[Transcriber's note: There are two Chapter VI's in this book. I have moved footnotes to the end of each chapter.]
SEA AND SHORE.
SEQUEL TO "MIRIAM'S MEMOIRS."
BY MRS. CATHARINE A. WARFIELD.
"THE HOUSEHOLD OF BOUVERIE," "MONFORT HALL," "MIRIAM'S HOUSE" "HESTER HOWARD'S TEMPTATION," "A DOUBLE WEDDING; OR, HOW SHE WAS WON," ETC.
"No fears hath she! Her giant form Majestically calm would go O'er wrathful surge, through blackening storm, 'Mid he deep darkness, white as snow! So stately her bearing, so proud her array, The main she will traverse forever and aye! Many ports shall exult in the gleam of her mast— Hush! hush! Thou vain dreamer, this hour is her last!"
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MRS. C.A. WARFIELD'S NEW WORKS.
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SEA AND SHORE.
THE HOUSEHOLD OF BOUVERIE.
A DOUBLE WEDDING; or, How She Was Won.
HESTER HOWARD'S TEMPTATION.
From Gail Hamilton, author of "Gala Days" etc.
"'The Household of Bouverie' is one of those books that pluck out all your teeth, and then dare you to bite them. Your interest is awakened at once in the first chapter, and you are whirled through in a lightning-express train that leaves you no opportunity to look at the little details of wood, and lawn, and river. You notice two or three little peculiarities of style—one or two 'bits' of painting—and then you pull on your seven-leagued boots and away you go."
From George Ripley's Review of "The Household of Bouverie" in Harper's Magazine.
"'The Household of Bouverie,' by Mrs. Warfield, is a wonderful book. I have read it twice—the second time more carefully than the first—and I use the term 'wonderful,' because it best expresses the feeling uppermost in my mind, both while reading and thinking it over. As a piece of imaginative writing, I have seen nothing to equal it since the days of Edgar A. Poe, and I doubt whether he could have sustained himself and the readers through a book half the size of the 'Household of Bouverie.' I have literally hurried through it by my intense sympathy, my devouring curiosity—It was more than interest. I read everywhere—between the courses of the hotel-table, on the boat, in the cars—until I had swallowed the last line. This is no common occurrence with a veteran romance reader like myself."
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"No fears hath she! Her giant form Majestically calm would go O'er wrathful surge, through blackening storm, 'Mid the deep darkness, white as snow! So stately her bearing, so proud her array, The main she will traverse forever and aye! Many ports shall exult in the gleam of her mast— Hush! hush! thou vain dreamer, this hour is her last!"
WILSON, "Isle of Palms."
* * * * *
"Then hold her Strictly confined in sombre banishment, And Doubt not but she will ere long, full gladly, Her freedom purchase at the price you name."
* * * * *
"No, subtle snake! It is the baseness of thy selfish mind, Full of all guile, and cunning, and deceit, That severs us so far, and shall do ever."
* * * * *
"Despair shall give me strength—where is the door? Mine eyes are dark! I cannot find it now. O God! protect me in this awful pass!"
JOANNA BAILLIE, Tragedy of "Orra."
SEA AND SHORE.
BY MRS. C.A. WARFIELD.
AUTHOR OF "THE HOUSEHOLD OF BOUVERIE."
It was a calm and hazy morning of Southern summer that on which I turned my face seaward from the "keep" of Beauseincourt, never, I knew, to see its time-stained walls again, save through the mirage of memory. There is an awe almost as solemn to me in a consciousness like this as that which attends the death-bed parting, and my straining eye takes in its last look of a familiar scene as it might do the ever-to-be-averted face of friendship.
The refrain of Poe's even then celebrated poem was ringing through my brain on that sultry August day, I remember, like a tolling bell, as I looked my last on the gloomy abode of the La Vignes; but I only said aloud, in answer to the sympathizing glances of one who sat before me—the gentle and quiet Marion—who had suddenly determined to accompany me to Savannah, nerved with unwonted impulse:
"Madame de Stael was right when she said that 'nevermore' was the saddest and most expressive word in the English tongue" (so harsh to her ears, usually). "I think she called it the sweetest, too, in sound; but to me it is simply the most sorrowful, a knell of doom, and it fills my soul to-day to overflowing, for 'never, never more' shall I look on Beauseincourt!"
"You cannot tell, Miss Harz, what time may do; you may still return to visit us in our retirement, you and Captain Wentworth," urged Marion, gently, leaning forward, as she spoke, to take my hand in hers.
"'Time the tomb-builder'" fell from my lips ere they were aware. "That is a grand thought—one that I saw lately in a Western poem, the New-Year's address of a young editor of Kentucky called Prentice. Is it not splendid, Marion?"
"Very awful, rather," she responded, with a faint shudder. "Time the 'comforter,' let us say, instead, Miss Miriam—Time the 'veil-spreader.'"
"Why, Marion, you are quite poetic to-day, quite Greek! That is a sweet and tender saying of yours, and I shall garner it. I stand reproved, my child. All honor to Time, the merciful, whether he builds palaces or tombs! but none the less do I reverence my young poet for that stupendous utterance of his soul. I shall watch the flight of that eaglet of the West with interest from this hour! May he aspire!"
"Not if he is a Jackson Democrat?" broke in the usually gentle Alice Durand, fired with a ready defiance of all heterodox policy, common, if not peculiar, to that region.
"Oh, but he is not; he is a good Whig instead—a Clay man, as we call such."
"Not a Calhoun man, though, I suppose, so I would not give a snap of my fingers for him or his poetry! It is very natural, for you, Miss Harz," in a somewhat deprecating tone, "to praise your partisans. I would not have you neutral if I could, it is so contemptible."
A little of the good doctor's spirit there, under all that exterior of meekness and modesty, I saw at a glance, and liked her none the less for it, if truth were told. And now we were nearing the gate, with its gray-stone pillars, on one of which, that from which the marble ball had rolled, to hide in the grass beneath, perchance, until the end of all, I had seen the joyous figure of Walter La Vigne so lightly poised on the occasion of my last exodus from Beauseincourt. A moment's pause, and the difficult, disused bolts that had once exasperated the patience of Colonel La Vigne were drawn asunder, and the clanking gates clashed behind us as we emerged from the shadowed domain into the glare and dust of the high-road.
Here Major Favraud, accompanied by Duganne, awaited us, seated in state in his lofty, stylish swung gig (with his tiny tiger behind), drawn tandem-wise by his high-stepping and peerless blooded bays, Castor and Pollux. Brothers, like the twins of Leda, they had been bred in the blue-grass region of Kentucky and the vicinity of Ashland, and were worthy of their ancient pedigree, their perfect training and classic names, the last bestowed when he first became their owner, by Major Favraud, who, with a touch of the whip or a turn of the hand, controlled them to subjection, fiery coursers although they were!
Dr. Durand, too, with his spacious and flame-lined gig, accompanied by his son, a lad of sixteen, awaited our arrival, and served to swell the cavalcade that wound slowly down the dusty road, with its sandy surface and red-clay substratum. A few young gentlemen on horseback completed our cortege.
Major Favraud sat holding his ribbons gracefully in one gauntleted hand, while he uncovered his head with the other, bowing suavely in his knightly fashion, as he said:
"Come drive with me, Miss Harz, for a while, and let the young folks take it together."
"Oh, no, Major Favraud; you must excuse me, indeed! I feel a little languid this morning, and I should be poor company. Besides, I cannot surrender my position as one of the young folks yet."
"Nay, I have something to say to you—something very earnest. You shall be at no trouble to entertain me; but you must not refuse a poor, sad fellow a word of counsel and cheer. I shall think hard of you if you decline to let me drive you a little way. Besides, the freshness of the morning is all lost on you there. Now, set Marion a good example, and she will, in turn, enliven me later."
So adjured, I consented to drive to the Fifteen-mile House with Major Favraud, and Duganne glided into the coach in my stead, to take my place and play vis-a-vis to Sylphy, who, as usual, was selected as traveling-companion on this occasion, "to take kear of de young ladies."
"I am so glad I have you all to myself once more, Miss Harz! I feel now that we are fast friends again. And I wanted to tell you, while I could speak of her, how much my poor wife liked you. (The time will come when I must not, dare not, you know.) But for circumstances, she would have urged you to become our guest, or even in-dweller; but you know how it all was! I need not feign any longer, nor apologize either."
"It must have been that she saw how lovely and spirituelle I found her," I said, "and could not bear to be outdone in consideration, nor to owe a debt of social gratitude. She knew so little of me. But these affinities are electric sometimes, I must believe."
"Yes, there is more of that sort of thing on earth, perhaps, 'than is dreamed of in our philosophy'—antagonism and attraction are always going on among us unconsciously."
"I am inclined to believe so from my own experience," I replied, vaguely, thinking, Heaven knows, of any thing at the moment rather than of him who sat beside me.
"Your mind is on Wentworth, I perceive," he said, softly; after a short pause, "now give up your dream for a little while and listen to this sober reality—sober to-day, at least," he added, with a light laugh. "By-the-way, talking of magnetism, do you know, Miss Harz, I think you are the most universally magnetic woman I ever saw? All the men fall in love with you, and the women don't hate you for it, either."
"How perfectly the last assertion disproves the first!" I replied; "but I retract, I will not, even for the sake of a syllogism, abuse my own sex; women are never envious except when men make them so, by casting down among them the golden apple of admiration."
"I know one man, at least, who never foments discord in this way! Wentworth, from the beginning, had eyes and ears for no one but yourself, yet I never dreamed the drama would be enacted so speedily; I own I was as much in the dark as anybody."
I could not reply to this badinage, as in happier moments I might have done, but said, digressively:
"By-the-by, while I think of it, I must put down on my tablet the order of Mr. Vernon. He wants 'Longfellow's Poems,' if for sale in Savannah. He has been permeating his brain with the 'Psalms of Life,' that have come out singly in the Knickerbocker Magazine, until he craves every thing that pure and noble mind has thrown forth in the shape of a song."
And I scribbled in my memorandum-book, for a moment, while Major Favraud mused.
"Longfellow!" he said, at last, "Phoebus, what a name!" adding affectedly, "yet it seems to me, on reflection, I have heard it before. He is a Yankee, of course! Now, do you earnestly believe a native of New England, by descent a legitimate witch-burner, you know, can be any thing better than a poll-parrot in the poetical line?"
"Have we not proof to the contrary, Major Favraud?"
"What proof? Metre and rhyme, I grant you—long and short—but show me the afflatus! They make verse with a penknife, like their wooden nutmegs. They are perfect Chinese for ingenuity and imitation, and the resemblance to the real Simon-pure is very perfect—externally. But when it comes to grating the nut for negus, we miss the aroma!"
"Do you pretend that Bryant is not a poet in the grain, and that the wondrous boy, Willis, was not also 'to the manner born?' Read 'Thanatopsis,' or are you acquainted with it already? I hardly think you can be. Read those scriptural poems."
"A very smooth school-exercise the first, no more. There is not a heart-beat in the whole grind. As to Willie—he failed egregiously, when he attempted to 'gild refined gold and paint the lily,' as he did in his so-called 'Sacred Poems.' He can spin a yarn pretty well, and coin a new word for a make-shift, amusingly, but save me from the foil-glitter of his poetry."
"This is surprising! You upset all precedent. I really wish you had not said these things. I now begin to see the truth of what my copy-book told me long ago, that 'evil association corrupts good manners,' or I will vary it and substitute 'opinions.' I must eschew your society, in a literary way, I must indeed, Major Favraud."
"Now comes along this strolling Longfellow minstrel," he continued, ignoring or not hearing my remark, "with his dreary hurdy-gurdy to cap the climax. Heavens! what a nasal twang the whole thing has to me. Not an original or cheerful note! 'Old Hundred' is joyful in comparison!"
"You shall not say that," I interrupted; "you shall not dare to say that in my presence. It is sheer slander, that you have caught up from some malignant British review, and, like all other serpents, you are venomous in proportion to your blindness! I am vexed with you, that you will not see with the clear, discerning eyes God gave you originally."
"But I do see with them, and very discerningly, notwithstanding your comparison. Now there is that 'Skeleton in Armor,' his last effusion, I believe, that you are all making such a work over—fine-sounding thing enough, I grant you, ingenious rhyme, and all that. But I know where the framework came from! Old Drayton furnished that in his 'Battle of Agincourt.'" Then in a clear, sonorous voice, he gave some specimens of each, so as to point the resemblance, real or imaginary.
"You are content with mere externs in finding your similitudes, Major Favraud! In power of thought, beauty of expression, what comparison is there? Drayton's verse is poor and vapid, even mean, beside Longfellow's."
"I grant you that. I have never for one moment disputed the ability of those Yankees. Their manufacturing talents are above all praise, but when it comes to the 'God-fire,' as an old German teacher of mine used to say, our simple Southern poets leave them all behind—'Beat them all hollow,' would be their own expression. You gee, Miss Harz, that Cavalier blood of ours, that inspired the old English bards, will tell, in spite of circumstances."
"But genius is of no rank—no blood—no clime! What court poet of his day, Major Favraud, compared with Robert Burns for feeling, fire, and pathos? Who ever sung such siren strains as Moore, a simple Irishman of low degree? No Cavalier blood there, I fancy! What power, what beauty in the poems of Walter Scott! Byron was a poet in spite of his condition, not because of it. Hear Barry Cornwall—how he stirs the blood I What trumpet like to Campbell I What mortal voice like to Shelley's? the hybrid angel! What full orchestra surpassed Coleridge for harmony and brilliancy of effect? Who paints panoramas like Southey? Who charms like Wordsworth? Yet these were men of medium condition, all—I hate the conceits of Cowley, Waller, Sir John Suckling, Carew, and the like. All of your Cavalier type, I believe, a set of hollow pretenders mostly."
"All this is overwhelming, I grant," bowing deferentially. "But I return to my first idea, that Puritan blood was not exactly fit to engender genius; and that in the rich, careless Southern nature there lurks a vein of undeveloped song that shall yet exonerate America from the charge of poverty of genius, brought by the haughty Briton! Yes, we will sing yet a mightier strain than has ever been poured since the time of Shakespeare! and in that good time coming weave a grander heroic poem than any since the days of Homer! Then men's souls shall have been tried in the furnace of affliction, and Greek meets not Greek, but Yankee. For we Southerners only bide our time!"
And he cut his spirited lead-horse, until it leaped forward suddenly, as though to vent his excitement, and, setting his email white teeth sternly, with an eye like a burning coal, looked forward into space, his whole face contracting.
"The Southern lyre has been but lightly swept so far, Miss Harz," he continued, a moment later, "and only by the fingers of love; we need Bellona to give tone to our orchestra."
I could not forbear reciting somewhat derisively the old couplet—
"'Sound the trumpet, teat the drum, Tremble France, we come, we come!'
"Is that the style Major Favraud?" I asked. "I remember the time when I thought these two lines the most soul-stirring in the language—they seem very bombastic now, in my maturity."
He smiled, and said: "The time is not come for our war-poem, and, as for love, let me give you one strain of Pinckney's to begin with;" and, without waiting for permission, he recited the beautiful "Pledge," with which all readers are now familiar, little known then, however, beyond the limits of the South, and entirely new to me, beginning with—
"I fill this cup to one made up Of loveliness alone, A woman of her gentle sex The seeming paragon"—
continuing to the end with eloquence and spirit.
"Now, that is poetry, Miss Harz! the real afflatus is there; the bead on the wine; the dew on the rose; the bloom on the grape! Nothing wanting that constitutes the indefinable divine thing called genius! You understand my idea, of course; explanations are superfluous."
I assented mutely, scarce knowing why I did so.
"Now, hear another." And the woods rang with his clear, sonorous accents as he declaimed, a little too scanningly, perhaps—too much like an enthusiastic boy:
"Love lurks upon my lady's lip, His bow is figured there; Within her eyes his arrows sleep; His fetters are—her hair!"
"I call that nothing but a bundle of conceits, Major Favraud, mostly of the days of Charles II., of Rochester himself—" interrupting him as I in turn was interrupted.
"But hear further," and he proceeded to the end of that marvelous ebullition of foam and fervor, such as celebrated the birth of Aphrodite herself perchance in the old Greek time; and which, despite my perverse intentions, stirred me as if I had quaffed a draught of pink champagne. Is it not, indeed, all couleur de rose? Hear this bit of melody, my reader, sitting in supreme judgment, and perhaps contempt, on your throne apart:
"'Upon her cheek the crimson ray By changes comes and goes, As rosy-hued Aurora's play Along the polar snows; Gay as the insect-bird that sips From scented flowers the dew— Pure as the snowy swan that dips Its wings in waters blue; Sweet thoughts are mirrored on her face, Like clouds on the calm sea, And every motion is a grace, Each word a melody!'"
"Yes, that is true poetry, I acknowledge, Major Favraud," I exclaimed, not at all humbled by conviction, though a little annoyed at the pointed manner in which he gave (looking in my face as he did so) these concluding lines:
"Say from what fair and sunny shore, Fair wanderer, dost thou rove, Lest what I only should adore I heedless think to love?"
"The character of Pinckney's genius," I rejoined, "is, I think, essentially like that of Praed, the last literary phase with me—for I am geological in my poetry, and take it in strata. But I am more generous to your Southern bard than you are to our glorious Longfellow! I don't call that imitation, but coincidence, the oneness of genius! I do not even insinuate plagiarism." My manner, cool and careless, steadied his own.
"You are right: our 'Shortfellow' was incapable of any thing of the sort. Peace be to his ashes! With all his nerve and vim, he died of melancholy, I believe. As good an end as any, however, and certainly highly respectable. But you know what Wordsworth says in his 'School-master'—
"'If there is one that may bemoan His kindred laid in earth, The household hearts that were his own, It is the man of mirth.'"
He sighed as he concluded his quotation—sighed, and slackened the pace of his flying steeds. "But give me something of Praed's in return," he said, rallying suddenly; "is there not a pretty little thing called 'How shall I woo her?'" glancing archly and somewhat impertinently at me, I thought—or, perhaps, what would simply have amused me in another man and mood shocked me in him, the recent widower—widowed, too, under such peculiar and awful circumstances! I did not reflect sufficiently perhaps, on his ignorance of many of these last.
How I deplored his levity, which nothing could overcome or restrain; and yet beneath which I even then believed lay depths of anguish! How I wished that influence of mine could prevail to induce him to divide his dual nature, "To throw away the worser part of it, and live the purer with the better half!" But I could only show disapprobation by the gravity of my silence.
"So you will not give me 'How shall I woo her?' Miss Harz?" a little embarrassed, I perceived, by my manner. "I have a fancy for the title, nevertheless, not having heard any more, and should be glad to hear the whole poem. But you are prudish to-day, I fancy."
"No, there is nothing in that poem, certainly, that angels might not hear approvingly; but it would sadden you, Major Favraud."
"I will take the chance of that," laughing. "Come, the poem, if you care to please your driver, and reward his care. See how skillfully I avoided that fallen branch—suppose I were to be spiteful, and upset you against this stump?"
Any thing was preferable to his levity; and, as I had warned him of the possible effect of the poem he solicited, I could not be accused of want of consideration in reciting it. Besides, he deserved the lesson, the stern lesson that it taught.
As this could in no way be understood by such of my readers as are unacquainted with this little gem, I venture to give it here—exquisite, passionate utterance that it is, though little known to fame, at least at this writing:
"'How shall I woo her? I will stand Beside her when she sings, And watch her fine and fairy hand Flit o'er the quivering strings! But shall I tell her I have heard, Though sweet her song may be, A voice where every whispered word Was more than song to me?
"'How shall I woo her? I will gaze, In sad and silent trance, On those blue eyes whose liquid rays Look love in every glance. But shall I tell her eyes more bright, Though bright her own may beam, Will fling a deeper spell to-night Upon me in my dream?'"
I hesitated. "Let me stop here, Major Favraud, I counsel you," I interpolated, earnestly; but he only rejoined:
"No, no! proceed, I entreat you! it is very beautiful—very touching, too!" Speaking calmly, and slacking rein, so that the grating of the wheels among the stems of the scarlet lychnis, that grew in immense patches on our road, might not disturb his sense of hearing, which, by-the-way, was exquisitely nice and fastidious.
"As you please, then;" and I continued the recitation.
"'How shall I woo her? I will try The charms of olden time, And swear by earth, and sea, and sky, And rave in prose and rhyme— And I will tell her, when I bent My knee in other years, I was not half so eloquent; I could not speak—for tears!'"
I watched him narrowly; the spell was working now; the poet's hand was sweeping, with a gust of power, that harp of a thousand strings, the wondrous human heart! And I again pursued, in suppressed tones of heart-felt emotion, the pathetic strain that he had evoked with an idea of its frivolity alone:
"'How shall I woo her? I will bow Before the holy shrine, And pray the prayer, and vow the vow, And press her lips to mine— And I will tell her, when she starts From passion's thrilling kiss, That memory to many hearts Is dearer far than bliss!'"
It was reserved for the concluding verse to unnerve him completely; a verse which I rendered with all the pathos of which I was capable, with a view to its final effect, I confess:
"'Away! away! the chords are mute, The bond is rent in twain; You cannot wake the silent lute, Or clasp its links again. Love's toil, I know, is little cost; Love's perjury is light sin; But souls that lose what I have lost, What have they left to win?'"
"What, indeed?" he exclaimed, impetuously—tears now streaming over his olive cheeks. He flung the reins to me with a quick, convulsive motion, and covered his face with his hands. Groans burst from his murmuring lips, and the great deeps of sorrow gave up their secrets. I was sorry to have so stirred him to the depths by any act or words of mine, and yet I enjoyed the certainty of his anguish.
I checked the horses beneath a magnolia-tree, and sat quietly waiting for the flood of emotion to subside as for him to take the initiative. I had no word to say, no consolation to offer. Nay, after consideration, rather did I glory in his grief, which redeemed his nature in my estimation, though grieved in turn to have afflicted him. For, in spite of all his faults, and my earlier prejudices, I loved this impulsive Southron man, as Scott has it, "right brotherly."
At last, looking up grave, tearless, and pale, and resuming his reins without apology for having surrendered them, he said, abruptly:
"All is so vain! Such mockery now to me! She was the sole reality of this universe to my heart! I grapple with shadows unceasingly. There is not on the face of this globe a more desolate wretch. You understand this! You feel for me, you do not deride me! You know how perfect, how spiritual she was! You loved her well—I saw it in your eyes, your manner—and for that, if nothing else, you have my heart-felt gratitude. So few appreciated her unearthly purity. Yet, was it not strange she should have loved a man so gross, so steeped in sensuous, thoughtless enjoyment—so remote from God as I am—have ever been? But the song speaks for me"—waving his gauntleted hand—"better than I can speak:
"'Away! away! the chords are mute, The bond is rent in twain.'"
"I shall never marry again—never! Miss Miriam, I know now, and shall know evermore, in all its fullness, and weariness, and bitterness, the meaning of that terrible word—alone! Eternal solitude. The Robinson Crusoe of society. A sort of social Daniel Boone. Thus you must ever consider me. And yet, just think of it, Miss Harz!"
"Oh, but you will not always feel so; there may come a time of reaction." I hesitated. It was not my purpose to encourage change.
"No, never! never!" he interrupted, passionately; "don't even suggest it—don't! and check me sternly if ever I forget my grief again in frivolity of any sort in your presence. You are a noble, sweet woman, with breadth enough of character to make allowances for the shortcomings of a poor, miserable man like me—trying to cheat himself back into gayety and the interests of life. I have sisters, but they are not like you. I wish to Heaven they were! There is not a woman in the world on whom I have any claims—on whose shoulder I can lean my head and take a hearty cry. And what are men at such a season? Mocking fiends, usually, the best of them! I shall go abroad, Miss Harz. I am no anchorite. You will hear of me as a gay man of the world, perhaps; but, as to being happy, that can never be again! The bubble of life has burst, and my existence falls flat to the earth. Victor Favraud, that airy nothing, is scarcely a 'local habitation and a name' now!"
"Let him make a name, then," I urged. "With military talents like yours, Major Favraud, the road to distinction will soon be open to you. Our approaching difficulties with France—"
"Oh, that will all be patched up, or has been, by this time. Van Buren is a crafty but peace-loving fox! Something of an epicurean, too, in his high estate. What grim old Jackson left half healed, he will complete the cure of. Ah, Miss Harz, I had hoped to flesh my sword in a nobler cause!"
I knew what he meant. That dream of nullification was still uppermost in his soul—dispersed, as it was, in the eyes of all reasonable men. I shook my head. "Thank God! all that is over," I said, gravely, fervently; "and my prayer to Him is that he may vouchsafe to preserve us for evermore an unbroken people!"
"May He help Israel when the time comes," he murmured low, "for come it will, Miss Harz, as surely as there is a sun in the heavens! 'and may I be there to see!' as John Gilpin said, or some one of him—which was it?"
And, whipping up his lagging steeds as we gained the open road, we emerged swiftly from the shadows of the forest—between nodding cornfields, already helmed and plumed for the harvest, and plantations green with thrifty cotton-plants, with their half-formed bolls, promising such bounteous yield, and meadows covered with the tufted Bermuda grass, with its golden-green verdure, we sped our way toward Lenoir's Landing.
This peninsula was formed by the junction of two rivers, between which intervened a narrow point of land, with a background of steep hills, covered with a growth of black-jack and yellow-pine to the summit. Here was a ferry with its Charon-like boat, of the primitive sort—flat barge, poled-over by negroes, and capable of containing at one time many bales of cotton, a stagecoach or wagon with four horses, besides passengers ad libitum.
This ferry constituted the chief source of revenue of Madame Grambeau, an old French lady, remarkable in many ways. She kept the stage-house hard by, with its neat picketed inclosure, its overhanging live-oak trees and small trim parterre, gay at this season with various annual flowers, scarce worth the cultivation, one would think, in that land of gorgeous perennial bloom. But Queen Margarets, ragged robins, variegated balsams, and tawny marigolds, have their associations, doubtless, to make them dear and valuable to the foreign heart, to which they seem essential, wherever a plot of ground be in possession.
Mignonette, I have observed, is a special passion with the French exile, recalling, doubtless, the narrow boxes, fitted to the stone window-sill of certain former lofty lodgings across the sea, perhaps, situated in the heart of some great city, and overlooking roofs and court-yards—the street being quite out of the question in such a view, distant, as it seems, from them, as the sky itself, though in an opposite direction.
I have used the word "exile" advisedly with regard to Madame Grambeau, and not figuratively at all. She was, I had been told, a bourgeoise, of good class, who had taken part in the early revolution, but who, when the canaille triumphed and drenched the land in blood, in the second phase of that fearful outburst of volcanic feeling, had fled before the whirlwind with her child and husband to embark for America. At the point of embarcation—like Evangeline—the husband and wife had been separated accidentally, and on her arrival in a strange land she found herself alone and penniless with her son, scarce six years old. Her husband had been carried to a Southern port, she learned by the merest chance, and, disguising herself in man's attire, and leading her little son by the hand, she set forth in quest of him, carrying with her a violin, which, together with the clothes she wore, had been found in the trunk of Monsieur Grambeau, brought on the vessel in which she came, but which depository she had been obliged to abandon, when setting forth on her pilgrimage.
She was no unskillful performer on this instrument, and solely by such aid she gained her food and lodging to the interior of Georgia. Reaching her destination after a long and painful journey and delays of many kinds, she found her husband living in a log-hut, on the border of Talupa River, a hut which he had built himself, and earning his bread by ferrying travellers across that stream.
Yet here, with the characteristic contentment of her people under all circumstances, she settled down quietly to aid him and make his home happy; bore him many children (most of whom were dead at the time I saw her, as those living were separated from her at that period), reared and educated them herself, toiled for and with them, late and early, strained every nerve in the arduous cause of duty, and found herself, in extreme old age, widowed and alone, having amassed but little of the world's lucre, yet cheerful and energetic even if dependent still on her own exertions.
All this and much more I had heard before I saw Madame Grambeau or her abode—a picturesque affair in itself, however humble—consisting originally of a log-house, to which more recently white frame wings had been attached, projecting a few feet in front of the primitive building, and connected thereto by a shed-roofed gallery, which embraced the whole front of the log-cottage, along which ran puncheon steps the entire length of the grand original tree-trunk, as of the porch itself. It was a triumph of rural art.
Over this portico, so low in front as barely to admit the passage of a tall man beneath its eaves, without stooping, a wild multiflora rose, then in full flower, was artistically trained so as to present a series of arches to the eye as the wayfarer approached the dwelling; no tapestry was ever half so lovely.
The path which led from the little white gate, with its swinging chain and ball, was covered with river-pebbles and shells, and bordered by box, trimly clipped and kept low, and the two broad steps, that led to the porch, bore evidence of recent scouring, though rough and unpainted.
Framed in one of those pointed natural cathedral-windows of vivid green, gemmed with red roses, of which the division-posts of the porch formed the white outlines, stood the most remarkable-looking aged woman I have ever seen. At a first glance, indeed, the question of sex would have arisen, and been found difficult to decide. Her attire seemed that of a friar, even to the small scalloped cape that scantily covered her shoulders, and the coarse black serge, of which her strait gown was composed, leaving exposed her neatly though coarsely clad feet, with their snow-white home-knit stockings, and low-quartered, well-polished calf-skin shoes, confined with steel buckles, and elevated on heels, then worn by men alone.
She wore a white habit shirt, the collar, bosom, and wristbands of which were visible; but no cap covered her silver hair, which was cropped in the neck, and divided at one side in true manly fashion. It was brushed well back from her expansive, fair, and unwrinkled forehead, beneath which large blue eyes looked out with that strange solemnity we see alone in the orbs of young, thoughtful children, or the very old.
Scott's description of the "Monk of Melrose Abbey" occurred to me, as I gazed on this calm and striking figure!
"And strangely on the knight looked he, And his blue eyes gleamed wild and wide."
She stood watching our approach, leaning with both hands on her ebony, silver-headed cane, above which she stooped slightly, her aged and somewhat severe, but serene face fully turned toward us, in the clear light of morning, with a grave majesty of aspect.
Above her head in its wicker cage swung the gray and crimson parrot, of which Sylphy had spoken, and to which, it may be remembered, she had so irreverently likened her master on one occasion; bursting forth, as it saw us coming, into a shrill, stereotyped phrase of welcome—"Bien venu, compatriote," that was irresistibly ludicrous and irrelevant.
"Tremble, France! we come—we come," said Major Favraud; "there's your quotation well applied this time, Miss Harz! It is impressive, after all."
"Hush! she will hear you," I remonstrated, quite awed in that still, majestic presence, for now we stood before our aged hostess, who, with a cold but stately politeness after Major Favraud's salutation and introduction, waved us in and across her threshold. As for Major Favraud, he had turned to leave us on the door-sill, to see to the comfort and safety of his horses; not liking, perhaps, the appearance of the superannuated ostler, who lounged near the stable of the inn, if such might be called this rustic retreat without sign, lodging, or bar-rooms.
"Are we in the mansion of a decayed queen, or the log-hut of a wayside innkeeper?" I questioned low of Marion.
"Both in one, it seems to me," was the reply. "But Madame Grambeau is no curiosity, no novelty to me, I have stopped here so frequently. I ought to have told you, before we came, not to be surprised."
Pausing at the door of a large, square room, from which voices proceeded, she invited us with a singularly graceful though formal courtesy to enter, smiling and pointing forward silently as she did so, and then, like Major Favraud, she turned and abandoned us at the door-sill, on which we stood riveted for a moment by the sound of a vibrant and eager voice speaking some never-to-be-forgotten words.
"For the slave is the coral-insect of the South," said the voice within; "insignificant in himself, he rears a giant structure—which will yet cause the wreck of the ship of state, should its keel grate too closely on that adamantine wall. 'L'etat c'est moi,' said Louis XIV., and that 'slavery is the South' is as true an utterance. Our staple—our patriarchal institution—our prosperity—are one and indissoluble, and the sooner the issue comes the better for the nation!"
Standing with his hand on the back of a chair near the casement-window of the large, low apartment, in close conversation with two other gentlemen, was the speaker of these remarkable words, which embraced the whole genius and policy of the South as it then existed, and which were delivered in those clear and perfectly modulated tones that bespeak the practised orator and the man of dominant energies.
I felt instinctively that I stood in the presence of one of the anointed princes of the earth—felt it, and was thrilled.
"Do you know that gentleman, Marion?" I whispered, as we seated ourselves on the old-fashioned settle, or rather sofa, in one corner of the room, gazing admiringly, as I spoke, on the tall, slight figure, with its air of power and poise, that stood at some distance, with averted face.
"No, I have no idea who it is, or who are his companions either," she replied; "unless"—hesitating with scrutiny in her eyes—
"His companions, I do not care to question of them!—but that man himself—the speaker—has a sovereign presence! Can it be possible—"
The entrance of Major Favraud interrupted further conjecture, for at the sound of those emphatic boots the stranger turned, and for one moment the splendor of his large dark eyes, in their iron framing, met my own, then passed recognizingly on to rest on the face of Major Favraud, and advancing with extended hands, made more cordial by his voice and smile, he greeted him familiarly as "Victor."
Major Favraud stood for a moment spell-bound—then suddenly rushing forward, flung his hat to the floor, caught the hand of the stranger between his own and pressed it to his heart. (To his lips, I think, he would fain have lifted it, falling on one knee, perchance, at the same time in a knightly fashion of hero-worship that modern reticence forbids.) But he contented himself with exclaiming:
"Mr. Calhoun! best of friends, welcome back to Georgia!" And tears started to his eyes and choked his utterance. Thus was my conjecture confirmed. I never felt so thrilled, so elated, by any presence.
There was a momentary pause after this fervent greeting, emotional on one part only.
"But why did you not meet me at Milledgeville?" asked Mr. Calhoun. "Most of my friends in this vicinity sustained me there. I have been discussing the great question again, Favraud, and I should have been glad of your countenance."
"I have been detained at home of late by a cruel necessity," was the faltering reply, "or I should never have played recreant to my old master."
"Good fortune spoiled me a fine lawyer in your case, Victor! But introduce me to your wife. Remember, I have never had the pleasure of meeting Madame Favraud," advancing, as he spoke, toward me, with his hand on Major Favraud's shoulder (above whom he towered by a head), courteously and impulsively.
"Miss Harz, Miss La Vigne, Miss Durand—Mr. Calhoun," said Major Favraud, pale as death now, and trembling as he spoke. "These ladies are friends of mine—one, a distant relative"—he hesitated—"within the last six weeks I have had the misfortune to lose my wife, Mr. Calhoun. You understand matters better now."
All conversation was cut short by this sudden announcement. Deeply shocked, Mr. Calhoun led Major Favraud aside, with a brief apology to me for his misapprehension, and they stood together, talking low, at the extreme end of the apartment, affording me thus an admirable opportunity for observing the personnel of the great Southern leader, during the brief space of time accorded by the change of stage-horses. For, with his friends, he was then en route for another appointment. He was canvassing the State, with a view to a final rally of its resources, preparatory to his last great effort—to scotch the serpent of the North, which finally, however, wound its insidious folds around the heart of brotherly affection, stifling it, as the snakes of fable were sent to do the baby Hercules.
No picture of Mr. Calhoun has ever done him justice, although his was a physiognomy that an artist could scarcely fail to make an extern likeness of, from its remarkable characteristics. It was truly an iron-bound face, condensed, powerful in every nerve, muscle, and lineament, and fraught, beyond almost all others, with intellect and resolution. But the glory and power of that glance and smile no painter could convey—those attributes of man which more fully than aught else betray the immortal soul!
Just as I beheld him that day, bending above Major Favraud in his tender, half-paternal dignity and solicitude combined, soothing and condoling with him (I could not doubt, from the expression of his speaking countenance), I see him still in mental vision; nor can I wonder more at the depth and strength of enthusiasm he awakened in the hearts of his friends.
It belongs not to every great man to excite this devotion, yet, where it blends with greatness, it is irresistible. Mohammed, Cyrus, Alexander, Darius, Pericles, Napoleon, were thus magnetically gifted. I recall few instances of others so distinguished in station who possessed this power, which has its root, perhaps, after all, in the great master-passion of mortality, the yearning for exalted sympathy, so seldom accorded.
This observation of mine was but a glimpse at best, for the winding of the stage-horn was the signal for Mr. Calhoun's departure, and I never saw him more. But that glimpse alone opened to my eyes a mighty volume!
A few days before I should have rejected as wearisome the details to which I listened with eagerness now, and which I even sought to elicit as to Mr. Calhoun—his mode of life, his mountain-home, and his passion, for those heights he inhabited, and which, no doubt, contributed to train his character to energy and strengthen his physique to endure its brain-burden, I heard with pleasure the account of one who had passed much of his youth beneath his roof, and who, however enthusiastic, was, in the very framing of his nature, strictly truthful with regard to the mutual devotion of the master and slaves, the invariable courtesy and sweetness of his deportment to his own family, his justice and regard for the feelings of his lowest dependant, his simplicity, his cheerfulness.
"A grave and even gloomy man in public life, he is all life and interest in the social circle," said Major Favraud. "His range of thought is the grandest and most unlimited, his powers of conversation are the rarest I have ever met with. Yet he never refused, on any occasion, to answer with minuteness the inquiries of the smallest child or most insignificant dependant. 'Had he not been Alexander, he must have been Parmenio.' Had fortune not struck out for him the path of a statesman, he would have made the most impressive and perfect of teachers. As it was, without the slightest approach to pedagogism, he involuntarily instructed all who came near him, without effort or weariness on either side."
"Does he love music—poetry?" I asked.
"Oh, yes; Scottish songs and classic verse, especially, are his delights. He has no affectation. His tastes are all his own—his opinions all genuine. He is, indeed, a man of very varied attainment, as well as great grasp of intellect. Yet, as you see, he likes his opposites sometimes, Miss Harz," and he laid his hand proudly on his own manly breast.
Talking thus in that large, low, scantily-furnished parlor, with its split-bottomed chairs, in primitive frames (and in somewhat strange contrast to its well-polished mahogany tables, dark with time, and walls adorned with good engravings), with its floor freshly scoured and sanded, while a simple deal stand in the centre bore a vase filled with the rarest and most exquisite wild-flowers I had ever seen (from the gorgeous amaryllis and hibiscus of these regions, down to wax-like blossoms of fragile delicacy and beauty, whose very names I knew not), and its many small diamond-paned casement-windows, all neatly curtained with coarse white muslin bordered with blue, time passed unconsciously until the noonday meal was announced.
We followed the Mercury of the establishment, a grave-looking little yellow boy, who seemed to have grown prematurely old, from his constant companionship, probably, with his preceptor and mistress, into a long, low apartment in the rear of the dwelling, where a table was spread for our party, with a damask cloth and napkins, decorated china and cut-glass, that proved Madame Grambeau's personal superintendence; and which elicited from Major Favraud, as he entered, a long, low whistle of approval and surprise, and the exclamation "Heh! madame! you are overwhelming us to-day with your magnificence."
I was amused with the response. "Sit down, Victor Favraud, and eat your dinner Christian-like, without remarks! You have never got over the spoiling you, received when you lay wounded under this roof. I shall indulge you no longer." Shaking her long forefinger at him. "Your familiarity needs to be checked." Her manner of grave and kindly irony removed all impression of rebuke from this speech, which Major Favraud received very coolly, spoiled child that he really was, rubbing his hands as he took the foot of the table. At the sight of the bouilli before him, from which a savory steam ascended to his epicurean nostrils, he said, notwithstanding: "Soup and bouilli too! Ah, madame, I see why you absented yourself so cruelly this morning. You have been engaged in good works!"
"Only the sauces, Favraud!—seulement les sauces."
"The sauces—it's just that!—Ude is a mere charlatan in comparison," turning to me. "Miss Harz, you never tasted any thing before like madame's soup and sauces. I wish she would take me in partnership for a while, if only to teach me the recipes that will otherwise die with her. What a restaurant we two could keep together!"
"You are too unsteady, Favraud, for my maitre d'hotel. Your mind is too much engrossed by the bubbles of politics, you would spoil all my materials, and realize the old proverb that 'the devil sends cooks.' But go to work like a good fellow, and carve the dish before you; by that time the soup will be removed. I have a fine fish, however, in reserve (let me announce this at once), for my end of the table."
"Here are croquets too, as I live," said Duganne, lifting a cover before him and peeping in, then returning it quietly to its place. "Are you a fairy, madame?"
"Much more like a witch," she said, with gayety. "You young men, at least, think every old, toothless gray-haired crone like me ready for the stake, you know."
"Not when they make such steaks," said Dr. Durand, attacking the dish, with its savory surroundings, before him.
"Ah! you make calembourgs, my good doctor.—What do you call them, Favraud? It is one of the few English words I do not know—or forget. I believe, to make them, however, is a medical peculiarity."
"Puns, madame, puns, not pills. Don't forget it now. It is time you were beginning to master our language. You know you are almost grown up!" and Favraud looked at her saucily.
"A language which madame speaks more perfectly than any foreigner I have ever known," I remarked. She bowed in answer, well pleased.
In truth, the accent of Madame Grambeau was barely detectable, and her phraseology was that of a well-translated book—correct, but not idiomatic, and bearing about it the idiosyncrasy of the language from which it was derived. She was evidently a person of culture and native power of intellect combined, and her finely-moulded face, as well as every gesture and tone, indicated superiority and character.
In that lonely wild, and beneath that lowly roof, there abode a spirit able and worthy to lead the coteries of the great, and to preside over the councils of statesmen, and (to rise in climax) the drawing-room of the grande monde. But it was her whim rather than her necessity to tarry where she could alone be strictly independent, a sine qua non of her being.
The son she had led by the hand from Hew York to Georgia, and who, standing by her side, distinctly remembered to have seen the head of the Princess Lamballe borne on a pole through the streets of Paris, was now a prominent member of the Legislature, and, through his rich wife, the incumbent of a great plantation.
But the teachings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, that philosophic sign-post, still influenced his mother, in her refusal to live under his splendid roof, and partake of his bounty, however liberally offered.
"I have a home of my own," she said, "a few faithful servants, brains, and energy still, besides a small account with General Curzon, in his bank at Savannah, wherewith to meet emergencies; while these things last, I will owe to no man or woman for bread or shelter. And, when these depart, may the grave cover my bones, and the good God receive my soul!"
Books alone she accepted as gifts from her son, and of these, in a little three-cornered library, she had a goodly store in the two languages which she read with equal facility, if not delight.
She showed us this nook before we left, and I saw, lying face downward, as she had recently left it, the volume she was then perusing at intervals—one of Madame Sand's novels, "Les Mauprats," I remember, a singular and powerful romance, then recently issued, whose root I have always thought might be found in Walter Scott's "Rob Roy," and more particularly in the Osbaldistone family commemorated in that work.
On suggesting this to Madame Grambeau, she too saw the resemblance I spoke of, and she agreed, with me, that the coincidence of genius furnished many such parallels, where no charge of plagiarism could be attached to either side.
A few bottles of "wild-berry wine," as Elizabeth Barrett called such fluids, were added to the dinner toward its close, and Marion begged permission to have her basket of cakes and fruits brought in for dessert, which else had been wanting to our repast; to which request Madame Grambeau graciously acceded.
"I make no confections," she said, "but I have lived on the juices of good meats, well prepared, with such vegetables as the Lord lets grow in this poor region, many years, and behold I am old and still able to do his service!"
"And a little good wine, too, occasionally—eh, madame?" added Major Favraud, impertinently.
"When attainable, Favraud. You drank good wine yourself, when you were here, and I partook with you moderately. But I buy none such. I drown not, Clarence-like, even in butts of malmsey, my hard-earned gold; and I own I am not fond of the juices of the muscadine of your hills;" and she tapped her snuffbox.
"You are going to hear her talk now," whispered Favraud; "that is a sign—equal to General Finistere's—the snuffbox tapping, I mean. The oracle is beginning to arouse! Come I let me stir her further!" and he inclined his head before her.
"I'll tell you what, madame, you must take a little cognac to keep off the chills of age. I have some of the best, and will send you down a demijohn, if you say the word; and in return you shall pray for me. I am a great sinner, Miss Harz thinks."
"Miss Harz is correct; and we will both promise you our prayers. She, too, is Catholic, I hope. No? I regret so, for her own sake; but your brandy I reject, Victor; remember that, and offend me not by sending it. You must not forget the fate of your malvoisie."
"Ah, madame, that was cruel! but I have forgiven you long since. I think, however, that the grape-vines bore better that year than ever before—thus watered, or wined, I mean.—Just think of it, Miss Harz! To pour good wine round the roots of a Fontainebleau grape, rather than replenish the springs of life with it! Was there ever waste like that since Cleopatra dissolved her pearl in vinegar?"
"Miss Harz will agree with me that a principle that could not resist the gift of a dozen bottles of choice wine was little worth. Of such stuff was made not the fathers of your Revolution. But stay, there is an explanation due to me, yet unrendered," she pursued, "I am a puzzled bourgeoise, I confess," she said, shaking her head. "Come, Favraud, explain. Who is this young lady?"
"A bourgeoise also," I replied for him, anxious to turn the tide of conversation into another channel for some reasons. "I had thought you an expatriated marquise, at least, madame!" I continued. "As for me, I am simply a governess."
"It is my glory, mademoiselle, to have been of that class to which belonged Madame Roland herself, and which represented that juste milieu which maintained the balance of society in France. When the dregs of the bas peuple rose to the surface of the revolution, commenced by the sound middle classes, we regarded the scum of aristocracy as the smaller of the two evils. As soon as the true element had ceased to assert itself in France, I fled forever from a land of bloodshed and misrule, and took shelter under the broad wing of your boasted American eagle."
"Which still continues to flap over you shelteringly, madame," I rejoined, somewhat flippantly, I fear, "and will to the end, no doubt; for, in its very organization, our country can never be subjected to the fluctuations of other lands—revolt and revolution."
"I am not so certain of this," she observed, shaking her white head slowly as she spoke, and, lifting a pinch of snuff from her tortoise-shell box (the companion of her whole married life, as she acquainted us), she inhaled it with an air of meditative self-complacency, then offered it quietly to the gentlemen, who were still sitting over their wine and peaches; passing by Marion, Alice Durand, and myself, completely, in this ovation.
"Good snuff is not to be sneezed at," said Major Favraud. "None offered to young ladies, it seems," taking a huge pinch, and thrusting it bravely up his nostrils, as one takes a spoonful of unpleasant medicine. Then contradicting his own assertion immediately afterward, he succeeded in expelling most of it in a series of violent sternutatory spasms, which left him breathless, red-faced, and watery-eyed, with a handkerchief much begrimed.
But Madame Grambeau seemed not to have noticed this ridiculous proceeding, which, of course, created momentary mirth at the expense of the penitent Favraud, to whom Dr. Durand repeated the tantalizing saying, that "it is a royal privilege to take snuff gracefully"—giving the example as he spoke, in a mock-heroic manner, quite as absurd and irrelevant as Favraud's own.
Lost in deep thought, and gently tapping her snuffbox as she mused—the tripod of her inspiration, as it seemed—Madame Grambeau sat silently, with what memories of the past and what insight into the future none can know save those like herself grown hoary with wisdom and experience.
At last she spoke, addressing her remarks to me, as though the careless words I had hazarded had just been spoken, and the attention of her hearers undiverted by divers absurdities—among others the affected gambols of Duganne—anxious to place himself in an agreeable aspect before both of his inamoratas, past and present.
"I do not agree with you, mademoiselle. I am one of those who think that in the very framing of this Constitution of ours the dragon's teeth were sown, whose harvest is not yet produced. Mr. Calhoun, with his prophetic eye, foresees that this crop of armed men is inevitable from such germs, as does Mr. Clay, were he only frank, which he is not, because he deludes himself—the most incurable and inexcusable of all deceptions."
And she applied herself again assiduously to her snuffbox, tapping it peremptorily before opening it, and, with a gloomy eye fixed on space, she continued:
"In all lands, from the time of Cassandra and Jeremiah up, there have been prophets. Prophets for good and prophets for ill—of which some few have been God-appointed, and the sayings of such alone have been preserved. The rest vanish away into oblivion like chaff before the wind—never mind what their achievement, what their boast.
"In this nation we have only two true prophets, Calhoun and Clay—both men of equal might, and resolution, and intellect—gifted as beseems their vocation, masterful and heroic; and to these all other men are subordinate in the great designs of Providence."
"Where do you leave Mr. Webster, John Quincy Adams, General Jackson himself, in such a category, madame?" I asked, eagerly.
"They are doing, or have done, the work God has appointed for them to do, I suppose, mademoiselle; but they are accessories merely of the times, and will pass away with the necessities of the moment."
"'The earth has bubbles as the water hath, and these are of them,'" said Major Favraud aside, between his short, set teeth, nodding to me as he spoke, and lending the next moment implicit attention to what Madame Grambeau was saying; for the brief pause she had made for another pinch of snuff was ended, and she continued impetuously, as if no interval had occurred:
"Clay is, unconsciously, I trust, for the honor of mankind, fulfilling his destiny—this great prophet who still refuses to prophesy. He is entering the wedge for what he declines to admit the possibility of—yet there must be moments when that eye of power pierces the clouds of prejudice and party, wherewith it seeks to blind its kingly vision, and descries the horrors beyond as the result of the acts he is now committing; and when such moments of clear conviction come to him, the ambitions tool of a party, I envy not his sensations," and she shook her head mournfully. "Not Napoleon at St. Helena, not Prometheus on his rock, were more to be pitied than he! the man whose ambition shall never know fruition, whose measures shall pass and leave no trace in less than fifty years after he has ceased to exist—the splendid failure of our century!"
She ceased for a moment, with her eye fixed on space, her hands clasped, her whole face and manner uplifted, as if, indeed, on her likewise the prophet's mantle had dropped from a chariot of fire.
"As to Calhoun—he is God-fearing," she continued, fervently. "In the solitudes of a spiritual Mount Sinai, he has received the tablets of the Lord, and bends every energy to their fulfillment. He, too, foresees—not with an eye like Clay's, clear only at intervals—and clouded by vanity, ambition, and sophistry, at other seasons—he, too, foresees the coming of our doom! His clear vision embraces anarchy, dissension, civil war, with all its attendant horrors, as the consequence of man's injustice; and, like Moses, he beholds the promised land into which he can never enter! Would that it were given to him to appoint his Joshua, or even to see him face to face, recognizingly! But this is not God's will. He lurks among the shadows yet—this Joshua of the South, but God shall yet search him out and bring him visibly before the people! Not while I live," she added, solemnly, "but within the natural lives of all others who sit this day around my table!"
"She is equal to Madame Le Normand!" said Major Favraud, aside, nodding approvingly at me.
"If one waits long enough, most prophecies may be fulfilled," I ventured; "but, madame, your words point to results too terrible—too unnatural, it seems to me, ever to be realized in these enlightened times or in this land of moderation."
"Child," she responded, "blood asserts itself to the end of races. There are two separate civilizations in this land, destined some day to come in fearful conflict; and the wars of Scylla, of the Jews themselves, shall be outdone in the horror and persistence of that strife of partners—I will not say brothers—for there is no brotherhood of blood between South and North, of which Clay and Calhoun stand forth to my mind as distinct types. No union of the red and white roses possible."
"But you forget, madame, that Mr. Clay is a Western man, a Virginian, a Kentuckian, and the representative of slave-holders," I remonstrated. "His interests are coincident with those of the South. His hope of the presidency itself vests in his constituents, and the wand would be broken in his hand were he to lend himself to partiality of any kind. Mr. Clay is a great patriot, I believe, Jacksonite though I am—he knows no South nor North, nor East nor West, but the Union alone, solid and undivided."
"All this is true," she answered, "in one sense. It is thus he speaks, and, like all partial parents, even thinks he feels toward his offspring; but observe his acts narrowly from first to last. He has a manufacturer's heart, with all his genius. He loves machinery—the sound of the mill, the anvil, the spinning-jenny, the sight of the ship upon the high-seas, or steamboat on the river, the roar of commerce, far more than the work of the husbandman. We are an agricultural people, we of the South and West—and especially we Southerners, with our poverty of invention, our one staple, our otherwise helpless habits, incident to the institution which, however it may be our curse, is still our wealth, and to which, for the present time, we are bound, Ixion-like, by every law of necessity. What does this tariff promise? Where will the profit rest? Where will the loss fall crushingly? The slow torture of which we read in histories of early times was like to this. Each day a weight was added to that already lying on the breast of a strong man, bound on his back by the cords of his oppressors, until relief and destruction came together, and the man was crushed; such was the peine forte et dure."
"Calhoun is patriarchal, and is now placing all his individual strength to the task of heaving off this incubus from the breast of our body politic, but with small avail, for he has no lever to assist him—no fulcrum whereon to rest it; otherwise he might say with Archimedes, 'With these I could move a world.' He is unaided, this eagled-eyed prophet of ours, looking sorrowfully, sagaciously down into the ages! South Carolina is the Joseph, that his cruel brothers, the remaining Southern States, have sold to the Egyptians, as a bond-slave. But they shall yet come to drink of his cup, and eat of his bread of opinion, in the famine of their Canaan. Nullification shall leave a fitting successor, as Philip of Macedon left Alexander to carry out his plans. The abolitionist and the slave-holder are as distinct as were Charles I. and Cromwell, or Catharine de Medicis and Henry of Navarre. The germ that Calhoun has planted shall lie long in the earth, perhaps, but when it breaks the surface, it shall grow in one night to maturity, like that in your so famous 'Mother Goose' story of 'Jack and his Bean-stalk,' forming a ladder wherewith to scale the abode of giants and slay them in their drunken sleep of security. But he who does this deed, this Joshua of the Lord's, this fierce successor of our gentle Moses, shall wade through his oceans of blood to gain the stone. God knoweth—He only—how all this shall end, whether in success or overthrow. It is so far wrapped in mystery."
As if she saw from some spiritual height the reign of terror she predicted, she dropped her head upon her hands and closed her eyes, and I felt my blood creep slowly through my veins as I followed her in thought across the waste of woe and desolation. For there was something in her manner, her voice (august and solemn with age and wisdom as these were), that impressed all who heard, with or in spite of their own consent, and for a time profound silence succeeded this harangue.
Dr. Durand was the first to recover himself. "I trust, my dear madame," he remarked, "that the substantial horrors realized in your youth still cast their dark shadows over the coming years, and so deceive you into prophecies that it is sad to hear from lips so reverent, and which, let us all pray, may never be realized. You yourself will say amen to that, I am convinced."
"Amen!" she murmured.
"Nonsense, Durand! don't play at hypocrite in your old age, after having been a true man all your life," broke in Major Favraud. "What is a conservative, after all, but a social parrot, who repeats 'wise saws and modern instances,' until he believes himself possessed of the wisdom of all the ages, and is incapable of conceiving of the existence even of an original idea?"
"By-the-by," digressed Duganne, weary of discussion, "hear that old fellow outside, how he is going on, Favraud, a propos of poll parrots, you know, as it all else, but the name of the bird, had been lost on his ear. Just listen!"
"Yes, hear him, and he edified," was the sarcastic response of Favraud to Duganne, who took no other notice, even if he understood the point, than to lead the way to the portico, where swung the cage of the jolly bird in question; and, headed by Madame Grambeau leaning on her cane, we followed simultaneously, with the exception of Major Favraud, who continued at the table with his cigar and cognac-flask, in sullen and solitary state.
"Nutmegs and nullification!" shrieked the parrot, as we stood before him. "Ha, ha, ha!"
"That is condensing the matter, certainly," I observed.
"Bienvenu, compatriote!" he repeated many times, laughing loudly, the next moment, as if in mockery.
"What a fiend it is!" said Marion, timidly; "only look at its black tongue, Miss Harz! Then what a laugh!"
"Danton! Danton! have you nothing to say to this strange lady?" said Madame Grambeau, addressing her bird by name; "you must not neglect my friends, Danton Pardi!"
"Bird of freedom, moulting—moulting!" was the whimsical rejoinder. "Jackson! give us your paw, Old Hick—Hick—Hickory!"
"This is the stuff Major Favraud taught him," she apologized, "when he used to lie on his porch day after day, after his hostile meeting with Juarez, which took place on that hill," signifying the site of the duel with her slender cane. "It was there they fought their duel, a Poutrance, and I knew it not until too late! His wife was too ill to come to him at that time, and the task of nursing him devolved on me, since when, on maternal principles, the lad has grown into my affections."
"The lad of forty-odd!" sneered Duganne, unnoticed, apparently, by the aged lady, however, at the moment, but not without amusing other hearers by this sally. Dr. Durand was especially delighted.
"For he is a boy at heart," she said later, "this same Victor Favraud of ours," gazing reprovingly around. "Indeed, he is the only American I have ever seen who possessed real gaiete de coeur, and for that, I imagine, he must thank his French extraction."
"Calhoun and cotton!" "Coal and codfish!" shouted the parrot at the top of his voice. "Catfish and coffee!"—"Rice cakes for breakfast"—"All in my eye, Betty Martin"—"Yarns and Yankees"—"Shad and shin-plasters"—"Yams and yaller boys," and so on, in a string of the most irrelevant alliteration and folly, that, like much other nonsense, evoked peals of laughter by its unexpected utterance, and which at last mollified and brought out Major Favraud himself, from his dignified retirement.
"You have ruined the morals of my bird," said Madame Grambeau, reproachfully. "Approach, Favraud, and justify yourself. In former times his discourse was discreet. He knew many wise proverbs and polite salutations in French and English both, most of which he has discarded in favor of your profane and foolish teachings. He is as bad as the 'Vert-vert' of Voltaire. I shall have to expel him soon, I fear."
"Danton, how can you so grieve your mistress?" remonstrated Major Favraud, lifting at the same time an admonitory finger, at which recognized signal, a part of past instructions probably, the parrot burst forth at once in a series of the most grotesque and outre oaths ear ever heard, ending (by the aid of some prompting from his teacher) by dismally croaking the fragment of a popular song thus travestied:
"My ole mistis dead and gone, She lef to me her ole jawbone. Says she, 'Charge up in dem yaller pines, And slay dem Yankee Philistines!'"—
ending with the invariable "Bonjour" or "Bienvenu, compatriote," and demoniac "Ha! ha! ha!"
"The memory of the creature is perfectly wonderful," I said. "Many parrots have I seen, but never one like this before. It must have sprung out of the Arabian Nights."
"I can teach any thing to every thing," digressed Major Favraud, "and without severity; it is my specialty. I was meant for a trainer of beasts, probably. I will get up an entertainment, I believe, in opposition to the industrious fleas, called the 'Desperate Doves,' and teach pigeons to muster, drill, and go through all the military motions. I could do it easily, and so repair my broken fortunes. I have one already at home that feigns death at the word of command. I have amused myself for hours at a time with this bird.—Don't say a word, Miss Harz," speaking low, "I see what you think of it all, but I have had to cheat misery some way or other. It was a wretched device and waste of existence, though. And when I see that great, distinguished man, who had such hopes of me as a boy, I feel that I could creep into an auger-hole for sheer shame of my extinguished promise."
"Not extinguished!" I murmured, "only under a cloud, still destined to be fulfilled."
"Only in the grave," he said, sadly, "with the promise common to all mankind;" and thus by gloomy glimpses I caught the truth.
We staid that night at the house of an aunt of Madame La Vigne's, who received us cordially, entertained us sumptuously, and dismissed us graciously.
The next morning at sunrise we again set out for Savannah, into which city we entered before the noonday heat, finding cool shelter and warm welcome at once under the roof of General Curzon, the South's most polished gentleman and finished man of letters, of whom it may be truly said that, "Take him for all in all, we ne'er shall look upon his like again."
[Footnote 1: It need not for one moment be supposed that the opinions of the author are represented through the extremist Favraud. To her Mr. Bryant stands forth as the high-priest of American poetry.]
[Footnote 2: The tariff.]
[Footnote 3: Since writing the above, the admirable picture of Mr. Healey has filled this void; and those who have seen good copies of this work, executed for and by the order of Louis Philippe, may have a clear idea of that glorious countenance, the like of which we shall not see again.
Perhaps it was from this very personal magnetism of which I have spoken that Healey succeeded better with the portrait of Mr. Calhoun than any of the others he was sent to this country to paint.]
[Footnote 4: It was about this time that Mr. Calhoun made his famous anti-tariff crusade throughout the land, it may be remembered by some of my readers.]
Before leaving the hospitable roof of General Curzon—beneath which I tarried for several days—awaiting the tardy sailing of the packet-steamer Kosciusko, bound for New York, circumstances determined me to leave in the hands of my host a desk which I had intended to carry with me, and which contained most of my treasures. First among these, indisputably, in intrinsic value were my diamonds—"sole remnant of a past magnificence;" but the miniatures of my father and mother, and Mabel, in the cases of which locks of twisted hair—brown, and black, and golden, and gray—were contained and combined (dear, imperishable memorials of vitality in most instances when all the rest was dust and ashes), and the early letters of my parents, together with the carefully-kept diary I had written at Beauseincourt, ranked beyond these even in my estimation.
The cause of this deposit of valuables was simply owing to the unstable lock of my trunk, the condition of which was detected too late to have it repaired before sailing. Madame Curzon had suggested to me the unsafe nature of such custody for objects of price, if, indeed, I possessed such at all. I told her then of my diamonds, and it was agreed between us that these, at least, had better be deposited in the bank of her husband, who would bring them to me himself a few months later—and on reflection I concluded to add my desk, pictures, and papers, to my more substantial treasures. These, at least, I felt assured no accident should throw into the hands of Bainrothe.
On my way to the ship I left the carriage for a moment, in pursuance with this idea, and, followed by King, the bearer of my large and weighty desk, entered the banking-house of my host, and was shown at once, by attentive clerks, to his peculiar sanctum. I told him my errand in a few words.
"Keep it until called for, unless you hear from me in the interval," I had said in allusion to my deposit, for he acknowledged the chances were slight of his leaving home until the following year, notwithstanding Madame Curzon's convictions.
"Called for by whom?" he asked, calmly.
"By Miriam Monfort in person or her order," I replied, laughingly, "This is a mystery that, by-and-by, shall be explained to you."
"I understand something of that already," he rejoined. "Marion has been whispering to the reeds, you know, or Madame Curzon, the same thing nearly; but let us be earnest, as your time is short, and mine precious to-day. Life is uncertain, and, young and strong as you are, or seem to be, you cannot foresee one hour even of the future, or of your own existence. Suppose Miriam Monfort neither comes in person nor sends her order for its restoration—what, then, is to become of this treasure-chest of hers?"
"You shall keep it then," I replied, unhesitatingly, "until my little sister reaches her majority, and cause it to be placed in her own hands, none other—or, stay, let her have it on the day before her marriage, should this occur earlier than the time mentioned, or when she reaches her eighteenth year in any case; but, above all things, be careful."
"So many conflicting directions confuse and mystify me, I confess. Come, let me write down your wishes, and the matter can be arranged formally, which is always best in any case. There, I think I have the gist of your idea," he said a few moments later, as he pushed over to me a slip of paper to read and sign, which done, I shook hands with him cordially, preparing to go. "But your receipt—you have forgotten to take it up!"
"O General Curzon! the whole proceeding seems so ominous," I said, turning back at the door to receive the proffered scrap, which, in another moment, dropped from my nerveless fingers, while these, clasped over my streaming eyes, forgot their office.
"My dear young lady," he remonstrated, "I am shocked. What can have occurred to impress you thus? Not this mere routine of affairs, surely?—Duncan, a glass of water here for Miss Monfort."
"I do not know, I am sure, why I should be so weak for such a trifle," I said, after a few swallows of ice-water had somewhat restored my equilibrium; "but I do feel very dismally about this voyage—have done so ever since I left Beauseincourt. This is the last straw on the camel's back, believe me, General Curzon. You must not reproach yourself in the least—nor me; and now let me bid you farewell once more, perhaps eternally!"
These words of mine were remembered later in a very different spirit from that in which they were then received (one of incredulous compassion)—remembered as are ever the last utterances of the doomed, whether innocent or guilty, in solemn awe and reverential tenderness, not unmingled with a superstitions faith in presentiment.
"Why, you look bluer than your very obvious veil, bluer than your invisible school-marmish stockings, bluer than the skies, or a blue bag, or Madame de Stael's 'Corinne,' or Byron's 'dark-blue ocean,'" said Major Favraud, as he assisted me again into the carriage, where Dr. Durand and Marion awaited me, for, as I have said, we were now on our way to the vessel which was to bear me and my destinies forever from that lovely Southern land in which I had seen and suffered so much.
Dr. Durand looked serious at the sight of my woful aspect, and Marion mutely proffered her vinaigrette, gratefully accepted, as was the good doctor's compassionate silence; but, as usual, Favraud, after having once gotten fairly under weigh, ran on. "What is the use of bewailing the inevitable?" he pursued. "We have all seen your penchant for Curzon, and his for you, for three days past; but Octavia is as tough as lignum-vitae, I regret to assure you, my dear Miss Harz, and your chance is as blue as your spirits, or the flames of snap-dragon, or Marion's eyes. You will have to just put up with the captain, I fear, for even the doctor there is in harness for life. Southern women, you know, proverbially survive their husbands; and, as the suttee is out of fashion, they sometimes have to marry Yankees as a dernier ressort of desperation! Of course, there are occasional sad exceptions"—looking grave for a moment, and glancing at the black hat-band on the Panama hat he was nursing on his knees, so as to let the breeze blow through his silky, silver-streaked black hair—"but—but—in short, why will you all look so doleful? Isn't it bad enough to feel so?"
"The loveliest fade earliest, we all know," and the tears were in his honest, frivolous eyes, dashed away in the next moment as he exclaimed, eagerly, "Why, there goes the Lamarque equipage, as I live! I had forgotten all about it. The pleasantest woman in Savannah, young or old, is to be your compagnon de voyage, Miss Harz, and the most determined widower on record her escort; a perfect John Rogers of a man, with nine little motherless children, her brother Raguet ('Rag,' as we called him at school, on account of his prim stiffness, so that 'limber as a rag' seemed a most preposterous saying in his vicinity). He is handsome, however, and intelligent, a perfect gentleman, but on the mourners' bench just now, like some others you know of"—heaving a deep sigh. "His wife, poor thing, died last autumn—a pretty girl in her day was Cornelia Huger! I was a little weak in that direction once myself—before—that is, before—O doctor! what a trouble it is to remember!"
And again the small, fleet hand was dashed across the twinkling, tearful eyes of this April day of a middle-aged man of the world—this modern Mercutio—merry and mournful at once, as if there were two sides to his every mood, like the famous shield of story. When we reached the quay the Kosciusko was already getting up her steam, and, in less than an hour afterward, the friends I loved were gone like dreams, the bustle of departure was over, and, with lifted canvas and a puffing engine, we were grandly steaming past the noble forts (poor Bertie's broach and buckle, be it remembered) on our path of pride and power toward the broad Atlantic.
The weather was oppressively hot, and, for the first thirty-six hours, scarcely a breath of wind lifted us on our way, so that the engine, wholly incompetent to the work of both sails and machinery, bore us very slowly on our northward ocean-flight. Indeed, the failure of this engine to do its duty, at first, had sorely disheartened both captain and crew as we found later, for upon its execution and energies, in the beginning, had rested our entire dependence.
On the evening of the second day's voyage, a sudden and violent thunder-storm occurred, not unusual in those latitudes; during the raging of which our mainmast was struck by lightning, and wholly disabled.
The fire was extinguished in the only possible manner, by cutting it away from the decks, letting it gently down upon them, deluging it, so that our mast lay charred and blackened after its bath of sea-water, like a mighty serpent stretched along the ship, from stem to stern, and wrapped loosely in its shrouds. It did us good service later, though not by defying the winds of heaven, nor spreading forth its snowy sails to catch the tropic breezes.
Before many hours, it was destined to ride the waves in a shape that was certainly never intended by those who chose it among many others—taper and stately in its group of firs—to be the chief adornment of a gallant ship, and lift a pointing finger to the stars themselves, as an index of its might, and, with this exception, the hope of those it served—that of a charred and blackened life-raft.
The renewed freshness of the atmosphere, and the joyful upspringing of the breezes, alone remained, at midnight, to tell the story of the recent hurricane.
These tropic breezes came like benevolent fairies, to aid our groaning Titan in his labors.
I can never rid myself for one moment of the idea that an engine really works, with weary, reluctant strength like a genii slave, waiting vengefully for the time of retaliation, which sooner or later is sure to come; or of the visionary notion that a graceful, gliding ship, with all sails set, receives the same pleasure from its own motion and beauty that a snow-white swan must do "as down she bears before the gale," with her white plumage and stately crest.
I think, if ever I am called to give a toast, it shall be "Sail-ships; may their shadows never be less!" They are, indeed, a part of the romance of ocean.
The moon was full, in the balmy summer night that succeeded the tempest, and the ship's quarter-deck was crowded with the passengers of the Kosciusko, enjoying to the utmost, as it seemed, the delicious, newly-washed atmosphere, the moonlit heavens and sea, the exquisitely-caressing softness of the tardily-awakened breezes that filled the white sails of the vessel, and fluttered the silken scarf of the maiden, with the same wooing breath of persuasive, subtle strength.
Around Miss Lamarque, the lady of whom Major Favraud had spoken so admiringly, and to whose kindness he had committed me, a group had gathered, chiefly of the young, not to be surpassed in any land for manly bearing, graceful feminine beauty, gayety, wit, and refinement.
There was Helen Oscanyan, fair as a dream of Greece, in her serene, marble perfectness of form and feature; and the lovely Mollie Cairns, her cousin, small, dark, and sparkling—both under the care of that stately gentleman, their uncle, Julius Severe, of Savannah; and there were the sisters Percy, twins in age and appearance, with voices like brook-ripples, and eyes like wood-violets, and feet of Chinese minuteness and French perfection—the darlings and only joys of a mother still beautiful, though sad in her widowhood, and gentle as the dove that mourns its mate.
There was the brilliant Ralph Maxwell, whose jests, stinging and slight, just glanced over the surface of society without inflicting a wound, even as the skater's heel glides over ice, leaving its mark as it goes, yet breaking no crust of frost; and there was the poetic dreamer Dartmore, with his large, dark eyes, and moonlight face, and manner of suffering serenity, on his way to put forth for fame, as he fondly believed, his manuscript epic on the "Sorrows of the South."
All these, and more, were there gathering about the leader of their home-society, on that alien deck, as securely as though they were sitting in her own drawing-room at "Berthold," on one of her brilliant reception-evenings.
How could they know—how could they dream the truth—or descry the hidden skeleton at the festival, wreathed in flowers and veiled with glittering, filmy draperies, which yet put forth its bony fingers to beckon on and clutch them?
I too was joyous and unconscious as the rest, and for the first time for many days felt the burden literally heaved rather than lifted away that had oppressed me.
Was I not on my way to him in whose presence alone I lived my true life? and what feeling of his morbid fancy was there that my hand could not smooth away, when once entwined in his? Beauseincourt, and all its shadows, had I not put behind me? The sunshine lay before, and in its light and warmth I should still rejoice, as it was my birthright to do.
I was "fey" that night, as the Scotch say, when an unaccountable lightness of mood precedes a heavy sorrow, which it so often does, as well as the more usual mood, the presage of gloom. I felt that I had the power to put aside all ills—to grapple with my fate, and compel back my lost happiness. Truly my bosom's lord sat lightly on her throne, as of late it had not been her wont to do.
Against my inclination had I been drawn into the current of that youthful gayety, and now my bark floated without an effort on the stream. I was in my own element again, and my powers were all responsive.
The small hours came—the happy group dispersed—not without many interchanges of social compliment, much badinage, and merry plans for the morrow. The monster Sea-sickness had been defied on the balmy voyage, save in the brief interval of tempest, and his victors mocked him, baffled as he was, with their purpose of amusement.
"We shall get up the band to-morrow evening," said Major Ravenel, "and have a dance; the gallop would go grandly here. See what reach of quarter-deck we have! There are Germans on board who play in concert violins and wind-instruments."
"Suppose we dress as sea-nymphs," said Honoria Pyne; "enact a masque for old Neptune's benefit? It would be so complimentary, you know; bring down the house, no doubt, I have a sea-green tarlatan lying so conveniently. Colonel Latrobe looks exactly like a Triton, with that wondrous beard. A little alum sprinkled over its red-gold ground would do wonders in the way of effect—would be gorgeous—wouldn't it, now, Miss Harz?"
"But all that could be done on shore as well, Miss Pyne," I replied, in the way of reminiscence. "It is a pity to waste our opportunities of observation now, in getting up costumes; and, for my part, I confess that I have a wholesome dread of these sea-deities, and fear to exasperate their finny feelings by reducing them to effigies. Thetis is very spiteful, sometimes; and jealous, too, you remember."
Miss Pyne did not remember, but did not mean to be baffled either, she would let Miss Harz know, even if that lady did know more about mythology than herself; and, if no one else would join her, meant to play her role of sea-nymph all alone, with Major Latrobe for her Triton in waiting, tooting upon a conch-shell, and looking lovely! At which compliment, open and above-board, poor Major Latrobe, who was over head and ears in love with her, and a very ugly man, only bowed and looked more silly than before, which seemed a work of supererogation.
After the rest were gone, Miss Lamarque and I concluded to promenade on the nearly-deserted deck, in the moonlight, and let the excitement of the evening die away through the medium of more serious conversation. She was a woman of forty-five, still graceful and fine-looking, but bearing few traces of earlier beauty, probably better to behold, in her overripe maturity, than in the unfolding of her less attractive time of bud and blossom. Self had been laid aside now (which it never can be until the effervescence of youth and hope are over). She had accepted her position of old maid and universal benefactress, and sustained it nobly, gracefully. She was thoroughly well-bred and agreeable, very vivacious, astute, and intelligent, rather than intellectual, yet she had the capacity (had her training been different) to have been both of these.
I remember how it chanced that, after a long promenade, during which we had discussed men, manners, books, customs, costumes, and politics, even (that once tabooed subject for women, now free to all), with infinite zest and responsiveness that charmed us mutually, so that we swore allegiance on the strength of this one day's rencontre, like two school-girls or knights of old—I remember how the dropping of her comb at his feet caused Miss Lamarque to pause, compelling me to follow her example, by reason of our intertwined arms, in front of the man at the wheel, as he stooped to raise it and hand it to her with a seaman's bow. His ready politeness, unusual for one in his station, determined us to cultivate his maritime acquaintance, and in a short time we had drawn forth the outlines of his story, simple and bare as this was of incident.
His picturesque appearance had impressed us equally during the day, but until now we had not met in concert about Christian Garth, for such we soon found was the name of our polite pilot.
He was a Jerseyman, he told us, of German descent, married to the girl of his heart, and living on the coast of that adventurous little State, famous alike for its peaches and wrecks.
"Sall had a stocking full of money," he informed us, silver, and copper, and gold, when he married her, for her mother had been a famous huckster—and never missed her post in the Philadelphia market for thirty years, and this was her child's inheritance, and with this money he had fixed up his old hut, till it looked 'e'en a'most inside like a ship-captain's cabin.'
And now Sall wanted him to stay at home, he informed us, with her and the children, but somehow or other he could never tarry long at the hearth, for the sea pulled him like it was his mother, and the spell of the tides was on him, and he must foller even if he went to his own destruction, like them men that liquor lures to loss, or the love of mermaids.
"All land service is dead when likened to the sea," he said, shaking his great water-dog head, and looking out lovingly upon his idol. "But ships a'n't like they oncst was, ladies," he added, "before men put these here heavy iron ingines to work in 'em—it's like cropping a bird's wing to make a river-boat of a ship, and a burning shame to shorten sails till it looks like a young gal dressed in breeches or any other onnatural thing—for a sailing-ship and a full-flowing petticoat always rise up in a true man's mind together—God bless them both, I say."
"To which we cordially say amen, of course," said Miss Lamarque, laughing. "We should have been at a loss, however, Mr. Garth, but for our engine during the dead calm preceding the storm, when our ship's sails flapped so lazily about her masts, and she rocked like a baby's cradle without making progress. It is well the engineer manoeuvred so successfully while we lay fireless on the low rolling waves; but we are speeding along merrily enough now, to make up for it all—I take comfort in that—"