I come now to speak of Thomas Whately, to whom I have already alluded, and of whom, from the scantiness of all record of his life, it is possible to say only very little. He lived at Nonsuch Park, in Surrey, not many miles from London, on the road to Epsom. He was engaged in public affairs, being at one time secretary to the Earl of Suffolk, and also a member of Parliament. But I enroll him in my wet-day service simply as the author of the most appreciative and most tasteful treatise upon landscape-gardening which has ever been written,—not excepting either Price or Repton. It is entitled, "Observations on Modern Gardening," and was first published in 1770. It was the same year translated into French by Latapie, and was to the Continental gardeners the first revelation of the graces which belonged to English cultivated landscape. In the course of the book he gives vivid descriptions of Blenheim, Hagley, Leasowes, Claremont, and several other well-known British places. He treats separately of Parks, Water, Farms, Gardens, Ridings, etc., illustrating each with delicate and tender transcripts of natural scenes. Now he takes us to the cliffs of Matlock, and again to the farm-flats of Woburn. His criticisms upon the places reviewed are piquant, full of rare apprehension of the most delicate natural beauties, and based on principles which every man of taste must accept at sight. As you read him, he does not seem so much a theorizer or expounder as he does the simple interpreter of graces which had escaped your notice. His suggestions come upon you with such a momentum of truthfulness, that you cannot stay to challenge them.
There is no argumentation, and no occasion for it. On such a bluff he tells us wood should be planted, and we wonder that a hundred people had not said the same thing before; on such a river-meadow the grassy level should lie open to the sun, and we wonder who could ever have doubted it. Nor is it in matters of taste alone, I think, that the best things we hear seem always to have a smack of oldness in them,—as if we remembered their virtue. "Capital!" we say; "but hasn't it been said before?" or, "Precisely! I wonder I didn't do or say the same thing myself." Whenever you hear such criticisms upon any performance, you may be sure that it has been directed by a sound instinct. It is not a sort of criticism any one is apt to make upon flashy rhetoric, or upon flash gardening.
Whately alludes to the analogy between landscape-painting and landscape-gardening: the true artists in either pursuit aim at the production of rich pictorial effects, but their means are different. Does the painter seek to give steepness to a declivity?—then he may add to his shading a figure or two toiling up. The gardener, indeed, cannot plant a man there; but a copse upon the summit will add to the apparent height, and he may indicate the difficulty of ascent by a hand-rail running along the path. The painter will extend his distance by the diminuendo of his mountains, or of trees stretching toward the horizon: the gardener has, indeed, no handling of successive mountains, but he may increase apparent distance by leafy avenues leading toward the limit of vision; he may even exaggerate the effect still further by so graduating the size of his trees as to make a counterfeit perspective.
When I read such a book as this of Whately's,—so informed and leavened as it is by an elegant taste,—I am most painfully impressed by the shortcomings of very much which is called good landscape-gardening with us. As if serpentine walks, and glimpses of elaborated turf-ground, and dots of exotic evergreens in little circlets of spaded earth, compassed at all those broad effects which a good designer should keep in mind! We are gorged with petit-maitre-ism, and pretty littlenesses of all kinds. We have the daintiest of walks, and the rarest of shrubs, and the best of drainage; but of those grand, bold effects which at once seize upon the imagination, and inspire it with new worship of Nature, we have great lack. In private grounds we cannot of course command the opportunity which the long tenure under British privilege gives; but the conservators of public parks have scope and verge; let them look to it, that their resources be not wasted in the niceties of mere gardening, or in elaborate architectural devices. Banks of blossoming shrubs and tangled wild vines and labyrinthine walks will count for nothing in park-effect, when, fifty years hence, the scheme shall have ripened, and hoary pines pile along the ridges, and gaunt single trees spot here and there the glades, to invite the noontide wayfarer. A true artist should keep these ultimate effects always in his eye,—effects that may be greatly impaired, if not utterly sacrificed, by an injudicious multiplication of small and meretricious beauties, which in no way conspire to the grand and final poise of the scene.
But I must not dwell upon so enticing a topic, or my wet day will run over into sunshine. One word more, however, I have to say of the personality of the author who has suggested it. The reader of Sparks's Works and Life of Franklin may remember, that, in the fourth volume, under the head of "Hutchinson's Letters," the Doctor details difficulties which he fell into in connection with "certain papers" he obtained indirectly from one of His Majesty's officials, and communicated to Thomas Gushing, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts Bay. The difficulty involved others besides the Doctor, and a duel came of it between a certain William Whately and Mr. Temple. This William Whately was the brother of Thomas Whately,—the author in question,—and secretary to Lord Grenville,[L] in which capacity he died in 1772.[M] The "papers" alluded to were letters from Governor Hutchinson and others, expressing sympathy with the British Ministry in their efforts to enforce a grievous Colonial taxation. It was currently supposed that Mr. Secretary Whately was the recipient of these letters; and upon their being made public after his death, Mr. Whately, his brother and executor, conceived that Mr. Temple was the instrument of their transfer. Hence the duel. Dr. Franklin, however, by public letter, declared that this allegation was ill-founded, but would never reveal the name of the party to whom he was indebted. The Doctor lost his place of Postmaster-General for the Colonies, and was egregiously insulted by Wedderburn in open Council; but he could console himself with the friendship of such men as Lawyer Dunning, (one of the suspected authors of "Junius,") and with the eulogium of Lord Chatham.
There are three more names belonging to this period which I shall bring under review, to finish up my day. These are Horace Walpole, (Lord Orford,) Edmund Burke, and Oliver Goldsmith. Walpole was the proprietor of Strawberry Hill, and wrote upon gardening: Burke was the owner of a noble farm at Beaconsfield, which he managed with rare sagacity: Goldsmith could never claim land enough to dig a grave upon, until the day he was buried; but he wrote the story of "The Vicar of Wakefield," and the sweet poem of "The Deserted Village."
I take a huge pleasure in dipping from time to time, into the books of Horace Walpole, and an almost equal pleasure in cherishing a hearty contempt for the man. With a certain native cleverness, and the tact of a showman, he paraded his resources, whether of garden, or villa, or memory, or ingenuity, so as to carry a reputation for ability that he never has deserved. His money, and the distinction of his father, gave him an association with cultivated people,—artists, politicians, poets,—which the metal of his own mind would never have found by reason of its own gravitating power. He courted notoriety in a way that would have made him, if a poorer man, the toadying Boswell of some other Johnson giant, and, if very poor, the welcome buffoon of some gossiping journal, who would never weary of contortions, and who would brutify himself at the death, to kindle an admiring smile.
He writes pleasantly about painters, and condescendingly of gardeners and gardening. Of the special beauties of Strawberry Hill he is himself historiographer; elaborate copper plates, elegant paper, and a particularity that is ludicrous, set forth the charms of a villa which never supplied a single incentive to correct taste, or a single scene that has the embalmment of genius. He tells us grandly how this room was hung with crimson, and that other with gold; how "the tearoom was adorned with green paper and prints, ...on the hearth, a large green vase of German ware, with a spread eagle, and lizards for handles,"—which vase (if the observation be not counted disloyal by sensitive gentlemen) must have been a very absurd bit of pottery. "On a shelf and brackets are two potpourris of Hankin china; two pierced blue and white basons of old Delft; and two sceaus [sic] of coloured Seve; a blue and white vase and cover; and two old Fayence bottles."
When a man writes about his own furniture in this style for large type and quarto, we pity him more than if he had kept to such fantastic nightmares as the "Castle of Otranto." The Earl of Orford speaks in high terms of the literary abilities of the Earl of Bath: have any of my readers ever chanced to see any literary work of the Earl of Bath? If not, I will supply the omission, in the shape of a ballad, "to the tune of a former song by George Bubb Doddington." It is entitled, "Strawberry Hill."
"Some cry up Gunnersbury, For Sion some declare; And some say that with Chiswick House No villa can compare. But ask the beaux of Middlesex, Who know the country well, If Strawb'ry Hill, if Strawb'ry Hill Don't bear away the bell?
"Since Denham sung of Cooper's, There's scarce a hill around But what in song or ditty Is turned to fairy ground. Ah, peace be with their memories! I wish them wondrous well; But Strawb'ry Hill, but Strawb'ry Hill Must bear away the bell."
It is no way surprising that a noble poet capable of writing such a ballad should have admired the villa of Horace Walpole: it is no way surprising that a proprietor capable of admiring such a ballad should have printed his own glorification of Strawberry Hill.
I am not insensible to the easy grace and the piquancy of his letters; no man could ever pour more delightful twaddle into the ear of a great friend; no man could more delight in doing it, if only the friend were really great. I am aware that he was highly cultivated,—that he had observed widely at home and abroad,—that he was a welcome guest in distinguished circles; but he never made or had a real friend; and the news of the old man's death made no severer shock than if one of his Fayence pipkins had broken.
But what most irks me is the absurd dilettanteism and presumption of the man. He writes a tale as if he were giving dignity to romance; he applauds an artist as Dives might have thrown crumbs to Lazarus; vain to the last degree of all that he wrote or said, he was yet too fine a gentleman to be called author; if there had been a way of printing books, without recourse to the vulgar media of type and paper,—a way of which titled gentlemen could command the monopoly,—I think he would have written more. As I turn over the velvety pages of his works, and look at his catalogues, his bon-mots, his drawings, his affectations of magnificence, I seem to see the fastidious old man shuffling with gouty step up and down, from drawing-room to library,—stopping here and there to admire some newly arrived bit of pottery,—pulling out his golden snuff-box, and whisking a delicate pinch into his old nostrils,—then dusting his affluent shirt—frill with the tips of his dainty fingers, with an air of gratitude to Providence for having created so fine a gentleman as Horace Walpole, and of gratitude to Horace Walpole for having created so fine a place as Strawberry Hill.
I turn from this ancient specimen of titled elegance to a consideration of Mr. Burke, with much the same relief with which I would go out from a perfumed drawing-room into the breezy air of a June morning. Lord Kames has told us that Mr. Burke preferred oxen to horses for field-labor; and we have Burke's letters to his bailiff, showing a nice attention to the economies of farming, and a complete mastery of its working details. But more than anywhere else does his agricultural sagacity declare itself in his "Thoughts and Details on Scarcity."[N]
Will the reader pardon me the transcript of a passage or two? "It is a perilous thing to try experiments on the farmer. The farmer's capital (except in a few persons, and in a very few places) is far more feeble than is commonly imagined. The trade is a very poor trade; it is subject to great risks and losses. The capital, such as it is, is turned but once in the year; in some branches it requires three years before the money is paid; I believe never less than three in the turnip and grass-land course ...It is very rare that the most prosperous farmer, counting the value of his quick and dead stock, the interest of the money he turns, together with his own wages as a bailiff or overseer, ever does make twelve or fifteen per centum by the year on his capital. In most parts of England which have fallen within my observation, I have rarely known a farmer who to his own trade has not added some other employment traffic, that, after a course of the most remitting parsimony and labor, and persevering in his business for a long course of years, died worth more than paid his debts, leaving his posterity to continue in nearly the same equal conflict between industry and want in which the last predecessor, and a long line of predecessors before him, lived and died."
In confirmation of this last statement, I may mention that Samuel Ireland, writing in 1792, ("Picturesque Views on the River Thames,") speaks of a farmer named Wapshote, near Chertsey, whose ancestors had resided on the place ever since the time of Alfred the Great; and amid all the chances and changes of centuries, not one of the descendants had either bettered or marred his fortunes. The truthfulness of the story is confirmed in a number of the "Monthly Review" for the same year.
Mr. Burke commends the excellent and most useful works of his "friend Arthur Young," (of whom I shall have somewhat to say another time,) but regrets that he should intimate the largeness of a farmer's profits. He discusses the drill-culture, (for wheat,) which, he says, is well, provided "the soil is not excessively heavy, or encumbered with large, loose stones, and provided the most vigilant superintendence, the most prompt activity, which has no such day as to-morrow in its calendar,[O] combine to speed the plough; in this case I admit," he says, "its superiority over the old and general methods." And again he says,—"It requires ten times more of labor, of vigilance, of attention, of skill, and, let me add, of good fortune also, to carry on the business of a farmer with success, than what belongs to any other trade."
May not "A Farmer" take a little pride in such testimony as this?
One of his biographers tells us, that, in his later years, the neighbors saw him on one occasion, at his home of Beaconsfield, leaning upon the shoulder of a favorite old horse, (which had the privilege of the lawn,) and sobbing. Whereupon the gossiping villagers reported the great man crazed. Ay, crazed,—broken by the memory of his only and lost son Richard, with whom this aged saddle-horse had been a special favorite,—crazed, no doubt, at thought of the strong young hand whose touch the old beast waited for in vain,—crazed and broken,—an oak, ruined and blasted by storms. The great mind in this man was married to a great heart.
It is almost with a feeling of awe that I enter upon my wet-day studies the name of Oliver Goldsmith: I love so much his tender story of the good Vicar; I love so much his poems. The world is accustomed to regard that little novel, which Dr. Johnson bargained away for sixty guineas, as a rural tale: it is so quiet; it is so simple; its atmosphere is altogether so redolent of the country. And yet all, save some few critical readers, will be surprised to learn that there is not a picture of natural scenery in the book of any length; and wherever an allusion of the kind appears, it does not bear the impress of a mind familiar with the country, and practically at home there. The Doctor used to go out upon the Edgeware road,—not for his love of trees, but to escape noise and duns. Yet we overlook literalness, charmed as we are by the development of his characters and by the sweet burden of his story. The statement may seem extraordinary, but I could transcribe every rural, out-of-door scene in the "Vicar of Wakefield" upon a single half-page of foolscap. Of the first home of the Vicar we have only this account:—"We had an elegant house, situated in a fine country and a good neighborhood." Of his second home there is this more full description:—"Our little habitation was situated at the foot of a sloping hill, sheltered with a beautiful underwood behind, and a prattling river before: on one side a meadow, on the other a green. My farm consisted of about twenty acres of excellent land, having given a hundred pounds for my predecessor's good-will. Nothing could exceed the neatness of my little inclosures: the elms and hedge-rows appearing with inexpressible beauty. My house consisted of but one story, and was covered with thatch, which gave it an air of great snugness." It is quite certain that an author familiar with the country, and with a memory stocked with a multitude of kindred scenes, would have given a more determinate outline to this picture. But whether he would have given to his definite outline the fascination that belongs to the vagueness of Goldsmith, is wholly another question.
Again, in the sixth chapter, Mr. Burchell is called upon to assist the Vicar and his family in "saving an after-growth of hay." "Our labors," he says, "went on lightly; we turned the swath to the wind." It is plain that Goldsmith never saved much hay; turning a swath to the wind may be a good way of making it, but it is a slow way of gathering it. In the eighth chapter of this charming story, the Doctor says,—"Our family dined in the field, and we sat, or rather reclined, round a temperate repast, our cloth spread upon the hay. To heighten our satisfaction, the blackbirds answered each other from opposite hedges, the familiar redbreast came and pecked the crumbs from our hands, and every sound seemed but the echo of tranquillity." This is very fascinating; but it is the veriest romanticism of country-life. Such sensible girls as Olivia and Sophia would, I am quite sure, never have spread the dinner-cloth upon hay, which would most surely have set all the gravy aflow, if the platters had not been fairly overturned; and as for the redbreasts, (with that rollicking boy Moses in my mind,) I think they must have been terribly tame birds.
But this is only a farmer's criticism,—a Crispin feeling the bunions on some Phidian statue. And do I think the less of Goldsmith, because he wantoned with the literalism of the country, and laid on his prismatic colors of romance where only white light lay? Not one whit. It only shows how Genius may discard utter faithfulness to detail, if only its song is charged with a general simplicity and truthfulness that fill our ears and our hearts.
As for Goldsmith's verse, who does not love it? It is wicked to consume the pages of a magazine with extracts from a poem that is our daily food, else I would string them all down this column and the next, and every one should have a breezy reminder of the country in it. Not all the arts of all the modernists,—not "Maud," with its garden-song,—not the caged birds of Killingworth, singing up and down the village-street,—not the heather-bells out of which the springy step of Jean Ingelow crushes perfume,—shall make me forget the old, sweet, even flow of the "Deserted Village."
Down with it, my boy, from the third shelf! G-O-L-D-S-M-I-T-H—a worker in gold—is on the back.
And I sit reading it to myself, as a fog comes weltering in from the sea, covering all the landscape, save some half-dozen of the city-spires, which peer above the drift-like beacons.
* * * * *
THE REAPER'S DREAM.
The road was lone; the grass was dank With night-dews on the briery bank Whereon a weary reaper sank. His garb was old,—his visage tanned; The rusty sickle in his hand Could find no work in all the land.
He saw the evening's chilly star Above his native vale afar; A moment on the horizon's bar It hung,—then sank as with a sigh: And there the crescent moon went by, An empty sickle down the sky.
To soothe his pain, Sleep's tender palm Laid on his brow its touch of balm,— His brain received the slumberous calm; And soon, that angel without name, Her robe a dream, her face the same, The giver of sweet visions, came.
She touched his eyes: no longer sealed, They saw a troop of reapers wield Their swift blades in a ripened field: At each thrust of their snowy sleeves, A thrill ran through the future sheaves, Bustling like rain on forest-leaves.
They were not brawny men who bowed With harvest-voices rough and loud, But spirits moving as a cloud: Like little lightnings in their hold, The silver sickles manifold Slid musically through the gold.
Oh, bid the morning-stars combine To match the chorus clear and fine That rippled lightly down the line,— A cadence of celestial rhyme, The language of that cloudless clime, To which their shining hands kept time!
Behind them lay the gleaming rows, Like those long clouds the sunset shows On amber meadows of repose: But like a wind the binders bright Soon followed in their mirthful might, And swept them into sheaves of light.
Doubling the splendor of the plain, There rolled the great celestial wain To gather in the fallen grain: Its frame was built of golden bars, Its glowing wheels were lit with stars, The royal Harvest's car of cars.
The snowy yoke that drew the load On gleaming hoofs of silver trode, And music was its only goad: To no command of word or beck It moved, and felt no other check Than one white arm laid on the neck,—
The neck whose light was overwound With bells of lilies, ringing round Their odors till the air was drowned: The starry foreheads meekly borne, With garlands looped from horn to horn, Shone like the many-colored morn.
The field was cleared. Home went the bands, Like children linking happy hands While singing through their father's lands; Or, arms about each other thrown, With amber tresses backward blown, They moved as they were Music's own.
The vision brightening more and more, He saw the garner's glowing door, And sheaves, like sunshine, strew the floor,— The floor was jasper,—golden flails, Swift sailing as a whirlwind sails, Throbbed mellow music down the vales.
He saw the mansion,—all repose,— Great corridors and porticos Propped with the columns' shining rows; And these—for beauty was the rule— The polished pavements, hard and cool, Redoubled, like a crystal pool.
And there the odorous feast was spread: The fruity fragrance widely shed Seemed to the floating music wed. Seven angels, like the Pleiad Seven, Their lips to silver clarions given, Blew welcome round the walls of heaven.
In skyey garments, silky thin, The glad retainers floated in,— A thousand forms, and yet no din: And from the visage of the Lord, Like splendor from the Orient poured, A smile illumined all the board.
Far flew the music's circling sound, Then floated back with soft rebound, To join, not mar, the converse round,— Sweet notes that melting still increased, Such as ne'er cheered the bridal feast Of king in the enchanted East.
Did any great door ope or close, It seemed the birth-time of repose,— The faint sound died where it arose; And they who passed from door to door, Their soft feet on the polished floor Met their soft shadows,—nothing more.
Then once again the groups were drawn Through corridors, or down the lawn, Which bloomed in beauty like a dawn: Where countless fountains leap alway, Veiling their silver heights in spray, The choral people held their way.
There, 'mid the brightest, brightly shone Dear forms he loved in years agone,— The earliest loved,—the earliest flown: He heard a mother's sainted tongue, A sister's voice who vanished young, While one still dearer sweetly sung!
No further might the scene unfold, The gazer's voice could not withhold, The very rapture made him bold: He cried aloud, with clasped hands, "O happy fields! O happy bands, Who reap the never-failing lands!
"O master of these broad estates, Behold, before your very gates A worn and wanting laborer waits! Let me but toil amid your grain, Or be a gleaner on the plain, So I may leave these fields of pain!
"A gleaner, I will follow far, With never look or word to mar, Behind the Harvest's yellow car: All day my hand shall constant be, And every happy eve shall see The precious burden borne to Thee!"
At morn some reapers neared the place, Strong men, whose feet recoiled apace,— Then gathering round the upturned face, They saw the lines of pain and care, Yet read in the expression there The look as of an answered prayer.
* * * * *
THE NEW-ENGLAND REVOLUTION OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.
In the first week of March, 1689, Sir Edmund Andros returned to Boston from an expedition against the Indians of Maine. He had now governed New England more than two years for King James II., imitating, in his narrow sphere, the insolent despotism of his master.
The people had no share in the government, which was conducted by Andros with the aid of Counsellors appointed by the King. Some of these were the Governor's creatures,—English adventurers, who came to make their fortunes. Their associates of a different character were so treated that they absented themselves from the Council-Board, and at length not even formal meetings were held. Heavy taxes were arbitrarily imposed on the inhabitants. Excessive fees were demanded for the transaction of business in the courts and public offices. Town-meetings were forbidden, except one to be held in each year for the choice of assessing-officers. The ancient titles to land in the Colony were declared to be worthless, and proprietors were required to secure themselves by taking out new patents from the Governor, for which high prices were extorted. Complaint of these usurpations was severely punished by fine and imprisonment. An order that "no man should remove out of the country without the Governor's leave" cut off whatever small chance existed of obtaining redress in England. The religious feelings of the people were outraged. The Governor directed the opening of the Old South Church in Boston for worship according to the English ritual. If the demand had been for the use of the building for a mass, or for a carriage-house for Juggernaut, it would scarcely have given greater displeasure.
Late in the autumn of 1688, the Governor had led a thousand New-England soldiers into Maine against the Indians. His operations there were unfortunate. The weather was cold and stormy. The fatigue of long marches through an unsettled country was excessive. Sickness spread among the companies. Shelter and hospital-stores had been insufficiently provided. The Indians fled to the woods, and there laughed at the invader.
The costliness, discomforts, and miserable ill-success of this expedition, while they occasioned clamor in the camp, sharpened the discontents existing at the capital. Suspicions prevailed of treachery on the Governor's part, for he was well known to be without the excuse of incompetence. Plausible stories were told of his being in friendly relations with the murderous Indians. An apprehension that he was instructed by his Popish master to turn New England over to the French, in the contingency of a popular outbreak in England, was confirmed by reports of French men-of-war hovering along the coast for the consummation of that object. When, in mid-winter, Andros was informed of the fears entertained at Court of a movement of the Prince of Orange, he issued a proclamation, commanding His Majesty's subjects in New England, and especially all officers, civil and military, to be on the alert, should any foreign fleet approach, to resist such landing or invasion as might be attempted. Not causelessly, even if unjustly, the Governor's object was understood to be to hold New England for King James, if possible, should the parent-country reassert its rights.
Of course, no friendly welcome met him, when, on the heels of his proclamation, he returned to Boston from the Eastern Country. He was himself so out of humor as to be hasty and imprudent, and one of his first acts quickened the popular resentment. The gloomy and jealous state of men's minds had gained some degree of credit for a story that he had furnished the hostile natives with ammunition for the destruction of the force under his command. An Indian declared, in the hearing of some inhabitants of Sudbury, that he knew this to be true. Two of the townsmen took the babbler to Boston, ostensibly to be punished for his license of speech. The Governor treated the informers with great harshness, put them under heavy bonds, and sent one of them to jail. The comment of the time was not unnatural nor uncandid:—"Although no man does accuse Sir Edmund merely upon Indian testimony, yet let it be duly weighed whether it might not create suspicion and an astonishment in the people of New England, in that he did not punish the Indians who thus charged him, but the English who complained of them for it."
The nine-days' wonder of this transaction was not over, when tidings of far more serious import claimed the public ear. On the fourth day of April, a young man named John Winslow arrived at Boston from the Island of Nevis, bringing a copy of the Declarations issued by the Prince of Orange on his landing in England. Winslow's story is best told in the words of an affidavit made by him some months after.
"Being at Nevis," he says, "there came in a ship from some part of England with the Prince of Orange's Declarations, and brought news also of his happy proceedings in England, with his entrance there, which was very welcome news to me, and I knew it would be so to the rest of the people in New England; and I, being bound thither, and very willing to convey such good news with me, gave four shillings sixpence for the said Declarations, on purpose to let the people in New England understand what a speedy deliverance they might expect from arbitrary power. We arrived at Boston harbor the fourth day of April following; and as soon as I came home to my house, Sir Edmund Andros, understanding I brought the Prince's Declarations with me, sent the Sheriff to me. So I went along with him to the Governor's house, and, as soon as I came in, he asked me why I did not come and tell him the news. I told him I thought it not my duty, neither was it customary for any passenger to go to the Governor, when the master of the ship had been with him before, and told him the news. He asked me where the Declarations I brought with me were. I told him I could not tell, being afraid to let him have them, because he would not let the people know any news. He told me I was a saucy-fellow, and bid the Sheriff carry me away to the Justices of the Peace; and as we were going, I told the Sheriff I would choose my Justice. He told me, No, I must go before Dr. Bullivant, one picked on purpose (as I judged) for the business. Well, I told him, I did not care who I went before, for I knew my cause was good. So soon as I came in, two more of the Justices dropped in, Charles Lidgett and Francis Foxcroft, such as the former, fit for the purpose. So they asked me for my papers. I told them I would not let them have them, by reason they kept all the news from the people. So when they saw they could not get what I bought with my money, they sent me to prison for bringing traitorous and treasonable libels and papers of news, notwithstanding I offered them security to the value of two thousand pounds."
The intelligence which reached Winslow at Nevis, and was brought thence by him to Boston, could scarcely have embraced transactions in England of a later date than the first month after the landing of the Prince of Orange. Within that time, the result of the expedition was extremely doubtful. There had been no extensive rising against the King, and every day of delay was in his favor. He had a powerful army and fleet, and it had been repeatedly shown how insecure were any calculations upon popular discontent in England, when an occasion arose for putting English loyalty to the last proof. Should the clergy, after all, be true to their assertions of the obligation of unqualified obedience,—should the army be faithful,—should the King, by artifice or by victory, attract to his side the wavering mass of his subjects, and expel the Dutch invader,—there would be an awful reckoning for all who had taken part against the Court. The proceedings after the insurrection under Monmouth had not entirely shown how cruel James could be. His position then had been far less critical than now. Then he enjoyed some degree of popular esteem, and the preparations against him were not on a formidable scale. Now he was thoroughly frightened. In proportion to his present alarm would be his fury, if he should come off victorious. The last chance was pending. If now resisted in vain, he would be henceforward irresistible. Englishmen who should now oppose their king must be sure to conquer him, or they lost all security for property, liberty, and life. Was it any way prudent for the feeble, colony of Massachusetts, divided by parties, and with its administration in the hands of a tool of the tyrant, to attempt to throw itself into the contest at this doubtful stage?
It is unavoidable to suppose that these considerations were anxiously weighed by the patriots of Massachusetts after the reception of the intelligence from England. It is natural to believe, that, during the fortnight which followed, there were earnest arguments between the more and the less sanguine portions of the people. It seems probable that the leaders, who had most to fear from rashness, if it should be followed by defeat, pleaded for forbearance, or at least for delay. If any of them took a different part, they took it warily, and so as not to be publicly committed. But the people's blood was up. Though any day now might bring tidings which would assure them whether a movement of theirs would be safe or disastrous, their impatience could not be controlled. If the leaders would not lead, some of the followers must take their places. Massachusetts must at all events have her share in the struggle,—and her share, if King James should conquer, in the ruin.
It may be presumed that Andros saw threatening signs, as, when next heard of, he was within the walls of the work on Fort Hill. Two weeks had passed after Winslow came with his news, when suddenly, at an early hour of the day, without any note of preparation, Boston was all astir. At the South end of the town a rumor spread that armed men were collecting at the North end. At the North it was told that there was a bustle and a rising at the South; and a party having found Captain George, of the Rose frigate, on shore, laid hands on him, and put him under a guard. "About nine of the clock the drums beat through the town, and an ensign was set up upon the beacon." Presently Captain Hill marched his company up King [State] Street, escorting Bradstreet, Danforth, Richards, Cooke, Addington, and others of the old Magistrates, who proceeded together to the Council-Chamber. Meantime, Secretary Randolph, Counsellor Bullivant, Sheriff Sherlock, and "many more" of the Governor's party, were apprehended and put in gaol. The gaoler was added to their company, and his function was intrusted to "Scates, the bricklayer."
About noon, the gentlemen who had been conferring together in the Council-Chamber appeared in the eastern gallery of the Town-House in King Street, and there read to the assembled people what was entitled a "Declaration of the Gentlemen, Merchants, and Inhabitants of Boston, and the Country Adjacent." The document contains a brief narrative of the oppressions that had been suffered by the Colony, under the recent maladministration. Towards the end it refers in a few words to "the noble undertaking of the Prince of Orange, to preserve the three kingdoms from the horrible brinks of Popery and Slavery, and to bring to a condign punishment those worst of men by whom English liberties have been destroyed." One point was delicate; for among the recent Counsellors of the Governor had been considerable men, who, it was hoped, would hereafter act with the people. It is thus disposed of:—"All the Council were not engaged in these ill actions, but those of them which were true lovers of their country were seldom admitted to, and seldomer consulted at, the debates which produced these unrighteous things. Care was taken to keep them under disadvantages, and the Governor, with five or six more, did what they would." The Declaration concludes as follows:—
"We do therefore seize upon the persons of those few ill men which have been (next to our sins) the grand authors of our miseries; resolving to secure them, for what justice, orders from his Highness, with the English Parliament, shall direct, lest, ere we are aware, we find (what we may fear, being on all sides in danger) ourselves to be by them given away to a foreign power before such orders can reach unto us; for which orders we now humbly wait. In the mean time, firmly believing that we have endeavored nothing but what mere duty to God and our country calls for at our hands, we commit our enterprise unto the blessing of Him who hears the cry of the oppressed, and advise all our neighbors, for whom we have thus ventured ourselves, to join with us in prayers and all just actions for the defence of the land."
Andros sent the son of the Chief Justice with a message to the ministers, and to two or three other considerable citizens, inviting them to the Fort for a conference, which they declined. Meanwhile the signal on Beacon Hill had done its office, and by two o'clock in the afternoon, in addition to twenty companies in Boston under arms, several hundred soldiers were seen on the Charlestown side, ready to cross over. Fifteen principal gentlemen, some of them lately Counsellors, and others Assistants under the old Charter, signed a summons to Andros. "We judge it necessary," they wrote, "you forthwith surrender and deliver up the government and fortification, to be preserved and disposed according to order and direction from the Crown of England, which suddenly is expected may arrive, promising all security from violence to yourself or any of your gentlemen or soldiers in person or estate. Otherwise we are assured they will endeavor the taking of the fortification by storm, if any opposition be made."
"The frigate, upon the news, put out all her flags and pendants, and opened all her ports, and with all speed made ready for fight, under the command of the lieutenant, he swearing that he would die before she should be taken." He sent a boat to bring off Andros and his attendants; but it had scarcely touched the beach when the crew were encountered and overpowered by the party from the Town-House, which, under the command of Mr. John Nelson, was bearing the summons to the Governor. The boat was kept, with the sailors manning it, who were disarmed. Andros and his friends withdrew again within the Port, from which they had come down to go on board the frigate. Nelson disposed his party on two sides of the Fort, and getting possession of some cannon in an outwork, pointed them against the walls. The soldiers within were daunted. The Governor asked a suspension of the attack till he should send West and another person to confer with the Provisional Council at the Town-House. The reply, whatever it was, decided him how to proceed, and he and his party "came forth from the Fort, and went disarmed to the Town-House, and from thence, some to the close gaol, and the Governor, under a guard, to Mr. Usher's house."
So ended the first day of the insurrection. The Castle and the frigate were still defiant in the harbor. The nineteenth of April is a red-letter day in Massachusetts. On the nineteenth of April, 1861, Massachusetts fought her way through Baltimore to the rescue of the imperilled capital of the United States. On the nineteenth of April, 1775, she began at Lexington the war of American Independence. On the nineteenth of April, 1689, King James's Governor was brought to yield the Castle of Boston by a threat, that, "if he would not give it presently, under his hand and seal, he would be exposed to the rage of the people." A party of Colonial militia then "went down, and it was surrendered to them with cursings, and they brought the men away, and made Captain Fairweather commander in it. Now, by the time the men came back from the Castle, all the guns, both in ships and batteries, were brought to bear against the frigate, which were enough to have shattered her in pieces at once, resolving to have her."
Captain George, who had long nursed a private quarrel with the arch-disturber of Massachusetts, and chief adviser of the Governor, "cast all the blame now upon that devil, Randolph; for, had it not been for him, he had never troubled this good people;—earnestly soliciting that he might not be constrained to surrender the ship, for by so doing both himself and all his men would lose their wages, which otherwise would be recovered in England; giving leave to go on board, and strike the top-masts, and bring the sails on shore." The arrangement was made, and the necessity for firing on a ship of the royal navy was escaped. The sails were brought on shore, and there put away, and the vessel swung to her anchors off Long Wharf, a harmless and a ridiculous hulk. "The country-people came armed into the town, in the afternoon, in such rage and heat that it made all tremble to think what would follow; for nothing would satisfy them, but that the Governor should be bound in chains or cords, and put in a more secure place, and that they would see done before they went away; and to satisfy them, he was guarded by them to the Fort."
The Fort had been given in charge to Nelson, and Colonel Lidgett shared the Governor's captivity. West, Graham, Palmer, and others of his set, were placed in Fairweather's custody at the Castle. Randolph was taken care of at the common gaol, by the new keeper, "Scates, the bricklayer." Andros came near effecting his escape. Disguised in woman's clothes, he had safely passed two sentries, but was stopped by a third, who observed his shoes, which he had neglected to change. Dudley, the Chief Justice, was absent on the circuit at Long Island. Returning homeward, he heard the great news at Newport. He crossed into the Narragansett Country, where he hoped to keep secret at Major Smith's house; but a party got upon his track, and took him to his home at Roxbury. "To secure him against violence," as the order expresses it, a guard was placed about his house. Dudley's host, Smith, was lodged in gaol at Bristol.
To secure Dudley against popular violence might well be an occasion of anxious care to those who had formerly been his associates in public trusts. Among the oppressors, he it was whom the people found hardest to forgive. If Andros, Randolph, West, and others, were tyrants and extortioners, at all events they were strangers; they had not been preying on their own kinsmen. But this man was son of a brave old emigrant Governor; he had been bred by the bounty of Harvard College; he had been welcomed at the earliest hour to the offices of the Commonwealth, and promoted in them with a promptness out of proportion to the claims of his years. Confided in, enriched, caressed, from youth to middle life by his native Colony beyond any other man of his time, he had been pampered into a power which, as soon as the opportunity was presented, he used for the grievous humiliation and distress of his generous friends. That he had not brought them to utter ruin seemed to have been owing to no want of resolute purpose on his part to advance himself as the congenial instrument of a despot.
A revolution had been consummated, and the government of the King of England over Massachusetts was dissolved. The day after Andros was led to prison, the persons who had been put forward in the movement assembled again to deliberate on the state of affairs. The result was, that several of them, with twenty-two others whom they now associated, formed themselves into a provisional government, which took the name of a "Council for the Safety of the People and Conservation of the Peace." They elected Simon Bradstreet, the last Charter Governor, now eighty-seven years of age, to be their President, and Wait Winthrop, grandson of the first Governor, to command the Militia. Among the orders passed on the first day of this new administration was one addressed to Colonel Tyng, Major Savage, and Captains Davis and Willard, serving in the Eastern Country, to send certain officers to Boston, and dismiss a portion of their force. There was probably a threefold purpose in this order: to get possession of the persons of some distrusted officers; to gratify a prevailing opinion that the exposures of the campaign had been needless as well as cruel; and to obtain a reinforcement of skilled troops at the centre of affairs.
The Council felt the weakness of their position. They held their place neither by deputation from the sovereign, nor by election of the people. They hesitated to set up the Colonial Charter again, for it had been formally condemned in the King's courts, and there was a large party about them who bore it no good-will; nor was it to be expected that their President, the timid Bradstreet, whatever were his own wishes, could be brought to consent to so bold a measure. Naturally and not improperly desirous to escape from such a responsibility, they decided to summon a Convention of delegates from the towns.
On the appointed day, sixty-six delegates came together. They brought from their homes, or speedily reached, the conclusion that of right the old Charter was still in force; and they addressed a communication to that effect to the Magistrates who had been chosen just before the Charter government was superseded, desiring them to resume their functions, and to constitute, with the delegates just now sent from the towns, the General Court of the Colony, according to ancient law and practice. Their request was denied. Either the wisdom or the timidity of the Magistrates held them back from so bold a venture. The delegates then desired the Council to continue to act as a Committee of Public Safety till another Convention might assemble, of delegates bringing express instructions from their towns.
Fifty-four towns were represented in the new Convention. All but fourteen of them had instructed their delegates to insist on the resumption of the Charter. In the Council, the majority was opposed to that scheme. After a debate of two days, the popular policy prevailed, and the Governor and Magistrates chosen at the last election under the Charter consented to assume the trusts then committed to them, and, in concert with the delegates recently elected, to form a General Court, and administer the Colony for the present according to the ancient forms. They desired that the other gentlemen lately associated with them in the Council should continue to hold that relation. But this the delegates would not allow; and accordingly those gentlemen, among whom were Wait Winthrop, the newly appointed commander-in-chief, and Stoughton, whom the people could not yet forgive for his recent subserviency, relinquished their part in the conduct of affairs. They did so with prudence and magnanimity, engaging to exert themselves to allay the dissatisfaction of their friends, and only avowing their expectation that the state-prisoners would be well treated, and that there should be no encouragement to popular manifestations of hostility to England.
Scarcely had this arrangement been made, when it became known, that, if dangers still existed, at least the chief danger was over. On the twenty-sixth of May a ship arrived from England with an order to the authorities on the spot to proclaim King William and Queen Mary. Never, since the Mayflower groped her way into Plymouth harbor, had a message from the parent-country been received in New England with such joy. Never had such a pageant as, three days after, expressed the prevailing happiness been seen in Massachusetts. From far and near the people flocked into Boston; the Government, attended by the principal gentlemen of the capital and the towns around, passed in procession on horseback through the thoroughfares; the regiment of the town, and companies and troops of horse and foot from the country, lent their pomp and noise to the show; there was a great dinner at the Town-House for the better sort; wine was served out in the streets; and the evening was made noisy with acclamations till the bell rang at nine o'clock, and families met to thank God at the domestic altar for causing the great sorrow to pass away, and giving a Protestant King and Queen to England.
The revolution in Massachusetts determined the proceedings in the other Colonies of New England. On learning what had been done in Boston, the people of Plymouth seized the person of their townsman, Nathaniel Clark, one of Andros's Counsellors and tools, and, recalling Governor Hinckley, set up again the ancient government. When the news reached Rhode Island, a summons was issued to "the several towns," inviting them to send their "principal persons" to Newport "before the day of usual election by Charter, ... there to consult of some suitable way in this present juncture." Accordingly, at a meeting held on the day appointed by the ancient Charter for annual elections, it was determined "to reassume the government according to the Charter," and "that the former Governor, Deputy-Governor, and Assistants that were in place ... before the coming over of Sir Edmund Andros, the late Governor, should be established in their respective places for the year ensuing, or further order from England." Walter Clarke was the Governor who had been superseded by Andros. But he had no mind for the hazardous honor which was now thrust upon him, and Rhode Island remained without a Governor.
On the arrival in Connecticut of the news of the deposition of Andros, the plan of resuming the Charter of that Colony, and reestablishing the government under it, was immediately canvassed in all the settlements. Agreeably to some general understanding, a number of principal men, most of them elected as Deputies by their respective towns, assembled, on the eighth of May, at Hartford, to consult together on the expediency of taking that step. They determined to submit, the next day, to the decision of the assembled freemen three questions, namely: 1. "Whether they would that those in place and power when Sir Edmund Andros took the government should resume their place and power as they were then; or, 2. Whether they would continue the present government; or, 3. Whether they would choose a Committee of Safety."
The adoption of any one of these proposals disposed of the others. The first of them was first submitted to a vote, and prevailed. A General Court after the ancient pattern was constituted accordingly. The persons just deputed from the towns made the Lower House. Governor Treat and Lieutenant-Governor Bishop resumed their functions, with ten Magistrates elected with them two years before, besides others now chosen to fill the places of Magistrates who had died meanwhile.
The first measure of the Court was, to order "that all the laws of this Colony formerly made according to Charter, and courts constituted in this Colony for administration of justice, as they were before the late interruption, should be of full force and virtue for the future, and till the Court should see cause to make further and other alteration and provision according to Charter." The second vote was, to confirm "all the present military officers." Justices of the Peace were appointed for the towns. The armament of the fort at Saybrook was provided for. The Governor was charged to convene the General Court, "in case any occasion should come on in reference to the Charter or Government." It was soon convened accordingly, in consequence of the arrival of intelligence of the accession of William and Mary to the throne; a day of Thanksgiving was appointed; and the King and Queen were proclaimed with all solemnity.
Again Englishmen were free and self-governed in all the settlements of New England.
* * * * *
SOME ACCOUNT OF THE EARLY LIFE OF AN OLD BACHELOR.
Allusion was made in "The Schoolmaster's Story," told in these pages last month, to two old bachelors. I am one of them. Early this morning, while taking my walk, I saw, growing about a rock, some little blue flowers, such as I used to pick when a child. I had broken off a few, and was stooping for more, when some one near said, "Good morning, Captain Joseph!"
It was Mrs. Maylie, the minister's wife, going home from watching. After a little talk, she told me, in her pleasant way, that I had two things to do, of which, by the doing, I should make but one: I was to write a story, and to show good reason for keeping myself all to myself.
"Mrs. Maylie," said I, "do I look like a person who has had a story? I am a lonely old man,—a hard old man. A story should have warmth. Don't you see I'm an icicle?"
"Not quite," said she. "I know of two warm spots. I see you every day watching the children go past; and then, what have you there? Icicles never cling to flowers!"
After she had gone, I began thinking what a beautiful story mine might have been, if things had been different,—if I had been different. And at last it occurred to me that a relation of some parts of it might be useful reading for young men; also, that it might cause our whole class to be more kindly looked upon.
Suppose it is not a pleasant story. Life is not all brightness. See how the shadows chase each other across our path! To-day our friend weeps with us; to-morrow we weep with our friend. The hearse is a carriage which stops at every door.
No picture is without its shading. We have before us the happy experiences of my two friends. By those smiling groups let there stand one dark, solitary figure, pointing out the moral of the whole.
There is one thing, however, in the story of my neighbor Browne, pleasant as it is, which reminds me of a habit of my own. I mean, his liking to watch pretty faces. I do, when they belong to children.
This practice of mine, which I find has been noticed by my valued friend, Mrs. Maylie, is partly owing to the memories of my own childhood.
When the past was so suddenly recalled, on that stormy day,—as mentioned by my friend Allen,—I felt as I have often felt upon the sea, when, after hours of dull sailing, through mist and darkness, I have looked back upon the lights of the town we were leaving.
My life began in brightness. And now, amid that brightness, appear fresh, happy little faces, which haunt me more and more, as I become isolated from the humanity about me, until at times it is those only which are real, while living forms seem but shadows.
I see whole rows of these young faces in an old school-house, far from here, close by the sea,—can see the little girls running in, when the schoolma'am knocked, and settling down in their forms, panting for breath.
One of these the boys called my girl. I liked her, because she had curls and two rows of cunning teeth, and because she never laughed when the boys called me "Spunky Joe." For I was wilful, and of a hasty temper. Her name was Margaret. My father took me a long voyage with him, and while I was gone she moved down East. I never saw her afterwards. If living, it must have been a score of years since she bought her first glasses.
No doubt I should have been of a pleasanter disposition, had I not been the only boy and the youngest child. I was made too much of. Aunt Chloe, who was aunt to the neighborhood, and did its washing, said I was "humored to death."
We had a great family of girls, but Mary was the one I loved best. She was a saint. Her face made you think of "Peace on earth, and good-will to men." Aunt Chloe used to say that "Mary Bond was pretty to look at, and facultied; pity she hadn't the 'one thing needful.'" For Mary was not a professor.
I went pretty steadily to school until about sixteen. At that time I had a misunderstanding with father. I got the idea that he looked upon me as an incumbrance, and declared I would go to sea.
Mother and the girls were full of trouble, but I wasn't used to being crossed, and to sea I went. I knew afterwards that father had set his heart upon my getting learning.
He said going to sea was a dog's life. But I liked it, and followed it up. I think it was in my twentieth year that I shipped on board the Eliza Ann, Captain. Saunders, bound from Boston to Calcutta. This was my first long voyage as a sailor. Among the crew was one they called Jamie, as smart as a steel-trap, and handsome as a picture. He was not our countryman. I think he was part Scotch. The passengers were always noticing him. One day, when he stood leaning against the foremast, with his black hair blowing out in the wind, a young man with a portfolio got me to keep him there, still, for a while: he was an artist, and wanted to make a drawing of him. The sailors all liked him because he was so clever, and so lively, and knew so many songs, and could hop about the rigging, light as a bird. Only a few knew him. They said he had no home but the sea.
He afterwards told me this himself, one dark night, when we were leaning together over the rail, as if listening to the splash of the water. He began his sea-life by running away. He said but little, and that in a mournful way that made me pity him, and wonder he could be so lively. I didn't know then that sometimes people have to laugh to keep from crying. "I was all she had," said he; "and I left her. I never thought how much she cared for me until I got among all strangers; then I wanted my mother." At another time he told me about his return home and finding no mother. And I told him of my own home and my great flock of sisters.
After this he rather clung to me. And thus it happened, from my liking Jamie's handsome face, and from Jamie's telling me his trouble, that we became fast friends.
When the ship arrived in Boston, I took him home with me. Father had left off going to sea; but some of the girls were married, and mother called her family small. I knew she would take the homeless boy into her great motherly heart, along with the rest of us.
We couldn't have arrived at a better time. Thanksgiving was just at hand, work was plenty, and Jamie soon in the thickest of it. 'Twas so good to him, being in a home, though none of his. The girls were glad enough of his help and his company; for he was full of his fun, and never at a loss for a word. We never had so much light talk in the house before. Mother was rather serious, and father did his laughing at the stores.
When Thanksgiving-Day came, however, and the married ones began to flock in with their families, he spoke of going,—of not belonging. But we persuaded him, and the girls did all they could to take up his mind, knowing what his feelings must be.
The Thanksgiving dinner was a beautiful sight to see. I mean, of course, the people round it. Father talked away, and could eat. But mother sat in her frilled cap, looking mildly about, with the tears in her eyes, making believe eat, helping everybody, giving the children two pieces of pie, and letting them talk at table. This last, when we were little, was forbidden. Mother never scolded. She had a placid, saintly face, something like Mary's. But if we ever giggled at table, she used to say, "Sho! girls! Don't laugh over your victuals."
At sunset we missed Jamie. I found him in the hay-mow, crying as if his heart would break. "Oh, Joseph," said he, "she was just as pleasant as your mother!" It was sunset when he first ran away, and sunset when he returned to find his mother dead. He told me that "God brought him home at that hour to make him feel."
Our ship was a long while repairing. Then freights were dull, and so it lingered along, week after week. Jamie often spoke of going, but nobody would let him. Father said he had always wanted another boy. Mother told him I should be lonesome without him. The girls said as much as they thought it would do for girls to say, and he stayed on. I knew he wanted to badly enough, for I saw he liked Mary. I thought, too, that she liked him, because she said so little about his staying. To be sure, they were in nothing alike; but then, as Aunt Chloe said, "Opposites are more harmonious."
My sister Cynthia was going to be published soon, and all the rest were helping her "make her fix." Coverlets were being got into the loom, and the great wheel and little wheel going all day Jamie liked to help them "quill." But the best of all, both for him and me, were the quiltings; for these brought all the young folks together.
Our nearest neighbor was a large, stout-looking man, by the name of Wilbur. He was called Mr. Nathaniel, to distinguish him from his brother. His house was next ours, with a hill between. He was a good, jolly soul, had no children of his own, and was always begging mother for a few of her girls. Nothing suited him better than a good time. If there was anything going on at our house, he was always on the spot.
One December evening, our kitchen was full of young people. The best bed-quilt had been quilted, and Jamie and I had been helping "roll over," all the afternoon. In the evening, as soon as the young men came, we hung over the molasses, and set Mr. Nathaniel stirring it. We all sat around, naming apples. All at once he called out, "Which of you chaps has got pluck enough to ride over to Swampsey Village to-morrow, after a young woman he never saw?"
They all looked up, especially the girls who had beaux present. Then came questions,—"Who is she?" "Give her name"; "Good-looking?" and many others.
"Be thinking it over awhile," said he, and kept on stirring. But when he was pulling the candy, he explained, dropping a few words at every pull.
"The girl," said he, "is a nice girl, and I'll be bound she's handsome. I used to have dealings with her father, while he kept store in Boston. We've never let the acquaintance die out. When he wrote me that he was going to take his wife a journey South, and inquired if I knew of a safe, quiet family where he could leave his daughter, wifey and I concluded to take her ourselves. We couldn't think of a quieter family, or one where daughters were more needed. I promised to meet her at Swampsey Village; but if any of you young men want the chance, you can have it."
There was one fellow in the company who hardly ever spoke. He was looked upon as a sort of crooked stick. As he sat in the corner, paring his apple, he said in a drawling voice, without looking up,—
"Better send Joe."
"Oh, he won't go, I'll bet anything," said two or three at once.
"What'll you bet?" said I.
"Bet a kiss from the prettiest girl in the room!"
"Done!" said I, and jumped up as if to pick out the girl. But they all cried out, "Wait till you've done it."
They thought I wouldn't go, because I'd never been particular to any girl.
After we went to bed that night, Jamie offered to go in my stead. But I had made up my mind, and was not so easily turned.
Early next morning, Mr. Nathaniel drove up to the door in his yellow-bottomed chaise. The wheeling was better than the sleighing, except in the woods.
"Here," he said, "I've ballasted your craft, and made out your papers. You go in ballast, but'll have good freight back. When you get to Swampsey-Village meeting-house, turn off to the left, and it's the second house. The roof behind slants almost to the ground."
The "ballast" was heated stones. The "papers" consisted of a letter, addressed to "Miss Margaret Holden, at the house of Mr. Oliver Barrows."
The road to Swampsey Village, after running a few miles along by the sea, branched off to the southwest, over a range of high, wooded hills, called "The Mountains." 'Twas a long ride, and I couldn't help guessing what manner of girl would in a few hours be sitting by my side. Would she be sober, or sociable? pretty, or homely? I hoped she wouldn't be citified, all pride and politeness. And of all things, I hoped she would not be bashful. Two dummies, one in each corner, riding along in the cold!
"Any way," I thought at last, "it's no affair of mine. I'm only sent of an errand. It's all the same as going for a sheep or a bag of corn." And with this idea, I whipped up. But the sight of the slanting roof made me slacken the reins; and when I found myself really hitching my horse, I was sorry I came.
Before I reached the door, it opened, and there stood a white-haired old man, leaning upon two canes. He wanted to see who had come. I told my errand. He asked me into the kitchen. As I entered, I looked slyly about, to see what I could see. But there was only a short old woman. She was running candles. She looked straight in my face. The old man stooped down and shouted in her ear,—
"He's come arter Peggy! where is she?"
"Denno," said she, toddling along to the window, and looking up and down the road. "Denno. Mile off, mebbe. Master critter to be on the go!"
"There she is!" cried Mr. Barrows, from a back-window,—"in the parster, slidin' down-hill on her jumper. Guess you'll have to go look her, young man; the old woman's poorly, an' so be I."
But the old woman told me to sit up to the fire and warm my feet; said she would hang out a cloth, and Peggy would be in directly. I would have gone very willingly; for, after expecting to be introduced to Miss Margaret Holden, being sent out after Peggy was just nothing.
'Twas but a little while before we heard the jumper rattling along, and then a stamping in the porch. Then we heard her hand upon the latch.
"She's a little young thing," said the old man, almost in a whisper; "but she's knowin'.—Peggy," he continued, as she entered, "you'm sent for."
That was the first time I ever saw Margaret. She had on some little child's hood, and an old josey-coat, which covered her all over. The hood was red, and ruffled about the border, which made her face look like a little girl's.
"To go to Mr. Wilbur's?" she asked, looking towards me.
I rose to explain, and handed the letter.
She threw off her things, opened it, and began reading. When I saw the smile spreading over her face, I knew Mr. Nathaniel had been writing some of his nonsense.
"Perhaps," said I, as she was folding it up, "you don't know Mr. Nathaniel. He says anything. I don't know what he's been writing, but"—
"Oh, nothing bad," said she, laughing. "He only says you are a nice young man."
"Ah!" I replied. "Well, he does sometimes speak the truth."
Then we both laughed, and, for new acquaintances, seemed on pretty good terms.
There was something about her face which made me think of the little Margaret who had moved away. She had the same pretty laugh, the same innocent-looking mouth,—only the child Margaret was not so fair-complexioned. Her figure, and the way of carrying her head, reminded me of the West-India girls, as I had seen them riding out in their volantes. I decided that I was pleased with her. When she was ready to go, with her blue silk pelisse and the plumes in her hat, I was glad I came, and thought, "How much better is a girl than a sheep!"
The old man made us stay to dinner; but then he hurried us off, that we might be over The Mountains before dark.
The air was chilly when we started, and a few snow-flakes were flying. But we had everything to make us comfortable. The old horse always stepped quick, going home; the wind was in our favor; our chaise had a boot which came up, and a top which tipped down. We should soon be home. There is nothing very bad, after all, in being sent for a girl you never saw!
And we were not two dummies. She was willing to do her part in talking, and I could always hold my own, if no more.
She seemed, in conversation, not at all like a "little young thing,"—so that I kept turning round to see if the look of the child Margaret was still in her face. Oh, how that face played the mischief with me! And in more ways than one.
We were speaking of large families; I had told her about ours. All at once she exclaimed at a big rock ahead, which overhung the road.
The moment I placed my eye on it, I turned the horse's head.
"Wrong road," said I.
The horse had turned off, when I wasn't minding, and was taking us to Cutler's Mills. We tried several ways to set ourselves right by a short cut, but were finally obliged to go all the way back to where we turned off. In a summer day this would only have been lengthening out a pleasant ride. But the days were at the shortest. Snow-flakes fell thicker, and, what was worse, the wind changed, and blew them straight into our faces. By the time we reached the foot of The Mountains it was nearly dark, and snowing furiously. I never knew a storm come on faster. 'Twas a regular, old-fashioned, driving snow-storm, with the wind to the eastward.
Margaret seemed noways down-hearted. But I feared she would suffer. I shook the snow from the blanket and wrapped her in it. I drew it over her head, pinned it under her chin, and tucked it all about her.
'Twas hard pulling for the old horse, but he did well. I felt uneasy, thinking about the blind roads, which led nowhere but to wood-lots. 'Twas quite likely that the horse would turn into one of these, and if he did, we should be taken into the very middle of the woods.
It seemed to me we were hours creeping on in the dark, right in the teeth of the storm. 'Twas an awful night; terribly cold; seemed as if it was window-glass beating against our faces.
By the time I judged we had reached the top of The Mountains, the wind blew a hurricane. Powerful gusts came tearing through the trees, whirling the snow upon us in great smothering heaps. The chaise was full. My hands grew numb, and I began slapping them upon my knees. Margaret threw off the blanket with a jerk, and seized the reins.
"Stupid!" said she, "to be sitting here wrapped up, letting you freeze!"
But the horse felt a woman's hand upon the reins, and stopped short.
I urged him on a few yards, but we were in a cleared place, and the snow had drifted. 'Twas no use. He was tired out.
"Take him out!" cried Margaret; "we can ride horseback."
I sprang out, knowing that no time should be lost. Margaret had not complained. But I was chilled through. My feet were like blocks of wood. I knew she must be half frozen. It seemed as if I never should do anything with the tackling. My fingers were numb, and I could hardly stand up, the wind blew so.
With the help of my jack-knife I cleared the horse. I rode him round to the chaise, and took Margaret up in front of me, then let him take his own course.
I asked Margaret if she was cold. She said, "Yes," in a whisper. Throwing open the blanket had let in the snow upon her, and the sharp wind. The horse floundered about in the drifts. Every minute I expected to be thrown off. Time never seemed so long before.
All at once it occurred to me that Margaret was very quiet. I asked again if she was cold. She said, "No; only sleepy." I knew in a minute what that meant. That was a terrible moment. Freezing as I was, the sweat started out at every pore. The pretty, delicate thing would die! And I, great strong man, couldn't save her!
But I wouldn't despair. I made her talk. Kept asking her questions: If the wind had not gone down? If she heard the surf upon the beach? If she saw a light?
"Yes," said she at last,—"I see a light."
At first I was frightened, thinking her mind wandered. But directly I saw that towards the right, and a little in advance of us, was a misty spot of light.
When we were near enough to see where it came from, it seemed as if all my strength left me at once,—the relief was so sudden.
'Twas a squaw's hut. I knew then just where we were. I climbed up the bank, with Margaret in my arms, and pounded with all my might upon the side of the hut, calling out, "For God's sake, open the door!" A latch rattled close to my ears, and a door flew open. 'Twas Old Suke. I had, many a time, when a boy, called out to her, "Black clouds arising!"—for we always would torment the colored folks, when they came down with their brooms.
I pushed past her into the hut,—into the midst of rushes, brooms, and baskets,—into a shelter. I never knew before what the word meant.
The fireplace was full of blazing pine-knots, which made the room as light as day. Old Suke showed herself a Christian. She told me where to find a shed for my horse; and while I was gone, she took the wet things off Margaret, and rubbed her hands and feet with snow. She took red peppers from a string over the fireplace, boiled them in milk, and made us drink it. I thought of "heaping coals of fire." She dipped up hulled corn from a pot on the hearth, and made us eat. I felt like singing the song of Mungo Park.
Margaret kept pretty still. I knew the reason. The warm blood was rushing back to her fingers and toes, and they ached like the toothache. Mine did. 'Twas a long while before Old Suke would let us come nearer the fire. Her old mother was squatting upon the hearth. She looked to be a hundred and fifty. Her face was like a baked apple,—for she was part Indian, not very black. She had a check-handkerchief tied round her head, and an old pea-jacket over her shoulders, with the sleeves hanging. She hardly noticed us, but sat smoking her pipe, looking at the coals. 'Twas curious to see Margaret's face by hers in the firelight.
A little after midnight the storm abated, and by four o'clock the stars were out. I asked Margaret if she would be afraid to stay there, while I went home to tell the folks what had become of us.
"Oh, no," she said. "'Twas just what she'd been thinking about. She would be making baskets."—Some girls would never have dared stay in such a place.
I promised to be back as soon as possible, and left her there by the old woman.
'Twas just about daylight when I came in sight of father's. Mr. Nathaniel was walking about the yard, looking up the road at every turn. He hurried towards me.
"All safe!" I called out.
"Thank God!" he cried. "It has been a dreadful night."
Jamie was in the house. They two had been sitting up. They wouldn't hear of my going back, but put me into bed, almost by main strength. Then they started with fresh horses. They took a pillion for Margaret, and a shovel to dig through the drifts when they couldn't go round.
Mother gave me warm drinks, and piled on the bed-clothes. But I couldn't sleep for worrying about Margaret. I was afraid the exposure would be the death of her.
About noon Mary came running up to tell me they had just gone past. The window was near my bed. I pulled aside the curtain, and looked out. They were just going over the hill,—Jamie, with Margaret on the pillion, and Mr. Nathaniel along-side.
I often think what a mysterious Providence it was that made me the means of bringing together the two persons who, as it turned, controlled my whole life. In fact, it seems as if it were only then that my real life began.
* * * * *
Nobody could have been more pleased with a bright, beautiful, grown-up daughter than was Mr. Nathaniel. He was always bragging about her. And well he might,—for never was a better-dispositioned girl, or a livelier. She entered right into our country-life, was merry with the young folks and wise with the old ones. Aunt Chloe said she was good company for anybody.
She was a real godsend to our neighborhood, especially at the merry-makings; for she could make fun for a roomful, and tell us what they played at the Boston parties.
Of course, that long ride with her in the snow-storm had given me an advantage over the other young men. It seemed to be taken for granted by them, that, as I brought her to town, I should be the one privileged to wait upon her about. 'Twas a privilege I was glad enough to claim, and she never objected. Many would have been glad to be in my place, but they never tried to cut me out. Margaret was sociable enough with them,—sometimes I thought too much so. But then I knew 'twas only her pleasant way. When we two were walking home together, she dropped her fun, and seemed like another person. I felt pleased that she kept the best part of herself for me.
I was pleased, too, to see that she took to Mary, and Mary to her. The women were hurried with their sewing, and Margaret used to be often at our house helping. Cynthia was glad enough of her help, because she knew the fashions, and told how weddings were carried on in Boston. Thus it happened that she and Mary were brought much together; and before winter was over they were like two sisters.
And before winter was over, what was I? Certainly not the same Joseph who went to Swampsey Village. My eagerness to be on the sea, my pride, my temper, were gone; and all I cared for was to see the face and hear the voice of Margaret Holden.
At first, I would not believe this thing of myself; said it was folly to be so led about by a woman. But the very next moment, her sitting down by my side would set me trembling, I didn't know myself; it seemed as if I were wrong side up, and all my good feelings had come to the top.
Our names were always called together, but I felt noways sure. I couldn't think that a girl every way so desirable as Margaret should take up with a fellow so undesirable as myself. I felt that she was too good for me. I thought then that this was peculiar to our case. But I have since observed, that, as a general thing, all women are too good for all men. I am very sure I have seen something of the kind in print.
Then there was another feeling which worked itself in by degrees,—one which would come back as often as I drove it away. And once admitted, it gained strength. 'Twas not a pleasant feeling, and it had to do with Jamie.
I had all along felt sure that he was attached to Mary. I had therefore never thought anything of his being on pretty good terms with Margaret. They were both of a lively turn, and thrown much together. But by degrees the idea got possession of me that there was a secret understanding between them about something. They had long talks and walks together. And, in fact, I observed many little things, trifling in themselves, but much to me after my thoughts were once turned that way.
Sometimes I think, that, if I had never gone to sea, or had never met Jamie, or had not brought him home, my life might have been very different. But then, if we once begin upon the "ifs," we might as well go back to the beginning, and say, "If we had never been born."
Jealousy. And my proud, flashy temper. That was it.
Jamie was like a brother to me. He was a noble fellow, with a pleasant word and smile for everybody. Not a family in the place but was glad to see him enter their doors. It looks strange now that I could have distrusted him so. Still, I must say, there seemed some cause.
But it's not pleasant dwelling on this. The daily events which stirred me up so then seem too trifling to mention. I don't like to call up all those dead feelings, now I'm an old man, and ashamed of them.
Jamie and Margaret became a mystery to me. And I was by no means one to puzzle it out, as I would a sum in the rule-of-three. 'Twas not all head-work. However, I said nothing. I was mean enough to watch, and too proud to question.
At last I began to ask myself what I really knew about Jamie. He was only a poor sailor-boy, whom I had picked up and befriended. And, once put upon thought, what did I know of Margaret? What did anybody in the place? Even Mr. Nathaniel only knew her father. Her simple, childish ways might be all put on. For she could act. I had seen her, one evening, for our entertainment, imitate the actresses upon the stage. First, she was a little girl, in a white frock, with a string of coral about her neck, and curls hanging over her pretty shoulders. She said a little hymn, and her voice sounded just like a child's. Afterwards, she was a proud princess, in laces and jewels, a long train, and a bright crown. Dressed in this way, with her head thrown back, her bosom heaving, and reciting something she had heard on the stage, we hardly knew our Margaret.
It was at our house, one stormy evening. Mother would never allow it again. She said it was countenancing the theatre. Besides, I thought she'd rather not have me look at Margaret when under the excitement of acting, for the next day she cautioned me against earthly idols. But Margaret was my idol.
It was because she was so bewitching to me that I thought it could not be but that Jamie must be bewitched as well. And it was because he was so taking in his manner that I felt certain she must be taken with him. Thus I puzzled on from day to day, drifting about among my doubts and fears, like a ship in a fog.
I knew that Margaret thought my conduct strange. Sometimes I seemed scarcely to live away from her; then I would change about, and not go near her for days. To Jamie, too, I was often unfriendly, for it maddened me to think he might be playing a double game. Mary seemed just as she always did. But then she was simple-minded, and would never suspect anything or anybody. It was astonishing, the state of excitement I finally worked myself into. That was my make. Once started upon a road, I would run its whole length.
* * * * *
February and March passed, and still we were not sent for to join our ship. Jamie was getting uneasy, living, as he said, so long upon strangers. Besides, I knew my manner troubled him.
One evening, as we were sitting around our kitchen-fire, Margaret with the rest, Mr. Nathaniel came in, all of a breeze, scolding away about his fishermen. His schooner was all ready for The Banks, and two of his men had run off, with all their fitting-out.
"Come, you two lazy chaps," said he, "you will just do to fill their places."
"Agreed!" said Jamie. "I'll go, if Joseph will."
"I'll go," said I. For I thought in a minute that he would rather not leave me behind, and I knew he needed the chance.
The women all began to exclaim against it,—all but Margaret. She turned pale, and kept silence. That was Friday. The vessel would sail Monday. Mother was greatly troubled, but said, if I would go, she must make me comfortable; and all night I could hear her opening and shutting the bureau-drawers. Margaret stopped with Mary: I think they sewed till near morning.
The next evening the singers met in the vestry, to practise the tunes for the Sabbath. We all sat in the singing-seats. I played the small bass-viol. Jamie sang counter, and the girls treble. Margaret had a sweet voice,—not very powerful. She sat in the seats because the other girls did.
I went home with her that night. She seemed so sad, so tender in her manner, that I came near speaking,—came near telling her how much she was to me, and owning my feeling about Jamie. But I didn't quite. Something kept me from it. If there is such a thing as fate, 'twas that.
Going home, however, I made a resolution that the next night I would certainly know, from her own lips, whether it was me she liked, or Jamie.
I walked slowly home, and directly up-stairs to bed. I lay awake a long time, heard father and mother go to their chamber, then Mary and Sophy to theirs. At last I wondered what had become of Jamie.
I pushed aside the window-curtain and looked out. 'Twas bright moonlight. I saw Jamie coming over the hill from Mr. Nathaniel's. He came in softly. I pretended sleep. He was still so long that I looked up to see what he could be doing. He was leaning his elbow on the desk, looking straight at the floor, thinking.
All that night I lay awake, staring at the moonlight on the curtains. I was again on the old track, for I could not possibly imagine what he should have to say to Margaret at that hour.
Towards morning I fell asleep, and never woke till the people were getting ready for meeting. I hurried, for the instruments met before the rest to practise.
Nearly all the young folks sat in the seats. Jamie stood at the head of the back row, on the men's side. His voice was worth all the rest. Margaret came in late. She looked like a beauty that day. Her place was at the head of the first row of girls. I, with my bass-viol, was behind all.
The minister read the hymn beginning with this verse,—
"We are a garden walled around, Chosen and made peculiar ground; A little spot inclosed by grace, Out of the world's wide wilderness."
While he was reading it, I saw her write a little note, and hand it across the alley to Jamie. He smiled, and wrote another back. After meeting, they had a talk. These things sound small enough now. But now I am neither young, nor in love, nor jealous.