Anak:—The sons of Anak are spoken of in the Bible as a race of giants. See Numbers, 13:33; Deuteronomy, 9:2.
Atlas:—In Greek story, the giant who held the world on his shoulders.
the thought:—The Emancipation Proclamation.
SUGGESTIONS FOR STUDY
Read the poem through from beginning to end. Then go back to the first and study it more carefully. Notice that there is no pause at the end of the first stanza. In the ninth line, mentally put in how after know. Explain what is said about Freedom's training her son. Loftier office: Loftier than what? Note that might is a noun. Mentally insert hand after courtier's. Can you tell from the hand of a person whether he has suffered or not? What does the author mean here by "the weight of Atlas"? What is a "formless grace"? Is the expression appropriate here? What characteristic of Lincoln is referred to in the line beginning "Called mirth"? Are great men so rare as the author seems to think? Why is the cast a good means of telling of "such a one as he"? Look carefully at one of Lincoln's portraits, and then read this poem aloud to yourself.
Compare this poem with the sonnet On the Life-Mask of Abraham Lincoln, page 210.
Abraham Lincoln: A Short Life John G. Nicolay The Boys' Life of Lincoln Helen Nicolay Personal Traits of Abraham Lincoln " " Lincoln the Lawyer F.T. Hill Passages from the Speeches and Letters of Abraham Lincoln R.W. Gilder (Ed.) Lincoln's Own Stories Anthony Gross Lincoln Norman Hapgood Abraham Lincoln, the Boy and the Man James Morgan Father Abraham Ida Tarbell He Knew Lincoln " " Life of Abraham Lincoln " " Abraham Lincoln Robert G. Ingersoll Abraham Lincoln Noah Brooks Abraham Lincoln for Boys and Girls C.W. Moores The Graysons Edward Eggleston The Perfect Tribute M.R.S. Andrews The Toy Shop M.S. Gerry We Talked of Lincoln (poem) E.W. Thomson Lincoln and the Sleeping Sentinel L.E. Chittenden O Captain, my Captain! Walt Whitman When Lilacs last in the Dooryard Bloomed " " Poems E.C. Stedman An American Anthology " " " American Authors and their Homes, pp. 157-172 F.W. Halsey American Authors at Home, pp. 273-291 J.L. and J.B. Gilder
For portraits of E.C. Stedman, see Bookman, 34:592; Current Literature, 42:49.
(Dramatized from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables)
PLACE: Village of D——; dining room of the Bishop's house.
* * * * *
[The room is poorly furnished, but orderly. A door at the back opens on the street. At one side, a window overlooks the garden; at the other, curtains hang before an alcove. MADEMOISELLE, the Bishop's SISTER, a sweet-faced lady, sits by the fire, knitting. MADAME, his HOUSEKEEPER, is laying the table for supper.]
MLLE. Has the Bishop returned from the service?
MADAME. Yes, Mademoiselle. He is in his room, reading. Shall I call him?
MLLE. No, do not disturb him—he will come in good time—when supper is ready.
MADAME. Dear me—I forgot to get bread when I went out to-day.
MLLE. Go to the baker's, then; we will wait.
[Exit Madame. Pause.]
[Enter the BISHOP. He is an old man, gentle and kindly.]
BISHOP. I hope I have not kept you waiting, sister.
MLLE. No, brother, Madame has just gone out for bread. She forgot it this morning.
BISHOP (having seated himself by the fire). The wind blows cold from the mountains to-night.
MLLE. (nodding). All day it has been growing colder.
BISHOP. 'Twill bring great suffering to the poor.
MLLE. Who suffer too much already.
BISHOP. I would I could help them more than I do!
MLLE. You give all you have, my brother. You keep nothing for yourself—you have only bare necessities.
BISHOP. Well, I have sent in a bill for carriage hire in making pastoral visits.
MLLE. Carriage hire! I did not know you ever rode. Now I am glad to hear that. A bishop should go in state sometimes. I venture to say your bill is small.
BISHOP. Three thousand francs.
MLLE. Three thousand francs! Why, I cannot believe it!
BISHOP. Here is the bill.
MLLE. (reading bill). What is this!
EXPENSES OF CARRIAGE
For furnishing soup to hospital 1500 francs For charitable society of D—— 500 " For foundlings 500 " For orphans 500 " —— Total 3000 francs
So! that is your carriage hire! Ha, ha! I might have known it!
[They laugh together.]
[Enter MADAME, excited, with bread.]
MADAME. Such news as I have heard! The whole town is talking about it! We should have locks put on our doors at once!
MLLE. What is it, Madame? What have you heard?
MADAME. They say there is a suspicious vagabond in the town. The inn-keeper refused to take him in. They say he is a released convict who once committed an awful crime.
[The Bishop is looking into the fire, paying no attention to Madame.]
MLLE. Do you hear what Madame is saying, brother?
BISHOP. Only a little. Are we in danger, Madame?
MADAME. There is a convict in town, your Reverence!
BISHOP. Do you fear we shall be robbed?
MADAME. I do, indeed!
BISHOP. Of what?
MADAME. There are the six silver plates and the silver soup-ladle and the two silver candlesticks.
BISHOP. All of which we could do without.
MADAME. Do without!
MLLE. 'Twould be a great loss, brother. We could not treat a guest as is our wont.
BISHOP. Ah, there you have me, sister. I love to see the silver laid out for every guest who comes here. And I like the candles lighted, too; it makes a brighter welcome.
MLLE. A bishop's house should show some state.
BISHOP. Aye—to every stranger! Henceforth, I should like every one of our six plates on the table whenever we have a guest here.
MLLE. All of them?
MADAME. For one guest?
BISHOP. Yes—we have no right to hide treasures. Each guest shall enjoy all that we have.
MADAME. Then 'tis time we should look to the locks on the doors, if we would keep our silver. I'll go for the locksmith now—
BISHOP. Stay! This house shall not be locked against any man! Would you have me lock out my brothers?
[A loud knock is heard at street door.]
[Enter JEAN VALJEAN, with his knapsack and cudgel. The women are frightened.]
JEAN (roughly). See here! My name is Jean Valjean. I am a convict from the galleys. I was set free four days ago, and I am looking for work. I hoped to find a lodging here, but no one will have me. It was the same way yesterday and the day before. To-night a good woman told me to knock at your door. I have knocked. Is this an inn?
BISHOP. Madame, put on another plate.
JEAN. Stop! You do not understand, I think. Here is my passport—see what it says: "Jean Valjean, discharged convict, has been nineteen years in the galleys; five years for theft; fourteen years for having attempted to escape. He is a very dangerous man." There! you know it all. I ask only for straw in your stable.
BISHOP. Madame, you will put white sheets on the bed in the alcove.
[Exit Madame. The Bishop turns to Jean.]
We shall dine presently. Sit here by the fire, sir.
JEAN. What! You will keep me? You call me "sir"! Oh! I am going to dine! I am to have a bed with sheets like the rest of the world—a bed! It is nineteen years since I have slept in a bed! I will pay anything you ask. You are a fine man. You are an innkeeper, are you not?
BISHOP. I am a priest who lives here.
JEAN. A priest! Ah, yes—I ask your pardon—I didn't notice your cap and gown.
BISHOP. Be seated near the fire, sir.
[Jean deposits his knapsack, repeating to himself with delight.]
JEAN. He calls me sir—sir. (Aloud.) You will require me to pay, will you not?
BISHOP. No, keep your money. How much have you?
JEAN. One hundred and nine francs.
BISHOP. How long did it take you to earn it?
JEAN. Nineteen years.
BISHOP (sadly). Nineteen years—the best part of your life!
JEAN. Aye, the best part—I am now forty-six. A beast of burden would have earned more.
BISHOP. This lamp gives a very bad light, sister.
[Mlle. gets the two silver candlesticks from the mantel, lights them, and places them on the table.]
JEAN. Ah, but you are good! You don't despise me. You light your candles for me,—you treat me as a guest,—and I've told you where I come from, who I am!
BISHOP. This house does not demand of him who enters whether he has a name, but whether he has a grief. You suffer—you are hungry—you are welcome.
JEAN. I cannot understand it—
BISHOP. This house is home to the man who needs a refuge. So, sir, this is your house now more than it is mine. Whatever is here is yours. What need have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me, I knew it.
JEAN. What! You knew my name!
BISHOP. Yes, your name is—Brother.
JEAN. Stop! I cannot bear it—you are so good—
[He buries his face in his hands.]
[Enter MADAME with dishes for the table; she continues passing in and out, preparing supper.]
BISHOP. You have suffered much, sir—
JEAN (nodding). The red shirt, the ball on the ankle, a plank to sleep on, heat, cold, toil, the whip, the double chain for nothing, the cell for one word—even when sick in bed, still the chain! Dogs, dogs are happier! Nineteen years! and now the yellow passport!
BISHOP. Yes, you have suffered.
JEAN (with violence). I hate this world of laws and courts! I hate the men who rule it! For nineteen years my soul has had only thoughts of hate. For nineteen years I've planned revenge. Do you hear? Revenge—revenge!
BISHOP. It is not strange that you should feel so. And if you continue to harbor those thoughts, you are only deserving of pity. But listen, my brother; if, in spite of all you have passed through, your thoughts could be of peace and love, you would be better than any one of us.
[Pause. Jean reflects.]
JEAN (speaking violently). No, no! I do not belong to your world of men. I am apart—a different creature from you all. The galleys made me different. I'll have nothing to do with any of you!
MADAME. The supper, your Reverence.
[The Bishop glances at the table.]
BISHOP. It strikes me there is something missing from this table.
MLLE. Madame, do you not understand?
[Madame steps to a cupboard, gets the remaining silver plates, and places them on the table.]
BISHOP (gayly, turning to Jean). To table then, my friend! To table!
[Jean remains for a moment, standing doggedly apart; then he steps over to the chair awaiting him, jerks it back, and sinks into it, without looking up.]
TIME: Daybreak the next morning.
PLACE: The Bishop's dining room.
* * * * *
[The room is dark, except for a faint light that comes in through window curtains. JEAN VALJEAN creeps in from the alcove. He carries his knapsack and cudgel in one hand; in the other, his shoes. He opens the window overlooking the garden; the room becomes lighter. Jean steps to the mantel and lifts a silver candlestick.]
JEAN (whispering). Two hundred francs—double what I have earned in nineteen years!
[He puts it in his knapsack; takes up the other candlestick; shudders, and sets it down again.]
No, no, he is good—he called me "sir"—
[He stands still, staring before him, his hand still gripping the candlestick. Suddenly he straightens up; speaks bitterly.]
Why not? 'Tis easy to give a bed and food! Why doesn't he keep men from the galleys? Nineteen years for a loaf of bread!
[Pauses a moment, then resolutely puts both candlesticks into his bag; steps to the cupboard and takes out the silver plates and the ladle, and slips them into the bag.]
All solid—I should gain at least one thousand francs. 'Tis due me—due me for all these years!
[Closes the bag. Pause.]
No, not the candles—I owe him that much—
[He puts the candlesticks on mantel; takes up cudgel, knapsack, and shoes; jumps out window and disappears. Pause.]
[Enter MADAME. She shivers; discovers the open window.]
MADAME. Why is that window open? I closed it last night myself. Oh! Could it be possible?
[Crosses and looks at open cupboard.]
It is gone!
[Enter the BISHOP from his room.]
BISHOP. Good morning, Madame!
MADAME. Your Reverence! The silver is gone! Where is that man?
BISHOP. In the alcove sleeping, I suppose.
[Madame runs to curtains of alcove and looks in. Enter MADEMOISELLE. Madame turns.]
He is gone!
MADAME. Aye, gone—gone! He has stolen our silver, the beautiful plates and the ladle! I'll inform the police at once!
[Starts off. The Bishop stops her.]
BISHOP. Wait!—Let me ask you this—was that silver ours?
MADAME. Why—why not?
BISHOP. Because it has always belonged to the poor. I have withheld it wrongfully.
MLLE. Its loss makes no difference to Madame or me.
MADAME. Oh, no! But what is your Reverence to eat from now?
BISHOP. Are there no pewter plates?
MADAME. Pewter has an odor.
BISHOP. Iron ones, then.
MADAME. Iron has a taste.
BISHOP. Well, then, wooden plates.
[A knock is heard at street door.]
[Enter an OFFICER and two SOLDIERS, dragging in JEAN VALJEAN.]
OFFICER. Your Reverence, we found your silver on this man.
BISHOP. Why not? I gave it to him. I am glad to see you again, Jean. Why did you not take the candlesticks, too?
JEAN (trembling). Your Reverence—
BISHOP. I told you everything in this house was yours, my brother.
OFFICER. Ah, then what he said was true. But, of course, we did not believe him. We saw him creeping from your garden—
BISHOP. It is all right, I assure you. This man is a friend of mine.
OFFICER. Then we can let him go?
[Soldiers step back.]
JEAN (trembling). I am free?
OFFICER. Yes! You can go. Do you not understand?
BISHOP (to Jean). My friend, before you go away—here are your candlesticks (going to the mantel and bringing the candlesticks); take them.
[Jean takes the candlesticks, seeming not to know what he is doing.]
By the way, my friend, when you come again you need not come through the garden. The front door is closed only with a latch, day or night. (To the Officer and Soldiers.) Gentlemen, you may withdraw.
[Exit Officer and Soldiers.]
JEAN (recoiling and holding out the candlesticks). No—no—I—I—
BISHOP. Say no more; I understand. You felt that they were all owing to you from a world that had used you ill. Keep them, my friend, keep them. I would I had more to give you. It is small recompense for nineteen years.
[Jean stands bewildered, looking down at the candlesticks in his hands.]
They will add something to your hundred francs. But do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use the money in becoming an honest man.
BISHOP (not heeding). Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you: I withdraw it from thoughts of hatred and revenge—I give it to peace and hope and God.
[Jean stands as if stunned, staring at the Bishop, then turns and walks unsteadily from the room.]
SUGGESTIONS FOR STUDY
Jean Valjean, as a young man, was sent to the galleys for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's hungry children. From time to time, when he tried to escape, his sentence was increased, so that he spent nineteen years as a convict. Scene I of Miss Stevenson's dramatization shows Jean Valjean being turned away from the inn because he has been in prison.
What does the stage setting tell of the Bishop and his sister? Notice, as you read, why each of the items in the stage setting is mentioned. Why is Madame made to leave the room—how does her absence help the action of the play? What is the purpose of the conversation about the weather? About the carriage hire? Why is the Bishop not more excited at Madame's news? What is gained by the talk about the silver? Notice the dramatic value of the Bishop's speech beginning "Stay!" Why does Jean Valjean speak so roughly when he enters? Why does he not try to conceal the fact that he is a convict? Why does not the Bishop reply directly to Jean Valjean's question? What would be the action of Mademoiselle and Madame while Jean is speaking? What is Madame's action as she goes out? What is gained by the conversation between Jean and the Bishop? Why does the Bishop not reproach Jean for saying he will have revenge? Why is the silver mentioned so many times?
While you are reading the first part of Scene III, think how it should be played. Note how much the stage directions add to the clearness of the scene. How long should the pause be, before Madame enters? What is gained by the calmness of the Bishop? How can he say that the silver was not his? What does the Bishop mean when he says, "I gave it to him"? What are Mademoiselle and Madame doing while the conversation with the officers and Jean Valjean is going on? Is it a good plan to let them drop so completely out of the conversation? Why does the Bishop say that Jean has promised? Why does the scene close without Jean's replying to the Bishop? How do you think the Bishop's kindness has affected Jean Valjean's attitude toward life?
Note how the action and the conversation increase in intensity as the play proceeds: Is this a good method? Notice the use of contrast in speech and action. Note how the chief characters are emphasized. Can you discover the quality called "restraint," in this fragment of a play? How is it gained, and what is its value?
Select a short passage from some book that you like, and try to put it into dramatic form, using this selection as a kind of model. Do not attempt too much at once, but think out carefully the setting, the stage directions, and the dialogue for a brief fragment of a play.
Make a series of dramatic scenes from the same book, so that a connected story is worked out.
Read a part of some modern drama, such as The Piper, or The Blue Bird, or one of Mr. Howells's little farces, and notice how it makes use of setting and stage directions; how the conversation is broken up; how the situation is brought out in the dialogue; how each person is made to speak in his own character.
After you have done the reading suggested above, make another attempt at dramatizing a scene from a book, and see what improvement you can make upon the sort of thing you did at first.
It might be interesting for two or three persons to work on a bit of dramatization together, and then give the fragment of a play in simple fashion before the class. Or the whole class may work on the play, and then select some of their number to perform it.
A Dramatic Reader: Book Five Augusta Stevenson Plays for the Home " " Jean Valjean (translated and abridged from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables) S.E. Wiltse (Ed.) The Little Men Play (adapted from Louisa Alcott's Little Men) E.L. Gould The Little Women Play " " " The St. Nicholas Book of Plays Century Company The Silver Thread and Other Folk Plays Constance Mackay Patriotic Plays and Pageants " " Fairy Tale Plays and How to Act Them Mrs. Hugh Bell Festival Plays Marguerite Merington Short Plays from Dickens H.B. Browne The Piper Josephine Preston Peabody The Blue Bird Maurice Maeterlinck Riders to the Sea J.M. Synge She Stoops to Conquer Oliver Goldsmith The Rivals Richard Brinsley Sheridan Prince Otto R.L. Stevenson The Canterbury Pilgrims Percy Mackaye The Elevator William Dean Howells The Mouse Trap " " " The Sleeping Car William Dean Howells The Register " " " The Story of Waterloo Henry Irving The Children's Theatre A. Minnie Herts The Art of Play-writing Alfred Hennequin
A COMBAT ON THE SANDS
(From To Have and to Hold, Chapters XXI and XXII)
A few minutes later saw me almost upon the party gathered about the grave. The grave had received that which it was to hold until the crack of doom, and was now being rapidly filled with sand. The crew of deep-dyed villains worked or stood or sat in silence, but all looked at the grave, and saw me not. As the last handful of sand made it level with the beach, I walked into their midst, and found myself face to face with the three candidates for the now vacant captaincy.
"Give you good-day, gentlemen," I cried. "Is it your captain that you bury or one of your crew, or is it only pezos and pieces of eight?
"The sun shining on so much bare steel hurts my eyes," I said. "Put up, gentlemen, put up! Cannot one rover attend the funeral of another without all this crowding and display of cutlery? If you will take the trouble to look around you, you will see that I have brought to the obsequies only myself."
One by one cutlass and sword were lowered, and those who had drawn them, falling somewhat back, spat and swore and laughed. The man in black and silver only smiled gently and sadly. "Did you drop from the blue?" he asked. "Or did you come up from the sea?"
"I came out of it," I said. "My ship went down in the storm yesterday. Your little cockboat yonder was more fortunate." I waved my hand toward that ship of three hundred tons, then twirled my mustaches and stood at gaze.
"Was your ship so large, then?" demanded Paradise, while a murmur of admiration, larded with oaths, ran around the circle.
"She was a very great galleon," I replied, with a sigh for the good ship that was gone.
A moment's silence, during which they all looked at me. "A galleon," then said Paradise softly.
"They that sailed her yesterday are to-day at the bottom of the sea," I continued. "Alackaday! so are one hundred thousand pezos of gold, three thousand bars of silver, ten frails of pearls, jewels uncounted, cloth of gold and cloth of silver. She was a very rich prize."
The circle sucked in their breath. "All at the bottom of the sea?" queried Red Gil, with gloating eyes fixed upon the smiling water. "Not one pezo left, not one little, little pearl?"
I shook my head and heaved a prodigious sigh. "The treasure is gone," I said, "and the men with whom I took it are gone. I am a captain with neither ship nor crew. I take you, my friends, for a ship and crew without a captain. The inference is obvious."
The ring gaped with wonder, then strange oaths arose. Red Gil broke into a bellow of angry laughter, while the Spaniard glared like a catamount about to spring. "So you would be our captain?" said Paradise, picking up another shell, and poising it upon a hand as fine and small as a woman's.
"Faith, you might go farther and fare worse," I answered, and began to hum a tune. When I had finished it, "I am Kirby," I said, and waited to see if that shot should go wide or through the hull.
For two minutes the dash of the surf and the cries of the wheeling sea fowl made the only sound in that part of the world; then from those half-clad rapscallions arose a shout of "Kirby!"—a shout in which the three leaders did not join. That one who looked a gentleman rose from the sand and made me a low bow. "Well met, noble captain," he cried in those his honey tones. "You will doubtless remember me who was with you that time at Maracaibo when you sunk the galleasses. Five years have passed since then, and yet I see you ten years younger and three inches taller."
"I touched once at the Lucayas, and found the spring de Leon sought," I said. "Sure the waters have a marvelous effect, and if they give not eternal youth at least renew that which we have lost."
"Truly a potent aqua vitae," he remarked, still with thoughtful melancholy. "I see that it hath changed your eyes from black to gray."
"It hath that peculiar virtue," I said, "that it can make black seem white."
The man with the woman's mantle drawn about him now thrust himself from the rear to the front rank. "That's not Kirby!" he bawled. "He's no more Kirby than I am Kirby! Didn't I sail with Kirby from the Summer Isles to Cartagena and back again? He's a cheat, and I am a-going to cut his heart out!" He was making at me with a long knife, when I whipped out my rapier.
"Am I not Kirby, you dog?" I cried, and ran him through the shoulder.
He dropped, and his fellows surged forward with a yell. "Yet a little patience, my masters!" said Paradise in a raised voice and with genuine amusement in his eyes. "It is true that that Kirby with whom I and our friend there on the ground sailed was somewhat short and as swart as a raven, besides having a cut across his face that had taken away part of his lip and the top of his ear, and that this gentleman who announces himself as Kirby hath none of Kirby's marks. But we are fair and generous and open to conviction"—
"He'll have to convince my cutlass!" roared Red Gil.
I turned upon him. "If I do convince it, what then?" I demanded. "If I convince your sword, you of Spain, and yours, Sir Black and Silver?"
The Spaniard stared. "I was the best sword in Lima," he said stiffly. "I and my Toledo will not change our minds."
"Let him try to convince Paradise; he's got no reputation as a swordsman!" cried out the grave-digger with the broken head.
A roar of laughter followed this suggestion, and I gathered from it and from the oaths and allusions to this or that time and place that Paradise was not without reputation.
I turned to him. "If I fight you three, one by one, and win, am I Kirby?"
He regarded the shell with which he was toying with a thoughtful smile, held it up that the light might strike through its rose and pearl, then crushed it to dust between his fingers.
"Ay," he said with an oath. "If you win against the cutlass of Red Gil, the best blade of Lima, and the sword of Paradise, you may call yourself the devil an you please, and we will all subscribe to it."
I lifted my hand. "I am to have fair play?"
As one man that crew of desperate villains swore that the odds should be only three to one. By this the whole matter had presented itself to them as an entertainment more diverting than bullfight or bear-baiting. They that follow the sea, whether honest men or black-hearted knaves, have in their composition a certain childlikeness that makes them easily turned, easily led, and easily pleased. The wind of their passion shifts quickly from point to point, one moment blowing a hurricane, the next sinking to a happy-go-lucky summer breeze. I have seen a little thing convert a crew on the point of mutiny into a set of rollicking, good-natured souls who—until the wind veered again—would not hurt a fly. So with these. They spread themselves into a circle, squatting or kneeling or standing upon the white sand in the bright sunshine, their sinewy hands that should have been ingrained red clasped over their knees, or, arms akimbo, resting upon their hips, on their scoundrel faces a broad smile, and in their eyes that had looked on nameless horrors a pleasurable expectation as of spectators in a playhouse awaiting the entrance of the players.
"There is really no good reason why we should gratify your whim," said Paradise, still amused. "But it will serve to pass the time. We will fight you, one by one."
"And if I win?"
He laughed. "Then, on the honor of a gentleman, you are Kirby and our captain. If you lose, we will leave you where you stand for the gulls to bury."
"A bargain," I said, and drew my sword.
"I first!" roared Red Gil. "God's wounds! there will need no second!"
As he spoke he swung his cutlass and made an arc of blue flame. The weapon became in his hands a flail, terrible to look upon, making lightnings and whistling in the air, but in reality not so deadly as it seemed. The fury of his onslaught would have beaten down the guard of any mere swordsman, but that I was not. A man, knowing his weakness and insufficiency in many and many a thing, may yet know his strength in one or two and his modesty take no hurt. I was ever master of my sword, and it did the thing I would have it do. Moreover, as I fought I saw her as I had last seen her, standing against the bank of sand, her dark hair, half braided, drawn over her bosom and hanging to her knees. Her eyes haunted me, and my lips yet felt the touch of her hand. I fought well,—how well the lapsing of oaths and laughter into breathless silence bore witness.
The ruffian against whom I was pitted began to draw his breath in gasps. He was a scoundrel not fit to die, less fit to live, unworthy of a gentleman's steel. I presently ran him through with as little compunction and as great a desire to be quit of a dirty job as if he had been a mad dog. He fell, and a little later, while I was engaged with the Spaniard, his soul went to that hell which had long gaped for it. To those his companions his death was as slight a thing as would theirs have been to him. In the eyes of the two remaining would-be leaders he was a stumbling-block removed, and to the squatting, open-mouthed commonalty his taking off weighed not a feather against the solid entertainment I was affording them. I was now a better man than Red Gil,—that was all.
The Spaniard was a more formidable antagonist. The best blade of Lima was by no means to be despised: but Lima is a small place, and its blades can be numbered. The sword that for three years had been counted the best in all the Low Countries was its better. But I fought fasting and for the second time that morning, so maybe the odds were not so great. I wounded him slightly, and presently succeeded in disarming him. "Am I Kirby?" I demanded, with my point at his breast.
"Kirby, of course, senor," he answered with a sour smile, his eyes upon the gleaming blade.
I lowered my point and we bowed to each other, after which he sat down upon the sand and applied himself to stanching the bleeding from his wound. The pirate ring gave him no attention, but stared at me instead. I was now a better man than the Spaniard.
The man in black and silver rose and removed his doublet, folding it very carefully, inside out, that the sand might not injure the velvet, then drew his rapier, looked at it lovingly, made it bend until point and hilt well-nigh met, and faced me with a bow.
"You have fought twice, and must be weary," he said. "Will you not take breath before we engage, or will your long rest afterward suffice you?"
"I will rest aboard my ship," I made reply. "And as I am in a hurry to be gone we won't delay."
Our blades had no sooner crossed than I knew that in this last encounter I should need every whit of my skill, all my wit, audacity, and strength. I had met my equal, and he came to it fresh and I jaded. I clenched my teeth and prayed with all my heart; I set her face before me, and thought if I should fail her to what ghastly fate she might come, and I fought as I had never fought before. The sound of the surf became a roar in my ears, the sunshine an intolerable blaze of light; the blue above and around seemed suddenly beneath my feet as well. We were fighting high in the air, and had fought thus for ages. I knew that he made no thrust I did not parry, no feint I could not interpret. I knew that my eye was more quick to see, my brain to conceive, and my hand to execute than ever before; but it was as though I held that knowledge of some other, and I myself was far away, at Weyanoke, in the minister's garden, in the haunted wood, anywhere save on that barren islet. I heard him swear under his breath, and in the face I had set before me the eyes brightened. As if she had loved me I fought for her with all my powers of body and mind. He swore again, and my heart laughed within me. The sea now roared less loudly, and I felt the good earth beneath my feet. Slowly but surely I wore him out. His breath came short, the sweat stood upon his forehead, and still I deferred my attack. He made the thrust of a boy of fifteen, and I smiled as I put it by.
"Why don't you end it?" he breathed. "Finish and be hanged to you!"
For answer I sent his sword flying over the nearest hillock of sand. "Am I Kirby?" I said. He fell back against the heaped-up sand and leaned there, panting, with his hand to his side. "Kirby or devil," he replied. "Have it your own way."
I turned to the now highly excited rabble. "Shove the boats off, half a dozen of you!" I ordered. "Some of you others take up that carrion there and throw it into the sea. The gold upon it is for your pains. You there with the wounded shoulder you have no great hurt. I'll salve it with ten pieces of eight from the captain's own share, the next prize we take."
A shout of acclamation arose that scared the sea fowl. They who so short a time before had been ready to tear me limb from limb now with the greatest apparent delight hailed me as captain. How soon they might revert to their former mood was a question that I found not worth while to propound to myself.
By this the man in black and silver had recovered his breath and his equanimity. "Have you no commission with which to honor me, noble captain?" he asked in gently reproachful tones. "Have you forgot how often you were wont to employ me in those sweet days when your eyes were black?"
"By no means, Master Paradise," I said courteously. "I desire your company and that of the gentleman from Lima. You will go with me to bring up the rest of my party. The three gentlemen of the broken head, the bushy ruff, which I protest is vastly becoming, and the wounded shoulder will escort us."
"The rest of your party?" said Paradise softly.
"Ay," I answered nonchalantly. "They are down the beach and around the point warming themselves by a fire which this piled-up sand hides from you. Despite the sunshine it is a biting air. Let us be going! This island wearies me, and I am anxious to be on board ship and away."
"So small an escort scarce befits so great a captain," he said. "We will all attend you." One and all started forward.
I called to mind and gave utterance to all the oaths I had heard in the wars. "I entertain you for my subordinate whom I command, and not who commands me!" I cried, when my memory failed me. "As for you, you dogs, who would question your captain and his doings, stay where you are, if you would not be lessoned in earnest!"
Sheer audacity is at times the surest steed a man can bestride. Now at least it did me good service. With oaths and grunts of admiration the pirates stayed where they were, and went about their business of launching the boats and stripping the body of Red Gil, while the man in black and silver, the Spaniard, the two gravediggers, the knave with the wounded shoulder, and myself walked briskly up the beach.
With these five at my heels I strode up to the dying fire and to those who had sprung to their feet at our approach. "Sparrow," I said easily, "luck being with us as usual, I have fallen in with a party of rovers. I have told them who I am,—that Kirby, to wit, whom an injurious world calls the blackest pirate unhanged,—and I have recounted to them how the great galleon which I took some months ago went down yesterday with all on board, you and I with these others being the sole survivors. By dint of a little persuasion they have elected me their captain, and we will go on board directly and set sail for the Indies, a hunting ground which we never should have left. You need not look so blank; you shall be my mate and right hand still." I turned to the five who formed my escort. "This, gentlemen, is my mate, Jeremy Sparrow by name, who hath a taste for divinity that in no wise interferes with his taste for a galleon or a guarda costa. This man, Diccon Demon by name, was of my crew. The gentleman without a sword is my prisoner, taken by me from the last ship I sunk. How he, an Englishman, came to be upon a Spanish bark I have not found leisure to inquire. The lady is my prisoner, also."
"Sure by rights she should be gaoler and hold all men's hearts in ward," said Paradise, with a low bow to my unfortunate captive.
While he spoke a most remarkable transformation was going on. The minister's grave, rugged, and deeply lined face smoothed itself and shed ten years at least; in the eyes that I had seen wet with noble tears a laughing devil now lurked, while his strong mouth became a loose-lipped, devil-may-care one. His head with its aureole of bushy, grizzled hair set itself jauntily upon one side, and from it and from his face and his whole great frame breathed a wicked jollity quite indescribable.
"Odsbodikins, captain!" he cried. "Kirby's luck!—'twill pass into a saw! Adzooks! and so you're captain once more, and I'm mate once more, and we've a ship once more, and we're off once more
To sail the Spanish Main, And give the Spaniard pain, Heave ho, bully boy, heave ho!
By 'r lakin! I'm too dry to sing. It will take all the wine of Xeres in the next galleon to unparch my tongue!"
the grave:—This refers to the latter part of chapter 21 of To Have and to Hold; the hero, Ralph Percy, who has been shipwrecked with his companions, discovers a group of pirates burying their dead captain.
pezos and pieces of eight:—peso is the Spanish word for dollar; pieces of eight are dollars also, each dollar containing eight reals.
the man in black and silver:—Paradise, an Englishman.
frails:—Baskets made of rushes.
Kirby:—A renowned pirate mentioned in chapter 21.
Maracaibo:—The city or the gulf of that name in Venezuela.
galleasses:—Heavy, low-built vessels having sails as well as oars.
Lucayas:—An old name for the Bahama Islands.
de Leon:—Ponce de Leon discovered Florida in 1513; he searched long for a fountain which would restore youth.
aqua vitae:—Latin for water of life.
Summer Isles:—Another name for the Bermuda Islands.
Cartagena:—A city in Spain.
Lima:—A city in Peru.
Toledo:—A "Toledo blade"—a sword of the very finest temper, made in Toledo, Spain.
the Low Countries:—Holland and Belgium.
senor:—The Spanish word for sir.
Weyanoke:—The home of the hero, near Jamestown, Virginia.
Sparrow:—A minister, one of the hero's companions; see chapter 3 of To Have and to Hold.
guarda costa:—Coast guard.
Diccon:—Ralph Percy's servant.
the gentleman without a sword:—Lord Carnal, an enemy of Percy.
the lady:—She is really Percy's wife.
Odsbodikins; Adzooks:—Oaths much used two centuries ago.
By 'r lakin:—By our ladykin (little lady); an oath by the Virgin Mary.
Xeres:—The Spanish town after which sherry wine is named.
SUGGESTIONS FOR STUDY
This selection is easily understood. Ralph Percy, his wife, and several others (see notes) are cast on a desert shore after the sinking of their boat. Percy leaves his companions for a time and falls among pirates; he pretends to be a "sea-rover" himself. Why does he allude to the pirate ship as a "cockboat"? Why are the pirates impressed by his remarks? Why does Percy emphasize the riches of the sunken ship? Is what he says true? (See chapter 19 of To Have and to Hold.) If not, is he justified in telling a falsehood? Is he really Kirby? Is he fortunate in his assertion that he is? How does he explain his lack of resemblance to Kirby? What kind of person is the hero? Why does he wish to become the leader of the pirates? Is it possible that the pirate crew should change their attitude so suddenly? Is it a good plan in a story to make a hero tell of his own successes? Characterize the man in black and silver. How does the author make us feel the action and peril of the struggle? How does she make us feel the long duration of the fight with Paradise? Do you like the hero's behavior with the defeated pirates? Why is he so careful to repeat to the minister what he has told the pirates? Why does the minister appear to change his character?
Can you make this piece into a little play?
The Real Pirates Spanish Gold A Fight for Life A Famous Duel Buried Treasure Playing Pirates Sea Stories that I Like Captain Kidd Ponce de Leon The Search for Gold Story-book Heroes Along the Sea Shore A Barren Island The Rivals Land Pirates The Pirates in Peter Pan A Struggle for Leadership Our High School Play
SUGGESTIONS FOR WRITING
Try to make a fragment of a play out of this selection. In this process, all the class may work together under the direction of the teacher, or each pupil may make his own attempt to dramatize the piece.
In writing the drama, tell first what the setting is. In doing so, you had better look up some modern play and see how the setting is explained to the reader or the actors. Now show the pirates at work, and give a few lines of their conversation; then have the hero come upon the scene. Indicate the speech of each person, and put in all necessary stage directions. Perhaps you will want to add more dialogue than there is here. Some of the onlookers may have something to say. Perhaps you will wish to leave something out. It might be well, while the fighting is going on, to bring in remarks from the combatants and the other pirates. You might look up the duel scene in Hamlet for this point. You can end your play with the departure of the group; or you can write a second scene, in which the hero's companions appear, including the lady. Considerable dialogue could be invented here, and a new episode added—a quarrel, a plan for organization, or a merry-making.
When your play is finished, you may possibly wish to have it acted before the class. A few turbans, sashes, and weapons will be sufficient to give an air of piracy to the group of players. Some grim black mustaches would complete the effect.
A Pirate Story:—Tell an old-fashioned "yarn" of adventure, in which a modest hero relates his own experiences. Give your imagination a good deal of liberty. Do not waste much time in getting started, but plunge very soon into the actual story. Let your hero tell how he fell among the pirates. Then go on with the conversation that ensued—the threats, the boasting, and the bravado. Make the hero report his struggles, or the tricks that he resorted to in order to outwit the sea-rovers. Perhaps he failed at first and got into still greater dangers. Follow out his adventures to the moment of his escape. Make your descriptions short and vivid; put in as much direct conversation as possible; keep the action brisk and spirited. Try to write a lively tale that would interest a group of younger boys.
To Have and to Hold Mary Johnston Prisoners of Hope " " The Long Roll " " Cease Firing " " Audrey " " The Virginians W.M. Thackeray White Aprons Maude Wilder Goodwin The Gold Bug Edgar Allan Poe Treasure Island R.L. Stevenson Kidnapped " " Ebb Tide " " Buccaneers and Pirates of our Coast Frank R. Stockton Kate Bonnett " " Drake Julian Corbett Drake and his Yeomen James Barnes Drake, the Sea-king of Devon G.M. Towle Raleigh " " Red Rover J.F. Cooper The Pirate Walter Scott Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe Two Years before the Mast R.H. Dana Tales of a Traveller (Part IV) Washington Irving Nonsense Novels (chapter 8) Stephen Leacock The Duel (in The Master of Ballantrae, chapter 4) R.L. Stevenson The Lost Galleon (poem) Bret Harte Stolen Treasure Howard Pyle Jack Ballister's Fortunes " " Buried Treasure R.B. Paine The Last Buccaneer (poem) Charles Kingsley The Book of the Ocean Ernest Ingersoll Ocean Life in the Old Sailing-Ship Days J.D. Whidden
For Portraits of Miss Johnston, see Bookman, 20:402; 28:193.
EDITH M. THOMAS
Shuttle of the sunburnt grass, Fifer in the dun cuirass, Fifing shrilly in the morn, Shrilly still at eve unworn; Now to rear, now in the van, Gayest of the elfin clan: Though I watch their rustling flight, I can never guess aright Where their lodging-places are; 'Mid some daisy's golden star, Or beneath a roofing leaf, Or in fringes of a sheaf, Tenanted as soon as bound! Loud thy reveille doth sound, When the earth is laid asleep, And her dreams are passing deep, On mid-August afternoons; And through all the harvest moons, Nights brimmed up with honeyed peace, Thy gainsaying doth not cease. When the frost comes, thou art dead; We along the stubble tread, On blue, frozen morns, and note No least murmur is afloat: Wondrous still our fields are then, Fifer of the elfin men!
SUGGESTIONS FOR STUDY
Why is the grasshopper called a "shuttle"? What does the word still mean here? Who are the "elfin clan"? By whom is the sheaf tenanted? What is a reveille? Does the grasshopper chirp at night? Why is its cry called "gainsaying"?
See how simple the meter (measure) is in this little poem. Ask your teacher to explain how it is represented by these characters:
[Transcriber's note: The u's represent breve marks in the text]
Note which signs indicate the accented syllables. See whether or not the accent comes at the end of the line. The rhyme-scheme is called a couplet, because of the way in which two lines are linked together. This kind of rhyme is represented by aa, bb, cc, etc.
Find some other poem that has the same meter and rhyme that this one has. Try to write a short poem of five or six couplets, using this meter and rhyme. You do not need to choose a highly poetic subject: Try something very simple.
Perhaps you can "get a start" from one of the lines given below:—
1. Glowing, darting dragon-fly. 2. Voyager on dusty wings (A Moth). 3. Buzzing through the fragrant air (A Bee). 4. Trembling lurker in the gloom (A Mouse). 5. Gay red-throated epicure (A humming-bird). 6. Stealthy vagrant of the night (An Owl). 7. Flashing through your crystal room (A Gold-fish). 8. Fairyland is all awake. 9. Once when all the woods were green. 10. In the forest is a pool.
On the Grasshopper and Cricket John Keats To the Grasshopper and the Cricket Leigh Hunt Little Brother of the Ground Edwin Markham The Humble Bee R.W. Emerson The Cricket Percy Mackaye The Katydid " " A Glow Worm (in Little Folk Lyrics) F.D. Sherman Bees " " " " " "
EDITH M. THOMAS
The root is hard to loose From hold of earth by mortals, but Gods' power Can all things do. 'Tis black, but bears a flower As white as milk. (Chapman's Homer.)
Traveller, pluck a stem of moly, If thou touch at Circe's isle,— Hermes' moly, growing solely To undo enchanter's wile. When she proffers thee her chalice,— Wine and spices mixed with malice,— When she smites thee with her staff To transform thee, do thou laugh! Safe thou art if thou but bear The least leaf of moly rare. Close it grows beside her portal, Springing from a stock immortal,— Yes, and often has the Witch Sought to tear it from its niche; But to thwart her cruel will The wise God renews it still. Though it grows in soil perverse, Heaven hath been its jealous nurse, And a flower of snowy mark Springs from root and sheathing dark; Kingly safeguard, only herb That can brutish passion curb! Some do think its name should be Shield-heart, White Integrity.
Traveller, pluck a stem of moly, If thou touch at Circe's isle,— Hermes' moly, growing solely To undo enchanter's wile!
Chapman's Homer:—George Chapman (1559?-1634) was an English poet. He translated Homer from the Greek into English verse.
moly:—An herb with a black root and a white flower, which Hermes gave to Odysseus in order to help him withstand the spell of the witch Circe.
Circe:—A witch who charmed her victims with a drink that she prepared for them, and then changed them into the animals they in character most resembled.
Hermes:—The messenger of the other Greek gods; he was crafty and eloquent.
The wise God:—Hermes, or Mercury.
SUGGESTIONS FOR STUDY
Before you try to study this poem carefully, find out something of the story of Ulysses and Circe: when you have this information, the poem will become clear. Notice how the author applies the old Greek tale to the experiences of everyday life. This would be a good poem to memorize.
On First Looking into Chapman's Homer John Keats The Strayed Reveller Matthew Arnold The Wine of Circe Dante Gabriel Rossetti Tanglewood Tales (Circe's Palace) Nathaniel Hawthorne Greek Story and Song, pp. 214-225 A.J. Church The Odyssey, pp. 151-164 (School Ed.) G.H. Palmer (Trans.) Classic Myths, chapter 24 C.M. Gayley The Age of Fable, p. 295 Thomas Bulfinch The Prayer of the Swine to Circe Austin Dobson
The Wine of Circe Sir Edward Burne-Jones Circe and the Companions of Ulysses Briton Riviere
THE PROMISED LAND
(From Chapter IX of The Promised Land)
During his three years of probation, my father had made a number of false starts in business. His history for that period is the history of thousands who come to America, like him, with pockets empty, hands untrained to the use of tools, minds cramped by centuries of repression in their native land. Dozens of these men pass under your eyes every day, my American friend, too absorbed in their honest affairs to notice the looks of suspicion which you cast at them, the repugnance with which you shrink from their touch. You see them shuffle from door to door with a basket of spools and buttons, or bending over the sizzling irons in a basement tailor shop, or rummaging in your ash can, or moving a pushcart from curb to curb, at the command of the burly policeman. "The Jew peddler!" you say, and dismiss him from your premises and from your thoughts, never dreaming that the sordid drama of his days may have a moral that concerns you. What if the creature with the untidy beard carries in his bosom his citizenship papers? What if the cross-legged tailor is supporting a boy in college who is one day going to mend your state constitution for you? What if the ragpicker's daughters are hastening over the ocean to teach your children in the public schools? Think, every time you pass the greasy alien on the street, that he was born thousands of years before the oldest native American; and he may have something to communicate to you, when you two shall have learned a common language. Remember that his very physiognomy is a cipher the key to which it behooves you to search for most diligently.
* * * * *
By the time we joined my father, he had surveyed many avenues of approach toward the coveted citadel of fortune. One of these, heretofore untried, he now proposed to essay, armed with new courage, and cheered on by the presence of his family. In partnership with an energetic little man who had an English chapter in his history, he prepared to set up a refreshment booth on Crescent Beach. But while he was completing arrangements at the beach, we remained in town, where we enjoyed the educational advantages of a thickly populated neighborhood; namely, Wall Street, in the West End of Boston.
Anybody who knows Boston knows that the West and North Ends are the wrong ends of that city. They form the tenement district, or, in the newer phrase, the slums of Boston. Anybody who is acquainted with the slums of any American metropolis knows that that is the quarter where poor immigrants foregather, to live, for the most part, as unkempt, half-washed, toiling, unaspiring foreigners; pitiful in the eyes of social missionaries, the despair of boards of health, the hope of ward politicians, the touchstone of American democracy. The well-versed metropolitan knows the slums as a sort of house of detention for poor aliens, where they live on probation till they can show a certificate of good citizenship.
He may know all this and yet not guess how Wall Street, in the West End, appears in the eyes of a little immigrant from Polotzk. What would the sophisticated sight-seer say about Union Place, off Wall Street, where my new home waited for me? He would say that it is no place at all, but a short box of an alley. Two rows of three-story tenements are its sides, a stingy strip of sky is its lid, a littered pavement is the floor, and a narrow mouth its exit.
But I saw a very different picture on my introduction to Union Place. I saw two imposing rows of brick buildings, loftier than any dwelling I had ever lived in. Brick was even on the ground for me to tread on, instead of common earth or boards. Many friendly windows stood open, filled with uncovered heads of women and children. I thought the people were interested in us, which was very neighborly. I looked up to the topmost row of windows, and my eyes were filled with the May blue of an American sky!
In our days of affluence in Russia we had been accustomed to upholstered parlors, embroidered linen, silver spoons and candlesticks, goblets of gold, kitchen shelves shining with copper and brass. We had feather-beds heaped halfway to the ceiling; we had clothes presses dusky with velvet and silk and fine woolen. The three small rooms into which my father now ushered us, up one flight of stairs, contained only the necessary beds, with lean mattresses; a few wooden chairs; a table or two; a mysterious iron structure, which later turned out to be a stove; a couple of unornamental kerosene lamps; and a scanty array of cooking-utensils and crockery. And yet we were all impressed with our new home and its furniture. It was not only because we had just passed through our seven lean years, cooking in earthern vessels, eating black bread on holidays and wearing cotton; it was chiefly because these wooden chairs and tin pans were American chairs and pans that they shone glorious in our eyes. And if there was anything lacking for comfort or decoration we expected it to be presently supplied—at least, we children did. Perhaps my mother alone, of us newcomers, appreciated the shabbiness of the little apartment, and realized that for her there was as yet no laying down of the burden of poverty.
Our initiation into American ways began with the first step on the new soil. My father found occasion to instruct or correct us even on the way from the pier to Wall Street, which journey we made crowded together in a rickety cab. He told us not to lean out of the windows, not to point, and explained the word "greenhorn." We did not want to be "greenhorns," and gave the strictest attention to my father's instructions. I do not know when my parents found opportunity to review together the history of Polotzk in the three years past, for we children had no patience with the subject; my mother's narrative was constantly interrupted by irrelevant questions, interjections, and explanations.
The first meal was an object lesson of much variety. My father produced several kinds of food, ready to eat, without any cooking, from little tin cans that had printing all over them. He attempted to introduce us to a queer, slippery kind of fruit, which he called "banana," but had to give it up for the time being. After the meal, he had better luck with a curious piece of furniture on runners, which he called "rocking-chair." There were five of us newcomers, and we found five different ways of getting into the American machine of perpetual motion, and as many ways of getting out of it. One born and bred to the use of a rocking-chair cannot imagine how ludicrous people can make themselves when attempting to use it for the first time. We laughed immoderately over our various experiments with the novelty, which was a wholesome way of letting off steam after the unusual excitement of the day.
In our flat we did not think of such a thing as storing the coal in the bathtub. There was no bathtub. So in the evening of the first day my father conducted us to the public baths. As we moved along in a little procession, I was delighted with the illumination of the streets. So many lamps, and they burned until morning, my father said, and so people did not need to carry lanterns. In America, then, everything was free, as we had heard in Russia. Light was free; the streets were as bright as a synagogue on a holy day. Music was free; we had been serenaded, to our gaping delight, by a brass band of many pieces, soon after our installation on Union Place.
Education was free. That subject my father had written about repeatedly, as comprising his chief hope for us children, the essence of American opportunity, the treasure that no thief could touch, not even misfortune or poverty. It was the one thing that he was able to promise us when he sent for us; surer, safer than bread or shelter. On our second day I was thrilled with the realization of what this freedom of education meant. A little girl from across the alley came and offered to conduct us to school. My father was out, but we five between us had a few words of English by this time. We knew the word school. We understood. This child, who had never seen us till yesterday, who could not pronounce our names, who was not much better dressed than we, was able to offer us the freedom of the schools of Boston! No application made, no questions asked, no examinations, rulings, exclusions; no machinations, no fees. The doors stood open for every one of us. The smallest child could show us the way.
This incident impressed me more than anything I had heard in advance of the freedom of education in America. It was a concrete proof—almost the thing itself. One had to experience it to understand it.
It was a great disappointment to be told by my father that we were not to enter upon our school career at once. It was too near the end of the term, he said, and we were going to move to Crescent Beach in a week or so. We had to wait until the opening of the schools in September. What a loss of precious time—from May till September!
Not that the time was really lost. Even the interval on Union Place was crowded with lessons and experiences. We had to visit the stores and be dressed from head to foot in American clothing; we had to learn the mysteries of the iron stove, the washboard, and the speaking-tube; we had to learn to trade with the fruit peddler through the window, and not to be afraid of the policeman; and, above all, we had to learn English.
The kind people who assisted us in these important matters form a group by themselves in the gallery of my friends. If I had never seen them from those early days till now, I should still have remembered them with gratitude. When I enumerate the long list of American teachers, I must begin with those who came to us on Wall Street and taught us our first steps. To my mother, in her perplexity over the cookstove, the woman who showed her how to make the fire was an angel of deliverance. A fairy godmother to us children was she who led us to a wonderful country called "uptown," where in a dazzlingly beautiful palace called a "department store," we exchanged our hateful homemade European costumes, which pointed us out as "greenhorns" to the children on the street, for real American machine-made garments, and issued forth glorified in each other's eyes.
With our despised immigrant clothing we shed also our impossible Hebrew names. A committee of our friends, several years ahead of us in American experience, put their heads together and concocted American names for us all. Those of our real names that had no pleasing American equivalents they ruthlessly discarded, content if they retained the initials. My mother, possessing a name that was not easily translatable, was punished with the undignified nickname of Annie. Fetchke, Joseph, and Deborah issued as Frieda, Joseph, and Dora, respectively. As for poor me, I was simply cheated. The name they gave me was hardly new. My Hebrew name being Maryashe in full, Mashke for short, Russianized into Marya (Mar-ya) my friends said that it would hold good in English as Mary; which was very disappointing, as I longed to possess a strange-sounding American name like the others.
I am forgetting the consolation I had, in this matter of names, from the use of my surname, which I have had no occasion to mention until now. I found on my arrival that my father was "Mr. Antin" on the slightest provocation, and not, as in Polotzk, on state occasions alone. And so I was "Mary Antin," and I felt very important to answer to such a dignified title. It was just like America that even plain people should wear their surnames on week days.
As a family we were so diligent under instruction, so adaptable, and so clever in hiding our deficiencies, that when we made the journey to Crescent Beach, in the wake of our small wagon-load of household goods, my father had very little occasion to admonish us on the way, and I am sure he was not ashamed of us. So much we had achieved toward our Americanization during the two weeks since our landing.
Crescent Beach is a name that is printed in very small type on the maps of the environs of Boston, but a life-size strip of sand curves from Winthrop to Lynn; and that is historic ground in the annals of my family. The place is now a popular resort for holiday crowds, and is famous under the name of Revere Beach. When the reunited Antins made their stand there, however, there were no boulevards, no stately bath-houses, no hotels, no gaudy amusement places, no illuminations, no showmen, no tawdry rabble. There was only the bright clean sweep of sand, the summer sea, and the summer sky. At high tide the whole Atlantic rushed in, tossing the seaweeds in his mane; at low tide he rushed out, growling and gnashing his granite teeth. Between tides a baby might play on the beach, digging with pebbles and shells, till it lay asleep on the sand. The whole sun shone by day, troops of stars by night, and the great moon in its season.
Into this grand cycle of the seaside day I came to live and learn and play. A few people came with me, as I have already intimated; but the main thing was that I came to live on the edge of the sea—I, who had spent my life inland, believing that the great waters of the world were spread out before me in the Dvina. My idea of the human world had grown enormously during the long journey; my idea of the earth had expanded with every day at sea, my idea of the world outside the earth now budded and swelled during my prolonged experience of the wide and unobstructed heavens.
Not that I got any inkling of the conception of a multiple world. I had had no lessons in cosmogony, and I had no spontaneous revelation of the true position of the earth in the universe. For me, as for my fathers, the sun set and rose, and I did not feel the earth rushing through space. But I lay stretched out in the sun, my eyes level with the sea, till I seemed to be absorbed bodily by the very materials of the world around me; till I could not feel my hand as separate from the warm sand in which it was buried. Or I crouched on the beach at full moon, wondering, wondering, between the two splendors of the sky and the sea. Or I ran out to meet the incoming storm, my face full in the wind, my being a-tingle with an awesome delight to the tips of my fog-matted locks flying behind; and stood clinging to some stake or upturned boat, shaken by the roar and rumble of the waves. So clinging, I pretended that I was in danger, and was deliciously frightened; I held on with both hands, and shook my head, exulting in the tumult around me, equally ready to laugh or sob. Or else I sat, on the stillest days, with my back to the sea, not looking at all, but just listening to the rustle of the waves on the sand; not thinking at all, but just breathing with the sea.
Thus courting the influence of sea and sky and variable weather, I was bound to have dreams, hints, imaginings. It was no more than this, perhaps: that the world as I knew it was not large enough to contain all that I saw and felt; that the thoughts that flashed through my mind, not half understood, unrelated to my utterable thoughts, concerned something for which I had as yet no name. Every imaginative growing child has these flashes of intuition, especially one that becomes intimate with some one aspect of nature. With me it was the growing time, that idle summer by the sea, and I grew all the faster because I had been so cramped before. My mind, too, had so recently been worked upon by the impressive experience of a change of country that I was more than commonly alive to impressions, which are the seeds of ideas.
Let no one suppose that I spent my time entirely, or even chiefly, in inspired solitude. By far the best part of my day was spent in play—frank, hearty, boisterous play, such as comes natural to American children. In Polotzk I had already begun to be considered too old for play, excepting set games or organized frolics. Here I found myself included with children who still played, and I willingly returned to childhood. There were plenty of playfellows. My father's energetic little partner had a little wife and a large family. He kept them in the little cottage next to ours; and that the shanty survived the tumultuous presence of that brood is a wonder to me to-day. The young Wilners included an assortment of boys, girls, and twins, of every possible variety of age, size, disposition, and sex. They swarmed in and out of the cottage all day long, wearing the door-sill hollow, and trampling the ground to powder. They swung out of windows like monkeys, slid up the roof like flies, and shot out of trees like fowls. Even a small person like me couldn't go anywhere without being run over by a Wilner; and I could never tell which Wilner it was because none of them ever stood still long enough to be identified; and also because I suspected that they were in the habit of interchanging conspicuous articles of clothing, which was very confusing.
You would suppose that the little mother must have been utterly lost, bewildered, trodden down in this horde of urchins; but you are mistaken. Mrs. Wilner was a positively majestic little person. She ruled her brood with the utmost coolness and strictness. She had even the biggest boy under her thumb, frequently under her palm. If they enjoyed the wildest freedom outdoors, indoors the young Wilners lived by the clock. And so at five o'clock in the evening, on seven days in the week, my father's partner's children could be seen in two long rows around the supper table. You could tell them apart on this occasion, because they all had their faces washed. And this is the time to count them: there are twelve little Wilners at table.
I managed to retain my identity in this multitude somehow, and while I was very much impressed with their numbers, I even dared to pick and choose my friends among the Wilners. One or two of the smaller boys I liked best of all, for a game of hide-and-seek or a frolic on the beach. We played in the water like ducks, never taking the trouble to get dry. One day I waded out with one of the boys, to see which of us dared go farthest. The tide was extremely low, and we had not wet our knees when we began to look back to see if familiar objects were still in sight. I thought we had been wading for hours, and still the water was so shallow and quiet. My companion was marching straight ahead, so I did the same. Suddenly a swell lifted us almost off our feet, and we clutched at each other simultaneously. There was a lesser swell, and little waves began to run, and a sigh went up from the sea. The tide was turning—perhaps a storm was on the way—and we were miles, dreadful miles from dry land.
Boy and girl turned without a word, four determined bare legs ploughing through the water, four scared eyes straining toward the land. Through an eternity of toil and fear they kept dumbly on, death at their heels, pride still in their hearts. At last they reach high-water mark—six hours before full tide.
Each has seen the other afraid, and each rejoices in the knowledge. But only the boy is sure of his tongue.
"You was scared, warn't you?" he taunts.
The girl understands so much, and is able to reply:
"You can schwimmen, I not."
"Betcher life I can schwimmen," the other mocks.
And the girl walks off, angry and hurt.
"An' I can walk on my hands," the tormentor calls after her. "Say, you greenhorn, why don'tcher look?"
The girl keeps straight on, vowing that she would never walk with that rude boy again, neither by land nor sea, not even though the waters should part at his bidding.
I am forgetting the more serious business which had brought us to Crescent Beach. While we children disported ourselves like mermaids and mermen in the surf, our respective fathers dispensed cold lemonade, hot peanuts, and pink popcorn, and piled up our respective fortunes, nickel by nickel, penny by penny. I was very proud of my connection with the public life of the beach. I admired greatly our shining soda fountain, the rows of sparkling glasses, the pyramids of oranges, the sausage chains, the neat white counter, and the bright array of tin spoons. It seemed to me that none of the other refreshment stands on the beach—there were a few—were half so attractive as ours. I thought my father looked very well in a long white apron and shirt sleeves. He dished out ice cream with enthusiasm, so I supposed he was getting rich. It never occurred to me to compare his present occupation with the position for which he had been originally destined; or if I thought about it, I was just as well content, for by this time I had by heart my father's saying, "America is not Polotzk." All occupations were respectable, all men were equal, in America.
If I admired the soda fountain and the sausage chains, I almost worshipped the partner, Mr. Wilner. I was content to stand for an hour at a time watching him make potato chips. In his cook's cap and apron, with a ladle in his hand and a smile on his face, he moved about with the greatest agility, whisking his raw materials out of nowhere, dipping into his bubbling kettle with a flourish, and bringing forth the finished product with a caper. Such potato chips were not to be had anywhere else on Crescent Beach. Thin as tissue paper, crisp as dry snow, and salt as the sea—such thirst-producing, lemonade-selling, nickel-bringing potato chips only Mr. Wilner could make. On holidays, when dozens of family parties came out by every train from town, he could hardly keep up with the demand for his potato chips. And with a waiting crowd around him our partner was at his best. He was as voluble as he was skilful, and as witty as he was voluble; at least so I guessed from the laughter that frequently drowned his voice. I could not understand his jokes, but if I could get near enough to watch his lips and his smile and his merry eyes, I was happy. That any one could talk so fast, and in English, was marvel enough, but that this prodigy should belong to our establishment was a fact to thrill me. I had never seen anything like Mr. Wilner, except a wedding jester; but then he spoke common Yiddish. So proud was I of the talent and good taste displayed at our stand that if my father beckoned to me in the crowd and sent me on an errand, I hoped the people noticed that I, too, was connected with the establishment.
And all this splendor and glory and distinction came to a sudden end. There was some trouble about a license—some fee or fine—there was a storm in the night that damaged the soda fountain and other fixtures—there was talk and consultation between the houses of Antin and Wilner—and the promising partnership was dissolved. No more would the merry partner gather the crowd on the beach; no more would the twelve young Wilners gambol like mermen and mermaids in the surf. And the less numerous tribe of Antin must also say farewell to the jolly seaside life; for men in such humble business as my father's carry their families, along with their other earthly goods, wherever they go, after the manner of the gypsies. We had driven a feeble stake into the sand. The jealous Atlantic, in conspiracy with the Sunday law, had torn it out. We must seek our luck elsewhere.
In Polotzk we had supposed that "America" was practically synonymous with "Boston." When we landed in Boston, the horizon was pushed back, and we annexed Crescent Beach. And now, espying other lands of promise, we took possession of the province of Chelsea, in the name of our necessity.
In Chelsea, as in Boston, we made our stand in the wrong end of the town. Arlington Street was inhabited by poor Jews, poor Negroes, and a sprinkling of poor Irish. The side streets leading from it were occupied by more poor Jews and Negroes. It was a proper locality for a man without capital to do business. My father rented a tenement with a store in the basement. He put in a few barrels of flour and of sugar, a few boxes of crackers, a few gallons of kerosene, an assortment of soap of the "save the coupon" brands; in the cellar a few barrels of potatoes, and a pyramid of kindling-wood; in the showcase, an alluring display of penny candy. He put out his sign, with a gilt-lettered warning of "Strictly Cash," and proceeded to give credit indiscriminately. That was the regular way to do business on Arlington Street. My father, in his three years' apprenticeship, had learned the tricks of many trades. He knew when and how to "bluff." The legend of "Strictly Cash" was a protection against notoriously irresponsible customers; while none of the "good" customers, who had a record for paying regularly on Saturday, hesitated to enter the store with empty purses.
If my father knew the tricks of the trade, my mother could be counted on to throw all her talent and tact into the business. Of course she had no English yet, but as she could perform the acts of weighing, measuring, and mental computation of fractions mechanically, she was able to give her whole attention to the dark mysteries of the language, as intercourse with her customers gave her opportunity. In this she made such rapid progress that she soon lost all sense of disadvantage, and conducted herself behind the counter very much as if she were back in her old store in Polotzk. It was far more cozy than Polotzk—at least, so it seemed to me; for behind the store was the kitchen, where, in the intervals of slack trade, she did her cooking and washing. Arlington Street customers were used to waiting while the storekeeper salted the soup or rescued a loaf from the oven.
Once more Fortune favored my family with a thin little smile, and my father, in reply to a friendly inquiry, would say, "One makes a living," with a shrug of the shoulders that added "but nothing to boast of." It was characteristic of my attitude toward bread-and-butter matters that this contented me, and I felt free to devote myself to the conquest of my new world. Looking back to those critical first years, I see myself always behaving like a child let loose in a garden to play and dig and chase the butterflies. Occasionally, indeed, I was stung by the wasp of family trouble; but I knew a healing ointment—my faith in America. My father had come to America to make a living. America, which was free and fair and kind, must presently yield him what he sought. I had come to America to see a new world, and I followed my own ends with the utmost assiduity; only, as I ran out to explore, I would look back to see if my house were in order behind me—if my family still kept its head above water.
In after years, when I passed as an American among Americans, if I was suddenly made aware of the past that lay forgotten,—if a letter from Russia, or a paragraph in the newspaper, or a conversation overheard in the street-car, suddenly reminded me of what I might have been,—I thought it miracle enough that I, Mashke, the granddaughter of Raphael the Russian, born to a humble destiny, should be at home in an American metropolis, be free to fashion my own life, and should dream my dreams in English phrases. But in the beginning my admiration was spent on more concrete embodiments of the splendors of America; such as fine houses, gay shops, electric engines and apparatus, public buildings, illuminations, and parades. My early letters to my Russian friends were filled with boastful descriptions of these glories of my new country. No native citizen of Chelsea took such pride and delight in its institutions as I did. It required no fife and drum corps, no Fourth of July procession, to set me tingling with patriotism. Even the common agents and instruments of municipal life, such as the letter carrier and the fire engines, I regarded with a measure of respect. I know what I thought of people who said that Chelsea was a very small, dull, unaspiring town, with no discernible excuse for a separate name or existence.
The apex of my civic pride and personal contentment was reached on the bright September morning when I entered the public school. That day I must always remember, even if I live to be so old that I cannot tell my name. To most people their first day at school is a memorable occasion. In my case the importance of the day was a hundred times magnified, on account of the years I had waited, the road I had come, and the conscious ambitions I entertained.
I am wearily aware that I am speaking in extreme figures, in superlatives. I wish I knew some other way to render the mental life of the immigrant child of reasoning age. I may have been ever so much an exception in acuteness of observation, powers of comparison, and abnormal self-consciousness; none the less were my thoughts and conduct typical of the attitude of the intelligent immigrant child toward American institutions. And what the child thinks and feels is a reflection of the hopes, desires, purposes of the parent who brought him overseas, no matter how precocious and independent the child may be. Your immigrant inspectors will tell you what poverty the foreigner brings in his baggage, what want in his pockets. Let the overgrown boy of twelve, reverently drawing his letters in the baby class, testify to the noble dreams and high ideals that may be hidden beneath the greasy caftan of the immigrant. Speaking for the Jews, at least, I know I am safe in inviting such an investigation.
Who were my companions on my first day at school? Whose hand was in mine, as I stood, overcome with awe, by the teacher's desk, and whispered my name as my father prompted? Was it Frieda's steady, capable hand? Was it her loyal heart that throbbed, beat for beat with mine, as it had done through all our childish adventures? Frieda's heart did throb that day, but not with my emotions. My heart pulsed with joy and pride and ambition; in her heart longing fought with abnegation. For I was led to the schoolroom, with its sunshine and its singing and the teacher's cheery smile; while she was led to the workshop, with its foul air, care-lined faces, and the foreman's stern command. Our going to school was the fulfilment of my father's best promises to us, and Frieda's share in it was to fashion and fit the calico frocks in which the baby sister and I made our first appearance in a public schoolroom.
I remember to this day the gray pattern of the calico, so affectionately did I regard it as it hung upon the wall—my consecration robe awaiting the beatific day. And Frieda, I am sure, remembers it, too, so longingly did she regard it as the crisp, starchy breadths of it slid between her fingers. But whatever were her longings, she said nothing of them; she bent over the sewing-machine humming an Old-World melody. In every straight, smooth seam, perhaps, she tucked away some lingering impulse of childhood; but she matched the scrolls and flowers with the utmost care. If a sudden shock of rebellion made her straighten up for an instant, the next instant she was bending to adjust a ruffle to the best advantage. And when the momentous day arrived, and the little sister and I stood up to be arrayed, it was Frieda herself who patted and smoothed my stiff new calico; who made me turn round and round, to see that I was perfect; who stooped to pull out a disfiguring basting-thread. If there was anything in her heart besides sisterly love and pride and good-will, as we parted that morning, it was a sense of loss and a woman's acquiescence in her fate; for we had been close friends, and now our ways would lie apart. Longing she felt, but no envy. She did not grudge me what she was denied. Until that morning we had been children together, but now, at the fiat of her destiny she became a woman, with all a woman's cares; whilst I, so little younger than she, was bidden to dance at the May festival of untroubled childhood.
I wish, for my comfort, that I could say that I had some notion of the difference in our lots, some sense of the injustice to her, of the indulgence to me. I wish I could even say that I gave serious thought to the matter. There had always been a distinction between us rather out of proportion to the difference in our years. Her good health and domestic instincts had made it natural for her to become my mother's right hand, in the years preceding the emigration, when there were no more servants or dependents. Then there was the family tradition that Mary was the quicker, the brighter of the two, and that hers could be no common lot. Frieda was relied upon for help, and her sister for glory. And when I failed as a milliner's apprentice, while Frieda made excellent progress at the dressmaker's, our fates, indeed, were sealed. It was understood, even before we reached Boston, that she would go to work and I to school. In view of the family prejudices, it was the inevitable course. No injustice was intended. My father sent us hand in hand to school, before he had ever thought of America. If, in America, he had been able to support his family unaided, it would have been the culmination of his best hopes to see all his children at school, with equal advantages at home. But when he had done his best, and was still unable to provide even bread and shelter for us all, he was compelled to make us children self-supporting as fast as it was practicable. There was no choosing possible; Frieda was the oldest, the strongest, the best prepared, and the only one who was of legal age to be put to work.
My father has nothing to answer for. He divided the world between his children in accordance with the laws of the country and the compulsion of his circumstances. I have no need of defending him. It is myself that I would like to defend, and I cannot. I remember that I accepted the arrangements made for my sister and me without much reflection, and everything that was planned for my advantage I took as a matter of course. I was no heartless monster, but a decidedly self-centered child. If my sister had seemed unhappy it would have troubled me; but I am ashamed to recall that I did not consider how little it was that contented her. I was so preoccupied with my own happiness that I did not half perceive the splendid devotion of her attitude towards me, the sweetness of her joy in my good luck. She not only stood by approvingly when I was helped to everything; she cheerfully waited on me herself. And I took everything from her hand as if it were my due.
The two of us stood a moment in the doorway of the tenement house on Arlington Street, that wonderful September morning when I first went to school. It was I that ran away, on winged feet of joy and expectation; it was she whose feet were bound in the tread-mill of daily toil. And I was so blind that I did not see that the glory lay on her, and not on me.
* * * * *
Father himself conducted us to school. He would not have delegated that mission to the President of the United States. He had awaited the day with impatience equal to mine, and the visions he saw as he hurried us over the sun-flecked pavements transcended all my dreams. Almost his first act on landing on American soil, three years before, had been his application for naturalization. He had taken the remaining steps in the process with eager promptness, and at the earliest moment allowed by the law, he became a citizen of the United States. It is true that he had left home in search of bread for his hungry family, but he went blessing the necessity that drove him to America. The boasted freedom of the New World meant to him far more than the right to reside, travel, and work wherever he pleased; it meant the freedom to speak his thoughts, to throw off the shackles of superstition, to test his own fate, unhindered by political or religious tyranny. He was only a young man when he landed—thirty-two; and most of his life he had been held in leading-strings. He was hungry for his untasted manhood.
Three years passed in sordid struggle and disappointment. He was not prepared to make a living even in America, where the day laborer eats wheat instead of rye. Apparently the American flag could not protect him against the pursuing Nemesis of his limitations; he must expiate the sins of his fathers who slept across the seas. He had been endowed at birth with a poor constitution, a nervous, restless temperament, and an abundance of hindering prejudices. In his boyhood his body was starved, that his mind might be stuffed with useless learning. In his youth this dearly gotten learning was sold, and the price was the bread and salt which he had not been trained to earn for himself. Under the wedding canopy he was bound for life to a girl whose features were still strange to him; and he was bidden to multiply himself, that sacred learning might be perpetuated in his sons, to the glory of the God of his fathers. All this while he had been led about as a creature without a will, a chattel, an instrument. In his maturity he awoke, and found himself poor in health, poor in purse, poor in useful knowledge, and hampered on all sides. At the first nod of opportunity he broke away from his prison, and strove to atone for his wasted youth by a life of useful labor; while at the same time he sought to lighten the gloom of his narrow scholarship by freely partaking of modern ideas. But his utmost endeavor still left him far from his goal. In business nothing prospered with him. Some fault of hand or mind or temperament led him to failure where other men found success. Wherever the blame for his disabilities be placed, he reaped their bitter fruit. "Give me bread!" he cried to America. "What will you do to earn it?" the challenge came back. And he found that he was master of no art, of no trade; that even his precious learning was of no avail, because he had only the most antiquated methods of communicating it.
So in his primary quest he had failed. There was left him the compensation of intellectual freedom. That he sought to realize in every possible way. He had very little opportunity to prosecute his education, which, in truth, had never been begun. His struggle for a bare living left him no time to take advantage of the public evening school; but he lost nothing of what was to be learned through reading, through attendance at public meetings, through exercising the rights of citizenship. Even here he was hindered by a natural inability to acquire the English language. In time, indeed, he learned to read, to follow a conversation or lecture; but he never learned to write correctly, and his pronunciation remains extremely foreign to this day.
If education, culture, the higher life were shining things to be worshipped from afar, he had still a means left whereby he could draw one step nearer to them. He could send his children to school, to learn all those things that he knew by fame to be desirable. The common school, at least, perhaps high school; for one or two, perhaps even college! His children should be students, should fill his house with books and intellectual company; and thus he would walk by proxy in the Elysian Fields of liberal learning. As for the children themselves, he knew no surer way to their advancement and happiness.
So it was with a heart full of longing and hope that my father led us to school on that first day. He took long strides in his eagerness, the rest of us running and hopping to keep up.
At last the four of us stood around the teacher's desk; and my father, in his impossible English, gave us over in her charge, with some broken word of his hopes for us that his swelling heart could no longer contain. I venture to say that Miss Nixon was struck by something uncommon in the group we made, something outside of Semitic features and the abashed manner of the alien. My little sister was as pretty as a doll, with her clear pink-and-white face, short golden curls, and eyes like blue violets when you caught them looking up. My brother might have been a girl, too, with his cherubic contours of face, rich red color, glossy black hair, and fine eyebrows. Whatever secret fears were in his heart, remembering his former teachers, who had taught with the rod, he stood up straight and uncringing before the American teacher, his cap respectfully doffed. Next to him stood a starved-looking girl with eyes ready to pop out, and short dark curls that would not have made much of a wig for a Jewish bride.
All three children carried themselves rather better than the common run of "green" pupils that were brought to Miss Nixon. But the figure that challenged attention to the group was the tall, straight father, with his earnest face and fine forehead, nervous hands eloquent in gesture, and a voice full of feeling. This foreigner, who brought his children to school as if it were an act of consecration, who regarded the teacher of the primer class with reverence, who spoke of visions, like a man inspired, in a common schoolroom, was not like other aliens, who brought their children in dull obedience to the law; was not like the native fathers, who brought their unmanageable boys, glad to be relieved of their care. I think Miss Nixon guessed what my father's best English could not convey. I think she divined that by the simple act of delivering our school certificates to her he took possession of America.
The Promised Land:—The land of freedom and peace which the Jews have hoped to attain. See Exodus, 3:8; 6:8; Genesis, 12:5-7; Deuteronomy, 8:7-10; Hebrews, 11:9.
his three years of probation:—Mary Antin's father had spent three years in America before sending back to Russia for his family.
Polotzk:—Pronounced Pō'lotsk; a town in Russia on the Dwina River.
seven lean years:—A reference to the famine in Egypt predicted by Joseph, Pharaoh's Hebrew favorite. See Genesis, 40.
Dvina:—The Duena or Dwina River, in Russia.
originally destined:—Mr. Antin's parents had intended him to be a scholar and teacher.
Yiddish:—From the German word juedisch, meaning Jewish; a mixed language made up of German, Hebrew, and Russian words. It is generally spoken by Jews.