The next day a small sign was put up at Abijah Brewster's door:—
BOOTS AND SHOES
MADE AND MENDED
It was arranged that he should work at his trade all winter. In the spring, he was to have his father's vessel, and the wedding would be before he started for the Banks.
So the old life was put on again. I will not say that Elkanah was thoroughly content,—that there were no bitter longings, no dim regrets, no faint questionings of Providence. But hard work is a good salve for a sore heart; and in his honest toils, in his care for Hepsy Ann and her little brood, in her kind heart, which acknowledged with such humility of love all he did for her and all he had cast away for her, he found his reward.
The wedding was over,—a quiet affair enough,—and Elkanah was anchored on the Banks, with a brave, skilful crew, and plenty of fish. His old luck had not deserted him; wherever he dropped anchor, there the cod seemed to gather; and, in the excitement of catching fish and guarding against the dangers of the Banks, the old New York life seemed presently forgotten; and, once more, Elkanah's face wore the old, hopeful calm which belonged there. Art, that had been so long his tyrant mistress, was at last cast off.
As he sat, one evening, high on the quarter, smoking his pipe, in that calm, contemplative mood which is the smoker's reward for a day of toil,—the little vessel pitching bows under in the long, tremendous swell of the Atlantic, the low drifting fog lurid in the light of the setting sun, but bright stars twinkling out, one by one, overhead, in a sky of Italian clearness and softness,—it all came to him,—that which he had so long, so vainly sought, toiled for, prayed for in New York,—his destiny.
Why should he paint heads, figures, landscapes, objects with which his heart had never been really filled?
But now, as in one flash of divinest intelligence, it was revealed to him!—This sea, this fog, this sky, these stars, this old, old life, which he had been almost born into.—Oh, blind bat indeed, not to have seen, long, long ago, that this was your birthright in Art! not to have felt in your innermost heart, that this was indeed that thing, if anything, which God had called you to paint!
For this Elkanah had drunk in from his earliest youth,—this he understood to its very core; but the poor secret of that other life, which is so draped about with the artistic mannerisms and fashionable Art of New York, or any other civilized life, he had never rightly appreciated.
In that sunset-hour was born a painter!
It chanced, that, a few months ago, I paid my accustomed summer visit to an old friend, living near Boston,—a retired merchant he calls himself. He began life as a cabin-boy,—became, in time, master of an Indiaman,—then, partner in a China house,—and after many years' residence in Canton, returned some years ago, heart and liver whole, to spend his remaining days among olden scenes. A man of truest culture, generous heart, and rarely erring taste. I never go there without finding something new and admirable.
"What am I to see, this time?" I asked, after dinner, looking about the drawing-room.
"Come. I'll show you."
He led me up to a painting,—a sea-piece:—A schooner, riding at her anchor, at sunset, far out at sea, no land in sight, sails down, all but a little patch of storm-sail fluttering wildly in the gale, and heavily pitching in a great, grand, rolling sea; around, but not closely enveloping her, a driving fog-bank, lurid in the yellow sheen of the setting sun; above her, a few stars dimly twinkling through a clear blue sky; on the quarter-deck, men sitting, wrapped in all the paraphernalia of storm-clothing, smoking and watching the roll of the sea.
"What do you think?" asked Captain Eastwick, interrupting my rapt contemplation.
"I never in my life saw so fine a seaview. Whose can it be?"
"A Cape-Cod fisherman's."
"But he is a genius!" cried I, enthusiastically.
"A great, a splendid genius!" said my friend, quietly.
"And a fisherman?"
"Yes, and shoemaker."
"What a magnificent career he might make! Why don't you help him? What a pity to bury such a man in fish-boots and cod-livers!"
"My dear——," said Captain Eastwick, "you are a goose. The highest genius lives above the littleness of making a career. This man needs no Academy prizes or praises. To my mind, his is the noblest, happiest life of all."
Whereupon he told me the story which I have endeavored to relate.
* * * * *
I would have killed you, if a breath Freighted with some insensate death, Magdalena,
Had power to breathe your life away, To so exhale that rose-hued clay, Magdalena,
That it had faded from my sight, Like roses in a single night, Magdalena!
I could have killed you thus, and felt My will a blessed doom had dealt, Magdalena!
Ah, would to God! then I had been Unconscious of your scarlet sin, Magdalena!
Ah, when I thought your soul as white As the white rose you wore that night, Magdalena,
I wondered how your mother came To give you that sin-sullied name, Magdalena!
Did some remorseless, vengeful Fate, In mockery of your lofty state, Magdalena,
Because you wore the branded name, Fling over you its scarlet shame, Magdalena?
There is no peace for you below That horrid heritage of woe, Magdalena!
There is no room for you on earth, Accursed from your very birth, Magdalena!
But where the angels chant and sing, And where the amaranth-blossoms spring, Magdalena,
There's room for you, who have no room Where lower angels chant your doom, Magdalena!
There's room for you! The gate's ajar! The white hands beckon from afar, Magdalena!
And nearer yet! they stoop! they wait! They open wide the jasper gate, Magdalena!
And nearer yet! the hands stretch out! A thousand silver trumpets shout, Magdalena!
They lift you up through floods of light! I see your garments growing white, Magdalena!
And whiter still, too white to touch The robes of us, who blamed you much, Magdalena!
They lift you up through floods of light! The streaming splendor blinds my sight, Magdalena!
I feel the whirl of countless wings! I lose the sense of earthly things, Magdalena!
The starry splendors burn anew! The starry splendors light me through, Magdalena!
I gain the dizzy height! I see! There's room for me! There's room for me, Magdalena!
"STRANGE COUNTRIES FOR TO SEE."
To begin with a mild egotism,—I do not like De Sautys.
You remember De Sauty? Perched on his steadfast stool, in a deserted telegraph-house, hard by that bay of the broken promise, De Sauty, like Poe's raven, "still was sitting, still was sitting," watching, in forlorn, but hopeful loneliness, the paralyzed tongue of the Atlantic Cable, to catch the utterances that never came for all his patient coaxing; and ever and anon he iterated, feebly and more feebly, as if all his sinking soul he did outpour into the words, that melancholy monotone which was his only stock and store,—"All right! De Sauty."
I never did like ravens, and I do not like De Sautys; for if, indeed, it were all right with the De Sautys, it would be all wrong with certain things that are most dear to the romantic part of me; since De Sauty is to my imagination the living type of that indiscriminate sacrilege of trade which would penetrate the beautiful illusions of remoteness, as through an opera-glass,—which would tie the ends of the earth together and toss it over shoulder like a peddler's bundle, to "swop" quaint curiosities, inspiring relics, and solemn symbols, for British prints or American pig-iron. Puck us no Pucks, De Sauty, nor constrict our planet's rotundity with any forty-minute girdle; for in these days of inflating crinoline and ever-increasing circumference of hooped skirts, it becomes us to leave our Mother Earth at least in the fashion, nor strive to reduce her to such unmodish dimensions that one may circumnavigate her in as little time, comparatively, as he may make the circuit of Miss Flora MacFlimsey.
I beseech you, do not call that nonsense; it is but a good-natured way of stating the case in the aspect it presents from the De Sauty point of view; for tightly laced as poor Mother Earth already is, with railroad corsets and steamship stays, growing small by degrees and beautifully less, she needs but the forty-minute girdle of Puck De Sauty to so contract her waist at the equator that any impudent traveller may span it with a carpet-bag and an umbrella.
On that memorable night of the Cable Celebration, when so many paper lanterns and so many enlightened New Yorkers were sold in the name of De Sauty,—when all the streets and all the people were alive with gas,—when we fired off rockets and Roman candles and spread-eagle speeches in illustrious exuberance,—when the city children lit their little dips, and the City Fathers lit their City Hall,—when we hung out our banners, and clanged our bells, and banged our guns,—when there was Glory to God in the highest steeple, and Peace on Earth in the lowest cellar,—I drifted down the Broadway current of a mighty flood of folk, a morose and miserable sentimentalist.
I had seen locomotives, those Yankee Juggernauts, drive, roaring and ruthless, over the beautiful bodies of fine old travellers' fictions; and once, in Burmah, I had beheld a herd of stately elephants plunge and scoot, scampering and squealing, like pigs on a railroad, away from the steam scream of a new-fangled man-of-war. I had witnessed those monstrous sacrileges, and survived,—had even, when locomotive and steamer were passed, picked up my beautiful fictions again, and called back my panic-stricken elephants with the gong of imagination; but here were Gulliver and Aladdin and Sinbad the Sailor torn from their golden thrones, and this insolent De Sauty, crowned with zinc and copper and sceptred with gutta-percha, set up in their places to the tune of "All Eight."
"I will build you a house of gold, and you shall be my Padshah Begum, some day," said the whimsically cruel King of Oude to Nuna, his favorite Cashmere dancing-girl.
For a while Nima's dreams were golden. But the time came when the King was not in the vein. He followed vacantly her most enchanting undulations and yawned listlessly.
"Boppery bopp!" he exclaimed, presently, "but this bores us. Is there no better fun? Let us have a quail-fight, Khan."
The Khan rose to order in the quails. The King gazed on Nuna with languid satiety.
"I wonder how she would look, Europe-fashion."
"Nothing is easier, Sire, than to see how she would look," said the Khan, as he returned with the quails.
So a gown, and other articles of European female attire, were sent for to the Khan's house; for he was a married man; and when they were brought, Nuna was told to retire and put them on. The quail-fight proceeded on the table.
Then Nuna reappeared in her new costume. A more miserable transformation it is hardly possible to imagine. The clothes hung loosely about her, in forlorn dowdyness. She felt that she was ridiculous. All grace was gone, all beauty. It was distressing to witness her mortified plight.
The King and the Khan laughed heartily, while scalding tears coursed down poor Nuna's cheeks. The other nautch-girls, jealous, had no pity for her; they chuckled at her disgrace, turning up their pretty noses, as they whispered,—"Serve her right,—the brazen minx!"
For days, nay, for weeks, did poor Nuna thus appear, a laughing-stock. She implored permission to leave the court, and return to her wretched home in Cashmere; but that was refused. In the midst of the Mohurrim, she suddenly disappeared. There were none to inquire for her.
[Footnote 1: Private Life of an Eastern King.]
Oh, they may say what they please about the irresistible march of civilization, and clearing the way for Webster's Spelling-Book,—about pumps for Afric's sunny fountains, and Fulton ferry-boats for India's coral strand; but there's nothing in what the Atlantic Cable gives, like that it takes away from the heart of the man who has looked the Sphinx in the face and dreamed with the Brahmin under his own banian. Spare the shrinking Nunas of our poetry your Europe-fashions!
Because the De Sautys are scientifically virtuous, shall there be no more barbaric cakes and ale for us? Because they are joined to their improved Shanghaes, must we let our phoenixes alone? Must we deny our crocodiles when they preach to us codfish? And shall we abstain from crying, "In the name of the Prophet, figs!" in order that they may bawl, "In the name of Brother Jonathan, doughnuts"?
Yes, the world is visibly shrinking in the hard grip of commerce, and the magic and the marvels that filled our childish souls with adventurous longing are fading away in the change. Let us make haste, then, before it is too late,—before the very Sphinx is guessed, and the Boodh himself baptized in Croton water; and, like the Dutchmen in Hans Christian Andersen's story, who put on the galoches of happiness and stepped out into the Middle Ages, let us slip our feet into the sandals of imagination and step out into the desert or the jungle.
One who expressed his Oriental experiences in an epic of fresh and thrilling sensations has written,—"If a man be not born of his mother with a natural Chifney bit in his mouth, there comes to him a time for loathing the wearisome ways of society,—a time for not liking tamed people,—a time for not dancing quadrilles,—a time for pretending that Milton, and Shelley, and all sorts of mere dead people are greater in death than the first living lord of the treasury,—a time, in short, for scoffing and railing, for speaking lightly of the opera, and all our most cherished institutions. A little while you are free and unlabelled, like the ground you compass; but civilization is coming, and coming; you and your much-loved waste-lands will be surely inclosed, and sooner or later you will be brought down to a state of utter usefulness,—the ground will be curiously sliced into acres and roods and perches, and you, for all you sit so smartly on your saddle, you will be caught, you will be taken up from travel, as a colt from grass, to be trained, and matched, and run.
"All this in time: but first come Continental tours, and the moody longing for Eastern travel; your native downs and moors can hold you no longer; with larger stride you burst away from these slips and patches of free-land,—you thread your way through the crowds of Europe, and at last, on the banks of the Jordan, you joyfully know that you are upon the very frontier of all accustomed respectabilities.
"There, on the other side of the river, (you can swim it with one arm,) there reigns the people that will be like to put you to death for not being a vagrant, for not being a robber, for not being armed and houseless. There is comfort in that,—health, comfort, and strength, to one who is dying from very weariness of that poor, dear, middle-aged, deserving, accomplished, pedantic, pains-taking governess, Europe."
Better the abodes of the anthropophagi, the "men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders," than no place to get away to at all; for to every vigorous soul there one day comes a longing, by the light of which magnificent distances appear beautiful, and the possibilities of infinite far-offness delicious; to the Christian traveller, who exults in the faith that "each remotest nation shall learn Messiah's name," how dear is that remoteness which renders the promise sublime! It is these considerations which make us, old-fashioned Pucks, whose performances go no farther than putting a girdle round about the earth in fifty months, object to telegraphs, and protest against De Sauty.
Among your books and your lectures, you must have observed that there are several well-defined and widely distinct kinds of traveller. One is the professional tourist, who formally and statedly "sets out," in his own deliberate way, packed, marked, and paid through; he is shipped like preserved meats, hermetically sealed to foreign impressions, and warranted to keep in any climate,—the same snug, well-arranged "commercial traveller" who went abroad for materials, for which you are to pay; and when he has laid in the necessary stock,—the identical stock as per original advices,—he comes back again, and that is all,—the very same as to himself and his baggage, except that the latter is heavier by the addition of a corpulent carpet-bag bloated with facts and figures, the aspect of the country, the dimensions of monuments, the customs of the people, their productions and manufactures; he might as well have done his tour around his own library, with a copy of Bayard Taylor's Cyclopaedia of Travel, and an assortment of stereoscopic views, for all the freshness of impression or originality of narrative you'll get from him,—from whom preserve us! Give us, rather, that truer traveller who goes by the accommodation-train of Whim, and whom, in the language of conductors, you may take up or put down anywhere, because he is no "dead-head," nor "ticketed through." This is he of whom I have spoken elsewhere,—in the magic mirror of whose memory (as to the last he saw of this wonder or of that) "a stony statuesqueness prevails, to produce an effect the weirdest of all; for there every living thing stands arrested in the attitude or gesture it presented at the fine instant to which his thought returns to find it,—seized in the midst, it may be, of the gayest, most spirited, or most passionate action,—laughter, dance, rage, conflict; and so fixed as unchangeable as the stone faces of the gods, forever and forever." In the midst of a Burmese jungle I have tried that sad experiment by its reverse, and, gazing into my magic mirror, have beheld my own dear home, and the old, familiar faces,—all stony, pale, and dim. At such times, how painfully the exile's heart is tried by the apparition of any object, however insignificant, to which his happy childhood was accustomed! I think my heart was never more sharply wrung than once at Prome, in the porch of a grim old temple of Guadma;—a kitten was playing with a feather there.
In his enumeration of the chief points of attraction in the more striking books of voyages and travels, Leigh Hunt, with his happy appreciation of whatever is most quaint in description, most sympathetic in impression, has helped us to an arrangement, which, with a convenient modification of our own, we shall follow congenially. We shall seek for remoteness and obscurity of place,—marvellousness of hearsay,—surprising, but conceivable truth,—barbaric magnificence,— the grotesque and the fantastic,—strangeness of custom,—personal danger, courage, and suffering,—and their barbaric consolations. In the pursuit of these, our path should wind, had we time to take the longest, among deserts and lands of darkness,—phoenixes and griffins and sphinxes,—human monsters, and more monstrous gods,—the courts of Akbhar and Aurengzebe,—palaces of the Mogul and the Kathayan Khan,—pigmies, monkey-gods, mummies, Fakeers, dancing-girls, tattooed warriors, Thugs, cannibals, Fetishes, human sacrifices, and the Evil Eye,—Chinese politeness, Bedouin honor, Bechuana simplicity,—the plague, the amok, the bearding of lions, the graves of hero-travellers, flowers in the desert, and the universal tenderness of women.
And as our wild way leads us onward, it shall open up visions, new and wondrous, or beautiful as new, to those who try it for the first time. See now, at the outset, stepping into the footprints of old Sir John Mandeville, what do we behold?—"In that kingdom of Abcay is a great marvel; for a province of the country, that hath in circuit three days' journeys, that men call Hanyson, is all covered with darkness, without any brightness or light,—so that no man may see nor hear, nor no man dare enter into it. And nevertheless, they of that country say that sometimes men hear voices of folks, and horses neighing, and cocks crowing; and they know well that men live there, but they know not what men. And they say that the darkness befell by miracle of God; for an accursed emperor of Persia, that was named Saures, pursued all Christian men for to destroy them, and to compel them to make sacrifice to his idols; and rode with a great host, all that ever he could, for to confound the Christian men. And then in that country dwelled many good Christian men, the which left their goods, and would have fled into Greece; and when they were in a plain called Megon, anon this cursed emperor met with them, with his host, for to have slain them and hewn them in pieces. And anon the Christian men did kneel to the ground, and make their prayers to God to succor them. Then a great thick cloud came and covered the emperor and all his host; and so they remain in that manner, that no more may they get out on any side; and so shall they evermore abide in darkness, till the day of doom, by the miracle of God. And then the Christian men went whither they liked best, at their own pleasure, without hindrance of any creature, and their enemies were inclosed and confounded in darkness without a blow. And that was a great miracle that God made for them; wherefore methinks that Christian men should be more devout to serve our Lord God than any other men of any other belief."
Thus doth the simple, willing faith of the childlike traveller of 1350 draw from his strange old story a moral which may serve to light the way for you and me when we wend through the soul's land of darkness.
"Through the shadow of the globe we sweep into the younger day; Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay."—
So sings Tennyson; and what's a cycle of Cathay? Let us ask Mandeville.
"Cathay is a great country, and a fair, noble, and rich, and full of merchants. Thither go merchants, every year, for to seek spices, and all manner of merchandises, more commonly than in any other part.
"In Cathay is the great city of Xanadu; and in this city is the seat of the great Khan, in a full great palace, and the most passing fair in all the world, of the which the walls be in circuit more than two miles; and within the walls it is all full of other palaces. And in the garden of the great palace there is a great hill, upon the which there is another palace; and it is the most fair and the most rich that any man may devise. And there is the great garden, full of wild beasts; so that when the great Khan would have any sport, to take any of the wild beasts, or of the fowls, he will cause them to be chased, and take them at his windows, without going out of his chamber. The palace where the seat is is both great and passing fair; and within the palace, in the hall, there be twenty-four pillars of fine gold; and all the walls are covered within with red skins of beasts, that men call panthers, that be fair beasts, and well smelling; so that for the sweet odor of the skins no evil air may enter into the palace. And in the midst of this palace is the mountour (high seat) for the great Khan, that is all wrought of gold and of precious stones and great pearls; and at the four corners of the mountour be four serpents of gold, and all about there is made large nets of silk and gold and great pearls hanging all about the mountour. And the hall of the palace is full nobly arrayed, and full marvellously attired on all parts, in all things that men apparel any hall with. And at the chief end of the hall is the emperor's throne, full high, where he sitteth at his meat; and that is of fine precious stones, bound all about with purified gold and precious stones and great pearls; and the steps that he goeth up to the table be of precious stones mixed with gold. Under the firmament is not so great a lord, nor so mighty, nor so rich, as the great Khan. Neither Prester John, that is emperor of the high India, nor the Sultan of Babylonia, nor the Emperor of Persia. All these be not in comparison to the great Khan, neither of might, nor of nobleness, nor of royalty, nor of riches; for in all these he passeth all earthly princes. Wherefore it is great harm that he believeth not faithfully in God."
And here we naturally recall that wondrous vision which Coleridge conjured up, when, opium-rapt, he dreamed in his study-chair of Kubla's enchanted ground.
"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree, Where Alph, the sacred river, ran, Through caverns measureless to man, Down to a sunless sea. So twice five miles of fertile ground With walls and towers were girded round; And here were gardens bright with sinuous rills, Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; And here were forests ancient as the hills, Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
"Five miles, meandering with a mazy motion, Through wood and dale the sacred river ran, Then reached the caverns measureless to man, And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean; And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far Ancestral voices prophesying war!
"A damsel with a dulcimer In a vision once I saw; It was an Abyssinian maid, And on her dulcimer she played, Singing of Mount Abora. Could I revive within me Her symphony and song, To such a deep delight 'twould win me, That with music loud and long I would build that dome in air, That sunny dome! those caves of ice! And all who heard should see them there, And all should cry, Beware! beware His flashing eyes, his floating hair! Weave a circle round him thrice, And close your lips with holy dread, For he on honey-dew hath fed, And drunk the milk of Paradise!"
The account which Herodotus gives of the gifts that Croesus sent to the Oracle at Delphi is a splendid example of barbaric magnificence. First, the King offered up three thousand of every kind of sacrificial beast, and burned upon a huge pile couches coated with silver and gold, and golden goblets, and robes and vests of purple. Next he issued a command to all the people of the land to offer up a sacrifice according to their means. And when this sacrifice was consumed, he melted down a vast quantity of gold, and ran it into one hundred and seventeen ingots, each six palms long, three palms broad, and one palm in thickness. He also caused the statue of a lion to be made of refined gold, in weight ten talents. When these great works were completed, Croesus sent them away to Delphi, and with them two bowls of enormous size, one of gold, the other of silver. These two bowls, Herodotus affirms, were removed when the temple of Delphi was burned to the ground; and now the golden one is in the Clazomenian treasury, and weighs eight talents and forty-two minae; the silver one stands in a corner of the ante-chapel and holds six hundred amphorae (over five thousand gallons);—this is known, because the Delphians fill it at the time of the Theophania. Croesus sent also four silver casks, which are in the Corinthian treasury; and two lustral vases, a golden and a silver one. Beside these various offerings, he sent to Delphi many others of less account, among the rest a number of round silver basins. He also dedicated a female figure in gold, three cubits high, which the Delphians declared was the statue of his baking woman; and lastly, he presented the necklace and the girdles of his wife.
When Croesus sent his Lydian messengers to the Oracle, one Alcmaeon, who seems to have been a shrewd fellow, with a sharp eye to the main chance, entertained them with generous hospitality; which so pleased Croesus, when he was told of it, that he immediately invited Alcmaeon to visit him at Sardis. When he arrived, the King told him that he was at liberty to enter his treasury and help himself to as much gold as he could carry off on his person at once. No sooner said than done. Alcmaeon, without bashfulness, arrayed himself in a tunic that bagged abominably at the waist, drew on the biggest buskins in Sardis, dressed his hair loose, and, marching into the treasure-house, (imagine what the treasury of Croesus must have been,) waded into a desert of gold dust. He crammed the bosom of his tunic, crammed his bombastian buskins, filled his hair full, and finally stuffed his mouth, so that, as he passed out, he could only wink his fat red eyes and bob to Croesus, who, when he had laughed till his sides ached, repaid his funny, but voracious guest for the amusement he had afforded him by not only confirming the gift of gold, but conferring an equal amount in jewels and rich raiment.
But we must not remain to marvel among the overwhelming displays of barbaric profusion. Akbhar, the imperial Mogul, who on his birthday caused himself to be weighed in golden scales three times,—first against gold pieces, then against silver, and lastly against fine perfumes,—who scattered among his courtiers showers of gold and silver nuts, for which even his gravest ministers were not too dignified to scramble,—even Akbhar must not detain us. Nor Aurengzebe, who made his marches, seated on a throne flashing with gold and rich brocades, and borne on the shoulders of men; while his princesses and favorite begums followed in all the pomp and glory of the seraglio, nestled in delicious pavilions curtained with massy silk, and mounted on the backs of stately elephants of Pegu and Martaban.
We must get away from these; for the realm of the Supernatural and the Marvellous lies open before us, and on the very threshold, over which Sir John Mandeville conducts us, broods in his fiery nest that wondrous fowl, the Phoenix.
"In Egypt is the city of Eliopolis, that is to say, the City of the Sun. In that city there is a temple made round, after the shape of the temple of Jerusalem. The priests of that temple have all their writing dated by the fowl that is called Phoenix; and there is none but one in all the world. And he cometh to burn himself upon the altar of the temple at the end of five hundred years; for so long he liveth. And at the end of the five hundred years, they array their altar carefully, and put thereon spices and live sulphur, and other things that will burn lightly. And then the bird Phoenix cometh and burneth himself to ashes. And the first day next after, men find in the ashes a worm; and the second day next after, men find a bird, quick and perfect; and the third day next after, he flieth away. And so there is no more birds of that kind in all the world but that alone. And, truly, that is a great miracle of God. And men may well liken that bird unto God, because there is no God but one, and also that our Lord arose from death the third day. This bird men see often flying in those countries; and he is not much more than an eagle. And he hath a crest of feathers upon his head greater than the peacock hath. And his neck is yellow, after the color of an orial, that is a stone well shining. And his beak is colored blue, and his wings are of purple color, and his tail is yellow and red. And he is a full fair bird to look upon against the sun; for he shineth full gloriously and nobly."
Let us pray that our Phoenix may not fall into the clutches of the De Sautys, to be made goose-meat of; rather may they themselves be utterly cast out,—into the land of giants that are hideous to look upon, and have but one eye, and that in the middle of the forehead,—into the land of folk of foul stature and of cursed kind, that have no heads, and whose eyes be in their shoulders,—into the isle of those that go upon their hands and feet, like beasts, and that are all furred and feathered,—or into the country of the people who have but one leg, the foot of which is so large that it shades all the rest of the body from the sun, when they lie down on their backs to rest at noonday. But not into the Land of Women, where all are wise, noble, and worthy. For once there was a king in that country, and men married; but presently befell a war with the Scythians, and the king was slain in battle, and with him all of the best blood of his realm. So when the queen, and the other noble ladies, saw that they were all widows, and all the royal blood was spilled, they armed themselves, and, like mad creatures, slew all the men that were left in the country; for they wished that all the women might be widows, as the queen and they were. And thenceforward they never would suffer men to dwell among them, especially men of the De Sauty sort, who, as Hans Christian Andersen says, ask questions and never dream.
The town of Lop, says Marco Polo, is situated near the commencement of the great desert called the Desert of Lop. It is asserted as a well-known fact, that this desert is the abode of many evil spirits, which entice travellers to destruction with extraordinary delusions. If, during the daytime, any persons remain behind on the road until the caravan has passed a hill and is no longer in sight, they unexpectedly hear themselves called by their names, in a tone of voice to which they are accustomed. Supposing the call to proceed from their companions, they are led away by it from the direct road, and, not knowing in what direction to advance, are left to perish. In the night-time they are persuaded they hear the march of a great cavalcade, and concluding the noise to be the tramp of their own party, they make the best of their way in the direction of the quarter whence it seems to come; but when the day breaks, they find they have been misled and drawn into a situation of danger. Sometimes, during the day, these spirits assume the appearance of their travelling-companions, who address them by name, and endeavor to draw them out of the proper road. It is said, also, that some travellers, in their way across the desert, have seen what appeared to them to be a body of armed men advancing toward them, and, fearful of being attacked and plundered, have taken to flight. Thus, losing the right path, and ignorant of the direction they should take to regain it, they have miserably perished of hunger.
Marvellous, indeed, and almost passing belief, are the stories related of these spirits of the desert, which are said to fill the air at times with the sounds of all kinds of musical instruments, of drama, and the clash of arms. When the journey across this dreadful waste is completed, the trembling traveller arrives at the city of the Great Khan.
[Footnote 1: Leigh Hunt.]
In this rich chapter of horrors how finished an allegory for old John Bunyan! With what religious unction he would have led his Christian traveller from that unknown city on the edge of the sands, across the Soul's Desert of Lop, with its
"Voices calling in the dead of night, And airy tongues that syllable men's names,"
safe into the City of the Great Khan!
Leigh Hunt declares that he has read, in some other account, of a dreadful, unendurable face that used to stare at people as they went by.
The Barbaric has also its features of solemnity and grandeur, filling the mind with exalted contemplations, and the imagination with inspiring and ennobling apparitions. Surroundings that contribute a quality of awfulness embrace in such scenes the soul of the traveller, and hold him in their tremendous thrall. Mean or flippant ideas may not enter here; but the man puts off the smaller part of him, as the Asiatic puts off his sandals on entering the porches of his god. Of such is the Eternal Sphinx, as Eothen Kinglake beheld her. We cannot feel her aspect more grandly than by the aid of his inspiration.
"And near the Pyramids, more wondrous and more awful than all else in the land of Egypt, there sits the lonely Sphinx. Comely the creature is; but the comeliness is not of this world; the once worshipped beast is a deformity and a monster to this generation; and yet you can see that those lips, so thick and heavy, were fashioned according to some ancient mould of beauty, now forgotten,—forgotten because that Greece drew forth Cytherea from the flashing foam of the Aegean, and in her image created new forms of beauty, and made it a law among men that the short and proudly wreathed lip should stand for the sign and main condition of loveliness through all generations to come. Yet still lives on the race of those who were beautiful in the fashion of the elder world; and Christian girls of Coptic blood will look on you with the sad, serious gaze, and kiss you your charitable hand with the big, pouting lips of the very Sphinx.
"Laugh and mock, if you will, at the worship of stone idols; but mark ye this, ye breakers of images, that in one regard the stone idol bears awful semblance of Deity,—unchangefulness in the midst of change,—the same seeming will and intent, forever and forever inexorable. Upon ancient dynasties of Ethiopian and Egyptian kings,—upon Greek and Roman, upon Arab and Ottoman conquerors,—upon Napoleon dreaming of an Eastern empire,—upon battle and pestilence,—upon the ceaseless misery of the Egyptian race,—upon keen-eyed travellers,—Herodotus yesterday, Warbarton to-day,—upon all, and more, this unworldly Sphinx has watched and watched like a Providence, with the same earnest eyes, and the same sad, tranquil mien. And we, we shall die; and Islam will wither away; and the Englishman, leaning far over to hold his loved India, will plant a firm foot on the banks of the Nile, and sit in the seats of the Faithful; and still that sleepless rock will lie watching and watching the works of the new, busy race, with those same sad, earnest eyes, and that same tranquil mien, everlasting. You dare not mock at the Sphinx!"
Not less stupendously placid than the Sphinx, and even grimmer in his remoteness from the places that have heard Messiah's name, is the Boodh, throned in trance, and multitudinously worshipped. Shall I tell you how I first beheld him in his glory?
We were approaching some sacred caves in Burmah. Lighting our torches, and each man taking one, we mounted the steep, tortuous, and slippery foot-path of damp, green stones, through the thorny shrubs that beset it, to the low entrance to the outer cavern. Stooping uncomfortably, we passed into a small, vacant antechamber, having a low, dripping roof, perpendicular walls, clammy and green, and a rocky floor, sloping inward through a narrow arch to a long, double, transverse gallery, divided in the direction of its length, partly by a face of rock, partly by a row of pillars. Here were innumerable images of Guadma, the counterfeit presentment of the Fourth Boodh, whose successor is to see the end of all things,—innumerable, and of every stature, from Hop-o'-my-thumbs to Hurlo-thrombos, but all of the identical orthodox pattern,—with pendulous ears, one hand planted squarely on the knee, the other sleeping in the lap, an eternity of front face, and a smooth stagnancy of expression, typical of an unfathomable calm,—the Guadma of a span as grim as he of ten cubits, and he of ten cubits as vacant as the Guadma of a span,—of stone, of lead, of wood, of clay, of earthenware and alabaster,—on their bottoms, on their heads, on their backs, on their sides, on their faces,—black, white, red, yellow,—an eye gone, a nose gone, an ear gone, a head gone,—an arm off at the shoulder, a leg at the knee,—a back split, a bosom burst,—Guadma, imperturbable, eternal, calm,—in the midst of time, timeless! It is not annihilation which the Boodh has promised, as the blessed crown of a myriad of progressive transmigrations; it is not Death; it is not Sleep,—it is this.
Our entrance awoke a pandemonium. Myriads of bats and owls, and all manner of fowls of darkness and bad omen, crazed by the glare of twenty torches, startled the echoes with infernal clangor. Screaming and huddling together, some fled under the wide skirts of sable, which Darkness, climbing to the roof in fear, drew up after her; some hid with lesser shadows between columns of great girth, or in the remotest murky niches, or down in the black profound of resounding chasms; some, bewildered or quite blinded by the flashes of the co-eternal beam, dashed themselves against the stony walls, and fell crippled, gasping, staring, at our feet. And when, at last, our guides and servants, mounting to pinnacles and jutting points, and many a frieze and coigne of vantage, placed blue lights on them all, and at the word illuminated all together, there was redoubled bedlam in that abode of Hecate, and the eternal calm of the Boodh became awful. For what deeds of outer darkness, done long ago in that black hole of superstition, so many damned souls shrieked from their night-fowl transmigrations, 'twere vain to question there were no disclosures in that trance of stone.
For an experience of the oppressive awfulness of solitude, and all the weary monotony of waste, come now, with Kinglake, into mid-desert.
"As long as you are journeying in the interior of the desert, you have no particular point to make for as your resting-place. The endless sands yield nothing but small stunted shrubs; even these fail after the first two or three days; and from that time you pass over broad plains, you pass over newly reared hills, you pass through valleys that the storm of the last week has dug; and the hills and the valleys are sand, sand, sand, still sand and only sand, and sand and sand again. The earth is so samely, that your eyes turn toward heaven,—toward heaven, I mean, in the sense of sky. You look to the sun, for he is your task-master, and by him you know the measure of the work that you have done, the measure of the work that remains for you to do. He comes when you strike your tent in the early morning, and then, for the first hour of the day, as you move forward on your camel, he stands at your near side, and makes you know that the whole day's toil is before you. Then, for a while, and a long while, you see him no more; for you are veiled and shrouded, and dare not look upon the greatness of his glory; but you know where he strides over your head by the touch of his flaming sword. No words are spoken; but your Arabs moan, your camels sigh, your skin glows, your shoulders ache; and, for sights, you see the pattern and the web of the silk that veils your eyes, and the glare of the outer light.
"Time labors on,—your skin glows, and your shoulders ache, your Arabs moan, your camels sigh, and you see the same pattern on the silk, and the same glare beyond; but conquering Time marches on, and by-and-by the descending sun has compassed the heaven, and now softly touches your right arm, and throws your lank shadow over the sand, right along on the way to Persia. Then again you look upon his face, for his power is all veiled in his beauty, and the redness of flames has become the redness of roses; the fair, wavy cloud that fled in the morning now comes to his sight once more,—comes blushing, but still comes on,—comes burning with blushes, yet hastens, and clings to his side."
When one has been sufficiently dis-Europized by remote travel, to become, as to his imagination, a child again, and receive a child's impressions from the strangeness that surrounds him, the grotesque and fantastic aspects of his situation afford him the same emotions, of unquestioning wonder and romantic sympathy, that he derived in the old time from the adventures of Sinbad the Sailor, the exploits of Jack the Giant-Killer, what Gulliver saw, or Munchausen did. Behold Belzoni in the necropolis of Thebes, crawling on his very face among the dusty rubbish of unnumbered mummies, to steal papyri from their bosoms. Fatigued with the exertion of squirming through a mummy-choked passage of five hundred yards, he sought a resting-place; but when he would have sat down, his weight bore on the body of an Egyptian, and crushed it like a bandbox. He naturally had recourse to his hands to sustain his weight; but they found no better support, and he sunk altogether in a crash of broken bones, rags, and wooden cases, that raised such a dust as kept him motionless for a quarter of an hour, waiting for it to subside. He could not move from the place, however, without increasing it, and every step he took smashed a mummy. Once, in forcing his way through a steeply inclined passage, about twenty feet in length, and no wider than his body could be squeezed through, he was overwhelmed with an avalanche of bones, legs, arms, and hands, rolling from above; and every forward move brought his face in contact with the abhorred features of some decayed Egyptian.
[Footnote 1: Bayard Taylor.]
Behold Denham in the Desert of Dead Bones, where his sick comrades were constantly disheartened by the sight of the skulls and skeletons of men who had perished on those sands. During several days, they passed from sixty to ninety skeletons a day; but the numbers that lay about the wells at El Hammar were countless. Those of two women, whose perfect and regular teeth bespoke them young, perhaps beautiful, were particularly shocking. Their arms were still clasped around each other's neck, in the attitude in which they had expired, although the flesh had long since been consumed in the rays of the sun, and the blackened bones alone were left.
Parkyns, among the little greenish-gray monkeys of Tigr, enjoyed a treat to make the mouth of our young imagination water. He saw them conversing, quarrelling, making love; mothers were taking care of their children, combing their hair, nursing or "trotting" them; and the passions of all—jealousy, rage, love—were as strongly marked as in men. They had a language as distinct to them as ours to us; and their women were as noisy and as fond of disputation as any fish-fag in Billingsgate.
"On their marches, a few of the heedless youth occasionally lagged behind to snatch a handful of berries; sometimes a matron halted for a while to nurse her baby, and, not to lose time, dressed its hair while it took its meal. Now and then a young lady, excited by jealousy or some sneering look or word, made an ugly mouth at one of her companions, and then, uttering a shrill squeal, highly expressive of rage, vindictively snatched at the offender's tail or leg, and administered a hearty bite. This provoked a retort, and a most unladylike quarrel ensued, till a loud remonstrance from mothers or aunts called them to order."
According to Marco Polo, there have been among the monkeys, from time to time, certain Asiatic Yankees, who did a lively business in the manufacture of an article which would, no doubt, have found a ready purchaser at Barnum's Museum.
"It should be known," says the veracious old Venetian, "that what is reported respecting the dead bodies of diminutive human creatures or pigmies, brought from India, is an idle tale; such pretended men being manufactured in the island of Basman in the following manner. The country produces a species of monkey of a tolerable size, and having a countenance resembling that of a man. Those persons who make it their business to catch them shave off the hair, leaving it only about the chin. They then dry and preserve them with camphor and other drugs; and having prepared them in such a mode that they have exactly the appearance of little men, they put them into wooden boxes, and sell them to trading people, who carry them to all parts of the world."
Not the least familiar of the aspects of the Barbaric are its actions and situations of horror. I could tell tales from the later, not less than from the older travellers, that would send my readers shuddering to sleepless beds: the ferocities of Tippoo renacted in the name of Nena Sahib; the noiseless murders of Thuggee's nimble cord; the drunken diablerie of the Doorga Pooja; the monstrous human sacrifices of the Khonds and Bheels; the dreadful rites of the Janni before the gory altar of the Earth goddess; the indiscriminate slashing and stabbing of the Amok; the shuddering dodges of the plague-chased Cavrite; the grim and lonely duels of the French lion-killer under the melancholy stars; the carrion-like exposures of the Parsee dead; the nightmarish legends of the Evil Eye. But my hope is to part with them on pleasant terms; so rather would I strew their pillows with the consolations of this many-mooded Barbaric,—moss from ruins, and pretty flowers from the desert,—that beneficent botany which maketh the wilderness to blossom like the rose.
When Mungo Park, deserted by his guides, and stripped by thieves, utterly paralyzed by misfortune, and misery, would have laid him down to die in a desert place,—at that moment, of all others, the extraordinary beauty of a small moss in fructification caught his eye. "I mention this," he says, "to show you from what trifling circumstances the mind will sometimes derive consolation; for, though the whole plant was not larger than the top of one of my fingers, I could not contemplate the delicate conformation of its root, leaves, and capsule without admiration. Can that Being, thought I, who planted, watered, and brought to perfection, in this obscure part of the world, a thing which appears of so small importance, look with unconcern upon the situation and sufferings of creatures formed after his own image? I started up, and, disregarding both danger and fatigue, travelled forward, assured that relief was at hand; and I was not disappointed."
Richardson, in the midst of Sahara, beheld with brimming eyes two small trees, the common desert acacia, and by-and-by two or three pretty blue flowers. As he snatched them, to fold them in his bosom, he could not help exclaiming, Elhamdullah! "Praise be to God!"—for Arabic was growing second-born to his tongue, and he began to think in it and to pray in it. An Arab said to him, "Yakob, if we had a reed, and were to make a melodious sound, those flowers, the color of heaven, would open and shut their mouths."
Once, Mungo Park (the once too often of telling this story can never come) sat all day,—without food, under a tree. The night threatened to be very pitiless; for the wind arose, and there was every sign of a heavy rain; and wild beasts prowled around. But about sunset, as he was preparing to pass the night in the branches of the tree, a woman, returning from the labors of the field, perceived how weary and dejected he was, and, taking up his saddle and bridle, invited him to follow her. She conducted him to her hut, where she lighted a lamp, spread a mat on the floor, and bade him welcome. Then she went out, and presently returning with a fine fish, broiled it on the embers, and set his supper before him. The rites of hospitality thus performed toward a stranger in distress, that savage angel, pointing to the mat, and assuring him that he might sleep there without fear, commanded the females of her family, who all the while had stood gazing on him in fixed astonishment, to resume their spinning. Then they sang, to a sweet and plaintive air, these words: "The winds roared, and the rains fell. The poor white man, faint and weary, came and sat under our tree. Let us pity the white man; no mother hath he to bring him milk, no wife to grind his corn." Flowers in the desert!
[Footnote 1: Leigh Hunt.]
Flowers in the desert! And De Sauty shall spare them, though he botanize on his mother's grave. Borro-boolah-gah may know us by our India-rubber shirts and pictorial pocket-handkerchiefs; and King Mumbo Jumbo may reduce his rebellious locks to subjection with a Yankee currycomb; but these, our desert flowers, are All Right, De Sauty!
BEAUTY AT BILLIARDS.
There is a lady in this case.
For three days she had sat opposite me at the table of the pleasantest of White Mountain resorts, (of course I give no hint as to which that is,—tastes differ,) and I had gradually become enthralled. Her beauty was dazzling, and her name was Tarlingford. For the first of these items, I was indebted to my own intelligence; for the second to the hotel register, which also informed me that she was from New York.
I, too, had come from New York;—a coincidence too startling to be calmly overlooked.
Our acquaintance began oddly. One morning, at breakfast, I was musing over a hard-boiled egg, and wondering if I could perforate her affections with anything like the success which had followed my fork as it penetrated the shell before me, when I felt a timid touch upon my toe, thrilling me from end to end like a telegraph-wire when the insulation is perfect. I looked up, and detected a pink flush making its way browward on the lovely countenance across the table.
"I beg your pardon," said I, with much concern.
"It was my fault, Sir; excuse me," said she, permitting the pink flush to deepen, rosily.
"Shall I pass you the buttered toast?" said I.
"Muffins, if you please," said she, and so sweetly that I was blinded to the absence of sugar in my second cup of coffee.
I was confused by this incident. Many men would have concealed their disquietude by an affectation of sudden appetite, or by bullying the waiter, or by abrupt departure from the scene. I did neither. I felt I had a right to be confused, and I gloried in it.
Very soon Miss Tarlingford withdrew, and I experienced an aching void within, which chops and fritters had no power to replenish.
I opened a chambermaid's heart with a half-dollar, and the treasures of her knowledge were revealed to me. The beauty and her party were to remain a fortnight Among her companions there were no males, except a youthful irresponsibility. Exultemus!
Later in the morning I heard the tinkling of the parlor pianoforte. Music has soothing charms for me, though I have not a savage breast. I drew near, and found Miss Tarlingford trifling with the keys,—those keys which lock together so many chains of human sympathy. She rose, and gave out demonstrations of impending disappearance. I interposed,—
"Pray, continue. I am famished for music, and came specially to listen."
"It is hardly worth while."
"How can you say so? It is I who know best what I need."
"I will play for you, then."
And she did. This was wonderful. Usually, a long and painful struggle precedes feminine acquiescence, on such occasions. Repeated refusals, declarations of incapacity, partial consent vouchsafed and then waywardly withdrawn, poutings, head-tossings, feebler murmurs of disinclination, and final reluctant yielding form the fashionable order of proceeding. The charm of it all is, that the original intention is the same as the ultimate action. Whence, then, this folly? Having been many times wretchedly bored by this sort of thing, I was now correspondingly gladdened by the contrast.
Miss Tarlingford played well, and I said so.
"Pretty well," she answered, frankly; "but not so well as I could wish."
Shock Number Two. It is customary in good society for tolerable performers to disavow all praises, (secretly yearning for more,) and to assail with invective their own artistic accomplishments. Here was a young lady who played well, and had the hardihood to acknowledge it. This rather took away my breath, and a vacuum began to come under my waistcoat.
For three blissful days Miss Tarlingford and I were seldom separated. Her sister, a pale, sedate maiden, of amiable appearance, and her brother, a small, rude boy, of intrusive habits and unguarded speech, I consented to undergo, for the sake of conventional necessity. To the mother of the Tarlingfords additional respect seemed due, and was accorded.
Three blissful days of sunshine, meadowy rambles, forest explorations, the majestic tranquillity of Nature spiced with the sauce of flirtation, or something stronger. Sometimes we took our morning happiness on foot, sometimes our mid-day ecstasy served up on horseback, sometimes our evening rapture in an open wagon at two forty.
The puerile Tarlingford, interfering at first, was summarily crushed. Aspiring to equestrian distinctions, he wrought upon maternal indulgence, until, not without misgivings, maternal anxiety was stifled, and, with injunctions that we should hover protectingly near him, he was sent forth, a thorn in our sides. In half an hour he was accidentally remembered, and was found to be nowhere within view; so we pursued our way, well pleased. He had dropped quietly off, at the first canter, into a miry slough, and had returned sobbingly, covered with mortification and mud, to the arms of his parent. Keen questioning at dinner was the result.
"Why did you so neglect him?" demanded fond mamma, adding, reproachfully, "The child's life might have been sacrificed."
"Mother, we looked for him, and he was gone. Why didn't he cry out?"
"So I did," shouted this youth of open speech; "but you two had your heads together, laughing and talking like anything, and couldn't hear, I suppose." (With a juvenile sneer.)
"Oh, fie, Walter! Now I think you were so frightened that you could not speak."
"I shall know better than to intrust him to your care again," said indignant mamma, as one who withdrew a blessed privilege.
"Don't say that, mother; it would be a punishment too severe," said the mischievous little pale sister, in tones of pity, and her face brimming with mirth.
Everybody laughed, and peace was restored.
On the third evening, misery came to me in an envelope post-marked New York:—
"My DEAR PLOVINS:—
"I shall be with you the night after you receive this. Engage a room for me. Have you seen anything of a Miss Tarlingford, where you are staying? You should know her. She is very brilliant and accomplished, but is retiring. I am willing to tell you, but it must go no farther, that we are betrothed.
"Yours, in a hurry,
My heart was as the mercury of a thermometer which is plunged into ice; but I preserved an outward composure. Turning over the pile of letters awaiting owners, I came upon one, directed in Lillivan's handwriting, to Miss A. Tarlingford, etc., etc.
To think that a paltry superscription should carry such a weight of tribulation with it!
I thus discovered that my lines had fallen in unpleasant places. I was fishing in a preoccupied stream, and had got myself entangled.
I avoided the public table, and shrunk from society. During the whole of the next morning, I kept aloof from the temptations of Tarlingford, and took to billiards.
In the afternoon, as I sat gloomily in my room, with feet protruding from the window, and body inclined rearward, (the American attitude of despair,) the piano tinkled. It was the same melody which had attracted me a few happy days before. Strengthening myself with a powerful resolution to extricate myself from the bewitching influence which had surrounded me, I arose, and went straightway to the parlor. Could it be that a flash of pleasure beamed on Miss Tarlingford's face? or was I a deluded gosling? The latter suggestion seemed the more credible, so I cheerfully adopted it.
"We have missed you, Mr. Plovins," said the fair enslaver; "I hope you have not been unwell?"
"Unwell?—oh, no, no!"
"You have not been near me—us, today," (reprovingly,) "not even at dinner; and the trout were superb."
A sudden hope mounted within me.
"Miss Tarlingford, pray, excuse me,—your first name, may I ask what it is?"
"Arabella is my name, and" (whisperingly) "you may use it, if you like."
"Oh, hideous horror! And this is what they call flirtation," I thought. And the hope which had risen blazing, like a rocket, went down fuliginous, like the stick.
"Mr. Plovins, I will say you are very—very inconstant, to be absent all day, thus."
"Miss Tarlingford, it is not inconstancy, it is billiards."
"Billiards. I adore them. You know nothing of billiards; women never do. They are my joy. Pardon me," (with a sudden uprising of the moral sense,) "I have an engagement at the billiard-room, and I should be there."
"Dear me! I should like to do billiards."
"Why so, Sir?"
"No, I do not mean that; but ladies never play billiards."
"I suppose there is no reason why they should not?"
"Why, what harm?"
"My dear Miss Tarlingford, if your first name were not Arabella,—alas, alas!—there would be none."
"Nonsense! now you are laughing at me. Come, you shall teach me billiards."
"It cannot be, Miss Tarlingford." (Low tragedy tones.)
"Because your name is Arabella."
"Very well, Sir,—if you do not like my name, you need not repeat it."
"I adore it; it is not that. Forgive me."
"Then I will get my hat";—and her light footsteps tapped upon the stairs.
Here was a state of things! Where were my firmness and my resolution now? Where was the Pythian probity for which, according to my expectations, Lillivan was to have poured Damoniac gratitude upon me? Was I, or was I not, rapidly degenerating into villany? I felt that I was, and blushed for my family.
If her name had been anything but Arabella,—anything the initial of which was not A, then I could have justified myself; but now,—and I was about to teach her billiards! To what depth of depravity had I come at last!
She rejoined me, beaming with anticipation and radiant with the exercise of running down-stairs. Together we entered the billiard-room.
Now this I declare: the ball-room, with its flashing lights, intoxicating perfumes, starry hosts of gleaming, eyes, refulgent robes, mirrors duplicating countless splendors and ceaseless whirl of vanity, may add a tenfold lustre to the charm of beauty, and I know it does; the opera-box embellishments of blazing gas, and glittering gems and flowers, fresh from native beds of millinery, all-odorous with divinest scents of Lubin, harmoniously dulcified, have their value, which is great and glorious, no doubt, and regally doth woman expand and glow among them; in numberless ways, and aided by numberless accessories, do feminine graces nimbly and sweetly recommend themselves unto our pleasant senses; but this I will for ever and ever say,—that nowhere, neither in gorgeous hall, nor gilded opera-box, nor in any other place, nor under any other circumstances, may such bewildering and insidious power of maidenly enchantment be exercised as at the billiard-table; especially when the enchantress is utterly ignorant of the duties required of her, and confidingly seeks manly encouragement and guidance. Controlled by the hand of beauty, the cue becomes a magic wand, and the balls are no longer bits of inanimate ivory, but, poked restlessly hither and thither, circulating messengers of fascination.
I know, for I have been there.
Had Miss Tarlingford turned her thoughts toward the bowling-alley, I might without difficulty have retained my self-possession; for her sex are not charming at ten-pins. They stride rampant, and hurl danger around them, aiming anywhere at random; or they make small skips and screams, and perform ridiculous flings in the air, injurious to the alleys and to their game; or they drop balls with unaffected languor, and develop at an early stage of proceedings a tendency to gutters, above which they never rise throughout; and all this is annoying, and fit only for Bloomers, who can be degraded by nothing on earth.
But billiards! what statuesque postures, what freedom of gesture, what swaying grace and vivacious energy this game involves! And then the attendant distractions,—the pinching together of the hand, to form the needed notch, the perfect art of which, like fist-clenching, is unattainable by woman, who substitutes some queerness all her own,—the fierce grasping and propulsion of the cue,—the loving reclension upon the table when the long shots come in,—the dainty foot, uprising, to preserve the owner's balance, but, as it gleams suspended, destroying the observer's,—all combine, as they did this time, to scatter stern promptings of duty beyond recalling.
First, Arabella's little hand must be moulded into a bridge, and, being slow to cramp itself correctly, though pliant as a politician's conscience, the operation of folding it together had to be many times repeated. Next, shots must be made for her, she retaining her hold of the cue, to get into the way of it. Then all went on smoothly with her, turbulently with me, until, enthusiastically excited, she must be lifted on to the table's edge, "just to try one lovely little shot," which escaped her reach from the ground.
My game was up!
We were alone. Arabella perched upon the table, jubilant at having achieved a pocket,—I dismal and blue, beside her.
"There, take me down," she said.
I looked around through each window, inclined my ear to the door, swept an arm around her waist, and forgot to proceed.
"Oh, Arabella! Arabella! wherefore art thou Arabella?"
"Do you wish I were somebody else?" she asked, slyly.
"No, no! but what of Frank Lillivan?"
"Frank, do you know him?" (With a luminous face.)
"And he has told me——yes."
"Of his relations with Miss Tarlingford."
"What Anna? Who is Anna?"
"Dear me! my sister Anna. Don't be absurd!"
"But I never knew"——
"No,—you knew nothing of her; the worse for you! You avoided her,—I'm sure I don't see why,—and she is retiring."
"Retiring!—the very word!"
"What word? You vex me; you puzzle me; take me down."
"Forgive me, dear Arabella! I'm too delighted to explain. I never will explain. I thought it was you on whom Frank's affections were fixed."
"Dear, no! Frank is sensible; he knows better; he has judgment"; and she laughed a quiet laugh, and made as if she would jump down.
As she descended, two heads caromed together with a click. It was the irrepressible influence of the billiard atmosphere, I suppose. No one contemplated it.
That evening, when Frank Lillivan arrived, I met him at the door.
"God bless you, Frank!" said I; "I forgive you everything. Say no more."
"Hollo! what's up?" cried Frank.
"Well, certainly, it was a little imprudent for you to neglect writing the whole address of the letter you sent to Anna Tarlingford. I thought it was for Arabella."
"Dear me!" said Frank, twinkling, "what then?"
That is enough.
* * * * *
Wait a little: do we not wait? Louis Napoleon is not Fate; Francis Joseph is not Time; There's One hath swifter feet than Crime; Cannon-parliaments settle nought; Venice is Austria's,—whose is Thought? Mini is good, but, spite of change, Gutenberg's gun has the longer range. Spin, spin, Clotho, spin! Lachesis, twist! and Atropos, sever! In the shadow, year out, year in, The silent headsman waits forever!
Wait, we say; our years are long; Men are weak, but Man is strong; Since the stars first curved their rings, We have looked on many things; Great wars come and great wars go, Wolf-tracks light on polar snow; We shall see him come and gone, This second-hand Napoleon. Spin, spin, Clotho, spin! Lachesis, twist! and Atropos, sever! In the shadow, year out, year in, The silent headsman waits forever!
We saw the elder Corsican, And Clotho muttered as she span, While crowned lackeys bore the train Of the pinchbeck Charlemagne,— "Sister, stint not length of thread! Sister, stay the scissors dread! On St. Helen's granite bleak, Hark, the vulture whets his beak!" Spin, spin, Clotho, spin! Lachesis, twist! and Atropos, sever! In the shadow, year out, year in, The silent headsman waits forever!
The Bonapartes, we know their bees, That wade in honey, red to the knees; Their patent-reaper, its sheaves sleep sound In doorless garners underground: We know false Glory's spendthrift race, Pawning nations for feathers and lace; It may be short, it may be long,— "'Tis reckoning-day!" sneers unpaid Wrong. Spin, spin, Clotho, spin! Lachesis, twist! and Atropos, sever! In the shadow, year out, year in, The silent headsman waits forever!
The cock that wears the eagle's skin Can promise what he ne'er could win; Slavery reaped for fine words sown, System for all and rights for none, Despots at top, a wild clan below, Such is the Gaul from long ago: Wash the black from the Ethiop's face, Wash the past out of man or race! Spin, spin, Clotho, spin! Lachesis, twist! and Atropos, sever! In the shadow, year out, year in, The silent headsman waits forever!
'Neath Gregory's throne a spider swings And snares the people for the kings: "Luther is dead; old quarrels pass; The stake's black scars are healed with grass"; So dreamers prate;—did man e'er live Saw priest or woman yet forgive? But Luther's broom is left, and eyes Peep o'er their creeds to where it lies. Spin, spin, Clotho, spin! Lachesis, twist! and Atropos, sever! In the shadow, year out, year in, The silent headsman waits forever!
Smooth sails the ship of either realm, Kaiser and Jesuit at the helm; But we look down the deeps and mark Silent workers in the dark, Building slow the sharp-tusked reefs, Old instincts hardening to new beliefs: Patience, a little; learn to wait; Hours are long on the clock of Fate. Spin, spin, Clotho, spin! Lachesis, twist! and Atropos, sever! Darkness is strong, and so is Sin, But only God endures forever!
* * * * *
THE AURORA BOREALIS.
The aurora borealia, or rather, the polar aurora,—for there are aurorae australes as well as aurorae boreales,—has been an object of wonder and admiration from time immemorial.
Pliny and Aristotle record phenomena identical with those which later times have witnessed. The ancients ranked this with other celestial phenomena, as portending great events.
In a Bible imprinted at London in the year 1599, the 22d verse of the 37th chapter of Job reads thus: "The brightness commeth out of the Northe, the praise to God which is terrible." The writer of the Book of Job was very conversant with natural objects, and may have referred to the aurora borealis and the phenomena immediately connected therewith.
In 1560, we are told, it was seen at London in the shape of burning spears, a similitude which would be no less appropriate now than then. Frequent displays are recorded during the fifteen years following that date. During the latter half of the seventeenth century, the phenomena were frequently visible, often-times being characterized by remarkable brilliancy. After 1745, the displays suddenly diminished, and were but rarely seen for the next nine years. The present century has been favored to a remarkable degree. The displays during the years 1835, '36, '37, '46, '48, '51, '52, and '59, have been especially grand.
What is the origin of these remarkable phenomena? The ancients asked the question, and the moderns reply by repeating it. Before proceeding to describe the magnificent auroral displays of August 28th and September 2d, let us examine authorities upon this subject, and see if we cannot arrive at some satisfactory solution of the phenomena. The following is the description given by Humboldt in "Cosmos":—
"An aurora borealis is always preceded by the formation in the horizon of a sort of nebulous veil, which slowly ascends to a height of 4, 6, 8, and even to 10. It is towards the magnetic meridian of the place that the sky, at first pure, begins to get brownish. Through this obscure segment, the color of which passes from brown to violet, the stars are seen, as through a thick fog. A wider arc, but one of brilliant light, at first white, then yellow, bounds the dark segment. Sometimes the luminous arc appears agitated, for hours together, by a sort of effervescence, and by a continuous change of form, before the rising of the rays and columns of light, which ascend as far as the zenith. The more intense the emission of the polar light, the more vivid are its colors, which, from violet and bluish white, pass through all the intermediate shades of green and purple-red. Sometimes the columns of light appear to come out of the brilliant arc mingled with blackish rays, resembling a thick smoke; sometimes they rise simultaneously from different points of the horizon, and unite themselves into a sea of flames, the magnificence of which no painting could express; for, at each instant, rapid undulations cause their form and brilliancy to vary. Motion appears to increase the visibility of the phenomena. Around the point in the heaven which corresponds to the direction of the dipping needle produced, the rays appear to meet and form the boreal corona. It is seldom that the appearance is so complete, and is prolonged to the formation of the corona; but when the latter appears, it always announces the end of the phenomenon. The rays then become more rare, shorter, and less vividly colored. Soon nothing further is seen on the celestial vault than wide, motionless, nebulous spots, pale, or of an ashy color; they have already disappeared, when the traces of the dark segment whence the appearance originated still remain on the horizon."
The connection that seems to exist, says De la Rive, between the polar light and the appearance of a certain species of clouds is confirmed by all observers; all have affirmed that the polar light emitted its most brilliant rays when the high regions of the air contained heaps of cirri,—strata of sufficient tenuity and lightness to cause a corona to arise around the light. Sometimes these clouds are grouped and arranged almost like the rays of an aurora borealis; they then appear to disturb the magnetized needle. Father Secchi has remarked, that magnetic disturbances are manifested at Rome whilst the sky is veiled with clouds that are slightly phosphorescent, which, at night, present the appearance of feeble aurorae boreales.
After a brilliant aurora borealis, we have been able to recognize, on the following morning, trains of clouds, which, during the night, had appeared as so many luminous rays.
The absolute height of aurorae boreales has been very variously estimated by different observers. It has long been thought that we might determine it by regarding, from two places widely distant from each other, the same part of the aurora,—the corona, for example. But we have started from a very inaccurate assumption, namely, that the two observers had their eyes directed to the same point at the same time,—whilst it is now well proved that the corona is an effect of perspective, due to the apparent convergence of the parallel rays situated in the magnetic meridian; so that each observer sees his own aurora borealis, as each sees his own rainbow. The aspect of the phenomenon depends also upon the positions of the observers. The seat of the aurora borealis is in the upper regions of the atmosphere; though sometimes it appears to be produced in the less elevated regions where the clouds are formed. This, at least, is what follows from some observations, especially from those of Captain Franklin, who saw an aurora borealis the light of which appeared to him to illuminate the lower surface of a stratum of clouds; whilst some twenty-five miles farther on, Mr. Kendal, who had watched the whole of the night without losing sight of the sky for a single moment, did not perceive any trace of light. Captain Parry saw an aurora borealis display itself against the side of a mountain; and we are assured that a luminous ring has sometimes been perceived upon the very surface of the sea, around the magnetic pole. Lieutenant Hood and Dr. Richardson, being placed at the distance of about forty-five miles from each other, in order to make simultaneous observations, whence they might deduce the parallax of the phenomenon, and consequently its height, were led to the conclusion that the aurora borealis had not a greater elevation than five miles. M. Liais, having had the opportunity of applying a method, which he had devised for measuring the height of aurorae boreales, to an aurora seen at Cherbourg Oct. 31, 1853, found that the arc of the aurora was about two and a half miles above the ground, at its lower edge.
Various observations made by Professor Olmsted, in conjunction with Professor Twining, of New Haven, led him, on the contrary, to fix the elevation on different occasions at forty-two, one hundred, and one hundred and sixty miles. He claims that it is rarely less than seventy miles from the earth, and never more than one hundred and sixty. He also claims that its origin is cosmical,—or, in other words, that the earth, in revolving in its orbit, at certain periods passes through a nebulous body, which evolves this strange light in more or less brilliancy, as the body is larger or smaller. To support this theory, he attempted to establish that there were fixed epochs for its display in the highest degree of brilliancy. The length of these periods was from sixty to seventy years, and the next appearance was to be in 1890. The remarkable displays of August 28th and September 2d show the fallacy of his conclusions in this respect.
Mairon and Dalton had also thought that the aurora borealis was a cosmical, and not an atmospheric phenomenon. But M. Biot, who had himself had an opportunity of observing the aurora in the Shetland Isles in 1817, had already been led to recognize it as an atmospheric phenomenon, by the consideration that the arcs and the coronae of the aurora in no way participate in the apparent motion of the stars from east to west,—a proof that they are drawn along by the rotation of the earth. Hence, almost all observers have arrived at the same conclusions; we will in particular cite MM. Lottin and Bravais, who have observed more than a hundred and forty aurorae boreales. It is therefore now clearly proved that the aurora borealis is not an extra-atmospheric phenomenon. To the proofs drawn from the appearance of the phenomenon itself we may add others deduced from certain effects which accompany it, such as the noise of crepitation, which the dwellers nearest to the pole affirm that they have heard when there is the appearance of an aurora, and the sulphurous odor that accompanies it. Finally, if the phenomena took place beyond our planet and its atmosphere, why should they take place at the polar regions only, as they often do?
J. S. Winn, in a letter to Dr. Franklin, dated Spithead, August 12th, 1772, says: "The observation is new, I believe, that the aurora borealis is constantly succeeded by hard southerly or southwest winds, attended with hazy weather and small rain. I think I am warranted from experience in saying constantly, for in twenty-three instances that have occurred since I first made the observation it has invariably obtained; and the knowledge has been of vast service to me, as I have got out of the Channel when other men as alert, and in faster ships, but unapprised of this circumstance, have not only been driven back, but with difficulty escaped shipwreck."
Colonel James Capper, the discoverer of the circular nature of storms, remarks: "As it appears, that, on all such occasions, the current of air comes in a direction diametrically opposite to that where the meteor appears, it seems probable that the aurora borealis is caused by the ascent of a considerable quantity of electric fluid in the superior regions of the atmosphere to the north and northeast, where, consequently, it causes a body of air near the earth to ascend, when another current of air will rush from the the opposite point to fill up the vacuum, and thus may produce the southerly gales which succeed the aurora borealis."
The bark "Northern Light," arrived at Boston from Africa, was at sea on the night of the great exhibition of the aurora borealis, the 28th of August. The vessel was struck by lightning twice, after which the red flames of the aurora burst upon the astonished vision of the crew. Most of them are confident that they smelt a sulphurous odor all night.
M. de Tessan, who, in the voyage of the "Venus" around the world, had the opportunity of seeing a very beautiful aurora australis, (southern aurora,) which he describes with much care, also considers that this phenomenon takes place in the atmosphere. The summit of the aurora being in the magnetic meridian, it was elevated 14 above the horizon, and the centre of the arc was on the prolongation of the dipping needle, the dip being about 68 at the place of the observation. M. de Tessan did not hear the noise arising from the aurora, which he attributes to the circumstance that he was too far distant from the place of the phenomenon; but he reports the observation of a distinguished officer of the French navy, M. Verdier, who, on the night of October 13th, 1819, being in the latitude of Newfoundland, had heard very distinctly a sort of crackling or crepitation, when the vessel he was on board was in the midst of an aurora borealis. This was also observed in many localities during the aurora of August 28th, 1859. A New York paper, alluding to the subject, remarks: "Many imagined that they heard rushing sounds, as if Aeolus had let loose the winds; others were confident that a sweeping, as if of flames, was distinctly audible." Burns, a good observer, if ever there was one, and not likely to be aware of any theories on the subject, alludes in his "Vision" to a noise accompanying the aurora, as if it were of ordinary occurrence:—
"The cauld blue North was flashing forth Her lights wi' hissing eerie din."
It finds confirmation also in the fact, generally admitted by the inhabitants of the northern regions, that, when the auroras appear low, a crackling is heard similar to that of the electric spark. The Greenlanders think that the souls of the dead are then striking against each other in the air. M. Ramm, Inspector of Forests in Norway, wrote to M. Hansteen, in 1825, that he had heard the noise, which always coincided with the appearance of the luminous jets, when, being only ten years old, he was crossing a meadow covered with snow and hoar-frost, near which no forests were in existence. Dr. Gisler, who for a long time dwelt in the North of Sweden, remarks that the matter of the aurorae boreales sometimes descends so low that it touches the ground; at the summit of high mountains it produces upon the faces of travellers an effect analogous to that of the wind. Dr. Gisler adds, that he has frequently heard the noise of the aurora, and that it resembles that of a strong wind, or the hissing that certain chemical substances produce in the act of decomposition.
M. Necker, who has described a great number of aurorae which he observed at the end of 1839 and at the commencement of 1840, in the Isle of Skye, never himself heard the noise in question; but he remarks that this noise had been very frequently heard by persons charged with meteorological observations at the light-house of Swenburgh Head, at the southern extremity of Shetland. M. Necker is not the only observer who has not heard the noise; neither have MM. Lottier and Bravais, who have observed so great a number of aurorae, ever heard it; and a great many others are in this case. This may be due to the fact that it is necessary to be very near to the aurora in order to hear the crepitation in question, and also to the fact that it is possible that it does not always take place, at least in a manner sufficiently powerful to be heard.
We have just been pointing out, as concomitant effects of the aurora borealis, a noise of crepitation analogous to that of distant discharges, and a sulphurous odor similar to that which accompanies the fall of lightning. M. Matteucci also observed at Pisa, during the appearance of a brilliant aurora borealis, decided signs of positive electricity in the air; but of all phenomena, those which invariably take place at the same time as the appearance of the aurora borealis are the magnetic effects. Magnetized needles suffer disturbances in their normal direction which cause them to deviate generally to the west first, afterwards to the east. These disturbances vary in intensify, but they never fail to take place, and are manifested even in places in which the aurora borealis is not visible. This coincidence, proved by M. Arago without any exception, during several years of observation, is such that the learned Frenchman was able, without ever having been mistaken, to detect from the bottom of the cellars of the observatory of Paris the appearance of an aurora borealis. M. Matteucci had the opportunity of observing this magnetic influence under a new and remarkable form. He saw, during the appearance of the aurora borealis of November 17, 1848, the soft iron armatures employed in the electric telegraph between Florence and Pisa remain attached to their electro-magnets, as if the latter were powerfully magnetized, without, however, the apparatus being in action, and without the currents in the battery being set in action. This singular effect ceases with the aurora, and the telegraph, as well as the batteries, could operate anew, without having suffered any alteration. Mr. Highton also observed in England a very decided action of the aurora borealis, November 17, 1848. The magnetized needle was always driven toward the same side, even with much force. But it is in our own country that the action of the aurora upon the telegraph-wires has been the most remarkable.
My attention was first called in 1847 to the probability of the aurora's producing an effect upon the wires; but, although having an excellent opportunity to observe such an effect, I was not fortunate enough to do so until the winter of 1850, and then, owing to the feeble displays of the aurora, only to a limited extent. In September, 1851, however, there was a remarkable aurora, which took complete possession of all the telegraph-lines in New England and prevented any business from being transacted during its continuance. The following winter there was another remarkable display, which occurred on the 19th of February, 1852. It was exceedingly brilliant throughout the northern portion of our continent. I extract the following account of its effects upon the wires from my journal of that date. I should premise, that the system of telegraphing used upon the wires, during the observation of February, 1852, was Bain's chemical. No batteries were kept constantly upon the line, as in the Morse and other magnetic systems. The main wire was connected directly with the chemically prepared paper on the disc, so that any atmospheric currents were recorded upon the disc with the greatest accuracy. Our usual battery current, decomposing the salts in the paper, and uniting with the iron point of the pen wire, left a light blue mark on the white paper, or, if the current were strong, a dark one,—the color of the mark depending upon the quantity of the current upon the wire.
"Thursday, February 19, 1852.
"Towards evening a heavy blue line appeared upon the paper, which gradually increased in size for the space of half a minute, when a flame of fire succeeded to the blue line, of sufficient intensity to burn through a dozen thicknesses of the moistened paper. The current then subsided as gradually as it, had come on, until it entirely ceased, and was then succeeded by a negative current (which bleaches, instead of coloring, the paper). This gradually increased, in the same manner as the positive current, until it also, in turn, produced its flame of fire, and burned through many thicknesses of the prepared paper; it then subsided, again to be followed by the positive current. This state of things continued during the entire evening, and effectually prevented any business being done over the wires."
* * * * *
Never, however, since the establishment of the telegraphic system in this country, have the wires been so greatly affected by the aurora as upon Sunday night, the 28th of August, 1859. Throughout the entire northern portion of the United States and Canada, the lines were rendered useless for all business purposes through its action. So strongly was the atmosphere charged with the electric fluid, that lines or circuits of only twelve miles in length were so seriously affected by it as to render operation difficult, and, at times, impossible.
The effects of this magnetic storm were apparent upon the wires during a considerable portion of Saturday evening, and during the whole of the next day. At 6, P.M., the line between Boston and New Bedford (sixty miles in length) could be worked only at intervals, although, of course, no signs of the aurora were apparent to the eye at that hour. The same was true of the wires running eastward through the State of Maine, as well as those to the north.
The wire between Boston and Fall River had no battery upon it Sunday, and yet there was an artificial current upon it, which increased and decreased in intensity, producing upon the electromagnets in the offices the same effect as would be produced by constantly opening and closing the circuit at intervals of half a minute. This current, which came from the aurora, was strong enough to have worked the line, although not sufficiently steady for regular use.
The current from the aurora borealis comes in waves,—light at first, then stronger, until we have, frequently, a strength of current equal to that produced by a battery of two hundred Grove cups. The waves occupy about fifteen seconds each, ordinarily, but I have known them to last a full minute; though this is rare. As soon as one wave passes, another, of the reverse polarity, always succeeds. I have never known this to fail, and it may be set down as an invariable rule. When the poles of the aurora are in unison with the poles of the current upon the line, its effect is to increase the current; but when they are opposed, the current from the battery is neutralized,—null. These effects were observed at times during Saturday, Saturday evening, and Sunday, but were very marked during Sunday evening.
It is hardly necessary to add here, that the effect of the aurora borealis, or magnetic storm, is totally unlike that of common or free electricity, with which the atmosphere is charged during a thunderstorm. The electricity evolved during a thunder-storm, as soon as it reaches a conductor, explodes with a spark, and becomes at once dissipated. The other, on the contrary, is of very low tension, remains upon the wires sometimes half a minute, produces magnetism, decomposes chemicals, deflects the needle, and is capable of being used for telegraphic purposes, although, of course, imperfectly.
Mr. 0.S. Wood, Superintendent of the Canadian telegraph-lines, says:—"I never, in my experience of fifteen years in the working of telegraph-lines, witnessed anything like the extraordinary effect of the aurora borealis, between Quebec and Father Point, last night. The line was in most perfect order, and well-skilled operators worked incessantly from eight o'clock last evening till one o'clock this morning, to get over, in even a tolerably intelligible form, about four hundred words of the steamer "Indian's" report for the press; but at the latter hour, so completely were the wires under the influence of the aurora borealis, that it was found utterly impossible to communicate between the telegraph-stations, and the line was closed for the night."
We have seen from the foregoing examples that the aurora borealis produces remarkable effects upon the telegraph-lines during its entire manifestation. We have, however, to record yet more wonderful effects of the aurora upon the wires, namely, the use of the auroral current for transmitting and receiving telegraphic dispatches. This almost incredible feat was accomplished in the forenoon of September 2, between the hours of half past eight and eleven o'clock, on the wires of the American Telegraph Company between Boston and Portland, and upon the wires of the Old Colony and Fall River Railroad Company between South Braintree and Fall River.