"Herbert," continued Wolston, "was a youth of resolution and energy. He entertained the same opinion as Fritz; and instead of wasting his time in idle despondency, got together some articles of merchandise, and sailed for the Indian Archipelago, promising his friends that he would return to his native land in two years."
"Two years is a long time," remarked Mary; "but sometimes it passes away very quickly."
"Ah!" observed Sophia, Cecilia, in the meantime, would redouble her charities and her prayers."
"The two years passed away, then a third, and then a fourth, but not a single word had either been heard of or from the absentee. Cecilia was rich, and her hand was sought by many wealthy suitors, but hitherto she had rejected them all."
"The dear, good Cecilia," cried Sophia.
"Up till this period the family had permitted her to have her own way. But as it is necessary for authority to prevent excesses of all kinds, they thought it time now to interfere; they could not allow her to sacrifice her whole life for a shadow. Her parents, therefore, insisted upon her making a choice of one or other of the suitors for her hand. She requested grace for one year more, which was granted."
"Come back, truant, quick; come back, Master Herbert!" cried Sophia.
"There now, Willis," cried Jack, "you see the effect of your new world; people go away there, and never come back again."
"Oh, but you must bring him back in time, father; you must indeed," urged Sophia.
"If it were only a romance I were relating to you, Sophia, I could very easily bring him back; but the narrative I am giving you is a matter of fact, which I cannot alter at will. There would be no difficulty in bringing a richly-laden East Indiaman, commanded by Captain Philipson, into the Severn, and making Herbert and Cecilia conclude the story in each other's arms, but it would not be true."
"Then if I had been Cecilia, I should have become a nun," said Mary, timidly.
"Exaggeration, my daughter, is an enemy to truth. It is easy to say, 'I would become a nun,' and in Roman Catholic countries it is quite as easy to become one; but, though it may be sublime to retire in this way from the world, it is frightful when a woman has afterwards to regret the inconsiderate step she has taken, and which is often the case with these poor creatures."
"As you said of myself," remarked Willis, "it is a crime to go down with a sinking ship so long as there is a straw to cling to."
"I presume," continued Wolston, "that during this year poor Cecilia prayed fervently for the return of her old playfellow; but her prayers were all in vain, the year expired, and still no news of the young man; at last she despaired of ever seeing him again, and, after a severe struggle with herself, she decided upon complying with the desire of her parents and her friends. A few months after the expiring of the year of grace, she was the affianced bride of a highly respectable, well-to-do, middle-aged gentleman. John Lindsey, her intended husband, could not boast of his good looks; he was little, rather stout, was deeply pitted in the face with the small-pox, and had a very red nose, but he was considered by the ladies of Bristol as a very good match for all that."
"Oh, Cecilia, how ridiculous!" exclaimed Sophia.
"Better, at all events, than turning nun," said Jack.
"The family this season had gone to pass the summer at the sea-coast; and one day that Cecilia and her intended were taking their accustomed walk along the shore—"
"Holloa!" cried Jack, "the truant is going to appear, after all."
"John Lindsey, observing a ring of some value upon Cecilia's finger, politely asked her if she had any objections to tell him its history. She replied that she had none, and told him it was a gift of young Philipson's. 'I am well acquainted with your story,' said Lindsey, 'and do not blame the constancy with which you have treasured the memory of that young man; on the contrary, I respect you for it—in fact, it was the knowledge of your self-sacrifice to this affection and all its attendant circumstances, that led me to solicit the honor of your hand; for, said I to myself, one who has evinced so much devotion for a mere sentiment, is never likely to prove unfaithful to sacred vows pledged at the altar,' 'Come what may, you may at least rely upon that, sir,' she answered. 'Then,' continued Lindsey, 'as an eternal barrier is about to be placed between yourself and your past affections, perhaps you will pardon my desire to separate you, as much as possible, from everything that is likely to recal them to your mind.' Saying that, he gently drew the ring from her finger, and threw it into the sea."
It was strongly suspected that Mary shed a tear at this point of the recital.
"It is all over with you now, Herbert," cried Fritz.
"You had better make a bonfire of your ships, like Fernando Cortez in Mexico; or, if you are on your way home, better pray for a hurricane to swallow you up, than have all your bright hopes dashed to atoms, when you arrive in port."
"I am only a little girl," said Sophia; "but I know what I should have said, if the gentleman had done the same thing to me."
"And what would you have said, child?" inquired her mother.
"I should have said, that I was not the Doge of Venice, and had no intention of marrying the British Channel."
"Can you describe the ceremony to which you refer?"
"Yes; but it would interrupt papa's story, and Jack would laugh at me."
"Never mind my story," replied her father, "there is plenty of time to finish that."
"And as for me," said Jack, "though I do not wear a cocked hat and knee breeches, and though, in other respects, my tailor has rather neglected my outward man, still I know what is due to a lady and a queen."
"There, he begins already!" said Sophia.
"Never mind him, child; go on with your account of the marriage."
"Well," began Sophia, "for a long time, there had been disputes between the states of Bologna, Ancona, and Venice, as to which possessed the sovereignty of the Adriatic."
"If it had been a dispute about the Sovereignty of the ocean in general," remarked Willis, "there would have been another competitor."
"Venice," continued Sophia, "carried the day, and about 1275 or 76 she resolved to celebrate her victory by an annual ceremony. For this purpose, a magnificent galley was built, encrusted with gold, silver, and precious stones. This floating bijou was called the Bucentaure, was guarded in the arsenal, whence it was removed on the eve of the Ascension. Next day the Doge, the patriarch, and the Council of Ten embarked, and the galley was towed out to the open sea, but not far from the shore. There, in the presence of the foreign ambassadors, whilst the clergy chanted the marriage service, the Doge advanced majestically to the front of the galley, and there formally wedded the sea."
"He might have done worse," observed Willis.
"The ceremony," continued Sophia, "consisted in the Doge throwing a ring into the sea, saying, 'We wed thee, O sea! to mark the real and perpetual dominion we possess over thee.'"
"And it may be added," observed Becker, "that the history of Venice shows how religiously the spouses of the Adriatic kept their vows."
"Now," said Sophia, "that I have told my tale, let us hear what became of Cecilia."
"Well, the marriage took place the morning after Herbert's ring had been thrown to the fishes. Whilst the bride, bridegroom, and their friends were congratulating each other over the wedding breakfast, as is usual in England on such occasions, Cecilia's father was called out of the room."
"Too late," remarked Fritz.
"Herbert Philipson had arrived that same morning; but, as Fritz observes, he was just an hour too late. He had acquired a fortune, but his long-cherished hopes of happiness were completely blasted."
"Why did he stay away five years without writing?" inquired Mrs. Wolston.
"He had written several times, but at that time no regular post had been established, and his letters had never reached their destination."
"When did he find out that Cecilia was married?"
"Well, some people think it more humane to kill a man by inches rather than by a single blow of the axe. Not so with Herbert's friends; the first news that greeted him on landing were, that his ever-remembered Cecilia was probably at that moment before the altar pledging her vows to another."
"I should rather have had a chimney-pot tumble on my head," remarked Willis.
"Herbert was a man in every sense of the word—the mode of his departure proves that. On hearing this painful intelligence, he simply covered his face with his hands, and, after a moment's thought, resolved to see his lost bride at least once more."
"Poor Herbert!" sighed Mary.
"Foster was thunderstruck when the stranger declared himself to be the son of his old friend; and, after cordially bidding him welcome, sorrowfully asked him what he meant to do. 'I should wish to see Mrs. Lindsey in presence of her husband,' he replied, 'providing you have no objections to introduce me to the company.'"
"Bravo!" ejaculated Willis.
"Foster could not refuse this favor to an unfortunate, who had just been disinherited of his dearest hopes. He, therefore, took Herbert by the hand and led him into the room. Nobody recognized him. 'Ladies and gentlemen,' said he, 'permit me to introduce Mr. Herbert Philipson, who has just arrived from Sumatra.' You may readily conceive the dismay this unexpected announcement called up into the countenances of the guests. There was only one person in the room who was calm, tranquil, and unmoved—that person was Cecilia herself. She rose courteously, bade him welcome, hoped he was well, coolly asked him why he had not written to his friends, and politely asked him to take a seat beside herself and husband, just, for all the world, as if he had been some country cousin or poor relation to whom she wished to show a little attention."
"I would rather have been at the bottom of the sea than in her place, for all that," said Mary.
"Why? She had nothing to reproach herself with. Had she not waited long enough for him?"
"Young heads," remarked Becker, "are not always stored with sense. A foolish pledge, given in a moment of thoughtlessness is often obstinately adhered to in spite of reason and argument. The young idea delights in miraculous instances of fidelity. What more charming to a young and ardent mind than the loves of Dante and Beatrix, of Eleonora and Tasso, of Petrarch and Laura, of Abelard and Heloise, or of Dean Swift and Stella? Young people do not reflect that most of these stories are apocryphal, and that the men who figure in them sought to add to their renown the prestige of originality; they put on a passion as ordinary mortals put on a new dress, they yielded to imagination and not to the law of the heart, and almost all of them paid by a life of wretchedness the penalty of their dreams."
"That is, I presume," remarked Mrs. Wolston, "you do not object to any reasonable amount of constancy, but you object to its being carried to an unwarrantable excess."
"Exactly so, madam," replied Becker; "constancy, like every thing else when reasonable limits are exceeded, becomes a vice."
"The merriments of the marriage breakfast," continued Wolston "slightly interrupted by the arrival of the new guest, were resumed. Fresh dishes were brought in, and, amongst others, a fine turbot was placed on the table. The gentleman who was engaged in carving the turbot struck the fish-knife against a hard substance."
"I know what!" exclaimed two or three voices.
"I rather think not," said Wolston, drily.
"Oh, yes, the ring! the ring!"
"No, it was merely the bone that runs from the head to the tail of the fish."
"Oh, father," cried Sophia, "how can you tease us so?"
"If they had found the ring," replied Wolston, laughing, "I should have no motive for concealing it. Fruit was afterwards placed before Herbert, and, when nobody was looking, he pulled a clasped dagger out of his pocket."
Here Sophia pressed her hands closely on her ears, in order to avoid hearing what followed.
"It was a very beautiful poignard," continued Wolston, "and rather a bijou than a weapon; and, as the servants had neglected to hand him a fruit-knife, he made use of it in paring an apple."
"Is it all over?" inquired Sophia, removing a hand from one ear.
"Alas! yes!" said Jack, lugubriously, "he has been and done it."
"O the monster!"
"Travelling carriages having arrived at the door for the bridal party, Herbert quietly departed."
"What!" exclaimed Sophia, "did they not arrest and drag him to prison?"
"Oh," replied Jack, "the crime was not so atrocious as it appears."
"No; you must bear in mind that young Philipson had passed the preceding five years of his life amongst demi-savages, whose manners and customs he had, to a certain extent, necessarily contracted. In some countries, what we call crimes are only regarded as peccadillos. In France, for example, till very lately, there existed what was called the law of combette, by right of which pardon might be obtained for any misdeed on payment of a certain sum of money. There was a fixed price for every imaginable crime. A man might consequently be a Blue Beard if he liked, it was only necessary to consult the tariff in the first instance, and see to what extent his means would enable him to indulge his fancy for horrors."
"On quitting the house," continued Wolston, "Herbert Philipson bent his way to the shore, and shortly after was observed to plunge into the sea."
"So much the better," exclaimed Sophia; "it saved his friends a more dreadful spectacle."
"The weather being fine and the water warm, Herbert enjoyed his bath immensely; he then returned to his hotel, went early to bed, and slept soundly till next morning."
"The wretch!" cried Sophia, "to sleep soundly after assassinating his old playfellow, who had suffered so much on his account."
"It is pretty certain," continued Wolston, "that, if Philipson had been left entirely to himself, he would always have shown the same degree of moderation he had hitherto displayed."
"Oh, yes, moderation!" said Sophia.
"But his friends began to prate to him about the shameful way he had been jilted by Cecilia, and, by constantly reiterating the same thing, they at last succeeded in persuading him that he was an ill-used man. His self-esteem being roused by this silly chatter, he began to affect a ridiculous desolation, and to perpetrate all manner of outrageous extravagances."
"Bad friends," remarked Willis, "are like sinking ships; they drag you down to their own level."
"The first absurd thing he did was to purchase a yacht, and when a storm arose that forced the hardy fishermen to take shelter in port, he went out to sea, and it is quite a miracle that he escaped drowning. Then, if there were a doubtful scheme afloat, he was sure to take shares in it. Nothing delighted him more than to go up in a balloon; he would have gladly swung himself on the car outside if the proprietor had allowed him."
"I have often seen balloons in the air," remarked Willis, "but I could never make out their dead reckoning."
"A balloon," replied Ernest, "is nothing more than an artificial cloud, and its power of ascension depends upon the volume of air it displaces.
"Very good, Master Ernest, so far as the balloon itself is concerned; but then there is the weight of the car, passengers, provisions, and apparatus to account for."
"Hydrogen gas, used in the inflation of balloons, is forty times lighter than air. If a balloon is made large enough, the weight of the car and all that it contains, added to that of the gas, will fall considerably short of the weight of the air displaced by the machine."
"I suppose it rises in the air just as an empty bottle well corked rises in the water?"
"Very nearly. Air is lighter than water; consequently, any vessel filled with the one will rise to the surface of the other. So in the case of balloons. The gas, in the first place, must be inclosed in an envelope through which it cannot escape. Silk prepared with India-rubber is the material usually employed. As the balloon rises, the gas in the interior distends, because the air becomes lighter the less it is condensed by its superincumbent masses; hence it is requisite to leave a margin for this increase in the volume of the gas, otherwise the balloon would burst in the air."
"If a balloon were allowed to ascend without hindrance where would it stop?"
"It would continue ascending till it reached a layer of air as light as the gas; beyond that point it could not go."
"And if the voyagers do not wish to go quite so far?"
"Then there is a valve by which the gas may be allowed to escape, till the weight of the machine and its volume of air are equal, when it ceases to ascend. If a little more is permitted to escape, the balloon descends."
"And should it land on the roof of a house or the top of a tree, the voyagers have their necks broken."
"That can only happen to bunglers; there is not the least necessity for landing where danger is to be apprehended. When the aeronaut is near the ground, and sees that the spot is unfavorable for debarkation, he drops a little ballast, the balloon mounts, and he comes down again somewhere else."
"The fellow that made the first voyage must have been very daring."
"The first ascent was made by Montgolfier in 1782, and he was followed by Rosiers and d'Arlandes."
"With your permission, father," said Ernest, "I will claim priority in aerial travelling for Icarus, Doedalus, and Phaeton."
"Certainly; you are justified in doing so. Gay-Lussac, a philosophic Frenchman, rose, in 1804, to the height of seven thousand yards."
"He must have felt a little giddy," remarked Jack.
"Most of the functions of the body were affected, more or less, by the extreme rarity of the air at that height. Its dryness caused wet parchment to crisp. He observed that the action of the magnetic needle diminished as he ascended, sounds gradually ceased to reach his ear, and the wind itself ceased to be felt."
"That, of course," remarked Ernest, "was when he was travelling in the same direction and at the same speed."
"Well," said Jack, "we can find materials here for a balloon; the ladies have silk dresses, there is plenty of India-rubber—we used to make boots and shoes of it; hydrogen gas can be obtained from a variety of substances. What, then, is to prevent us paying a visit to some of Ernest's friends in the skies?"
"Unfortunately for your project, Jack, no one has discovered the art of guiding a balloon; consequently, instead of finding yourself at Cassiope, you might land at Sirius, where your reception would be somewhat cool."
"But what became of Herbert?" inquired one of the ladies.
"Singularly enough, he escaped all the dangers he so recklessly braved, and all the bad speculations he embarked in turned out good. Somehow or other, the moment he took part in a desperate scheme it became profitable."
"Ah!" exclaimed Sophia, "his victim, like a guardian angel, continued to watch over him."
"When the cholera appeared in England, he was sure to be found where the cases were most numerous. He followed up the pest with so much pertinacity and publicity, that it was no unusual thing to find it announced in the newspapers that Philipson and the cholera had arrived in such and such a town."
"The bane and the antidote," remarked Jack.
"If Cecilia had been one of those women who delight in horse-racing, fox-hunting, opera-boxes, and public executions, she would have been highly amused to see her old friend's name constantly turning up under such extraordinary circumstances."
"Is she not dead, then?" inquired Sophia, with astonishment,
"It appears that her wounds were not mortal," quietly replied her mother.
"Besides," observed Jack, "there are human frames so constituted that they can bear an immense amount of cutting and slashing. So in the case of animals; there, for instance, is the fresh-water polypus—if you cut this creature lengthwise straight through the middle, a right side will grow on the one half and a left side on the other, so that there will be two polypi instead of one. The same thing occurs if you cut one through the middle crosswise, a head grows on the one half and a tail on the other, so that you have two entire polypi either way."
"And you may add," observed Ernest, "since so interesting a subject is on the tapis, that if two of these polypi happen to quarrel over their prey, the largest generally swallows the smallest, in order to get it out of the way; and the latter, with the exception of being a little cramped for space, is not in the slightest degree injured by the operation."
"And does that state of matters continue any length of time?"
"The polypus that is inside the other may probably get tired of confinement, in which case it makes its exit by the same route it entered; but, if too lazy to do that, it makes a hole in the body of its antagonist and gets out that way. But, what is most curious of all, these processes do not appear to put either of the creatures to the slightest inconvenience."
"I am quite at a loss to make you all out," said Sophia.
"Well, my child," replied her mother, "you should not close up your ears in the middle of a story."
"Cecilia, or rather Mrs. Lindsey, however," continued Wolston, "was a pious, painstaking, simple-minded woman, who devoted her whole attention to her domestic duties. Notwithstanding her fortune, she did not neglect the humblest affairs of the household, and thought only of making her husband pleased with his home. When she was told of the vagaries of Philipson, she prayed in private that he might be led from his evil ways, and could not help thanking Providence that she was not the wife of such a dreadful scapegrace."
"I should think so," remarked Mrs. Becker.
"At last, Herbert Philipson astonished even his own companions by a crowning act of folly. There was then a young woman in Bristol, of good parentage, but an unmitigated virago; her family were thoroughly ashamed of her temper and her exploits. They allowed her to have her own way, simply for fear that, through contradiction, she might plunge herself into even worse courses than those she now habitually followed. In short, she was the talk and jest of the whole town."
"What a charming creature!" remarked Mrs. Becker.
"No servant of her own sex could put up with her for two days together; she styled everybody that came near her fools and asses, and did not hesitate to strike them if they ventured to contradict her. She got on, however, tolerably well with ostlers, stable-boys, cabmen, and such like, because they could treat her in her own style, and were not ruffled by her abuse."
"How amiable!" exclaimed Mrs. Wolston.
"Herbert heard of this young person, and, through a fast friend of his own, obtained an introduction to her, and on the very first interview he offered her his hand. He was known still to be a wealthy man, so neither the lady herself nor anybody connected with her made the slightest objection to the match, thinking probably that, if there were six of the one, there were at least half a dozen of the other."
"They ought to have gone to Bedlam, instead of to church," said Willis; "that is my idea."
"Nevertheless, they went to church; and, after the marriage, Cecilia sought and obtained an introduction to the lady, and, whether by entreaties or by her good example, I cannot say; be this as it may, the unpromising personage in question became one of the best wives and the best mothers that ever graced a domestic circle—in this respect even excelling the pattern Cecilia herself; and, what is still more to the purpose, she succeeded in completely reforming her husband. When I left England there was not a more prosperous merchant, nor a more estimable man in the whole city of Bristol, than Herbert Philipson."
"From which we may conclude," remarked Mrs. Becker, "it is always advisable to have angels for friends."
"We may also conclude," remarked Mrs. Wolston, "that when a stroke of adversity, or any other misfortune, overturns the edifice of happiness we had erected for the future, we may build a new structure with fresh material, which may prove more durable than the first."
"Talking of having angels for friends," said Becker, "puts me in mind of the association of Saint Louis Gonzaga, at Rome. On the anniversary of this saint, the young and merry phalanx forming the association march in procession to one of the public gardens. In the centre of this garden a magnificent altar has been previously erected, on which is placed a chafing-dish filled with burning coals. The procession forms itself into an immense ring round the altar, broken here and there by a band of music. These bands play hymns in honor of the saints, and other morceaux of a sacred character. Each member of the association holds a letter inclosed in an embossed and highly ornamented envelope, bound round with gay-colored ribbons and threads of gold. These letters are messages from the young correspondents to their friends in heaven, and are addressed to 'Il Santo Giovane Luigi Gonzaga, in Paradiso.' At a given signal, the letters, in the midst of profound silence, are placed on the chafing-dish. This done, the music resounds on all sides, and the assembly burst out into loud acclamations, during which the letters are supposed to be carried up into heaven by the angels."
"A curious and interesting ceremony," remarked Mrs. Wolston, "and one that may possibly do good, inasmuch as it may induce the young people composing the association to persevere in generous resolutions."
The two families again separated for the night. And whilst the young men were escorting the Wolstons to their tree, Sophia went towards Jack. "Will you tell me," inquired she, "what happened whilst I had my ears closed up, Jack?"
"Yes, with all my heart, if you will tell me first what the chimpanzee had been about during our absence."
"Well, he got up into our tree when we were out of the way. After soaping his chin, he had taken one of papa's razors, and just as he was beginning to shave himself, some one entered and caught him."
"Oh, is that all? What I have to tell you is a great deal more appalling than that."
"Well, then, be quick."
"But I am afraid you will be shocked."
"Is it very dreadful?"
"More so than you would imagine. If you dream about it during the night, you will not be angry with me for telling you?"
"No, I will be courageous, and am prepared to hear the worst."
"What was your father saying when you shut up your ears?"
"Herbert had just pulled out a dagger."
"And when you took your hands away?"
"All was then over; Herbert had done some dreadful thing with the dagger, and I want to know what it was."
"He pared an apple with it," replied Jack, bursting into a roar of laughter, and, running off, he left Sophia to her reflections.
A few seconds after he returned. This time he had almost a solemn air, the laughter had vanished from his visage, like breath from polished steel.
"Miss Sophia," inquired he gravely, "are you rich?"
"I don't know, Master Jack; are you?"
"Well, I have not the slightest idea either."
THE TEARS OF CHILDHOOD AND RAIN OF THE TROPICS—CHARLES'S WAIN—VOLUNTARY ENLISTMENT—A LIKENESS GUARANTEED—THE WORLD AT PEACE—ALAS, POOR MARY!—THE SAME BREATH FOR TWO BEINGS—THE FIRST PILLOW—THE LOGIC OF THE HEART—HOW FRITZ SUPPORTED GRIEF—A GRAIN OF SAND AND THE HIMALAYA.
At daybreak next morning, all the eyes in the colony were busily engaged in scrutinizing the sky. This time the operation seemed satisfactory, for immediately afterwards, all the hands were, with equal diligence, occupied in packing up and making other preparations for the meditated excursion to the remote dependencies of New Switzerland.
The dense veil that the day before had shrouded them in gloom was now broken up into shreds. The azure depths beyond had assumed the appearance of a blue tunic bespattered with white, and the clouds suggested the idea of a celestial shepherd, driving myriads of sheep to the pasture. Children alone can dry up their tears with the rapidity of Nature in the tropics; perhaps we may have already made the remark, and must, therefore, beg pardon for repeating the simile a second time.
In a short time, the two families were assembled on the lawn, in front of the domestic trees of Falcon's Nest, ready to start on their journey. The cow and the buffalo were yoked to the carriage, which was snugly covered over with a tarpauling, thrown across circular girds, like the old-fashioned waggons of country carriers. Frank mounted the box in front; Mrs. Becker, Wolston, and Sophia got inside; whilst Ernest and Jack, mounted on ostriches that had been trained and broken in as riding horses, took up a position on each side, where the doors of the vehicle ought to have been. These dispositions made, after a few lashes from the whip, this party started off at a brisk rate in the direction of Waldeck.
It had been previously arranged that one half of the expedition should go by land, and the other half by water, and that on their return this order should be reversed, so that both the interior and the coast might be inspected at one and the same time. The only exception was made in favor of Willis, who was permitted both to go and return by sea.
The second party, consisting of Mrs. Wolston, Becker, Mary, and Fritz, started on foot in the direction of the coast. They had not gone far before Becker observed a large broadside plastered on a tree.
"What is that?" he inquired.
Nobody could give a satisfactory reply.
"Perhaps," suggested Mrs. Wolston, "paper grows ready made on the trees of this wonderful country."
"They all approached, and, much to their astonishment, read as follows:—
"The renowned Professor Ernest Becker is about to enlighten the benighted inhabitants of this country, by giving a course of lectures on optics. The agonizing doubts that have hitherto enveloped astronomical science, particularly as regards the interiors of the moon and the stars, have arisen from the absurd practice of looking at them during the night. These doubts are about to be removed for ever by the aforesaid professor, as he intends to exhibit the luminaries in question in open day. He will also place Charles's Wain[C] at the disposal of any one who is desirous of taking a drive in the Milky Way. The learned professor will likewise stand for an indefinite period on his head; and whilst in this position will clearly demonstrate the rotundity of the earth, and the tendency of heavy bodies to the centre of gravity. In order that the prices of admission may be in accordance with the intrinsic value of the lectures, nothing will be charged for the boxes, the entrance to the pit will be gratis, and the gallery will be thrown open for the free entry of the people. The audience will be expected to assume a horizontal position. Persons given to snoring are invited to stay at home."
"I rather think I should know that style," remarked Willis.
"It is a pity Ernest is not with us," observed Fritz; "but the placard will keep for a day or two."
"They say laughing is good for digestion," remarked Mrs. Wolston; "and if so, it must be confessed that Master Jack is a useful member of the colony in a sanitary point of view."
The party had scarcely advanced a hundred paces farther, when Fritz called out,
"Holloa! there is another broadside in sight."
This one was headed by a smart conflict between two ferocious looking hussars, and was couched in the following terms:—
"All the inhabitants of this colony capable of bearing arms, who are panting after glory, are invited to the Fig Tree, at Falcon's Nest, there to enrol themselves in the registry of Fritz Becker, who is about to undertake the conquest of the world. Nobody is compelled to volunteer, but those who hold back will be reckoned contumacious, and will be taken into custody, and kept on raw coffee till such time as they evince a serious desire to enlist. There will be no objection to recruits returning home at the end of the war, if they come out of it alive. Neither will there be any objections to the survivors bringing back a marshal's baton, if they can get one. The Commander-in-chief will charge himself with the fruits of the victory. Surgical operations will be performed at his cost, and cork legs will be served out with the rations. In the event of a profitable campaign, a monument will be erected to the memory of the defunct, by way of a reward for their heroism on the field of battle."
"Well, Fritz," said Becker, with a merry twinkle in his eye, "you were sorry that Ernest was not present to hear the last placard read; fortunately, you are on the spot yourself this time."
Fritz tried to look amused, but the attempt was a decided failure.
When the party had gone a little farther, another announcement met their gaze; all were curious to know whose turn was come now; as they approached, the following interesting question, in large letters, stared them in the face:—
"HAVE YOU HAD YOUR PORTRAIT TAKEN YET?
"It has been reserved for the present age, and for this prolific territory, so exuberant in cabbages, turnips, and other potables, to produce the greatest of living artists—real genius—who is destined to outshine all the Michel Angelos and Rubenses of former ages. Not that these men were entirely devoid of talent, but because they could do nothing without their palette and their paint brushes. Now that illustrious maestro, Mr. Jack Becker, has both genius and ingenuity, for he has succeeded in dispensing with the aforementioned troublesome auxiliaries of his art. His plan which has the advantage of not being patented, consists in placing his subject before a mirror, where he is permitted to stay till the portrait takes root in the glass. By this novel method the original and the copy will be subject alike to the ravages of time, so that no one, on seeing a portrait, will be liable to mistake the grand-mother for the grand-daughter. Likenesses guaranteed. Payments, under all circumstances, to be made in advance.
"Ah, well," said Becker, laughing, "it appears that the scapegrace has not spared himself."
"I hope there is not a fourth proclamation," said Mrs. Wolston.
"There are no more trees on our route, at all events," replied Becker.
"Glad to hear that; Jack must respect the avocation chosen by Frank, since he sees nothing in it to ridicule."
As they drew near the Jackal River, in which the pinnace was moored, Mary and Fritz were a little in advance of the party.
"Are you really determined to turn the world upside down, Master Fritz?"
"At present, Miss Wolston, I am myself the sum and substance of my army, in addition to which I have not yet quite made up my mind."
"It is an odd fancy to entertain to say the least of it."
"Does it displease you?"
"In order that it could do that, I must first have the right to judge your projects."
"And if I gave you that right?"
"I should find the responsibility too great to accept it. Besides, a determination cannot be properly judged, without putting one's self in the position of the person that makes it. You imagine happiness consists in witnessing the shock of armies, whilst I fancy enjoyment to consist in the calm tranquility of one's home. You see our views of felicity are widely different."
"Not so very widely different as you seem to think, Miss Wolston. As yet my victories are nil; I have not yet come to an issue with my allies; to put my troops on the peace establishment I have only to disembody myself, and I disembody myself accordingly."
"Oh!" exclaimed Mary, "you are very easily turned from your purpose."
"Easily! no, Miss Wolston, not easily; you cannot admit that an objection urged by yourself is a matter of no moment, or one that can be slighted with impunity."
"Ah! here we are at the end of our journey."
"Already! the road has never appeared so short to me before."
"What!" exclaimed Mrs. Wolston, coming up to her daughter, "you appear very merry."
"Well, not without reason, mamma; I have just restored peace to the world."
The pinnace was soon launched, and, under the guidance of Willis, was making way in the direction of Waldeck. The sea had not yet recovered from the effects of the recent storm; it was still, to use an expression of Willis, "a trifle ugly." Occasionally the waves would catch the frail craft amidships, and make it lurch in an uncomfortable fashion, especially as regarded the ladies, which obliged Willis to keep closer in shore than was quite to his taste. The briny element still bore traces of its recent rage, just as anger lingers on the human face, even after it has quitted the heart.
Whilst the pinnace was in the midst of a series of irregular gyrations, a shrill scream suddenly rent the air, and at the same instant Fritz and Willis leaped overboard.
Mary had fallen into the sea.
Becker strained every nerve to stay the boat. Mrs. Wolston fell on her knees with outstretched hands, but, though in the attitude of prayer, not a word escaped her pallid lips.
The two men floated for a moment over the spot where the poor girl had sunk; suddenly Fritz disappeared, his keen eye had been of service here, for it enabled him to descry the object sought. In a few seconds he rose to the surface with Mary's inanimate body in his left arm. Willis hastened to assist him in bearing the precious burden to the boat, and Becker's powerful arms drew it on deck.
The joy that all naturally would have felt when this was accomplished had no time to enter their breasts, for they saw that the body evinced no signs of life, and a fear that the vital spark had already fled caused every frame to shudder. They felt that not a moment was to be lost; the resources of the boat were hastily put in requisition; mattresses, sheets, blankets, and dry clothes were strewn upon the deck. Mrs. Wolston had altogether lost her presence of mind, and could do nothing but press the dripping form of her daughter to her bosom.
"Friction must be tried instantly," cried Becker; "here, take this flannel and rub her body smartly with it—particularly her breast and back."
Mrs. Wolston instinctively followed these directions.
"It is of importance to warm her feet," continued Becker; "but, unfortunately, we have no means on board to make a fire."
Mrs. Wolston, in her trepidation, began breathing upon them.
"I have heard," said the Pilot, "that persons rescued from drowning are held up by the feet to allow the water to run out."
"Nonsense, Willis; a sure means of killing them outright. It is not from water that any danger is to be apprehended, but from want of air, or, rather, the power of respiration. What we have to do is to try and revive this power by such means as are within our reach."
The Pilot, meantime, endeavored to introduce a few drops of brandy between the lips of the patient. Fritz stood trembling like an aspen leaf and deadly pale; he regarded these operations as if his own life were at stake, and not the patient's.
"There remains only one other course to adopt, Mrs. Wolston," said Becker, "you must endeavor to bring your daughter to life by means of your own breath."
"Only tell me what to do, Mr. Becker, and, if every drop of blood in my body is wanted, all is at your disposal."
"You must apply your mouth to that of your daughter, and, whilst her nostrils are compressed, breathe at intervals into her breast, and so imitate the act of natural respiration."
Stronger lungs than those of a woman might have been urgent under such circumstances, but maternal love supplied what was wanting in physical strength.
The Pilot had turned the prow of the pinnace towards home; he felt that, in the present case at least, the comforts of the land were preferable to the charms of the sea.
"This time it is not my breath, but her own," said Mrs. Wolston.
"Her pulse beats," said Becker; "she lives."
"Thank God!" exclaimed Fritz and Willis in one voice.
A quarter of an hour had scarcely yet elapsed since the patient's first immersion in the sea; but this brief interval had been an age of agony to them all. As yet, her head lay quiescent on her mother's bosom, that first pillow, common alike to rich and poor, at the threshold of life.
The%signs of returning animation gradually became more and more evident; at length, the patient gently raised her head, and glanced vacantly from one object to another; then, her eyes were turned upon herself, and finally rested upon Fritz and Willis, who still bore obvious traces of their recent struggle with the waves. Here she seemed to become conscious, for her body trembled, as if some terrible thought had crossed her mind. After this paroxysm had passed, she feebly inclined her head, as if to say—"I understand—you have saved my life—I thank you." Then, like those jets of flame that are no sooner alight than they are extinguished, she again became insensible.
As soon as they reached the shore, Fritz hastened to Rockhouse, and made up a sort of palanquin of such materials as were at hand, into which Mary was placed, and thus was conveyed, with all possible care and speed, on the shoulders of the men to Falcon's Nest. A few hours afterwards she returned to consciousness and found herself in a warm bed, surrounded with all the comforts that maternal anxiety and Becker's intelligent mind could suggest.
Fritz was unceasing in his exertions; no amount of fatigue seemed to wear him out. As soon as he saw that everything had been done for the invalid that their united skill could accomplish, he bridled an untrained ostrich, and rode or rather flew off in search of the land portion of the expedition.
"Mary is saved," he cried, as he came up with them.
"From what?" inquired Wolston, anxiously.
"From the sea, that was about to swallow her up."
"And by whom?"
"By Willis, myself, and us all."
The same evening, the two families were again assembled at Falcon's Nest, and thus, for a second time, the long talked-of expedition was brought to an abrupt conclusion.
"Ah," said Willis, "we must cast anchor for a bit; yesterday it was the sky, to-day it was the sea, to-morrow it will be the land, perhaps—the wind is clearly against us."
How often does it not happen, in our pilgrimage through life, that we have the wind against us? We make a resolute determination, we set out on our journey, but the object we seek recedes as we advance; it is no use going any farther—the wind is against us. We re-commence ten, twenty, a hundred times, but the result is invariably the same. How is this? No one can tell. What are the obstacles? It is difficult to say. Perhaps, we meet with a friend who detains us; perhaps, a recollection that our memory has called, induces us to swerve from the path—the blind man that sung under our window may have something to do with it—perhaps, it was merely a fly, less than nothing.
It is not our minor undertakings, but rather our most important enterprises, that are frustrated by such trifles as these; for it must be allowed that we strive less tenaciously against an obstacle that debars us from a pleasure, than against one that separates us from a duty—in the one case we have to stem the torrent, in the other we sail with the current.
When we observe some deplorable instance of a wrecked career—when we see a man starting in life with the most brilliant prospects collapsing into a dead-weight on his fellows, we are apt to suppose that some insurmountable barrier must have crossed his path—some Himalaya, or formidable wall, like that which does not now separate China from Tartary; but no such thing. Trace the cause to its source, and what think you is invariably found? A grain of sand; the unfortunate wretch has had the wind against him—nothing more.
Rescued from the sea, Mary Wolston was now a prey to a raging fever. Ill or well, at her age there is no medium, either exuberant health or complete prostration; the juices then are turbulent and the blood is ardent.
Somehow or other, a good action attaches the doer to the recipient; so, in the case of Fritz, apart from the brotherly affection which he had vaguely vowed to entertain for the two young girls that had so unexpectedly appeared amongst them, he now regarded the life of Mary as identical with his own, and felt that her death would inevitably shorten his own existence; "for," said he to himself, "should she die, I was too late in drawing her out of the water." In his tribulation and irreflection, he drew no line between the present and the past, but simply concluded, that if he saved her too late, he did not save her at all. Hope, nevertheless, did not altogether abandon him. He would sometimes fancy her restored to her wonted health, abounding in life and vigour. Then the pleasing thought would cross his mind that, but for himself, that charming being, in all probability, would have been a tenant of the tomb. Would that those who do evil only knew the delight that sometimes wells up in the breasts of those who do good!
The first day of Mary's illness, Fritz bore up manfully. On the second, he joined his father and brothers in their field labors; but, whilst driving some nails into a fence, he had so effectually fixed himself to a stake that it was only with some difficulty that he could be detached. The third day, at sunrise, he called Mary's dog, shouldered his rifle, and was about to quit the house.
"Where are you going?" inquired Jack.
"I don't know—anywhere."
"Anywhere! Well, I am rather partial to that sort of place; I will go with you."
"But I must do something that will divert my thoughts. There may be danger."
"Well I can help you to look up a difficulty."
Every day the two brothers departed at sunrise, and returned together again in the evening. Mrs. Becker felt acutely their sufferings. She watched anxiously for the return of the two wanderers, and generally went a little way to meet them when they appeared in the distance.
"She does not run to meet us," said Fritz, one day; "that is a bad sign."
"Not a bit of it," replied Jack. "If she had any bad news to give us, she would not come at all."
[C] The constellation known in astronomy as the Great Bear is in, some parts of England termed the Plough, and in others Charles's Wain or Waggon. It may be added, that the same constellation is popularly known in France as the Chariot of David.
GOD'S GOVERNMENT—KING STANISLAUS—THE DAUPHIN SON OF LOUIS XV.—THE SHORTEST ROAD—NEW YEAR'S DAY—A MIRACLE—CLEVER ANIMALS—THE CALENDAR—MR. JULIUS CAESAR AND POPE GREGORY XIII.—HOW THE DAY AFTER THE 4TH OF OCTOBER WAS THE 15TH—OLYMPIAD—LUSTRES—THE HEGIRA—A HORSE MADE CONSUL—JACK'S DREAM.
Some men, when they regard the sinister side of events, are apt to call in question the axiom, Nothing is accomplished without the will of God. Why, they ask, do the wicked triumph? Why are the just oppressed? Why this evil? What is the use of that disaster? Was it necessary that Mary Wolston should be thrown into the sea, and that she should afterwards die in consequence of the accident?
To these questions we reply, that God does not interrupt the ordinary course of His works. Man is a free agent in so far as regards his own actions; were it otherwise, we should not be responsible for our own crimes. We might as well plunge into vice as adhere to virtue; for we could not be called upon to expiate the one, nor could we hope to be rewarded for the other. It is not to be expected that God is to perform miracles at every instant for our individual benefit. It is unreasonable in us to suppose that, in obedience to our wishes or desires, He will alter His immutable laws.
A foot slips on the brink of a precipice, and we are dashed to atoms. Our boat is upset in a squall, and we are drowned. Like Stanislaus Leszinsky, King of Poland, we fall asleep in the corner of a chimney, our clothes take fire, and we are burned to death. We go a hunting; we mistake a grey overcoat for the fur of a deer, and we kill our friend or his gamekeeper, as once happened to the son of Louis XV., who in consequence almost died of grief, and renounced forever a sport of which he was passionately fond. Did Providence will, exact, or pre-ordain all these calamities? Certainly not; but our Creator has seen fit to tolerate and permit them, since he did not interpose to prevent them.
The government of God is a conception so wonderful, so sublime, that none but Himself can fathom its depths. Human intelligence is too finite to penetrate or comprehend a system so complex, and yet so uniform. The mind of man can only form a just idea of a cause when the effect has been made manifest to his understanding. There might have been a reason for the death of Mary Wolston—who knows? But if it were so, that reason was beyond the pale of mortal ken.
Let us not, however, anticipate. Mary Wolston is not yet dead. On the contrary, when the ninth day of her illness had passed, Fritz and Jack were returning from an expedition, the nature of which was only known to themselves, but which, to judge from the packs that they bore on their backs, had been tolerably productive. The two young men observed their mother advancing, as usual, to meet them, but this time she ran. They had no need to be told in words that Mary Wolston was now out of danger; the serenity of their mother's countenance was more eloquent than the most elaborate discourse that ever stirred human souls.
Mrs. Becker herself felt that words were superfluous, so she quietly took her son's arm, and they walked gently homewards, whilst Jack strode on before. On turning a corner of the road, the latter stumbled upon Wolston and Ernest, who, in the exuberance of their joy, had also come out to meet the hunters. They were, however, a little behind; but that was nothing new. These two members of the colony had become quite remarkable for procrastination and absence of mind. When Wolston the mechanician, and Ernest the philosopher, travelled in company, it was rare that some pebble or plant, or question in physics, did not induce them to deviate from their route or tarry on their way. One day they both started for Rockhouse to fetch provisions for the family dinner, but instead of bringing back the needful supplies of beef and mutton, they returned in great glee with the solution of an intricate problem in geometry. All fared very indifferently on that occasion, and, in consequence, Wolston and Ernest were, from that time on, deprived of the office of purveyors.
In the present instance, instead of running like Mrs. Becker, they had philosophically seated themselves on the trunk of a tree. At their feet was a diagram that Wolston had traced with the end of his stick; this was neither a tangent nor a triangle, as might have been expected, but a figure denoting how to carve one's way to a position, amidst the rugged defiles of life.
"In all things," observed Wolston, "in morals as well as physics, the shortest road from one point to another, is the straight line."
"Unless," objected Ernest, "the straight line were encumbered with obstacles, that would require more time to surmount than to go round. Two leagues of clear road would be better than one only a single league in length, if intersected by ditches and strewn with wild beasts."
"Bah!" cried Jack, who had just come up out of breath, "you might leap the one and shoot the others."
"Your argument," replied Wolston, "is that of the savage, who can imagine no obstacles that are not solid and tangible. The obstacles that retard our progress in life neither display yawning chasms nor rows of teeth; they dwell within our own minds—they are versatility, disgust, ennui, thirst after the unknown, and love of change. These lead us to take bye-paths and long turnings, and fritter away the strength that should be used in promoting a single aim. Hence arise a multiplicity of hermaphrodite avocations and desultory studies, that terminate in nothing but vexation of spirit. Let us suppose, for example, that Peter has made up his mind to be a lawyer."
"I do not see any particular reason why Peter should not be a lawyer," said Jack.
"Nor I either; but unfortunately when Peter has pored a certain time over Coke upon Littleton, and other abstruse legal authorities, he accidentally witnesses a review; he throws down his books, and resolves to become a soldier."
"After the manner and style of our Fritz," suggested Jack.
"He changes the Pandects for Polybius, and Gray's Inn for a military school. All goes well for awhile; the idea of uniform helps him over the rudiments of fortification and the platoon exercise. He passes two examinations creditably, but breaks down at the third, in consequence of which he throws away his sword in disgust. He does not like now to rejoin his old companions in the Inn, who have been working steadily during the years he has lost. He therefore, perhaps, adopts a middle course, and gets himself enrolled in the society of solicitors, which does not exact a very elaborate diploma."
"Well, after all, the difference between a barrister and a solicitor is not so great."
"True; but the exercises to which he has been accustomed previously unfit him for the drudgeries of his new employment, and he soon abandons that, just as he abandoned the other two."
"Your friend Peter is somewhat difficult to please," said Jack.
"He then goes into business, a term which may mean a great deal or nothing at all; it admits of one's going about idle with the appearance of being fully occupied. Then a few unsuccessful speculations bring him back, at the end of his days, to the point whence he started—that is, zero."
"Ah, yes, I see now," cried Jack, whilst he traced a diagram on the ground. "Poor Peter has always stopped in the middle of each profession and gone back to the starting point of another, thus passing his life in making zig-zags, and only moving from one zero to another."
"Exactly," added Wolston: "whilst those who persevered in following up the profession they chose at first finally succeeded in attaining a position, and that simply by adhering to a straight line."
Here Fritz and his mother arrived, arm in arm.
"Ha! there you are," cried Ernest. "We were on our way to meet you."
"You surely do not call sitting down there being on your way to meet us, do you?"
"Well, yes, mother," suggested Jack, "on the principle that two bodies coming into contact meet each other."
Like those flowers that droop during a storm, but recover their brilliancy with the first rays of the sun, so a few days more sufficed to restore Mary Wolston to better health than she had ever enjoyed in her life before. Some months now elapsed without giving rise to any event of note. All the men, women, and children in the colony had been busily employed from early morn to late at e'en. No sooner had one field been sown than there was another to plant; then came the grain harvest and its hard but healthy toil; next, much to the delight of Willis, herrings appeared on the coast, followed by their attendant demons, the sea-dogs; salmon-fishing, hunting ortolans, the foundries and manufactories, likewise exacted a portion of their time. Frequently parties were occupied for weeks together in the remote districts; so that, with the exception of one day each week—the Sabbath—the two families had of late been rarely assembled together in one spot.
The hope of ever again beholding the Nelson had gradually ceased to be entertained by anybody. Like an echo that resounds from rock to rock until it is lost in the distance, this hope had died away in their breasts. Willis nevertheless continued to keep the beacon on Shark's Island alight; but he regarded it more as a sepulchral lamp in commemoration of the dead, than as a signal for the living.
One morning, the break of day was announced by a cannon-shot. All instantly started on their feet and gazed inquiringly in each other's faces. One thing forced itself upon all their thoughts—daybreak generally arrives without noise; it is not accustomed to announce itself with gunpowder; like real merit, it requires no flourish of trumpets to announce its advent.
"Good," said Becker; "Fritz and Jack are not visible, therefore we may easily guess who fired that shot."
"Particularly," added Wolston, "as this is the first of January. Last night I observed an unusual amount of going backwards and forwards, so, I suppose, nobody need be much at a loss to solve the mystery."
"Aye," sighed Willis, "New Year's Day brings pleasing recollections to many, but sad ones to those who are far away from their own homes."
Shortly after, the absentees arrived, each mounted on his favorite ostrich.
"Mrs. Wolston," said Fritz, spreading out a fine leopard's skin, "be good enough to accept this, with the compliments of the season."
"Mr. Wolston," said Jack, at the same time, "here is the outer covering of a panther, who, stifling with heat, commissioned me to present you with his overcoat."
"I am very proud of your gift, Master Fritz," said Mrs. Wolston; "it is really very handsome."
"It may, perhaps, be useful at all events, madam," said Fritz; "for, in the absence of universal pills and such things, it is a capital preventative of coughs and colds."
"You have been over the way again, then?" inquired Willis.
"Yes; but, as you see, we adopted a more efficacious mode of operations than the one you suggested."
"Ah," replied Willis, drily, "you did not light a fire this time to frighten the brutes away, and go to sleep when it went out!"
Sophia then presented Willis with a handsome tobacco pouch, on which the words, "From Susan," were embroidered.
"Bless your dear little heart!" said the sailor, whilst a tear sparkled in the corner of his eye, "you make me almost think I am in Old England again."
"What is the matter?" inquired Mrs. Wolston, as Mary came running in.
"Oh, such a miracle, mamma! my parrot commenced talking this morning."
"And what did it say, child?"
Here Mary blushed and hesitated; Mrs. Wolston glanced at Fritz, and thought it might be as well not to inquire any further.
"Perhaps somebody has changed it," suggested Jack.
"Not very likely that a strange parrot could pronounce my own name."
"Well, perhaps your own has been learning to spell for a long time, and has just succeeded in getting into words of two or more syllables. These creatures abound in sell-esteem; and yours, perhaps, would not speak till it could speak well."
"Odd, that it should pitch upon New Year's morning to say all sorts of pretty things. They do not carry an almanack in their pockets, do they?"
"Well," remarked Willis, "parrots do say and do odd things. I heard of one that once frightened away a burglar, by screaming out, 'The Campbells are coming;' so, Miss Wolston, perhaps yours does keep a log."
"By counting its knuckles," suggested Jack.
"Counting one's knuckles is an ingenious, but rather a clumsy substitute for the calendar," remarked Wolston.
"And who invented the calendar?" inquired Willis.
"I am not aware that the calendar was ever invented," replied Wolston. "Fruit commences by being a seed, the admiral springs from the cabin-boy, words and language succeed naturally the babble of the infant; so, I presume, the calendar has grown up spontaneously to its present degree of perfection."
"Yes, Mr. Wolston, but some one must have laid the first plank."
"The motions of the sun, moon, and stars would, in all probability, suggest to the early inhabitants of our globe a natural means of measuring time. God, in creating the heavenly bodies, seems to have reflected that man would require some index to regulate his labors and the acts of his civil life. The primary and most elementary subdivisions of time are day and night, and it demanded no great stretch of human ingenuity to divide the day into two sections, called forenoon and afternoon, or into twelve sections, called hours. Such subdivisions of time would probably suggest themselves simultaneously to all the nations of the earth. Necessity, who is the mother of all invention, doubtless called the germs of our calendar into existence."
"Yes, so far as the days and hours are concerned. There are other divisions—weeks, for example."
"The division of time into weeks is a matter that belongs entirely to revelation; the Jews keep the last day of every seven as a day of rest, in accordance with the law of Moses, and the Christians dedicate the first day of every seven to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
"Then there are months."
"The month is another natural division. The return of the moon in conjunction with the sun, was observed to occur at regular intervals of twenty-nine days, twelve hours, and some minutes. This interval is called the lunar month, which for a long time was regarded as the radical unit in the admeasurement of time."
"But the year is now the unit, is it not?"
"Yes, in course of time the moon, in this respect, gave place to the sun. It was observed that the earth, in performing her revolution round the sun, always arrived at the same point of her orbit at the end of three hundred and sixty-five days, five hours, fifty-eight minutes, and forty-five seconds."
"Does the earth invariably pass the same point at that interval?"
"Yes, invariably; and the interval in question is termed the solar year."
"After all," remarked Jack, "the perseverance of the earth is very much to be admired. It goes on eternally, always performing the same journey, never deviates from its path, and is never a minute too late."
"If the earth had performed her annual voyage in a certain number of entire days, the solar year would have been an exact unit of time; but the odd fraction defied all our systems of calculation. Originally, we reckoned the year to consist of three hundred and sixty-five days."
"And left the fraction to shift for itself!"
"Yes, but the consequence was, that the civil year was always nearly a quarter of a day behind; so that at the end of a hundred and twenty-one years the civil year had become an entire month behind. The first month of winter found itself in autumn, the first month of spring in the middle of winter, and so on.
"Rather a lubberly sort of log, that," remarked Willis.
"This confusion became, with time, more and more embarrassing. Another evil was, likewise, eventually to be apprehended, for it was seen that, on the expiring of fourteen hundred and sixty revolutions of the earth round the sun, fourteen hundred and sixty-one civil years would be counted."
"But where would have been the evil?"
"All relations between the dates and the seasons would have been obliterated, astronomical calculations would have become inaccurate, and the calendar virtually useless."
"Well, Willis, you that are so fertile in ideas, what would you have done in such a case?" inquired Jack.
"I! Why I scarcely know—perhaps run out a fresh cable and commenced a new log."
"Your remedy," continued Wolston, "might, perhaps, have obviated the difficulty; but Julius Caesar thought of another that answered the purpose equally well. It was simply to add to every fourth civil year an additional day, making it to consist of three hundred and sixty-six instead of three hundred and sixty-five, This supplementary day was given to the month of February."
"Because February, at that time, was reckoned the last month of the year. It was only in the reign of Charles IX. of France, or in the second half of the sixteenth century, that the civil year was made to begin on the 1st of January. As the end of February was five days before the 1st or kalends of March, the extra day was known by the phrase bis sexto (ante) calendus martii. Hence the fourth year is termed in the calendar bissextile, but is more usually called by us in England leap year."
"The remedy is certainly simple; but are your figures perfectly square? If you add a day every four years, do you not overleap the earth's fraction?"
"Yes, from ten to eleven minutes."
"And what becomes of these minutes? Are they allowed to run up another score?"
"No, not exactly. In 1582, the civil year had got ten clear days the start of the solar year, and Pope Gregory XIII. resolved to cancel them, which he effected by calling the day after the 4th of October the 15th."
"That manner of altering the rig and squaring the yards," said Willi laughing, "would make the people that lived then ten days older. If it had been ten years, the matter would have been serious. Had the Pope said to me privately, 'Willis, you are now only forty-seven, but to-morrow, my boy, you will fill your sails and steer right into fifty-seven,' I should have turned 'bout ship and cleared off. Few men care about being put upon a short allowance of life, any more than we sailors on short rations of rum."
"But you forget, Willis, that, though ten years were added to your age, you would not have died a day sooner for all that."
"Still, it is my idea that the Pope was not much smarter at taking a latitude than Mr. Julius Caesar—but what are you laughing at?"
"Nothing; only Julius Caesar is not generally honored with the prefix Mr. It is something like the French, who insist upon talking of Sir Newton and Mr. William Shakespeare; the latter, however, by way of amends, they sometimes style the immortal Williams.'"
"Not so bad, though, as a Frenchman I once met, who firmly believed the Yankees lived on a soup made of bunkum and soft-sawder. But who was Julius Caesar."
"Julius Caesar," replied Jack, sententiously, "was first of all an author, Laving published at Rome an Easy Introduction to the Latin Language; he afterwards turned general, conquered France and England, and gave Mr. Pompey a sound thrashing at the battle of Pharsalia."
"He must have been a clever fellow to do all that; still, my idea continues the same. When he began to caulk the calendar, he ought to have finished the business in a workmanlike manner."
"That, however," continued Wolston, "he left to Pope Gregory, who decreed that three leap years should be suppressed in four centuries. Thus, the years 1700 and 1800, which should have been leap years, did not reckon the extra day; so the years 2000 and 2400 will likewise be deprived of their supplementary four-and-twenty hours."
"There is one difficulty about this mode of stowing away extra days; these leap years may be forgotten."
"Not if you keep in mind that leap years alone admit of being divided by four."
"Did the Pope manage to get entirely rid of the fraction?"
"Not entirely; but the error does not exceed one day in four thousand years, and is so small that it is not likely to derange ordinary calculations; and so, Willis, you now know the origin of the calendar, and likewise how time came to be divided into weeks, months, and years."
"You have only spoken of the Christian calendar," remarked Ernest. "There have been several other systems in use. Those curious people that call themselves the children of the sun and moon, possess a mode of reckoning that carries them back to a period anterior to the creation of the world. Then, the Greeks computed by Olympiads, or periods of four years. The Romans reckoned by lustri of five years, the first of which corresponds with the 117th year of the foundation of Rome."
"And when does our calendar begin?"
"It dates only from the birth of Christ, but may be carried back to the creation, which event, to the best of our knowledge, occurred four thousand and four years before the birth of our Savior. This period, added to the date of the present, or any future year, gives us, as nearly as we can ascertain, the interval that has elapsed since our first parents found themselves in the garden of Eden."
"Our calendar," remarked Jack, "appears simple enough; it is to be regretted that there have been, and are, so many other modes of reckoning extant. What with the Greek Olympiads, the Roman lustres, the Mahometan hegira, and Chinese moonshine, there is nothing but perplexity and confusion."
"It is possible, however," said Becker, "to accommodate all these systems with each other. Leaving the Chinese out of the question, we have only to bear in mind, that the Christian era begins on the first year of the 194th Olympiad, 753 years after the building of Rome, and 622 years before the Mahometan hegira. These three figures will serve us as flambeaux to all the dates of both ancient and modern history."
The discourse was here interrupted by Toby, who entered the room, and was gleefully frisking and bounding round Mary.
"Really," observed Mrs. Becker, "Toby does seem to know that this is New Year's Day, he looks so lively and so smart."
The animal, in point of fact, wore a new collar, and seemed conscious that he was more than usually attractive that particular morning. At a sign from Mary, the intelligent brute went and wagged his tail to Fritz. Hereupon the young man, observing the collar more closely, noticed the following words embroidered upon it: I belong now entirely to Master Fritz, who rescued my mistress from the sea.
"Ah, Miss Wolston," said Fritz, "you forget I only did my duty; you must not allow your gratitude to over-estimate the service I rendered you."
"Well, I declare," cried Mrs. Wolston, laughing "here is another animal that speaks."
"The age of Aesop revived," suggested Mrs. Becker.
"What do you say, Master Jack?" inquired Mrs. Wolston. "Do you suppose that Toby has learned embroidery in the same way that the parrot learned grammar?"
"Oh, more astonishing things than that have happened! Mr. Wolston there will tell you that he has seen a wooden figure playing at chess; why, therefore, should the most sagacious of all the brutes not learn knitting?"
"I fear, in speaking so highly of the dog," replied Mrs. Wolston, "you are doing injustice to other animals. Marvellous instances of sagacity, gratitude, and affection, have been shown by other brutes beside the dog. A horse of Caligula's was elevated to the dignified office of consul."
"Yes, and talking of the affection of animals," observed Ernest, "puts me in mind of an anecdote related by Aulus Gellius. It seems that a little boy, the son of a fisher man, who had to go from Baiae to his school at Puzzoli, used to stop at the same hour each day on the brink of the Lucrine lake. Here he often threw a bit of his breakfast to a Dolphin that he called Simon, and if the creature was not waiting for him when he arrived, he had only to pronounce this name, and it instantly appeared."
"Nothing very wonderful in that," said Jack; "the common gudgeon, which is the stupidest fish to be found in fresh water, would do that much."
"Yes; but listen a moment. The dolphin, after having received his pittance, presented his back to the boy, after having tacked in all his spines and prickles as well as he could, and carried him right across the lake, thus saving the little fellow a long roundabout walk; and not only that, but after school hours it was waiting to carry him back again. This continued almost daily for a year or two; but at last the boy died, and the dolphin, after waiting day after day for his reappearance, pined away, and was found dead at the usual place of rendezvous. The affectionate creature was taken out of the lake, and buried beside its friend.[D]
"And, on the other hand," added Jack, "if animals sometimes attach themselves to us, we attach ourselves to them. We are told that Crassus wore mourning for a dead ferret, the death of which grieved him as much as if it had been his own daughter.[E] Augustus crucified one of his slaves, who had roasted and eaten a quail, that had fought and conquered in the circus.[F] Antonia, daughter-in-law of Tiberius, fastened ear-rings to some lampreys that she was passionately fond of."[G]
"That, at all events, was attachment in one sense of the word," said Mrs. Wolston.
"Without reference to the dog in particular," continued Jack, "proofs of sagacity in animals are very numerous. The nautilus, when he wants to take an airing, capsizes his shell, and converts it into a gondola; then he hoists a thin membrane that serves for a sail; two of his arms are resolved into oars, and his tail performs the functions of a rudder. There are insects ingenious enough to make dwellings for themselves in the body of a leaf as thin as paper. At the approach of a storm some spiders take in a reef or two of their webs, so as to be less at the mercy of the wind. Beavers will erect walls, and construct houses more skilfully than our ablest architects. Chimpanzees have been known spontaneously to sit themselves down, and perform the operation of shaving."
"Stop, Jack," cried Mrs. Wolston; "I must yield to such a deluge of argument, and admit that Toby may have acquired the art of embroidery with or without a master, only I should like to see some other specimen of his skill."
"Probably you will by-and-by," replied Jack, laughing, "if you keep your eyes open."
Here Sophia came into the room leading her gazelle.
"Ah, just in time," said Mrs. Wolston; "here is another animal that probably has something to say."
"Wrong, mamma," replied Sophia; "my gazelle is as mute as a mermaid. Very provoking, is it not, when all the other animals in the house talk?"
"You had better apply to Master Jack; he may, probably, be able to hit upon a plan to make your gazelle communicative."
"Will you, Master Jack?"
"Certainly, Miss Sophia. The plan I would suggest is very simple. Feed him for a week or two with nouns, adjectives, and verbs."
Here Sophia, addressing her gazelle, said, "Master Jack Becker is a goose."
Meantime Fritz was leaning on the back of Mary's chair.
"Miss Wolston," said he, "did you not tell me that you had brought Toby up, and that you were very fond of him?"
"Then it would be unfair in me to withdraw his allegiance from you now, and, consequently, I must refuse your present"
"But where would have been the merit of the gift if I did not hold him in some esteem? Besides, I thought you were fond of Toby."
"So I am, Miss Wolston."
"Then you will not be indebted to me for anything—I owe you much."
"No such thing; you owe me nothing."
"My life, then, is nothing?"
"Oh, I did not mean that; I must beg your pardon."
"Which I will only grant on condition you accept my gift."
"Well, if you insist upon it, I will."
"I can see him as before; the only difference will be that you are his master, in all other respects he will belong to us both."
"May I know what your knight-errant is saying to you, Mary?" inquired Mrs. Becker.
"Oh, I have been so angry with him; he was going to refuse my present."
"That was very naughty of him, certainly."
"He has, however, consented, like a dutiful squire, to obey my behests."
"Yes, mother, Toby is henceforth to be divided between us."
"Yes; that is, he is to be nominally mine, but virtually to belong to us both. Is it not so, Miss Wolston?"
"Yes, Master Fritz."
On his side, Jack had approached Miss Sophia.
"So you won't give me your gazelle?" he whispered.
"No, certainly not, Mr. Jack," replied Sophia; "if you had saved my life, as Fritz saved my sister's, I should then have had the right to make you a present. But you know it is not my fault."
"Nor mine either," said Jack.
"Perhaps not; but if I had fallen into the sea, you would have allowed the sharks to swallow me, would you not?"
"I only wish we had been attacked by a hyena or a bear on our way to Waldeck."
"God be thanked, that we were not!"
"Well, but look here, Miss Sophia; let me paint the scene. You have fainted, as a matter of course, and fallen prostrate on the ground, insensible."
"That is likely enough, if we had encountered one of the animals you mention."
"Then I throw myself between you and the savage brute."
"Supposing you were not half a mile off at the time."
"No fear of that—he rises, on his hind legs, and glares."
"Is it a hyena or a bear?"
"Oh, whichever you like—he opens his jaws, and growls."
"Like the wolf at Little Red Riding Hood."
"I plunge my arm down his throat and choke him."
"Clever, very; but are you not wounded?"
"I beg your pardon, however; all my thoughts are centred in you—I think of nothing else."
"I am insensible, am I not?"
"Yes, more than ever—we all run towards you, and exert ourselves to bring you back to your senses."
"Then I come to life again."
"No, stop a bit."
"But it is tiresome to be so long insensible."
"My mother has luckily a bottle of salts, which she holds to your nose—I run off to the nearest brook, and return with water in the crown of my cap, with which I bathe your temples."
"Oh, in that case, I should open one eye at least. Which eye is opened first after fainting?"
"I really don't know."
"In that case, to avoid mistakes, I should open both."
"It is only then, when I find you are recovering, that I discover the brute has severely bitten my arm."
"Then comes my turn to nurse you."
"You express your thanks in your sweetest tones, and I forget my wounds."
"Sweet tones do no harm, if they are accompanied with salves and ointment."
"In short, I am obliged to carry my arm in a sling for three months after."
"Is that not rather long?"
"No; because your arm, in some sort, supplies, meantime, the place of mine."
"Your picture has, at least, the merit of being poetic. Is it finished?"
"Not till next New Year's Day, when you present me with an embroidered scarf, as the ladies of yore used to do to the knights that defended them from dragons and that sort of thing."
"What a pity all this should be only a dream!"
"Well, I am not particularly extravagant, at all events; others dream of fortune, honor, and glory."
"Whilst you confine your aspirations to a bear, a bite, and a scarf."
"You see nothing was wanted but the opportunity."
"Yes; if you had previously made arrangements with a bear, the whole scene might have been realized."
"You are joking, whilst I am taking the matter au serieux."
"That order is usually reversed; generally you are the quiz and I am the quizzee."
"You will admit, at all events, that I would not have permitted the bear to eat you."
Here Sophia burst into a peal of laughter, and vanished with her gazelle.
[D] Aulus Gellius, VII., 8.
[E] Macrobius, Saturn, XL, 4.
[G] Pliny, IX., 53.
SEPARATION—GUELPHS AND GHIBELINES—MONTAGUES AND CAPULETS—SADNESS—THE REUNION—JOCKO AND HIS EDUCATION—THE ENTERTAINMENTS OF A KING—THE MULES OF NERO AND THE ASSES OF POPPAEA—HERCULES AND ACHILLES—LIBERTY AND EQUALITY—SEMIRAMIS AND ELIZABETH—CHRISTIANITY AND THE RELIGION OF ZOROASTER—THE WILLISONIAN METHOD—MORAL DISCIPLINE VERSUS BIRCH.
Winter was now drawing near, with its storms and deluges. Becker therefore felt that it was necessary to make some alterations in their domestic arrangements; and he saw that, for this season at all events, the two families must be separated—this was to create a desert within a desert; but propriety and convenience demanded the sacrifice.
It was decided that Wolston and his family should be quartered at Rockhouse, whilst Becker and his family should pass the rainy season at Falcon's Nest, where, though these aerial dwellings were but indifferently adapted for winter habitations, they had passed the first year of their sojourn in the colony. The rains came and submerged the country between the two families, thus, for a time, cutting off all communication between them. The barriers that separated the Guelphs from the Ghibelines, the Montagues from the Capulets, the Burgundians from the Armagnacs, and the House of York from that of Lancaster, could not have been more impenetrable than that which now existed between the Wolstons and Beckers.
Whenever a lull occurred in the storm, or a ray of sunshine shot through the murky clouds, all eyes were mechanically turned to the window, but only to turn them away again with a sigh; so completely had the waters invaded the land, that nothing short of the dove from Noah's Ark could have performed the journey between Rockhouse and Falcon's Nest.
Dulness and dreariness reigned triumphant at both localities. The calm tranquility that Becker's family formerly enjoyed under similar circumstances had fled. They felt that happiness was no longer to be enjoyed within the limits of their own circle. Study and conversation lost their charms; and if they laughed now, the smile never extended beyond the tips of their lips. The young people often wished they possessed Fortunatus's cap, or Aladdin's wonderful lamp, to transport them from the one dwelling to the other; but as they could obtain no such occult mode of conveyance, there was no remedy for their miseries but patience. To the Wolstons this interval of compulsory separation was particularly irksome, as this was the first time in their lives that they had been entirely isolated for any length of time.
At Falcon's Nest, Ernest was the most popular member of the domestic circle. His astronomical predilections made him the Sir Oracle of the storm, and he was constantly being asked for information relative to the progress and probable duration of the rains. Every morning he was called upon for a report as to the state of the weather; but, with all his skill, he could afford them very little consolation.
But all things come to an end, as well as regards our troubles as our joys. One morning, Ernest reported that less rain had fallen during the preceding than any former night of the season; the next morning a still more favorable report was presented; and on the third morning the floods had subsided, but had left a substratum of mud that obliterated all traces of the roads. Notwithstanding this, and a smart shower that continued to fall, Fritz and Jack determined to force a passage to Rockhouse.
Towards evening, the two young men returned, soaking with wet and covered with mud, but with light hearts, for they had found their companions in the enjoyment of perfect health and in the best spirits. They brought back with them a missive, couched in the following terms:—
"Mr. and Mrs. Wolston, greeting, desire the favor of Mr. and Mrs. Becker's company to dinner, together with their entire family, this day se'nnight, weather permitting."
Ernest was hereupon consulted, and stated that, in so far as the rain was concerned, they should in eight days be able to undertake the journey to Rockhouse. This assurance was not, however, entirely relied upon, for between this and then many an anxious eye was turned skywards, as if in search of some more conclusive evidence. Those who possess a garden—and he who has not, were it only a box of mignionette at the window—will often have observed, in consequence of absence or forgetfulness, that their flowers have begun to droop; they hasten to sprinkle them with water, then watch anxiously for signs of their revival. So both families continued unceasingly during these eight days to note the ever-varying modifications of the clouds.
At length the much wished-for day arrived; the morning broke with a blaze of sunshine, and though hidden with a dense mist, the ground was sufficiently hardened to bear their weight. Wolston awaited his guests at a bridge of planks that had been thrown across the Jackal River, where he and Willis had erected a sort of triumphal arch of mangoe leaves and palm branches. Here Becker and his family were welcomed, as if the one party had just arrived from Tobolsk, and the other from Chandernagor, after an absence of ten years.
Another warm reception awaited them at Rockhouse, where an abundant repast was already spread in the gallery. Mrs. Becker had often intended to work herself a pair of gloves, but the increasing demand for stockings had hitherto prevented her. She was pleased, therefore, on sitting down to dinner, to discover a couple of pairs under her plate, with her own initials embroidered upon them.
"Ah," said she, "I was almost afraid I had lost my daughters, but I have found them again."
After dinner the girls showed her a quantity of cotton they had spun, which proved that, though they might have been dull, they had, at least, been industrious.
"Mary span the most of it," said Sophia; "but you know, Mrs. Becker, she is the biggest."
"Oh, then," said Jack, "the power of spinning depends upon the bulk of the spinner?"
"Oh, Master Jack, I thought you had been ill, that you had not commenced quizzing us before."
"Never mind him, Soffy," said her father; "to quote Hudibras,
"There's nothing on earth hath so perfect a phiz, As not to give birth to a passable quiz."
Here Willis led in the chimpanzee, who made a grimace to the assembled company.
"Now, ladies and gentlemen," said Willis, "Jocko is about to show you the progress he has made in splicing and bracing."
"Good!" said Becker, "you have been able to make something of him, then?"
"You will see presently. Jocko, bring me a plate."
Hereupon the chimpanzee seized a bottle of Rockhouse malaga, and filled a glass.
"He has erred on the safe side there," said Jack, drily.
"Well," added Willis, laughing, "we must let that pass. Jocko," said he, assuming a sententious tone, "I asked you for a plate."
The chimpanzee looked at him, hesitated a moment, then seized the glass, and drank the contents off at a single draught. A box on the ears then sent him gibbering into a corner.
"Your servant," remarked Mrs. Wolston, "has been taking lessons from Dean Swift as well as yourself, Willis."
"I will serve him out for that, the swab; he does not play any of those tricks when we are alone. I must admit, however, that I am generally in the habit of helping myself."
Here attention was called to the parrot, who was screaming out lustily, "I love Mary, I love Sophia."
"Holloa," exclaimed Fritz, "Polly loves everybody now, does she?"
"Well, you see," replied Sophia, "I grew tired of hearing him scream always that he loved my sister, so by means of a little coaxing, and a good deal of sugar, I got him to love me too."
The poultry were next mustered for the inspection of their old masters. These did not consist of the ordinary domestic fowls alone; amongst them were a beautiful flamingo, some cranes, bustards, and a variety of tame tropical birds. With the fowls came the pigeons, which were perching about them in all directions.
"We are now something like the court of France in the fourteenth century," said Wolston.
"How so?" inquired Becker.
"In the reign of Charles V., they were obliged to place a trellis at the windows of the Palace of St. Paul to prevent the poultry from invading the dining room."
"Rural anyhow," observed Jack.
"Of course, most other features of the palace were in unison with this primitive state of matters. The courtiers sat on stools. There was only one chair in the palace, that was the arm-chair of the king, which was covered with red leather, and ornamented with silk fringes."
"So that we may console ourselves with the reflection, that we are as comfortable here as kings were at that epoch in Europe," remarked Ernest.
"Yes; historians report, that when Alphonso V. of Portugal went to Paris to solicit the aid of Louis XI. against the King of Arragon, who had taken Castile from him, the French monarch received him with great honor, and endeavored to make his stay as agreeable as possible."
"Reviews, I suppose, feasts, tournaments, spectacles, and so forth."
"A residence was assigned him in the Rue de Prouvaires, at the house of one Laurent Herbelot, a grocer."
"What! amongst dried peas and preserved plums?"
"Precisely; but the house of Herbelot might then have been one of the most commodious buildings in all Paris. Alphonso was afterwards conducted to the palace, where he pleaded his cause before the king. Next day he was entertained at the archiepiscopal residence, where he witnessed the induction of a doctor in theology. The day after that a procession to the university was organized, which passed under the grocer's windows."
"These were singular marvels to entertain a king withal," said Jack.
"Such were the amusements peculiar to the epoch. It must be observed that the Louis in question was somewhat close-fisted, and rarely drew his purse-strings unless he was certain of a good interest for his money. But courts in those days were very simple and frugal. The sumptuary laws of Philip le Bel (1285) had fixed supper at three dishes and a lard soup. The king's own dinner was likewise limited to three dishes."
"These three dishes might, however, have yielded a better repast than the fifty-two saucers of the Chinese," remarked Jack.
"No one could obtain permission to give his wife four dresses a year, unless he had an income of six thousand francs."
"What business had the laws to interfere with these things, I should like to know?" inquired Mrs. Wolston.
"Those who possessed two thousand francs income were only allowed to wear one dress a year, the cloth for which was not permitted to exceed tenpence a yard; but ladies of rank could go as high as fifteen pence."
"Philip le Bel must have been an old woman," insisted Mrs. Wolston.
"No private citizen was permitted to use a carriage, and such persons were likewise interdicted the use of flambeaux."
"They were permitted to break their necks at all events, that is something."
"In England, the same primitive simplicity prevailed; Queen Elizabeth is said to have breakfasted on a gallon of ale, her dining-room floor was strewn every day with fresh straw or rushes, and she had only one pair of silk stockings in her entire wardrobe."
"At the same time," observed Ernest, "these usages stand in singular contradiction to those that prevailed at an earlier age. The supper of Lucullus rarely cost him less than thirty thousand francs, and he could entertain five and twenty thousand guests. Six citizens of Rome possessed a great part of Africa. Domitius had an estate in France of eighty thousand acres."
"When Nero went to Baize he was accompanied by a thousand chariots and two thousand mules caparisoned with silver. Poppaea followed him with five hundred she asses to furnish milk for her bath. Cicero purchased a dining-room table that cost him a million sesterces, or about two hundred thousand francs. I can understand the progress of civilization, and I can also understand civilization remaining stationary for a given period; but I cannot understand why a citizen of ancient Rome should be able to lodge twenty-five thousand men, whilst a king of France could scarcely keep the ducks from waddling about his apartments, and a queen of England could fare no better than a ploughman."
"If," replied Frank, "there were no other criterion of civilization than luxury and riches, you would have good grounds for surprise; but such is not the case. Between ancient and modern times, Christianity arose, and that has tended in some degree to keep down the ostentation of the rich, and to augment, at the same time, the comforts of the poor. In place of the heroes, Hercules and Achilles, we have had the apostles Peter and Paul; so Luther and Calvin have been substituted for Semiramis and Nero. Pride has given place to charity, and corruption to virtue."
"Would that it were so, Frank," continued Ernest. "Christianity has, doubtless, effected many beneficial changes, and produced many able men; but in this last respect antiquity has not been behind. It has also its sages: Thales, Socrates, and Pythagoras, for example."
"True," replied Frank, "antiquity has produced some virtuous men, but their virtue was ideal, and their creed a dream."
"And the Stoics?"
"The Stoics despised suffering, and Christians resign themselves to its chastisements; this constitutes one of the lines of demarcation between ancient and modern theology."
"But there were many signal instances of virtue manifested in ancient times."
"Yes; but for the most part, it was either exaggerated or false; unyielding pride, obstinate courage, implacable resentment of injuries. Errors promenaded in robes under the porticos. Ambition was honored in Alexander, suicide in Cato, and assassination in Brutus."
"But what say you to Plato?"
"The immolation of ill-formed children, and of those born without the permission of the laws, prosecution of strangers and slavery; such were the basis of his boasted republic, and the gospel of his philosophy."
"Why, then, are these men held up as models for our imitation?"
"Because they are distant and dead; likewise, because they were, in many respects, great and wise, considering the paganism and darkness with which they were surrounded. Life was then only sacred to the few; the many were treated as beasts of burden. The Emperor Claudian even felt bound to issue an edict prohibiting slaves from being slain when they were old and feeble."
"Which leaves a margin for us to suppose that they might be slain when they were young and strong," observed Jack.
"By the constitution of Constantine certain cases were defined, where a master might suspend his slave by the feet, have him torn by wild beasts, or tortured by slow fire."
"Does slavery and its horrors not still exist, for example, in Russia and the United States of America?"
"Slavery does exist, to the great disgrace of modern civilization, in the countries you mention; but, so far as I am aware, its horrors are not recognized by the laws."
"There, Mr. Frank," said Wolston, "I am very sorry to be under the necessity of contradicting you. I have visited the slave states of North America, and have witnessed atrocities perhaps less brutal, but not less heart-rending, than those you mention."
"But do the laws recognize them?"
"Yes, tacitly; the testimony of the slaves themselves is not received as evidence."
"Why do a people that call their county a refuge for the down-trodden nations of Europe suffer such abominations?"
"Well, according to themselves, it is entirely a question of the almighty dollar. If there were no slaves, the swamps and morasses of the south could not be cultivated. It has been found that the negro will dance, and sing, and starve, but he will not work in the fields when free. Besides, they assert, that the slaves are generally well cared for, and that it is only a few detestable masters that beat them cruelly."
"Then, at all events, dollars are preferred to humanity by the United States men, in spite of their vaunted emblems—liberty and equality."
"Quite so. In all matters of internal policy, the dollar reigns supreme."
"Admitting," continued Frank, "that the evils of slavery may exist in a section of the American Union, and amongst the barbarous hordes of Russia, these evils are trifling in comparison with others that stain the annals of antiquity. We are told that a hundred and twenty persons applied to Otho to be rewarded for killing Galba. That so many men should contend for the honor of premeditated murder, is sufficiently characteristic of the epoch. There was then no corruption, no brutal passion, that had not its temple and its high priest. In the midst of all this wickedness and vice there appeared a man, poor and humble, who accomplished what no man ever did before, and what no man will ever do again—he founded a moral and eternal civilization. Judaism and the religion of Zoroaster were overthrown. The gods of Tyre and Carthage were destroyed. The beliefs of Miltiades and of Pericles, of Scipio and Seneca, were disavowed. The thousands that flocked annually to worship the Eleusinian Ceres ceased their pilgrimage. Odin and his disciples have all perished. The very language of Osiris, which was afterwards spoken by the Ptolemies, is no longer known to his descendants. The paganisms which still exist in the East are rapidly yielding to the march of western intelligence. Christianity alone, amidst all these ring and fallen fabrics, retains its original vitality, for, like its author, it is imperishable."
"It is a curious thing what we call conversation," observed Mrs. Wolston. "No sooner is one subject broached than another is introduced; and we go on from one thing to another until the original idea is lost sight of. Leaving the palace of Charles V., to go with the King of Portugal to a grocer's shop in some street or other of Paris, we cross the Alps, the Himalaya, and the Atlantic. Lucullus, Nero, Achilles, Peter, Paul, Tyre and Sidon, Semiramis and Elizabeth—queens, saints, and philosophers, are all passed in review, and why? Because the pigeons put my husband in mind of the Palace of St. Paul!"
"No wonder," observed Jack; "these pigeons are carriers, and naturally suggest wandering."
Once more seated round the table, Fritz, observing that the misunderstanding between Willis and the chimpanzee still continued, thrust a plate into the hand of the latter, and pointed with his finger to Willis. This time Jocko obeyed, for the language was intelligible, and he went and placed the plate before his master.
"Ho, ho!" cried Willis, "so you have come to your senses at last, have you? Well, that saves you an extra lesson to-morrow, you lubber you."
"He takes rather long to obey your orders, though, Willis; it is rather awkward to wait an hour for anything you ask for. What system do you pursue in educating him—the Pestalozzian or the parochial?"