The Feast of the Virgins and Other Poems
by H. L. Gordon
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[B] Hooker had 90,000 men at Chancellorsville.

We saw the dawn of victory—we should meet Our wary foe upon familiar soil. We cheered the news, we cheered the marching-orders, We cheered our brave commander till the tears Ran down his cheeks. Up from its sullen gloom Leaped the Grand Army, as if God had writ With fiery finger 'thwart the vault of heaven A solemn promise of swift victory.

"We marched. As rolls the deep, resistless flood Of Mississippi, when the rains of June Have swelled his thousand northern fountain-lakes Above their barriers—rolls with restless roar, Anon through rock-built gorges, and anon Down through the prairied valley to the sea, Gleaming and glittering in the summer sun, By field and forest on his winding way, So stretched and rolled the mighty column forth, Winding among the hills and pouring out Along the vernal valleys; so the sheen Of moving bayonets glittered in the sun. And as we marched there rolled upon the air, Up from the vanguard-corps, a choral chant, Feeble at first and far and far away, But gathering volume as it rolled along And regiment after regiment joined the choir, Until an hundred thousand voices swelled The surging chorus, and the solid hills Shook to the thunder of the mighty song. And ere it died away along the line, The hill-tops caught the chorus—rolled away From peak to peak the pealing thunder-chant, Clear as the chime of bells on Sabbath morn:

"'John Brown's body lies moldering in the grave; John Brown's body lies moldering in the grave; John Brown's body lies moldering in the grave; But his soul is marching on. Glory, Glory, Halleluia! Glory, Glory, Halleluia! Glory, Glory, Halleluia! His soul is marching on!'

"And far away The mountains echoed and re-echoed still— "'Glory, Glory, Halleluia! Glory, Glory, Halleluia! Glory, Glory, Halleluia! His soul is marching on!'

"Until the winds Bore the retreating echoes southward far, And the dull distance murmured in our ears.

"Fast by the field where gallant Baker fell, We crossed the famous river and advanced To Frederick. There a transitory cloud Gloomed the Grand Army—Hooker was relieved: Fell from command at victory's open gate The dashing, daring, soul-inspiring chief, The idol of his soldiers, and they mourned. He had his faults—they were not faults of heart— His gravest—fiery valor. Since that day, The self-same fault—or virtue—crowned a chief With laurel plucked on rugged Kenesaw. Envy it was that wrought the hero's fall, Envy, with hydra-heads and serpent-tongues, Hissed on the wolfish clamors of the Press. O fickle Fortune, how thy favors fall— Like rain upon the just and the unjust! Throughout the army, as the soldiers read The farewell-order, gloomy murmurs ran; But our new chieftain cheered our drooping hearts.

"That Meade would choose his battle-ground we knew, And if not his the gallant dash and dare That on Antietam's bloody battle-field Snatched victory from defeat, our faith was firm That he would fight to win, and hold the reins Firmly in hand, nor sacrifice our lives In wild assaults and fruitless daring deeds.

"From Taneytown, at mid-day, on the hills Of Gettysburg we heard the cannon boom. Our gallant Hancock rode full speed away; We under Gibbon swiftly following him At midnight camped on Cemetery Hill. Sharp the initial combat of the grand On-coming battle, and the sulphurous smoke Hung in blue wreaths above the silent vale Between two hostile armies, mightier far Than met upon the field of Marathon. Or where the proud Carthago bowed to Rome. Hope of the North and Liberty—the one; Pride of the South—the other. On the hills— A rolling range of rugged, broken hills, Stretching from Round-Top northward, bending off And butting down upon a silver stream— In open field our veteran regiments lay. Facing our battle-line and parallel— Beyond the golden valley to the west— Lay Seminary Ridge—a crest of hills Covered with emerald groves and fields of gold Ripe for the harvest: on this rolling range, As numerous as the swarming ocean-fowl That perch in squadrons on some barren isle Far in the Arctic sea when summer's sun With slanting spears invades the icy realm, The Southern legions lay upon their arms. As countless as the winter-evening stars That glint and glow above the frosted fields Twinkled and blazed upon that crest of hills The camp-fires of the foe. Two mighty hosts, Ready and panoplied for deadliest war, And eager for the combat where the prize Of victory was empire—for the foe An empire borne upon the bended backs Of toiling slaves in millions—but for us, An empire grounded on the rights of man— Lay on their arms awaiting innocent morn To light the field for slaughter to begin.

"Silent above us spread the dusky heavens, Silent below us lay the smoky vale, Silent beyond, the dreadful crest of hills. Anon the neigh of horse, a sentry's call, Or rapid hoof-beats of a flying steed Bearing an aid and orders, broke the dread, Portentous silence. I was worn and slept.

"The call of bugles wakened me. The dawn Was stealing softly o'er the shadowy land, And morning grew apace. Broad in the east Uprose above the crest of hazy hills Like some broad shield by fabled giant borne, The golden sun, and flashed upon the field. Ripe for the harvest stood the golden grain, Nodding on gentle slopes and dewy hills. Ready for the harvest death's grim reapers stood Waiting the signal with impatient steel; And morning passed, and mid-day. Here and there The crack of rifles on the picket-line, Or boom of solitary cannon broke The myriad-voiced and dreadful monotone. So fled the anxious hours until the hills Sent forth their silent shadows to the east— And then their batteries opened on our left Advanced into the valley. All along The rolling crest of Seminary Ridge Rolled up the smoke of cannon. Answered then The grim artillery on our chain of hills' And heaven was hideous with the bellowing boom, The whiz of shot, the infernal shrieks of shells. Down from the hills their charging columns came A glittering mass of steel. As when the snow Piled by an hundred winters on the peak Of cloud-robed Bernard thunders down the cliffs, Nor rocks nor forests stay the mighty mass, And men and flocks in terror fly the death, So thundering fell the columns of the foe, Crushing through Sickles' corps in front and flank; And, roaring onward like a mighty wind, They rushed for Little Round-Top—rugged hill, Key to our left and center—all exposed— Manned by a broken battery half unmanned. But Hancock saw the peril. On stalwart steed Foam-flecked, wide-nostriled, panting like a hound, That stalwart soldier—Spartan to the soles— Came dashing down where, prone along the ridge Upon the right, our sheltered regiment lay. 'By the left flank, forward—double-quick!'—We sprang And dashed for Little Round-Top; formed our line Flanking the broken battery. Up the slope, Like frightened sheep when howling wolves pursue, Fled Sickles' men in panic: hard behind On came the Rebel columns. Hat in hand Waving and shouting to his eager corps— Rode gallant Longstreet leading on the foe.

"Where yonder field-wall bounds the trampled wheat By grove and meadow, see—among the trees— Their bayonets gleam advancing. Line on line, Column on column, in the field beyond, Their hurrying ranks crowd glittering on and on. High at the head their flaunting colors fly; High o'er the roar their wild, triumphant yell Shrills like the scream of panthers.

"Hancock's voice Rang down our lines above the cannons' roar: 'Advance, and take those colors'[C]—Adown the slope Like Bengal tigers springing at the hounds, We sprang and met them at the border wall: Muzzle to muzzle—steel to steel—we met, And fought like Romans and like Romans fell. Even as a cyclone, growling thunder, roars Down through a dusky forest, and its path Is strown with broken and uprooted pines Promiscuous piled in broad and broken swaths, So crashed our volleys through their serried ranks, Mowing great swaths of death; yet on and on, Closing the gaps and yelling like the fiends That Dante heard along the gulf of hell, Still came our furious foes. A cloud of smoke— Dense, sulphurous, stifling—covered all our ranks. Our steady, deadly rifles crackled still, And still their crashing volleys rolled and roared. Our rifles blazed upon the blaze below; The blaze below upon the blaze above, And in the blaze the buzz of myriad bees Whose stings were deadlier than the Libyan asp. Five times our colors fell—five times arose Defiant, flapping on the broken wall.

[C] These are the very words used by General Hancock on this occasion.

"We hold the perilous breach; on either hand Our foes out-flank us, leap the sheltering wall And pour their deadly, enfilading fire. God shield our shattered ranks!—God help us!

"Ho! 'Stars and Stripes' on the right!—Hurra!—Hurra! The Green Mountain Boys to our aid!—Hurra!—Hurra. Cannon-roar down on the left!—Our batteries are there— Hurling hot hell-fire'—See!—like sickled corn The close-ranked foemen fall in toppling swaths: But still with hurried steps and steady steel They close the gaps—like madmen they press on! With one wild yell they rush upon the wall! Lo from our lines a sheet of crackling fire Scorches their grimy faces—back they reel And tumble—down and down—a writhing mass Of slaughter and defeat!

"Leaped on the wall A thousand Blues and swung their caps in air, Thundering their wild Hurra! above the roar And crash of cannon;—victory was ours. Back to his crest of hills the baffled foe Reluctant turned and fled the storm of death.

"The smoke of battle floated from the field, And lo the woodside piled with slaughter-heaps! And lo the meadow dotted with the slain! And lo the ranks of dead and dying men That fighting fell behind the broken wall!

"Only a handful of my men remained; The rest lay dead or wounded on the field; Nor skulked their captain, but by grace was spared. Behold the miracle!—This Bible holds, Embedded in its leaves, the Rebel lead Aimed at my heart. But here a scratch and there— Not worth the mention where so many fell. Paul, foremost ever in the deadly hail, As if protected by a shield unseen, Escaped unscathed.

"We camped upon the hill. Night hovered o'er us on her dusky wings; Then all along our lines upon the hills Blazed up the evening camp-fires. Facing us Beyond the smoke-robed valley sparkled up A chain of fires on Seminary Ridge. A hum of mingled voices filled the air. As when upon the vast, hoarse-moaning sea And all along the rock-built somber shore Murmurs the menace of the coming storm— The muttering of the tempest from afar, The plash and seethe of surf upon the sand, The roll of distant thunder in the heavens, Unite and blend in one prevailing voice— So rose the mingled murmurs of our camps, So rose the groans and moans of wounded men Along the slope and valley, and so rolled From yonder frowning parallel of hills The muttered menace of our baffled foes; And so from camp to camp and hill to hill Rolled the deep mutter and the dreadful moan Of an hundred thousand voices blent in one.

"That night a multitude of friends and foes Slept soundly—but they slept to wake no more. But few indeed among the living slept; We lay upon our arms and courted sleep With open eyes and ears: the fears and hopes That centered in the half-fought battle held The balm of slumber from our weary limbs. Anon the rattle of the random fire Broke on our drowsy ears and startled us, As one is startled by some horrid dream; Whereat old veterans muttered in their sleep.

"Midnight had passed, and I lay wakeful still, When Paul arose and sat upon the sward. He said: 'I cannot sleep; unbidden thoughts That will not down crowd on my restless brain. Captain, I know not how, but still I know That I shall see but one more sunrise. Morn Will bring the clash of arms—to-morrow's sun Will look upon unnumbered ghastly heaps And gory ranks of dead and dying men, And ere it sink beyond the western hills Up from this field will roll a mighty shout Victorious, echoed over all the land, Proclaiming joy to freemen everywhere. And I shall fall. I cannot tell you how I know it—but I feel it in my soul. I pray that death may spare me till I hear Our shout of "Victory!" rolling o'er these hills: Then will I lay me down and die in peace.'

"I lightly said—'Sheer superstition, Paul; I'll wager a month's pay you'll live to fight A dozen battles yet. They ill become A gallant soldier on the battle field— Such grandam superstitions. You have fought Ever like a hero—do you falter now?'

"'Captain,' he said, 'I shall not falter now, But gladlier will I hail the rising sun. Death has no terror for a heart like mine: Say what you may and call it what you will— I know that I shall fall to rise no more Before the sunset of the coming day. If this be superstition—still I know; If this be fear it will not hold me back.' I answered:

"'Friend, I hope this prophecy Will prove you a false prophet; but, my Paul, Have you no farewells for your friends at home? No message for a nearer, dearer one?'

"'None; there is none I knew in other days Knows where or what I am. So let it be. If there be those—not many—who may care For one who cares so little for himself, Surely my soldier-name in the gazette Among the killed will bring no pang to them. And then he laid himself upon the sward; Perhaps he slept—I know not, for fatigue O'ercame me and I slept.

"The picket guns At random firing wakened me. The morn Came stealing softly o'er the somber hills; Dark clouds of smoke hung hovering o'er the field. Blood-red as risen from a sea of blood, The tardy sun as if in dread arose, And hid his face in the uprising smoke. As when the pale moon, envious of the glow And gleam and glory of the god of day, Creeps in by stealth between the earth and him, Eclipsing all his glory, and the green Of hills and dales is changed to yellowish dun, So fell the strange and lurid light of morn. And as I gazed I heard the hunger-cries Of vultures circling on their dusky wings Above the smoke-hid valley; then they plunged To gorge themselves upon the slaughter-heaps, As at the Buddhist temples in Siam Whereto the hideous vultures flock to feast With famished dogs upon the pauper dead.

"The day wore on. Two mighty armies stood Defiant—watching—dreading to assault; Each hoping that the other would assault And madly dash against its glittering steel. As in the jungles of the Chambeze— Glaring defiance with their fiery eyes— Two tawny lions—rival monarchs—meet And fright the forest with their horrid roar; But ere they close in bloody combat crouch And wait and watch for vantage in attack; So on their bannered hills the opposing hosts, Eager to grapple in the tug of death, Waited and watched for vantage in the fight. Noon came. The fire of pickets died away. All eyes were turned to Seminary Ridge, For lo our sullen foemen—park on park— Had massed their grim artillery on our corps. Hoarse voices sunk to whispers or were hushed; The rugged hills stood listening in awe; So dread the ominous silence that I heard The hearts of soldiers throbbing along the line.

"Up from yon battery curled a cloud of smoke, Shrieked o'er our heads a solitary shell,— Then instantly in horrid concert roared Two hundred cannon on the Rebel hills— Hurling their hissing thunderbolts—and then An hundred bellowing cannon from our lines Thundered their iron answer. Horrible Rolled in the heavens the infernal thunders—rolled From hill to hill the reverberating roar, As if the earth were bursting with the throes Of some vast pent volcano; rocked and reeled, As in an earthquake-shock, the solid hills; Anon huge fragments of the hillside rocks, And limbs and splinters of shot-shattered trees Danced in the smoke like demons; hissed and howled The crashing shell-storm bursting over us. Prone on the earth awaiting the grand charge, To which we knew the heavy cannonade Was but a prelude, for two hours we lay— Two hours that tried the very souls of men— And many a brave man never rose again. Then ceased our guns to swell the infernal roar; The roll and crash of cannon in our front Lulled, and we heard the foeman's bugle-calls. Then from the slopes of Seminary Ridge Poured down the storming columns of the foe. As when the rain-clouds from the rim of heaven Are gathered by the four contending winds, And madly whirled until they meet and clash Above the hills and burst—down pours a sea And plunges roaring down through gorge and glen, So poured the surging columns of our foes Adown the slopes and spread along the vale In glittering ranks of battle—line on line— Mile-long. Above the roar of cannon rose In one wild yell the Rebel battle-cry. Flash in the sun their serried ranks of steel; Before them swarm a cloud of skirmishers. That eager host the gallant Pickett leads; He right and left his fiery charger wheels; Steadies the lines with clarion voice; anon His outstretched saber gleaming points the way. As mid the myriad twinkling stars of heaven Flashes the blazing comet, and a column Of fiery fury follows it, so flashed The dauntless chief, so followed his wild host.

"We waited grim and silent till they crossed The center and began the dread ascent. Then brazen bugles rang the clarion call; Arose as one twice twenty thousand men, And all our hillsides blazed with crackling fire. With sudden crash and simultaneous roar An hundred cannon opened instantly, And all the vast hills shuddered under us. Yelling their mad defiance to our fire Still on and upward came our daring foes. As when upon the wooded mountain-side The unchained Loki[D] riots and the winds Of an autumnal tempest lash the flames, Whirling the burning fragments through the air— Huge blazing limbs and tops of blasted pines— Mowing wide swaths with circling scythes of fire, So fell our fire upon the advancing host, And lashed their ranks and mowed them into heaps, Cleaving broad avenues of death. Still on And up they come undaunted, closing up The ghastly gaps and firing as they come. As if protected by the hand of heaven, Rides at their head their gallant leader still; The tempest drowns his voice—his naming sword Gleams in the flash of rifles. One wild yell—Like the mad hunger-howl of famished wolves Midwinter on the flying cabris'[E] trail, Swelled by ten thousand hideous voices, shrills, And through the battle-smoke the bravest burst. Flutters their tattered banner on our wall! Thunders their shout of victory! Appalled Our serried ranks are broken—but in vain! On either hand our cannon enfilade, Crushing great gaps along the stalwart lines; In front our deadly rifles volley still, Mowing the toppling swaths of daring men. Behold—they falter!—Ho!—they break!—they fly! With one wild cheer that shakes the solid hills Spring to the charge our eager infantry. Headlong we press them down the bloody slope, Headlong they fall before our leveled steel And break in wild disorder, cast away Their arms and fly in panic. All the vale Is spread with slaughter and wild fugitives. Wide o'er the field the scattered foemen fly; Dread havoc and mad terror swift pursue Till battle is but slaughter. Thousands fall— Thousands surrender, and the Southern flag Is trailed upon the field.

[D] Norse fire-fiend

[E] Cabri—the small, fleet antelope of the northern plains, so called by the Crees and half-breeds.

"The day was ours, And well we knew the worth of victory. Loud rolled the rounds of cheers from corps to corps; Comrades embraced each other; iron men Shed tears of joy like women; men profane Fell on their knees and thanked Almighty God. Then 'Hail Columbia' rang the brazen horns, And all the hill-tops shouted unto heaven; The welkin shouted to the shouting hills—And heavens and hill-tops shouted 'Victory!'

"Night with her pall had wrapped the bloody field. The little remnants of our regiment Were gathered and encamped upon the hill. Paul was not with them, and they could not tell Aught of him. I had seen him in the fight Bravest of all the brave. I saw him last When first the foremost foemen reached our wall, Thrusting them off with bloody bayonet, And shouting to his comrades, 'Steady, men!' Sadly I wandered back where we had met The onset of the foe. The rounds of cheers Repeated oft still swept from corps to corps, And as I passed along the line I saw Our dying comrades raise their weary heads, And cheer with feeble voices. Even in death The cry of victory warmed their hearts again. Paul lay upon the ground where he had fought, Fast by the flag that floated on the line. He slept—or seemed to sleep, but on his brow Sat such a deadly pallor that I feared My Paul would never march and fight again. I raised his head—he woke as from a dream; I said, 'Be quiet—you are badly hurt; I'll call a surgeon; we will dress your wound.' He gravely said:

"'Tis vain; for I have done With camp and march and battle. Ere the dawn Shall I be mustered out of your command, And mustered into the Grand Host of heaven.'

"I sought a surgeon on the field and found; With me he came and opened the bloody blouse, Felt the dull pulse and sagely shook his head. A musket ball had done its deadly work; There was no hope, he said, the man might live A day perchance—but had no need of him. I called his comrades and we carried him, Stretched on his blankets, gently to our camp, And laid him by the camp-fire. As the light Fell on Paul's face he took my hand and said:



"Captain, I hear the cheers. My soul is glad. My days are numbered, but this glorious day— Like some far beacon on a shadowy cape That cheers at night the storm-belabored ships— Will light the misty ages from afar. This field shall be the Mecca. Here shall rise A holier than the Caaba where men kiss The sacred stone that flaming fell from heaven. But O how many sad and aching hearts Will mourn the loved ones never to return! Thank God—no heart will hope for my return! Thank God—no heart will mourn because I die! Captain, at life's mid-summer flush and glow, For him to die who leaves his golden hopes, His mourning friends and idol-love behind, It must be hard and seem a cruel thing. After the victory—upon this field—For me to die hath more of peace than pain; For I shall leave no golden hopes behind, No idol-love to pine because I die, No friends to wait my coming or to mourn. They wait my coming in the world beyond; And wait not long, for I am almost there. 'Tis but a gasp, and I shall pass the bound 'Twixt life and death—through death to life again— Where sorrow cometh never. Pangs and pains Of flesh or spirit will not pierce me there; And two will greet me from the jasper walls— God's angels—with a song of holy peace, And haste to meet me at the pearly gate, And kiss the death-damp from my silent lips, And lead me through the golden avenues— Singing Hosanna—to the Great White Throne."

So there he paused and calmly closed his eyes, And silently I sat and held his hand. After a time, when we were left alone, He spoke again with calmer voice and said: "Captain, you oft have asked my history, And I as oft refused. There is no cause Why I should longer hold it from my friend Who reads the closing chapter. It may teach One soul to lean upon the arm of Christ— That hope and happiness find anchorage Only in heaven. While my lonesome life Saw death but dimly in the dull distance My lips were sealed to the unhappy tale; Under my pride I hid a heavy heart.

"I was ambitious in my boyhood days, And dreamed of fame and honors—misty fogs That climb at morn the ragged cliffs of life, Veiling the ragged rocks and gloomy chasms, And shaping airy castles on the top With bristling battlements and looming towers; But melt away into ethereal air Beneath the blaze of the mid-summer sun, Till cliffs and chasms and all the ragged rocks Are bare, and all the castles crumbled away.

"There winds a river 'twixt two chains of hills— Fir-capped and rugged monuments of time; A level vale of rich alluvial land, Washed from the slopes through circling centuries, And sweet with clover and the hum of bees, Lies broad between the rugged, somber hills. Beneath a shade of willows and of elms The river slumbers in this meadowy lap. Down from the right there winds a babbling branch, Cleaving a narrower valley through the hills. A grand bald-headed hill-cone on the right Looms like a patriarch, and above the branch There towers another. I have seen the day When those bald heads were plumed with lofty pines. Below the branch and near the river bank, Hidden among the elms and butternuts, The dear old cottage stands where I was born. An English ivy clambers to the eaves; An English willow planted by my hand Now spreads its golden branches o'er the roof Not far below the cottage thrives a town, A busy town of mills and merchandise— Belle Meadows, fairest village of the vale. Behind it looms the hill-cone, and in front The peaceful river winds its silent way. Beyond the river spreads a level plain— Once hid with somber firs—a tangled marsh— Now beautiful with fields and cottages, And sweet in spring-time with the blooming plum, And white with apple-blossoms blown like snow. Beyond the plain a lower chain of hills, In summer gemmed with fields of golden grain Set in the emerald of the beechen woods. In other days the village school-house stood Below our cottage on a grassy mound That sloped away unto the river's marge; And on the slope a cluster of tall pines Crowning a copse of beech and evergreen. There in my boyhood days I went to school; A maiden mistress ruled the little realm; She taught the rudiments to rompish rogues, And walked a queen with magic wand of birch. My years were hardly ten when father died. Sole tenants of our humble cottage home My sorrowing mother and myself remained; But she was all economy, and kept With my poor aid a comfortable house. I was her idol and she wrought at night To keep me at my books, and used to boast That I should rise above our humble lot. How oft I listened to her hopeful words— Poured from the fountain of a mother's heart Until I longed to wing the sluggard years That bore me on to what I hoped to be.

"We had a garden-plat behind the house— Beyond, an orchard and a pasture-lot; In front a narrow meadow—here and there Shaded with elms and branching butternuts. In spring and summer in the garden-plat I wrought my morning and my evening hours And kept myself at school—no idle boy.

"One bright May morning when the robins sang There came to school a stranger queenly fair, With eyes that shamed the ethereal blue of heaven, And golden hair in ringlets—cheeks as soft, As fresh and rosy as the velvet blush Of summer sunrise on the dew-damp hills. Hers was the name I muttered in my dreams. For days my bashful heart held me aloof Although her senior by a single year; But we were brought together oft in class, And when she learned my name she spoke to me, And then my tongue was loosed and we were friends. Before the advent of the steeds of steel Her sire—a shrewd and calculating man— Had lately come and purchased timbered-lands And idle mills, and made the town his home. And he was well-to-do and growing rich, And she her father's pet and only child. In mind and stature for two happy years We grew together at the village school. We grew together!—aye, our tender hearts There grew together till they beat as one. Her tasks were mine, and mine alike were hers; We often stole away among the pines— That stately cluster on the sloping hill— And conned our lessons from the selfsame book, And learned to love each other o'er our tasks, While in the pine-tops piped the oriole, And from his branch the chattering squirrel chid Our guileless love and artless innocence. 'Twas childish love perhaps, but day by day It grew into our souls as we grew up. Then there was opened in the prospering town A grammar school, and thither went Pauline. I missed her and was sad for many a day, Till mother gave me leave to follow her. In autumn—in vacation—she would come With girlish pretext to our cottage home. She often brought my mother little gifts, And cheered her with sweet songs and happy words; And I would pluck the fairest meadow-flowers To grace a garland for her golden hair, And fill her basket from the butternuts That flourished in our little meadow field. I found in her all I had dreamed of heaven. So garlanded with latest-blooming flowers, Chanting the mellow music of our hopes, The silver-sandaled Autumn-hours tripped by. And mother learned to love her; but she feared, Knowing her heart and mine, that one rude hand Might break our hopes asunder. Like a thief I often crept about her father's house, Under the evening shadows, eager-eyed, Peering for one dear face, and lingered late To catch the silver music of one voice That from her chamber nightly rose to heaven. Her father's face I feared—a silent man, Cold-faced, imperative, by nature prone To set his will against the beating world; Warm-hearted but heart-crusted.

"Two years more Thus wore away. Pauline grew up a queen. A shadow fell across my sunny path;— A hectic flush burned on my mother's cheeks; She daily failed and nearer drew to death. Pauline would often come with sun-lit face, Cheating the day of half its languid hours With cheering chapters from the holy book, And border tales and wizard minstrelsy: And mother loved her all the better for it. With feeble hands upon our sad-bowed heads, And in a voice all tremulous with tears, She said to us: 'Dear children, love each other— Bear and forbear, and come to me in heaven;' And praying for us daily—drooped and died.

"After the sad and solemn funeral, Alone and weeping and disconsolate, I sat at evening by the cottage door. I felt as if a dark and bitter fate Had fallen on me in my tender years. I seemed an aimless wanderer doomed to grope In vain among the darkling years and die. One only star shone through the shadowy mists. The moon that wandered in the gloomy heavens Was robed in shrouds; the rugged, looming hills Looked desolate;—the silent river seemed A somber chasm, while my own pet lamb, Mourning disconsolate among the trees, As if he followed some dim phantom-form, Bleated in vain and would not heed my call. On weary hands I bent my weary head; In gloomy sadness fell my silent tears.

"An angel's hand was laid upon my head— There in the moonlight stood my own Pauline— Angel of love and hope and holy faith— She flashed upon me bowed in bitter grief, As falls the meteor down the night-clad heavens— In silence. Then about my neck she clasped Her loving arms and on my shoulder drooped Her golden tresses, while her silent tears Fell warm upon my cheek like summer rain. Heart clasped to heart and cheek to cheek we sat; The moon no longer gloomed—her face was cheer; The rugged hills were old-time friends again; The peaceful river slept beneath the moon, And my pet lamb came bounding to our side And kissed her hand and mine as he was wont. Then I awoke as from a dream and said: 'Tell me, beloved, why you come to me In this dark hour—so late—so desolate?' And she replied:

"'My darling, can I rest While you are full of sorrow? In my ear A spirit seemed to whisper—"Arise and go To comfort him disconsolate." Tell me, Paul, Why should you mourn your tender life away? I will be mother to you; nay, dear boy, I will be more. Come, brush away these tears.'

"My heart was full; I kissed her pleading eyes: 'You are an angel sent by one in heaven,' I said,'to heal my heart, but I have lost More than you know. The cruel hand of death Hath left me orphan, friendless—poor indeed, Saving the precious jewel of your love. And what to do? I know not what to do, I feel so broken by a heavy hand. My mother hoped that I would work my way To competence and honor at the bar. But shall I toil in poverty for years To learn a science that so seldom yields Or wealth or honor save to silvered heads? I know that path to fame and fortune leads Through thorns and brambles over ragged rocks; But can I follow in the common path Trod by the millions, never to lift my head Above the busy hordes that delve and drudge For bare existence in this bitter world— And be a mite, a midge, a worthless worm, No more distinguished from the common mass Than one poor polyp in the coral isle Is marked amid the myriads teeming there? Yet 'tis not for myself. For you, Pauline, Far up the slippery heights of wealth and fame Would I climb bravely; but if I would climb By any art or science, I must train Unto the task my feet for many years, Else I should slip and fall from rugged ways, Too badly bruised to ever mount again.' Then she:

"'O Paul, if wealth were mine to give! O if my father could but know my heart! But fear not, Paul, our Father reigns in heaven. Follow your bent—'twill lead you out aright; The highest mountain lessens as we climb; Persistent courage wins the smile of fate. Apply yourself to law and master it, And I will wait. This sad and solemn hour Is dark with doubt and gloom, but by and by The clouds will lift and you will see God's face. For there is one in heaven whose pleading tongue Will pray for blessings on her only son Of Him who heeds the little sparrow's fall;— And O if He will listen to my prayers, The gates of heaven shall echo to my voice Morning and evening,—only keep your heart.' I said:

"'Pauline, your prayers had rolled away The ponderous stone that closed the tomb of Christ; And while they rise to heaven for my success I cannot doubt, or I should doubt my God. I think I see a pathway through this gloom; I have a kinsman'—and I told her where— 'A lawyer; I have heard my mother say— A self-made man with charitable heart; And I might go and study under him; I think he would assist me.'

"Then she sighed: 'Paul, can you leave me? You may study here And here you are among your boyhood friends, And here I should be near to cheer you on.'

"I promised her that I would think of it— Would see what prospect offered in the town; And then we walked together half-embraced, But when we neared her vine-arched garden gate, She bade me stay and kissed me a good-night And bounded through the moonlight like a fawn. I watched her till she flitted from my sight, Then slowly homeward turned my lingering steps. I wrote my kinsman on the morrow morn, And broached my project to a worthy man Who kept an office and a case of books— An honest lawyer. People called him learn'd, But wanting tact and ready speech he failed. The rest were pettifoggers—scurrilous rogues Who plied the village justice with their lies, And garbled law to suit the case in hand— Mean, querulous, small-brained delvers in the mire Of men's misfortunes—crafty, cunning knaves, Versed in chicane and trickery that schemed To keep the evil passions of weak men In petty wars, and plied their tongues profane With cunning words to argue honest fools Into their spider-meshes to be fleeced. I laid my case before him; took advice— Well-meant advice—to leave my native town, And study with my kinsman whom he knew. A week rolled round and brought me a reply— A frank and kindly letter—giving me That which I needed most—encouragement. But hard it was to fix my mind to go; For in my heart an angel whispered 'Stay.' It might be better for my after years, And yet perhaps,'twere better to remain. I balanced betwixt my reason and my heart, And hesitated. Her I had not seen Since that sad night, and so I made resolve That we should meet, and at her father's house. So whispering courage to my timid heart I went. With happy greeting at the door She met me, but her face was wan and pale— So pale and wan I feared that she was ill. I read the letter to her, and she sighed, And sat in silence for a little time, Then said:

"'God bless you, Paul, may be 'tis best— I sometimes feel it is not for the best, But I am selfish—thinking of myself. Go like a man, but keep your boyish heart— Your boyish heart is all the world to me. Remember, Paul, how I shall watch and wait; So write me often: like the dew of heaven To withering grass will come your cheering words. To know that you are well and happy, Paul, And good and true, will wing the weary months. And let me beg you as a sister would— Not that I doubt you but because I love— Beware of wine—touch not the treacherous cup, And guard your honor as you guard your life. The years will glide away like scudding clouds That fleetly chase each other o'er the hills, And you will be a man before you know, And I will be a woman. God will crown Our dearest hopes if we but trust in Him.'

"We sat in silence for a little time, And she was weeping, so I raised her face And kissed away her tears. She softly said: 'Paul, there is something I must say to you— Something I have no time to tell you now; But we must meet again before you go— Under the pines where we so oft have met. Be this the sign,'—She waved her graceful hand, 'Come when the shadows gather on the pines, And silent stars stand sentinel in heaven; Now Paul, forgive me—I must say—good-bye.'

"I read her fear upon her anxious brow. Lingering and clasped within her loving arms I, through her dewy, deep, blue eyes, beheld Her inmost soul, and knew that love was there. Ah, then and there her father blustered in, And caught us blushing in each other's arms! He stood a moment silent and amazed: Then kindling wrath distorted all his face, He showered his anger with a tongue of fire. O cruel words that stung my boyish pride! O dagger words that stabbed my very soul! I strove, but fury mastered—up I sprang, And felt a giant as I stood before him. My breath was hot with anger;—impious boy— Frenzied—forgetful of his silvered hairs— Forgetful of her presence, too, I raved, And poured a madman's curses on his head. A moan of anguish brought me to myself; I turned and saw her sad, imploring face, And tears that quenched the wild fire in my heart. I pressed her hand and passed into the hall, While she stood sobbing in a flood of tears, And he stood choked with anger and amazed. But as I passed the ivied porch he came With bated breath and muttered in my ear— 'Beggar!'—It stung me like a serpent's fang. Pride-pricked and muttering like a maniac, I almost flew the street and hurried home To vent my anger to the silent elms. 'Beggar!'—an hundred times that long, mad night I muttered with hot lips and burning breath; I paced the walk with hurried tread, and raved; I threw myself beneath the willow-tree, And muttered like the muttering of a storm. My little lamb came bleating mournfully; Angered I struck him;—out among the trees I wandered mumbling 'beggar' as I went, And beating in through all my burning soul The bitter thoughts it conjured, till my brain Reeled and I sunk upon the dew-damp grass, And—utterly exhausted—slept till morn.

"I dreamed a dream—all mist and mystery. I saw a sunlit valley beautiful With purple vineyards and with garden-plats; And in the vineyards and the garden-plats Were happy-hearted youths and merry girls Toiling and singing. Grandsires too were there, Sitting contented under their own vines And fig-trees, while about them merrily played Their children's children like the sportive lambs That frolicked on the foot-hills. Low of kine, Full-uddered, homeward-wending from the meads, Fell on the ear as soft as Hulder's loor Tuned on the Norse-land mountains. Like a nest Hid in a hawthorn-hedge a cottage stood Embowered with vines beneath broad-branching elms Sweet-voiced with busy bees.

"On either hand Rose steep and barren mountains—mighty cliffs Cragged and chasm'd and over-grown with thorns; And on the topmost peak a golden throne Blazoned with burning characters that read— 'Climb'—it is yours.' Not far above the vale I saw a youth, fair-browed and raven-haired, Clambering among the thorns and ragged rocks; And from his brow with torn and bleeding hand He wiped great drops of sweat. Down through the vale I saw a rapid river, broad and deep, Winding in solemn silence to the sea— The sea all mist and fog. Lo as I stood Viewing the river and the moaning sea, A sail—and then another—flitted down And plunged into the mist. A moment more, Like shapeless shadows of the by-gone years, I saw them in the mist and they were gone— Gone!—and the sea moaned on and seemed to say— 'Gone—and forever!'—So I gladly turned To look upon the throne—the blazoned throne That sat upon the everlasting cliff. The throne had vanished!—Lo where it had stood, A bed of ashes and a gray-haired man Sitting upon it bowed and broken down. And so the vision passed.

"The rising sun Beamed full upon my face and wakened me, And there beside me lay my pet—the lamb— Gazing upon me with his wondering eyes, And all the fields were bright and beautiful, And brighter seemed the world. I rose resolved. I let the cottage and disposed of all; The lamb went bleating to a neighbor's field; And oft my heart ached, but I mastered it. This was the constant burden of my brain— 'Beggar!'—I'll teach him that I am a man; I'll speak and he shall listen; I will rise, And he shall see my course as I go up Round after round the ladder of success. Even as the pine upon the mountain-top Towers o'er the maple on the mountain-side, I'll tower above him. Then will I look down And call him Father:—He shall call me Son.'

"Thus hushing my sad heart the day drew nigh Of parting, and the promised sign was given. The night was dismal darkness—not one star Twinkled in heaven; the sad, low-moaning wind Played like a mournful harp among the pines. I groped and listened through the darkling grove, Peering with eager eyes among the trees, And calling as I peered with anxious voice One darling name. No answer but the moan Of the wind-shaken pines. I sat me down Under the dusky shadows waiting for her, And lost myself in gloomy reverie. Dim in the darksome shadows of the night, While thus I dreamed, my darling came and crept Beneath the boughs as softly as a hare, And whispered 'Paul'—and I was at her side. We sat upon a mound moss-carpeted— No eyes but God's upon us, and no voice Spake to us save the moaning of the pines. Few were the words we spoke; her silent tears, Our clasping, trembling, lingering embrace, Were more than words. Into one solemn hour, Were pressed the fears and hopes of coming years. Two tender hearts that only dared to hope There swelled and throbbed to the electric touch Of love as holy as the love of Christ. She gave her picture and I gave a ring— My mother's—almost with her latest breath She gave it me and breathed my darling's name. I girt her finger, and she kissed the ring In solemn pledge, and said:

"'I bring a gift— The priceless gift of God unto his own: O may it prove a precious gift to you, As it has proved a precious gift to me; And promise me to read it day by day— Beginning on the morrow—every day A chapter—and I too will read the same.'

"I took the gift—a precious gift indeed— And you may see how I have treasured it. Here, Captain, put your hand upon my breast— An inner pocket—you will find it there."

I opened the bloody blouse and thence drew forth The Book of Christ all stained with Christian blood. He laid his hand upon the holy book, And closed his eyes as if in silent prayer. I held his weary head and bade him rest. He lay a moment silent and resumed: "Let me go on if you would hear the tale; I soon shall sleep the sleep that wakes no more. O there were promises and vows as solemn As Christ's own promises; but as we sat The pattering rain-drops fell among the pines, And in the branches the foreboding owl With dismal hooting hailed the coming storm. So in that dreary hour and desolate We parted in the silence of our tears.

"And on the morrow morn I bade adieu To the old cottage home I loved so well— The dear old cottage home where I was born. Then from my mother's grave I plucked a rose Bursting in bloom—Pauline had planted it— And left my little hill-girt boyhood world. I journeyed eastward to my journey's end; At first by rail for many a flying mile, By mail-coach thence from where the hurrying train Leaps a swift river that goes tumbling on Between a village and a mountain-ledge, Chafing its rocky banks. There seethes and foams The restless river round the roaring rocks, And then flows on a little way and pours Its laughing waters into a bridal lap. Its flood is fountain-fed among the hills; Far up the mossy brooks the timid trout Lie in the shadow of vine-tangled elms. Out from the village-green the roadway leads Along the river up between the hills, Then climbs a wooded mountain to its top, And gently winds adown the farther side Unto a valley where the bridal stream Flows rippling, meadow-flower-and-willow-fringed, And dancing onward with a merry song, Hastes to the nuptials. From the mountain-top— A thousand feet above the meadowy vale— She seems a chain of fretted silver wound With artless art among the emerald hills. Thence up a winding valley of grand views— Hill-guarded—firs and rocks upon the hills, And here and there a solitary pine Majestic—silent—mourns its slaughtered kin, Like the last warrior of some tawny tribe Returned from sunset mountains to behold Once more the spot where his brave fathers sleep. The farms along the valley stretch away On either hand upon the rugged hills— Walled into fields. Tall elms and willow-trees Huge-trunked and ivy-hung stand sentinel Along the roadway walls—storm-wrinkled trees Planted by men who slumber on the hills. Amid such scenes all day we rolled along, And as the shadows of the western hills Across the valley crept and climbed the slopes, The sunset blazed their hazy tops and fell Upon the emerald like a mist of gold. And at that hour I reached my journey's end. The village is a gem among the hills— Tall, towering hills that reach into the blue. One grand old mountain-cone looms on the left Far up toward heaven, and all around are hills. The river winds among the leafy hills Adown the meadowy dale; a shade of elms And willows fringe it. In this lap of hills Cluster the happy homes of men content To let the great world worry as it will. The court-house park, the broad, bloom-bordered streets, Are avenues of maples and of elms— Grander than Tadmor's pillared avenue— Fair as the fabled garden of the gods. Beautiful villas, tidy cottages, Flower gardens, fountains, offices and shops, All nestle in a dreamy wealth of woods.

"Kind hearts received me. All that wealth could bring— Refinement, luxury and ease—was theirs; But I was proud and felt my poverty, And gladly mured myself among the books To master 'the lawless science of the law.' I plodded through the ponderous commentaries— Some musty with the mildew of old age; And these I found the better for their years, Like olden wine in cobweb-covered flasks. The blush of sunrise found me at my books; The midnight cock-crow caught me reading still; And oft my worthy master censured me: 'A time for work,' he said, 'a time for play; Unbend the bow or else the bow will break.' But when I wearied—needing sleep and rest— A single word seemed whispered in my ear— 'Beggar,' it stung me to redoubled toil. I trod the ofttimes mazy labyrinths Of legal logic—mined the mountain-mass Of precedents conflicting—found the rule, Then branched into the exceptions; split the hair Betwixt this case and that—ran parallels— Traced from a 'leading case' through many tomes Back to the first decision on the 'point,' And often found a pyramid of law Built with bad logic on a broken base Of careless 'dicta;'—saw how narrow minds Spun out the web of technicalities Till common sense and common equity Were strangled in its meshes. Here and there I came upon a broad, unfettered mind Like Murray's—cleaving through the spider-webs Of shallower brains, and bravely pushing out Upon the open sea of common sense. But such were rare. The olden precedents— Oft stepping-stones of tyranny and wrong— Marked easy paths to follow, and they ruled The course of reason as the iron rails Rule the swift wheels of the down-thundering train.

"I rose at dawn. First in this holy book I read my chapter. How the happy thought That my Pauline would read—the self-same morn The self-same chapter—gave the sacred text, Though I had heard my mother read it oft, New light and import never seen before. For I would ponder over every verse, Because I felt that she was reading it, And when I came upon dear promises Of Christ to man, I read them o'er and o'er, Till in a holy and mysterious way They seemed the whisperings of Pauline to me. Later I learned to lay up for myself 'Treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust Corrupteth, and where thieves do not break through, Nor steal'—and where my treasures all are laid My heart is, and my spirit longs to go. O friend, if Jesus was but man of man— And if indeed his wondrous miracles Were mythic tales of priestly followers To chain the brute till Reason came from heaven— Yet was his mission unto man divine. Man's pity wounds, but Jesus' pity heals: He gave us balm beyond all earthly balm; He gave us strength beyond all human strength; He taught us love above the low desires; He taught us hope beyond all earthly hope; He taught us charity wherewith to build From out the broken walls of barbarism, The holy temple of the perfect man.

"On every Sabbath-eve I wrote Pauline. Page after page was burdened with my love, My glowing hopes of golden days to come, And frequent boast of rapid progress made. With hungry heart and eager I devoured Her letters; I re-read them twenty times. At morning when I laid the Gospel down I read her latest answer, and again At midnight by my lamp I read it over, And murmuring 'God bless her,' fell asleep To dream that I was with her under the pines.

"Thus fled four years—four years of patient toil Sweetened with love and hope, and I had made Swift progress in my studies. Master said Another year would bring me to the bar— No fledgeling but full-feathered for the field. And then her letters ceased. I wrote and wrote Again, but still no answer. Day after day The tardy mail-coach lagged a mortal hour, While I sat listening for its welcome horn; And when it came I hastened from my books With hope and fear contending in my soul. Day after day—no answer—back again I turned my footsteps with a weary sigh. It wore upon me and I could not rest; It gnawed me to the marrow of my bones. The heavy tomes grew dull and wearisome, And sometimes hateful;—then I broke away As from a prison and rushed wildly out Among the elms along the river-bank— Baring my burning temples to the breeze— And drank the air of heaven like sparkling wine— Conjuring excuses for her;—was she ill? Perhaps forbidden. Had another heart Come in between us?—No, that could not be; She was all constancy and promise-bound. A month, which seemed to me a laggard year, Thus wore away. At last a letter came. O with what springing step I hurried back— Back to my private chamber and my desk! With what delight—what eager, trembling hand— The well-known seal that held my hopes I broke! Thus ran the letter:

"'Paul, the time has come When we must both forgive while we forget. Mine was a girlish fancy. We outgrow Such childish follies in our later years. Now I have pondered well and made an end. I cannot wed myself to want, and curse My life life-long, because a girlish freak Of folly made a promise. So—farewell.'

"My eyes were blind with passion as I read. I tore the letter into bits and stamped Upon them, ground my teeth and cursed the day I met her, to be jilted. All that night My thoughts ran riot. Round the room I strode A raving madman—savage as a Sioux; Then flung myself upon my couch in tears, And wept in silence, and then stormed again. 'Beggar!'—it raised the serpent in my breast— Mad pride—bat-blind. I seized her pictured face And ground it under my heel. With impious hand I caught the book—the precious gift she gave, And would have burned it, but that still small voice Spake in my heart and bade me spare the book.

"Then with this Gospel clutched in both my hands, I swore a solemn oath that I would rise, If God would spare me;—she should see me rise, And learn what she had lost.—Yes, I would mount Merely to be revenged. I would not cringe Down like a spaniel underneath the lash, But like a man would teach my proud Pauline And her hard father to repent the day They called me 'beggar.' Thus I raved and stormed That mad night out;—forgot at dawn of morn This holy book, but fell to a huge tome And read two hundred pages in a day. I could not keep the thread of argument; I could not hold my mind upon the book; I could not break the silent under-tow That swept all else from out my throbbing brain But false Pauline. I read from morn till night, But having closed the book I could not tell Aught of its contents. Then I cursed myself, And muttered—'Fool—can you not shake it off— This nightmare of your boyhood?—Brave, indeed— Crushed like a spaniel by this false Pauline! Crushed am I?—By the gods, I'll make an end, And she shall never know it nettled me!' So passed the weary days. My cheeks grew thin; I needed rest, I said, and quit my books To range the fields and hills with fowling-piece And 'mal prepense' toward the feathery flocks. The pigeons flew from tree-tops o'er my head; I heard the flap of wings—and they were gone; The pheasant whizzed from bushes at my feet Unseen until its sudden whir of wings Startled and broke my wandering reverie; And then I whistled and relapsed to dreams, Wandering I cared not whither—wheresoe'er My silent gun still bore its primal charge. So gameless, but with cheeks and forehead tinged By breeze and sunshine, I returned to books. But still a phantom haunted all my dreams— Awake or sleeping, for awake I dreamed— A spectre that I could not chase away— The phantom-form of my own false Pauline.

"Six months wore off—six long and weary months; Then came a letter from a school-boy friend— In answer to the queries I had made— Filled with the gossip of my native town. Unto her father's friend—a bachelor, Her senior by full twenty years at least— Dame Rumor said Pauline had pledged her hand. I knew him well—a sly and cunning man— A honey-tongued, false-hearted flatterer. And he my rival—carrying off my prize? But what cared I? 'twas all the same to me— Yea, better for the sweet revenge to come. So whispered pride, but in my secret heart I cared, and hoped whatever came to pass She might be happy all her days on earth, And find a happy haven at the end.

"My thoughtful master bade me quit my books A month at least, for I was wearing out. 'Unbend the bow,' he said. His watchful eye Saw toil and care at work upon my cheeks; He could not see the canker at my heart, But he had seen pale students wear away With overwork the vigor of their lives; And so he gave me means and bade me go To romp a month among my native hills. I went, but not as I had left my home— A bashful boy, uncouth and coarsely clad, But clothed and mannered like a gentleman.

"My school-boy friend gave me a cordial greeting; That honest lawyer bade me welcome, too, And doted on my progress and the advice He gave me ere I left my native town. Since first the iron-horse had coursed the vale Five years had fled—five prosperous, magic years, And well nigh five since I had left my home. These prosperous years had wrought upon the place Their wonders till I hardly knew the town. The broad and stately blocks of brick that shamed The weather-beaten wooden shops I knew Seemed the creation of some magic hand. Adown the river bank the town had stretched, Sweeping away the quiet grove of pines Where I had loved to ramble when a boy And see the squirrels leap from tree to tree With reckless venture, hazarding a fall To dodge the ill-aimed arrows from my bow. The dear old school-house on the hill was gone: A costly church, tall-spired and built of stone Stood in its stead—a monument to man. Unholy greed had felled the stately pines, And all the slope was bare and desolate. Old faces had grown older; some were gone, And many unfamiliar ones had come. Boys in their teens had grown to bearded men, And girls to womanhood, and all was changed, Save the old cottage-home where I was born. The elms and butternuts in the meadow-field Still wore the features of familiar friends; The English ivy clambered to the roof, The English willow spread its branches still, And as I stood before the cottage-door My heart-pulse quickened, for methought I heard My mother's footsteps on the ashen floor.

"The rumor I had heard was verified; The wedding-day was named and near at hand. I met my rival: gracious were his smiles: Glad as a boy that robs the robin's nest He grasped the hands of half the men he met. Pauline, I heard, but seldom ventured forth, Save when her doting father took her out On Sabbath morns to breathe the balmy air, And grace with her sweet face his cushioned pew. The smooth-faced suitor, old dame Gossip said, Made daily visits to her father's house, And played the boy at forty years or more, While she had held him off to draw him on.

"I would not fawn upon the hand that smote; I would not cringe beneath its cruel blow, Nor even let her know I cared for it. I kept aloof—as proud as Lucifer. But when the church-bells chimed on Sabbath morn To that proud monument of stone I went— Her father's pride, since he had led the list Of wealthy patrons who had builded it— To hear the sermon—for methought Pauline Would hear it too. Might I not see her face, And she not know I cared to look upon it? She came not, and the psalms and sermon fell Upon me like an autumn-mist of rain. I met her once by chance upon the street— The day before the appointed wedding-day— Her and her father—she upon his arm. 'Paul—O Paul!' she said and gave her hand. I took it with a cold and careless air— Begged pardon—had forgotten;—'Ah—Pauline?— Yes, I remembered;—five long years ago— And I had made so many later friends, And she had lost so much of maiden bloom!' Then turning met her father face to face, Bowed with cold grace and haughtily passed on. 'This is revenge,' I muttered. Even then My heart ached as I thought of her pale face, Her pleading eyes, her trembling, clasping hand! And then and there I would have turned about To beg her pardon and an interview, But pride—that serpent ever in my heart— Hissed 'beggar,' and I cursed her with the lips That oft had poured my love into her ears. 'She marries gold to-morrow—let her wed! She will not wed a beggar, but I think She'll wed a life-long sorrow—let her wed! Aye—aye—I hope she'll live to curse the day Whereon she broke her sacred promises. And I forgive her?—yea, but not forget. I'll take good care that she shall not forget; I'll prick her memory with a bitter thorn Through all her future. Let her marry gold!' Thus ran my muttered words, but in my heart There ran a counter-current; ere I slept Its silent under-tow had mastered all— 'Forgive and be forgiven.' I resolved That on the morning of her wedding-day Would I go kindly and forgive Pauline, And send her to the altar with my blessing. That night I read a chapter in this book— The first for many months, and fell asleep Beseeching God to bless her. Then I dreamed That we were kneeling at my mother's bed— Her death-bed, and the feeble, trembling hands Of her who loved us rested on our heads, And in a voice all tremulous with tears My mother said: 'Dear children, love each other; Bear and forbear, and come to me in heaven.'

"I wakened once—at midnight—a wild cry— 'Paul, O Paul!' rang through my dreams and broke My slumber. I arose, but all was still, And then I, slept again and dreamed till morn. In all my dreams her dear, sweet face appeared— Now radiant as a star, and now all pale— Now glad with smiles and now all wet with tears. Then came a dream that agonized my soul, While every limb was bound as if in chains. Methought I saw her in the silent night Leaning o'er misty waters dark and deep: A moan—a plash of waters—and, O Christ!— Her agonized face upturned—imploring hands Stretched out toward me, and a wailing cry— 'Paul, O Paul!' Then face and hands went down, And o'er her closed the deep and dismal flood Forever—but it could not drown the cry: 'Paul, O Paul!' was ringing in my ears; 'Paul, O Paul!' was throbbing in my heart; And moaning, sobbing in my shuddering soul Trembled the wail of anguish—'Paul, O Paul!'

"Then o'er the waters stole the silver dawn, And lo a fairy boat with silken sail! And in the boat an angel at the helm, And at her feet the form of her I loved. The white mists parted as the boat sped on In silence, lessening far and far away. And then the sunrise glimmered on the sail A moment, and the angel turned her face: My mother!—and I gave a joyful cry, And stretched my hands, but lo the hovering mists Closed in around them and the vision passed.

"The morning sun stole through the window-blinds And fell upon my face and wakened me, And I lay musing—thinking of Pauline. Yes, she should know the depths of all my heart— The love I bore her all those lonely years; The hope that held me steadfast to my toil, And feel the higher and the holier love Her precious gift had wakened in my soul. Yea, I would bless her for that precious gift— I had not known its treasures but for her, And O for that would I forgive her all, And bless the hand that smote me to the soul. That would be comfort to me all my days, And if there came a bitter time to her, 'Twould pain her less to know that I forgave.

"A hasty rapping at my chamber-door; In came my school-boy friend whose guest I was, And said: 'Come, Paul, the town is all ablaze! A sad—a strange—a marvelous suicide! Pauline, who was to be a bride to-day, Was missed at dawn and after sunrise found— Traced by her robe and bonnet on the bridge, Whence she had thrown herself and made an end—'

"And he went on, but I could hear no more; It fell upon me like a flash from heaven. As one with sudden terror dumb, I turned And in my pillow buried up my face. Tears came at last, and then my friend passed out In silence. O the agony of that hour! O doubts and fears and half-read mysteries That tore my heart and tortured all my soul!

"I arose. About the town the wildest tales And rumors ran; dame Gossip was agog. Some said she had been ill and lost her mind, Some whispered hints, and others shook their heads But none could fathom the marvelous mystery. Bearing a bitter anguish in my heart, Half-crazed with dread and doubt and boding fears, Hour after hour alone, disconsolate, Among the scenes where we had wandered oft I wandered, sat where once the stately pines Domed the fair temple where we learned to love. O spot of sacred memories—how changed! Yet chiefly wanting one dear, blushing face That, in those happy days, made every place Wherever we might wander—hill or dale— Garden of love and peace and happiness. So heavy-hearted I returned. My friend Had brought for me a letter with his mail. I knew the hand upon the envelope— With throbbing heart I hastened to my room; With trembling hands I broke the seal and read. One sheet inclosed another—one was writ At midnight by my loved and lost Pauline. Inclosed within, a letter false and forged, Signed with my name—such perfect counterfeit, At sight I would have sworn it was my own. And thus her letter ran:

"'Beloved Paul, May God forgive you as my heart forgives. Even as a vine that winds about an oak, Rot-struck and hollow-hearted, for support, Clasping the sapless branches as it climbs With tender tendrils and undoubting faith, I leaned upon your troth; nay, all my hopes— My love, my life, my very hope of heaven— I staked upon your solemn promises. I learned to love you better than my God; My God hath sent me bitter punishment. O broken pledges! what have I to live And suffer for? Half mad in my distress, Yielding at last to father's oft request, I pledged my hand to one whose very love Would be a curse upon me all my days. To-morrow is the promised wedding day; To morrow!—but to-morrow shall not come! Come gladlier, death, and make an end of all! How many weary days and patiently I waited for a letter, and at last It came—a message crueler than death. O take it back!—and if you have a heart Yet warm to pity her you swore to love, Read it—and think of those dear promises— O sacred as the Savior's promises— You whispered in my ear that solemn night Beneath the pines, and kissed away my tears. And know that I forgive, beloved Paul: Meet me in heaven. God will not frown upon The sin that saves me from a greater sin, And sends my soul to Him. Farewell—Farewell.'"

Here he broke down. Unto his pallid lips I held a flask of wine. He sipped the wine And closed his eyes in silence for a time, Resuming thus:

"You see the wicked plot. We both were victims of a crafty scheme To break our hearts asunder. Forgery Had done its work and pride had aided it. The spurious letter was a cruel one— Casting her off with utter heartlessness, And boasting of a later, dearer love, And begging her to burn the billets-doux A moon-struck boy had sent her ere he found That pretty girls were plenty in the world.

"Think you my soul was roiled with anger?—No;— God's hand was on my head. A keen remorse Gnawed at my heart. O false and fatal pride That blinded me, else I had seen the plot Ere all was lost—else I had saved a life To me most precious of all lives on earth— Yea, dearer then than any soul in heaven! False pride—the ruin of unnumbered souls— Thou art the serpent ever tempting me; God, chastening me, has bruised thy serpent head. O faithful heart in silence suffering— True unto death to one she could but count A perjured villain, cheated as she was! Captain, I prayed—'twas all that I could do. God heard my prayer, and with a solemn heart, Bearing the letters in my hand, I went To ask a favor of the man who crushed And cursed my life—to look upon her face— Only to look on her dear face once more.

"I rung the bell—a servant bade me in. I waited long. At last the father came— All pale and suffering. I could see remorse Was gnawing at his heart; as I arose He trembled like a culprit on the drop. 'O, sir,' he said, 'whatever be your quest, I pray you leave me with my dead to-day; I cannot look on any living face Till her dead face is gone forevermore.'

"'And who hath done this cruel thing?' I said. 'Explain,' he faltered. 'Pray you, sir, explain!' I said, and thrust the letters in his hand. And as he sat in silence reading hers, I saw the pangs of conscience on his face; I saw him tremble like a stricken soul; And then a tear-drop fell upon his hand; And there we sat in silence. Then he groaned And fell upon his knees and hid his face, And stretched his hand toward me wailing out— 'I cannot bear this burden on my soul; O Paul!—O God!—forgive me or I die.'

"His anguish touched my heart. I took his hand, And kneeling by him prayed a solemn prayer— 'Father, forgive him, for he knew not what He did who broke the bond that bound us twain. O may her spirit whisper in his ear Forever—God is love and all is well.

"The iron man—all bowed and broken down— Sobbed like a child. He laid his trembling hand With many a fervent blessing on my head, And, with the crust all crumbled from his heart, Arose and led me to her silent couch; And I looked in upon my darling dead. Mine—O mine in heaven forevermore! God's angel sweetly smiling in her sleep; How beautiful—how radiant of heaven! The ring I gave begirt her finger still; Her golden hair was wreathed with immortelles; The lips half-parted seemed to move in psalm Or holy blessing. As I kissed her brow, It seemed as if her dead cheeks flushed again As in those happy days beneath the pines; And as my warm tears fell upon her face, Methought I heard that dear familiar voice So full of love and faith and calmest peace, So near and yet so far and far away, So mortal, yet so spiritual—like an air Of softest music on the slumbering bay Wafted on midnight wings to silent shores, When myriad stars are twinkling in the sea:

"'Paul, O Paul, forgive and be forgiven; Earth is all trial;—there is peace in heaven.'

"Aye, Captain, in that sad and solemn hour I laid my hand upon the arm of Christ, And he hath led me all the weary way To this last battle. I shall win through Him; And ere you hear the reveille again Paul and Pauline, amid the psalms of heaven, Embraced will kneel and at the feet of God Receive His benediction. Let me sleep. You know the rest;—I'm weary and must sleep. An angel's bugle-blast will waken me, But not to pain, for there is peace in heaven."

He slept, but not the silent sleep of death. I felt his fitful pulse and caught anon The softly-whispered words "Pauline," and "Peace." Anon he clutched with eager, nervous hand, And in hoarse whisper shouted—"Steady, men!" Then sunk again. Thus passed an hour or more And he woke, half-raised himself and said With feeble voice and eyes strange luster-lit:

"Captain, my boat is swiftly sailing out Into the misty and eternal sea From out whose waste no mortal craft returns. The fog is closing round me and the mist Is damp and cold upon my hands and face. Why should I fear?—the loved have gone before: I seem to hear the plash of coming oars; The mists are lifting and the boat is near. 'Tis well. To die as I am dying now— A soldier's death amid the gladsome shouts Of victory for which my puny hands Did their full share, albeit it was small, Was all my late ambition. Bring the Flag, And hold it over my head. Let me die thus Under the stars I've followed. Dear old Flag—"

But here his words became inaudible, As in the mazes of the Mammoth Cave, Fainter and fainter on the listening ear, The low, retreating voices die away. His eyes were closed; a gentle smile of peace Sat on his face. I held his nerveless hand, And bent my ear to catch his latest breath; And as the spirit fled the pulseless clay, I heard—or thought I heard—his wonder-words— "Pauline,—how beautiful!"

As I arose The gray dawn paled the shadows in the east.



In the measure of Hiawatha.

[The numerals refer to Notes to The Sea-Gull, in Appendix.]

On the shore of Gitchee Gumee[2]— Deep, mysterious, mighty waters— Where the manitoes—the spirits— Ride the storms and speak in thunder, In the days of Neme-Shomis,[3] In the days that are forgotten, Dwelt a tall and tawny hunter— Gitchee Pez-ze-u the Panther, Son of Waub-Ojeeg,[4] the warrior, Famous Waub-Ojeeg, the warrior. Strong was he and fleet as roebuck, Brave was he and very stealthy; On the deer crept like a panther; Grappled with Makwa,[5] the monster, Grappled with the bear and conquered; Took his black claws for a necklet, Took his black hide for a blanket.

When the Panther wed the Sea-Gull, Young was he and very gladsome; Fair was she and full of laughter; Like the robin in the spring-time, Sang from sunrise till the sunset; For she loved the handsome hunter. Deep as Gitchee Gumee's waters Was her love—as broad and boundless; And the wedded twain were happy— Happy as the mated robins. When their first-born saw the sunlight Joyful was the heart of Panther, Proud and joyful was the mother. All the days were full of sunshine, All the nights were full of starlight. Nightly from the land of spirits On them smiled the starry faces— Faces of their friends departed. Little moccasins she made him, Feathered cap and belt of wampum; From the hide of fawn a blanket, Fringed with feathers, soft as sable; Singing at her pleasant labor, By her side the tekenagun, [6] And the little hunter in it, Oft the Panther smiled and fondled, Smiled upon the babe and mother, Frolicked with the boy and fondled, Tall he grew and like his father, And they called the boy the Raven— Called him Kak-kah-ge—the Raven. Happy hunter was the Panther. From the woods he brought the pheasant, Brought the red deer and the rabbit, Brought the trout from Gitchee Gumee— Brought the mallard from the marshes— Royal feast for boy and mother: Brought the hides of fox and beaver, Brought the skins of mink and otter, Lured the loon and took his blanket, Took his blanket for the Raven. Winter swiftly followed winter, And again the tekenagun Held a babe—a tawny daughter, Held a dark-eyed, dimpled daughter; And they called her Waub-omee-mee Thus they named her—the White-Pigeon. But as winter followed winter Cold and sullen grew the Panther; Sat and smoked his pipe in silence; When he spoke he spoke in anger; In the forest often tarried Many days, and homeward turning, Brought no game unto his wigwam; Only brought his empty quiver, Brought his dark and sullen visage.

Sad at heart and very lonely Sat the Sea-Gull in the wigwam; Sat and swung the tekenagun Sat and sang to Waub-omee-mee: Thus she sang to Waub-omee-mee, Thus the lullaby she chanted:

Wa-wa, wa-wa, wa-we-yea; Kah-ween, nee-zheka ke-diaus-ai, Ke-gah nau-wai, ne-me-go s'ween, Ne-baun, ne-baun, ne-daun-is ais, Wa-wa, wa-wa, wa-we-yea; Ne-baun, ne-baun, ne-daun-is-ais, E-we wa-wa, wa-we-yea, E-we wa-wa, wa-we-yea.


Swing, swing, little one, lullaby; Thou'rt not left alone to weep; Mother cares for you—she is nigh; Sleep, my little one, sweetly sleep; Swing, swing, little one, lullaby; Mother watches you—she is nigh; Gently, gently, wee one, swing; Gently, gently, while I sing E-we wa-wa—lullaby, E-we wa-wa—lullaby.

Homeward to his lodge returning Kindly greeting found the hunter, Fire to warm and food to nourish, Golden trout from Gitchee Gumee, Caught by Kah-kah-ge—the Raven. With a snare he caught the rabbit— Caught Wabose,[7] the furry-footed, Caught Penay,[7] the forest-drummer; Sometimes with his bow and arrows, Shot the red deer in the forest, Shot the squirrel in the pine-top, Shot Ne-ka, the wild-goose, flying. Proud as Waub-Ojeeg, the warrior, To the lodge he bore his trophies. So when homeward turned the Panther, Ever found he food provided, Found the lodge-fire brightly burning, Found the faithful Sea-Gull waiting. "You are cold," she said, "and famished; Here are fire and food, my husband." Not by word or look he answered; Only ate the food provided, Filled his pipe and pensive puffed it, Sat and smoked in sullen silence. Once—her dark eyes full of hunger— Thus she spoke and thus besought him: "Tell me, O my silent Panther, Tell me, O beloved husband, What has made you sad and sullen? Have you met some evil spirit— Met some goblin in the forest? Has he put a spell upon you— Filled your heart with bitter waters, That you sit so sad and sullen, Sit and smoke, but never answer, Only when the storm is on you?"

Gruffly then the Panther answered: "Brave among the brave is Panther Son of Waub-Ojeeg, the warrior, And the brave are ever silent; But a whining dog is woman, Whining ever like a coward." Forth into the tangled forest, Threading through the thorny thickets, Treading trails on marsh and meadow, Sullen strode the moody hunter. Saw he not the bear or beaver, Saw he not the elk or roebuck; From his path the red fawn scampered, But no arrow followed after; From his den the sly wolf listened, But no twang of bow-string heard he. Like one walking in his slumber, Listless, dreaming, walked the Panther; Surely had some witch bewitched him, Some bad spirit of the forest.

When the Sea-Gull wed the Panther, Fair was she and full of laughter; Like the robin in the spring-time, Sang from sunrise till the sunset; But the storms of many winters Sifted frost upon her tresses, Seamed her tawny face with wrinkles. Not alone the storms of winters Seamed her tawny face with wrinkles. Twenty winters for the Panther Had she ruled the humble wigwam; For her haughty lord and master Borne the burdens on the journey, Gathered fagots for the lodge-fire, Tanned the skins of bear and beaver, Tanned the hides of moose and red-deer; Made him moccasins and leggins, Decked his hood with quills and feathers— Colored quills of Kaug,[8] the thorny, Feathers from Kenew,[8] the eagle. For a warrior brave was Panther; Often had he met the foemen, Met the bold and fierce Dakotas, Westward on the war-path met them; And the scalps he won were numbered, Numbered seven by Kenew-feathers. Sad at heart was Sea-Gull waiting, Watching, waiting in the wigwam; Not alone the storms of winters Sifted frost upon her tresses.

Ka-be-bon-ik-ka, the mighty,[9] He that sends the cruel winter, He that turned to stone the Giant, From the distant Thunder-mountain, Far across broad Gitchee Gumee, Sent his warning of the winter, Sent the white frost and Kewaydin,[10] Sent the swift and hungry North-wind. Homeward to the South the Summer Turned and fled the naked forests. With the Summer flew the robin, Flew the bobolink and blue-bird. Flock-wise following chosen leaders, Like the shaftless heads of arrows Southward cleaving through the ether, Soon the wild-geese followed after. One long moon the Sea-Gull waited, Watched and waited for her husband, Till at last she heard his footsteps, Heard him coming through the thicket. Forth she went to met her husband, Joyful went to greet her husband. Lo behind the haughty hunter, Closely following in his footsteps, Walked a young and handsome woman, Walked the Red Fox from the island— Gitchee Menis the Grand Island— Followed him into the wigwam, Proudly took her seat beside him. On the Red Fox smiled the hunter, On the hunter smiled the woman.

Old and wrinkled was the Sea-Gull, Good and true, but old and wrinkled. Twenty winters for the Panther Had she ruled the humble wigwam, Borne the burdens on the journey, Gathered fagots for the lodge-fire, Tanned the skins of bear and beaver, Tanned the hides of moose and red-deer, Made him moccasins and leggins, Decked his hood with quills and feathers, Colored quills of Kaug, the thorny, Feathers from the great war-eagle; Ever diligent and faithful, Ever patient, ne'er complaining. But like all brave men the Panther Loved a young and handsome woman; So he dallied with the danger, Dallied with the fair Algonkin,[11] Till a magic mead she gave him, Brewed of buds of birch and cedar.[12] Madly then he loved the woman; Then she ruled him, then she held him Tangled in her raven tresses, Tied and tangled in her tresses.

Ah, the tall and tawny Panther! Ah, the brave and brawny Panther! Son of Waub-Ojeeg, the warrior! With a slender hair she led him, With a slender hair she drew him, Drew him often to her wigwam; There she bound him, there she held him Tangled in her raven tresses, Tied and tangled in her tresses. Ah, the best of men are tangled— Sometimes tangled in the tresses Of a fair and crafty woman.

So the Panther wed the Red Fox, And she followed to his wigwam. Young again he seemed and gladsome, Glad as Raven when the father Made his first bow from the elm-tree, From the ash-tree made his arrows, Taught him how to aim his arrows, How to shoot Wabose—the rabbit. Then again the brawny hunter Brought the black bear and the beaver, Brought the haunch of elk and red-deer, Brought the rabbit and the pheasant— Choicest bits of all for Red Fox. For her robes he brought the sable, Brought the otter and the ermine, Brought the black-fox tipped with silver.

But the Sea-Gull murmured never, Not a word she spoke in anger, Went about her work as ever, Tanned the skins of bear and beaver, Tanned the hides of moose and red-deer, Gathered fagots for the lodge-fire, Gathered rushes from the marshes; Deftly into mats she wove them; Kept the lodge as bright as ever. Only to herself she murmured, All alone with Waub-omee-mee, On the tall and toppling highland, O'er the wilderness of waters; Murmured to the murmuring waters, Murmured to the Nebe-naw-baigs— To the spirits of the waters; On the wild waves poured her sorrow. Save the infant on her bosom With her dark eyes wide with wonder, None to hear her but the spirits, And the murmuring pines above her. Thus she cast away her burdens, Cast her burdens on the waters; Thus unto the good Great Spirit, Made her lowly lamentation: "Wahonowin!—showiness![13] Gitchee Manito, bena-nin! Nah, Ba-ba, showain nemeshin! Wahonowin!—Wahonowin!"

Ka-be-bon-ik-ka,[9] the mighty, He that sends the cruel winter, From the distant Thunder-mountain On the shore of Gitchee Gumee, On the rugged northern border, Sent his solemn, final warning, Sent the white wolves of the Nor'land.[14] Like the dust of stars in ether— In the Pathway of the Spirits,[15] Like the sparkling dust of diamonds, Fell the frost upon the forest, On the mountains and the meadows, On the wilderness of woodland, On the wilderness of waters. All the lingering fowls departed— All that seek the South in winter, All but Shingebis, the diver;[16] He defies the Winter-maker, Sits and laughs at Winter-maker.

Ka-be-bon-ik-ka, the mighty, From his wigwam called Kewaydin— From his home among the icebergs, From the sea of frozen waters, Called the swift and hungry North-wind. Then he spread his mighty pinions Over all the land and shook them. Like the white down of Waubese[17] Fell the feathery snow and covered All the marshes and the meadows, All the hill-tops and the highlands. Then old Peboean[18]—the winter— Laughed along the stormy waters, Danced upon the windy headlands, On the storm his white hair streaming, And his steaming breath, ascending, On the pine-tops and the cedars Fell in frosty mists of silver, Sprinkling spruce and fir with silver, Sprinkling all the woods with silver.

By the lodge-fire all the winter Sat the Sea-Gull and the Red Fox, Sat and kindly spoke and chatted, Till the twain seemed friends together. Friends they seemed in word and action, But within the breast of either Smoldered still the baneful embers— Fires of jealousy and hatred— Like a camp-fire in the forest Left by hunters and deserted; Only seems a bed of ashes, But the East wind, Wabun-noodin, Scatters through the woods the ashes, Fans to flame the sleeping embers, And the wild-fire roars and rages, Roars and rages through the forest. So the baneful embers smoldered, Smoldered in the breast of either. From the far-off Sunny Islands, From the pleasant land of Summer, Where the spirits of the blessed Feel no more the fangs of hunger, Or the cold breath of Kewaydin, Came a stately youth and handsome, Came Segun,[19] the foe of Winter. Like the rising sun his face was, Like the shining stars his eyes were, Light his footsteps as the Morning's, In his hand were buds and blossoms, On his brow a blooming garland. Straightway to the icy wigwam Of old Peboean, the Winter, Strode Segun and quickly entered. There old Peboean sat and shivered, Shivered o'er his dying lodge-fire.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse