We were making about thirty miles a day, sleeping soundly at night, when the ever-watchful hyena, and occasionally a troop of wild asses, would pay us their nocturnal visits, and upon the fourth morning we began to approach the shores of the Mirage Seas. These atmospheric phenomenas on the Nubian Desert are not only very perfect imitations of real lakes, but have on many occasions inveigled expeditions away, to perish of heat and thirst. A little time before my expedition to Central Africa a body of Egyptian troops crossing this desert found their water almost at a boiling point in the skins, and nearly exhausted. They beheld, a few miles distant, an apparent lake overshadowed by a forest, and bordered with verdure and shrubbery. Although told by the guide that it was an illusion, they broke ranks, started off in pursuit of the sheet of water, chasing the aerial phantom, although it receded with the pace of their approach. At last they sunk down from thirst and fatigue, and died! Twelve hours on the Nubian Desert without water means a certain and terrible death; and even to this day, having been near such an end, with all of its indescribable anguish, I seldom raise a glass of water to my lips that I do not recall a day when I lay upon the burning sand, awaiting with impatience the moment that should snap asunder the vital cord and give peace to my burning body.
A mirage certainly presents an incomparable scenic effect. Once in its midst, you are encompassed by an imponderable mirror. It reflects the rocks, the mountains, the stray mimosa trees, and reproduces by inverted mirage every prominent object of the extended landscape. It has the blue of polished platinum, and lies like a motionless sea, stretching away from the craggy bluffs. Sometimes during the noonday heat it dances within a few yards of the caravan, and gives motion to every object within its area, changing the waste to the semblance of rolling seas peopled with the semblance of men.
Attacked by semi-blindness, with a blistering nose, and lips almost sealed to speech because of the agony of attempted articulation, I found the fifth day brought me to the extreme of suffering, when a terrific simoon burst over the desert, gathering up and dispersing the sands with indescribable fury. My mouth and nostrils were filled with earthy atoms, and my eyes were filled with irritating particles. The storm grew so dense and awful that it became a tornado, and we were soon enveloped in total darkness. All routes of travel were obliterated, and destruction threatened my command. These sand spouts are frequent, making a clean swathe, burying alike man and beast, and often they blow for weeks. During the approach of one of those death-dealing simoon's I noted a sublime phenomenon. To southward were fine equi-distant sand spouts, rising perpendicularly to a great height, and losing their swelling capitals in the clouds. They seemed to stand as majestic columns supporting the vault of the sky, and the supernatural architecture was further heightened by mirage-lakes, whose waters seemed to dash against the pillars as the green of doom-palms waved through the colonnade. The spectacle appeared like the ruin of a supernal pantheon once reared by the banks of the Nile, whose welcome and real waters greeted my eye after a fourteen days' journey, which I trust I may never be called upon to repeat.
* * * * *
A FORBIDDEN TOPIC.
WHICH SOME PEOPLE PERSIST IN INTRODUCING.
Why don't they stop it? Why do some people persist, spite of my hopes and prayers, my silent tears and protestations, in asking if "I'm well," when I'm before their eyes apparently the personification of health?
Why am I of that unfortunate class of beings who are afflicted with friends ("Heaven defend me from such friends") who appear to take a fiendish delight in recounting to me my real or (by them) imagined ill-looks; who come into my presence, and scrutinizing me closely, inquire, with what looks to me like a shade of anxiety, "Are you sick?" and if I, in astonishment, echo, "Sick? why, no; I never felt better in my life," observe, with insulting mock humility, "O, excuse me; I thought you looked badly," and turn again to other subjects.
But I do not flatter myself they are done with me. I know their evil-working dispositions are far from satisfied; and, presently they renew the attack by asking, still more obnoxiously, "My dear, are you sure you are quite well today? you certainly are pale;" and if I, thus severely cross-questioned, am induced to admit, half sarcastically, and, perhaps, just to note the effect, that I have—as who has not—a little private ache somewhere about me (that, by the way, I considered was only mine to bear, and therefore nobody's business but my own, and which may have been happily forgotten for a few moments), I have removed the barrier, given the opportunity desired, and the flood rushes in. "I knew you were not well," they cry, triumphantly. "Your complexion is very sallow; your lips are pale; your eyes look dull, and have dark rings under them; and surely you are thinner than when I saw you last"—concerning all which I may have doubts, though I have none that a frantic desire is taking possession of me to get away, and investigate these charges; and when, finally, I am released from torture, I fly to my good friend, the mirror; and, having obtained from it the blissful reassurance that these charges are without foundation in my features, I feel like girding on my armor and confronting my disagreeable ex-callers and all their kind with a few pertinent (or impertinent) questions.
I want to ask them if it does them any particular good to go and sit in people's houses by the hour, watch their every look and action, and harrow up their feelings by such gratuitous information? I want to ask them if they suppose our eyesight is not so sharp as theirs? And I take great pleasure in informing them, and in politely and frigidly requesting them to remember, that, so far as my observation goes, when people are ill, or looking ill, they are not so blind, either to feelings or appearances, as not to have discovered the fact; that, indeed, they must be exceptions to the general rule of half-invalids if they do not frequently and critically examine every lineament of their face, and secretly grieve over their increasing imperfections; consequently, ye provokingly observant ones, when you meet them and find them not looking well, even find yourselves in doubt as to whether they are looking quite as well as when you last saw them, and are sure you shall perish unless you introduce what Emerson declares "a forbidden topic" in some form—at least give your friends the benefit of the doubt; tell them they are looking better than usual, and, my word for it, they will be by the time they hear that; for if there is anything that will make a person, especially a woman look well, and feel better, it is the knowledge that some one thinks she does.
But if she is thin, remember there is nothing fat-producing in your telling her of the fact; or if her eyes are dull, they will not brighten at the certainty that you know it, unless with anger that your knowledge should be conveyed in such a fashion; and if she is pale, telling her of it will not bring the color to her face, unless it be a blush of shame for your heartless ill-breeding.
So much for the class who appear purposely to wound one's feelings. Then there is another class who accomplish the same result with no such intention, who do it seemingly from pure thoughtlessness, but who should none the less be held accountable for their acts.
One of these unlucky mortals, who would not willingly cause any one a single heartache, lately met a gentleman friend of ours, who is, 't is true—and "pity 'tis 'tis true"—in very delicate health, and thus accosted him:
"I tell you, my man, unless you do something for yourself, right off, you won't be alive three months from now!"
"Do something!" As if he had not just returned from a thousand mile journey taken to consult one of the most eminent physicians in the country, to whom he paid a small fortune for services that saved his life; and as if he were not constantly trying every thing he possibly can to help and save himself! Nevertheless, after this blunt prophecy, he did something more, something he is not in the habit of doing. He went home utterly miserable, related the circumstances to his wife (whose murderous inclinations toward his officious fellow-man were forgivable), assured her that were his appearance so horrifying to casual acquaintances he must indeed be a doomed man; and, spite of her efforts, always directed to the contrary, got the blues, and conscious of having done every thing else, began contemplating death as the only remedy still untried.
Now, to me, such carelessness seems criminal. The gentleman addressed was attending to his extensive business, was more cheerful than half the men who are considered in perfect health, and was, for him, really looking, as well as feeling, finely; and to give him such startling intelligence, when he was so totally unprepared for it, was inflicting misery upon him that one human being has no right to inflict upon another; he has no right to advise a friend to do an indefinite "something," unless he knows what will help or cure him; he has no right to verbally notice his condition, and particularly when he meets him doing his duty in active business life.
People should "think before they speak," that if their friends or acquaintances are ill, for that very reason they are generally discouraged enough, and need all the gladsome aid and comfort those about them can possibly give; and it is their simple duty to give it.
Said a mother to me once, when urging me to call upon her invalid daughter, "And when you come, do not tell her she looks badly; tell her she looks better, and you hope soon to see her well. Every one who comes in exclaims about her terrible aspect, and it drives me almost distracted to note its ill effect on her."
"Why, how can people be so heedless?" cried I. "Do they not know that even truth is not to be spoken at all times? When I come I'll give her joy, you may be sure;" and I did, though my heart ached the while, for I feared, all too truly, her days on earth were numbered; but I had my reward in her changed, happy countenance and the gratitude of her sorrowing mother.
Therefore, if you are not the enviable possessor of one of those "merry hearts that doeth good like a medicine," both to yourself and to those with whom you come in contact, at least avoid wounding these by dwelling upon their infirmities. Even should you see your friends in the last stages of a long illness; though their cheeks are terrifying in their hollowness, and their eyes resemble dark caverns with faint lights at the far ends, and all their other features prove them soon to be embraced by the king of terrors, not only in sweet mercy's name do not speak of it, but, unless compelled to do so, except by your softened tones, make no sign that you notice it; remember you can not smooth their way to the tomb by descanting upon their poor emaciated bodies, and there is just a chance that they may recollect you a trifle more kindly when they have cast them off, like worn-out garments, if you now talk on pleasanter themes—themes with which they are not already so grievously familiar.—GALE FOREST, in The Christian Union.
The savor of our household talk, Which earneth silent thanks; The glory of our daily walk Among the busy ranks.
Life's cleanly, lubricating oil, In which a help is found To make the wheels of common toil Go lightly, swiftly round.
Benevolence and grace of heart That gives no needless pain, And pours a balm on every smart Till smiles appear again.
* * * * *
IDA LEWIS WILSON.
THE GRACE DARLING OF AMERICA.
About forty-six years ago a story of English heroism stirred the heart of the world. Grace Darling was born at Bamborough, on the coast of Northumberland, in 1815, and died in 1842. Her father was the keeper of the Long-stone Light-house, on one of the most exposed of the Farne islands. On the night of September 6, 1838, the Forfarshire steamer, proceeding from Hull to Dundee, was wrecked on one of the crags of the Farne group. Of fifty-three persons on board, thirty-eight perished, including the captain and his wife. On the morning of the 7th the survivors were discovered by Grace clinging to the rocks and remnants of the vessel, in imminent danger of being washed off by the returning tide. Grace, with the assistance of her parents, but against their remonstrance, immediately launched a boat and, with her father, succeeded in rescuing nine of them, and six escaped by other means. Presents and admiration were showered upon her from all parts of the United Kingdom, and a public subscription to the amount of L700 was raised for her. Among the many poets who sang her praises was Wordsworth, in a poem of considerable length, of which the following is a passage:
"Among the dwellers in the silent fields The natural heart is touched, and public way And crowded street resound with ballad strains, Inspired by one whose very name bespeaks Favor divine, exalting, human love; Whom, since her birth on bleak Northumbrian coast, Known unto few, but prized as far as known, A single act endears to high and low Through the whole land—to manhood, moved in spite Of the world's freezing cares; to generous youth; To infancy, that lisps her praise; to age, Whose eye reflects it, glistening through tears Of generous admiration. Such true fame Awaits her now; but, verily, good deeds Do no imperishable record find Save in the roll of heaven, where hers may live A theme for angels, when they celebrate The high-souled virtues which forgetful earth Has witnessed."
These lines describe equally well Ida Lewis, the heroine of our own country, whose brave deeds have passed into the habit of a life.
Ida Lewis Wilson, for she is now married, is the daughter of Hosea Lewis, who was formerly of the revenue service, became keeper of Lime Rock Lighthouse, in the inner harbor of Newport, R.I. The lighthouse is situated on one of the small rocks of limestone in that harbor, and is entirely surrounded by water.
From her thirteenth year Ida has resided on the rock. As the only means of connection with the city of Newport is by water, she early learned the use of oars. When she was about fifteen years of age she rescued from drowning four boys who had been thrown into the water by the upsetting of their boat near the lighthouse. During the Winter of 1865-66, on one of the coldest days of that season, she rescued a soldier belonging to Fort Adams, who was clinging to a skiff, which had upset with him and become full of water. She lifted him out of the water into her own boat and carried him to the lighthouse.
About this time the duty of looking after the light depended on Ida and her mother, her father having become a hopeless cripple from paralysis. This charge they fulfilled in the most perfect manner, no light on the coast being more regularly or more perfectly attended to. It is a singular life to imagine, these two women living thus isolated from the rest of the world. The freedom of the life, however, and the constant abundance of stimulating sea air, together with the exercise of rowing to and from the city, gave Ida a physical strength and a health which makes her richer in all the valuable part of life than many of her sex whose lives are passed in constant repining for something to live for, while surrounded with all the appliances of luxury. That Miss Lewis has also developed an independence of courage is shown by her deeds, which prove also that the isolation of her life has not in any way prevented the development of the tenderness of sympathy with suffering which is supposed to be peculiar to only the helplessness of women.
It was owing to the efforts of the late Senator Burnside that Ida became the recognized keeper of the lighthouse, a promotion as graceful as it was deserved. The matter was arranged in January, 1879, by Senator Burnside and Collector Pratt.
The keeper of Lime Rock Light then was Mrs. Zoradia Lewis, Ida's mother, who had been in charge for a number of years. Mrs. Lewis's second daughter, who was very sick, required all the mother's attention, and accordingly it was suggested to her that by her resignation the heroine could receive the appointment. She gladly accepted the suggestion, and on January 24th Ida received her appointment, with a salary of $750 a year, an increase of $250 over her mother's pay. In communicating the appointment Secretary Sherman said: "This appointment is conferred upon you as a mark of my appreciation for your noble and heroic efforts in saving human lives." Ida Lewis had given up all hope that her claims would ever be recognized, and the news was joyfully received.
In July, 1881, the Secretary of the Treasury awarded the gold life-saving medal to her in recognition of her services in rescuing a number of persons from drowning since the passage of the act authorizing such awards. Most of the rescues made were under circumstances which called for heroic daring, and involved the risk of her life. The following summary of her achievements in life-saving is taken from the records of the Treasury Department:
"The total number of lives Mrs. Ida Lewis Wilson has saved since 1854, so far as known, is thirteen. In all these cases except two she has relied wholly on herself. Her latest achievement was the rescue in February, 1881, of two bandsmen from Fort Adams, near Newport, R.I. The men were passing over the ice near Lime Rock Light-house, where Mrs. Lewis Wilson resides, when the ice gave way and they fell in. Hearing their cries, Mrs. Wilson ran out with a clothes-line which she threw to them, successively hauling them out at a great risk to herself from the double peril of the ice giving way beneath her and of being pulled in. Her heroism on various occasions has won her the tribute of her State's Legislature expressed in an official resolution; the public presentation to her of a boat by the citizens of Newport; a testimonial in money from the officers and soldiers of Fort Adams for saving their comrades; and medals from the Massachusetts Humane Society and the New York Life-saving Benevolent Association. To these offerings is now fitly added the gold medal of the United States Life-saving Service."
The presentation took place at the Custom House at Newport, on October 11, 1881, in the presence of many of the leading residents of the State, who met there upon invitation of Collector Cozzors. Mrs. Wilson was introduced to the company by Ex-Collector Macy. The collector introduced Lieutenant-commander F.E. Chadwick, U.S.N., who, in a happy speech, made the presentation of the highest token of merit of the kind which can be given in this country, the life-saving medal of the first class, conferred by the United States Government "for extreme heroic daring involving eminent personal danger." After a simple and eloquent recital of the circumstances in which Mrs. Wilson had, at the risk of her own life and in circumstances requiring the utmost skill and daring, saved from a watery grave on six occasions thirteen persons, Commander Chadwick paid a glowing tribute to the heroism of Mrs. Wilson, and concluded by reading the letter of Secretary of the Treasury Windom, conferring the medal awarded to her under the law of June 20th, 1874. Lieutenant-governor Fay responded on behalf of Mrs. Wilson, and an appropriate address was made by Ex-Governor Van Zant on behalf of Newport and Rhode Island.
After the addresses the public were invited to inspect the gold medal, and were greatly impressed with its beauty. It bears upon its obverse side a tablet with the following inscription:
Ida Lewis Wilson,
For Signal Heroism in Saving Two Men from Drowning,
FEBRUARY 4, 1881.
Surrounding the tablet is the inscription:
In Testimony of Heroic Deeds in Saving Life from the Peril of the Seas.
* * * * *
(BORN 1767—DIED 1828.)
THE WIFE OF OUR SEVENTH PRESIDENT.
Rachel Donelson was the maiden name of General Jackson's wife. She was born in Virginia, in the year 1767, and lived there until she was eleven years of age. Her father, Colonel John Donelson, was a planter and land surveyor, who possessed considerable wealth in land, cattle, and slaves. He was one of those hardy pioneers who were never content unless they were living away out in the woods, beyond the verge of civilization. Accordingly, in 1779, we find him near the head-waters of the Tennessee River, with all his family, bound for the western part of Tennessee, with a river voyage of two thousand miles before them.
Seldom has a little girl of eleven years shared in so perilous an adventure. The party started in the depth of a severe Winter, and battled for two months with the ice before it had fairly begun the descent of the Tennessee. But, in the Spring, accompanied by a considerable fleet of boats, the craft occupied by John Donelson and his family floated down the winding stream more rapidly. Many misfortunes befell them. Sometimes a boat would get aground and remain immovable till its whole cargo was landed. Sometimes a boat was dashed against a projecting point and sunk. One man died of his frozen feet; two children were born. On board one boat, containing twenty-eight persons, the small-pox raged. As this boat always sailed at a certain distance behind the rest, it was attacked by Indians, who captured it, killed all the men, and carried off the women and children. The Indians caught the small-pox, of which some hundreds died in the course of the season.
But during this voyage, which lasted several months, no misfortune befell the boat of Colonel Donelson; and he and his family, including his daughter Rachel, arrived safely at the site of the present city of Nashville, near which he selected his land, built his log house, and established himself. Never has a settlement been so infested by hostile Indians as this. When Rachel Donelson, with her sisters and young friends, went blackberrying, a guard of young men, with their rifles loaded and cocked, stood guard over the surrounding thickets while the girls picked the fruit. It was not safe for a man to stoop over a spring to drink unless some one else was on the watch with his rifle in his arms; and when half a dozen men stood together, in conversation, they turned their backs to each other, all facing different ways, to watch for a lurking savage.
So the Donelsons lived for eight years, and gathered about them more negroes, more cattle, and more horses than any other household in the settlement. During one of the long Winters, when a great tide of emigration had reduced the stock of corn, and threatened the neighborhood with famine, Colonel Donelson moved to Kentucky with all his family and dependents, and there lived until the corn crop at Nashville was gathered. Rachel, by this time, had grown to be a beautiful and vigorous young lady, well skilled in all the arts of the backwoods, and a remarkably bold and graceful rider. She was a plump little damsel, with the blackest hair and eyes, and of a very cheerful and friendly disposition. During the temporary residence of her father in Kentucky, she gave her hand and heart to one Lewis Robards, and her father returned to Nashville without her.
Colonel Donelson soon after, while in the woods surveying far from his home, fell by the hand of an assassin. He was found pierced by bullets; but whether they were fired by red savages or by white was never known. To comfort her mother in her loneliness, Rachel and her husband came to Nashville and lived with her, intending, as soon as the Indians were subdued, to occupy a farm of their own.
In the year 1788 Andrew Jackson, a young lawyer from North Carolina, arrived at Nashville to enter upon the practice of his profession, and went to board with Mrs. Donelson. He soon discovered that Mrs. Rachel Robards lived most unhappily with her husband, who was a man of violent temper and most jealous disposition. Young Jackson had not long resided in the family before Mr. Robards began to be jealous of him, and many violent scenes took place between them. The jealous Robards at length abandoned his wife and went off to his old home in Kentucky, leaving Jackson master of the field.
A rumor soon after reached the place that Robards Had procured a divorce from his wife in the Legislature of Virginia; soon after which Andrew Jackson and Rachel Donelson were married. The rumor proved to be false, and they lived together for two years before a divorce was really granted, at the end of which time they were married again. This marriage, though so inauspiciously begun, was an eminently happy one, although, out of doors, it caused the irrascible Jackson a great deal of trouble. The peculiar circumstances attending the marriage caused many calumnies to be uttered and printed respecting Mrs. Jackson, and some of the bitterest quarrels which the general ever had had their origin in them.
At home, however, he was one of the happiest of men. His wife was an excellent manager of a household and a kind mistress of slaves. She had a remarkable memory, and delighted to relate anecdotes and tales of the early settlement of the country. Daniel Boone had been one of her father's friends, and she used to recount his adventures and escapes. Her abode was a seat of hospitality, and she well knew how to make her guests feel at home. It used to be said in Tennessee that she could not write; but, "as I have had the pleasure of reading nine letters in her own handwriting," says Parton, "one of which was eight pages long, I presume I have a right to deny the imputation. It must be confessed, however, that the spelling was exceedingly bad, and that the writing was so much worse as to be nearly illegible. If she was ignorant of books, she was most learned in the lore of the forest, the dairy, the kitchen, and the farm. I remember walking about a remarkably fine spring that gushed from the earth near where her dairy stood, and hearing one of her colored servants say that there was nothing upon the estate which she valued so much as that spring." She grew to be a stout woman, Which made her appear shorter than she really was. Her husband, on the contrary, was remarkably tall and slender; so that when they danced a reel together, which they often did, with all the vigor of the olden time, the spectacle was extremely curious.
It was a great grief to both husband and wife that they had no children, and it was to supply this want in the household that they adopted one of Mrs. Donelson's nephews, and named him Andrew Jackson. This boy was the delight of them both as long as they lived.
Colonel Benton, so long in the United States Senate, himself a pioneer of the still remoter West, who knew Mrs. Jackson well and long, recorded his opinion of her in the following forcible language:
"A more exemplary woman in all the relations of life—wife, friend, neighbor, mistress of slaves—never lived, and never presented a more quiet, cheerful, and admirable management of her household. She had the general's own warm heart, frank manners, and admirable temper; and no two persons could have been better suited to each other, lived more happily together, or made a house more attractive to visitors. No bashful youth or plain old man, whose modesty sat them down at the lower end of the table, could escape her cordial attention, any more than the titled gentlemen at her right and left. Young persons were her delight, and she always had her house filled with them, all calling her affectionately 'Aunt Rachel.'"
In the homely fashion of the time, she used to join her husband and guests in smoking a pipe after dinner and in the evening. There are now living many persons who well remember seeing her smoking by her fireside a long reed pipe.
When General Jackson went forth to fight in the war of 1812, he was still living in a log house of four rooms. "And this house," says Parton, in a sketch written years ago, from which this is chiefly drawn, "is still standing on his beautiful farm ten miles from Nashville. I used to wonder, when walking about it, how it was possible for Mrs. Jackson to accommodate so many guests as we know she did. But a hospitable house, like a Third Avenue car, in never full; and in that mild climate the young men could sleep on the piazza or in the corn-crib, content if their mothers and sisters had the shelter of the house. It was not until long after the general's return from the wars that he built, or could afford to build, the large brick mansion which he named the 'Hermitage,' The visitor may still see in that commodious house the bed on which this happy pair slept and died, the furniture they used, and the pictures on which they were accustomed to look. In the hall of the second story there is still preserved the huge chest in which Mrs. Jackson used to stow away the woolen clothes of the family in the Summer, to keep them from the moths. Around the house are the remains of the fine garden of which she used to be proud, and a little beyond are the cabins of the hundred and fifty slaves, to whom she was more a mother than a mistress."
A few weeks after the battle of New Orleans, when Jackson was in the first flush of his triumph, this plain planter's wife floated down the Mississippi to New Orleans to visit her husband and accompany him home. She had never seen a city before; for Nashville, at that day, was little more than a village. The elegant ladies of New Orleans were exceedingly pleased to observe that General Jackson, though he was himself one of the most graceful and polite of gentlemen, seemed totally unconscious of the homely bearing, the country manners, and awkward dress of his wife. In all companies and on all occasions he showed her every possible mark of respect. The ladies gathered about her and presented her with all sorts of showy knick-knacks and jewelry, and one of them undertook the task of selecting suitable clothes for her. She frankly confessed that she knew nothing at all about such things, and was willing to wear any thing the ladies thought proper. Much as she enjoyed her visit, she was glad enough to return to her old home on the banks of the Cumberland, and resume her oversight of the dairy and the plantation.
Soon after the peace, a remarkable change came over the spirit of this excellent woman. Parson Blackburn, as the general always called him, was a favorite preacher in that part of Tennessee, and his sermons made so powerful an impression on Mrs. Jackson that she joined the Presbyterian Church, and was ever after devotedly religious. The general himself was almost persuaded to follow her example. He did not, however; but he testified his sympathy with his wife's feelings by building a church for her—a curious little brick edifice—on his own farm; the smallest church, perhaps, in the United States. It looks like a very small school-house; it has no steeple, no portico, and but one door; and the interior, which contains forty little pews, is unpainted, and the floor is of brick. On Sundays, the congregation consisted chiefly of the general, his family, and half a dozen neighbors, with as many negroes as the house would hold, and could see through the windows. It was just after the completion of this church that General Jackson made his famous reply to a young man who objected to the doctrine of future punishment.
"I thank God," said this youth, "I have too much good sense to believe there is such a place as hell."
"Well, sir," said General Jackson, "I thank God there is such a place."
"Why, general," asked the young man, "what do you want with such a place of torment as hell?"
To which the general replied, as quick as lightning: "To put such rascals as you are in, that oppose and vilify the Christian religion."'
The young man said no more, and soon after found it convenient to take his leave.
Mrs. Jackson did not live to see her husband President of the United States, though she lived long enough to know that he was elected to that office. When the news was brought to her of her husband's election, in December, 1828, she quietly said: "Well, for Mr. Jackson's sake" (she always called him Mr. Jackson) "I am glad; for my own part, I never wished it."
The people of Nashville, proud of the success of their favorite, resolved to celebrate the event by a great banquet on the 22d of December, the anniversary of the day on which the general had first defeated the British below New Orleans; and some of the ladies of Nashville were secretly preparing a magnificent wardrobe for the future mistress of the White House. Six days before the day appointed for the celebration, Mrs. Jackson, while busied about her household affairs in the kitchen of the hermitage, suddenly shrieked, placed her hands upon her heart, sank upon a chair, and fell forward into the arms of one of her servants. She was carried to her bed, where, for the space of sixty hours, she suffered extreme agony, during the whole of which her husband never left her side for ten minutes. Then she appeared much better, and recovered the use of her tongue. This was only two days before the day of the festival, and the first use she made of her recovered speech was to implore her husband to go to another room and sleep, so as to recruit his strength for the banquet. He would not leave her, however, but lay down upon a sofa and slept a little. The evening of the 22d she appeared to be so much better that the general consented, after much persuasion, to sleep in the next room, and leave his wife in the care of the doctor and two of his most trusted servants.
At nine o'clock he bade her good-night, went to the next room, and took off his coat, preparatory to lying down. When he had been gone five minutes from her room, Mrs. Jackson, who was sitting up, suddenly gave a long, loud, inarticulate cry, which was immediately followed by the death rattle in her throat. By the time her husband had reached her side, she had breathed her last.
"Bleed her," cried the general.
But no blood flowed from her arm.
"Try the temple," doctor.
A drop or two of blood stained her cap, but no more followed. Still, it was long before he would believe her dead, and when there could no longer be any doubt, and they were preparing a table upon which to lay her out, he cried, with a choking voice:
"Spread four blankets upon it; for if she does come to she will lie so hard upon the table."
All night long he sat in the room, occasionally looking into her face, and feeling if there was any pulsation in her heart. The next morning when one of his friends arrived, just before daylight, he was nearly speechless and utterly unconsolable, looking twenty years older.
There was no banquet that day in Nashville. On the morning of the funeral, the grounds were crowded with people, who saw, with emotion, the poor old general supported to the grave between two of his old friends, scarcely able to stand. The remains were interred in the garden of the Hermitage, in a tomb which the general had recently completed. The tablet which covers her dust contains the following inscription:
"Here lie the remains of Mrs. Rachel Jackson, wife of President Jackson, who died the 22nd of December, 1828, aged 61. Her face was fair, her person pleasing, her temper amiable, her heart kind; she delighted in relieving the wants of her fellow-creatures, and cultivated that divine pleasure by the most liberal and unpretending methods; to the poor she was a benefactor; to the rich an example; to the wretched a comforter; to the prosperous an ornament; her piety went hand in hand with her benevolence, and she thanked her Creator for being permitted to do good. A being so gentle and so virtuous, slander might wound but not dishonor. Even death, when he tore her from the arms of husband, could but transport to the bosom of her God."
Andrew Jackson was never the same man again. During his presidency he never used the phrase, "By the Eternal," nor any other language which could be considered profane. He mourned his wife until he himself rejoined her in the tomb he had prepared for them both.
Of all the blessed things below To hint the joys above, There is not one our hearts may know So dear as mated love.
It walks the garden of the Lord, It gives itself away; To give, and think not of reward, Is glory day by day.
And though sometimes the shadows fall, And day is dark as night, It bows and drinks the cup of gall, But gives not up the fight.
For One is in the union where The mine is ever thine, Whose presence keeps it brave and fair, A melody divine.
* * * * *
ONE PANACEA FOR THEM—AND ONE REFUGE.
Not every girl is discontented, nor are any wretched all the time. If they were, our homes would lose much sunshine. Certainly no class in the community is so constantly written about, talked at, and preached to as our girls. And still there always seems to be room left for one word more. I am persuaded that the leaven of discontent pervades girls of the several social ranks, from the fair daughter of a cultured home to her who has grown up in a crowded tenement, her highest ambition to dress like the young ladies she sees on the fashionable avenue. City girls and country girls alike know the meaning of this discontent, which sometimes amounts to morbidness, and again only to nervous irritability.
I once knew and marveled at a young person who spent her languid existence idly lounging in a rocking-chair, eating candy, and reading novels, whilst her mother bustled about, provoking by her activity an occasional remonstrance from her indolent daughter. "Do, ma, keep still," she would say, with amiable wonder at ma's notable ways. This incarnation of sweet selfishness was hateful in my eyes, and I have often queried, in the twenty years which have passed since I saw her, what sort of woman she made. As a girl she was vexatious, though no ripple of annoyance crossed the white brow, no frown obscured it, and no flurry of impatience ever tossed the yellow curls. She had no aspirations which candy and a rocking-chair could not gratify. It is not so with girls of a larger mind and greater vitality—the girls, for instance, in our own neighborhood, whom we have known since they were babies. Many of them feel very much dissatisfied with life, and do not hesitate to say so; and, strangely enough, the accident of a collegiate or common-school education makes little difference in their conclusions.
"To what end," says the former, "have I studied hard, and widened my resources? I might have been a society girl, and had a good time, and been married and settled sometime, without going just far enough to find out what pleasure there is in study, and then stopping short."
I am quoting from what girls have said to me—girls who have been graduated with distinction, and whose parents preferred that they should neither teach, nor paint, nor enter upon a profession, nor engage in any paid work. Polished after the similitude of a palace, what should the daughters do except stay at home to cheer father and mother, play and sing in the twilight, read, shop, sew, visit, receive their friends, and be young women of elegant leisure? If love, and love's climax, the wedding march, follow soon upon a girl's leaving school, she is taken out of the ranks of girlhood, and in accepting woman's highest vocation, queenship in the kingdom of home, foregoes the ease of her girlish life and its peril of ennui and unhappiness together. This, however, is the fate of the minority, and while young people continue, as thousands do, to dread beginning home life upon small means, it must so remain.
Education is not a fetich, though some who ought to know better regard it in that superstitious light. No amount of school training, dissevered from religious culture and from that development of the heart and of the conscience without which intellectual wealth is poverty, will lift anybody, make anybody happier or better, or fit anybody for blithe living in this shadowy world. I have no doubt that there are numbers of girls whose education, having made them objects of deep respect to their simple fathers and mothers, has also gone far to make the old home intolerable, the home ways distasteful, and the old people, alas! subjects of secret, deprecating scorn. A girl has, indeed, eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil when her eyes are opened in such wise that she is ashamed of her plain, honorable, old-fashioned parents, or, if not ashamed, is still willing to let them retire to the background while she shines in the front.
I did not write this article for the purpose of saying what I hold to be the bounden duty of every father and mother in the land; viz., to educate the daughter as they educate the son, to some practical, bread-winning pursuit. That should be the rule, and not the exception. A girl should be trained so that with either head or hands, as artist or artisan, in some way or other, she will be able to go into the world's market with something for which the world, being shrewd and knowing what it wants, will pay in cash. Rich or poor, the American father who fails to give his daughter this special training is a short-sighted and cruel man.
My thought was rather of the girls themselves. Some of them will read this. So will some of their mothers-Mothers and daughters often, not invariably, are so truly en rapport that their mutual comprehension is without a flaw. There are homes in which, with the profoundest regard and the truest tenderness on both sides, they do not understand each other. The mother either sees the daughter's discontent, recognizes and resents it, or fails to see it, would laugh at its possibility, and pity the sentimentalist who imagined it. And there are dear, blooming, merry-hearted, clear-eyed young women who are as gay and as elastic as bird on bough or flower in field.
To discontented girls I would say, there is for you one panacea—Work; and there is one refuge—Christ. Have you been told this before? Do you say that you can find no work worth the doing? Believe me, if not in your own home, you need go no further than your own set, your own street, your own town, to discover it waiting for you. No one else can do it so well. Perhaps no one else can do it at all. The girl can not be unhappy who, without reserve and with full surrender, consecrates herself to Christ, for then will she have work enough.—MARGARET E. SANGSTER.
God giveth his beloved rest through action Which reacheth for the dream of joy on earth; Inertness brings the heart no satisfaction, But condemnation and the sense of dearth.
And shall the dream of life, the quenchless yearning For something which is yet beyond control, The flame within the breast forever burning, Not leap to action and exalt the soul?—
Surmount all barriers to brave endeavor, Make for itself a way where it would go, And flash the crown of ecstacy forever, Which only laborers with God may know?
In action there is joy which is no fiction, The hope of something as in faith begun, God's sweet and everlasting benediction, The flush of victory and labor done!
Labor puts on the livery of greatness, While genius idle withers from the sight, And in its triumph takes no note of lateness, For time exists not in Eternal Light.
* * * * *
THE VOICE IN RAMAH.
"RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN, AND WOULD NOT HE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT."
We have heard the voice in Ramah, The grief in the days of yore, When the beautiful "flowers of the martyrs" Went to bloom on another shore.
The light of our life is darkness, And with sorrow we are not done; For thine is the bitterest mourning, Mourning for an only son!
And what shall I utter to comfort The heart that is dearest of all? Too young for the losses and crosses, Too young for the rise and the fall?
O, yes; we own it, we own it; But not too young for the grace That was so nameless and blameless, For the yearning and tender embrace!
He hung, he hung on thy bosom In that happiest, weariest hour, A dear little bird to its blossom, The beautiful, dutiful flower.
And thus he grew by its sweetness, He grew by its sweetness so That smile unto smile responded— But a little while ago!
And you and I were happy In many a vision fair Of a ripe and glorious manhood Which the world and we should share.
In a little while the patter Of two little feet was heard; And many a look it cheered us, A look that was more than a word.
In a little while he uttered The words we longed to hear; And mamma and papa blessed him With a blessing of hope and fear.
In a little while he budded, A bud of the promising Spring, And O for the beautiful blossom, And O for the fruit it will bring!
The joy, they never may know it Who never have parents been, The joy of a swelling bosom, With a growing light within:
A light that is soft and tender, And growing in strength and grace, Which wreathes a form that is slender And glows in a dear little face!
But life it knoweth the shadow, The shadow as well as the shine; For the one it follows the other, And both together are thine.
For the bud it never unfolded, The light it flickered away, And whose is the power to utter The grief of that bitterest day?
His form is yet before me, With the fair and lofty brow, And the day since last we kissed it— Is it long since then and now?
Dearest, it seems but a minute, Though Winter has spread the snow, Meek purity's mantle to cover The one that is resting below.
In the acre of God, that is yonder, And unto the west his head, He sleepeth the sleep untroubled, With one to watch at his bed.
For the bright and guardian angel Who beholdeth the Father's face, Doth stand as a sentinel watching O'er the dear one's resting-place;
Doth stand as a sentinel guarding The dust of the precious dead, Till at length the trumpet soundeth, When the years of the world are sped;
And the throng which can not be numbered Put on their garments of white, And gird themselves for the glory Of a realm that hath no night.
And so he is gone, the darling, And the dream so fair and vain, Whose light has faded to darkness, We shall never dream again!
Never? Is the earth the limit To bright and beautiful hope? If the world brings not fruition, Must we in darkness grope?
O no! There is expectation Which the grave can not control; There is boundless infinite promise For the living and deathless soul.
And the darling who left us early May yonder grow a man; In deeds of the great hereafter He may take his place in the van.
O, if thine is the bitterest mourning, Mourning for an only son, Believe that in God, the Giver, Our darling his course begun;
Believe that in God, the Taker, His course forever will be; For this is the blessed comfort, The comfort for thee and me.
Yea, this is the blessed comfort In sorrow like that of yore, When the beautiful "flowers of the martyrs" Went to bloom on another shore.
* * * * *
(BORN 1757—DIED 1834.)
THE FRIEND AND DEFENDER OF LIBERTY ON TWO CONTINENTS.
In the year 1730 there appeared in Paris a little volume entitled "Philosophic Letters," which proved to be one of the most influential books produced in modern times.
It was written by Voltaire, who was then thirty-six years of age, and contained the results of his observations upon the English nation, in which he had resided for two years. Paris was then as far from London, for all practical purposes, as New York now is from Calcutta, so that when Voltaire told his countrymen of the freedom that prevailed in England, of the tolerance given to religious sects, of the honors paid to untitled merit, of Newton, buried in Westminster Abbey with almost regal pomp, of Addison, secretary of state, and Swift, familiar with prime ministers, and of the general liberty, happiness, and abundance of the kingdom, France listened in wonder, as to a new revelation The work was, of course, immediately placed under the ban by the French Government, and the author exiled, which only gave it increased currency and deeper influence.
This was the beginning of the movement which produced at length, the French Revolution of 1787, and which has continued until France is now blessed with a free and constitutional government. It began among the higher classes of the people, for, at that day, not more than one-third of the French could read at all, and a much smaller fraction could read such a book as the "Philosophic Letters" and the books which it called forth. Republicanism was fashionable in the drawing-rooms of Paris for many years before the mass of the people knew what the word meant.
Among the young noblemen who were early smitten in the midst of despotism with the love of liberty, was the Marquis de La Fayette, born in 1757. Few families in Europe could boast a greater antiquity than his. A century before the discovery of America we find the La Fayettes spoken of as an "ancient house," and in every generation at least one member of the family had distinguished himself by his services to his king. This young man, coming upon the stage of life when republican ideas were teeming in every cultivated mind, embraced them with all the ardor of youth and intelligence. At sixteen he refused a high post in the household of one of the princes of the blood and accepted a commission in the army. At the age of seventeen he was married to the daughter of a duke, whose dowry added a considerable fortune to his own ample possessions. She was an exceedingly lovely woman, and tenderly attached to her husband, and he was as fond of her as such a boy could be.
The American Revolution broke out. In common with all the high-born republicans of his time, his heart warmly espoused the cause of the revolted colonies, and he immediately conceived the project of going to America and fighting under her banner. He was scarcely nineteen years of age when he sought an interview with Silas Deane, the American envoy, and offered his services to the Congress. Mr, Deane, it appears, objected to his youth.
"When," says he, "I presented to the envoy my boyish face, I spoke more of my ardor in the cause than of my experience; but I dwelt much upon the effect my departure would have in France, and he signed our mutual agreement."
His intention was concealed from all his family and from all his friends, except two or three confidants. While he was making preparation for his departure, most distressing and alarming news came from America—the retreat from Long Island, the loss of New York, the battle of White Plains, and the retreat through New Jersey. The American forces, it was said, reduced to a disheartened band of three thousand militia, were pursued by a triumphant army of thirty-three thousand English and Hessians. The credit of the colonies at Paris sank to the lowest ebb, and some of the Americans themselves confessed to La Fayette that they were discouraged, and tried to persuade him to abandon his project. He said to Mr. Deane:
"Until now, sir, you have only seen my ardor in your cause, and that may not at present prove wholly useless. I shall purchase a ship to carry out your officers. We must feel confidence in the future, and it is especially in the hour of danger that I wish to share your fortune."
He proceeded at once with all possible secrecy to raise the money and to purchase and arm a ship. While the ship was getting ready, in order the better to conceal his intention, he made a journey to England, which had previously been arranged by his family. He was presented to the British king, against whom he was going to fight; he dined at the house of the minister who had the department of the colonies; he visited Lord Rawdon, afterwards distinguished in the Revolutionary struggle; he saw at the opera Sir Henry Clinton, whom he next saw on the battlefield of Monmouth, and he breakfasted with Lord Shelburne, a friend of the colonies.
"While I concealed my intentions," he tells us, "I openly avowed my sentiments. I often defended the Americans. I rejoiced at their success at Trenton, and it was my spirit of opposition that obtained for me an invitation to breakfast with Lord Shelburne."
On his return to France his project was discovered, and his departure forbidden by the king. He sailed, however, in May, 1777, cheered by his countrymen, and secretly approved by the government itself. On arriving at Philadelphia, he sent to Congress a remarkably brief epistle to the following effect: "After my sacrifices, I have the right to ask two favors. One is, to serve at my own expense; the other, to begin to serve as a volunteer."
Congress immediately named him a major-general of the American army, and he at once reported himself to General Washington. His services at the Brandywine, where he was badly wounded; in Virginia, where he held an important command; at Monmouth, where he led the attack—are sufficiently well known. When he had been in America about fifteen months, the news came of the impending declaration of war between France and England. He then wrote to Congress that, as long as he had believed himself free, he had gladly fought under the American flag; but that his own country being at war, he owed it the homage of his service, and he desired their permission to return home. He hoped, however, to come back to America; and asserted then that, wherever he went, he should be a zealous friend of the United States. Congress gave him leave of absence, voted him a sword, and wrote a letter on his behalf to the king of France. "We recommend this noble young man," said the letter of Congress, "to the favor of your majesty, because we have seen him wise in council, brave in battle, and patient under the fatigues of war." He was received in France with great distinction, which he amusingly describes:
"When I went to court, which had hitherto only written for me orders for my arrest, I was presented to the ministers. I was interrogated, complimented, and exiled—to the hotel where my wife was residing: Some days after, I wrote to the king to acknowledge my fault. I received in reply a light reprimand and the colonelcy of the Royal Dragoons. Consulted by all the ministers, and, what was much better, embraced by all the women, I had at Versailles the favor of the king and celebrity of Paris."
In the midst of his popularity he thought always of America, and often wished that the cost of the banquets bestowed upon him could be poured into the treasury of Congress. His favorite project at that time was the invasion of England—Paul Jones to command the fleet, and he himself the army. When this scheme was given up, he joined all his influence with that of Franklin to induce the French Government to send to America a powerful fleet and a considerable army. When he had secured the promise of this valuable aid, he returned to America and served again in the armies of the young republic.
The success of the United States so confirmed him in his attachment to republican institutions, that he remained their devoted adherent and advocate as long as he lived.
"May this revolution," said he once to Congress, "serve as a lesson to oppressors, and as an example to the oppressed."
And, in one of his letters from the United States occurs this sentence: "I have always thought that a king was at least a useless being; viewed from this side of the ocean, a king cuts a poor figure indeed."
By the time he had left America, at the close of the war, he had expended in the service of Congress seven hundred thousand francs—a free gift to the cause of liberty.
One of the most pleasing circumstances of La Fayette's residence in America was the affectionate friendship which existed between himself and General Washington. He looked up to Washington as to a father as well as a chief; and Washington regarded him with a tenderness truly paternal. La Fayette named his eldest son George Washington, and never omitted any opportunity to testify his love and admiration for the illustrious American. Franklin, too, was much attached to the youthful enthusiast, and privately wrote to General Washington, asking him, for the sake of the young and anxious wife of the marquis, not to expose his life except in an important and decisive engagement.
In the diary of the celebrated William Wilberforce, who visited Paris soon after the peace, there is an interesting passage descriptive of La Fayette's demeanor at the French court:
"He seemed to be the representative of the democracy in the very presence of the monarch—the tribune intruding with his veto within the chamber of the patrician order. His own establishment was formed upon the English model, and amidst the gayety and ease of Fontainebleau he assumed an air of republican austerity. When the fine ladies of the court would attempt to drag him to the card-table, he shrugged his shoulders with an air of affected contempt for the customs and amusements of the old regime. Meanwhile, the deference which this champion of the new state of things received, above all from the ladies of the court, intimated clearly the disturbance of the social atmosphere, and presaged the coming tempest."
From the close of the American war for independence to the beginning of the French Revolution a period of six years elapsed, during which France suffered much from the exhaustion of her resources in aiding the Americans. La Fayette lived at Paris, openly professing republicanism, which was then the surest passport to the favor both of the people and the court. The queen of France herself favored the republican party, though without understanding its object or tendencies. La Fayette naturally became the organ and spokesman of those who desired a reform in the government. He recommended, even in the palace of the king, a restoration of civil rights to the Protestants; the suppression of the heavy and odious tax on salt; the reform of the criminal courts; and he denounced the waste of public money on princes and court favorites.
The Assembly of the Notables convened in 1787 to consider the state of the kingdom. La Fayette was its most distinguished and trusted member, and it was he who demanded a convocation of the representatives of all the departments of France, for the purpose of devising a permanent remedy for the evils under which France was suffering.
"What, sir," said one of the royal princes to La Fayette, "do you really demand the assembling of a general congress of France?"
"Yes, my Lord," replied La Fayette, "and more than that."
Despite the opposition of the court, this memorable congress met in Paris in 1789, and La Fayette represented in it the nobility of his province. It was he who presented the "Declaration of Rights," drawn upon the model of those with which he had been familiar in America, and it was finally adopted. It was he, also, who made the ministers of the crown responsible for their acts, and for the consequences of their acts.
When this National Assembly was declared permanent, La Fayette was elected its vice-president, and it was in that character that, after the taking of the Bastile, he went to the scene, at the head of a deputation of sixty members, to congratulate the people upon their triumph. The next day, a city guard was organized to preserve the peace of Paris, and the question arose in the assembly who should command it. The president arose and pointed to the bust of La Fayette, presented by the State of Virginia to the city of Paris. The hint was sufficient, and La Fayette was elected to the post by acclamation. He called his citizen soldiers by the name of National Guards, and he distinguished them by a tri-colored cockade, and all Paris immediately fluttered with tri-colored ribbons and badges.
"This cockade," said La Fayette, as he presented one to the National Assembly, "will make the tour of the world." From the time of his acceptance of the command of the National Guard, the course of La Fayette changed its character, and the change became more and more marked as the revolution proceded. Hitherto he had been chiefly employed in rousing the sentiment of liberty in the minds of his countrymen; but now that the flame threatened to become a dangerous conflagration, it devolved upon him to stay its ravages. It was a task beyond human strength, but he most gallantly attempted it. On some occasions he rescued with his own hands the victims of the popular fury, and arrested the cockaded assassins who would have destroyed them. But even his great popularity was ineffectual to prevent the massacre of innocent citizens, and more than once, overwhelmed with grief and disgust, he threatened to throw up his command.
On that celebrated day when sixty thousand of the people of Paris poured in a tumultuous flood into the park of Versailles, and surrounded the palace of the king, La Fayette was compelled to join the throng, in order, if possible, to control its movements. He arrived in the evening, and spent the whole night in posting the National Guard about the palace, and taking measures to secure the safety of the royal family. At the dawn of day he threw himself upon the bed for a few minutes' repose. Suddenly, the alarm was sounded. Some infuriated men had broken into the palace, killed two of the king's body-guard, and rushed into the bed-chamber of the queen, a minute or two after she had escaped from it. La Fayette ran to the scene, followed by some of the National Guard, and found all the royal family assembled in the king's chamber, trembling for their lives. Beneath the window of the apartment was a roaring sea of upturned faces, scarcely kept back by a thin line of National Guards. La Fayette stepped out upon the balcony, and tried to address the crowd, but could not make himself heard. He then led out upon the balcony the beautiful queen, Marie Antoinette, and kissed her hand; then seizing one of the body-guard embraced him, and placed his own cockade on the soldier's hat. At once the temper of the multitude was changed, and the cry burst forth:
"Long live the general! Long live the queen! Long live the body-guard!"
It was immediately announced that the king would go with the people to Paris; which had the effect of completely allaying their passions. During the long march of ten miles, La Fayette rode close to the door of the king's carriage, and thus conducted him, in the midst of the tramping crowd, in safety to the Tuilleries. When the royal family was once more secure within its walls, one of the ladies, the daughter of the late king, threw herself in the arms of La Fayette, exclaiming:
"General, you have saved us."
From this moment dates the decline of La Fayette's popularity; and his actions, moderate and wise, continually lessened it. He demanded, as a member of the National Assembly, that persons accused of treason should be fairly tried by a jury, and he exerted all his power, while giving a constitution to his country, to preserve the monarchy.
To appease the suspicions of the people that the king meditated a flight from Paris, he declared that he would answer with his head for the king's remaining. When, therefore, in June, 1791, the king and queen made their blundering attempt to escape, La Fayette was immediately suspected of having secretly aided it. Danton cried out at the Jacobin club:
"We must have the person of the king, or the head of the commanding general!"
It was in vain that, after the king's return, he ceased to pay him royal honors; nothing could remove the suspicions of the people. Indeed, he still openly advised the preservation of the monarchy, and, when a mob demanded the suppression of the royal power, and threatened violence to the National Guard, the general, after warning them to disperse, ordered the troops to fire—an action which totally destroyed his popularity and influence. Soon after, he resigned his commission and his seat in the Assembly, and withdrew to one of his country seats.
He was not long allowed to remain in seclusion. The allied dynasties of Europe, justly alarmed at the course of events in Paris, threatened the new republic with war. La Fayette was appointed to command one of the three armies gathered to defend the frontiers. While he was disciplining his troops, and preparing to defend the country, he kept an anxious eye upon Paris, and saw with ever-increasing alarm the prevalence of the savage element in the national politics. In 1792 he had the boldness to write a letter to the National Assembly, demanding the suppression of the clubs, and the restoration of the king to the place and power assigned him by the constitution.
Learning, soon after, the new outrages put upon the king, he suddenly left his army and appeared before the bar of the Assembly, accompanied by a single aide-de-camp; there he renewed his demands, amid the applause of the moderate members; but a member of the opposite party adroitly asked:
"Is the enemy conquered? Is the country delivered, since General La Fayette is in Paris?"
"No," replied he, "the country is not delivered; the situation is unchanged; and, nevertheless, the general of one of our armies is in Paris."
After a stormy debate, the Assembly declared that he had violated the constitution in making himself the organ of an army legally incapable of deliberating, and had rendered himself amenable to the minister of war for leaving his post without permission. Repulsed thus by the Assembly, coldly received at court, and rejected by the National Guard, he returned to his army despairing of the country. There he made one more attempt to save the king by inducing him to come to his camp and fight for his throne. This project being rejected, and the author of it denounced by Robespierre, his bust publicly burned in Paris, and the medal formerly voted him broken by the hand of the executioner, he deemed it necessary to seek an asylum in a neutral country. Having provided for the safety of his army, he crossed the frontiers in August, 1792, accompanied by twenty-one persons, all of whom, on passing an Austrian post, were taken prisoners, and La Fayette was thrown into a dungeon. The friend of liberty and order was looked upon as a common enemy. His noble wife, who had been for fifteen months a prisoner in Paris, hastened, after her release, to share her husband's captivity.
For five years, in spite of the remonstrances of England, America, and the friends of liberty everywhere, La Fayette remained a prisoner. To every demand for his liberation the Austrian Government replied, with its usual stupidity, that the liberty of La Fayette was incompatible with the safety of the governments of Europe. He owed his liberation, at length, to General Bonaparte, and it required all his great authority to procure it. When La Fayette was presented to Napoleon to thank him for his interference, the first consul said to him:
"I don't know what the devil you have done to the Austrians; but it cost them a mighty struggle to let you go."
La Fayette voted publicly against making Napoleon consul for life, against the establishment of the empire. Notwithstanding this, Napoleon and he remained very good friends. The emperor said of him one day:
"Everybody in France is corrected of his extreme ideas of liberty except one man, and that man is La Fayette. You see him now tranquil: very well; if he had an opportunity to serve his chimeras, he would reappear on the scene more ardent than ever."
Upon his return to France, he was granted the pension belonging to the military rank he had held under the republic, and he recovered a competent estate from the property of his wife. Napoleon also gave a military commission to his son, George Washington; and, when the Bourbons were restored, La Fayette received an indemnity of four hundred and fifty thousand francs.
Napoleon's remark proved correct. La Fayette, though he spent most of the evening of his life in directing the cultivation of his estate, was always present at every crisis in the affairs of France to plead the cause of constitutional liberty. He made a fine remark once in its defense, when taunted with the horrors of the French Revolution: "The tyranny of 1793," he said, "was no more a republic than the massacre of St. Bartholomew was a religion."
His visit to America in 1824 is well remembered. He was the guest of the nation; and Congress, in recompense of his expenditures during the Revolutionary War, made him a grant of two hundred thousand dollars and an extensive tract of land. It was La Fayette who, in 1830, was chiefly instrumental in placing a constitutional monarch on the throne of France. The last words, he ever spoke in public were uttered in behalf of the French refugees who had fled from France for offenses merely political; and the last words he ever wrote recommended the abolition of slavery. He died May 19, 1834, aged seventy-seven. His son, George Washington, always the friend of liberty, like his father, died in 1849, leaving two sons—inheritors of a name so full of inspiration to the world.
* * * * *
(BORN 1791—DIED 1865.)
THE LESSON OF A USEFUL AND BEAUTIFUL LIFE.
"A beautiful life I have had. Not more trial than was for my good. Countless blessings beyond expectation or desert.... Behind me stretch the green pastures and still waters by which I have been led all my days. Around is the lingering of hardy flowers and fruits that bide the Winter. Before stretches the shining shore."
These are the words of Mrs. Sigourney, written near the close of a life of seventy-four years. All who have much observed human life will agree that the rarest achievement of man or woman on this earth is a solid and continuous happiness. There are very few persons past seventy who can look back upon their lives, and sincerely say that they would willingly live their lives over again. Mrs. Sigourney, however, was one of the happy few.
Lydia Huntley, for that was her maiden name, was born at Norwich, Connecticut, on the first of September, 1791. Her father was Ezekiel Huntley, an exceedingly gentle, affectionate man, of Scotch parentage, who had as little of a Yankee in him as any man in Connecticut. Unlike a Yankee, he never attempted to set up in business for himself, but spent the whole of the active part of his life in the service of the man to whom he was apprenticed in his youth. His employer was a druggist of great note in his day, who made a large fortune in his business, and built one of the most elegant houses in the State. On his retirement from business his old clerk continued to reside under his roof, and to assist in the management of his estate; and, even when he died, Mr. Huntley did not change his abode, but remained to conduct the affairs of the widow. In the service of this family he saved a competence for his old age, and he lived to eighty-seven, a most happy, serene old man, delighting chiefly in his garden and his only child. He survived as late as 1839.
Owing to the peculiar relations sustained by her father to a wealthy family—living, too, in a wing of their stately mansion, and having the free range of its extensive gardens—Lydia Huntley enjoyed in her youth all the substantial advantages of wealth, without encountering its perils. She was surrounded by objects pleasing or beautiful, but no menial pampered her pride or robbed her of her rightful share of household labor. As soon as she was old enough to toddle about the grounds, her father delighted to have her hold the trees which he was planting, and drop the seed into the little furrows prepared for it, and never was she better pleased than when giving him the aid of her tiny fingers. Her parents never kept a servant, and she was brought up to do her part in the house. Living on plain, substantial fare, inured to labor, and dressed so as to allow free play to every limb and muscle, she laid in a stock of health, strength, and good temper that lasted her down to the last year of her life. She never knew what dyspepsia was. She never possessed a costly toy, nor a doll that was not made at home, but she passed a childhood that was scarcely anything but joy. She was an only child, and she was the pet of two families, yet she was not spoiled.
She was one of those children who take naturally to all kinds of culture. Without ever having had a child's book, she sought out, in the old-fashioned library of the house, everything which a child could understand. Chance threw a novel in her way ("Mysteries of Udolpho"), which she devoured with rapture, and soon after, when she was but eight years of age, she began to write a novel. Poetry, too, she read with singular pleasure, never weary of repeating her favorite pieces. But the passion of her childhood was painting pictures. Almost in her infancy she began to draw with a pin and lilac-leaf, and advanced from that to slate and pencil, and, by and by, to a lead-pencil and backs of letters. When she had learned to draw pretty well, she was on fire to paint her pictures, but was long puzzled to procure the colors. Having obtained in some way a cake of gamboge, she begged of a washerwoman a piece of indigo, and by combining these two ingredients she could make different shades of yellow, blue, and green. The trunks of her trees she painted with coffee-grounds, and a mixture of India ink and indigo answered tolerably well for sky and water. She afterwards discovered that the pink juice of chokeberry did very well for lips, cheeks, and gay dresses. Mixed with a little indigo it made a very bad purple, which the young artist, for the want of a better, was obliged to use for her royal robes. In sore distress for a better purple she squeezed the purple flowers of the garden and the field for the desired tint, but nothing answered the purpose, until, at dinner, one day, she found the very hue for which she longed in the juice of a currant and whortleberry tart. She hastened to try it, and it made a truly gorgeous purple, but the sugar in it caused it to come off in flakes from her kings and emperors, leaving them in a sorry plight. At length, to her boundless, inexpressible, and lasting joy, all her difficulties were removed by her father giving her a complete box of colors.
At school she was fortunate in her teachers. One of them was the late Pelatiah Perit, who afterward won high distinction as a New York merchant and universal philanthropist. Her first serious attempts at practical composition were translations from Virgil, when she was fourteen years of age. After leaving school she studied Latin with much zeal under an aged tutor, and, later in life, she advanced far enough in Hebrew to read the Old Testament, with the aid of grammar and dictionary. To these grave studies her parents added a thorough drill in dancing. Often, when her excellent mother observed that she had sat too long over her books, she would get her out upon the floor of their large kitchen, and then, striking up a lively song, set her dancing until her cheeks were all aglow.
This studious and happy girl, like other young people, had her day-dream of the future. It was to keep a school. This strange ambition, she tells us in her autobiography, she feared to impart to her companions, lest they should laugh at her; and she thought even her parents would think her arrogant if she mentioned it to them. The long-cherished secret was revealed to her parents at length. Her mother had guessed it before, but her father was exceedingly surprised. Neither of them, however, made any objection, and one of the pleasantest apartments of their house was fitted up for the reception of pupils. She was then a delicate-looking girl of about eighteen, and rather undersized. As soon as her desks were brought home by the carpenter, the ambitious little lady went around to the families of the place, informed them of her intention, and solicited their patronage at the established rate of three dollars a quarter for each pupil. She was puzzled and disappointed at the coolness with which her project was received. Day after day she tramped the streets of Norwich, only to return at night without a name upon her catalogue. She surmised, after a time, that parents hesitated to intrust their children to her because of her extreme youth, which was the fact. At length, however, she began her school with two children, nine and eleven years of age, and not only did she go through all the formalities of school with them, working six hours a day for five days, and three hours on Saturday, but at the end of the term she held an examination in the presence of a large circle of her pupils' admiring relations.
Afterwards, associating herself with another young lady, to whom she was tenderly attached, she succeeded better. A large and populous school gathered about these zealous and admirable girls, several of their pupils being older than themselves. Compelled to hold the school in a larger room, Lydia Huntley walked two miles every morning, and two more every night, besides working hard all day; and she was as happy as the weeks were long. Her experience confirms that of every genuine teacher—from Dr. Arnold downward—that, of all employments of man or woman on this earth, the one that is capable of giving the most constant and intense happiness is teaching in a rationally conducted school. So fond was she of teaching, that when the severity of the Winter obliged her to suspend the school for many weeks, she opened a free school for poor children, one of her favorite classes in which was composed of colored girls. In the course of time, the well-known Daniel Wadsworth, the great man of Hartford sixty or seventy years ago, lured her away to that city, where he personally organized a school of thirty young ladies, the daughters of his friends, and gave her a home in his own house. There she spent five happy years, cherished as a daughter by her venerable patron and his wife, and held in high honor by her pupils and their parents.
It was in 1815, while residing in Hartford, that her fame was born. Good old Mrs. Wadsworth, having obtained sight of her journals and manuscripts in prose and verse, the secret accumulation of many years, inflamed her husband's curiosity so that he, too, asked to see them. The blushing poetess consented. Mr. Wadsworth pronounced some of them worthy of publication, and, under his auspices, a volume was printed in Hartford, entitled "Moral Pieces in Prose and Verse." The public gave it a generous welcome, and its success led to a career of authorship which lasted forty-nine years, and gave to the world fifty-six volumes of poetry, tales, travels, biography, and letters.
So passed her life till she was past twenty-eight. She had received many offers of marriage from clergymen and others, but none of her suitors tempted her to forsake her pupils, and she supposed herself destined to spend her days as an old maid. But another destiny was in store for her. On her way to and from her school, "a pair of deep-set and most expressive black eyes" sometimes encountered hers and spoke "unutterable things." Those eyes belonged to a widower, with three children, named Charles Sigourney, a thriving hardware merchant, of French descent, and those "unutterable things" were uttered at length through the unromantic medium of a letter. The marriage occurred a few months after, in the year 1819.
For the next fifteen years she resided in the most elegant mansion in Hartford, surrounded by delightful grounds, after Mr. Sigourney's own design; and even now, though the Sigourney place is eclipsed in splendor and costliness by many of more recent date, there is no abode in the beautiful city of Hartford more attractive than this. Mr. Sigourney was a man of considerable learning, and exceedingly interested in the study of languages. When he was past fifty he began the study of modern Greek. Mrs. Sigourney became the mother of several children, all of whom, but two, died in infancy. One son lived to enter college, but died at the age of nineteen, of consumption. A daughter grew to womanhood, and became the wife of a clergyman.
After many years of very great prosperity in business, Mr. Sigourney experienced heavy losses, which compelled them to leave their pleasant residence, and gave a new activity to her pen. He died at the age of seventy-six. During the last seven years of Mrs. Sigourney's life, her chief literary employment was contributing to the columns of the New York Ledger. Mr. Bonner, having while an apprentice in the Hartford Current office "set up" some of her poems, had particular pleasure in being the medium of her last communications with the public, and she must have rejoiced in the vast audience to which he gave her access—the largest she ever addressed.
Mrs. Sigourney enjoyed excellent health to within a few weeks of her death. After a short illness, which she bore with much patience, she died in June, 1865, with her daughter at her side, and affectionate friends around her. Nothing could exceed her tranquility and resignation at the approach of death. Her long life had been spent in honorable labor for the good of her species, and she died in the fullest certainty that death would but introduce her to a larger and better sphere.
* * * * *
OLD AGE AND USEFULNESS
THE GLORY OF BRAVE MEN AND WOMEN.
Dear Lord! I thank thee for a life of use; Dear Lord! I do not pine for any truce. Peace, peace has always come from duty done; Peace, peace will so until the end be won. Thanks, thanks! a thankful heart is my reward; Thanks, thanks befit the children of the Lord. Wind, wind! the peaceful reel must still go round; Wind, wind! the thread of life will soon be wound. The worker has no dread of growing old; First, years of toil, and then the age of gold! For lo! he hopes to bear his flag unfurled Beyond the threshold of another world.
John Foster, he who sprang into celebrity from one essay, Popular Ignorance, had a diseased feeling against growing old, which seems to us to be very prevalent. He was sorry to lose every parting hour. "I have seen a fearful sight to-day," he would say—"I have seen a buttercup." To others the sight would only give visions of the coming Spring and future Summer; to him it told of the past year, the last Christmas, the days which would never come again—the so many days nearer the grave. Thackeray continually expressed the same feeling. He reverts to the merry old time when George the Third was king. He looks back with a regretful mind to his own youth. The black Care constantly rides, behind his chariot. "Ah, my friends," he says, "how beautiful was youth! We are growing old. Spring-time and Summer are past. We near the Winter of our days. We shall never feel as we have felt. We approach the inevitable grave." Few men, indeed, know how to grow old gracefully, as Madame de Stael very truly observed. There is an unmanly sadness at leaving off the old follies and the old games. We all hate fogyism. Dr. Johnson, great and good as he was, had a touch of this regret, and we may pardon him for the feeling. A youth spent in poverty and neglect, a manhood consumed in unceasing struggle, are not preparatives to growing old in peace. We fancy that, after a stormy morning and a lowering day, the evening should have a sunset glow, and, when the night sets in, look back with regret at the "gusty, babbling, and remorseless day;" but, if we do so, we miss the supporting faith of the Christian and the manly cheerfulness of the heathen. To grow old is quite natural; being natural, it is beautiful; and if we grumble at it, we miss the lesson, and lose all the beauty.
Half of our life is spent in vain regrets. When we are boys we ardently wish to be men; when men we wish as ardently to be boys. We sing sad songs of the lapse of time. We talk of "auld lang syne," of the days when we were young, of gathering shells on the sea-shore and throwing them carelessly away. We never cease to be sentimental upon past youth and lost manhood and beauty. Yet there are no regrets so false, and few half so silly. Perhaps the saddest sight in the world is to see an old lady, wrinkled and withered, dressing, talking, and acting like a very young one, and forgetting all the time, as she clings to the feeble remnant of the past, that there is no sham so transparent as her own, and that people, instead of feeling with her, are laughing at her. Old boys disguise their foibles a little better; but they are equally ridiculous. The feeble protests which they make against the flying chariot of Time are equally futile. The great Mower enters the field, and all must come down. To stay him would be impossible; We might as well try with a finger to stop Ixion's wheel, or to dam up the current of the Thames with a child's foot.
Since the matter is inevitable, we may as well sit down and reason it out. Is it so dreadful to grow old? Does old age need its apologies and its defenders? Is it a benefit or a calamity? Why should it be odious and ridiculous? An old tree is picturesque, an old castle venerable, an old cathedral inspires awe—why should man be worse than his works?
Let us, in the first place, see what youth is. Is it so blessed and happy and flourishing as it seems to us? Schoolboys do not think so. They always wish to be older. You cannot insult one of them more than by telling him that he is a year or two younger than he is. He fires up at once: "Twelve, did you say, sir? No, I'm fourteen." But men and women who have reached twenty-eight do not thus add to their years. Amongst schoolboys, notwithstanding the general tenor of those romancists who see that every thing young bears a rose-colored blush, misery is prevalent enough. Emerson, Coleridge, Wordsworth, were each and all unhappy boys. They all had their rebuffs, and bitter, bitter troubles; all the more bitter because their sensitiveness was so acute. Suicide is not unknown amongst the young; fears prey upon them and terrify them; ignorances and follies surround them. Arriving at manhood, we are little better off. If we are poor, we mark the difference between the rich and us; we see position gains all the day. If we are as clever as Hamlet, we grow just as philosophically disappointed. If we love, we can only be sure of a brief pleasure—an April day. Love has its bitterness. "It is," says Ovid, an adept in the matter, "full of anxious fear." We fret and fume at the authority of the wise heads; we have an intense idea of our own talent. We believe calves of our own age to be as big and as valuable as full-grown bulls; we envy whilst we jest at the old. We cry, with the puffed-up hero of the Patrician's Daughter:
"It may be by the calendar of years You are the elder man; but 'tis the sun Of knowledge on the mind's dial shining bright, And chronicling deeds and thoughts, that makes true time."
And yet withal life is very unhappy, whether we live amongst the grumbling captains of the clubs, who are ever seeking and not finding promotion; amongst the struggling authors and rising artists who never rise; or among the young men who are full of riches, titles, places, and honor, who have every wish fulfilled, and are miserable because they have nothing to wish for. Thus the young Romans killed themselves after the death of their emperor, not for grief, not for affection, not even for the fashion of suicide, which grew afterwards prevalent enough, but from the simple weariness of doing every thing over and over again. Old age has passed such stages as these, landed on a safer shore, and matriculated in a higher college, in a purer air. We sigh not for impossibilities; we cry not:
"Bring these anew, and set me once again In the delusion of life's infancy; I was not happy, but I knew not then That happy I was never doom'd to be."
We know that we are not happy. We know that life, perhaps, was not given us to be continuously comfortable and happy. We have been behind the scenes, and know all the illusions; but when we are old we are far too wise to throw life away for mere ennui. With Dandolo, refusing a crown at ninety-six, winning battles at ninety-four; with Wellington, planning and superintending fortifications at eighty; with Bacon and Humboldt, students to the last gasp; with wise old Montaigne, shrewd in his grey-beard wisdom and loving life, even in the midst of his fits of gout and colic—Age knows far too much to act like a sulky child. It knows too well the results and the value of things to care about them; that the ache will subside, the pain be lulled, the estate we coveted be worth little; the titles, ribbons, gewgaws, honors, be all more or less worthless. "Who has honor? He that died o' Wednesday!" Such a one passed us in the race, and gained it but to fall. We are still up and doing; we may be frosty and shrewd, but kindly. We can wish all men well; like them, too, so far as they may be liked, and smile at the fuss, bother, hurry, and turmoil, which they make about matters which to us are worthless dross. The greatest prize in the whole market—in any and in every market—success, is to the old man nothing. He little cares who is up and who is down; the present he lives in and delights in. Thus, in one of those admirable comedies in which Robson acted, we find the son a wanderer, the mother's heart nearly broken, the father torn and broken by a suspicion of his son's dishonesty, but the grandfather all the while concerned only about his gruel and his handkerchief. Even the pains and troubles incident to his state visit the old man lightly. Because Southey sat for months in his library, unable to read or touch the books he loved, we are not to infer that he was unhappy. If the stage darkens as the curtain falls, certain it also is that the senses grow duller and more blunted. "Don't cry for me, my dear," said an old lady undergoing an operation; "I do not feel it."
It seems to us, therefore, that a great deal of unnecessary pity has been thrown away upon old age. We begin at school reading Cicero's treatise, hearing Cato talk with Scipio and Laelius; we hear much about poor old men; we are taught to admire the vigor, quickness, and capacity of youth and manhood. We lose sight of the wisdom which age brings even to the most foolish. We think that a circumscribed sphere must necessarily be an unhappy one. It is not always so. What one abandons in growing old is, perhaps, after all not worth having. The chief part of youth is but excitement; often both unwise and unhealthy. The same pen which has written, with a morbid feeling, that "there is a class of beings who do not grow old in their youth and die ere middle age," tells us also that "the best of life is but intoxication." That passes away. The man who has grown old does not care about it. The author at that period has no feverish excitement about seeing himself in print; he does not hunt newspapers for reviews and notices. He is content to wait; he knows what fame is worth. The obscure man of science, who has been wishing to make the world better and wiser; the struggling curate, the poor and hard-tried man of God; the enthusiastic reformer, who has watched the sadly slow dawning of progress and liberty; the artist, whose dream of beauty slowly fades before his dim eyes—all lay down their feverish wishes as they advance in life, forget the bright ideal which they can not reach, and embrace the more imperfect real. We speak not here of the assured Christian. He, from the noblest pinnacle of faith, beholds a promised land, and is eager to reach it; he prays "to be delivered from the body of this death;" but we write of those humbler, perhaps more human souls, with whom increasing age each day treads down an illusion. All feverish wishes, raw and inconclusive desires, have died down, and a calm beauty and peace survive; passions are dead, temptations weakened or conquered; experience has been won; selfish interests are widened into universal ones; vain, idle hopes, have merged into a firmer faith or a complete knowledge; and more light has broken in upon the soul's dark cottage, battered and decayed, "through chinks which Time has made."