Note: Images of the original pages are available through the Wright American Fiction Project (http://www.letrs.indiana.edu/web/w/wright2/) of the Library Electronic Text Service of Indiana University.
Original Pieces in Prose and Verse.
(ANNA WALES ABBOT, Ed.)
"Our wits are so diversely colored."—Shakespeare.
Cambridge: John Bartlett. 1853. Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1853, by John Bartlett, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts. Cambridge: Metcalf and Company, Printers to the University.
The pieces gathered into this volume were, with two exceptions, written for the entertainment of a private circle, without any view to publication. The editor would express her thanks to the writers, who, at her solicitation, have allowed them to be printed. They are published with the hope of aiding a work of charity,—the establishment of an Agency for the benefit of the poor in Cambridge,—to which the proceeds of the sale will be devoted.
ANNE W. ABBOT.
Christmas Revived. In the Churchyard at Cambridge. A Legend of Lady Lee.—H.W.L. The Little South-Wind. Lines Written at the Close of Dr. Holmes's Lectures on English Poetry. Aunt Molly. A Reminiscence of Old Cambridge. The Sounds of Morning in Cambridge. The Sounds of Evening in Cambridge. To the Near-Sighted. Flowers from a Student's Walks. Miseries. No. 1. Miseries. No. 2. A Dark Night. Miseries. No. 3. Twine. Miseries. No. 4. Fresh Air. Farewell. Innocent Surprises. The Old Sailor. Laughter. To Stephen. The Old Church. "Something than beauty dearer." A Tale found in the Repositories of the Abbots of the Middle Ages. The Sea. Fashion. A Growl. To Jenny Lind. My Herbarium. The Ostrich. Cows. The Home-Beacon. The Fourth of July. From the Papers of Reginald Ratcliffe, Esq.
It was six o'clock in the morning of last Thursday (Christmas morning), when Nathan Stoddard, a young saddler, strode through the vacant streets of one of our New England towns, hastening to begin his work. The town is an old-fashioned one, and although the observance of the ancient church festival is no longer frowned upon, as in years past, yet it has been little regarded, especially in the church of which Nathan is a member. As the saddler mounted the steps of his shop, he felt the blood so rush along his limbs, and tingle in his fingers, that he could not forbear standing without the door for a moment, as if to enjoy the triumph of the warmth within him over the cold morning air. The little stone church which Nathan attends stands in the same square with his shop, and nearly opposite. It was closed, as usual on Christmas day, and a recent snow had heaped the steps and roof, and loaded the windows. Nathan thought that it looked uncommonly beautiful in the softening twilight of the morning.
While Nathan stood musing, with his eyes fixed upon the church, he became suddenly conscious that another figure had entered the square upon the opposite side, and was walking hastily along. He turned his eyes upon it, and was greatly surprised by its appearance. He saw a tall old man, although a good deal stooping, with long, straight, and very white hair falling over his shoulders, which was the more conspicuous from the black velvet cap, as it appeared, that he wore, and the close-fitting suit of pure black in which he was dressed, and which seemed to Nathan almost to glisten and flash as the old man tripped along. He had hardly begun to speculate as to who the stranger could be, when he beheld him turn in between the posts by the path that leads to the church, tread lightly over the snow, and up the steps, and knock hastily and vigorously at the church-door. But half recovered from his wonder, he was just raising his voice to utter a remonstrance, when, to his sevenfold amazement, the door was opened to the knock, and the old man disappeared within.
It was not without a creeping feeling of awe, mingled with his astonishment, that Nathan gazed upon the door through which this silent figure had vanished. But he was not easily to be daunted. He did not care to follow the steps of the stranger into the church; but he remembered a shed so placed against the building, near the farther end, that he had often, when a child, at some peril indeed, climbed upon its top, and looked into the church through a little window at one side of the pulpit. For this he started; but he did not fail to run across the square and leap over the church-gate at the top of his speed, in order to gather warmth and courage for the attempt.
When Nathan Stoddard climbed upon the old shed and pressed his face against the glass of the little church-window, he had at first only a confused impression of many lamps and many figures in all parts of the church. But as his vision grew more clear, he beheld a sight which could not amaze him less than the apparition that startled Tam o' Shanter as he glared through the darkness into the old Kirk of Alloway. The great chandelier of the church was partly lighted, and there were, besides, many candles and lanterns burning in different parts of the room, and casting their light upon a large party of young men and women, who were dressed in breeches and ruffled shirts, and hooped petticoats and towering head-dresses, such as he had only seen in old pictures. They were mounted upon benches and ladders, and boards laid along the tops of the pews, and were apparently just completing the decoration of the church, which was already dressed with green, with little trees in the corners, and with green letters upon the walls, and great wreaths about the pillars. The whole party appeared full of life and cheerfulness, while the old man whom Nathan had seen enter stood near the door, looking quietly on, with a little girl holding his hand.
It was not until Nathan Stoddard had looked for some little time upon this spectacle that he began to feel that he was witness of any thing more than natural. The whole party had so home-like an air, and appeared so engaged with their pleasant occupation, that, notwithstanding their quaint dress, Nathan only thought how much he should like to share their company. But the more he studied their faces, the more he was filled, for all their appearance of youth and their simple manners, with a strange sort of veneration. The sweet and cheerful faces of the young women seemed to grow awfully calm and beautiful as they brought their task to a close, and their foreheads, with the hair brought back in the old-fashioned way, to become more and more serene and high. There was a strange beauty, too, about the old man's face. He appeared to Nathan as if he felt that the group before him only waited his command to fade away in the morning light that struggled among the candles, but he could not bear to give the word; and so they kept playing with the festoons, and stepping about the pews to please him. Nathan felt a cold thrill, partly from pleasure, and partly from awe, running up his back, and a strong pain across his forehead, seldom known to one of his temperament. Again and again he drew his hand across his brows, until he felt that he was near swooning, and like to fall; and he clung desperately to his hold. When the fit was over, he dared venture no more, but hastened to the ground.
It was no fear of ridicule or of incredulity that led Nathan Stoddard to keep secret what he had witnessed. But it was like some deep and holy experience that would lose its charm if it were spoken of to another. So he went back to his shop, and sat looking upon the church, and watching, almost with dread, the doves that lighted upon its roof, and fluttered about, and beat their wings against its windows.
The minister of Nathan's parish was a young man by the name of Dudley; and it so happened that he had driven out, before light, on the morning we have spoken of, to visit a sick man at some distance. In returning home, he had to pass along the rather unfrequented street which runs in the rear of his church, and close to it. As he was driving rapidly along, his ear caught what seemed the peal of an organ. He stopped his horse to listen, and a moment convinced him that the sound both of the instrument and of singing voices came from his own church; and it was music of a depth and beauty such as he had never before heard within it. Filled with astonishment, he put his horse upon its fastest trot, and drove round into the square, to the shop of Nathan Stoddard.
"There is music to-day in our church, Nathan!" he cried to the young saddler. "What can it mean?" But Nathan answered not a word. He caught the horse by the head, and fastened him to a post before the door. Then stepping to the side of the sleigh, he said to Mr. Dudley, "Come with me, Sir." Mr. Dudley looked upon the pale face and trembling lips of his parishioner, and followed in silence.
Nathan sprang upon the shed at the side of the church, and scrambled up to the little window. Mr. Dudley followed, and, with Nathan's help, gained the same precarious foothold. "Look in, Sir," said Nathan, not venturing a glance himself. Mr. Dudley looked, and had not Nathan's arm been about his body he would have lost his hold, in sheer amazement. The building was crowded, as he had never known it before; and crowded with people whom his eye, versed in the dress and manners of our forefathers, recognized as the church-goers of a century and a half ago. The singers' gallery was filled by a choir of girls and boys, while his own place in the pulpit was occupied by a white-haired figure, whom he recognized as the original of a portrait which he had purchased and hung in his parlor at home for its singular beauty. It was said to be a portrait of a minister in the town, who lived in the last century, and is still remembered for his virtues. The sight of this old man's face completely stilled the agitation of the young minister. He was leaning over the great Bible, with his hands folded upon it, and his eyes seemingly filled with tears of pleasure and gratitude, and bent upon the choir. Mr. Dudley listened intently, and could catch what seemed the words of some old Christmas carol:
"Thou mak'st my cup of joy run o'er."
And he was so rapt with the sights and the sounds within, that it needed all Nathan's endeavors to uphold him.
By this time the sound of a gathering crowd below, which he had not heeded at first, was forced more and more upon his notice; and the anxious voice of his oldest deacon calling, "Mr. Dudley! Mr. Dudley!" rose high and loud; while a great thundering at the front door of the church announced that the people below had also caught the sound of the music, and were clamorous for admission. Mr. Dudley hastened round to prevent their causing any disturbance to the congregation within; but he came only in time to see the door burst open, and to be borne in with the crowd. All gazed about in wonder. The congregation, indeed, were gone, and the preacher, and the choir; and the room was cold. But there was a great green cross over the pulpit, and words along the walls, and festoons upon the galleries, and great wreaths, like vast green serpents, coiled about the cold pillars. The church of the Orthodox parish of —— had been fairly dressed for Christmas by spirit hands.
When Mr. Dudley reached his home, after the wonder had in part spent itself, he found that an enormous Christmas pie had been left at his door by a white-haired old man dressed in black, about six in the morning, just after he had gone to visit his sick parishioner. The girl who received it reported the old man as saying, in a tremulous, but very kind voice, "Give your master the Christmas blessing of an old Puritan minister." How the meaning of this message would have been known to Mr. Dudley, had not the events we have told disclosed it, who can say?
Need I add, that my friend, Mr. Dudley, from whose lips I have taken down the above narrative, has directed the decorations to remain in his church during the coming month, and that he avows the intention of observing the Christmas of the following year with public services, unless, indeed, he should be anticipated by his ancient predecessor. It may not be impertinent to observe, that I am invited to dine and spend the day with the Dudleys on that occasion, and I shall not fail to make an accurate report of whatever glimpse I may obtain into the mysterious ceremonies of a Puritan Christmas.
IN THE CHURCHYARD AT CAMBRIDGE.
A LEGEND OF LADY LEE.
In the village churchyard she lies, Dust is in her beautiful eyes, No more she breathes, nor feels, nor stirs; At her feet and at her head Lies a slave to attend the dead, But their dust is white as hers.
Was she, a lady of high degree, So much in love with the vanity And foolish pomp of this world of ours? Or was it Christian charity, And lowliness and humility, The richest and rarest of all dowers?
Who shall tell us? No one speaks; No color shoots into those cheeks, Either of anger or of pride, At the rude question we have asked;— Nor will the mystery be unmasked By those who are sleeping at her side.
Hereafter?—And do you think to look On the terrible pages of that Book To find her failings, faults, and errors? Ah, you will then have other cares, In your own short-comings and despairs, In your own secret sins and terrors!
THE LITTLE SOUTH-WIND.
The little south-wind had been shut up for many days, while his cousin from the northeast had been abroad, and the clouds had been heavy and dark; but now all was bright and clear, and the little south-wind was to have a holiday. O, how happy he would be! He sallied forth to amuse himself;—and hear what he did. He came whistling down the chimney, until the nervous old lady was ready to fly with vexation: then away he flew, laughing in triumph,—the naughty south-wind! He played with the maiden's work: away the pieces flew, some here, some there, and away ran the maiden after. What cared she for the wind? She tossed back her curls and laughed merrily, and the wind laughed merrily too,—the silly south-wind! Onward he stole, and lifting the curtain,—curious south-wind!—what did he see? On the sofa lay a young man: a heavy book was in his hand. The little south-wind rustled through the leaves, but the young man stirred not; he was asleep; hot and weary, he slept. The wind fanned his brow awhile, lifted his dark locks, and, leaving a kiss behind, stole out at the casement,—the gentle south-wind! Then he met a little child: away he whirled the little boy's hat, away ran the child, but his little feet were tired, and he wept,—poor child! The wind looked back, and felt sad, then hung the hat on a bush, and went on. He had played too hard,—the thoughtless south-wind! A sick child lay tossing to and fro: its hands and face were hot and dry. The mother raised the window. The wind heard her as he was creeping by, and stepping in, he cooled the burning face: then, playing among the flowers until their fragrance filled the room, away he flew,—the kind south-wind! He went out into the highway, and played with the dust; but that was not so pleasant, and onward he sped to the meadow. The dust could not follow on the green grass, and the little south-wind soon outstripped it, and onward and onward he sped, over mountain and valley, dancing among the flowers, and frolicking round, until the trees lifted up their arms and bent their heads and shook their sides with glee,—the happy south-wind! At last he came to a quiet dell, where a little brook lay, just stirring among his white pebbles. The wind said, "Kind brook, will you play with me?" And the brook answered with a sparkling smile, and a gentle murmur. Then the wind rose up, and, sporting among the dark pines, whistled and sung through the lofty branches, while the pretty brook danced along, and warbled songs to the music of its merry companion,—the merry south-wind! But the sun had gone down and the stars were peeping forth, and the day was done. The happy south-wind was still, and the moon looked down on the world below, and watched among the trees and hills, but all was still: the little south-wind slumbered, and the moon and the stars kept guard,—poor, tired south-wind! Old lady and maiden, young man and child, the dust and the flowers, were forgotten, and he slept,—dear little south-wind!
WRITTEN AT THE CLOSE OF DR. HOLMES'S LECTURES ON ENGLISH POETRY.
[Footnote: The Poets are metaphorically introduced as follows. ROGERS, The Beech; CAMPBELL, The Fir; BYRON, The Oak; MOORE, The Elm; SCOTT, The Chestnut; SOUTHEY, The Holly; COLERIDGE, The Magnolia; KEATS, The Orange; WORDSWORTH, The Pine; TENNYSON, The Palm; FELICIA HEMANS, The Locust; ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING, The Laurel.]
Farewell! farewell! The hours we've stolen From scenes of worldly strife and stir, To live with poets, and with thee, Their brother and interpreter,
Have brought us wealth;—as thou hast reaped, We have not followed thee in vain, But gathered, in one precious sheaf, The pearly flower and golden grain.
For twelve bright hours, with thee we walked Within a magic garden's bound, Where trees, whose birth owned various climes, Beneath one sky were strangely found.
First in the group, an ancient BEECH His shapely arms abroad did fling, Wearing old Autumn's russet crown Among the lively tints of Spring.
Those pale brown leaves the winds of March Made vocal 'mid the silent trees, And spread their faint perfume abroad, Like sad, yet pleasant memories.
Near it, the vigorous, noble FIR Arose, with firm yet graceful mien; Welcome for shelter or for shade, A pyramid of living green.
And from the tender, vernal spray The sunny air such fragrance drew, As breathes from fields of strawberries wild, All bathed in morning's freshest dew.
The OAK his branches richly green Broad to the winds did wildly fling;— The first in beauty and in power, All bowed before the forest-king.
But ere its brilliant leaves were sere, Or scattered by the Autumn wind, Fierce lightnings struck its glories down, And left a blasted trunk behind.
A youthful ELM its drooping boughs In graceful beauty bent to earth, As if to touch, with reverent love, The kindly soil that gave it birth;—
And round it, in such close embrace, Sweet honeysuckles did entwine, We knew not if the south wind caught Its odorous breath from tree or vine.
The CHESTNUT tall, with shining leaves And yellow tassels covered o'er, The sunny Summer's golden pride, And pledge of Autumn's ruddy store,—
Though grander forms might near it rise, And sweeter blossoms scent the air,— Was still a favorite 'mongst the trees That flourished in that garden fair.
All brightly clad in glossy green, And scarlet berries gay to see, We welcome next a constant friend, The brilliant, cheerful HOLLY-TREE.
But twilight falls upon the scene; Rich odors fill the evening air; And, lighting up the dusky shades, Gleam the MAGNOLIA'S blossoms fair.
The fire-fly, with its fairy lamp, Flashes within its soft green bower; The humming sphinx flits in and out, To sip the nectar of its flower.
Now the charmed air, more richly fraught, To steep our senses in delight, Comes o'er us, as the ORANGE-TREE In beauty beams upon our sight;
And, glancing through its emerald leaves, White buds and golden fruits are seen; Fit flowers to deck the bride's pale brow, Fit fruit to offer to a queen.
But let me rest beneath the PINE, And listen to the low, sad tone Its music breathes, that o'er my soul Comes like the ocean's solemn moan.
Erect it stands in graceful strength; Its spire points upward to the sky; And nestled in its sheltering arms The birds of heaven securely lie.
And though no gaily painted bells, Nor odor-bearing urns, are there, When the west wind sighs through its boughs, Let me inhale the balmy air!
The stately PALM in conscious pride Lifts its tall column to the sky, While round it fragrant air-plants cling, Deep-stained with every gorgeous dye.
Linger with me a moment, where The LOCUST trembles in the breeze, In soft, transparent verdure drest, Contrasting with the darker trees.
The humming-bird flies in among Its boughs, with pure white clusters hung, And honey-bees come murmuring, where Its perfume on the air is flung.
A noble LAUREL meets our gaze, Ere yet we leave these alleys green. 'Mongst many stately, fair, and sweet, The DAPHNE ODORA stands a queen.
May 2, 1853.
A REMINISCENCE OF OLD CAMBRIDGE.
In looking back upon my early days, one of the images that rises most vividly to my mind's eye is that of Miss Molly ——, or Aunt Molly, as she was called by some of her little favorites, that is to say, about a dozen girls, and (not complimentary to the unfair sex, to be sure) one boy. There was one, who, even to Miss Molly, was not a torment and a plague; and I must confess he was a pleasant specimen of the genus. At the time of which I speak, the great awkward barn of a school-house on the Common, near the Appian Way, had not reared its imposing front. In its place, in the centre of a grass-plot that was one of the very first to look green in spring, and kept its verdure through the heats of July, stood the brown, one-storied cottage which she owned, and in which the aged woman lived, alone. Her garden and clothes-yard behind the house were fenced in; but in front, the visitor to the cottage, unimpeded by gate or fence, turned up the pretty green slope directly from the street to the lowly door.
As I have started for a walk into the old times, and am not bound by any rule to stick to the point, I will here digress to say that the Episcopal Church (the Church, as it was simply called, when all the rest were "meeting-houses"), that tells the traveller what a pure and true taste was once present in Cambridge, and, by the contrast it presents to the architectural blunders that abound in the place, tells also what a want of it there is now,—this beautiful church stood most appropriately and tastefully surrounded by the green turf, unbroken by stiff gravel walks or coach sweep, and undivided from the public walk by a fence. Behind the church, and forming a part of its own grounds, (where now exist the elegances of School Court,) was an unappropriated field; and that spot was considered, by a certain little group of children, of six or seven years old, the most solitary, gloomy, mysterious place in their little world. When the colors of sunset had died out in the west, and the stillness and shadow of twilight were coming on, they used to "snatch a fearful joy" in seeing one of their number (whose mother had kindly omitted the first lesson usually taught to little girls, to be afraid of every thing) perform the feat of going slowly around the church, alone, stopping behind it to count a hundred. Her wonderful courage in actually protecting the whole group from what they called a "flock of cows," and in staking and patting the "mad dogs" that they were for ever meeting, was nothing to this going round the church!
But to return to the cottage, from which the pretty, rural trait of its standing in its unfenced green door-yard led me away to notice the same sort of rustic beauty where the church stood. We did not stop to knock at the outside door,—for Aunt Molly was very deaf, and if we had knocked our little knuckles off she would not have heard us,—but went in, and, passing along the passage, rapped at the door of the "common room," half sitting-room, half kitchen, and were admitted. Those who saw her for the first time, whether children or grown people, were generally afraid of her; for her voice, unmodulated, of course, by the ear, was naturally harsh, strong, and high-toned; and the sort of half laugh, half growl, that she uttered when pleased, might have suggested to an imaginative child the howl of a wolf. She had very large features, and sharp, penetrating black eyes, shaded by long, gray lashes, and surmounted by thick, bushy, gray eyebrows. I think that when she was scolding the school-boys, with those eyes fiercely "glowering" at them from under the shaggy gray thatch, she must have appeared to those who in their learned page had got as far as the Furies, like a living illustration of classic lore. Her cap and the make of her dress were peculiar, and suggestive of those days before, and at the time of, the Revolution, of which she loved to speak.
But we, her little favorites, were not afraid of her. To go into her garden in summer, and eat currants, larger and sweeter than any we found at home,—to look up at the enormous old damson-tree, when it was white with blossoms, and the rich honey-comb smell was diffused over the whole garden,—was a pleasant little excursion to us. She took great care and pains to save the plums from the plundering boys, because it was the only real damson there was anywhere in the neighborhood, and she found a ready sale for them, for preserves. She seemed to think that the real damsons went out with the real gentry of the olden time; and perhaps they did, as damsons, though, for aught I know, they may figure now in our fruit catalogues as "The Duke of Argyle's New Seedling Acidulated Drop of Damascus,"—which would be something like a translation of Damson into the modern terminology.
But more pleasant still was it to go into Aunt Molly's "best room." The walls she had papered herself, with curious stripes and odd pieces, of various shapes and patterns, ornamented with a border of figures of little men and women joining hands, cut from paper of all colors; and they were adorned, besides, with several prints in shining black frames. There was no carpet on the snow-white, unpainted floor, but various mats and rugs, of all the kinds into which ingenuity has transformed woollen rags, were disposed about it. The bed was the pride and glory of the room, however; for on it was spread a silk patchwork quilt, made of pieces of the brocade and damask and elegant silks, of which the ladies belonging to the grand old Tory families had their gowns and cardinals, and other paraphernalia, made. Aunt Molly had been a mantuamaker to the old "quality," and she could show us a piece of Madam Vassall's gown on that wonderful and brilliant piece of work, the bed-quilt. "On that hint" she would speak.
"A-haw-awr! They were real gentle folks that lived in them days. A-haw-awr! I declare, I could e'en-amost kneel down and kiss the very airth they trod on, as they went by my house to church. Polite, they wor! Yes, they knew what true politeness was; and to my thinking true politeness is next to saving grace."
Once a year, or so, Aunt Molly would dress up in her best gown, a black silk, trimmed with real black lace, and a real lace cap, relics of the good old days of Toryism and brocade and the real gentry, and go to make an afternoon visit to one of her neighbors. After the usual salutations, the lady would ask her visitor to take off her bonnet and stay the afternoon, knowing by the "rig" that such was her intention. But she liked to be urged a little, so she would say, "O, I only came out for a little walk, it was so pleasant, and stopped in to see how little Henry did, since his sickness. You know I always call him my boy." (Yes, Aunt Molly, the only boy in the universe that, for you, had any good in him.) After the proper amount of urging, she would lay aside her bonnet and black satin mantle, saying, "Well, I didn't come here to get my tea, but you are so urgent, I believe I will stay."
Aunt Molly's asides were often amusing. She was so very deaf that she could not hear her own voice, and often imagined she was whispering, when she could be heard across the room.
On one occasion she saw a gentleman who was a stranger to her, in the parlor, when she went to visit one of the ladies who were kind and attentive to her. She sat a few minutes looking keenly at him, and then whispered, "Who's that?" "Mr. Jay." "Who?" "MR. JAY." "Who?" "MR. JAY." "Oh-o-oh! Mr. Jay. Well, what does he do for a living?" "He's a tutor, Ma'am." "What?" "A TUTOR." "What?" "A TUTOR." "Oh-o-oh! I thought you said a suitor!"
Aunt Molly owned the little brown cottage, where her widowed mother, she said, had lived, and there she died. As soon as she was laid in her grave, it was torn down, and the precious damson-tree was felled. I was rather glad that the school-house was so ugly, that I might have a double reason for hating the usurper. If Nemesis cared for school-boys, she doubtless looks on with a grin, now, to see them scampering at their will round the precincts of the former enemy of their race, and listens with pleasure while they "make day hideous" where once the bee and the humming-bird only broke the quiet of the little garden.
Aunt Molly had a vigorous, active mind, and a strong, tenacious memory; and her love of the departed grandeur and Toryism of Court Row, as she called that part of Brattle Street from Ash Street to Mount Auburn, was pleasant and entertaining to those who listened to her tales of other times.
Peace to her memory!
THE SOUNDS OF MORNING IN CAMBRIDGE.
I sing the melodies of early morn. Hark!—'t is the distant roar of iron wheels, First sound of busy life, and the shrill neigh Of vapor-steed, the vale of Brighton threading, Region of lowing kine and perfumed breeze. Echoes the shore of blue meandering Charles. Straightway the chorus of glad chanticleers Proclaims the dawn. First comes one clarion note, Loud, clear, and long drawn out; and hark! again Rises the jocund song, distinct, though distant; Now faint and far, like plaintive cry for help Piercing the ear of Sleep. Each knight o' the spur, Watchful as brave, and emulous in noise, With mighty pinions beats a glad reveille. All feathered nature wakes. Man's drowsy sense Heeds not the trilling band, but slumbrous waits The tardy god of day. Ah! sluggard, wake! Open thy blind, and rub thy heavy eyes! For once behold a sunrise. Is there aught In thy dream-world more splendid, or more fair? With crimson glory the horizon streams, And ghostly Dian hides her face ashamed. Now to the ear of him who lingers long On downy couch, "falsely luxurious," Comes the unwelcome din of college-bell Fast tolling. . . . . . "'T is but the earliest, the warning peal!" He sleeps again. Happy if bustling chum, Footsteps along the entry, or perchance, In the home bower, maternal knock and halloo, Shall break the treacherous slumber. For behold The youth collegiate sniff the morning zephyrs, Breezes of brisk December, frosty and keen, With nose incarnadine, peering above Each graceful shepherd's plaid the chin enfolding. See how the purple hue of youth and health Glows in each cheek; how the sharp wind brings pearls From every eye, brightening those dimmed with study, And waste of midnight oil, o'er classic page Long poring. Boreas in merry mood Plays with each unkempt lock, and vainly strives To make a football of the Freshman's beaver, Or the sage Sophomore's indented felt. Behold the foremost, with deliberate stride And slow, approach the chapel, tree-embowered, Entering composedly its gaping portal; Then, as the iron tongue goes on to rouse The mocking echoes with its call, arrive Others, with hastier step and heaving chest. Anon, some bound along divergent paths Which scar the grassy plain, and, with no pause For breath, press up the rocky stair. Straightway, A desperate few, with headlong, frantic speed, Swifter than arrow-flight or Medford whirlwind, Sparks flying from iron-shod heels at every footfall, Over stone causeway and tessellated pavement,— They come—they come—they leap—they scamper in, Ere, grating on its hinges, slams the door Inexorable. . . . . . Pauses the sluggard, at Wood and Hall's just crossing, The chime melodious dying on his ear. Embroidered sandals scarce maintain their hold Upon his feet, shuffling, with heel exposed, And 'neath his upper garment just appears A many-colored robe; about his throat No comfortable scarf, but crumpled gills Shrink from the scanning eye of passenger The omnibus o'erhauling. List! 't was the last, Last stroke! it dies away, like murmuring wave. Bootless he came,—and bootless wends he back, Gnawing his gloveless thumb, and pacing slow. Bright eyes might gaze on him, compassionate, But that yon rosy maiden, early afoot, Is o'er her shoulder watching, with wild fear, A horned host that rushes by amain, Bellowing bassoon-like music. Angry shouts Of drovers, horrid menace, and dire curse, Shrill scream of imitative boy, and crack Of cruel whip, the tread of clumsy feet Are hurrying on:—but now, with instinct sure, Madly those doomed ones bolt from the dread road That leads to Brighton and to death. They charge Up Brattle Street. Screaming the maiden flies, Nor heeds the loss of fluttering veil, upborne On sportive breeze, and sailing far away. And now a flock of sheep, bleating, bewildered, With tiny footprints fret the dusty square, And huddling strive to elude relentless fate. And hark! with snuffling grunt, and now and then A squeak, a squad of long-nosed gentry run The gutters to explore, with comic jerk Of the investigating snout, and wink At passer-by, and saucy, lounging gait, And independent, lash-defying course. And now the baker, with his steaming load, Hums like the humble-bee from door to door, And thoughts of breakfast rise; and harmonies Domestic, song of kettle, and hissing urn, Glad voices, and the sound of hurrying feet, Clatter of chairs, and din of knife and fork, Bring to a close the Melodies of Morn.
THE SOUNDS OF EVENING IN CAMBRIDGE.
The Melodies of Morning late I sang. Recall we now those Melodies of Even Which charmed our ear, the summer-day o'erpast; Full of the theme, O Phoebus, hear me sing. What time thy golden car draws near its goal,— Mount Auburn's pillared summit,—chorus loud Of mud-born songsters fills the dewy air. Hark! in yon shallow pool, what melody Is poured from swelling throats, liquid and bubbling, As if the plaintive notes thrilled struggling through The stagnant waters and the waving reeds. Monotonous the melancholy strain, Save when the bull-frog, from some slimy depth Profound, sends up his deep "Poo-toob!" "Poo-toob!" Like a staccato note of double bass Marking the cadence. The unwearied crickets Fill up the harmony; and the whippoorwill His mournful solo sings among the willows. The tree-toad's pleasant trilling croak proclaims A coming rain; a welcome evil, sure, When streets are one long ash-heap, and the flowers Fainting or crisp in sun-baked borders stand. Mount Auburn's gate is closed. The latest 'bus Down Brattle Street goes rumbling. Laborers Hie home, by twos and threes; homeliest phizzes, Voices high-pitched, and tongues with telltale burr-r-r-r, The short-stemmed pipe, diffusing odors vile, Garments of comic and misfitting make, And steps which tend to Curran's door, (a man Ignoble, yet quite worthy of the name Of Fill-pot Curran,) all proclaim the race Adopted by Columbia, grumblingly, When their step-mother country casts them off. Here with a creaking barrow, piled with tools Keen as the wit that wields them, hurries by A man of different stamp. His well-trained limbs Move with a certain grace and readiness, Skilful intelligence every muscle swaying. Rapid his tread, yet firm; his scheming brain Teems with broad plans, and hopes of future wealth, And time and life move all too slow for him. Will he industrious gains and home renounce To grow more quickly rich in lands unblest? Hear'st thou that gleeful shout? Who opes the gate, The neatly painted gate, and runs before With noisy joy? Now from the trellised door Toddles another bright-haired boy. And now Captive they lead the father; strong their grasp; He cannot break away. Dreamily quiet The dewy twilight of a summer eve. Tired mortals lounge at casement or at door, While deepening shadows gather round. No lamp Save in yon shop, whose sable minister His evening customers attends. Anon, With squeaking bucket on his arm, emerges The errand-boy, slow marching to the tune Of "Uncle Ned" or "Norma," whistled shrill. Hark! heard you not against the window-pane The dash of horny skull in mad career, And a loud buzz of terror? He'll be in, This horrid beetle; yes,—and in my hair! Close all the blinds; 't is dismal, but 't is safe. Listen! Methought I heard delicious music, Faint and afar. Pray, is the Boat-Club out? Do the Pierian minstrels meet to-night? Or chime the bells of Boston, or the Port? Nearer now, nearer—Ah! bloodthirsty villain, Is 't you? Too late I closed the blind! Alas! List! there's another trump!—There, two of 'em!— Two? A quintette at least. Mosquito chorus! A—ah! my cheek! And oh! again, my eyelid! I gave myself a stunning cuff on the ear And all in vain. Flap we our handkerchief; Flap, flap! (A smash.) Quick, quick, bring in a lamp! I've switched a flower-vase from the shelf. Ah me! Splash on my head, and then upon my feet, The water poured;—I'm drowned! my slipper's full! My dickey—ah! 't is cruel! Flowers are nonsense! I'd have them amaranths all, or made of paper. Here, wring my neckcloth, and rub down my hair! Now Mr. Brackett, punctual man, is ringing The curfew bell; 't is nine o'clock already. 'T is early bedtime, yet methinks 't were joy On mattress cool to stretch supine. At midnight, Were it winter, I were less fatigued, less sleepy. Sleep! I invoke thee, "comfortable bird, That broodest o'er the troubled waves of life, And hushest them to peace." All hail the man Who first invented bed! O, wondrous soft This pillow to my weary head! right soon My dizzy thoughts shall o'er the brink of sleep Fall into chaos and be lost. I dream. Now comes mine enemy, not silently, But with insulting and defiant warning; Come, banquet, if thou wilt; I offer thee My cheek, my arm. Tease me not, hovering high With that continuous hum; I fain would rest. Come, do thy worst at once. Bite, scoundrel, bite! Thou insect vulture, seize thy helpless prey! No ceremony! (I'd have none with thee, Could I but find thee.) Fainter now and farther The tiny war-whoop; now I hear it not. A cowardly assassin he; he waits, Full well aware that I am on the alert, With murderous intent. Perchance he's gone, Hawk-eye and nose of hound not serving him To find me in the dark. With a long sigh, I beat my pillow, close my useless eyes, And soon again my thoughts whirl giddily, Verging towards dreams. Starting, I shake my bed;— Loud thumps my heart,—rises on end my hair! A murder-screech, and yells of frantic fury, Under my very window,—a duet Of fiendish hatred, battle to the death,— 'T is enough to enrage a man! Missile I seize, Not caring what, and with a savage "Scat!" That scrapes my throat, let drive. I would it were A millstone! Swiftly through the garden beds And o'er the fence on either side they fly; I to my couch return, but not to sleep. Weary I toss, and think 't is almost dawn, So still the streets; but now the latest train, Whistling melodiously, comes in; the tramp Of feet, and hum of voices, echo far In the still night air. Now with joy I feel My eyelids droop once more. To sleep and dream Is bliss unspeakable;—I'm going off;— What was I thinking last?—slowly I rise On downy pinions; dreaming, I fly, I soar;— Through the clouds my way I'm winging, Angels to their harps are singing, Strains of unearthly sweetness lull me, And thrilling harmonies——"Yelp! Bow-wow-wow!" "Get out!"—"The dog has got me by the leg!" "Stave him off! Will you? See, he's rent my pants, My newest plaid!—Kick him!"—"Yow, yow!"—"This house I'll never serenade again!—A dog Should know musicians from suspicious chaps, And gentlemen from rowdies, even at night!" "Beat him again!" "No, no! Perhaps 't is HERS! A lady's pet! Methinks the curtain moves! She's looking out! Let's sing once more! Just once!" "Not I.—I'll sing no more to-night!" and steps Limping unequally, and grumbling voice, Pass round the corner, and are heard no more.
TO THE NEAR-SIGHTED.
Purblind and short-sighted friends! You will listen to me,—you will sympathize with me; for you know by painful experience what I mean when I say that we near-sighted people do not receive from our hawk-eyed neighbors that sympathy and consideration to which we are justly entitled. If we were blind, we should be abundantly pitied, but as we are only half-blind, such comments as these are all the consolation we get. "Oh! near-sighted, is she? Yes, it is very fashionable now-a-days for young ladies to carry eye-glasses, and call themselves near-sighted!" Or, "Pooh! It's all affectation. She can see as well as any body, if she chooses. She thinks it is pretty to half shut her eyes, and cut her acquaintances." I meet my friend A——, some morning, who returns my salutation with cold politeness, and says, "How cleverly you managed to cut me at the concert last night!" "At the concert! I did not see you." "O no! You could see well enough to bow to pretty Miss B——, and her handsome cousin; but as for seeing your old schoolmate, two seats behind her,—of course you are too near-sighted!" In vain I protest that I could not see her,—that three yards is a great distance to my eyes. She leaves me with an incredulous smile, and that most provoking phrase, "O yes! I suppose so!" and distrusts me ever afterwards. Alas! we see just enough to seal our own condemnation.
Who is free from this malady? As I look around in society, I see staring glassy ellipses on every side "in the place where eyes ought to grow,"—and perhaps most of the unfortunate owls get along very comfortably with their artificial eyes. But imagine a bashful youth, awkward and near-sighted, whose friends dissuade him from wearing glasses. Is there in the universe an individual more unlucky, more blundering, more sincerely to be pitied?
See that little boy, who, having put on his father's spectacles, is enjoying for the first time a clear and distinct view of the evening sky. "Oh! is that pretty little yellow dot a star?" exclaims the delighted child. Poor innocent! a star had always been to him a dim, cloudy spot, a little nebula, which the magic glass has now resolved; and he can hardly believe that this brilliant point is not an optical illusion. But when his mother assures him that the stars always appear so to her, and he turns to look in her face, he says, "Why, mother! how beautiful you look! Please to give me some little spectacles, all my own!" She could not resist this entreaty,—(who could?)—and little "Squire Specs" does not mind the shouts of his companions or the high-sounding nicknames they give him, he so rejoices in what seems to him a new sense, a second sight.
I was summoned, the other day, to welcome a family of cousins from a distant State, whom I had not seen for a very long time. They were accompanied, I was told, by a Boston lady, a stranger to us. I entered the room with considerable empressement, but when my eye detected the dim outline of a circle of bonneted figures, I stopped in despair in the middle of the room, not knowing which was which, or whom I ought to speak to first, and at last made an embarrassed half-bow, half-courtesy, to the company in general. A confused murmur of greetings and introductions followed, and, throwing aside my air of stiff, ceremonious politeness, I rushed, with a smiling face, to the nearest lady, shook hands with her in the most cordial manner, and then, in passing, bowed formally to the next, who I concluded was the stranger. What then was my surprise and utter confusion when she caught me by the hand, and, drawing me towards her, kissed me emphatically several times. "How do you do, dear? Have you quite forgotten me? Ah! You don't remember the times when you used to ride a cock-horse, on my knee, to Banbury Cross, to see the old lady get on her white horse!" What could I say? I was petrified. I could not smile, I could not speak. My only feeling was mortification at my most awkward mistake. Yet I ought to have become accustomed to such embarrassments, for they are of very frequent occurrence.
"Why, Julia! what is the matter? How strangely your eyes look!" My sister at this exclamation turns round, and I discover that from the other end of the room I have been gazing at the unexpressive features of her "back hair," which is twisted in a "pug," or "bob,"—which is the correct term?—and surmounted by a tortoise-shell comb.
But in the whole course of my numerous mistakes and blunders, whether ludicrous, serious, or embarrassing, I believe I have never mistaken a cow for a human being, as was done by old Dr. E——. It was many years ago, when Boston Common was still used as a pasture, and cows were daily to be met in the crooked streets of the city, that this gentleman, distinguished for the courtesy and old-school politeness of his manner, no less than for his extreme near-sightedness, was walking at a brisk pace, one winter's day, and saw, just before him, a lady, as he thought, richly dressed in furs. As he was passing her, he thought he perceived that her fur boa or tippet had escaped from her neck, and, carefully lifting the end of it with one hand, he made a low bow, raising his hat with the other, and said in his blandest tone, "Madam, you are losing your tippet!" And what thanks did the worthy Doctor receive, do you think, for this truly kind and polite deed? Why, the lady merely turned her head, gave him a wondering stare with her large eyes, and said, "Moo-o-o-o!"
As an offset to this instance of courtesy and good-breeding lavished on a cow, let me give you, as a parting bon-bouche, another cow anecdote, where, as you will see, there was no gentle politeness wasted.
The Rev. Dr. H—— was an eccentric old man, near-sighted of course,—all eccentric people are,—who lived in a small country town in this neighborhood. Numerous are the traditionary accounts of his peculiarities,—of his odd manners and customs,—which I have heard; but it is only of one little incident that I am now going to speak. A favorite employment of this good man was the care of his garden, and he might be seen any pleasant afternoon in summer, rigged out in a hideous yellow calico robe, or blouse, with a dusty old black straw hat stuck on the back of his head, hoeing and digging in that beloved patch of ground. One day as he was thus occupied, his wife emerged from the house, dressed in a dark brown gingham, and bearing in her hand some "muslins," which she began to spread upon the gooseberry-bushes to whiten. She was very busily engaged, so that she was not aware that her husband was approaching her with a large stick, until she felt a smart blow across her shoulders, and heard his peculiar, sharp voice shouting in her ears, "Go 'long! old cow! Go 'long! old cow!"
FLOWERS FROM A STUDENT'S WALKS.
As the animal dies of inanition if fed on but one kind of food, however congenial, yet lives if he has all in succession, so is it with complex man.
Learn retrenchment from the starving oyster, who spends his last energies in a new pearly layer suited to his shrunken form.
As animals which have no organs of special sense know not light or sound as we do, yet shrink from a hand or candle because their whole bodies are dimly conscious, thus we have a glimmering perception of infinite truths and existences which we cannot grasp or fully know because our minds have no special organs for them.
The prick in the butterfly's wing will be in the full-grown insect a great blemish. The speck in thy child's nature, if fondly overlooked now, will become a wide rent traversing all his virtues.
As mineral poisons kill, because by their strong affinity they decompose the blood and form new stony substances, so the soul possessed by too strong an affinity for gold petrifies.
Our principles are central forces, our desires tangential; it requires both to describe the curve of life.
The slightest inclination of a standing body virtually narrows its base; the least departure from integrity lessens our foundation. The pyramid, broad-based, yet heaven-pointed, is the firmest figure. Most characters are inconsistent, unsymmetrical, and have a base wanting extent in some direction.
Be not over-curious in assigning causes or predicting consequences; the same diagonal may be formed by various combining forces.
Through water the musical sound is not transmitted, only the harsh material noise. In air the noise is heard very near, the musical sounds only are transmitted. Be thankful, poets and prophets, when you live in an element such that your uncomely features are known only to your own village.
"Do not sing its fundamental note too loud near a delicate glass, or it will break," whispered my friend to me, as he saw me gazing at this lovely being.
Seek the golden mean of life. Like the temperate regions, it has but few thorny plants.
Be doubly careful of those to whom nature has been a niggard. The oak and the palm take their own forms under all circumstances; the fungi seem to owe theirs to outward influences.
It is a poor plant that crisps quickly into wood. It is a meagre character which runs perpetually into prejudices.
As light suffers from no change of medium when it falls perpendicularly, so the consequences of a perfectly upright action, or cause of action, are strictly fortunate. But let it be ever so little oblique, the new medium will exaggerate its obliquity; and the farther it departs from uprightness, the more frightfully it is distorted.
Hoops and coins, which cannot preserve their equilibrium when in rest, keep it when set in motion. Man also in activity finds his safest position.
As it takes a diamond to cut and shape a diamond, so there are faults so obstinate that they can be worn away only by life-long contact with similar faults in those we love.
Learn the virtue of action. Who inquires whether momentum comes from mass or velocity? But velocity has this advantage; it depends on ourselves.
The grass is green after these October rains, because in the July drought it struck deep roots.
Did you ever try to eat a peach elegantly and gracefully? Of course you have. Show me a man who has not tried the experiment, when under the restraint of human surveillance, and I shall look upon him as a curiosity. There is no fruit, certainly, which has so fair and alluring an exterior; but few content themselves with feasting their eyes upon it. How fresh and ripe it looks as it lies upon the plate, with its rosy cheek turned temptingly upward! How cool and soft is the downy skin to the touch! And the fragrance, so suggestive of its rich, delicious flavor, who can resist? Ah, unhappy wight! Bitterly you shall repent your rashness. Any other fruit can be eaten with comparative ease and politeness; a peach was evidently intended only to be looked at, or enjoyed beneath your own tree, where no eye may watch and criticize your motions.
I see you, in imagination, at a party, standing in the middle of the room, plate in hand, regarding your peach as if it were some great natural curiosity. A sudden jog of your elbow compels you to a succession of most dexterous balancings as your heavy peach rolls from side to side, knocks down your knife, and threatens to plunge after it when you stoop to regain it. You look distractedly round for a table, but all are occupied. Even the corner of the mantel-shelf holds a plate, and you enviously see the owner thereof leaning carelessly against the chimney, and looking placidly round upon his less fortunate companions. You glance at the different groups to see if any one else is in your most unenviable predicament. Ah, yes! Yonder stands a gentleman worse off yet, for, in addition to your perplexities, he is talking with a young, laughing girl, who is watching his movements, with a merry twinkle in her bright eyes. He evidently wishes to astonish her by his dexterity, and disappoint her roguish expectations. He holds his plate firmly in his left hand, and proceeds, at once, to cut his peach in halves. Deuce take the blunt silver knife! The tough skin resists its pressure. The knife and plate clash loudly together; the peach is bounding and rolling at the very feet of the young lady, who is in an ecstasy of laughter. Ah! she herself has no small resemblance to a peach, fair, beautiful, and attractive without, and, I sadly fear, with a hard heart beneath.
Are you yet more miserable than before? Turn then to yonder sober-looking gentleman, who certainly seems sufficiently composed to perform the difficult manoeuvre. He has the advantage of a table to be sure; but that is not every thing. He begins right, by deliberately removing the woolly skin. Now he lays the slippery peach in his plate, and makes a plunge at it with his knife. A sharp, prolonged screech across his plate salutes the ears of all the bystanders, and a fine slice of juicy pulp is flung unceremoniously into the face of the gentleman opposite, who certainly does not look very grateful for the unexpected gift.
Every one, of course, has seen the awkward accident. O no! That pretty, animated girl upon the sofa is much too pleasantly engaged, that is evident, to be watching her neighbors. Playing carelessly with her fan, and casting many sparkling glances upward at the two gentlemen who are vying with each other in their gallant attentions, she has enough to do without noticing other people. She is happily unconscious of the mortification which is in store for her, or wilfully shuts her eyes to the peril. Alas! Her hand is resting, even now, upon the destroyer of all her present enjoyment, the beautiful, fragrant, treacherous peach. With a nonchalance really shocking to the anxious beholder, she raises it, and breaks it open, talking the while, and scarcely bestowing a thought upon what she is about. Dexterously done; but—O luckless maiden!—the fruit is ripe, and rich, and juicy, and the running drops fall, not into her plate, but upon the delicate folds of her dress.
The merry repartee dies away upon her lips, as she becomes conscious of the catastrophe. It is with a forced smile that she declares, "It is nothing; O, not of the slightest consequence!" That unlucky peach! How many blunders, how many pauses, how many absent-minded remarks it occasions! She makes the most frenzied attempts to regain her former gayety, but in vain. Her gloves are stained and sticky with the flowing juice, and she is oppressed by the conviction that all her partners for the rest of the evening will hate her most heartily. An expression of real vexation steals over her pretty face, and she gives up her plate to one of the attendant beaux, with not so much as a wish that he will return to her. Where are the arch smiles, the lively tones, the quick and ready responses now? Her spirit is quenched. Her manner has become subdued, depressed,—shall I say it?—yes, even sulky.
Ah! I see your courage will not brave laughter. You steal to the table, half ashamed of yourself as you set down your untasted peach. Your sudden zeal to relieve those ladies of their plates serves as a very good excuse for the relinquishment of your own. You have rescued yourself very well from your dilemma this time. Remember my advice for the future. Never accept a peach in company.
A DARK NIGHT.
There are some people who seem to have the faculty which horses and dogs are said to possess,—of seeing in the dark. But I, alas! am blind and blundering as a beetle; I never can find my way about house in the evening, without a lamp to illumine my path. Many smarting remembrances have I of bruised nose and black eyes, the consequences of attempting to run through a partition, under the full conviction that I have arrived at an open door. My most prominent feature has been rudely assailed, also, by doors standing ajar, unexpectedly, which I have embraced with both outstretched arms. Crickets, tables, chairs (especially chairs with very sharp rockers), and other movable articles of furniture, have stationed themselves, as it would seem, with malicious intent to trip me up. Some murderous contusion makes me suddenly conscious of their presence. Then a feeling of complete bewilderment and helplessness and timidity comes over me. I have not the least idea in what part of the room I am. I am oppressed with a sense of chairs, scattered about in improbable places. I long most ardently for a lamp, or only for one gleam from a neighbor's window. It is no rare thing for me to discover, by a thrilling touch upon the cold glass, that I have been feeling my way exactly in the opposite direction from what I imagined. Strange how ideas of direction and distance are lost when the sight is powerless! Touch may find out mistakes, but cannot always prevent them. Touch may convince me that I have arrived at my bureau, but it is too careless to perceive (what the poor, straining eyes would have discovered at a glance) the open upper drawer that salutes my forehead as I stoop hastily to grasp the handles beneath. Touch is clumsy. It only serves to upset valuable plants, inkstands, solar lamps, &c., with an appalling crash, and then leaves me standing aghast, in utter uncertainty as to the extent of the catastrophe. In such emergencies a rush for the stairs is the first impulse. Ah! but those stairs!
I will pass over the startling plunge which begins my descent, the frantic snatch for the banisters, and the strange, momentary doubt as to which foot must move first, like what a child may feel when learning to walk. All this only serves to render me so over-careful, that, when I actually arrive at the foot of the staircase, I cannot believe it, until a loud scuff, and the shock that follows the interruption of my expected descent, assure me beyond a doubt. There is nothing more exasperating than this, unless it may be the corresponding disappointment in running up stairs, when you raise your foot high in air, and bring it down with an emphatic stamp exactly upon a level with the other.
But these are mere household experiences. Sad though they are, I esteem them as nothing in comparison with my adventures out of doors. In a dark night, and especially in a night both dark and stormy, I feel myself one of the most wretched beings in existence. Imagine a vessel lost in the wide ocean, and without a compass, and you will have some faint idea of my perplexity, discouragement, and loneliness at such a time. I have a strange propensity for shooting off into the gutter, or for shouldering the fences, under the impression that I am pursuing a straight course. I go quite out of my way to trip over chance stones, or to pick out choice bits of slippery ice. I splash recklessly through deep puddles, stumble over unfortunate scrapers, walk unexpectedly into open cellars, and lay my length upon wet stone doorsteps. I start back at visions of posts looming up in the darkness, and whitewashed fences and trees, all of which would be quite unlikely to be standing in the middle of the sidewalk, and which disappear at the first reasonable thought. I run into harmless passengers as if I would knock the breath of life out of them, and tangle our umbrellas together so fearfully that they spin round and round some time after their separation. O that umbrella of mine! Sometimes I hook it in the drooping branches of trees, and, losing my hold in the suddenness of the shock, have the gratification of feeling it tip up, and go down over my shoulder into the mud behind me. Its bone tips tap and scratch at the windows as I go by, and scrape against the tall fences, like fingers trying to catch at something to hold on by, and stop my progress. It hits a low branch, and its varnished handle slips through my woollen gloves, knocking my hat over my eyes, and extinguishing me for the time being. As if the night were not dark enough without!
My friends, I could go on much longer with my complaints, but I feel that I have drawn upon your sympathies sufficiently for the present. You will be as glad to leave me at my own house-door, as I am to find it.
Under the general head of string, I might enumerate a long list of this world's miseries. Shoe-strings alone comprehend an amount of wretchedness, which is but feebly described in the tragical story of Jemmy String. Bonnet-strings and apron-strings, dickey-strings and watch-guards, curtain-cord, bed-cord, and cod-line, each and all have furnished enough discomfort to make out a long grumbling article. But I cannot linger to describe their treacherous desertions when their services are most needed, their unexpected weakness, and their obstinate entanglements when time presses. A certain pudding-bag string is commemorated in one of the beautiful couplets of Mother Goose's Melodies. I am sure you cannot have forgotten it, nor the staring spotted cat that is there represented racing away with her booty. That lamented pudding-bag string is but a type of strings in general. They are fleeting possessions, always hiding, always misplaced, never in order. You fit up a string-drawer, perhaps, with a fine assortment, and pride yourself upon its nice arrangement. Go to it a week after, and see if you can find one ball where you left it! Can you lay your hand upon a single piece that you want? No, indeed! Twine is considered common property. If any one has a use for it, he takes it without leave or license, without even inquiring who is the owner, and you may be sure he will never bring any of it back again. O the misery endured for the want of an errant piece of twine, when you are in a nervous hurry to do up a parcel, some one waiting at the door meanwhile! After an immense deal of pains, you have it at last folded to your liking, with every corner squared and even, every wrinkle smoothed. Then, clasping tightly with one hand the stiff wrapper, you search distractedly with the other for a ball of twine, which you distinctly remember tossing into the paper-drawer only the day before. In vain you surround yourself with newspaper and brown paper, and useless rubbish, tumbling your whole drawer into confusion. In vain you relinquish your nicely packed parcel, and see its contents scattered in all directions. In vain you grumble and scold. The ball is not forthcoming. Your little brother has seized it to fly his kite, or your sister is even now tying up her trailing morning-glories, or sweet peas, with the stolen booty. You plunge your hand exploringly into the drawer, and bring up a long roll wound thickly with twine of all kinds and colors. Your eyes sparkle at the prize; but, alas! the first energetic pull leaves in your hand a piece about four inches long, and a quantity of dangling ends and rough knots convince you that you have nothing to hope in that quarter. A second plunge brings up a handful of odds and ends, strong pieces clumsy and rough, coarse red quill-cord, delicate two-colored bits far too short, cotton twine breaking at a touch, fine long pieces hopelessly tangled together, so that not even an end is visible. The more you twitch at the loops, the more desperate is the snarl. Poor mortal! Your pride gives way before the urgency of haste. You send off your nice packet miserably tied together by two kinds of twine.
All the rest of the day you are tormented by a superfluity of the very thing you needed so much. It was impossible to get it when you wanted it; but now it is pertinaciously in your way when you do not want it. You almost break your neck tripping over a long, firm cord, which proves to be a pair of reins left hanging on a chair by some careless urchin. The carpet and furniture are strewed with long, straggling pieces of packthread. You find a white end dangling conspicuously from your waistcoat pocket. As you walk the streets you see twine flying from fences, or lying useless on the sidewalk, black with dust and age. To crown the whole, a friend comes with a piece of twine extending across two rooms, and asks you to help him twist and double it into a cord. It is a very entertaining process. You amuse yourself with watching one little rough place that whirls swiftly round, stops with a jerk, turns hesitatingly one side and the other, then, yielding to a new impulse, flies round and round again till you are dizzy. You look with great complacency at the tightening twist, now brought almost to perfection. You turn it carelessly in your fingers, scarcely noticing its convulsive starts for freedom. Ah! your imprudent friend, without any warning, gives it a final pull to stretch it into shape. The twine slips from your grasp, springs away across the room, curls itself into a succession of snarls and twisted loops, and then lies motionless. Your friend looks thunderstruck. With a hasty apology, you step forward and tightly clasp the recreant end. You are in nervous expectation of dropping it again. Your fingers are benumbed at the tips with their tight compression, and the constant twitching. They give a sudden jerk. You make an involuntary clutch for the cord, but in vain. It is rapidly untwisting at the very feet of your companion, who looks at it in despair. Again you make an attempt with no success at all, the refractory twine eluding your utmost endeavors to hold it. Once more! Your fellow-twister walks off at last, with a wretchedly rough affair, which he good humoredly says "will do very well."
I believe the world has gone quite crazy on the subject of fresh air. In the next century people will think they must sleep on the house-tops, I suppose, or camp out in tents in primitive style. Nothing is talked about but ventilators, and air-tubes, and chimney-draughts. One would suppose that fire-places were invented expressly for cooling and airing a room, instead of heating it. There was no such fuss when I was young; in those good old times these airy notions had not come into fashion. Where the loose window-sashes rattled at every passing breeze, and the wind chased the smoke down the wide-mouthed chimney, nobody complained of being stifled. There were no furnaces then to spread a summer heat to every corner of the house. No, indeed! We ran shivering through the long, windy entries, all wrapped in shawls, and hugging ourselves to retain the friendly warmth of the fire as long as possible. Far from devising ways of letting in the air, we tried hard to keep it out by stuffing the cracks with cotton, and closely curtaining the windows and bed. Even then, the ice in the wash-basin, and the electricity which made our hair literally stand on end in the process of combing, and the gradual transformation of fingers into thumbs, showed but too plainly that the wintry air had penetrated our defences. When we crowded joyfully round a crackling, sparkling wood-fire, even while our faces glowed with the intense heat, cold shivers were creeping down our backs, and sudden draughts from an opening door set our teeth chattering. I often wished myself on a spit, to revolve slowly before the fire until thoroughly roasted. Not from any want of air, I assure you, we children were always breaking panes of glass on the bitterest days, and the glazier was never known to come under a week to replace them. Why people should wish to revive, and live through again, the miseries of such a frost-nipped childhood, I cannot imagine.
I, for one, love a snug house, even a warm house. I am of a chilly temperament, and subject to rheumatism, horrible colds, &c. Fresh air is my bane. I banish all books on the subject from my table. I studiously avoid all notorious fresh-air lovers, or try in every way to bring over the poor, misguided mortals to my views; but it is of no use. Fresh air is the fashion, and is run to extremes, as all fashions must be. I call in a physician; lo! fresh air is recommended as a tonic. I give a party; of course my windows are all thrown open, and foolish young girls, in the thinnest of white muslins, are standing in the draught; and such a whirlwind is raised by the flirting of fans, and the rush of the dancers, that I am blown, like a dry leaf, into a corner, where I stand shivering, and making rueful attempts to appear smiling and hospitable. I go out to pass a social afternoon with a friend, and am set down in a room just above the freezing-point, with a little crack opened in the window, and all the doors flying, to change the air. I ride in the omnibus, and am almost choked with my bonnet-strings, such a furious draught meets me in the face, and when, with infinite pains, I have secured the only tolerably warm corner, my next neighbor becomes very faint, and must have the window open. Even the poor babies are not safe from this popular insanity. You may see the little victims any day, taking an airing, with their little red noses and watery eyes peeping forth from under the cap and feathers. The old-fashioned blanket, in which the baby was done up head and all, like a bundle, is thrown aside. The child is not quite so often carried upside down. I suppose, under the new system, but what difference does it make whether the poor thing is smothered or frozen to death?
I never shall forget a long journey I took once with a friend who was raving mad on the subject of fresh air and cold water. Every morning the windows were thrown wide open, and the blinds flung back with an energetic bang, while a stiff wintry wind whirled every thing about the room, and flapped the curtains against the ceiling. And there she stood, declaring herself exhilarated, while her nose and lips turned from red to blue, and the tears ran down her cheeks. I always took to flight. Afterwards the poor auto-martyr went out to walk before breakfast, scornfully rejecting all offers of furs and extra wrappings. O dear, no! She never thought of muffs, tippets, snow-boots, but as encumbrances fit for extreme old age and infirmity. She always walked fast, and the more the wind blew, the warmer she felt, I might be assured. As soon as she had gone, I established myself in comfort by the side of a glowing grate, happy but for dreading her return. She came in dreadfully fresh and breezy from the outer air, very energetic, very noisy, and fully bent upon stirring me up and making me take exercise. After snapping the door open and slamming it behind her with a clap that greatly disturbed my nerves, she exclaimed in a stentorian voice, "O dear me! I shall die in such an oven! My dear child, you have no idea how hot it is!" And the first thing I knew, up would go a window with a crash that made the weights rattle. It might rain or shine; weather made no difference to this inveterate air-seeker. Many a time has she come in all dripping, and tracking the carpet, brushed carelessly against me with her wet garments, and finally enveloped me with the steam arising from them as they hung around my fire. It roused my indignation that she should make herself and every body else so uncomfortable, and then glory in the deed as if it were indubitably and indisputably praiseworthy. She was so good-natured, however, and so happy in her delusion, that I could not find it in my heart to remonstrate very vehemently, except when she would make me listen to her interminable lectures upon the importance, the necessity, of fresh air, and the effect of a snug, cosy room upon the blood, the heart, the lungs, the head, and (as I verily believe she hinted) the temper. I know I lost all control of mine long before she finished; but whether it was the want of fresh air in practice, or too much of it in theory, I leave you to imagine.
My friend always carried a small thermometer in her trunk, which she consulted a dozen times an hour, in order to regulate the temperature of the room. Alas for me if the quicksilver rose above 60! I devoutly hoped she would leave it behind in some of our numerous stopping-places, and with an eye to that possibility, I must confess, I hung it in the most out-of-the-way corners I could find; but it seemed to be on her mind continually. She never forgot it, and always packed it very carefully, too. I asked her two or three times to let me put it in my trunk, where I had slyly arranged a nice little place full of hard surfaces and sharp corners, but she always had plenty of room.
I believe my zealous friend is now residing at the sea-shore, freezing in the cold sea-winds, and losing her breath every morning in the briny wave, under the strange illusion that she is improving her health.
They tell me my hat is old! I scarce believe it so; But since I'm uncivilly told The dear old thing must go, I bid thee farewell, old hat, Good hat! Farewell to thee, good old hat!
I must soon to the city his, And trudge to some horrid store, A smart new tile to buy, With a heart exceedingly sore, For I cast off a long-tried friend, A close friend,— I'm ashamed of a trusty old friend.
Ah, let me remember with tears The day thou wast first my own, When I settled thee over my ears, Then with soap-locks overgrown. "Hurra for a beaver hat, A sleek hat! A cheer for a sleek beaver hat!"
That day is in memory green Among those that were all of that hue; Sweet days of my youth! Ah! I've seen But too many since that were blue. How smooth was our front, my hat, My first hat! Unbent were our brows, my first hat!
The first dent,—what a sorrow it was! Were it only my skull instead! Indignant I think on the cause, And pommel my stupid head. I was new to the care of a hat, A tall hat,— Unworthy to wear a tall hat.
The omnibus portal, low-browed, Had ne'er grazed my humble cap, But it knocked off my beaver so proud, Which into a puddle fell slap. Alas for my dignified hat, My proud hat! Woe to my lofty-crowned hat!
It survived, but it had a weak side, And so had its wearer, perchance, Since I left it on stairs to abide, At a house where I went to a dance. A lady ran into my hat, My poor hat! She demolished my invalid hat!
I am somewhat inclined to the opinion, that, if positive legislation could be brought to bear upon this subject, making it a criminal offence for one person deliberately to concoct and designedly to spring a surprise upon another, society would derive incalculable benefit from the act. For the ordinary and inevitable surprises of every-day life are sufficiently frequent and startling to content even the most romantic disposition; entirely dispensing with the necessity of those artfully contrived, embarrassing little plots which one's friends occasionally set in motion, greatly to their own diversion and the extreme discomfort of the surprised unfortunate. For he who has ever broken his skull on a treacherous sidewalk, or received from the post a dunning missive when he expected a love-letter, or arrived one minute late at the car-station, or taken a desperately bad bill in exchange for good silver, or been caught in a thunderstorm with white pantaloons and no umbrella, knows that the unavoidable surprises of life are in themselves staggerers of quite frequent occurrence, and require not the aid of human invention. But the surprises which we most dread are not those which naturally fall to us as part of the misfortune we are born to inherit; not those which result from unforeseen accidental circumstances, from carelessness on our own part or from the folly of others, from revolutions in the elements or in the affairs of nations; these we can bear, by using against them the best remedies we possess, or by viewing and enduring them as wisdom and philosophy teach us to do. No; our only prayer, in this connection, is that we may be saved from our friends; not from their carelessness, but from their deliberate schemes against our security.
In order to reconcile this apparent contradiction in terms, take the following instance of a friendly propensity. You walk into your house at dusky twilight, at that particular hour of evening at which your own brother, if he be a reasonable being, would not expect you to recognize him; one of your family extends his (or her) head from the parlor, and calls upon you at once to enter, and greet "an old friend." You obey, and are immediately confronted with an individual whose countenance wears an expression associated with some reminiscences of your youth, but so dim and undefined is it, that you cannot, for the life of you, give it its appropriate name or place. What is to be done? The recollections of early childhood are expected spontaneously to burst forth from under a heap of later and more vivid associations, and the name, residence, business, and whole history of the unwelcome guest are called upon to suggest themselves within a second's time.
After a long moment of painful hesitation, during which you have in vain tried to stare his name out of him, you clutch at a struggling idea, and blurt out the name of one of your former associates. You do this, not by any means because common sense or conviction suggest the course, but simply because something must instantly be done. The result, of course, is, that you hit upon the wrong name; and now your kind friends can do no more for you; even if they rush to the rescue, and formally introduce the stranger, it is of no avail. The deed is done; you are placed in a position of awkward mortification, which both the stranger and yourself will never forget, and never cease to regret.
Why it is that the feeling of shame which follows upon such mishaps attaches itself exclusively to the innocent sufferers, rather than to those who are the cause of the suffering, I never could understand. This kind of diversion betrays a want of humane consideration in the contriver. It is infinitely more cruel and unamiable than Spanish bull-baitings, or the gladiatorial shows of the ancients, inasmuch as a shock to the finest feelings of human nature is harder to bear, and longer in duration, than the momentary pang induced by witnessing a merely physical suffering.
THE OLD SAILOR.
In my school vacations I used occasionally to visit an old sailor friend, a man of uncommon natural gifts, and that varied experience of life which does so much to supply the want of other means of education. He must have been a handsome man in his youth, and though time and hardship had done their utmost to make a ruin of his bold features, and had made it needful to braid his still jetty black locks together to cover his bald crown, his was a fine, striking head yet, to my boyish fancy. I loved to sit at his feet, and hear him tell the events of sixty years of toil and danger, suffering and well-earned joy, as he leaned with both hands upon his stout staff, his body swaying with the earnestness of his speech. His labors and perils were now ended, and in his age and infirmity he had found a quiet haven. He had built a small house by the side of the home of his childhood, and his son, who followed his father's vocation, lived under the same roof. This son and two daughters were all that remained to him of a large family.
"An easterly bank and a westerly glim are certain signs of a wet skin!" said the fisherman, pointing to the heavy black masses of cloud that hung over the eastern horizon, one morning when I had risen at sunrise for a day's fishing. "'T won't do; don't go out to-day! There's soon such a breeze off shore, as, with the heavy chop, would make you sick enough! Besides, the old dory won't put up with such a storm as is coming. No fishing, my boy, to-day."
His old father said, "Stephen is right. There is a blow brewing." And he came to look, leaning on his cane. "Stay in to-day."
I yielded, and the sky during the morning slowly assumed a dull, leaden hue. The storm came on in the afternoon, heavily pattering, and pouring, and blowing against the windows, and obscuring the little light of an autumn twilight. I wandered through the few small rooms of the cottage, endeavoring to amuse myself, while the light lasted, with two funeral sermons and an old newspaper. Then I sat down at a window, and I well remember the gloomy landscape, seen through the rain, in the dusk:—the marsh, with the creek dividing it, the bare round eminence between the house and the beach, or rather the rocky cliffs, and on either side the wide, lonely sands, with heavy foam-capped breakers rolling in upon the shore, with a sound like a solemn dirge. At a distance on the left, half hidden by the walnut-trees, lay the ruins of a mill, which had always the air of being haunted. A high, rocky hill, very nearly perpendicular on the side next the house, was covered on the sides and top with junipers, pines, and other evergreens. As the darkness thickened, I left the lonely "best room" for the seat in the large chimney-corner, in the kitchen. The old wife tottered round, making preparations for the evening meal, and muttered recollections of shipwrecks which the storm brought to her mind. Now and then she would go to a window, turn back her cap-border from her forehead, put her face close to the glass, shading off the firelight with her hand, and gaze out into the darkness.
"Asa did not go out either, thank the good Father!" she said. The dog whined piteously. "St! St! Poor Scip! Here, shall have a piece! Good dog! A fearful night indeed it is."
The two men came in from the barn, shook off the wet, and drew near the fire.
"Just such a night, twenty-nine years ago come August, we ran afoul of Hatteras. You remember, old woman, how they frighted ye about me, don't ye?"
Amidst such reminiscences we were called to supper. I remember being solemnly impressed when that old man, bent with hardship and the weight of years, clasped his hands reverently, and in rude terms, but full of meaning, asked a blessing upon their humble board. I remember the flickering light from the logs burning on the hearth, and how it showed, upon the faces of those who sat there, a strong feeling of the words in which rose an added petition in behalf of those on the mighty deep.
Supper being ended, the old man took down the tobacco-board, and, when he had cut enough to fill his pipe, handed it to his son, who, having done the same, restored it to its nail in the chimney-corner. Then they smoked, and talked of dangers braved and overcome, of pirates, and shipwrecks, and escapes, till I involuntarily drew closer into my corner, and looked over my shoulder. Suddenly the dog under the table gave a whining growl.
"I never seed the like o' that dog," exclaimed the fisherman, turning to me. "I thought he was asleep. But if ever a foot comes nigh the house at night, he gives notice. Depend on it, there's some one coming."
The door of the little entry opened, with a rush of the whistling wind, and a man stepped in. The dog half rose, and though he wagged his tail, in token that he knew the step to be that of a friend, he kept up a low whine. A young man, muffled to the eyes, and with the water dripping from his huge pea-jacket, opened the kitchen-door.
"William Crosby, why, what brings you out in such a storm as this? Strip off your coat, and draw up to the fire, can't ye? Where are you bound, then, and the night as dark as a wolf's throat?"
The young fisherman made no answer, unless by a motion of his hand. As he turned back the collar from his face, we saw by the waving light that it was pale as death. The long wet locks already lay upon his cheeks, making them more ghastly as he struggled to speak. "O Stephen Lee, it's no time to be sitting by the fire, when old Asa Osborn is rolling in the waters. A man's drownded; and who's to get the body for the wife and the children—God pity them!—afore the ebb carries it out to sea?"
The old man drew his hand across his forehead, and rose. I looked at him as he drew up his tall figure, and looked the young messenger full in the eye. In a low, deep whisper, he said, "Who, William, did ye say? You said a man's drownded,—but tell me the name again."
"Yes, Gran'sir, I did say it. Old Uncle Ase Flemming, he and the minister went out a fishing in the morning. The minister got his boots off in the water, and after a long time he's swum ashore. But poor Uncle Ase—. Stephen, come along. His poor wife's gone down to the beach, now."
They left the house, and I shut the door after them, and came back softly to my seat by the old man's knee.
Once before I had seen him, when a heavy sorrow fell upon him. It was on a beautiful summer's day, and the open window let in the cool breeze from the sea. He was sitting by it in his arm-chair, looking out upon the calm water, buried in thought. His favorite daughter had long been very low, and might sink away at any moment. The old dog was at his feet asleep. The clock ticked in the corner, and the sun was shining upon the floor. Some friends sat by in silence, with sorrowful countenances. His little grandchild came to his side, and said, "Mother says, tell Grandpa Aunt Lucy's gone home."
The old man did not alter his position. For some time he sat in deep thought, looking out with unseeing gaze, and winding his thumbs, as before. Of five fair daughters, three had before died by the same disease, consumption. He had seen them slowly fade away, one by one, and had followed his children to the grave in the secluded burying-ground, where the green sod was now to be broken to receive the fourth.
Rising slowly, he walked across the room, and, taking the well-worn family Bible, returned with it to his seat; and, as he turned the leaves, he said in a low tone to himself, "There's only one left now!" Then he sat entirely silent, with his eyes fixed upon the sacred page. He did not utter one word of lamentation, he did not shed a tear, but as he turned his eye on me, in passing, its expression went to my heart. Stealing softly out, I left him to the silent Comforter whose blessing is on the mourner.
Now the scene was changed. One was suddenly taken from his side who had been a companion from boyhood to old age. They had played and worked in company; together they had embarked on their first voyage, and their last; and they had settled down in close neighborhood in the evening of their days. Each had preserved the other's life in some moment of peril, but took small praise to himself for so simple an act of duty. Few words of fondness had ever passed between them. They had gone along the path of life, without perhaps being conscious of any peculiarly strong tie of friendship binding them together, till they were thus torn asunder. The death of a daughter, long and slowly wasting away before his eyes, could be calmly borne. But this blow was wholly unforeseen, and his chest heavily rose and fell, and by the bright firelight I saw tears rolling over his weather-beaten cheeks.
"A child will weep a bramble's smart, A maid to see her sparrow part, A stripling for a woman's heart; Talk not of grief, till thou hast seen The hard-drawn tears of bearded men."
The fury of the storm being abated, I resolved to follow Stephen down to the shore. He was not in sight, and I knew not what direction to take. It was a gloomy night, the transient glimpses of the moon between driving masses of clouds only making the scene more wild and appalling. I could see the tops of the tall trees bending under the fury of the blast, ere it came to sweep the beach. The heaving billows were covered with foam, far as the eye could reach, and, rising and tumbling, seemed striving with each other as they rolled on towards the sands. I had seen storms upon the ocean before, but never had it presented so awful and majestic an appearance. As the breakers struck upon the shore, and sent a huge mass of water upon the sands, their sullen roar mingled with the howling and rushing of the wind, and filled me with awe.
There were torches upon the beach, and as I drew near, I saw the fishermen run together to one point. The body had just been washed ashore, and lay stretched upon the sands. The head was bare, and long locks of white hair streamed down upon the shoulders. The heavy pea-jacket was off from one arm, as if he had endeavored to extricate himself from it in the water. The sinewy arms lay powerless and free from tension then, but they told me that, when they first drew him from the surf, both hands were grasping a broken oar with such strength that they were unable to loose his hold, till suddenly the muscles relaxed, and the arms fell upon the ground. They turned the body, and a little water ran from the mouth. Then, gently raising it upon their shoulders, they bore it home.
In some individuals the risibles lie so near the surface that you may tickle them with a feather. In others, they are so deeply imbedded in phlegm, or so protected by the crust of ill-humor, that a strong thrust and a keen weapon are required to reach them.
A laugh is in itself a different thing in different individuals. Some persons laugh inwardly, unsocially, bitterly. It is a pure grimace on your part when you join in their merriment, unless you are superior to the fear of ridicule. On the other hand, there is a laugh of so contagious a nature, that you are irresistibly moved to sympathy while ignorant of the exciting cause, or out of the sphere of its influence. You will laugh loud and long, and afterwards confess that you had not the least gleam of a funny idea, all the while.
You doubt the power of the sympathetic laugh? Come with me into the nursery. Here is a rosy little horror, a year and a half old. Sit down and take him upon your knees. Hold his dimpled hands in yours, and look steadily into his roguish eyes. Repeat a nursery rhyme, no matter what, in a humdrum recitative; he is sober, and very attentive. Suddenly spring a mine upon him with a "Boo!" His "Hicketty-hick!" follows, and his eyes begin to shine. Repeat the experiment. "Hicketty-hick!" again, more heartily than at first, with the baby encore, "Adin!" The same process awakens the rapturous little pearls again and again, and you are quite in the spirit of the thing yourself. Now for a more ecstatic burst. You purposely prolong his suspense; he is all atilt, expecting the delightful surprise. You drawl out each word; you drone the ditty over and over again, till every tiny nerve is tense with expectation. "Boo!" at last, and over he goes, in the complete abandon of baby glee; his cherry lips are wide asunder, his head hangs powerless back, and the "Hicketty-hicks" burst tumultuously from his little, beating throat. And you, sir; what are you doing? Laughing, I declare, in full roar, till the tears run down your cheeks. You catch the boy in your arms, toss him, almost throttle him with kisses, and so enhance the merry spasms, that mamma, who has a philosophical instinct with regard to excited nerves, and dreads the reaction, comes to the rescue.
Let me introduce you to another effective laughter. You shall not hear a sound, yet you cannot choose but laugh, if she does, quiet as she is about it. See how her shoulders shake,—and look at her face! Every feature is instinct with mirth; the color mounts to the roots of the hair; the curls vibrate; the eyes sparkle through tears; the white teeth glisten; the very nose and ears seem to take a part; like Nourmahal, she "laughs all over," and while you wonder what the joke may be, you are laughing too.