That Americans are constantly apologizing to foreigners for America, for its institutions, for its social life, and for themselves as belonging to it, is a fact which no one ever thinks of disputing. In this faculty for disparaging our own country we may flatter ourselves that we have no equals. The Chinese may come near us in their obsequious assurances as to the utter unworthiness of everything pertaining to them, but with the difference that they, probably, are inwardly profoundly convinced of the perfection of all that their idea of courtesy obliges them to abuse, and mean nothing of what they say; whereas we do mean everything we say.
The prejudice of the English, and their attempts to transport a miniature England about with them wherever they go, furnish a frequent subject of jest to Americans on the Continent. If the total immunity from any such feeling which characterizes the Americans themselves were the result of breadth of ideas—if they spoke as they do because they measured the faults and follies, the merits and advantages, of their own institutions with as impartial an eye as they would measure those of other nations, and judged them without either malice or extenuation—we might then have the privilege of condemning narrow-mindedness and prejudice. But we have no such breadth of ideas. On the contrary, we have ourselves—none more so—the strongest sort of prejudices—prejudices which prevent us as a nation from taking wide, cosmopolitan views of things. The only difference is that with us the prejudice, instead of being in favor of everything belonging to our own country, is, in far too many cases, against it, consequently the most objectionable, the least excusable, of prejudices.
It is but rarely that we find a German, a Frenchman, a Spaniard, an Italian, or a Russian, who even having expatriated himself completely for one reason or another, and after years of absence, will not have retained some affection for his native country, some longing for it, some feeling that it is the best place on earth after all. But among any number of Americans who have been on European soil for any period of time, from twenty days to twenty years, those who are burdened with any such affection, any such longing, any such feeling, might be counted with ease. Indeed, if through some inconceivable arrangement of human affairs the Americans abroad were to be prevented from ever returning to their own country, I imagine the majority would bear the catastrophe with great equanimity, and, aside from the natural ties of family and pecuniary interests that might bind them to their home, would think the permanent life in Europe thus enforced the happiest that Fate could have bestowed upon them. For my part, I never met but one American who was anxious to return home—a lady, strange to say—and her chief reason seemed to be that she missed her pancakes, hot breads, etc. for breakfast. All the others, men and women, had but one voice to express how immeasurably more to their taste was everything in Europe—the climate, the life, the people, the country, the food, the manners, the institutions, the customs—than anything in America.
However, all Americans in Europe are not of this class, although it includes the majority. There is a comparatively small number who are as much impressed with the perfection of everything American as the most ardent patriotism could desire. These people go to Europe cased in a triple armor of self-assertion, prepared to poohpooh everything and everybody that may come under their notice, and above all to vindicate under all circumstances their independence as free-born American citizens by giving the world around them the benefit of their opinions upon all topics both in and out of season. They stand before a chef-d'oeuvre of some old master and declare in a loud, aggressive voice that they see nothing whatever to admire in it, that the bystanders may know that the judgment of centuries will not weigh with them. They inquire with grim facetiousness, and terrific emphasis on the pronominal adjectives, "Is this what the people in this part of the world call a steamboat?" "Do they call that duckpond a lake?" "Is that stream what they call a river?" And so on, in a perpetual attitude of protest against everything not so large as their steamboats, their lakes, their rivers. When this genus of Americans abroad comes together with the other genus—with the people who think the most wretched daub that hangs in the most obscure corner of a European gallery, labelled with prudent indefiniteness "of the school of ——," better far than the most conscientious work by the most gifted of American artists—and a discussion arises, as it is sure to do, on the relative merits of Europe and America, then indeed does Greek meet Greek, and, both starting from equally false premises and with equally false views, the cross-purposes, the rabid comparing of things between which no comparison is possible, the amount of absurd nonsense spoken on either side, and the profound disdain of one for the other, furnish a great deal of amusement to Europeans, but make an American who has any self-respect suffer no small amount of mortification.
There is but one ground upon which these two classes of Americans meet in common, and that is in their respect for titles, coronets and coats-of-arms. It is useless to deny the immense impressiveness which this sort of thing has for the average American. Of course, if he be of the aggressive sort he will scout the very idea of any such imputation, one of the favorite jokes of his tasteful stock in trade being precisely to express sovereign contempt for anything and everything smacking of nobility, and to weigh its advantages against the chink of his own dollars and find it wanting. But this does not in the least alter the matter. The people who inveigh the most fiercely against the pretensions of blue blood are generally, the world over, the ones who are devoured by the most ardent retrospective ambitions for grandfathers and grandmothers; and the Americans who cry out loudest against the hollow vanity of the European aristocracy are generally those who have genealogical trees and coats-of-arms of authenticity more or less questionable hanging in their back parlor, and think themselves a step removed from those among their neighbors who boast of no such property.
It may not be pleasant for us to acknowledge to ourselves that our countrymen abroad are cankered with toadyism and are frightful snobs; but so it is, nevertheless. The fact is very visible, veil it as we may. The American who has not had it forced upon his attention in innumerable ways—by the undisguised empressement of those among his compatriots who frankly spend their whole time running after persons with titles, entertaining them and fawning upon them in every possible manner, no more than by the intensely American Americans who profess supreme disregard for all precedence and distinctions established by society, and yet never fail to let you know, quite accidentally, that Count This, Baron That and Marquis the Other are their very particular friends—has had an exceptional experience indeed.
This manner of disposing of all Americans abroad by putting them into one of these two categories may seem somewhat sweeping, and it will be objected that there are hundreds of our countrymen in Europe who could never come under the head of either. Granted. These hundreds undoubtedly exist: they are made up of people of superior mind and intelligence, of people of superior culture, of people who occupy that exceptional social position which, either through associations of hereditary ease, refinement, wealth and elegance, or by contact with "the best" of everything from childhood up, confers on those who belong to it very much the same outward gloss the world over. But it is never among such exceptions that the distinctive characteristics of a nation are to be sought. These are to be looked for in the great mass of the people. Now, the great mass of Americans who go abroad are people of average minds, average education, average positions; and that, thus taken as a mass, they are lamentably lacking both in good taste and dignity, every one must admit who is in any degree familiar with the American colonies in the cities of Europe where our countrymen congregate.
I should perhaps say, to express myself more accurately, "where our countrywomen congregate;" for, after all, the true representatives of America in Europe are the American women. Nine-tenths of all the American colonies consist of mothers who, having left their liege lords to their stocks and merchandise, have come abroad "for the education of their children"—an exceedingly elastic as well as convenient formula, which somehow always makes one think of charity that "covereth a multitude of sins." Occasionally—once in three or four years perhaps—the husband leaves his stocks or merchandise for a brief space of time, crosses the Atlantic and remains with his family a month or two. Occasionally also he fails to appear altogether. I am not very sure but that this last course is the one that foreigners expect him to pursue, and that when he deviates from it it is not rather a surprise to them. Europeans, I fancy, are somewhat apt to look upon the American husband as a myth. At all events, it seems to take the experience of Thomas in many instances to convince them of his material existence. The American who is content to have his wife and children leave him for an indefinite period ranging anywhere from one year to ten years, and during that time enjoy the advantages of life and travel in Europe, while he himself remains at home absorbed in his business, is a species of the genus Homo that Europeans are at a loss to comprehend. Being so rarely seen in the flesh, he necessarily occupies but a secondary position in their estimation: indeed, I think all American men, those of the class named no more than those that are more frequently seen abroad, such as doctors, clergymen, consuls, etc., may be said—some exception being made for the "leisure class" possessed of four-in-hands and so on, and an unlimited supply of the world's goods—to be considered by Europeans of no great significance, socially speaking. It is madame and mesdemoiselles who are all-important. Monsieur is thought a worthy person, with some excellent qualities, such as freedom from uncomfortable jealousies and suspicions, and both capacity and willingness for furnishing remittances, but a person rather destitute of polish—invaluable from a domestic point of view, from any other somewhat uninteresting. But madame and mesdemoiselles have every possible tribute paid to their charms: their beauty, their wit, their dash and sparkle, their independence, receive as large a share of admiration as the most insatiable among them could desire.
It must be owned that the American spirit, tempered by European education or influences, makes a very delightful compound. And it is astonishing to mark how soon the toning process does its work—how soon the most objectionable American girl of the sort known as "fast," or even "loud," softens into a very charming creature who makes the admiration bestowed upon her by European men quite comprehensible.
That this admiration is returned is perhaps not less comprehensible. American women, as a mass, are better educated than American men, and are particularly their superiors so far as outward grace and polish and the general amenities of life are concerned. These qualities, in which their countrymen are deficient, and the blander manners which accompany them, they are apt to find well developed in European men, whatever other virtues or faults may be theirs; and when to this fact is added the spice of novelty, the strong liking that American girls manifest for foreigners, and which has been the cause of putting so many American youths in anything but a benedictory frame of mind, is easily accounted for, and the marriages which so frequently take place between our girls and European men may be explained, even on other grounds than the common exchange of money on one side and title on the other.
Be the motive of these marriages either mutual interest or mutual inclination, in neither case does the generally-accepted theory that they are never happy bear the test of application. So far as my knowledge goes, the common experience is quite the reverse. The number of matches between American girls and Europeans that turn out badly is small compared to the number of those that are perfectly satisfactory. It is astonishing to see how many of our girls, who have been brought up in the belief of the American woman's prerogative of absolute supremacy in the domestic circle, when they are thus married change and seem quite content to relinquish not a few of their ideas of perfectly untrammelled independence, and to take that more subordinate position in matrimony which European life and customs allot to women. It is still more astonishing to see how contentedly and cheerfully they do so when marrying men, as they often do, whose equals in every point, were they their own countrymen, they would consider decidedly bad partis—men with no advantages of any description, without either position, career or any visible means of livelihood, often passably destitute of education and character as well. How they contrive to be satisfied with their bargain in this case is a puzzle, but satisfied they are.
Marriages of this sort, where the man has absolutely nothing to offer beyond the charms of his more or less blandly persuasive person, excite no surprise abroad. That a penniless male fortune-hunter should marry a girl with wealth is considered in Europe at the present day not only just, proper and quite as it should be, but rather comme il faut than otherwise. Let the case be reversed, and a man of fortune permit himself the caprice of marrying a portionless girl, and society cries out in horror against the mesalliance.
American women in Europe have two chief aims and occupations. The first is to obtain an entree into the society of the country in which they are residing, and to identify themselves with that society: the second is to revile one another.
So far as the first aim is concerned, it is certainly most laudable, taken in one sense: the persons who can live in the midst of a people without endeavoring to gain an insight into its character and its customs must be possessed of an exceptionally oyster-like organization indeed. But the majority of American women seek foreign society on other grounds than this—chiefly from that tendency to ape everything European and to decry everything American to which I have already alluded as being characteristic of us as a nation. England and the English are the principal models chosen for imitation. It is marvellous to notice the fondness of American women abroad for the English accent and manner of speech and way of thinking; how enthusiastically they attend all the meets in Rome; how plaintively they tell one if one happens to have arrived quite recently from home, "Really, there is no riding across country in your America, you know." In the cities of the Continent that have large English and American colonies they attend the English church in preference to their own. I believe it is considered more exclusive to do so, and better form. In this mania for all things English we are not alone. John Bull happens to be the fashion of the day quite as much on the continent of Europe as in America, and has quite as many devoted worshippers there as among us.
Naturally, one of the chief reasons why American women have so great a liking for European society is to be found in the fact of the far more important position that married ladies occupy in that society than they do with us. For a woman who feels that she has still attractions which should not be buried in obscurity, but who has found that since her marriage she has, to all intents and purposes, been "laid upon the shelf," it is a very delightful experience to see herself once more the object of solicitous attention, considered as one of the brilliant central ornaments of a ballroom, not as one of its indispensable wall-decorations. The experience seems to be so particularly pleasant to the majority of American women, indeed, that they show the greatest disinclination to sharing it one with the other—a disinclination made manifest by that habit of reviling each other which I mentioned as the second great aim and occupation of our countrywomen abroad. That there should be very little kindness and fellow-feeling, and a great deal of envy, hatred, malice and all uncharitableness among their members, is characteristic of all foreign colonies in every country; but none certainly can, in this respect, surpass the American colonies in Europe, at least in so far as their feminine representatives are concerned. The extent to which these ladies carry their backbiting and slandering, and the abnormal growth which their jealousy of one another attains, fill the masculine mind with amazement.
A lady of a certain age who had lived in Europe twenty years, and who, in addition to being a person of great clearness and robustness of judgment, held a position, as a widow with a comfortable competency, which made her verdict unassailable by any suspicion of its being an interested one, spoke to me once on this subject. "In all my experience of American life in Europe," she said, "I may safely state that I have never met more than half a dozen American women who had anything but ill-natured remarks to make of one another. No American woman need hope, live as she may, do as she may, say what she may, to escape criticism at the hands of her countrywomen. The mildest manner in which they will treat her in conversation will be to say that she is 'nobody,' 'never goes anywhere,' etc., and thus dismiss her. In every other case it is, 'Mrs. A——? Oh yes, such a charming person! Perhaps just a little bit inclined to put on airs, but then—Oh, a very nice little woman. I don't suppose she has ever really been accustomed to much, you know. They say her mother was a dressmaker, but of course one never knows how true these things may be. She does make frantic efforts to get into society here: it is quite amusing. I think the Von Z——s have rather taken her up. She has plenty of money to spend, oh yes. I can't see how her husband can afford to let her live in the style she does abroad, but then that is his affair. She entertains all these people, and of course they go to her house because she can give them some amusement.'—'Mrs. B——? Do I know anything about her? Well, I think I do. Nice? Oh, I do not know that there is anything to be said against her. To be sure, in Paris people did say some rather ugly things. There was a Count L——. And I heard from a very reliable source that she was not on exactly good terms with her husband. So, having daughters, you know, I was obliged to be prudent and rather to shun her than otherwise. Without wishing to be ill-natured I feel inclined to advise you to do the same: I think you will find it quite as well to do so.'—'Mrs. C——? Oh, my dear, such a coarse, common, vulgar creature! She was never received in any sort of good society in New York. Her husband made money one fine day, and she has come abroad and is trying to impose upon people here. She is perfectly ignorant—no education whatever. And the daughters are horribly mauvais genre.'—'Mrs. D——? I should call her an undesirable acquaintance. Not but what she is a very nice sort of person—in her way—but she does make up so frightfully, and she looks so fast. Always has a crowd of officers dangling about her. Her husband is a stick. They do say that when his relatives came abroad last winter they would not call upon him. They were completely incensed at the way in which he permits his wife to carry on.'—'Mrs. E——? Pray, who is Mrs. E——? and where does she get the money to live as she does? I knew her a few years ago, when she had a thousand a year to live on, she and both her children. And now, the toilettes she makes! And, some people say, the debts! And, really, I don't see how it can be otherwise, knowing, as I do, that all the members of her family are as poor as church mice. Her husband committed suicide, you know.—No! did you never hear that? Oh yes: he was mixed up in some rather shady transactions in business, and put an end to himself in that way.'—'Mrs. F——? Oh yes, I remember. An old thing, with a grown-up son, who dresses as if she were fifteen. Dreadfully affected, and so silly! Moreover, Mrs. I—— lived in the same house with her in Dresden—had the apartment above hers—and she told me the servants said that Mrs. F—— was always in some difficulty with tradespeople.'—'Miss G——? Is it possible you have never heard about her? Why, she ran away with a footman, or something of the kind. Was brought back before she had reached the station, I believe; but you can imagine the scandal! All the girls in that family are rather queer, which, considering the stock they come from, is really not very strange,' etc. etc. etc."
In view of these facts, and of many more of the same nature, when one sees the people who come back from Europe after an absence of a year or two unable to speak their own language fluently, because they have heard and spoken nothing but German or French or Italian during that time, and who cannot stand the climate because they are not used to it; when one sees the young ladies who return home unable to take any interest in American life, and who shut themselves away from its society, which to them is most unpolished and vapid, because they have had a European education; when one sees the hundred follies which a glimpse of Europe will put into the heads of people whom before one had had every reason to think sensible enough,—one feels inclined to ask one's self the question, Are we to conclude that European life is demoralizing to Americans? Are we to conclude that the innumerable advantages that such a life confers—the wider view and broader knowledge of things, the softening influences gained by contact with a riper civilization, the aesthetic tastes developed by acquaintance with older and more perfect art—are to count as nothing, are to be outweighed by the disadvantages of the same life?
Certainly, out of a hundred Americans who go abroad ninety-nine return with what they have lost in narrowness of experience completely offset by what they have gained in pretentious affectation. So far from being improved in any way are they that their well-wishers are inclined to think it would have been far better had they never gone at all.
I do not wish to draw the ultimate conclusion from all this that it would be better for Americans were their periodical exodus to Europe to cease. Far from it. That cultivated Americans, and Americans particularly of a more reflective than active mind, should find the relative ease, culture and simplicity of European life more congenial to them than the restless, high-pressure life of America, is quite natural. And if there are no interests or ties to make their presence in their own country imperatively necessary, it is certainly a matter of option with them where they take up their abode. There is no law, human or divine, to bind a person to live in one certain spot when the surroundings are uncongenial to him, and when no private duty fetters him to it, for the simple reason that he has chanced to be born there. Every one is certainly at liberty to seek the centre that best suits him and answers to his needs. Again, there are numbers of persons who with moderate means can live according to their taste in Europe when it would be impossible for them to do so in America on the same amount. There are a thousand small gratifications that people can afford themselves on a small income abroad, a thousand small pleasures in life from which in our country they would be hopelessly debarred; and that they should be debarred from them when escape is possible, and not only possible but most simple and easy, would indeed be hard.
But why cannot Americans indulge this preference for life in Europe, why can they not avail themselves of the choice if it is open to them, and yet remember that they are Americans, and that no circumstance can absolve them from a sacred obligation to show respect for their native country, and to stand as its citizens on their own dignity? Men and women may be conscious of faults and weaknesses in their parents, but they are not expected to expose these weaknesses on that account: instinctive delicacy in any one but a churl would keep him from acknowledging any such failings to his own heart. And a similar feeling should teach us, even if our sympathies were not with our own country, to treat it in word and deed with respect. Until we do learn to show this respect before Europeans we must still resign ourselves to the imputation, if they wish to make it, of crudeness, of being still sadly in want of refining.
GLIMPSES OF PORTUGAL AND THE PORTUGUESE.
The mere name of Spain calls up at once a string of flashing, barbaric pictures—Moorish magnificence and Christian chivalry, bull-fights, boleros, serenades, tattered pride and cruel pleasure. All these things go to form that piquant whole, half Eastern, half European, which is the Spain of our imaginations. Our associations with the western part of the Peninsula are, on the other hand, vague and incomplete. Vasco da Gama, the earthquake of Lisbon, port wine and Portuguese plums are the Lusitanian products most readily called to mind. After them would come perhaps the names of Magellan, of Prince Henry the Navigator and of the ill-fated Don Sebastian. One poet of the country, Camoens, is as often referred to as Tasso or Ariosto. Those whose memories go back to the European events of 1830 and thereabouts may recall the Portuguese civil wars, the woes of Dona Maria and the dark infamy of Don Miguel. And more recently have we not heard of the Portuguese Guide to English Conversation and relished its delicious discoveries in our language? All these items do not, however, present a very vivid or finished picture of the country: like the words in a dictionary, they are a trifle disconnected.
Portugal was the first station of Childe Harold's pilgrimage, but it holds no place in the ordinary European tour of to-day. It does not connect with any of the main lines of travel in such a manner as to beguile the tourist insensibly over its border: a deliberate start must be made by steamer from England in order to reach Lisbon from the north. Another and probably stronger reason for our neglect of its scenery is that it is not talked of. We go to Europe to see places and follow up associations with which fame has already made us familiar, and, though Portugal has had a great past of which the records are still extant, it has not been brought to our notice by art.
The two nations living side by side on the Peninsula, though originally of the same stock and subjected to the same influences, present more points of difference than of likeness. Their early history is the same. Hispania and Lusitania both fell successively under the dominion of the Romans and of the Moors, and were modified to a considerable extent by the civilization of each. Moorish influence was predominant in Spain—Portugal retained more deeply the Roman stamp. This is easily seen in the literature of the two countries. Spanish ballads and plays show the Eastern delight in hyperbole, the Eastern fertility of invention: Portuguese literature is completely classic in spirit, avoiding all exaggeration, all offences against taste, and confining itself to classic forms, such as the pastoral, the epic and the sonnet. Many Moorish customs survive in Portugal to this day, but they have not become so closely assimilated there as in Spain to the character of the people. The cruelty which has always marked the Spanish race is no part of the Portuguese national character, which is conspicuous rather for the "gentler-sexed humanity." True, the bull-fight, that barbarous legacy of the Moors, still lingers among the Portuguese, but the sport is pursued with no such wanton intoxication of cruelty as in the country with which its name is now associated. On the other hand, the Roman tradition has been preserved in Portugal more perfectly than in Italy itself: in the "fairest of Roman colonies," as it was once called, there will be found manners and customs which bring up more vividly the life portrayed by the classic poets than any existing among the peasants of modern Italy.
Both Rome and Arabia stood sponsors for the land they thus endowed. The name Portugal is compounded of the Latin portus, a "port," and the Arabic calaeh, a "castle" or "fortress." The first of these names was originally given to the town which still retains it—Oporto—one of the oldest of Portugal, and at one time its capital.
The history of Portugal, when it separates from that of Spain, is the history of a single stupendous achievement. A small nation raising itself in a short time to the power of a great empire, reaching a height which to gain was incredible, to keep impossible, and at the first relaxation of effort suddenly falling with a disastrous crash,—that is the drama of Portugal's greatness. There was no gradual rise or decline: it mounted and fell. There is a tradition that the first king of Portugal, Affonso Henriquez, was crowned on the battlefield with a burst of enthusiasm on the part of the soldiers whom he was leading against the Saracens, and that on the same day he opened his reign by the glorious victory of Ourique. Less than half a century previously the country had been given as a fief to a young knight, Count Henry of Burgundy, on his marriage with a daughter of the king of Castile. The Moors were overrunning it on the one hand, Castile was eying it jealously on the other, yet Affonso Henriquez made it an independent and permanent kingdom. This prince slaughtered Saracens and carried off honors on the field as fast as the Cid, but his deeds were not embalmed in an epic destined to become a storehouse of poetry for all the world. His chronicler did not come till about four centuries later, and then nearer and vaster achievements than those of Affonso Henriquez lay ready to his pen. At the birth of Camoens, in 1525, Portugal had gained her greatest conquests, and, if the shadows were already falling across her power, she had still great men who were making heroic efforts to retain it. Vasco da Gama had died within the year. Albuquerque, the hero of the Lusiado, the noblest and most far-sighted mind in an age of great men, had been dead ten years. Camoens, like the Greek dramatists, was soldier as well as poet: he was not alone the singer of past adventures—he was the reporter of what took place under his own eyes. His epic was already finished before the defeat of Don Sebastian in the battle of Alcazar put an end to the glory it celebrated, and in dying shortly after the poet is said to have breathed a prayer of thanksgiving at being spared the pain of surviving his country.
The period of Portuguese supremacy lasted then, altogether, less than a century. There is an irresistible temptation to ponder over what results were lost by its sudden downfall, and to seek therein some explanation of the strange fact that Portugal alone among the southern nations of Europe has never had a national art. There was a moment when the foundations for it seemed to be laid: it was the period at which early Spanish art was putting forth its first efforts, while that of Italy was in its prime. Under Emanuel the Fortunate and his successor Portugal was rich and powerful. Its intellect and ambition had been stimulated by the achievements of its great navigators. There was an awakening of interest in art and letters. A school of poets had arisen of which Camoens was to be the crown. The court, mindful of the duties of patronage, was building new churches and convents and decorating the old ones with religious pictures, and in Portugal religious feeling has always been peculiarly strong. Many of these pictures are still preserved. They are not, however, of a high order of merit, and it is not even certain that they are the work of native artists, some authorities inclining to the belief that they were done by inferior Flemish painters visiting the country, and are therefore the lees of the Flemish school, not the flower of a national one. Universal belief among the Portuguese attributes them to Gran Vasco, a master whose very existence is mythical, and who if he had lived several lives could not have painted all the works of various styles which are ascribed to him. That the artistic sense was not lacking in the Portuguese people is abundantly shown in their architecture, in their repousse-work of the fifteenth century and the carvings in wood and stone. The church and convent at Belem, the work of this period, are ornamented by Gothic stone-work of exquisite richness and fertility of invention. The church is unfinished, like the epoch it commemorates. To an age of activity and conquest succeeded one of gloom and depression. The last of the kings whom the nation had leaned on, while it supported them so loyally, had fallen at Alcazar, and in the struggle which ensued for the succession Portugal fell an easy prey to the strongest claimant. Philip II. strengthened his claim to the vacant throne by sending an army of twenty thousand men into the country under the command of the duke of Alva, and the other heirs were too weak or too divided to oppose him. The discoveries and conquests made by Portugal had laid the foundations of riches and power for other nations: her own immediate benefit from them was over. The period of prosperous repose which may be expected to follow one of great national activity was denied to her. When the house of Braganza recovered its rights, the impulse to creative art was extinct.
Though it was as a maritime power that Portugal rose to its greatest height, it has been from time immemorial an agricultural nation, and the mass of its people are engaged in tilling the soil. They are a cheerful, industrious race, who, far from meriting Lord Byron's contemptuous epithet of "Lusitanian boors," are gifted with a natural courtesy and refinement of manner. A New-England farmer would be tempted to follow the poet's example and regard them with contempt: weighed in his balance, they would certainly be found wanting. There is no public-school system in operation, and the Portuguese farmer is not likely to be able to read or sign his name. But the want of literature is not felt in a Southern country, where social intercourse is far more cultivated than in our own rural districts. It is not by reading the newspapers, but by talking matters over with his neighbor, that the Portuguese farmer obtains his sound and intelligent views on the politics of his country. He is a great talker, taking a keen interest in all that goes on, enjoying a joke thoroughly and addressing his comrade with all the ceremonies and distinctions of a language which contains half a dozen different forms of address. The illiterate peasant is no whit behind the man of culture in the purity of his Portuguese. In no country in Europe is the language kept freer from dialect, and this notwithstanding the fact that it is one of involved grammatical forms. In France the use of the imperfect subjunctive is given up by the lower classes and by foreigners, but in Portugal the peasant has still deeper subtleties of speech at the end of his tongue. Add to this that he has a vocabulary of abuse before which the Spaniard or the California mule-driver would be silenced, and you have the extent of his linguistic accomplishments. This profane eloquence was an art imparted no doubt by the Moors. The refinements of syntax come from the Latin, to which Portuguese bears more affinity in form than any other modern language.
From the Romans the Lusitanian received his first lessons in agriculture—lessons which have never been entirely superseded. His plough was given him by the Romans, and he has not yet seen fit to alter the pattern. The ox-cart used in town and country for all purposes of draught is another relic preserved intact. Its wheels of solid wood are fastened to the axle, which revolves with them, this revolution being accompanied by a chorus of inharmonious shrieks and creaks and wails which to the foreign and prejudiced nerve is simply agonizing. Its master hears it with a different ear: he finds it rather cheerful than otherwise, good to enliven the oxen, to dispel the silence of lonely places and to frighten away wolves and bogies, of which enemies he has a childish awe. Instead, therefore, of pouring oil upon this discord, he applies lemon-juice to aggravate the sound! The cart pleases the eye of the stranger more than his ear. When in the vintage season the upright poles forming its sides are bound together by a wickerwork of vine branches with their large leaves, and the inside is heaped with purple grapes, it is a goodly sight, and one which Alma-Tadema might paint as a Roman vintage, for it is doubtless a counterfeit presentment of the grape-laden wains which moved in the season of vintage over the Campagna. The results in both cases were the same, for the vinho verde, a harsh but refreshing wine, made and drunk by the country-people, is made in the same way and is probably identical with that wherewith the Latin farmer slaked his thirst. The recipe may have descended through Lusus, the companion of Bacchus, whom tradition names as the father of the Lusitanian. Be that as it may, the Portuguese is still favored of the wine-god. Wine flows for him even more freely than water, which gift of Nature has to be dug for and sought far and wide. He drinks the ruby liquid at home and carries it afield: he even shares it with his horse, who sinks his nose, nothing loth, in its inviting depths, and neither man nor beast shows any ill effects from this indulgence.
It is in the north-western corner of the country, in the Minho province, that the highest rural prosperity is to be met with. This little province, scarcely as large as the State of Delaware, but with more than four times its population, has successfully solved the problem of affording labor and sustenance in nearly equal shares to a large number of inhabitants. Bonanza-farming is unheard of there. The high perfection of its culture, which gives the whole province the trim, thriving air of a well-kept garden, comes from individual labor minutely bestowed on small surfaces. No mowing-, threshing- or other machines are used. Instead of labor-saving, there is labor cheerfully expended—in the place of the patent mower, a patient toiler (often of the fair sex), armed with a short, curved reaping-hook. The very water, which flows plentifully in fountains and channels, comes not direct from heaven without the aid of man. It is coaxed down from the hills in tedious miles of aqueduct or forced up from a great depth by a rustic water-wheel worked by oxen, and is then distributed over the land. Except for its aridity, the climate is kind to the small farmer: there is no long inactivity forced upon him by a cold winter. A constant succession of crops may be raised, and all through the year he works cheerfully and industriously, finding his ten acres enough and his curious broad hoe dexterously wielded the equivalent of shovel and pickaxe. If ignorant of our inventions, he is intimately acquainted with some American products. If a Yankee were to walk into a Portuguese farm-house and surprise the family at dinner, he would be sure to see on the table two articles which, however oddly served, would be in their essentials familiar to him—Indian meal and salt codfish. Indian corn has long been cultivated as the principal grain: it is mixed with rye to make the bread in every-day use. The Newfoundland cod, under the name of bacalhau, has crept far into the affections of the nation, its lack of succulence being atoned for by a rich infusion of olive oil, so that the native beef, cheap and good as it is, has no chance in comparison. Altogether, the Portuguese peasant with his wine, his oil and his bacalhau fares better than most of his class. At Christmas-tide he stakes his digestion on rebanadas, a Moorish invention—nothing less than ambrosial flapjacks made by soaking huge slices of wheaten bread in new milk, frying them in olive oil and then spreading them lavishly with honey.
The Portuguese can be industrious, but all work and no play is a scheme of life which would ill accord with his social, pleasure-loving temperament. With a wisdom rare in his day and generation, and an energy unparalleled among Southern races, he manages to combine the two. After rising at dawn and working from twelve to fifteen hours, he does not sit down and fall asleep, but slings a guitar over his shoulder and is off to the nearest threshing-floor to dance a bolero. His dancing is not the more graceful for coming after hours of field-labor, but it lacks neither activity nor picturesqueness: above all, it is the outcome of light-heartedness and enjoyment in capering. The night air, soft yet cool, is refreshing after the intense heat of the day: the too sudden lowering of temperature at sundown which makes the evenings unhealthy in many Southern countries is not experienced in Portugal. Every peasant has his guitar, for a love of music is widely diffused, and some of them not only sing but improvise. In the province of the Minho it is not uncommon at these gatherings for a match of improvisation to be held between two rustic bards. One takes his guitar, and in a slow, drawling recitative sings a simple quatrain, which the other at once caps with a second in rhyme and rhythm matching the first. Verse follows verse in steady succession, and the singer who hesitates is lost: his rival rushes in with a tide of rhyme which carries all before it. In such primitive pleasures the shepherds of the Virgilian eclogue indulged.
As the life of the peasant, so is that of his wife or sweetheart. She shares in the work, guiding the oxen, cutting grass, even working on the road with hoe and basket. "Verse sweetens toil, however rude the sound." Like Wordsworth's reaper, she sings as she works, and the day's labor over is ready to join in the bolero. On fete-days she is arrayed in all the magnificence of her peasant ornaments, worth, if her family is well-to-do, a hundred dollars or more—gold pendants in her ears, large gold chains of some antique Moorish design falling in a triple row over her gay bodice. The men wear long hooded cloaks of brown homespun, which they sometimes retain for convenience after the rest of the peasant-dress has been thrown aside for the regulation coat and trousers. There is no tendency to eccentricity in the national costume of Portugal, but the Portuguese colony of Madeira have invented a singular head-gear in a tiny skull-cap surmounted by a steeple of tightly-wound cloth, which serves as a handle to lift it by. Like the German student's cap, it requires practice to make it adhere at the required angle. This is a bit of coxcombry which has no match in the simple, unaffected vanity of the Portuguese.
The country is left during the greater part of the year to the exclusive occupancy of the peasantry, the town atmosphere being more congenial in the long run to the social gentry of Portugal. The wealthy class in Lisbon have their villas at Cintra, in which paradise of Nature and art, with its wonderful ensemble of precipices and palaces, forest and garden scenes, they can enjoy mountains without forsaking society. Many Oporto families own country-houses in the Minho, and rusticate there very pleasantly for a month or two in early fall. The gentlemen have large shooting-parties, conducted on widely-different principles from those so unswervingly adhered to by Trollope's indefatigable sporting character, Mr. Reginald Dobbs. In a Portuguese shooting the number of men and dogs is often totally disproportionate to that of the game, and a single partridge may find itself the centre of an alarming volley from a dozen or more guns. The enjoyment is not measured, however, by the success. There is a great deal of talking and laughing, and no discontent with the day's sport is exhibited even if there be little to show for the skill and patience expended. There is further occupation in superintending vintage and harvest, while the orange-groves and luxuriant gardens offer plenty of resources for exercise or idleness. Plant-life in Portugal is singularly varied even for so warm a country. To the native orange, olive and other trees of Southern Europe have been added many exotics. The large magnolia of our Southern States, the Japanese camellia and the Australian gum tree have made themselves at home there, and grow as if their roots were in their native soil. Geraniums and heliotrope, which we confine easily in flower-pots, assume a different aspect in the public gardens of Lisbon, where the former is seen in flaming trees and hedges twenty or thirty feet high, and the latter distributes its fragrance while covering the high walls with its spreading arms.
The grapes from which port-wine is made are all grown within the narrow compass of a mountain-valley about twenty-seven miles long by five or six wide, where the conditions of soil and climate most favorable to wine-culture—including a large degree of both heat and cold—are found in perfection. Owing to its elevation the frosts in this district are tolerably severe, while in summer the sun looks steadily down with his hot glance into the valley till its vine-clad sides are permeated by heat. The grapes ripened there are of peculiar richness and strength. The trade is all in the hands of a certain number of English merchants at Oporto, who buy the grapes as they hang of the native farmers and have the wine made under their own supervision. The wine-making is conducted in much the same manner as in other countries, a certain quantity of spirits being added to arrest decay and ensure its preservation. All wine has passed through the first stage of decay, fermentation, and is liable at any time to continue the course. It may be made with little or no alcohol if it is to be drunk within the year: to ensure a longer lease of life some antiseptic is necessary. Port is, from its richness, peculiarly liable to decay, and will stand fortification better than sherry, which being a light wine is less in need of it and more apt to be over-fortified. The area in which port is produced being so small, there can be no material difference in the produce of different vineyards, but some slight superiorities of soil or aspect have given the Vesuvio, the Raida and a few other wines a special reputation.
The history of port is a somewhat curious one. It is associated closely with the old English gentleman of a bygone generation, a staunch and bigoted being who despised French wines as he abhorred the French nation, and agreed with Doctor Johnson that claret was for boys, port for men. The vintage of 1820 was a remarkable one in Portugal. The port made in that season was of a peculiar strength and sweetness, in color nearly black. The old English gentleman would acknowledge no other as genuine, and, as Nature positively refused to repeat the experiment, the practice of dyeing port with dried elderberries and increasing the infusion of brandy to impart strength and flavor was resorted to. It was successful for some time, but after a while the secret oozed out, and the public began to receive the garnet-hued liquid again into favor, and to find, with Douglas Jerrold, that it preferred the old port to the elder. The elderberry is not sufficiently common in Portugal to make the continuation of this process popular with wine-makers. At present port is tolerably free from adulteration, though its casks and those of an inferior red wine of Spain after voyaging to England sometimes find their contents a little mixed.
Oporto is the seat of the wine-trade, and its huge warehouses are filled with stores of port ripening to a good old age, when the garnet will be exchanged for a dark umber tint. A handsome, thriving city is Oporto, mounting in terraces up the slope of a steep hill. A fine quay runs the length of the town along the Douro, and here the active life of Oporto is mainly concentrated. Any stranger watching this stir of movement and color will be struck by the prominent position which women fill in the busy crowd. The men do not absorb all branches of labor. Besides the water-carriers, market-women and fruit-vendors there may be seen straight, stalwart lasses acting as portresses to convey loads to and from the boats which are fastened to the river-wall. Many of the servants and other laborers through Portugal come from Galicia, the inhabitants of that Spanish province enjoying a reputation for honesty and faithful service combined with stupidity.
A sad contrast to the fertility of the Minho is presented by the country opposite Lisbon and the adjoining province of Alemtejo. This Portuguese campagna was in Roman days a fertile plain covered with golden wheat-fields. Now it is a barren, melancholy waste, producing only ruins. It is in and about this region that the most important Roman remains in the country are to be found. The soil in the neighborhood of Evora is rich in coins and other relics, and Evora has, besides its great aqueduct, the massive pillars of a temple to Diana, which, sad to say, was once put to ignoble use as a slaughter-house. The ruins of Troia have escaped desecration, if they have not obtained the care and study which they merit. Lying on a low tongue of land which projects into the bay of Setubal, the city of Troia is buried, not in Pompeian lava, but in deep mounds of sand, accumulated there by the winds and waves. A tremendous storm in 1814 washed away a part of this sand and revealed something of its treasure, but it was not till 1850 that the hint was followed up by antiquaries and a regular digging made. A large Roman house was uncovered, together with a vast debris of marble columns, mosaic pavements, baths, urns, and other appurtenances of Roman existence. The excavations have been far from thorough; the peninsular Troy still awaits its Schliemann. The name Troia was probably bestowed by Portuguese antiquaries of the Renaissance period, who mention it thus in their writings. According to Roman records, the city flourished about 300 A.D. as Cetobriga.
We must return to the Minho province—still the most representative section of Portugal—for monuments of Portuguese antiquity. Guimaraens is the oldest town of purely native growth, and is closely associated with the life of Affonso Henriquez. The massive castle in which he was born, and the church which witnessed the christening of the first king of Portugal, are still standing: the old walls of the town date back to the time of the hero; and not far off is the field where he fought the battle which gained him his independence at eighteen. Within a few miles of Guimaraens is Braga, celebrated for centuries as a stronghold of the Church. Its Gothic cathedral is of grand proportions, containing a triple nave, and belongs to the thirteenth century. The church treasures shut up in its sanctuary are among the richest in the Peninsula.
Portugal presents the curious spectacle of a country in which the customs of antiquity have lasted as long as its monuments. In a certain way the former are the more impressive. As some little familiar trait will sometimes give a fresher insight into a great man than the more important facts of his biography, so the ploughing, harvesting and singing of a Portuguese peasant, with their bucolic simplicity, bring the life of the ancients a little nearer to us than the sight of their great aqueducts and columns. But the nineteenth century is striking the death-blow of the bucolic very fast, the world over, and Portugal is awake and bestirring herself—not the less effectively that she is making no noise about it. Nevertheless, she is becoming better known. Mr. Oswald Crawfurd, the English consul at Oporto, who has lived in Portugal for many years, is writing about it from the best point of view, half within, half without. His book of travels published under the pseudonym of Latouche, and a volume entitled Portugal, Old and New, recently issued under his own name, throw a strong, clear light upon the country and its inhabitants. Another sympathetic and entertaining traveller is Lady Jackson, the author of Fair Lusitania.
The Portugal of Mr. Crawfurd and Lady Jackson is a different land from that which Southey, Byron and other English celebrities visited at the beginning of this century: it is not the same which Wordsworth's daughter, Mrs. Quillinan, travelled through on horseback in 1837, making light of inconveniences and looking at everything with kind, frank eyes. Lisbon is no longer a beautiful casket filled with dirt and filth, but a clean, bright and active city, and Portugal is no longer a sleeping land, but a well-governed country, which will probably be hindered by its small natural proportions, but not by any sluggishness or incapacity of its people, from taking a high place among European nations.
A GRAVEYARD IDYL.
In the summer of 187-, when young Doctor Putnam was recovering from an attack of typhoid fever, he used to take short walks in the suburbs of the little provincial town where he lived. He was still weak enough to need a cane, and had to sit down now and then to rest. His favorite haunt was an old-fashioned cemetery lying at the western edge of the alluvial terrace on which the town is built. The steep hillside abuts boldly on the salt marsh. One of the cemetery-paths runs along the brink of the hill; and here, on a wooden bench under a clump of red cedars, Putnam would sit for hours enjoying the listless mood of convalescence. Where the will remains passive, the mind, like an idle weathercock, turns to every puff of suggestion, and the senses, born new from sickness, have the freshness and delicacy of a child's. It soothed his eye to follow lazily the undulations of the creek, lying like the folds of a blue silk ribbon on the flat ground of the marsh below. He watched the ebbing tide suck down the water from the even lines of trenches that sluiced the meadows till the black mud at their bottom glistened in the sun. The opposite hills were dark with the heavy foliage of July. In the distance a sail or two speckled the flashing waters of the bay, and the lighthouse beyond bounded the southern horizon.
It was a quiet, shady old cemetery, not much disturbed by funerals. Only at rare intervals a fresh heap of earth and a slab of clean marble intruded with their tale of a new and clamorous grief among the sunken mounds and weatherstained tombstones of the ancient sleepers for whom the tears had long been dried. Now and then a mourner came to put flowers on a grave; now and then one of the two or three laborers who kept the walks and shrubberies in order would come along the path by Putnam's bench, trundling a squeaking wheelbarrow; sometimes a nurse with a baby-carriage found her way in. But generally the only sounds to break the quiet were the songs of birds, the rumble of a wagon over the spile bridge across the creek and the whetting of scythes in the water-meadows, where the mowers, in boots up to their waists, went shearing the oozy plain and stacking up the salt hay.
One afternoon Putnam was in his accustomed seat, whistling softly to himself and cutting his initials into the edge of the bench. The air was breathless, and the sunshine lay so hot on the marshes that it seemed to draw up in a visible steam a briny incense which mingled with the spicy smell of the red cedars. Absorbed in reverie, he failed to notice how the scattered clouds that had been passing across the sky all the afternoon were being gradually reinforced by big fluffy cumuli rolling up from the north, until a rumble overhead and the rustle of a shower in the trees aroused him.
In the centre of the grounds was an ancient summer-house standing amidst a maze of flower-beds intersected by gravel-walks. This was the nearest shelter, and, as the rain began to patter smartly, Putnam pocketed his knife, turned up his coat-collar and ran for it. Arrived at the garden-house, he found there a group of three persons, driven to harbor from different parts of the cemetery. The shower increased to a storm, the lattices were lashed by the rain and a steady stream poured from the eaves. The althaea and snowberry bushes in the flower-pots, and even the stunted box-edges along the paths, swayed in the wind. It grew quite dark in the summer-house, shaded by two or three old hemlocks, and it was only by the lightning-flashes that Putnam could make out the features of the little company of refugees. They stood in the middle of the building, to avoid the sheets of rain blown in at the doors in gusts, huddling around a pump that was raised on a narrow stone platform—not unlike the daughters of Priam clustered about the great altar in the penetralia: Praecipites atra ceu tempestate columbae.
They consisted of a young girl, an elderly woman with a trowel and watering-pot, and a workman in overalls, who carried a spade and had perhaps been interrupted in digging a grave. The platform around the pump hardly gave standing room for a fourth. Putnam accordingly took his seat on a tool-chest near one of the entrances, and, while the soft spray blew through the lattices over his face and clothes, he watched the effect of the lightning-flashes on the tossing, dripping trees of the cemetery-grounds.
Soon a shout was heard and down one of the gravel-walks, now a miniature river, rushed a Newfoundland dog, followed by a second man in overalls. Both reached shelter soaked and lively. The dog distributed the contents of his fur over our party by the pump, nosed inquiringly about, and then subsided into a corner. Second laborer exchanged a few words with first laborer, and melted into the general silence. The slight flurry caused by their arrival was only momentary, while outside the storm rose higher and inside it grew still darker. Now and then some one said something in a low tone, addressed rather to himself than to the others, and lost in the noise of the thunder and rain.
But in spite of the silence there seemed to grow up out of the situation a feeling of intimacy between the members of the little community in the summer-house. The need of shelter—one of the primitive needs of humanity—had brought them naturally together and shut them up "in a tumultuous privacy of storm." In a few minutes, when the shower should leave off, their paths would again diverge, but for the time being they were inmates and held a household relation to one another.
And so it came to pass that when it began to grow lighter and the rain stopped, and the sun glanced out again on the reeking earth and saturated foliage, conversation grew general.
"Gracious sakes!" said the woman with the trowel and watering-pot as she glanced along the winding canals that led out from the summer-house—"jest see the water in them walks!"
"Gol! 'tis awful!" murmured the Irishman with the spade. "There'll be a fut of water in the grave, and the ould mon to be buried the morning!"
"Ah, they had a right to put off the funeral," said the other workman, "and not be giving the poor corp his death of cold."
"'Tis warrum enough there where the ould mon's gone, but 'tis cold working for a poor lad like mesilf in the bottom of a wet grave. Gol! 'tis like a dreen." With that he shouldered his spade and waded reluctantly away.
Second laborer paused to light his dhudeen, and then disappeared in the opposite direction, his Newfoundland taking quite naturally to the deepest puddles in their course.
"Hath this fellow no feeling of his business?" asked Putnam, rising and sauntering up to the pump. The question was meant more for the younger than the elder of the two women, but the former paid no heed to it, and the latter, by way of answer, merely glanced at him suspiciously and said "H'm!" She was unlocking the tool-chest on which he had been sitting, and now raised the lid, stowed away her trowel and watering-pot, locked the chest again and put the key in her pocket, with the remark, "I guess I hain't got any more use for a sprinkle-pot to-day."
"It is rather de trop," said Putnam.
The old woman looked at him still more distrustfully, and then, drawing up her skirts, showed to his great astonishment a pair of india-rubber boots, in which she stumped away through the water and the mud, leaving in the latter colossal tracks which speedily became as pond-holes in the shallower bed of the stream. The younger woman stood at the door, gathering her dress about her ankles and gazing irresolutely at these frightful vestigia which gauged all too accurately the depth of the mud and the surface-water above it.
"They look like the fossil bird-tracks in the Connecticut Valley sandstone," said Putnam, following the direction of her eyes.
These were very large and black. She turned them slowly on the speaker, a tallish young fellow with a face expressive chiefly of a good-natured audacity and an alertness for whatever in the way of amusement might come within range. Her look rested on him indifferently, and then turned back to the wet gravel.
Putnam studied for a moment the back of her head and her figure, which was girlishly slender and clad in gray. "How extraordinary," he resumed, "that she should happen to have rubber boots on!"
"She keeps them in the tool-chest. The cemetery-man gives her a key," she replied after a pause, and as if reluctantly. Her voice was very low and she had the air of talking to herself.
"Isn't that a rather queer place for a wardrobe? I wonder if she keeps anything else there besides the boots and the trowel and the 'sprinkle-pot'?"
"I believe she has an umbrella and some flower-seeds."
"Now, if she only had a Swedish cooking-box and a patent camp-lounge," said Putnam laughing, "she could keep house here in regular style."
"She spends a great deal of time here: her children are all here, she told me."
"Well, it's an odd taste to live in a burying-ground, but one might do worse perhaps. There's nothing like getting accustomed gradually to what you've got to come to. And then if one must select a cemetery for a residence, this isn't a bad choice. Have you noticed what quaint old ways they have about it? At sunset the sexton rings a big bell that hangs in the arch over the gateway: he told me he had done it every day for twenty years. It's not done, I believe, on the principle of firing a sunset gun, but to let people walking in the grounds know the gate is to be shut. There's a high stone wall, you know, and somebody might get shut in all night. Think of having to spend the night here!"
"I have spent the night here often," she answered, again in an absent voice and as if murmuring to herself.
"You have?" exclaimed Putnam. "Oh, you slept in the tool-chest, I suppose, on the old lady's shake-down."
She was silent, and he began to have a weird suspicion that she had spoken in earnest. "This is getting interesting," he said to himself; and then aloud, "You must have seen queer sights. Of course, when the clock struck twelve all the ghosts popped out and sat on their respective tombstones. The ghosts in this cemetery must be awfully old fellows. It doesn't look as if they had buried any one here for a hundred and thirty-five years. I've often thought it would be a good idea to inscribe Complet over the gate, as they do on a Paris omnibus."
"You speak very lightly of the dead," said the young girl in a tone of displeasure and looking directly at him.
Putnam felt badly snubbed. He was about to attempt an explanation, but her manner indicated that she considered the conversation at an end. She gathered up her skirts and prepared to leave the summer-house. The water had soaked away somewhat into the gravel.
"Excuse me," said Putnam, advancing desperately and touching his hat, "but I notice that your shoes are thin and the ground is still very wet. I'm going right over to High street, and if I can send you a carriage or anything—"
"Thank you, no: I sha'n't need it;" and she stepped off hastily down the walk.
Putnam looked after her till a winding of the path took her out of sight, and then started slowly homeward. "What the deuce could she mean," he pondered as he walked along, "about spending the night in the cemetery? Can she—no she can't—be the gatekeeper's daughter and live in the gate-house? Anyway, she's mighty pretty."
His mother and his maiden aunt, who with himself made up the entire household, received him with small scoldings and twitterings of anxiety. They felt his wet clothes, prophesied a return of his fever and forced him to go immediately to bed, where they administered hot drinks and toast soaked in scalded milk. He lay awake a long time, somewhat fatigued and excited. In his feeble condition and in the monotony which his life had assumed of late the trifling experience of the afternoon took on the full proportions of an adventure. He thought it over again and again, but finally fell asleep and slept soundly. He awoke once, just at dawn, and lay looking through his window at a rosy cloud which reposed upon an infinite depth of sky, motionless as if sculptured against the blue. A light morning wind stirred the curtains and the scent of mignonette floated in from the dewy garden. He had that confused sense of anticipation so common in moments between waking and sleeping, when some new, pleasant thing has happened, or is to happen on the morrow, which the memory is too drowsy to present distinctly. Of this pleasant, indistinct promise that auroral cloud seemed somehow the omen or symbol, and watching it he fell asleep again. When he next awoke the sunlight of mid-forenoon was flooding the chamber, and he heard his mother's voice below stairs as she sat at her sewing.
In the afternoon he started on his customary walk, and his feet led him involuntarily to the cemetery. As he traversed the path along the edge of the hill he saw in one of the grave-lots the heroine of his yesterday's encounter, and a sudden light broke in on him: she was a mourner. And yet how happened it that she wore no black? There was a wooden railing round the enclosure, and within it a single mound and a tombstone of fresh marble. A few cut flowers lay on the grave. She was sitting in a low wicker chair, her hands folded in her lap and her eyes fixed vacantly on the western hills. Putnam now took closer note of her face. It was of a brown paleness. The air of hauteur given it by the purity of the profile and the almost insolent stare of the large black eyes was contradicted by the sweet, irresolute curves of the mouth. At present her look expressed only a profound apathy. As he approached her eyes turned toward him, but seemingly without recognition. Diffidence was not among Tom Putnam's failings: he felt drawn by an unconquerable sympathy and attraction to speak to her, even at the risk of intruding upon the sacredness of her grief.
"Excuse me, miss," he began, stopping in front of her, "but I want to apologize for what I said yesterday about—about the cemetery. It must have seemed very heartless to you, but I didn't know that you were in mourning when I spoke as I did."
"I have forgotten what you said," she answered.
"I am glad you have," said Putnam, rather fatuously. There seemed really nothing further to say, but as he lingered for a moment before turning away a perverse recollection surprised him, and he laughed out loud.
She cast a look of strong indignation at him, and rose to her feet.
"Oh, I ask your pardon a thousand times," he exclaimed reddening violently. "Please don't think that I was laughing at anything to do with you. The fact is that last idiotic speech of mine reminded me of something that happened day before yesterday. I've been sick, and I met a friend on the street who said, 'I'm glad you're better;' and I answered, 'I'm glad that you're glad that I'm better;' and then he said, 'I'm glad that you're glad that I'm glad that you're better'—like the House that Jack Built, you know—and it came over me all of a sudden that the only way to continue our conversation gracefully would be for you to say, 'I'm glad that you're glad that I've forgotten what you said yesterday.'"
She had listened impatiently to this naive and somewhat incoherent explanation, and she now said, "I wish you would go away. You see that I am alone here and in trouble. I can't imagine what motive you can have for annoying me in this way," her eyes filling with angry tears.
Putnam was too much pained by the vehemence of her language to attempt any immediate reply. His first impulse was to bow and retire without more words. But a pertinacity which formed one of his strongest though perhaps least amiable traits countermanded his impulse, and he said gravely, "Certainly, I will go at once, but in justice to myself I must first assure you that I didn't mean to intrude upon you or annoy you in any way."
She sank down into her chair and averted her face.
"You say," he continued, "that you are in trouble, and I beg you to believe that I respect your affliction, and that when I spoke to you just now it was simply to ask pardon for having hurt your feelings yesterday, without meaning to, by my light mention of the dead. I've been too near death's door myself lately to joke about it." He paused, but she remained silent. "I'm going away now," he said softly. "Won't you say that you excuse me, and that you haven't any hard feelings toward me?"
"Yes, oh yes," she answered wearily: "I have no feelings. Please go away."
Putnam raised his hat respectfully, and went off down the pathway. On reaching the little gate-house he sat down to rest on a bench before the door. The gatekeeper was standing on the threshold in his shirt-sleeves, smoking a pipe. "A nice day after the rain, sir," he began.
"Yes, it is."
"Have you any folks here, sir?"
"No, no one. But I come here sometimes for a stroll."
"Yes, I've seen you about. Well, it's a nice, quiet place for a walk, but the grounds ain't kep' up quite the shape they used to be: there ain't so much occasion for it. Seems as though the buryin' business was dull, like pretty much everything else now-a-days."
"Yes, that's so," replied Putnam absently.
The gatekeeper spat reflectively upon the centre of the doorstep, and resumed: "There's some that comes here quite reg'lar, but they mostly have folks here. There's old Mrs. Lyon comes very steady, and there's young Miss Pinckney: she's one of the most reg'lar."
"Is that the young lady in gray, with black eyes?"
"Who is she in mourning for?"
"Well, she ain't exactly in mourning. I guess, from what they say, she hain't got the money for black bunnets and dresses, poor gal! But it's her brother that's buried here—last April. He was in the hospital learning the doctor's business when he was took down."
"In the hospital? Was he from the South, do you know?"
"Well, that I can't say: like enough he was."
"Did you say that she is poor?"
"So they was telling me at the funeral. It was a mighty poor funeral too—not more'n a couple of hacks. But you can't tell much from that, with the fashions now-a-days: some of the richest folks buries private like. You don't see no such funerals now as they had ten years back. I've seen fifty kerridges to onst a-comin' in that gate," waving his pipe impressively toward that piece of architecture, "and that was when kerridge-hire was half again as high as it is now. She must have spent a goodly sum in green-house flowers, though: fresh bōquets 'most every day she keeps a-fetchin'."
"Well, good-day," said Putnam, starting off.
Putnam had himself just completed his studies at the medical college when attacked by fever, and he now recalled somewhat vaguely a student of the name of Pinckney, and remembered to have heard that he was a Southerner. The gatekeeper's story increased the interest which he was beginning to feel in his new acquaintance, and he resolved to follow up his inauspicious beginnings to a better issue. He knew that great delicacy would be needed in making further approaches, and so decided to keep out of her sight for a time. In the course of the next few days he ascertained, by visits to the cemetery and talks with the keeper, that she now seldom visited her brother's grave in the forenoon, although during the first month after his death she had spent all her days and some of her nights beside it.
"I hadn't the heart, sir, to turn her out at sundown, accordin' to the regulations; so I'd leave the gate kinder half on the jar, and she'd slip out when she had a mind to."
Putnam read the inscription on the tombstone, which ran as follows: "To the Memory of Henry Pinckney. Born October 29th, 1852. Died April 27th, 187-;" and under this the text, "If thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him." He noticed with a sudden twinge of pity that the flowers on the grave, though freshly picked every day, were wild-flowers—mostly the common field varieties, with now and then a rarer blossom from wood or swamp, and now and then a garden flower. He gathered from this that the sister's purse was running low, and that she spent her mornings in collecting flowers outside the city. His imagination dwelt tenderly upon her slim, young figure and mourning face passing through far-away fields and along the margins of lonely creeks in search of some new bloom which grudging Nature might yield her for her sorrowful needs. Meanwhile he determined that the shrine of her devotion should not want richer offerings. There was a hot-house on the way from his home to the cemetery, and he now stopped there occasionally of a morning and bought a few roses to lay upon the mound. This continued for a fortnight. He noticed that his offerings were left to wither undisturbed, though the little bunches of field flowers were daily renewed as before.
In spite of the funereal nature of his occupation his spirits in these days were extraordinarily high. His life, so lately escaped from the shadows of death, seemed to enjoy a rejuvenescence and to put forth fresh blossoms in the summer air. As he sat under the cedars and listened to the buzzing of the flies that frequented the shade, the unending sound grew to be an assurance of earthly immortality. His new lease of existence prolonged itself into a fee simple, and even in presence of the monuments of decay his future, filled with bright hazy dreams, melted softly into eternity. But one morning as he approached the little grave-lot with his accustomed offerings he looked up and saw the young girl standing before him. Her eyes were fixed on the flowers in his hand. He colored guiltily and stood still, like a boy caught robbing an orchard. She looked both surprised and embarrassed, but said at once, "If you are the gentleman who has been putting flowers on my brother's grave, I thank you for his sake, but—"
She paused, and he broke in: "I ought to explain, Miss Pinckney, that I have a better right than you think, perhaps, to bring these flowers here: I was a fellow-student with your brother in the medical school."
Her expression changed immediately. "Oh, did you know my brother?" she asked eagerly.
He felt like a wretched hypocrite as he answered, "Yes, I knew him, though not intimately exactly. But I took—I take—a very strong interest in him."
"Every one loved Henry who knew him," she said, "but his class have all been graduated and gone away, and he made few friends, because he was so shy. No one comes near him now but me."
He was silent. She walked to the grave, and he followed, and they stood there without speaking. It did not seem to occur to her to ask why he had not mentioned her brother at their former interview. She was evidently of an unsuspecting nature, or else all other impressions were forgotten and absorbed in the one thought of her bereavement. After a glance at her Putnam ventured to lay his roses reverently upon the mound. She held in her hand a few wild-flowers just gathered. These she kissed, and dropped them also on the grave. He understood the meaning of her gesture and was deeply moved.
"Poor little, dull-colored things!" she said, looking down at them.
"They are a thousand times more beautiful than mine," he exclaimed passionately. "I am ashamed of those heartless affairs: anybody can buy them."
"Oh no: my brother was very fond of roses. Perhaps you remember his taste for them?" she inquired innocently.
"I—I don't think he ever alluded to them. The atmosphere of the medical college was not very aesthetic, you know."
"At first I used to bring green-house flowers," she continued, without much heeding his answer, "but lately I haven't been able to afford them except on Sundays. Sundays I bring white ones from the green-house."
She had seated herself in her wicker chair, and Putnam, after a moment's hesitation, sat down on the low railing near her. He observed among the wild plants that she had gathered the mottled leaves and waxy blossoms of the pipsissewa and its cousin the shinleaf.
"You have been a long way to get some of those," he said: "that pipsissewa grows in hemlock woods, and the nearest are several miles from here."
"I don't know their names. I found them in a wood where I used to walk sometimes with my brother. He knew all their names. I went there very early this morning, when the dew was on them."
"'Flowers that have on them the cold dews of the night are strewings fittest for graves,'" said Putnam in an undertone.
Her face had assumed its usual absent expression, and she seemed busy with some memory and unconscious of his presence. He recalled the latter to her by rising and saying, "I will bid you good-morning now, but I hope you will let me come and sit here sometimes if it doesn't disturb you. I have been very sick myself lately: I was near dying of the typhoid fever. I think it does me good to come here."
"Did you have the typhoid? My brother died of the typhoid."
"May I come sometimes?"
"You may come if you wish to visit Henry. But please don't bring any more of those expensive flowers. I suppose it is selfish in me, but I can't bear to have any of his friends do more for him than I can."
"I won't bring any more, of course, if it troubles you, and I thank you very much for letting me come. Good-morning, Miss Pinckney." He bowed and walked away.
Putnam availed himself discreetly of the permission given. He came occasionally of an afternoon, and sat for an hour at a time. Usually she said little. Her silence appeared to proceed not from reserve, but from dejection. Sometimes she spoke of her brother. Putnam learned that he had been her only near relative. Their parents had died in her childhood, and she had come North with her brother when he entered the medical school. From something that she once said Putnam inferred that her brother had owned an annuity which died with him, and that she had been left with little or nothing. They had few acquaintances in the North, almost none in the city. An aunt in the South had offered her a home, and she was going there in the fall. She looked forward with dread to the time of her departure.
"It will be so cruel," she said, "to leave my poor boy all alone here among strangers, and I never away from him before."
"Don't think of it now," he answered, "and when you are gone I will come here often and see to everything."
Her bereavement had evidently benumbed all her faculties and left her with a slight hold on life. She had no hopes or wishes for the future. In alluding to her brother she confused her tenses, speaking of him sometimes in the past, and sometimes in the present as of one still alive. Putnam felt that in a girl of her age this mood was too unnatural to last, and he reckoned not unreasonably on the reaction that must come when her youth began again to assert its rights. He was now thoroughly in love, and as he sat watching her beautiful abstracted face he found it hard to keep back some expression of tenderness. Often, too, it was difficult for him to tone down his spirits to the proper pitch of respectful sympathy with her grief. His existence was golden with new-found life and hope: into the shadow that covered hers he could not enter. He could only endeavor to draw her out into the sunshine once more.
One day the two were sitting, as usual, in silence or speaking but rarely. It was a day in the very core of summer, and the life of Nature was at its flood. The shadows of the trees rested so heavy and motionless on the grass that they appeared to sink into it and weigh it down like palpable substances.
"I feel," said Putnam suddenly, "as though I should live for ever."
"Did you ever doubt it?" she asked.
"Oh, I mean here—ici bas—in the body. I can't conceive of death or of a spiritual existence on such a day as this."
"There is nothing here to live for," she said wearily. Presently she added, "This hot glare makes me sick: I wish those men would stop hammering on the bridge. I wish I could die and get away into the dark."
Putnam paused before replying. He had never heard her speak so impatiently. Was the revulsion coming? Was she growing tired of sorrow? After a minute he said, "Ah, you don't know what it is to be a convalescent and lie for months in a darkened room listening to the hand-organ man and the scissors-grinder, and the fellow that goes through the street hallooing 'Cash paid for rags!' It's like having a new body to get the use of your limbs again and come out into the sunshine."
"Were you very sick?" she inquired with some show of interest.
He remembered with some mortification that he had told her so once or twice before. She had apparently forgotten it. "Yes, I nearly died."