beaten party is so insolent that the conquerors are fairly over-crowed by it. All the blunders, all the acts of violence of which the other side were guilty, have been forgotten, or are not alluded to, because parties are not held accountable for evils that never were perpetrated, though it was intended that they should take form and shape and bear fruit. It is charged against the Emperor, that he deliberately planned the destruction of the Republic, and that he ceased not to labor until his purpose had been effected. Admitting this charge to be strictly well founded, what is it more than can be brought against the very men who are so loud in preferring it? The Republic was doomed from the hour of its birth, and the final struggle between the Imperialists and the Royalists was made over its carcass. That struggle was neither a Pharsalia, in which two great men contended for supremacy in a republic, nor a Philippi, in which parties fought deliberately in support of certain principles, but an Actium; and the question to be decided was, With which of two energetic forms of force should the victory be? Louis Napoleon contended for the imperial form, for the rehabilitation of the scheme of his uncle, and for an opportunity to develop the Napoleonic ideas. The other side sought the restoration of the monarchy as it had been between 1814 and 1830, with Henry V. for their idol, as any attempt to make the Comte de Paris king must have failed, though in due time Henry V. might have been displaced, if not succeeded regularly, by the head of the Orleans family. Of the two parties to the struggle that followed the election of Louis Napoleon to the Presidency, that of the President was the more friendly to liberal institutions, and the most disposed to govern in accordance with modern sentiments. The President himself was attached to the liberal party, and leaned decidedly to the left wing of it. Circumstances had all tended to make him a Constitutionalist. His connections had been principally with those countries in which liberty is best understood, and whose histories are the histories of freedom. By birth he was a prince of Holland. He had lived much in Switzerland and in England, and he had visited the United States. That part of his youth in which the mind is formed he had passed in those years in which the Bonapartists and Liberals had been allies. His writings prove that he both understood and appreciated the constitutional system of government. Such a man was not likely to become a despot merely from choice, though circumstances might make him one for the time, as they made Fabius a dictator. His recent action, in extensively liberalizing the imperial system, and in providing for perfect freedom of discussion in the Senate and the Legislative Body,—a freedom of which the supporters of the Pope have thoroughly availed themselves,—confirms the belief that his original intention was to provide a free constitution for France. Had he done so, there would have been civil war in that country within a year from the time that he became master of it. He could not trust his enemies, who, could they have obtained power, would have granted him no mercy, and therefore had no right to expect it from him. Had they been successful, we should have heard much of their acts of usurpation and cruelty, and of the injustice with which the President and his party and policy had been treated. Severe criticism, often unfair both in matter and in manner, is that which every victorious party must experience, not only from those whom it has defeated, but from the world at large. This is one of the items in the details of the heavy price which the victors must pay for their victory, no matter where it is won, or what the character of the contest the issue of which it has decided. Men worship success, but they worship it much after the fashion that some savage tribes worship the gods created by their own hands, tearing and rending at one time the images that at another had been objects of their most abject devotion.