The minister's bland face had a puzzled expression, as he answered,—
"A first-rate musician, Deane,—and a lady. That's about the extent of my information."
"A Rebel! and the wife of a Rebel!" was Deane's wrathful answer.
Hitherto, what had he not said or done in the way of supporting the organist?
"A Rebel?" exclaimed the minister, thrown suddenly off his guard.
He might have heard calumny uttered against one under his tender care by the way that single word burst from him.
"The wife of a Rebel general, and a spy!"
Deane's voice made one think of the Inquisition, and of inevitable forfeitures, unfailing executions of unrelenting judgments.
"For a spy, she makes poor use of her advantages," said the minister. "She's never anywhere, that I can learn, except in the church and her own room."
"I dare say anybody will believe that whom she chooses to have believe it. How do you or I know what she is? or where? or what she does? We're not the kind of men for her to take into confidence. She is evidently shrewd enough to see that it wouldn't be safe to tamper with us! But we must get rid of her, or we shall have the organ demolished and the church about our ears. Let the mob once suspect that we employ a spy here to do our music for us, and see what our chance would be! There's no use asking for proof. There's a young man in my storehouse, a contraband, who recognized her somewhere in the street this morning, and he says she is the wife of the Rebel General Edgar; and if it's true, and there's no question about that, I say she ought to be arrested."
"Pooh! pooh!"—the minister was thrown off his guard, and failed to estimate aright the kind of patriotism he bluffed off with so little ceremony;—"the negro"——
"Negro! face as white as mine, Sir! Well, yes, negro, I suppose,—slave, any way,—do you want him summoned in here? Do you want to see him? He gives his testimony intelligently enough. Or shall we send for Mrs. Edgar? For it's high time she were thrown on her own resources, instead of being maintained at our expense for the benefit of the enemy."
Precisely as he finished speaking sounded a peal from the great organ, and Mr. Deane just half understood the look on the minister's face as he turned from him to listen.
A better understanding would have kept him silent longer; but, unable to control himself, he said,—
"We're buying that at too high a price. Better go back to drunken Mallard,—a great sight better. McClellan would tell us so; so would Jeff Davis."
"What can be done?" asked the minister.
Never had that good man looked and felt so helpless as at this moment. His words, and still more his look, vexed and surprised the ever-ready Deane.
"Exactly what would be done, if the woman played fifty times worse, and looked like a beggar. A medium performer with an ugly visage would not find us stumbling against duty. No respect should be shown to persons, when such a charge is brought up. The facts must be tested, and Miss Edgar—What's the reason she never owned she was a Mrs.?"
"Why, Deane, did you ever hear me address her or speak of her in any other way? I knew she was a married woman."
"Did you know she had a husband living, too?"
Mr. Muir spoke as if it were beneath him to suppose that use was to be made, to the damage of the woman, of such acknowledgment.
"It don't look well that people in general are ignorant of the fact. I tell you it's suspicious. It strikes me I never heard anybody call her anything but Miss Edgar. Excuse me; of course you knew better."
"Yes, and some beside myself. She told me she was a married woman. But really, Deane, we couldn't expect, especially of a woman who has been living for months, as it seems to me, in absolute retirement, that she should go about making explanations in regard to her private affairs. I have inferred, I confess, that she had in some unfortunate manner terminated her union with her husband; and I have always hoped that her coming here might prove a providential, happy thing,—that somehow she might find her way out of trouble, and resume, what has evidently been broken off, a peaceful and happy life. She is familiar with happiness."
"Well, Sir!" Deane exploded on the preacher's mildness, of which he had grown in the last few seconds terribly impatient, "I don't know how far Christian charity may go,—a great way farther, it seems, than it need to, if it will submit to the impertinence of a traitor's coming among us and accepting our support, at the same time that she takes advantage of her sex and position to betray us. For that business stands just where it did before. There isn't the slightest doubt that she will find abettors enough who are as false and daring and impudent as herself. Whether we shall suffer them is a question, it seems. Excuse my plain speaking, but I am surprised all round."
"No more than I am, Mr. Deane. It is, as you say, our duty immediately to examine into this business; but we cannot, look at it as you will, we cannot do so with too much caution. It is a disagreeable errand for a man to undertake. Let us at least defer judgment for the present. I will speak to Mrs. Edgar about it myself, and communicate the result immediately to you. Do you prefer to remain here till I return?"
He arose as he spoke, but Deane rose also. It had at last penetrated the brain of this most shrewd, but also very dull man, that the business might be conducted with courtesy, and that a little skill might manage it as effectually as a good deal of courage.
"No, no," he said; "he could trust the business to the minister. Liked to do so, of course. If there was any shame or remorse in the woman, Mr. Muir was the proper person to deal with it."
And so Deane retired.
But when he was gone, the minister stood listening to his departing steps as long as they could be heard; then he sat down in his study-chair, and seemed in no haste to go about the business with which he stood commissioned.
Still the organ-music wandered through the church. Prayer of Moses, Miserere, De Profundis, the Voice of One crying in the Wilderness, a Song in the Night, the darkness of desolation rifted only by the cry for deliverance, tragic human experience, exhausted human hope, and dying faith,—he seemed to interpret the sounds as they swept from the organ-loft and wandered darkly down the nave among the great stone pillars, till they stood, a dismal congregation, at the low door of the vestry-room, pleading with him for her who sent them thither, and astounding him by the hot calumniation that preceded them.
At last, for he was a man to do his duty, in spite of whatsoever shrinking,—and if this accusation were true, it would be indeed hard to forgive, impossible to overlook the offence,—the minister walked out from the vestry into the church.
The organist must have heard him coming, for she broke off suddenly, and dismissed the boy who worked the bellows, at the same moment herself rising to depart.
Just then the minister ascended the steps that led into the choir.
She had no purpose to remain a moment, and merely paused for civil speech, choosing, however, that he should see she was detained.
He did not accept the signs, and, with his usual grave deference to the will of others in things trivial, allow her to pass. He said, instead,—
"Mrs. Edgar, I wish you might give me a moment, though I do not see how what I have undertaken can be said in that length of time. I choose that you should hear from one who wishes you nothing but good the strange story that troubles me."
"I remain, Mr. Muir," was the answer; and she sat down.
The subject was too disagreeable for him to dally with it. If the charge were a true one, no consideration was due; if untrue, the sooner that was made apparent, the better.
"It is said that the organist of St. Peter's is not as loyal a citizen of the United States as might be hoped by those who admire and trust her most; and not only so, but that she is the wife of a Rebel leader, and in communication with Rebels. It sounds harsh, but I speak as a friend. I do not credit these things; but they're said, and I repeat them to relieve others of what they might deem a duty."
Swiftly on his words came her answer.
"You have not believed it, Sir?"
Looking at her, it was the easiest thing for the minister to feel and say,—and, oh, how he wished for Deane!—
"Not one word of it, Madam."
"That is sufficient,—sufficient, at least, for me. But do they, does any one, desire that I should take the oath of fealty to the Constitution and to the Government? I am ready to do either, or both. I hardly reverence the Constitution more than I do the man who is at the head of our affairs. To me he is the hero of this age."
The minister smiled,—a cordial smile, right trustful, cordial, glad.
"It may be well," said he. "These are strange days to live in, and we all abhor suspicion of our loyalty. Besides, it may be necessary; for suspicion of this character is an ungovernable passion now. For myself, I should never have asked these questions; but it is merely right that you should know the whole truth. A person who reports of himself that he has escaped from Charleston avers that he has recognized in the organist of St. Peter's the wife of General Edgar. I don't know the man's name. But his statement has reached me directly. I give you information I might have withheld, because I perfectly trust both the citizen and the lady who has rendered us such noble service here."
"And such trust, I may say, is my right. I shall not forfeit it," said the organist, rising. "I am ready, at any time, to take the oath, and to bear my own responsibilities, Mr. Muir. I have neither fellowship nor communication with Rebels, and I deem it a strange insult to be called a spy. 'T is a great pity one should stay here to vex himself with puerile gossip."
She pointed to the stained windows emblazoned with sacred symbols, glorious now with sunlight, bowed, and was gone.
There came, on Easter night, to the door of the organist's apartment, the "contraband" who at present was sojourning under the protection of Mr. Gerald Deane.
The hour was not early. Evening service was over, and Julius had waited a reasonable length of time, that his errand might be delivered when she should be at leisure. He might safely have gone at once; for guests never came at night, and rarely by day,—the organist's wish being perfectly understood among the very few with whom she came in contact, and she being consequently "let alone" with what some might have deemed "a vengeance." But it satisfied her, and no other dealing would.
Either this man—Julius Hopkins was his name—had not so recently come to H—— as to be a stranger in any quarter of the town, or he had made use of his time here; for he seemed familiar with the streets and alleys as an old resident.
To find the organist was not difficult, when one had come within sight of the lofty spire of the church, for it was under its shadow she lived; but if he had been accustomed to carry messages to her door for years, he could not now have presented himself with fuller confidence as to what he should find.
When Mrs. Edgar opened the door, not a word was needed, as if these were strangers who stood face to face. In her countenance, indeed, was emotion,—unmeasured surprise; in her manner, momentary indecision. But the surprise passed into a lofty kindliness of manner, and the indecision gave place to the most entire freedom from embarrassment. She cut short the words he began to speak with an authoritative, though most quiet,—
"Julius, come in."
It was not as one addresses the servant of a friend, but spoken with an authority which the man instantly acknowledged by obedience. He came into the room, closed the door, and waited till she should speak. She asked,—
"Why are you here?"
He answered as if unaware that any great change had taken place in their relations.
"My master sent me. At last I have found my mistress. It took me a great while."
"Is your master still in arms?"
The man bowed.
"Against the Government?"
"He says, for the Government."
He bowed again.
"Then, there is no answer,—can be none. Did he not foresee it?"
The slave did not answer. What words that he came commissioned to speak could respond to the anguish her voice betrayed? She spoke again; she had recovered from the surprise of her distress, and, looking now at Julius, said,—
"You are excused from replying; but—you do not, in any event, propose to return home?"
"Yes, Madam, yes,—immediately, immediately."
It was the first time he had discovered this purpose, and he did so with a vehemence expressive of desire to vindicate himself where he should be understood. She answered slowly, but she did not seem amazed, as Deane would infallibly have been, as you and I had been,—such doubting worshippers, after all, of the great heroic.
"Do you not hear, Julius, everywhere, that you are a freeman? Is it possible no one has told you so? Do you not know it for yourself? It is likely."
"It don't signify. I tended him through one course,—he got a bad cut, Master did,—and I'll take care of him again. I a'n't through till he is."
"Is he well?"
"Thanks to me, and the Lord, he is well of the wound again, and gone to work."
At the pause that now ensued, as if he had only been waiting for this, the slave approached nearer to his mistress; but he did not lift his eyes,—he desired but to serve. She was so proud, he thought,—always was; if he could only get himself out of the way, and let this ugly, cruel business right itself without a witness! Master knew how to plead better than any one could for him. He produced a tiny case of chamois-leather.
"Master sent you this," he said; and it seemed as if he would have given it into her very hands; but they were folded; so he laid it on the edge of the piano, and stepped back a pace. He knew there was no need for him to explain.
Well she understood. Her husband had done his utmost to secure a reconciliation. Love had its rights, its sacrifices; with these she had to do, and not with his official conduct and public acts.
She knew well what that trifle of a chamois case contained. It was the miniature of their child, the little one of earth no more, but heaven-born: the winged child, with the flame above its head,—symbols with which, of old, they loved to represent Genius. This miniature was set in diamonds; it was the mother's gift to the father of the child: this woman's gift to the man whom loyal men to-day call traitor, rebel, alien, enemy.
And thus he appealed to her. Oh, tender was the voice! This love that called had in its utterances proof that it held by its immortality. The love that pleaded with her appealed to recollections the most sacred, the most dear, the perpetual,—knowing what was in her heart, knowing how it would respond.
But there, where Julius left the miniature, it lay; a letter beside it now, and a purse of gold,—pure gold,—not a Confederate note among it.
Poor Julia Edgar! she need not open the case that shone with such starry splendor. Never could be hidden from her eyes the face of the child. How should she not see again, in all its beauty, the garden where her darling had played, little hands filled full of blooms, little face whose smiling was as that of angels, butterflies sporting around her as the wonderful one of old flitted about St. Rose,—alas! with as sure a prophecy as that black and golden one? How clearly she saw again, through heavy clouds of tears that never broke, the garden's glory, all its peace, its happiness, its pride, and love!
No argument, no word, could have pleaded for the father of the child like this. But it was love pleading against love,—Earth's beseeching and need, against Heaven's warning and sufficience.
At last she spoke again.
"What is your reward, Julius, for all this danger you've incurred for him, and for me?"
"He said it should be my liberty."
How he spoke those words! LIBERTY! it was the golden dream of the man's life, yet he named it with a self-control that commanded her admiration and reverence.
"I give it to you at this moment, here!" she said.
For an instant the slave seemed to hesitate; but the hesitation was of utterance merely, not of will.
"My errand isn't half done, Madam. I never broke my word yet. I'll go back."
"Tell him, then, that I gave you your freedom, and you would not accept it. And—go back! 't is a noble resolve, worthy of you. Take the purse. I do not need it. Say that I have no need of it. And you will, perhaps."
No other message for him? Not one word from herself to him! For she knew where safety lay.
The slave looked at her, helpless, hopeless, with indecision. The woman was incomprehensible. He had set out on his errand, had persevered through difficulties, and had withstood temptations too many to be written here, with not a doubt as to the success that would attend him. He remembered the wife of General Edgar in her home; to that home of happy love and noble hospitality, and of all social dignities, he had no doubt he should restore her. But now, humbled by defeat, he said,—
"I've looked a great while for you, Madam. I would never 'a' give up, though, if I'd gone to Maine or Labrador, and round by the Rocky Mountains, hunting for you. I heard you singing in the church this morning, and I knew your voice. Though it didn't sound natural right,—but I knew it was nobody else's voice,—as if the North mostly hadn't agreed with it. And I heard it yesterday somewhere,—that's what 'sured me. I was going along the street, when I heard it; but it was not this house you were in."
"And it was you, then, Julius, who betrayed me to the person who supposes himself to be your protector,—and this because you thought surely I must be glad to return, when I had lost my friends here through ill report! Is that the way your war is carried on?"
"My war, Madam?"
But Julius did not look at his mistress; he looked away, and shrugged his shoulders. The device of which he was convicted had seemed to him so good, so sure, nevertheless had failed.
She had scarcely finished speaking, when a note was brought to the door. It was from Adam von Gelhorn.
"I am making my preparations to go at nine to-morrow," said the note. "Will you come to the church before? I would like to remember having seen you there last, at the organ. There's a bit of news just reached me, said to be a secret. General Edgar's command aims at preventing the junction of our forces before Y——. He is strong enough, numerically, to overthrow either division in separate conflict, and this is his Napoleonic strategy. But he will be outwitted. There's no doubt of it. Do not despair of our cause, whatever you hear during the coming fortnight. I shall report myself immediately to McClellan, and he may make a drummer-boy of me, if he will. Henceforth I am at his service till the war ends.
Thrice she read this note; when her eyes lifted at last, Julius was still standing where she had left him. She started, seeing him, as if his presence there at the moment took a new significance; her heart fainted within her.
Had he heard this secret of which Von Gelhorn spoke? It was her husband's life that was in jeopardy!
"When are you going, Julius?" she asked.
"To-morrow. Oh, Madam, give me some word for him!"
Red horror of death, how it rises before her sight! She shuddered, cowered, sank before the blackness of darkness that followed fast on that terrific spectacle of carnage, before which a whirlwind seemed to have planted her. She heard the cries and yells, the groans and curses of bleeding, dying men; saw banners in the dust, horsemen and horses crushed under the great guns, mortality in fragments, heaps upon heaps of ruin on the field Aceldama.
Where was he? Who would search among the slain for him? Who from among the dying would rescue him? Who will stanch his bleeding wounds? Who will moisten his parched lips? Whose voice sound in the ears that have heard the roar of guns amid the crash of battle? What hand shall bathe and fan that brow? What eyes shall watch till those eyelids unlock, and catch the whisper of those lips? Nay, who will save his life from the needless sacrifice? tell him that his plans are known, warn him back, warn him of spies and of treachery? Has Julius betrayed him?
She looked at the slave. But before she looked, her heart reproached her for having doubted him.
"You will need this gold," she said. "Take it. Restore the miniature to your master. And go,—go at once. If success be in store for him, I share not the shame of it. If defeat, adversity, sickness,—your master knows his wife fears but one thing, has fled but from one thing. Her heart is with him, but she abhors the cause to which he has given himself. She will not share his crime."
Difficult as these words were to speak, she spoke them without faltering, and they admitted no discussion.
The slave lingered yet longer, but there was no more that she would say. Assured at last of that, he said,—
"I obey you," and was gone.
He was gone,—gone! and she had betrayed nothing,—had given no warning,—had uttered not a word by which the life that was of all lives most precious to her might have been saved!
By eight o'clock next morning Mrs. Edgar was in the church. Von Gelhorn preceded her by five minutes; he was walking up the aisle when she entered, impatient for her appearing, eager to be gone,—wondering, boy-like, that she came not.
He has performed a prodigious amount of labor since they last met. His pictures were all removed to the Odeon, he said. His studio, haunt of dreams, beloved of fame so long, stripped and barren, looked like any other four-walled room,—and he, a freeman, stood equipped for service.
Yes, an hour would see him speeding to the capital. In less time than it had taken him to perfect his arrangements he should be at the head-quarters of the commander-in-chief,—to be made a drummer-boy of, as he said before, or serve wherever there should be room for him.
He stood there so bright, so ready, eager, daring, was capable of so much! What had she done to usurp the functions of conscience, and assume the voice of duty? She had done what she could not revoke, and yet could not contemplate without a sort of terror,—as if to atone, to make amends for disloyalty, which, coming even as from herself, a crime in which she had chief concernment, was not to be atoned for by repentance merely, nor by any sacrifices less than the costliest. She had sought her husband's peer,—deemed that she had found him,—therefore would despatch him to the battle-field, by valor to meet the valiant. But now the light by which she had hurried forward to that deed was gone, and she stood as a prophetess may, who, deserted of the divinity, doubts the testimony of her hour of exaltation.
While they talked,—both apparently standing at an elevation of serene courage above the level of even warring men and heroic women, but one causing such misgiving in her heart as to fix her in that mood, and forbid an extrication,—Fate led a lady down the street, who, passing by the church and seeing the door ajar, went in. She should find in the choir some written music, used in yesterday's services, which she had forgotten to bring away. Out of the pure, bright sunshine she stepped into the dark, cold shadows, and had come to the choir before she heard the voices speaking there. Shrined saints that hold your throne-like niches in the old stone walls! gilded cherubim that hover round the organ's burnished pipes! what sight do you look down upon? She walked up quietly,—it was her way, a noiseless, gliding way,—there stood the organist and Adam von Gelhorn! As if hell had made a revelation, she stood looking at those two. And both saw her, and neither of the three uttered one word, or essayed a motion, till she, quietly, it seemed, though it was with utmost violence, turned to go again.
Then—soft the voice sounded, but to her who spoke there was thunder in it—the organist called after her, "Sybella!"
She, however, did not turn to answer, neither did she falter in going. Departure was the one thing of which she was capable,—and what could have hindered her going? What checks Vesuvius, when the flood says, "Lo, I come!"? Or shall the little bird that perches and sings on a post in the Dismal Swamp prevent the message that sweeps along the wire for a thousand miles?
Von Gelhorn, disturbed by her coming and departure, in that so slight vibration of air caused by her advance and her retreat, swayed as a reed in the wind, stood for a moment seeking equipoise. Vain endeavor!
Not with inquiry, neither for direction, his eyes fell on Julia Edgar.
"Go," she said.
She said it aloud; no utterance could have been more distinct. He strode after Sybella.
She heard him come, but did not pause, or turn, or falter. He came faster, gained upon, and overtook her. It was just there by the church-door. And then he spoke. But not like a warrior. It was a hoarse whisper she heard, and her name in it. At that call she turned. When she saw his face, she stood.
Why avert her face, indeed, or why go on?
"I am going away,—in search of death, perhaps. I don't know. But to battle. Will you not come back and listen one moment?"
She stood as if she could stand. Why did he plead but for one moment? Battle! before that word she laid down her weapons. Under that glare of awful fire the walls of ice melted, as never iceberg under tropic sun.
Battle! One out of the world who had been so long out of her world! Out of her world? So is beauty dead and past all resurrection of a surety, when the dismal winds of March howl over land and sea!
"Yesterday," he said, "I came to church. Not to hear you, but I heard you. You conquered me. I was giving a word for you to your friend and mine, when God led you in here. Do not try to thwart Him. We have tried it long enough. If you should go into my studio,—no, there's no such place now, but if you went into the Odeon, you would see some faces there that would tell you who has haunted my dreams and my heart these years. Forgive me now that I'm going away. Let me hear you speak the very word, Sybella."
How long must sinner call on God before he sees the smile of Love making bright the heavens, glad the earth, possible all holiness, probable all blessing? For He has built no walls, fastened no bars and bolts, blasted no present, cursed no future. If Love be large, rich, free, strong enough, it brings itself with one swift bound into the Heavenly Kingdom where the Powers of Darkness have almost prevailed.
When Mrs. Edgar saw these two coming up the aisle together, she understood, and, turning full towards them, sang a song such as was never heard before within those old gray walls.
Mr. Muir was but a man. Powerful indeed in his way, but it was behind his pulpit-desk, with a sermon in his hands, his congregation before him,—or in carrying out any charitable project, or in managing the business specially devolving on him. He was nobody when he emerged from his own distinct path,—at least, such was his opinion; and being so, he would not be likely to attempt the enforcement of another view of his power on other men. He was afraid of himself now,—afraid that his own preferences had made him obtuse where loyalty would have given him a clearer vision.
Pity him, therefore, when Mr. Deane learned that the son of bondage in whose deliverance he took such proud delight, as surely became a good man who greatly valued freedom, aye, valued it as the pearl beyond all price,—when he learned that the slave had been seen going to the organist's room, and returning from it, and had not since been seen in H——.
Mr. Muir reflected on these tidings with perplexity, constrained, in spite of him, to believe that the slave had actually come on a secret errand, which he had fulfilled, and that not without enlightenment he had returned to his master.
The indignation a man feels, a man of the Deane order especially, when he finds that he has been imposed upon, though the deception has been in this instance of his own furtherance and establishment,—this kind and degree of indignation brought Mr. Deane like a firebrand into the next vestry-meeting. An end must be made of this matter at once. It was no longer a question whether anything had best be done. Something must be done; the public demanded, and he, as a good citizen, demanded, that the church should free herself of suspicion.
Mr. Muir felt, from the moment his eyes fell on Deane, that he played a losing game. Vain to help a woman who had fallen under that man's suspicion, useless to defend her! What should he do, then? Let her go? let her fall? Allow that she was a spy? Permit her disgrace, dismissal, arrest possibly? When War takes hold of women, the touch is not tender. Mr. Muir, it was obvious, was not a man of war. And he had to acknowledge to the Musical Committee, that, as to the result of his conversation with Mrs. Edgar, he had learned merely what was sufficient, indeed, to satisfy him of her loyalty, and that she would scorn to do a spy's work; but he had no proof to offer that might satisfy minds less "prejudiced" in her favor.
It was impossible not to perceive the dissatisfaction with which this testimony was received.
The Committee, however favorably disposed toward the organist, had their own suspicions to quiet, and a growing rumor among the people to quell. Positive proof must be adduced that the organist was not the wife of a Rebel general, or she must be removed from her place.
At a time when riot was rife, and street-tumult so common that the citizens, loyal or disloyal, had no real security, it was venturesome, dangerous, foolhardy, to allow a suspicion to fix, even by implication, on the church. If the organist, already sufficiently noted and popular in the town to attract within the church-walls scores of people who came merely for the music,—if she were suspected of collision with Southern traitors, she must pay the price. It was the proper tax on loyalty. The church must be free of blame.
So Mr. Muir, a second time on such business, went to Mrs. Edgar.
Various intimations as to what brave men might do in precisely his situation distracted him as he went. The fascinations of her power were strongly upon him. If he was a hero, here, surely, was a heroine. And in distress! Had Christian chivalry no demand to make, no claim on him?
All the way, as he went, he was counting the cost of his opposition to the vestry's will. If he only stood alone! If neither wife nor child had rights to be considered in advance of other mortals, and which, for the necessities of others, must surely not be waived! If Nature had not planted in him prudence, if he had only not that vexatious habit of surveying duties in their wholeness, and balancing consequences, he might, at the moment, enter into Don Quixote's joy. But,—and here he was at the head of the flight of stairs that led to her chamber, face to face with her.
Advance now, Christian minister! He comes slowly, weighed down by his burden of consequences, and, as at one glance, the organist perceives the "situation." He has come with her dismissal from the church. She sees it in the dejected face, the troubled eyes, the weariness with which he throws himself into the nearest chair. The duty he has in hand he feels in all its irksomeness, and makes no concealment thereof,—indeed, some display perhaps.
From a little desultory talk about church-music, through which words ran at random, Mrs. Edgar broke at last, somewhat impatiently.
"What is it, Mr. Muir? Must your organist take the oath?"
The question caught him by surprise; it was uppermost in his thoughts, this hateful theme; but then how should she know it? He lost the self-possession he had been trying to maintain, the dignity of his judicial character broke down completely; he was now merely a kind-hearted man, a husband and father it is true, but for the moment those domestic ties were not like a fetter on him.
"I require no such evidence of your loyalty, Mrs. Edgar," he said,—"no evidence whatever."
"But—does not the church?"
This question was asked with a little faltering, asked for his sake; for evidently some knowledge he had, and had to communicate, that embarrassed him almost to the making of speech impossible.
"The church! No,—it is too late for that!"
And now he had thrown down the hateful truth. There it lay at the feet of the woman who at this moment assumed to the preacher's imagination a more than saint's virtue, a more than angel's beauty.
"What then?" she said. "What next, Mr. Muir? Do they want my resignation?"
Mr. Muir said this with a humbled, deprecating gesture of the hand. At the same time bowed his head.
"I commission you to carry it," she said.
"I will not," he answered, almost ferociously.
"I consider it an outrage."
That mild magnanimity of speech completed the overthrow of his prudence.
"A misunderstanding, then, that shall be rectified to your honor," he exclaimed, "in the very place where it has gained ground to your dishonor. If you resign, Mrs. Edgar, it must be to come at once to my house as a guest. If the people are infatuated, the minister need not be of necessity. My wife will welcome you there; if the law of the gospel cannot protect you from suspicion, it can at least from harm."
So all in a moment the man got the better of Mr. Muir. What a deliverance was there! This was the man who had preached and prayed for the Government till more than once he had been invited to march out with the soldiers as their chaplain to battle, opening his doors to one whom the loyal church rejected,—opening them merely because she was a woman on whom suspicion he believed to be unjust had fallen.
Her face lighted, her eyes flashed, she smiled. These were precious words to hear from any good man's lips. They broke on the air like balm on a wound.
"Not for all the world would I allow it," she answered. "This is no time to complicate affairs. I thank you, and I confess you have surprised me. I did not expect this even of you. It is needless for me to say that I feel this disgrace as you would feel it; but I understand the position of the church, and cannot complain. If I were guilty, this treatment would be only too lenient. And it is almost guilt to have incurred suspicion."
"I will never be the bearer of your resignation, then,—never, Mrs. Edgar! I wash my hands of this business!"
She smiled again. The man in his wrath seemed to have seized on a child's weapon. He interpreted her smile, and said,—
"My position will be well understood, if another is the bearer. And I wish it to be. I wish men to know that I have no hand in this business. The church is a persecutor. I, her son, am ashamed of her."
"It has given me my opportunity to make a defence. And I can make none, Mr. Muir. My great mistake was in remaining here. Ruin, however, is not so rare a thing in these days that I should be surprised by it, even if it overtake me."
"Ruin! Aye. What curses thicken for their heads who have brought this upon us! Unborn millions will repeat them, and God Almighty sanction and enforce them."
Mr. Muir paused. What arrested him? Merely the countenance of the woman before him. If all those curses had gathered into legions of devils, crowding, swarming, furious, armed with lash and brand, about the form of one who represented love, joy, beauty, all preciousness to her, the terror and the anguish looking from her face could not have been intensified. But she said no word.
How should she speak?
As if in spite of him, and of all he had been wont to hold most sacred and potential, in spite of church and congregation, Constitution and country, the minister had spoken simply for humanity under oppression; had he not earned her confidence? Did he not deserve to know at least what real ground there was for the suspicions roused against her?
Nay, nay! When did ever Love seek deliverance at the cost of the beloved? What woman ever betrayed to secret friend the sin of him she loves? Let all creation read the patent facts, behind them still remains the inviolate, sacred arcanum, and before it stands sentinel Silence, and around it are walls of fire.
Not from this woman's lips should mortal ever learn she was a Rebel's wife!
For Mr. Muir, in his present mood, it was only torture to prolong this interview. He felt himself unfit for counsel or argument,—unfit even for confidence, had it been vouchsafed. But he held, with a tenacity that could not but have its influence on his future acts and life, to the purpose that had broken from him so suddenly, and not less to his own surprise than to the organist's. From this day she was at liberty to seek protection under his roof from threatened mobs and hot-headed church-wardens. Mr. Deane was one man, he himself was another; and if a day was ever coming to the world when Christian magnanimity must rise in its majesty and its strength, that day had surely dawned; if the Christian ministry was ever to know a period when the greatness of its prerogatives was to be made manifest, that period had certainly begun.
From this interview Mrs. Edgar went to make her preparations for the flitting she had already determined upon. She resolved to lose no time, and consoled Mr. Muir by making known her resolution, and seeking his assistance, when he was in a condition adapted to the bestowal.
But scarcely were her rooms bared, her trunks packed, and the day and mode of her departure determined upon, when an order came to H—— from a high official source, so authoritative as to allow no hesitation or demur.
"Arrest the organist of St. Peter's Church, Mrs. Julia Edgar."
And, behold, she was a prisoner in the house where she had lodged!
Opposition was out of the question, protest hardly thought of. One glance was broad enough to cover this business from end to end, and of resistance there was no demonstration. Her work now was to restore the room, denuded and desolate, to its late aspect of refinement and cheer.
Well, but is it the same thing to urge others on to sacrifice, and yourself to bring an offering? to gird another for warfare, and yourself endure hardness? to incite another to active service, and yourself serve by passive obedience? to place a sword in the right hand of the valiant, and bare your heart to the smiting of a sword in the same cause of glory?
To have urged out of beautiful and studious retirement the painter of precious pictures, that he may lift the soldier's burden and gird himself for fasting through long, toilsome marches over mountains, through wilderness, swamp, and desert, and for encountering Death at every pass in one of his manifold disguises,—that he may lie on a field of blood, perchance, at last, the fragment of himself, for what? that he may say, finally, if speech be left him, he has fought under the flag, that at Memphis its buried glory may have resurrection, that at Sumter it may float again from the battlements, that at Richmond it may be unfurled above Rebellion's grave,—is it the same thing to have accomplished this by way of atonement, and in your own body to atone, by your humiliation, by suspicion endured? She deemed it a small thing that she was called to suffer,—that, when honor was won, she must bear disgrace instead. What, indeed, was a year's or a lifetime's imprisonment, looked on in the light of privation or sacrifice? Yet so to atone, since thus it was written, for the sin of one who was in arms against the nation's government! Oh, if anywhere, of any loyal citizen, it might be looked upon, accepted, as atonement!
In one thing she was happy, and of right. Music never failed her. Art keeps her great rewards for such as serve her for her sacred self. Therefore let her arise day after day to the same prospect of sky, and sea, and busy street, and silent, shadowy church-yard. I bless the birds that built their nests in the elm and willow branches for her sake. The little creatures flitting here and there, in all their home-ways and domestic management, were dear as their song to her.
But in this life, though there might be growth, it was the growth that comes through pain endured with patience, through self-control maintained in the suspense and the anguish of death.
For what, then, did she long in his behalf whose fate was shrouded in thick darkness from her? For victory? or for defeat? A prison? mutilation? disablement? burial on the battle-field? or a disgraceful safety? Constantly this question urged itself upon her, and the heroic love, that in its great disclosures could not fail, shrank shuddering back in silence.
Thanks to God, she need not choose. The Omniscient is alone the Almighty!
Three months after this order of arrest came another of release,—as brief and as peremptory.
Deane's patriotism, that really had endangered the church with a mob and the organ with demolishment, was the cause of the first despatch. Colonel Von Gelhorn, who had routed General Edgar and driven him and his forces at the point of the bayonet from an "impregnable position," was in the secret of the second.
Close following this order of release, so closely that one must believe he but waited for it before he again presented himself to his mistress, came Julius, the bearer of a message in whose persuasive power he himself had little hope. Defeated, wounded, dying, her husband called this second time to her.
The slave, this day a freeman by all writs and rights, ascended again to her apartment when the order of release had been received.
Surprise awaited him. Alas, what it says for us! our heroes, who have surely the right of unlimited expectations, are as likely to be surprised by heroic demonstrations as the dullest soul that never strove for aught except its paltry starving self. But the hero surprised is not surprised into uncomprehending wonder, but rather into smiles, or tears, or heartrending, out of which comes thankfulness.
Yet a bitter word escaped him; he could deem even Liberty guilty of an injustice, when she was involved in the judgment that awaits the guilty. As if never before under the government of God it was known that the overthrow of evil involved sorrow, aye, and temporal ruin, aye, and sometimes death, to God's very angels! But to that word she answered,—
"Hush! I have been among friends,—even though some believed I was their enemy in disguise. I have nothing to complain of. Duties must be done. But, Julius, you have come to tell me of your master. Tell me, then."
"Such news, Madam, as you will not like to hear, though I have travelled with it night and day. Colonel Von Gelhorn sent me. He said I would be in time. I didn't wait to hear him say that twice."
"He sent you? Where, then, is my husband?"
"He is a prisoner, Madam."
"A prisoner! Whose?"
"Colonel Von Gelhorn's."
Was it satisfaction that filled the silence following this question?
"But safe? but well, Julius?"
"No, Madam, not safe nor well."
"Wounded? Julius, speak! Why must I ask these dreadful questions? Tell what you came to tell."
"He is wounded, Madam. He has never been taken away from the church where I carried him first after he fell. He had three horses shot under him. Oh, Madam, if it hadn't been for him, his whole army would have been lost! He wants you now."
"Let us go, then. Guide me. The shortest way. You're a free man, Julius. Act like one, freely. Wounded,—Von Gelhorn's prisoner. Then at last he's mine again!"
* * * * *
Hers again! In the church she found him. In her arms he died.
And he said,—nor let us think it was with coward weakness blenching before the presence of Death, shaming the day he died by a late repentance,—
"I have been deceived. But I deceived others. Who will forgive that? It is so hard for me to forgive! You have fought your fight like a hero, loyal to the core, but I"——
Nevertheless, her kiss was on his dying lips. She forgave him. Must he, then, go out from her presence into everlasting darkness?
BY A FARMER.
It is a pelting November rain. No leaves are left upon the branches but a few yellow flutterers on the tips of the willows and poplars, and the bleached company that will be clinging to the beeches and the white oaks for a month to come. All others are whipped away by the night-winds into the angles of old walls, or are packed under low-limbed shrubberies, there to swelter and keep warm the rootlets of the newly planted weigelias and spruces, until the snows and February suns and April mists and May heats shall have transmuted them into fat and unctuous mould. A close, pelting, unceasing rain, trying all the leaks of the mossy roof, testing all the newly laid drains, pressing the fountain at my door to an exuberant gush,—a rain that makes outside work an impossibility; and as I sit turning over the leaves of an old book of engravings, wondering what drift my rainy-day's task shall take, I come upon a pleasant view of Dovedale in Derbyshire, a little exaggerated, perhaps, in the luxuriance of its trees and the depth of its shadows, but recalling vividly the cloudy April morning on which, fifteen years agone, I left the inn of the "Green Man and Black Head," in the pretty town of Ashbourne, and strolled away by the same road on which Mr. Charles Cotton opens his discourse of fishing with Master "Viator," and plunged down the steep valley-side near to Thorpe, and wandered for three miles and more, under towering crags, and on soft, spongy bits of meadow, beside the blithe river where Walton had cast, in other days, a gray palmer-fly, past the hospitable hall of the worshipful Mr. Cotton, and the wreck of the old fishing-house, over whose lintel was graven in the stone the interlaced initials of "Piscator, Junior," and his great master of the rod. As the rain began to patter on the sedges and the pools, I climbed out of the valley, on the northward or Derbyshire side, and striding away through the heather, which belongs to the rolling heights of this region, I presently found myself upon the great London and Manchester highway. A broad and stately thoroughfare it had been in the old days of coaching, but now a close, fine turf invested it all, save one narrow strip of Macadam in the middle. The mile-stones, which had been showy, painted affairs of iron, were now deeply bitten and blotched with rust. Two of them I had passed, without sight of house, or of other traveller, save one belated drover, who was hurrying to the fair at Ashbourne; as I neared the third, a great hulk of building appeared upon my left, with a crowd of aspiring chimneys, from which only one timid little pennant of smoke coiled into the harsh sky.
The gray, inhospitable-looking pile proved to be one of the old coach-inns, which, with its score of vacant chambers and huge stable-court, was left stranded upon the deserted highway of travel. It stood a little space back from the road, so that a coach and four, or, indeed, a half-dozen together, might have come up to the door-way in dashing style. But it must have been many years since such a demand had been made upon the resources of bustling landlord and of attendant grooms and waiters. The doors were tightly closed; even the sign-board creaked uneasily in the wind, and a rampant growth of ivy that clambered over the porch so covered it with leaves and berries that I could not at all make out its burden. I gave a sharp ring to the bell, and heard the echo repeated from the deserted stable-court; there was the yelp of a hound somewhere within, and presently a slatternly-dressed woman received me, and, conducting me down a bare hall, showed me into a great dingy parlor, where a murky fire was struggling in the grate. A score of roistering travellers might have made the stately parlor gay; and I dare say they did, in years gone; but now I had only for company their heavy old arm-chairs, a few prints of "fast coaches" upon the wall, and a superannuated greyhound, who seemed to scent the little meal I had ordered, and presently stalked in and laid his thin nose, with an appealing look, in my hands. His days of coursing—if he ever had them—were fairly over; and I took a charitable pride in bestowing upon him certain tough morsels of the rump-steak, garnished with horse-radish, with which I was favored for dinner.
I had intended to push on to Buxton the same afternoon; but the deliberate sprinkling of the morning by two o'clock had quickened into a swift, pelting rain, the very counterpart of that which is beating on my windows to-day. There was nothing to be done but to make my home of the old coach-inn for the night; and for my amusement—besides the slumberous hound, who, after dinner, had taken up position upon the faded rug lying before the grate—there was a "Bell's Messenger" of the month past, and, as good luck would have it, a much-bethumbed copy of a work on horticulture and kindred subjects, first printed somewhere about the beginning of the eighteenth century, and entitled "The Clergyman's Recreation, showing the Pleasure and Profit of the Art of Gardening," by the Reverend John Laurence.
It was a queer book to be found in this pretentious old coach-inn, with its silken bell-pulls and stately parlors; and I thought how the roisterers who came thundering over the road years ago, and chucked the bar-maids under the chin, must have turned up their noses, after their pint of crusted Port, at the "Clergyman's Recreation." Yet, for all that, the book had a rare interest for me, detailing, as it did, the methods of fruit-culture in England a hundred and forty years ago, and showing with nice particularity how the espaliers could be best trained, and how a strong infusion of walnut-leaf tea will destroy all noxious worms.
And now, when, upon this other wet day, and in the quietude of my own library, I come to measure the claims of this ancient horticulturist to consideration, I find that he was the author of some six or seven distinct works on kindred subjects, showing good knowledge of the best current practice; and although he incurred the sneers of Mr. Tull, who hoped "he preached better than he ploughed," there is abundant evidence that his books were held in esteem.
Contemporary with the Rev. Mr. Laurence were London and Wise, the famous horticulturists of Brompton, (whose nursery, says Evelyn, "was the greatest work of the kind ever seen or heard of, either in books or travels,") also Switzer, a pupil of the latter, and Professor Richard Bradley.
Mr. London was the director of the royal gardens under William and Mary, and at one time had in his charge some three or four hundred of the most considerable landed estates in England. He was in the habit of riding some fifty miles a day to confer with his subordinate gardeners, and at least two or three times in a season traversed the whole length and breadth of England,—and this at a period, it must be remembered, when travelling was no holiday-affair, as is evident from the mishaps which befell those well-known contemporaneous travellers of Fielding, Joseph Andrews and Parson Adams. Traces of the work of Mr. London are to be seen even now in the older parts of the grounds of Blenheim and of Castle Howard in Yorkshire.
Stephen Switzer was an accomplished gardener, well known by a great many horticultural and agricultural works, which in his day were "on sale at his seed-shop in Westminster Hall." Chiefest among these was the "Ichnographia Rustica," which gave general directions for the management of country-estates, while it indulged in some prefatory magniloquence upon the dignity and antiquity of the art of gardening. It is the first of all arts, he claims; for "tho' Chirurgery may plead high, inasmuch as in the second chapter of Genesis that operation is recorded of taking the rib from Adam, wherewith woman was made, yet the very current of the Scriptures determines in favor of Gardening." It surprises us to find that so radical an investigator should entertain the belief, as he clearly did, that certain plants were produced without seed by the vegetative power of the sun acting upon the earth. He is particularly severe upon those Scotch gardeners, "Northern lads," who, with "a little learning and a great deal of impudence, know, or pretend to know, more in one twelvemonth than a laborious, honest South-country man does in seven years."
His agricultural observations are of no special value, nor do they indicate any advance from the practice of Worlidge. He deprecates paring and burning as exhaustive of the vegetable juices, advises winter fallowing and marling, and affirms that "there is no superficies of earth, how poor soever it may be, but has in its own bowels something or other for its own improvement."
In gardening, he expresses great contempt for the clipped trees and other excesses of the Dutch school, yet advises the construction of terraces, lays out his ponds by geometric formulae, and is so far devoted to out-of-door sculpture as to urge the establishment of a royal institution for the instruction of ingenious young men, who, on being taken into the service of noblemen and gentlemen, would straightway people their grounds with statues. And this notwithstanding Addison had published his famous papers on the "Pleasures of the Imagination" three years before.
Richard Bradley was the Dr. Lardner of his day,—a man of general scientific acquirement, an indefatigable worker, venturing hazardous predictions, writing some fifteen or twenty volumes upon subjects connected with agriculture, foisting himself into the chair of Botany at Cambridge by noisy reclamation, selling his name to the booksellers for attachment to other men's wares, and, finally, only escaping the indignity of a removal from his professor's chair by sudden death, in 1732. Yet this gentleman's botanical dictionary ("Historia Plantarum," etc.) was quoted respectfully by Linnaeus, and his account of British cattle, their races, proper treatment, etc., was, by all odds, the best which had appeared up to his time. The same gentleman, in his "New Improvements of Planting and Gardening," lays great stress upon a novel "invention for the more speedy designing of garden-plats," which is nothing more than an adaptation of the principle of the kaleidoscope. The latter book is the sole representative of this author's voluminous agricultural works in the Astor collection; and, strange to say, there are only two in the library of the British Museum.
I take, on this dreary November day, (with my Catawbas blighted,) a rather ill-natured pleasure in reading how the Duke of Rutland, in the beginning of the last century, was compelled to "keep up fires from Lady-day to Michaelmas behind his sloped walls," in order to insure the ripening of his grapes; yet winter grapes he had, and it was a great boast in that time. The quiet country squires—such as Sir Roger de Coverley—had to content themselves with those old-fashioned fruits which would struggle successfully with out-of-door fogs. Fielding tells us that the garden of Mr. Wilson, where Parson Adams and the divine Fanny were guests, showed nothing more rare than an alley bordered with filbert-bushes.
In London and its neighborhood the gourmands fared better. Cucumbers, which in Charles's time never came in till the close of May, were ready in the shops of Westminster (in the time of George I.) in early March. Melons were on sale, for those who could pay roundly, at the end of April; and the season of cauliflowers, which used to be limited to a single month, now reached over a term of six months.
Mr. Pope, writing to Dr. Swift, somewhere about 1730, says,—"I have more fruit-trees and kitchen-garden than you have any thought of; nay, I have good melons and pine-apples of my own growth." Nor was this a small boast; for Lady Wortley Montague, describing her entertainment at the table of the Elector of Hanover, in 1716, speaks of "pines" as a fruit she had never seen before.
Ornamental gardening, too, was now changing its complexion. Dutch William was dead and buried. Addison had written in praise of the natural disposition of the gardens of Fontainebleau, and, at his place near Rugby, was carrying out, so far as a citizen might, the suggestions of those papers to which I have already alluded. Milton was in better odor than he had been, and people had begun to realize that an arch-Puritan might have exquisite taste. Possibly, too, cultivated landholders had seen that charming garden-picture where the luxurious Tasso makes the pretty sorceress Armida spread her nets.
Pope affected a respect for the views of Addison; but his Twickenham garden was a very stiff affair. Bridgman was the first practical landscape-gardener who ventured to ignore old rules; and he was followed closely by William Kent, a broken-down and unsuccessful landscape-painter, who came into such vogue as a man of taste, that he was employed to fashion the furniture of scores of country-villas; and Walpole tells us that he was even beset by certain fine ladies to design Birthday gowns for them:—"The one he dressed in a petticoat decorated with columns of the five orders; the other, like a bronze, in a copper-colored satin, with ornaments of gold."
Clermont, the charming home of the exiled Orleans family, shows vestiges of the taste of Kent, who always accredited very much of his love for the picturesque to the reading of Spenser. It is not often that the poet of the "Faerie Queene" is mentioned as an educator.
And now let us leave gardens for a while, to discuss Mr. Jethro Tull, the great English cultivator of the early half of the eighteenth century. I suspect that most of the gentry of his time, and cultivated people, ignored Mr. Tull, he was so rash and so headstrong and so noisy. It is certain, too, that the educated farmers, or, more strictly, the writing farmers, opened battle upon him, and used all their art to ward off his radical tilts upon their old methods of culture. And he fought back bravely; I really do not think that an editor of a partisan paper to-day could improve upon him,—in vigor, in personality, or in coarseness.
Unfortunately, the biographers and encyclopaedists who followed upon his period have treated his name with a neglect that leaves but scanty gleanings for his personal history. His father owned landed property in Oxfordshire, and Jethro was a University-man; he studied for the law, (which will account for his address in a wordy quarrel,) made the tour of Europe, returned to Oxfordshire, married, took the paternal homestead, and proceeded to carry out the new notions which he had gained in his Southern travels. Ill health drove him to France a second time, from which he returned once more, to occupy the famous "Prosperous Farm" in Berkshire; and here he opened his batteries afresh upon the existing methods of farming. The gist of his proposed reform is expressed in the title of his book, "The Horse-hoeing Husbandry." He believed in the thorough tillage, at frequent intervals, of all field-crops, from wheat to turnips. To make this feasible, drilling was, of course, essential; and to make it economical, horse labor was requisite: the drill and the horse-hoe were only subsidiary to the main end of THOROUGH TILLAGE.
Sir Hugh Platt, as we have seen, had before suggested dibbling, and Worlidge had contrived a drill; but Tull gave force and point and practical efficacy to their suggestions. He gives no credit, indeed, to these old gentlemen; and it is quite possible that his theory may have been worked out from his own observations. He certainly gives a clear account of the growth of his belief, and sustains it by a great many droll notions about the physiology of plants, which would hardly be admissible in the botanies of to-day.
Shall I give a sample?
"Leaves," he says, "are the parts, or bowels of a plant, which perform the same office to sap as the lungs of an animal do to blood; that is, they purify or cleanse it of the recrements, or fuliginous steams, received in the circulation, being the unfit parts of the food, and perhaps some decayed particles which fly off the vessels through which blood and sap do pass respectively."
It does not appear that the success of Tull upon "Prosperous Farm" was such as to give a large warrant for its name. His enemies, indeed, alleged that he came near to sinking two estates on his system; this, however, he stoutly denies, and says, "I propose no more than to keep out of debt, and leave my estate behind me better than I found it. Yet, owned it must be, that, had I, when I first began to make trials, known as much of the system as I do now, the practice of it would have been more profitable to me." Farmers in other parts of England, with lands better adapted to the new husbandry, certainly availed themselves of it, very much to their advantage. Tull, like a great many earnest reformers, was almost always in difficulty with those immediately dependent on him; over and over he insists upon the "inconveniency and slavery attending the exorbitant power of husbandry servants and laborers over their masters." He quarrels with their wages, and with the short period of their labor. Pray, what would Mr. Tull have thought, if he had dealt with the Drogheda gentlemen in black satin waistcoats, who are to be conciliated by the farmers of to-day?
I think I can fancy such an encounter for the querulous old reformer. "Mike! blast you, you booby, you've broken my drill!" And Mike, (putting his thumb deliberately in the armlet of his waistcoat,) "Meester Tull, it's not the loikes o' me'll be leestening to insoolting worrds. I'll take me money, if ye plase." And with what a fury "Meester" Tull would have slashed away, after this, at "Equivocus," and all his newspaper-antagonists!
I wish I could believe that Tull always told the exact truth; but he gives some accounts of the perfection to which he had brought his drill to which I can lend only a most meagre trust; and it is unquestionable that his theory so fevered his brain at last as to make him utterly contemptuous of all old-fashioned methods of procedure. In this respect he was not alone among reformers. He stoutly affirmed that tillage would supply the lack of manure, and his neighbors currently reported that he was in the habit of dumping his manure carts in the river. This charge Mr. Tull firmly denied, and I dare say justly. But I can readily believe that the rumors were current; country-neighborhoods offer good starting-points for such lively scandal. The writer of this paper has heard, on the best possible authority, that he is in the habit of planting shrubs with their roots in the air.
In his loose, disputative way, and to magnify the importance of his own special doctrine, Tull affirms that the ancients, and Virgil particularly, urged tillage for the simple purpose of destroying weeds. In this it seems to me that he does great injustice to our old friend Maro. Will the reader excuse a moment's dalliance with the Georgics again?
"Multum adeo, rastris glebas qui frangit inertes, Vimineasque trahit crates, juvat arva;... Et qui proscisso quae suscitat aequore terga Rursus in obliquum verso perrumpit aratro, Exercetque frequens tellurem, atque imperat arvis."
That "imperat" looks like something more than weed-killing; it looks like subjugation; it looks like pulverization at the hands of an imperious master.
But behind all of Tull's exaggerated pretension, and unaffected by the noisy exacerbation of his speech, there lay a sterling good sense, and a clear comprehension of the existing shortcomings in agriculture, which gave to his teachings prodigious force, and an influence measured only by half a century of years. There were few, indeed, who adopted literally and fully his plans, or who had the hardihood to acknowledge the irate Jethro as a teacher; yet his hints and his example gave a stimulus to root-culture, and an attention to the benefits arising from thorough and repeated tillage, that added vastly to the annual harvests of England. Bating the exaggerations I have alluded to, his views are still reckoned sound; and though a hoed crop of wheat is somewhat exceptional, the drill is now almost universal in the best cultivated districts; and a large share of the forage-crops owe their extraordinary burden to horse-hoeing husbandry.
Even the exaggerated claims of Tull have had their advocates in these last days; and the energetic farmer of Lois-Weedon, in Northamptonshire, is reported to be growing heavy crops of wheat for a succession of years, without any supply of outside fertilizers, and relying wholly upon repeated and perfect pulverization of the soil. And Mr. Way, the distinguished chemist of the Royal Society, in a paper on "The Power of Soils to absorb Manure," propounds the question as follows:—"Is it likely, on theoretical considerations, that the air and the soil together can by any means be made to yield, without the application of manure, and year after year continuously, a crop of wheat of from thirty to thirty-five bushels per acre?" And his reply is this:—"I confess I do not see why they should not do so." A practical farmer, however, (who spends only his wet days in-doors,) would be very apt to suggest here, that the validity of this dictum must depend very much on the original constituents of the soil.
Under the lee of the Coombe Hills, on the extreme southern edge of Berkshire, and not far removed from the great highway leading from Bath to London, lies the farmery where this restless, petulant, suffering, earnest, clear-sighted Tull put down the burden of life, a hundred and twenty years ago. The house is unfortunately largely modernized, but many of the out-buildings remain unchanged; and not a man thereabout, or in any other quarter, could tell me where the former occupant, who fought so bravely his fierce battle of the drill, lies buried.
About the middle of the last century, there lived in the south of Leicestershire, in the parish of Church-Langton, an eccentric and benevolent clergyman by the name of William Hanbury, who conceived the idea of establishing a great charity which was to be supported by a vast plantation of trees. To this end, he imported a great variety of seeds and plants from the Continent and America, established a nursery of fifty acres in extent, and published "An Essay on Planting, and a Scheme to make it Conducive to the Glory of God and the Advantage of Society."
But the Reverend Hanbury was beset by aggressive and cold-hearted neighbors, among them two strange old "gentlewomen," Mistress Pickering and Mistress Byrd, who malevolently ordered their cattle to be turned loose into his first plantation of twenty thousand young and thrifty trees. And not content with this, they served twenty-seven different copies of writs upon him in one day, for trespass. Of all this he gives detailed account in his curious history of the "Charitable Foundations at Church-Langton." He tells us that the "venomous rage" of these old ladies (who died shortly after, worth a million of dollars) did not even spare his dogs; but that his pet spaniel and greyhound were cruelly killed by a table-fork thrust into their entrails. Nay, their game-keeper even buried two dogs alive, which belonged to his neighbor, Mr. Wade, a substantial grazier. His story of it is very Defoe-like and pitiful:—"I myself heard them," he says, "ten days after they had been buried, and, seeing some people at a distance, inquired what dogs they were. 'They are some dogs that are lost, Sir,' said they; 'they have been lost some time.' I concluded only some poachers had been there early in the morning, and by a precipitate flight had left their dogs behind them. In short, the howling and barking of these dogs was heard for near three weeks, when it ceased. Mr. Wade's dogs were missing, but he could not suspect those dogs to be his; and the noise ceasing, the thoughts, wonder, and talking about them soon also ceased. Some time after, a person, being amongst the bushes where the howling was heard, discovered some disturbed earth, and the print of men's heels ramming it down again very close, and, seeing Mr. Wade's servant, told him he thought something had been buried there. 'Then,' said the man, 'it is our dogs, and they have been buried alive. I will go and fetch a spade, and will find them, if I dig all Caudle over.' He soon brought a spade, and, upon removing the top earth, came to the blackthorns, and then to the dogs, the biggest of which had eat the loins, and greatest share of the hind parts, of the little one."
The strange ladies who were guilty of this slaughter of innocents showed "a dying blaze of goodness" by bequeathing twelve thousand pounds to charitable societies; and "thus ended," says Hanbury, "these two poor, unhappy, uncharitable, charitable old gentlewomen."
The good old man describes the beauty of plants and trees with the same delightful particularity which he spent on his neighbors and the buried dogs.
I cannot anywhere learn whether or not the charity-plantation of Church-Langton is still thriving.
About this very time, Lancelot Brown, who was for a long period the kitchen-gardener at Stowe, came into sudden notoriety by his disposition of the waters in Blenheim Park, where, in the short period of one week, he created perhaps the finest artificial lake in the world. Its indentations of shore, its bordering declivities of wood, and the graceful swells of land dipping to its margin, remain now in very nearly the same condition in which Brown left them more than a hundred years ago. All over England the new man was sent for; all over England he rooted out the mossy avenues, and the sharp rectangularities, and laid down his flowing lines of walks, and of trees. He (wisely) never contracted to execute his own designs, and—from lack of facility, perhaps—he always employed assistants to draw his plans. But the quick eye which at first sight recognized the "capabilities" of a place, and which leaped to the recognition of its matured graces, was all his own. He was accused of sameness; but the man who at one time held a thousand lovely landscapes unfolding in his thought could hardly give a series of contrasts without startling affectations.
I mention the name of Lancelot Brown, however, not to discuss his merits, but as the principal and largest illustrator of that taste in landscape-gardening which just now grew up in England, out of a new reading of Milton, out of the admirable essays of Addison, out of the hints of Pope, out of the designs of Kent, and which was stimulated by Gilpin, by Horace Walpole, and, still more, by the delightful little landscapes of Gainsborough.
Enough will be found of Mr. Brown, and of his style, in the professional treatises, upon whose province I do not now infringe. I choose rather, for the entertainment of my readers, if they will kindly find it, to speak of that sad, exceptional man, William Shenstone, who, by the beauties which he made to appear on his paternal farm of Leasowes, fairly rivalled the best of the landscape-gardeners,—and who, by the graces and the tenderness which he lavished on his verse, made no mean rank for himself at a time when people were reading the "Elegy" of Gray, the Homer of Pope, and the "Cato" of Addison.
I think there can hardly be any doubt, however, that poor Shenstone was a wretched farmer; yet the Leasowes was a capital grazing farm, when he took it in charge, within fair marketable distance of both Worcester and Birmingham. I suspect that he never put his fine hands to the plough-tail; and his plaintive elegy, that dates from an April day of 1743, tells, I am sure, only the unmitigated truth:—
"Again the laboring hind inverts the soil; Again the merchant ploughs the tumid wave; Another spring renews the soldier's toil, And finds me vacant in the rural cave."
Shenstone, like many another of the lesser poets, was unfortunate in having Dr. Johnson for his biographer. It is hard to conceive of a man who would show less of tenderness for an elaborate parterre of flowers, or for a poet who affectedly parted his gray locks on one side of his head, wore a crimson waistcoat, and warbled in anapaestics about kids and shepherds' crooks. Only fancy the great, snuffy, wheezing Doctor, with his hair-powder whitening half his shoulders, led up before some charming little extravaganza of Boucher, wherein all the nymphs are simpering marchionesses, with rosettes on their high-heeled slippers that out-color the sky! With what a "Faugh!" the great gerund-grinder would thump his cane upon the floor, and go lumbering away! And Shenstone, or rather his memory, caught the besom of just such a sneer.
But other critics were more kindly and appreciative; among them, Dodsley the bookselling author, who wrote "The Economy of Human Life," (the "Proverbial Philosophy" of its day,) and Whately, who gave to the public the most elegant and tasteful discussion of artificial scenery that was perhaps ever written.
Shenstone studied, as much as so indolent a man ever could, at Pembroke College, Oxford. His parents died when he was young, leaving to him a very considerable estate, which fortunately some relative administered for him, until, owing to this supervisor's death, it lapsed into the poet's improvident hands. Even then a sensible tenant of his own name, and a distant relative, managed very snugly the farm of Leasowes; but when Shenstone came to live with him, neither house nor grounds were large enough for the joint occupancy of the poet, who was trailing his walks through the middle of the mowing, and of the tenant, who had his beeves to fatten and his rental to pay.
So Shenstone became a farmer on his own account; and, according to all reports, a very sorry account he made of it. The good soul had none of Mr. Tull's petulance and audacity with his servants; if the ploughman broke his gear, I suspect the kind ballad-master allowed him a holiday for the mending. The herdsman stared in astonishment to find the "beasts" ordered away from their accustomed grazing-fields. A new thicket had been planted, which must not be disturbed; the orchard was uprooted to give place to some parterre; a fine bit of meadow was flowed with a miniature lake; hedges were shorn away without mercy; arbors, grottos, rustic seats, Arcadian temples, sprang up in all outlying nooks; so that the annual product of the land came presently to be limited, almost entirely, to the beauty of its disposition.
I think that the poet, unlike most, was never very thoroughly satisfied with his poems, and that, therefore, the vanity possessed him to vest the sense of beauty which he felt tingling in his blood in something more palpable than language. Hence came the charming walks and woods and waters of Leasowes. With this ambition holding him and mastering him, what mattered a mouldy grain-crop, or a debt? If he had only an ardent admirer of his walks, his wilderness, his grottos,—this was his customer. He longed for such, in troops,—as a poet longs for readers, and as a farmer longs for sun and rain.
And he had them. I fancy there was hardly a cultivated person in England, but, before the death of Shenstone, had heard of the rare beauty of his home of Leasowes. Lord Lyttleton, who lived near by, at the elegant seat of Hagley, brought over his guests to see what miracles the hare-brained, sensitive poet had wrought upon his farm. And I can fancy the proud, shy creature watching from his lattice the company of distinguished guests,—maddened, if they look at his alcove from the wrong direction,—wondering if that shout that comes booming to his sensitive ear means admiration, or only an unappreciative surprise,—dwelling on the memory of the visit, as a poet dwells on the first public mention of his poem. In his "Egotisms," (well named,) he writes,—"Why repine? I have seen mansions on the verge of Wales that convert my farm-house into a Hampton Court, and where they speak of a glazed window as a great piece of magnificence. All things figure by comparison."
And this reflection, with its flavor of philosophy, was, I dare say, a sweet morsel to him. He saw very little of the world in his later years, save that part of it which at odd intervals found its way to the delights of Leasowes; indeed, he was not of a temper to meet the world upon fair terms. "The generality of mankind," he cynically says, "are seldom in good humor but whilst they are imposing upon you in some shape or other."
Our farmer of Leasowes published a pastoral that was no way equal to the pastoral he wrote with trees, walks, and water upon his land; yet there are few cultivated readers who have not some day met with it, and been beguiled by its mellifluous seesaw. How its jingling resonance comes back to me to-day from the "Reader" book of the High School!
"I have found out a gift for my fair; I have found where the wood-pigeons breed: But let me that plunder forbear; She will say 'twas a barbarous deed. For he ne'er could be true, she averred, Who could rob a poor bird of its young: And I loved her the more, when I heard Such tenderness fall from her tongue."
And what a killing look over at the girl in the corner, in check gingham, with blue bows in her hair, as I read (always on the old school-benches),—
"I have heard her with sweetness unfold How that pity was due to—a dove: That it ever attended the bold; And she called it the sister of love. But her words such a pleasure convey, So much I her accents adore, Let her speak, and whatever she say, Methinks I should love her the more."
There is a rhythmic prettiness in this; but it is the prettiness of a lover in his teens, and not the kind we look for from a man who stood five feet eleven in his stockings, and wore his own gray hair. Strangely enough, Shenstone had the physique of a ploughman or a prize-fighter, and with it the fine, sensitive brain of a woman; a Greek in his refinements, and a Greek in indolence. I hope he gets on better in the other world than he ever did in this.
ON THE RELATION OF ART TO NATURE.
IN TWO PARTS.
The repulsive ugliness of the early Christian paintings was not the consequence of any break in the tradition. There was no reason why the graceful drawing of the human figure should not have been transmitted, as well as the technical procedures and the pigments. Nor was effort wanting: these pictures were often very elaborate and splendid in execution. But it is clear that grace and resemblance to anything existing, so far from being aimed at, were intentionally avoided. Even as late as the thirteenth century we find figures with blue legs and red bodies,—the horses in a procession blue, red, and yellow. Any whim of association, or fanciful color-pattern, was preferred to beauty or correctness. Likeness to actual things seemed to be regarded, indeed, as an unavoidable evil, to be restricted as far as possible. The problem was, to show God's omnipresence in the world, especially His appearance on the earth as man, and His abiding presence in holy men and women as an inspiration obliterating their humanity. But so long as the divine and the human are looked upon as essentially opposed, their union can be by miracle only, and the first thought must be to keep prominent this miraculousness, and guard against confusion of this angelic existence with every-day reality. The result is this realm of ghosts, at home neither in heaven nor on earth, neither presuming to be spirit nor condescending to be body, but hovering intermediate. But the more strongly the antithesis is felt, the nearer the thought to end this remaining tenderness for the gross and unspiritual,—to drop this ballast of earth, and rise into the region of heavenly realities. Upon a window of Canterbury Cathedral, beneath a representation of the miracle of Cana, is the legend,—"Lympha dat historiam, vinum notat allegoriam." But if the earthly is there only for the sake of this heavenly transmutation,—if the miracle, and the miracle alone, shows God's purpose accomplished,—then all things must be miraculous, for all else may be safely ignored. Henceforth, nothing is of itself profane, for the profane is only that wherein the higher and truer sense has not yet been recognized. What is demanded is not an exceptional transmutation, but a translation,—that all Nature should be interpreted of the spirit.
The result is, on the one hand, a greater license in dealing with actual forms, since Art sees all things on one level of dignity,—respects one no more than another, but only its own purpose,—is careless of material qualities, and of moral qualities, too, as far as they are bound to particular shapes. Why dwell tediously upon one particle, when the value of it consists not in its particularity, but in its harmony with the rest of the universe? Giotto seems to make short work with the human form divine by wrapping all his figures from head to foot in flowing draperies. But these figures have more humanity in them, stand closer to us, because the meaning is no longer petrified in the shape, but speaks to us freely and directly, in a look, a gesture, a sweep of the garment. The Greek said,—"With these superhuman lineaments you are to conceive the presence of Jove; these are the appropriate forms of the immortals." Giotto said,—"See what divine meanings in every-day faces and actions; with these eyes you are to look upon the people in the street." The one is a remote and incredible perfection,—the other, the intimate reality of the actual and present. It is, in truth, therefore, a closer approach to Nature than was before possible. The artist no longer shuns full actuality for his conception, for he fears no confusion with the actual. For instance, from the earliest times the celestial nature of angels had been naively intimated by appending wings to them. There was no attempt to carry out the suggestion, or to show the mechanical possibility of it, for that would be only to make winged men. The painters of the sixteenth century, on the other hand, from a nervous dread lest wings should prove insufficient, establish a sure basis of clouds for their angels, with more and more emphasis of buoyancy and extent, until at last, no longer trusting their own statement, they settle the question by showing them from below, already risen, and so choke off the doubt whether they can rise. But Orcagna's angels float without assistance or effort, by their own inherent lightness, as naturally as we walk. They are not out of their element, but bring their element with them. These are not men caught up into the skies, and do not need to be sustained there. The world they inhabit is not earth in heaven, but heaven on earth,—the earth seen in accordance with the purpose of its existence.
Giotto's fellow-citizens were struck with the new interest which the language of attitude and gesture and all the familiar details of life acquired in his representation of them. Looking around them, they saw what they had been taught to see, and concluded it was only an unexampled closeness of copying. No doubt Giotto thought so, too,—but had that been all, we should not have heard of it. It is this new interest that has to be accounted for. The charm did not lie in the fact, nor in the reproduction of it in the picture, but in a sudden sense of its value as expression, resting on a still obscurer feeling that herein lay its whole value,—that the actual is not what it seems, still less a pure delusion, but that it is pure seeming, so that its phenomenal character is no reproach, but the bond that connects it with reality. Just because it is only "the outward show," and does not pretend to be anything more, what it shows is not "the things that only seem," but the things that are. The attractiveness of beauty is due to the sense of higher affinities in the object; it is finality felt, but not comprehended, so that the form shines with the splendor of a purpose that belongs not to it, but to the whole whereof it is a part. Aristotle makes wonder the forerunner of science. So our admiration of beauty is a tribute paid in advance to the fresh insight it promises. Whether it be called miracle or inspiration, the artist must see his theme as something excellent and singular. This is perhaps that "strangeness" which Lord Bacon requires in all "excellent beauty," the new significance coming direct, and not through reflection, and therefore ineffable and incomparable. That Giotto and his successors went on for two hundred years painting saints and miracles was not because the Church so ordained, nor from any extraordinary devoutness of the artists, but because they still needed an outward assurance that what they did was not the petty triviality it seemed. There must always remain the sense of an ulterior, undeveloped meaning; when that is laid bare, Art has become superfluous, and makes haste to withdraw into obscure regions. For it is only as language that the picture or the statue avails anything, and this circumstantiality of expression is tolerable only so long as it is the only expression. Beauty is an honor to matter; but spirit, the source of beauty, is impatient of such measure of it as Art can give. As, in the legend, Eurydice, the dawn, sinks back into night at the look of the arisen sun, so this lovely flush of the dawning intelligence wanes before the eye of the intellect. The picture is a help so long as it transcends previous conception; but when the mind comes up with these sallies, and the picture is compared with the idea, it sinks back into a thing. Thenceforth it takes rank with Nature, and falls victim to the natural laws. It is only an aspect and an instant,—not eternal, but a petty persistence,—not God, but an idol,—not the saint, but his flesh and integuments.
Shall we say, then, that beauty is an illusion? Certainly it is no falsity; we may call it provisional truth,—truth at a certain stage, as appearance, not yet as idea. It is appearance seen as final, as the highest the mind has reached. Hence its miraculousness. It is in advance of consciousness; we cannot account for it any more than the savage could account for his fetich,—why this bunch of rags and feathers should be more venerable to him than other rags and feathers. But to deny that the impressiveness it adds to matter comes from a deeper sense of the truth would be as unwise as for him to deny his fetich. The fetich is false, not as compared with other rags and feathers, but as compared with a higher conception of God. The falsity is not that he sees God in this rubbish, but that he does not see Him elsewhere. Coleridge said that a picture is something between a thought and a thing. It must keep the mean; either extreme is fatal. Plato makes Eros intermediate between wisdom and ignorance, born of unequal parentage, neither mortal nor immortal, forever needy, forever seeking the Psyche whom he can never meet face to face.
The history of Art has a certain analogy to the growth of the corals. Like them, it seeks the light which it cannot endure. A certain depth beneath the surface is most favorable to it,—a dim, midway region of twilight and calm, remote alike from the stagnant obscurity of mere sensation and from the agitated surface of day, the dry light of the intellect. When it is laid bare, it dies,—its substance, indeed, enduring as the basis of new continents, but the life gone, and only the traces of its action left in the stony relics of the past. Greek Art perished when its secret was translated into clearer language by Plato and Aristotle; and Duccio and Cimabue and Giotto must go the same way as soon as St. Francis of Assisi or Luther or Calvin puts into words what they meant. It is its own success that is fatal to Art; for just in proportion as the expressiveness it insists upon is shown to be pervading, universal, and not the property of this or that shape, the particular manifestation is degraded. Color and form are due to partial opacity; the light must penetrate to a certain depth, but not throughout.
The name of Giotto has come to stand for Devotional Art, for an earnestness that subordinates all display to the sacredness of the theme. But his fellow-citizens knew him for a man of quick worldly wit, who despised asceticism, and was ready with the most audacious jokes, even at sacred things. Ghiberti and Cennini do not praise him for piety, but for having "brought Art back to Nature" and "translated it from Greek into Latin,"—that is, from the language of clerks into the vernacular. It is not anything special in the intention that gives Giotto his fame, but the freedom, directness, and variety of the language with which it is expressed. The effort to escape from traditional formulas and conventional shapes often makes itself felt at the expense even of beauty. Instead of the statuesque forms of the earlier time, it is the dramatic interest that is now prominent,—the composition, the convergent action of numerous figures, separately, perhaps, insignificant, but pervaded by a common emotion that subordinates all distinctions and leaves itself alone visible. Even in the traditional groups, as, for instance, the Holy Families, etc., the aim is more complete realization, in draperies, gestures, postures, rather than beauty of form. We miss in Giotto much that had been attained before him. What Madonna of his can rank with Giovanni Pisano's? The Northern cathedral-sculptures, even some of the Byzantine carvings, have a dignity that is at least uncommon in his pictures. Especially the faces are generally wooden,—destitute alike of individuality and of the loveliness of Duccio's and even of some of Cimabue's. On the other hand, in the picture wherein the school attained, perhaps, its highest success as to beauty of the faces, Orcagna's "Paradise" at Santa Maria Novella, the blessed are ranged in row above row, with mostly no relation to each other but juxtaposition. We see here two directions,—one in continuation of the antique, seeking beauty as the property of certain privileged forms, the other as the hidden possibility that pervades all things. One or the other must abate something: either the image must become less sacred, or the meaning narrower; for the language of painting is not figurative, like the language of poetry, but figure, and unless the form bear on its face that it is not all that is meant, its inherent limitations are transferred to the thought itself. When Dante tells us that Brunetto Latini and his companions looked at him,—
"Come vecchio sartor fa nella cruna,"
it is the intensity of the gaze that is present with us, not the old tailor and his needle. But in Painting the image is usurping and exclusive.
Of these divergent tendencies it is easy to see which must conquer. The gifts of the spirit are more truly honored as the birthright of humanity than as the property of this or that saint. The worship of the Madonna is better than the worship of Athene just so far as the homage is paid to a sentiment and not to a person. Now the Madonna, too, must come down from her throne. The painters grew tired of painting saints and angels. Giotto already had diverged from the traditional heads and draperies, and begun to put his figures into the Florentine dress. Masaccio and Filippino Lippi brought their fellow-citizens into their pictures. Soon the Holy Family is only a Florentine matron with her baby. The sacred histories are no longer the end, but only the excuse; everything else is insisted on rather than the pretended theme. The second Nicene Council had declared that "the designing of the holy images was not to be left to the invention of artists, but to the approved legislation and tradition of the Catholic Church." But now the Church had to take a great deal that it had not bargained for. Perspective, chiaroscuro, picturesque contrast and variety, and all that belongs to the show of things, without regard to what they are,—this is now the religion of Art.
These things may seem to us rather superficial, and Art to have declined from its ancient dignity. But see how they took hold of men, and what men they took hold of. In the midst of that bloody and shameless fifteenth century, when only force seems sacred, men hunted these shadows as if they were wealth and power. Paolo Uccello could not be got away from his drawing to his meals or his rest, and only replied to his wife's remonstrances, "Ah, this perspective is so delightful!" With what ardor Mantegna and Luca Signorelli seized upon a new trait or action! Leonardo da Vinci, "the first name of the fifteenth century," a man to whom any career was open, and who seemed almost equally fit for any, never walked the streets without a sketch-book in his hand, and was all his life long immersed in the study of Appearance, with a persistent scrutiny that is revealed by his endless caricatures and studies, but perhaps by nothing more clearly than by his incidental discovery of the principle of the stereoscope, which he describes in his treatise on Painting. This was no learned curiosity, nor the whim of seeing the universe under drill, but only a clearer instinct of what the purpose of Art is, namely, to see the reality of the actual world in and as the appearance, instead of groping for some ulterior reality hidden behind it. Leonardo has been called the precursor of Bacon. Certainly the conviction that underlies this passion for the outside of things is the same in both,—the firm belief that the truth is not to be sought in some remote seventh heaven, but in a truer view of the universe about us.
Donatello told Paolo Uccello that he was leaving the substance for the show. But the painter doubtless felt that the show was more real than any such "substance." For it is the finite taken as what it truly is, nothing in itself, but only the show of the infinite. If it seem shadowy and abstract, it is to be considered with what it is compared. What an abstraction is depends on what is taken away and what left behind. For instance, the Slavery question in our politics is sometimes termed an abstraction. Yes, surely, if the dollar is almighty, is the final reality,—if peace and comfort are alone worth living for,—then the Slavery question and several other things are abstractions. So in the world of matter, if the chemical results are the reality of it, the appearance may well be considered as an abstraction. But this is not the view of Art; Art has never magnified the materiality of the finite; on the contrary, its history is only the record of successive attempts to dispose of matter, the failure always lying in the hasty effort to abolish it altogether in favor of an immaterial principle outside of it, something behind the phenomena, like Kant's noumenon,—too fine to exist, yet unable to dispense with existence, and so, after all, not spirit, but only a superfine kind of matter; or as in a picture in the Campo Santo at Pisa, where the world is figured as a series of concentric circles, held up like a shield by God standing behind it.
It may be asked, Was not the appearance, and this alone, from all time, the object of Art? But so long as the figment of a separate reality of the finite is kept up, an antagonism subsists between this and truth, and the appearance cannot be frankly made the end, but has only an indirect, derivative value. In the classic it was the human form in superhuman perfection; in the early Christian Art, God condescending to inhabit human shape; in each case, what is given is felt to be negative to the reality,—a fiction, not the truth.
But now the antagonism falls away, and the truth of Art is felt to be a higher power of the truth of Nature. Perspective puts the mind in the place of gravitation as the centre, thus naively declaring mind and not matter to be the substance of the universe. It will see only this, feeling well that there is no other reality. It may be said that Perspective is as much an outward material fact as any other. So it is, as soon as the point of sight is fixed. The mind alters nothing, but gives to the objects that coherency that makes them into a world. The universe has no existence for the idiot, not because it is not there, but because he makes no image of it, or, as we say, does not mind it. The point of sight is the mark of a foregone action of the mind; what is embraced in it is seen together, because it belongs to one conception. The effect can be simulated to a certain extent by mechanical contrivance; but before the rules of perspective were systematized, the perspective of a picture betrays its history, tells how much of it was seen together, and what was added. Even late in the fifteenth century pictures are still more or less mosaics,—their piecemeal origin confessed by slight indications in the midst even of very advanced technical skill. Thus, in Antonio Pollaiuolo's "Three Archangels," in the Florence Academy,—three admirably drawn figures, abreast, and about equally distant from the frame, the line of the right wing touches the head at the same point in each, with no allowance for their different relations to the centre of the picture.