"Nobly, O Theo! has your verse called forth The Roman valor and Subalpine worth,"
sang Landor years ago of his protegee, who outlived her friend and critic but a few months. With the great and good about him, Landor sleeps well. His genius needs no eulogy: good wine needs no bush. Time, that hides the many in oblivion, can but add to the warmth and mellowness of his fame; and in the days to come no modern writer will be more faithfully studied or more largely quoted than Walter Savage Landor.
"We upon earth Have not our places and our distances Assigned, for many years; at last a tube, Raised and adjusted by Intelligence, Stands elevated to a cloudless sky, And place and magnitude are ascertained."
Landor "will dine late; but the dining-room will be well lighted, the guests few and select." He will reign among crowned heads.
THE DEAD SHIP OF HARPSWELL.
What flecks the outer gray beyond The sundown's golden trail? The white flash of a sea-bird's wing, Or gleam of slanting sail? Let young eyes watch from Neck and Point, And sea-worn elders pray,— The ghost of what was once a ship Is sailing up the bay!
From gray sea-fog, from icy drift, From peril and from pain, The home-bound fisher greets thy lights, O hundred-harbored Maine! But many a keel shall seaward turn, And many a sail outstand, When, tall and white, the Dead Ship looms Against the dusk of land.
She rounds the headland's bristling pines. She threads the isle-set bay; No spur of breeze can speed her on, Nor ebb of tide delay. Old men still walk the Isle of Orr Who tell her date and name, Old shipwrights sit in Freeport yards Who hewed her oaken frame.
What weary doom of baffled quest, Thou sad sea-ghost, is thine? What makes thee in the haunts of home A wonder and a sign? No foot is on thy silent deck, Upon thy helm no hand; No ripple hath the soundless wind That smites thee from the land!
For never comes the ship to port Howe'er the breeze may be; Just when she nears the waiting shore She drifts again to sea. No tack of sail, nor turn of helm, Nor sheer of veering side. Stern-fore she drives to sea and night Against the wind and tide.
In vain o'er Harpswell Neck the star Of evening guides her in; In vain for her the lamps are lit Within thy tower, Seguin! In vain the harbor-boat shall hail, In vain the pilot call; No hand shall reef her spectral sail, Or let her anchor fall.
Shake, brown old wives, with dreary joy, Your gray-head hints of ill; And, over sick-beds whispering low, Your prophecies fulfil. Some home amid yon birchen trees Shall drape its door with woe; And slowly where the Dead Ship sails, The burial boat shall row!
From Wolf Neck and from Flying Point, From island and from main, From sheltered cove and tided creek, Shall glide the funeral train. The dead-boat with the bearers four, The mourners at her stern,— And one shall go the silent way Who shall no more return!
And men shall sigh, and women weep, Whose dear ones pale and pine, And sadly over sunset seas Await the ghostly sign. They know not that its sails are filled By pity's tender breath, Nor see the Angel at the helm Who steers the Ship of Death!
Reuben had heard latterly very little of domestic affairs at Ashfield. He knew scarce more of the family relations of Adele than was covered by that confidential announcement of the parson's which had so set on fire his generous zeal. The spinster, indeed, in one of her later letters had hinted, in a roundabout manner, that Adele's family misfortunes were not looking so badly as they once did,—that the poor girl (she believed) felt tenderly still toward her old playmate,—and that Mr. Maverick was, beyond all question, a gentleman of very easy fortune. But Reuben was not in a mood to be caught by any chaff administered by his most respectable aunt. If, indeed, he had known all,—if that hearty burst of Adele's gratitude had come to him,—if he could once have met her with the old freedom of manner,—ah! then—then—
But no; he thinks of her now as one under social blight, which he would have lifted or borne with her had not her religious squeamishness forbidden. He tries to forget what was most charming in her, and has succeeded passably well.
"I suppose she is still modelling her heroes on the Catechism," he thought, "and Phil will very likely pass muster."
The name of Madam Maverick as attaching to their fellow-passenger—which came to his ear for the first time on the second day out from port—considerably startled him. Madam Maverick is, he learns, on her way to join her husband and child in America. But he is by no means disposed to entertain a very exalted respect for any claimant of such name and title. He finds, indeed, the prejudices of his education (so he calls them) asserting themselves with a fiery heat; and most of all he is astounded by the artfully arranged religious drapery with which this poor woman—as it appears to him—seeks to cover her short-comings. He had brought away from the atmosphere of the old cathedrals a certain quickened religious sentiment, by the aid of which he had grown into a respect, not only for the Romish faith, but for Christian faith of whatever degree. And now he encountered what seemed to him its gross prostitution. The old Doctor then was right: this Popish form of heathenism was but a device of Satan,—a scarlet covering of iniquity. Yet, in losing respect for one form of faith, he found himself losing respect for all. It was easy for him to match the present hypocrisy with hypocrisies that he had seen of old.
Meantime, the good ship Meteor was skirting the shores of Spain, and had made a good hundred leagues of her voyage before Reuben had ventured to make himself known as the old schoolmate and friend of the child whom Madam Maverick was on her way to greet after so many years of separation. The truth was, that Reuben, his first disgust being overcome, could not shake off the influence of something attractive and winning in the manner of Madam Maverick. In her step and in her lithe figure he saw the step and figure of Adele. All her orisons and aves, which she failed not to murmur each morning and evening, were reminders of the earnest faith of her poor child. It is impossible to treat her with disrespect. Nay, it is impossible,—as Reuben begins to associate more intimately the figure and the voice of this quiet lady with his memories of another and a younger one,—quite impossible, that he should not feel his whole chivalrous nature stirred in him, and become prodigal of attentions. If there were hypocrisy, it somehow cheated him into reverence.
The lady is, of course, astounded at Reuben's disclosure to her. "Mon Dieu! you, then, are the son of that good priest of whom I have heard so much! And you are Puritan? I would not have thought that. They love the vanities of the world then,"—and her eye flashed over the well-appointed dress of Reuben, who felt half an inclination to hide, if it had been possible, the cluster of gairish charms which hung at his watch-chain. "You have shown great kindness to my child, Monsieur. I thank you with my whole heart."
"She is very charming, Madam," said Reuben, in an easy, degage manner, which, to tell truth, he put on to cover a little embarrassing revival of his old sentiment.
Madam Maverick looked at him keenly. "Describe her to me, if you will be so good, Monsieur."
Whereupon Reuben ran on,—jauntily, at first, as if it had been a ballet-girl of San Carlo whose picture he was making out; but his old hearty warmth declared itself by degrees; and his admiration and his tenderness gave such warm color to his language as it might have shown if her little gloved hand had been shivering even then in his own passionate clasp. And as he closed, with a great glow upon his face, Madam Maverick burst forth,—
"Mon Dieu, how I love her! Yet is it not a thing astonishing that I should ask you, a stranger, Monsieur, how my own child is looking? Culpa mea! culpa mea!" and she clutched at her rosary, and mumbled an ave, with her eyes lifted and streaming tears.
Reuben looked upon her in wonder, amazed at the depth of her emotion. Could this be all hypocrisy?
"Tenez!" said she, recovering herself, and reading, as it were, his doubts. "You count these" (lifting her rosary) "bawbles yonder, and our prayers pagan prayers; my husband has told me, and that she, Adele, is taught thus, and that the Bon Dieu has forsaken our Holy Church,—that He comes near now only to your—what shall I call them?—meeting-houses? Tell me, Monsieur, does Adele think this?"
"I think," said Reuben, "that your daughter would have charity for any religious faith which was earnest."
"Charity! Mon Dieu! Charity for sins, charity for failings,—yes, I ask it; but for my faith! No, Monsieur, no—no—a thousand times, no!"
"This is real," thought Reuben.
"Tell me, Monsieur," continued she, with a heat of language that excited his admiration, "what is it you believe there? What is the horror against which your New England teachers would warn my poor Adele? May the Blessed Virgin be near her!"
Whereupon, Reuben undertook to lay down the grounds of distrust in which he had been educated; not, surely, with the fervor or the logical sequence which the old Doctor would have given to the same, but yet inveighing in good set terms against the vain ceremonials, the idolatries, the mummeries, the confessional, the empty absolution; and summing up all with the formula (may be he had heard the Doctor use the same language) that the piety of the Romanist was not so much a deep religious conviction of the truth, as a sentiment.
"Sentiment!" exclaims Madam Maverick. "What else? What but love of the good God?"
But not so much by her talk as by the every-day sight of her serene, unfaltering devotion is Reuben won into a deep respect for her faith.
Those are rare days and rare nights for him, as the good ship Meteor slips down past the shores of Spain to the Straits,—days all sunny, nights moon-lit. To the right,—not discernible, but he knows they are there,—the swelling hills of Catalonia and of Andalusia, the marvellous Moorish ruins, the murmurs of the Guadalquivir; to the left, a broad sweep of burnished sea, on which, late into the night, the moon pours a stream of molten silver, that comes rocking and widening toward him, and vanishes in the shadow of the ship. The cruise has been a splendid venture for him,—twenty-five thousand at the least. And as he paces the decks,—in the view only of the silent man at the wheel and of the silent stars,—he forecasts the palaces he will build. The feeble Doctor shall have ease and every luxury; he will be gracious in his charities; he will astonish the old people by his affluence; he will live—
Just here, he spies a female figure stealing from the companion-way, and gliding beyond the shelter of the wheelhouse. Half concealed as he chances to be in the shadow of the rigging, he sees her fall upon her knees, and, with head uplifted, cross her hands upon her bosom. 'T is a short prayer, and the instant after she glides below.
"Good God! what trust!"—it is an ejaculatory prayer of Reuben's, rather than an oath. And with it, swift as the wind, comes a dreary sense of unrest. The palaces he had built vanish. The stars blink upon him kindly, and from their wondrous depths challenge his thought. The sea swashes idly against the floating ship. He too afloat,—afloat. Whither bound? Yearning still for a belief on which he may repose. And he bethinks himself,—does it lie somewhere under the harsh and dogmatic utterances of the Ashfield pulpit? At the thought, he recalls the weary iteration of cumbersome formulas, that passed through his brain like leaden plummets, and the swift lashings of rebuke, if he but reached over for a single worldly floweret, blooming beside the narrow path; and yet,—and yet, from the leaden atmosphere of that past, saintly faces beam upon him,—a mother's, Adele's,—nay, the kindly fixed gray eyes of the old Doctor glow upon him with a fire that must have been kindled with truth.
Does it lie in the melodious aves, and under the robes of Rome? The sordid friars, with their shaven pates, grin at him; some Rabelais head of a priest in the confessional-stall leers at him with mockery: and yet the golden letters of the great dome gleam again with the blazing legend, AEdificabo meam Ecclesiam!—and the figure of the Magdalen yonder has just now murmured, in tones that must surely have reached a gracious ear,—
"Tibi Christe, redemptori, Nostro vero salvatori!"
Is the truth between? Is it in both? Is it real? And if real, why may not the same lips declare it under the cathedral or the meeting-house roof? Why not—in God's name—charity?
The Meteor is a snug ship, well found, well manned, and, as the times go, well officered. The captain, indeed, is not over-alert or fitted for high emergencies; but what emergencies can belong to so placid a voyage? For a week after the headlands of Tarifa and Spartel have sunk under the eastern horizon, the vessel is kept every day upon her course,—her top-gallant and studding sails all distent with the wind blowing freely from over Biscay. After this come light, baffling, westerly breezes, with sometimes a clear sky, and then all is overclouded by the drifting trade-mists. Zigzagging on, quietly as ever, save the bustle and whiz and flapping canvas of the ship "in stays," the good Meteor pushes gradually westward.
Meantime a singular and almost tender intimacy grew up between Reuben and the lady voyager. It is always agreeable to a young man to find a listening ear in a lady whose age puts her out of the range of any flurry of sentiment, and whose sympathy gives kindly welcome to his confidence. All that early life of his he detailed to her with a particularity and a warmth (himself unconscious of the warmth) which brought the childish associations of her daughter fresh to the mind of poor Madam Maverick. No wonder that she gave a willing ear! no wonder that the glow of his language kindled her sympathy! Nor with such a listener does he stop with the boyish life of Ashfield. He unfolds his city career, and the bright promises that are before him,—promises of business success, which (he would make it appear) are all that fill his heart now. In the pride of his twenty-five years he loves to represent himself as blase in sentiment.
Madam Maverick has been taught, in these latter years, a large amount of self-control; so she can listen with a grave, nay, even a kindly face, to Reuben's sweeping declarations. And if, at a hint from her,—which he shrewdly counts Jesuitical,—his thought is turned in the direction of his religious experiences, he has his axioms, his common-sense formulas, his irreproachable coolness, and, at times, a noisy show of distrust, under which it is easy to see an eager groping after the ends of that great tangled skein of thought within, which is a weariness.
"If you could only have a talk with Father Ambrose!" says Madam Maverick with half a sigh.
"I should like that of all things," says Reuben, with a touch of merriment. "I suppose he 's a jolly old fellow, with rosy cheeks and full of humor. By Jove! there go the beads again!" (He says this latter to himself, however, as he sees the nervous fingers of the poor lady plying her rosary, and her lips murmuring some catch of a prayer.)
Yet he cannot but respect her devotion profoundly, wondering how it can have grown up under the heathenisms of her life; wondering perhaps, too, how his own heathenism could have grown up under the roof of a parsonage. It will be an odd encounter, he thinks, for this woman, with the people of Ashfield, with the Doctor, with Adele.
There are gales, but the good ship rides them out jauntily, with but a single reef in her topsails. Within five weeks from the date of her leaving Marseilles she is within a few days' sail of New York. A few days' sail! It may mean overmuch; for there are mists, and hazy weather, which forbid any observation. The last was taken a hundred miles to the eastward of George's Shoal. Under an easy offshore wind the ship is beating westward. But the clouds hang low, and there is no opportunity for determining position. At last, one evening, there is a little lift, and, for a moment only, a bright light blazes over the starboard bow. The captain counts it a light upon one of the headlands of the Jersey shore; and he orders the helmsman (she is sailing in the eye of an easy westerly breeze) to give her a couple of points more "northing"; and the yards and sheets are trimmed accordingly. The ship pushes on more steadily as she opens to the wind, and the mists and coming night conceal all around them.
"What do you make of the light, Mr. Yardley?" says the captain, addressing the mate.
"Can't say, sir, with such a bit of a look. If it should be Fire Island, we 're in a bad course, sir."
"That's true enough," said the captain thoughtfully. "Put a man in the chains, Mr. Yardley, and give us the water."
"I hope we shall be in the bay by morning, Captain," said Reuben, who stood smoking leisurely near the wheel. But the captain was preoccupied, and answered nothing.
A little after, a voice from the chains came chanting full and loud, "By the mark—nine!"
"This 'll never do, Mr. Yardley," said the captain, "Jersey shore or any other. Let all hands keep by to put the ship about."
A voice forward was heard to say something of a roar that sounded like the beat of surf; at which the mate stepped to the side of the ship and listened anxiously.
"It 's true, sir," said he coming aft. "Captain, there 's something very like the beat of surf, here away to the no'th'ard."
A flutter in the canvas caught the captain's attention. "It 's the wind slacking; there's a bare capful," said the mate, "and I 'm afeard there's mischief brewing yonder." He pointed as he spoke a little to the south of east, where the darkness seemed to be giving way to a luminous gray cloud of mist.
"And a half—six!" shouts again the man in the chains.
The captain meets it with a swelling oath, which betrays clearly enough his anxiety. "There 's not a moment to lose, Yardley; see all ready there! Keep her a good full, my boy!" (to the man at the wheel).
The darkness was profound. Reuben, not a little startled by the new aspect of affairs, still kept his place upon the quarter-deck. He saw objects flitting across the waist of the ship, and heard distinctly the coils flung down with a clang upon the wet decks. There was something weird and ghostly in those half-seen figures, in the indistinct maze of cordage and canvas above, and the phosphorescent streaks of spray streaming away from either bow.
"Are you ready there?" says the captain.
"Ay, ay, sir," responds the mate.
"Put your helm a-lee, my man!—Hard down!"
"Hard down it is, sir!"
The ship veers up into the wind; and, as the captain shouts his order, "Mainsail haul!" the canvas shakes; the long, cumbrous yard groans upon its bearings; there is a great whizzing of the cordage through the blocks; but, in the midst of it all,—coming keenly to the captain's ear,—a voice from the fore-hatch exclaims, "By G—, she touches!"
The next moment proved it true. The good ship minded her helm no more. The fore-yards are brought round by the run and the mizzen, but the light wind—growing lighter—hardly clears the flapping canvas from the spars.
In the sunshine, with so moderate a sea, 't would seem little; in so little depth of water they might warp her off; but the darkness magnifies the danger; besides which, an ominous sighing and murmur are coming from that luminous misty mass to the southward. Through all this, Reuben has continued smoking upon the quarter-deck; a landsman under a light wind, and with a light sea, hardly estimates at their true worth such intimations as had been given of the near breaking of the surf, and of the shoaling water. Even the touch upon bottom, of which the grating evidence had come home to his own perceptions, brought up more the fate of his business venture than any sense of personal peril. We can surely warp her off in the morning, he thought; or, if the worst came, insurance was full, and it would be easy boating to the shore.
"It's lucky there's no wind," said he to Yardley.
"Will you obleege me, Mr. Johns? Take a good strong puff of your cigar,—here, upon the larboard rail, sir," and he took the lantern from the companion-way that he might see the drift of the smoke. For a moment it lifted steadily; then, with a toss it vanished away—shoreward. The first angry puffs of the southeaster were coming.
The captain had seen all, and with an excited voice said, "Mr. Yardley, clew up, fore and aft,—clew up everything; put all snug, and make ready the best bower."
"Mr. Johns," said he, approaching Reuben, "we are on a lee shore; it should be Long Island beach by the soundings; with calm weather, and a kedge, we might work her off with the lift of the tide. But the Devil and all is in that puff from the sou'east."
"O, well, we can anchor," says Reuben.
"Yes, we can anchor, Mr. Johns; but if that sou'easter turns out the gale it promises, the best anchor aboard won't be so good as a gridiron."
"Do you advise taking to the boats, then?" asked Reuben, a little nervously.
"I advise nothing, Mr. Johns. Do you hear the murmur of the surf yonder? It's bad landing under such a pounding of the surf, with daylight; in the dark, where one can't catch the drift of the waves, it might be—death!"
The word startled Reuben. His philosophy had always contemplated it at a distance, toward which easy and gradual approaches might be made: but here it was, now, at a cable's length!
And yet it was very strange; the sea was not high; no gale as yet; only an occasional grating thump of the keel was a reminder that the good Meteor was not still afloat. But the darkness! Yes, the darkness was complete, (hardly a sight even of the topmen who were aloft—as in the sunniest of weather—stowing the canvas,) and to the northward that groan and echo of the resounding surf; to the southward, the whirling white of waves that are lifting now, topped with phosphorescent foam.
The anchor is let go, but even this does not bring the ship's head to the wind. Those griping sands hold her keel fast. The force of the rising gale strikes her full abeam, giving her a great list to shore. It is in vain the masts are cut away, and the rigging drifts free; the hulk lifts only to settle anew in the grasping sands. Every old seaman upon her deck knows that she is a doomed ship.
From time to time, as the crashing spars or the leaden thump upon the sands have startled those below, Madam Maverick and her maid have made their appearance, in a wild flutter of anxiety, asking eager questions; (Reuben alone can understand them or answer them;) but as the southeaster grows, as it does, into a fury of wind, and the poor hulk reels vainly, and is overlaid with a torrent of biting salt spray, Madam Maverick becomes calm. Instinctively, she sees the worst.
"Could I only clasp Adele once more in these arms, I would say, cheerfully, 'Nunc dimittis.'"
Reuben regarded her calm faith with a hungry eagerness. Not, indeed, that calmness was lacking in himself. Great danger, in many instances, sublimates the faculties of keenly strung minds. But underneath his calmness there was an unrest, hungering for repose,—the repose of a fixed belief. If even then the breaking waves had whelmed him in their mad career, he would have made no wailing outcry, but would have clutched—how eagerly!—at the merest shred of that faith which, in other days and times, he had seen illuminate the calm face of the father. Something to believe,—on which to float upon such a sea!
But the waves and winds make sport of beliefs. Prayers count nothing against that angry surge. Two boats are already swept from the davits, and are gone upon the whirling waters. A third, with infinite pains, is dropped into the yeast. It is hard to tell who gives the orders. But, once afloat, there is a rush upon it, and away it goes,—overcrowded, and within eyeshot lifts, turns, and a crowd of swimmers float for a moment,—one with an oar, another with a thwart that the waves have torn out,—and in the yeast of waters they vanish.
One boat only remains, and it is launched with more careful handling; three cling by the wreck; the rest—save only Madam Maverick and Reuben—are within her, as she tosses still in the lee of the vessel.
"There 's room!" cries some one; "jump quick! for God's sake!"
And Reuben, with some strange, generous impulse, seizes upon Madam Maverick, and, before she can rebel or resist, has dropped her over the rail. The men grapple her and drag her in; but in the next moment the little cockle of a boat is drifted yards away.
The few who are left—the boatswain among them—are toiling on the wet deck to give a last signal from the little brass howitzer on the forecastle. As the sharp crack breaks on the air,—a miniature sound in that howl of the storm,—the red flash of the gun gives Reuben, as the boat lurches toward the wreck again, a last glance of Madam Maverick,—her hands clasped, her eyes lifted, and calm as ever. More than ever too her face was like the face of Adele,—such as the face of Adele must surely become, when years have sobered her and her buoyant faith has ripened into calm. And from that momentary glance of the serene countenance, and that flashing associated memory of Adele, a subtile, mystic influence is born in him, by which he seems suddenly transfused with the same trustful serenity which just now he gazed upon with wonder. If indeed the poor lady is already lost,—he thinks it for a moment,—her spirit has fanned and cheered him as it passed. Once more, as if some mysterious hand had brought them to his reach, he grapples with those lost lines of hope and trust which in that youthful year of his exuberant emotional experience he had held and lost,—once more, now, in hand,—once more he is elated with that wonderful sense of a religious poise, that, it would seem, no doubts or terrors could overbalance. Unconsciously kneeling on the wet deck, he is rapt into a kind of ecstatic indifference to winds, to waves, to danger, to death.
The boom of a gun is heard to the northward. It must be from shore. There are helpers at work, then. Some hope yet for this narrow tide of life, which just seemed losing itself in some infinite flow beyond. Life is, after all, so sweet! The boatswain forward labors desperately to return an answering signal; but the spray, the slanted deck, the overleaping waves, are too much for him. Darkness and storm and despair rule again.
The wind, indeed, has fallen; the force of the gale is broken; but the waves are making deeper and more desperate surges. The wreck, which had remained fixed in the fury of the wind, lifts again under the great swell of the sea, and is dashed anew and anew upon the shoal. With every lift her timbers writhe and creak, and all the remaining upper works crack and burst open with the strain.
Reuben chances to espy an old-fashioned round life-buoy lashed to the taffrail, and, cutting it loose, makes himself fast to it. He overhears the boatswain say, yonder by the forecastle, "These thumpings will break her in two in an hour. Cling to a spar, Jack."
The gray light of dawn at last breaks, and shows a dim line of shore, on which parties are moving, dragging some machine, with which they hope to cast a line over the wreck. But the swell is heavier than ever, the timbers nearer to parting. At last a flash of lurid light from the dim shore-line,—a great boom of sound, and a line goes spinning out like a spider's web up into the gray, bleak sky. Too far! too short! and the line tumbles, plashing into the water. A new and fearful lift of the sea shatters the wreck, the fore part of the ship still holding fast to the sands; but all abaft the mainmast lifts, surges, reels, topples over; with the wreck, and in the angry swirl and torment of waters, Reuben goes down.
That morning,—it was the 22d of September, in the year 1842,—Mr. Brindlock came into his counting-room some two hours before noon, and says to his porter and factotum, as he enters the door, "Well, Roger, I suppose you 'll be counting this puff of a southeaster the equinoctial, eh?"
"Indeed, sir, and it 's an awful one. The Meteor 's gone ashore on Long Beach; and there 's talk of young Mr. Johns being lost."
"Good Heavens!" said Brindlock, "you don't tell me so!"
By half past three he was upon the spot; a little remaining fragment only of the Meteor hanging to the sands, and a great debris of bales, spars, shattered timbers, bodies, drifted along the shore,—Reuben's among them.
But he is not dead; at least so say the wreckers, who throng upon the beach; the life-buoy is still fast to him, though he is fearfully shattered and bruised. He is borne away under the orders of Brindlock to some near house, and presently revives enough to ask that he may be carried—"home."
As, in the opening of this story, his old grandfather, the Major, was borne away from the scene of his first battle by easy stages homeward, so now the grandson, far feebler and after more terrible encounter with death, is carried by "easy stages" to his home in Ashfield. Again the city, the boat, the river,—with its banks yellowing with harvests, and brightened with the glowing tints of autumn; again the sluggish brigs drifting down with the tide, and sailors in tasselled caps leaning over the bulwarks; again the flocks feeding leisurely on the rock-strewn hills; again the ferryman, in his broad, cumbrous scow, oaring across; again the stoppage at the wharf of the little town, from which the coach still plies over the hills to Ashfield.
On the way thither, a carriage passes them, in which are Adele and her father. The news of disaster flies fast; they have learned of the wreck, and the names of passengers. They go to learn what they can of the mother, whom the daughter has scarce known. The passing is too hasty for recognition. Brindlock arrives at last with his helpless charge at the door of the parsonage. The Doctor is overwhelmed at once with grief and with joy. The news had come to him, and he had anticipated the worst. But "Thank God! 'Joseph, my son, is yet alive!' Still a probationer; there is yet hope that he may be brought into the fold."
He insists that he shall be placed below, upon his own bed, just out of his study. For himself, he shall need none until the crisis is past. But the crisis does not pass; it is hard to say when it will. The wounds are not so much; but a low fever has set in, (the physician says,) owing to exposure and excitement, and he can predict nothing as to the result. Even Aunt Eliza is warmed into unwonted attention as she sees that poor battered hulk of humanity lying there; she spares herself no fatigue, God knows, but she sheds tears in her own chamber over this great disaster. There are good points even in the spinster; when shall we learn that the best of us are not wholly good, nor the worst wholly bad?
Days and days pass. Reuben hovering between life and death; and the old Doctor, catching chance rest upon the little cot they have placed for him in the study, looks yearningly by the dim light of the sick-lamp upon that dove which his lost Rachel had hung upon his wall above the sword of his father. He fancies that the face of Reuben, pinched with suffering, resembles more than ever the mother. Of sickness, or of the little offices of friends which cheat it of pains, the old gentleman knows nothing: sick souls only have been his care. And it is pitiful to see his blundering, eager efforts to do something, as he totters round the sick-chamber where Reuben, with very much of youthful vigor left in him, makes fight against the arch-enemy who one day conquers us all. For many days after his arrival there is no consciousness,—only wild words (at times words that sound to the ears of the good Doctor strangely wicked, and that make him groan in spirit),—tender words, too, of dalliance, and eager, loving glances,—murmurs of boyish things, of sunny, school-day noonings,—hearing which, the Doctor thinks that, if this light must go out, it had better have gone out in those days of comparative innocence.
Over and over the father appeals to the village physician to know what the chances may be,—to which that old gentleman, fumbling his watch-key, and looking grave, makes very doubtful response. He hints at a possible undermining of the constitution in these later years of city life.
God only knows what habits the young man may have formed in these last years; surely the Doctor does not; and he tells the physician as much, with a groan of anguish.
* * * * *
Meantime, Maverick and Adele have gone upon their melancholy search; and, as they course over the island to the southern beach, the sands, the plains, the houses, the pines, drift by the eye of Adele as in a dream. At last she sees a great reach of water,—piling up, as it rolls lazily in from seaward, into high walls of waves, that are no sooner lifted than they break and send sparkling floods of foam over the sands. Bits of wreck, dark clots of weed, are strewed here and there,—stragglers scanning every noticeable heap, every floating thing that comes in.
Is she dead? is she living? They have heard only on the way that many bodies are lying in the near houses,—many bruised and suffering ones; while some have come safe to land, and gone to their homes. They make their way from that dismal surf-beaten shore to the nearest house. There are loiterers about the door; and within,—within, Adele finds her mother at last, clasps her to her heart, kisses the poor dumb lips that will never more open,—never say to her rapt ears, "My child! my darling!"
Maverick is touched as he has never been touched before; the age of early sentiment comes drifting back to his world-haunted mind; nay, tears come to those eyes that have not known them for years. The grief, the passionate, vain tenderness of Adele, somehow seems to sanctify the memory of the dead one who lies before him, her great wealth of hair streaming dank and fetterless over the floor.
Not more tenderly, scarce more tearfully, could he have ministered to one who had been his life-long companion. Where shall the poor lady be buried? Adele answers that, with eyes flashing through her tears,—nowhere but in Ashfield, nowhere except beside the sister, Marie.
It is a dismal journey for the father and the daughter; it is almost a silent journey. Does she love him less? No, a thousand times, no. Does he love her less? No, a thousand times, no. In such presence love is awed into silence. As the mournful cortege enters the town of Ashfield, it passes the home of that fatherless boy, Arthur, for whom Adele had shown such sympathy. The youngster is there swinging upon the gate, his cap gayly set off with feathers, and he looking wonderingly upon the bier. He sees, too, the sad face of Adele, and, by some strange rush of memory, recalls, as he looks on her, the letter which she had given him long ago, and which till then had been forgotten. He runs to his mother: it is in his pocket,—it is in that of some summer jacket. At last it is found; and the poor woman herself, that very morning, with numberless apologies, delivers it at the door of the parsonage.
Phil is the first to meet this exceptional funeral company, and is the first to tell Adele how Reuben lies stricken almost to death at the parsonage. She thanks him: she thanks him again for the tender care which he shows in all relating to the approaching burial. When an enemy even comes forward to help us bury the child we loved or the parent we mourn, our hearts warm toward him as they never warmed before; but when a friend assumes these offices of tenderness, and takes away the harshest edge of grief by assuming the harshest duties of grief, our hearts shower upon him their tenderest sympathies. We never forget it.
Of course, the arrival of this strange freight in Ashfield gives rise to a world of gossip. We cannot follow it; we cannot rehearse it. The poor woman is buried, as Adele had wished, beside her sister. No De Profundis except the murmur of the winds through the crimson and the scarlet leaves of later September.
The Tourtelots have been eager with their gossip. The dame has queried if there should not be some town demonstration against the burial of the Papist. But the little Deacon has been milder; and we give our last glimpse of him—altogether characteristic—in a suggestion which he makes in a friendly way to Squire Elderkin, who is the host of the French strangers.
"Square, have they ordered a moniment yit for Miss Maverick?"
"Not that I 'm aware of, Deacon."
"Waal, my nevvy's got a good slab of Varmont marble, which he ordered for his fust wife; but the old folks did n't like it, and it's in his barn on the heater-piece. 'T ain't engraved, nor nothin'. If it should suit the Mavericks, I dare say they could git it tol'able low."
Reuben is still floating between death and life. There is doubt whether the master of the long course or of the short course will win. However that may be, his consciousness has returned; and it has been with a great glow of gratitude that the poor Doctor has welcomed that look of recognition in his eye,—the eye of Rachel!
He is calm,—he knows all. That calmness which had flashed into his soul when last he saw the serene face of his fellow-voyager upon that mad sea is his still.
The poor father had been moved unwontedly by that unconsciousness which was blind to all his efforts at spiritual consolation; but he is not less moved when he sees reason stirring again,—a light of eager inquiry in those eyes fearfully sunken, but from their cavernous depths seeing farther and more keenly than ever.
"Adele's mother,—was she lost?" He whispers it to the Doctor; and Miss Eliza, who is sewing yonder, is quickened into eager listening.
"Lost! my son, lost! Lost, I apprehend, in the other world as well as this, I fear the true light never dawned upon her."
A faint smile—as of one who sees things others do not see—broke over the face of Reuben. "'T is a broad light, father; it reaches beyond our blind reckoning."
There was a trustfulness in his manner that delighted the Doctor. "And you see it, my son?—Repentance, Justification by Faith, Adoption, Sanctification, Election?"
"Those words are a weariness to me, father; they suggest methods, dogmas, perplexities. Christian hope, pure and simple, I love better."
The Doctor is disturbed; he cannot rightly understand how one who seems inspired by so calm a trust—the son of his own loins too—should find the authoritative declarations of the divines a weariness. Is it not some subtle disguise of Satan, by which his poor boy is being cheated into repose?
Of course the letter of Adele, which had been so long upon its way, Miss Eliza had handed to Reuben after such time as her caution suggested, and she had explained to him its long delay.
Reading is no easy matter for him; but he races through those delicately penned lines with quite a new strength. The spinster sees the color come and go upon his wan cheek, and with what a trembling eagerness he folds the letter at the end, and, making a painful effort, tries to thrust it under his pillow. The good woman has to aid him in this. He thanks her, but says nothing more. His fingers are toying nervously at a bit of torn fringe upon the coverlet. It seems a relief to him to make the rent wider and wider. A little glimpse of the world has come back to him, which disturbs the repose with which but now he would have quitted it forever.
Adele has been into the sick-chamber from time to time,—once led away weeping by the good Doctor, when the son had fallen upon his wild talk of school-days; once, too, since consciousness has come to him again, but before her letter had been read. He had met her with scarce more than a touch of those fevered fingers, and a hard, uncertain quiver of a smile, which had both shocked and disappointed the poor girl. She thought he would have spoken some friendly consoling word of her mother; but his heart, more than his strength, failed him. Her mournful, pitying eyes were a reproach to him; they had haunted him through the wakeful hours of two succeeding nights, and now, under the light of that laggard letter, they blaze with a new and an appealing tenderness. His fingers still puzzle wearily with that tangle of the fringe. The noon passes. The aunt advises a little broth. But no, his strength is feeding itself on other aliment. The Doctor comes in with a curiously awkward attempt at gentleness and noiselessness of tread, and, seeing his excited condition, repeats to him some texts which he believes must be consoling. Reuben utters no open dissent; but through and back of all he sees the tender eyes of Adele, which, for the moment, outshine the promises, or at the least illuminate them with a new meaning.
"I must see Adele," he says to the Doctor; and the message is carried,—she herself presently bringing answer, with a rich glow upon her cheek.
"Reuben has sent for me,"—she murmurs it to herself with pride and joy.
She is in full black now; but never had she looked more radiantly beautiful than when she stepped to the side of the sick-bed, and took the hand of Reuben with an eager clasp—that was met, and met again. The Doctor is in his study, (the open door between,) and the spinster is fortunately just now busy at some of her household duties.
Reuben fumbles under his pillow nervously for that cherished bit of paper, (Adele knows already its history,) and when he has found it and shown it (his thin fingers crumpling it nervously) he says, "Thank you for this, Adele!"
She answers only by clasping his hand with a sudden mad pressure of content, while the blood mounted into either cheek with a rosy exuberance that magnified her beauty tenfold.
He saw it,—he felt it all; and through her beaming eyes, so full of tenderness and love, saw the world to which he had bidden adieu shining before him more beguilingly than ever. Yesterday it was a dim and weary world that he could leave without a pang; to-day it is a brilliant world, where hopes, promises, joys pile in splendid proportions.
He tells her this. "Yesterday I would have died with scarce a regret; to-day, Adele, I would live."
"You will, you will, Reuben!" and she grappled more and more passionately those shrunken fingers. "'T is not hopeless!" (sobbing).
"No, no, Adele, darling, not hopeless. The cloud is lifted,—not hopeless!"
"Thank God, thank God!" said she, dropping upon her knees beside him, and with a smile of ecstasy he gathered that fair head to his bosom.
The Doctor, hearing her sobs, came softly in. The son's smile, as he met his father's inquiring look, was more than ever like the smile of Rachel. He has been telling the poor girl of her mother's death, thinks the old gentleman; yet the Doctor wonders that he could have kept so radiant a face with such a story.
Of these things, however, Reuben goes on presently to speak: of his first sight of the mother of Adele, and of her devotional attitude as they floated down past the little chapel of Notre Dame to enter upon the fateful voyage; he recounts their talks upon the tranquil moon-lit nights of ocean; he tells of the mother's eager listening to his description of her child.
"I did not tell her the half, Adele; yet she loved me for what I told her."
And Adele smiles through her tears.
At last he comes to those dismal scenes of the wreck, relating all with a strange vividness; living over again, as it were, that fearful episode, till his brain whirled, his self-possession was lost, and he broke out into a torrent of delirious raving.
He sleeps brokenly that night, and the next day is feebler than ever. The physician warns against any causes of excitement. He is calm only at intervals. The old school-days seem present to him again; he talks of his fight with Phil Elderkin as if it happened yesterday.
"Yet I like Phil," he says (to himself), "and Rose is like Amanda, the divine Amanda. No—not she. I've forgotten: it's the French girl. She's a —— Pah! who cares? She's as pure as heaven; she's an angel. Adele! Adele! Not good enough! I'm not good enough. Very well, very well, now I'll be bad enough! Clouds, wrangles, doubts! Is it my fault? AEdificabo meam Ecclesiam. How they kneel! Puppets! mummers! No, not mummers, they see a Christ. What if they see it in a picture? You see him in words. Both in earnest. Belief—belief! That is best. Adele, Adele, I believe!"
The Doctor is a pained listener of this incoherent talk of his son. "I am afraid,—I am afraid," he murmurs to himself, "that he has no clear views of the great scheme of the Atonement."
The next day Reuben is himself once more, but feeble, to a degree that startles the household. It is a charming morning of later September; the window is wide open, and the sick one looks out over a stretch of orchard (he knew its every tree), and upon wooded hills beyond (he knew every coppice and thicket), and upon a background of sky over which a few dappled white clouds floated at rest.
"It is most beautiful!" said Reuben.
"All things that He has made are beautiful," said the Doctor; and thereupon he seeks to explore his way into the secrets of Reuben's religious experience,—employing, as he was wont to do, all the Westminster formulas by which his own belief stood fast.
"Father, father, the words are stumbling-blocks to me," says the son.
"I would to God, Reuben, that I could make my language always clear."
"No, father, no man can, in measuring the Divine mysteries. We must carry this draggled earth-dress with us always,—always in some sort fashionists, even in our soberest opinions. The robes of light are worn only Beyond. Thought, at the best, is hampered by this clog of language, that tempts, obscures, misleads."
"And do you see any light, my son?"
"I hope and tremble. A great light is before me; it shines back upon outlines of doctrines and creeds where I have floundered for many a year."
"But some are clear,—some are clear, Reuben!"
"Before, all seems clear; but behind—"
"And yet, Reuben," (the Doctor cannot forbear the discussion,) "there is the cross,—Election, Adoption, Sanctification—"
"Stop, father; the cross, indeed, with a blaze of glory, I see; but the teachers of this or that special form of doctrine I see only catching radiations of the light. The men who teach, and argue, and declaim, and exorcise, are using human weapons; the great light only strikes here and there upon some sword-point which is nearest to the cross."
"He wanders," says the Doctor to Adele, who has slipped in and stands beside the sick-bed.
"No wandering, father; on the brink where I stand, I cannot."
"And what do you see, Reuben, my boy?" (tenderly).
Is it the presence of Adele that gives a new fervor, a kind of crazy inspiration to his talk? "I see the light-hearted clashing cymbals; and those who love art, kneeling under blazing temples and shrines; but the great light touches the gold no more effulgently than the steeple of your meeting-house, father, but no less. I see eyes of chanting girls streaming with joy in the light; and haggard men with ponderous foreheads working out contrivances to bridge the gap between the finite and the infinite. Father, they are no nearer to a passage than the radiant girls who chant and tell their beads. Angels in all shapes of beauty flit over and amid the throngs I see,—in shape of fleecy clouds that fan them,—in shape of brooks that murmur praise,—in shape of leafy shadows that tremble and flicker,—in shape of birds that make a concert of song." The birds even then were singing, the clouds floating in his eye, the leafy shadows trailing on the chamber floor, and, from the valley, the murmur of the brook came to his sensitive ear.
"He wanders,—he wanders!" said the poor Doctor.
Reuben turns to Adele. "Adele, kiss me!" A rosy tint ran over her face as she stooped and kissed him with a freedom a mother might have shown,—leaving one hand toying caressingly with his hair. "The cloud is passing, Adele,—passing! God is Justice; Christ is Mercy. In him I trust."
"Reuben, darling," says Adele, "come back to us!"
"Darling,—darling!" he repeated with a strange, eager, satisfied smile,—so sweet a sound it was.
The chamber was filled with the delightful perfume of a violet bed beneath the window. Suddenly there came from the Doctor, whose old eyes caught sooner than any the change, a passionate outcry. "Great God! Thy will be done!"
With that one loud, clear utterance, his firmness gave way,—for the first time in sixty years broke utterly; and big tears streamed down his face as he gazed yearningly upon the dead body of his first-born.
In the autumn of 1845, three years after the incidents related in our last chapter, Mr. Philip Elderkin, being at that time president of a railroad company, which was establishing an important connection of travel that was to pass within a few miles of the quiet town of Ashfield, was a passenger on the steamer Caledonia, for Europe. He sailed, partly in the interest of the company,—to place certain bonds,—and partly in his own interest, as an intelligent man, eager to add to his knowledge of the world.
At Paris, where he passed some time, it chanced that he was one evening invited to the house of a resident American, where, he was gayly assured, he would meet with a very attractive American heiress, the only daughter of a merchant of large fortune.
Philip Elderkin—brave, straightforward fellow that he was—had never forgotten his early sentiment. He had cared for those French graves in Ashfield with an almost religious attention. In all the churchyard there was not such scrupulously shorn turf, or such orderly array of bloom. He counted—in a fever of doubt—upon a visit to Marseilles before his sail for home.
But at the soiree we have mentioned he was amazed and delighted to meet, in the person of the heiress, Adele Maverick,—not changed essentially since the time he had known her. That life at Marseilles—even in the well-appointed home of her father—has none of that domesticity which she had learned to love; and this first winter in Paris for her does not supply the lack. That she has a great company of admirers it is easy to understand; but yet she gives a most cordial greeting to Phil Elderkin,—a greeting that by its manner makes the pretenders doubtful. Philip finds it possible to reconcile the demands of his business with a week's visit to Marseilles. To the general traveller it is not a charming region. The dust abounds; the winds are terrible; the sun is scalding. But Mr. Philip Elderkin found it delightful. And, indeed, the country-house of Mr. Maverick had attractions of its own; attractions so great that his week runs over into two,—into three. There are excursions to the Pont du Gard, to the Arene of Arles. And, before he leaves, he has an engagement there (which he has enforced by very peremptory proposals) for the next spring.
On his return to Ashfield, he reports a very successful trip. To his sister Rose (now Mrs. Catesby, with a blooming little infant, called Grace Catesby) he is specially communicative. And she thinks it was a glorious trip, and longs for the time when he will make the next. He, furthermore, to the astonishment of Dame Tourtelot (whose husband sleeps now under the sod), has commenced the establishment of a fine home, upon a charming site, overlooking all Ashfield. The Squire, still stalwart, cannot resist giving a hint of what is expected to the old Doctor, who still wearily goes his rounds, and prays for the welfare of his flock.
He is delighted at the thought of meeting again with Adele, though he thinks with a sigh of his lost boy. Yet he says in his old manner, "'T is the hand of Providence; she first bloomed into grace under the roof of our church; she comes back to adorn it with her faith and her works."
* * * * *
At a date three years later we take one more glimpse at that quiet village of Ashfield, where we began our story. The near railway has brought it into more intimate connection with the shore towns and the great cities. But there is no noisy clatter of the cars to break the quietude. On still days, indeed, the shriek of the steam-whistle or the roar of a distant train is heard bursting over the hills, and dying in strange echoes up and down the valley. The stage-driver's horn is heard no longer; no longer the coach whirls into the village and delivers its leathern pouch of letters. The Tew partners we once met are now partners in the grave. Deacon Tourtelot (as we have already hinted) has gone to his long home; and the dame has planted over him the slab of "Varmont" marble, which she has bought at a bargain from his "nevvy."
The Boody tavern-keeper has long since disappeared; no teams wheel up with the old dash at the doors of the Eagle Tavern. The creaking sign-board even is gone from the overhanging sycamore.
Miss Almira is still among the living. She sings treble, however, no longer; she wears spectacles; she writes no more over mystical asterisks for the Hartford Courant. Age has brought to her at least this much of wisdom.
The mill groans, as of old, in the valley. A new race of boys pelt the hanging nests of the orioles; a new race of school-girls hang swinging on the village gates at the noonings.
As for Miss Johns, she lives still,—scarce older to appearance than twenty years before,—prim, wiry, active,—proof against all ailments, it would seem. It is hard to conceive of her as yielding to the great conqueror. If the tongue and an inflexibility of temper were the weapons, she would whip Death from her chamber at the last. It seems like amiability almost to hear such a one as she talk of her approaching, inevitable dissolution,—so kindly in her to yield that point!
And she does; she declares it over and over, there are far feebler ones who do not declare it half so often. If she is to be conquered and the Johns banner go down, she will accept the defeat so courageously and so long in advance that the defeat shall become a victorious confirmation of the Johns prophecy.
She is still earnest in all her duties; she gives cast-away clothing to the poor, and good advice with it. She is rigorous in the observance of every propriety; no storm keeps her from church. If the children of a new generation climb unduly upon the pew-backs, or shake their curly heads too wantonly, she lifts a prim forefinger at them, which has lost none of its authoritative meaning. She is the impersonation of all good severities. A strange character! Let us hope that, as it sloughs off its earthly cerements, it may in the Divine presence scintillate charities and draw toward it the love of others. A good, kind, bad gentlewoman,—unwearied in performance of duties. We wonder as we think of her! So steadfast, we cannot sneer at her,—so true to her line of faith, we cannot condemn her,—so utterly forbidding, we cannot love her! May God give rest to her good, stubborn soul!
* * * * *
Upon Sundays of August and September there may be occasionally seen in the pew of Elderkin Junior a gray-haired old gentleman, dressed with scrupulous care, and still carrying an erect figure, though somewhat gouty in his step. This should be Mr. Maverick, a retired merchant, who is on a visit to his daughter. He makes wonderful gifts to a certain little boy who bears a Puritan name, and gives occasional ponderous sums to the parish. In winter, his head-quarters are at the Union Club.
And Doctor Johns? Yes, he is living still,—making his way wearily each morning along the street with his cane. Going oftenest, perhaps, to the home of Adele, who is now a matron,—a tender, and most womanly and joyful matron,—and with her little boy—Reuben Elderkin by name—he wanders often to the graves where sleep his best beloved,—Rachel, so early lost,—the son, in respect to whom he feels at last a "reasonable assurance" that the youth has entered upon a glorious inheritance in those courts where one day he will join him, and the sainted Rachel too, and clasp again in his arms (if it be God's will) the babe that was his but for an hour on earth.
TIED TO A ROPE.
You don't know what a Hircus Oepagrus is, Tommy? Well, it is a big name for him, isn't it? And if you should ask that somewhat slatternly female, who appears to employ tubs for the advantage of others rather than herself, what the animal is, she would tell you it is a goat. See what a hardy, sturdy little creature he is; and how he lifts up his startled head, as the cars come thundering along, and bounds away as if he were on the rugged hills that his ancestors climbed, ages ago, in wild freedom. O that cruel rope! how it stops him in his career with a sudden jerk that pulls him to the ground! See where it has worn away the hair round his neck, in his constant struggles to escape. See how he has browsed the scanty grass of that dry pasture, in the little circle to which he is confined, and is now trying to reach an uncropped tuft, just beyond his tether. And the sun is beating down upon him, and there is not the shade of a leaf for him to creep into, this July day. Poor little fellow!
Not waste my sympathy on a common goat? My dear Madam, I can assure you that ropes are not knotted around the neck of Hirci Oepagri alone. And when I was bemoaning the captivity of yonder little browser we have left behind, I was bewailing the fortune of another great order of the Mammalian class,—an order that Mr. Huxley and Mr. Darwin and other great thinkers of the day are proving to be close connections of their humbler brethren that bleat and bark and bray. The bimanal species of this order are similarly appendaged, though they are not apt to be staked beside railways or confined to a rood of ground.
Do you see Vanitas at the other end of the car? Does he look as though he carried about with him a "lengthening chain"? No one would certainly suppose it. Yet he is bound as securely as the poor little goat. We may go to the fresh air of his country-seat this July day, or to the sea-breezes of his Newport cottage next month, or he may sit here, "the incarnation of fat dividends," while you and I envy him his wealth and comforts; but he can never break his bonds. They are riveted to the counters of the money-changers, knotted around the tall masts of his goodly ships, bolted to the ore of his distant mines. He bears them to his luxurious home, and his fond wife, his caressing children, his troops of friends, can never strike them off. Ever and anon, as the car of fortune sweeps by to start him from his comfortable ease, they gall him with their remorseless restraint. You may cut the poor goat's rope and set him free, to roam where he will; but Vanitas has forged his own fetters, and there comes to him no blessed day of emancipation.
My dear Madam, the bright blue ether around us is traversed by a wonderful network of these invisible bonds that hold poor human beings to their fate. Over the green hills and over the blue waters, far, far away they reach,—a warp and woof of multiform, expansive strands, over which the sense of bondage moves with all the wondrous celerity of that strange force which, on the instant, speaks the thought of the Antipodes. You don't know that you carry about any such? Ah! it is well that they weigh so lightly. Utter your grateful thanks, to-night, when you seek your pillow, that the chains you wear are not galling ones. But you are most irrevocably bound. Frank holds you fast. One of these days, when you are most peaceful and content in your bondage, scarcely recognized, there may come a stately tread, a fiery eye, a glowing heart, to startle you from your quiet ease; and when you bound, trembling and breathless in their mighty sway, you may feel the chain—before so light—wearing its way deep into your throbbing heart. May you never wake on the morn of that day, Madam! You don't carry any such? Round a little white tablet, half hidden in the sighing grass, is linked a chain which holds you, at this moment, by your inmost soul. You are not listening to me now; for I have but touched it, and your breast is swelling 'neath its pressure, and the tears start to your eyes at its momentary tightness. You don't carry any such? We all carry them; and were human ears sensitive to other than the grosser sounds of nature, they would hear a strange music sweeping from these mystic chords, as they tremble at the touch of time and fate.
Master Tommy seems to be tolerably free from any sort of restraint, I acknowledge. In fact, it is he who keeps myself and Mrs. A. in the most abject servitude. He holds our nasal appendages close to the grindstone of his imperious will. And yet—please take him into the next car, Madam, while I speak of him. You cannot? What is this? Let me see, I pray you. As I live, it is his mother's apron-string. Ah! I fear, Madam, that all your efforts cannot break that tie. In the years to come, it will doubtless be frayed and worn; and, some day or other, he will bound loose from his childhood's captivity; but long ere that he will have other bonds thrown around him, some of which he can never break. He will weave with his own hands the silken cord of love, coil it about him, knot it with Gordian intricacy, net it with Vulcan strength, and then, with blind simplicity, place it in Beauty's hand to lead him captive to her capricious will. My dear Madam, did not Tommy's father do the same foolish thing? And is he not grateful to the lovely Mrs. Asmodeus for the gentleness with which she holds him in her power? Some of our bonds are light to bear. We glory in them, and hold up our gyves to show them to the world. Tommy may be a little shamefaced when his playmates jeer at the maternal tie; but he will walk forth, glowing with pride and joy, to parade his self-woven fetters ostentatiously in the sight of men. When you had done some such foolish thing yourself, did not your young mates gather round to view, with wondering and eager eyes, the result of your own handiwork at the cordage of love? Were there not many loquacious conclaves held to sit in secret judgment thereon? Were there not many soft cheeks flushing, and bright eyes sparkling, and fresh hearts beating, as you brought forth, with a pride you did not pretend to hide, the rose-colored fabric you had woven? And did they not all envy you, and wonder when their distaffs were to whirl to the tread of their own ready feet?
But we are not always eager or proud to exhibit our bonds. Indeed, we sedulously conceal them from every eye; we cover up the marks upon our scarred hearts with such jealous care, that none, not even our bosom friends, can ever see them. They hold us where the sweet herbage of life has become dry and sere, where no shelter offers us a grateful retreat. Vanitas can bear away with him his "lengthening chain" to his leafy groves; but Scripsit is confined to the torrid regions of his scanty garret. In vain he gazes afar, beyond the smoky haze of his stony prison, upon the green slopes and shady hills. In vain he toils and strains to burst the links that bind him. His soul is yearning for the cooling freshness, the sweet fragrance, the beauty, the glory, of the outer world. It is just beyond his reach; and, wearied with futile exertions, he sinks, fainting and despairing, in his efforts to rend the chain of penury. And there are many other bonds which hold us to areas of life from which we have gathered all the fresh bloom and the rich fruit. We may tread their barren soil with jewelled sandals, wrap around us ermined robes in winter's cold, and raise our silken tents in summer's glare, while our souls are hungering and thirsting for the ambrosia and the nectar beyond our tethered reach. We are held fast by honor, virtue, fidelity, pity,—ties which we dare not break if we could. We must not even bear their golden links to their extremest length; we must not show that they are chains which bind us; we must not show that we are hungering and thirsting in the confines to which they restrain us. We must seem to be feasting as from the flesh-pots of Egypt,—fattening on the husks which we have emptied,—while our souls are starving and fainting and dying within us. 'T is a sad music that swells from these chords. How fortunate that our ears are not attuned to their notes. And we are not always solitary in our bondage; nor do we tread round the cropped circuit, held to senseless pillars. We are chained to each other; and unhappy are they who, straining at the bond, seek food for their hearts in opposite directions. We are chained to each other; and light or heavy are the bonds, as Fortune shall couple us. Now you and Frank, I know, are leashed with down; and when Mrs. Asmodeus went to the blacksmith, the Vulcan of our days, to order my fetters, she bespoke gossamers, to which a spider's web were cable. But we are among the favored of Fortune's children. There are many poor unfortunates whose daily round is but the measured clank of hateful chains; who eat, drink, sleep, live together, in a bondage worse than that of Chillon,—round whom the bright sun shines, the sweet flowers bloom, the soft breezes play,—and yet who stifle in the gloom of a domestic dungeon.
And there are others fettered as firmly,—but how differently! The clasping links are soft, caressing arms; the tones their sounding chains give out are cheerful voices, joyous accents, words of love, that echo far beyond the little circle that they keep, and spread their harmony through many hearts. That little circle is a happy home; love spun the bonds that hold them close therein, and many are the strands that bind them there. They come from beauteous eyes that beam with light; from lisping tongues more sweet than seraph choirs; from swelling hearts that beat in every pulse with fond affection, which is richer far than all the nectar of the ancient gods. Bind me with these, O Fortune! and I hug my chains o'erjoyed. Be these the cords which hold me to the rock around which break the surging waves of time, and let the beak of Fate tear as it will, I hold the bondage sweet and laugh at liberty.
My dear Madam, there are chains which hold us as the cable holds the ship; and, in their sure restraint, we safely ride through all the howling blasts of adverse fate. The globe we tread whirls on through endless space, kept ever in the circuit that it makes by that restraining force which holds it to the pillar of the sun. Loose but the bond an instant, and it flies in wild, tangential flight, to shatter other worlds. The very bondage that we curse, and seek, in fretful mood, to break and burst, may keep us to the orbit that is traced, by overruling wisdom, for our good. We gravitate towards duty, though we sweep with errant course along the outer marge of the bare area of its tightened cord. Let but the wise restraint be rudely broke, and through life's peopled space we heedless rush, trampling o'er hearts, and whirling to our fate, leaving destruction on our reckless way.
Did you ever chance to see, Madam, a picture of those venturous hunters, who are lowered by a rope to the nests of sea-birds, built on some inaccessible cliff? Hanging between heaven and earth they sway;—above, the craggy rock, o'er which the single cord is strained that holds them fast; below, a yawning chasm, whose jagged depth would be a fearful grave to him who should fall. You and I would never dream of bird-nesting under such circumstances. I can see you shudder, even now, at the bare idea. Yet do we not sometimes hang ourselves over cliffs from which a fall were worse than death? Do we not trust ourselves, in venturous mood, to the frail tenure of a single strand which sways 'twixt heaven and earth? Not after birds' eggs, I grant you. We are not all of us so fond of omelettes. But over the wild crags of human passion many drop, pursuing game that shuns the beaten way, and sway above the depths of dark despair. Intent upon their prey, they further go, secure in the firm hold they think they have, nor heed the fraying line that, grating on the edge of the bare precipice, at last is worn and weak; while, one by one, the little threads give way, and they who watch above in terror call to warn them of the danger. But in vain! no friendly voice can stay their flushed success; till, at its height, the cord is suddenly snapped, and crushed upon the rocks beneath they lie. You and I will never go bird-nesting after this fashion, my dear Madam. Let us hover then around the crags of life, and watch the twisting strands that others, more adventurous than we, have risked themselves upon. Be ours the part to note the breaking threads, and, with our words of kindly warning, seek to save our fellows from a fall so dread.
And, if the ties of earth keep us from falling, so also do they keep us from rising above the level of grosser things. They hold us down to the dull, tedious monotony of worldly cares, aims, purposes. Like birds withheld from flight into the pure regions of the upper air by cruel, frightening cords, we fluttering go, stifled amid the vapors men have spread, and panting for the freedom that we seek.
Madam, our bright-eyed little goat has, by this time, settled himself calmly on the grass; and I see, near at hand, the shady groves where King Tommy is wont to lead Mrs. A. and myself in his summer wanderings. Let me hope that all our bonds may be those which hold us fast to peace, content, and virtue; and that, when the silver cord which holds us here to earth shall be loosed, we then on sweeping pinions may arise, pure and untrammelled, into cloudless skies.
How many lives, made beautiful and sweet By self-devotion and by self-restraint,— Whose pleasure is to run without complaint On unknown errands of the Paraclete,— Wanting the reverence of unshodden feet, Fail of the nimbus which the artists paint Around the shining forehead of the saint, And are in their completeness incomplete. In the old Tuscan town stands Giotto's tower, The lily of Florence blossoming in stone,— A vision, a delight, and a desire,— The builder's perfect and centennial flower, That in the night of ages bloomed alone, But wanting still the glory of the spire.
PASSAGES FROM HAWTHORNE'S NOTE-BOOKS.
Brook Farm, Oct. 9, 1841.—A walk this afternoon to Cow Island. The clouds had broken away towards noon, and let forth a few sunbeams, and more and more blue sky ventured to appear, till at last it was really warm and sunny,—indeed, rather too warm in the sheltered hollows, though it is delightful to be too warm now, after so much stormy chillness. O the beauty of grassy slopes, and the hollow ways of paths winding between hills, and the intervals between the road and wood-lots, where summer lingers and sits down, strewing dandelions of gold, and blue asters, as her parting gifts and memorials! I went to a grape-vine, which I have already visited several times, and found some clusters of grapes still remaining, and now perfectly ripe. Coming within view of the river, I saw several wild ducks under the shadow of the opposite shore, which was high, and covered with a grove of pines. I should not have discovered the ducks had they not risen and skimmed the surface of the glassy stream, breaking its dark water with a bright streak, and, sweeping round, gradually rose high enough to fly away. I likewise started a partridge just within the verge of the woods, and in another place a large squirrel ran across the wood-path from one shelter of trees to the other. Small birds, in flocks, were flitting about the fields, seeking and finding I know not what sort of food. There were little fish, also, darting in shoals through the pools and depths of the brooks, which are now replenished to their brims, and rush towards the river with a swift, amber-colored current.
Cow Island is not an island,—at least, at this season,—though, I believe, in the time of freshets, the marshy Charles floods the meadows all round about it, and extends across its communication with the mainland. The path to it is a very secluded one, threading a wood of pines, and just wide enough to admit the loads of meadow hay which are drawn from the splashy shore of the river. The island has a growth of stately pines, with tall and ponderous stems, standing at distance enough to admit the eye to travel far among them; and, as there is no underbrush, the effect is somewhat like looking among the pillars of a church.
I returned home by the high-road. On my right, separated from the road by a level field, perhaps fifty yards across, was a range of young forest-trees, dressed in their garb of autumnal glory. The sun shone directly upon them; and sunlight is like the breath of life to the pomp of autumn. In its absence, one doubts whether there be any truth in what poets have told about the splendor of an American autumn; but when this charm is added, one feels that the effect is beyond description. As I beheld it to-day, there was nothing dazzling; it was gentle and mild, though brilliant and diversified, and had a most quiet and pensive influence. And yet there were some trees that seemed really made of sunshine, and others were of a sunny red, and the whole picture was painted with but little relief of darksome hues,—only a few evergreens. But there was nothing inharmonious; and, on closer examination, it appeared that all the tints had a relationship among themselves. And this, I suppose, is the reason that, while Nature seems to scatter them so carelessly, they still never shock the beholder by their contrasts, nor disturb, but only soothe. The brilliant scarlet and the brilliant yellow are different hues of the maple-leaves, and the first changes into the last. I saw one maple-tree, its centre yellow as gold, set in a framework of red. The native poplars have different shades of green, verging towards yellow, and are very cheerful in the sunshine. Most of the oak-leaves have still the deep verdure of summer; but where a change has taken place, it is into a russet-red, warm, but sober. These colors, infinitely varied by the progress which different trees have made in their decay, constitute almost the whole glory of autumnal woods; but it is impossible to conceive how much is done with such scanty materials. In my whole walk I saw only one man, and he was at a distance, in the obscurity of the trees. He had a horse and a wagon, and was getting a load of dry brush-wood.
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Sunday, October 10.—I visited my grape-vine this afternoon, and ate the last of its clusters. This vine climbs around a young maple-tree, which has now assumed the yellow leaf. The leaves of the vine are more decayed than those of the maple. Thence to Cow Island, a solemn and thoughtful walk. Returned by another path, of the width of a wagon, passing through a grove of hard wood, the lightsome hues of which make the walk more cheerful than among the pines. The roots of oaks emerged from the soil, and contorted themselves across the path. The sunlight, also, broke across in spots, and otherwheres the shadow was deep; but still there was intermingling enough of bright hues to keep off the gloom from the whole path.
Brooks and pools have a peculiar aspect at this season. One knows that the water must be cold, and one shivers a little at the sight of it; and yet the grass about the pool may be of the deepest green, and the sun may be shining into it. The withered leaves which overhanging trees shed upon its surface contribute much to the effect.
Insects have mostly vanished in the fields and woods. I hear locusts yet, singing in the sunny hours, and crickets have not yet finished their song. Once in a while I see a caterpillar,—this afternoon, for instance, a red, hairy one, with black head and tail. They do not appear to be active, and it makes one rather melancholy to look at them.
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Tuesday, October 12.—The cawing of the crow resounds among the woods. A sentinel is aware of your approach a great way off, and gives the alarm to his comrades loudly and eagerly,—Caw, caw, caw! Immediately the whole conclave replies, and you behold them rising above the trees, flapping darkly, and winging their way to deeper solitudes. Sometimes, however, they remain till you come near enough to discern their sable gravity of aspect, each occupying a separate bough, or perhaps the blasted tip-top of a pine. As you approach, one after another, with loud cawing, flaps his wings and throws himself upon the air.
There is hardly a more striking feature in the landscape now-a-days than the red patches of blueberry and whortleberry bushes, as seen on a sloping hillside, like islands among the grass, with trees growing in them; or crowning the summit of a bare, brown hill with their somewhat russet liveliness; or circling round the base of an earth-embedded rock. At a distance, this hue, clothing spots and patches of the earth, looks more like a picture than anything else,—yet such a picture as I never saw painted.
The oaks are now beginning to look sere, and their leaves have withered borders. It is pleasant to notice the wide circle of greener grass beneath the circumference of an overshadowing oak. Passing an orchard, one hears an uneasy rustling in the trees, and not as if they were struggling with the wind. Scattered about are barrels to contain the gathered apples; and perhaps a great heap of golden or scarlet apples is collected in one place.
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Wednesday, October 13.—A good view, from an upland swell of our pasture, across the valley of the river Charles. There is the meadow, as level as a floor, and carpeted with green, perhaps two miles from the rising ground on this side of the river to that on the opposite side. The stream winds through the midst of the flat space, without any banks at all; for it fills its bed almost to the brim, and bathes the meadow grass on either side. A tuft of shrubbery, at broken intervals, is scattered along its border; and thus it meanders sluggishly along, without other life than what it gains from gleaming in the sun. Now, into the broad, smooth meadow, as into a lake, capes and headlands put themselves forth, and shores of firm woodland border it, covered with variegated foliage, making the contrast so much the stronger of their height and rough, outline with the even spread of the plain. And beyond, and far away, rises a long, gradual swell of country, covered with an apparently dense growth of foliage for miles, till the horizon terminates it; and here and there is a house, or perhaps two, among the contiguity of trees. Everywhere the trees wear their autumnal dress, so that the whole landscape is red, russet, orange, and yellow, blending in the distance into a rich tint of brown-orange, or nearly that,—except the green expanse so definitely hemmed in by the higher ground.
I took a long walk this morning, going first nearly to Newton, thence nearly to Brighton, thence to Jamaica Plain, and thence home. It was a fine morning, with a northwest wind; cool when facing the wind, but warm and most genially pleasant in sheltered spots; and warm enough everywhere while I was in motion. I traversed most of the by-ways which offered themselves to me; and, passing through one in which there was a double line of grass between the wheel-tracks and that of the horses' feet, I came to where had once stood a farm-house, which appeared to have been recently torn down. Most of the old timber and boards had been carted away; a pile of it, however, remained. The cellar of the house was uncovered, and beside it stood the base and middle height of the chimney. The oven, in which household bread had been baked for daily food, and puddings and cake and jolly pumpkin-pies for festivals, opened its mouth, being deprived of its iron door. The fireplace was close at hand. All round the site of the house was a pleasant, sunny, green space, with old fruit-trees in pretty fair condition, though aged. There was a barn, also aged, but in decent repair; and a ruinous shed, on the corner of which was nailed a boy's windmill, where it had probably been turning and clattering for years together, till now it was black with time and weather-stain. It was broken, but still it went round whenever the wind stirred. The spot was entirely secluded, there being no other house within a mile or two.
No language can give an idea of the beauty and glory of the trees, just at this moment. It would be easy, by a process of word-daubing, to set down a confused group of gorgeous colors, like a bunch of tangled skeins of bright silk; but there is nothing of the reality in the glare which would thus be produced. And yet the splendor both of individual clusters and of whole scenes is unsurpassable. The oaks are now far advanced in their change of hue; and, in certain positions relatively to the sun, they light up and gleam with a most magnificent deep gold, varying according as portions of the foliage are in shadow or sunlight. On the sides which receive the direct rays, the effect is altogether rich; and in other points of view it is equally beautiful, if less brilliant. This color of the oak is more superb than the lighter yellow of the maples and walnuts. The whole landscape is now covered with this indescribable pomp; it is discerned on the uplands afar off; and Blue Hill in Milton, at the distance of several miles, actually glistens with rich, dark light,—no, not glistens, nor gleams,—but perhaps to say glows subduedly will be a truer expression for it.
Met few people this morning;—a grown girl, in company with a little boy, gathering barberries in a secluded lane; a portly, autumnal gentleman, wrapped in a great-coat, who asked the way to Mr. Joseph Goddard's; and a fish-cart from the city, the driver of which sounded his horn along the lonesome way.
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Monday, October 18.—There has been a succession of days which were cold and bright in the forenoon, and gray, sullen, and chill towards night. The woods have now taken a soberer tint than they wore at my last date. Many of the shrubs which looked brightest a little while ago are now wholly bare of leaves. The oaks have generally a russet-brown shade, although some of them are still green, as are likewise other scattered trees in the forests. The bright yellow and the rich scarlet are no more to be seen. Scarcely any of them will now bear a close examination; for this shows them to be rugged, wilted, and of faded, frost-bitten hue; but at a distance, and in the mass, and enlivened by the sun, they have still somewhat of the varied splendor which distinguished them a week ago. It is wonderful what a difference the sunshine makes; it is like varnish, bringing out the hidden veins in a piece of rich wood. In the cold, gray atmosphere, such as that of most of our afternoons now, the landscape lies dark,—brown, and in a much deeper shadow than if it were clothed in green. But, perchance, a gleam of sun falls on a certain spot of distant shrubbery or woodland, and we see it brighten with many hues, standing forth prominently from the dimness around it. The sunlight gradually spreads, and the whole sombre scene is changed to a motley picture,—the sun bringing out many shades of color, and converting its gloom to an almost laughing cheerfulness. At such times I almost doubt whether the foliage has lost any of its brilliancy. But the clouds intercept the sun again, and lo! old Autumn appears, clad in his cloak of russet-brown.
Beautiful now, while the general landscape lies in shadow, looks the summit of a distant hill (say a mile off), with the sunshine brightening the trees that cover it. It is noticeable that the outlines of hills, and the whole bulk of them at the distance of several miles, become stronger, denser, and more substantial in this autumn atmosphere and in these autumnal tints than in summer. Then they looked blue, misty, and dim. Now they show their great humpbacks more plainly, as if they had drawn nearer to us.
A waste of shrubbery and small trees, such as overruns the borders of the meadows for miles together, looks much more rugged, wild, and savage in its present brown color than when clad in green.
I passed through a very pleasant wood-path yesterday, quite shut in and sheltered by trees that had not thrown off their yellow robes. The sun shone strongly in among them, and quite kindled them; so that the path was brighter for their shade than if it had been quite exposed to the sun.
In the village graveyard, which lies contiguous to the street, I saw a man digging a grave, and one inhabitant after another turned aside from his way to look into the grave and talk with the digger. I heard him laugh, with the hereditary mirthfulness of men of that occupation.
In the hollow of the woods, yesterday afternoon, I lay a long while watching a squirrel, who was capering about among the trees over my head (oaks and white-pines, so close together that their branches intermingled). The squirrel seemed not to approve of my presence, for he frequently uttered a sharp, quick, angry noise, like that of a scissors-grinder's wheel. Sometimes I could see him sitting on an impending bough, with his tail over his back, looking down pryingly upon me. It seems to be a natural posture with him, to sit on his hind legs, holding up his forepaws. Anon, with a peculiarly quick start, he would scramble along the branch, and be lost to sight in another part of the tree, whence his shrill chatter would again be heard. Then I would see him rapidly descending the trunk, and running along the ground; and a moment afterwards, casting my eye upward, I beheld him flitting like a bird among the high limbs at the summit, directly above me. Afterwards, he apparently became accustomed to my society, and set about some business of his. He came down to the ground, took up a piece of a decayed bough, (a heavy burden for such a small personage,) and, with this in his mouth, again climbed up, and passed from the branches of one tree to those of another, and thus onward and onward till he went out of sight. Shortly afterwards he returned for another burden, and this he repeated several times. I suppose he was building a nest,—at least, I know not what else could have been his object. Never was there such an active, cheerful, choleric, continually-in-motion fellow as this little red squirrel, talking to himself, chattering at me, and as sociable in his own person as if he had half a dozen companions, instead of being alone in the lonesome wood. Indeed, he flitted about so quickly, and showed himself in different places so suddenly, that I was in some doubt whether there were not two or three of them.
I must mention again the very beautiful effect produced by the masses of berry-bushes, lying like scarlet islands in the midst of withered pasture-ground, or crowning the tops of barren hills. Their hue, at a distance, is lustrous scarlet, although it does not look nearly as bright and gorgeous when examined close at hand. But at a proper distance it is a beautiful fringe on Autumn's petticoat.
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Friday, October 22.—A continued succession of unpleasant, Novembery days, and Autumn has made rapid progress in the work of decay. It is now somewhat of a rare good fortune to find a verdant, grassy spot, on some slope, or in a dell; and even such seldom-seen oases are bestrewn with dried brown leaves,—which, however, methinks, make the short, fresh grass look greener around them. Dry leaves are now plentiful everywhere, save where there are none but pine-trees. They rustle beneath the tread, and there is nothing more autumnal than that sound. Nevertheless, in a walk this afternoon I have seen two oaks which retained almost the greenness of summer. They grew close to the huge Pulpit Rock, so that portions of their trunks appeared to grasp the rough surface; and they were rooted beneath it, and, ascending high into the air, overshadowed the gray crag with verdure. Other oaks, here and there, have a few green leaves or boughs among their rustling and rugged shade.
Yet, dreary as the woods are in a bleak, sullen day, there is a very peculiar sense of warmth and a sort of richness of effect in the slope of a bank and in sheltered spots, where bright sunshine falls, and the brown oaken foliage is gladdened by it. There is then a feeling of comfort, and consequently of heart-warmth, which cannot be experienced in summer.
I walked this afternoon along a pleasant wood-path, gently winding, so that but little of it could be seen at a time, and going up and down small mounds, now plunging into a denser shadow and now emerging from it. Part of the way it was strewn with the dusky yellow leaves of white-pines,—the cast-off garments of last year; part of the way with green grass, close-cropped and very fresh for the season. Sometimes the trees met across it; sometimes it was bordered on one side by an old rail-fence of moss-grown cedar, with bushes sprouting beneath it, and thrusting their branches through it; sometimes by a stone wall of unknown antiquity, older than the wood it closed in. A stone wall, when shrubbery has grown around it, and thrust its roots beneath it, becomes a very pleasant and meditative object. It does not belong too evidently to man, having been built so long ago. It seems a part of nature.
Yesterday I found two mushrooms in the woods, probably of the preceding night's growth. Also I saw a mosquito, frost-pinched, and so wretched that I felt avenged for all the injuries which his tribe inflicted upon me last summer, and so did not molest this lone survivor.
Walnuts in their green rinds are falling from the trees, and so are chestnut-burrs.
I found a maple-leaf to-day, yellow all over, except its extremest point, which was bright scarlet. It looked as if a drop of blood were hanging from it. The first change of the maple-leaf is to scarlet; the next, to yellow. Then it withers, wilts, and drops off, as most of them have already done.
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October 27.—Fringed gentians,—I found the last, probably, that will be seen this year, growing on the margin of the brook.
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1842.—Some man of powerful character to command a person, morally subjected to him, to perform some act. The commanding person suddenly to die; and, for all the rest of his life, the subjected one continues to perform that act.
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"Solomon dies during the building of the temple, but his body remains leaning on a staff, and overlooking the workmen, as if it were alive."
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A tri-weekly paper, to be called the Tertian Ague.
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Subject for a picture,—Satan's reappearance in Pandemonium, shining out from a mist, with "shape star-bright."
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Five points of Theology,—Five Points at New York.
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It seems a greater pity that an accomplished worker with the hand should perish prematurely, than a person of great intellect; because intellectual arts may be cultivated in the next world, but not physical ones.
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To trace out the influence of a frightful and disgraceful crime in debasing and destroying a character naturally high and noble, the guilty person being alone conscious of the crime.
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A man, virtuous in his general conduct, but committing habitually some monstrous crime,—as murder,—and doing this without the sense of guilt, but with a peaceful conscience,—habit, probably, reconciling him to it; but something (for instance, discovery) occurs to make him sensible of his enormity. His horror then.
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The strangeness, if they could be foreseen and forethought, of events which do not seem so strange after they have happened. As, for instance, to muse over a child's cradle, and foresee all the persons in different parts of the world with whom he would have relations.
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A man to swallow a small snake,—and it to be a symbol of a cherished sin.
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Questions as to unsettled points of history, and mysteries of nature, to be asked of a mesmerized person.
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Gordier, a young man of the Island of Jersey, was paying his addresses to a young lady of Guernsey. He visited the latter island, intending to be married. He disappeared on his way from the beach to his mistress's residence, and was afterwards found dead in a cavity of the rocks. After a time, Galliard, a merchant of Guernsey, paid his addresses to the young lady; but she always felt a strong, unaccountable antipathy to him. He presented her with a beautiful trinket. The mother of Gordier, chancing to see this trinket, recognized it as having been bought by her dead son as a present for his mistress. She expired on learning this; and Galliard, being suspected of the murder, committed suicide.
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The cure of Montreux in Switzerland, ninety-six years old, still vigorous in mind and body, and able to preach. He had a twin-brother, also a preacher, and the exact likeness of himself. Sometimes strangers have beheld a white-haired, venerable clerical personage, nearly a century old; and, upon riding a few miles farther, have been astonished to meet again this white-haired, venerable, century-old personage.
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When the body of Lord Mohun (killed in a duel) was carried home, bleeding, to his house, Lady Mohun was very angry because it was "flung upon the best bed."
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A prophecy, somewhat in the style of Swift's about Partridge, but embracing various events and personages.
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An incident that befell Dr. Harris, while a Junior at college. Being in great want of money to buy shirts or other necessaries, and not knowing how to obtain it, he set out on a walk from Cambridge to Boston. On the way, he cut a stick, and after walking a short distance perceived that something had become attached to the end of it. It proved to be a gold ring, with the motto, "God speed thee, friend."
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Brobdignag lay on the northwest coast of the American continent.
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A gush of violets along a wood-path.
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People with false hair and other artifices may be supposed to deceive Death himself, so that he does not know when their hour is come.
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Bees are sometimes drowned (or suffocated) in the honey which they collect. So some writers are lost in their collected learning.
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Advice of Lady Pepperell's father on her marriage,—never to work one moment after Saturday sunset,—never to lay down her knitting except in the middle of the needle,—always to rise with the sun,—to pass an hour daily with the housekeeper,—to visit every room daily from garret to cellar,—to attend herself to the brewing of beer and the baking of bread,—and to instruct every member of the family in their religious duties.
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Service of plate, presented by the city of London to Sir William Pepperell, together with a table of solid silver. The table very narrow, but long; the articles of plate numerous, but of small dimensions,—the tureen not holding more than three pints. At the close of the Revolution, when the Pepperell and Sparhawk property was confiscated, this plate was sent to the grandson of Sir William, in London. It was so valuable, that Sheriff Moulton of old York, with six well-armed men, accompanied it to Boston. Pepperell's only daughter married Colonel Sparhawk, a fine gentleman of the day. Andrew Pepperell, the son, was rejected by a young lady (afterwards the mother of Mrs. General Knox), to whom he was on the point of marriage, as being addicted to low company and low pleasures. The lover, two days afterwards, in the streets of Portsmouth, was sun-struck, and fell down dead. Sir William had built an elegant house for his son and his intended wife; but after the death of the former he never entered it. He lost his cheerfulness and social qualities, and gave up intercourse with people, except on business. Very anxious to secure his property to his descendants by the provisions of his will, which was drawn up by Judge Sewall, then a young lawyer. Yet the Judge lived to see two of Sir William's grandchildren so reduced that they were to have been numbered among the town's poor, and were only rescued from this fate by private charity.
The arms of the Pepperell family were displayed over the door of every room in Sir William's house, and his crest on every door. In Colonel Sparhawk's house there were forty portraits, most of them in full length. The house built for Sir William's son was occupied as barracks during the Revolution, and much injured. A few years after the peace, it was blown down by a violent tempest, and finally no vestige of it was left, but there remained only a summer-house and the family tomb.
At Sir William's death, his mansion was hung with black, while the body lay in state for a week. All the Sparhawk portraits were covered with black crape, and the family pew was draped with black. Two oxen were roasted, and liquid hospitality dispensed in proportion.
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Old lady's dress seventy or eighty years ago. Brown brocade gown, with a nice lawn handkerchief and apron,—short sleeves, with a little ruffle, just below the elbow,—black mittens,—a lawn cap, with rich lace border,—a black velvet hood on the back of the head, tied with black ribbon under the chin. She sat in an old-fashioned easy-chair, in a small, low parlor,—the wainscot painted entirely black, and the walls hung with a dark velvet paper.
A table, stationary ever since the house was built, extending the whole length of a room. One end was raised two steps higher than the rest. The Lady Ursula, an early Colonial heroine, was wont to dine at the upper end, while her servants sat below. This was in the kitchen. An old garden and summer-house, and roses, currant-bushes, and tulips, which Lady Ursula had brought from Grondale Abbey in Old England. Although a hundred and fifty years before, and though their roots were propagated all over the country, they were still flourishing in the original garden. This Lady Ursula was the daughter of Lord Thomas Cutts of Grondale Abbey in England. She had been in love with an officer named Fowler, who was supposed to have been slain in battle. After the death of her father and mother, Lady Ursula came to Kittery, bringing twenty men-servants and several women. After a time, a letter arrived from her lover, who was not killed, but merely a prisoner to the French. He announced his purpose to come to America, where he would arrive in October. A few days after the letter came, she went out in a low carriage to visit her work-people, and was blessing the food for their luncheon, when she fell dead, struck by an Indian tomahawk, as did all the rest save one. They were buried, where the massacre took place, and a stone was erected, which (possibly) still remains. The lady's family had a grant from Sir Ferdinando Gorges of the territory thereabout, and her brother had likewise come over and settled in the vicinity. I believe very little of this story. Long afterwards, at about the commencement of the Revolution, a descendant of Fowler came from England, and applied to the Judge of Probate to search the records for a will, supposed to have been made by Lady Ursula in favor of her lover as soon as she heard of his existence. In the mean time the estate had been sold to Colonel Whipple. No will could be found. (Lady Ursula was old Mrs. Cutts, widow of President Cutts.)