[Transcriber's note: Footnotes at end of document]
THE CONTINENTAL MONTHLY:
LITERATURE AND NATIONAL POLICY
VOL. I.—MAY, 1862.—No. V.
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WHAT SHALL WE DO WITH IT?
The first blood that was shed in our Revolutionary struggle, was in Boston, in March, 1770. The next at Lexington, in June, 1775.
The interval was filled with acts of coercion and oppression on the one side and with complaints and remonstrances on the other. But the thought of Independence was entertained by very few of our people, even for some time after the affair at Lexington. Loyalty to the mother country was professed even by those most clamorous in their complaints, and sincerely so, too. The great majority thought that redress of grievances could be obtained without severance from Great Britain.
But events hurried the people on, and that which was scarcely spoken of at the beginning of the struggle, soon became its chief object.
Is it not the same with our present contest with the South? We took up arms to defend the Constitution, to sustain our Government, to maintain the Union; and in the course of performing that work, it would seem as if Emancipation was forced upon us, and as if it was yet to be the prime object in view.
Lo! how much has already been done toward that end, even though not originally intended! As our armies advance into the enemies' country, thousands of slaves are practically emancipated by the flight and desertion of their rebel masters. The rules and articles of war have been so altered by Congress as to forbid our military forces from returning to bondage any who flee from it. The President has proposed, and Congress has entertained, the proposition of aiding the States in emancipation. Fremont, who has been regarded as the representative of the emancipation feeling, has been restored to active command. And multitudes of our people, who have hitherto considered themselves as bound by the Constitution not to interfere with the subject, have become open in the avowal that as slavery has been the cause of the evil, so it must now be wiped out forever.
It would seem, therefore, as if it was inevitable that the question of emancipation is to be thrust upon us, and we must be prepared to meet it. It is in this view, and irrespective of the question of right and wrong in slavery, that some considerations present themselves, which can not be ignored.
The difference of race between the white and the negro will ever keep them apart, and forbid their amalgamation. One or the other must ultimately go to the wall, and it is worth our while to see what time is doing with the question: 'Which must it be in this country?'
Hence it is important to note the progress of both the races with us.
In the course of seventy years, that is, from the census of 1790 to that of 1860, the slave population has increased from 697,897 to 4,002,996. So that our colored population is now six times as great as when our Government was formed.
During the same period the free population has increased from 3,231,975 to 27,280,070, or nearly nine times as great as in 1790. Of this increase about 3,000,000 is the result of emigration; so that the native-born population has increased to about 24,000,000, or about eight times as many as in the beginning of our Government. If due allowance be made for those born of emigrant parents,[A] it would seem that the two races have about kept pace with each other in their natural increase.
A more minute examination, however, will show that the natural increase of the colored race has been in a greater ratio than that of the whites, native-born to the soil.
The following tables will show how this is, both as to the colored and the white races.
INCREASE OF SLAVE POPULATION.
Years. No. of Slaves. Increase. Per ct. of Increase.
1790, 697,897 1800, 893,041 195,144 28 1810, 1,191,364 298,323 32 1820, 1,538,064 346,700 29 1830, 2,009,031 470,967 29 1840, 2,487,855 478,324 24 1850, 3,204,313 716,958 29 1860, 4,002,996 798,683 25
The average increase in every ten years during the seventy years has been about 28 per cent.
INCREASE OF WHOLE POPULATION, INCLUDING SLAVES AND EMIGRANTS
Years. Population. Increase. Per ct. of Increase. 1790, 3,929,872 1,376,080 1800, 5,305,952 1,376,080 37 1810, 7,239,814 1,933,862 36 1820, 9,688,131 2,398,817 33 1830, 12,866,920 3,228,789 34 1840, 17,063,353 4,196,433 33 1850, 23,191,876 6,128,523 36 1860, 31,676,217 8,484,341 36
The average increase in every ten years would be about 35 per cent.
Deducting from this latter table the slaves, the emigrants, and children born of emigrants, now included in it, and the ratio of increase is below 27 per cent every ten years. So that if anything should occur to check the tide of emigration, the blacks in this country would increase in a faster ratio than the whites.
We can form some idea as to the danger of such a check, when we advert to the fact that the emigration which in 1854 was 427,833, fell off in 1858 to 144,652.
To finish the picture which these figures present to us, let us carry the mind forward a decade or two. At the average rate of increase of the blacks, namely, 28 per cent, we shall have, of the slave population alone, and excluding the free blacks, 5,060,585 in 1870, and 6,577,584 in 1880. And by that time they will be increasing at the rate of 150,000 to 200,000 a year.
Carl Schurz, in his speech at the Cooper Institute, in New-York, put to his audience a pertinent inquiry: 'You ask me, What shall we do with our negroes, who are now 4,000,000? And I ask you, What will you do with them when they will be 8,000,000—or rather, what will they do with you? Surely, surely the question involves the greatest problem of the age.
If our fathers had met the question seventy years ago, we should not now behold the spectacle of 6,000,000 of our people in rebellion, and an army of 400,000 men arrayed against the integrity of the Union. And we may well profit by the example so far as to ask ourselves the question, What will be the condition of our country and of our posterity, fifty years hence, if we, too, shirk the question as painful and difficult of solution?
Whether ultimate and universal emancipation will be one of the necessary modes of dealing with it, time must show. In the mean time there is a question immediately pressing upon us. Day by day our armies are advancing among them, and every news of a contest that comes, brings us accounts of the swarms of 'contrabands' who are flocking to us for protection. At one place alone, Port Royal, S.C., the Government Agent reports that there are at least fifteen thousand slaves deserted by their masters, and thus practically emancipated. Untaught and unwonted to take care of themselves—our armies consuming the fruits of the earth and finding no employment for these 'National Freedmen'—the danger is great that want, and temptation, and the absence of the government to which they have been accustomed, may yet drive them to become lawless hordes, preying on all.
The same state of things must of necessity exist wherever the slave-owner flies from the approach of our armies; and we have now presented to us the alternative of either allowing their state to be worse by reason of their emancipation, or better, according as the wise and the humane among us may deal with the subject.
Some measures, we learn, have already been initiated for the emergency. 'The Educational Commission' of Boston, at the head of which is Governor Andrews; 'The Freedman's Relief Association,' in New-York, with Judge Edmonds as its President; and a similar society in Philadelphia, of which Stephen Colwell is Chairman, are societies of large-hearted men and women, banded together, as they express it, to 'teach the freedmen of the colored race civilization and Christianity; to imbue them with notions of order, industry, economy and self-reliance, and to elevate them in the scale of humanity, by inspiring them with self-respect.'
The task is certainly a high and holy one, and eminently necessary. How far it will be sustained by the Government or the people, or how far the purpose can be carried out with a race who have been intentionally kept in profound ignorance, is part of the great problem that we are to solve. But not all of it, by any means. There is much more for enlightened patriotism and wise humanity yet to do, before the task shall be accomplished and the work begun by the Revolution shall be finished; and to prevent a conflict of races, which can end only in the extermination of one or the other.
The 16,000,000 of natives who were once masters of this whole continent are now dwindled into a few insignificant tribes, 'away among the mountains.' Is such to be the fate of the negro also? Or has the spirit of God's charity so far progressed among us that, unlike our fathers, we can redeem rather than destroy, can emancipate rather than enslave?
Be the answer to those questions what it may, there are other considerations, immediately affecting ourselves as a nation and a race.
Slavery would seem to retard our advancement in both respects.
During the ten years from 1850 to 1860, the total population of our country increased about 37 per cent.
In 1790, there were seventeen States in the Union, and of those seventeen, eight are now slave States, and the following table of those States will show how the increase of slavery retards the advance of the whites:
Ratio of Ratio of Free Whites. Increase Slaves. Increase 1850. 1860. 1850. 1860.
Delaware, 71,169 110,548 56 2,290 1,805 * Georgia, 521,572 615,336 18 381,682 467,461 23 Kentucky, 761,417 933,707 22 210,981 225,902 7 Maryland, 417,943 646,183 55 90,368 85,382 * N. Carolina, 552,028 679,965 23 288,548 328,377 14 S. Carolina, 274,567 308,186 9 384,984 407,185 7 Tennessee, 756,753 859,528 14 239,460 287,112 20 Virginia, 894,800 1097,373 23 472,628 495,826 5
From these facts, it would seem that, in the two States in which slavery has decreased, the increase of the whites has been 55 and 56 per cent, exceeding the average ratio of increase in the whole nation. While in all the other States, where slavery has increased, none of them have come up to the average national ratio of increase, and in one of them, (South-Carolina,) the increase is not one quarter the national average.
In respect to South-Carolina, it is a remarkable fact that while she has now nearly four tunes as many slaves as she had in 1790, her whole population (slaves and all) is not three times what it then was, and her free population is only a little more than twice its number in 1790. In other words, while in seventy years her slave population has increased four-fold, her free population has only a little more than doubled.[B]
These facts teach their own lesson; but they compel all who value the Union and the peace of the nation, to ask how far they have had to do with the troubles of nullification and secession, which for thirty years have been plaguing us, and have now culminated in a terrible rebellion!
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A PHILOSOPHIC BANKRUPT.
The great financial storm that swept over our country and Europe, in the 'fall of 1857,' overwhelming so many large and apparently staunch vessels, did not disdain to capsize and send to the bottom many smaller craft; my own among the number. She was not as heavily freighted (to continue for a moment the nautical metaphor) as some that sunk around her; but as she bore my all, it looked at first pretty much like a life-and-death business, especially the latter. For a time, all was horror and confusion; but as the wreck cleared away, I soon discovered that there would, at any rate, remain to me the consolation that others would not lose through my misfortunes; that the calamity, if such it were, would affect no one but myself. My own experience, and my observation of those around me, has led me, naturally enough, to ponder a good deal on the subject of reverses in life, and as no page of genuine experience can be considered wholly valueless, it may do no harm to record my own. Though many have undergone reverses, few, with the exception of ministers, ever seem to have written about them, a class of men who, whatever their other troubles, in these days of bronchitis and fastidious parishes, have usually been exempt from trials of this peculiar character.
Bishop Butler, in one of his sermons on Human Nature, alludes to a sect in philosophy, representing, I suppose, the 'selfish system,' one of whose ideas is that men are naturally pleased on hearing of the misfortunes of others. La Rochefoucauld expresses the same sentiment as his own. Couched in plain language, this appears to be a gloomy and heartless doctrine; but probably nothing more is meant than a refinement of the common adage, 'Misery loves company,' and that very good and benevolent persons, if themselves overtaken by misfortune, can not but feel some alleviation for their sorrows, in reflecting that others have trials equally great and that they are but partakers of a common though bitter lot. If there be really any consolation in reflections of this kind, history furnishes us many striking examples, and, as far as great changes in worldly condition are concerned, the prince and the plebeian, the emperor and the exile, have often found themselves for a time on the same level.
The wheel of fortune, in its revolutions, generally produces changes of two descriptions, either exalting the lowly or pulling down the great. In rarer instances, not satisfied with giving the individual a single turn, it grants him the benefit of a more varied experience. It carries the country-boy to wealth and power, and then transports him back to his native fields, whose pure air is not less wholesome, after all, than the heated atmosphere of the ball-room or caucus-chamber; or it may roll the wave of revolution over a kingdom, banishing the prince to wander an exile, perhaps a schoolmaster, in distant lands, to contend with poverty or duns, and then, on its receding tide, landing him once more safely on his throne. Frequent revolutions have, however, taught princes wisdom in this respect. Most of them now seem to be well provided for in foreign countries, beyond the reach of contingencies in their own, and if time is given them to escape with their lives, it is generally found that they have 'laid up treasure' where at any rate the thieves of the new dynasty can not 'break through and steal.' A very recent instance is afforded us by his majesty Faustin I., who, notwithstanding his confidence in the affection of his subjects, seems to have preferred taking the Bank of England as collateral security.
The first French Revolution probably affords as striking examples of change in worldly condition as any other period, and among those whom it affected for the time, few were more remarkable than two persons whom it sent to our own shores, Talleyrand and Chateaubriand. During the residence of the former in Philadelphia, he appears at one time to have been in the most abject poverty. We read of his pawning a watch and smaller articles, to provide himself and his companion with food; any care for their wardrobes, beyond the faded garments they were then wearing, being apparently out of the question. If one who then met the needy foreigner walking the wide streets of that respectable city, had predicted that in a few years this shabby Frenchman would be looked up to as the leader of the diplomacy of Europe, he might with perfect justice have been regarded as a fit subject for one of that city's excellent asylums. But a few years did witness this change, and saw him powerful and the possessor of millions; unfortunately for the Abbe's reputation, much of the latter being the wages of corruption.[C]
Chateaubriand speaks feelingly of the sufferings he and his companion underwent in London, about the same period. Lodged in a dismal garret, they were at one time obliged to economize their food almost as closely as the inhabitants of a beleaguered town. He speaks of walking the streets for hours together, utterly uncertain what to do, passing stately houses and groups of blooming English children, and then returning late at night to his attic, where his companion, 'trembling with cold,' would rise from his ill-clad bed to open the door for him. He strikingly contrasts his position then with his approach to London twenty years later, as ambassador from France, driving in coach-and-four through towns whose authorities came out to welcome him in the usual pompous manner, and, while in London, giving magnificent balls in one of the stately houses, and perhaps numbering among his guests some of the blooming children he had once passed, now expanded into full-blown and gorgeous flowers of aristocracy. These are, of course, uncommon instances; but they teach that the most brilliant present may have had the darkest past; that there is always ground for hope, and that the caprices of fortune, if we take no higher view of them, are mysterious enough.
The man who has been overtaken by reverses, need not look far abroad to see that a system of compensation is pretty generally dealt out in this life. Set him adrift in the world, with scarcely a dollar; let him walk, almost a beggar, through the same streets he once trod, a man of wealth, and it would be idle to assert that he will not be almost overwhelmed by the force of bitter recollections. In proportion as other days were happy, will these be miserable. As Dante has truly said, the memory of former joys, so far from affording relief to the wretched, serves only to embitter the present, as they feel that these joys have forever passed away. But unless his lot be one of unusual calamity, as time blunts the keenest edge of sorrow, he must be devoid of both philosophy and religion, if he does not feel that life with a mere competence still has many joys. It is unquestionably true that one's style of living has not much to do with the sum of his happiness, though this is said with no disposition to undervalue even the luxuries of life. So far from the finest houses in a city having the greatest air of comfort about them, I think rather the reverse is the case. No dwellings have a snugger look than many of the plain, two-story houses in all our cities; no children merrier than those that play around their doors; no manlier fathers than those that struggle bravely for their support. One would suppose that Stafford House, with its wealth of pictures and furniture, and its beautiful views over Hyde Park, must contain much to add to the pleasure of its possessors; but probably the sum of happiness enjoyed by this noble family has been very little increased by these things. I believe that palaces are more envied by 'outsiders' than enjoyed by their owners. In proportion to the number of each, probably far more of those dreadful tragedies that cast ineffaceable gloom over whole families, have occurred in these splendid houses than in plainer ones. Our Fifth Avenue, with all its grandeur, is one of the gloomiest looking streets in the world, as strangers generally remark. But as all preaching is vain against many a besetting sin, so will all the talking in the world do little to convince men that happiness does not lie in externals. One generation does not learn much from its predecessors in this respect; it seems to have been intended that each should acquire its own experience. The task of talking beforehand is therefore an unprofitable one; but it is a satisfaction to feel that when much that is thought indispensable has been taken from us, there still remains that which can afford us happiness.
It is easy to recall instances in which it seemed as if adversity was really required to bring out the noblest qualities in man, and enable him to set an example calculated to console and stimulate those who are treading the sometimes difficult path of duty. Portions of the diary of Scott, written during the last and most troubled years of his life, have for many a deeper interest than the most brilliant pages of his novels. In these days of 'compromise,' which seems to be too often the cant term for an eternal adieu to all previous obligations, no matter how just, and no matter what good fortune the future may have in reserve for the debtor, it is refreshing to read this record of perfect integrity and long-continued sacrifice. Though carried, in his case, to a point beyond the strictest requirements of honor, inasmuch as it involved the ruin of his health, the example is noble and strengthening. It may be said, on the other hand, that Scott was the possessor of a 'magic wand,' and did right in attempting what to other men would be impossible. Carlyle, if I remember his article, attributes Scott's conduct partly to worldly pride, and thinks he should have owned at once that he had made a great mistake, involving others in his ruin, and should have abandoned the tremendous struggle still to bear up under such a weight. This is a singular view of the matter, and one that a man of Scott's sense of honor never would have felt satisfied in taking. The lives of Scott and Charlotte Bronte are worth more than their novels, after all.
One of the minor evils of loss of fortune has, I think, been exaggerated, and that is the idea that persons are frequently slighted, sometimes even cut, by their fashionable acquaintances; and connected with this is the other idea, that what some sneeringly call 'fashionable society,' is generally more heartless than any other. For the honor of human nature, I am glad to believe that the first is not the case, nor does the second exactly stand to reason. In every city, there is a class of persons, moneyed or not as the case may be, who, living only for selfish enjoyment, pay court to those that can yield it to them, and are sometimes rude enough to slight those who can not. Whether the companionship of such persons is very desirable, or their loss much to be deplored, each man must decide for himself. Persons who, when rich themselves, have been overbearing to others, are perhaps those who notice most difference when misfortunes overtake them. What is called fashionable society, generally comprises a good deal of the education and refinement of a city; with a portion of what is hollow and worthless, it includes much that is substantial and true. Certainly, the finer and more delicate feelings of our nature, and those which lead us to sympathize with the unfortunate, are partly the result of education, and we should naturally expect to find these in the higher rather than in the humbler walks of life. There is a vast deal of genuine charity in humble life, and the poor of every city derive a large part of their support from those but moderately blessed with worldly goods themselves; but many a well-meaning man will unintentionally make a remark that wounds your feelings and makes you uncomfortable for hours afterwards, while a person whose perceptions and sympathies have been more nicely trained would spare you the infliction. A certain fortune is indispensable to those who wish to keep with the party-going world, and those who have not this competence can not indulge much in this more expensive mode of life; but that they are forgotten is not because persons wish to neglect them, but because men naturally forget those they are not often in the habit of meeting. Might not the aged, even if wealthy, say they are forgotten, excepting by their immediate connection? They are forgotten because, in the rush and turmoil of life, every thing is soon forgotten. The dead, who were beloved and honored while living, are soon comparatively forgotten beyond their families and familiar circle. This is not exactly owing to the heartlessness of men, but rather to the fact that their minds are occupied with the persons and things they see every day around them, and this is probably as much the case with the poor as with the rich; but it seems to have become a sort of custom to speak of the heartlessness of society. It is rather owing to the imperfection of our constitution. Loss of fortune renders us more sensitive, and we are apt to fancy slights where none were intended; but we may be pretty certain that the better men and women of society do not make money the index of their treatment of others.
Persons sometimes speak lightly and hastily of reverses sustained by others as mere trifles, compared with loss of friends. I hold that these persons are wrong, and believe that to many, and those not particularly selfish and narrow-minded people either, loss of fortune may prove a greater and more lasting sorrow than loss of dear friends; nay, that a great reverse, such as a plunge from prosperity into utter poverty, (and many such instances can be cited,) is perhaps the heaviest trial that can be imposed on man. Let any one call up the instances he has known of the tenderest ties being severed, and except in those rare cases we sometimes meet with of persons pining away and following the beloved object to the grave, do we not see the overwhelming grief gradually subsiding into a gentler sorrow, and, as was intended by a merciful providence, other objects closing in, and though not entirely filling up the void, still furnishing other sources of happiness? This happens with the best and tenderest beings on earth. The departed one is not forgotten, nor have the survivors ceased to mourn him; but their feelings now cling more affectionately than before to the remaining members of the circle. This is not so in the case of a reverse such as I have imagined, and many of us have seen. Where, as in the failure of some great bank or 'Life and Trust Company,' reckoned perfectly impregnable, the fortune of delicate ladies, always accustomed to luxury, has been swept away; where there are no relatives able or willing to render much assistance, and daughters have to seek employment that will give themselves and an aged mother a bare competence, with all my disposition to bear things bravely and philosophically, I contend that human nature can hardly be visited with a heavier trial. For men, it is comparatively easy; but there are instances, in every large city, of ladies, once wealthy, now reduced to a sort of genteel beggary, that a man would shrink from, but that women can not very well avoid. Fancy the bitterness of such a life; the constant memory of happier days contrasted with the present condition, which has no prospect of improvement; the keenness of present sorrow rendered more acute by education and refinement; the necessity not merely of economy, for most of us can bear a large portion of this pretty cheerfully; but the difficulty, with close economy, of supplying the decent comforts of life, and tell me, as some who have never been visited by any trial of this kind would tell me, if it is selfish and sordid to compare this lasting sorrow with that great ordinance of death and separation which all must share alike? Alas! these are objects not generally reached by charitable societies; but not less deserving, and subjected to trials no less hard than those whose lot has always been one of poverty.
Having admitted that, under some circumstances, the loss of property may occasion grief so deep and lasting as to make it worthy of comparison even with loss of dear friends, I would say, on the other hand, that instances often occur where no comparison can be made between the two evils. We hear sometimes of dreadful calamities at sea, where entire families are swept away; where, as on the 'Austria,' the only alternative is the mode of death, whether it shall be on the burning ship or beneath the cold, dark billow. What experience can be more awful, in the life of any man, than that which compelled this father to throw child after child into the sea, not with any hope of rescue, but merely to prolong for a few moments a life that could no longer be endured on the burning deck? Different, but scarcely less painful, the burial of hope in a father's breast, as in the death of the sons of Hallam. Industry may repair the wrecks of fortune; but the hopes and affections that have centered here must be laid aside forever.
Are there many of us, after all, who would care for a career of unbroken prosperity? Men of talent and worth have been crushed and hurried to their graves by the iron hand of poverty; but for one such, there have probably been ten who have passed through life with energies and talents never fully called forth; because easy circumstances have never demanded any great exertion from them. This leaves out a class larger probably in our country than in any other, of children of fortune, who have plunged headlong into ruin, finding an early and dishonored death, who, had they been compelled to work, would at least have acquitted themselves decently in life. Some of the most dreadful death-scenes on record are those of men who have had few earthly trials to bear, men of wealth, who have wrought their own ruin, and half of whose lives have been passed in efforts to work the ruin of the young and innocent of the other sex. If Chatterton and Otway are sad instances of genius subdued and crushed by adversity, Beckford and many others show where the too lavish gifts of fortune have perverted talent and rendered its possessor far worse than a merely useless member of society.
The world-wide Burns Celebration probably caused many humble men to think of the number of great minds who have been compelled to undergo this ordeal of poverty. How perfectly, in some instances, does the man's soul and intellect seem to have been separated from the man himself. It does seem a marvel that seventy years ago this man should have been in want and harassed by fears for the family he was to leave behind him, when now so many hundred thousand men seem ready to worship him. How many envy fame! and how proud men are, for generations afterward, who can trace back their descent to one who, while on earth, may have suffered all the annoyances and discomforts of penury! The poet seemed to know that he would be more highly esteemed after he had left the world than while he was in it; but did this thought really afford him much consolation, or would he have been willing, if possible, to sacrifice a more prosperous present for a great posthumous fame? How many great men have languished long years in dungeons, as some languish in them even now. How many have borne years of bodily infirmity. How many have died just as they seemed about to realize the fruit of years of preparation and exertion. These reflections tend to make us contented with a comparatively humble lot, as all great trials tend to lessen our undue attachment to life.
Finally, it occurs to me that very few men have lost fortunes, without spending too much time in unavailing regrets that they should have lost them just in the manner they did. If they had only avoided this or that particular investment, all would have been well. This is nonsense. Undoubtedly, a great deal of money is lost very foolishly, but though no fatalist, I do not believe that all the care and prudence in the world will materially alter the great Scriptural law, that the riches of this world will often take wings to themselves and flee away. There is far too much recklessness, far too much of what is called in business circles 'expansion;' but the time will never come, in our country, when generation after generation, in one family, will keep on in the path of success. Great fortunes will still melt away, and the shrewdest maxims of those who built them up will fail sometimes. Nothing can be considered certain in regard to worldly goods, beyond the fact that industry, good principles, and average capacity will always, in the long run, secure a competence; but wealth will still be the prize that only a few need expect to draw.
I have endeavored to call up a few of the reflections that may console a man under adversity, remembering that drooping fortunes may revive, that many of the noblest men have suffered the same privations, and remembering how much lighter this form of affliction generally is than some others that Providence often sees fit to lay upon us. Trite as it is, I can not help echoing the remark, how vastly the sum of human happiness would be increased, if men could only learn to prize more highly the blessings they have. Those of us who are in moderate circumstances find it so much easier to envy our rich neighbors than to think with gratitude of our happy lot, contrasted with the many thousand of our needier brethren. We enjoy so many blessings, that we become unmindful of them. We rarely think at all about our health, until a few days' sickness reminds us of the boon we have been enjoying so unconsciously. In the darkest days of the great crisis, accounts reached us every week from India, telling us that refined and delicately-reared English men and women were being brutally slaughtered or exposed to the loathsome horrors of a lingering siege. What a paradise the humblest cottage at home would have seemed to these poor creatures, though some of them had been accustomed to 'stately homes.'
How beautifully this sentiment of gratitude for the common blessings of life has been expressed by Emile Souvestre, one of the purest and noblest writers of our time, and one whose early history presents an instance of great obstacles and trials nobly met and overcome!
'If a little dry sand be all that is left us, may we not still make it blossom with the small joys we now trample under foot. Ah! if it be the will of God, let my labor be still more hard, my home less comfortable, my table more frugal; let me even assume a workman's blouse, and I can bear it all willingly and cheerfully, provided I can see the loved faces around me happy, provided I can feast upon their smiles and strengthen myself with their joy. O holy contentment with poverty! it is thy presence I invoke. Grant me the cheerful gayety of my wife, the free, unrestrained laughter of my children, and take in exchange, if necessary, all that is yet left me.'
* * * * *
THE MOLLY O'MOLLY PAPERS.
When Dogberry brought Conrade before Leonato, the only offense he seems to have had a clear idea of, was the one against himself: 'Moreover, sir, this plaintiff here, the offender, did call me ass. I beseech you, let it be remembered in his punishment.' Shakspeare has, by this 'one touch of nature,' made Dogberry kin to the whole world. It would be the most terrible of punishments to run the gauntlet of a company, every one of which you had called an ass; whatever may have been the original offense, this would be the one most remembered in your punishment, I don't think it would be possible to believe any thing good of one who had given you this appellation; on the contrary, the reputed long ears would be worse than the famous 'diabolical trumpet' for collecting and distorting the merest whispers of evil against him who planted them, or discovered them peeping through the assumed lion's skin. Apollo's music probably sounded no sweeter to Midas after he received his 'wonderful ear.'
But my object in introducing Dogberry was not to give a dissertation on this greatest of insults, but to illustrate our selfishness. Our patience will bear great crimes against others, but how it gives way under the slightest insult to ourselves. Now I am not going to denounce selfishness; I'd as soon think of denouncing gravitation. There is, in the best of us, an under-current of selfishness; indeed, selfishness and unselfishness are convertible terms; this is a higher kind of that, as the upper-current of the ocean is but the under-current risen to the surface.
Saint James says: 'The love of money is the root of all evil.' I am not exactly prepared to agree with him; it is a great branch, almost the trunk; but I think selfishness is the root. You know Hahnemann thought all diseases but a modification of one disease—psora. However it may be with his theory, the one moral disease is not an itching palm. This is but a modification of selfishness, which is not merely cutaneous.
But the form it is supposed to take in the system of Yankees, is the above-named plebeian form. The supposition may be correct. Don't we most feel our national troubles, the shock of the great national earthquake, when it causes an upheaval from the depths of the pocket? If Uncle Sam's sentiments are, as they are supposed to be, only a concentration of those of the majority, isn't his lamentation over his run-away South, who has changed her name without his consent, that of Shylock: 'My daughter! Oh! my ducats!'? Though not exactly connected with this branch of selfishness, I may as well, while speaking of our national difficulties, mention what struck me very forcibly: It is said, that on the eminence from which the spectators of the Bull Run battle so precipitately fled, were found sandwiches and bottles of wine; and that these refreshments actually lined the road to Washington. From this might be inferred that 'to-day's dinner' not only 'subtends a larger visual angle than yesterday's revolution,' but that it also subtends a larger angle than to-day's revolution. If one could ever forget one's own personal gratifications and comforts, it would be, I should think, in overlooking a nation's battle-field—our nation's battle-field. But it is not for a humble lay member, whose business it is to practice rather than preach, to criticise. Are not the honorable members representatives of the people; and when they are cheered and refreshed, are not the 'dear people' through them cheered and refreshed? Besides, they may have so reluctantly dropped the wine and sandwiches because they were loth to leave them to 'give aid and comfort to the enemy.' There are always envious people to rail at those above them; pawns on the world's chess-board, they pride themselves on their own straightforward course; but let them push their way to the highest row, how soon do they exchange this course for the 'crooked policy of the knight,' or jump over principles with queen, castle, or bishop! Woe to the poor pawn in their way.
How I have skipped! what connection can there be between members of Congress and crooked policy, or jumping over principles? yet there must have been a train of association that led me off the track; doubtless it was purely arbitrary. Well, we'll let it go; poor pawn as I am, I have but stepped aside to nab an idea.
But to return to the Yankee. The form which selfishness takes in his system is not that of the most intensified exclusiveness. You know the story of Rosicrucius' sepulcher, with its ever-burning lamp, guarded by an armor-encased, truncheon-armed statue, which statue, on the entrance of a man who accidentally discovered the sepulcher, arose, and at his advance, raised its truncheon and shivered the lamp to atoms, leaving the intruder in darkness. On examination, under the floor springs were found, connecting with others within the statue. Rosicrucius wished thus to inform the world that he had reinvented the ever-burning lamp of the ancients, but meant that the world shouldn't profit by the information. Had a Yankee reinvented those lamps, he would have got out a patent, and some brother Yankee would have improved upon it, and invented one warranted to burn 'forever and a day.' They would probably have thus raked together a great deal of the 'filthy lucre;' possibly this would have been their main object; but the world would have been benefited by them. All selfishness, to be sure, but exclusive selfishness benefits the world.
[Speaking of filthy lucre, I begin to see why those who have lost it all are said to be 'cleaned out.' But this is only par parenthese.]
But exclusiveness is not peculiar to the Rosicrucians; there is too much of it in even the religious sects of this enlightened age; it is too much, 'Lord, bless me and my sect;' 'Lord, bless us, and no more.' There are self-constituted mountain-tops that would extract all the mercy and grace with which the winds come freighted from the great ocean of Love, so that they would pass over beyond them hot, dry winds of wrath. But I am glad that this is impossible; that in the moral world there are no Andes, no rainless regions.
I fear that I have not stuck very closely to the text furnished me by thick-headed, thick-tongued Dogberry.
Allow me to compress into closing sentences, a few general remarks.... Those lakes that have no outlet, grow salt and bitter; we all know the ennui and bitterness of those souls that receive many blessings, sending forth none; better drain your soul out for others, than have it become a Dead Sea.... Black, that absorbs all rays, reflecting none, is an anomaly in nature; it is true, but one earthly character has reflected all the rays of goodness, absorbing none, making the common light 'rich, like a lily in bloom;' yet every man can reflect at least one ray to gladden the earth.... It is not necessary, even in the cold atmosphere of this world, to become contractedly selfish; cold expands noble natures as it does water.... Lastly ...
Yours, MOLLY O'MOLLY.
The old trout knows enough to keep off the fisherman's hook; the squirrel never cracks an empty nut; the crow soon learns the harmlessness of the scarecrow. But man, though he may have twenty times wriggled off the hook, the patient angler catches him at last. He always cracks the empty shell, then cries: 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.' This cry he might be spared would he learn a lesson from the squirrel, who weighs his nuts and throws away the light, hollow shell.... And there are scarescrows, the harmlessness of which the human biped learns not in a a lifetime. How long is it since that horned, cloven-footed monster whom the monks made of Pan theos and called him Devil, was an object of fear? How 'the real, genuine, no mistake' (savin' his presence) must have laughed at his own effigy! Then there is Grim Death, too, a creation of the Dark Ages, for in no age of light could this horror have been ever conceived. Unlike the other, against him no exorcism avails.... As if the soul about to be launched on the dim sea Eternity, after all lights and forms of the loved shore have become indistinct, must be cut loose from her moorings by this phantom. The idea that 'Death comes to set us free,' would hardly make us 'meet him cheerily, as our true friend,' were this his real shape. But were I disposed to enumerate our scarecrows, the list would be incomplete; as there are doubtless many that I have not the shrewdness to recognize as such.
The only humbugs are not those that work on our fears. There are humbugs that work on our hopes. These have been likened to bubbles that dance on the wave, burst, and are no more. They are too often like bomb-shells, that in exploding scatter ruin on all around. They have also been named air-castles, chateaux en Espagne, 'baseless fabrics of a vision.' The baseless fabric of a vision is built of 'airy nothingness;' but men found on a wish, structures that tower to heaven, put real, solid material into them, and when they fall, as fall they must—I'll not attempt to give an idea of the utter desolation they leave, of the waste place they make of the heart, lest you should think I have thus humbugged myself; for self-humbug it certainly is; and this is the most intensely human. Not a fish, or reptile, bird, or beast; not a thing crawling, swimming, flying, or walking, but the human creature, humbugs himself. 'Man was made to mourn,' I would change into, Man was made to be humbugged. It is better to be greatly gullible, than a 'cunning dog,' for gulled we will be. It is better to be caught at once, than to have our gills torn by wriggling off the hook the twenty times, to be caught at last. It is better to walk straight into the net than to fatigue ourselves by coming to it in a roundabout way. A Nova-Scotian once rallied a Down-Easter on the famous wooden hams. 'Yaas,' was the reply, 'and they say that one of you actilly ate one and didn't know the difference.' Well, it is better to swallow our humbugs, as the Nova-Scotian did the Connecticut-cured ham, without detecting any thing peculiar in their flavor, than it is to find our mistake at the first cut or saw. By the way, saltpeter is so needed for other purposes, that probably the Virginia cured will not now have as fine a flavor as formerly.
But, in the way: You dissent from some of these remarks? You've cut your eye-teeth, have you? Possibly you forget that trip in the cars, when you 'cutely passed by the swell in flashy waistcoat and galvanized jewelry, and took a seat by a 'plain blunt man' in snuff-color; and after he had left the cars at the first station, and the conductor came to you and demanded, 'Your ticket, sir!' you probably forgot how in fumbling for it in your pocket, you found it, but not your porte-monnaie. You perhaps set down in your mental memorandum, under the head of Appearances, not to be deceived by plain bluntness and snuff-color. There you were wrong; your boasted reason is of no avail in detecting humbugs; there is no such thing as classifying them. Then, too, we are in greater danger of being humbugged by another class of appearances.
In material things we are compelled to acknowledge that things the most reliable are the most unpretending. The star, by which the mariner has steered for ages, is not a 'bright particular star;' the needle of his compass is shaped from one of the baser metals, (though in a figurative sense gold is highly magnetic.) The inner bears such a relation to the outer, that the inner senses are named from the outer; we are slow to perceive that also all objects of the outer senses, are but types of those of the inner. You see how I have been obliged to borrow from the outer vocabulary. I give this idea, in a nebular state, trusting that you will consolidate it. Were we, in a figurative sense, to choose a guiding-star, it would be a comet, we are so taken with flash and show. A great truth, though angels heralded its birth, and a star were drawn from its orbit to stand over its cradle, if that cradle were a manger, we would reject it; if it assumed not the 'pomp and circumstance' of royalty, though it worked miracles, we would cry, Away with it. Eighteen hundred years have not completely transformed or transmuted the world; we are yet ready to reject the true, and be humbugged by the false. More than eighteen hundred and sixty-two years may yet elapse before the bells that 'ring out the old and ring in the new,' will 'ring out the false and ring in the true.' Then farewell humbug.
Yes, it is altogether probable that long before humbug is no more, you and I will—I was about to say be in the narrow house, but prefer an expression of Carlyle's—we will have 'vanished into infinite space.' I prefer this for the same reason that one of Hood's characters was thankful that 'Heaven was boundless.' She it was whom the physician pronounced 'dying by inches.' 'Only think,' exclaimed the consternated husband, 'how long she will be dying!' I suppose to the poor man Grim Death appeared to hold in his skeleton fingers, instead of an hour-glass, a twenty-year glass.
That the sands of his glass may, for you, married or single, neither run too fast nor too slow, is sincerely the wish of
* * * * *
Old friends and dear! it were ungentle rhyme, If I should question of your true hearts, whether Ye have forgotten that far, pleasant time, The good old time when we were all together.
Our limbs were lusty and our souls sublime; We never heeded cold and winter weather, Nor sun nor travel, in that cheery time, The brave old time when we were all together.
Pleasant it was to tread the mountain thyme; Sweet was the pure and piny mountain ether, And pleasant all; but this was in the time, The good old time when we were all together.
Since then I've strayed through many a fitful clime, (Tossed on the wind of fortune like a feather,) And chanced with rare good fellows in my time; But ne'er the time that we have known together:
But none like those brave hearts, (for now I climb Gray hills alone, or thread the lonely heather,) That walked beside me in the ancient time, The good old time when we were all together.
Long since, we parted in our careless prime, Like summer birds no June shall hasten hither; No more to meet as in that merry time, The sweet spring-time that shone on all together.
Some to the fevered city's toil and grime, And some o'er distant seas, and some—ah! whither? Nay, we shall never meet as in the time, The dear old time when we were all together.
And some—above their heads, in wind and rime, Year after year, the grasses wave and wither; Ay, we shall meet!—'tis but a little time, And all shall lie with folded hands together.
And if, beyond the sphere of doubt and crime, Lie purer lands—ah! let our steps be thither; That, done with earthly change and earthly time, In God's good time we may be all together.
* * * * *
A TRUE STORY.
Alone in the world! alone in the great city of Paris, a world in itself! alone, and with scarcely a livre in my purse!
Such were my reflections as I turned away from the now empty house, in which for two-and-twenty years I had dwelt with my poor, wasteful, uncalculating father. My father was a scholar of most stupendous attainments, particularly in Oriental literature, but a perfect child in all that related to the ordinary affairs of life. Absorbed in his studies, he let his pecuniary matters take care of themselves. Consequently, when death suddenly laid him low, and deprived me of my only friend and protector, his affairs were found to be in a state of inextricable confusion. His effects, including the noble library of Eastern lore which it had been the labor of his life to collect, were seized, and sold to pay his debts, and were found insufficient.
My mother had died when I was a child, and my father had educated me himself, pouring into my young and eager mind the treasures of knowledge he possessed. I was—I say it without boasting—a prodigy of learning; but in all that relates to domestic economy, as well as to the ordinary attainments of woman, I was as ignorant as my father himself.
I lingered in the house until the sale was over and the last cart-load of goods had been removed. Then I repaired to a wretched garret in the Rue du Temple, where I had found a refuge, and where I designed to remain until such time as I could, by the exercise of my talents, replenish my purse and procure a better lodging. Here I sat down, took a calm survey of my position, and questioned myself as to what employment I was fit for.
Of the usual feminine accomplishments, I possessed none. I could neither draw nor paint; I could not play a note of music on any instrument; I could sing, it is true, but knew nothing of the science of vocal music; I did not know a word of Spanish, or Italian, or German, or English; even with the literature of France I was but little acquainted; but I could read the cuneiform characters of Babylon and Persepolis as readily as you read this page, while Sanscrit, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, and Chaldaic, flowed from my tongue as freely as a nursery rhyme. As an instructress of young ladies, therefore, I could not hope to find a livelihood, but as an assistant to some learned man or body of men, I knew that my attainments would be invaluable.
Full of hope, therefore, and with a cheerful heart, I set about obtaining a situation.
Hearing that the Oriental department of the Bibliotheque du Roi was about to undergo some alterations, and that an assistant librarian was wanted to reaerrange and re-catalogue the books, I applied at once for the situation. I was closely examined as to my qualifications, and much surprise manifested at the proficiency I had attained in these unwonted studies; but my application was refused, because—I was a woman.
I next answered by letter the advertisement of a distinguished savant who was about to undertake the translation of the Sacred Vedas, and was in want of an amanuensis. To this I received the following reply:
'MADEMOISELLE: If your attainments in Sanscrit are such as you represent them, I am convinced that you would exactly suit me, were you a young man. But I am a bachelor; there is not a single female in my establishment; your sex, therefore, renders it impossible for me to employ you as my amanuensis.'
My sex again! Discouraged, but not daunted, I applied successively to the Societe Asiatique, to the librarian of the Institute, and to three or four private individuals of more or less note. From all of them I received the same answer—the situation was not open to women.
Meantime the few francs I had had at my father's death vanished, one by one. The woman from whom I hired my room became clamorous for the rent. I had a few superfluous articles of clothing. I disposed of them at the Mont-de-Piete, and thus kept the wolf from the door a little longer. When they were all gone, what should I do?
I persevered in my quest for employment. It was all in vain. Many people added insults to their harsh refusal of my application, accusing me of being an impostor; for who ever heard, said they, of a young girl like me being acquainted with these abstruse studies! Day after day, week after week, I plodded on through the mire and dirt, for it was winter, the weeping winter of Paris, and the obscure and narrow streets (traversed by a filthy kennel in the center, and destitute of sidewalks) through which my researches led me, were in a dreadful condition. And evermore the question recurred to me, What shall I do?
As day after day passed, and still no opening appeared, I thought of the river, rolling darkly through the heart of the city, in whose silent tide so many a poor unfortunate has sought a refuge from present misery. One day, as in the course of my peregrinations I passed the Morgue, I saw the dead body of a young woman which had been taken that morning from the river, and laid out for recognition by her friends. As I looked on her livid, bloated face, her drenched and tattered garments, her long dark hair hanging in dank matted masses, and streaming over the edge of the table on which she lay, my heart was moved with pity. Yet I half envied her position, and might have followed her example, but for my belief in a future state. Her body was free from every mortal ill, but her poor soul, where was it?
But besides, looking at it from a merely human point of view, there is in my nature a certain stern and rugged resolution, a sort of 'never-give-up' feeling, which induces me to hope and struggle on, and leads me to think, with the great Napoleon, that suicide is the act of a coward, since it is an attempt to fly from those evils which God has laid upon us, rather than to bear them with a brave, enduring trust in Providence.
Still, as I passed by the river, spanned by its noble bridges, and covered with those innumerable barges in which the washerwomen of Paris ply their unceasing trade, eating, sleeping, and living constantly in their floating dwellings, I would think, with a shudder, that unless relief soon arrived, I must choose between its silent waters and a lingering death by starvation.
True, there are in Paris many employments open to women, but what was that to me? Could I stand behind a counter and set forth with a glib tongue the merits of ribbons and laces; or bend over the rich embroidered robe of the fashionable lady; or even, like those poor washerwomen, earn my scanty livelihood by arduous manual labor? I knew nothing of business; I knew nothing of embroidery; and I had neither the strength nor the capital necessary to set up the establishment of a blanchicheuse.
I had returned home, one evening, after another weary tramp. As I looked from my lofty attic, and saw Paris glittering with her million lights, I said to myself: 'Must I perish of hunger in these streets? Must I starve in the midst of that abundance which might be mine but for the fact that I am a woman? No! I shall abjure my sex, and in the semblance of themselves, win from men that subsistence which they deny to a woman.'
The thought was no sooner conceived than executed. Tearing off part of my woman's attire, I threw around me an old cloak of my father's, which now served as a coverlet to my lowly bed, and descended the long flights of stairs to the street. Determined to have legal sanction for what I was about to do, I went straight to the Prefecture of Police. It was not yet very late, and the Prefect was still in his bureau. I entered his presence, told him my story, and demanded permission to put on male attire, and assume a masculine name, in order to obtain the means of subsistence. He heard me respectfully, treated me kindly, and advised me to ponder well before I took a step so unusual and unseemly. But I was firm. Seeing my determination, he granted me a written permission.
Early next morning I took what remained of my feminine wardrobe and hastened to the Marche de Vieux Linge, (old clothes market,) which was not far distant from my place of abode. Built on the site of the ancient Temple, the princely residence of the Knights Templar of old, and in later times the prison of Louis XVI. previous to his execution—this vast market, with its eighteen hundred and eighty-eight stalls, hung with the cast-off garments of both sexes, and of every age, condition and clime, presents the appearance of a miniature city. Men's apparel, women's apparel, garments for children of all sizes, boots and shoes, hats and bonnets, tawdry finery of every description, sheets and blankets, carpets, tattered and stained, military accouterments, swords and belts, harness, old pots and kettles, and innumerable other articles, attract attention in the different stalls. There, on every side, sharp-faced and shrill-voiced dealers haggle with timid customers over garments more or less decayed. There the adroit thief finds a ready market for the various articles he has procured from chamber and entry, or purloined from the pockets of the unwary. There the petted lady's maid disposes of the rich robe which her careless mistress has given her, and the Parisian grisette, with the money her nimble fingers have earned, purchases it to adorn her neat and pretty form for the Bal pare et masque, to which her lover takes her, at Belleville or Montmartre. In yonder stall hangs a tattered coat which once belonged to a marquis, but has gone through so many hands since then, and accumulated so much dirt and grease in the process, that one wonders how the dealer would have ventured to advance the few sous which its last wretched owner had raised upon it.
In this place I exchanged, without much difficulty, my female habiliments for a suit of respectable masculine attire. I took it home, and with a feeling of shame of which I could not get rid, but yet with unflinching resolution, arrayed myself in it. As a woman I know I am not handsome; my mouth is large and my skin dark; but this rather favored my disguise; for had I been very pretty, my beardless face and weak voice might have awakened more suspicion. I cut my hair off short, parted it at one side, brushed it with great care, and crowned it with a jaunty cap, which, I must say, was very becoming to me. In this dress I appeared a tolerably well-looking youth of nineteen or thereabout, for the change of garments made me look younger than I was.
As I surveyed myself in the little cracked looking-glass which served me as a mirror, I could not forbear laughing at the transformation. Certainly no one would have recognized me, for I could scarcely recognize myself.
Folding the old cloak around me, I sallied forth. With the long, thick braid of hair I had cut from my head, I purchased a breakfast, the best I had eaten in a long time.
Then I went direct to the residence of the gentleman who had said I would suit him exactly, if I were a young man. There had been something in the tone of this gentleman's letter that attracted me, I could not tell why. To my great joy, he had not yet found the person he wanted; and after a short conversation he engaged me, at what seemed to me a princely salary.
He told me laughingly that a young woman had applied for the situation a short time previous; and seemed very much amused at the circumstance.
My employer was a man already past his prime. His hair was slightly sprinkled with gray, and his form showed that tendency to fullness so frequently found in persons of sedentary habits. But in his fine, thoughtful eyes, and expansive brow, one saw evidence of that noble intellect for which he was distinguished, while his beaming smile and pleasant voice showed a genial and benevolent heart. The kindness of his voice and manner went straight to my lonely and desolate heart, and affected me so much that I almost disgraced my manhood by bursting into tears.
He occupied a modest but commodious house in the Quartier Latin. His domestic affairs were administered by a respectable-looking elderly man, who performed the part of cook, to his own honor and the entire satisfaction of his master; while a smart but mischievous imp of a boy ran of errands, tended the fires, swept the rooms, and kept old Dominique in a continual fret, by his tricks and his short-comings.
Here, in the well-furnished library of my new master, with every convenience for annotation and elucidation, the translation of the Vedas was commenced. Like my father, my employer was possessed of vast erudition; but, unlike him, he was also a man of the world, high in favor at court, wealthy, honored, and enjoying the friendship of all the most noted savans and other celebrities of the metropolis. During the progress of the work some of these would occasionally enter the study where I sat writing almost incessantly, and I saw more than one to whom I had applied in the days of my misery, and been rejected. But happily no one recognized me.
My kind master expressed great astonishment at my proficiency in Sanscrit, and frequently declared my services to be invaluable to him. I was sometimes able to render a passage which he had given up as intractable; and he more than once asserted that my name should appear on the title-page as well as his own. My name? Alas! I had no name.
My master frequently chid me for my unceasing devotion to my work; and would sometimes playfully come behind, as I sat writing, snatch the manuscript from my desk, and substitute in its place some new and popular book, or some time-honored French classic, to which he would command me to give my whole attention for the next two hours, on pain of his displeasure.
His kindness to me knew no bounds. He ordered Dominique and the boy Jean to treat me with as much respect as himself. He took me with him to the Oriental lectures of the Bibliotheque du Roi. He procured for me the entree to the discussions of several literary and scientific bodies, and afforded me every facility for the improvement of my mind and the development of my powers. He introduced me to all that was noblest and best in the great aristocracy of intellect, and constantly spoke of me as a young man of great promise, who would one day be heard of in the world.
He used to rally me on my studious habits, and often expressed surprise that a young man of my years should not seek the society of his compeers, and especially of that other sex, to which the heart of youth usually turns with an irresistible, magnet-like attraction. Little did he dream that the person he addressed belonged to that very sex of which he spoke.
One day he startled me by saying: 'What pretty hair you have, Eugene; it is as soft and fine as that of a young girl.'
The conscious blush rushed to my face, for I thought he had surely discovered my secret; but one glance at his calm countenance reassured me. In his large, open, honest heart there never entered a suspicion of the 'base deception' that had been practiced upon him.
He did not notice my emotion, and I answered, in as calm a voice as I could command: 'My mother had fine, soft hair; I have inherited it from her.'
Thus passed a year, the happiest I had ever known. My master became kinder and more affectionate every day. He would often address me as 'mon fils,' and seemed indeed to regard me with feelings as warm as those of a father to a son.
And I—what were my sentiments toward this good and noble man who was so kind to me? I worshiped him; he was every thing to me. Father and mother were gone, sisters and brothers I had none, other friends I had never known. My master was all the world to me. To serve him was all I lived for. To love him, though with a love that could never be known, never be returned, was enough for me.
I have said that I was happy; but there was one drawback to my happiness. It lay in the self-reproach I felt for the deception practiced on my benefactor. Many times I resolved to resume my woman's garments, (a suit of which I always kept by me, safe under lock and key,) fall at his feet, and confess all. But the fear that he would spurn me, the certainty that he would drive me from his presence, restrained me. I could not exist under his displeasure; I could not endure life away from him.
Although he was, of course, unconscious of the intensity of the feeling with which I regarded him, he knew—for I did not conceal it—that I was much attached to him; and I was aware that I, or rather Eugene, was very dear to him. On one occasion, as we sat together in the study, he said to me, abruptly:
'How old are you, Eugene?'
'Twenty-two,' I answered.
He sat silent for some moments; then he said:
'If I had married in my early years, I might have had a son as old as you. Take my advice, Eugene, marry early; form family ties; then your old age will not be lonely as mine is.'
'O my dear master!' cried I, safe under my disguise, 'no son could love you as dearly as I do. A son would leave you to win a place for himself in the world; but your faithful Eugene will cling to you through life; he only asks to remain with you always—always.'
'My good Eugene!' said my master, grasping my hand warmly, 'your words make me happy. I am a lonely man, and the affection which you, a stranger youth, entertain for me, fills me with profound and heart-felt joy.'
Ah! then my trembling heart asked itself the question: 'What would he think if he knew that it was a young girl who felt for him this pure and tender affection?' Something whispered me that he would be rather pleased than otherwise, and a wild temptation seized me to tell him all—but I could not—I could not.
As my labors approached their completion, a gloomy feeling of dread oppressed me. I feared that when the Vedas were finished my master would no longer require my services. But he relieved my fears by reengaging me, and expressing a desire to retain me as his secretary until I became too famous and too proud to fill the office contentedly.
Scarcely was this cause of dread removed when another, more terrible still, overtook me.
One evening he took me with him to a literary reuenion, at which every bel-esprit of the capital was to be present. At first I refused to go, for I feared that the eyes of some of my own sex might penetrate my disguise; but he seemed so much hurt at my refusal that I was forced to withdraw it. The soiree was a very brilliant one. But little notice was taken of the shy, awkward, silent youth, who glided from room to room, hovering ever near the spot where his beloved, master stood or sat, in conversation with the gifted of both sexes. How I envied the ladies whose hands he touched, and to whom his polite attentions were addressed. For, as I have said, my master was a man of the world, wealthy and distinguished; and notwithstanding his advanced years, ladies still courted his attentions.
There was one lady in particular, who spared no pains to attract him to herself. She was the widow of a celebrated litterateur and was herself well known as a brilliant but shallow writer. She was not young, but she was well-preserved, and owed much to the arts of the toilet. I saw her lavishing her smiles and blandishments on my dear master; I saw that he was not insensible to the power of her charms, artificial as they were; and a cruel jealousy fastened, like the vulture of Prometheus, on my vitals.
Could I but have entered the lists with her on equal ground; could I but have appeared before him in my own proper person, arrayed in appropriate and maidenly costume, I felt sure of gaining the victory, for I had youth on my side; I had already an interest in his heart; but, alas! I could not do this without first announcing myself as an impostor, as a liar and deceiver, to the man whose good opinion I prized above all earthly things.
A dreadful thought now rested on my mind day and night: What if this woman should accomplish her designs? What if my master should marry her? What would then become of me?
But I was spared this trial.
The translation was finished; it was in the hands of the publisher; and the proof-sheets had been carefully revised, partly by my master, partly by myself. He had insisted on putting my name with his own on the title-page; but I refused my consent with a pertinacity which he could not comprehend, and which came nearer making him angry than any thing that had ever transpired between us.
One day, as I sat in the library, I saw my master come home, accompanied by two gentlemen. He did not, as was his custom with his intimates, bring them into the library, but received them in the little used reception-room. They remained some time.
When they left, my master came into the library, rubbing his hands and looking exceedingly well-pleased. But at sight of me, his countenance fell. He approached me, and in a tone of regret, said:
'My poor Eugene! we must part.'
Part? It seemed as if the sun was suddenly blotted from the heavens.
I started up, and looked at him with a face so white and terror-stricken that he came up to me and laid his hand kindly on my shoulder.
'My poor Eugene!' he repeated, 'it is too true—we must part.'
I tried to speak. 'Part!' I cried. 'O my master—'
Tears and sobs choked my utterance, in spite of all my efforts to restrain them. I sat down again, and gave free vent to my irrepressible grief.
My master was much affected by the sight of my emotion; and for some minutes the silence was unbroken, save by my heart-wrung sobs.
'Nay, Eugene, this is womanish; bear it like a man,' said he, wiping the tears from his own eyes. 'Most gladly would I spare you this sorrow; most gladly retain you near me; but in this matter I am powerless. I have received an appointment from government, to travel in Northern Asia, in order to study the dialects of that vast region. Every individual who is to accompany me has been officially specified, and there is no place left for my poor Eugene.'
'O my dear, dear master!' cried I, with clasped hands and streaming eyes, 'take me with you—I shall die if you, leave me—put me in the place of some one else.'
'Impossible,' said he. 'The government has filled up every place with its own creatures—except,' he added, with a faint smile, 'that they have left provision for my wife—if married. I would I had the wand of an enchanter, Eugene, that I might transform you to a woman, and make you my wife.'
His wife! his wife! Had I heard the words aright? I sprang to my feet. I tried to say, 'I am a woman—I will be your wife!' but my tongue refused its utterance—there was a rushing sound in my ears—I grasped the air wildly—I heard my master cry, 'Eugene! Eugene!' as he rushed forward to support me, and the next moment I lost consciousness.
* * * * *
When I recovered my senses, I was still in the arms of my master. He had borne me to the window, and torn open my vest and shirt-collar. I looked up in his face. One glance revealed to me that my secret was discovered.
Blushing and trembling, I tried to raise myself from his arms; but he held me fast.
'Eugene,' said he, in earnest tones, 'tell me the truth. Are you indeed a woman?'
'I am. My name is Eugenie D——, O my dear master! forgive the deception I have practiced. Do not despise me.'
'Eugenie!' cried he, in joyful accents, 'you shall go with me to the East! You shall go as my wife! Vive I' Empereur!
'But wherefore this disguise?' he added.
I told him my story in few words; and informed him that I was that very young woman who had applied to him for the office I now held.
'Is it possible?' exclaimed he. 'But, Eugenie, tell me—do you really love me as you have so often protested you did?'
'Yes, my dear master,' I whispered.
'Vive l'Empereur!' cried he again; 'but for his strictness I should never have found it out. Now go; array yourself in your woman's gear, and let me see you as you really are.'
I went; and resumed, with a pleasure I can not describe, the garments I had for a whole year forsworn.
When I returned, my master caught me to his heart, and thanked Heaven for the 'charming wife' so unexpectedly sent him.
* * * * *
MACCARONI AND CANVAS.
ON THE CAMPAGNA.
There was an indefinable charm, to a lively man like Caper, in spending a day in the open country around Rome. Whether it was passed, gun in hand, near the Solfatara, trying to shoot snipe and woodcock, or, with paint-box and stool, seated under a large white cotton umbrella, sketching in the valley of Poussin or out on the Via Appia, that day was invariably marked down to be remembered.
On one of those golden February mornings, when the pretty English girls tramp through the long grass of the Villa Borghese, gathering the perfumed violets into those modest little bouquets, that peep out from their setting of green leaves, like faith struggling with jealousy, Caper, Rocjean, and a good-natured German, named Von Bluhmen, made an excursion out in the Campagna.
They hired a one-horse vetturo in the piazza di Spagna, and packing in their sketching materials and a basket well filled with luncheon and bottles of red wine, started off, soon reaching the Saint Sebastian gate. Further on, they passed the tomb of Cecilia Metella, and saw streaming over the Campagna the Roman hunt-hounds, twenty couples, making straight tails after a red fox, while a score of well-mounted horsemen—here and there a red coat and white breeches—came riding furiously after. Along the road-side were handsome open carriages, filled with wit and beauty, talent and petticoats; and bright were the blue eyes, and red the healthy cheeks of the English girls, as they saw how well their countrymen and lovers led off the chase. Englishmen have good legs.
Continuing along the Appian way, either side of which was bordered by tombs crumbling to decay; some of them covered with nature's lace, the graceful ivy, others with only a pile of turf above them, others with shattered column and mutilated statue at their base—the occupants of the vetturo were silent. They saw before them the wide plain, shut in on the horizon by high mountains, with snow-covered peaks and sides, while they were living in the warmth of an American June morning; the breeze that swept over them was gentle and exhilarating; in the long grass waving by the way-side, they heard the shrill cries of the cicadas; while the clouds, driven along the wide reach of heaven, assuming fantastic forms, and in changing light and shadow mantling the distant mountains, gave our trio a rare chance to study cloud-effects to great advantage.
'I say, driver, what's your name?' asked Rocjean of the vetturino.
'Caesar, padrone mio,' answered the man.
'Are you descended from the celebrated Julius?' asked Caper, laughing.
'Yes, sir, my grandfather's name was Julius.'
''That every like is not the same, O Caesar! The heart of Brutus yearns to think upon,''
soliloquized Caper; and as by this time they had reached a place where both he and Rocjean thought a fine view of the ruined aqueduct might be taken, they ordered the driver to stop, and taking out their sketching materials, sent him back to Rome, telling him to come out for them about four o'clock, when they would be ready to return.
While they were yet in the road, there came along a very large countryman, mounted on a very small jackass; he was sitting side-saddle fashion, one leg crossed over the other, the lower leg nearly touching the ground; one hand held a pipe to his mouth, while the other held an olive branch, by no means an emblem of peace to the jackass, who twitched one long ear and then the other, in expectation of a momentary visit from it on either side of his head. Following, at a dutiful distance behind, came a splendid specimen of a Roman peasant-woman, a true contadina: poised on her head was a very large round basket, from over the edge of which sundry chickens' heads and cocks' feathers arose, and while Caper was looking at the basket, he saw two tiny little arms stuck up suddenly above the chickens, and then heard a faint squall—it was her baby. An instantaneous desire seized Caper to make a rough sketch of the family group, and hailing the man, he asked him for a light to his cigar. The jackass was stopped by pulling his left ear—the ears answering for reins—and after giving a light, the man was going on, when Caper, taking a scudo from his pocket, told him that if he would let him make a sketch of himself, wife, and jackass, he would give it to him, telling him also that he would not detain them over an hour.
'If you'll give me a buona mano besides the scudo, I'll do it,' he answered.
The buona mano is the ignis fatuus that leads on three fourths of the Italians; it is the bright spark that wakes them up to exertion. No matter what the fixed price for doing any thing may be, there must always be a something undefined ahead of it, to crown the work when accomplished. It makes labor a lottery; it makes even sawing wood a species of gambling. Caper promised a buona mano.
The man told his wife that the Signore was to make a ritratto, a picture of them all, including the jackass, at which she laughed heartily, showing a splendid set of brilliantly white teeth. A finer type of woman it would be hard to find, for she was tall, straight, with magnificent bust and broad hips. Her hair, thick and black, was drawn back from her forehead like a Chinese, and was confined behind her head with two long silver pins, the heads representing flowers; heavy, crescent-shaped, gold earrings hung from her ears; around her full throat circled two strings of red coral beads. Her boddice of crimson cloth was met by the well-filled out-folds of her white linen shirt, the sleeves of which fell from her shoulders below her elbows, in full, graceful folds; her skirt was of heavy white woolen stuff, while her blue apron, of the same material, had three broad stripes of golden yellow, one near the top and the other two near each other at the bottom; the folds of the apron were few, and fell in heavy, regular lines. A full, liquid-brown pair of eyes gazed calmly on the painter, as she stood beside her husband, easily, gracefully; without a sign from the artist, taking a position that the most studied care could not have improved.
'Benissimo!' cried Caper, 'the position couldn't be better;' and seizing his sketch-book and pencils, unfolding his umbrella and planting its spiked end in the ground, and arranging his sketching-stool, he was in five minutes hard at work. As soon as he could draw the basket, he told the woman she might take it from her head and put it on the ground, for he believed the weight must incommode her. This done, she resumed her position, and Caper, working with all his might, had his sketch sufficiently finished before the hour was over to tell his group that it was finished, at the same time handing the man a scudo and a handsome buona mano.
Rocjean and Von Bluhmen, who had assiduously looked on, now and then joking with the contadino and his wife, proposed, after the sketch was finished, that Caper should ask his friends to help them finish their luncheon; this was joyously agreed to, and the party, having left the road and found a pleasant spot, under a group of ilex-trees, were soon busy finishing the eatables. It was refreshing to see how the handsome contadina emptied glass after glass of red wine. The husband did his share of drinking; but his wife eclipsed him. Having learned from Caper that his first name was Giacomo, she shouted forth a rondinella, making up the words as she went along, and in it gave a ludicrous account of Giacomo, the artist, who took a jackass's portrait, herself and husband holding him, and the baby squalling in harmony. This met with an embarrassment of success, and amid the applause of Rocjean, Caper, and Von Bluhmen, the contadino, wife, and baggage departed. She, however, told Caper where she lived in the Campagna, and that she had a beautiful little sister, whose ritratta he should take, if he would come to see her.
[It is needless to inform the reader that he went.]
Lighting cigars, Rocjean and Caper declared they must have a siesta, even if they had to doze on their stools, for neither of them ever could accustom himself to the Roman fashion of throwing one's self on the ground, and sleeping with their faces to the earth. Von Bluhmen, a fiery amateur of sketching, walked off to take a 'near view' of the aqueduct, and the two artists were left to repose.
'I say, Caper, does it ever come into your head to people all this broad Campagna with old Romans?' asked Rocjean.
'Yes, all the time. Do you know that when I am out here, and stumble over the door-way of an old Roman tomb, or find one of those thousand caves in the tufa rock, I often have a curious feeling that from out that tomb or cave will stalk forth in broad daylight some old Roman centurion or senator, in flowing robe.'
'Do you ever think,' asked Rocjean, 'of those seventy thousand poor devils of Jews who helped build the Coliseum and the Arch of Titus? Do you ever reflect over the millions of slaves who worked for these same poetical, flowing-robed, old senators and centurions? Ma foi! for a Republic, you men of the United States have a finished education for any thing but republicans. The great world-long struggle of a few to crush and destroy the many, you learn profoundly; you know in all its glittering cruelty and horror the entire history, and you weave from it no god-like moral. Nothing astonished me more, during my residence in the United States, than this same lack of drawing from the experience of ages the deduction that you were the only really blessed and happy nation in the world. Your educated men know less of the history of their own country, and feel less its sublime teachings, than any other race of men in the world. The instruction your young men receive at school and college, in what way does it prepare them to become men fit for a republic?'
'You are preaching a sermon,' said Caper.
'I am reciting the text; the sermon will be preached by the god of battles to the roar of cannons and the crack of rifles, and I hope you'll profit by it after you hear it.'
'Well,' interrupted Caper, 'what do you think of the English?'
'For a practical people, they are the greatest fools on the earth. Thoroughly convinced at heart that they have no esprit, they rush in to show the world that they have a superabundance of it.... It interferes with their principles, no matter; it touches their pockets, behold it is gone, and the cold, flat, dead reality stares you in the face.'
'You are a Frenchman, Rocjean, and you do them injustice. Had Shakspeare no esprit?' asked Caper.
'Shakspeare was a Frenchman,' replied Rocjean.
'Prove to me that he was not?'
'Prove to me that he was!'
'Certainly. The family of Jacques Pierre was as certainly French as Raimond de Rocjean's. Jacques Pierre became Shakspeare at once, on emigrating to England, and the 'Immortal Williams,' recognizing the advantages to a poor man of living in a country where only the guineas dance, took up his abode there and made the music for the money to jump into his pockets.'
'Very ingenious. But in relation to Byron, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, and—as we are in Italy—Rogers?'
'Mon ami, if you seriously prefer ice-cream and trifle to venison and dindon aux truffes, choose. If either one of the four poets—I do not include Rogers among poets—ever conceived in his mind, and then produced on paper, a work, composed from his memory, of things terrible in nature, more sublime than Dante's Inferno, I will grant you that he had esprit and imagination; otherwise, not. It is of the English as a nation, however, that I make my broad and sweeping assertion, one that was fixed in my mind yesterday, when I saw a well-dressed and well-educated Englishman deliberately pick up a stone, knock off the head of a figure carved on a sarcophagus, found in one of those newly-discovered tombs on the Via Latina, and put the broken head in his pocket.... What man, with one grain of esprit or imagination in his head, would mutilate a work of ancient art, solely that he might possess a piece of stone, when memory had already placed the entire work forever in his mind. Basta! enough. Look at the effect of the sunlight on the Albanian mountains. How proudly Mount Gennaro towers over the desolate Campagna! Hallo! Von Bluhmen down there is in trouble. Come along.'
Throwing down his umbrella, under which he had been sitting in the shade, Rocjean grasped the iron-pointed shaft, into which the handle of the umbrella fitted, and, accompanied by Caper, rushed to the rescue of the German. It was none too soon. While sketching, a shepherd, with a very large flock of sheep, had gradually approached nearer and nearer the spot where the artist was sitting at his task; his dogs, eight or ten in number, fierce, shaggy, white and black beasts, with slouching gait and pointed ears and noses, followed near him. As Von Bluhmen paid no attention to them, the shepherd had wandered off; but one or two of his dogs hung back, and the artist, dropping a pencil, suddenly stooped to pick it up, when one of the savage creatures, thinking or 'instincting' that a stone was coming at him, rushed in, with loud barking, to make mince-meat of the German noble. He seized his camp-stool, and kept the dog at bay; but in a moment the whole pack were down on him. Just at this instant, in rushed Rocjean, staff in hand, beating the beasts right and left, and shouting to the shepherd, who was but a short distance off, to call off his dogs. But the pecorajo, evidently a cross-grained fellow, only blackguarded the artists, until Rocjean, whose blood was up, swore if he did not call them off, he would shoot them, pulling a revolver from his pocket and aiming at the most savage dog as he spoke. The shepherd only blackguarded him the more, and, just as the dog grabbed him by the pantaloons, Rocjean pulled the trigger, and with foaming jaws and blood pouring from his mouth, the dog fell dead at his feet. The shot scared the other dogs, who fled, tails under. The shepherd ran for the entrance of a cave, and came out in a minute with a single-barreled gun: coming down to within twenty feet of Rocjean, he cocked it, and taking aim, screamed out: 'Give me ten scudi for that dog, or I fire.'
'Do you see that pistol?' said Rocjean to the shepherd, while he held up his revolver, 'I have five loads in it yet.' And then advancing straight toward him, with death in his eyes, he told him to throw down his gun, or he was a dead man.... Down fell the gun. Rocjean picked it up. 'To-morrow,' said he, 'inquire of the chief of police in Rome for this gun and for the ten scudi!'
They were never called for.
'You see,' said Caper, as, shortly after this little excitement, the one-horse vetturo, bearing Caesar and his fortunes, hove in sight, and they entered and returned to Rome; 'you see how charming it is to sketch on the Campagna.'
'Very,' replied Von Bluhmen; 'but, my dear Rocjean, how long were you in America?'
'Main Gott! they were not wasted.'
BACCHUS IN ROME.
It is not at all astonishing that a god who was born to the tune of Jove's thunderbolts, should have escaped scot-free from the thunders of the Vatican, and should prove at the present time one of the strongest opponents to the latter kind of fire-works. We read, in the work of that learned Jesuit, Galtruchius, that—
'Bacchus was usually painted with a mitre upon his head, an ornament proper to Women. He never had other Priests but Satyrs and Women; because the latter had followed him in great Companies in his Journeys, crying, singing, and dancing continually. Titus Livius relates a strange story of the Festivals of Bacchus in Rome. Three times in a year, the Women of all qualities met in a Grove called Simila, and there acted all sorts of Villainies; those that appeared most reserved were sacrificed to Bacchus; and that the cries of the ravished Creatures might not be heard, they did howl, sing, and run up and down with lighted Torches.'
The May and October Festivals in Rome, at present, are substituted for the Bacchanalian orgies, and are, of course, not so objectionable, in many particulars, as the ancient ceremonies; still, no stranger in Rome, at these times, should neglect to attend them. Caper entered Rome at night, during the October festival, and the carriage-loads of Roman women, waving torches and singing tipsily, forcibly reminded him that the Bacchante still lived, and only needed a very little encouragement to revive their ancient rites in full.
Sentimental travelers tell you that the Romans are a temperate people—they have never seen the people. They have never seen the delight that reigns in the heart of the plebs, when they learn that the vintage has been good, and that good wine will be sold in Rome for three or four cents la foglietta, (about a pint, American measure.) They have never visited the spacii di vini, the wine-shops; they have never heard of the murders committed when the wine was in and the wit out. None of these things ever appear in the Giornale di Roma or in the Vero Amico del Popolo, the only newspapers published in Rome.
'Roman newspapers,' said an intelligent Roman to Caper, 'were invented to conceal the news.'
The first thing that a foreigner does on entering Rome is to originate a derogatory name for the juice of the grape native to the soil, the vino nostrale. He calls it, if red wine, red ink, pink cider, red tea; if white wine, balm of gooseberries, blood of turnips, apple-juice, alum-water, and slops for babes; finally ... if not killed off with a fever, from drinking the adulterated foreign wines, spirits, and liqueurs sold in the city, he takes kindly to the Roman wines, and does not worry his great soul about them.
The truth is, that while other nations have done every thing to improve wine-making, Italy follows the same careless way she has done for centuries. Far more attention was bestowed on the grape, too, in ancient times than now; and we read that vineyards were so much cultivated, to the neglect of agriculture, that, under Domitian, an edict forbade the planting of any new vineyards in Italy.
One brilliant morning, in October, Caper, who was then living in a town perched atop of a conical mountain, descended five or six miles on foot, and passed a day in a vineyard, in order to see the vintage. The vines were trained on trees or on sticks of cane, and the peasant-girls and women were busy picking the great bunches of white or purple grapes, which were thrown into copper conche or jars; these conche, when filled, were carried on the head to a central spot where they were emptied on fern leaves, placed on the ground to receive them. And from these piles, the wooden barrels of the mules returning from the town were filled with the grapes which were carried up there to be pressed.
The grape-crop had been so affected by the malattia or blight, that the yield being small, the fruit to an extent was not pressed in the vineyards, and the juice only brought up to the town in goat-skins as usual; but the fruit itself was carried up, by those having the proper places, and was pressed in tubs in the cantine or rooms on the ground-floor, where the wine is kept. Across the huge saddles of the mules, they swung a couple of truncated cone-shaped barrels, and filled them with grapes; these were tumbled into tubs, ranged in the cantina, good, bad and indifferent fruit all together; and when enough were poured in, in jumped the pistatore d'uve or grape-presser, with bare legs and feet, and began pressing and stamping, until the juice ran out in a tolerable stream. This juice was then poured into a headless hogshead, and when more than half-full, they piled on the grapeskins and stones and stems that had undergone the pressure, until the hogshead was full to the top. A weight was then placed over all. In twenty days, fermentation having taken place, they drew from the hogshead the new wine, which was afterward clarified with whites of eggs.