We give a characteristic passage from the Paradiso.
"Fiorenza dentro dalla cerchia antica, Ond'ella toglie ancora e terza e nona, Si stava in pace sobria e pudica. Non avea catenella, non corona, Non donne contigiate, non cintura Che fosse a veder piu che la persona. Non faceva nascendo ancor paura La figlia al padre, che il tempo e la dote Non fuggian quinci e quindi la misura. Non avea case di famiglia vote; Non v'era giunto ancor Sardanapalo A mostrar cio ch'in camera si puote. Non era vinto ancora Montemalo Dal vostro Uccellatoio, che com'e vinto Nel montar su, cosi sara nel calo. Bellincion Berti vid'io andar cinto Di cuojo e d'osso, e venir dallo specchio La donna sua senza'l viso dipinto: E vidi quel di Nerli e quel del Vecchio Esser contenti alla pelle scoverta, E le sue donne al fuso ed al pennecchio: Oh fortunate! e ciascuna era certa Della sua sepoltura, ed ancor nulla Era per Francia nel letto deserta. L'una vegghiava a studio della culla, E consolando usava l'idioma Che pria li padri e le madri trastulla: L'altra traendo alla rocca la chioma Favoleggiava con la sua famiglia De'Trojani e di Fiesole e di Roma. Saria tenuta allor tal maraviglia Una Cianghella, un Lapo Salterello, Qual or saria Cincinnato e Corniglia. A cosi riposato, a cosi bello Viver di cittadini, a cosi fida Cittadinanza, a cosi dolce ostello, Maria mi die, chiamata in alte grida; E nell'antico vostro Batisteo Insieme fui Cristiano e Cacciaguida."
Paradiso, XV. 97-135.
"Florence, within the ancient boundary From which she taketh still her tierce and nones, Abode in quiet, temperate and chaste. No golden chain she had, nor coronal, Nor ladies shod with sandal shoon, nor girdle That caught the eye more than the person did. Not yet the daughter at her birth struck fear Into the father, for the time and dower Did not o'errun this side or that the measure. No houses had she void of families, Not yet had thither come Sardanapalus To show what in a chamber can be done; Not yet surpassed had Montemalo been By your Uccellatojo, which surpassed Shall in its downfall be as in its rise. Bellincion Berti saw I go begirt With leather and with bone, and from the mirror His dame depart without a painted face; And him of Nerli saw, and him of Vecchio, Contented with their simple suits of buff, And with the spindle and the flax their dames. O fortunate women! and each one was certain Of her own burial-place, and none as yet For sake of France was in her bed deserted. One o'er the cradle kept her studious watch, And in her lullaby the language used That first delights the fathers and the mothers; Another, drawing tresses from her distaff, Told o'er among her family the tales Of Trojans and of Fesole and Rome. As great a marvel then would have been held A Lapo Salterello, a Cianghella, As Cincinnatus or Cornelia now. To such a quiet, such a beautiful Life of the citizen, to such a safe Community, and to so sweet an inn, Did Mary give me, with loud cries invoked, And in your ancient Baptistery at once Christian and Cacciaguida I became."
"Florence, within her ancient limit-mark, Which calls her still to matin prayers and noon, Was chaste and sober, and abode in peace, She had no armlets and no head-tires then; No purfled dames; no zone, that caught the eye More than the person did. Time was not yet, When at his daughter's birth the sire grew pale, For fear the age and dowry should exceed, On each side, just proportion. House was none Void of its family: nor yet had come Sardanapalus, to exhibit feats Of chamber prowess. Montemalo yet O'er our suburban turret rose; as much To be surpassed in fall, as in its rising. I saw Bellincion Berti walk abroad In leathern girdle, and a clasp of bone; And, with no artful coloring on her cheeks, His lady leave the glass. The sons I saw Of Nerli, and of Vecchio, well content With unrobed jerkin; and their good dames handling The spindle and the flax: O happy they! Each sure of burial in her native land, And none left desolate abed for France. One waked to tend the cradle, hushing it With sounds that lulled the parent's infancy: Another, with her maidens, drawing off The tresses from the distaff, lectured them Old tales of Troy, and Fesole, and Rome. A Salterello and Cianghella we Had held as strange a marvel, as ye would A Cincinnatus or Cornelia now. In such composed and seemly fellowship, Such faithful and such fair equality, In so sweet household, Mary at my birth Bestowed me, called on with loud cries; and there, In your old baptistery, I was made Christian at once and Cacciaguida."—Cary.
It would be easy to extend our quotations; but we have given enough of Mr. Longfellow's translation to show with what conceptions of duty to the original he came to his task, and how perfectly that duty has been performed. According to his theory, then, as we gather it from these volumes, translation is not paraphrase, is not interpretation, is not imitation, but is the rigorous rendering of word for word, so far as the original difference of idioms permits. Its basis is truth to the form as well as to the thought, to the letter as well as to the spirit, of the text. The translator is like the messengers of the Bible and Homer, who repeat word for word the message that has been confided to them. He, too, if he would be true to his office, must give the message as it has been given to him, repeat the story in the words in which it was told him. Every deviation from the letter of the original is a deviation from the truth. Every epithet that is either added or taken away is a falsification of the text. The addition or the omission may sometimes be an improvement, but it is an improvement which you have no authority to make. It is not to learn what you think Homer or Dante might have said that the reader comes to your translation, but to see what they really said. When Cesarotti undertook to show how Homer would have written in the eighteenth century, he recast the Iliad and called it "The Death of Hector," and in this he dealt more honestly with his readers than Pope; for, although he failed to make a good poem, he did not attempt to pass it for Homer.
The greatest difficulty of the translator arises from his personality. He cannot forget himself, cannot guard, as he ought, against those subtle insinuations of self-esteem which are constantly leading him to improve upon his author. His own habits of thought would have suggested a different turn to the verse, a different coloring to the image. He finds it as hard to forget his own style, as to forget his identity. It demands a vigorous imagination, combined with deep poetic sympathies, to go out of yourself and enter for a time wholly into the heart and mind, the thoughts and feelings, of another; and it is not to all that such an imagination and such sympathies are given. There is scarcely a great failure in poetical translation, which may not be traced to the want of this power.
It may seem like the grave enunciation of a truism to say that another indispensable qualification of the translator is perfect familiarity with the language from which he translates, and a full command of his own. It is not by mere reading that such a familiarity can be acquired. You must have learnt to think in a language, and made it the spontaneous expression of your wants and feelings, if you would find in it the true interpretation of the wants and feelings of others. Its words and idioms must awaken in you the same sensations which the words and idioms of your own language awaken; giving pleasure as music, or a picture, or a statue, or a fine building gives pleasure, not by an act of reflection under the control of the will, but by an intuitive perception under the inspiration of a sense of the beautiful. The enjoyment of a thought is partly an intellectual enjoyment; you may even reason yourself into it; but the enjoyment of style and language is purely an aesthetic enjoyment, susceptible, indeed, of culture, but springing from an inborn sense of harmony. To extend this enjoyment to a foreign language, you must bring that language close to you, and form with it those intimate relations between thought and word which you have formed in your own. The word must not only suggest the thought, but become a part of it, as the painting becomes a part of the canvas. It must strike your ear with a familiar sound, awakening pleasant memories of actual life and real scenes. Idioms are often interpreters of national life, giving you sudden glimpses, and even deep revelations, of manners and customs, and the circumstances whence they sprang. They are often, too, brief formulas, condensing thought into its briefest expression, with a force and energy which the full expression could not give. To mistake them, is to mistake the whole passage. Not to feel them, is not to feel the most characteristic form of thought.
The preposition da is one of the most versatile words in Italian. Its literal meaning is from; it is daily used to express to. Da me may mean from me: it may also mean to me. Fit or deserving to be done is a common meaning of it; and it is in this sense that Dante uses it in the following passage from the fourth canto of Paradiso, fifty-fifth line:—
"Con intenzion da non esser derisa,"— With intention not (deserving to be) to be derided.
Cary, though a good Italian scholar, translates it to shun derision; and, giving it this sense, quotes Stillingfleet to illustrate the thought which, for want of practical familiarity with the language, he attributes to Dante.
We believe, then, that the qualifications of a translator may be briefly summed up under the following heads:—
He must be conscientiously truthful, studiously following his text, word by word and line by line.
He must possess a thorough mastery over both languages, feeling as well as understanding the words and idioms of his original.
He must possess the power of forgetting himself in his author.
And, lastly, he must be not merely a skilful artificer of verses, or a man of poetic sensibility, but a poet in the highest and truest sense of the word.
We would gladly enlarge upon this interesting subject, which not only explains the shortcomings of the past, but opens enticing vistas into the future. We cannot doubt that Mr. Longfellow's example will be followed, and that from time to time other great poets will arise, who; not content with enriching literature with original productions, will acknowledge it as a part of what they owe the world, to do for Homer and Virgil and AEschylus and Sophocles what he has done for Dante. It is pleasant to think that our children will sit at the feet of these great masters, and, listening to them in English worthy of the tongues in which they first spake, be led to enter more fully into the spirit of the abundant Greek and the majestic Latin. It is cheering to the lovers of sound study to feel that every faithful version of a great poet extends the influence of his works, and awakens a stronger desire for the original. We never yet looked upon an engraving of Morghen without a new longing for the painting which it translated.
We have not left ourselves room for what we had intended to say about the notes, which form half of each of these three volumes. Those who know what conscientious zeal Mr. Longfellow brings to all his duties need not be told that they bear abundant testimony to his learning, industry, and good taste. They not only leave nothing to be asked for in the explanation of real difficulties, but, as answers to a wide range of philosophical, biographical, and historical questions, form in themselves a delightful miscellany. Dante has been overladen by commentators. In Mr. Longfellow he has found an interpreter.
It is not to Mr. Longfellow's reputation only that these volumes will add, but to that of American literature. It is no little thing to be able to say, that, in a field in which some of England's great poets have signally failed, an American poet has signally succeeded; that what the scholars of the Old World asserted to be impossible, a scholar of the New World has accomplished; and that the first to tread in this new path has impressed his footprints so deeply therein, that, however numerous his followers may be, they will all unite in hailing him, with Dante's own words,—
"Tu Duca, tu Signore e tu Maestro,"— Thou Leader and thou Lord and Master thou.
THE OLD STORY.
The waiting-women wait at her feet, And the day is fading down to the night, And close at her pillow, and round and sweet, The red rose burns like a lamp a-light. Under and over, the gray mist lops, And down and down from the mossy eaves, And down from the sycamore's long wild leaves, The slow rain drops and drops and drops.
Ah! never had sleeper a sleep so fair; And the waiting-women that weep around Have taken the combs from her golden hair, And it slideth over her face to the ground. They have hidden the light from her lovely eyes; And down from the eaves where the mosses grow The rain is dripping, so slow, so slow, And the night-wind cries and cries and cries.
From her hand they have taken the shining ring, They have brought the linen her shroud to make; O, the lark she was never so loath to sing, And the morn she was never so loath to awake! And at their sewing they hear the rain,— Drip-drop, drip-drop, over the eaves, And drip-drop over the sycamore-leaves, As if there would never be sunshine again.
The mourning train to the grave have gone, And the waiting-women are here and are there, With birds at the windows and gleams of the sun Making the chamber of death to be fair. And under and over the mist unlaps, And ruby and amethyst burn through the gray, And driest bushes grow green with spray, And the dimpled water its glad hands claps.
The leaves of the sycamore dance and wave, And the mourners put off the mourning shows, And over the pathway down to the grave The long grass blows and blows and blows. And every drip-drop rounds to a flower, And love in the heart of the young man springs, And the hands of the maidens shine with rings, As if all life were a festival hour.
A WEEK'S RIDING.
"My dear grandfather, why did Mr. Erle start so this evening when he saw my picture?" I said.
He laughed softly as he answered: "He will tell you himself to-morrow, if you care to ask him. It is no secret, but you will like the story best as he tells it. A very pretty story,—a very pretty story," he went on, as he kissed me good-night, "and one my little girl will relish as much as a novel."
My grandfather was such a fine, white-haired old gentleman, and looked so handsome in his handsome house! It was one of the old, square houses which are fading from the land in country as well as in town, ample and generous in every way, with broad, carved stairways, and great, wide hearths for andirons,—a house to make the heart glad, and incline it to all sweet hospitalities. The warm, low rooms were full of furniture, softened and made comfortable by unsparing use; the walls were hung with good paintings and engravings, some of them real masterpieces. But the glory of the house was its bronzes, gathered by three generations of rarely cultured men, from my great-great-grandfather, whose rougher purchases were put in more hidden corners every year, to the grandson now in possession, whose pure taste chose the latest gems of French art, and placed them where our eyes might best enjoy their beauty. The library was crimson, and the dining-room beyond two exquisite shades of brown and gold, a curtained doorway between. In these two rooms I spent most of my time when I was with my grandfather, reading with him, and singing to him, and listening to his cynical, witty talk. At dusk we gathered round the fire, he and I and the two tawny setters, three of us on the rug, and he in his long, low chair, and talked of the old family, whose sons were all dead, and of the gay years when we had been in our glory. I thought we were very well off in worldly possessions as it was, but my dear old hero put such content to speedy flight with his tales of the days that were gone, when, to put implicit trust in him, a regal hospitality had filled the house with great and distinguished guests, glad to be with the family which always had a son leading the right in state and in church, in army and in navy.
I listened with glowing heart, and looked proudly at our men as I walked by their portraits in the halls on my way to bed. Perhaps my faith in their great deeds is not so childlike now; but it was pure and unlimited then, and those library stories can never fade from my memory.
I had been with my grandfather a week when the conversation with which my tale opens occurred, and I was to return to my parents in three days, under the protection of the very gentleman who was the subject of it. The two old friends were very intimate, and Mr. Erle spent every evening at the house; so I knew him well, and had no fear in asking him any question I chose, and I looked forward to the next evening as to a grand festival.
When we came in from dinner, I drew the window-shade, and saw that it was snowing fiercely.
"Perhaps he will not come," I said, turning to my grandfather disconsolately.
"Never fear that," he answered. "Mr. Erle is a man who is not kept at home by the weather, or anything else."
I came to the hearth. The last words had been added in the dry tone which always meant something, coming from his lips.
"Has Mr. Erle children?" I asked.
"Yes; the youngest boy is only sixteen."
"And he never spends an evening at home?"
"I've not known him to do so for twenty years. Sing the 'Health to King Charles,' dear."
I sat down at the piano, and sang as I was bid.
We were stanch loyalists from tradition, and my list of Stuart songs was so long that I had sung scarcely half of it when the clock struck nine, and rapid wheels came over the pavements. Opposite our door the horse slipped, and we heard the instantaneous lash singing in the night air and descending unmercifully on the poor animal. An immense stamping and rearing ensued. "That is Erle, sure enough," my grandfather said, going to the window. I followed him, and lifted the shade in time to see Mr. Erle standing in the trampled snow at the horse's head, patting him as gently as a woman could have done. In a moment he nodded to his servant, and watched him drive round the corner before turning to our door.
He came in quickly, exquisitely dressed, and courteous, with the beautiful old manner they cannot teach us now. After the first words, my grandfather said, with a superb affectation of seriousness, "The merciful man is merciful to his beast."
Mr. Erle looked up, with a bright laugh. "So you heard our little dispute? The old fellow bears me no malice, you may be sure; he knows that I never sulk."
"Perhaps he would like it a little better if you did," I said.
"Not at all. He respects me for my quick ways with him."
I shook my head doubtingly, and then, as if in defence of his theory, he said: "Did I ever tell you of Lillie Burton? Her animals did not mind a little discipline."
My grandfather laughed. "Oddly enough, we had laid a plot to make you tell that charming history this very evening," he said.
"Don't laugh about it," Mr. Erle answered. "I cannot tell you how vividly the sight of Miss Thesta's picture brought back the old time to me."
"I beg your pardon," the other said, bowing.
At that moment a servant came in with wine, placing the Japanese waiter with the old gilded bottle and glasses at my grandfather's elbow on the table. He poured out three glasses, and said, very simply: "We will have our own old way to-night, Erle, while you tell your old story, and drink as our fathers did, not vile alcohols, but the good fruit of the vine. Remember, Thesta, I leave you all my wine, on condition that you drink it, and never let a drop of whiskey come into your house."
"I promise," I said, and sat down at his feet.
"Perhaps you have heard of Lillie Burton?" Mr. Erle began.
I had a confused idea that the name of his wife was Lillie; but it was so confused that I answered, frankly, "No, I never heard of her at all."
"She is not Lillie Burton now," he went on with a sigh; "but I must begin at the beginning. It is a real horse story, which will tell in its favor with you, I am sure."
"Yes, indeed," I answered, with enthusiasm, and then he began anew.
"I was a gay, happy man of twenty-four, living in London with my dear friend, now dead, Richard Satterlee. We imagined ourselves very tired of town gayeties, and were languidly looking round for some country-place where we could be alone and quiet for a week or so, when the little incident occurred which led to my acquaintance with Lillie Burton. I must tell you that Satterlee and I were used up in more ways than one,—we had been unfortunate at the races that year, and so were well out of pocket, and I had not escaped heart-free from the season's balls, as Dick had, who, bless his honest soul, was as unmoved as a rock among the fairest women of the land. Not that they were indifferent to him, though. His broad shoulders and downcast eyes made sad havoc among them, Miss Thesta,—so beware of those attractions among the men you meet: there are none more deadly. Well, they loved Dick, and I loved Miss Ferrers. She was not very handsome, but more fascinating to me than any other woman, and as thorough a flirt as ever made a man miserable. Never mind the how and why, but, believe me, I was very hard hit indeed, and sincerely thought myself the most wretched man in all London when I heard that she had gone to Spain with her brother-in-law, Lord West, and his wife. She had treated me shamefully; but I loved her all the more for it, and was quite desperate, in short. You may not think it of me, but I could neither sleep nor eat. In this state of mind I was walking home one afternoon, determined to tell Satterlee that I should leave him, and go back to my people in America, when I saw a small crowd ahead, and heard them cheer before they broke up and walked away. I should have passed by without a second glance, had I not been struck by the appearance of one of the three men who remained on the spot,—a strong-limbed fellow of thirty, evidently of purest Saxon blood. His whole face was handsome, but his hair was simply superb, and this it was that attracted me. Imagine long yellow locks of brightest gold, not exactly curling, but waving in short, determined waves back from a low forehead. Ah, I cannot describe to you that wonderful hair, how it shone on me through the gloaming, and drew me irresistibly to the man himself! I stopped, and asked one of the others what the row had been about.
"'O, he pitched into a feller that was kicking a dog, and came near getting kicked hisself,' was the only answer I got, as he walked off with his companion. I turned to my hero, and, as our eyes met, a pleasant smile lighted up his face. 'Can you tell me the nearest place where I can buy a hat?' he said; 'there's not much use in picking up that thing,' pointing to a mashed heap in the gutter.
"'I should think not,' I said. 'There is no shop near, but if you will come round the corner to my rooms, I can provide you with a covering of some kind.'
"'Thank you,' he answered, and we walked away together. There was not time for much talk, and he had said nothing of himself when we opened the door. Satterlee was standing with his back to the fire, and no sooner did he see my companion than he sprang forward, in eager welcome. 'Burton of Darrow, by all the gods!' he cried. 'Where's your hat, good friend?'
"He of the golden locks burst into a merry laugh,—what white teeth he had! 'It is gone forever. Do let me know your friend, who has been so kind to me about it.'
"We were introduced to each other in due form, and Burton sat down at our hearth like an old friend, chatting merrily, and warming his great fists at the blaze. 'I ought not to have stayed so long,' he said presently, 'my father will have waited for me. Can the hats be marshalled, Mr. Erle?'
"I brought out all my store, and Satterlee's too, and, amid much laughter, Burton managed to hide some of his mane under a soft felt, and bade us good night. 'I must have you both at Darrow,' he said, his hand on the latch; 'remember that, and expect a note in the morning to tell you when to come.'
"As the door closed I laid my hands on Dick's shoulders. 'Who is he?' was all I said.
"'Why, Gerald, you're waking up,' he answered. 'If the male Burton can do this, what will not Lillie do?'
"'But who is he?' I repeated.
"'He's the oldest son of John Burton of Darrow, in ——shire. They are farmers, and they might be gentlemen, but they are queer, and won't. For generations untold they have cultivated their own land, and are mighty men at the plough and in the saddle. So are the women of the family, for that matter. But you will see when we go down. They are one of the few great yeoman families left in the land. We shall have a jolly time.'
"'And who is Lillie?' I asked.
"'This man's sister. If you want to see a woman ride, see her,—it's absolute perfection,—hereditary too: they all ride till they marry.'
"'And not afterwards?' I said, very much amused.
"'Never for mere pleasure, I believe. They have family traditions about all sorts of things, this among others. It is some notion about taking care of their homes and children, if I remember rightly. Miss Lillie will tell you all about it. How lucky that you met Jack this afternoon.'
"This was all I could get out of Satterlee; but, dull as you may think it, I was really interested, and waited impatiently for the coming invitation.
"The next morning arrived a note from Mr. Burton, asking us, in his father's name, to spend the next week at Darrow, and saying that the farmers' races were to take place then, and would be our only amusement. Before the day for starting came, I had lost half the enthusiasm which the sight of valiant Jack Burton's hair had kindled, and tried hard to get off from going; but Satterlee was bent on a week's riding, as he always called our visit, and we started early one Wednesday morning, and at dusk on Friday found ourselves entering the broad valley which formed the Darrow estate. Satterlee was familiar with the ground, and discoursed eloquently of its beauty and fertility as we drove along; but he failed to interest me, for, to tell the truth, I was sunk in melancholy, and thought only of Miss Ferrers and of that which had passed between us. Why had I come all these miles to see people who were total strangers to me, and would almost certainly prove dull, or even vulgar? Dick was an enthusiast, and not to be believed,—we might turn back even then.
"Such were my thoughts as we entered the lane at the end of which shone the lights of Darrow House. As we drew near, I could see that it was a mere farm-house,—very large indeed, but otherwise in no way remarkable. We drove up to a side-door, and had hardly stopped when the ringing voice of Jack Burton greeted our ears, and he came striding out, his glorious hair all afloat, as I had seen him in London streets a week before. All my love for the man—and I can use no lesser term—came back on the instant, and I grasped his hand almost as warmly as he did mine, I was so glad to be there.
"'Come in and see my father,' he said. 'He was afraid we should not see you to-night.'
"We went into the hall, and then, immediately through an open door at the farther end, into the most homelike room I ever saw,—a large room, exquisitely toned by great brown rafters, and lit by two fires, one at each end. Near one stood an immense wooden table covered with tools of every kind, and with what seemed to me a confused heap of saddles and bridles. Over it bent two men and a woman. I only saw that all three had the same wonderful light hair which so fascinated me; for Burton led us directly to the other fire, and introduced us to his father. He was a man of seventy, very roughly dressed, but self-possessed and courteous. 'You are welcome to Darrow,' he said, in low, gentle tones. 'I hope I shall be able to give you good sport while you are here.'
"This seemed to be all we were expected to say with him, for he bowed slightly, and Burton said, 'Come now to the workshop, as I call it,' and led us to the other end of the room. Satterlee went forward and shook hands warmly with the two young men and their sister, whose face I did not see, as it was turned away from me; and then Burton said, 'Lillie, this is Mr. Erle, whose hat you found so comfortable.'
"As he began to speak, she looked round, and held out her hand with a frank smile, saying, 'I, too, must thank you for that famous hat, Mr. Erle, for I wore it in a hard rain, day before yesterday, when I had to go out to train my colt for the coming races.'
"She said this very simply, in a sweet, almost singing tone, not unlike her father's, looking me full in the face meanwhile. I will try to tell you what she was like,—for I can remember her, after all these years, just as she stood, a saddler's awl in her hand, by the great table at Darrow. She was tall and broad and perfectly symmetrical in figure. I have never seen a woman who at the first glance gave the idea of elastic strength as she did, and yet she was by no means what you would call a large woman. Her face was like her brother's, really handsome, and full of sweetness,—the eyes so blue and living that no one could disbelieve their story of a great soul beneath. And, like her brother, she was crowned with a golden glory of hair. It was half brushed from her face, and clung thickly to her head, then wound in shining braids at the back,—waving and rippling just like Jack's. I never saw such wonderful heads as these four Burtons had. I can give you no idea of them. Her mouth was what I should call abrupt,—that is, shapely, deep-cut at the corners,—the lips smiling without opening widely, or showing more than a white flash of teeth. She so smiled as she spoke to me that first evening, and impressed me even then as no other woman ever had.
"'I am glad my hat has been so honored, Miss Burton,' I answered. 'I hope the colt for whom you take such trouble may win his race.'
"'Help me, then, by taking an interest in this saddle,' she said. 'I have an idea about the girths which these dear brothers of mine will not understand.'
"We all gathered round the table while Lillie explained her theory. The saddle was an old one, and smelt strongly of the stable; but they all handled it as if it were a nice, interesting toy; and when the girth question was finally decided by my strong approval, Lillie and the brother George went to work with awl and needle like experienced saddlers, and soon had the necessary alterations made.
"She looked up at me as she sewed, and said: 'You may think these are strange ways, but we do all such things for ourselves, especially this week, when we live for our horses. We are thorough yeomen, you know.'
"We talked on until supper was announced. Old Burton opened a small door at his end of the room, and waited with his hand on the latch while we went through, when, to my surprise, I found we were in the kitchen, surrounded by a large number of servants. We sat down at a long table by the fire, and then the servants took their places at the lower end, leaving two to serve us all. Burton stood at the head of the table until all were seated, then bowed, and said in the same gentle tone he had used in greeting us, 'You are welcome,' and sat down himself. No grace was said, but each person silently crossed himself.
"I was placed at the host's right hand, and we talked during supper of the races, and of horses generally, while Satterlee and Lillie Burton, on the other side of the table, did the same. It was the one subject which interested the Darrow household just then, and the servants even listened, eagerly and silently, to all that was said. Lillie's colt, it seemed, was entered for one of the races, and she had been training him herself with intense assiduity; but there was great difficulty in finding a rider, now he was trained.
"'I know he would win,' she cried, shaking her head disconsolately, 'but you are all so heavy.'
"'Ride him yourself, Miss Burton,' Dick suggested.
"'They won't let me.'
"'Who won't let you?'
"'O, the Earl. He gives the races, you know, and is a perfect dragon about them.'
"'I can't offer my own services,' Satterlee went on, 'for you know you wouldn't have me.'
"The Burtons all smiled at this, and Dick explained to me: 'I was on a horse of Miss Burton's a year or two ago, and didn't want to put him over a horrid rough gully; but she, on the farther side, cried out, "Let him break his knees if he is so clumsy," and so he did.'
"'It was your fault, though,' the frank young lady answered.
"I remember that at the end of the meat the servants rose and bowed to their master, he acknowledging the courtesy sitting. Then we did the same, and all went to the other room. After half an hour's talk round old Mr. Burton's chair, a peal of bells sounded in some distant part of the house, to my intense surprise, and we thereupon marched off down a long, long corridor to I could not imagine what. Satterlee whispered, 'Philip Burton is in orders,—this is Even-Song,' just as we entered a little chapel. There were kneeling-chairs for all, and the beautiful Burton heads sank devoutly upon them. It was a choral service, Lillie playing a small organ, and Philip chanting with the family and servants.
"As we went out, old Mr. Burton wished each good night; then some one showed me where my room was, and I found myself alone. I was really confused. Where was I, and what had I been doing? Did all the people in this part of the country have such strange ways? I looked at my watch, and found it was but just nine o'clock, and yet I seemed to have lived years since the morning. The evening service, so beautifully sung, had quite upset me. It was months since I had been in a church, and this had come so unexpectedly,—the dim light, the low, peculiar voices, the simple fervor. I began to think Darrow was a dream from beginning to end, when Satterlee put his head in at the door with a grin, and said, 'Well, how is my Gerry?'
"'A little dazed,' I answered; 'but come in, man, and prepare me for the morning.'
"'No,' he whispered, 'not allowable. Bedtime is bedtime here. Good night.'
"I went to bed in self-defence, and half dreamed, half thought, of horses, and choral services, and golden heads, until sound sleep came to my relief. It could not have been more than seven o'clock when I awoke, and yet on going to the window it was evident that the inhabitants of Darrow had been long up and about, for the farm-yard was in order for the day, the carts gone a-field, and the cattle-sheds empty. George and Philip Burton were busily engaged near the barn door, the one in turning a grindstone, the other in sharpening an axe; and from the barn itself came the melodious voices of Lillie and her brother Jack. Presently they came out, she leading a long-legged horse which I immediately recognized as answering to the description of the colt. He was of a dull gray color, and at the first glance I set him down as about the ugliest horse I had ever seen, his only good points being a very decent chest, and striding hind-legs of extraordinary length and muscle; otherwise he was utterly commonplace. But evidently there was some great fascination in the beast, for the four Burtons gathered round him and looked him over with that anxious scrutiny we always display when examining our horses, then patted him admiringly, and, as I judged from the expression of their faces, were well pleased with his morning looks.
"As I turned from my window, I glanced beyond the farm-yard to see what kind of a country I was in, and my eyes were greeted with as fair a prospect as rural England can afford. Imagine a green, rolling valley, some five miles broad, shut in on three sides by low hills, and sloping gently to the sea on the fourth. The water was perhaps three miles from Darrow House, but I could see that two little friths ran up far into the meadow-land. One other large farm-house was in sight, and some twenty or thirty cottages, all looking so bright and cosey in the clear October sunlight, that my heart was filled with joy at the sight, and I began my toilet actually singing a merry old song. I was soon down stairs, and out in the fragrant barnyard.
"Lillie sat upon a pile of logs, one hand half hidden in her hair, as she leaned lazily back on her elbow, looking at her brothers, who were making the air resound with mighty strokes as they hewed away at a tree which stood near the house door. 'Well done, Philip; you're none the worse woodman for being parson too,' she cried; then, seeing me, she rose with a bright color in her cheeks, and held out her hand in hearty morning greeting. 'We did not know when you would be rested from your journey,' she said, 'and so did not have you called. Will you come in to breakfast now?'
"The three brothers stopped their work as we went in, and bade me a cheerful good-morrow. I have never since seen such men,—so big, so handsome, so modest, with such bright, healthy faces. None of them talked a great deal, not even my favorite Jack; but I felt then as I should feel now if I met one of them anywhere, that their friendship meant trust and loyalty and service more than most men's.
"Jack went with us to a little room at the side of the house where breakfast was laid for two; but when Satterlee joined us, Jack said with a laugh, 'I will leave you to tell all about everything, Lillie, and go back to my chopping,' and so went out.
"'If I must tell about everything,' Lillie began, 'I must tell about the races first, for they are more important than anything else just now. Thursday is the great day, and all the farmers in the neighborhood will have horses there. It is the grand gathering of the year for us, and the gentry come down and walk about among the horses, and are as kind and gracious as can be. They always buy some of the best; and happy is the man who can sell a beast to the Earl, or to Sir Francis Gilmor, for they are great judges, and have the best stables in the county. There are five races during the day, the first being for ponies, the second for colts, and so on; and in the evening we have a ball at the Earl's, and the five riders who win are given presents by the Countess herself. O, it is a great day!' she went on, more and more enthusiastically; 'there is no other time so pleasant in all the year. George has in his bay mare, and I have entered my colt. Have you seen my colt?'
"'Yes,' I answered, 'I saw him from the window this morning.'
"Lillie looked me straight in the face a moment, and then said, with a little plaintive shake of the head: 'Ah, I see! You will laugh at him like all the rest. But you must see him go,—he is almost handsome then.'
"'I should think he might be,' I answered, trying to console her for my lack of admiration.
"'They are so mean about him,' she went on, smiling. 'When he was two years old they were going to give him away because he was so ugly and stupid; but I begged hard that he might stay at Darrow, and my father gave him to me for my own. I have had him now four years. You don't know how much I have suffered for that horse. But I have never despaired, and have trained him so well that he has great speed already, though they may laugh at his rough looks. O, if I can only win this race! It will be such a feather in my cap!'
"Satterlee laughed merrily at this. 'As zealous a racer as ever, I see, Miss Lillie. How I wish you would let me ride for you!'
"'Perhaps I may,' she answered. 'There is no knowing to what straits I may be driven.'
"Already something in this woman attracted me, dead as I supposed my heart to be. There was an indescribable freshness and vigor about everything she said and did, so different from the manner of the ladies I had lately seen,—a merry, defiant way which invited battle, and made one feel bright and springy. How can I tell what it was? I loved the woman from that very morning, and I love the memory of her now,—she stood so unembarrassed, so full of life, as we two ate our breakfast in the little, sunny room,—she was so lithe, so symmetrical. When we rose she said, 'My father thought you would like to fish with him, Mr. Satterlee, and Mr. Erle is to ride with me, if he so pleases.' I murmured a few words of compliment, and she went on: 'Come out to the barn and choose a horse, and Mr. Satterlee may have a look at the colt.' We followed her out of doors, just as we were,—hatless, like herself.
"'It is no fine stable we have at Darrow, but the horses are well off, and I pass so much time with them that I love the old, dingy place,' she said, as we crossed the yard.
"It was a great country barn, in truth, low and warm, with places for cows and sheep as well as horses. A broad floor ran from one great door to the other, covered with loose wisps of hay and straw, and above our heads was the winter's store of both. A red rush-bottomed chair and a table stood at one end,—two little pieces of furniture around which cluster the pleasantest memories of my life,—Lillie's chair and Lillie's table, where she sat to sew and sing among her animals. What happy mornings I spent there by her side.
"As we went in she began to talk to her colt, as a woman generally talks to babies. 'Why, my sweet one, my own lamb, my coltikins, was he glad to hear his granny coming to see him?'—and so on.
"The colt, who was in a box at the end of the barn, acknowledged all this tenderness by putting his heavy head over the rail and half pricking up one ear; but Lillie seemed to think this slight sign of intellect all that could be desired, and went up to him with a thousand caresses.
"'How like a woman to love that horse, now,' said Satterlee.
"Lillie turned towards him with a brilliant smile. 'I sha'n't take up arms about it, for why should I be ashamed that I have a woman's heart, and love my own things more because they are unfortunate, and other people make fun of them?'
"From that moment I resolved the colt should win, if it was in mortal riding to make him.
"'Miss Burton,' I said boldly, 'I see great qualities in your horse. May I ride him for you on Thursday?'
"She seemed a little startled by the suddenness of the proposal, but answered quickly, 'I shall be so much obliged! Will you think it rude if I ask you to ride him two or three times first?'
"'Of course not. Do you ride him yourself this morning?'
"'Yes, and which horse will you take? There are three or four there for you to choose from.'
"I walked down the row of stalls, and decided on an old hunter who turned the whites of his eyes round at me as if he longed for a gallop. Lillie called a man in from the yard, and said, 'Saddle the roan and Nathan, and bring them to the east door.'
"'Eh, Miss Lillie,' cried Satterlee, 'what name was that I heard? Nathan?'
"'Well, why not?' she answered. 'Father named him so in fun, and I keep it to show I don't care how much they laugh at him.'
"Satterlee seemed intensely amused. 'Nathan, Nathan!' he repeated. 'Winner of the Earl's race! Nathan, Nathan!'
"I went into the house for my hat and spurs, and on coming out found that Dick had gone off with old Mr. Burton, leaving his best wishes for the colt's success. Presently Lillie came out, clad in a dark habit, with a knot of blue ribbon at the throat, holding in her hand a whip so formidable that I was involuntarily reminded of the knouts of Russia. I suppose the thought was visible in my face, for she said quickly, 'I don't always carry this; but when Nathan is to do his best, I have to urge him to it, for if I depended on his own ambition we should soon be left behind.'
"'Indeed,' I answered. 'Then you must let me practise well before Thursday.'
"As I said these words the horses were brought to the door, and, before I could offer any assistance, Lillie had swung herself from the stump of the felled tree into her saddle. I remembered Satterlee's words about her perfect horsemanship, and glanced at her as I mounted. Even in that moment, as she sat perfectly still on the awkward colt's back, I saw how truly he had spoken. She was merely sitting there, without any of the fascination which motion gives, and yet I had never seen such a rider among women. You will think I exaggerate, but, as I am a man of honor, I assure you that an exact copy in marble of Lillie Burton, as she waited for my mounting on that autumn morning, would be a more beautiful equestrian statue than the world has ever seen. Such ease and strength and grace—Ah well! I shall not let you smile at my enthusiasm by any attempt at describing her. We started, unattended, our faces towards the sea.
"'Do you want to look at the race-course?' Lillie said.
"'Then follow me,'—and with the word she called cheerily to her horse, and swung her whip with such effect that what was a canter became a gallop, and then a run, so long, so fierce, so reckless, that I held my breath as I looked at her. We went right across country, over fences and ditches by the dozen, and never drew rein until we reached the shore.
"Then she turned in her saddle as I came up, and nodded triumphantly, her face a thousand times brighter and more bewitching than I had seen it yet.
"'Well, what do you think of Nathan now?' she asked.
"'He is wonderful,' I answered.
"'But that is by no means his best. You wait here, and I will put him round the course once as well as I can. We are to go down the beach to that white post, then up through the big field, over a bad hedge, which we must leap at a particular spot, then across the lane and through these four last fields home, and then over it all again. You shall try the ground this afternoon if you will.'
"She said all this rapidly, as if the business of the day had begun, and cantered down the sloping field. Arrived near the starting-point, I heard her give what seemed almost a yell, and lethargic Nathan, well awake, burst into the same tremendous pace, going faster and faster every moment, until he attained a speed which seemed positively terrific, a woman being in the saddle, and then Lillie ceased urging him, and rode unflaggingly, as she only could, over all obstacles, until she reached my side.
"'How can there be any doubt of your winning?" I asked.
"'I sometimes think there is none when Nathan has been going so well; but'—and a cloud came over her face—'there is one colt I am really afraid of,—a little black mare of Harry Dunn's. O, how that creature flies over the ground!'
"'I am not afraid,' I answered. 'You shall win, Miss Burton, if I die for it.'
"She laughed at my eager way of saying this, and we rode towards home, she talking all the way of Darrow and of the neighbors, of farming and of sailing,—for she was as much at home in a boat as on horseback. Ah, what a contrast to the dark-eyed, proud Miss Ferrers! I wondered how I could have been in love with any other than Lillie Burton, whose ways were so unaffected, whose whole nature was so healthy. What cared I for the languid accomplishments of city belles? Here was a real woman, kind and strong, and unhurt by the world's ways. Even in the excitement of the hardest gallop I saw no trace of vulgarity, no sign of unwomanly jockeyship, only a true, unconcealed interest in her horse and his performances,—an interest worthy of her English heart. We rode home in high spirits, feeling sure that the race would be ours, even Nathan entering into the gayety of the moment, and actually shying at a boy who lay asleep by the roadside. Lillie yielded so lithely to the sudden jump, that I could not help saying, 'How did you learn to ride so well?' and she answered, laughing: 'O, it is born in us; and then I rode recklessly for years before I got a good seat. I mean that I folded my arms, and galloped anywhere with tied reins, and half the time no stirrup. That is the best thing to do. Your old roan there has carried me at his own will for many a mile. He was as fast as Nathan at his age, and twice as spirited.'
"So we chatted as we rode home through the low lanes. The midday sun shone down on us as we came to Darrow House; and as I left Lillie at the door, to go up and dress for the farm dinner, I felt a new man, warmed with the bright day, and with the new hope which rose so sweetly in my tired heart.
"I will not weary you with the details of my days at the Burtons'. The old father ruled over his household like a king, and all yielded him loving obedience. Jack and his two stalwart brothers came and went, busy with all sorts of farming operations, and Lillie and I devoted ourselves to Nathan's further education. On Sunday the farmers and peasants came to church at the chapel in the house, and Philip Burton did for them all a true priest should. On every other day in the week, too, he held school for the children, instructing them just so far and no farther, 'Let them know how to read and write and do simple sums,' he said, 'but don't let's stuff their heads with learning beyond their station. It only makes them discontented, and would upset society in the end.' And so he let them come until he thought they knew enough, were the time longer or shorter, and after that the door was shut.
"In the mornings, Lillie and I, and often Satterlee, sat in the barn for hours, she sewing and talking with us, stopping sometimes to give directions to a workman, or to listen to some poor neighbor's tale of woe. For she seemed to attract every one, and, as surely as a child was sick or a cow lost, the whole story must be told to 'Darrow Lillie,' as they called her. She listened with ready sympathy, and always gave some quick, personal aid. I never saw a more charming picture than that which greeted me one morning as I came in at the barn door;—Lillie seated at her little table, close by the colt's stall, two dogs at her feet, and a soft black kitten in her hands, held lovingly against her cheek; beside her stood a peasant woman in a red cloak, wringing her hands, and telling how her husband had deserted her; a big-eyed calf looked in at the door behind, doubtful if he might come in as usual; and, over all, the October sunlight, mellow with barn-dust. I remember Lillie asked the woman where her husband was, and, learning he was at Plashy, Sir Francis Gilmor's seat, said she would see him that very day. And I am sure she did, for after dinner she went off alone on the roan hunter, and the next day I saw the same woman, with far happier mien, trudging along the lane by the side of her sheep-faced husband.
"So the days passed by, and Wednesday evening was come. We sat before the fire, and counted the chances for and against my winning the race, for it was a settled thing now that I should be Nathan's rider. I was as interested as any Burton of them all, and more so perhaps, for I felt that on my success the next day depended my success in what my whole heart was now determined on,—the winning of Lillie Burton's hand. I was quick at my conclusions at twenty-four, you see. Satterlee was still incredulous, and really annoyed me by his way of speaking,—offering to pick the yellow hairs out of Nathan's coat so as to make it shine a little, and otherwise employing his wit at our expense. Lillie laughed good-naturedly, and said they only made her love the horse the more by their unkind remarks.
"'Do you really love him,' Jack asked.
"'Certainly I do,' she answered. 'I have a deep affection for him.'
"'And I hope you will bestow some kind regard on his rider also,' I whispered, bending over her chair.
"She looked up in her own quick way, and, as our eyes met, I thought hers were bright with love, as well as mine. As you would say, now-a-days, our souls met; and from that moment a strange, triumphant happiness filled my heart. The short Darrow evening wore to its close, and I neither spoke to Lillie again nor looked at her, but sat silent, rejoicing, until at even-song I poured out my thankfulness to God, and praised him for this great gift,—Lillie Burton, my peerless, truthful Lillie, mine until death should part us, mine in all joy and sorrow, always my own! With what certainty of peace I went to my rest that night,—with what instinct of some great joy I woke in the morning,—the bright autumn morning which held my fate!
"The races were to begin at noon, and by eleven o'clock we all set forth from Darrow House, well mounted and gallantly arrayed. There was no unnecessary coddling of the horses. I rode Nathan, and George rode the horse he had entered for the third race; and the only unusual thing was, that we eschewed fences, and slowly wended our way through the lanes, to the little knoll by the beach, where the rude judge's stand was erected.
"Already a crowd of farmers had assembled, some coming in carts with their wives and daughters, some riding rough plough-horses, and some on foot. Not a few children had come too,—red-cheeked boys and girls, mounted on the wiry ponies of the country, riding about and making the air resound with their merry laughter. Every one seemed to know every one else, to judge by the hearty greetings exchanged On all sides, and every one was in the best possible humor. After all these years, the impression I received at this rustic gathering is undimmed. There were only these people. There was no set race-course, no eager betting, but never before or since have I seen a race assemblage so full of honest, interested faces, or showing so thorough an enjoyment of the day.
"As we came up, the little crowd separated, that we might ride to the top of the knoll, for Burton of Darrow was held in high respect, and way was made for him everywhere. We were now the centre of attention, and I was beginning to feel my city assurance giving way under the glance of honest interest directed towards me and my colt, when a murmur arose, 'Here come the gentry,' and, looking up the lane, I saw an open carriage full of ladies, and half a dozen gentlemen on horseback, approaching us. 'It is the party from Plashy,' Lillie said, 'and there is the Earl in the North Lane,' pointing out two or three more carriages. All was bustle now, for the horses which were to run must be ridden to a certain part of the field, and ranged side by side for the Earl's inspection. I found myself between a little fellow on a bay horse, and a handsome, curly-headed young farmer who sat a beautiful black mare like another Prince Hal.
"He bowed politely, and said, 'You ride the Darrow colt, then, sir.'
"'Yes,' I answered, 'and you are Harry Dunn, are you not?'
"'At your service, sir. It will be a hard race between us two.'
"Just then the Earl came up to look at the horses, as his custom was. We had met in London, and he recognized me with some surprise in my novel, situation as jockey; but a few words explained the case, and he turned to young Dunn, saying, with a smile, 'She's very handsome, my man; but it's an awful temper, if I know a horse's eye,'—and indeed the words were hardly out of his Lordship's mouth when the Witch, as she was called, kicked out savagely at a passing boy, and then reared so high and so long that I feared she would fall back on her rider; but Harry Dunn was no novice, and in a few minutes she was standing quietly enough, with dilated nostril and glowing eyes.
"'He'll ride her in before you, if he kills her,' the Earl whispered, turning to me. 'Darrow Lillie is looking on.'
"'He loves her, then?' I asked, as calmly as I could.
"'I should rather think he did,' the old gentleman answered, shrugging his shoulders, and walking off to some other horses.
"I looked round to see where Lillie was, and felt reassured when I saw she had not even turned in her saddle while her lover's life was in danger, but was still talking with Sir Francis Gilmor. I heard him say, 'I doubt whether I shall make an offer for that gray colt of yours'; and she answered, laughing, 'You shall have the first chance after the race, Sir Francis. It will break my heart if he does not win.'
"The pony race was soon called, and I dismounted to stand by Lillie's side and watch it. As I stood, my hand upon the roan's shoulder, ready to seize the reins if he became excited, for Lillie had flung them, as usual, upon his neck, and sat carelessly in the saddle, her hands crossed on her knee,—as I stood there, I say, I heard suddenly, above the loud talk of the farmers, a voice the sound of which made my heart leap up into my throat,—a woman's voice, cold and clear,—the words merely, 'Yes, a perfect day,' but they were full of horrible meaning to me. I felt that my week's dream of happiness was at an end, and that my old life personified had come to take me away. My presence of mind enabled me not to turn round at the moment; but as I mounted for the race, half an hour afterwards, I glanced towards the Earl's carriage, and there, at the Countess's side, sat Selina Ferrers. At the same instant I was aware of a stifled scream, and the sound of my name; but I paid no heed, and rode slowly down the field to where Harry Dunn and the other waited my coming at the starting-post. Imagine my feelings as I listened for the signal. Win! Why I would have won if I had died at Lillie's feet the moment afterwards.
"We were well away, we three men, but Harry and I soon got ahead, and flew with the speed of Browning's couriers over the flashing sand. I obeyed Lillie's last orders, and spared neither whip nor spur; but the black mare, almost uncontrolled, gained inch by inch, and leaped the last ditch fully three lengths ahead. We were to go round once again, and I lifted my whip for a desperate blow, just as we reached the bottom of the knoll, knowing that unless I got the colt into his best pace then all was lost; but he, stupid brute, thought the run was over, and swerved with a heavy plunge almost to his mistress's side. Before I could recover my control, I heard Lillie cry, her voice trembling with vexation, 'O, what riding!' and I saw tears in her eyes, as she pulled the frightened roan up on his haunches to make way for me.
"It was enough. Even Nathan felt there was to be no more trifling, and as I tore his side with my heel he broke at last into his great, fearful stride, and before we reached the lane Harry Dunn's black mare was straining every nerve lengths and lengths behind, and in three minutes more I stood humbly by Lillie's side, winner of the Earl's race. I scarcely heard the shouts of the crowd, or even the questions addressed to myself. Once again I was secure. No danger now from Harry Dunn on the one side, or Selina Ferrers on the other. The certain peace of the morning was mine again. It all seems so foolish, as I look back upon it now; but as I stood for those few brief moments by Flury Beach, surrounded by the golden-headed Burtons, the blue sea before me, and the fair green pastures behind, I was a happy man,—happier than I have ever been since.
"As the crowd separated, while the horses were got ready for the next race, I heard again the voice of Selina Ferrers; but it did not move me, for just then Lillie bent her beautiful head close by mine, and in her own low, singing tones, so much truer and more touching than the London belle's, said, 'Mr. Erle, what can I do to thank you?'
"I looked up frankly and gladly. 'May I tell you when we are at home to-night?'
"'Not till then?'
"'No, not till then,' I answered. And from my very heart I believe she had no idea what I meant, for she turned to Sir Francis Gilmor with an ease she could not have affected, and began to talk with him of Nathan.
"I stood looking at the racers, with real interest, for George Burton was riding, and I could see his hair shining in the wind far down the beach, and I was thinking of Lillie and Lillie's happiness, when a servant in livery came up, and said the Countess wished to speak with me. Had he presented a pistol at my head, the shock would not have been greater. As I approached the carriage I looked Selina Ferrers full in the face, and what did I read there? Great God! I cannot think of it with calmness even now.
"I bowed as coldly as politeness would allow, but the Countess put our her hand in cordial greeting, and begged me to take a seat with them for the rest of the morning. I murmured something about owing my time to the Burtons, and, after a few indifferent remarks (explaining how Miss Ferrers had decided not to go to Spain), was on the point of withdrawing, when the Countess said, 'At least, Mr. Erle, we shall see you at the castle'; and not until I had promised to come to her the next day would she let me go. As I turned, a light hand was laid upon my arm for an instant, and I heard an eager whisper, 'Gerald! what does this mean? I am here for your sake;—but I kept on my way as if I had not heard, and breathed freely again at Lillie's bridle-rein.
"Why should I describe the rest of the day to you? You see already how it had to end. I was with Lillie all day long, as happy as a king, though a little shocked when I heard at dinner that Nathan was sold to Sir Francis. But the day had been full of joy; and when all its festivities were over, and we drove home from the ball, it seemed as if no cloud hung over me.
"The Burtons went to the barn to care for the horses, and I was alone with Lillie by the great table. I asked her very simply if she would be my wife, and she told me that I asked in vain.
"'Even if I loved you, Mr. Erle,' she went on,—'even if I loved you, I could not be your wife. You are a gentleman, and I am a farmer's daughter; and you know even better than I do that we could not be happy very long. You will be glad some day that I did not lead you into such sore trial.'
"Some such words as these were the last words I ever heard from Lillie Burton's mouth, for the men came in, and she left the room; and as she passed me that night, dressed in a gown of softest white, her exquisite head bent in sorrow and tenderness, her eyes radiant through their tears, I saw her for the last time. We have never met, even for an instant, since."
* * * * *
Mr. Erle ceased speaking, and I gave a great sigh of relief. His last words had been uttered with so much feeling that neither my grandfather nor I could interrupt the long silence, as he sat looking dreamily into the fire. When at length he spoke, it was of an entirely different subject, and, after half an hour's conversation, he drank a last glass of the old wine, and bade us good night, wringing my grandfather's hand with more than usual warmth.
I waited almost impatiently until I heard the house-door close, and then, "Who is Mrs. Erle?" I asked.
"Who do you suppose?" my grandfather answered.
"No one. How should I?"
"And yet you heard Mr. Erle tell the part about the Countess?"
"And you do not guess what happened?"
"No. I dare say I am very stupid; but do tell me," I begged.
"Well, then, my dear, the morning after the races, Erle went to the castle, and the Countess was very kind, as great ladies often are, and he stayed for a week, since she pressed the matter so; and then there was an excursion into Wales, where most untoward things occurred, and the grand finale was a wedding at Lord West's in London."
"Then he married Miss Ferrers!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, my dear, even so. You have never seen the lady, I believe?"
"No, never. Is anything the matter with her?"
"Anything the matter with her? Yes, she is insane. Quite harmless, you know; but having been made with the worst temper in England, this climate has developed it into positive insanity."
"And she lives at home?" I asked, sadly, for it came over me what a tragedy Mr. Erle's life must be.
"Yes, Gerald is more than faithful to her. Ah, Thesta, child, we do not know all the patient endurance of God's men and women in this nineteenth century."
The bells of St. Mary's rang midnight as I lighted my bedroom candle, and kissed the smooth brow of my white-haired hero. "You do not ask what became of Lillie Burton," he said.
"Did you ever hear of her?"
"Yes, Satterlee was there years afterwards, and found her Lillie Dunn, with three children clinging to her skirts."
"O, Nathan turned out splendidly, and led the Flury hunt for years. They say his memory is green in ——shire yet."
"Poor Mr. Erle!" I said, summing up the whole story, as I went off to bed.
THE LITTLE LAND OF APPENZELL.
The traveller who first reaches the Lake of Constance at Lindau, or crosses that sheet of pale green water to one of the ports on the opposite Swiss shore, cannot fail to notice the bold heights to the southward, which thrust themselves between the opening of the Rhine Valley and the long, undulating ridges of the Canton Thurgau. These heights, broken by many a dimly hinted valley and ravine, appear to be the front of an Alpine table-land. Houses and villages, scattered over the steep ascending plane, present themselves distinctly to the eye; the various green of forest and pasture land is rarely interrupted by the gray of rocky walls; and the afternoon sun touches the topmost edge of each successive elevation with a sharp outline of golden light, through the rich gloom of the shaded slopes. Behind and over this region rise the serrated peaks of the Sentis Alp, standing in advance of the farther ice-fields of Glarus, like an outer fortress, garrisoned in summer by the merest forlorn hope of snow.
The green fronts nearest the lake, and the lower lands falling away to the right and left, belong to the Canton of St. Gall; but all aloft, beyond that frontier marked by the sinking sun, lies the Appenzeller Laendli, as it is called in the endearing diminutive of the Swiss-German tongue,—the Little Land of Appenzell.
If, leaving the Lake of Constance by the Rhine valley, you ascend to Ragatz and the Baths of Pfeffers, thence turn westward to the Lake of Wallenstatt, cross into the valley of the Toggenburg, and so make your way northward and eastward around the base of the mountains back to the starting-point, you will have passed only through the territory of St. Gall. Appenzell is an Alpine island, wholly surrounded by the former canton. From whatever side you approach, you must climb in order to get into it. It is a nearly circular tract, failing from the south towards the north, but lifted, at almost every point, over the adjoining lands. This altitude and isolation is an historical as well as a physical peculiarity. When the Abbots of St. Gall, after having reduced the entire population of what is now two Cantons to serfdom, became more oppressive as their power increased, it was the mountain shepherds who, in the year 1403, struck the first blow for liberty. Once free, they kept their freedom, and established a rude democracy on the heights, similar in form and spirit to the league which the Forest Cantons had founded nearly a century before. An echo from the meadow of Gruetli reached the wild valleys around the Sentis, and Appenzell, by the middle of the fifteenth century, became one of the original states out of which Switzerland has grown.
I find something very touching and admirable in this fragment of hardly noticed history. The people isolated themselves by their own act, held together, organized a simple yet sufficient government, and maintained their sturdy independence, while their brethren on every side, in the richer lands below them, were fast bound in the gyves of a priestly despotism. Individual liberty seems to be a condition inseparable from mountain life; that once attained, all other influences are conservative in their character. The Cantons of Unterwalden, Schwytz, Glarus, and Appenzell retain to-day the simple, primitive forms of democracy which had their origin in the spirit of the people nearly six hundred years ago.
Twice had I looked up to the little mountain republic from the lower lands to the northward, with the desire and the determination to climb one day the green buttresses which support it on every side; so, when I left St. Gall on a misty morning, in a little open carriage, bound for Trogen, it was with the pleasant knowledge that a land almost unknown to tourists lay before me. The only summer visitors are invalids, mostly from Eastern Switzerland and Germany, who go up to drink the whey of goats' milk; and, although the fabrics woven by the people are known to the world of fashion in all countries, few indeed are the travellers who turn aside from the near highways. The landlord in St. Gall told me that his guests were almost wholly commercial travellers, and my subsequent experience among an unspoiled people convinced me that I was almost a pioneer in the paths I traversed.
It was the last Saturday in April, and at least a month too soon for the proper enjoyment of the journey; but on the following day the Landsgemeinde, or Assembly of the People, was to be held at Hundwyl, in the manner and with the ceremonies which have been annually observed for the last three or four hundred years. This circumstance determined the time of my visit. I wished to study the character of an Alpine democracy, so pure that it has not yet adopted even the representative principle,—to be with and among a portion of the Swiss people at a time when they are most truly themselves, rather than look at them through the medium of conventional guides, on lines of travel which have now lost everything of Switzerland except the scenery.
There was bad weather behind, and, I feared, bad weather before me. "The sun will soon drive away these mists," said the postilion, "and when we get up yonder, you will see what a prospect there will be." In the rich valley of St. Gall, out of which we mounted, the scattered houses and cloud-like belts of blossoming cherry-trees almost hid the green; but it sloped up and down, on either side of the rising road, glittering with flowers and dew, in the flying gleams of sunshine. Over us hung masses of gray cloud, which stretched across the valley, hooded the opposite hills, and sank into a dense mass over the Lake of Constance. As we passed through this belt, and rejoiced in the growing clearness of the upper sky, I saw that my only prospect would be in cloud-land. After many windings, along which the blossoms and buds of the fruit-trees indicated the altitude as exactly as any barometer, we finally reached the crest of the topmost height, the frontier of Appenzell and the battle-field of Voeglisegg, where the herdsman first measured his strength with the soldier and the monk, and was victorious.
"Whereabouts was the battle fought?" I asked the postilion.
"Up and down, and all around here," said he, stopping the carriage at the summit.
I stood up and looked to the north. Seen from above, the mist had gathered into dense, rounded clouds, touched with silver on their upper edges. They hung over the lake, rolling into every bay and spreading from shore to shore, so that not a gleam of water was visible; but over their heaving and tossing silence rose, far away, the mountains of the four German states beyond the lake. An Alp in Vorarlberg made a shining island in the sky. The postilion was loud in his regrets, yet I thought the picture best as it was. On the right lay the land of Appenzell,—not a table-land, but a region of mountain ridge and summit, of valley and deep, dark gorge, green as emerald up to the line of snow, and so thickly studded with dwellings, grouped or isolated, that there seemed to be one scattered village as far as the eye could reach. To the south, over forests of fir, the Sentis lifted his huge towers of rock, crowned with white, wintry pyramids.
"Here, where we are," said the postilion, "was the first battle; but there was another, two years afterwards, over there, the other side of Trogen, where the road goes down to the Rhine. Stoss is the place, and there's a chapel built on the very spot. Duke Frederick of Austria came to help the Abbot Kuno, and the Appenzellers were only one to ten against them. It was a great fight, they say, and the women helped,—not with pikes and guns, but in this way: they put on white shirts, and came out of the woods, above where the fighting was going on. Now, when the Austrians and the Abbot's people saw them, they thought there were spirits helping the Appenzellers, (the women were all white, you see, and too far off to show plainly,) and so they gave up the fight, after losing nine hundred knights and troopers. After that, it was ordered that the women should go first to the sacrament, so that no man might forget the help they gave in that battle. And the people go every year to the chapel, on the same day when it took place."
I looked, involuntarily, to find some difference in the population after passing the frontier. But I had not counted upon the levelling influence which the same kind of labor exercises, whether upon mountain or in valley. So long as Appenzell was a land of herdsmen, many peculiarities of costume, features, and manners must have remained. For a long time, however, Outer-Rhoden, as this part of the Canton is called, shares with that part of St. Gall which lies below it the manufacture of fine muslins and embroideries. There are looms in almost every house, and this fact explains the density of population and the signs of wealth on every hand, which would otherwise puzzle the stranger. The houses are not only so near together that almost every man can call to his neighbors and be heard, but they are large, stately, and even luxurious, in contrast to the dwellings of other country people in Europe. The average population of Outer-Rhoden amounts to four hundred and seventy-five persons to the square mile, being nearly double that of the most thickly settled portions of Holland.
If one could only transport a few of these houses to the United States! Our country architecture is not only hideous, but frequently unpractical, being at worst shanties, and at best city residences set in the fields. An Appenzell farmer lives in a house from forty to sixty feet square, and rarely less than four stories in height. The two upper stories, however, are narrowed by the high, steep roof, so that the true front of the house is one of the gables. The roof projects at least four feet on all sides, giving shelter to balconies of carved wood, which cross the front under each row of windows. The outer walls are covered with upright, overlapping shingles, not more than two or three inches broad, and rounded at the ends, suggesting the scale armor of ancient times. This covering secures the greatest warmth; and when the shingles have acquired from age that rich burnt-sienna tint which no paint could exactly imitate, the effect is exceedingly beautiful. The lowest story is generally of stone, plastered and whitewashed. The stories are low (seven to eight feet), but the windows are placed side by side, and each room is thoroughly lighted. Such a house is very warm, very durable, and, without any apparent expenditure of ornament, is externally so picturesque that no ornament could improve it.
Many of the dwellings, I was told, could not be built with the present means of the population, at the present prices of labor and material. They date from the palmy days of Appenzell industry, before machinery had reduced the cost of the finer fabrics. Then, one successful manufacturer competed with another in the erection of showy houses, and fifty thousand francs (a large sum for the times) were frequently expended on a single dwelling. The view of a broad Alpine landscape, dotted all over with such beautiful homes, from the little shelf of green hanging on the sides of a rocky gorge and the strips of sunny pasture between the ascending forests, to the very summits of the lower heights and the saddles between them, was something quite new in my experience.
Turning around the point of Voeglisegg, we made for Trogen, one of the two capitals of Outer-Rhoden, which lay before us, across the head of the deep and wild St. Martin's Tobel. (Tobel is an Appenzell word, corresponding precisely to the gulch of California.) My postilion mounted, and the breathed horse trotted merrily along the winding level. One stately house after another, with a clump of fruit-trees on the sheltered side, and a row of blooming hyacinths and wall-flowers on the balcony, passed by on either side. The people we met were sunburnt and ugly, but there was a rough air of self-reliance about them, and they gave me a hearty "God greet you!" one and all. Just before reaching Trogen, the postilion pointed to an old, black, tottering platform of masonry, rising out of a green slope of turf on the right. The grass around it seemed ranker than elsewhere.
This was the place of execution, where capital criminals are still beheaded with the sword, in the sight of the people. The postilion gave me an account, with all the horrible details, of the last execution, only three years ago,—how the murderer would not confess until he was brought out of prison to hear the bells tolling for his victim's funeral,—how thereupon he was sentenced, and—but I will not relate further. I have always considered the death penalty a matter of policy rather than principle; but the sight of that blood-stained platform, the blood-fed weeds around it, and the vision of the headsman, in his red mantle, looking down upon the bared neck stretched upon the block, gave me more horror of the custom than all the books and speeches which have been said and written against it.
At Trogen I stopped at the principal inn, two centuries old, the quaint front painted in fresco, the interior neat and fresh as a new toy,—a very gem of a house! The floor upon which I entered from the street was paved with flat stones; a solid wooden staircase, dark with age, led to the guests' room in the second story. One side of this room was given up to the windows, and there was a charming hexagonal oriel in the corner. The low ceiling was of wood, in panels, the stove a massive tower, faced with porcelain tiles, the floor polished nearly into whiteness, and all the doors, cupboards, and tables, made of brown nutwood, gave an air of warmth and elegance to the apartment. All other parts of the house were equally neat and orderly. The hostess greeted me with, "Be you welcome!" and set about preparing dinner, as it was now nearly noon. In the pauses of her work she came into the room to talk, and was very ready to give information concerning the country and people.
There were already a little table and three plates in the oriel, and while I was occupied with my own dinner I did not particularly notice the three persons who sat down to theirs. The coarseness and harshness of their dialect, however, presently struck my ear. It was pure Appenzell, a German made up of singular and puzzling elisions, and with a very strong guttural k and g, in addition to the ch. Some knowledge of the Alemannic dialect of the Black Forest enabled me to understand the subject of conversation, which, to my surprise, was—the study of the classics! It was like hearing an Irishman talk of Shelley's "Witch of Atlas" in the broadest Tipperary brogue. I turned and looked at the persons. They were well-dressed young men, evidently the best class of Appenzellers,—possibly tutors in the schools of Trogen. Their speech in no wise differed from that of the common herdsmen, except that they were now and then obliged to use words which, being unknown to the people, had escaped mutilation. I entered into conversation, to ascertain whether true German was not possible to them, since they must needs read and write the language; but, although they understood me, they could only partly, and with evident difficulty, lay aside their own patois. I found this to be the case everywhere throughout the Canton. It is a circumstance so unusual, that, in spite of myself, associating a rude dialect with ignorance, I was always astonished when those who spoke it showed culture and knowledge of the world.
The hostess provided me with a guide and pack-bearer, and I set out on foot across the country towards Hundwyl. This guide, Jakob by name, made me imagine that I had come among a singular people. He was so short that he could easily walk under my arm; his gait was something between a roll and a limp, although he stoutly disclaimed lameness; he laughed whenever I spoke to him, and answered in a voice which seemed the cuneiform character put into sound. First, there was an explosion of gutturals, and then came a loud trumpet-tone, something like the Honk! honk! of wild geese. Yet, when he placed his squat figure behind a tavern table, and looked at me quietly with his mouth shut, he was both handsome and distinguished in appearance. We walked two miles together before I guessed how to unravel his speech. It is almost as difficult to learn a dialect as a new language, and but for the key which the Alemannic gave me, I should have been utterly at sea. Who, for instance, could ever guess that a' Ma' g'si, pronounced "amaxi" (the x representing a desperate guttural), really stands for einen Mann gewesen?
The road was lively with country people, many of whom were travelling in our own direction. Those we met invariably addressed us with "God greet you!" or "Guaet-ti!" which it was easy to translate into "Good day!" Some of the men were brilliant in scarlet jackets, with double rows of square silver buttons, and carried swords under their arms; they were bound for the Landsgemeinde, whither the law of the Middle Ages still obliges them to go armed. When I asked Jakob if he would accompany me as far as Hundwyl, he answered, "I can't; I daren't go there without a black dress, and my sword, and a cylinder hat."
The wild Tobels, opening downward to the Lake of Constance, which now shimmered afar through the gaps, were left behind us, and we passed westward along a broken, irregular valley. The vivid turf was sown with all the flowers of spring,—primrose, violet, buttercup, anemone, and veronica,—faint, but sweetest-odored, and the heralds of spring in all lands. So I gave little heed to the weird lines of cloud, twisting through and between the severed pyramids of the Sentis, as if weaving the woof of storms. The scenery was entirely lovely, and so novel in its population and the labor which, in the long course of time, had effaced its own hard traces, turning the mountains into lifted lawns and parks of human delight, that my own slow feet carried me through it too rapidly. We must have passed a slight water-shed somewhere, though I observed none; for the road gradually fell towards another region of deeply cloven Tobels, with snowy mountains beyond. The green of the landscape was so brilliant and uniform, under the cold gray sky, that it almost destroyed the perspective, which rather depended on the houses and the scattered woods of fir.
On a ridge, overlooking all this region, was the large village of Teufen, nearly as grand as Trogen in its architecture. Here Jakob, whose service went no further, conducted me to the "Pike" inn, and begged the landlady to furnish me with "a' Ma'" in his place. We had refreshments together, and took leave with many shakings of the hand and mutual wishes of good luck. The successor was an old fellow of seventy, who had been a soldier in Holland, and who with proper exertion could make his speech intelligible. The people nowhere inquired after my business or nationality. When the guide made the latter known, they almost invariably said, "But, of course, you were born in Appenzell?" The idea of a traveller coming among them, at least during this season of the year, did not enter their heads. In Teufen, the large and handsome houses, the church and schools, led me, foolishly, to hope for a less barbarous dialect; but no, it was the same thing everywhere.
The men in black, with swords under their arms, increased in number as we left the village. They were probably from the farthest parts of the Canton, and were thus abridging the morrow's journey. The most of them, however, turned aside from the road, and made their way to one farm-house or another. I was tempted to follow their example, as I feared that the little village of Hundwyl would be crowded. But there was still time to claim private hospitality, even if this should be the case, so we marched steadily down the valley. The Sitter, a stream fed by the Sentis, now roared below us, between high, rocky walls, which are spanned by an iron bridge, two hundred feet above the water. The roads of Outer-Rhoden, built and kept in order by the people, are most admirable. This little population of forty-eight thousand souls has within the last fifteen years expended seven hundred thousand dollars on means of communication. Since the people govern themselves, and regulate their expenses, and consequently their taxation, their willingness to bear such a burden is a lesson to other lands.
After crossing the airy bridge, our road climbed along the opposite side of the Tobel, to a village on a ridge thrust out from the foot of the Hundwyl Alp, beyond which we lost sight of Teufen and the beautiful valley of the Sitter. We were now in the valley of the Urnaesch, and a walk of two miles more brought us to the village of Hundwyl. I was encouraged, on approaching the little place, by seeing none except the usual signs of occupation. There was a great new tank before the fountain, and two or three fellows in scarlet vests were filling their portable tubs for the evening's supply; a few children came to the doors to stare at me, but there was no sign that any other stranger had arrived.
"I'll take you to the Crown," said the guide; "all the Landamaenner will be there in the morning, and the music; and you'll see what our Appenzell government is." The landlady gave me a welcome, and the promise of a lodging, whereupon I sat down in peace, received the greetings of all the members of the family, as they came and went, and made myself familiar with their habits. There was only one other guest in the house,—a man of dignified face and intellectual head, who carried a sword tied up with an umbrella, and must be, I supposed, one of the chief officials. He had so much the air of a reformer or a philosopher, that the members of a certain small faction at home might have taken him for their beloved W. P.; others might have detected in him a resemblance to that true philanthropist and gentleman, W. L. G.; and the believers in the divinity of slavery would have accepted him as Bishop ——. As no introductions are required in Appenzell, I addressed myself to him, hoping to open a profitable acquaintance; but it was worse than Coleridge's experience with the lover of dumplings. His sentiments may have been elevated and refined, for aught I knew, but what were they? My trumpeter Jakob was more intelligible than he; his upper teeth were gone, and the mutilated words were mashed out of all remaining shape against his gums. Then he had the singular habit of ejaculating the word Ja! (Yes!) in three different ways, after answering each of my questions. First, a decided, confirmatory Ja! then a pause, followed by a slow, interrogative Ja? as if it were the echo of some mental doubt; and finally, after a much longer pause, a profoundly melancholy, desponding, conclusive Ja-a-a! sighed forth from the very bottom of his lungs. Even when I only said, "Good morning!" the next day, these ejaculations followed, in the same order of succession.