Few persons realize the comparative un-worth of the dog. There is even a hazy notion in most minds that he is to be classed with the horse, the cow, the sheep, and the gentle swine, that he is entitled to lift up his voice with the morn-saluting cock, or to roam with the mouse-disturbing cat, or with that patient pair, the harnessed billy- and the lactiferous nanny-goat.[A] Hence an enormous revenue is required for his support. For example, we are told that "the dogs in Iowa eat enough annually to feed a hundred thousand workmen, and cost the State nine million dollars, or double the education of all its children." I should like to know how many of these costly and pampered creatures earn their salt. They toil not, they spin not, they contribute neither food nor wool nor "power." There are extreme cases where they have proved serviceable for defence and special purposes. The Laplanders are forced to make shift with them in default of better draught-animals. There was a time when the dogs of St. Bernard were a great convenience to the philanthropic monks,—who, by the way, never received one-hundredth part of the credit which has been lavished by the sentimentalists upon their half-automaton assistants. The slave-hunters have found the race still more serviceable for their ends. On great moors and lonely mountains and in the exigencies of frontier-life, the shepherd, the hunter, and the pioneer have turned them to account.
Far be it from me to disparage their assistance in these exceptional instances and in others which might be named. The dog, like the bull or the frogs of Egypt, is good in his place. But it does not follow that we should have a bull in every door-yard, nor that it was an advantage to the land of Egypt to be covered with frogs in-doors and out. The notion that a dog is needful for defence in settled, civilized communities is on a par with the delusion that a man is safer for carrying a loaded pistol, more harm being done to honest people, and even to those of them who resort to fire-arms, than to their enemies. One needs only to consider the dogs of one's own neighborhood and compare the number of burglars they have routed with the number of children or innocent passers-by they have scared or bitten. My experience convinces me that more houses and hen roosts are robbed where there are dogs than where there are none. And it is easily explained. People who have a blind trust in watch-dogs cease to watch for themselves. Moreover, the false alarms of the dog are so numerous, and his barking so indiscriminating of the difference between friend and foe, and even between real and imaginary persons, that his owner soon ceases to take note of them. For who is going to get up every time the dog barks in the night? The dog is, of course, one of the conditions to be provided for in the burglar's plan. But when he has silenced, overpowered, or eluded the watch, he has turned the defence over to his own side, and proceeds with a special sense of security.
At all events, I do not find that dogs are chiefly kept by those who most need to be defended, but rather by the strong and by persons living in closely-settled neighborhoods. Nor do I find that people affect dogs at all in the ratio or for the sake of the protection, but for the amusement which they afford, as something to be taken care of as pets rather than to take care of them.
The watch-dog is an admirable protection from one's friends. What a boon he is to the misanthrope! What an isolation reigns about the home, especially in the evening, where a real savage beast stands guard, roaming in the shadows or clanking his chain beside the path! The ingenious Mr. Quilp turned this fact to fine account, as he escorted Sampson Brass to the door of his counting-house on a dark night:
"Be careful how you go, my dear friend. There's a dog in the lane. He bit a man last night, and a woman the night before, and last Tuesday he killed a child; but that was in play. Don't go too near him."
"Which side of the road is he, sir?" asked Brass, in great dismay.
"He lives on the right hand," said Quilp, "but sometimes he hides on the left, ready for a spring. He's uncertain in that respect. Mind you take care of yourself. I'll never forgive you if you don't."
An exceedingly social institution, the watch-dog, and a delightful attraction to one's visitors and would-be callers. A watch-dog indeed; for is he not the one thing to be on the watch for, now that the day of spring-guns and man-traps is past?
It is all very well for Byron to rhapsodize about "the watch-dog's honest bark," and to think it "sweet" when it "bays deep-mouthed welcome as we draw near home;" but when one has got inside of that home and gone to bed, and wants to sleep off his fatigue, it is not always so sweet to have some neighbor's watch-dog keeping up a dishonest bark at everything and nothing half through the night. As to the moral quality of the noise, the only honest bark is that of the mosquito, who is too sincere either to attack you without warning or to give a false alarm. I have thrown my share of boot-jacks and other missiles at the nightly cat, and with some small measure of success; but what boot-jack will reach the howling mastiff domiciled several doors off, and whose owner says in effect, "Boot me, boot my dog," or the converse? And what an "aid to reflection," which Coleridge never conceived of, is that wretched little whelp that explodes under my study window at the critical moment of intellectual inspiration, like a pack of animated fire-crackers! Who shall pretend to set off the occasional service which the canine voice has rendered to man against the long and varied agonies which it has inflicted on our race? Emerson has a fine touch of nature, which will go to many a heart, when he enumerates among the recollected experiences of childhood "the fear of dogs." Goethe's aversion to dogs, already alluded to, seems to have been based chiefly upon their noisiness at night. Charles Reade had a habit of hitting the nail on the head, and never showed it more pithily than when he answered "Ouida's" application for a name for her new pet poodle: "Call it Tonic, for it is sure to be a mixture of bark, steal, and whine."
As to poodles and pugs, it is difficult for the masculine "man of letters" to write. Fortunately, no member of my family has thus far evinced any symptom of the poodle mania, so akin to the singular malady which reduced poor Titania to the abject adoration of ass-headed Bottom. Therefore any repugnance (this is purely an ex post facto pun) on my part cannot be attributed to jealousy. I feel that I cannot be too thankful not to be numbered among the unhappy husbands indicated by the following recent incident:
"Hello, old man!" said a gentleman to a friend, "what's that you've got under your coat?"
"That," was the sad reply, as he brought it forth, "is my wife's little pug dog."
"What are you going to do with him? Take him somewhere and drown him?"
"I wish I might," earnestly responded the gentleman, fetching a sigh. "No, I am not going to drown him. My wife is having a new spring suit made to harmonize with Beauty, as she is pleased to call the disgusting little brute, and I am on my way to a dry-goods store to match him for half a yard more of material."
Ladies will pay as much as ten dollars a week for the board of a poodle in summer. And here is a specimen order at the inn wherein his puppyship is taking his ease:
"Room No. 122.—To the clerk of —— Hotel: Please send to my room, for the use of my little pet 'Watch,' a choice porter-house steak, cooked rare, and two chicken-wings, and charge to account of Mrs. ——."
But it is not always practicable to take our "dumb companions" with us in our travels. Accordingly, the following advertisement is said to have been recently inserted in the papers:
"Wanted, by a lady, a careful man to look after the house and be company for her dog during her absence in Europe."
I myself lately witnessed a suggestive scene in a drawing-room car at the Grand Central Depot. A portly old gentleman of opulent appearance was stepping aboard with his daughter (or wife?), a fine specimen of Amazonian beauty, accompanied by a third member of the family, a yellow and dirty-looking little pug with its hair in its eyes. But, alas! the latter was arrested at the platform, according to rule, and was being conveyed to the baggage-car. I have no power to picture the blazing indignation of his devoted mistress, or the eloquent storm with which she assailed the officials, or the undignified haste and distress of mind into which the old gentleman was thrown in his part of negotiator between the contending parties. The lady was inconsolable and inexorable. She would not go without her beloved. She would never subject him to the discomfort and indignity of the baggage-car. She would "rather ride in the common car" herself. How the case was settled I did not see. She left the hateful drawing-room car with her packages and her papa(?). Whether she abandoned her tour, or went into the baggage-car to share the shame and sorrow of her poodle, or whether a compromise was effected in favor of the "common car," I never ascertained, I trust she was not the lady of Baltimore who last summer went insane and tried to kill herself on account of the death of her pet dog.
And this leads me to make a point in favor of dogs, at least so far as their claim to being "so human" is concerned. There has been supposed to be nothing more distinctive of human nature than its propensity to suicide, arising from its capacity, as it rises in civilization and enlightenment, of finding out that life is not worth living. But a number of well-authenticated cases have come to my observation which show that the dog is rapidly learning this supreme accomplishment. A dog at Warwick, New York, whose master had neglected him for a new-comer, became morose and sulky, took to watching the railway-trains with great interest, and one day threw himself under a passing car and was crushed to death. Another, in Marseilles, whose owner had avoided him from fear of hydrophobia, and which had been driven from the door of a friend of his master, ran straight for the river and plunged in, never to rise till he was dead. A Newfoundland dog on the relief-ship Bear, and two or three of the Esquimaux dogs belonging to the relief expedition, drowned themselves deliberately, after showing great depression for several days. Dr. Lauder Lindsay, in his "Mind in the Lower Animals," tells of a Newfoundland that, being refused an accustomed outing with the children and being playfully whipped with a handkerchief, took it so deeply to heart that he went and drowned himself by resolutely holding his head under water in a shallow ditch.
But, seriously, it is a nice psychological question whether there is something human about dogs, or something canine about men. At any rate, it may well be asked whether it is really the dog-nature which attracts us, and not rather a somewhat of the human in the brute. For when we see the dog in the man we are repelled.
The above is undoubtedly the most honorable, if not the most obvious, reason why the dog has succeeded in winning the companionship, and even the affection, of so large a portion of mankind. Another reason lies in the fact that, as a dog, he has been wonderfully improved. There is no denying that he comes of a bad stock. As already intimated, his "family" includes, besides himself, the wolf, the fox, and the jackal, with the hyena as a sort of step-brother. But he has proved himself "the flower of the family," and, like all flowers, he has been "cultivated" and developed, differentiated in species, till a grand bench-show will display all the varieties, from little fluff balls, "small enough to put in your waistcoat-pocket," to the splendid deerhound, valued at ten thousand dollars, with his "silver-gray hair, muscular flanks, and calm, resolute eyes." I shall never forget coming suddenly, in the streets of Montgomery, Alabama, upon one of the veritable bloodhounds which were employed once upon a time in tracking fugitive slaves. His dimensions were beyond all my previous conceptions of the canine race. He impressed me rather as an institution than an animal. And as he stood across my path in a statuesque repose, with his red tongue and massive jaws, and a slumbering fire in his eye, I conceived a new idea and even admiration of "brute force."
The intelligence of the dog has also been developed, notwithstanding the smallness of his brain and his natural inferiority in this respect to many other animals, until he has almost rivalled the feats of the learned pig and the industrious fleas. His moral character must be admitted to have shown itself capable of great development, despite the recent effort of writers like Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson to prove that he develops chiefly the worst and meanest traits of human nature. His capacity for hero-worship and his patience under ill usage from the one who has mastered him are conspicuous. He has a sublime indifference to that master's moral character, however, being as subservient to Bill Sykes or Daniel Quilp as to Leatherstocking or Dr. John Brown himself. This fidelity to me does not imply that he may not be highly treacherous to others, just as his protective value to me is in proportion to his savage and perilous possibilities to the not-me. Therefore I ought not to insist that my lovers must love my dog also. I should rather estimate their steadfast affection for me all the more on his account.
It is argued by the dog-haters that we must not judge the whole vast and varied race of Canidae from a few exceptional individuals and highly-cultivated breeds. But it may be retorted that neither are all men Shakespeares and St. Augustines. The credit is so much the greater to those of the species which have overcome the disadvantages of a low and repulsive origin. None the less, however, will a strict veracity of mind and speech be careful not to generalize too sweepingly from a few particulars, and also not to make too indiscriminate and imperious a demand upon other people's enthusiasm. Especially will it be unwise for the friends of the dog to persist in their attempt to exalt him by depreciating man, inasmuch as man is the party to be won over to their way of thinking. Man has, unfortunately, been endowed by his Creator with a notion of his superiority even to the hound and the terrier, and naturally winces at the comparison, and is in danger of being thrown to the other extreme. I myself am able to present these considerations thus dispassionately as a friend of humanity rather than a foe to caninity; but all are not favored with a judicial spirit.
I suspect, in fact, that this inclining of our race to these brute servitors is largely due to the same cause which promotes the love of "horse-flesh." Man must assert his dominion over the brutes. He wants some tangible evidence, always beside him and running at his heels, of his superiority to something. It is a great upholder of his self-respect. It is so consoling, amid our conscious defeats and snubbings by a proud and unmanageable world, to have at hand a fellow-creature, strong enough to tear us in pieces, who will grovel at our feet, and quail before our eye, and let us laugh at him while he makes a fool of himself at our bidding. Even the most successful and superior men find herein a grateful outlet for their surplus masterfulness.
But I prefer to ascribe the tender and enthusiastic feeling which men have for their dogs not so much to the merits of the latter as to an overflowing and supererogatory goodness in the former. The human runs readily into the humane. Man is, after all, a loving animal, and is disposed to lavish his affection upon all who come into the right relation and moral angle with himself. He loves to be munificent as well as magnificent, and to be the patron of somebody or something. He has no little magnanimity toward such as put themselves in an abject dependence upon his honor and justice. He is ready to see all good in those who come not in competition with himself. He has a fund of generous enthusiasm which finds too little occupation in the world, and is glad to find or create an object for it near at hand. So that his dog, unconsciously to himself, is seen rather in the reflection of his own light. He clothes him with those amiable qualities which superabound in his own heart, and attributes to him a fidelity which is really far more remarkable on his own side.
Dogs are remarkable for their dreaming capacity. A dog never seems to sleep but he dreams, and very likely is quite unable to distinguish his waking and sleeping impressions. And is it not altogether probable that those who have much to do with them catch the infection, so that they view the canine race through a dream-like medium and as slumbering dogs are haunted by imaginary flies?
But I fear lest I shall be suspected of having caught at least one quality of my subject and of following up this scent at a wearisome length. And yet I have not begun to exhaust my theme, and have hardly given a glimpse of its many lights and shades. Inasmuch as there is an excessive tendency just now to show the lights only, it may have been noticed that I have rather emphasized the shades. Perhaps I shall not have written in vain if I have succeeded in moderating the present kynomania, surpassing in virulence even the aesthetic craze. The dog is having his day now,—that is clear. I presume it is the order of nature, and that we must expect a season in human history when the dog-star will rage. But it may not be unseasonable to recommend a slight muzzle to the dog-bitten, especially of the literary gens.
F. N. ZABRISKIE.
[A] By a recent decision of the Supreme Court of Maine, the judges standing six to one, it was decided that dogs are not to be classed with domestic animals. The learned Court affirms "that they retain in great measure their vicious habits, furnish no support to the family, add nothing in a legal sense to the wealth of the community, and are not inventoried as property of a debtor or dead man's estate, or as liable to taxation except under a special provision of the statute; that when kept it is for pleasure, or, if any usefulness is obtained from them, it is founded upon the ferocity natural to them, by which they are made to serve as a watch or for hunting; and that while because of his attachment to his master, from which arises a well-founded expectation of his return when lost, the law gives the owner the right of reclamation, the owner in all other respects has only that qualified property in them which he may have in wild animals generally."
"If anything be anything," said Frederick Brent, "the Pennsylvania mountains are what Oscar Wilde called them."
"Oh, you miserable agnostic!" exclaimed his friend Professor Helfenstein. "Can you not, in the face of this so beautiful landscape, get rid of your eternal subjunctive mood? If, indeed!"
The two men had stopped at a high point on the road they had been traversing, and were looking across a fair and fertile valley, flooded by the summer-morning sunlight, to the mountains on its western rim.
A slight smile showed Brent's pleasure in arousing his companion's indignation.
"Well," said he, "my ideas of natural beauty and those of the aesthetic Wilde may be entirely false; or the whole scene may be an optical illusion; or—Rosenduft und Maienblumen, observe me this lovely maiden!"
"If anything be anything? You can be positive enough where a pretty girl is concerned. She is pretty, though, and as deutsch as her ancestors were a century or two ago, when they left the Rhineland and crossed the sea. A pure blonde German type. Tacitus would have included her among the Non-Suevi."
Their attention had been drawn from the scenery by the approach of a young woman and a little boy. The former was above the medium height, and was about twenty years old, but the infantile mould of her features and the innocent look in her large blue eyes gave strangers a bewildering impression that she was somewhere in the neighborhood of five. She was charmingly pretty in her way, and her wide-brimmed hat of dark straw set off to full advantage the pale golden hue of her braided hair and the delicate purity of her complexion.
Brent could not resist the temptation to accost this mild and grave young beauty. Stepping forward as she was passing, he lifted his hat, and said, "Will you be good enough to tell me the way to the nearest encampment of Indians?"
"Indians?" she repeated, with a timid wonder in the tones of her soft voice.
"Yes. We are Europeans, travelling in this country, and we should like to find some Indians who will help us to hunt buffaloes. Are there many buffaloes near here? We haven't seen any sitting on the branches of the trees as we came along."
"I don't think buffaloes could get up in the trees," said the girl in a meekly explanatory manner.
"Why, you don't mean to say that the buffaloes in this country can't climb, do you?"
"I never saw a buffalo; but I don't think they can."
She looked despairingly at her small brother, who, having not yet reached the age of six years, was unable to afford any help in deciding a question in zoology.
"This is very interesting," said Brent, turning toward his companion. "It seems that American buffaloes are forced to spend all their time on the ground."
"Narrheit!" growled the professor, beginning to walk away.
"Well, I'm very much obliged to you," said Brent. "Good-morning."
Then he followed his friend, who was already descending a hill in the road.
"Sister Rena, what did that man want still?" asked the little boy.
"I don't know, love," said his sister faintly. Her ideas were in a hopeless state of confusion, and she was troubled by a fear that a lack of intelligence had made her seem disobliging.
When Brent overtook the professor, the latter said, "All Englishmen are ridiculous; and you are a good specimen of the race. Why should you stop on the public highway and talk nothingness to a harmless girl?"
"All Germans are prejudiced; and Professor Helfenstein is a true Deutscher," answered Brent. "My remarks to the young Non-Sueve no doubt interested her deeply, and I fancy she will reflect on them, as Piers Plowman says,—
With inwit and outwit, Imagynyng and studie."
They were both good walkers, and, though the heat became somewhat oppressive at noon, they did not halt until they had reached the village where they intended to pass the night. In this place Helfenstein heard the Pennsylvania-German dialect spoken to his heart's content. After dinner he sat on the porch of the inn for several hours, talking to a number of the indigenes and making copious notes.
When Brent returned from a visit to one of the village stores, he found him looking over the result of his investigations.
"Will the 'Allgemeine Zeitung' have the benefit of your researches?" asked the Englishman.
"Most like. The people at home love to have tidings of shoots from the old German lingual stock. The dialect of this locality is a truly noteworthy one."
"I heard it spoken just now by the young blossom we met on the road this morning."
"Does she live here?"
"No. She had driven in to the village to make some purchases. Her father is one Reinfelter, who tills the soil of his ancestral demesne over there near the mountains."
"From whom did you learn these facts?"
"From the tradesman with whom she had been talking."
"Will agnosticism let you be absolutely sure his statements are true?"
"No; and even less sure that they are untrue. It seems to me that a vast amount of credulity is needed for positive unbelief. Do atheists ever have doubts about anything?"
"We don't sit still and say, 'Quien sabe?' like you agnostics. When nobody shall believe or disbelieve, who will act?"
"I give it up."
With a look of profound disgust, the professor pocketed his note-book and went to seek refreshment in the shape of beer.
Notwithstanding the difference in their ways of thinking, these two men had something in common which furnished a strong bond of union between them. Helfenstein sometimes said to himself, "Well, if he is a pitiable doubter, he at least doubts in earnest. This makes him better than the miserable tric-trac men who are always ready to agree that black is white, or deny that two and two make four, when it suits their convenience or interest."
And, in fact, though Brent often paraded his agnosticism merely to draw forth the professor's scornful comments, he really had a humble and hopeless consciousness that if truth be visible to any human mind it was hidden from his. The possession of an ample fortune and the lack of family ties and active interests in life had fostered his tendency toward introspection till it became morbid. Now, at the age of thirty, he had no positive beliefs or aims, and felt the despairing self-contempt which inspired Hamlet's cry, "What should such fellows as I do, crawling between earth and heaven?"
Before retiring, the travellers agreed to spend the next day in making an excursion on foot to the neighboring mountains. But when the hour for starting arrived, Brent had not risen, and the professor, who allowed nothing to interfere with his plans if he could help it, set out alone.
A little before sunset he returned, full of enthusiasm over the scenery, and highly pleased with the people in the farm-houses where he had stopped.
"They are a good, honest, kreuzbraves Volk," he said. "They have kept the old German home-feeling all unchanged. There is a certain Baernthaler over there at the foot of the mountains who is worthy to be a native of the Fatherland,—a noble-looking fellow, with the lion-front of a young Marcomannic chief."
"The Marcomanni were a Suevic race, were they not?"
"Yes; I should have known his ancestors were dark-haired Swabians even if he had not told me so. He is something of a scholar, I should say, and he seems as true a gentleman as ever lived. What a shame it is that his good South-German name should have been corrupted into Barndollar!"
"I heard this Barndollar's praises sounded about three hours ago."
"By the father of Miss Reinfelter, the mild-eyed blonde who had her doubts about the ability of buffaloes to climb trees. He was here this afternoon, and we became intimate in five minutes. He told me his ancestors came from the neighborhood of Heidelberg; and when he heard I was there last summer his expansive face was illumined with joy. He answered my questions about the old German settlers intelligently enough; but he said nobody could tell me as much about such matters as 'Melker Barndollar,' of whom he spoke with 'bated breath. He also invited me to visit him."
"Shall you accept his invitation?"
"I have fully made up my mind to go; but that doesn't make it certain that I shall."
"Should you go if he possessed not a pretty daughter?"
The next morning Brent rode over to the Reinfelter farm. The farm-house interested him at the first view. It was a quaint old stone building, with four gables and a slated roof, from the projecting windows in which the mountain-line could be seen stretching away to the southwest and growing more and more indistinct until their faint outlines were lost on the far horizon. Ivy concealed more than half the gray stones from sight, and fragrant pink roses were blooming against the southern wall, while thick bushes of flowering jessamine grew on both sides of the front door.
The visitor received a welcome which made him feel as if he had reached his own home. He had grown so weary of wandering aimlessly around the world, and had become so disgusted with conventional forms and ceremonies, that the peaceful home-like and simple, kindly manners of these unsophisticated people gave him an agreeable sense of rest and freedom from restraint.
He allowed himself to be prevailed on to stay until late in the afternoon; and before his visit ended he circumspectly inquired whether they would receive him as a boarder. The promptness and pleasure with which both the farmer and his wife agreed to his proposal showed him that his fear of giving offence had been entirely groundless.
When he returned to the inn, the professor informed him that on the succeeding day he was going on to the next county.
"I shall stay in this neighborhood some time longer," said Brent.
"So? What is the especial attraction? The young woman over there where the mountains stand?"
"Perhaps; but my own motives are about the last things I should attempt to analyze."
"Well, I expect to come back this way in three months, and, if I find you here and ready to depart, we can return to New York together."
"Like nearly all other imaginable things, what you state is not impossible."
Helfenstein went on his way the next morning, and Brent began his sojourn at the farm-house on the same day.
The burdens of Rena Reinfelter's life immediately became very much more numerous. The Englishman found an unfailing satisfaction in bewildering and horrifying her, and tried systematically to find out whether there was really any limit to her patience and gentleness. He induced her to go with him to the mountains near at hand, and took every opportunity to place himself in positions where he was in imminent danger of falling some hundreds of feet and being dashed to pieces on the rocks. Her dearly-beloved cat was suddenly lost to sight, and when it reappeared, uttering meek appeals for sympathy and help, its personal adornments were as striking as they were varied. He proved to her conclusively that all cats are utterly incapable of affection, and that their characters are vicious and treacherous to the last degree. His favorite method, however, was to begin by asking her some trivial question and then involve her in a net-work of apparent self-contradictions, which filled her conscientious soul with anguish and dismay at her own untruthfulness. Sometimes he felt a little ashamed of these amusements, and determined to forego them; but the temptation was too great for his powers of resistance, and he soon began transgressing again.
One morning Rena received a visit from her most intimate friend, Elsa Barndollar, who was only fifteen years old, but, having spent the preceding season at a city boarding-school, considered herself a grown woman with an unusually wide experience. Although passionately devoted to Rena, she was as fond of teasing her as Brent himself. Yet as soon as the latter began indulging himself with that diversion, she became highly indignant, and scornfully betook herself to the garden.
When Rena had followed her thither, she gave vent to her wrath without restraint.
"That's the most hateful man I ever saw!" she exclaimed.
"Oh, no, Elsa!" said Rena deprecatingly.
"Yes, he is. He's perfectly horrid! What does he mean by teasing you as if you were a little white kitten, or a green and yellow parrot, or some other ridiculous thing? I suppose he thinks country-people are all idiots. I never did see the use of Englishmen, anyhow."
"Oh, he only does it for fun. He's always polite to father and mother, and little Casper thinks he's the nicest man he ever saw."
"Oh, yes! If he's good to your relations you don't care how he treats you. It's a shame, and he ought to be told so, too."
Rena tried to pacify her young friend, but the attempt was not successful. The latter made her visit a very short one, and when she reached home her anger and jealousy found expression in very vigorous terms.
Her brother visited the Reinfelters a short time afterward. His interest in the Englishman was evidently very strong, but if he shared his sister's feelings toward him they did not prevent his treating him with perfect courtesy.
"Helfenstein is right," thought Brent, as the young farmer rode away. "He's as handsome a fellow as I ever saw. I wonder whether he's Sister Rena's lover so bold."
But although Melchior Barndollar was far superior to the Reinfelters in culture and in knowledge of the world, he did not interest Brent as much as they did. The positiveness of their beliefs was a special source of wonder to him. From the father, who had no doubt about the existence of ghosts, to the little boy, who firmly believed in the reality of Belsnickel,—hides, horns, and all,—they were the most frankly credulous people he had ever known. But the superstition and anthropomorphism mingled with their faith did not make him think it less enviable. He would have been glad to believe anything as firmly as they did the traditions which had come down to them from their ancestors, unchallenged by doubt and unchanged by time.
One evening, after Rena had, as usual, sat beside her little brother's bed until he was sound asleep, she joined her parents and Brent, who were sitting in the garden behind the house.
The full moon was high above the mountains, and the whole landscape was almost as distinct as it had been before the sun went down. A whippoorwill's notes, mellowed by distance, resounded from the farthest part of the orchard, and a tinkling chorus arose from the leaves and blades of grass, where the myriads of nocturnal musicians were disporting themselves after the heat and glare of the day. But the sounds made by these performers were so regular and monotonous that they seemed merely a part of the calm summer night.
Suddenly another sound came down from the lower part of the mountains. It began with a deep, long-drawn, hollow cry, between a howl and a moan, and then broke into a wild, piercing shriek.
The farmer started to his feet, and stood gazing in the direction from which the cry had come.
"It's only a stray dog howling," said Brent.
Reinfelter turned toward his wife, and the moonlight showed that his face was white with terror.
"De warnoong!" he said, in a low voice. "D'r geishter-shray foon de bairga!"
The woman covered her face with her hands, and began trembling and sobbing. Rena put her arms around her mother's neck and tried to comfort her, as if she had been the mother instead of the child.
The sound broke out again, and this time it was louder and more distinct than before. As the melancholy echoes died away, Rena rose, and, taking her mother's hand in hers, led her toward the house.
When they had gone, Brent said, "What do you think that sound is?"
"It's the warning still," said Reinfelter. "It's the warning of death."
"What is it made by?"
"A ghost. It goes up there in the mount'ins an' calls, an' the one it calls is soon in the graveyard already. It's called the mother, or Rena, or me, this night."
"Maybe I was the one it meant."
"No; it only calls the Reinfelters still. It's been so ever since the Injun massacree, a long time ago."
"Did that happen here?"
"Yes. My great-grandfather an' his oldest son was up in the mount'ins, and his wife was a-comin' back from there by herself once. Just as she got where she could see her little children a-playin' in the yard, three Injuns jumped out o' the woods that was nigh to the house then, an' run into the yard an' killed the children right before her eyes. The men up there heard her scream, an' they run down, an' found her a-layin' there where she fell, an' they thought she was dead already. She come to herself ag'in, but after that she just sort o' pined away, an' in less than two months she died. It's her ghost that goes up there an' calls us still."
"Did you ever hear the call before?"
"No; I never heard it myself. But the night my little girl died, nine years ago, she rose up in bed once, an' she says, 'Who is that a-cryin' up there in the mount'ins?' We couldn't hear nothin' still, but we knew what she had heard, an' after that we didn't have no more hope."
Brent did not think of the banshee as a positive reality, but he would not have denied that its existence was possible, and he felt that it would be useless for him to try to shake the farmer's faith in the tradition which had such a strong hold on his mind.
After a brief silence, he said he would take a short walk before going to bed. Leaving the garden, he strolled toward the mountains, which rose like a vast wall above the foot-hills at their base.
As he drew near the rising ground which marked the verge of the valley, the strange sound once more fell on his ear, and he walked in the direction from which it came. Passing through a grove of chestnut-trees, he reached an elevated open space, where the moonlight shone on the almost level surface of large gray rocks. Near the middle of this clear space he saw a black, shaggy object moving slowly about, with its lowered head turned away from him. He stepped forward to get a closer view of this creature, and as he did so it turned its head and looked at him. The next instant it bounded away and disappeared among the nearest trees.
"Just as I thought," said Brent to himself. "It was a dog, and a villanous-looking cur, too. Exactly the sort of brute to howl and shriek at the moon on a night like this."
But, as he sauntered back to the house, various doubts entered his mind. He reflected that he had seen the animal only for an instant, by moonlight and at some distance, and that he could not be sure it was really a dog. Neither could he be confident it had uttered the mysterious cry, for while it was within his sight it had made no sound of any kind. "Perhaps it went up there for the same reason I did,—to find out what was going on," he thought.
As usual, he ended by informing himself that he was under no responsibility to settle the question, and that, as far as he was concerned, it would probably remain unsettled.
The next morning he found the farmer and his wife very much depressed, but he had no hope of being able to convince them that they had heard nothing supernatural, and thought it best to avoid the subject. He passed the day in calling on some of the neighbors who had asked him to visit them, and returned to the farm-house just before nightfall.
He found Rena standing at the door, and, while talking to her, he mentioned his moonlight walk.
"I saw what I took to be a stray dog up there," he said. "Perhaps it made the sound we heard."
"Was it a black dog, with rough, curly hair?" asked Rena.
"I think it was; but I couldn't see it very well. Do you know whose it is?"
"No; but this morning when I came out of the dairy a dog that looked like that was standing in the path, a little way off, and I was thinking it might have been the same one."
As she looked away again, Brent said, "I didn't tell your father and mother about the dog I saw, because I thought it would be well for them to forget the whole matter as soon as possible."
"Thank you," said Rena, turning her face and looking at him gratefully.
He had lost the desire to tease her, and treated her as he had never done before. Thinking of this, not long afterward, he wondered whether a presentiment of what was coming had caused the change, or whether it merely arose from a consciousness of the gloom which had already settled on the household.
During his call on the Barndollars that morning, he had partly overcome Elsa's unfavorable impression of him by treating her, to some extent, "like a grown-up woman" and showing by his manner that he was not unconscious of the handsome young brunette's personal attractions. On her next visit, a little more than two weeks later, she noticed that he had entirely given up the objectionable teasings; and this removed the last obstacle in the way of her considering him extremely "nice." She had mentally admitted, even at the first view, that he possessed the degree of good looks and stylishness rigorously exacted from the male sex by the canons of boarding school taste, and she now candidly acknowledged to herself that his being an Englishman was, strictly speaking, not his own fault.
When she was ready to go, she made her adieux with an agreeable sense of having been both entertaining and instructive. She forgot to take leave of her friend the aged and decrepit mastiff, which was sitting just inside the hall; but he called attention to his presence by three raps of his tail on the floor. Elsa laughed, and went through the form of shaking his huge paw,—an attention which he acknowledged by a prolonged caudal tattoo.
"Oh, Rena!" said Elsa, stopping on the topmost step, "I forgot to tell you what happened to our Scotch shepherd-dog, Macbeth. You know Melker and I made friends with him the first day, but we were the only ones he'd be intimate with. Well, about two weeks ago an ugly old black dog came prowling around the house, and when Mac went up to it it bit him and then ran away to the mountains. Soon after that, we heard that a black dog with the hydrophobia had been killed up there, and Derrick and Jake said they believed it was the same one. Melker was in Philadelphia, and before he came home Mac went mad. Derrick shot at him out of the barn, and scared him so much that he ran off down the road, and we haven't heard anything about him since."
Rena was bending over one of the jessamine-bushes, and seemed to be absorbed in removing some dead leaves.
"Did your dog come this way, Elsa?" asked Mrs. Reinfelter nervously.
"No, indeed," replied Elsa. "He ran up the road to the village. Good-by, Kuno. I won't forget you again."
Brent followed her down the steps to assist her in mounting, but she sprang into the saddle without waiting for his help, and rode away at a brisk canter.
The farmer and his wife conferred together anxiously about the two mad dogs, while their little son stood near them, listening intently to all they said. Unnoticed by them, Rena walked across the yard and passed around the corner of the house in the direction of the garden.
Something in her manner caught Brent's attention, and in a little while he followed her. He found her sitting in the garden; and, though she tried to keep her face turned away from him, its death like pallor did not escape his sight. He sat down at her side and asked her to tell him what had happened. The sympathy in his voice went straight to her heart and won her whole confidence.
"The warning was for me," she answered, "I'm not afraid to die; but father and mother and my little brother—"
She did not sob or make any sound, but great tears welled from her eyes, and she was unable to go on.
When she could speak again, she told him that on the day after the warning, when she found a black, shaggy-haired dog standing near the dairy door, she put out her hand, intending to stroke its head, but it caught her hand with its teeth, and left a wound from which the blood fell in large drops. The dog ran away in the direction of the Barndollar farm, and she bound up her hand and managed to keep the wound from being noticed while it was healing, for she was anxious to avoid increasing the anxiety her parents already felt. Only a slight scar now remained; but Elsa's account of the mad dogs left no doubt in her mind that she was in imminent danger of a frightful death.
Brent had once witnessed a sight which rose before his eyes many times afterward and would not be blotted from his memory. It all came back to him now once more,—the agonized, horribly glaring eyes, the clinched hands and quivering throat, and the convulsive sobbing and gasping which would not cease tearing the wasted frame until death should bring the only possible help. It made him sick at heart to think that the gentle unselfish girl who was even then forgetting herself in her care for others would be seized by those paroxysms of frightful madness.
He knew that many people who are bitten by mad dogs escape hydrophobia entirely, but he could not doubt that when the teeth have entered the bare flesh, and strong remedies are not instantly applied, there is very little ground for hope.
"Was your hand entirely uncovered?" he asked.
"Yes; I never wear gloves."
With a desperate impulse to do something, he said, "I'll go to Philadelphia and bring a physician. We can be here to-morrow."
"I'm afraid it's too late for that now," said Rena. "It would only frighten father and mother. I want to keep them from knowing it as long as I can."
"I won't bring anybody back with me if you are unwilling; but I must go and find out what I can do to help you."
"Do you think anything can be done to keep me from hurting anybody else?"
"I'm sure of that. I'll find out the best way to do it."
"Oh, thank you. You're so good to me!"
The earnestness of her gratitude made him think with sorrow and shame of the time when his chief pleasure had been to make her unhappy. He could hardly believe he had really been as selfish and heartless as he appeared in the picture rising before him now out of the unchangeable past. His dormant human interest was awakening, and his soul was beginning to resist the tyranny of his mind.
He was so impatient to begin his journey that he proposed setting off immediately and riding to the nearest railroad-station. But Rena was afraid this would alarm her parents: so he agreed to wait until the next morning and take the stage in the village.
That night Rena stayed longer than usual in the room with her little brother after he had sunk into peaceful slumber in the midst of his small confidences and grave interrogations.
Soon after she came down, her mother said, "Rena, sing us one of the nice German songs Mr. Brent learned you once. Sing the one about the lady that set up on the high rock an' combed her hair with a golden comb. What did they call her still? 'De Lower Liar'?"
As Rena turned toward Brent and the lamplight fell on her face, he was sure that if she tried to sing her voice would tell what she was trying to keep unknown.
"I don't think 'Die Lorelei' is a very lively song, Mrs. Reinfelter," said he. "Maybe I can find some prettier ones in Philadelphia to-morrow, if I have time. I must be sure to bring Casper something. What do you think he would like best?"
This question introduced a topic which banished all others; and when Brent looked at Rena again he saw he had come to the rescue in good time. He was glad to think he could at least do this, and he determined to be on the watch for such opportunities.
The result of his consultations the next day gave him very little ground for hope. All he could depend on doing was to save Rena from suffering and prevent what she feared most by making her insensible as soon as the madness showed signs of taking an active form.
When he had gotten what was needed for this purpose and had been fully advised as to his course of action, he went back with a heavy heart to the farm among the mountains.
At the first opportunity he repeated to Rena all he had learned in the city, and told her what he proposed doing. The prospect that was so dispiriting to him removed her greatest care; but her eager thanks humiliated him as he felt his utter helplessness in the hands of fate. A sudden fear that she might hurt him before he could make her unconscious brought back her anxiety; but he reassured her by promising to be constantly on his guard and take every possible means to insure his own safety.
Watching her closely as the days went by, he saw the full extent of her calm and steadfast courage. She made no effort to hide from him her grief at the prospect of separation from those she loved so dearly; but of anguish or terror on her own account there was never any sign. He did not doubt that this came from her perfect faith and trust in a higher power, and, though he could not share her feeling, it comforted him to know that she had such a strong support as she drew near to death.
Near the close of the fifth day after his return he and Rena were standing together at the gate in front of the house. Deep shadows were advancing up the sides of the mountains, but their summits were still bright with the evening glow. Both of them watched the narrowing line of light without speaking. Their minds were full of the same thoughts, and there was a sympathetic communion between them which did not need to be expressed in words.
Hearing footsteps on the road, they looked around, and saw Melchior Barndollar coming toward them. A large and very handsome dog of the Scotch shepherd breed was running along before him, and when he stopped at the gate it came back and stood near him, with its intelligent brown eyes fixed on his face.
"You have got another collie, I see," said Brent.
"No; this is the only one I've ever owned," replied Barndollar.
He had been surprised at the Englishman's remark, and he was entirely unable to account for the effect of his answer on both the others. They turned quickly toward each other with a look of eager interest, mingled with something else which he could not understand.
"I thought your collie went mad," said Brent.
"Oh, you heard that report, then?"
"Yes. The last time your sister was here she mentioned it. Was there nothing in it?"
"It wasn't even founded on an apparent fact," said the young farmer, smiling and looking down at the dog, which immediately began wagging its tail so forcibly that at least one-third of its body partook of the motion. "The men on my mother's farm have regaled themselves so often with stories about mad dogs that they have become their pet horror. When I came home I found that their fire from behind intrenchments had driven poor Mac off the place; though if he had been better acquainted with their marksmanship he would probably have gone to sleep while they were shooting at him. I went out to hunt for him, and found him at a house near the village, as free from hydrophobia as I am. To make sure, I traced the dog that bit him back to its owner's hut in the mountains, and found it there, sneaking around the lot and looking as vicious and mean-spirited as ever. Its master said the dog that was shot came from the other side of the mountains, and was worth a dozen such curs as his."
Rena stepped into the road and began stroking the dog's head and neck. As she did so, her father came out of the house, and, seeing Barndollar at the gate, he came down to speak to him.
While the two farmers were talking, Brent walked away to a grove of oaks near the road and a short distance below the gate. Standing among the trees as the twilight came on, he thought over the episode which had just come to a close, and wondered at its effect on him. Instead of pondering over the uncertainties of the case until it lost all reality to him, he had been too much concerned to think of probabilities at all. Sensibility had overcome his agnosticism, and he had forgotten that it was possible to doubt. He knew he had not acted philosophically; but he felt that philosophy, compared with sympathy and self-forgetfulness, is of very slight account.
* * * * *
Professor Helfenstein returned to the little Pennsylvania village at the time he had indicated, which was about the middle of October. The innkeeper told him his friend had not yet left the farm-house, and the next morning he set out on foot to visit him there.
The mountain-woods, all arrayed in their autumn foliage, were glowing with rich, warm color. Silvery cloud-banks heightened the deep blue of the sky, and their slowly-floating shadows intensified the brightness of the sunlight. "Ueberall Sonnenschein!" said the nature-loving German. "Ach, 's ist ein wunderschoenes Land!"
Brent saw him enter the yard, and came to the door to meet him. The family had dispersed soon after breakfast, and, as there was no one in the house for him to see, Helfenstein declined going in, but stood on the door-step, describing his journeyings in the West.
"Well," said he at last, "are you ready to start with me for New York to-morrow morning, and for Liverpool next Monday?"
"My starting for any place out of sight of these mountains," answered Brent, "depends chiefly on the views of a certain young woman. At present the indications are that no such pilgrimage will ever begin."
"Alle Wetter! Are you married?"
"No; but I expect to be in two weeks."
"Is it the maiden who dwells in this house?"
"The very same."
For a few moments the professor gazed in silence at the prospective bride-groom. Besides feeling a personal interest in the case, he considered it a good subject for psychic investigation.
"My good friend," he said, with judicial calmness, "why do you wish to espouse Miss Reinfelter?"
Brent knew this question was not meant to be offensive, but was propounded in a spirit of critical analysis. He was about to answer it with a pretence of deep gravity, when Casper came around the corner of the house and asked him where "Sister Rena" was.
"She has gone to the village," replied Brent.
As the boy turned away, his disappointment was so evident that Brent said, "Do you want her to do anything for you, Casper?"
"No, sir," said Casper dejectedly. "I just want her."
Brent smiled, and turned to the professor again.
"I couldn't find a better answer to your question if I thought for a week," he said. "I just want her."
W. W. CRANE.
MUSTER-DAY IN NEW ENGLAND.
Arms and the men we sing,—not those panoplied and helmeted according to Virgil, nor those of our own day, armed with repeating rifles and drum-majored into popular favor, but rather the heroes of the flint-lock and the priming-wire in the New England of two or three generations ago, the sturdy train-bands that have left scarce one John Gilpin to tell the tale of their valor.
"Train-bands are the trustiest and most proper strength of a free people," wrote Milton, and the colonists of Massachusetts Bay were of a like opinion, from Miles Standish down to the humbler men of prowess. By the law of 1666, all males in the colony were required to attend "military exercises and service." Companies were exercised six days yearly, prayer being offered by the captain at the beginning and at the end of every "training." A regimental training was ordered once in three years. Every company of foot was composed two-thirds of "musketeers" and one-third of "pikemen," the pike of Connecticut being two feet shorter than the rod-pike of England. Some of the lighter muskets were fired with a simple match, but the greater number were supported by "rests," forked at the top and stuck into the ground. They were fired by "match-locks," the "cock" being that part which held the burning match aloft before it was applied to the powder in the pan. Hence "to go off half cocked" originally meant that the burning fuse dropped into the powder pan before it was wanted. Single charges of powder were carried by the musketeers in wooden, tin, or copper boxes, and twelve of these boxes, fitted to a belt and slung over the left shoulder, made the "bandolier," which jingled like a band of sleigh-bells if the boxes were metallic. The belt also secured the "primer with priming-powder," the "bullet-bag," the "priming-wire," and the "match-cord." The soldier being thus a slave to his weapon, we are not surprised to note that his manual of arms was the following, from Elton's "Postures of the Musket:"
Stand to your arms. Take up your bandoliers. Put on your bandoliers. Take up your match. Take up your rest. Put the string of your rest about your left wrist. Take up your musket. Rest your musket. Poise your musket. Shoulder your musket. Unshoulder your musket and poise. Join your rest to the outside of your musket. Open your pan. Clear your pan. Prime your pan. Shut your pan. Cast off your loose corns. Blow off your loose corns, and bring about your musket to the left side. Trail your rest. Balance your musket in your left hand. Find out your charge. Open your charge. Charge with powder. Draw forth your scouring-stick. Turn and shorten him to an inch. Charge with bullet. Put your scouring-stick into your musket. Ram home your charge. Withdraw your scouring-stick. Turn and shorten him to a handful. Return your scouring-stick. Bring forward your musket and rest. Poise your musket and recover your rest. Join your rest to the outside of your musket. Draw forth your match. Blow your coal. Cock your match. Guard your pan. Blow the ashes from your coal. Open your pan. Present upon your rest. Give fire breast-high. Dismount your musket, joining the rest to the outside of your musket. Uncock and return your match. Clear your pan. Poise your musket. Rest your musket. Take your musket off the rest and set the butt end to the ground. Lay down your musket. Lay down your match. Take your rest into your right hand, clearing the string from your left wrist. Lay down your rest. Take off your bandoliers. Lay down your bandoliers. Here endeth the postures of the musket.
The "Postures of the Pike" gave these orders: "Handle, raise, charge, order, advance, shoulder, port, comport, check, trail, and lay down,"—the words "your pikes" being given with every order.
Elton's "Instructions to a Company of Horsemen" were as follows:
Horse,—i.e., mount your horse. Uncap your pistol-case. Draw your pistol. Order your pistol. Span your pistol. Prime your pistol. Shut your pan. Cast your pistol. Gage your flasque. Lode your pistol. Draw your rammer. Lode with bullet and ram home. Return your rammer. Pull down the cock. Recover your pistol. Present and give fire. Return your pistol.
Our fathers might have gone on in this lumbering way for many years if they had seen nothing worth imitating in the red men. The Indians of King Philip's War brought out their "snap-hances," or flint-locks, and the colonists were not slow to see the improvement. Experimentally at first, and afterward by a law of Massachusetts, the old pikes and heavy match-lock rifles were replaced with lighter muskets bearing the flint. The soldier ceased to be a slave to his weapon. Tactics were revolutionized; and the newly-developed military spirit was met by "The Complete Soldier," compiled from Elton, Bariff, and other authorities, and published by Nicholas Boone, of Boston, in 1701. This, the first military book in the British colonies, directed the soldiers to appear "with their hair, or periwigs, tied up in bags, and their hats briskly cocked." We hear also for the first time of the "powder-horn" and the "cartouch-box." The "bagnets" that are mentioned were of little use against the Indians, and they were scarcely known in America until the wars with France. But with the appearance of the bayonet came also the revival of the fife, which had been discarded in England in the time of Shakespeare. The military experiences gained in the French wars were of immense benefit when the Continentals and the volunteers formed themselves in line for the American Revolution. And yet the esprit de corps was contemptible; for every movement contemplated and every order given by a superior officer had to be discussed, approved, or disapproved by the inferior officers and by the humblest privates. It was years before the army ceased to be a great debating-society with a sharp rivalry as to which regiment should have the handsomest silk banner. But Steuben—the great drill-master—brought order out of the turmoil with his "Regulations for the Discipline of the Troops of the United States," although the evolutions in the field did not go much beyond the old-time marching that clings to the Hartford Phalanx of to-day. An Englishman who lived in Massachusetts during the Revolution had this to say: "The females are fond of dress and love to rule. The men are fond of the military art. But in Connecticut the men are less so, while the women stay at home and spin."
The Revolution being over, the several States of the new republic enacted military laws of their own. In New York every able-bodied male between eighteen and forty-five was required to meet with his company four times in each year "for training and discipline,"—once by brigade, once by regiment, and twice by company,—for such length of time as the governor might direct. Similar laws were in force in the New-England States, and upon them was based the United States law of 1792 which sought to establish a uniform militia throughout the country. The attempt was a failure, because the President is commander-in-chief of the militia only when it is in the actual service of the United States. The several States, therefore, kept up their ununiformed militia until it became a laughing-stock,—an army with broom-sticks, to evade serving in which but fifty cents a year was required,—and then the present uniformed militia arose from the ruins. Our present inquiry concerns the militia of New England during the fifty years from 1790 to 1840. In those days the "military duty" consisted of two "company trainings" of half a day each in May and October, and one "general training" or "regimental muster" of one day in October. While no uniforms were required at the trainings, except to distinguish the officers, yet there were usually enough public-spirited people in every town to furnish uniforms to the crack company. The other company, the tatterdemalions of the town, was called "the flood-wood." The regiment consisted of one company each of artillery, grenadiers, light infantry, and riflemen from adjoining towns,—the cavalry being recruited wherever a farm-house could be found which was able to stand the shock of war. Then came the flood-wood companies, outnumbering the uniformed companies almost two to one.
The cavalry—it was before the days of Hackett and Poinsett and McClellan saddles and Solingen sabres—appeared to treasure up the memory of "Light-Horse Harry Lee" and Major Winston of the Legionary Cavalry that helped Mad Anthony Wayne against the Indians of the West. They had not heard of the valor of the elder Hampton or the daring rides of Major Davies, of Kentucky. "Tone's Tactics" was unknown to them. And yet they were admired in their black suits faced and corded with red (the militia repudiated the colors of the regular army), and they were a terror with their cutlasses and holsters for the brace of huge horse-pistols that they were required to carry. The uniform of the artillery and grenadiers differed little from that of the cavalry. The latter were topped off with helmets of red leather. Upon the hats of the flood-wood, tin or sheet-iron plates showed the name of the company,—the L. I. standing for "Light Infantry,"—just as you know the porter of your hotel by his badge. The riflemen wore gray spencers and gray pantaloons. Their hats were stiff black beavers, for the comfort of a soft felt hat had not yet been discovered. Most gorgeous of all were the men of the infantry, in their white pantaloons and blue coats, the latter covered by cross-belts of white, to which priming-wires, brushes, and extra flints were chained. A cap of black leather, sprung outward at the top, carried a black feather tipped with red. The musicians, when there were any, followed the uniform of the company which they attended, with some slight differences, like turned-over plates and tasselled ends, to show that they were non-combatants. Altogether, as one looked at the "fuss and feathers," the broad lapels, and the bob-tailed coats, he might well recall Thoreau's description of the manner in which the salt cod are spread out on the fish-flakes to dry: "They were everywhere lying on their backs, their collar-bones standing out like the lapels of a man-o'-war-man's jacket.... If you should wrap a large salt fish around a small boy, he would have a coat of such fashion as I have seen many a one wear at muster." Or, if we wish to go back still further, we might exclaim, with Falstaff, "You would think that I had a hundred and fifty tattered prodigals, lately come from swine-keeping, from eating draff and husks.... No eye hath seen such scarecrows."
We are at the training "in the fall of the year,"—a far more important occasion than that in the spring, because the annual "muster" is only a week or ten days ahead. It is a private show. The uniformed infantry and the flood-wood have met at Walton Centre, but they, and all the spectators too, are from "our town," with its various outlying settlements. Let the other towns boast, let Stormont show her grenadiers, Leicester her riflemen, and Acton her artillery, but when "muster-day" comes look out for Walton and her infantry. The law requires every soldier to have a musket or rifle,—flint-lock of course,—a bayonet, a priming-wire and brush, a knapsack, a cartridge-box, and two spare flints. The lack of any one of these may lead to a fine. The regular order of the manual is, open pan, tear cartridge, prime, shut pan, ram down cartridge, ready, aim, fire. But cartridges are not often to be had, and flasks must be used, with a pause in the manual to allow the measuring of a charge. The lack of cartridges leads also to the carrying of powder in bulk in the pantaloons pocket, so that the soldier may move quickly when the order is given to "load and fire as fast as possible." Still more quick in his movements will the soldier be when, led on by the excitement of the hour, he becomes careless of his pocket-magazine and allows it to explode, with a great wreckage of hair, whiskers, and eyebrows, though no one was ever known to lose his life thereby.
But the "evolutions" of the fall training-day make up its greatest worth. It is not enough that squads of "our company" advance, fire, and fall back, the drummer drumming his loudest all the while. It is mere boy's play to march in single and double files or in platoons. We are to meet the companies from the other towns at the muster, and they must be forced to admit our superiority in spite of themselves, or else our town will not come out ahead. Now, if there is any one manoeuvre on which the Walton infantry prides itself, the "lock-step and sit-down" is that one. The company is marched about in single file until a circle is formed, care being taken that the captain shall be in the inside and the musicians on the outside. Gradually drawing toward the centre, the circle contracts to slow music, until the whole company is in lock-step, like a gang of convicts. At the word of command, each man seats himself in the lap of the man behind him, and the whole company is in the attitude of frogs as they are ready to leap. The captain, raised aloft in the middle by some convenient mackerel-keg, draws his sword, and the tableau lasts while the music sounds the "three cheers."
Another "evolution," such as Darwin never dreamed of, is begun by facing the company to the front in a single rank. The left hand of each man resting on his next neighbor's right shoulder, space is taken until all the men are an arm's length apart. At a given signal they all face to the right. The captain, "with drawn sword," followed by the music, the drum beating vigorously, runs at double-quick time in and out of the spaces, like a very undignified performance of the Virginia Reel. As each man is passed, he joins the rapidly-increasing file, until the whole line expends its snake-like activity and marches off in "common time" on a straight course, like this:
Both of these "evolutions" are calculated to inspire the enemy with terror, but the latter especially so. On beholding it, the enemy cannot help giving applause, and in applauding he must necessarily drop his arms. The Walton Light Infantry, equal to any emergency, may now show their superior discipline by capturing the enemy before he can recover from his surprise and admiration. Even the very boys on a training-day seek to terrorize the enemy with broom-sticks and tin pans, until they become a nuisance to the older folk and are sent off to some field to play base-ball after the old method, the "Massachusetts game," which allows the "plunking" of a batter when he is not on his base. But the boys will claim their share of the extra cards of gingerbread that have been laid in at the stores, and they will be on hand to see the half-day's sport of training-day end before early tea-time with the flashing of powder and the departure of the "sojers" for their homes.
A very different affair is the "muster-day" of the early fall, before the cold days and nights have come to stay. The several adjoining towns, that furnish each its own company or its quota of cavalry, take care of the "regiment," by rotation, at such a time as this. No matter how centrally located the town may be, the grenadiers must come a long way over the hills from Stormont, and the riflemen must leave Acton soon after midnight in order to obey the signal of the seven-o'clock gun, which demands the presence of every company on the "parade-ground:" it goes by the name of "the common" every other day in the year. The night marches or rides are orderly, the more so in anticipation of what is to follow. The sun rises upon a gala-day for the men and youth: the boys had their time at the training. Now the crowd is greater, and there is no room for the boys, except those who live in the town where the muster is held. The field, at a respectful distance from the regimental line, is covered with auctioneers' stands, peddlers' wagons, refreshment-booths of rough boards, and planked platforms for dancing to the music of the violin. It is the picture of a college town on "commencement-day," magnified to ten times the proportions. As you stand,—no seats are allowed,—you can partake of sweet cider, lemonade, apples, gingerbread, and pies and buns of all kinds. If you call for it, you can have New-England rum, or its more popular substitute, "black-strap," one-half rum and the other half molasses. Awaiting the inspection, soldiers on leave of absence mingle with the commoners, partake of the refreshments, including the black-strap, and nod their plumes or rattle their swords while they dance the "double shuffle" or "cut a double pigeon-wing" on the platforms, to the great wonder of the crowd.
When the regiment gathers itself together it is a sight to behold. There are perhaps five hundred men, all told, in two ranks. A part of them rejoice in gayly-colored uniforms, but the majority are "the flood-wood," dressed in sheep's gray and blue jeans and armed with rifles, muskets, and fowling-pieces of every pattern. This motley band "toe the mark,"—a small trench that has been cut in the turf to save their reputation for alignment. Then they break into platoons, and are inspected, man by man, by the adjutant and his aides. The inspection being over about eleven o'clock, the colonel appears, all glorious in brass buttons, epaulets as large as tin plates, and a cocked hat of great proportions. Once more the regiment forms in double ranks, with presented arms. The colonel and his "staff" ride slowly down the line, turn back, and take their stand for review. The music, just as it came from every town contributing to the regiment, has been "pooled" and placed in the charge of a leader. It is a strange medley of snare-, kettle-, and bass drums, of fifes, clarionets, and piccolos, with an occasional "Kent bugle"—the predecessor of the cornet—or some other instrument of brass. It is poor music at the best, and it cannot go far beyond marking time for the marching. But is it not better than the simple drum and fife of a common training-day? The "full brass band," we must recollect, is too expensive a luxury except for the most extraordinary occasions, and even then we run the risk of hearing "Highland Mary" repeated all day long, so scant is the repertoire. The regiment, headed by the cavalry and the music, passes the colonel and his staff. The music wheels out of the line, gives "three cheers," and remains at the colonel's side till the regiment has returned to its place. A hollow square is formed, in imitation of the great Napoleon at Waterloo, and the colonel addresses his "brother-officers and fellow-soldiers" in a few fitting words, and retires from the field.
And now comes dinner,—a most important feature of muster-day. No one has had a bite since his breakfast at home by candle-light,—unless he has patronized the refreshment-booths. Even then he will not allow his appetite for the noonday meal to become impaired. By previous arrangement, each company dines by itself, or it joins forces with some friendly company and hires the services of a caterer. The hotel of the village cannot begin to accommodate the public, whether martial or civilian, and temporary sheds cover long lines of tables on which the feast is spread. It is a jolly company, and the scrambling for the viands and the vintages, if there are any, is done in a good-natured way. As the repast draws to a close and dessert is in order, the caterer appears at the end of one of the tables in shirt-sleeves that are more than wet with perspiration. Under his arm he holds a pile of plateless pies, just as the newsboy on the train secures a pile of magazines. The caterer marches down the length of the table with the half-inquiring, half-defiant announcement, "Pies, gentlemen! pies, gentlemen!" At every step he reaches for a pie, gives it a dexterous twirl between his thumb and finger, and sends it spinning to the recipient with a skill and accuracy of aim which would have done credit to the disk-thrower of the ancient Romans.
The "noon gun," fired after dinner, calls the regiment back to the parade-ground. The real work of the day is over; and now come recreation and amusement. The remarkable "evolutions" of the several companies are shown, each town striving to outdo the others. Of course the Walton Light Infantry will excel all the rest; but it may be no easy matter to make every one think as we do. The newest evolution—that of the snake on training-day—certainly "brings down the house," even if it fails to carry an admission of its superiority. When this friendly rivalry is over, the sham fight proceeds. A rough structure of boards and boughs has been prepared to represent a fort, and one of the companies is imprisoned therein, with little air or light, and with no means of defence except to discharge their guns upward. The advancing regiment fires by platoons, which wheel outward and retire to the rear to load. The artillery fires blank charges from a neighboring hill. The sweltering soldiers within the fort are only too glad to capitulate and let some other company take their place; the new company, in turn, to capitulate and march out with the honors of war. Meanwhile, the cavalry—whose horses are more used to the plough than to the din of battle—has retired to a distance, and indulges in a sham fight on its own account. And yet, in spite of all this preparation and in spite of the pains that have been taken to show the fancy movements of the soldiers, you will seldom see a company that is really well drilled in the most simple movements; for drill-masters are unknown.
The sham fight goes on till toward sunset, when the regiment is dismissed at the signal of the evening gun. And now comes the hurry to reach home. Such reckless driving, such wild racing over the hills and along the rough roads and ledges, and such a desire to "take off somebody's wheel," you never saw, unless you have been to a muster-day before. This is a part of the fun; and if you do not take it as the correct thing, and enjoy it too, you might as well have stayed away from the muster altogether.
FREDERIC G. MATHER.
THE STORY OF A STORY.
A horse-car, for all it is so common a sight, is not without its picturesque side. To stand on a long bridge at night, while the lights twinkle in the perspective, and watch one of these animated servants, with its colored globular eye, come scrambling toward you, is to see a clumsy, good-natured Caliban of this mechanical age. One of these days, when the horse-car is superseded by some electric skipping wicker-basket or what not, the Austin Dobson of the time will doubtless expend his light sympathy of verse on the pathetic old abandoned conveyance.
Such picturesqueness, however, is rather for one who seeks, than a view which thrusts itself upon the merely casual observer. At any rate, another Austin,—Austin Buckingham,—who was engaged one winter evening at the end of a long bridge in idealizing horse-cars, hit upon this way of looking at the one he was waiting for, out of sheer desperation of intellect. He was a young litterateur who was out of work. He was not, like other workmen in similar straits, going from one shop to another looking for a job. Not at all. He recognized the situation. He had only to write a clever story and he could quickly dispose of it. He had written a good many stories in his short day. Now he wished to write another. The pity of it was that he had no story to tell,—absolutely nothing. He had been through his note-books, but they gave him no help; he had kept his ears open for some suggestive little incident, but the whole world seemed suddenly given over to the dreariest commonplace. He had walked out this evening, slowly revolving in his mind the various odds and ends which came upon demand of his rag-picking memory, and yet nothing of value had turned up. He was tired, and determined to take a horse-car for the rest of the way.
It was while he stood watching for the one which took him nearest to his door, that he made the slight reflection with which this story opens. "Could I make a horse-car the hero of my story?" he asked himself, with a petulant tone, as he thought how dismally dull he was. The jingling car came up, and he jumped upon the rear platform, wedged his way through the men and boys who crowded the steps and platform, and so pushed into the interior. He found half a dozen men in various attitudes of neglect, but all hanging abjectly by the loops which a considerate company had provided for its patrons. For his part, he preferred to brace himself against the forward door, which gave him a position where he could watch his fellow-prisoners.
His eye fell at once on a girl for whom he always looked. He did not know her name, but, as the saying goes, he knew her face very well. She lived on the same street where he had his lodging, so that when they met in a horse-car they always got out together. From the regularity with which she came out in a certain car, Buckingham had sagely concluded that she was one of the multitude of girls who earned their living, for whom as a class he had great respect, though he did not happen to know any single member. He liked to look at her. She was shy and discreet in bearing; she usually entertained herself with a book, which permitted him larger liberty of eye; and she dressed with a neatness which had an individuality: she evidently expressed herself in her clothes. That is not all. She was undeniably pretty.
Now, our young friend had seen her in his horse-car a great many times, but never under the conditions which existed at this time. People rarely exclaim to themselves except in novels, but Buckingham did deliberately shout to himself, "Why, this—this is my heroine! I have only to find a hero and a plot. I know this girl very well. I am sure I can make a story about her. Give me a hero, give me a plot, and there is my story!"
When the horse-car stopped at the foot of Grove Street, Austin Buckingham and the prospective heroine of his story got out so nearly at the same time that when they reached the sidewalk they were side by side. Beneath the gas-light stood a tallish man who was looking up to read the name of the street upon the lamp. The light thus fell on his face and brought it into distinctness; especially it disclosed a scar upon his cheek. He caught sight now of these two people, and at once addressed Buckingham:
"Can you tell me whereabouts Mr. Martindale lives?"
Buckingham hesitated, not because he knew and did not wish to tell, but because he did not know, but wished to, if possible, out of courtesy. He was trying to remember. The answer, however, came a moment after from the girl, who had checked her walk upon hearing the name.
"I am going directly there," she said, and the two walked off together, the young man lifting his broad-brimmed felt hat in acknowledgment of her civility. He lifted it by seizing the crown in a bunch. It is difficult to lift a soft hat gracefully. Buckingham followed the pair, and when he had reached his own door-way he continued to follow them with his eyes until they were lost at a bend in the street. Then he entered the house where he lodged, and sat down in his study. He was greatly pleased with this little turn in affairs.
"That is one step further in my story," he said to himself, for there was no one else to say it to. "So she is Miss Martindale, and this young man with a scar has come to see her father on business. He will stay to tea. The father will—what will the father do or say? I must look out the name in the directory, so as to get some solid basis of fact about the father,—something to avoid, of course, when I arrange him in the story. If he is a stone-cutter I must make him a house- and sign-painter. I must disguise him so that his most intimate friend will not detect him."
Austin Buckingham was in the most agreeable humor as he proceeded to prepare his solitary tea, for he was a bachelor and yet he detested restaurants and boarding-houses. His dinner he needed to buy, and eat where he bought it, but his breakfast and tea he provided in the room which served as study and dining-room. He did not wash his dishes, it may be remarked, with the exception of a Kaga cup which was too precious to be intrusted to his landlady.
He had set aside his tea-things, and, with a paper and pencil, was proceeding to sketch a plot for his story, with Miss Martindale for the heroine and the young man with a scar for a hero, when there was a knock at the door, and the servant came in, bearing a card. It contained the name of Henry Dale Wilding, a correspondent whom he had never met, but who had begun with asking for his autograph, and had now ended, it seems, with calling in person.
"Show him up," said the story-teller; and Mr. Wilding, who was two steps behind the servant, instantly presented himself. His face was certainly familiar. Ah! it was the scar upon the face which made the recognition easy.
"This is very pleasant," said Buckingham cordially, as he bade the young man lay aside his coat and take a seat by the fire. While his guest was obeying him, the host said in an aside,—only the aside was inaudible, contrary to the custom of asides,—"He does not recognize me. I will draw him out."
"I was in town this evening,—in fact, in this very street," said Mr. Wilding,—"and I could not resist the temptation to call on you."
"I am very glad you didn't," said Buckingham heartily. "It is evident you were led into it. Have you many friends in town?"
"Not very many. I know one or two men in college. I thought at one time of coming here to college myself. I gave that up, however, and now I am thinking of taking a special course, perhaps in English. Indeed, that is one reason why I came to town to-day."
"Well, the college is hospitable enough. It is a great hotel, with accommodations for regular boarders, but with reduced tickets for the table-d'hote, and a restaurant for any one who happens in, where one may dine a la carte."
"I have not had a classical education," said the young man.
"Very well: you can make a special point of that. Very few of our later writers have had a classical education. Scholarship is no longer a part of general culture. It is a profession by itself. It is scientific, not literary."
"But you had a classical education, Mr. Buckingham?"
"Yes, I had once. I don't deny that I am glad I had; but I am forced to conceal it nowadays."
"And you still read the classics," he went on, with a respectful glance at a Greek book lying open on the table. Buckingham hastily closed the book.
"Yes, when no one is looking. But tell me about your plans. Shall you room in the college buildings?"
"I have come so late in the year that I cannot get any satisfactory rooms."
"Why not try getting a room somewhere in this neighborhood? There are students, I think, who live on this street. I am afraid there are no vacant rooms in this house, or I would introduce you to my landlady."
"I am not sure but I shall. In fact, I have been looking at a room farther up the street this evening."
"Indeed! What house did you find it in?"
"I found two or three houses that had rooms to let for students. They were not boarding-houses. I don't care to board."
"Mr. Wilding, my opinion of you rises with each sentiment you express. First you think of studying English in a scholarly fashion; then you detest boarding. I am sure we shall be friends. I shall invite you to take tea with me,—not to-night, for I have already had my tea, but when you are settled in your room."