Before Mrs. Lewis returned, Amy was one day at my room and asked me when I expected her back.
"Is Mr. Lewis with her, Ma'am?" said she, hesitatingly.
"Of course; at least, I suppose so. Why, what makes you ask?" said I, with surprise at her downcast eyes and flushed face.
"I heard he had gone away. And that—that Mr. Remington was there with her. But you know about it, most likely."
"No, I know nothing about it, Amy."
"It was their old cook told me, Mrs. Butler. And she said,—oh! all sorts of things, that I am sure couldn't be true, for Mrs. Lewis is such a kind, beautiful woman! I couldn't believe a word she said!"
In my quality of minister's wife, and with a general distrust of cooks' opinions, I told Amy that there was always scandal enough, and it was a waste of time to listen to it. But after she left me, I confess to a whole hour wasted in speculations and anxious reflections on Amy's communication, and also to having taken the Dominie away from his sermon for a like space of time to consider the matter fully.
I was relieved when the whole party came back, and when the blooming, happy face of Lulu showed that she, at least, had neither thought nor done anything very bad.
The summer was becoming warm and oppressive in Boston, and we prepared to take the children and go to Weston for a few weeks. While we should be among the mountains, the Lewises proposed a voyage to Scotland, and we hoped that sometime in the early autumn we should all be together once more. The evening before our departure Mr. Remington and Lulu spent with us, Mr. Lewis coming in at a later hour. I remember vividly the conversation during the whole of that last evening we ever passed together.
While Mrs. Lewis and I were chatting in one corner on interests specially feminine, the Dominie had got Mr. Remington into a metaphysical discussion of some length. From time to time we heard, "Pascal's idea seems to be," and then, "The notion of Descartes and all that school of thinkers"; and feeling that they were plunging quite beyond our depth, we continued babbling of dry goods, and what was becoming, till Mr. Remington leaned back laughing to us, and said,—
"What do you think, ladies? or are you of the opinion of somebody who said of metaphysics, 'Whoever troubles himself to skin a flint should have the skin for his pains'?"
"But that is a most unfair comparison!" said the minister, eagerly, "and what I will by no means allow. By so much more as the mind is better than the body, nay, because the mind is all that is worth anything about a man, metaphysics is the noblest science, and most worthy"—
"I give in! I am down!" said Remington.
"But what are you disputing about?" said I.
"Oh, only Infinity!" said Remington. "But then you know metaphysics does not hesitate at anything. I say, it is impossible for the mind to go back to a first cause, and if the mind of a man cannot conceive an idea, why of course that idea can never be true to him. I can think of no cause that may not be an effect."
"Nor of infinite space, nor of infinite time?" said the minister.
"No,—of nothing that cannot be divided, and nothing that cannot be extended."
"Very good. Perhaps you can't. I suppose we cannot comprehend infinity, because we are essentially finite ourselves. But it by no means follows that we cannot apprehend and believe in attributes which we are unable to comprehend. We can certainly do that."
"No. After you reach your limit of comprehension, you may say, all beyond that is infinite,—but you only push the object of your thought out of view. After you have reiterated the years till you are tired, you say, beyond that is infinite. You only mean that you are tired of computing and adding."
"Then you cannot believe in an Infinite Creator?" said the minister.
"I can believe in nothing that is not founded on reason. I should be very glad to believe in an Infinite Creator, only it is entirely impossible, you see, for the mind to conceive of a being who is not himself created."
"Yet you can believe in a world that is not created?" said the minister. "You can believe that a world full of adaptations, full of signs of intelligence and design, could be uncreated. How do you make that out?"
"There remains no greater difficulty to me," said Remington, "in believing in an uncreated world than you have in believing in an uncreated God. Why is it stranger that Chaos should produce harmony than that Nothing should produce God?"
He looked at us, smiling as he said this, which he evidently considered unanswerable.
"You are quite right," said my husband, gravely. "It is impossible that nothing should produce God, and therefore I say God is eternal. It is not impossible that something should produce the world, and therefore I believe the world is not eternal. That point is the one on which the whole argument hangs in my mind."
"It does not become me to dispute a clergyman," said Mr. Remington, smiling affectedly, as if only courtesy prevented his coming in with an entirely demolishing argument.
To my great surprise Lulu instantly answered, and with an intelligence that showed she had followed the argument entirely,—
"I am certain, George, that Mr. Prince has altogether the best of it. Yours is merely a technical difficulty,—merely words. You can conceive a thousand things which you can never fully comprehend. And this, too, is a proof of the Infinite Father in our very reasoning,—that, if we could comprehend Him, we should be ourselves infinite. As it is, we can believe and adore,—and, more than that, rejoice that we cannot in this finite life of ours do more."
"If we believed we could comprehend Him," said I, "we should soon begin to meddle with God's administration of affairs."
"Yes,—and in fatalism I have always thought there was a profound reverence," said Lulu.
"Oh, are you going into theological mysteries, too?" said Remington, with a laugh in which none of us joined; "what care you, Lulu, for the quiddities of Absolute Illimitation and Infinite Illimitation? After all, what matters it whether one believes in a God, who you allow to be the personation of all excellence, if only one endeavors to act up to the highest conceivable standard of perfection,—I mean of human perfection,—leaving, of course, a liberal margin for human frailties and defects? One wouldn't like to leave out mercy, you know."
Whatever might be the real sentiments of the man, there was an air of levity in his mode of treating the most important subjects of thought which displeased me, especially when he said, "You adore the Incomprehensible; I am contented to adore, with silent reverence, the lovely works of His hand." He pointed his remark without hesitation at LuLu, who sat looking into the fire, and did not notice him or it.
"You are quite right, Mr. Prince, and my cousin, is quite wrong," said she, looking up with a docile, childlike expression, at the minister. "One feels that all through, though one may not be able to reason or argue about it."
"And the best evidence of all truth, my dear," answered the delighted Dominie, "is that intuition which is before all reasoning, and by which we must try reasoning itself. The moral is before the intellectual; and that is why we preachers continually insist on faith as an illuminator of the reason."
"You mean that we should cultivate faith," I said.
"Yes: not the faith that is blind, but the faith that sees, that is positive; that which leads, not that which follows; the faith that weighs argument and decides on it; in short, the native intuitions which are a necessary part of the mind."
"I see, and I shall remember," said Lulu. "I shall never forget all you say, Mr. Prince."
It was this sweet frankness, and the clearness with which her lately developed intellect acted, that made us begin to respect Lulu as well as to love her. She seemed to be getting right-minded at last.
When Mr. Lewis came, the conversation turned on other subjects; but it was quite late at night before we were willing to part with our friends. The shadow of misgiving which hangs over even short separations was deeper than usual with me from the thought of the voyage. Lulu had been so many times across the sea that she had no fear of it; and she went up-stairs with me to say last words and give last commissions with her usual cheerfulness. Notwithstanding the relief which I had felt during the evening from her expressions of a moral and religious kind, I yet had a brooding fear of the effect of association with a mind so lively and so full of error as Remington's. What help or what sustaining power for her there might be in her husband I could not tell; but be it more or less, I feared she would not avail herself of it. Indeed, I feared that she was daily becoming more alienated from him, as she pursued onward and upward the bright mental track on which she had entered. And it was seeing that she had not yet begun to con the alphabet of true knowledge, that disturbed me most. If I could have seen her thoughtful for others, humble in her endeavor after duty, I should have hailed, rejoicingly, her intellectual illumination. As it was, I could not help saying to her, anxiously, before we went downstairs,—
"I don't like Mr. Remington's notions at all, my dear!—I don't mean merely his theological notions, but his ideas of life and duty seem to me wrong and poor. You will forgive me, if I say, you cannot be too careful how you allow his views to act on your own sense of right and wrong."
"What!—George? Oh, dear friend, it is only his nonsense! He will take any side for the time, only to hear himself talk. But he is the best fellow that ever breathed. Oh, if you only knew his excellence as well as I do!"
"My dear Lulu!" I expostulated, greatly pained to see her glowing face and the almost tearful sparkle of her eyes, as she defended her cousin, "your husband is a great deal the best guide for you,—in action, and I presume in opinion. At all events, you are safest under the shadow of his wing. There is the truest peace for a wife."
Whether she guessed what was in my mind I don't know; I did not try much to conceal it. But she shook her curls away from her face as if irritated, and answered in a tone from which all the animation had been quenched,—
"No. I have been a child. I am one no longer. Don't ask me to go back. I am a living, feeling, understanding woman! George himself allows it is perfectly shocking to be treated as I am,—a mere toy! a plaything!"
George again! I could scarcely restrain my impatience. Yet how to make her understand?
"Don't you see, Lulu, that George ought never to have dared to name the subject of your and your husband's differences? and do you not see that you can never discuss the subject with anybody with propriety? If, unhappily, all is not as you, as we, wish it, let us hope for the effect of time and right feeling in both; but don't, don't allow any gentleman to talk to you of your husband's treatment of you!"
Lulu listened in quiet wonderment, while, with agitated voice and trembling mouth, I addressed her as I had never before done. I had constantly avoided speaking to her on the subject. She looked at me now with clear, innocent eyes, (I am so glad to remember them!) and placed her two hands affectionately on my shoulders.
"I know what you mean,—and what you fear. That I shall say something, or do something undignified, or possibly wrong. But that, with God's help, I shall never do. Such happiness as I can procure, aside from my husband, and which I had a right to expect through him,—such enjoyment as comes from intellectual improvement and the exercise of my faculties, this is surely innocent pleasure, this I shall have. And George,—you must not blame him for being indignant, when he sees me treated so unworthily,—or for calling Lewis a Pacha, as he always does. You must think, my dear, that it isn't pleasant to be treated only like a Circassian slave, and that one may have something better to do in life than to twirl jewelled armlets, or to light my lord's chibouk!"
She looked all radiant with scorn, as she said this,—her eyes flashing, and her very forehead crimson. I could see she was remembering long months and years in that moment of indignant anger. Seeing them with her eyes, I could not say she was unjust, or that her estrangement was unnatural.
"Now, then, good friend, good bye! Don't look anxious. Don't fear for me. I am not happy, but I shall know how to keep myself from misery. You and your excellent husband have done more for me than you know or think; and I shall try to keep right."
She left me with this, and we parted from both with a lingering sweet friendliness that dwells still in our memories.
"It would be horrible to be on these terms, if she loved him," said the minister, that night, after I had told him of our parting interview.
"Well, she don't, you see. Did she ever?"
"With such mind and heart as she had, I suppose. On the other hand, what did he marry?"
"Grace and beauty—and promise. Of course, like every man in love, he took everything good for granted."
"The sweetest flower in my garden," said the minister, "should perfume no stranger's vase, however, nor dangle at a knave's button-hole."
"Because you would watch it and care for it, water and train it, and make it doubly your own. But if you did neither?"
"I should deserve my fate," said he, sorrowfully.
The first letter we received from Mrs. Lewis was from the North of Scotland, where the party of three, increased to one much larger, were making the tour of the Hebrides. I cannot say much for either the penmanship or the orthography of the letter, which was incorrect as usual; but the abundant beauty of her descriptions, and the fine sense she seemed to have of lofty and wild scenery, made her journey a living picture. All her keen sense of external life was brought into activity, and she projected on the paper before her groups of people, or groups of mountains, with a vividness that showed she had only to transfer them from the retina: they had no need of any additional processes. She made no remarks on society, or inferences from what she saw in the present to what had been in the past or might be in the future. It was simply a power of representation, unequalled in its way, and yet more remarkable to us for what it failed of doing than for what it did.
We could not but perceive two things. One, that she never spoke of home-ties, or children, or husband: not an allusion to either. The other, that every hill and every vale, the mounting mist and the resting shadow, all that gave life and beauty to her every-day pursuits, which seemed, indeed, all pictorial,—all these were informed and permeated, as it were, with one influence,—that of Remington. An uncomfortable sense of this made me say, as I finished the letter,—
"I am sorry for the poor bird!"
"So am I," answered the minister, with a clouded brow; "and the more, as I think I see the bird is limed."
"How?" I said, with a sort of horrified retreat from the expressed thought, though the thought itself haunted me.
My husband seemed thinking the matter over, as if to clear it in his own mind before he spoke again.
"I suppose there is a moral disease, which, through its connection with a newly awakened and brilliant intellect, does not enervate the whole character. I mean that this connection of moral weakness with the intellect gives a fatal strength to the character,—do you take me?"
"Yes, I think so," said I.
"She is lofty, self-poised,—confident in what never yet supported any one. Pride of character does not keep us from falling. Humility would help us in that way. Unfortunately, that, too, is often bought dearly. I mean that this virtue of humbleness, which makes us tender of others and afraid for ourselves, is at the expense of sorrowful and humiliating experience."
"You speak as if you feared more for her than I do," said I, struck by the foreboding look in his face.
"You women judge only by your own hearts, or by solitary instances; and you forget the inevitable downward course of wrong tendencies. Besides, she has neither lofty principle nor a strong will. You will think I mistake here; but I don't mean she has not wilfulness enough. A strong will generally excludes wilfulness,—and the converse."
This conversation made me nervous.
I had such an intense anxiety for her now, that I could not avoid expressing it often and strongly in my letters to her. I wondered Lewis was not more open-eyed. I blamed him for letting her run on so heedlessly into habits which might compromise her reputation for dignity and discretion, if no worse. Then I would recall her manner the last evening she was with us, when, although her want of self-regulation was very apparent, not less so was the native nobleness and purity of her soul. I could not think of this "unsphered angel wofully astray" without inward tears that dimmed the vision of my foreboding heart.
Could Lewis mistake her indifference? Could he avoid suffering from it? Could he, for a moment, accept her conventional expletives in place of the irrepressible and endearing tokens of a real love? Could he see what had weaned her from him, and was still, like a baleful star, wiling her farther and farther on its treacherously lighted path? Could he see,—feel?—had he a heart? These questions I incessantly asked myself.
In the last days of summer we went with the children to Nantasket Beach.
We had walked to a point of rocks at some distance from the bay, above which we lodged, and were sitting in the luxury of quiet companionship, gazing out on the water.
The ineffable, still beauty of Nature, separated from the usual noises of actual life,—the brilliant effect of the long reaches of color from the plunging sun, as it dipped, and reappeared, and dipped again, as loath to leave its field of beauty,—then the still plash against the rocks, and the subsidence in murmurs of the retiring wave, with all its gathered treasure of pebbles and shells,—all these sounds and sights of reposeful life suggested unspeakable thoughts and memories that clung to silence. We had not been without so much sorrow in life as does not well afford to dwell on its own images; and we rose to retrace our steps to the measure of the eternal and significant psalm of the sea.
As we turned away, we both perceived at once a sail in the distance, against the western sky. It had just rounded the nearest point and was coming slowly in with a gentle breeze, when it suddenly tacked and put out to sea again. It had come so near, however, that with our glass we saw that it was a small boat, holding two persons, and with a single sail.
Immediately after, a dead calm succeeded the light wind which had before rippled the distant waves, and we watched the boat, lying as if asleep and floating lazily on the red water against the blazing sky,—or rather, itself like a cradle, so pavilioned was it with gorgeous cloud-curtains, and fit home for the two water-sprites lying in the slant sunbeams.
Walking slowly borne, we felt the air to be full of oppressive languor, and turned now and then to see if the distant sail were yet lightened by the coming breeze. When we reached the inner bay, we mounted a rock, from which, with the lessened interval between us, I could distinctly see the boat. One of the occupants—a lady—wore a dark hat with a scarlet plume drooping from it. She leaned over the gunwale, dipping her hands in the blazing water and holding them up against the light, as if playing rainbows in the sunset. The other figure was busy in fastening up the sail, ready to catch the first breath of wind.
As we stood looking, the water, which during the last few minutes had changed from flaming red to the many-colored hues of a dolphin's back, suddenly turned slate-colored, almost black. Then a low scud crept stealthily and quickly along the surface, bringing with it a steady breeze, for perhaps five minutes. We watched the little boat, as it yielded gracefully to the welcome impetus, and swept rapidly to the shore. Fearing, however, from the sudden change of weather, that it would soon rain, we cast a parting look at the boat, and started on a rapid walk to the house.
This last glimpse of the boat showed us a tall figure standing upright against the mast, and fastening or holding something to it, while the lady still played with the water, bending her head so low that the red plume in her hat almost touched it. She seemed in a pleasant reverie, and rocked softly with the rocking waves. It was a peaceful picture,—the sail set, and full of heaven's breath, as it seemed.
Before we could grasp anything,—even if there had been anything to grasp on the level sand,—we were both taken at once off our feet and thrown violently to the ground. I had felt the force of water before, but never that of wind, and had no idea of the utter helplessness of man or woman before a wind that is really in earnest. It was with a very novel sense of more than childish incapacity that I suffered the Dominie to gather up capes, canes, hats, and shawls, and, last of all, an astonished woman, and put them on their way homewards. However, long before we reached the house-door we were drenched to the skin. The rain poured in blinding sheets, and the thunder was like a hundred cannon about our ears. It was so sudden and so frightful to me that I had but one idea, that of getting into the piazza, where was comparative safety. Having reached it, we turned to face the elements. Nothing could be seen through the thick deluge. The ocean itself, tossing and tumbling in angry darkness, seemed fighting with the other ocean that poured from the black wall above, and all was one tumult of thunderous fury. This elemental war lasted but a short time, and gave place to a quiet as sudden as its angry burst. It was my first experience of a squall. It is always difficult for me to feel that a storm is a natural occurrence,—so that I have a great reverence for a Dominie who stands with head uncovered, with calm eyes, looking tranquilly out on the loudest tempest.
"Beautiful! wonderful!" he murmured, as the lightning fiercely shot over us, and the roar died away in long billows of heavy sound.
Afterwards he told me he had the same unbounded delight in a great storm as he had at the foot of Niagara, or in looking at the stars on a winter night: that it stirred in his soul all that was loftiest,—that for the time he could comprehend Deity, and that "the noise of the thundering of His waters" was an anthem that struck the highest chords of his nature. What is really sublime takes us out of ourselves, so that we have no room for personal terror, and we mingle with the elemental roar in spirit as with something kindred to us. I guessed this, and meditated on it, while I stopped my ears and shut my eyes and trembled with overwhelming terror myself. Clearly, I am a coward, in spite of my admiration of the sublime. The Dominie, being as good as he is great, does not require a woman to be sublime, luckily; and I think, as I like him all the better for his strength, he really does not object to a moderate amount of weakness on my part, which is unaffected and not to be helped. When animal magnetism becomes a science, it will be seen why some spirits revel and soar, and some cower and shrink, at the same amount of electricity. So the Dominie says now; and then—he said nothing.
In the fright, excitement, and thorough wetting, I forgot about the boat,—or rather, no misgiving seized me as to its safety. But, on coming to breakfast the next morning, we felt that there was a great commotion in the house. Everybody was out on the piazza, and a crowd was gathered a short distance off. Somebody had taken off the doors from the south entrance, and there was a sort of procession already formed on each side of these two doors. We went out in front of the house to listen to a rough fisherman who described the storm in which the little boat capsized. He had stood on the shore and just finished fastening his own boat, for he well knew the signs of the storm, when he caught sight of the little sail scudding with lightning-speed to the landing. Suddenly it stopped short, shook all over as if in an ague, and capsized in an instant. The storm broke, and although he tried to discern some traces of the boat or its occupants, nothing could be seen but the white foam on the black water, glistening like a shark's teeth when he has seized his prey. In the early morning he had found two bodies on the sand. The water, he said, must have tossed them with considerable force,—yet not against the rocks at all, for they were not disfigured, nor their clothing much torn. As the man ceased relating the story, the bodies were brought past us, covered by a piano-cloth which somebody had considerately snatched up and taken to the shore. They were placed in the long parlor on a table.
My husband beckoned to me to come to him. Turning down the cloth, he showed me the faces I dreamily expected to see. I don't know when I thought of it, but suppose I recognized the air and movement so familiar, even in the distant dimness. No matter how clearly and fully death is expected, when it comes it is with a death-shock,—how much more, coming as this did, as if with a bolt from the clear sky!
In their prime,—in their beauty,—in their pride of youth,—in their pleasure, they died. What was the strong man or the smiling woman,—what was the smooth sea, the shining sail,—what was strength, skill, loveliness, against the great and terrible wind of the Lord?
So here they lay, white and quiet as sculptured stone, and as placid as if they had only fallen asleep in the midst of the tempestuous uproar. All the clamor and talking about the house had subsided in the real presence of death; and every one went lightly and softly around, as if afraid of wakening the sleepers.
She had never looked so beautiful, even in her utmost pride of health and bloom. Her dark luxuriant hair lay in masses over brow and bosom, and her face expressed the unspeakable calm and perfect peace which are suggested only by the sleep of childhood. The long eyelashes seemed to say, in their close adherence to the cheek, how gladly they shut out the tumult of life; and the whole cast of the face was so elevated by death as to look rather angelic than mortal.
His face was quiet, too,—the manliness and massive character of the features giving a majestic and severe cast to the whole countenance, far more elevated than it had while living.
We could only weep over these relics. But where was the deepest mourner? No one had even seen these two before, or could give any account of them.
On making stricter inquiry and looking at the books, we found that Mr. and Mrs. Lewis had arrived first. Mr. Lewis had taken his gun and a boat, and gone out at once to shoot. The lady had been in her room but a short time, when another gentleman arrived, wrote his name, and ordered a boat. She had scarcely seen any one, but the boatman saw her step into the boat, and described her dress.
A message was at once sent to "the Glades," where Mr. Lewis had gone, and where he was detained, as we had supposed, by the storm. Before he reached the house, however, all necessary arrangements were completed for removing any associations of suffering. No confusion remained; the room was gently darkened, and the bodies, robed in white, lay in such peaceful silence as soothes and quiets the mourner.
As the carriage drew up to the door, we both hastened to meet Mr. Lewis, to take him by the hand, and to lead him, by our evident sympathy, to accept his terrible affliction with something like composure. In our entire uncertainty as to his feelings, we could only weep silently, and hold his hands, which were as cold as death.
He looked surprised a little at seeing us, but otherwise his face was like stone. His eyes,—they, too, looked stony, and as if all the expression and life were turned inward. Outwardly, there seemed hardly consciousness. He sat down between us, while we related all the particulars of the accident, which he seemed greedy to hear,—turning, as one ceased, to the other, with an eager, hungry look, most painful to witness. He made us describe, repeatedly, our last glimpse of the unconscious victims, and then, pressing our hands with a vice-cold grip, said, in a dry whisper,—
"Where are they?"
We led him to the door. He went in, and we softly closed it after him. As we went up-stairs to our own room we heard deep groans of anguish. We knew that his heart could not relieve itself by tears. My husband read the "prayer for persons in great affliction," and then we sat silently looking out on the peaceful sea. In the great stillness of the house, we heard the calm wave plash up on the smiling sands, and watched the silver specks in the distance as they hovered over the blue sea. So soft, so still, it had been the day before,—and where we now saw the placid wave we had seen it then. Yet there had two lives gone out, as suddenly as one quenches a lamp.
Thinking, but not speaking, we waited. The report of a pistol in the house struck us to the heart. I believe we felt sure, both of us, of what it must be. He had loved her so much! And now we were sure, that in the tension of his grief, reason had given way. When we saw them next, there were three where two had been, in the marble calm of death.
* * * * *
THE FORMATION OF GLACIERS.
The long summer was over. For ages a tropical climate had prevailed over a great part of the earth, and animals whose home is now beneath the Equator roamed over the world from the far South to the very borders of the Arctics. The gigantic quadrupeds, the Mastodons, Elephants, Tigers, Lions, Hyenas, Bears, whose remains are found in Europe from its southern promontories to the northernmost limits of Siberia and Scandinavia, and in America from the Southern States to Greenland and the Melville Islands, may indeed be said to have possessed the earth in those days. But their reign was over. A sudden intense winter, that was also to last for ages, fell upon our globe; it spread over the very countries where these tropical animals had their homes, and so suddenly did it come upon them that they were embalmed beneath masses of snow and ice, without time even for the decay which follows death. The Elephant whose story was told at length in the preceding article was by no means a solitary specimen; upon further investigation it was found that the disinterment of these large tropical animals in Northern Russia and Asia was no unusual occurrence. Indeed, their frequent discoveries of this kind had given rise among the ignorant inhabitants to the singular superstition already alluded to, that gigantic moles lived under the earth, which crumbled away and turned to dust as soon as they came to the upper air. This tradition, no doubt, arose from the fact, that, when in digging they came upon the bodies of these animals, they often found them perfectly preserved under the frozen ground, but the moment they were exposed to heat and light they decayed and fell to pieces at once. Admiral Wrangel, whose Arctic explorations have been so valuable to science, tells us that the remains of these animals are heaped up in such quantities in certain parts of Siberia that he and his men climbed over ridges and mounds consisting entirely of the bones of Elephants, Rhinoceroses, etc. From these facts it would seem that they roamed over all these northern regions in troops as large and numerous as the Buffalo herds that wander over our Western prairies now. We are indebted to Russian naturalists, and especially to Rathke, for the most minute investigations of these remains, in which even the texture of the hair, the skin, and flesh has been subjected by him to microscopic examination as accurate as if made upon any living animal.
We have as yet no clue to the source of this great and sudden change of climate. Various suggestions have been made,—among others, that formerly the inclination of the earth's axis was greater, or that a submersion of the continents under water might have produced a decided increase of cold; but none of these explanations are satisfactory, and science has yet to find any cause which accounts for all the phenomena connected with it. It seems, however, unquestionable that since the opening of the Tertiary age a cosmic summer and winter have succeeded each other, during which a Tropical heat and an Arctic cold have alternately prevailed over a great portion of the globe. In the so-called drift (a superficial deposit subsequent to the Tertiaries, of the origin of which I shall speak presently) there are found far to the south of their present abode the remains of animals whose home now is in the Arctics or the coldest parts of the Temperate Zones. Among them are the Musk-Ox, the Reindeer, the Walrus, the Seal, and many kinds of Shells characteristic of the Arctic regions. The northernmost part of Norway and Sweden is at this day the southern limit of the Reindeer in Europe; but their fossil remains are found in large quantities in the drift about the neighborhood of Paris, where their presence would, of course, indicate a climate similar to the one now prevailing in Northern Scandinavia. Side by side with the remains of the Reindeer are found those of the European Marmot, whose present home is in the mountains, about six thousand feet above the level of the sea. The occurrence of these animals in the superficial deposits of the plains of Central Europe, one of which is now confined to the high North, and the other to mountain-heights, certainly indicates an entire change of climatic conditions since the time of their existence. European Shells now confined to the Northern Ocean are found as fossils in Italy,—showing, that, while the present Arctic climate prevailed in the Temperate Zone, that of the Temperate Zone extended much farther south to the regions we now call sub-tropical. In America there is abundant evidence of the same kind; throughout the recent marine deposits of the Temperate Zone, covering the low lands above tide-water on this continent, are found fossil Shells whose present home is on the shores of Greenland. It is not only in the Northern hemisphere that these remains occur, but in Africa and in South America, wherever there has been an opportunity for investigation, the drift is found to contain the traces of animals whose presence indicates a climate many degree colder than that now prevailing there.
But these organic remains are not the only evidence of the geological winter. There are a number of phenomena indicating that during this period two vast caps of ice stretched from the Northern pole southward and from the Southern pole northward, extending in each case far toward the Equator,—and that ice-fields, such as now spread over the Arctics, covered a great part of the Temperate Zones, while the line of perpetual ice and snow in the tropical mountain-ranges descended far below its present limits. As the explanation of these facts has been drawn from the study of glacial action, I shall devote this and subsequent articles to some account of glaciers and of the phenomena connected with them.
The first essential condition for the formation of glaciers in mountain-ranges is the shape of their valleys. Glaciers are by no means in proportion to the height and extent of mountains. There are many mountain-chains as high or higher than the Alps, which can boast of but few and small glaciers, if, indeed, they have any. In the Andes, the Rocky Mountains, the Pyrenees, the Caucasus, the few glaciers remaining from the great ice-period are insignificant in size. The volcanic, cone-like shape of the Andes gives, indeed, but little chance for the formation of glaciers, though their summits are capped with snow. The glaciers of the Rocky Mountains have been little explored, but it is known that they are by no means extensive. In the Pyrenees there is but one great glacier, though the height of these mountains is such, that, were the shape of their valleys favorable to the accumulation of snow, they might present beautiful glaciers. In the Tyrol, on the contrary, as well as in Norway and Sweden, we find glaciers almost as fine as those of Switzerland, in mountain-ranges much lower than either of the above-named chains. But they are of diversified forms, and have valleys widening upward on the slope of long crests. The glaciers on the Caucasus are very small in proportion to the height of the range; but on the northern side of the Himalaya there are large and beautiful ones, while the southern slope is almost destitute of them. Spitzbergen and Greenland are famous for their extensive glaciers, coming down to the sea-shore, where huge masses of ice, many hundred feet in thickness, break off and float away into the ocean as icebergs. At the Aletsch in Switzerland, where a little lake lies in a deep cup between the mountains, with the glacier coming down to its brink, we have these Arctic phenomena on a small scale; a miniature iceberg may often be seen to break off from the edge of the larger mass, and float out upon the surface of the water. Icebergs were first traced back to their true origin by the nature of the land-ice of which they are always composed, and which is quite distinct in structure and consistency from the marine ice produced by frozen sea-water, and called "ice-flow" by the Arctic explorers, as well as from the pond or river ice, resulting from the simple congelation of fresh water.
Water is changed to ice at a certain temperature under the same law of crystallization by which any inorganic bodies in a fluid state may assume a solid condition, taking the shape of perfectly regular crystals, which combine at certain angles with mathematical precision. The frost does not form a solid, continuous sheet of ice over an expanse of water, but produces crystals, little ice-blades, as it were, which shoot into each other at angles of thirty or sixty degrees, forming the closest net-work. Of course, under the process of alternate freezing and thawing, these crystals lose their regularity, and soon become merged in each other. But even then a mass of ice is not continuous or compact throughout, for it is rendered completely porous by air-bubbles, the presence of which is easily explained. Ice being in a measure transparent to heat, the water below any frozen surface is nearly as susceptible to the elevation of the temperature without as if it were in immediate contact with it. Such changes of temperature produce air-bubbles, which float upward against the lower surface of the ice and are stranded there. At night there may come a severe frost; new ice is then formed below the air-bubbles, and they are thus caught and imprisoned, a layer of air-bubbles between two layers of ice, and this process may be continued until we have a succession of such parallel layers, forming a body of ice more or less permeated with air. These air-bubbles have the power also of extending their own area, and thus rendering the whole mass still more porous; for, since the ice offers little or no obstacle to the passage of heat, such an air-bubble may easily become heated during the day; the moment it reaches a temperature above thirty-two degrees, it melts the ice around it, thus clearing a little space for itself, and rises through the water produced by the action of its own warmth. The spaces so formed are so many vertical tubes in the ice, filled with water, and having an air-bubble at the upper extremity.
Ice of this kind, resulting from the direct congelation of water, is easily recognized under all circumstances by its regular stratification, the alternate beds varying in thickness according to the intensity of the cold, and its continuance below the freezing-point during a longer or shorter period. Singly, these layers consist of irregular crystals confusedly blended together, as in large masses of crystalline rocks in which a crystalline structure prevails, though regular crystals occur but rarely. The appearance of stratification is the result of the circumstances under which the water congeals. The temperature varies much more rapidly in the atmosphere around the earth than in the waters upon its surface. When the atmosphere above any sheet of water sinks below the freezing-point, there stretches over its surface a stratum of cold air, determining by its intensity and duration the formation of the first stratum of ice. According to the alternations of temperature, this process goes on with varying activity until the sheet of ice is so thick that it becomes itself a shelter to the water below, and protects it, to a certain degree, from the cold without. Thus a given thickness of ice may cause a suspension of the freezing process, and the first ice-stratum may even be partially thawed before the cold is renewed with such intensity as to continue the thickening of the ice-sheet by the addition of fresh layers. The strata or beds of ice increase gradually in this manner, their separation being rendered still more distinct by the accumulation of air-bubbles, which, during a hot and clear day, may rise from a muddy bottom in great numbers. In consequence of these occasional collections of air-bubbles, the layers differ, not only in density and closeness, but also in color, the more compact strata being blue and transparent, while those containing a greater quantity of air-bubbles are opaque and whitish, like water beaten to froth.
A cake of pond-ice, such as is daily left in summer at our doors, if held against the light and turned in different directions, will exhibit all these phenomena very distinctly, and we may learn still more of its structure by watching its gradual melting. The process of decomposition is as different in fresh-water ice and in land-or glacier-ice and that of their formation. Pond-ice, in contact with warm air, melts uniformly over its whole surface, the mass being thus gradually reduces from the exterior till it vanishes completely. If the process be slow, the temperature of the air-bubbles contained in it may be so raised as to form the vertical funnels or tubes alluded to above. By the anastomosing of these funnels, the whole mass may be reduced to a collection of angular pyramids, more or less closely united by cross-beams of ice, and it finally falls to pieces when the spaces in the interior have become for numerous as to render it completely cavernous. Such a breaking-up of ice is always caused by the enlargement of the open spaces produces by the elevated temperature of the air-bubbles, these spaces being necessarily more or less parallel with one another, and vertical in their position, owing to the natural tendency of the air-bubbles to work their way upward till they reach the surface, where they escape. A sheet of ice, of this kind, floating upon water, dissolves in the same manner, melting wholly from the surface, if the process be sufficiently rapid, or falling to pieces, if the air-bubbles are gradually raised in their temperature sufficiently to render the whole mass cavernous and incoherent. If we now compare these facts with what is known of the structure of land-ice, we shall see that the mode of formation in the two cases differs essentially.
Land-ice, of which both the ice-fields of the Arctics and glaciers consist, is produced by the slow and gradual transformation of snow into ice; and though the ice thus formed may eventually be as clear and transparent as the purest pond- or river-ice, its structure is nevertheless entirely distinct. We may trace these different processes during any moderately cold winter in the ponds and snow-meadows immediately about us. We need not join an Arctic exploring expedition, nor even undertake a more tempting trip to the Alps, in order to investigate these phenomena for ourselves, if we have any curiosity to do so. The first warm day after a thick fall of light, dry snow, such as occurs in the coldest of our winter weather, is sufficient to melt its surface. As this snow is porous, the water readily penetrates it, having also a tendency to sink by its own weight, so that the whole mass becomes more or less filled with moisture in the course of the day. Daring the lower temperature of the night, however, the water is frozen again, and the snow is now filled with new ice-particles. Let this process be continued long enough, and the mass of snow is changed to a kind of ice-gravel, or, if the grains adhere together, to something like what we call pudding-stone, allowing, of course, for the difference of material; the snow, which has been rendered cohesive by the process of partial melting and regelation, holding the ice-globules together, just as the loose materials of the pudding-stone are held together by the cement which unites them.
Within this mass, air is intercepted and held inclosed between the particles of ice. The process by which snow-flakes or snow-crystals are transformed into grains of ice, more or less compact, is easily understood. It is the result of a partial thawing, under a temperature maintained very nearly at thirty-two degrees, falling sometimes a little below, and then rising a little above the freezing-point, and thus producing constant alternations of freezing and thawing in the same mass of snow. This process amounts to a kind of kneading of the snow, and when combined with the cohesion among the particles more closely held together in one snow-flake, it produces granular ice. Of course, the change takes place gradually, and is unequal in its progress at different depths in the same bed of recently fallen snow. It depends greatly on the amount of moisture infiltrating the mass, whether derived from the melting of its own surface, or from the accumulation of dew or the falling of rain or mist upon it. The amount of water retained within the mass will also be greatly affected by the bottom on which it rests and by the state of the atmosphere. Under a certain temperature, the snow may only be glazed at the surface by the formation of a thin, icy crust, an outer membrane, as it were, protecting the mass below from a deeper transformation into ice; or it may be rapidly soaked throughout its whole bulk, the snow being thus changed into a kind of soft pulp, what we commonly call slosh, which, upon freezing, becomes at once compact ice; or, the water sinking rapidly, the lower layers only may be soaked, while the upper portion remains comparatively dry. But, under all these various circumstances, frost will transform the crystalline snow into more or less compact ice, the mass of which will be composed of an infinite number of aggregated snow-particles, very unequal in regularity of outline, and cemented by ice of another kind, derived from the freezing of the infiltrated moisture, the whole being interspersed with air. Let the temperature rise, and such a mass, rigid before, will resolve itself again into disconnected ice-particles, like grains more or less rounded. The process may be repeated till the whole mass is transformed into very compact, almost uniformly transparent and blue ice, broken only by the intervening air-bubbles. Such a mass of ice, when exposed to a temperature sufficiently high to dissolve it, does not melt from the surface and disappear by a gradual diminution of its bulk, like pond-ice, but crumbles into its original granular fragments, each one of which melts separately. This accounts for the sudden disappearance icebergs, which, instead of slowly dissolving into the ocean, are often seen to fall to pieces and vanish at once.
Ice of this kind may be seen forming every winter on our sidewalks, on the edge of the little ditches which drain them, or on the summits of broad gateposts when capped with snow. Of such ice glaciers are composed; but, in the glacier, another element comes in which we have not considered as yet,—that of immense pressure in consequence of the vast accumulations of snow within circumscribed spaces. We see the same effects produced on a small scale, when snow is transformed into a snowball between the hands. Every boy who balls a mass of snow in his hands illustrates one side of glacial phenomena. Loose snow, light and porous, and pure white from the amount of air contained in it, is in this way presently converted into hard, compact, almost transparent ice. This change will take place sooner, if the snow be damp at first,—but if dry, the action of the hand will presently produce moisture enough to complete the process. In this case, mere pressure produces the same effect which, in the cases we have been considering above, was brought about by alternate thawing and freezing,—only that in the latter the ice is distinctly granular, instead of being uniform throughout, as when formed under pressure. In the glaciers we have the two processes combined. But the investigators of glacial phenomena have considered too exclusively one or the other: some of them attributing glacial motion wholly to the dilatation produced by the freezing of infiltrated moisture in the mass of snow; others accounting for it entirely by weight and pressure. There is yet a third class, who, disregarding the real properties of ice, would have us believe, that, because tar, for instance, is viscid when it moves, therefore ice is viscid because it moves. We shall see hereafter that the phenomena exhibited in the onward movement of glaciers are far more diversified than has generally been supposed.
There is no chain of mountains in which the shape of the valleys is more favorable to the formation of glaciers than the Alps. Contracted at their lower extremity, these valleys widen upward, spreading into deep, broad, trough-like depressions. Take, for instance, the valley of Hassli, which is not more than half a mile wide where you enter it above Meyringen; it opens gradually upward, till, above the Grimsel, at the foot of the Finster-Aarhorn, it measures several miles across. These huge mountain-troughs form admirable cradles for the snow, which collects in immense quantities within them, and, as it moves slowly down from the upper ranges, is transformed into ice on its way, and compactly crowded into the narrower space below. At the lower extremity of the glacier the ice is pure, blue and transparent, but, as we ascend, it appears less compact, more porous and granular, assuming gradually the character of snow, till in the higher regions the snow is as light, as shifting, and incoherent, as the sand of the desert. A snow-storm on a mountain-summit is very different from a snow-storm on the plain, on account of the different degrees of moisture in the atmosphere. At great heights, there is never dampness enough to allow the fine snow-crystals to coalesce and form what are called "snow-flakes." I have even stood on the summit of the Jungfrau when a frozen cloud filled the air with ice-needles, while I could see the same cloud pouring down sheet of rain upon Lauterbrunnen below. I remember this spectacle as one of the most impressive I have witnessed in my long experience of Alpine scenery. The air immediately about me seemed filled with rainbow-dust, for the ice-needles glittered with a thousand hues under the decomposition of light upon them, while the dark storm in the valley below offered a strange contract to the brilliancy of the upper region in which I stood. One wonder where even so much vapor as may be transformed into the finest snow should come from at such heights. But the warm winds, creeping up the sides of the valleys, the walls of which become heated during the middle of the day, come laden with moisture which is changed to a dry snow like dust as soon as it comes into contact with the intense cold above.
Currents of warm air affect the extent of the glaciers, and influence also the line of perpetual snow, which is by no means at the same level even in neighboring localities. The size of glaciers, of course, determines to a great degree the height at which they terminate, simply because a small mass of ice will melt more rapidly, and at a lower temperature, than a larger one. Thus, the small glaciers, such as those of the Rothhorn or of Trift, above the Grimsel, terminate at a considerable height above the plain, while the Mer de Glace, fed from the great snow-caldrons of Mont Blanc, forces its way down to the bottom of the valley of Chamouni, and the glacier of Grindelwald, constantly renewed from the deep reservoirs where the Jungfrau hoards her vast supplies of snow, descends to about four thousand feet above the sea-level. But the glacier of the Aar, though also very large, comes to a pause at about six thousand feet above the level of the sea; for the south wind from the other side of the Alps, the warm sirocco of Italy, blows across it, and it consequently melts at a higher level than either the Mer de Glace or the Grindelwald. It is a curious fact, that in the valley of Hassli the temperature frequently rises instead of falling as you ascend; at the Grimsel, the temperature is at times higher than at Meyringen below, where the warmer winds are not felt so directly. The glacier of Aletsch, on the southern slope of the Jungfrau, and into which many other glaciers enter, terminates also at a considerable height, because it turns into the valley of the Rhone, through which the southern winds blow constantly.
Under ordinary conditions, vegetation fades in these mountains at the height of six thousand feet, but, in consequence of prevailing winds, and the sheltering influence of the mountain-walls, there is no uniformity in the limit of perpetual snow and ice. Where currents of warm air are very constant, glaciers do not occur at all, even where other circumstances are favorable to their formation. There are valleys in the Alps far above six thousand feet which have no glaciers, and where perpetual snow is seen only on their northern sides. These contrasts in temperature lead to the most wonderful contrasts in the aspect of the soil; summer and winter lie side by side, and bright flowers look out from the edge of snows that never melt. Where the warm winds prevail, there may be sheltered spots at a height of ten or eleven thousand feet, isolated nooks opening southward where the most exquisite flowers bloom in the midst of perpetual snow and ice; and occasionally I have seen a bright little flower with a cap of snow over it that seemed to be its shelter. The flowers give, indeed, a peculiar charm to these high Alpine regions. Occurring often in beds of the same kind, forming green, blue or yellow patches, they seem nestled close together in sheltered spots, or even in fissures and chasms of the rock, where they gather in dense quantities. Even in the sternest scenery of the Alps some sign of vegetation lingers; and I remember to have found a tuft of lichen growing on the only rock which pierced through the ice on the summit of the Jungfrau. The absolute solitude, the intense stillness of the upper Alps is most impressive; no cattle, no pasturage, no bird, nor any sound of life,—and, indeed, even if there were, the rarity of the air in these high regions is such that sound is hardly transmissible. The deep repose, the purity of aspect of every object, the snow, broken only by ridges of angular rocks, produce an effect no less beautiful than solemn. Sometimes, in the midst of the wide expanse, one comes upon a patch of the so-called red snow of the Alps. At a distance, one would say that such a spot marked some terrible scene of blood, but, as you come nearer, the hues are so tender and delicate, as they fade from deep red to rose, and so die into the pure colorless snow around, that the first impression is completely dispelled. This red snow is an organic growth, a plant springing up in such abundance that it colors extensive surfaces, just as the microscopic plants dye our pools with green in the spring. It is an Alga well known in the Arctics, where it forms wide fields in the summer. With the above facts before us concerning the materials of which glaciers are composed, we may now proceed to consider their structure more fully in connection with their movements and the effects they produce on the surfaces over which they extend. It has already been stated that the ice of the glaciers has not the same appearance everywhere, but differs according to the level at which it stands. In consequence of this we distinguish three very distinct regions in these frozen fields, the uppermost of which, upon the sides of the steepest and highest slopes of the mountain-ridges, consists chiefly of layers of snow piled one above another by the successive snowfalls of the colder seasons, and which would remain in uniform superposition but for the change to which they are subjected in consequence of a gradual downward movement, causing the mass to descend by slow degrees, while new accumulations in the higher regions annually replace the snow which has been thus removed to an inferior level. We shall consider hereafter the process by which this change of position is brought about. For the present it is sufficient to state that such a transfer, by which a balance is preserved in the distribution of the snow, takes place in all glaciers, so that, instead of increasing indefinitely in the upper regions, where on account of the extreme cold there is little melting, they permanently preserve about the same thickness, being yearly reduced by their downward motion in a proportion equal to their annual increase by fresh additions of snow. Indeed, these reservoirs of snow maintain themselves at the same level, much as a stream, into which many rivulets empty, remains within its usual limits in consequence of the drainage of the average supply. Of course, very heavy rains or sudden thaws at certain seasons or in particular years may cause an occasional overflow of such a stream; and irregularities of the same kind are observed during certain years or at different periods of the same year in the accumulations of snow, in consequence of which the successive strata may vary in thickness. But in ordinary times layers from six to eight feet deep are regularly added annually to the accumulation of snow in the higher regions,—not taking into account, of course, the heavy drifts heaped up in particular localities, but estimating the uniform average increase over wide fields. This snow is gradually transformed into more or less compact ice, passing through an intermediate condition analogous to the slosh of our roads, and in that condition chiefly occupies the upper part of the extensive troughs into which these masses descend from the loftier heights. This region is called the region of the neve. It is properly the birthplace of the glaciers, for it is here that the transformation of the snow into ice begins. The neve ice, though varying in the degree of its compactness and solidity, is always very porous and whitish in color, resembling somewhat frozen slosh, while lower down in the region of the glacier proper the ice is close, solid, transparent, and of a bluish tint.
But besides the differences in solidity and in external appearance, there are also many other important changes taking place in the ice of these different regions, to which we shall return presently. Such modifications arise chiefly from the pressure to which it is subjected in its downward progress, and to the alterations, in consequence of this displacement, in the relative position of the snow- and ice-beds, as well as to the influence exerted by the form of the valleys themselves, not only upon the external aspect of the glaciers, but upon their internal structure also. The surface of a glacier varies greatly in character in these different regions. The uniform even surfaces of the upper snow-fields gradually pass into a more undulating outline, the pure white fields become strewn with dust and sand in the lower levels, while broken bits of stone and larger fragments of rock collect upon them, which assume a regular arrangement, and produce a variety of features most startling and incomprehensible at first sight, but more easily understood when studied in connection with the whole series of glacial phenomena. They are then seen to be the consequence of the general movement of the glacier, and of certain effects which the course of the seasons, the action of the sun, the rain, the reflected heat from the sides of the valley, or the disintegration of its rocky walls, may produce upon the surface of the ice. In the next article we shall consider in detail all these phenomena, and trace them in their natural connection. Once familiar with these facts, it will not be difficult correctly to appreciate the movement of the glacier and the cause of its inequalities. We shall see, that, in consequence of the greater or less rapidity in the movement of certain portions of the mass, its centre progressing faster than its sides, and the upper, middle, and lower regions of the same glacier advancing at different rates, the strata which in the higher ranges of the snow-fields were evenly spread over wide expanses, become bent and folded to such a degree that the primitive stratification is nearly obliterated, while the internal mass of the ice has also assumed new features under these new circumstances. There is, indeed, as much difference between the newly formed beds of snow in the upper region and the condition of the ice at the lower end of a glacier as between a recent deposit of coral sand or a mud-bed in an estuary and the metamorphic limestone or clay slate twisted and broken as they are seen in the very chains of mountains from which the glaciers descend. A geologist, familiar with all the changes to which a bed of rock may be subjected from the time it was deposited in horizontal layers up to the time when it was raised by Plutonic agencies along the sides of a mountain-ridge, bent and distorted in a thousand directions, broken through the thickness of its mass, and traversed by innumerable fissures which are themselves filled with new materials, will best be able to understand how the stratification of snow may be modified by pressure and displacement so as finally to appear like a laminated mass full of cracks and crevices, in which the original stratification is recognized only by the practical student. I trust in my next article I shall be able to explain intelligibly to my readers even these extreme alterations in the condition of the primitive snow of the Alpine summits.
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TWO SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF BLONDEL.
SCENE I.—Near a Castle in Germany.
'Twere no hard task, perchance, to win The popular laurel for my song; 'Twere only to comply with sin, And own the crown, though snatched by wrong: Rather Truth's chaplet let me wear, Though sharp as death its thorns may sting; Loyal to Loyalty, I bear No badge but of my rightful king.
Patient by town and tower I wait, Or o'er the blustering moorland go; I buy no praise at cheaper rate, Or what faint hearts may fancy so: For me, no joy in lady's bower, Or hall, or tourney, will I sing, Till the slow stars wheel round the hour That crowns my hero and my king.
While all the land runs red with strife, And wealth is won by peddler-crimes, Let who will find content in life And tinkle in unmanly rhymes: I wait and seek; through dark and light, Safe in my heart my hope I bring, Till I once more my faith may plight To him my whole soul owns her king.
When power is filched by drone and dolt, And, with caught breath and flashing eye, Her knuckles whitening round the bolt, Vengeance leans eager from the sky,— While this and that the people guess, And to the skirts of praters cling, Who court the crowd they should compress,— I turn in scorn to seek my king.
Shut in what tower of darkling chance Or dungeon of a narrow doom, Dream'st thou of battle-axe and lance That for the cross make crashing room? Come! with strained eyes the battle waits In the wild van thy mace's swing; While doubters parley with their fates, Make thou thine own and ours, my king!
Oh, strong to keep upright the old, And wise to buttress with the new, Prudent, as only are the bold, Clear-eyed, as only are the true, To foes benign, to friendship stern, Intent to imp Law's broken wing,— Who would not die, if death might earn The right to kiss thy hand, my king?
SCENE II.—An Inn near the Chateau of Chalus.
Well, the whole thing is over, and here I sit With one arm in a sling and a milk-score of gashes, And this flagon of Cyprus must e'en warm my wit, Since what's left of youth's flame is a head flecked with ashes. I remember I sat in this very same inn,— I was young then, and one young man thought I was handsome,— I had found out what prison King Richard was in, And was spurring for England to push on the ransom.
How I scorned the dull souls that sat guzzling around, And knew not my secret nor recked my derision! Let the world sink or swim, John or Richard be crowned, All one, so the beer-tax got lenient revision. How little I dreamed, as I tramped up and down, That granting our wish one of Fate's saddest jokes is! I had mine with a vengeance,—my king got his crown, And made his whole business to break other folks's.
I might as well join in the safe old tum, tum: A hero's an excellent loadstar,—but, bless ye, What infinite odds 'twixt a hero to come And your only too palpable hero in esse! Precisely the odds (such examples are rife) 'Twixt the poem conceived and the rhyme we make show of, 'Twixt the boy's morning dream and the wake-up of life, 'Twixt the Blondel God meant and a Blondel I know of!
But the world's better off, I'm convinced of it now, Than if heroes, like buns, could be bought for a penny, To regard all mankind as their haltered milch-cow, And just care for themselves. Well, God cares for the many; And somehow the poor old Earth blunders along, Each son of hers adding his mite of unfitness, And, choosing the sure way of coming out wrong, Gets to port, as the next generation will witness.
You think her old ribs have come all crashing through, If a whisk of Fate's broom snap your cobweb asunder; But her rivets were clinched by a wiser than you, And our sins cannot push the Lord's right hand from under. Better one honest man who can wait for God's mind, In our poor shifting scene here, though heroes were plenty! Better one bite, at forty, of truth's bitter rind Than the hot wine that gushed from the vintage of twenty!
I see it all now: when I wanted a king, 'Twas the kingship that failed in myself I was seeking,— 'Tis so much less easy to do than to sing, So much simpler to reign by a proxy than be king! Yes, I think I do see: after all's said and sung, Take this one rule of life and you never will rue it,— 'Tis but do your own duty and hold your own tongue, And Blondel were royal himself, if he knew it!
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NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT.
Chancing to take a memorable walk by moonlight some years ago, I resolved to take more such walks, and make acquaintance with another side of Nature. I have done so.
According to Pliny, there is a stone in Arabia called Selenites, "wherein is a white, which increases and decreases with the moon." My journal for the last year or two has been selenitic in this sense.
Is not the midnight like Central Africa to most of us? Are we not tempted to explore it,—to penetrate to the shores of its Lake Tchad, and discover the source of its Nile, perchance the Mountains of the Moon? Who knows what fertility and beauty, moral and natural, are there to be found? In the Mountains of the Moon, in the Central Africa of the night, there is where all Niles have their hidden heads. The expeditions up the Nile as yet extend but to the Cataracts, or perchance to the mouth of the White Nile; but it is the Black Nile that concerns us.
I shall be a benefactor, if I conquer some realms from the night,—if I report to the gazettes anything transpiring about us at that season worthy of their attention,—if I can show men that there is some beauty awake while they are asleep,—if I add to the domains of poetry.
Night is certainly more novel and less profane than day. I soon discovered that I was acquainted only with its complexion; and as for the moon, I had seen her only as it were through a crevice in a shutter, occasionally. Why not walk a little way in her light?
Suppose you attend to the suggestions which the moon makes for one month, commonly in vain, will it not be very different from anything in literature or religion? But why not study this Sanscrit? What if one moon has come and gone, with its world of poetry, its weird teachings, its oracular suggestions,—so divine a creature freighted with hints for me, and I have not used her,—one moon gone by unnoticed?
I think it was Dr. Chalmers who said, criticizing Coleridge, that for his part he wanted ideas which he could see all round, and not such as he must look at away up in the heavens. Such a man, one would say, would never look at the moon, because she never turns her other side to us. The light which comes from ideas which have their orbit as distant from the earth, and which is no less cheering and enlightening to the benighted traveller than that of the moon and stars, is naturally reproached or nicknamed as moonshine by such. They are moonshine, are they? Well, then, do your night-travelling when there is no moon to light you; but I will be thankful for the light that reaches me from the star of least magnitude. Stars are lesser or greater only as they appear to us so. I will be thankful that I see so much as one side of a celestial idea, one side of the rainbow and the sunset sky.
Men talk glibly enough about moonshine, as if they knew its qualities very well, and despised them,—as owls might talk of sunshine. None of your sunshine!—but this word commonly means merely something which they do not understand, which they are abed and asleep to, however much it may be worth their while to be up and awake to it.
It must be allowed that the light of the moon, sufficient though it is for the pensive walker, and not disproportionate to the inner light we have, is very inferior in quality and intensity to that of the sun. But the moon is not to be judged alone by the quantity of light she sends to us, but also by her influence on the earth and its inhabitants. "The moon gravitates toward the earth, and the earth reciprocally toward the moon." The poet who walks by moonlight is conscious of a tide in his thought which is to be referred to lunar influence. I will endeavor to separate the tide in my thoughts from the current distractions of the day. I would warn my hearers that they must not try my thoughts by a daylight standard, but endeavor to realize that I speak out of the night. All depends on your point of view. In Drake's "Collection of Voyages," Wafer says of some Albinos among the Indians of Darien,—"They are quite white, but their whiteness is like that of a horse, quite different from the fair or pale European, as they have not the least tincture of a blush or sanguine complexion.... Their eyebrows are milk-white, as is likewise the hair of their heads, which is very fine.... They seldom go abroad in the daytime, the sun being disagreeable to them, and causing their eyes, which are weak and poring, to water, especially if it shines towards them; yet they see very well by moonlight, from which we call them mooneyed."
Neither in our thoughts in these moonlight walks, methinks, is there "the least tincture of a blush or sanguine complexion," but we are intellectually and morally Albinos,—children of Endymion,—such is the effect of conversing much with the moon.
I complain of Arctic voyages that they do not enough remind us of the constant peculiar dreariness of the scenery, and the perpetual twilight of the Arctic night. So he whose theme is moonlight, though he may find it difficult, must, as it were, illustrate it with the light of the moon alone.
Many men walk by day; few walk by night. It is a very different season. Take a July night, for instance. About ten o'clock,—when man is asleep, and day fairly forgotten,—the beauty of moonlight is seen over lonely pastures where cattle are silently feeding. On all sides novelties present themselves. Instead of the sun, there are the moon and stars; instead of the wood-thrush, there is the whippoorwill; instead of butterflies in the meadows, fire-flies, winged sparks of fire!—who would have believed it? What kind of cool, deliberate life dwells in those dewy abodes associated with a spark of fire? So man has fire in his eyes, or blood, or brain. Instead of singing-birds, the half-throttled note of a cuckoo flying over, the croaking of frogs, and the intenser dream of crickets,—but above all, the wonderful trump of the bull-frog, ringing from Maine to Georgia. The potato-vines stand upright, the corn grows apace, the bushes loom, the grain-fields are boundless. On our open river-terraces, once cultivated by the Indian, they appear to occupy the ground like an army,—their heads nodding in the breeze. Small trees and shrubs are seen in the midst, overwhelmed as by an inundation. The shadows of rocks and trees and shrubs and hills are more conspicuous than the objects themselves. The slightest irregularities in the ground are revealed by the shadows, and what the feet find comparatively smooth appears rough and diversified in consequence. For the same reason the whole landscape is more variegated and picturesque than by day. The smallest recesses in the rocks are dim and cavernous; the ferns in the wood appear of tropical size. The sweet-fern and indigo in overgrown wood-paths wet you with dew up to your middle. The leaves of the shrub-oak are shining as if a liquid were flowing over them. The pools seen through the trees are as full of light as the sky. "The light of the day takes refuge in their bosoms," as the Purana says of the ocean. All white objects are more remarkable than by day. A distant cliff looks like a phosphorescent space on a hill-side. The woods are heavy and dark. Nature slumbers. You see the moonlight reflected from particular stumps in the recesses of the forest, as if she selected what to shine on. These small fractions of her light remind one of the plant called moon-seed,—as if the moon were sowing it in such places.
In the night the eyes are partly closed, or retire into the head. Other senses take the lead. The walker is guided as well by the sense of smell. Every plant and field and forest emits its odor now,—swamp-pink in the meadow, and tansy in the road; and there is the peculiar dry scent of corn which has begun to show its tassels. The senses both of hearing and smelling are more alert. We hear the tinkling of rills which we never detected before. From time to time, high up on the sides of hills, you pass through a stratum of warm air: a blast which has come up from the sultry plains of noon. It tells of the day, of sunny noon-tide hours and banks, of the laborer wiping his brow and the bee humming amid flowers. It is an air in which work has been done,—which men have breathed. It circulates about from wood-side to hill-side, like a dog that has lost its master, now that the sun is gone. The rocks retain all night the warmth of the sun which they have absorbed. And so does the sand: if you dig a few inches into it, you find a warm bed.
You lie on your back on a rock in a pasture on the top of some bare hill at midnight, and speculate on the height of the starry canopy. The stars are the jewels of the night, and perchance surpass anything which day has to show. A companion with whom I was sailing, one very windy, but bright moonlight night, when the stars were few and faint, thought that a man could get along with them, though he was considerably reduced in his circumstances,—that they were a kind of bread and cheese that never failed.
No wonder that there have been astrologers,—that some have conceived that they were personally related to particular stars. Du Bartas, as translated by Sylvester, says he'll
"not believe that the Great Architect With all these fires the heavenly arches decked Only for shew, and with these glistering shields, 'T awake poor shepherds, watching in the fields,"—
"not believe that the least flower which pranks Our garden-borders or our common banks, And the least stone that in her warming lap Our Mother Earth doth covetously wrap, Hath some peculiar virtue of its own, And that the glorious stars of heaven have none."
And Sir Walter Raleigh well says, "The stars are instruments of far greater use than to give an obscure light, and for men to gaze on after sunset"; and he quotes Plotinus as affirming that they "are significant, but not efficient"; and also Augustine as saying, "Deus regit inferiora corpora per superiora": God rules the bodies below by those above. But best of all is this, which another writer has expressed: "Sapiens adjuvabit opus astrorum quemadmodum agricola terrae naturam": A wise man assisteth the work of the stars as the husbandman helpeth the nature of the soil.
It does not concern men who are asleep in their beds, but it is very important to the traveller, whether the moon shines brightly or is obscured. It is not easy to realize the serene joy of all the earth, when she commences to shine unobstructedly, unless you have often been abroad alone in moonlight nights. She seems to be waging continual war with the clouds in your behalf. Yet we fancy the clouds to be her foes also. She comes on magnifying her dangers by her light, revealing, displaying them in all their hugeness and blackness,—then suddenly casts them behind into the light concealed, and goes her way triumphant through a small space of clear sky.
In short, the moon traversing, or appearing to traverse, the small clouds which lie in her way, now obscured by them, now easily dissipating and shining through them, makes the drama of the moonlight night to all watchers and night-travellers. Sailors speak of it as the moon eating up the clouds. The traveller all alone, the moon all alone, except for his sympathy, overcoming with incessant victory whole squadrons of clouds above the forests and lakes and hills. When she is obscured, he so sympathizes with her that he could whip a dog for her relief, as Indians do. When she enters on a clear field of great extent in the heavens, and shines unobstructedly, he is glad. And when she has fought her way through all the squadron of her foes, and rides majestic in a clear sky unscathed, and there are no more any obstructions in her path, he cheerfully and confidently pursues his way, and rejoices in his heart, and the cricket also seems to express joy in its song.
How insupportable would be the days, if the night, with its dews and darkness, did not come to restore the drooping world! As the shades begin to gather around us, our primeval instincts are aroused, and we steal forth from our lairs, like the inhabitants of the jungle, in search of those silent and brooding thoughts which are the natural prey of the intellect.
Richter says, that "the earth is every day overspread with the veil of night for the same reason as the cages of birds are darkened, namely, that we may the more readily apprehend the higher harmonies of thought in the hush and quiet of darkness. Thoughts which day turns into smoke and mist stand about us in the night as light and flames; even as the column which fluctuates above the crater of Vesuvius in the daytime appears a pillar of cloud, but by night a pillar of fire."
There are nights in this climate of such serene and majestic beauty, so medicinal and fertilizing to the spirit, that methinks a sensitive nature would not devote them to oblivion, and perhaps there is no man but would be better and wiser for spending them out of doors, though he should sleep all the next day to pay for it, should sleep an Endymion sleep, as the ancients expressed it,—nights which warrant the Grecian epithet ambrosial, when, as in the land of Beulah, the atmosphere is charged with dewy fragrance, and with music, and we take our repose and have our dreams awake,—when the moon, not secondary to the sun,
"gives us his blaze again, Void of its flame, and sheds a softer day. Now through the passing cloud she seems to stoop, Now up the pure cerulean rides sublime."
Diana still hunts in the New-England sky.
"In heaven queen she is among the spheres; She, mistress-like, makes all things to be pure; Eternity in her oft change she bears; She Beauty is; by her the fair endure.
"Time wears her not; she doth his chariot guide; Mortality below her orb is placed; By her the virtues of the stars down slide; By her is Virtue's perfect image cast."
The Hindoos compare the moon to a saintly being who has reached the last stage of bodily existence.
Great restorer of antiquity, great enchanter! In a mild night, when the harvest or hunter's moon shines unobstructedly, the houses in our village, whatever architect they may have had by day, acknowledge only a master. The village street is then as wild as the forest. New and old things are confounded. I know not whether I am sitting on the ruins of a wall, or on the material which is to compose a new one. Nature is an instructed and impartial teacher, spreading no crude opinions, and flattering none; she will be neither radical nor conservative. Consider the moonlight, so civil, yet so savage!
The light is more proportionate to our knowledge than that of day. It is no more dusky in ordinary nights than our mind's habitual atmosphere, and the moonlight is as bright as our most illuminated moments are.
"In such a night let me abroad remain Till morning breaks, and all's confused again."
Of what significance the light of day, if it is not the reflection of an inward dawn?—to what purpose is the veil of night withdrawn, if the morning reveals nothing to the soul? It is merely garish and glaring.
When Ossian, in his address to the Sun, exclaims,—
"Where has darkness its dwelling? Where is the cavernous home of the stars, When thou quickly followest their steps, Pursuing them like a hunter in the sky,— Thou climbing the lofty hills, They descending on barren mountains?"
who does not in his thought accompany the stars to their "cavernous home," "descending" with them "on barren mountains"?
Nevertheless, even by night the sky is blue and not black; for we see through the shadow of the earth into the distant atmosphere of day, where the sunbeams are revelling.
* * * * *
BEETHOVEN'S SIXTH SYMPHONY.
Sounding above the warring of the years, Over their stretch of toils and pains and fears, Comes the well-loved refrain, That ancient voice again.
Sweeter than when beside the river's marge We lay and watched, like Innocence at large, The changeful waters flow, Speaks this brave music now.
Tender as sunlight upon childhood's head, Serene as moonlight upon childhood's bed, Comes the remembered power Of that forgotten hour.
The little brook with merry voice and low, The gentle ripples rippling far below, Talked with no idle voice, Though idling were their choice.
Now through the tumult and the pride of life, Gentler, yet firmly soothing all its strife, Nature draws near once more, And knocks at the world's door.
She walks within her wild, harmonious maze, Evolving melodies from doubt and haze, And leaves us freed from care, Like children standing there.
* * * * *
Doctor Franck came in as I sat sewing up the rents in an old shirt, that Tom might go tidily to his grave. New shirts were needed for the living, and there was no wife or mother to "dress him handsome when he went to meet the Lord," as one woman said, describing the fine funeral she had pinched herself to give her son.
"Miss Dane, I'm in a quandary," began the Doctor, with that expression of countenance which says as plainly as words, "I want to ask a favor, but I wish you'd save me the trouble."
"Can I help you out of it?"
"Faith! I don't like to propose it, but you certainly can, if you please."
"Then give it a name, I beg."
"You see a Reb has just been brought in crazy with typhoid; a bad case every way; a drunken, rascally little captain somebody took the trouble to capture, but whom nobody wants to take the trouble to cure. The wards are full, the ladies worked to death, and willing to be for our own boys, but rather slow to risk their lives for a Reb. Now you've had the fever, you like queer patients, your mate will see to your ward for a while, and I will find you a good attendant. The fellow won't last long, I fancy; but he can't die without some sort of care, you know. I've put him in the fourth story of the west wing, away from the rest. It is airy, quiet, and comfortable there. I'm on that ward, and will do my best for you in every way. Now, then, will you go?"
"Of course I will, out of perversity, if not common charity; for some of these people think that because I'm an abolitionist I am also a heathen, and I should rather like to show them, that, though I cannot quite love my enemies, I am willing to take care of them."
"Very good; I thought you'd go; and speaking of abolition reminds me that you can have a contraband for servant, if you like. It is that fine mulatto fellow who was found burying his Rebel master after the fight, and, being badly cut over the head, our boys brought him along. Will you have him?"
"By all means,—for I'll stand to my guns on that point, as on the other; these black boys are far more faithful and handy than some of the white scamps given me to serve, instead of being served by. But is this man well enough?"
"Yes, for that sort of work, and I think you'll like him. He must have been a handsome fellow before he got his face slashed; not much darker than myself; his master's son, I dare say, and the white blood makes him rather high and haughty about some things. He was in a bad way when he came in, but vowed he'd die in the street rather than turn in with the black fellows below; so I put him up in the west wing, to be out of the way, and he's seen to the captain all the morning. "When can you go up?"
"As soon as Tom is laid out, Skinner moved, Haywood washed, Marble dressed, Charley rubbed, Downs taken up, Upham laid down, and the whole forty fed."
We both laughed, though the Doctor was on his way to the dead-house and I held a shroud on my lap. But in a hospital one learns that cheerfulness is one's salvation; for, in an atmosphere of suffering and death, heaviness of heart would soon paralyze usefulness of hand, if the blessed gift of smiles had been denied us.
In an hour I took possession of my new charge, finding a dissipated-looking boy of nineteen or twenty raving in the solitary little room, with no one near him but the contraband in the room adjoining. Feeling decidedly more interest in the black man than in the white, yet remembering the Doctor's hint of his being "high and haughty," I glanced furtively at him as I scattered chloride of lime about the room to purify the air, and settled matters to suit myself. I had seen many contrabands, but never one so attractive as this. All colored men are called "boys," even if their heads are white; this boy was five-and-twenty at least, strong-limbed and manly, and had the look of one who never had been cowed by abuse or worn with oppressive labor. He sat on his bed doing nothing; no book, no pipe, no pen or paper anywhere appeared, yet anything less indolent or listless than his attitude and expression I never saw. Erect he sat, with a hand on either knee, and eyes fixed on the bare wall opposite, so rapt in some absorbing thought as to be unconscious of my presence, though the door stood wide open and my movements were by no means noiseless. His face was half averted, but I instantly approved the Doctor's taste, for the profile which I saw possessed all the attributes of comeliness belonging to his mixed race. He was more quadroon than mulatto, with Saxon features, Spanish complexion darkened by exposure, color in lips and cheek, waving hair, and an eye full of the passionate melancholy which in such men always seems to utter a mute protest against the broken law that doomed them at their birth. What could he be thinking of? The sick boy cursed and raved, I rustled to and fro, steps passed the door, bells rang, and the steady rumble of army-wagons came up from the street, still he never stirred. I had seen colored people in what they call "the black sulks," when, for days, they neither smiled nor spoke, and scarcely ate. But this was something more than that; for the man was not dully brooding over some small grievance; he seemed to see an all-absorbing fact or fancy recorded on the wall, which was a blank to me. I wondered if it were some deep wrong or sorrow, kept alive by memory and impotent regret; if he mourned for the dead master to whom he had been faithful to the end; or if the liberty now his were robbed of half its sweetness by the knowledge that some one near and dear to him still languished in the hell from which he had escaped. My heart quite warmed to him at that idea; I wanted to know and comfort him; and, following the impulse of the moment, I went in and touched him on the shoulder.
In an instant the man vanished and the slave appeared. Freedom was too new a boon to have wrought its blessed changes yet, and as he started up, with his hand at his temple and an obsequious "Yes, Ma'am," any romance that had gathered round him fled away, leaving the saddest of all sad facts in living guise before me. Not only did the manhood seem to die out of him, but the comeliness that first attracted me; for, as he turned, I saw the ghastly wound that had laid open cheek and forehead. Being partly healed, it was no longer bandaged, but held together with strips of that transparent plaster which I never see without a shiver and swift recollections of the scenes with which it is associated in my mind. Part of his black hair had been shorn away, and one eye was nearly closed; pain so distorted, and the cruel sabre-cut so marred that portion of his face, that, when I saw it, I felt as if a fine medal had been suddenly reversed, showing me a far more striking type of human suffering and wrong than Michel Angelo's bronze prisoner. By one of those inexplicable processes that often teach us how little we understand ourselves, my purpose was suddenly changed, and though I went in to offer comfort as a friend, I merely gave an order as a mistress.
"Will you open these windows? this man needs more air."
He obeyed at once, and, as he slowly urged up the unruly sash, the handsome profile was again turned toward me, and again I was possessed by my first impression so strongly that I involuntarily said,—
"Thank you, Sir."
Perhaps it was fancy, but I thought that in the look of mingled surprise and something like reproach which he gave me there was also a trace of grateful pleasure. But he said, in that tone of spiritless humility these poor souls learn so soon,—
"I a'n't a white man, Ma'am, I'm a contraband."
"Yes, I know it; but a contraband is a free man, and I heartily congratulate you."
He liked that; his face shone, he squared his shoulders, lifted his head, and looked me full in the eye with a brisk—
"Thank ye, Ma'am; anything more to do fer yer?"
"Doctor Franck thought you would help me with this man, as there are many patients and few nurses or attendants. Have you had the fever?"
"They should have thought of that when they put him here; wounds and fevers should not be together. I'll try to get you moved."
He laughed a sudden laugh,—if he had been a white man, I should have called it scornful; as he was a few shades darker than myself, I suppose it must be considered an insolent, or at least an unmannerly one.
"It don't matter, Ma'am. I'd rather be up here with the fever than down with those niggers; and there a'n't no other place fer me."
Poor fellow! that was true. No ward in all the hospital would take him in to lie side by side with the most miserable white wreck there. Like the bat in AEsop's fable, he belonged to neither race; and the pride of one, the helplessness of the other, kept him hovering alone in the twilight a great sin has brought to overshadow the whole land.
"You shall stay, then; for I would far rather have you than my lazy Jack. But are you well and strong enough?"
"I guess I'll do, Ma'am."
He spoke with a passive sort of acquiescence,—as if it did not much matter, if he were not able, and no one would particularly rejoice, if he were.
"Yes, I think you will. By what name shall I call you?"
Every woman has her pet whim; one of mine was to teach the men self-respect by treating them respectfully. Tom, Dick, and Harry would pass, when lads rejoiced in those familiar abbreviations; but to address men often old enough to be my father in that style did not suit my old-fashioned ideas of propriety. This "Bob" would never do; I should have found it as easy to call the chaplain "Gus" as my tragical-looking contraband by a title so strongly associated with the tail of a kite.
"What is your other name?" I asked. "I like to call my attendants by their last names rather than by their first."
"I've got no other, Ma'am; we have our masters' names, or do without. Mine's dead, and I won't have anything of his about me."
"Well, I'll call you Robert, then, and you may fill this pitcher for me, if you will be so kind."
He went; but, through all the tame obedience years of servitude had taught him, I could see that the proud spirit his father gave him was not yet subdued, for the look and gesture with which he repudiated his master's name were a more effective declaration of independence than any Fourth-of-July orator could have prepared.
We spent a curious week together. Robert seldom left his room, except upon my errands; and I was a prisoner all day, often all night, by the bedside of the Rebel. The fever burned itself rapidly away, for there seemed little vitality to feed it in the feeble frame of this old young man, whose life had been none of the most righteous, judging from the revelations made by his unconscious lips; since more than once Robert authoritatively silenced him, when my gentler hushings were of no avail, and blasphemous wanderings or ribald camp-songs made my cheeks burn and Robert's face assume an aspect of disgust. The captain was a gentleman in the world's eye, but the contraband was the gentleman in mine;—I was a fanatic, and that accounts for such depravity of taste, I hope. I never asked Robert of himself, feeling that somewhere there was a spot still too sore to bear the lightest touch; but, from his language, manner, and intelligence, I inferred that his color had procured for him the few advantages within the reach of a quick-witted, kindly treated slave. Silent, grave, and thoughtful, but most serviceable, was my contraband; glad of the books I brought him, faithful in the performance of the duties I assigned to him, grateful for the friendliness I could not but feel and show toward him. Often I longed to ask what purpose was so visibly altering his aspect with such daily deepening gloom. But I never dared, and no one else had either time or desire to pry into the past of this specimen of one branch of the chivalrous "F.F.Vs."
On the seventh night, Dr. Franck suggested that it would be well for some one, besides the general watchman of the ward, to be with the captain, as it might be his last. Although the greater part of the two preceding nights had been spent there, of course I offered to remain,—for there is a strange fascination in these scenes, which renders one careless of fatigue and unconscious of fear until the crisis is passed.
"Give him water as long as he can drink, and if he drops into a natural sleep, it may save him. I'll look in at midnight, when some change will probably take place. Nothing but sleep or a miracle will keep him now. Good night."
Away went the Doctor; and, devouring a whole mouthful of gapes, I lowered the lamp, wet the captain's head, and sat down on a hard stool to begin my watch. The captain lay with his hot, haggard face turned toward me, filling the air with his poisonous breath, and feebly muttering, with lips and tongue so parched that the sanest speech would have been difficult to understand. Robert was stretched on his bed in the inner room, the door of which stood ajar, that a fresh draught from his open window might carry the fever-fumes away through mine. I could just see a long, dark figure, with the lighter outline of a face, and, having little else to do just then, I fell to thinking of this curious contraband, who evidently prized his freedom highly, yet seemed in no haste to enjoy it. Doctor Franck had offered to send him on to safer quarters, but he had said, "No, thank yer, Sir, not yet," and then had gone away to fall into one of those black moods of his, which began to disturb me, because I had no power to lighten them. As I sat listening to the clocks from the steeples all about us, I amused myself with planning Robert's future, as I often did my own, and had dealt out to him a generous hand of trumps wherewith to play this game of life which hitherto had gone so cruelly against him, when a harsh, choked voice called,—