THE CONTINENTAL MONTHLY:
LITERATURE AND NATIONAL POLICY.
VOL. V.—APRIL, 1864.—No. IV.
SIR CHARLES LYELL ON THE ANTIQUITY OF MAN.
When Thomas Chalmers, sixty years ago, lecturing at St. Andrews, ventured to announce his conviction that 'the writings of Moses do not fix the antiquity of the globe,' he startled and alarmed, to no small degree, the orthodoxy of the day. It was a statement far in advance of the religious thinking of the time. That massive breadth and comprehensiveness of intellect which soon placed him, facile princeps, at the head of the clergy of Scotland, joined with a candor, and ingenuous honesty, which made him admired and beloved by all, could not fail to perceive, and would not hesitate to acknowledge, the force of the evidence then for some time slowly but steadily and surely accumulating from the investigations and discoveries of geological science, which has forced back the origin of the earth to a vast and undated antiquity. But nothing could have been farther from the imagination of the great majority of evangelical, unscientific clergymen of his day. They held that the writings of Moses fixed the antiquity of the globe as surely as they fixed anything else. And it required no little boldness in the lecturer to announce a doctrine which was likely to raise about his ears the hue and cry of heresy. But fortunately for the rising Boanerges of the Scottish pulpit, whatever questions might arise in philology and criticism as to the meaning of the writings of Moses, the evidence adduced in behalf of the fact of the earth's antiquity was of such a nature that it could not be resisted, and he not only escaped a prosecution for heresy, but lived to see the doctrine he had broached almost universally accepted by the religious world.
If now some divine of acknowledged power and position in any branch of the Christian Church were to put forth the statement that 'the writings of Moses do not fix the antiquity of man,' he would startle the ear of orthodoxy quite as much, but no more than did Chalmers in the early years of the present century. And if he would fare more hardly than the Scottish divine, and fall under the ban of church censure, which is not unlikely, it would be because the evidence for the fact is still inchoate and resistible by the force of established opinion. But it is quite within the range of possible things that before the close of the present century two things may happen: first, that the evidence for a high antiquity of the human race may accumulate to such an extent as to carry with it involuntarily the consent of mankind; and second, that the sacred writings may be found to adjust themselves as easily to this new finding in the sphere of induction, as they have already done, in the general mind of the Church, to the doctrine of the great age of the earth. The two statements are indeed very much akin in several respects. They both traverse the accepted meaning of the sacred writings at the time of their announcement. Both are considered, when first promulged, as irreconcilable with the plain teaching and consequent inspiration of the Scriptures. Both rest solely, as to their evidence, in the sphere of inductive science, and are determinable wholly by the finding of facts accumulated and compared by the processes of inductive reasoning. And both, if thus established, are destined to be accepted by the general mind of the age, without actual harm to the real interests of civilization and religion. No fact, which is a fact and not an illusion, can do harm to any of the vital interests of mankind. No truth can stand in hopeless antagonism to any other truth. To suppose otherwise would be to resolve the moral government of God into a hopeless enigma, or enthrone a perpetual and hostile dualism, resigning the universe to the rival and contending sway of Ormuzd and Ahriman.
Before proceeding to the merits of Sir Charles Lyell's discussion, we wish to glance at some preliminary matters touching the great debate now pending between science and theology. We wish to review the posture and temper of the parties; and particularly to refer to the tone and spirit of the religious press and the pulpit, respecting the alleged discoveries and claims of science, and their bearing upon the religious opinion of the time.
Moreover, in passing, the present writer begs permission to say that he speaks from the orthodox side of this question; he hails from the orthodox camp; he wears the clerical vesture of the Scottish worthies; and is affiliated theologically with Knox and Chalmers, with Edwards and Alexander, with the New York Observer and the Princeton Review. This much we beg to say, that what follows in these pages may be fully understood.
No one who has been attending to the subject with any degree of interest can have failed to observe that science, in her investigations upon the grand and momentous themes which have absorbed her attention in these latter years, has exhibited, and does still exhibit, a steady and well-defined purpose, and has pursued it with a singularly calm, sober, unimpassioned, yet resolute temper. Its posture is firm, steady, self-poised, conscious of rectitude, and anticipative of veritable and valuable results. Its spirit, though eager, is quiet; though enthusiastic, is cautious; though ardent, is sceptical; though flushed with success, is trained to the discipline of disappointment. Its object is to interrogate nature. It stands at the shrine and awaits the response of the oracle. It would fain interpret and make intelligible the wondrous hieroglyphics of this universe, and specially the mystic characters traced by the long-revolving ages upon the stony tablets of this planet Earth. It has in the first instance no creed to support, no dogmas to verify, no meaning to foist upon nature; its sole and single query is, What does nature teach? What is fact? What is truth? What has occurred in the past annals of this planet? What is the actual and true history of its bygone ages, and of the dwellers therein? These are its questions, addressed to nature by such methods as experience has taught will reach her ear, and it does not hesitate to take nature's answer. It does not shrink, and quake, and grow pale lest the response should overturn some ancient notion. It does not dread to hear the response, lest morals or religion should be thereby imperilled. It boldly and resolutely takes the teaching of nature, whatever it may be. Its conviction is that truth never can be anything else than truth; that fact can never be anything else than fact; and that no two truths or two facts in God's universe can be in hopeless and irreconcilable contradiction.
In this spirit the genuine sons of science have exhibited, what has seemed to some, a heartless indifference whether their discoveries or theories harmonized with the Scriptures or not, or affected the received opinions of Christendom on subjects pertaining to religion or morals. They have been sublimely unconcerned as to results in any such direction. They have investigated, examined, compared, collated, with long-continued and patient toil, to gather from the buried past the actual story of its departed cycles; they have not been troubled lest they should impinge on the creeds of the religious world, or compel important modifications in the lectures of learned Professors. This was no care of theirs. They discovered facts, they did not make them.
Now with all due respect for the opinions and feelings of religious people, we hesitate not to affirm that this spirit is the only true one in scientific men. Conceding, as we must, the supremacy of facts in their own sphere, and granting that, as mundane and human affairs now stand, the evidence of the senses, purged from fraud and illusion, must be held to be conclusive, we cheerfully award to scientific men the largest liberty to pursue their inquiries in matters of fact, utterly regardless of the havoc which may be thereby wrought among the traditional, beliefs of men. In no other way can science be true to herself. She is the child of induction. She can acknowledge no authority but what has been enthroned by inductive reasoning; and were she to adjust her conclusions, and garble her facts, to suit the faiths, beliefs, prejudices, or traditions of men, she would thereby falsify her inmost life, and stultify herself before the world. And in this connection we may premise that we regard as worthy of all commendation the straightforward and unembarrassed manner in which Sir Charles Lyell pursues his inquiries into the geological evidences of the antiquity of man. He could not have been unaware that he was striking a ponderous blow at one of the main traditions of Christendom; nay, that if successful in establishing his conclusions, he must revolutionize, to a large extent, the religious thinking of the civilization amid which he moves; and yet he moves steadily and quietly forward, calm as Marius amid the ruins of Carthage, not stopping to consider what Biblical men will do with his facts; never more than touching upon their religious bearings; intent only on ascertaining what the facts are, and what they teach. This, we say, is the spirit and temper of the true philosopher—this betokens the genuine son of science. As well might we demand of Watt, or Fulton, or Davy, or Brewster, or Faraday, in pursuing their inquiries into the nature and laws of steam, electricity, galvanism, or light, to be careful that their discoveries impinge not on the teachings of religion or the creed of orthodoxy, as to demand of Lyell to investigate the antiquity of man in humble deference to the well-established belief of the whole Christian world that he has no such antiquity. Not a bitter thing is said in the whole book against any traditional belief; the Scriptures are scarcely more than alluded to; he seems scarcely conscious that he is attempting to establish conclusions at variance with the cherished creeds of vast multitudes of men. To some this may seem the callousness of infidelity; to us it seems the sublime composure of science. To him, the fact in the case is everything; and he is content to leave it to work its own results.
What now, on the other hand, have been the spirit and temper of the religious press and the pulpit touching the progress of science, and especially its encroachments upon the ancient landmarks of traditional belief? We are sorry to be compelled to say that, with some honorable exceptions, the spirit manifested by religious journals and clergymen generally, has not been worthy of unqualified admiration. In many instances they have shown a dogged determination to hear nothing on the subject. Assuming, with absolute confidence, not only that the Scriptures are what the Church claims them to be, but that their interpretation of them is infallible, they have affected to ignore all the findings of science, and to treat them, in their bearing on Biblical interpretation, as profane intermeddling with divine things. They seem to imagine that their safety consists in not seeing danger, like the ostrich hiding its head in the sand, and supposing that thereby its whole body is protected. In other instances, while professing a willingness to hear—to seek truth—to not be afraid of the light—to boast of science even as the handmaid of religion—they have shown a disposition to decry the alleged discoveries of science, to ridicule its supposed facts, to make light of a whole concatenation of evidence, to prate of the uncertainties and vacillations of science, to sneer at 'sciolists,' or 'mere men of science,' to warn against the 'babblings of science' and 'philosophy falsely so called,' and meantime they have betrayed a nervous sensitiveness with regard to certain alleged discoveries and facts coming to the popular ear. They affect to sneer at the 'wise week' of the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and to turn the proceedings of that body into ridicule, by caricaturing the importance attached to some minor organ of the human or animal frame, in the determination of specific identity or difference. While absolutely ignorant of the true state of the case as it stands in the scientific world, they thunder from the pulpit in the ears of their people—a position where they are safe from reply—crudities and monstrosities of science at which the humblest member of the aforesaid Association would smile. In other instances, with a most unfortunate or misguided zeal, they would fain compel Christian faith to override and traverse all those great laws of evidence which regulate human belief in other matters. They do not dispute the facts of science when clearly established—they will concede to them an existence as facts in their own sphere—but they hold the Scriptures, as being inspired and infallible, to be transcendent and paramount, and not to be affected by any possible combination of facts. That is to say, if the Scriptures teach the unity of the race, or the universality of the deluge, or the modern origin of man—and if they understand them to teach these things, they do teach them for them—they hold that no amount of evidence which science may adduce can be of any avail, even though it might amount to absolute certainty, did not the Scriptures stand in the way. You may believe the facts of science, if you choose, but the Scriptures must be believed to the contrary notwithstanding. If science does not agree with the Scriptures, so much the worse for science—that is its own affair. This is the sentiment, distinctly uttered not long since by a learned American Professor. Consistently with this view, they maintain that the Scriptures are to be held as an authority in scientific matters; that science must order its conclusions in accordance with them; and that any facts are to be distrusted which conflict with the declarations of the Bible. They would thus place the Scriptures and nature in a posture of antagonism; and require Christian faith to trample upon and triumph over the evidence of the senses, as it is required to triumph over the world, the flesh, and the devil. What must be thought of an otherwise educated body of men who would willingly reduce the faith of the Christian world to such a posture as that?
Furthermore, in the general spirit and temper of the religious press with reference to science and scientific men, there is much to criticize and condemn. It is often snappish, petulant, ill-humored, unfair, and sometimes malicious in the extreme. Such opprobrious terms as infidelity, irreligion, rationalizing tendencies, naturalism, contempt for the Scriptures, etc., are freely used. Scientific men are called infidel pretenders, and are charged with a secret conspiracy to overthrow the faith of the Christian world. A respectable religious weekly paper in this country, in noticing Sir Charles Lyell's work, while carefully withholding from its readers the slightest notion of the array of evidence adduced in the book, is prompt to inform them that the learned author shows his want of respect for the Word of God. Another, in noticing the account of the last hours of Mr. Buckle, is almost ready to exult in the fact that in the wreck and prostration of his great powers he whined out piteously: 'I am going mad!' and intimates that his mental sufferings are to be attributed to the judicial visitation of God, inflicted as a punishment for the employment of those powers in the service of infidelity. An able, though generally absurd quarterly journal, in reviewing Hugh Miller's 'Testimony of the Rocks,' finds in some of his gorgeous speculations premonitions of that mental aberration which ended his life, and does not hesitate to attribute the final catastrophe to the overworking of his powers in the service of pretentious and unsanctified science. Noble and true-hearted son of the Church though he was, and though laboring with herculean strength to set the Bible and science in harmony, he has not escaped the envenomed shafts of a portion of the religious press. By some he has been openly branded as a traitor in the camp.
Now this unseemly heat and this unbecoming spirit and temper may be cloaked under a zeal for religion. It may be said that we are to 'contend earnestly for the faith.' We answer, verily, but never with the weapons of malice and wickedness. This mode of treating science, if persisted in, must end only in chagrin and defeat to the parties employing it, for the simple reason that it does violence to reason, nature, and all the laws of man's being. Science cannot be turned aside in her strenuous and ever-successful progress by any such impediments thrown in her way. The clear, calm, cogent facts and inferences of the philosopher cannot be met successfully by the half-suppressed shriek of the mere Biblicist. And it must be at once perceived that any such treatment of science, any such half-concealed fear of the progress of science, any such unfair and spiteful bearing toward scientific men, argues a secret distrust of the system or doctrine which is assumed to be held and professedly defended. These petulant and much disturbed editors and divines must be really afraid that the ground is being undermined beneath their feet. If a man really believes the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures, he may feel perfectly at ease as to any facts present or past in the wide universe. But if he is not so sure of them, and wishes, for some personal or interested motive, to believe them, he will be easily disturbed by anything which seems to militate against them. If the Scriptures are true, they can never be shown to be false—if they are not true, we ought not to wish to believe them.
The spirit and temper above indicated are wholly out of harmony with the general spirit of Protestant Christianity. It has ever been the boast of Protestantism that it seeks the light, that it seeks discussion, that it asserts the right of private judgment, that it courts investigation, and is willing to expose all its claims to the broad light of day. It claims to be an everlasting protest against priestly tyranny, and monkish authority, and abject spiritual servitude in the laity. Strange, if in this new phase of its history it should fail to be true to itself!
After the Christian world came generally to accept the statement of Chalmers that the writings of Moses do not fix the antiquity of the world, and before science had begun to moot seriously the questions of the unity of the race, the universality of the Noahian deluge, and the antiquity of man, it was the custom of clergymen generally to reecho the true Protestant strain. They claimed science. They expected much of her. They wished full and free discussion in order that still stronger ramparts might be erected around the citadel of their faith. Why should the tone be changed now? In the year 1840, the Rev. Albert Barnes, of Philadelphia, who has long occupied a highly respectable and influential position among the clerical body in this country, in an address on the 'Progress and Tendencies of Science,' delivered before the literary societies of one of the colleges of Pennsylvania, gave utterance to the following noble sentiments:
'It has cost much to overcome this'—that is, the panic fears of Christian people at the amazing progress and discoveries of science—'and to restore confidence to the Christian world that the researches of science will never permanently clash with the doctrines of revelation. But the Christian world has come to that; and science is to receive no more obstruction henceforth from any alarm that its discoveries will contravene the revealed truth of God. No future Galileo is to be imprisoned because he can look farther into the works of nature than other men; and the point which we have gained now, is that no obstruction is to be thrown in the way of science by any dread that any scientific truth will infringe on any theological system. The great truth has gone forth at last, not to be recalled, that the astronomer may point his glass to the heavens as long and as patiently as he pleases, without apprehending opposition from the Christian world; the chemist may subject all objects to the action of the crucible and the blowpipe, 'with none to molest him or make him afraid;' the geologist may penetrate to any part of the earth—may dig as deep as he pleases, and no one may be alarmed.'
This exhibits true Christian courage and confidence, and has the genuine Protestant ring. It is based, however, on the supposition that no possible conflict can arise between science and his understanding of the Scriptures, and it is doubtful whether the same equanimity could be maintained even in the author's mind if the 'progress and tendencies of science' should take an unexpected direction. Thus, in the same address, he says:
'One fact is remarkable. The geologist proves that the world has stood many thousands of years, and we cannot deny it. He points to fossil remains, and tells us of orders of animals that lived many years before the Mosaic period of the creation of man. The Bible tells us that MAN was created about six thousand years ago. Now, the material fact is, that amid all the fossil remains of the geologist, and all the records of past times, there is no proof that man has lived longer than that period; but there is abundant proof to the contrary. Amid all on which the geologist relies to demonstrate the existence of animals prior to the Mosaic account of the creation, he has not presented us with one human bone, or with one indication of the existence of man.'
This is one of the facts, among others, upon which 'the friends of science and revelation have equal cause to congratulate themselves and each other.' But what if the fact should change? What if not only one, but many fossil human bones should be found? How is a divine, who has already said that the Bible teaches the modern origin of man, to avoid panic fears? Science is cumulative in its evidences, and it is somewhat hazardous to undertake to say, at any point, that the ultima thule of discovery has been reached.
We reiterate now, in the conclusion of these preliminary matters, the sentiment of Mr. Barnes that science must be free and untrammelled. No matter what discoveries may be made, what traditions overturned, what faiths unsettled, science must have a free rein and an open course. It must be so; unless we return to mediaeval darkness and despotism. Science, to be science at all, must establish its conclusions by its own methods, and its methods must be intact and supreme, no matter what facts they force upon the belief of mankind. It cannot accept any extraneous authority. It cannot admit any foregone conclusions. It cannot accept the statements, for instance, of the first chapter of Genesis as astronomical, meteorological, geological, or ethnological facts, as the able but absurd Review before referred to would insist. It must verify its own facts. It cannot heed the caveat of any number or body of clergymen, or orthodox weekly newspapers, who might come forward and say, respecting the unity of the race, or the antiquity of man: 'Gentlemen, that question is settled. It is put beyond the purview of your science. An absolute and infallible authority has determined it. To moot it is profane.' Any such attempt would be both preposterous and useless. The age will defend the freedom of science; and let all reasonable and right-thinking men take comfort in the conviction that in the long run the conclusions reached will be right, in accordance with fact, in accordance with truth, and that no permanent interest of religion or morals can suffer.
But we beg pardon for holding the reader so long by the button, while Sir Charles Lyell and his book have been kept in the background. These thoughts have been upon our mind for many months, and we have felt impelled to give utterance to them here.
The publication of this work we regard as an eventful matter in the history of modern thought. The time could not have been far distant when what we may call the geological history of man on this planet, must have come before the popular mind; and it is certainly a matter of congratulation that one of the most venerable, indefatigable, cautious, and successful investigators of modern times has undertaken the task of giving to the public a full and labored resume of the evidence which has accumulated on the subject. Not unfrequently are the bigotry and prejudice of well-meaning religious people intensified by the imprudent zeal of the Hotspurs of science. True science can always afford to bide its time, and make haste slowly.
Respecting the work itself, we begin by saying that the theme proposed is a perfectly legitimate one for science. It is entirely pertinent to science to undertake to search for the hidden traces of man's former history, if there be any. It is no dreamland or cloudland which it proposes to explore. It is no Quixotic adventure which it has gotten up to astonish and alarm the vulgar. If our human ancestors have lived fifty or one hundred thousand years longer on this planet than was generally supposed, it is quite likely they have left some traces behind them. And if so, it is perfectly legitimate for science to gather, collate, and interpret those traces. And from what we know of her past achievements, we may assure ourselves that if man has had such a pre-historic existence, science will most undoubtedly prove it. She has proved beyond all sane contradiction the great age of the earth. She has proved in like manner the vast extent of the universe in space. She has proved the existence of manifold forms of animal life on this planet for countless ages before the incoming of man, according to the popular chronology. She has proved, approximately, the order and succession of animal life as it arose, and the forms it assumed as the long cycles of ages rolled on. All these were legitimate themes for science; and all of them were opposed to the popular belief at the time—as much so as is the antiquity of man now. And further, we say that the mere suspicion that any such thing may be—the mere surmise of any such fact—the merest inkling which scientific men may get of a secret yet hidden beneath the veil, and waiting to be revealed—is a sufficient justification of those tentative efforts of science which often result in the attainment of some grand discovery. Let no timid religionist charge upon scientific men that they are conspiring with malice prepense to undermine the popular creeds and overthrow the Bible. This is sheer nonsense. They follow where nature beckons them. If man has had a high antiquity on this earth, science will find it out and prove it beyond a doubt. If he has not had such antiquity, science will discover that too, and prove it. All we have to do is to let science have her way.
Another remark which we make here, is respecting the power which a single fact may have in this investigation. It is not often that great questions in history, or social polity, or jurisprudence are determined by a single fact. The great results of history, economics, and law are effected by the converging power of many facts. So also in science. Its great results are determined by the accumulated power of multitudinous facts. Its final categories are fixed by abundant certainties and manifold inductions. And yet it may sometimes occur that a single fact may be of such a nature that there is no escaping the conclusion which it forces upon the mind. It may concentrate in itself all the elements of certainty usually obtained from many sources. It may be determinative in its very nature, and admit of scepticism only at the expense of rationality. A single human grave, with its entombed skeleton, discovered in some uninhabited waste, where it was never known the foot of man had trod, would prove conclusively that human footsteps had once trod there. The discovery of a single weapon of the quality and temper of the Damascus blade amid the ruins of a buried city, would prove as fully as would the discovery of a thousand that the people of that age of the world understood the methods of working steel. One canoe found moored to the bank of the Delaware, the Schuylkill, or the Susquehanna, when the white man began to penetrate this continent, would have been sufficient to prove that the aborigines understood, to that extent, the art of navigation. So in science, one fossil of a different species from any found heretofore in a certain deposit is sufficient to add another to the forms of life represented by that deposit. One fossil found lower in the geological scale than life was supposed to have begun on this planet, is sufficient to prove that it had a still earlier beginning. So with regard to contemporary forms of life, one fact may be sufficient to warrant or compel a conclusion. Hugh Miller cites the instance of fossil dung being found as proving to the anti-geologists that these fossils were once real living creatures, and not mere freaks of nature. The instance might not be thought conclusive, for if the Author of nature saw fit to amuse himself by making the semblances of huge iguanodons, elephants, and hippopotami, in the solid rocks, it might readily be supposed that He would extend His amusement to the making of fossil dung. But now, if in the fossil entrails of the cave hyena the bones of a hare should be found, it would prove conclusively to any but an anti-geologist, that the hare lived contemporaneously with the hyena.
These remarks are not thrown in by way of apology for the paucity of facts adduced by Sir Charles Lyell to prove the antiquity of man, but merely to illustrate the force which it is possible, in certain circumstances, for a single fact to have. Thus, for instance, the Scotch fir is not now, nor ever has been in historic times, a native of the Danish isles, yet it has been indigenous there in the human period, for Steenstrup has taken out with his own hands a flint implement from beneath one the buried trunks of that species in the Danish peat bogs. Again, if an implement of human workmanship is found in close proximity to the leg of a bear, or the horn of a reindeer, of extinct species, in an ancient cavern, and all covered by a floor of stalagmite, we see not how the conclusion is to be avoided that they were introduced into the cave before the stalagmite was formed; and in that case the inference that they were contemporaneous, or nearly so, may well be left to take care of itself. The attempt has been made to treat with levity the whole subject of the antiquity of man because of the numerical meagreness of the facts adduced in support of it. But as to this, it need only be observed that as a new theme for investigation, its facts must necessarily be meagre, as must be the facts of any science in its inchoate condition, and that they are steadily growing in volume, so that it is not safe to venture a final verdict against it on that score. The facts in support of the globular form of the earth, or the Copernican theory of the heavens, or the great age of the earth, were at one time meagre—they are not so now. Sir Charles Lyell is a pioneer explorer in a new and mysterious realm: the time may come when, amid the abundance of the treasure gathered from it, the scanty hoard which he opens to his reader may seem meagre enough.
Nevertheless, Sir Charles Lyell is fully a believer in the doctrine of the high antiquity of man. His book is not merely a debating-club discussion of the pros and cons, the probabilities for and against the doctrine, but rather the earnest pleading of the advocate fully persuaded that the truth is on his side. Not that it displays any forensic heat;—it is calm, cautious, dispassionate; but it has the air of one governed by conviction, and he often assumes the entire truth of his conclusions with the quiet nonchalance of a man seemingly unconscious that what he regards as matters of established certainty will be viewed by the great majority of his fellow beings as startling novelties.
The main stream of the geological evidence of the antiquity of man tends to one point, viz., that man coexisted with the extinct animals. There are collateral branches of proof, but this is the main channel. The remains of man and of man's works and the remains of extinct races of animals lie side by side, and claim from the geologist the same meed of antiquity. This is the burden of the book before us. We offer the reader a brief outline of this evidence. In doing so, we will follow the order of Sir Charles Lyell's work, and merely state the leading facts which geological investigations have brought to light.
In the Danish islands there are deposits of peat from ten to thirty feet thick, formed in the hollows or depressions of the northern drift or bowlder formation. These beds of peat have been examined to the bottom, and they reveal the history of vegetation in those localities, and the contemporaneous history of human progress. Beginning at the top, the explorer finds the first layers to contain principally the trunks of the beech tree, along with implements and tools of wood and iron. Below these is a deposit of oak trunks, with implements mainly of bronze. Farther down still he finds the trunks of the Pinus sylvestris, or Scotch fir, together with implements of stone. This clearly indicates that in the lapse of centuries the pine was supplanted by the oak, and the oak by the beech, and that man advanced contemporaneously from the knowledge and use of stone implements to those of bronze and iron. Now the known fact is that in the time of the Romans, as now, the Danish isles were covered by magnificent beech forests, and that eighteen centuries have done little or nothing toward changing the character of the vegetation. How many centuries must have elapsed to enable the oak to supplant the pine, and the beech to supplant the oak, can only be vaguely conjectured. Yet the evidence is clear that man lived in those old pine forests—leaving his implements of stone behind him, as he did his tools of bronze and iron in the succeeding periods. Along the coast of Denmark, also, are found shell mounds mixed with flint knives, hatchets, etc., but never any tools of bronze or iron, showing that the rude hunters and fishers who fed on the oyster, cockle, and other mollusks, lived in the period of the Scotch fir, or, as it has been called, the 'age of stone.'
In many of the Swiss lakes are found ancient piles driven into the bottom, on which were once erected huts or villages, the lacustrine abodes of man. This use of them is proved by the abundance of flint implements and fragments of rude pottery, together with bones of animals, which have been dredged up from among the piles. The implements found belong to the 'age of stone,' or the period of the Scotch fir in Denmark, and the bones of animals are all, with one exception, those of living species.
Passing over the fossil human remains and works of art of the 'recent' period, as found in the delta and alluvial plain of the Nile, in the ancient mounds of the valley of the Ohio, in the mounds of Santos in Brazil, in the delta of the Mississippi, in which, at the depth of sixteen feet from the surface, under four buried forests, superimposed one upon the other, was found, a few years ago, a human skeleton, estimated by Dr. B. Dowler to have been buried at least fifty thousand years—in the coral reefs of Florida, in which fossil human remains were found, estimated by Professor Agassiz to have an antiquity of ten thousand years—in the recent deposits of seas and lakes, in the central district of Scotland, which bears clear traces of an upheaval since the human period, and in the raised beaches of Norway and Sweden—passing over these for want of space for minute detail, we go back to the post-pliocene period, and find the bones of man and works of art in juxtaposition with the fossil remains of extinct mammalia.
In the cavern of Bize, in the south of France, and in the caves of Engis, Engihoul, Chokier, and Goffontaine, near Liege, human bones and teeth, together with fragments of rude pottery, have been found enveloped in the same mud and breccia, and cemented by stalagmite, in which are found also the land shells of living species and the bones of mammalia, some of extinct, and others of recent species. The chemical condition of all the bones was found to be the same. Quite a full account is given of the researches of MM. Journal and Christol in the Bize cavern, and of Dr. Schmerling in the Liege caverns, and every effort made, apparently, by the author, to weigh candidly and honestly the evidence for and against the contemporaneous existence and deposition of the human and mammalian remains. And while he admits that at one time he was strongly inclined to suspect that they were not coeval, yet he has been compelled by subsequent evidence, especially in view of the fact that he has had convincing proofs in later years that the remains of the mammoth and many other extinct species, very common in caves, occur also in undisturbed alluvium, imbedded in such a manner with works of art as to leave no room for doubt that man and the extinct animals coexisted, to reconsider his former opinion, and to assign to the proofs derived from caves of the high antiquity of man a much more positive and emphatic character.
In chapter fifth we have a minute and interesting account of such fossil human skulls and skeletons as have been found in caves and ancient tumuli, and a careful endeavor made to estimate their approximate age. In 1857, in a cave situated in that part of the valley of the Duessel, near Duesseldorf, which is called the Neanderthal, a skull and skeleton were found, buried beneath five feet of loam, which were pronounced by Professor Huxley and others to be clearly human, though indicating small cerebral development and uncommon strength of corporeal frame. In the Engis caves, near Liege, portions of six or seven human skeletons were found, imbedded in the same matrix with the remains of the elephant, rhinoceros, bear, hyena, and other extinct quadrupeds. In an ancient tumulus near Borrely, in Denmark, a human skull was discovered which was adjudged by its surroundings to belong to the 'stone period' of Denmark, or the era of the Scotch fir. The careful anatomical examination and comparison to which these skulls have been subjected, have led to important discussions, not only as to their age, but also as to their relation to existing races.
Next comes an extended account of the flint implements and other works of art, found so abundantly in juxtaposition with the bones of extinct mammalia, in various localities—in a cave at Brixham, near Torquay, in Devonshire; in the alluvium of the Thames valley; in the gravel of the valley of the Ouse, near Bedford; in a fresh-water deposit at Hoxne in Suffolk; in the valley of the Lach at Icklingham; in a cavern in Somersetshire; in the caves of Gomer in Glamorganshire, in South Wales; and especially in the gravel beds of Abbeville and Amiens, in France, and various localities of the valley of the Somme. As to these flint implements, they are chiefly knives, hatchets, and instruments of that sort, and they have been found in such large numbers, and such diverse localities, and so uniformly in close proximity with the remains of the same species of extinct mammalia, that the evidence derived from them is, to say the least, of a very weighty character, and in the opinion of Sir Charles Lyell clearly establishes the fact that Elephas primigenius, Elephas antiquus, Rhinoceros tichorrhinus, Ursus speloeus, and other extinct species of the post-pliocene alluvium, coexisted with man.
Attempts have been made to throw doubt upon these implements, first upon their nature, and next upon their genuineness; but we think no one who weighs the evidence candidly and carefully, can award to these doubts the merit of respectability. That they are works of art and not native forms, is, we think, as fully established as human observation can establish anything; and though frauds have been recently detected, it would be no more absurd to attribute the whole phenomena of fossil remains to fraudulent manufacture, than to refer to the same source the whole series of flint implements. In many cases the flint tools were taken out of their position by the hands of scientific men themselves, and in others the excavations were made under their immediate supervision. M. Gandry, in giving an account of his researches at St. Acheul, in 1859, to the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, says: 'The great point was not to leave the workmen for a single instant.'
But the most remarkable, not to say startling revelations of the whole book, are those pertaining to the discovery of an ancient place of sepulture at Auvignac, in the south of France. Here we seem to be brought, as it were, face to face with the denizens of the departed ages, and to have them start up from their ancient tombs to tell the story of their death and sepulture. We enter this old burial place with feelings of more strange and solemn awe than we could have in threading the catacombs of Rome. An obscure village at the foot of the Pyrenees reveals in its precincts a more astounding history than all the monuments and mausoleums of the 'eternal' city.
In the year 1852, a laborer named Bonnemaison, employed in repairing roads, observed that rabbits, when hotly pursued by the sportsman, ran into a hole which they had burrowed in a talus of small fragments of limestone and earthy matter lodged in a depression on the face of a steep escarpment of nummulitic limestone which forms the bank of a small brook near the town of Auvignac. On reaching as far into the opening as the length of his arm, he drew out to his surprise one of the long bones of the human skeleton; and his curiosity being excited, and having a suspicion that the hole communicated with a subterranean cavity, he commenced digging a trench through the middle of the talus, and in a few hours found himself opposite a heavy slab of rock, placed vertically against the entrance. Having removed this, he discovered on the other side of it an arched cavity, seven or eight feet in its greatest height, ten in width, and seven in horizontal depth. It was almost filled with bones, among which were two entire skulls, which he recognized at once as human. The people of Auvignac flocked in astonishment to the spot, and Dr. Amiel, the mayor, having first ascertained as a medical man and anatomist that the relics contained the bones of seventeen human skeletons of both sexes and all ages, ordered them all to be reinterred in the parish cemetery.
In 1860, M. Lartet, a distinguished French savan, examined thoroughly the remaining contents of the cavern and its surroundings and approaches. He found, on removing the talus which filled up the depression on the face of the rock, a level terrace leading to the mouth of the cave. On this terrace was a layer of charcoal and ashes, eight inches thick, containing fragments of broken, burnt, and gnawed bones of extinct and recent mammalia, in all some nineteen species, and some seventy or eighty individuals. Also in the same deposit were hearthstones, and works of art, flint knives, projectiles, sling-stones, and chips. Many of the bones of the extinct herbivora were streaked, as if the flesh had been scraped off them by a flint instrument, and others were split open, as if for the purpose of extracting the marrow. Inside the grotto were two or three feet of made earth mixed with human and a few animal bones of extinct and recent species. None of them, however, burnt or gnawed; and numerous small flat plates of a white shelly substance made of some species of cockle, perforated in the middle as if for the purpose of being strung into a bracelet; also some mementos and memorials of the chase and the sepulture. Did no opposing traditions stand in the way, we are quite sure the evidence elicited from this examination would at once fix its character as a burial place, of an antiquity coeval with the existence of the great extinct mammalia of the post-pliocene period. It, however, contains some features of special interest. In the words of Sir Charles Lyell:
'The Auvignac cave adds no new species to the list of extinct quadrupeds, which we have elsewhere, and by independent evidence, ascertained to have once flourished contemporaneously with man. But if the fossil memorials have been correctly interpreted—if we have here before us at the northern base of the Pyrenees a sepulchral vault with skeletons of human beings, consigned by friends and relatives to their last resting place—if we have also at the portal of the tomb the relics of funeral feasts, and within it indications of viands destined for the use of the departed on their way to the land of spirits; while among the funeral gifts are weapons wherewith in other fields to chase the gigantic deer, the cave lion, the cave bear, and woolly rhinoceros—we have at last succeeded in tracing back the sacred rites of burial, and, more interesting still, a belief in a future state, to times long anterior to those of history and tradition. Rude and superstitious as may have been the savage of that remote era, he still deserved, by cherishing the hopes of a hereafter, the epithet of 'noble,' which Dryden gave to what he seems to have pictured to himself as the primitive condition of our race:
'As Nature first made man, When wild in woods the noble savage ran.'
The remainder of the book, so far as it relates to the evidences of man's antiquity, is mainly occupied with the consideration of the glacial period, in its relation to the indications of man's first appearance in Europe. It bears evidence throughout of the hand of a master. The gigantic phenomena and wonderful agencies of that marvellous period in geological history—its vast icefields and glaciers, with their movements, drifts, and denudations—its coast ice and glacial lakes and rivers—the risings and sinkings of level of islands and continents, are all considered and discussed in a thoroughly intelligent and scholarly manner. And here, also, amid the debris of this far-distant and inhospitable era, has man left the traces of his existence, as indubitably, according to Sir Charles Lyell, as the great icebergs themselves. Not only is it proven that man coexisted with the extinct animals, but also that he coexisted with the extinct glaciers. We have not space, however, to follow out in detail this evidence.
The last five chapters of the book are devoted to the discussion of certain subjects of vital interest and great moment just now in the scientific world—the theories of progression, development, transmutation, and variation of species. It seems, however, to be the intention of the author to give us, not so much his own views as a general resume or outline of the tendencies and conclusions of the scientific world upon these subjects. This he does with his usual fulness, candor, and impartiality; and the reader at the same time gathers from him that he is strongly inclined to accept the doctrine of the origin of species by 'variation and natural selection,' and to accord vast periods of time for the workings of that law of development and transmutation which he believes to pervade all mundane affairs. Considerable space is devoted to the consideration of man's place in nature, and especially to the discussions arising out of the comparison of the human and simian brain; and while the author fully admits the vast gulf placed between man and the animal creation below him—a gulf which science cannot bridge—by virtue of the moral and religious nature of man, yet he pointedly protests against confounding distinct orders of ideas, and insists that man as a physical being is clearly of the same order as the gorilla and ape; and he does not shrink from accepting the possibility that they all may have sprung by successive stages or 'leaps' from the same primordial form. His concluding words are, that 'so far from having a materialistic tendency, the supposed introduction into the earth at successive periods of life—sensation, instinct, the intelligence of the higher mammalia, bordering on reason—and lastly the improvable reason of man himself, presents us with a picture of the ever-increasing dominion of mind over matter.'
To our mind one thing is certain. The whole scientific world is drifting slowly, but steadily and surely, to the verification and acceptance—with certain and in some cases important modifications—of the development hypothesis of Maillet, Lamarck, La Place, Owen, and the author of the 'Vestiges of Creation.' The movement reminds one of the motion of one of the great Greenland glaciers, so slow, quiet, almost imperceptible, yet inexorable as fate—heedless of all obstacles. As in the case of all great, genuine revolutionary or formative ideas, it is curious to watch the incidents of its career—to note the alarm, indignation, scorn, and holy horror occasioned by its first announcement—to observe these subsiding gradually into patient endurance and permissive sufferance, and these again giving place to a certain curiosity and wakeful interest, culminating at last in downright advocacy and championship.
We are inclined to think that great injustice has been done the development theory in the name of morals and religion. There has been no end to the railing against it on the part of clergymen, Biblical interpreters, theological Professors, and orthodox editors. It was held to put infinite dishonor upon the Creator, not only to suppose that He should take many millions of years to make a world, but that He should employ the same lengthened period to make man, instead of speaking him into existence by a word. It was held to put infinite dishonor upon the Scriptures to suppose that they should be understood in any but the most literal sense. And it was held to put infinite dishonor upon man to suppose that he was kith and kin with the monkey—bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of the unreasoning quadrupeds, over which in his god-like royalty he was to sway his imperial sceptre—and this, too, by a class of teachers who could never have enough of thundering in the ears of men their degradation, their lost, debased, insensate, and damnable condition, worse than that of beasts or devils.
Now, with all deference, we beg to say that this development theory does not strike us as so fraught with dishonor, either to the powers in heaven or the beings upon earth. It has for many years impressed us with its grandeur as an intellectual conception. We doubt whether anything so grand has dawned upon the mind of modern civilization since the days of Sir Isaac Newton. And we cannot see what dishonor it can work to either God or man—especially if it be proved to be true. We regard it, so far as there is truth in it, as one of those great germinant seed-thoughts, which at long intervals are dropped into the soil of the human mind; and though the mind of the age, in its first impulses of joy, may play wild gambols with it, it is destined in the end to mould and control the thinking of the civilized world. But apart from its truth or falsity, in whole or in part, regarded simply as an intellection, it strikes us as one of the grandest of modern times. Spreading itself over almost illimitable space, grasping back through almost illimitable time, claiming for itself the boundless multiplicity of type, and form, and life, and law of the organic world, and unfolding to the wondering gaze the vast prophetic possibilities of the future, it possesses all the attributes of grandeur, magnificence, sublimity, and mystery. If it is a phantasm, it is more gorgeous than the most splendid creations of poetry. If it is a mirage, it is more beautiful than any that ever bewildered the vision of enchanted traveller. If it is an ignis fatuus, it is more potent than any ever raised by the spell of the sorcerer. But whether phantasm, mirage, ignis fatuus, or sober but grand reality, will assuredly be found out by science before another half century. And the ultimate finding of science, whatever it may be, must and will be believed.
It is, of course, not to be expected that the evidence thus adduced by Sir Charles Lyell in behalf of the antiquity of man, will be accepted as conclusive by the religious and thinking world in general without a thorough sifting and an earnest struggle. It is too novel and revolutionary in its tendencies. And indeed it ought to be subjected to the severest ordeal of fact and reason. It is in this way alone that the golden grains of truth are separated from the dross of crude conjecture and hasty generalization. We are not prepared ourselves to say that the evidence itself is final and conclusive. We have sketched it for the purpose of giving the distinguished author a full hearing, and affording the reader an opportunity to judge for himself. We await the logical sequences of time, knowing full well that the laws which regulate the progress of science are as stable and infallible as the laws which control the motions of the solar and planetary systems. One thing, however, we may be excused for saying: All the attempts we have seen to parry the force of this evidence, and to account for the acknowledged phenomena and facts within the schedule of the received chronology, strike us as singularly and painfully feeble. One suggestion is that the bodies of the extinct mammalia may have been preserved in ice until the recent period, and their bones deposited contemporaneously with those of modern species and man. Another is that the geologists may be vastly mistaken as to the date of the extinction of species, and that in fact the mastodon, mammoth, and other species found in juxtaposition with human remains and works of art, have probably survived until a very recent period. Without entering into detail on these points, we would venture the prediction that when weighed in the balance they will be found utterly wanting. One type of discussion will survive, if it survive at all, as a most curious fossil of the layers of modern thought. It is that represented by the book referred to in a note on a former page, by Mr. Davies. Believing that all mineral fossils were never living animals at all, but the types simply of animals that were to be, stamped instantaneously upon the rocks as prophetic symbols of a work of creation to be afterward accomplished, he is prepared to hear without surprise that man should some day be found as a fossil. We refer to it as a most curious mental product. If it is not unanswerable, we presume it will at least remain unanswered.
What now, in conclusion, is to be the effect of this new development of science on the received and traditionary thinking of the time? What readjustments will be necessary in case the doctrine of the antiquity of man comes by and by to take its place, in the creed of science, alongside of the doctrine of the great age of the earth? Can it be made to harmonize with what is now known as orthodox and evangelical Christianity?
That it cannot be made to harmonize with that sort of orthodoxy which asserts that 'the Bible teaches' that man began to exist upon the earth about six thousand years ago, we need hardly aver. Eminent theologians may say, 'if science does not agree with the Scriptures, so much the worse for science,' but we opine that the minds which will be able to stand upon this platform in the face of overwhelming evidence will be few and far between. But it must be remembered that the Scriptures have adjusted themselves, in the popular and orthodox mind, to several things which were once considered opposed to their teachings. The Copernican theory of the solar system was once regarded and treated as a palpable and dangerous heresy; yet now-a-days the boldest literalist would not venture to insist that the Bible teaches a system opposed to that. Within living memory, it is well known that the doctrine of the recent creation of the earth was regarded as indubitably a part of the teaching of the first chapter of Genesis, yet it is now fully conceded in high orthodox quarters that the opposite doctrine does no violence to the letter or spirit of the Mosaic writings. Here the adjustment has been of the interpretation to the fact. It is up to this time largely believed that the Bible teaches the doctrine of a general deluge, yet Hugh Miller could advocate, with all the elegance of his superb intellect, and all the power of his unanswerable science, the opposite doctrine of a partial or limited deluge, without being outlawed for heresy in the Free Church of Scotland. It is now held almost universally that the doctrine of the unity of the race is essential to Christianity; and we, for ourselves, cannot see that it is otherwise than essential to a properly organic Christianity, and yet we begin to see a blinking in certain quarters toward the opposite view;—and we may mention that the curious book of Mr. Davies before mentioned, which is written in the special interest of the most literal orthodoxy, advocating the doctrine of immediate creation in six literal days, and other equally indigestible matters, insists on the doctrine of diversity of origin in the human race, because it is taught in the Scriptures! And he does not fail to find proof texts. He rightly avers that several important assumptions are needed in order to extract the doctrine of unity from the Mosaic record.
We have not adduced these instances of the variations of orthodoxy for the purpose of intimating that the Bible is a nose of wax, which can be twisted into any shape without injury—that it is a book which can be made to mean anything or nothing, as the circumstances of the case may require—but that it has a vital elasticity and power of adjustment to all veritable findings of the human mind in every sphere; as indeed it must have, if it is in any important respect such a communication to mankind as it is claimed to be. Whatever may be said of the infallibility of the Scriptures, it is certain that interpretation is not infallible—a distinction that is not always kept in mind by those zealous defenders of the faith who are ready to make the inspiration of the Scriptures stand or fall with a given interpretation of a particular passage.
But can the doctrine of man's antiquity be made to harmonize with the essentials of Christianity and the inspiration of the Scriptures? If Christianity be a religion for man, as the present writer believes, we answer emphatically in the affirmative. Not the smallest feature that is essential to make Christianity a religion for man, if it be such, will be imperilled by this or any other well-established doctrine of science. But precisely how much modification of existing opinion, how much sepulture of traditionary relics, how much clearing away of rubbish will be indispensable, it is now not easy to say. It is certain that it must be conceded that we have as yet attained to no infallible chronology. And it is equally certain that a larger amount of allegory must be infused into the first chapters of Genesis than would have been digestible by the theologians of the last generation, if we would ever have theology and science stand upon the same plane. The question in the child's catechism, 'Who was the first man?' will by and by be easier asked than answered. If, moreover, the narrative in Genesis refers to some imaginary being supposed to have existed upon the earth about six thousand years ago, it seems clear that this being cannot be regarded as the 'federal head' of the human race, from whom 'all mankind have descended by ordinary generation.' And we strongly suspect that a very large amount of theological machinery will need to be readjusted; and amid many pangs and with much tribulation will not a few canons of orthodoxy pass away to the region of fossil forms.
In conclusion, we take leave of this work of Sir Charles Lyell with the conviction that however obnoxious it may be to orthodox editors and superannuated doctors of divinity, it is destined to stimulate greatly scientific inquiry and active thought. It is impossible that when such a mine has been sprung, and promises to yield such tangible results, it should suddenly cease to work, because the note of alarm is raised by affrighted theologians. We predict for science in this department a rich and rapid progress of discovery. And we are profoundly gratified that the subject has been broken to the popular mind in such a cautious and unexceptionable manner as to the tone and spirit of the work—the author holding with philosophic steadfastness to the subject matter in hand, and, in the true scientific spirit, eschewing all side issues, and exhibiting throughout a candor, impartiality, and honesty, worthy the well-earned fame of this Nestor of geologists.
A TALE OF SLAVE LIFE IN ROME.
The thoughts of AEnone followed her into sleep, and colored her dreams with pleasant memories of the past; and when the morning sun, pouring its beams through the window, awakened her, there was a momentary struggle before she could throw off the fancies of the night and realize that she was no longer in her cottage home. But distinct perception soon returned as she glanced around her and recognized the paintings which adorned her chamber, and the marble goddess still holding forth a welcoming hand, as though in greeting for the return of another day.
Throwing open the window, she sat down for a moment to enjoy the soft breeze, which, laden with perfume, came gambolling fresh from the Alban Hills. The window at which she placed herself looked out upon a central courtyard, formed by the intersection of the main body of the palace at right angles with the two wings. This court was paved from one side to the other with marble flags of different shades, excepting in the middle, where played the fountain—a circular basin of water, upon a rock, in the centre of which two bronze satyrs struggled for a tortoise, from whose mouth the supplying stream poured forth. From the end of each wing of the palace the line of the sides was continued by a straight stone wall of considerable height, leading across the whole breadth of the Caelian Hill to the slope of its farther side, and enclosing an area thickly planted with such flowers, shrubbery, and trees as the taste of the period considered most essential to a well-appointed garden.
For the moment the central court was almost deserted, the only appearance of life being a little Nubian slave, who sat upon the edge of the fountain, and lazily played with a tame stork. But all at once AEnone heard mingled voices, and distinguished among them the tones of her husband—deeper than the others, and marked with that quicker and more decided accent acquired by a long course of undisputed authority. At first the sounds seemed stationary, as though the speakers were tarrying in one place for discussion; but in a moment they approached nearer, and the disputants stood in full sight upon a balcony which ran around the interior wall of the palace and overhung the sides of the court.
Foremost and tallest of the group stood Sergius Vanno, recognizable at once by his athletic and graceful figure, reflective face, commanding eye, bright with intelligence, and his agreeable, refined, and attractive presence, as the leading spirit of the group. At his side leaned the poet Emilius, whose weak and slender figure and mild, girlish expression would hardly appear to sustain the reputation he enjoyed of devoting half his time to the invention and elaboration of new forms of profligacy, and thereby carrying his exploits into realms of vice hitherto undiscovered even in that age of unbridled indulgence. Behind these stood three others—a captain of the praetorian guard, a tribune of the law, and a comedian of the school of Plautus—each probably carrying the palm of excellence in his especial calling, and all of them doubtless endowed with superior capacities as boon companions in a night-long revel. They had evidently but just left the banqueting hall, and bore indications of having passed a somewhat unquiet night, though in different degrees; for while the captain and comedian still staggered confusedly and displayed haggard faces and disordered dresses, the superior tact, constitutional strength, or recuperative powers of the others enabled them to maintain such a demeanor of proper sobriety, that but for a slight flush and the companionship in which they were placed, their late excesses might have passed unnoticed.
'It was the choice of all the slaves, both male and female, I tell you,' said the comedian, evidently resuming an unfinished dispute. 'The choice of all the slaves, Sergius.'
'Hear you now this man!' exclaimed Sergius, turning toward his friend Emilius with a quiet smile. 'Thrice already have I told him the truth of the matter, and still he persists; well knowing that, if now he can scarcely sustain himself from falling over into the area below, he certainly could not, three hours ago, have been able to tell what play he made, or whether he made any play at all. Nay, Bassus, it was only of the male slaves that I spoke.'
'Yet listen to me,' insisted the comedian, placing his hand upon the other's shoulder and leaning heavily upon him, 'You do not deny that we gamed?'
'Of a surety I do not.'
'Nor that I won money of you?'
'Ten sestertia. I acknowledge it.'
'Nay, twenty sestertia, was it not?'
'Twenty sestertia be it, then. What matters the amount, when I paid you upon the moment, and you now have the sum, whatever it may be, in your own purse?'
'True, true,' rejoined the other, nodding his head with an air of sage gravity; 'whatever it was, of a certainty I now have it. And then, Sergius, you offered against the ten—no, the twenty sestertia—to play the choice of all your new slaves.'
'Of my new male slaves, certainly.'
'No, of the slaves both male and female. I will tell you how it is that I so especially recollect. It was because I had heard from our lawgiver here about the beautiful Samian girl you have borne home among your share of the spoils. You did not think, perhaps, that I knew of her; but when I offered to throw the dice, I held her in my mind. And then, when I had won, and told you that I would select her, you said—'
'Exactly what I had said to you before, that you could take your choice from the male slaves,' interrupted the other impatiently. 'And I have brought you directly hither to make your selection, for fear that when you became sober you would forget the matter altogether, and thereby cheat yourself out of a fairly won prize. Am I not right, comrades? Was not the play as I have stated it?'
'Neither more nor less,' the poet answered; and the tribune and the praetorian captain spoke to the same effect. The comedian still looked unconvinced, and, for the moment, gazed inquiringly from one to the other, in the hope that some newer recollection would come to the mind of either of them and lead to a recantation. But in that desire he was disappointed, and at last he reluctantly gave up the contest, not daring to protract it longer for fear of provoking a quarrel, and thereby being thrust out of the society to which he was aware his social talents, counteracting his low birth and calling, were his sole passport. And after all, though he had too carelessly made his wager, he had won twenty sestertia and a male slave, and that was something.
'Well, be it so,' he assented, with a sigh. 'A male slave, since you say it. I had supposed I had spoken more particularly, but it seems that my poor brain was careless and at fault. Only bring the slaves hither quickly, that I may choose and go home, for I must play Castorex this morning, and this head of mine seems likely to split.'
'Let it split, then,' retorted Sergius with a laugh. 'It may save our cracking it some day with a goblet. Ho, there, Drumo!'
He was not obliged to call a second time, for, at the first ring of his voice, the obedient armor bearer emerged from one of the lower entrances into the court. He also, as well as his master, had been convivially celebrating his return, and now bore the evidences of his frolic in a sad combination of inflamed features, tangled hair, and disordered clothing.
'What ho, master?' he cried, stretching his huge limbs in a yawn and looking up. 'Am I wanted?'
'You have been drinking,' said Sergius; 'go to the fountain basin there and cleanse yourself. If there were fish in it, I would feel half inclined to cast you in to feed them. After that, come back to me.'
The giant grinned, knowing that his master placed too high a value upon him ever to make a dinner of him for the carp, though he might now and then inflict a stripe or two in anger upon his broad shoulders. Then kneeling down at the fountain, he quickly splashed the water into his face and eyes, ran one finger from his forehead to the crown of his head in order to part his disordered locks, pulled away a loose straw from behind his neck, gave his tumbled tunic one jerk to straighten it, and, with the air of a person who had made an elaborate toilet, and could afford to be well satisfied with the result, presented himself for inspection.
'So! Were my new slaves sent in last night?'
The armor bearer nodded.
'The whole allotment?'
'I suppose so, master. Fifty there should have been, the lictor said, when he brought them, but one had died, and they had thrown him into the Tiber to the fishes. Ho, ho, master, we shall all go one day to feed the fishes or the dogs or the worms, both you and I alike.'
'Silence, you hound!' said Sergius, more by way of habit than because he really minded a familiarity to which he had gradually grown accustomed.
'The others came a little before midnight, and I locked them up below,' the Gaul added, pointing to a low range of buildings at the foot of the garden. 'They are a well-looking lot, master, but among them all you will not find one to take my place; so, for this time, I am safe, and can yet say and do what I please. Ho, ho! And here is the list of them which the messenger brought.'
'Never mind the list. It is doubtless all correct,' said Sergius, waving the papyrus aside. 'Go, now, and bring the slaves hither.'
The man nodded, and taking a large key from a nail over his head, disappeared down the garden walk, and in a few moments returned, driving before him the whole body of captives which had fallen to the share of his master. As he had reported, they were of good quality, the best of the prisoners of war having naturally been reserved for the commander of the expedition. The men were mostly stout and athletic, while the women were of healthy and properly agreeable appearance. Of the whole number there were none who seemed to be at all sickly or ill favored; while the only one who exhibited any signs of deformity was a dwarf, whose withered and twisted figure imparted to him that peculiar grotesque and ape-like appearance which, at that period, was certain to commend him to the taste of wealthy purchasers, and render him of more value than a man of correct proportions. Moreover, as a general thing, the captives seemed more cheerful than they had been the day before, having had the advantage of several hours' rest and of better food than had fallen to their lot at any time during the journey. There were a few who manifested sorrow at having been separated from relatives or friends with whom they had succeeded in travelling to the very gates of the city; and some others, as yet unbroken to misfortune, maintained a rebellious and intractable demeanor. But the majority had already made up their minds that slavery was henceforth their inevitable fate, and that their highest future happiness must be looked for in its alleviation rather than in its abolition; and they now appeared to take pleasure in the thought that their fortune had led them to a wealthy household, where they would probably experience kind treatment and have easy tasks allotted to them.
Now, having reached the paved court, the captives rested and awaited the inspection of their owner—some sitting upon the marble border of the fountain, some standing by in groups, and through a sort of sympathy holding each others' hands, as though that would give protection. A few gazed moodily upon the ground; and one or two, oppressed with sorrow or nervous apprehension, quietly wept. But the greater portion, impressed with a dim consciousness that their future lot might depend upon their present conduct and appearance, endeavored to assume an air of pleased satisfaction, and thereby possibly win the favorable notice of the group which stood surveying them from the balcony, or at the least the friendly compassion of the older slaves of the household, who began to pour forth from the different doors upon the ground floor of the palace, and join unbidden in the inspection. Most of these, in the early days of their captivity, had stood up in the centre of similar gaping and curious crowds, and now in their turn they sated their curiosity upon the new comers. A few, remembering their own sorrows of those former times, seemed compassionate; others manifested careless indifference; some wondered whether enough of the present reinforcement would be retained to materially lighten their own labors; and others, who had been known to fail in attention to their peculiar departments of industry, trembled lest their places might now be supplied by the new comers, and themselves be again driven off to market. Whatever their thoughts and feelings, however, no one ventured to approach too near or speak aloud, excepting the armor bearer, who, as the privileged slave of the household as well as the marshal of the occasion, moved hither and thither among the captives, encouraging some with rude jokes, shoving others back or forward into suitable positions, and generally endeavoring to set forth the merits of the whole mass in as favorable a light as possible.
'Now stand forward where the noble imperator and his friends can see you,' was his command to a well-featured, strong-limbed Rhodian. 'Do you think to better your lot by slinking out of sight among the women, and so perhaps be sent off unnoticed to the market, and there be purchased for hard labor in the quarry pits? Who knows but that if my master sees you, he may make a gladiator of you; and then you can fight before emperors and consuls.'
'What care I for your master?' retorted the man. 'Let him give me back my wife and my child, whom I yesterday had, and who now are gone.'
The armor bearer shrugged his shoulders.
'Is that all?' he said. 'Wives are plenty in this city of Rome. When I first came from Gaul, I too had a wife, and, like you, lost her. What then? I suppose that she is happy, wherever she may be; and I—I have not allowed myself to be lonely since. But neither did I let myself slink behind, when I stood in the market; but I pressed forward and struck upon my chest, and called to the highborn and the rich to look upon me, and see how a man could be made, and what he could be good for. And here am I now, a slave, indeed—that cannot be helped—but for all that, a ruler over the other slaves, and my master's favorite and companion. By the immortal gods! there is more manliness in yonder dwarf, with his open face, than in you, with your whimpering and your tears. I will call him forward to teach you a lesson how to act.'
At the first beck the dwarf pressed forward with a smile, alternately stretching up to make the most of his diminutive proportions, and then bowing low to crave the good will of the spectators. His appearance brought him instant commendation; and more particularly did the praetorian captain break forth into expressions of appreciation.
'A proper dwarf! a most excellent dwarf! Smaller and more ugly by a quarter than one which I have known to be sold for forty sestertia! And see, Bassus, how he bows and rubs his hands and shows his teeth at yourself. He has perhaps been the buffoon in a Grecian theatre, and in you now recognizes a brother in the art. Take him, therefore, for your choice. At the very least, he will be of value to carry your bag of plays before you, and he may even help you act.'
The comedian forced a sickly smile upon his features, not daring to quarrel with his companion, yet not insensible to the sneering tone with which he was addressed. He had, at the first, been struck with the dwarf, and half inclined to choose him. But now the mocking speech deterred him.
'You are disposed to be merry,' he said; 'nor do you reason well. It is not an ape that an actor wants to carry his plays. There are enough such to listen to them. I will leave the dwarf, therefore, for you to purchase. Perhaps, after all, there may be a place found for him somewhere in your own household. I will make another selection for myself.'
And descending from the piazza, he moved in among the captives for the purpose of entering upon a more careful inspection. Eager as he was at all times to make the best of a bargain, he was the more especially anxious now; for the contemptuous tones of his companions rankled in his heart, and he felt that the more he evinced a capacity to benefit himself, the more he would be likely to disappoint them. Passing deliberately about the slaves, therefore, he scrutinized each face and form before him with the most exact attention; carefully lifting the eyelid of one, and examining the teeth of another—now pressing his knuckles into an expanded chest, then twisting a muscular arm—causing some to stoop, and others to bend back—and generally practising all those arts and expedients which a professional slave dealer would employ to guard himself against imposition. Nor was it until the lapse of many minutes that he settled upon his prize.
'I will take this man,' he said, dragging the Rhodian forth by the shoulder. 'He shall be my slave.'
'It is well; take him,' responded Sergius, in his most courtly tone. And for the moment or two, during which his companions yet tarried, he maintained a demeanor so studied and controlled that it would have required a keen glance to detect in his face his bitter sense of disappointment at the selection which the comedian had made.
As Sergius turned and entered the house, those who had seen him saluted as the favorite of the emperor and the idol of the crowd, and thence had believed unbounded happiness must be his never-varying lot, would have been astonished to know how many things there were which rankled painfully in his heart, and, for the moment, made him discontented and fretful.
Thoroughly jealous in respect to his military fame, he was suspicious that the cheers of the crowd upon his ovation had been elicited more by the perfection of the pageantry than by a proper appreciation of his own merits; while it was certain that the Senate, though meeting him with the customary congratulations, had delivered them with more form than enthusiasm. And though the emperor had given audience, he had bestowed no new honors upon him. To these disappointments was added the unhappy, self-accusing consciousness of having failed in duty to his own dignity, by having passed the night in wild revelry and among companions, many of whom were beneath him in every quality except their talent for ribald jesting and buffoonery. Moreover, though reputed wealthy, he was at present pressed for money, and had added to his embarrassments by losing at the gaming table during the past night more than he could well afford to part with; while, to add to all other vexations, the comedian Bassus had not only increased the loss by selecting the most valuable slave, but had performed the action in a cool and calculating manner, which was particularly exasperating.
'The low buffoon!' Sergius muttered to himself. 'Who would have thought that, half drunken as he was, he would have had the wit to select a slave worth double the sum which had been staked against him, and one whom I had obtained with such trouble, and for my own purposes? Can it be that he pretended his intoxication the more easily to outwit me? I had no fear, but believed that he would be sure to select some slim youth who could be taught to play the flute before him or act as cupbearer. What demon put it into his head so suddenly to look for bone and muscle rather than for girlish graces?'
This last suspicion of having been made the victim of artful dissimulation added fuel to his vexation, more especially as, turning his head and glancing into the courtyard, he saw the comedian slipping through a side passage, and the Rhodian obediently following at his heels. This filled up the measure of Sergius's wrath. To his excited fancy the actor bore upon his face an insultingly satisfied smirk of triumph, while the Rhodian appeared larger and stronger than ever. With an exclamation of unavailing anger, Sergius pushed open the door, and stood in the presence of his wife.
It was into the dining hall that he had plunged. Upon a small table was placed the wine and bread and fruits which formed the customary morning meal among the richer Romans; and beside the table stood AEnone, in an attitude in which hope and fear and surprise and disappointment were equally blended.
Clad in the manner which she knew had always best pleased his fancy, wearing the adornments which, as his gifts, he would most naturally prefer to see upon her, with her curling locks parted as in former days he had liked her to dress them, even striving to impart to her features the peculiar radiant expression which, in other times, had most won his heart—she had impatiently awaited his approach, with a vague fear whispering poisonous surmises to her soul, but yet with a joyful and hopeful assurance of good predominating over all. As soon as these friends of his had departed—she had said to herself—he would no longer delay coming to her. He would meet her with extended arms and the same joyous welcome as of old. He would utter kind and pleasant words expressive of his happiness, and would fold her to his heart. There would she nestle and forget her foolish fears and suspicions of the past night, and would only remember that she was loved. As, however, she now saw the frown upon his face, her heart and courage failed her; and in proportion as she had previously fortified her mind with hopeful confidence, a terrible reaction of apprehension overcame her. Could it be that the angry look was for her, and that it could be justified by any word that she had ever spoken or any duty that she had neglected? With one hand lightly resting upon the table, her right foot thrown forward in impulsive readiness to spring into his extended arms, but her whole form drooping and shrinking with dismay, her face pale, and the smile which she had called upon it now faintly and painfully flickering in a deathlike manner about her whitened lips, as it glided from her control and began to give place to an utter and undisguised fear, she stood awaiting his first word or action.
Then remembering what was due to her upon their first meeting, he smoothed the frown from off his face, held out his arms, and tenderly embraced her, uttering kind and loving words. It was the same gesture with which he had parted from her when, six months before, the state had called upon him to arouse from the ease and tranquility of his wedded life and do new service upon the field. Those were the same gentle and affectionate words which he had been wont to utter. And yet to her quickened apprehension, urged on by some secret instinct, it seemed as though the soul of the tender greeting was gone, leaving but the mere form behind. Could it be that during those few months of absence he had learned to think less dearly of her? At the thought, the last faint gleams of the flickering smile died away from her face; while he, unobservant of her distress, and still goaded by the remembrance of his losses, released her from his embrace and threw himself heavily down upon the nearest lounge.
'I am thirsty,' he said. 'Give me some drink.'
She poured some wine into a goblet, and timidly presented it to his lips. The liquid, cooled with snow from the mountains, was refreshing to his palate, and he drank it to the last drop. As he parted with the goblet—rather tossing it away than setting it down—he noticed how she stood before him with whitened face and frightened features, and with the attitude of a shrinking slave rather than of a wife joyous to be of service. His heart smote him for his negligent greeting, and he rose up from the lounge and placed his arm about her.
'Not with you, AEnone, am I vexed,' he said, partly comprehending the cause of her emotion. And drawing her nearer, he commenced toying with her waving locks, telling her how for months he had been longing to meet her, and how her looks more than ever delighted him, and otherwise uttering such pleasant and reassuring words as soonest came into his mind. As she began to perceive that it was not for any fault of hers that he had displayed anger, her face gradually lost its expression of dread. But still she could not fail to notice that the words which he spoke were not such as are commonly prompted by a true and unpremeditated affection; but were rather the labored and soulless result of a mere good-natured desire to make atonement for a neglect, and were uttered in all the careless spirit with which one tries to soothe an improperly aggrieved child; and the old smile but feebly played upon her features, struggle with it as earnestly as she would.
'Nay, not at your sweet face is my anger excited, AEnone,' he said; 'but at that scurvy dog, Bassus. He should himself be a slave and the companion of slaves, were his true station meted out to him.'
'He with whom you passed the night?' suggested AEnone.
'Ay, he was one of us,' Sergius answered, taking a position nearer the table, and commencing to pick off a crumb of bread as the incentive to a more extended repast. 'He was with us, as there always will be some rude and unmannerly intruder in every company; but there were also others, the associates of Emilius. There was Sotus, the Egyptian, a learned astronomer, and Cyope, the renowned Greek dramatist, and Spoletius, who is now writing a history of the empire, and, if what he says is true, has already brought his work down to the time of the Emperor Nero—'
'And will carry it on until he reaches the present day! And will then, in their proper place, tell about your achievements, my lord!' exclaimed AEnone, a flush of expectation glowing upon her face, as she thought that here were her conjectures of the preceding evening about to be realized.
'Ay!' responded Sergius; 'I presume that he will speak of me and of what you dignify as my achievements, foolishly fond child; and therefore it was meet that I should not neglect the opportunity of being in his presence, in order that he might speak well of me rather than the reverse. Otherwise, you well know that I would have preferred to let revelling have the go-by, and to have come at once to gather you to my heart. But we men, whom the world calls celebrated, must be watchful, and learn to resign pleasure to duty, and guard our fame, or else it may go out like a wasted lamp, and leave it in the darkness of oblivion. We cannot spare our time to give free scope to our love, as though we were poor and unknown.'