THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
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VOL. I.—APRIL, 1858.—NO. VI.
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THE HUNDRED DAYS.
That period of history between the 20th of March and the 28th of June, 1815, being the interregnum in the reign of Louis the Eighteenth, caused by the arrival of Napoleon from Elba and his assumption of the government of France, is known as "The Hundred Days."
It is as interesting as it was eventful, and has been duly chronicled wherever facts have been gathered to gratify a curiosity that is not yet weary of dwelling on the point of time which saw the Star of Destiny once more in the ascendant before it sank forever.
Whatever is connected with this remarkable epoch is worthy of remembrance, and whoever can add the interest of a personal experience, though it be limited and unimportant, should be satisfied, in the recital, to adopt that familiar form which may give to his recollections the strongest impress of reality.
I was at that time a schoolboy in Paris. The institution to which I was attached was connected with one of the National Lyceums, which were colleges where students resided in large numbers, and where classes from private schools also regularly attended, each studying in its respective place and going to the Lyceum at hours of lecture or recitation. All these establishments were, under Napoleon, to a certain degree military. The roll of the drum roused the scholar to his daily work; a uniform with the imperial button was the only dress allowed to be worn; and the physical as well as the intellectual training was such, that very little additional preparation was required to qualify the inmate of the Lyceum for the duties and privations of the soldier's life. The transition was not unnatural; and the boy who breakfasted in the open air, in midwinter, on a piece of dry bread and as much water as he chose to pump for himself,—who was turned adrift, without cap or overcoat, from the study-room into the storm or sunshine of an open enclosure, to amuse himself in his recess as he best might,—whose continual talk with his comrades was of the bivouac or the battle-field,—and who considered the great object of life to be the development of faculties best fitted to excel in the art of destruction, would not be astonished to find himself sleeping on the bare ground with a levy of raw conscripts.
I was in daily intercourse with several hundred young men, and it may not be uninteresting to dwell a moment on the character of my companions, especially as they may be considered a fair type of the youth of France generally at that time. It is, moreover, a topic with which few are familiar. There were not many Americans in that country at that period. I knew of only one at school in Paris beside myself.
If the brilliant glories of the Empire dazzled the mature mind of age, they wrought into delirium the impulsive brain of youth, whose impressions do not wait for any aid from the judgment, but burn into the soul, never to be totally effaced. The early boyhood of those with whom I was associated had been one of continual excitement. Hardly had the hasty but eloquent bulletin told the Parisians that the name of another bloody field was to be inscribed among the victories of France, and the cannon of the Invalides thundered out their notes of triumph, when again the mutilated veterans were on duty at their scarcely cooled pieces and the newswomen in the streets were shrilly proclaiming some new triumph of the imperial arms. Then came the details, thrilling a warlike people, and the trophies which symbolized success,—banners torn and stained in desperate conflict, destined to hang over Christian altars until the turning current of fortune should drift them back,—parks of artillery rumbling through the streets, to be melted into statue or triumphal column,—and, amid the spoils of war, everything most glorious in Art to fill that wondrous gallery, the like of which the eye of man will never look upon again. At last, in some short respite of those fighting days, came back the conquerors themselves, to enjoy a fleeting period of rest and fame ere they should stiffen on Russian snows, or swell the streams which bathe the walls of Leipsic, or blacken, with countless dead, the plains stretching between the Rhine and their own proud capital.
By no portion of the people were these things gathered with such avidity and regarded with such all-absorbing interest as by the schoolboys of Paris. Every step of the "Grand Army" was watched with deep solicitude and commented upon with no doubtful criticism. They made themselves acquainted with the relative merit of each division, and could tell which arm of the service most contributed to the result of any particular battle. They collected information from all sources,—from accounts in newspapers, from army letters, from casual conversation with some maimed straggler fresh from the scene of war. Each boy, as he made his periodical visit to his family, brought back something to the general fund of anecdote. The fire that burned in their young bosoms was fed by tales of daring, and there was a halo round deeds of blood which effectually concealed the woe and misery they caused. There was but one side of the medal visible, and the figures on that were so bold and beautiful that no one cared for or thought of the ugly death's-head on the reverse. The fearful consumption of human life which drained the land, sweeping off almost one entire generation of able-bodied men, and leaving the tillage of the fields to the decrepitude of age, feebly aided by female hands, gave ample opportunity to gratify the ardent minds panting to exchange the tame drudgery of school and college for the limited, but to them world-wide, authority of the subaltern's sword and epaulet. There seemed to them but one road to advancement. The profession of arms was the sole pursuit which opened a career bounded only by the wildest dreams of ambition. What had been could be; and the fortunate soldier might find no check in the progressive honors of his course, until his brows should be encircled by the insignia of royalty. It required more than mortal courage for a young man to intimate a preference for some more peaceful occupation. A learned profession might be sneeringly tolerated; but woe to him who spoke of agriculture, or commerce, or the mechanic arts! There was little comfort for the luckless wight who, in some unguarded moment, gave utterance to such ignoble aspirations. Henceforth he was, like the Pariah of India, cut off from human sympathy, and the young gentlemen whose tastes and tendencies led them to prefer the more aristocratic trade of butchery felt that there was a line of demarcation which completely and conclusively separated them from him.
This predilection for military life received no small encouragement from the occasional visit of some young Caesar, whose uniform had been tarnished in the experiences of one campaign, and who returned to his former associates to indulge in an hour of unalloyed glorification.
Napoleon, when he entered the Tuileries after prostrating some hostile kingdom, never felt more importance than did the young lieutenant in his service when he passed the ponderous doors which ushered him into the presence of his old schoolfellows. What a host of admirers crowded around him! What an honor and privilege to be standing in the presence, and even pressing the hand or rushing into the embrace, of an officer who had really seen bayonet-charges and heard the whistling of grapeshot! How the older ones monopolized the distinguished visitor, and how the little boys crowded the outer circle to catch a word from the military oracle, proudly happy if they could get a distant nod of recognition! And then the questions which were showered upon him, too numerous and varied to be answered. And how he described the forced marches, and the manoeuvring, and the great battle!—how the cannonade seemed the breaking up of heaven and earth, and the solid ground shook under the charges of cavalry; how, yet louder than all, rang the imperial battle-cry, maddening those who uttered it; how death was everywhere, and yet he escaped unharmed, or with some slight wound which trebled his importance to his admiring auditors. He would then tell how, after hours of desperate fighting, the Emperor, seeing that the decisive moment had arrived, ordered up the Imperial Guard; how the veterans, whose hairs had bleached in the smoke of a hundred battles, advanced to fulfil their mission; how with firm tread and lofty bearing, proud in the recollections of the past and strong in the consciousness of strength, they entered the well-fought field; and how from rank to rank of their exhausted countrymen pealed the shout of exultation, for they knew that the hour of their deliverance had come; and then, with overwhelming might, all branches of the service, comprised in that magnificent reserve, swept like a whirlwind, driving before them horse and foot, artillery, equipage, and standards, all mingled in irremediable confusion.
With what freedom did our young hero comment on the campaign, speaking such names as Lannes and Ney, Murat and Massena, like household words! He did not, perhaps, state that the favorable result of things was entirely owing to his presence, but it might be inferred that it was well he threw in his sword when the fortunes of the Empire trembled in the balance.
Under such influences, and with the excitement produced by the marvellous success of the French armies, it is not singular that young men looked eagerly forward to a participation in the prodigies and splendors of their time,—that they should turn disdainfully from the paths of honest industry, and that everything which constitutes the true wealth and greatness of a state should have been despised or forgotten in the lurid and blood-stained glare of military glory, which cowered like an incubus on the breast of Europe. The battle-fields were beyond the frontiers of their own country; the calamities of war were too far distant to obtrude their disheartening features; and no lamentations mingled with the public rejoicings. Many a broken-hearted mother mourned in secret for her son lying in his bloody grave; but individual grief was disregarded in the madness which pervaded all classes, vain-glorious from repeated and uninterrupted success.
But the time had come when the storm was to pour in desolation over the fields of France, and the nations which had trembled at her power were to tender back to her the bitter cup of humiliation. The unaccustomed sound of hostile cannon broke in on the dreams of invincibility which had entranced the people, and deeds of violence and blood, which had been complacently regarded when the theatre of action was on foreign territory, seemed quite another thing when the scene was shifted to their own vineyards and villages.
The genius of Napoleon never exhibited such vast fertility of resources as when he battled for life and empire in his own dominions. Every foot of ground was wrested from him at an expense of life which thinned the innumerable hosts pressing onward to his destruction. He stood at bay against all Europe in arms; and so desperately did he contend against the vast odds opposed to him, and so rapidly did he move from one invading column to another, successively beating back division upon division, that his astonished foes, awed by his superhuman exertions, had wellnigh turned their faces to the Rhine in panic-stricken retreat. But the line of invasion was so widely extended that even his ubiquity could not compass it. His wonderful power of concentration was of little avail to him when the mere skeletons of regiments answered to his call, and, along his weakened line, the neglected gleanings left by the conscription, now hastily garnered in this last extremity, greeted him in the treble notes of childhood. The voices of the bearded men, which once hailed his presence, were hushed in death. They had shouted his name in triumph over Europe, and it had quivered on their lips when parched with the moral agony. Their bones were whitening the sands of Egypt, the harvests of Italy had long waved over them, their unnumbered graves lay thick in the German's Fatherland, and the floods of the Berezina were yet giving up their unburied dead. The remnant of that once invincible army did all that could be done; but there were limits to endurance, and exhaustion anticipated the hour of combat. Men fell dead in their ranks, untouched by shot or steel; and yet the survivors pressed on to take up the positions assigned by their leader, who seemed to be proof against either fatigue or despair. His last bold move, on which he staked his empire, was a splendid effort, but it failed him. It was the daring play of a desperate gamester, and nearly checkmated his opponents. But when, instead of pursuing him, they marched on Paris, he left his army to follow as it could, and hastened to anticipate his enemies. When about fifteen miles from Paris, he received news of the battle of Montmartre and the capitulation of the city. The post-house where he encountered this intelligence was within sight of the place where I passed my vacations. I often looked at it with interest, for it was there that the vision first flashed before him of his broken empire and the utter ruin which bade farewell to hope. He had become familiar with reverses. His veteran legions had perished in unequal strife with the elements, or melted away in the hot flame of conflict; his most devoted adherents had fallen around him; yet his iron soul bore up against his changing fortunes, and from the wrecks of storm and battle there returned
———-"the conqueror's broken car, The conqueror's yet unbroken heart."
But the spirit which had never quailed before his enemies was crushed by the desertion of his friends. He had now to feel that treason and ingratitude are attendants on adversity, and that the worshippers of power, like the Gheber devotee, turn their faces reverently towards the rising sun.
There are few things in history so touching as the position of Napoleon at Fontainebleau, during the few days which preceded his abdication and departure for the Island of Elba. Nearly all his superior officers forsook him, not even finding time to bid him adieu. Men whom he had covered with wealth and honors, who had most obsequiously courted his smiles, and been most vehement in their protestations of fidelity, were the first to leave him in his misfortune, forgetting, in their anxiety to conciliate his successor, to make the slightest stipulation for the protection of their benefactor. He was left in the vast apartments of that deserted palace, with hardly the footsteps of a domestic servant to break its monastic stillness; and, for the first time in his eventful life, he sat, hour after hour, without movement, brooding over his despair. At last, when all was ready for his departure, he called up something of his old energy, and again stood in the presence of what remained of the Imperial Guard, which was faithful to the end. These brave men had often encircled him, like a wall of granite, in the hour of utmost peril, and they were now before him, to look upon him, as they thought, for the last time. He struggled to retain his firmness, but the effort was beyond human resolution; his pride gave way before his bursting heart, and the stern vanquisher of nations wept with his old comrades.
Napoleon was gone. His empire was in the dust. The streets of his capital were filled with strangers, and the volatile Parisians were almost compensated for the degradation, in their wonder at the novel garb and uncouth figures of their enemies. The Cossacks of the Don had made their threatened "hurra," and bivouacked on the banks of the Seine. Prussian and Austrian cannon pointed down all the great thoroughfares, and by their side, day and night, the burning match suggested the penalty of any popular commotion. The Bourbons were at the Tuileries, and France appeared to have moved back to the place whence she had started on her course of redemption. At length, slowly and prudently, the allied armies commenced their homeward march, and the reigning family were left to their own resources, to reconcile as they could the heterogeneous materials stranded by the receding tide of revolution. But concession formed no part of their character, and reconciliation was an unknown element in their plan of government. They took possession of the throne as though they had only been absent on a pleasure excursion, and, ignoring twenty years of parvenu glory, affected to be merely continuing an uninterrupted sovereignty. The pithy remark of Talleyrand, that "they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing," was abundantly verified. Close following in their wake, came hordes of emigrants famished by long exile and clamorous for the restitution of ancient privileges. There was nothing in common between them and the men of the Republic, or of the Empire. They assumed an air of superiority, which the latter answered with the most undisguised contempt. Ridicule, that fearful political engine, which, especially in France, is sufficient to batter down the hopes of any aspirant who lays himself open to it, and which Napoleon himself, in his greatest power, feared more than foreign armies or intestine conspiracies, was most unsparingly directed against them. The print-shops exposed them in every possible form of caricature, the theatres burlesqued their pretensions, songs and epigrams contributed to their discomfiture, and all the ingenuity of a witty and laughter-loving people was unmercifully poured out upon this resurrection of antediluvian remains. Their royal patrons came in for a full share of the general derision, but they seemed entirely unmindful that there was such a thing as popular opinion, or any other will than their own. There were objects all around them which might have preached to them of the uncertainty of human grandeur and the vanity of kingly pride, reminding them that there is but a step from the palace to the scaffold, which step had been taken by more than one of their family. The walls of their abode were yet marked by musket-balls, mementos of a day of appalling violence, and from the windows they could see the public square where the guillotine had permanently stood and the pavement had been crimsoned with the blood of their race. They had awakened from a long sleep, among a new order of men, who were strangers to them, and who looked upon them as beings long since buried, but now, unnaturally and indecorously, protruded upon living society. They commenced by placing themselves in antagonism to the nation, and erected a barrier which effectually divided them from the people. The history of the Republic and the Empire was to be blotted out; it was a forbidden theme in their presence, and whatever reminded them of it was carefully hidden from their legitimate vision. The remains of the Old Guard were removed to the provinces or drafted into new regiments; leaders, whose very names stirred France like the blast of a trumpet, were almost unknown in the royal circle; and the great Exile was never to be mentioned without the liability to a charge of treason.
During all this time of change, the youth of France, shut up in schools and colleges, kept pace with the outer world in information, and outstripped it in manifestations of feeling. I can judge of public sentiment only by inferences drawn from occasional observation, or the recorded opinions of others. I believe that many did not regret the fall of Napoleon, being weary of perpetual war, and hoping that the accession of the Bourbons would establish permanent peace. I believe that those who had attained the summit of military rank were not unwilling to pass some portion of their lives in the luxury of their own homes. I believe that there were mothers who rejoiced that the dreaded conscription had ended, and that their sons were spared to them. I believe all this, because I understood it so to be. But whatever may have been the hopes of the lovers of tranquillity, or the wishes of warriors worn out in service, or the maternal instincts which would avert the iron hand clutching at new victims for the shrine of Moloch, I can answer that the boys remained staunch Bonapartists, for I was in the midst of them, and I have the fullest faith that those about me were exponents of the whole generation just entering on the stage of action. During the decline of the Empire, when defeat might be supposed to have quenched the fire of their enthusiasm, they remained unchanged, firmly trusting that glory would retrace her steps and once more follow the imperial eagles. And now, when their idol was overthrown, their veneration had not diminished nor wavered. Napoleon, with his four hundred grenadiers, at Elba, was still the Emperor; and those who, as they conceived, had usurped his government, received no small share of hatred and execration. Amidst abandonment and ingratitude, when some deserted and others reviled him, the boys were true as steel. It was not solely because the career which was open to them closed with his abdication, but a nobler feeling of devotion animated them in his hour of trial, and survived his downfall.
Many of our instructors were well satisfied with the new state of things. Some of the older ones had been educated as priests, and were officiating in their calling, when the Revolution broke in upon them, trampling alike on sacred shrine and holy vestment. The shaven crown was a warrant for execution, and it rolled beneath the guillotine, or fell by cold-blooded murder at the altar where it ministered. Infuriated mobs hunted them like bloodhounds; and the cloisters of convent and monastery, which had hitherto been disturbed only by footsteps gliding quietly from cell to chapel, or the hum of voices mingling in devotion, now echoed the tread of armed ruffians and resounded with ribaldry and imprecations. An old man, who was for a time my teacher, told me many a tale of those days. He had narrowly escaped, once, by concealing himself under the floor of his room. He said that he felt the pressure, as his pursuers repeatedly passed over him, and could hear their avowed intention to hang him at the next lamp-post,—a mode of execution not uncommon, when hot violence could not wait the slow processes of law.
These men saw in the Restoration a hope that the good old times would come back,—that the crucifix would again be an emblem of temporal power, mightier than the sword,—that the cowled monk would become the counsellor of kings, and once more take his share in the administration of empires.
But if they expected to commence operations by subjecting their pupils to their own legitimate standard, and to bring about a tame acquiescence in the existing order of things, they were wofully mistaken. Conservatism never struggled with a more determined set of radicals. Their life and action were treason. They talked it, and wrote it, and sang it. There was no form in which they could express it that they left untouched. They covered the walls with grotesque representations of the royal family; they shouted out parodies of Bourbon songs; and there was not a hero of the old regime, from Hugh Capet down, whose virtues were not celebrated under the name of Napoleon. It was in vain that orders were issued not to mention him. They might as well have told the young rebels not to breathe. "Not mention him! They would like to see who could stop them!" And they yelled out his name in utter defiance of regulation and discipline.
Wonder was occasionally expressed, whether the time would come which would restore him to France. And now "the time had come, and the man."
While the assembled sovereigns were parcelling out the farm of Europe, in lots to suit purchasers, its late master decided to claim a few acres for his own use, and, as he set foot on his old domain, he is said to have exclaimed,—"The Congress of Vienna is dissolved!"
It was a beautiful afternoon of early spring, when a class returned from the Lyceum with news almost too great for utterance. One had in his hand a coarse, dingy piece of paper, which he waved above his head, and the others followed him with looks portending tidings of no ordinary character. That paper was the address of Napoleon to the army, on landing from Elba. It was rudely done, the materials were of the most common description, the print was scarcely legible,—but it was headed with the imperial eagle, and it contained words which none of his old soldiers could withstand. How it reached Paris, simultaneously with the intelligence of his landing, is beyond my comprehension; but copies of it were rapidly circulated, and all the inhabitants of Paris knew its contents before they slept that night.
I know of no writer who has so thoroughly understood the wonderful eloquence of Napoleon as Lord Brougham. He has pronounced the address to the Old Guard, at Fontainebleau, "a masterpiece of dignified and pathetic composition"; and the speech at the Champ de Mars, he says, "is to be placed amongst the most perfect pieces of simple and majestic eloquence." Napoleon certainly knew well the people with whom he had to deal, and his concise, nervous, comprehensive sentences told upon French feeling like shocks of a galvanic battery. What would have been absurd, if addressed to the soldiers of any other nation, was exactly the thing to fire his own with irresistible energy. At the battle of the Pyramids he said to them, "Forty centuries look upon your deeds," and they understood him. He pointed to "the sun of Austerlitz," at the dawn of many a decisive day, and they felt that it rose to look on their eagles victorious. If the criterion of eloquence be its power over the passions, that of Napoleon Bonaparte has been rarely equalled. It was always the right thing at the right time, and produced precisely the effect it aimed at. It was never more apparent than in the address in question. There were passages which thrilled the martial spirit of the land, and quickened into life the old associations connected with days of glory. Marshal Ney said, at his trial, that there was one sentence[A] in it which no French soldier could resist, and which drew the whole of his army over to the Emperor.
[Footnote A: "La victoire marchera au pas de charge."]
Such was the paper, which was read amidst the mad demonstrations of my schoolfellows. Their extravagance knew no limits; studies were neglected; and the recitations, next morning, demonstrated to our discomforted teachers that the minds of their pupils had passed the night on the march from Cannes to Paris.
The court journals spoke lightly of the whole matter, pronounced the "usurper" crazy, and predicted that he would be brought to the capital in chains. There were sometimes rumors that he was defeated and slain, and again that he was a prisoner at the mercy of the king. The telegraphic despatches were not made public, and the utmost care was practised by the government to conceal the fact that his continually increasing columns were rapidly approaching. There appeared to be no alteration in the usual routine of the royal family, and there was no outward sign of the mortal consternation that was shaking them to the centre of their souls. The day before the entrance of the Emperor, I happened to be passing through the court-yard of the Tuileries, when an array of carriages indicated that the inmates of the palace were about to take their daily drive. As my position was favorable, I stopped to look at the display of fine equipages, and soon saw part of the family come down and go out, as I supposed, for their morning recreation. It was, however, no party of pleasure, and they did not stop to take breath until they had passed the frontiers of France. They had information which was unknown to the public, and they thought it advisable to quit the premises before the new lessee took possession.
The next afternoon, my father, who was at that time in Paris, called for me, told me that a change was evidently about to take place, and wished me to accompany him. As we passed through the streets, the noise of our carriage was the only sound heard. Most of the shops were closed; few persons were abroad, and we scarcely met or passed a single vehicle. As we drew near the Tuileries the evidences of life increased, and when we drove into the Place du Carrousel, the quadrangle formed by the palace and the Louvre, the whole immense area was filled with people; yet the stillness was awful. Men talked in an undertone, as they stood grouped together, apparently unwilling to communicate their thoughts beyond their particular circle. The sound of wheels and the appearance of the carriage caused many to rush towards us; but, seeing strangers, they let us pursue our way until we drew up near the Arch of Triumph.
It was a strange sight, that sea of heads all around us heaving in portentous silence at the slightest incident. They felt that something, they hardly knew what, was about to take place. They were ignorant of the exact state of things; and as the royal standard was still on the palace, they supposed the king might be there. Now and then, a few officers, having an air of authority, would walk firmly and quickly through the crowd, as though they knew their errand and were intent on executing it. Again, a band of Polytechnic scholars, always popular with the mob, would be cheered as they hurried onward. Occasionally, small bodies of soldiers passed, going to relieve guard; and as they bore the Bourbon badge, they were sometimes noticed by a feeble cry of allegiance. At last, a drum was heard at one of the passages, and a larger number of troops entered the square. They were veteran-looking warriors, and bore upon them the marks of dust-stained travel. Their bronzed faces were turned towards the flag that floated over the building, and, as they marched directly towards the entrance, the multitude crowded around them, and a few voices cried, "Vive le Roi!" The commanding officer cast a proud look about him, took off his cap, raised it on the point of his sword, showing the tricolored cockade, and shouted, "Vive l'Empereur!" The charm was broken; and such a scene as passed before me no man sees twice in this world. All around those armed men there burst a cry which, diverging from that centre, spread to the outer border, till every voice of that huge mass was shrieking in perfect frenzy. Those nearest to the soldiers rushed upon them, hugging them like long-lost friends; some danced, or embraced the man next to them; some laughed like maniacs, and some cried outright. The place, where a few minutes before there arose only a confused hum of suppressed whisperings, now roared like a rock-bound sea-coast in a tempest. As if by magic, men appeared decorated with tricolored ribbons, and all joined with the soldiers in moving directly toward the place where the white flag was flapping its misplaced triumph over eyes which glared at it in hatred and hands which quivered to rend it piecemeal. Their wishes were anticipated; for the foremost rank had scarcely reached the threshold of the palace, when down went the ensign of the Bourbons, and the much-loved tricolor streamed out amidst thunder shouts which seemed to shake the earth.
A revolution was accomplished. One dynasty had supplanted another; and an epoch, over which the statesman ponders and the historian philosophizes, appeared to be as much a matter-of-course sort of thing as the removal of one family from a mansion to make room for another. In this case, however, the good old custom of leaving the tenement in decent condition was neglected; the last occupants having been too precipitate in their departure to conform to the usages of good housekeeping by consulting the comfort and convenience of their successor. On the contrary, to solace themselves for the mortification of ejection, the retiring household pocketed some of the loose articles, denominated crown jewels, which were afterwards recovered, however, by a swap for one of the family, who was impeded in his retreat and flattered into the presumption that he was worth exchanging.
We alighted from our carriage and passed through the basement-passage of the palace into the garden. We walked to the further end, encountering people who had heard the shouting and were hurrying to ascertain its meaning. At a bend of the path we met Mr. Crawford, our Minister at Paris, with Mr. Erving, U.S. Minister to Spain, and they eagerly inquired, "What news?" My father turned, and, walking back with them a few steps to where the building was visible, pointed to the standard at its summit. Nothing more was necessary. It told the whole story.
I left them and hurried back to the institution to which I belonged. I was anxious to relate the events of the day, and, as I was the only one of the pupils who had witnessed them, I had a welcome which might well have excited the jealousy of the Emperor. As far as the school was concerned, I certainly divided honors with him that evening. It was, however, a limited copartnership, and expired at bedtime.
Napoleon entered the city about eight o'clock that night. We were nearly two miles from his line of progress, but we could distinctly trace it by the roar of voices, which sounded like a continuous roll of distant thunder.
I saw him, two days after, at a window of the Tuileries. I stopped directly under the building, where twenty or thirty persons had assembled, who were crying out for him with what seemed to me most presumptuous familiarity. They called him "Little Corporal,"—"Corporal of the Violet,"—said they wanted to see him, and that he must come to the window. He looked out twice during the half-hour I staid there, had on the little cocked hat which has become historical, smiled and nodded good-naturedly, and seemed to consider that something was due from him to the "many-headed" at that particular time. Such condescension was not expected or given in his palmy days, but he felt now his dependence on the people, and had been brought nearer to them by misfortune.
It was said, at the time, that he was much elated on his arrival, but that he grew reserved, if not depressed, as his awful responsibility became more and more apparent. He had hoped for a division in the Allied Councils, but they were firm and united, and governed only by the unalterable determination to overwhelm and destroy him. He saw that his sole reliance was on the chances of war; that he had to encounter enemies whose numbers were inexhaustible, and who, having once dethroned him, would no longer be impeded by the terror of his name. There was, besides, no time to recruit his diminished battalions, or to gather the munitions of war. The notes of preparation sounded over Europe, and already the legions of his foes were hastening to encircle France with a cordon of steel. The scattered relics of the "Grand Army" which had erected and sustained his empire were hastily collected, and, as they in turn reached Paris, were reviewed on the Carrousel and sent forward to concentre on the battle-ground that was to decide his fate. No branch of art was idle that could contribute to the approaching conflict. Cannon were cast with unprecedented rapidity, and the material of war was turned out to the extent of human ability. But he was deficient in everything that constitutes an army. Men, horses, arms, equipage, all were wanting. The long succession of dreadful wars which had decimated the country had also destroyed, beyond the possibility of immediate repair, that formidable arm which had decided so many battles, and which is peculiarly adapted to the impetuosity of the French character. The cavalry was feeble, and it was evident, even to an unpractised eye, as the columns marched through the streets, that the horses were unequal to their riders. The campaign of Moscow had been irretrievably disastrous to this branch of the service. Thirty thousand horses had perished in a single night, and the events which succeeded had almost entirely exhausted this indispensable auxiliary in the tactics of war.
The expedients to which the government was reduced were evident in the processions of unwashed citizens, which paraded the streets as a demonstration of the popular determination to "do or die." Whatever could be raked from the remote quarters of Paris was marshalled before the Emperor. Faubourgs, which in the worst days of the Revolution had produced its worst actors, now poured out their squalid and motley inhabitants, and astonished the more refined portions of the metropolis with this eruption of semi-civilization.
[To be continued.]
MY JOURNAL TO MY COUSIN MARY.
I can no longer complain that I see no one but Kate, for she has an ardent admirer in one of our neighbors. He comes daily to watch her, in the Dumbiedikes style of courtship, and seriously interferes with our quiet pursuits. Besides this "braw wooer," we have another intruder upon our privacy.
Kate told me, a fortnight ago, that she expected a young friend of hers, a Miss Alice Wellspring, to pay her a visit of some weeks. I did not have the ingratitude to murmur aloud, but I was secretly devoured by chagrin.
How irksome, to have to entertain a young lady; to be obliged to talk when I did not feel inclined; to listen when I was impatient and weary; to have to thank her, perhaps fifty times a day, for meaningless expressions of condolence or affected pity; to tell her every morning how I was! Intolerable!
Ten chances to one, she was a giggling, flirting girl,—my utter abhorrence. I had seldom heard Lina speak of her. I only knew that she and her half-brother came over from Europe in the same vessel with my sister, and that, as he had sailed again, the young lady was left rather desolate, having no near relatives.
Miss Wellspring arrived a week ago, and I found that my fears had been groundless. She is an unaffected, pretty little creature,—a perfect child, with the curliest chestnut hair, deep blue eyes, and the brightest cheeks, lips, and teeth. She has a laugh that it is a pleasure to hear, and a quick blush which tempts to mischief. One wants continually to provoke it, it is so pretty, and the slightest word of compliment calls it up.
What the cherry is to the larger and more luscious fruits, or the lily of the valley to glowing and stately flowers, or what the Pleiades are among the grander constellations, my sister's protegee is among women;—it is ridiculous to call her Kate's friend. Many men would find their ideal of loveliness in her. She would surely excite a tender, protecting, cherishing affection. But where is there room in her for the wondering admiration, the loving reverence, which would make an attempt to win her an aspiration? And that is what my love must be, if it is to have dominion over me.
Ah, Mary! I forget continually that for me there is no such joy in the future.
"Hope springs eternal in the human breast,"
and no reasoning can quell it. I subdue my fancy to my fate sometimes, as a rational creature ought surely to do; but then I suffer acutely, and am wretched; while in a careless abandonment of myself to any and every dream of coming joy I find present contentment. I cannot help myself. I shall continue to dream, I am sure, until I have grown so old that I can resign all earthly hopes without sighing. I pray to be spared the sight of any object which, by rousing within me the desire of present possession, may renew the struggle with despair, to which I nearly succumbed when my profession was wrenched from me.
I was at first surprised to find that my sister cherished a more exceeding tenderness for her young friend than I had ever seen her manifest for any one; but my astonishment ceased when I found out that Alice's half-brother, who bears a different name, is the gentleman I saw with Kate in the box-tree arbor.
Since she has been here, Alice has been occupied in writing to different relatives about the arrangements for her future home,—a matter that is still unsettled. She brings almost all her letters to us, to be corrected; for she has a great dread of orthographic errors.
I was lying upon my couch, in the porch, yesterday, and through the low window I could see Alice as she sat at her writing-desk. Kate was sewing beside her, but just out of my sight. The young girl's hand flew over the paper, and a bright smile lighted up her face as she wrote.
"This is a different kind of letter from yesterday's, I fancy," said Kate,—"not a business, but a pleasure letter."
"Yes, so it is: for it is to Brother Walter, and all about you! When he wrote to tell me to love you and think much of your advice, and all that, he said something else, which requires a full answer, I can tell you!"
Kate was silent. The letter was finished, and Alice sprang up, tired of her long application. I heard her kiss my sister, who then said, with a lame attempt at unconcern,—
"I suppose I am to look over your letter while you run about to rest yourself."
Alice quickly answered, "No, thank you. I won't give you the trouble. The subject will make Walter blind to faults."
"But do you suppose that I have no curiosity as to what you have said about me?"
"I have said nothing but good. A little boasting about your conquests is the worst. I mention your Dumbiedikes most flatteringly. I don't make fun of him. I only want to scare Walter a bit."
"But, Alice, you don't know the circumstances. Do let me see the letter; it may be important"——
"No, no! you shall never see it! Indeed, no!" cried the girl, running across the porch and down the garden. She did not want any fastidious caution to suppress the fine things she had said, or cause the trouble of writing another letter. So she ran out of hearing of the entreaties of her friend.
Ben came to the door to say that Old Soldier and the cabriolet were ready for my daily drive. While we were gone, the boy would call and take Alice's letter to the post. The writer of it was out of sight and hearing. Here was a dilemma!
Kate threw her thimble and scissors into her box without her usual care, and I heard her walking to and fro. She passed the window at every turn, and I could see that her cheek was very pale, her eyes fixed upon the floor, and her finger pressed to her lip. She was thinking intently, in perfect abstraction. I could see the desk with the open letter upon it. At every turn Kate drew nearer to it.
It was a moment of intense temptation to my sister. I knew it, and I watched her struggles with a beating heart. It was a weighty matter with her. A belief in a successful rival might give Mr. —— pain,—might cause him to doubt her truth and affection,—might induce him to forget her, or cast her off in bitter indignation at her supposed fickleness. I could see in her face her alarm at these suppositions. Yes, it was a great temptation to do a very dishonorable action. A word from me would have ended the trial; for it is only in solitude that we are thus assailed. But then where would have been her merit? I should only cheat her out of the sweetest satisfaction in life,—a victory over a wicked suggestion. My presence would make the Evil One take to flight, and now she was wrestling with him. I felt sure she would not be conquered; for I could not have looked on to see her defeat. But who can estimate the power of a woman's curiosity, where the interests which are her very life are concerned?
She paused by the desk. The letter was upside down to her. Her hand was upon it to turn it, and she said boldly, aloud,—having forgotten me entirely,—
"I have a right to know what she says."
Then there was a hesitating pause, while she trembled on the brink of dishonor,—then a revulsion, and an indignant "Pshaw!"
It was a contemptuous denial of her own flimsy self-justification. She snatched away her hand, as she said it, with an angry frown. The blood rushed back to her face.
"I ought to be ashamed of myself!" she exclaimed, energetically. In a minute she was bustling about, putting away her things. In passing the window, now that she was freed from the thraldom of her intense thinking, she saw me lying where I might have been the witness to her inclination to wrong.
She started guiltily, and then began bunglingly to draw from me whether I had noticed anything of it. I took her hands, and looked her full in the face.
"I love you and honor you from the very bottom of my soul, Kate!"
"Not now! You can't! You must despise me!" she answered, turning away with a swelling bosom.
"I declare I never held you in so high estimation. Evil thoughts must come, even to the holiest saint; but only those who admit and welcome them are guilty,—not those who repel and conquer them. Surely not!"
"Thank you, Charlie. That is encouraging and comforting doctrine; and I think it is true. But what a lesson I have had to-day!"
"Yes, it has been a striking one. I will write about it to Mary."
"Oh, no! for mercy's sake don't expose me further!"
"Then you wish her to think you are too immaculate to be even tempted! stronger, purer even than our Saviour! for he knew temptation. You are above it,—are you? Come, Kate,—insincerity, pretension, and cowardice are not your failings, and I shall tell Mary of this incident, which has deeply moved me, and will, I know, really interest her. Here comes Alice."
The little lady presented herself before us all smiles, concealing one hand under her apron.
"Who's lost what I've found?" she cried.
"One of us, of course," said Kate.
"No, neither, so far as I know; but it nearly concerns you, Miss Lina, and I intend to drive a hard bargain."
"What are your terms?"
"Promise faithfully to tell me how it came where I found it, and I will show it to you,—yes, give it to you,—though, perhaps, I have the best claim to it, as nearest of kin to the owner."
Kate changed color, but would not betray too much eagerness.
"I cannot promise," she replied, trying for coolness,—"but if I can, I will tell you all you want to know about it."
Alice could hide it no longer. She held up a ring, with a motto on it in blue enamel. I had seen it upon Kate's finger, but not recently.
"Where did you find it?" asked my sister, with difficulty. She was very pale.
"In the box-tree arbor. How came it there? It was Watty's, for I was with him when he bought it in Venice. I can believe that it is yours; but how came it lost, and trampled into the earth? Didn't you care for it?"
She questioned with an arch smile. She knew better than that, and she was burning with curiosity to understand why finding it moved Kate so deeply. She had a young girl's curiosity about love-affairs. I came to the conclusion that Kate had offered to return the ring on the day they parted, and that it fell to the ground, disregarded by both, occupied, as they were, with great emotions.
"Come," continued Alice,—"did he, or you, throw it away? Speak, and you shall have it."
"I can tell you nothing about it, and I will not claim your treasure-trove. Keep it, Ally."
"Indeed, I won't keep other folks' love-tokens! There,—it belongs on that finger, I know! But do tell me about it!—do! I will tell you something, if you will. Yes, indeed, I have got a secret you would give anything to know! Walter told it to me, and it is about you. He spoke of it in his last letter, and said he meant to—Come, I'll tell you, though he said I mustn't, if you will only let me into the mystery of this ring. The secret is in my letter, and I will let you read it, if you will."
Lina looked at me with meaning eyes. The contents of the letter were doubled in value by this confession, and yet this was no temptation at all. She was not alone.
"You foolish little thing," she said, kissing the sweet, entreating face, "do you suppose I will tell you my secrets, when you are so easily bribed to betray your brother's?"
Alice's conscience was alarmed.
"Why!" she ejaculated. "How near I came to betraying confidence,—and without meaning to do it, either! Oh, how glad I am you did not let me go on so thoughtlessly! I should have been so sorry for it afterwards! I know Walter will tell you himself, some day,—but I have no business to do it, especially as he did not voluntarily make me his confidante; I found out the affair by accident, and he bound me to secresy. Oh, I thank you for stopping me when I was forgetting everything in my eager curiosity! And this letter, too, I offered to show you! How strangely indiscreet!"
"Perhaps I read it while you were gone," said Kate, in a low voice.
"No, you didn't, Kate! You can't make me believe that of you! I know you too well!"
"Indeed!" said Kate, blushing violently; "I can tell you, I came very near it."
"'A miss is as good as a mile,' Lina. And I know you were far enough from anything so mean."
"I was so near as to have my hand upon your letter, Alice dear. One feather's weight more stress of temptation, and I should have fallen."
"Pure nonsense! Isn't it, Charles?"
"Yes. Kate, you need not flatter yourself that you have universal ability, clever as you are. In anything dishonorable you are a perfect incapable, and that is all you have proved this morning."
New York; July.
I was too comfortable, Mary! Such peace could not last, any more than a soft Indian-summer can put off relentless winter.
Oh, for those sweet June days when I had my couch wheeled to the deepest shade of the grove, and lay there from morning until evening, with the green foliage to curtain me,—the clover-scented wind to play about my hair, and touch my temples with softest, coolest fingers,—the rushing brook to sing me to sleep,—the very little blossoms to be obsequious in dancing motion, to please my eye,—and the holy hush of Nature to tranquillize my soul!
I had brought myself, by what I thought the most Christian effort, to be content with my altered lot. I gave up ambition, active usefulness, fireside, and family. I tried but for one thing,—peace.
I had nearly attained it, when there comes an impertinent officer of fate, known as Dr. G., and he peremptorily orders me out of my gentle bliss. I am sinking into apathy, forsooth! The warm weather is prostrating me! I must be stirred to activity by torture, like the fainting wretch on the rack! I am commanded to travel! I, who cannot bear the grating of my slow-moving wheels over the smooth gravel-walk, without compressed lips and corrugated brow!
The Doctor ordained it; Kate executed it. I am no longer my own master; and so here I am in New York, resting for a day, on my way to some retired springs in the Green Mountains, where the water is medicinal, the air cool and bracing, the scenery transcendent, and the visitors few.
I have taken Ben for my valet. He looks quite a gentleman when dressed in his Sunday clothes, and his Scotch shrewdness serves us many a good turn. He has the knack of arresting any little advantages floating on the stream of travel, and securing them for our benefit.
I journey on my wheeled couch from necessity, as I have not been able to sit up at all since the heats of June set in. So I have, in this trip, a novel experience,—on the railroad, being consigned to the baggage car, and upon the steamboat, to the forward deck. I cannot endure the close saloons, and prefer the fresh breeze, even when mingled with tobacco-smoke. I go as freight, and Kate keeps a sharp eye to her baggage, for she will not leave my side. I tried to flatter her by saying that the true order of things was reversed,—her sex being entitled to that name and position, and mine to the relation she now bore to me. She had the perversity to consider this a twit, and gave me a stinging reply, which I will not repeat to you, because you are a woman likewise, and would enjoy it too much.
We left peaceful, green Bosky Dell late in the afternoon, and slept in Philadelphia that night. Yesterday—the hottest day of the season—we set out for New York. I thought it was going to be sultry, when, as we passed Washington Square before sunrise, on our way to the boat, I saw the blue haze among the trees, as still and soft and hay-scented as if in the country. Ben often quotes an old Scotch proverb,—"Daylight will peep through a sma' hole." So beauty will peep through every small corner that is left to Nature, even under severe restrictions. Witness our noble trees, walled in by houses and cramped by pavements!
The streets were quite deserted that morning,—for, being obliged to ride very slowly, I had set out betimes. No one was up but ourselves and the squirrels, except one wren, whose twittering sounded strangely loud in the hushed city. Probably she took that opportunity to try her voice and note her improvement in singing, for in the rush of day what chance has she? These country sounds and sights, in the heart of a populous city, were, for that reason, a thousand-fold more sweet to me than ever. Their delights were multiplied to me by thinking of the number of hearts that took them in daily.
Kate and I rode in a carriage. Ben followed in a wagon, with the trunks and "jaunting-car-r-r." When we reached the ferry, the porters carried my couch, and Ben myself, depositing us upon the deck, where I could look upon the river. The stately flow of the waters impressed me with dread. They swept by, not swift, not slow,—steady, like fate. Ours may be a dull river to an artist; but its volume of water, its width, perhaps even the flat shores, which do not seem to bound it, make it grand and impressive.
Kate recalled me from my almost shuddering gaze down into the water, and drew my attention to a scene very unlike our little picturesque, rural views at home. The ruddy light of morning made the river glow like the deep-dyed Brenta, while our dear, unpretending Quaker city showed like one vast structure of ruby. Vessels of all kinds and sizes (though of but two colors,—black in shadow, and red in sunlight) lay motionless, in groups.
The New York passengers had now collected on the ferry-boat, and I was all alive to impressions of every kind. A crowd of men and boys around a soap-peddler burst into a laugh, and I must needs shout out in irrepressible laughter also, though I did not hear the joke. I was delighted to mingle my voice with other men's in one common feeling. Compulsory solitude makes us good democrats. Kate regarded me with watchful eyes; she was afraid I had become delirious! I was amazed at myself for this susceptibility,—I, who, accustomed to hotel-life, had formerly been so impassive, to be thus tickled with a straw!
The river was soon crossed, and then we took the cars. The heat and suffocation were intolerable to me, and when we arrived at Amboy I was so exhausted that strangers thought me dying. But Kate again, though greatly alarmed herself, defended me from that imputation. One half-hour on the deck of the boat to New York, with the free ocean-breeze blowing over me, made me a strong man again,—I mean, strong as usual. It was inexpressible delight, that ocean-breeze. It makes me draw a long breath to think of it, and its almost miraculous power of invigoration. But I will not rhapsodize to one who thinks no more of a sea-breeze every afternoon than of dessert after dinner.
With my strength, my sense of amusement at what went on about me revived in full force. I was so absorbed, that I could not take in the meaning of anything Kate said to me, unless I fixed my eyes, by a great effort, upon her face. So she let me stare about me undisturbed, and smiled like some indulgent mother, amused at my boyishness. I had no idea that so few months spent in seclusion would make the bustling world so novel to me.
Observe, Mary, that I did not become purely egotistical, until I began to mingle again with "the crowd, the hum, the shock of men." Henceforth I shall not be able to promise you any other topic than my own experiences. My individuality is thrust upon my notice momently by my isolation in this crowd. In solitude I did not dream what a contrast I had become to my kind. Those strong, quick, shrewd business-men on the boat set it before me glaringly.
Soon after I was established upon the forward deck, my attention was attracted by two boys lying close under the bulwarks. I was struck by their foreign dress, their coarse voices, and their stupid faces. Two creatures, I thought, near akin to the beasts of the field. They cowered in their sheltered corner, and soon fell asleep. One of the busy boat-hands found them in his way, and gave them a shove or two, but failed to arouse them. He looked hard at them, pitied their fatigue, and left them undisturbed. Presently an old Irish woman, a cake-and-apple-vendor, I suppose, sat down near them upon a coil of rope, and took from her basket a fine large cherry-pie, which appeared to be the last of her stock, and reserved as a tit-bit for her dinner. She turned it round, and eyed it fondly, before she cut it carefully into many equal parts. Then, with huge satisfaction, she began to devour it, making a smacking of the lips and working of the whole apparatus of eating, which proved that she intensely appreciated the uses of mastication, or else found a wonderful joy in it. "How much above an intelligent pig is she?" I asked myself.
While I was pondering this question, I saw that the boy nearest her stirred in his sleep, struggled uneasily with his torpor, and at last lifted his head blindly with his eyes yet shut. He sniffed in the air, like a hungry dog. Yes! The odor of food had certainly reached him,—that sniff confirmed it,—and his eyes starting open, he sat up, and looked with grave steadiness at the pie. It was just the face of a dog that sees a fine piece of beef upon his master's table. He knows it is not for him,—he has no hope of it,—he does not go about to get it, nor think of the possibility of having it,—yet he wants it!
It was a look of unmitigated desire. The woman had disposed of half of her dainty fare, taking up each triangular piece by the crust, and biting off the point, dripping with cherry-juice, first, when her wandering gaze alighted upon the boy. She had another piece just poised, but she slowly lowered it to the plate, and stared at the hungry face. I expected her to snarl like a cat, snatch her food and go away. But she didn't. She counted the pieces,—there were five. She eyed them, and shook her head. She again raised the tempting morsel,—for the woman was unmistakably hungry. But the boy's steady look drew the pie from her lips, and she suddenly held out the plate to him, saying, "There, honey,—take that. May-be ne'er a morsel's passed yer lips the day." The boy seized the unexpected boon greedily, but did not forget to give a duck of his head, by way of acknowledgment. The woman leaned her elbows on her knees, and watched him while he was devouring it.
He had demolished two pieces before the other boy awoke at the sound of eating, which, however, at last reached his ears and aroused him, though the shout and kick of the boat-hand had not disturbed him. He drew close to his companion, and watched him with watering mouth, but did not dare to ask him for a share of what he seemed little disposed to part with. The big boy finished the third piece, and hesitated about the fourth; but no, he was a human being,—no brute. He thrust the remainder into his watcher's hands, and turned his back upon him, so as not to be tantalized. Beasts indeed! Here were two instances of self-denial, nowhere to be matched in the whole animal creation, except in that race which is but little lower than the angels!
Among the young gentlemen smoking around us, there was one who drew my attention, and that of every other person present, by his jolly laugh. He was a short man, with broad shoulders and full chest, but otherwise slight. He was very good-looking, and had the air of a perfect man of the world,—but not in any disagreeable sense of the word, for a more genial fellow I never saw. His ha! ha! was irresistible. Wherever he took his merry face, good-humor followed. He had a smart clap on the shoulder for one, a hearty hand-shake for another, a jocular nod for a third. I envied those whose company he sought,—even those whom he merely accosted.
Presently, to my agreeable surprise, he drew near me, threw away his cigar, on Kate's account, and said,—
"Lend me a corner of this machine, Sir? No seats to be had."
"Certainly," I responded eagerly, and then, with a bow to Kate, he sat down upon the foot of my couch. He turned his handsome, roguish face to me, with a look at once quizzical and tenderly commiserating, while he rattled off all sorts of lively nonsense about the latest news. The captain, who pitied my situation, I suppose, came up just then, to ask if anything could be done to make me more comfortable; and he happened to call both the stranger and myself by our names. I thus learned that his was Ryerson.
When he heard mine, he changed color visibly, and looked eagerly at Kate. I introduced him, and then, with a timidity quite unlike his former dashing air, he said he had the pleasure of being acquainted with an admiring friend of hers,—Miss Alice Wellspring. Had she heard from her lately?
"Yes; she was very well, staying with her aunt."
He was aware of that. He had asked the question, because he thought he could, perhaps, give later information of her than Kate possessed, and set her mind at rest about the welfare of her young friend, as she must be anxious. He was glad to say that Miss Wellspring was quite well—two hours ago.
Kate made a grimace at me, and answered, that she was "glad to hear it." Mr. Ryerson looked unutterably grateful, and said he was "sure she must be."
"Portentous!" whispered Kate to me, when the young man made a passing sloop the excuse for turning away to hide his blushing temples.
She gave him time, and then asked a few questions concerning Alice's home and friends. He replied, that she was in "a wretched fix." Her aunt was a vixen, her home a rigorous prison. He sighed deeply, and seemed unhappy, until the subject was changed,—a relief which Kate had too much tact to defer long.
This sunny-hearted fellow made the rest of the journey very short to me. I think such a spirit is Heaven's very best boon to man. It is a delightful possession for one's self, and a godsend to one's friends.
When we reached the Astor House, I was put to bed, like a baby, in the middle of the afternoon, thoroughly exhausted by the unusual excitement. The crickets and grasshoppers in the fields at home were sufficiently noisy to make me pass wakeful nights; but now I dropped asleep amid the roar of Broadway, which my open windows freely admitted.
Before I had finished my first nap, I was awakened by whispering voices, and saw Ben standing by me, pale, and anxiously searching Kate's face for information. Her eyes were upon her watch, her fingers on my wrist.
"Pulse good, Ben. We need not be alarmed. It is wholesome repose,—much better than nervous restlessness. He can bear the journey, if he gets such sleep as this."
"Humph!" I thought, shutting my eyes crossly. "Why don't she let a fellow be in peace, then? It is very hard that I can't get a doze without being meddled with!"
"I was just distraught, Miss Kathleen," said Ben; "for it's nigh about twenty hour sin' he dropped asleep, and I was frighted ontil conshultin' ye aboot waukin' him."
I burst into a laugh, and they both joined me in it, from surprise. It is not often I call upon them for that kind of sympathy. It is generally in sighs and groans that I ask them—most unwillingly, I am sure—to participate.
Kate wrote, some time ago, to our dear little Alice, begging her to join us in the Green Mountains, for it makes us both unhappy to think of that pretty child under iron rule; but her aunt refused to let her come to us.
C—— Springs. July.
I am here established, drinking the waters and breathing the mountain air, but not gaining any marvellous benefit from either of them. When I repine in Ben's hearing, he sighs deeply, and advises me "to heed the auld-warld proverb, and 'tak' things by their smooth handle, sin' there's nae use in grippin' at thorns." Kate, too, reproves me for hindering my recovery by fretting at its tardiness. She tries to comfort me, by saying that I ought to be thankful, that, instead of being obliged to waste my youth in "horrid business," I can lie here observing and enjoying the beautiful world. Thereupon I overwhelm her with quotations:—"The horse must be road-worn and world-worn, that he may thoroughly enjoy his drowsy repose in the sun, where he winks in sleepy satisfaction";—and Carlyle: "Teufelsdroeckh's whole duty and necessity was, like other men's, to work in the right direction, and no work was to be had; whereby he became wretched enough";—and, "Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness." Then I ask her, if it is not the utmost wretchedness to have found that work and felt its blessedness, and then be condemned not to do it. To all this she replies by singing that old hymn,—I make no apology for writing it down entire,—perhaps you do not know it,—
"Heart, heart, lie still! Life is fleeting fast; Strife will soon be past." "I cannot lie still; Beat strong I will."
"Heart, heart, lie still! Joy's but joy, and pain's but pain; Either, little loss or gain." "I cannot lie still; Beat strong I will."
"Heart, heart, lie still! Heaven over all Rules this earthly ball." "I cannot lie still; Beat strong I will."
"Heart, heart, lie still! Heaven's sweet grace alone Can keep in peace its own." "Let that me fill, And I am still."
"Heaven's sweet grace" does not fill my heart; for I am exhausting myself in longings to walk again,—to be independent. I long to climb these mountains,—perverse being that I am,—principally to get out of the way of counsel, sympathy, and tender care. Since I can never so liberate myself, I am devoured by desire to do so. Kate divines this new feeling, and respects it; but as this is only another coal of fire heaped upon my head, of course it does not soothe me.
Sometimes in the visions of the night I am happy. I dream that I am at the top of Mount Washington. Cold, pure air rushes by me; clouds lie, like a gray ocean, beneath me. I am alone upon the giant rock, with the morning star and the measureless heights of sky. I tremble at the awful silence,—exult fearfully in it. The clouds roll away, and leave the world revealed, lying motionless and inanimate at my feet. Yet I am as far from all sight of humanity as before! Should the whole nation be swarming below the mountain, armies drawn up before armies, with my eyes resting upon them, I should not see them, but sit here in sublime peace. Man's puny form were from this height as undistinguishable as the blades of grass in the meadows below. I know, that, if all the world stood beneath, and strained their vision to the utmost upon the very spot where I stand, I should still be in the strict privacy of invisibility. This isolation I pine for. But I can never, never feel it—out of a dream.
You guess rightly. I am in a repining mood, and must pour out all my grievances. I feel my helplessness cruelly.
But I must forget myself a little while, and describe these Springs to you, with the company here assembled,—only twenty or thirty people. The house is a good enough one; the country yet very wild. My couch is daily wheeled to a shady porch which looks down the avenue of trees leading to the spring, a white marble basin, bubbling over with bright water.
Gay parties, young ladies with lovers, happy mammas with their children, fathers with their clinging daughters, pass me,—and I, motionless, follow them with my eyes down the avenue, until they emerge into the sunlight about the spring. Many of them give me a kindly greeting; some stop to stare. The look of pity which saddens nearly every face that approaches me cuts me to the heart. Can I never give joy, or excite pleasurable emotion? Must I always be a mute and unwilling petitioner for sympathy in suffering!—always giving pain? never anything but pain and pity?
There is a summer-house near the spring, and now I lie there, watching the water-drinkers. Like rain upon the just and unjust, the waters benefit all,—but surely most those simple souls who take them with eager hope and bless them with thankful hearts. The first who arrive are from the hotel, mostly silken sufferers. They stand, glass in hand, chatting and laughing,—they stoop to dip,—and then they drink. These persons soon return to the house in groups,—some gayly exchanging merry words or kindly greetings, but others dragging weary limbs and discontented spirits back to loneliness.
The fashionable hour is over, and now comes another class of health-seekers. A rough, white-covered wagon jolts up. The horse is tied to a post, a curtain unbuttoned and raised, and from a bed upon the uneasy floor a pale, delicate boy, shrinking from the light, is lifted by his burly father. The child is carried to the spring, and puts out a groping hand when his father bids him drink. He cannot find the glass, and his father must put it to his lips. He is blind, except to light,—and that only visits those poor sightless eyes to agonize them! Where the water flows off below the basin in a clear jet, the father bathes his boy's forehead, and gently, gently touches his eyelids. But the child reaches out his wasted hands, and dashes the water against his face with a sad eagerness.
Other country vehicles approach. The people are stopping to drink of this water, on their way to drink of the waters of life in church. They are smart and smiling in their Sunday clothes. I observe, that, far from being the old or diseased, they are mostly young men and pretty girls. The marble spring is a charming trysting-place!
There are swarms of children here all day long. This is the first time since I left Kate's apron-string at seven years old, that I have seen much of children. Boys, to be sure, I was with until I left college; but the hotel-life I afterwards led kept me quite out of the way of youngsters. Now, I am much amused at the funny little world that opens before my notice. They flirt like grown-up people! I heard a little chit of six say to a youth of five,—
"How dare you ask me to go to the spring with you, when you've been and asked Ellen already? I don't have to put up with half a gentleman!"
A flashy would-be lady, bustling up to the spring with her little daughter, burst into a loud laugh at the remark of an acquaintance.
"Mamma!" said Miss, tempering severity with benign dignity,—"you must not laugh so loud. It's vulgar."
Her mother lowered her tone, and looked subdued. Miss turned to a companion, and said, gravely,—
"I have to speak to her about that, often. She don't like it,—but I must correct her!"
A little girl—a charming, old-fashioned, real child—came into the summer-house a few minutes ago, and I gave up my writing to watch her. After some coy manoeuvring about the door, she drew nearer and nearer to me, as if I were a snake fascinating a pretty bird. Her tongue seemed more bashful than the rest of her frame; for she came within arm's-length, let me catch her, draw her to me, and hold her close to my side. A novel sensation of fondness for the little thing made me venture—not without some timidity, I confess—to lay my hand upon her head, and pass it caressingly over her soft young cheek, meanwhile saying encouraging things to her, in hopes of hearing her voice and making her acquaintance. She would not speak, but played with my buttons, and hung her head. At last I asked,—
"Don't you want me to tell you a little story?"
Her head flew up, her great black eyes wide open, and she said, eagerly, "Oh, yes! that's what I came for."
"Did you? Well, what shall it be about?"
"Why, about yourself,—the prince who was half marble, and couldn't get up. And I want to see your black marble legs, please!"
If I had hugged an electrical eel, I could not have been more shocked! I don't know how I replied, or what became of the child. I was conscious only of a kind of bitter horror, and almost affright. But when Kate, a quarter of an hour afterwards, brought her book and sat down beside me, I could not tell her about it, for laughing.
The little girl is in sight now. She is standing near the porch, talking to some other children, gesticulating, and shaking her curls. Probably she was a deputy from them, to obtain a solution of the mystery of my motionless limbs. They half believe I am the veritable Prince of the Black Isles! They alternately listen to her and turn to stare at me; so I know that I am the subject of their confab.
Some one is passing them now,—a lady. She pauses to listen. She, too, glances this way with a sad smile. She comes slowly down the avenue. A graceful, queenly form, and lovely face! She has drunk of the waters, and is gone.
Mary, do you know that gentle girl has added the last drop of bitterness to my cup? My lot has become unbearable. I gnash my teeth with impotent rage and despair.
I will not be the wreck I am! My awakening manhood scorns the thought of being forever a helpless burden to others. I demand my health, and all my rights and privileges as a man,—to work,—to support others,—to bear the burden and heat of the day! Never again can I be content in my easy couch and my sister's shady grove!
Ah, Dr. G., you have indeed roused me from apathy! I am in torture, and Heaven only knows whether on this side of the grave I shall ever find peace again!
Poor Kate reads my heart, and weeps daily in secret. Brave Kate, who shed so few tears over her own grief!
C—— Springs. August.
I so continually speak of my illness, Mary, that I fear you have good right to think me that worst kind of bore, a hypochondriac. But something is now going on with me that raises all my hopes and fears. I dare not speak of it to Kate, lest she should be too sanguine, and be doomed to suffer again the crush of all her hopes.
I really feel that I could not survive disappointment, should I ever entertain positive hope of cure. Neither can I endure this suspense without asking some one's opinion. There is no medical man here in whom I have confidence, and so I go to you, as a child does to its mother in its troubles, not knowing what she can do for it, but relying upon her to do something.
I will explain what it is that excites me to such an agony of dread and expectation. When the little girl asked me to let her see my marble limbs, supposing me the Prince of the Black Isles, she sprang forward in the eagerness of childish curiosity, and touched my knee with her hand. I was so amazed at this glimpse into her mind, that for some time I only tingled with astonishment. But while I was telling Kate about it, it all came back to me again,—her stunning words, her eager spring, her prompt grasp of my knee,—and I remembered that I had involuntarily started away from her childish hand, that is, moved my motionless limb!
I tried to do it again, but it was impossible. Still I could not help thinking that I had done it once, under the influence of that electrical shock.
Then I have another source of hope. I have never suffered any pain in my limbs, and they might have been really marble, for all the feeling I have had in them. Now I begin to be sensible of a wearisome numbness and aching, which would be hard to bear, if it were not that it gives me the expectation of returning animation. Do you think I may expect it, and that I am not quite deluding myself?
So I wrote two days ago, Mary, and I was right! That was returning sensation and motion. I can now move my feet. I cannot yet stand, or walk, or help myself, any more than before; but I can, by a voluntary effort, move.
Rejoice with me! I am a happy fellow this day! Dazzling daylight is peeping through this sma' hole! Remember what I wrote of a certain lady;—and Ben has hunted me up a law-book, which I am devouring. My profession, and other blessings, again almost within grasp! This is wildness, hope run riot, I know; but let me indulge to-day, for it is this day which has set me free. I never voluntarily stirred before since the accident,—I mean my lower limbs, of course. After writing a sentence, I look down at my feet, moving them this way and that, to make sure that I am not stricken again.
The day I began this letter I had proof that I had not merely fancied movement, when the little girl startled me. A clumsy boy stumbled over my couch, and I shrank, visibly, from receiving upon my feet the pitcher of water he was carrying. I was in the porch. The beautiful girl who formerly made my affliction so bitter to me was passing at the moment, with her arm drawn affectionately through her father's. She saw the stumble, and sprang forward with a cry of alarm. It looked, certainly, as if my defenceless feet must receive the crash, and I attempted instinctively to withdraw them,—partially succeeding! I saw this at the same time that I heard the sweetest words that ever fell into my heart, in the most joyful, self-forgetful tones of the sweetest voice!
"Oh, father! He moved! He moved!"
Mr. Winston turned to me with congratulations, shaking my hand with warmth; and then his daughter extended hers,—cordially! Of course my happiness was brimming!
I afterwards tried repeatedly to put my feet in motion. I could not do it. I could not think how to begin,—what power to bring to bear upon them. This annoyed me beyond measure, and I spent yesterday in wearisome effort to no purpose. My thinking, willing mind was of no use to me; but instinctive feeling, and a chapter of accidents, have brought me to my present state of activity. A wish to change an uncomfortable position in which Ben left me this morning restored me to voluntary action. I tried to turn away from the sun-glare, using my elbows, as usual, for motors. To my surprise, I found myself assisting with my feet,—and by force of will I persisted in the effort, and continued the action. Having got the clue to the mystery, I have now only to will and execute. My rebellious members are brought into subjection! I am king of myself! Hurrah!
Good-bye, dearest friend. I shake my foot to you,—an action more expressive of joyful good-will than my best bow.
I hope my return to health will not cost me dear. I begin to fear losing the sympathy and affection of those I have learned to love so dearly, and who have cherished me in their hearts simply because of my infirmities. When I am a vigorous man, will you care for me? will Kate centre her life in me? will Miss Ada Winston look at me so often and so gently?
Well, don't laugh at me for my grasping disposition! Affection is very grateful to me, and I should be sorry to do without it, after having lived in a loving atmosphere so long.
I believe Ben is as proud of me as he was of his Shanghai, but he has a proverb which he quotes whenever he sees me much elated: "When the cup's fu', carry't even." His own cautious Scotch head could do that, perhaps; but mine is more giddy, and I am afraid I shall spill some drops from my full cup of joy by too rash advancing.
Kate is not so wild with delight as I am. She still forbids herself to exult. Probably she dares not give way to unbounded hope, remembering the bitterness of her former trial, and dreading its recurrence. She says it makes her tremble to see my utter abandonment to joyful dreams.
It is Kate's fault that you have not received this letter before now. She kept it to say a few words to you about my recovery, but has at last yielded to me the pleasure of telling of something far more interesting, which has occurred since,—not more interesting to me, but probably so to any one else.
One evening, Kate went, with everybody from the house, to see the sunset from the hills above this glen, and I lay alone in the back porch, in the twilight. A light wagon drove up, and in two minutes a little lady had run to me, thrown herself upon her knees beside me, and pressed her sweet lips to my forehead. It was our darling little Alice Wellspring.
Immediately following her came Mr. Ryerson, in a perfect ecstasy of laughter, and blushing.
"We've run away!" whispered she.
"And got married this morning!" said he.
"But where was the necessity of elopement?" I asked, bewildered,—Kate having told me that Alice's aunt was doing her best to "catch Ryerson for her niece," she having had certain information upon that point from a near relative.
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed he, slapping his knees in intense enjoyment, as he sat in his old place by my feet. "It is a practical joke,—one that will have in it what somebody calls the first element of wit,—surprise. A more astonished and mystified old lady than she will be would be hard to find! She was so willing!"
"Don't say anything against Aunt, Harry. I'm safe from her now, and so are you. She wanted such an ostentatious wedding, Charlie, that I did not like it, and Harry declared positively that he would not submit to it. So I had just to go off quietly, and come here to Kate and you, my best friends in the world, except Walter. After you know Harry, you won't blame me."
It was very rash of the child, but really I cannot blame her, as I should, if she had chosen any one else. Ryerson is one who shows in his face and in every word and action that he is a kind and noble fellow.
Kate, to my surprise, is enchanted with this performance. It chimes with her independent notions, but not with my prudent ones. However, it is done, and I never saw a more satisfactorily mated couple. It would have been a cruel pity to see that light, good little heart quelled by a morose husband, or its timidity frightened into deceitfulness by a severe one. Now she is as fearless and courageous as a pet canary.
Ryerson has one grievous fault; he uses all sorts of slang phrases. It makes his conversation very funny, but Alice don't like it, especially when he approaches the profane.
He told a very good story the other day, spiced a little in language. Everybody laughed outright. Alice looked grave.
"What is the matter, wifey?" he called out, anxiously; for with him there is no reserve before strangers. He seems to think the whole world kin, and himself always the centre of an attached and indulgent family.
"How could you say those bad words, with a child in the room?" she said, reproachfully,—pointing to my little black-eyed friend.
"I only said, 'The Devil,'—that's all! But now I remember,—if a story is ever so good, and 'the Devil' gets into it, it's no go with you! But, Allie, you shouldn't be a wet blanket to a fellow! When he is trying to be entertaining, you might help him out, instead of extinguishing him! Laugh just a little to set folks going, and make moral reflections afterwards, for the benefit of the children."
"You know, Harry, I can't make reflections!"
"No more you can,—ha! ha! If you could, there would be the Devil to pay—in curtain lectures, wouldn't there?"
"Pshaw, now, Allie, don't be hard upon me! That was a very little swear—for the occasion!"
She will refine him in time.
Ryerson has infused new spirit into this stiff place. The very day he came, I observed that various persons, who had held aloof from all others, drew near to him. The fellow seems the soul of geniality, and everybody likes him,—from old man to baby. The young girls gather round him for chat and repartee,—the young men are always calling to him to come boating, or gunning, or riding with them,—the old gentlemen go to him with their politics, and the old ladies with their aches. Young America calls him a "regular brick," for he lends himself to build up everybody's good-humor.
He is everything to me. Before he came, Mr. Winston was almost my only visitor, though other gentlemen occasionally sat with me a few minutes. But now everybody flocks to my couch, because Harry's head-quarters are there. He has broken down the shyness my unfortunate situation maintained between me and others. His cheery "Well, how are you to-day, old fellow?" sets everybody at ease with me. The ladies have come out from their pitying reserve. A glass of fresh water from the spring, a leaf-full of wild berries, a freshly pulled rose, and other little daily attentions, cheer me into fresh admiration of them "all in general, and one in particular," as Ryerson says.
Perhaps you think—I judge so from your letter—that I ought to describe Miss Winston to you. She is finely——Ah, I find that she is wrapped in some mysterious, ethereal veil, the folds of which I dare not disturb, even with reverent hand, and for your sake! Ah, Mary, I aspire!
C—— Springs. September.
The autumn scenery is gorgeous up among these misty hills, but I will not dwell upon it. I have too much to say of animated human nature, to more than glance out of doors. Nearly all the boarders are gone. Miss Winston left last week for her home in Boston. I am desolate indeed! The day after she went away, I stood upon my own feet without support, for the first time. Now I walk daily from the house to the spring, with the help of Kate's or Ben's arm and a cane, though I am still obliged to remain on my couch nearly all day long. I write this in direct reply to your question.
Now for the great exciting subject of the present time. I will give it in detail, as women like to have stories told.
The little wife, our Alice, came running into Kate's parlor one day, while we were both sitting there reading. She was in extreme excitement. We heard her laughing, just outside the door, in the most joyous manner; but she pulled a long face as she entered. She sank down upon the floor by my couch, so as to be on a level with me, took my hand and Kate's, and then, taking breath, said:
"Listen, Kate, and don't be agitated."
Kate was, of course, extremely agitated at once. She divined the subject about to be introduced, and her heart beat tumultuously.
"You remember I nearly betrayed Walter's secret once? Well, I am going to tell it to you now, really."
"He gave you leave, then!" said Kate, almost breathless.
"Yes, yes! This is it——Now, Kate, if you look so pale, I can't go on!"
I motioned to her to proceed at once.
"Well, he had some engineering to do in Russia, you know. They wanted to get him to undertake another job,—I don't know, nor care, what it was,—and he went out to see about it. For Charlie's sake, you let him go away almost in despair, you cruel girl! Well, when I was visiting you, he made a little spy of me. I was not to spy you, Kate, but Charlie here, and let Walter know of the slightest change for the better in him. Then he was to get some one to attend to his Russian work, and post right straight home to you, Kate! Well, my aunt wouldn't let me stay with you,—cross old thing! And she kept me so very close, that I couldn't watch Charlie at all. Then she went and threatened me with a long engagement with Harry, only to give me time to get heaps and heaps of sewing done! I knew the only chance I could get of gaining information for Walter was just to run off to you with Hal, and cut a long matter short. Well, so I came, and I wrote to Walter, the very night I arrived, that the doctor said, Charlie, that you would be quite well in a month or two! That was a month ago. But Walter had not waited for me. Perhaps he had other spies. At any rate"——
"What? what? Be quick!" cried I, seeing that Kate was almost fainting from this suspense.
"He has come!"
Kate pressed her hand over the joyful cry that burst from her lips, and, turning away from us, sprang up, and walked to the window. There was a moment of perfect silence. Kate put her hand behind her, and motioned to the door. Alice went softly out and closed it. I could not rise, poor cripple, from intense agitation.
My sister drew one long, quivering, sobbing breath,—and then she had a good cry, as women say. It seemed to me enough to give one a headache for a week, but it refreshed her. After bathing her eyes with some iced water, she came and leaned over me.
"Thank God, Kate," I said, "for your sake and mine!"
"Can you spare me, after you are well again, Charlie,—if he"——
"Am I a monster of selfishness and ingratitude?"
She kissed me, took up her work, and sat down to sew.
"Kate!" said I, amazed, "what are you doing? Why don't you go down?"
"What for? To hunt him up at the bar-keeper's desk? or in the stables, perhaps?"
"Oh! Ah! Propriety,—yes! But how you can sit there and wait I cannot conceive."
There came a knock. I expected her to start up in rapture and admit Mr. Walter ——. She only said, "Come in!"—calmly.
Alice peeped in, and asked, "May he come?"
"Where is he?" I asked.
"In the parlor, waiting to know."
"Yes," said Kate, changing color rapidly.
"Stop, stop, Alice! You two give me each a hand, and help me into my room."
"Charlie," said Kate, "you need not go! you must not go!"
"Ah, my dear sister, I have stood between you and him long enough, I will do to him as I would be done by. Come, girls, your hands!"
They placed me in my easy-chair, both kissed me with agitated lips, and left me. Half an hour afterwards Kate and Mr. —— petitioned for admittance to my room. Of course I granted it, and immediately proceeded to a minute scrutiny of my future brother-in-law. He is a fine fellow, very scientific, clear in thought, decisive in action, quite reserved, and very good-looking. This reserve is to Kate his strongest attraction,—her own nature being so entirely destitute of it, and she so painfully conscious of her want of self-control. Yes,—he is just the one Kate would most respect, of all the men I ever saw.
Is not this happiness,—to find her future not wrecked, but blessed doubly? for her conduct has made Walter almost worship her. I am happy to think I have brought her good, rather than ill; but—selfish being that I am—I am not contented. I have a sigh in my heart yet!
Bosky Dell. December.
How it happened that this letter did not go I cannot imagine. I have just found it in Kate's work-basket; and I open it again, to add the grand climax. I have been so very minute in my accounts of Kate's love-affairs, that I feel it would not be fair to slur over mine. So, dear friend, I open my heart to you in this wise.
The rage for recovery which took such violent possession of me I believe effected my cure. In a month from the time I began to walk, I could go alone, without even a cane. Kate entreated me to remain as long as possible in the mountains, as she believed my recovery was attributable to the pure air and healing waters. It was consequently the first of this month before we arrived at her cottage, where we found good old Saide so much "frustrated" by delight as to be quite unable to "fly roun'." Indeed, she could hardly stand. When I walked up to shake hands with her, she bashfully looked at me out of the "tail of her eye," as Ben says. Her delicacy was quite shocked by my size!
"Saide," said I, "you positively look pale!" She really did. You have seen negroes do so, haven't you?
"Laws, Missr Charles," she answered, with a coquettish and deprecating twist, "call dat 'ere stove pale,—will yer?"
No sooner was Kate established at home, and I in my Walnut-Street office, than I undertook a trip to Boston. As I approached Miss Winston's home, all my courage left me. I walked up and down the Common, in sight of her door, for hours, thinking what a witless fool I was, to contemplate presenting my penniless self—with hope—before the millionnaire's daughter!
At last Mr. Winston came home to dinner and began to go up the steps. I sprang across the street to him, and my courage came back when I looked upon his good sensible face. When he recognized me, he seized my hand, grasped my shoulder, and gave me, with the tears actually in his eyes, a reception that honors human nature.
Such genuine friendliness, in an old, distinguished man, to a young fellow like me, shows that man's heart is noble, with all its depravity.
When he had gazed some time, almost in amazement, at my tall proportions, (he never saw them perpendicular before, you know,) he said,—