1 This inflated passage, and some other similar ones, are extremely characteristic of Americans in the same station of life as Slick. From the use of superlative expressions in their conversation, they naturally adopt an exaggerative style in writing, and the minor poets and provincial orators of the Republic are distinguished for this hyperbolical tone. In Great Britain they would be admired by the Irish; on the Continent, by the Gascons. If Mr Slick were not affected by this weakness himself, he would be among the first to detect and ridicule it in others.
"Go on, Jackson, I will forgive your twaddle about sargeant M'Clure, the stroke of the sun, the trooper's helmet, and the night among the wolves. I will listen to your old soldier's stories all night, only go on and play for me. Give me that simple air again. Let me drink it in with my ears, till my heart is full. No grace notes, no tricks of the band-master's, no flourishes; let it be simple and natural. Let it suit us, and the place we are in, for it is the voice of our common parent, nature." Ah, he didn't hear me, and he ceased.
"Jessie, dear, ain't that beautiful?" said I.
"Oh," she said (and she clasped her hands hard), "it is like the sound of a spirit speaking from above."
"Imitate it," said I.
She knew the air, it was a Scotch one; and their music is the most touching, because the most simple, I know.
Squire, you will think I am getting spooney, but I ain't. You know how fond I am of nature, and always was; but I suppose you will think if I ain't talking Turkey, that I am getting crankey, when I tell you an idea that came into my mind just then. She imitated it in the most perfect manner possible. Her clear, sweet, mellow, but powerful notes, never charmed me so before. I thought it sounded like a maiden, answering her lover. One was a masculine, the other a female voice. The only difference was in the force, but softness was common to both. Can I ever forget the enchantment of that day?
"Dear Jessie," said I, "you and your friend are just formed for each other. How happy you could make him."
"Who?" said she, and there was no affectation in the question. She knew not the import of that word. "What do you mean?"
"Hush," said I, "I will tell you by and by. Old Tom is playing again."
It was "Auld lang syne." How touching it was! It brought tears to Jessie's eyes. She had learned it, when a child, far, far away; and it recalled her tribe, her childhood, her country, and her mother. I could see these thoughts throw their shadows over her face, as light clouds chase each other before the sun, and throw their veil, as they course along the sky, over the glowing landscape. It made me feel sad, too; for how many of them with whom my early years were spent have passed away. Of all the fruit borne by the tree of life, how small a portion drops from it when fully ripe, and in the due course of nature. The worm, and premature decay, are continually thinning them; and the tempest and the blight destroy the greater part of those that are left. Poor dear worthy old Minister, you too are gone, but not forgotten. How could I have had these thoughts? How could I have enjoyed these scenes? and how described them? but for you! Innocent, pure, and simple-minded man, how fond you were of nature, the handy-work of God, as you used to call it. How full you were of poetry, beauty, and sublimity! And what do I not owe to you? I am not ashamed of having been a Clockmaker, I am proud of it.1 But I should indeed have been ashamed, with your instruction, always to have remained one. Yes, yes!
"Why should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind?"
1 This is the passage to which Mr Slick referred in the conversation I had with him, related in Chapter I., entitled, "A Surprise."
"Tam it," said Peter, for we were so absorbed in listening to the music, we did not hear the approach of the boat, "ta ting is very coot, but it don't stir up te blood, and make you feel like a man, as ta pipes do! Did she ever hear barris an tailler? Fan she has done with her brass cow-horn, she will give it to you. It can wake the tead, that air. When she was a piper poy to the fort, Captain Fraisher was killed by the fall of a tree, knocked as stiff as a gunparrel, and as silent too. We laid her out on the counter in one of the stores, and pefore we put her into the coffin the governor said: 'Peter,' said he, 'she was always fond of barris an tailler, play it before we nail her up, come, seid suas (strike up).'
"Well, she gets the pipes and plays it hern ainsel, and the governor forgot his tears; and seized McPhee by the hand, and they danced; they couldn't help it when that air was played, and what do you think? It prought Captain Fraisher to life. First she opened her eyes, and ten her mouth again wunst more. She did, upon my shoul.
"Says she, 'Peter, play it faster, will you? More faster yet, you blackguard.' And she tropt the pipes and ran away, and it was the first and last time Peter McDonald ever turned his pack on a friend. The doctor said it was a trance, but he was a sassanach and knew nothing about music; but it was the pipes prought the tead to. This is the air," and he played it with such vigour he nearly grew black in the face.
"I believe it," sais I; "it has brought me to also, it has made me a new man, and brought me back to life again. Let us land the moose."
"Ted," said Peter, "she is worth two ted men yet. There is only two teaths. Ted as te tevil, and ted drunk, and she ain't neither; and if she were poth she would wake her up with tat tune, barris an tailler, as she tid Captain Fraisher, tat she will."
"Now," said I, "let us land the moose."
CHAPTER XI. A DAY ON THE LAKE.—PART II.
Peter's horrid pipes knocked all the romance out of me. It took all the talk of dear old Minister (whose conversation was often like poetry without rhyme), till I was of age, to instil it into me. If it hadn't been for him I should have been a mere practical man, exactly like our Connecticut folks, who have as much sentiment in them in a general way as an onion has of otter of roses. It's lucky when it don't predominate though, for when it does, it spoils the relish for the real business of life.
Mother, when I was a boy, used to coax me up so everlastingly with loaf-cake, I declare I got such a sweet tooth, I could hardly eat plain bread made of flour and corn meal, although it was the wholesomest of the two. When I used to tell Minister this sometimes, as he was flying off the handle, like when we travelled through New York State to Niagara, at the scenery of the Hudson; or Lake George, or that everlastin' water-fall, he'd say—
"Sam, you are as correct as a problem in Euclid, but as cold and dry. Business and romance are like oil and water that I use for a night-lamp, with a little cork dipsey. They oughtn't to be mixed, but each to be separate, or they spoil each other. The tumbler should be nearly full of water, then pour a little oil on the top, and put in your tiny wick and floater, and ignite it. The water goes to the bottom—that's business you see, solid and heavy. The oil and its burner lies on the top—and that's romance. It's a living flame, not enough to illuminate the room, but to cheer you through the night, and if you want more, it will light stronger ones for you. People have a wrong idea of romance, Sam. Properly understood, it's a right keen, lively appreciation of the works of nature, and its beauty, wonders, and sublimity. From thence we learn to fear, to serve, and to adore Him that made them and us. Now, Sam, you understand all the wheels, and pullies, and balances of your wooden clocks; but you don't think anything more of them, than it's a grand speculation for you, because they cost you a mere nothing, seeing they are made out of that which is as cheap as dirt here, and because you make a great profit out of them among the benighted colonists, who know little themselves, and are governed by English officials who know still less. Well, that's nateral, for it is a business view of things.1 Now sposen you lived in the Far West woods, away from great cities, and never saw a watch or a wooden clock before, and fust sot your eyes on one of them that was as true as the sun, wouldn't you break out into enthusiasm about it, and then extol to the skies the skill and knowledge of the Yankee man that invented and made it? To be sure you would. Wouldn't it carry you off into contemplatin' of the planet whose daily course and speed it measures so exact? Wouldn't you go on from that point, and ask yourself what must be the wisdom and power of Him who made innumerable worlds, and caused them to form part of a great, grand, magnificent, and harmonious system, and fly off the handle, as you call it, in admiration and awe? To be sure you would. And if anybody said you was full of romance who heard you, wouldn't you have pitied his ignorance, and said there are other enjoyments we are capable of besides corporeal ones? Wouldn't you be a wiser and a better man? Don't you go now for to run down romance, Sam; if you do, I shall think you don't know there is a divinity within you," and so he would preach on for an hour, till I thought it was time for him to say Amen and give the dismissal benediction.
1 It is manifest Mr Hopewell must have had Paley's illustration in his mind.
Well, that's the way I came by it, I was inoculated for it, but I was always a hard subject to inoculate. Vaccination was tried on me over and over again by the doctor before I took it, but at last it came and got into the system. So it was with him and his romance, it was only the continual dropping that wore the stone at last, for I didn't listen as I had ought to have done. If he had a showed me where I could have made a dollar, he would have found me wide awake, I know, for I set out in life with a determination to go ahead, and I have; and now I am well to do, but still I wish I had a minded more what he did say, for, poor old soul, he is dead now. An opportunity lost, is like missing a passage, another chance may never offer to make the voyage worth while. The first wind may carry you to the end. A good start often wins the race. To miss your chance of a shot, is to lose the bird.
How true these "saws" of his are; but I don't recollect half of them, I am ashamed to say. Yes, it took me a long time to get romance in my sails, and Peter shook it out of them by one shiver in the wind. So we went to work. The moose was left on the shore, for the doctor said he had another destination for him than the water-fall. Betty, Jackson, and Peter, were embarked with their baskets and utensils in the boats, and directed to prepare our dinner.
As soon as they were fairly off, we strolled leisurely back to the house, which I had hardly time to examine before. It was an irregular building made of hewn logs, and appeared to have been enlarged, from time to time, as more accommodation had been required. There was neither uniformity nor design in it, and it might rather be called a small cluster of little tenements than a house. Two of these structures alone seemed to correspond in appearance and size. They protruded in front, from each end of the main building, forming with it three sides of a square. One of these was appropriated to the purposes of a museum, and the other used as a workshop. The former contained an exceedingly interesting collection.
"This room," he said, "I cannot intrust to Jackson, who would soon throw everything into confusion by grouping instead of classifying things. This country is full of most valuable minerals, and the people know as much about them as a pudding does of the plums contained in it. Observe this shelf, Sir, there are specimens of seven different kinds of copper on it; and on this one, fragments of four kinds of lead. In the argentiferous galena is a very considerable proportion of silver. Here is a piece of a mineral called molybdena of singular beauty, I found it at Gaberous Bay, in Cape Breton. The iron ores you see are of great variety. The coal-fields of this colony are immense in extent, and incalculable in value. All this case is filled with their several varieties. These precious stones are from the Bay of Fundy. Among them are amethyst, and other varieties of crystal, of quartz, henlandite, stibite, analcine, chabasie, albite, nesotype, silicious sinter, and so on. Pray do me the favour to accept this amethyst. I have several others of equal size and beauty, and it is of no use to me."
He also presented Cutler with a splendid piece of nesotype or needle stone, which he begged him to keep as a memento of the "Bachelor Beaver's-dam."
"Three things, Mr Slick," he continued, "are necessary to the development of the mineral wealth of this province—skill, capital, and population; and depend upon it the day is not far distant, when this magnificent colony will support the largest population, for its area, in America."
I am not a mineralogist myself, Squire, and much of what he said was heathen Greek to me, but some general things I could understand, and remember such as that there are (to say nothing of smaller ones) four immense independent coal-fields in the eastern section of Nova Scotia; namely, at Picton, Pomquet, Cumberland, and Londonderry; the first of which covers an area of one hundred square miles: and that there are also at Cape Breton two other enormous fields of the same mineral, one covering one hundred and twenty square miles, and presenting at Lingan a vein eleven feet thick. Such facts I could comprehend, and I was sorry when I heard the bugle announcing that the boat had returned for us.
"Jessie," said the doctor, "here is a little case containing a curiously fashioned and exquisitely worked ring, and a large gold cross and chain, that I found while searching among the ruins of the nunnery at Louisburg. I have no doubt they belonged to the superior of the convent. These baubles answered her purpose by withdrawing the eyes of the profane from her care-worn and cold features; they will serve mine also, by showing how little you require the aid of art to adorn a person nature has made so lovely."
"Hallo!" sais I to myself, "well done, Doctor, if that don't beat cock-fighting, then there ain't no snakes in Varginny, I vow. Oh! you ain't so soft as you look to be after all; you may be a child of nature, but that has its own secrets, and if you hain't found out its mysteries, it's a pity."
"They have neither suffered," he continued, "from the corrosion of time nor the asceticism of a devotee, who vainly thought she was serving God by voluntarily withdrawing from a world into which he himself had sent her, and by foregoing duties which he had expressly ordained she should fulfil. Don't start at the sight of the cross; it is the emblem of Christianity, and not of a sect, who claim it exclusively, as if He who suffered on it died for them only. This one has hitherto been used in the negation of all human affections, may it shed a blessing on the exercise of yours."
I could hardly believe my ears; I didn't expect this of him. I knew he was romantic, and all that; but I did not think there was such a depth and strength of feeling in him.
"I wish," I said, "Jehu Judd could a heard you, Doctor, he would have seen the difference between the clear grit of the genuine thing and a counterfeit, that might have made him open his eyes and wink."
"Oh! Slick," said he, "come now, that's a good fellow, don't make me laugh, or I shall upset these glass cases;" and before Jessie could either accept or decline this act of gallantry, he managed to lead the way to the lake. The girls and I embarked in the canoe, and the rest of the party in the boat, but before I stepped into the bark, I hid the pipes of Peter behind the body of the moose, very much to the amusement of Jessie and the doctor, who both seemed to agree with me in giving a preference to the bugle.
I never saw so lovely a spot in this country as the one we had chosen for our repast, but it was not my intention to land until the preparations for our meal were all fully completed; so as soon as Jane leaped ashore, I took her place and asked Jessie to take another look at the lake with me. Desiring Jackson to recall us with his bugle when required, we coasted up the west side of the lake for about half a mile, to a place where I had observed two enormous birches bend over the water, into which they were ultimately doomed to fall, as the current had washed away the land where they stood, so as to leave them only a temporary resting-place. Into this arched and quiet retreat we impelled our canoe, and paused for awhile to enjoy its cool and refreshing shade.
"Jessie," said I, "this time to-morrow I shall be on the sea again."
"So soon?" she replied.
"Yes, dear; business calls us away, and life is not all like a day on the lake."
"No, no," she said, "not to me; it is the only really happy one I have spent since I left my country. You have all been so kind to me; you, the captain, and the doctor, all of you, you have made no difference, you have treated me as if I was one of you, as if I was born a lady."
"Hasn't the doctor always been kind to you?" I said.
"Oh, yes," she replied, "always very kind, but there is nobody here like him."
"He loves you very much."
"Yes," she said, in the most unembarrassed and natural manner possible, "he told me so himself."
"And can't you return his love?"
"I do love him as I do my father, brother, or sister."
"Couldn't you add the word husband?"
"Never, never," she said, "Mr Slick. He thinks he loves me now, but he may not think so always. He don't see the red blood now, he don't think of my Indian mother; when he comes nearer perhaps he will see plainer. No, no, half-cast and outcast, I belong to no race. Shall I go back to my tribe and give up my father and his people? they will not receive me, and I must fall asleep with my mother. Shall I stay here and cling to him and his race, that race that scorns the half-savage? never! never! when he dies I shall die too. I shall have no home then but the home of the spirits of the dead."
"Don't talk that way, Jessie," I said, "you make yourself wretched, because you don't see things as they are. It's your own fault if you are not happy. You say you have enjoyed this day."
"Oh, yes," she said, "no day like this; it never came before, it don't return again. It dies to-night, but will never be forgotten."
"Why not live where you are? Why not have your home here by this lake, and this mountain? His tastes are like yours, and yours like his; you can live two lives here,—the forest of the red man around you—the roof of the white one above you. To unite both is true enjoyment; there is no eye to stare here, no pride to exclude, no tongue to offend. You need not seek the society of others, let them solicit yours, and the doctor will make them respect it."
It was a subject on which her mind appeared to have been made up. She seemed like a woman that has lost a child, who hears your advice, and feels there is some truth in it, but the consolation reaches not her heart.
"It can't be," she said, with a melancholy smile, as if she was resigning something that was dear to her, "God or nature forbids it. If there is one God for both Indian and white man, he forbids it. If there are two great spirits, one for each, as my mother told me, then both forbid it. The great spirit of the pale faces," she continued, "is a wicked one, and the white man is wicked. Wherever he goes, he brings death and destruction. The woods recede before him—the wild fowl leave the shores—the fish desert their streams—the red man disappears. He calls his deer and his beaver, and his game (for they are all his, and were given to him for food and for clothing), and travels far, far away, and leaves the graves and the bones of his people behind him. But the white man pursues him, day and night, with his gun, and his axe, and fire-water; and what he spares with the rifle, rum, despair, and starvation destroy. See," she said, and she plucked a withered red cone from a shumack that wept over the water, "see that is dyed with the blood of the red man."
"That is prejudice," I said.
"No, it is the truth," she replied. "I know it. My people have removed twice, if not three times, and the next move will be to the sea or the grave."
"It is the effect of civilization, and arts, and the power of sciences and learning, over untutored nature," I said.
"If learning makes men wicked, it is a bad thing," she observed; "for the devil instructs men how to destroy. But rum ain't learning, it is poison; nor is sin civilization, nor are diseases blessings, nor madness reason."
"That don't alter things," I said, "if it is all true that you say, and there is too much reality in it, I fear; but the pale faces are not all bad, nor the red all good. It don't apply to your case."
"No," she said, "nature forbids the two races to mingle. That that is wild, continues wild; and the tame remains tame. The dog watches his sleeping master; and the wolf devours him. The wild-duck scorns confinement; and the partridge dies if compelled to dwell with domestic fowls. Look at those birds," she said, as she threw a chip among a flock of geese that were floating down the lake, "if the beautiful Indian wild bird consorts with one of them, the progeny die out. They are mongrels, they have not the grace, the shape, or the courage of either. Their doom is fixed. They soon disappear from the face of the earth and the waters. They are despised by both breeds;" and she shook her head, as if she scorned and loathed herself, and burst into a passionate flood of tears.
"Jessie," said I, and I paused a moment, for I wanted to give her a homoeopathic dose of common sense—and those little wee doses work like charms, that's a fact. "Jessie," says I, and I smiled, for I wanted her to shake off those voluntary trammels. "Jessie, the doctor ain't quite quite tame, and you ain't quite wild. You are both six of one, and half-a-dozen of the other, and just about as like as two peas."
Well it's astonishing what that little sentence did. An ounce of essence is worth a gallon of fluid. A wise saw is more valuable than a whole book, and a plain truth is better than an argument. She had no answer for that. She had been reasoning, without knowing it, as if in fact she had been in reality an Indian. She had imbibed in childhood the feelings of her mother, who had taken the first step and repented it—of one who had deserted, but had not been adopted—who became an exile and remained an alien—who had bartered her birthright for degradation and death. It is natural that regret for the past and despair for the future should have been the burden of the mournful ditties of such a woman; that she who had mated without love, and lived without affection, the slave, the drudge, but not the wife or companion of her master, should die with imprecations on her lips for a race who were the natural foes of her people, and who had reduced her to be an object of scorn and contempt to both. It is no wonder therefore poor Jessie had a repugnance to the union, when she remembered her mother, and the sad lesson her unhappy life and fearful death contained. It was a feeling difficult to overcome.
"Jessie," sais I, "nature, instead of forbiddin' it, approves of it; for like takes to like. I don't say it to please you, but you are as good as he is, or any white man in the world. Your forefathers on your mother's side are a brave, manly, intelligent race; they are free men, and have never been subdued or enslaved by any one: and if they have degenerated at all, it is because they have contracted, as you say, vices from the white man. You have reason to be proud of being descended from a race of warriors. On the other hand, your father is a Highlander, and they too have always been free, because they were brave; they are the noblest fellows in Europe. As for the English, there are none now, except in Wales, and they are called Taffies—which means lunatics, for they are awful proud, and their mountains are so high, every fellow says his ancestors were descended from the man in the moon. But the present race are a mixture of Taffies, French, Danes, Saxons, Scotch, and the Lord knows who all, and to my mind are all the better of it."
"But the colour," said she.
"As to colour!" said I, "nations differ in every shade, from black up to chalk white. The Portuguese, Italians, and Turks are darker than the Indian if anything; Spaniards and Greeks about the same."
"And do they intermarry?"
"I guess they do," said I; "the difference of language only stops them,—for it's hard to make love when you can't understand each other,—but colour never."
"Is that now really true?" she said; "for I am ignorant of the world."
"True as preachin'," said I, "and as plain as poverty."
She paused awhile, and said slowly:
"Well, I suppose if all the world says and does differently, I must be wrong, for I am unacquainted with everything but my own feelings; and my mother taught me this, and bade me never to trust a white man. I am glad I was wrong, for if I feel I am right, I am sure I shall be happy."
"Well," sais I, "I am sure you will be so, and this is just the place, above all others in the world, that will suit you, and make you so. Now," sais I, "Jessie, I will tell you a story;" and I told her the whole tale of Pocahontas; how she saved Captain Smith's life in the early settlement of Virginia, and afterwards married Mr Rolfe, and visited the court of England, where all the nobles sought her society. And then I gave her all the particulars of her life, illness, and death, and informed her that her son, who stood in the same relationship to the whites as she did, became a wealthy planter in Virginia, and that one of his descendants, lately deceased, was one of the most eloquent as well as one of the most distinguished men in the United States. It interested her uncommonly, and I have no doubt greatly contributed to confirm her in the decision she had come to. I will not trouble you, Squire, with the story, for it is so romantic, I believe everybody has heard of it. I promised to give her a book containing all the details.
The bugle now sounded our recall, and in a few minutes we were seated on the grass, and enjoying our meal with an appetite that exercise, excitement, and forest air never fail to give. Songs, trout-fishing, and stories agreeably occupied the afternoon; and when the sun began to cast long shadows from the mountain, we rembarked with our traps, and landed at the cove near the clump of trees where we started in the morning. While preparations were making for tea in the house, I lit my cigar to take a stroll with Cutler, and talk over our arrangements for an early start in the morrow, and proceeding immediately to sea. In the mean time, I briefly stated to the doctor that he would now find no further obstacle to his wishes, and counselled him to lose no time, while the impression was favourable, to bring his long-pending negotiation to a conclusion.
"Slick," said he, laughing, "your government ought to have prevailed upon you to remain in the diplomatic service. You are such a capital negotiator."
"Well," said I, "I believe I would have succeeded in that line; but do you know how?"
"By a plentiful use of soft sawder," said he.
"No, Doctor, I knew you would say that; and it ain't to be despised neither, I can tell you. No, it's because you go coolly to work, for you are negotiatin' for another. If you don't succeed, it's the fault of the mission, of course, and defeat won't break your heart; if you do carry your point, why, in the natur of things, it is all your own skill. I have done famously for you; but I made a bungling piece of business for myself, I assure you. What my brother, the lawyer, used to say is very true: 'A man who pleads his own cause has a fool for his client.' You can't praise yourself unless it's a bit of brag, and that I can do as well as any one, I do suppose; but you can't lay the whitewash on handily no more than you can brush the back of your own coat when it is on. Cutler and I will take a stroll, and do you invite Jessie out, to see the moon on the lake."
In about an hour, Peter, who had found his pipes to his infinite delight, intimated supper was ready; and the dispersed groups returned, and sat down to a meal which, in addition to the tea and coffee and its usual accompaniments at country-houses, had some substantial viands for those, like myself, who had done more talking than eating at dinner. In a short time, the girls retired for the night, and we arranged for a peep of day return.
"Mr Slick," said the doctor, "I have ordered the boy to take the moose down to the village as my share of the sea-stores. Will you give me leave to go a part of the cruise with you?"
"With great pleasure," said I; "it's just what I was going to ask the favour of you to do. It's the very identical thing."
"Come, Peter," said he, "I will show you where to turn in;" and returning, in a few minutes, with Jackson, desired him to attend the captain.
When we were alone, he said:
"Come this way, Mr Slick. Put your hat on—I want you to take a turn with me."
And leading me down to the verge of the woods, where I saw a light, we entered a large bark wigwam, where he said he often slept during the hot weather.
It was not made in the usual conical form, but resembled a square tent, which among Indians generally indicates there is a large family, and that they propose to occupy the same spot for some time. In fact, it was half wigwam, half summer-house, resembling the former in appearance, construction, and material; but was floored on account of the damp ground, and contained a small table, two chairs, and a couple of rustic seats large enough to sleep upon, which, on the present occasion, had hunters' beds on them. The tent, or more properly camp, as it is generally called here, was so contrived as to admit of the door being shifted according to the wind. On the present occasion, the opening was towards the lake, on which the moon was casting its silver light.
Here we sat till a late hour, discoursing, over our cigars, on a variety of subjects, the first and last of which topic was Jessie, who had, it appeared, at last accepted the Bachelor Beaver. Altogether, it was a charming visit; and left a most agreeable recollection of the enjoyment that is to be found in "a day and a night in the woods."
CHAPTER XII. THE BETROTHAL.
Early the following morning, just as the first dawn of day was streaking the eastern sky, Jackson's bugle sounded the reveill, and we were all soon on foot and in motion. The moose was lifted into the cart, and the boy despatched with it to the harbour, so as to have it in readiness for putting on board as soon as we should arrive, and a cup of coffee was prepared for us by Betty, as she said, to keep the cold out of our stomach while travelling. The doctor had some few arrangements to make for his voyage, and Cutler and I set out in advance, on foot. It was agreed that Ovey, Peter, and his daughters, should follow, as soon as possible, in the waggons, and breakfast with us on board of the Black Hawk.
"Mr Jackson," said I, as I saw him standing at the door.
"Yes, Sir," and he was at my side in a minute, and honoured me with one of his most gracious smiles, and respectful military salutes.
There is great magic in that word "Mr," when used to men of low degree, and in "Squire" for those just a notch higher. Servitude, at best, is but a hard lot. To surrender your will to another, to come and go at his bidding, and to answer a bell as a dog does a whistle, ain't just the lot one would choose, if a better one offered. A master may forget this, a servant never does. The great art, as well as one of the great Christian duties, therefore, is not to make him feel it. Bidding is one thing, and commanding is another. If you put him on good terms with himself, he is on good terms with you, and affection is a stronger tie than duty. The vanity of mankind is such, that you always have the ingratitude of helps dinned into your ears, from one year's end to another, and yet these folk never heard of the ingratitude of employers, and wouldn't believe there was such a thing in the world, if you were to tell them. Ungrateful, eh! Why, didn't I pay him his wages? wasn't he well boarded? and didn't I now and then let him go to a frolic? Yes, he wouldn't have worked without pay. He couldn't have lived if he hadn't been fed, and he wouldn't have stayed if you hadn't given him recreation now and then. It's a poor heart that don't rejoice sometimes. So much thanks he owes you. Do you pray that it may always rain at night or on Sundays? Do you think the Lord is the Lord of masters only? But he has been faithful as well as diligent, and careful as well as laborious, he has saved you more than his wages came to—are there no thanks for this? Pooh! you remind me of my poor old mother. Father used to say she was the most unreasonable woman in the world—for when she hired a gall she expected perfection, for two dollars and a half a month.
Mr Jackson! didn't that make him feel good all over? Why shouldn't he be called Mr, as well as that selfish conceited M'Clure, Captain? Yes, there is a great charm in that are word, "Mr." It was a wrinkle I picked up by accident, very early in life. We had to our farm to Slickville, an Irish servant, called Paddy Monaghan—as hard-working a critter as ever I see, but none of the boys could get him to do a blessed thing for them. He'd do his plowin' or reapin', or whatever it was, but the deuce a bit would he leave it to oblige Sally or the boys, or any one else, but father; he had to mind him, in course, or put his three great coats on, the way he came, one atop of the other, to cover the holes of the inner ones, and walk. But, as for me, he'd do anythin' I wanted. He'd drop his spade, and help me catch a horse, or he'd do my chores for me, and let me go and attend my mink and musquash traps, or he'd throw down his hoe and go and fetch the cows from pasture, that I might slick up for a party—in short, he'd do anything in the world for me.
"Well, they all wondered how under the sun Paddy had taken such a shindy to me, when nobody else could get him to budge an inch for them. At last, one day, mother asked me how on airth it was—for nothin' strange goes on long, but a woman likes to get at the bottom of it.
"Well," sais I, "mother, if you won't whisper a syllable to anybody about it, I'll tell you."
"Who, me," sais she, "Sammy?" She always called me Sammy when she wanted to come over me. "Me tell? A person who can keep her own secrets can keep yours, Sammy. There are some things I never told your father."
"Such as what?" sais I.
"A-hem," said she. "A-hem—such as he oughtn't to know, dear. Why, Sam, I am as secret as the grave! How is it, dear?"
"Well," sais I, "I will tell you. This is the way: I drop Pat and Paddy altogether, and I call him Mr Monaghan, and never say a word about the priest."
"Why, Sammy," said she, "where in the world did you pick up all your cuteness? I do declare you are as sharp as a needle. Well, I never. How you do take after me! boys are mothers' sons. It's only galls who take after their father."
It's cheap coin, is civility, and kindness is a nice bank to fund it in, Squire: for it comes back with compound interest. He used to call Josiah, Jo, and brother Eldad, Dad, and then yoke 'em both together, as "spalpeens," or "rapscallions," and he'd vex them by calling mother, when he spoke to them of her, the "ould woman," and Sally, "that young cratur, Sal." But he'd show the difference when he mentioned me; it was always "the young master," and when I was with him, it was "your Honour." Lord, I shall never forget wunst, when I was a practisin' of ball-shooting at a target, Pat brought out one of my muskits, and sais he: "Would your Honour just let me take a crack at it. You only make a little round hole in it, about the size of a fly's eye; but, by the piper that played before Moses, I'll knock it all to smithereens."
"Yes," sais I, "Mr Monaghan; fire and welcome."
Well, up he comes to the toe-line, and puts himself into attitude, scientific like. First he throws his left leg out, and then braces back the right one well behind him, and then he shuts his left eye to, and makes an awful wry face, as if he was determined to keep every bit of light out of it, and then he brought his gun up to the shoulder with a duce of a flourish, and took a long, steady aim. All at once he lowered the piece.
"I think I'll do it better knalin', your Honour," said he, "the way I did when I fired at Lord Blarney's land-agent, from behind the hedge, for lettin' a farm to a Belfast heretic. Oh! didn't I riddle him, your Honour." He paused a moment, his tongue had run away with him. "His coat, I main," said he. "I cut the skirts off as nait as a tailor could. It scared him entirely, so, when he see the feathers flyin' that way, he took to flight, and I never sot eyes on him no more. I shouldn't wonder if he is runnin' yet."
So he put down one knee on the ground, and adjusting himself said, "I won't leave so much as a hair of that target, to tell where it stood." He took a fresh aim, and fired, and away he went, heels over head, the matter of three or four times, and the gun flew away behind him, ever so far.
"Oh!" sais he, "I am kilt entirely. I am a dead man, Master Sam. By the holy poker, but my arm is broke."
"I am afraid my gun is broke," said I, and off I set in search of it.
"Stop, yer Honour," said he, "for the love of Heaven, stop, or she'll be the death of you."
"What?" sais I.
"There are five more shots in her yet, Sir. I put in six cartridges, so as to make sure of that paper kite, and only one of them is gone off yet. Oh! my shoulder is out, Master Sam. Don't say a word of it, Sir, to the ould cratur, and—"
"To who?" said I.
"To her ladyship, the mistress," said he, "and I'll sarve you by day and by night."
Poor Pat! you were a good-hearted creature naturally, as most of your countrymen are, if repealers, patriots, and demagogues of all sorts and sizes, would only let you alone. Yes, there is a great charm in that word "Mr."
So, sais I, "Mr Jackson!"
"Yes, Sir," said he.
"Let me look at your bugle."
"Here it is, your Honour."
"What a curious lookin' thing it is," sais I, "and what's all them little button-like things on it with long shanks?"
"Keys, Sir," said he.
"Exactly," sais I, "they unlock the music, I suppose, don't they, and let it out? Let me see if I could blow it."
"Try the pipes, Mr Slick," said Peter. "Tat is nothin' but a prass cow-horn as compared to the pagpipes."
"No, thank you," sais I, "it's only a Highlander can make music out of that."
"She never said a wiser word tan tat," he replied, much gratified.
"Now," sais I, "let me blow this, does it take much wind?"
"No," said Jackson, "not much, try it, Sir."
"Well, I put it to my lips, and played a well-known air on it. "It's not hard to play, after all, is it, Jackson?"
"No, Sir," said he, looking delighted, "nothing is ard to a man as knows how, as you do."
"Tom," sais Betty, "don't that do'ee good? Oh, Sir, I ain't eard that since I left the hold country, it's what the guards has used to be played in the mail-coaches has was. Oh, Sir, when they comed to the town, it used to sound pretty; many's the time I have run to the window to listen to it. Oh, the coaches was a pretty sight, Sir. But them times is all gone," and she wiped a tear from her eye with the corner of her apron, a tear that the recollection of early days had called up from the fountain of her heart.
Oh, what a volume does one stray thought of the past contain within itself. It is like a rocket thrown up in the night. It suddenly expands into a brilliant light, and sheds a thousand sparkling meteors, that scatter in all directions, as if inviting attention each to its own train. Yes, that one thought is the centre of many, and awakens them all to painful sensibility. Perhaps it is more like a vivid flash of lightning, it discloses with intense brightness the whole landscape, and exhibits, in their minutest form and outline, the very leaves and flowers that lie hid in the darkness of night.
"Jessie," said I, "will you imitate it?"
I stopt to gaze on her for a moment—she stood in the doorway—a perfect model for a sculptor. But oh, what chisel could do justice to that face—it was a study for a painter. Her whole soul was filled with those clear beautiful notes, that vibrated through the frame, and attuned every nerve, till it was in harmony with it. She was so wrapt in admiration, she didn't notice what I observed, for I try in a general way that nothing shall escape me; but as they were behind us all, I just caught a glimpse of the doctor (as I turned my head suddenly) withdrawing his arm from her waist. She didn't know it, of course, she was so absorbed in the music. It ain't likely she felt him, and if she had, it ain't probable she would have objected to it. It was natural he should like to press the heart she had given him; wasn't it now his? and wasn't it reasonable he should like to know how it beat? He was a doctor, and doctors like to feel pulses, it comes sorter habitual to them, they can't help it. They touch your wrist without knowing it, and if it is a woman's, why their hand, like brother Josiah's cases that went on all fours, crawls up on its fingers, till it gets to where the best pulse of all is. Ah, Doctor, there is Highland blood in that heart, and it will beat warmly towards you, I know. I wonder what Peter would have said, if he had seen what I did. But then he didn't know nothin' about pulses.
"Jessie," said I, "imitate that for me, dear. It is the last exercise of that extraordinary power I shall ever hear."
"Play it again," she said, "that I may catch the air."
"Is it possible," said I to myself, "you didn't hear it after all? It is the first time your little heart was ever pressed before, perhaps it beat so loud you couldn't distinguish the bugle notes. Was it the new emotion or the new music that absorbed you so? Oh, Jessie, don't ask me again what natur is."
Well, I played it again for her, and instantly she gave the repetition with a clearness, sweetness, and accuracy, that was perfectly amazing. Cutler and I then took leave for the present, and proceeded on our way to the shore.
"Ah, Sir!" said Jackson, who accompanied us to the bars, "it's a long while ago since I eard that hair. Warn't them mail-coaches pretty things, Sir? Hon the hold King's birthday, Sir, when they all turned out with new arness and coaches fresh painted, and coachman and guard in new toggery, and four as beautiful bits of blood to each on 'em as was to be found in England, warn't it a sight to behold, Sir? The world could show nothin' like it, Sir. And to think they are past and gone, it makes one's eart hache. They tells me the coachman now, Sir, has a dirty black face, and rides on a fender before a large grate, and flourishes a red ot poker instead of a whip. The guard, Sir, they tells me, is no—"
"Good bye, Mr Jackson;" and I shook hands with him.
"Isn't that too bad, Sir, now?" he said. "Why, here is Betty again, Sir, with that d—d hat, and a lecture about the stroke. Good bye, your Honour," said he.
When we came to the bridge where the road curved into the woods, I turned and took a last look at the place where I had spent such an agreeable day.
I don't envy you it, Doctor, but I wish I had such a lovely place at Slickville as that. What do you think, Sophy, eh? I have an idea you and I could be very happy there, don't you?
"Oh! Mr Slick," said Jehu Judd, who was the first person I saw at the door of Peter's house, "what an everlastin' long day was yesterday! I did nothing but renew the poultice, look in the glass, and turn into bed again. It's off now, ain't it?"
"Yes," sais I, "and we are off, too, in no time."
"But the trade," said he; "let's talk that over."
"Haven't time," sais I; "it must be short meter, as you say when you are to home to Quaco, practising Sall Mody (as you call it). Mackarel is five dollars a barrel, sains thirty—say yes or no, that's the word."
"How can you have the conscience?" said he.
"I never talk of conscience in trade," sais I; "only of prices. Bargain or no bargain, that's the ticket."
"I can't," he said.
"Well, then, there is an end of it," says I. "Good bye, friend Judd."
Sais he: "You have a mighty short way with you, my friend."
"A short way is better than a long face," said I.
"Well," said he, "I can't do without the sains (nets) no how I can fix it, so I suppose I must give the price. But I hope I may be skinned alive if you ain't too keen."
"Whoever takes a fancy to skin you, whether dead or alive, will have a tough job of it, I reckon," sais I, "it's as tight as the bark of a tree."
"For two pins," said he, "I'd tan your hide for you now."
"Ah," said I, "you are usin' your sain before you pay for it. That's not fair."
"Why?" said he.
"Because," sais I, "you are insaine to talk that way."
"Well, well," said he, "you do beat the devil."
"You can't say that," sais I, "for I hain't laid a hand on you. Come," sais I, "wake snakes, and push off with the Captain, and get the fish on board. Cutler, tell the mate, mackarel is five dollars the barrel, and nets thirty each. We shall join you presently, and so, friend Judd, you had better put the licks in and make haste, or there will be 'more fiddling and dancing and serving the devil this morning.'"
He turned round, and gave me a look of intense hatred, and shook his fist at me. I took off my hat and made him a low bow, and said "That's right, save your breath to cool your broth, or to groan with when you get home, and have a refreshing time with the Come-outers.
'My father was a preacher, A mighty holy man; My mother was a Methodist, But I'm a Tunyan.'"
He became as pale as a mad nigger at this. He was quite speechless with rage, and turning from me, said nothing, and proceeded with the captain to the boat. It was some time before the party returned from the lake, but the two waggons were far apart, and Jessie and the doctor came last—was it that the road was bad, and he was a poor driver? perhaps so. A man who loves the woods don't know or care much about roads. It don't follow because a feller is a good shot, he is a good whip; or was it they had so much to say, the short distance didn't afford time? Well, I ain't experienced in these matters, though perhaps you are, Squire. Still, though Cupid is represented with bows and arrows (and how many I have painted on my clocks, for they always sold the best), I don't think he was ever sketched in an old one-hoss waggon. A canoe would have suited you both better, you would have been more at home there. If I was a gall I would always be courted in one, for you can't romp there, or you would be capsized. It's the safest place I know of. It's very well to be over head and ears in love, but my eyes, to be over head and ears in the water, is no place for lovemaking, unless it is for young whales, and even they spout and blow like all wrath when they come up, as if you might have too much of a good thing, don't they?
They both looked happy—Jessie was unsophisticated, and her countenance, when it turned on me, seemed to say, "Mr Slick, I have taken your advice, and I am delighted I did." And the doctor looked happy, but his face seemed to say, "Come now, Slick, no nonsense, please, let me alone, that's a good fellow."
Peter perceived something he didn't understand. He had seen a great deal he didn't comprehend since he left the Highlands, and heard a great many things he didn't know the meaning of. It was enough for him if he could guess it.
"Toctor," said he, "how many kind o' partridges are there in this country?"
"Two," said the simple-minded naturalist, "spruce and birch."
"Which is the prettiest?"
"And the smartest?"
"Poth love to live in the woods, don't they?"
"Well there is a difference in colour. Ta spruce is red flesh, and ta birch white, did you ever know them mix?"
"Often," said the doctor, who began to understand this allegorical talk of the North-West trader, and feel uncomfortable, and therefore didn't like to say no. "Well, then, the spruce must stay with the pirch, or the pirch live with the spruce," continued Peter. "The peech wood between the two are dangerous to both, for it's only fit for cuckoos."
Peter looked chuffy and sulky. There was no minister at the remote post he had belonged to in the nor-west. The governor there read a sermon of a Sunday sometimes, but he oftener wrote letters. The marriages, when contracted, were generally limited to the period of service of the employs, and sometimes a wife was bought, or at others, entrapped like a beaver. It was a civil or uncivil contract, as the case might be. Wooing was a thing he didn't understand; for what right had a woman to an opinion of her own? Jessie felt for her father, the doctor, and herself, and retired crying. The doctor said:
"Peter, you know me, I am an honest man; give me your confidence, and then I will ask the Chief for the hand of his daughter."
"Tat is like herself," said Peter. "And she never doubted her; and there is her hand, which is her word. Tam the coffee! let us have a glass of whiskey."
And he poured out three, and we severally drank to each other's health, and peace was once more restored.
Thinks I to myself, now is the time to settle this affair; for the doctor, Peter, and Jessie are all like children; it's right to show 'em how to act.
"Doctor," sais I, "just see if the cart with the moose has arrived; we must be a moving soon, for the wind is fair."
As soon as he went on this errand, "Peter," sais I, "the doctor wants to marry your daughter, and she, I think, is not unwilling, though, between you and me, you know better than she does what is good for her. Now the doctor don't know as much of the world as you do. He has never seen Scotland, nor the north-west, nor travelled as you have, and observed so much."
"She never said a truer word in her life," said Peter. "She has seen the Shetlands and the Rocky Mountains—the two finest places in the world, and crossed the sea and the Red River; pesides Canada and Nova Scotia, and seen French, and pairs, and Indians, and wolves, and plue noses, and puffaloes, and Yankees, and prairie dogs, and Highland chiefs, and Indian chiefs, and other great shentlemen, pesides peavers with their tails on. She has seen the pest part of the world, Mr Slick." And he lighted his pipe in his enthusiasm, when enumerating what he had seen, and looked as if he felt good all over.
"Well," sais I, "the doctor, like an honourable man, has asked Squire Peter McDonald for his daughter; now, when he comes in, call Jessie and place her hand in his, and say you consent, and let the spruce and birch partridge go and live near the lake together."
"Tat she will," said he, "for ta toctor is a shentleman pred and porn, though she hasn't the honour to be a Highlander."
As soon as the Bachelor Beaver returned, Peter went on this paternal mission, for which I prepared my friend; and the betrothal was duly performed, when he said in Gaelic:
"Dhia Beammich sibh le choile mo chlam! God bless you both, my children!"
As soon as the ceremony was over, "Now," sais I, "we must be a movin'. Come, Peter, let us go on board. Where are the pipes? Strike up your merriest tune."
And he preceded us, playing, "Nach dambsadh am minster," in his best manner—if anything can be said to be good, where bad is the best. When we arrived at the beach, Cutler and my old friend, the black steward, were ready to receive us. It would have been a bad omen to have had Sorrow meet the betrothed pair so soon, but that was only a jocular name given to a very merry negro.
"Well, Sorrow," sais I, as we pushed off in the boat, "how are you?"
"Very bad, Massa," he said, "I ab been used most rediculous shamful since you left. Time was berry dull on board since you been withdrawn from de light ob your countenance, and de crew sent on shore, and got a consignment ob rum, for benefit ob underwriters, and all consarned as dey said, and dey sung hymns, as dey call nigga songs, like Lucy Neal and Lucy Long, and den dey said we must hab ablution sarmon; so dey fust corned me, Massa."
"In the beef or pork-barrel, Sorrow?" said I.
"Oh, Lord bless you, Massa, in needer; you knows de meaning ob dat are word—I is sure you does—dey made me most tosicated, Massa, and dey said, 'Sorrow, come preach ablution sarmon.' Oh, Massa, I was berry sorry, it made me feel all ober like ague; but how could I insist so many; what was I to do, dey fust made me der slave, and den said, 'Now tell us bout mancipation.' Well, dey gub me glass ob rum, and I swallowed it—berry bad rum—well, dat wouldn't do. Well, den dey gub me anoder glass, and dat wouldn't do; dis here child hab trong head, Massa, werry trong, but he hoped de rum was all out, it was so bad; den dey rejectioned anoder in my face, and I paused and crastimated; sais I, 'Masters, is you done?' for dis child was afeard, Massa, if he drank all de bottle empty, dey would tro dat in his face too, so sais I:
"'Masters, I preaches under protest, against owners and ship for bandonment; but if I must put to sea, and dis niggar don't know how to steer by lunar compass, here goes.' Sais I, 'My dear bredren,' and dey all called out:
"'You farnal niggar you! do you call us bredren, when you is as black as de debbil's hind leg?'
"'I beg your most massiful pardon,' sais I, 'but as you is ablutionists, and when you preach, calls us regraded niggars your coloured bredren, I tought I might venture to foller in de same suit, if I had a card ob same colour.'
"'Well done, Uncle Tom,' sais they. 'Well done, Zip Coon,' and dey made me swallow anoder glass ob naked truth. Dis here child has a trong head, Massa, dat are a fac. He stand so much sun, he ain't easy combustioned in his entails.
"'Go on,' sais they.
"Well, my bredren," sais I, "I will dilate to you the valy of a niggar, as put in one scale and white man in de oder. Now, bredren, you know a sparrer can't fall to de ground no how he can fix it, but de Lord knows it—in course ob argument you do. Well, you knows twelve sparrers sell in de market for one penny. In course ob respondence you do. How much more den does de Lord care for a niggar like me, who is worth six hundred dollars and fifty cents, at de least? So, gentlemen, I is done, and now please, my bredren, I will pass round de hat wid your recurrence.'
"Well, dey was pretty high, and dey behaved like gentlemen, I must submit dat; dey gub me four dollars, dey did—dey is great friends to niggar, and great mancipationists, all ob dem; and I would hab got two dollars more, I do raily conclude, if I hadn't a called 'em my bredren. Dat was a slip ob de lockjaw."
"I must inquire into this," said Cutler, "it's the most indecent thing I ever beard of. It is downright profanity; it is shocking."
"Very," said I, "but the sermon warn't a bad one; I never heerd a niggar reason before; I knew they could talk, and so can Lord Tandemberry; but as for reasoning, I never heerd either one or the other attempt it before. There is an approach to logic in that."
"There is a very good hit at the hypocrisy of abolitionists in it," said the doctor; "that appeal about my bredren is capital, and the passing round of the hat is quite evangelical."
"Oigh," said Peter, "she have crossed the great sea and the great prairies, and she haven't heerd many sarmons, for Sunday don't come but once a month there, but dat is the pest she ever heerd, it is so short."
"Slick," said Cutler, "I am astonished at you. Give way there, my men; ease the bow oar."
"Exactly," sais I, "Cutler—give way there, my man; ease the bow oar—that's my maxim too—how the devil can you learn if you don't hear?" sais I.
"How can you learn good," said he, "if you listen to evil?"
"Let's split the difference," said I, laughing, "as I say in swapping; let's split the difference. If you don't study mankind how can you know the world at all? But if you want to preach—"
"Come, behave yourself," said he, laughing; "lower down the man ropes there."
"To help up the women," said I.
"Slick," said he, "it's no use talking; you are incorrigible."
The breakfast was like other breakfasts of the same kind; and, as the wind was fair, we could not venture to offer any amusements to our guests. So in due time we parted, the doctor alone, of the whole party, remaining on board. Cutler made the first move by ascending the companion-ladder, and I shook hands with Peter as a hint for him to follow. Jessie, her sister, Ovey, and I, remained a few minutes longer in the cabin. The former was much agitated.
"Good bye," said she, "Mr Slick! Next to him," pointing to the Bachelor Beaver, "you have been the kindest and best friend I ever had. You have made me feel what it is to be happy;" and woman-like, to prove her happiness, burst out a crying, and threw her arms round my neck and kissed me. "Oh! Mr Slick! do we part for ever?"
"For ever!" sais I, trying to cheer her up; "for ever is a most thundering long word. No, not for ever, nor for long either. I expect you and the doctor will come and visit us to Slickville this fall;" and I laid an emphasis on that word "us," because it referred to what I had told her of Sophy.
"Oh!" said she, "how kind that is!"
"Well," sais I, "now I will do a kinder thing. Jane and I will go on deck, and leave you and the doctor to bid each other good-bye." As I reached the door, I turned and said: "Jessie, teach him Gaelic the way Flora taught me—do bhileau boidheach (with your pretty lips)."
As the boat drew alongside, Peter bid me again a most affectionate, if not a most complimentary farewell.
"She has never seen many Yankees herself," said Peter, "but prayin' Joe, the horse-stealer—tarn him—and a few New England pedlars, who asked three hundred per shent for their coots, but Mr Slick is a shentleman, every inch of him, and the pest of them she ever saw, and she will pe glad to see her again whenever she comes this way."
When they were all seated in the boat, Peter played a doleful ditty, which I have no doubt expressed the grief of his heart. But I am sorry to say it was not much appreciated on board of the "Black Hawk." By the time they reached the shore, the anchor was up, the sails trimmed, and we were fairly out of Ship Harbour.
CHAPTER XIII. A FOGGY NIGHT.
The wind, what there was of it, was off shore; it was a light north-wester, but after we made an offing of about ten miles, it failed us, being evidently nothing but a land breeze, and we were soon becalmed. After tossing about for an hour or two, a light cat's-paw gave notice that a fresh one was springing up, but it was from the east, and directly ahead.
"We shall make poor work of this," said the pilot, "and I am afraid it will bring up a fog with it, which is a dangerous thing on this coast, I would advise therefore returning to Ship Harbour," but the captain said, "Business must be attended to, and as there was nothing more of the kind to be done there, we must only have patience and beat up for Port Liscomb, which is a great resort for fishermen." I proposed we should take the wind as we found it, and run for Chesencook, a French settlement, a short distance to the westward of us, and effect our object there, which I thought very probable, as no American vessels put in there if they can avoid it. This proposition met the approval of all parties, so we put the "Black Hawk" before the wind, and by sunset were safely and securely anchored. The sails were scarcely furled before the fog set in, or rather rose up, for it seemed not so much to come from the sea as to ascend from it, as steam rises from heated water.
It seemed the work of magic, its appearance was so sudden. A moment before there was a glorious sunset, now we had impenetrable darkness. We were enveloped as it were in a cloud, the more dense perhaps because its progress was arrested by the spruce hills, back of the village, and it had receded upon itself. The little French settlement (for the inhabitants were all descended from the ancient Acadians) was no longer discernible, and heavy drops of water fell from the rigging on the deck. The men put on their "sow-wester" hats and yellow oiled cotton jackets. Their hair looked grey, as if there had been sleet falling. There was a great change in the temperature—the weather appeared to have suddenly retrograded to April, not that it was so cold, but that it was raw and uncomfortable. We shut the companion-door to keep it from descending there, and paced the deck and discoursed upon this disagreeable vapour bath, its cause, its effects on the constitution, and so on.
"It does not penetrate far into the country," said the doctor, "and is by no means unhealthy—as it is of a different character altogether from the land fog. As an illustration however of its density, and of the short distance it rises from the water, I will tell you a circumstance to which I was an eyewitness. I was on the citadel hill at Halifax once, and saw the points of the masts of a mail-steamer above the fog, as she was proceeding up the harbour, and I waited there to ascertain if she could possibly escape George's Island, which lay directly in her track, but which it was manifest her pilot could not discern from the deck. In a few moments she was stationary. All this I could plainly perceive, although the hull of the vessel was invisible. Some idea may be formed of the obscurity occasioned by the fog, from the absurd stories that were waggishly put abroad at the time of the accident. It was gravely asserted that the first notice the sentinel had of her approach, was a poke in the side from her jibboom, which knocked him over into the moat and broke two of his ribs, and it was also maintained with equal truth that when she came to the wharf it was found she had brought away a small brass gun on her bowsprit, into which she had thrust it like the long trunk of an elephant."
"Well," sais I, "let Halifax alone for hoaxes. There are some droll coves in that place, that's a fact. Many a laugh have I had there, I tell you. But, Doctor," sais I, "just listen to the noises on shore here at Chesencook. It's a curious thing to hear the shout of the anxious mother to her vagrant boy to return, before night makes it too dark to find his way home, ain't it? and to listen to the noisy gambols of invisible children, the man in the cloud bawling to his ox, as if the fog had affected their hearing instead of their sight, the sharp ring of the axe at the wood pile, and the barking of the dogs as they defy or salute each other. One I fancy is a grumbling bark, as much as to say, 'No sleep for us, old boy, to-night, some of these coasters will be making love to our sheep as they did last week, if we don't keep a bright look out. If you hear a fellow speak English, pitch right into the heretic, and bite like a snapping turtle. I always do so in the dark, for they can't swear to you when they don't see you. If they don't give me my soup soon (how like a French dog that, ain't it?) I'll have a cod-fish for my supper to-night, off of old Jodry's flakes at the other end of the harbour, for our masters bark so loud they never bite, so let them accuse little Paul Longille of theft.' I wonder if dogs do talk, Doctor?" said I.
"There is no doubt of it," he replied. "I believe both animals and birds have some means of communicating to each other all that is necessary for them—I don't go further."
"Well, that's reasonable," sais I; "I go that figure, too, but not a cent higher. Now there is a nigger," sais I; and I would have given him a wink if I could, and made a jupe of my head towards Cutler, to show him I was a goin' to get the captain's dander up for fun; but what's the use of a wink in a fog? In the first place, it ain't easy to make one; your lids are so everlastin' heavy; and who the plague can see you if you do? and if he did notice it, he would only think you were tryin' to protect your peepers, that's all. Well, a wink is no better nor a nod to a blind horse; so I gave him a nudge instead. "Now, there is the nigger, Doctor," sais I, "do you think he has a soul?1 It's a question I always wanted to ask Brother Eldad, for I never see him a dissectin' of a darky. If I had, I should have known; for nature has a place for everything, and everything in it's place."
1 This very singular and inconsequential rhodomontade of Mr Slick is one of those startling pieces of levity that a stranger often hears from a person of his class in his travels on this side of the water. The odd mixture of strong religious feeling and repulsive looseness of conversation on serious subjects, which may here and there be found in his Diary, naturally results from a free association with persons of all or no creeds. It is the most objectionable trait in his character—to reject it altogether would be to vary the portrait he has given us of himself—to admit it, lowers the estimate we might otherwise be disposed to form of him; but, as he has often observed, what is the use of a sketch if it be not faithful?
"Mr Slick," said Cutler.—he never called me Mr before, and it showed he was mad.—"do you doubt it?"
"No," sais I, "I don't; my only doubt is whether they have three?"
"What in the world do you mean?" said he.
"Well," sais I, "two souls we know they have—their great fat splaw feet show that, and as hard as jackasses' they are too; out the third is my difficulty; if they have a spiritual soul, where is it? We ain't jest satisfied about its locality in ourselves. Is it in the heart, or the brain, or where does it hang out? We know geese have souls, and we know where to find them."
"Oh, oh!" said Cutler.
"Cut off the legs and wings and breast of the goose," sais I, "and split him down lengthways, and right agin the back-bone is small cells, and there is the goose's soul, it's black meat, pretty much nigger colour. Oh, it's grand! It's the most delicate part of the bird. It's what I always ask for myself, when folks say, 'Mr Slick, what part shall I help you to—a slice of the breast, a wing, a side-bone, or the deacon's nose, or what?' Everybody laughs at that last word, especially if there is a deacon at table, for it sounds unctious, as he calls it, and he can excuse a joke on it. So he laughs himself, in token of approbation of the tid-bits being reserved for him. 'Give me the soul,' sais I; and this I will say, a most delicious thing it is, too. Now, don't groan, Cutler—keep that for the tooth-ache, or a campmeetin'; it's a waste of breath; for as we don't exactly know where our own souls reside, what harm is there to pursue such an interesting investigation as to our black brethren. My private opinion is, if a nigger has one, it is located in his heel."
"Oh, Mr Slick!" said he, "oh!" and he held up both hands.
"Well," sais I, "Cutler, just listen to reason now, just hear me; you have been all round the world, but never in it; now, I have been a great deal in it, but don't care for goin' round it. It don't pay. Did you ever see a nigger who had the gout? for they feed on the best, and drink of the best, when they are household servants down south, and often have the gout. If you have, did you ever hear one say, 'Get off my toes?' No, never, nor any other created critter. They always say, 'Get off my heel.' They are all like Lucy Long, 'when her foot was in the market-house, her heel was in Main-street.' It is the pride and boast of a darky. His head is as thick as a ram's, but his heel is very sensitive. Now, does the soul reside there? Did you ever study a dead nigger's heel, as we do a horse's frog. All the feeling of a horse is there. Wound that, and he never recovers; he is foundered—his heart is broke. Now, if a nigger has a soul, and it ain't in his gizzard, and can't in natur be in his skull, why, it stands to reason it must be in his heel."
"Oh, Mr Slick," said Cutler, "I never thought I should have heard this from you. It's downright profanity."
"It's no such thing," sais I, "it's merely a philosophical investigation. Mr Cutler," sais I, "let us understand each other. I have been brought up by a minister as well as you, and I believe your father, the clergyman at Barnstaple, was as good a man as ever lived; but Barnstaple is a small place. My dear old master, Mr Hopewell, was an old man who had seen a great deal in his time, and knew a great deal, for he had 'gone through the mill.'"
"What is that?" said he.
"Why," sais I, "when he was a boy, he was intended, like Washington, for a land-surveyor, and studied that branch of business, and was to go to the woods to lay out lots. Well, a day or two arter he was diplomatised as a surveyor, he went to bathe in a mill-pond, and the mill was a goin' like all statiee, and sucked him into the flume, and he went through into the race below, and came out t'other side with both his legs broke. It was a dreadful accident, and gave him serious reflections, for as he lay in bed, he thought he might just as easily have broke his neck. Well, in our country about Slickville, any man arter that who was wise and had experience of life, was said to have 'gone through the mill.' Do you take?"
But he didn't answer.
"Well, your father and my good old friend brought us both up religiously, and I hope taught us what was right. But, Mr Cutler—"
"Don't call me Mr," said he.
"Well, Cutler, then, I have been 'through the mill,' in that sense. I have acquired a knowledge of the world; if I havn't, the kicks I have taken must have fallen on barren ground. I know the chalk line in life won't do always to travel by. If you go straight a-head, a bottomless quag or a precipice will bring you up all standing as sure as fate. Well, they don't stop me, for I give them the go-by, and make a level line without a tunnel, or tubular bridge, or any other scientific folly; I get to the end my own way—and it ain't a slow one neither. Let me be, and put this in your pipe. I have set many a man straight before now, but I never put one on the wrong road since I was raised. I dare say you have heard I cheated in clocks—I never did. I have sold a fellow one for five pounds that cost me one; skill did that. Let him send to London, and get one of Barraud's, as father did, for twenty-five pounds sterling. Will it keep better time? I guess not. Is that a case of sell? Well, my knowledge of horse-flesh ain't to be sneezed at. I buy one for fifty dollars and sell him for two hundred; that's skill again—it ain't a cheat. A merchant, thinking a Russian war inevitable, buys flour at four dollars a barrel, and sells it in a month at sixteen. Is that a fraud? There is roguery in all trades but our own. Let me alone therefore. There is wisdom sometimes in a fool's answer; the learned are simple, the ignorant wise; hear them both; above all, hear them out; and if they don't talk with a looseness, draw them out. If Newman had talked as well as studied, he never would have quitted his church. He didn't convince himself he was wrong; he bothered himself, so he didn't at last know right from wrong. If other folks had talked freely, they would have met him on the road, and told him, 'You have lost your way, old boy; there is a river a-head of you, and a very civil ferryman there; he will take you over free gratis for nothing; but the deuce a bit will he bring you back, there is an embargo that side of the water.' Now let me alone; I don't talk nonsense for nothing, and when you tack this way and that way, and beat the 'Black Hawk' up agen the wind, I won't tell you you don't steer right on end on a bee line, and go as straight as a loon's leg. Do you take?"
"I understand you," he said, "but still I don't see the use of saying what you don't mean. Perhaps it's my ignorance or prejudice, or whatever you choose to call it; but I dare say you know what you are about."
"Cutler," sais I, "I warn't born yesterday. The truth is, so much nonsense is talked about niggers, I feel riled when I think of it. It actilly makes me feel spotty on the back.1 When I was to London last, I was asked to attend a meetin' for foundin' a college for our coloured brethren. Uncle Tom had set some folks half crazy, and others half mad, and what he couldn't do Aunt Harriet did. 'Well,' sais I to myself, 'is this bunkum, or what in natur is it? If I go, I shall be set down as a spooney abolitionist; if I don't go, I shall be set down as an overseer or nigger driver, and not a clockmaker. I can't please nobody any way, and, what is wus, I don't believe I shall please Mr Slick, no how I can fix it. Howsoever, I will go and see which way the mule kicks.'
1 This extraordinary effect of anger and fear on animals was observed centuries before America was discovered. Statius, a writer who fully equals Mr Slick both in his affectation and bombast, thus alludes to it:—
"Qualis ubi audito venantum murmure tigris, Horruit in maculas." "As when the tigress hears the hunter's din, Dark angry spots distain her glossy skin."
"Well, Lord Blotherumskite jumps up, and makes a speech; and what do you think he set about proving? Why, that darkies had immortal souls—as if any created critter ever doubted it! and he pitched into us Yankees and the poor colonists like a thousand of bricks. The fact is, the way he painted us both out, one would think he doubted whether we had any souls. The pious galls turned up the whites of their eyes like ducks in thunder, as if they expected drakes to fall from the skies, and the low church folks called out, 'Hear, hear,' as if he had discovered the passage at the North Pole, which I do think might be made of some use if it warn't blocked up with ice for everlastingly. And he talked of that great big he-nigger, Uncle Tom Lavender, who was as large as a bull buffalo. He said he only wished he was in the House of Peers, for he would have astonished their lordships. Well, so far he was correct, for if he had been in their hot room, I think Master Lavender would have astonished their weak nerves so, not many would have waited to be counted. There would soon have been a dispersion, but there never would have been a division."
"Well, what did you do?" said Cutler.
"Kept my word," sais I, "as I always do. I seconded the motion, but I gave them a dose of common sense, as a foundation to build upon. I told them niggers must be prepared for liberty, and when they were sufficiently instructed to receive and appreciate the blessing, they must have elementary knowledge, furst in religion, and then in the useful arts, before a college should be attempted, and so on, and then took up my hat and walked out. Well, they almost hissed me, and the sour virgins who bottled up all their humanity to pour out on the niggers, actilly pointed at me, and called me a Yankee Pussyite. I had some capital stories to excite 'em with, but I didn't think they were worth the powder and shot. It takes a great many strange people, Cutler," sais I, "to make a world. I used to like to put the leak into folks wunst, but I have given it up in disgust now."
"Why?" sais he.
"Because," sais I, "if you put a leak into a cask that hain't got much in it, the grounds and settlin's won't pay for the trouble. Our people talk a great deal of nonsense about emancipation, but they know it's all bunkum, and it serves to palmeteer on, and makes a pretty party catch-word. But in England, it appears to me, they always like what they don't understand, as niggers do Latin and Greek quotations in sermons. But here is Sorrow. I suppose tea is ready, as the old ladies say. Come, old boy," sais I to Cutler, "shake hands; we have the same object in view, but sometimes we travel by different trains, that's all. Come, let us go below. Ah, Sorrow," sais I, "something smells good here; is it a moose steak? Take off that dish-cover."
"Ah, Massa," said he, as he removed it, "dat are is lubbly, dat are a fac."
When I looked at it, I said very gravely—
"Take it away, Sorrow, I can't eat it; you have put the salt and pepper on it before you broiled it, and drawn out all the juice. It's as dry as leather. Take it away."
"Does you tink it would be a little more better if it was a little more doner, Sar? People of 'finement, like you and me, sometime differ in tastes. But, Massa, as to de salt, now how you talks! does you railly tink dis here niggar hab no more sense den one ob dees stupid white fishermen has? No, Massa; dis child knows his work, and is de boy to do it, too. When de steak is een amost done, he score him lengthway—dis way," passing a finger of his right hand over the palm of the left, "and fill up de crack wid salt an pepper, den gub him one turn more, and dat resolve it all beautiful. Oh no, Massa, moose meat is naterally werry dry, like Yankee preacher when he got no baccy. So I makes graby for him. Oh, here is some lubbly graby! Try dis, Massa. My old missus in Varginy was werry ticular about her graby. She usen to say, 'Sorrow, it tante fine clothes makes de gentleman, but a delicate taste for soups, and grabys, and currys. Barbacues, roast pigs, salt meat, and such coarse tings, is only fit for Congress men.' I kirsait my graby, Massa, is done to de turn ob a hair, for dis child is a rambitious niggar. Fust, Massa, I puts in a lump ob butter bout size ob peace ob chalk, and a glass ob water, and den prinkle in flour to make it look like milk, den put him on fire, and when he hiss, stir him wid spoon to make him hush; den I adds inion, dat is fust biled to take off de trong taste, eetle made mustard, and a pinch ob most elegant super-superor yellow snuff."
"Snuff, you rascal!" said I, "how dare you? Take it away—throw it overboard! Oh, Lord! to think of eating snuff! Was there ever anything half so horrid since the world began? Sorrow, I thought you had better broughtens up."
"Well, now, Massa," said he, "does you tink dis niggar hab no soul?" and he went to the locker, and brought out a small square pint bottle, and said, "Smell dat, Massa; dat are oliriferous, dat are a fac."
"Why, that's curry-powder," I said; "why don't you call things by their right name?"
"Massa," said he, with a knowing wink, "dere it more snuff den is made of baccy, dat are an undoubtable fac. De scent ob dat is so good, I can smell it ashore amost. Den, Massa, when graby is all ready, and distrained beautiful, dis child warms him up by de fire and stirs him; but," and he put his finger on his nose, and looked me full in the face, and paused, "but, Massa, it must be stir all de one way, or it iles up, and de debbil hisself won't put him right no more."
"Sorrow," sais I, "you don't know nothin' about your business. Suppose it did get iled up, any fool could set it right in a minute."
"Yes, yes, Massa," he said, "I know. I ab done it myself often—drink it all up, and make it ober again, until all right wunst more; sometimes I drink him up de matter ob two or tree times before he get quite right."
"No," sais I, "take it off the fire, add two spoonsful of cold water, heat it again, and stir it the right way, and it is as straight as a boot-jack."
"Well, Massa," said he, and showed an unusual quantity of white in his eyes, "well, Massa, you is actilly right. My ole missus taught me dat secret herself, and I did actilly tink no libbin' soul but me and she in de whole univarsal United States did know dat are, for I take my oat on my last will and testament, I nebber tole nobody. But, Massa," said he, "I ab twenty different ways—ay, fifty different ways, to make graby; but, at sea, one must do de best he can with nottin' to do with, and when nottin' is simmered a week in nottin' by de fire, it ain't nottin' of a job to sarve him up. Massa, if you will scuze me, I will tell you what dis here niggar tinks on de subject ob his perfession. Some grand folks, like missus, and de Queen ob England and de Emperor ob Roosia, may be fust chop cooks, and I won't deny de fac; and no tanks to 'em, for dere saucepans is all silber and gold; but I have 'skivered dey don't know nuffin' about de right way to eat tings after dey has gone done 'em. Me and Miss Phillesy Anne, de two confdential sarvants, allers had de dinner sent into our room when missus done gone feedin'. Missus was werry kind to us, and we nebber stinted her in nuffin'. I allers gib her one bottle wine and 'no-he-no' (noyeau) more den was possible for her and her company to want, and in course good conduct is allers rewarded, cause we had what was left. Well, me and Miss Phillis used to dress up hansum for dinner to set good sample to niggars, and two ob de coloured waiters tended on us.
"So one day, said Miss Phillis to me: 'What shall I ab de honor to help yaw to, Mr Sorrow?'
"'Aunt Phillis,' sais I, 'skuse me one minit, I ab made a grand 'skivery.'
"'What is dat, uncle,' sais she, 'you is so clebber! I clare you is wort your weight in gold. What in natur would our dear missus do widout you and me? for it was me 'skivered how to cure de pip in chickens, and make de eggs all hatch out, roosters or hens; and how to souse young turkeys like young children in cold water to prevent staggers, but what is your wention, Mr Sorrow?'
"'Why,' sais I, 'aunty, skuse me one half second. What does you see out ob dat winder, Sambo? you imperent rascal.'
"'Well, you black niggar, if you stare bout dat way, you will see yourself flogged next time. If you ab no manners, I must teach you for de credit ob de plantation; hold a plate to Miss Phillis right away. Why, aunty,' sais I, 'dis is de 'skivery; a house must have solid foundation, but a dinner a soft one—on count ob disgestion; so I begins wid custard and jelly (dey tastes werry well together, and are light on de stomac), den I takes a glass ob whisky to keep 'em from turnin' sour; dat is de first step. Sambo, pour me out some. Second one is presarves, ices, fruits—strawberry and cream, or mustache churnings (pistachio cream) and if dey is skilful stowed, den de cargo don't shift under de hatches—arter dat comes punkin pie, pineapple tarts, and raspberry Charlotte.'
"'Mr Sorrow,' sais aunty, 'I is actilly ashamed ob you to name a dish arter a yaller gall dat way, and call it Charlotte; it's ondecent, specially afore dese niggars.'