"Doctor," sais a new hand, "do you know if Cargill has sold his orses. His leada is a cleverwish saut of thing, but the wheela is a riglar bute. That's a goodish orse the Admewall wides; I wonder if he is going to take him ome with him."
"Haven't heard—can't say. Jones, what's that thing that wont burn, do you know? Confound the thing, I have got it on the tip of my tongue too."
"Asphalt," sais Jones.
"No! that's not it; that's what wide-awakes are made of."
"Perhaps so," sais Gage, "ass'felt is very appropriate for a fool's cap."
At which there is a great roar.
"No; but really what is it?"
"Is it arbutus?" sais Simpkins, "I think they make it at Killarney—"
"No, no; oh! I have it, asbestos; well, that's what I believe the cigars here are made of—they won't go."
"There are a good many things here that are no go," sais Gage, "like Perry's bills on Coutts; but, Smith, where did you get that flash waistcoat I saw last night?"
"Oh! that was worked by a poor despairing girl at Bath, during a fit of the scarlet fever."
"It was a memento mori then, I suppose," replies the other.
But all the talk is not quite so frivolous. Opposite to that large stone edifice, is an old cannon standing on end at the corner of the street, to keep carriages from trespassing on the pavement, and the non-military assemble round it; they are civic great guns. They are discussing the great event of the season—the vote of want of confidence of last night, the resignation of the provincial ministry this morning, and the startling fact that the head upholsterer has been sent for to furnish a new cabinet, that won't warp with the heat and fly apart. It is very important news; it has been telegraphed to Washington, and was considered so alarming, the President was waked up to be informed of it. He rubbed his eyes and said:
"Well, I acknowledge the coin, you may take my hat. I hope I may be cow-hided if I knew they had a ministry. I thought they only had a governor, and a regiment for a constitution. Will it affect the stocks? How it will scare the Emperor of Rooshia, won't it?" and he roared so loud he nearly choked. That just shows (everybody regards the speaker with silence, for he is an oracle), says Omniscient Pitt.
That just shows how little the Yankees know and how little the English care about us. "If we want to be indepindent and respictable," sais an Hibernian magnate, "we must repale the Union." But what is this? here is a fellow tied hand and foot on a truck, which is conveying him to the police court, swearing and screaming horribly. What is the meaning of all that?
A little cynical old man, commonly called the major, looks knowing, puts on a quizzical expression, and touching his nose with the tip of his finger, says, "One of the new magistrates qualifying as he goes down to be sworn into office."
It makes the politicians smile, restores their equanimity, and they make room for another committee of safety. A little lower down the street, a mail-coach is starting for Windsor, and ten or fifteen men are assembled doing their utmost, and twenty or thirty boys helping them, to look at the passengers, but are unexpectedly relieved from their arduous duty by a military band at the head of a marching regiment.
Give me the bar though. I don't mean the bar-room, though there are some capital songs sung, and good stories told, and first-rate rises taken out of green ones, in that bar-room at the big hotel, but I mean the lawyers. They are the merriest and best fellows everywhere. They fight like prize-boxers in public and before all the world, and shake hands when they set to and after it's over. Preachers, on the contrary, write anonymous letters in newspapers, or let fly pamphlets at each other, and call ugly names. While doctors go from house to house insinuating, undermining, shrugging shoulders, turning up noses, and looking as amazed as when they was fust born into the world, at each other's prescriptions. Well, politicians are dirty birds too, they get up all sorts of lies against each other, and if any one lays an egg, t'other swears it was stole out of his nest. But lawyers are above all these tricks. As soon as court is ended, off they go arm-in-arm, as if they had both been fighting on one side. "I say, Blowem, that was a capital hit of yours, making old Gurdy swear he was king of the mountains."
"Not half as good as yours, Monk, telling the witness he couldn't be a partner, for the plaintiff had put in all the 'stock in hand,' and he had only put in his 'stock in feet.'"
They are full of stories, too, tragic as well as comic, picked up in the circuits.
"Jones, do you know Mc Farlane of Barney's River, a Presbyterian clergyman? He told me he was once in a remote district there where no minister had ever been, and visiting the house of a settler of Scotch descent, he began to examine the children.
"'Well, my man,' said he, patting on the shoulder a stout junk of a boy of about sixteen years of age, 'can you tell me what is the chief end of man?'
"'Yes, Sir,' said he. 'To pile and burn brush.'1
1 In clearing woodland, after the trees are chopped down and cut into convenient sizes for handling, they are piled into heaps and burned.
"'No it ain't,' said his sister.
"'Oh, but it is though,' replied the boy, 'for father told me so himself.'
"'No, no,' said the minister, 'it's not that; but perhaps, my dear,' addressing the girl, 'you can tell me what it is?'
"'Oh, yes, Sir,' said she, 'I can tell you, and so could John, but he never will think before he speaks.'
"'Well, what is it, dear?'
"'Why, the chief end of man, Sir, is his head and shoulders.'
"'Oh,' said a little lassie that was listening to the conversation, 'if you know all these things, Sir, can you tell me if Noah had any butterflies in the ark? I wonder how in the world he ever got hold of them! Many and many a beauty have I chased all day, and I never could catch one yet.'"
"I can tell you a better one than that," says Larry Hilliard. "Do you recollect old Hardwood, our under-sheriff? He has a very beautiful daughter, and she was married last week at St Paul's Church, to a lieutenant in the navy. There was such an immense crowd present (for they were considered the handsomest couple ever married there), that she got so confused she could hardly get through the responses. When the archdeacon said, 'Will you have this man to be your wedded husband?'
"'Yes,' she said, and made a slight pause; and then became bewildered, and got into her catechism. 'Yes,' she said, 'by God's grace I will, and I humbly thank my Heavenly Father for having brought me to this state of salvation.'
"It was lucky she spoke low, and that the people didn't distinctly hear her, but it nearly choaked the parson."
"Talking of church anecdotes," says Lawyer Martin, "reminds me of old Parson Byles, of St John's, New Brunswick. Before the American rebellion he was rector at Boston, and he had a curate who always preached against the Roman Catholics. It tickled the Puritans, but didn't injure the Papists, for there were none there at that time. For three successive Sundays he expounded the text, 'And Peter's wife's mother lay ill of a fever.'
"From which he inferred priests ought to marry. Shortly after that the bell was tolling one day, and somebody asked Dr Byles who was dead.
"Says he, and he looked solemcoly, shut one eye and winked with the other, as if he was trying to shut that also—'I rather think it is Peter's wife's mother, for she has been ill of a fever for three weeks.'"
There are charms in these little "home scenes," these little detached sketches, which are wholly lost in a large landscape.
There is one very redeeming property about the people. Although they differ widely in politics, I infer that they live in the greatest possible harmony together, from the fact that they speak of each other like members of the same family. The word Mr is laid aside as too cold and formal, and the whole Christian name as too ceremonious. Their most distinguished men speak of each other, and the public follow their example, as Joe A, or Jim B, or Bill C, or Tom D, or Fitz this, or Dick that. It sounds odd to strangers no doubt, but the inference that may be drawn from it is one of great amiability.
Still, in holding up the mirror, hold it up fairly, and take in all the groups, and not merely those that excite ridicule. Halifax has more real substantial wealth about it than any place of its size in America; wealth not amassed by reckless speculation, but by judicious enterprise, persevering industry, and consistent economy. In like manner there is better society in it than in any similar American or colonial town. A man must know the people to appreciate them. He must not merely judge by those whom he is accustomed to meet at the social board, for they are not always the best specimens anywhere, but by those also who prefer retirement, and a narrower circle, and rather avoid general society, as not suited to their tastes. The character of its mercantile men stands very high, and those that are engaged in professional pursuits are distinguished for their ability and integrity. In short, as a colonist, Squire, you may at least be satisfied to hear from a stranger like me, that they contrast so favourably with those who are sent officially among them from England, that they need not be ashamed to see themselves grouped with the best of them in the same mirror.
Yes, yes, Squire, every place has its queer people, queer talk, and queer grouping. I draw what is before me, and I can't go wrong. Now, if the sketcher introduces his own person into his foregrounds, and I guess I figure in all mine as large as life (for like a respectable man I never forget myself), he must take care he has a good likeness of his skuldiferous head, as well as a flattering one. Now, you may call it crackin' and braggin', and all that sort of a thing, if you please, but I must say, I allot that I look, sit, walk, stand, eat, drink, smoke, think, and talk, aye, and brag too, like a Yankee clockmaker, don't you? Yes, there is a decided and manifest improvement in the appearance of this province. When I say the province, I don't refer to Halifax alone, though there are folks there that think it stands for and represents the whole colony. I mean what I say in using that expression, which extends to the country at large—and I am glad to see this change, for I like it. And there is a still more decided and manifest improvement in the people, and I am glad of that too, for I like them also. Now, I'll tell you one great reason of this alteration. Blue-nose has seen himself as other folks see him, he has had "the mirror held up to him."
CHAPTER XIX. THE BUNDLE OF STICKS.
I had hardly entered these remarks in my Journal, and ascended the companion-ladder, when the doctor joined me in my quarter-deck walk, and said, "Mr Slick, what is your opinion of the state of these North American colonies?"
What a curious thing these coincidences are, Squire, ain't they? How often when you are speaking of a man, he unexpectedly makes his appearance, don't he? or if you are thinking of a subject, the person who is with you starts the same topic, or if you are a going to say a thing, he takes, as we say, the very words out of your mouth. It is something more than accident that, but what is it? Is it animal magnetism, or what is it? Well, I leave you to answer that question, for I can't.
"Their growth beats all. The way they are going ahead is a caution to them that live in Sleepy Hollow, a quiet little place the English call Downing Street. It astonishes them as a young turkey does a hen that has hatched it, thinking it was a chicken of her own. She don't know what in the world to make of the great long-legged, long-bodied critter, that is six times as large as herself, that has cheeks as red as if it drank brandy, an imperial as large as a Russian dragoon, eats all the food of the poultry-yard, takes a shocking sight of nursing when it is young, and gets as sarcy as the devil when it grows up."
"Yes," said he, "I am aware of its growth; but what do you suppose is the destiny of British North America?"
"Oh," sais I, "I could tell you if I was Colonial minister, because I should then have the power to guide that destiny. I know full well what ought to be done, and the importance of doing it soon, but I am not in the position to give them the right direction. No English statesmen have the information, the time, or the inclination to meddle with the subject. To get rid of the bother of them, they have given up all control and said to them, 'There is responsible government for you, now tortle off hum, and manage your own affairs.' Yes, yes, so far so good—they can manage their own domestic matters, but who is to manage their foreign affairs, as I said wunst to a member of parliament. They have outgrown colonial dependance; their minority is ended; their clerkship is out; they are of age now: they never did well in your house; they were put out to nurse at a distance; they had their schooling; they learnt figures early; they can add and multiply faster than you can to save your soul; and now they are uneasy. They have your name, for they are your children, but they are younger sons. The estate and all the honours go to the eldest, who resides at home. They know but little about their parents, further than that their bills have been liberally paid, but they have no personal acquaintance with you. You are tired of maintaining them, and they have too much pride and too much energy to continue to be a burden to you. They can and they will do for themselves.
"Have you ever thought of setting them up in business on their own account, or of taking them into partnership with yourself? In the course of nature they must form some connection soon. Shall they seek it with you or the States, or intermarry among themselves, and begin the world on their own hook? These are important questions, and they must be answered soon. Have you acquired their confidence and affection? What has been your manner to them? Do you treat them like your other younger children that remain at home? Them you put into your army and navy, place a sword in their hands and say, Distinguish yourselves, and the highest rewards are open to you; or you send them to the church or the bar, and say, A mitre or a coronet shall be the prize to contend for. If you prefer diplomacy, you shall be attach to your elder brother. I will place the ladder before you; ascend it. If you like politics, I will place you in parliament, and if you have not talents sufficient for the House of Commons, you shall go out as governor of one of our colonies. Those appointments belong of right to them, but they can't help themselves at present. Get one while you can.
"Have you done this, or anything like it, for your children abroad? If you have, perhaps you will be kind enough to furnish me with some names, that I may mention them when I hear you accused of neglect. You are very hospitable and very considerate to strangers. The representative of any little insignificant German state, of the size of a Canadian township, has a place assigned him on state occasions. Do you ever show the same attention to the delegate of a colony, of infinitely more extent and value than Ireland? There can't be a doubt you have, though I have never heard of it. Such little trifles are matters of course, but still, as great interests are at stake, perhaps it would be as well to notice such things occasionally in the Gazette, for distant and humble relations are always touchy.
"Ah, Doctor," said I, "things can't and won't remain long as they are. England has three things among which to choose for her North American colonies:—First: Incorporation with herself, and representation in Parliament. Secondly: Independence. Thirdly: Annexation with the States. Instead of deliberating and selecting what will be most conducive to the interest of herself and her dependencies, she is allowing things to take their chance. Now, this is all very well in matters over which we have no control, because Providence directs things better than we can; but if one of these three alternatives is infinitely better than the other, and it is in our power to adopt it, it is the height of folly not to do so. I know it is said, for I have often heard it myself, Why, we can but lose the colonies at last. Pardon me, you can do more than that, for you can lose their affections also. If the partnership is to be dissolved, it had better be done by mutual consent, and it would be for the interest of both that you should part friends. You didn't shake hands with, but fists at, us when we separated. We had a stand-up fight, and you got licked, and wounds were given that the best part of a century hasn't healed, and wounds that will leave tender spots for ever; so don't talk nonsense.
"Now, Doctor, mark my words. I say again, things won't remain long as they are. I am glad I have you to talk to instead of the Squire, for he always says, I am chockfull of crotchets, and brimfull of brag. Now, it is easy, we all know, to prophesy a thing after it has happened, but if I foretell a thing and it comes out true, if I haven't a right to brag of my skill, I have a right to boast that I guessed right at all events. Now, when I set on foot a scheme for carrying the Atlantic mail in steamers, and calculated all the distances and chances, and showed them Bristol folks (for I went to that place on purpose) that it was shorter by thirty-six miles to come to Halifax, and then go to New York, than to go to New York direct, they just laughed at me, and so did the English Government. They said it couldn't be shorter in the nature of things. There was a captain in the navy to London too, who said, 'Mr Slick, you are wrong, and I think I ought to know something about it,' giving a toss of his head. 'Well,' sais I, with another toss of mine, 'I think you ought too, and I am sorry you don't, that's all.'
"Then the Squire said:—'Why, how you talk, Mr Slick! Recollect, if you please, that Doctor Lardner says that steam won't do to cross the Atlantic, and he is a great gun."
"'Well,' sais I, 'I don't care a fig for what Lardner says, or any other locomotive lecturer under the light of the living sun. If a steamer can go agin a stream, and a plaguy strong one too, two thousand five hundred miles up the Mississippi, why in natur can't it be fixed so as to go across the Atlantic?'
"Well, some time after that, my second Clockmaker came out in London, and, sais I, I'll stand or fall by my opinion, right or wrong, and I just put it body and breeches all down in figures in that book. Well, that set inquiries on foot, folks began to calculate—a tender was made and accepted, and now steam across the Atlantic is a fixed fact, and an old story. Our folks warn't over pleased about it, they consaited I should have told them first, so they might have taken the lead in it, as they like to go ahead of the British in all things, and I wish to goodness I had, for thanks are better nor jeers at any time.
"Well, I was right there, you see. So on this subject I have told Squire, and them who ought to know something of the colonies they rule, over and over again, and warned government that something was wanting to place these provinces on a proper permanent footing; that I knew the temper of colony folks better than they did, and you will find in my Journals the subject often mentioned. But no, a debate on a beer bill, or a metropolitan bridge, or a constabulary act, is so pressing, there is no time. Well, sure enough that's all come true. First, the Canadian league started up, it was a feverish symptom, and it subsided by good treatment, without letting blood. Last winter it was debated in the Legislature here, and the best and ablest speeches made on it ever heard in British America, and infinitely superior to the great majority of those uttered in the House of Commons.1 Do you suppose for a moment that proud-spirited, independent, able men like those members, will long endure the control of a Colonial minister, who, they feel, is as much below them in talent, as by accident he may be above them in rank? No, Sir, the day is past. The form of provincial government is changed, and with it provincial dependence also. When we become men, we must put away childish thing's.
1 All these speeches are well worth reading, especially those of Mr Howe, Mr Johnston, and Mr M. Wilkins. That of the former gentleman is incomparably superior to any one delivered during the last session of the Imperial Parliament.
"There is a sense of soreness that is uncomfortably felt by a colonist now when he surveys our condition, and that of Englishmen, and compares his own with it. He can hardly tell you what he wants, he has yet no definite plan: but he desires something that will place him on a perfect equality with either. When I was in Europe lately, I spent a day at Richmond, with one of them I had known out in America. He was a Tory, too, and a pretty staunch one, I tell you.
"Thinks I to myself, 'I'll put you through your paces a little, my young sucking Washington, for fear you will get out of practice when you get back.'
"So, sais I, 'how do you get on now? I suppose responsible government has put an end to all complaints, hain't it?'
"Sais he, 'Mr Slick,' and I saw he felt sore, for he looked like it, and talked like it; 'Mr Slick,' said he, 'kinder niblin' at the question, I have no remonstrance to make. There is something very repulsive in a complaint. I can't bear the sound of it myself. It should never be pronounced but in the ear of a doctor, or a police magistrate. Your man with a grievance is everywhere voted a bore. If he goes to the Colonial Office with one, that stout gentleman at the door, the porter, who has the keys of that realm of knowledge and bliss, and knows as much and has as many airs as his master, soon receives an order not to admit him.
"'Worn out with fatigue and disappointment, the unfortunate suitor finds at last his original grievance merged in the greater one, that he can obtain no hearing and no redress, and he returns to his own province, like Franklin, or the Australian delegate, with thoughts of deep revenge, and visions of a glorious revolution that shall set his countrymen free from foreign dominion. He goes a humble suppliant, he returns an implacable rebel. The restless Pole, who would rather play the part of a freebooting officer than an honest farmer, and who prefers even begging to labour, wanders over Europe and America, uttering execrations against all monarchs in general, and his own in particular, and, when you shake your head at his oft-told tale of fictitious patriotism, as he replaces his stereotyped memorial in his pocket, exhibits the handle of a stiletto, with a savage smile of unmistakeable scoundrelism.'
"'Poles loom large,' sais I, 'in the fogs of London, but they dwindle into poor sticks with us.'
"He was in no temper however to laugh. It was evident he felt deeply, but he was unwilling to exhibit the tender spot. 'The world, Sir,' he said, 'is full of grievances. Papineau's parliament mustered ninety-two of them at one time, and a Falmouth packet-ship actually foundered with its shifting cargo. What a pity it is that their worthlessness and lightness alone caused them to float! The English, who reverse every wholesome maxim, in this instance pursued their usual course. The sage advice, parcere subjectis, et debilare superbos, was disregarded. The loyalists suffered, the arrogant and turbulent triumphed. Every house, Sir, in the kingdom is infested with grievances. Fathers grieve over the extravagances of their sons, the giddiness of their daughters, and the ceaseless murmurs of their wives, while they in their turn unite in complaining of parental parsimony and meanness. Social intercourse I have long since given up, for I am tired of tedious narratives of the delinquencies of servants and the degeneracy of the times. I prefer large parties, where, although you know the smile hides the peevish temper, the aching heart, the jealous fear, and the wounded pride; yet it is such a great satisfaction to know there is a truce to complaints, that I prefer its many falsehoods to unceasing wailings over the sad realities of life.'
"This was no answer, but something to bluff me off. I saw he was unwilling to speak out, and that it was a mere effort to button up and evade the subject. So to draw him out, I said,
"'Well, there is one thing you can boast. Canada is the most valuable and beautiful appendage of the British Crown.'
"'England may boast of it as such,' he said, 'but I have no right to do so. I prefer being one of the pariahs of the empire, a mere colonist, having neither grade nor caste, without a country of my own, and without nationality. I am a humble man, and when I am asked where I come from, readily answer, the Chaudiere River. Where is that? Out of the world? Extra flammantia limina mundi. What is the name of your country? It is not a country, it is only a place. It is better to have no flag than a borrowed one. If I had one I should have to defend it. If it were wrested from me I should be disgraced, while my victorious enemy would be thanked by the Imperial Legislature, and rewarded by his sovereign. If I were triumphant, the affair would be deemed too small to merit a notice in the Gazette. He who called out the militia, and quelled amid a shower of balls the late rebellion, was knighted. He who assented amid a shower of eggs to a bill to indemnify the rebels, was created an earl. Now to pelt a governor-general with eggs is an overt act of treason, for it is an attempt to throw off the yoke. If therefore he was advanced in the peerage for remunerating traitors for their losses, he ought now to assent to another act for reimbursing the expenses of the exhausted stores of the poultry yards, and be made a marquis, unless the British see a difference between a rebel mob and an indignant crowd, between those whose life has been spent in hatching mischief, and those who desired to scare the foul birds from their nests.
"'If that man had been a colonist, the dispatch marked 'private' would have said, 'It sarved you right,' whereas it announced to him, 'You are one of us,' and to mark our approbation of your conduct, you may add one of these savoury missiles to your coat of arms, that others may be egged on to do their duty. Indeed, we couldn't well have a flag of our own. The Americans have a very appropriate and elegant one, containing stripes emblematical of their slaves, and stars to represent their free states, while a Connecticut goose typifies the good cheer of thanksgiving day. It is true we have the honour of fighting under that of England; but there is, as we have seen, this hard condition annexed to it, we must consent to be taxed, to reimburse the losses of those whom by our gallantry we subdue. If we take Sebastopol, we must pay for the damage we have done. We are not entitled to a separate flag, and I am afraid if we had one we should be subject to ridicule. A pure white ground would prefigure our snow drifts; a gull with outspread wings, our credulous qualities; and a few discoloured eggs, portray our celebrated missiles. But what sort of a flag would that be? No, Sir, these provinces should be united, and they would from their territorial extent, their commercial enterprise, their mineral wealth, their wonderful agricultural productions, and, above all, their intelligent, industrious, and still loyal population, in time form a nation second to none on earth, until then I prefer to be a citizen of the world.
"'I once asked an Indian where he lived, I meant of course where his camp was, but the question was too broad, and puzzled him. Stretching out his arm and describing a circle with his heel, he said, 'I live in all these woods!' Like him, I live in all this world. Those who, like the English and Americans, have appropriated so large a portion of it to themselves, may severally boast, if they think proper, of their respective governments and territories. My boast, Sir, is a peculiar one, that I have nothing to boast of.'
"'If such are your views,' I said, 'I must say, I do not understand that absurd act of firing your parliament house. It is, I assure you, reprobated everywhere. Our folks say your party commenced as old Hunkers1 and ended as Barnburners.'
1 "We have been requested to give a definition of this term, 'Old Hunkers.' Party nicknames are not often logically justified; and we can only say that that section of the late dominant party in this State (the democratic) which claims to be the more radical, progressive, reformatory, &c., bestowed the appellation of 'Old Hunker' on the other section, to indicate that it was distinguished by opposite qualities from those claimed for itself. We believe the title was also intended to indicate that those on whom it was conferred had an appetite for a large 'hunk' of the spoils, though we never could discover that they were peculiar in that. On the other hand, the opposite school was termed 'Barnburners,' in allusion to the story of an old Dutchman, who relieved himself of rats by burning his barns, which they infested—just like exterminating all banks and corporations to root out the abuses connected therewith. The fitness or unfitness of these family terms of endearment is none of our business."—NEW YORK TRIBUNE.
"That remark threw him off his guard; he rose up greatly agitated; his eyes flashed fire, and he extended out his arm as if he intended by gesticulation to give full force to what he was about to say. He stood in this attitude for a moment without uttering a word, when by a sudden effort he mastered himself, and took up his hat to walk out on the terrace and recover his composure.
"As he reached the door, he turned, and said:
"'The assenting to that infamous indemnity act, Mr Slick, and the still more disreputable manner in which it received the gubernational sanction, has produced an impression in Canada that no loyal man—' but he again checked himself, and left the sentence unfinished.
"I was sorry I had pushed him so hard, but the way he tried to evade the subject at first, the bitterness of his tone, and the excitement into which the allusion threw him, convinced me that the English neither know who their real friends in Canada are, nor how to retain their affections.
"When he returned, I said to him, 'I was only jesting about your having no grievances in Canada, and I regret having agitated you. I agree with you however that it is of no use to remonstrate with the English public. They won't listen to you. If you want to be heard, attract their attention, in the first instance, by talking of their own immediate concerns, and while they are regarding you with intense interest and anxiety, by a sleight of hand shift the dissolving view, and substitute a sketch of your own. For instance, says you, 'How is it the army in the Crimea had no tents in the autumn, and no huts in the winter—the hospitals no fittings, and the doctors no nurses or medicines? How is it disease and neglect have killed more men than the enemy? Why is England the laughing-stock of Russia, and the butt of French and Yankee ridicule? and how does it happen this country is filled with grief and humiliation from one end of it to the other? I will tell you. These affairs were managed by a branch of the Colonial Office. The minister for that department said to the army, as he did to the distant provinces, 'Manage your own affairs, and don't bother us.' Then pause and say, slowly and emphatically, 'You now have a taste of what we have endured in the colonies. The same incompetency has ruled over both.'"
"'Good heavens,' said he, 'Mr Slick. I wish you was one of us.'
"'Thank you for the compliment.' sais I. 'I feel flattered, I assure you; but, excuse me. I have no such ambition. I am content to be a humble Yankee clockmaker. A Colonial Office, in which there is not a single man that ever saw a colony, is not exactly the government to suit me. The moment I found my master knew less than I did, I quit his school and set up for myself.'
'Yes, my friend, the English want to have the mirror held up to them; but that is your business and not mine. It would be out of place for me. I am a Yankee, and politics are not my line; I have no turn for them, and I don't think I have the requisite knowledge of the subject for discussing it; but you have both, and I wonder you don't.
"Now, Doctor, you may judge from that conversation, and the deep feeling it exhibits, that men's thoughts are wandering in new channels. The great thing for a statesman is to direct them to the right one. I have said there were three courses to be considered; first, incorporation with England; secondly, independence; thirdly, annexation. The subject is too large for a quarter-deck walk, so I will only say a few words more. Let's begin with annexation first. The thinking, reflecting people among us don't want these provinces. We guess we are big enough already, and nothing but our great rivers, canals, railroads, and telegraphs (which, like skewers in a round of beef, fasten the unwieldy mass together) could possibly keep us united. Without them we should fall to pieces in no time. It's as much as they can keep all tight and snug now; but them skewers nor no others can tie a greater bulk than we have. Well, I don't think colonists want to be swamped in our vast republic either. So there ain't no great danger from that, unless the devil gits into us both, which, if a favourable chance offered, he is not onlikely to do. So let that pass. Secondly, as to incorporation. That is a grand idea, but it is almost too grand for John Bull's head, and a little grain too large for his pride. There are difficulties, and serious ones, in the way. It would require participation in the legislature, which would involve knocking off some of the Irish brigade to make room for your members; and there would be a hurrush at that, as O'Connell used to say, that would bang Banaghar. It would also involve an invasion of the upper house, for colonists won't take half a loaf now, I tell you; which would make some o' those gouty old lords fly round and scream like Mother Cary's chickens in a gale of wind; and then there would be the story of the national debt, and a participation in imperial taxes to adjust, and so on; but none of these difficulties are insuperable.
"A statesman with a clever head, a sound judgment, and a good heart, could adjust a scheme that would satisfy all; at least it would satisfy colonists by its justice, and reconcile the peers and the people of England by its expediency, for the day Great Britain parts with these colonies, depend upon it, she descends in the scale of nations most rapidly. India she may lose any day, for it is a government of opinion only. Australia will emancipate itself ere long, but these provinces she may and ought to retain.
"Thirdly, independence. This is better for her than annexation by a long chalk, and better for the colonies too, if I was allowed to spend my opinion on it; but if that is decided upon, something must be done soon. The way ought to be prepared for it by an immediate federative and legislative union of them all. It is of no use to consult their governors, they don't and they can't know anything of the country but its roads, lakes, rivers, and towns; but of the people they know nothing whatever. You might as well ask the steeple of a wooden church whether the sill that rests on the stone foundation is sound. They are too big according to their own absurd notions, too small in the eyes of colonists, and too far removed and unbending to know anything about it. What can a man learn in five years except the painful fact, that he knew nothing when he came, and knows as little when he leaves? He can form a better estimate of himself than when he landed, and returns a humbler, but not a wiser man; but that's all his schoolin' ends in. No, Sirree, it's only men like you and me who know the ins and outs of the people here."
"Don't say me," said the doctor, "for goodness' sake, for I know nothing about the inhabitants of these woods and waters, but the birds, the fish, and the beasts."
"Don't you include politicians," said I, "of all shades and colours, under the last genus? because I do, they are regular beasts of prey."
Well, he laughed; he said he didn't know nothing about them.
"Well," sais I, "I ain't so modest, I can tell you, for I do know. I am a clockmaker, and understand machinery. I know all about the wheels, pulleys, pendulum, balances, and so on, the length of the chain, and what is best of all, the way to wind 'em up, set 'em a going, and make 'em keep time. Now, Doctor, I'll tell you what neither the English nor the Yankees, nor the colonists themselves, know anything of, and that is about the extent and importance of these North American provinces under British rule. Take your pencil now, and write down a few facts I will give you, and when you are alone meditating, just chew on 'em.
"First—there are four millions of square miles of territory in them, whereas all Europe has but three millions some odd hundred thousands, and our almighty, everlastin' United States still less than that again. Canada alone is equal in size to Great Britain, France, and Prussia. The maritime provinces themselves cover a space as large as Holland, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, and Switzerland, all put together. The imports for 1853 were between ten and eleven millions, and the exports (ships sold included) between nine and ten millions. At the commencement of the American Revolution, when we first dared the English to fight us, we had but two and a half, these provinces now contain nearly three, and in half a century will reach the enormous amount of eighteen millions of inhabitants. The increase of population in the States is thirty-three per cent., in Canada sixty-eight. The united revenue is nearly a million and a half, and their shipping amounts to four hundred and fifty thousand tons.
"Now, take these facts and see what an empire is here, surely the best in climate, soil, mineral, and other productions in the world, and peopled by such a race as no other country under heaven can produce. No, Sir, here are the bundle of sticks, all they want is to be well united. How absurd it seems to us Yankees that England is both so ignorant and so blind to her own interests, as not to give her attention to this interesting portion of the empire, that in natural and commercial wealth is of infinitely more importance than half a dozen Wallachias and Moldavias, and in loyalty, intelligence, and enterprise, as far superior to turbulent Ireland as it is possible for one country to surpass another. However, Doctor, it's no affair of mine. I hate politics, and I hate talking figures. Sposin' we try a cigar, and some white satin."
CHAPTER XX. TOWN AND COUNTRY.
"Doctor," sais I, as we ascended the deck the following morning, "I can't tell you how I have enjoyed these incidental runs on shore I have had during my cruise in the 'Black Hawk.' I am amazin' fond of the country, and bein' an early riser, I manage to lose none of its charms. I like to see the early streak in the east, and look on the glorious sky when the sun rises. I like everything about the country, and the people that live in it. The town is artificial, the country is natural. Whoever sees the peep of the morning in the city but a drowsy watchman, who waits for it to go to his bed? a nurse, that is counting the heavy hours, and longs to put out the unsnuffed candles, and take a cup of strong tea to keep her peepers open; or some houseless wretch, that is woke up from his nap on a door-step, by a punch in the ribs from the staff of a policeman, who begrudges the misfortunate critter a luxury he is deprived of himself, and asks him what he is a doin' of there, as if he didn't know he had nothin' to do nowhere, and tells him to mizzle off home, as if he took pleasure in reminding him he had none. Duty petrifies these critters' hearts harder than the grand marble porch stone that served for a couch, or the doorstep that was used for a pillow. Even the dogs turn in then, for they don't think it's necessary to mount guard any longer. Blinds and curtains are all down, and every livin' critter is asleep, breathing the nasty, hot, confined, unwholesome air of their bed-rooms, instead of inhaling the cool dewy breeze of heaven.
"Is it any wonder that the galls are thin, and pale, and delicate, and are so languid, they look as if they were givin' themselves airs, when all they want is air? or that the men complain of dyspepsy, and look hollow and unhealthy, having neither cheeks, stomach, nor thighs, and have to take bitters to get an appetite for their food, and pickles and red pepper to digest it? The sun is up, and has performed the first stage of his journey before the maid turns out, opens the front door, and takes a look up and down street, to see who is a stirrin'. Early risin' must be cheerfulsome, for she is very chipper, and throws some orange-peel at the shopman of their next neighbour, as a hint if he was to chase her, he would catch her behind the hall-door, as he did yesterday, after which she would show him into the supper-room, where the liquors and cakes are still standing as they were left last night.
"Yes, she is right to hide, for it is decent, if it ain't modest, seein' the way she has jumped into her clothes, and the danger there is of jumping out of them again. How can it be otherwise, when she has to get up so horrid early? It's all the fault of the vile milkman, who will come for fear his milk will get sour; and that beast, the iceman, who won't wait, for fear his ice will melt; and that stupid nigger who will brush the shoes then, he has so many to clean elsewhere.
"As she stands there, a woman ascends the step, and produces a basket from under her cloak, into which she looks carefully, examines its contents (some lace frills, tippets, and collars of her mistress, which she wore a few nights ago at a ball), and returns with something heavy in it, for the arm is extended in carrying it, and the stranger disappears. She still lingers, she is expecting some one. It is the postman, he gives her three or four letters, one of which is for herself. She reads it approvingly, and then carefully puts it into her bosom, but that won't retain it no how she can fix it, so she shifts it to her pocket. It is manifest Posty carries a verbal answer, for she talks very earnestly to him, and shakes hands with him at parting most cordially.
"It must be her turn for a ball to-night I reckon, for a carriage drives very rapidly to within three or four hundred yards of the house, and then crawls to the door so as not to disturb the family. A very fashionably-dressed maid is there (her mistress must be very kind to lend her such expensive head-gear, splendid jewelry, and costly and elegant toggery), and her beau is there with such a handsome moustache and becoming beard, and an exquisitely-worked chain that winds six or seven times round him, and hangs loose over his waistcoat, like a coil of golden cord. At a given signal, from the boss of the hack, who stands door in hand, the young lady gathers her clothes well up her drumsticks, and would you believe, two steps or springs only, like those of a kangaroo, take her into the house? It's a streak of light, and nothing more. It's lucky she is thin, for fat tames every critter that is foolish enough to wear it, and spoils agility.
"The beau takes it more leisurely. There are two epochs in a critter's life of intense happiness, first when he doffs the petticoats, pantellets, the hermaphrodite rig of a child, and mounts the jacket and trowsers of a boy; and the other is when that gives way to a 'long tail blue,' and a beard. He is then a man.
"The beau has reached this enviable age, and as he is full of admiration of himself, is generous enough to allow time to others to feast their eyes on him. So he takes it leisurely, his character, like that charming girl's, won't suffer if it is known they return with the cats in the morning; on the contrary, women, as they always do, the little fools, will think more of him. They make no allowance for one of their own sex, but they are very indulgent, indeed they are both blind and deaf, to the errors of the other. The fact is, if I didn't know it was only vindicating the honour of their sex, I vow I should think it was all envy of the gall who was so lucky, as to be unlucky; but I know better than that. If the owner of the house should be foolish enough to be up so early, or entirely take leave of his senses, and ask him why he was mousing about there, he flatters himself he is just the child to kick him. Indeed he feels inclined to flap his wings and crow. He is very proud. Celestina is in love with him, and tells him (but he knew that before) he is very handsome. He is a man, he has a beard as black as the ace of spades, is full dressed, and the world is before him. He thrashed a watchman last night, and now he has a drop in his eye, would fight the devil. He has succeeded in deceiving that gall, he has no more idea of marrying her than I have. It shows his power. He would give a dollar to crow, but suffers himself to be gently pushed out of the hall, and the door fastened behind him, amid such endearing expressions, that they would turn a fellow's head, even after his hair had grown gray. He then lights a cigar, gets up with the driver, and looks round with an air of triumph, as much as to say—'What would you give to be admired and as successful as I am?' and when he turns the next corner, he does actilly crow.
"Yes, yes, when the cat's away, the mice will play. Things ain't in a mess, and that house a hurrah's nest, is it? Time wears on, and the alternate gall must be a movin' now, for the other who was at the ball has gone to bed, and intends to have her by-daily head-ache if inquired for. To-night it will be her turn to dance, and to-morrow to sleep, so she cuts round considerable smart. Poor thing, the time is not far off when you will go to bed and not sleep, but it's only the child that burns its fingers that dreads the fire. In the mean time, set things to rights.
"The curtains are looped up, and the shutters folded back into the wall, and the rooms are sprinkled with tea-leaves, which are lightly swept up, and the dust left behind, where it ought to be, on the carpet,—that's all the use there is of a carpet, except you have got corns. And then the Venetians are let down to darken the rooms, and the windows are kept closed to keep out the flies, the dust, and the heat, and the flowers brought in and placed in the stands. And there is a beautiful temperature in the parlour, for it is the same air that was there a fortnight before. It is so hot, when the young ladies come down to breakfast, they can't eat, so they take nothing but a plate of buck-wheat cakes, and another of hot buttered rolls, a dozen of oysters, a pot of preserves, a cup of honey, and a few ears of Indian corn. They can't abide meat, it's too solid and heavy. It's so horrid warm it's impossible they can have an appetite, and even that little trifle makes them feel dyspeptic. They'll starve soon; what can be the matter? A glass of cool ginger pop, with ice, would be refreshing, and soda water is still better, it is too early for wine, and at any rate it's heating, besides being unscriptural.
"Well, the men look at their watches, and say they are in a hurry, and must be off for their counting-houses like wink, so they bolt. What a wonder it is the English common people call the stomach a bread-basket, for it has no meanin' there. They should have called it a meat-tray, for they are the boys for beef and mutton. But with us it's the identical thing. They clear the table in no time, it's a grand thing, for it saves the servants trouble. And a steak, and a dish of chops, added to what the ladies had, is grand. The best way to make a pie is to make it in the stomach. But flour fixins piping hot is the best, and as their disgestion ain't good, it is better to try a little of everything on table to see which best agrees with them. So down goes the Johnny cakes, Indian flappers, Lucy Neals, Hoe cakes—with toast, fine cookies, rice batter, Indian batter, Kentucky batter, flannel cakes, and clam fritters. Super-superior fine flour is the wholesomest thing in the world, and you can't have too much of it. It's grand for pastry, and that is as light and as flakey as snow when well made. How can it make paste inside of you and be wholesome? If you would believe some Yankee doctors you'd think it would make the stomach a regular glue pot. They pretend to tell you pap made of it will kill a baby as dead as a herring. But doctors must have some hidden thing to lay the blame of their ignorance on. Once when they didn't know what was the matter of a child, they said it was water in the brain, and now when it dies—oh, they say, the poor thing was killed by that pastry flour. But they be hanged. How can the best of anything that is good be bad? The only thing is to be sure a thing is best, and then go a-head with it.
"Well, when the men get to their offices, they are half roasted alive, and have to take ices to cool them, and then for fear the cold will heat them, they have to take brandy cock-tail to counteract it. So they keep up a sort of artificial fever and ague all day. The ice gives the one, and brandy the other, like shuttlecock and battledore. If they had walked down as they had ought to have done, in the cool of the morning, they would have avoided all this.
"How different it is now in the country, ain't it? What a glorious thing the sun-rise is! How beautiful the dew-spangled bushes, and the pearly drops they shed, are! How sweet and cool is the morning air, and how refreshing and bracing the light breeze is to the nerves that have been relaxed in warm repose! The new-ploughed earth, the snowy-headed clover, the wild flowers, the blooming trees, and the balsamic spruce, all exhale their fragrance to invite you forth. While the birds offer up their morning hymn, as if to proclaim that all things praise the Lord. The lowing herd remind you that they have kept their appointed time; and the freshening breezes, as they swell in the forest and awaken the sleeping leaves, seem to whisper, 'We too come with healing on our wings;' and the babbling brook, that it also has its mission to minister to your wants. Oh, morning in the country is a glorious thing, and it is impossible when one rises and walks forth and surveys the scene not to exclaim, 'God is good.'
"Oh, that early hour has health, vigour, and cheerfulness in it. How natural it seems to me, how familiar I am with everything it indicates! The dew tells me there will be no showers, the white frost warns me of its approach; and if that does not arrive in time, the sun instructs me to notice and remember, that if it rises bright and clear and soon disappears in a cloud, I must prepare for heavy rain. The birds and the animals all, all say, 'We too are cared for, and we have our foreknowledge, which we disclose by our conduct to you." The brooks too have meaning in their voices, and the southern sentinel proclaims aloud, 'Prepare.' And the western, 'All is well.'"
Oh, how well I know the face of nature! What pleasure I take as I commence my journey at this hour, to witness the rising of the mist in the autumn from the low grounds, and its pausing on the hill-tops, as if regretting the scene it was about to leave! And how I admire the little insect webs, that are spangled over the field at that time; and the partridge warming itself in the first gleam of sunshine it can discover on the road! The alder, as I descend into the glen, gives me notice that the first frost has visited him, as it always does, before others, to warn him that it has arrived to claim every leaf of the forest as its own. Oh, the country is the place for peace, health, beauty, and innocence. I love it, I was born in it. I lived the greater part of my life there, and I look forward to die in it.
"How different from town life is that of the country! There are duties to be performed in-door and out-door, and the inmates assemble round their breakfast-table, refreshed by sleep and invigorated by the cool air, partake of their simple, plain, and substantial meal, with the relish of health, cheerfulness, and appetite. The open window admits the fresh breeze, in happy ignorance of dust, noise, or fashionable darkness. The verandah defies rain or noon-day sun, and employment affords no room for complaint that the day is hot, the weather oppressive, the nerves weak, or the digestion enfeebled. There can be no happiness where there is an alternation of listlessness and excitement. They are the two extremes between which it resides, and that locality to my mind is the country. Care, disease, sorrow, and disappointment are common to both. They are the lot of humanity; but the children of mammon, and of God, bear them differently.
"I didn't intend to turn preacher, Doctor, but I do positively believe, if I hadn't a been a clockmaker, dear old Minister would have made me one. I don't allot, though, I would have taken in Slickville, for I actilly think I couldn't help waltzing with the galls, which would have put our folks into fits, or kept old Clay, clergymen like, to leave sinners behind me. I can't make out these puritan fellows, or evangelical boys, at all. To my mind, religion is a cheerful thing, intended to make us happy, not miserable; and that our faces, like that of nature, should be smiling, and that like birds we should sing and carol, and like lilies, we should be well arrayed, and not that our countenances should make folks believe we were chosen vessels, containing, not the milk of human kindness, but horrid sour vinegar and acid mothery grounds. Why, the very swamp behind our house is full of a plant called 'a gall's side-saddle.'1
1 This is the common name for the Sarracenia.
"Plague take them old Independents; I can't and never could understand them. I believe, if Bishop Laud had allowed them to sing through their noses, pray without gowns, and build chapels without steeples, they would have died out like Quakers, by being let alone. They wanted to make the state believe they were of consequence. If the state had treated them as if they were of no importance, they would have felt that too very soon. Opposition made them obstinate. They won't stick at nothing to carry their own ends.
"They made a law once in Connecticut that no man should ride or drive on a Sunday except to a conventicle. Well, an old Dutch governor of New York, when that was called New Amsterdam and belonged to Holland, once rode into the colony on horseback on a Sabbath day, pretty hard job it was too, for he was a very stout man, and a poor horseman. There were no wheel carriages in those days, and he had been used to home to travel in canal boats, and smoke at his ease; but he had to make the journey, and he did it, and he arrived just as the puritans were coming out of meeting, and going home, slowly, stately, and solemnly, to their cold dinner cooked the day before (for they didn't think it no harm to make servants work double tides on Saturday), their rule being to do anything of a week day, but nothing on the Sabbath.
"Well, it was an awful scandal this, and a dreadful violation of the blue laws of the young nation. Connecticut and New Amsterdam (New York) were nothing then but colonies; but the puritans owed no obedience to princes, and set up for themselves. The elders and ministry and learned men met on Monday to consider of this dreadful profanity of the Dutch governor. On the one hand it was argued, if he entered their state (for so they called it then) he was amenable to their laws, and ought to be cited, condemned, and put into the stocks, as an example to evil-doers. On the other hand, they got hold of a Dutch book on the Law of Nations, to cite agin him; but it was written in Latin, and although it contained all about it, they couldn't find the place, for their minister said there was no index to it. Well, it was said, if we are independent, so is he, and whoever heard of a king or a prince being put in the stocks? It bothered them, so they sent their Yankee governor to him to bully and threaten him, and see how he would take it, as we now do, at the present day, to Spain about Cuba, and England about your fisheries.
"Well, the governor made a long speech to him, read him a chapter in the Bible, and then expounded it, and told him they must put him in the stocks. All this time the Dutchman went on smoking, and blowing out great long puffs of tobacco. At last he paused, and said:
"'You be tamned. Stockum me—stockum teivel.' And he laid down his pipe, and with one hand took hold of their governor by the fore-top, and with the other drew a line across his forehead and said, 'Den I declare war, and Gooten Himmel! I shall scalp you all.'
"After delivering himself of that long speech, he poured out two glasses of Schiedam, drunk one himself, and offered the Yankee governor the other, who objected to the word Schiedam, as it terminated in a profane oath, with which, he said, the Dutch language was greatly defiled; but seeing it was also called Geneva, he would swallow it. Well, his high mightiness didn't understand him, but he opened his eyes like an owl and stared, and said, 'Dat is tam coot,' and the conference broke up.
"Well, it was the first visit of the Dutch governor, and they hoped it would be the last, so they passed it over. But his business was important, and it occupied him the whole week to settle it, and he took his leave on Saturday evening, and was to set out for home on Sunday again. Well, this was considered as adding insult to injury. What was to be done? Now it's very easy and very proper for us to sit down and condemn the Duke of Tuscany, who encourages pilgrims to go to shrines where marble statues weep blood, and cataliptic galls let flies walk over their eyes without winking, and yet imprisons an English lady for giving away the 'Pilgrim's Progress.' It's very wrong, no doubt, but it ain't very new after all. Ignorant and bigoted people always have persecuted, and always will to the end of the chapter. But what was to be done with his high mightiness, the Dutch governor? Well, they decided that it was not lawful to put him into the stocks; but that it was lawful to deprive him of the means of sinning. So one of the elders swapped horses with him, and when he started on the Sabbath, the critter was so lame after he went a mile, he had to return and wait till Monday.
"No, I don't understand these puritan folks; and I suppose if I had been a preacher they wouldn't have understood me. But I must get back to where I left off. I was a talkin' about the difference of life in town and in the country, and how in the world I got away, off from the subject, to the Dutch governor and them puritans, I don't know. When I say I love the country, I mean it in its fullest extent, not merely old settlements and rural districts, but the great unbroken forest. This is a taste, I believe, a man must have in early life. I don't think it can be acquired in middle age, any more than playin' marbles can, though old Elgin tried that game and made money at it. A man must know how to take care of himself, forage for himself, shelter himself, and cook for himself. It's no place for an epicure, because he can't carry his cook, and his spices, and sauces, and all that, with him. Still a man ought to know a goose from a gridiron; and if he wants to enjoy the sports of the flood and the forest, he should be able to help himself; and what he does he ought to do well. Fingers were made afore knives and forks; flat stones before bake-pans; crotched sticks before jacks; bark before tin; and chips before plates; and it's worth knowing how to use them or form them.
"It takes two or three years to build and finish a good house. A wigwam is knocked up in an hour; and as you have to be your own architect, carpenter, mason, and labourer, it's just as well to be handy as not. A critter that can't do that, hante the gumption of a bear who makes a den, a fox who makes a hole, or a bird that makes a nest, let alone a beaver, who is a dab at house building. No man can enjoy the woods that ain't up to these things. If he ain't, he had better stay to his hotel, where there is one servant to clean his shoes, another to brush his coat, a third to make his bed, a fourth to shave him, a fifth to cook for him, a sixth to wait on him, a seventh to wash for him, and half a dozen more for him to scold and bless all day. That's a place where he can go to bed, and get no sleep—go to dinner, and have no appetite—go to the window, and get no fresh air, but snuff up the perfume of drains, bar-rooms, and cooking ranges—suffer from heat, because he can't wear his coat, or from politeness, because he can't take it off—or go to the beach, where the sea breeze won't come, it's so far up the country, where the white sand will dazzle, and where there is no shade, because trees won't grow—or stand and throw stones into the water, and then jump in arter 'em in despair, and forget the way out. He'd better do anything than go to the woods.
"But if he can help himself like a man, oh, it's a glorious place. The ways of the forest are easy to learn, its nature is simple, and the cooking plain, while the fare is abundant. Fish for the catching, deer for the shooting, cool springs for the drinking, wood for the cutting, appetite for eating, and sleep that waits no wooing. It comes with the first star, and tarries till it fades into morning. For the time you are monarch of all you survey. No claimant forbids you; no bailiff haunts you; no thieves molest you; no fops annoy you. If the tempest rages without, you are secure in your lowly tent. Though it humbles in its fury the lofty pine, and uproots the stubborn oak, it passes harmlessly over you, and you feel for once you are a free and independent man. You realize a term which is a fiction in our constitution. Nor pride nor envy, hatred nor malice, rivalry nor strife is there. You are at peace with all the world, and the world is at peace with you. You own not its authority. You can worship God after your own fashion, and dread not the name of bigot, idolater, heretic, or schismatic. The forest is his temple—he is ever present, and the still small voice of your short and simple prayer seems more audible amid the silence that reigns around you. You feel that you are in the presence of your Creator, before whom you humble yourself, and not of man, before whom you clothe yourself with pride. Your very solitude seems to impress you with the belief that, though hidden from the world, you are more distinctly visible, and more individually an object of Divine protection, than any worthless atom like yourself ever could be in the midst of a multitude—a mere unit of millions. Yes, you are free to come, to go, to stay; your home is co-extensive with the wild woods. Perhaps it is better for a solitary retreat than a permanent home; still it forms a part of what I call the country.
"At Country Harbour we had a sample of the simple, plain, natural, unpretending way in which neighbours meet of an evening in the rural districts. But look at that house in the town, where we saw the family assembled at breakfast this morning, and see what is going on there to-night. It is the last party of the season. The family leave the city in a week for the country. What a delightful change from the heated air of a town-house, to the quiet retreat of an hotel at a watering-place, where there are only six hundred people collected. It is positively the very last party, and would have been given weeks ago, but everybody was engaged for so long a time a-head, there was no getting the fashionable folks to come. It is a charming ball. The old ladies are fully dressed, only they are so squeezed against the walls, their diamonds and pearls are hid. And the young ladies are so lightly dressed, they look lovely. And the old gentlemen seem so happy as they walk round the room, and smile on all the acquaintances of their early days; and tell every one they look so well, and their daughters are so handsome. It ain't possible they are bored, and they try not even to look so. And the room is so well lighted, and so well filled, perhaps a little too much so to leave space for the dancers; but yet not more so than is fashionable. And then the young gentlemen talk so enchantingly about Paris, and London, and Rome, and so disparagingly of home, it is quite refreshing to hear them. And they have been in such high society abroad, they ought to be well bred, for they know John Manners, and all the Manners family, and well informed in politics; for they know John Russell, who never says I'll be hanged if I do this or that, but I will be beheaded if I do; in allusion to one of his great ancestors who was as innocent of trying to subvert the constitution as he is. And they have often seen 'Albert, Albert, Prince of Wales, and all the royal family,' as they say in England for shortness. They have travelled with their eyes open, ears open, mouths open, and pockets open. They have heard, seen, tasted, and bought everything worth having. They are capital judges of wine, and that reminds them there is lots of the best in the next room; but they soon discover they can't have it in perfection in America. It has been nourished for the voyage, it has been fed with brandy. It is heady, for when they return to their fair friends, their hands are not quite steady, they are apt to spill things over the ladies dresses (but they are so good-natured, they only laugh; for they never wear a dress but wunst). And their eyes sparkle like jewels, and they look at their partners as if they would eat 'em up. And I guess they tell them so, for they start sometimes, and say:
"'Oh, well now, that's too bad! Why how you talk! Well, travellin' hasn't improved you?'
"But it must be a charming thing to be eat up, for they look delighted at the very idea of it; and their mammas seem pleased that they are so much to the taste of these travelled gentlemen.
"Well then, dancing is voted a bore by the handsomest couple in the room, and they sit apart, and the uninitiated think they are making love. And they talk so confidentially, and look so amused; they seem delighted with each other. But they are only criticising.
"'Who is pink skirt?'
"'What in the world do they call her Blue-nose for?'
"'It is a nickname for the Nova Scotians. Her father is one; he made his fortune by a diving-bell.'
"'Did he? Well, it's quite right then it should go with a belle.'
"'How very good! May I repeat that? You do say such clever things! And who is that pale girl that reminds you of brown holland, bleached white? She looks quite scriptural; she has a proud look and a high stomach.'
"'That's Rachael Scott, one of my very best friends. She is as good a girl as ever lived. My! I wish I was as rich as she is. I have only three hundred thousand dollars, but she will have four at her father's death if he don't bust and fail. But, dear me! how severe you are! I am quite afraid of you. I wonder what you will say of me when my back is turned!'
"'Shall I tell you?'
"'Yes, if it isn't too savage.'
"The hint about the money is not lost, for he is looking for a fortune, it saves the trouble of making one; and he whispers something in her ear that pleases her uncommonly, for she sais,
"'Ah now, the severest thing you can do is to flatter me that way.'
"They don't discourse of the company anymore; they have too much to say to each other of themselves now.
"'My! what a smash! what in the world is that?'
"'Nothing but a large mirror. It is lucky it is broken, for if the host saw himself in it, he might see the face of a fool.'
"'How uproariously those young men talk, and how loud the music is, and how confounded hot the room is! I must go home. But I must wait a moment till that noisy, tipsy boy is dragged down-stairs, and shoved into a hack.'
"And this is upstart life, is it? Yes, but there are changing scenes in life. Look at these rooms next morning. The chandelier is broken; the centre table upset, the curtains are ruined, the carpets are covered with ice-creams, jellies, blancmanges, and broken glass. And the elegant album, souvenirs, and autograph books, are all in the midst of this nasty mess.1 The couches are greasy, the silk ottoman shows it has been sat in since it met with an accident which was only a trifle, and there has been the devil to pay everywhere. A doctor is seen going into the house, and soon after a coffin is seen coming out. An unbidden guest, a disgusting levelling democrat came to that ball, how or when no one knew; but there he is and there he will remain for the rest of the summer. He has victimized one poor girl already, and is now strangling another. The yellow fever is there. Nature has sent her avenging angel. There is no safety but in flight.
1 Whoever thinks this description over-drawn, is referred to a remarkably clever work which lately appeared in New York, entitled "The Potiphar Papers." Mr Slick has evidently spared this class of society.
"Good gracious! if people will ape their superiors, why won't they imitate their elegance as well as their extravagance, and learn that it is the refinement alone, of the higher orders which in all countries distinguishes them from the rest of mankind? The decencies of life, when polished, become its brightest ornaments. Gold is a means, and not an end. It can do a great deal, still it can't do everything; and among others I guess it can't make a gentleman, or else California would be chock full of 'em. No, give me the country, and the folks that live in it, I say."
CHAPTER XXI. THE HONEYMOON.
After having given vent to the foregoing lockrum, I took Jehosophat Bean's illustrated "Biography of the Eleven Hundred and Seven Illustrious American Heroes," and turned in to read a spell; but arter a while I lost sight of the heroes and their exploits, and I got into a wide spekilation on all sorts of subjects, and among the rest my mind wandered off to Jordan river, the Collingwood girls in particular, and Jessie and the doctor, and the Beaver-dam, and its inmates in general. I shall set down my musings as if I was thinking aloud.
I wonder, sais I to myself, whether Sophy and I shall be happy together, sposin' always, that she is willing to put her head into the yoke, for that's by no means sartain yet. I'll know better when I can study her more at leisure. Still matrimony is always a risk, where you don't know what sort of breaking a critter has had when young. Women in a general way don't look like the same critters when they are spliced, that they do before; matrimony, like sugar and water, has a nateral affinity for and tendency to acidity. The clear, beautiful, bright sunshine of the wedding morning is too apt to cloud over at twelve o'clock, and the afternoon to be cold, raw, and uncomfortable, or else the heat generates storms that fairly make the house shake, and the happy pair tremble again. Everybody knows the real, solid grounds which can alone make married life perfect. I should only prose if I was to state them, but I have an idea as cheerfulness is a great ingredient, a good climate has a vast deal to do with it, for who can be chirp in a bad one? Wedlock was first instituted in Paradise. Well, there must have been a charming climate there. It could not have been too hot, for Eve never used a parasol, or even a "kiss-me-quick," and Adam never complained, though he wore no clothes, that the sun blistered his skin. It couldn't have been wet, or they would have coughed all the time, like consumptive sheep, and it would have spoiled their garden, let alone giving them the chilblains and the snuffles. They didn't require umbrellas, uglies, fans, or India-rubber shoes. There was no such a thing as a stroke of the sun or a snow-drift there. The temperature must have been perfect, and connubial bliss, I allot, was rael jam up. The only thing that seemed wanting there, was for some one to drop in to tea now and then for Eve to have a good chat with, while Adam was a studyin' astronomy, or tryin' to invent a kettle that would stand fire; for women do like talking, that's a fact, and there are many little things they have to say to each other that no man has any right to hear, and if he did, he couldn't understand.
It's like a dodge Sally and I had to blind mother. Sally was for everlastingly leaving the keys about, and every time there was an inquiry about them, or a hunt for them, the old lady would read her a proper lecture. So at last she altered the name, and said, "Sam, wo is shlizel?" instead of Where is the key, and she tried all she could to find it out, but she couldn't for the life of her.
Yes, what can be expected of such a climate as Nova Scotia or England? Though the first can ripen Indian corn and the other can't, and that is a great test, I can tell you. It is hard to tell which of them is wuss, for both are bad enough, gracious knows, and yet the fools that live in them brag that their own beats all natur. If it is the former, well then thunder don't clear the weather as it does to the South, and the sun don't come out bright again at wunst and all natur look clear and tranquil and refreshed; and the flowers and roses don't hang their heads down coily for the breeze to brush the drops from their newly-painted leaves, and then hold up and look more lovely than ever; nor does the voice of song and merriment arise from every tree; nor fragrance and perfume fill the air, till you are tempted to say, Now did you ever see anything so charming as this? nor do you stroll out arm-in-arm (that is, sposin' you ain't in a nasty dirty horrid town), and feel pleased with the dear married gall and yourself, and all you see and hear, while you drink in pleasure with every sense—oh, it don't do that. Thunder unsettles everything for most a week, there seems no end to the gloom during these three or four days. You shiver if you don't make a fire, and if you do you are fairly roasted alive. It's all grumblin' and growlin' within, and all mud, slush, and slop outside. You are bored to death everywhere. And if it's English climate it is wuss still, because in Nova Scotia there is an end to all this at last, for the west wind blows towards the end of the week soft and cool and bracing, and sweeps away the clouds, and lays the dust and dries all up, and makes everything smile again. But if it is English it's unsettled and uncertain all the time. You can't depend on it for an hour. Now it rains, then it clears, after that the sun shines; but it rains too, both together, like hystericks, laughing and crying at the same time. The trees are loaded with water, and hold it like a sponge; touch a bough of one with your hat, and you are drowned in a shower-bath. There is no hope, for there is no end visible, and when there does seem a little glimpse of light, so as to make you think it is a going to relent, it wraps itself up in a foggy, drizzly mist, and sulks like anything.
In this country they have a warm summer, a magnificent autumn, a clear, cold, healthy winter, but no sort of spring at all. In England they have no summer and no winter.1 Now, in my opinion, that makes the difference in temper between the two races. The clear sky and bracing air here, when they do come, give the folks good spirits; but the extremes of heat and cold limit the time, and decrease the inclination for exercise. Still the people are good-natured, merry fellows. In England, the perpetual gloom of the sky affects the disposition of the men. America knows no such temper as exists in Britain. People here can't even form an idea of it. Folks often cut off their children there in their wills for half nothing, won't be reconciled to them on any terms, if they once displease them, and both they and their sons die game, and when death sends cards of invitation for the last assemblage of a family, they write declensions. There can't be much real love where there is no tenderness. A gloomy sky, stately houses, and a cold, formal people, make Cupid, like a bird of passage, spread his wings, and take flight to a more congenial climate.
1 I wonder what Mr Slick would say now, in 1855?
Castles have show-apartments, and the vulgar gaze with stupid wonder, and envy the owners. But there are rooms in them all, not exhibited. In them the imprisoned bird may occasionally be seen, as in the olden time, to flutter against the casement and pine in the gloom of its noble cage. There are chambers too in which grief, anger, jealousy, wounded pride, and disappointed ambition, pour out their sighs, their groans, and imprecations, unseen and unheard. The halls resound with mirth and revelry, and the eye grows dim with its glittering splendour; but amid all this ostentatious brilliancy, poor human nature refuses to be comforted with diamonds and pearls, or to acknowledge that happiness consists in gilded galleries, gay equipages, or fashionable parties. They are cold and artificial. The heart longs to discard this joyless pageantry, to surround itself with human affections, and only asks to love and be loved.
Still England is not wholly composed of castles and cottages, and there are very many happy homes in it, and thousands upon thousands of happy people in them, in spite of the melancholy climate, the destitution of the poor, and the luxury of the rich. God is good. He is not only merciful, but a just judge. He equalizes the condition of all. The industrious poor man is content, for he relies on Providence and his own exertions for his daily bread. He earns his food, and his labour gives him a zest for it. Ambition craves, and is never satisfied, one is poor amid his prodigal wealth, the other rich in his frugal poverty. No man is rich whose expenditure exceeds his means; and no one is poor whose incomings exceeds his outgoings. Barring such things as climate, over which we have no control, happiness, in my idea, consists in the mind, and not in the purse. These are plain common truths, and everybody will tell you there is nothing new in them, just as if there was anything new under the sun but my wooden clocks, and yet they only say so because they can't deny them, for who acts as if he ever heard of them before. Now, if they do know them, why the plague don't they regulate their timepieces by them? If they did, matrimony wouldn't make such an everlastin' transmogrification of folks as it does, would it?
The way cupidists scratch their head and open their eyes and stare after they are married, reminds me of Felix Culpepper. He was a judge at Saint Lewis, on the Mississippi, and the lawyers used to talk gibberish to him, yougerry, eyegerry, iggery, ogerry, and tell him it was Littleton's Norman French and Law Latin. It fairly onfakilised him. Wedlock works just such changes on folks sometimes. It makes me laugh, and then it fairly scares me.
Sophy, dear, how will you and I get on, eh? The Lord only knows, but you are an uncommon sensible gall, and people tell me till I begin to believe it myself, that I have some common sense, so we must try to learn the chart of life, so as to avoid those sunk rocks so many people make shipwreck on. I have often asked myself the reason of all this onsartainty. Let us jist see how folks talk and think, and decide on this subject. First and foremost they have got a great many cant terms, and you can judge a good deal from them. There is the honeymoon, now, was there ever such a silly word as that? Minister said the Dutch at New Amsterdam, as they used to call New York, brought out the word to America, for all the friends of the new married couple, in Holland, did nothing for a whole month but smoke, drink metheglin (a tipple made of honey and gin), and they called that bender the honeymoon; since then the word has remained, though metheglin is forgot for something better.
Well, when a couple is married now, they give up a whole month to each other, what an everlastin' sacrifice, ain't it, out of a man's short life? The reason is, they say, the metheglin gets sour after that, and ain't palatable no more, and what is left of it is used for picklin' cucumbers, peppers, and nastertions, and what not. Now, as Brother Eldad, the doctor, says, let us dissect this phrase, and find out what one whole moon means, and then we shall understand what this wonderful thing is. The new moon now, as a body might say, ain't nothing. It's just two small lines of a semicircle, like half a wheel, with a little strip of white in it, about as big as a cart tire, and it sets a little after sundown; and as it gives no light, you must either use a candle or go to bed in the dark: now that's the first week, and it's no great shakes to brag on, is it? Well, then there is the first quarter, and calling that the first which ought to be second, unless the moon has only three quarters, which sounds odd, shows that the new moon counts for nothin'. Well, the first quarter is something like the thing, though not the real genuine article either. It's better than the other, but its light don't quite satisfy us neither. Well, then comes the full moon, and that is all there is, as one may say. Now, neither the moon nor nothin' else can be more than full, and when you have got all, there is nothing more to expect. But a man must be a blockhead, indeed, to expect the moon to remain one minute after it is full, as every night clips a little bit off, till there is a considerable junk gone by the time the week is out, and what is worse, every night there is more and more darkness afore it rises. It comes reluctant, and when it does arrive it hante long to stay, for the last quarter takes its turn at the lantern. That only rises a little afore the sun, as if it was ashamed to be caught napping at that hour—that quarter therefore is nearly as dark as ink. So you see the new and last quarter go for nothing; that everybody will admit. The first ain't much better, but the last half of that quarter and the first of the full, make a very decent respectable week.
Well, then, what's all this when it's fried? Why, it amounts to this, that if there is any resemblance between a lunar and a lunatic month, that the honeymoon lasts only one good week.
Don't be skeared, Sophy, when you read this, because we must look things in the face and call them by their right name.
Well, then, let us call it the honey-week. Now if it takes a whole month to make one honey-week, it must cut to waste terribly, mustn't it? But then you know a man can't wive and thrive the same year. Now wastin' so much of that precious month is terrible, ain't it? But oh me, bad as it is, it ain't the worst of it. There is no insurance office for happiness, there is no policy to be had to cover losses—you must bear them all yourself. Now suppose, just suppose for one moment, and positively such things have happened before now, they have indeed; I have known them occur more than once or twice myself among my own friends, fact, I assure you. Suppose now that week is cold, cloudy, or uncomfortable, where is the honeymoon then? Recollect there is only one of them, there ain't two. You can't say it rained cats and dogs this week, let us try the next; you can't do that, it's over and gone for ever. Well, if you begin life with disappointment, it is apt to end in despair.
Now, Sophy, dear, as I said before, don't get skittish at seeing this, and start and race off and vow you won't ever let the halter be put on you, for I kinder sorter guess that, with your sweet temper, good sense, and lovin' heart, and with the light-hand I have for a rein, our honeymoon will last through life. We will give up that silly word, that foolish boys and girls use without knowing its meanin', and we will count by years and not by months, and we won't expect, what neither marriage nor any other earthly thing can give, perfect happiness. It tante in the nature of things, and don't stand to reason, that earth is Heaven, Slickville paradise, or you and me angels; we ain't no such a thing. If you was, most likely the first eastwardly wind (and though it is a painful thing to confess it, I must candidly admit there is an eastwardly wind sometimes to my place to home), why you would just up wings and off to the sky like wink, and say you didn't like the land of the puritans, it was just like themselves, cold, hard, uncongenial, and repulsive; and what should I do? Why most likely remain behind, for there is no marrying or giving in marriage up there.
No, no, dear, if you are an angel, and positively you are amazingly like one, why the first time I catch you asleep I will clip your wings and keep you here with me, until we are both ready to start together. We won't hope for too much, nor fret for trifles, will we? These two things are the greatest maxims in life I know of. When I was a boy I used to call them commandments, but I got such a lecture for that, and felt so sorry for it afterwards, I never did again, nor will as long as I live. Oh, dear, I shall never forget the lesson poor dear old Minister taught me on that occasion.
There was a thanksgiving ball wunst to Slickville, and I wanted to go, but I had no clothes suitable for such an occasion as that, and father said it would cost more than it was worth to rig me out for it, so I had to stop at home. Sais Mr Hopewell to me,
"Sam," said he, "don't fret about it, you will find it 'all the same a year hence.' As that holds good in most things, don't it show us the folly now of those trifles we set our hearts on, when in one short year they will be disregarded or forgotten?"
"Never fear," said I, "I am not a going to break the twelfth commandment."
"Twelfth commandment," said he, repeatin' the words slowly, laying down his book, taking off his spectacles, and lookin' hard at me, almost onfakilised. "Twelfth commandment, did I hear right, Sam," said he, "did you say that?"
Well, I saw there was a squall rising to windward, but boy like, instead of shortening sail, and taking down royals and topgallant masts, and making all snug, I just braved it out, and prepared to meet the blast with every inch of canvas set. "Yes, Sir," said I, "the twelfth."
"Dear me," said he, "poor boy, that is my fault. I really thought you knew there were only ten, and had them by heart years ago. They were among the first things I taught you. How on earth could you have forgotten them so soon? Repeat them to me."
Well, I went through them all, down to "anything that is his," to ampersand without making a single stop.
"Sam," said he, "don't do it again, that's a good soul, for it frightens me. I thought I must have neglected you."
"Well," sais I, "there are two more, Sir."
"Two more," he said, "why what under the sun do you mean? what are they?"
"Why," sais I, "the eleventh is, 'Expect nothin', and you shall not be disappointed,' and the twelfth is, 'Fret not thy gizzard.'"
"And pray, Sir," said he, lookin' thunder-squalls at me, "where did you learn them?"
"From Major Zeb Vidito," said I.
"Major Zeb Vidito," he replied, "is the greatest reprobate in the army. He is the wretch who boasts that he fears neither God, man, nor devil. Go, my son, gather up your books, and go home. You can return to your father. My poor house has no room in it for Major Zeb Vidito, or his pupil, Sam Slick, or any such profane wicked people, and may the Lord have mercy on you."
Well, to make a long story short, it brought me to my bearings that. I had to heave to, lower a boat, send a white flag to him, beg pardon, and so on, and we knocked up a treaty of peace, and made friends again.
"I won't say no more about it, Sam," said he, "but mind my words, and apply your experience to it afterwards in life, and see if I ain't right. Crime has but two travelling companions. It commences its journey with the scoffer, and ends it with the blasphemer: not that talking irreverently ain't very improper in itself, but it destroys the sense of right and wrong, and prepares the way for sin."