A MAGAZINE OF
Literature, Art, and Politics.
TICKNOR AND FIELDS,
135 WASHINGTON STREET.
LONDON: TRUeBNER AND COMPANY.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1865, by
TICKNOR AND FIELDS,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
ELECTROTYPED BY WELCH, BIGELOW, & CO.,
American Metropolis, The Fitz-Hugh Ludlow 73 Andersonville, At 285 Anno Domini Gail Hamilton 116 Authors, Memories of Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall 97, 223, 330, 477
Battle-Laureate, Our Oliver Wendell Holmes 589 Birds, With the John Burroughs 513
Chimney-Corner, The Mrs. H. B. Stowe 109, 221, 353, 490, 602, 732 Cobden, Richard M. C. Conway 724 Cruikshank, George, in Mexico 54
Dely's Cow Rose Terry 665 Doctor Johns Donald G. Mitchell 141, 296, 449, 591, 681 Dolliver Romance, Another Scene from the Nathaniel Hawthorne 1
England, A Letter about John Weiss 641 Europe and Asia, Between Bayard Taylor 8 Everett, Edward E. E. Hale 342
Fair Play the Best Policy T. W. Higginson 623 Five Sisters Court at Christmas-Tide 22 Foreign Enmity to the United States, Causes of E. P. Whipple 372
Great Lakes, The Samuel C. Clarke 693 Grit E. P. Whipple 407
Hofwyl, My Student-Life at Robert Dale Owen 550
Ice and Esquimaux D. A. Wasson 39, 201, 437, 564 "If Massa put Guns into our Han's" Fitz-Hugh Ludlow 504
John Brown's Raid John G. Rosengarten 711
Lecture, The Popular J. G. Holland 362 Lincoln, Abraham, The Place of, in History George Bancroft 757 Lone Woman, Adventures of a Jane G. Austin 385
Mining, Ancient, on the Shores of Lake Superior Albert D. Hagar 308 Modern Improvements and our National Debt E. B. Bigelow 729
Needle and Garden 88, 165, 316, 464, 613, 673
Officer's Journal, Leaves from T. W. Higginson 65 Out of the Sea Author of "Life in the Iron-Mills" 533
Painter, Our First Great, and his Works Sarah Clarke 129 Pettibone Lineage, The 419 Pianist, Notes of a Louis M. Gottschalk 177, 350, 573 Pleiades of Connecticut, The F. Sheldon 187 Prose Henriade, A Gail Hamilton 653
Regnard F. Sheldon 700 Revolution, Diplomacy of the Prof. George W. Greene 576 Richmond, Late Scenes in C. C. Coffin 744
St. Mary's, Up the T. W. Higginson 422 Sanitary, A Fortnight with the G. Reynolds 233 Schumann's Quintette in E Flat Major Anne M. Brewster 718
Taney, Roger Brooke Charles M. Ellis 151
Year, The Story of a Henry James, Jr. 257
Autumn Walt, My W. C. Bryant 20
Carolina Coronado, To 698 Castles T. B. Aldrich 622
Down! Henry H. Brownell 756
First Citizen, Our Oliver Wendell Holmes 462 Frozen Harbor, The J. T. Trowbridge 281
Garnaut Hall T. B. Aldrich 182 God Save the Flag O. W. Holmes 115 Going to Sleep Elizabeth A. C. Akers 680 Gold Egg.—A Dream Fantasy James Russell Lowell 528 Grave by the lake, The John G. Whittier 561
Harpocrates Bayard Taylor 662 Hour of Victory, The 371
Jaguar Hunt, The J. T. Trowbridge 742
Kallundborg Church John G. Whittier 51
Mantle of St. John de Matha, The John G. Whittier 162 Mr. Hosea Biglow to the Editor of the Atlantic Monthly James Russell Lowell 501
Oldest Friend, Our O. W. Holmes 340 Old House, The Alice Cary 213
Poet, To a, on his Birthday, 315 Pro Patria Epes Sargent 232
Rubin Badfellow T. B. Aldrich 437
Seventy-Six, On Board the James Russell Lowell 107 Spaniards' Graves at the Isles of Shoals, The 406
Wind over the Chimney, The Henry W. Longfellow 7
Harriet Hosmer's Zenobia Fitz-Hugh Ludlow 248
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
Beecher's Autobiography 631 Bushnell's Christ and His Salvation 377 Chamberlain's Autobiography of a New England Farm-House 255 Child's Looking toward Sunset 255 Cobbe's Broken Lights 124 De Vries, Collection. German Series 379 Dewey's Lowell Lectures 286 Frothingham's Philosophy 251 Hodde's Cradle of Rebellions 380 Hosmer's Morrisons 378 Hunt's Seer 376 Ingelow's Studies for Stories 378 Mendelssohn-Bartholdy's Letters 126 Murdoch's Patriotism in Poetry and Prose 250 Reynard the Fox 380 Russell's Review of Todleben's History 638 Sabine's Loyalists of the American Revolution 123 Seaside and Fireside Fairies 640 Thackeray's Vanity Fair 639 Thoreau's Cape Cod 381 Tuckerman's America and her Commentators 122
RECENT AMERICAN PUBLICATIONS 128, 382, 640, 764
A Magazine of Literature, Art, and Politics.
VOL. XV.—JANUARY, 1865.—NO. LXXXVII.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
ANOTHER SCENE FROM THE DOLLIVER ROMANCE.[A]
We may now suppose Grandsir Dolliver to have finished his breakfast, with a better appetite and sharper perception of the qualities of his food than he has generally felt of late years, whether it were due to old Martha's cookery or to the cordial of the night before. Little Pansie had also made an end of her bread and milk with entire satisfaction, and afterwards nibbled a crust, greatly enjoying its resistance to her little white teeth.
How this child came by the odd name of Pansie, and whether it was really her baptismal name, I have not ascertained. More probably it was one of those pet appellations that grow out of a child's character, or out of some keen thrill of affection in the parents, an unsought-for and unconscious felicity, a kind of revelation, teaching them the true name by which the child's guardian angel would know it,—a name with playfulness and love in it, that we often observe to supersede, in the practice of those who love the child best, the name that they carefully selected, and caused the clergyman to plaster indelibly on the poor little forehead at the font,—the love-name, whereby, if the child lives, the parents know it in their hearts, or by which, if it dies, God seems to have called it away, leaving the sound lingering faintly and sweetly through the house. In Pansie's case, it may have been a certain pensiveness which was sometimes seen under her childish frolic, and so translated itself into French, (pensee,) her mother having been of Acadian kin; or, quite as probably, it alluded merely to the color of her eyes, which, in some lights, were very like the dark petals of a tuft of pansies in the Doctor's garden. It might well be, indeed, on account of the suggested pensiveness; for the child's gayety had example to sustain it, no sympathy of other children or grown people,—and her melancholy, had it been so dark a feeling, was but the shadow of the house and of the old man. If brighter sunshine came, she would brighten with it. This morning, surely, as the three companions, Pansie, puss, and Grandsir Dolliver, emerged from the shadow of the house into the small adjoining enclosure, they seemed all frolicsome alike.
The Doctor, however, was intent over something that had reference to his life-long business of drugs. This little spot was the place where he was wont to cultivate a variety of herbs supposed to be endowed with medicinal virtue. Some of them had been long known in the pharmacopoeia of the Old World; and others, in the early days of the country, had been adopted by the first settlers from the Indian medicine-men, though with fear and even contrition, because these wild doctors were supposed to draw their pharmaceutic knowledge from no gracious source, the Black Man himself being the principal professor in their medical school. From his own experience, however, Dr. Dolliver had long since doubted, though he was not bold enough quite to come to the conclusion, that Indian shrubs, and the remedies prepared from them, were much less perilous than those so freely used in European practice, and singularly apt to be followed by results quite as propitious. Into such heterodoxy our friend was the more liable to fall because it had been taught him early in life by his old master, Dr. Swinnerton, who, at those not infrequent times when he indulged a certain unhappy predilection for strong waters, had been accustomed to inveigh in terms of the most cynical contempt and coarsest ridicule against the practice by which he lived, and, as he affirmed, inflicted death on his fellow-men. Our old apothecary, though too loyal to the learned profession with which he was connected fully to believe this bitter judgment, even when pronounced by his revered master, was still so far influenced that his conscience was possibly a little easier when making a preparation from forest herbs and roots than in the concoction of half a score of nauseous poisons into a single elaborate drug, as the fashion of that day was.
But there were shrubs in the garden of which he had never ventured to make a medical use, nor, indeed, did he know their virtue, although from year to year he had tended and fertilized, weeded and pruned them, with something like religious care. They were of the rarest character, and had been planted by the learned and famous Dr. Swinnerton, who on his death-bed, when he left his dwelling and all his abstruse manuscripts to his favorite pupil, had particularly directed his attention to this row of shrubs. They had been collected by himself from remote countries, and had the poignancy of torrid climes in them; and he told him, that, properly used, they would be worth all the rest of the legacy a hundred-fold. As the apothecary, however, found the manuscripts, in which he conjectured there was a treatise on the subject of these shrubs, mostly illegible, and quite beyond his comprehension in such passages as he succeeded in puzzling out, (partly, perhaps, owing to his very imperfect knowledge of Latin, in which language they were written,) he had never derived from them any of the promised benefit. And to say the truth, remembering that Dr. Swinnerton himself never appeared to triturate or decoct or do anything else with the mysterious herbs, our old friend was inclined to imagine the weighty commendation of their virtues to have been the idly solemn utterance of mental aberration at the hour of death. So, with the integrity that belonged to his character, he had nurtured them as tenderly as was possible in the ungenial climate and soil of New England, putting some of them into pots for the winter; but they had rather dwindled than flourished, and he had reaped no harvests from them, nor observed them with any degree of scientific interest.
His grandson, however, while yet a school-boy, had listened to the old man's legend of the miraculous virtues of these plants; and it took so firm a hold of his mind, that the row of outlandish vegetables seemed rooted in it, and certainly flourished there with richer luxuriance than in the soil where they actually grew. The story, acting thus early upon his imagination, may be said to have influenced his brief career in life, and, perchance, brought about its early close. The young man, in the opinion of competent judges, was endowed with remarkable abilities, and according to the rumor of the people had wonderful gifts, which were proved by the cures he had wrought with remedies of his own invention. His talents lay in the direction of scientific analysis and inventive combination of chemical powers. While under the pupilage of his grandfather, his progress had rapidly gone quite beyond his instructor's hope,—leaving him even to tremble at the audacity with which he overturned and invented theories, and to wonder at the depth at which he wrought beneath the superficialness and mock-mystery of the medical science of those days, like a miner sinking his shaft and running a hideous peril of the earth caving in above him. Especially did he devote himself to these plants; and under his care they had thriven beyond all former precedent, bursting into luxuriance of bloom, and most of them bearing beautiful flowers, which, however, in two or three instances, had the sort of natural repulsiveness that the serpent has in its beauty, compelled against its will, as it were, to warn the beholder of an unrevealed danger. The young man had long ago, it must be added, demanded of his grandfather the documents included in the legacy of Professor Swinnerton, and had spent days and nights upon them, growing pale over their mystic lore, which seemed the fruit not merely of the Professor's own labors, but of those of more ancient sages than he; and often a whole volume seemed to be compressed within the limits of a few lines of crabbed manuscript, judging from the time which it cost even the quick-minded student to decipher them.
Meantime these abstruse investigations had not wrought such disastrous effects as might have been feared, in causing Edward Dolliver to neglect the humble trade, the conduct of which his grandfather had now relinquished almost entirely into his hands. On the contrary, with the mere side results of his study, or what may be called the chips and shavings of his real work, he created a prosperity quite beyond anything that his simple-minded predecessor had ever hoped for, even at the most sanguine epoch of his life. The young man's adventurous endowments were miraculously alive, and connecting themselves with his remarkable ability for solid research, and perhaps his conscience being as yet imperfectly developed, (as it sometimes lies dormant in the young,) he spared not to produce compounds which, if the names were anywise to be trusted, would supersede all other remedies, and speedily render any medicine a needless thing, making the trade of apothecary an untenable one, and the title of Doctor obsolete. Whether there was real efficacy in these nostrums, and whether their author himself had faith in them, is more than can safely be said; but at all events, the public believed in them, and thronged to the old and dim sign of the Brazen Serpent, which, though hitherto familiar to them and their forefathers, now seemed to shine with auspicious lustre, as if its old Scriptural virtues were renewed. If any faith was to be put in human testimony, many marvellous cures were really performed, the fame of which spread far and wide, and caused demands for these medicines to come in from places far beyond the precincts of the little town. Our old apothecary, now degraded by the overshadowing influence of his grandson's character to a position not much above that of a shop-boy, stood behind the counter with a face sad and distrustful, and yet with an odd kind of fitful excitement in it, as if he would have liked to enjoy this new prosperity, had he dared. Then his venerable figure was to be seen dispensing these questionable compounds by the single bottle and by the dozen, wronging his simple conscience as he dealt out what he feared was trash or worse, shrinking from the reproachful eyes of every ancient physician who might chance to be passing by, but withal examining closely the silver or the New England coarsely printed bills which he took in payment, as if apprehensive that the delusive character of the commodity which he sold might be balanced by equal counterfeiting in the money received, or as if his faith in all things were shaken.
Is it not possible that this gifted young man had indeed found out those remedies which Nature has provided and laid away for the cure of every ill?
The disastrous termination of the most brilliant epoch that ever came to the Brazen Serpent must be told in a few words. One night, Edward Dolliver's young wife awoke, and, seeing the gray dawn creeping into the chamber, while her husband, it should seem, was still engaged in his laboratory, arose in her night-dress, and went to the door of the room to put in her gentle remonstrance against such labor. There she found him dead,—sunk down out of his chair upon the hearth, where were some ashes, apparently of burnt manuscripts, which appeared to comprise most of those included in Doctor Swinnerton's legacy, though one or two had fallen near the heap, and lay merely scorched beside it. It seemed as if he had thrown them into the fire, under a sudden impulse, in a great hurry and passion. It may be that he had come to the perception of something fatally false and deceptive in the successes which he had appeared to win, and was too proud and too conscientious to survive it. Doctors were called in, but had no power to revive him. An inquest was held, at which the jury, under the instruction, perhaps, of those same revengeful doctors, expressed the opinion that the poor young man, being given to strange contrivances with poisonous drugs, had died by incautiously tasting them himself. This verdict, and the terrible event itself, at once deprived the medicines of all their popularity; and the poor old apothecary was no longer under any necessity of disturbing his conscience by selling them. They at once lost their repute, and ceased to be in any demand. In the few instances in which they were tried the experiment was followed by no good results; and even those individuals who had fancied themselves cured, and had been loudest in spreading the praises of these beneficent compounds, now, as if for the utter demolition of the poor youth's credit, suffered under a recurrence of the worst symptoms, and, in more than one case, perished miserably: insomuch (for the days of witchcraft were still within the memory of living men and women) it was the general opinion that Satan had been personally concerned in this affliction, and that the Brazen Serpent, so long honored among them, was really the type of his subtle malevolence and perfect iniquity. It was rumored even that all preparations that came from the shop were harmful,—that teeth decayed that had been made pearly white by the use of the young chemist's dentifrice,—that cheeks were freckled that had been changed to damask roses by his cosmetics,—that hair turned gray or fell off that had become black, glossy, and luxuriant from the application of his mixtures,—that breath which his drugs had sweetened had now a sulphurous smell. Moreover, all the money heretofore amassed by the sale of them had been exhausted by Edward Dolliver in his lavish expenditure for the processes of his study; and nothing was left for Pansie, except a few valueless and unsalable bottles of medicine, and one or two others, perhaps more recondite than their inventor had seen fit to offer to the public. Little Pansie's mother lived but a short time after the shock of the terrible catastrophe; and, as we began our story with saying, she was left with no better guardianship or support than might be found in the efforts of a long superannuated man.
Nothing short of the simplicity, integrity, and piety of Grandsir Dolliver's character, known and acknowledged as far back as the oldest inhabitants remembered anything, and inevitably discoverable by the dullest and most prejudiced observers, in all its natural manifestations, could have protected him in still creeping about the streets. So far as he was personally concerned, however, all bitterness and suspicion had speedily passed away; and there remained still the careless and neglectful good-will, and the prescriptive reverence, not altogether reverential, which the world heedlessly awards to the unfortunate individual who outlives his generation.
And now that we have shown the reader sufficiently, or at least to the best of our knowledge, and perhaps at tedious length, what was the present position of Grandsir Dolliver, we may let our story pass onward, though at such a pace as suits the feeble gait of an old man.
The peculiarly brisk sensation of this morning, to which we have more than once alluded, enabled the Doctor to toil pretty vigorously at his medicinal herbs,—his catnip, his vervain, and the like; but he did not turn his attention to the row of mystic plants, with which so much of trouble and sorrow either was, or appeared to be, connected. In truth, his old soul was sick of them, and their very fragrance, which the warm sunshine made strongly perceptible, was odious to his nostrils. But the spicy, homelike scent of his other herbs, the English simples, was grateful to him, and so was the earth-smell, as he turned up the soil about their roots, and eagerly snuffed it in. Little Pansie, on the other hand, perhaps scandalized at great-grandpapa's neglect of the prettiest plants in his garden, resolved to do her small utmost towards balancing his injustice; so, with an old shingle, fallen from the roof, which she had appropriated as her agricultural tool, she began to dig about them, pulling up the weeds, as she saw grandpapa doing. The kitten, too, with a look of elfish sagacity, lent her assistance, plying her paws with vast haste and efficiency at the roots of one of the shrubs. This particular one was much smaller than the rest, perhaps because it was a native of the torrid zone, and required greater care than the others to make it nourish; so that, shrivelled, cankered, and scarcely showing a green leaf, both Pansie and the kitten probably mistook it for a weed. After their joint efforts had made a pretty big trench about it, the little girl seized the shrub with both hands, bestriding it with her plump little legs, and giving so vigorous a pull, that, long accustomed to be transplanted annually, it came up by the roots, and little Pansie came down in a sitting posture, making a broad impress on the soft earth. "See, see, Doctor!" cries Pansie, comically enough giving him his title of courtesy,—"look, grandpapa, the big, naughty weed!"
Now the Doctor had at once a peculiar dread and a peculiar value for this identical shrub, both because his grandson's investigations had been applied more ardently to it than to all the rest, and because it was associated in his mind with an ancient and sad recollection. For he had never forgotten that his wife, the early lost, had once taken a fancy to wear its flowers, day after day, through the whole season of their bloom, in her bosom, where they glowed like a gem, and deepened her somewhat pallid beauty with a richness never before seen in it. At least such was the effect which this tropical flower imparted to the beloved form in his memory, and thus it somehow both brightened and wronged her. This had happened not long before her death; and whenever, in the subsequent years, this plant had brought its annual flower, it had proved a kind of talisman to bring up the image of Bessie, radiant with this glow that did not really belong to her naturally passive beauty, quickly interchanging with another image of her form, with the snow of death on cheek and forehead. This reminiscence had remained among the things of which the Doctor was always conscious, but had never breathed a word, through the whole of his long life,—a sprig of sensibility that perhaps helped to keep him tenderer and purer than other men, who entertain no such follies. And the sight of the shrub often brought back the faint, golden gleam of her hair, as if her spirit were in the sun-lights of the garden, quivering into view and out of it. And therefore, when he saw what Pansie had done, he sent forth a strange, inarticulate, hoarse, tremulous exclamation, a sort of aged and decrepit cry of mingled emotion. "Naughty Pansie, to pull up grandpapa's flower!" said he, as soon as he could speak. "Poison, Pansie, poison! Fling it away, child!"
And dropping his spade, the old gentleman scrambled towards the little girl as quickly as his rusty joints would let him,—while Pansie, as apprehensive and quick of motion as a fawn, started up with a shriek of mirth and fear to escape him. It so happened that the garden-gate was ajar; and a puff of wind blowing it wide open, she escaped through this fortuitous avenue, followed by great-grandpapa and the kitten.
"Stop, naughty Pansie, stop!" shouted our old friend. "You will tumble into the grave!" The kitten, with the singular sensitiveness that seems to affect it at every kind of excitement, was now on her back.
And, indeed, this portentous warning was better grounded and had a more literal meaning than might be supposed; for the swinging gate communicated with the burial-ground, and almost directly in little Pansie's track there was a newly dug grave, ready to receive its tenant that afternoon. Pansie, however, fled onward with outstretched arms, half in fear, half in fun, plying her round little legs with wonderful promptitude, as if to escape Time or Death, in the person of Grandsir Dolliver, and happily avoiding the ominous pitfall that lies in every person's path, till, hearing a groan from her pursuer, she looked over her shoulder, and saw that poor grandpapa had stumbled over one of the many hillocks. She then suddenly wrinkled up her little visage, and sent forth a full-breathed roar of sympathy and alarm.
"Grandpapa has broken his neck now!" cried little Pansie, amid her sobs.
"Kiss grandpapa, and make it well, then," said the old gentleman, recollecting her remedy, and scrambling up more readily than could be expected. "Well," he murmured to himself, "a hair's-breadth more, and I should have been tumbled into yonder grave. Poor little Pansie! what wouldst thou have done then?"
"Make the grass grow over grandpapa," answered Pansie, laughing up in his face.
"Poh, poh, child, that is not a pretty thing to say," said grandpapa, pettishly and disappointed, as people are apt to be when they try to calculate on the fitful sympathies of childhood. "Come, you must go in to old Martha now."
The poor old gentleman was in the more haste to leave the spot because he found himself standing right in front of his own peculiar row of gravestones, consisting of eight or nine slabs of slate, adorned with carved borders rather rudely cut, and the earliest one, that of his Bessie, bending aslant, because the frost of so many winters had slowly undermined it. Over one grave of the row, that of his gifted grandson, there was no memorial. He felt a strange repugnance, stronger than he had ever felt before, to linger by these graves, and had none of the tender sorrow mingled with high and tender hopes that had sometimes made it seem good to him to be there. Such moods, perhaps, often come to the aged, when the hardened earth-crust over their souls shuts them out from spiritual influences.
Taking the child by the hand,—her little effervescence of infantile fun having passed into a downcast humor, though not well knowing as yet what a dusky cloud of disheartening fancies arose from these green hillocks,—he went heavily toward the garden-gate. Close to its threshold, so that one who was issuing forth or entering must needs step upon it or over it, lay a small flat stone, deeply imbedded in the ground, and partly covered with grass, inscribed with the name of "Dr. John Swinnerton, Physician."
"Ay," said the old man, as the well-remembered figure of his ancient instructor seemed to rise before him in his grave-apparel, with beard and gold-headed cane, black velvet doublet and cloak, "here lies a man who, as people have thought, had it in his power to avoid the grave! He had no little grandchild to tease him. He had the choice to die, and chose it."
So the old gentleman led Pansie over the stone, and carefully closed the gate; and, as it happened, he forgot the uprooted shrub, which Pansie, as she ran, had flung away, and which had fallen into the open grave; and when the funeral came that afternoon, the coffin was let down upon it, so that its bright, inauspicious flower never bloomed again.
[A] See July number, 1864, of this Magazine, for the first chapter of the story. The portion now published was not revised by the author, but is printed from his first draught.
THE WIND OVER THE CHIMNEY.
See, the fire is sinking low, Dusky red the embers glow, While above them still I cower,— While a moment more I linger, Though the clock, with lifted finger, Points beyond the midnight hour.
Sings the blackened log a tune Learned in some forgotten June From a school-boy at his play, When they both were young together, Heart of youth and summer weather Making all their holiday.
And the night-wind rising, hark! How above there in the dark, In the midnight and the snow, Ever wilder, fiercer, grander, Like the trumpets of Iskander, All the noisy chimneys blow!
Every quivering tongue of flame Seems to murmur some great name, Seems to say to me, "Aspire!" But the night-wind answers,—"Hollow Are the visions that you follow, Into darkness sinks your fire!"
Then the flicker of the blaze Gleams on volumes of old days, Written by masters of the art, Loud through whose majestic pages Rolls the melody of ages, Throb the harp-strings of the heart.
And again the tongues of flame Start exulting and exclaim,— "These are prophets, bards, and seers; In the horoscope of nations, Like ascendant constellations, They control the coming years."
But the night-wind cries,—"Despair! Those who walk with feet of air Leave no long-enduring marks; At God's forges incandescent Mighty hammers beat incessant, These are but the flying sparks.
"Dust are all the hands that wrought; Books are sepulchres of thought; The dead laurels of the dead Rustle for a moment only, Like the withered leaves in lonely Church-yards at some passing tread."
Suddenly the flame sinks down; Sink the rumors of renown; And alone the night-wind drear Clamors louder, wilder, vaguer,— "'T is the brand of Meleager Dying on the hearth-stone here!"
And I answer,—"Though it be, Why should that discomfort me? No endeavor is in vain; Its reward is in the doing, And the rapture of pursuing Is the prize the vanquished gain?"
BETWEEN EUROPE AND ASIA.
"Pushed off from one shore, and not yet landed on the other." Russian Proverb.
The railroad from Moscow to Nijni-Novgorod had been opened but a fortnight before. It was scarcely finished, indeed; for, in order to facilitate travel during the continuance of the Great Fair at the latter place, the gaps in the line, left by unbuilt bridges, were filled up with temporary trestle-work. The one daily express-train was so thronged that it required much exertion, and the freest use of the envoy's prestige, to secure a private carriage for our party. The sun was sinking over the low, hazy ridge of the Sparrow Hills as we left Moscow; and we enjoyed one more glimpse of the inexhaustible splendor of the city's thousand golden domes and pinnacles, softened by luminous smoke and transfigured dust, before the dark woods of fir intervened, and the twilight sank down on cold and lonely landscapes.
Thence, until darkness, there was nothing more to claim attention. Whoever has seen one landscape of Central Russia is familiar with three fourths of the whole region. Nowhere else—not even on the levels of Illinois—are the same features so constantly reproduced. One long, low swell of earth succeeds to another; it is rare that any other woods than birch and fir are seen; the cleared land presents a continuous succession of pasture, rye, wheat, potatoes, and cabbages; and the villages are as like as peas, in their huts of unpainted logs, clustering around a white church with five green domes. It is a monotony which nothing but the richest culture can prevent from becoming tiresome. Culture is to Nature what good manners are to man, rendering poverty of character endurable.
Stationing a servant at the door to prevent intrusion at the way-stations, we let down the curtains before our windows, and secured a comfortable privacy for the night, whence we issued only once, during a halt for supper. I entered the refreshment-room with very slender expectations, but was immediately served with plump partridges, tender cutlets, and green peas. The Russians made a rush for the great samovar (tea-urn) of brass, which shone from one end of the long table; and presently each had his tumbler of scalding tea, with a slice of lemon floating on the top. These people drink beverages of a temperature which would take the skin off Anglo-Saxon mouths. My tongue was more than once blistered, on beginning to drink after they had emptied their glasses. There is no station without its steaming samovar; and some persons, I verily believe, take their thirty-three hot teas between Moscow and St. Petersburg.
There is not much choice of dishes in the interior of Russia; but what one does get is sure to be tolerably good. Even on the Beresina and the Dnieper I have always fared better than at most of the places in our country where "Ten minutes for refreshments!" is announced day by day and year by year. Better a single beef-steak, where tenderness is, than a stalled ox, all gristle and grease. But then our cooking (for the public at least) is notoriously the worst in the civilized world; and I can safely pronounce the Russian better, without commending it very highly.
Some time in the night we passed the large town of Vladimir, and with the rising sun were well on our way to the Volga. I pushed aside the curtains, and looked out, to see what changes a night's travel had wrought in the scenery. It was a pleasant surprise. On the right stood a large, stately residence, embowered in gardens and orchards; while beyond it, stretching away to the south-east, opened a broad, shallow valley. The sweeping hills on either side were dotted with shocks of rye; and their thousands of acres of stubble shone like gold in the level rays. Herds of cattle were pasturing in the meadows, and the peasants (serfs no longer) were straggling out of the villages to their labor in the fields. The crosses and polished domes of churches sparkled on the horizon. Here the patches of primitive forest were of larger growth, the trunks cleaner and straighter, than we had yet seen. Nature was half conquered, in spite of the climate, and, the first time since leaving St. Petersburg, wore a habitable aspect. I recognized some of the features of Russian country-life, which Puschkin describes so charmingly in his poem of "Eugene Onaegin."
The agricultural development of Russia has been greatly retarded by the indifference of the nobility, whose vast estates comprise the best land of the empire, in those provinces where improvements might be most easily introduced. Although a large portion of the noble families pass their summers in the country, they use the season as a period of physical and pecuniary recuperation from the dissipations of the past, and preparation for those of the coming winter. Their possessions are so large (those of Count Scheremetieff, for instance, contain one hundred and thirty thousand inhabitants) that they push each other too far apart for social intercourse; and they consequently live en deshabille, careless of the great national interests in their hands. There is a class of our Southern planters which seems to have adopted a very similar mode of life,—families which shabbily starve for ten months, in order to make a lordly show at "the Springs" for the other two. A most accomplished Russian lady, the Princess D——, said to me,—"The want of an active, intelligent country society is our greatest misfortune. Our estates thus become a sort of exile. The few, here and there, who try to improve the condition of the people, through the improvement of the soil, are not supported by their neighbors, and lose heart. The more we gain in the life of the capital, the more we are oppressed by the solitude and stagnation of the life of the country."
This open, cheerful region continued through the morning. The railroad was still a novelty; and the peasants everywhere dropped their scythes and shovels to see the train pass. Some bowed with the profoundest gravity. They were a fine, healthy, strapping race of men, only of medium height, but admirably developed in chest and limbs, and with shrewd, intelligent faces. Content, not stupidity, is the cause of their stationary condition. They are not yet a people, but the germ of one, and, as such, present a grand field for anthropological studies.
Towards noon the road began to descend, by easy grades, from the fair, rolling uplands into a lower and wilder region. When the train stopped, women and children whose swarthy skin and black eyes betrayed a mixture of Tartar blood made their appearance, with wooden bowls of cherries and huckleberries for sale. These bowls were neatly carved and painted. They were evidently held in high value; for I had great difficulty in purchasing one. We moved slowly, on account of the many skeleton bridges; but presently a long blue ridge, which for an hour past had followed us in the south-east, began to curve around to our front. I now knew that it must mark the course of the Oka River, and that we were approaching Nijni-Novgorod.
We soon saw the river itself; then houses and gardens scattered along the slope of the hill; then clusters of sparkling domes on the summit; then a stately, white-walled citadel; and the end of the ridge was levelled down in an even line to the Volga. We were three hundred miles from Moscow, on the direct road to Siberia.
The city being on the farther side of the Oka, the railroad terminates at the Fair, which is a separate city, occupying the triangular level between the two rivers. Our approach to it was first announced by heaps of cotton-bales, bound in striped camel's-hair cloth, which had found their way hither from the distant valleys of Turkestan and the warm plains of Bukharia. Nearly fifty thousand camels are employed in the transportation of this staple across the deserts of the Aral to Orenburg,—a distance of a thousand miles. The increase of price had doubled the production since the previous year, and the amount which now reaches the factories of Russia through this channel cannot be less than seventy-five thousand bales. The advance of modern civilization has so intertwined the interests of all zones and races, that a civil war in the United States affects the industry of Central Asia!
Next to these cotton-bales, which, to us, silently proclaimed the downfall of that arrogant monopoly which has caused all our present woe, came the representatives of those who produced them. Groups of picturesque Asians—Bashkirs, Persians, Bukharians, and Uzbeks—appeared on either side, staring impassively at the wonderful apparition. Though there was sand under their feet, they seemed out of place in the sharp north-wind and among the hills of fir and pine.
The train stopped: we had reached the station. As I stepped upon the platform, I saw, over the level lines of copper roofs, the dragon-like pinnacles of Chinese buildings, and the white minaret of a mosque. Here was the certainty of a picturesque interest to balance the uncertainty of our situation. We had been unable to engage quarters in advance: there were two hundred thousand strangers before us, in a city the normal population of which is barely forty thousand; and four of our party were ladies. The envoy, indeed, might claim the Governor's hospitality; but our visit was to be so brief that we had no time to expend on ceremonies, and preferred rambling at will through the teeming bazaars to being led about under the charge of an official escort.
A friend at Moscow, however, had considerately telegraphed in our behalf to a French resident of Nijni, and the latter gentleman met us at the station. He could give but slight hope of quarters for the night, but generously offered his services. Droshkies were engaged to convey us to the old city, on the hill beyond the Oka; and, crowded two by two into the shabby little vehicles, we set forth. The sand was knee-deep, and the first thing that happened was the stoppage of our procession by the tumbling down of the several horses. They were righted with the help of some obliging spectators; and with infinite labor we worked through this strip of desert into a region of mud, with a hard, stony bottom somewhere between us and the earth's centre. The street we entered, though on the outskirts of the Fair, resembled Broadway on a sensation-day. It was choked with a crowd, composed of the sweepings of Europe and Asia. Our horses thrust their heads between the shoulders of Christians, Jews, Moslem, and Pagans, slowly shoving their way towards the floating bridge, which was a jam of vehicles from end to end. At the corners of the streets, the wiry Don Cossacks, in their dashing blue uniforms and caps of black lamb's-wool, regulated, as best they could, the movements of the multitude. It was curious to notice how they, and their small, well-knit horses,—the equine counterparts of themselves,—controlled the fierce, fiery life which flashed from every limb and feature, and did their duty with wonderful patience and gentleness. They seemed so many spirits of Disorder tamed to the service of Order.
It was nearly half an hour before we reached the other end of the bridge, and struck the superb inclined highway which leads to the top of the hill. We were unwashed and hungry; and neither the tumult of the lower town, nor the view of the Volga, crowded with vessels of all descriptions, had power to detain us. Our brave little horses bent themselves to the task; for task it really was,—the road rising between three and four hundred feet in less than half a mile. Advantage has been taken of a slight natural ravine, formed by a short, curving spur of the hill, which encloses a pocket of the greenest and richest foliage,—a bit of unsuspected beauty, quite invisible from the other side of the river. Then, in order to reach the level of the Kremlin, the road is led through an artificial gap, a hundred feet in depth, to the open square in the centre of the city.
Here, all was silent and deserted. There were broad, well-paved streets, substantial houses, the square towers and crenellated walls of the old Kremlin, and the glittering cupolas of twenty-six churches before us, and a lack of population which contrasted amazingly with the whirlpool of life below. Monsieur D., our new, but most faithful friend, took us to the hotel, every corner and cranny of which was occupied. There was a possibility of breakfast only, and water was obtained with great exertion. While we were lazily enjoying a tolerable meal, Monsieur D. was bestirring himself in all quarters, and came back to us radiant with luck. He had found four rooms in a neighboring street; and truly, if one were to believe De Custine or Dumas, such rooms are impossible in Russia. Charmingly clean, elegantly furnished, with sofas of green leather and beds of purest linen, they would hive satisfied the severe eye of an English housekeeper. We thanked both our good friend and St. Macarius (who presides over the Fair) for this fortune, took possession, and then hired fresh droshkies to descend the hill.
On emerging from the ravine, we obtained a bird's-eye view of the whole scene. The waters of both rivers, near at hand, were scarcely visible through the shipping which covered them. Vessels from the Neva, the Caspian, and the rivers of the Ural, were here congregated; and they alone represented a floating population of between thirty and forty thousand souls. The Fair, from this point, resembled an immense flat city,—the streets of booths being of a uniform height,—out of which rose the great Greek church, the Tartar mosque, and the curious Chinese roofs. It was a vast, dark, humming plain, vanishing towards the west and north-west in clouds of sand. By this time there was a lull in the business, and we made our way to the central bazaar with less trouble than we had anticipated. It is useless to attempt an enumeration of the wares exposed for sale: they embraced everything grown, trapped, or manufactured, between Ireland and Japan. We sought, of course, the Asiatic elements, which first met us in the shape of melons from Astrachan, and grapes from the southern slopes of the Caucasus. Then came wondrous stuffs from the looms of Turkestan and Cashmere, turquoises from the Upper Oxus, and glittering strings of Siberian topaz and amethyst, side by side with Nuremberg toys, Lyons silks, and Sheffield cutlery. About one third of the population of the Fair was of Asiatic blood, embracing representatives from almost every tribe north and west of the Himalayas.
This temporary city, which exists during only two months of the year, contained two hundred thousand inhabitants at the time of our visit. During the remaining ten months it is utterly depopulated, the bazaars are closed, and chains are drawn across the streets to prevent the passage of vehicles. A single statement will give an idea of its extent: the combined length of the streets is twenty-five miles. The Great Bazaar is substantially built of stone, after the manner of those in Constantinople, except that it encloses an open court, where a Government band performs every afternoon. Here the finer wares are displayed, and the shadowed air under the vaulted roofs is a very kaleidoscope for shifting color and sparkle. Tea, cotton, leather, wool, and the other heavier and coarser commodities, have their separate streets and quarters. The several nationalities are similarly divided, to some extent; but the stranger, of course, prefers to see them jostling together in the streets,—a Babel, not only of tongues, but of feature, character, and costume.
Our ladies were eager to inspect the stock of jewelry, especially those heaps of exquisite color with which the Mohammedans very logically load the trees of Paradise; for they resemble fruit in a glorified state of existence. One can imagine virtuous grapes promoted to amethysts, blueberries to turquoises, cherries to rubies, and green-gages to aqua-marine. These, the secondary jewels, (with the exception of the ruby,) are brought in great quantities from Siberia, but most of them are marred by slight flaws or other imperfections, so that their cheapness is more apparent than real. An amethyst an inch long, throwing the most delicious purple light from its hundreds of facets, quite takes you captive, and you put your hand in your pocket for the fifteen dollars which shall make you its possessor; but a closer inspection is sure to show you either a broad transverse flaw, or a spot where the color fades into transparency. The white topaz, known as the "Siberian diamond," is generally flawless, and the purest specimens are scarcely to be distinguished from the genuine brilliant. A necklace of these, varying from a half to a quarter of an inch in diameter, may be had for about twenty-five dollars. There were also golden and smoky topaz and beryl, in great profusion.
A princely Bashkir drew us to his booth, first by his beauty and then by his noble manners. He was the very incarnation of Boker's "Prince Adeb."
The girls of Damar paused to see me pass, I walking in my rags, yet beautiful. One maiden said, 'He has a prince's air!' I am a prince; the air was all my own.
This Bashkir, however, was not in rags; he was elegantly attired. His silken vest was bound with a girdle of gold-thread studded with jewels; and over it he wore a caftan, with wide sleeves, of the finest dark-blue cloth. The round cap of black lamb's-wool became his handsome head. His complexion was pale olive, through which the red of his cheeks shone, in the words of some Oriental poem, "like a rose-leaf through oil"; and his eyes, in their dark fire, were more lustrous than smoky topaz. His voice was mellow and musical, and his every movement and gesture a new revelation of human grace. Among thousands, yea, tens of thousands, of handsome men, he stood preeminent.
As our acquaintance ripened, he drew a pocket-book from his bosom, and showed us his choicest treasures: turquoises, bits of wonderful blue heavenly forget-me-nots; a jacinth, burning like a live coal, in scarlet light; and lastly, a perfect ruby, which no sum less than twenty-five hundred dollars could purchase. From him we learned the curious fluctuations of fashion in regard to jewels. Turquoises were just then in the ascendant; and one of the proper tint, the size of a parsnip-seed, could not be had for a hundred dollars, the full value of a diamond of equal size. Amethysts of a deep plum-color, though less beautiful than the next paler shade, command very high prices; while jacinth, beryl, and aqua-marine—stones of exquisite hue and lustre—are cheap. But then, in this department, as in all others, Fashion and Beauty are not convertible terms.
In the next booth there were two Persians, who unfolded before our eyes some of those marvellous shawls, where you forget the barbaric pattern in the exquisite fineness of the material and the triumphant harmony of the colors. Scarlet with palm-leaf border,—blue clasped by golden bronze, picked out with red,—browns, greens, and crimsons struggling for the mastery in a war of tints,—how should we choose between them? Alas! we were not able to choose: they were a thousand dollars apiece! But the Persians still went on unfolding, taking our admiration in pay for their trouble, and seeming even, by their pleasant smiles, to consider themselves well paid. When we came to the booths of European merchants, we were swiftly impressed with the fact that civilization, in following the sun westward, loses its grace in proportion as it advances. The gentle dignity, the serene patience, the soft, fraternal, affectionate demeanor of our Asiatic brethren vanished utterly when we encountered French and German salesmen; and yet these latter would have seemed gracious and courteous, had there been a few Yankee dealers beyond them. The fourth or fifth century, which still exists in Central Asia, was undoubtedly, in this particular, superior to the nineteenth. No gentleman, since his time, I suspect, has equalled Adam.
Among these Asiatics Mr. Buckle would have some difficulty in maintaining his favorite postulate, that tolerance is the result of progressive intelligence. It is also the result of courtesy, as we may occasionally see in well-bred persons of limited intellect. Such, undoubtedly, is the basis of that tolerance which no one who has had much personal intercourse with the Semitic races can have failed to experience. The days of the sword and fagot are past; but it was reserved for Christians to employ them in the name of religion alone. Local or political jealousies are at the bottom of those troubles which still occur from time to time in Turkey: the traveller hears no insulting epithet, and the green-turbaned Imam will receive him as kindly and courteously as the sceptical Bey educated in Paris. I have never been so aggressively assailed, on religious grounds, as at home,—never so coarsely and insultingly treated, on account of a presumed difference of opinion, as by those who claim descent from the Cavaliers. The bitter fierceness of some of our leading reformers is overlooked by their followers, because it springs from "earnest conviction"; but in the Orient intensest faith coexists with the most gracious and gentle manners.
Be not impatient, beloved reader; for this digression brings me naturally to the next thing we saw at Novgorod. As we issued from the bazaar, the sunlit minaret greeted us through whirling dust and rising vapor, and I fancied I could hear the muezzin's musical cry. It was about time for the asser prayer. Droshkies were found, and we rode slowly through the long, low warehouses of "caravan tea" and Mongolian wool to the mound near the Tartar encampment. The mosque was a plain, white, octagonal building, conspicuous only through its position. The turbaned faithful were already gathering; and we entered, and walked up the steps among them, without encountering an unfriendly glance. At the door stood two Cossack soldiers, specially placed there to prevent the worshippers from being insulted by curious Christians. (Those who have witnessed the wanton profanation of mosques in India by the English officers will please notice this fact.) If we had not put off our shoes before entering the hall of worship, the Cossacks would have performed that operation for us.
I am happy to say that none of our party lacked a proper reverence for devotion, though it was offered through the channels of an alien creed. The ladies left their gaiters beside our boots, and we all stood in our stockings on the matting, a little in the rear of the kneeling crowd. The priest occupied a low dais in front, but he simply led the prayer, which was uttered by all. The windows were open, and the sun poured a golden flood into the room. Yonder gleamed the Kremlin of Novgorod, yonder rolled the Volga, all around were the dark forests of the North,—yet their faces were turned, and their thoughts went southward, to where Mecca sits among the burning hills, in the feathery shade of her palm-trees. And the tongue of Mecca came from their lips, "Allah!" "Allah akhbar!" as the knee bent and the forehead touched the floor.
At the second repetition of the prayers we quietly withdrew; and good Monsieur D., forgetful of nothing, suggested that preparations had been made for a dinner in the great cosmopolitan restaurant. So we drove back again through the Chinese street, with its red horned houses, the roofs terminating in gilded dragons' tails, and, after pressing through a dense multitude enveloped in tobacco-smoke and the steam of tea-urns, found ourselves at last in a low room with a shaky floor and muslin ceiling. It was an exact copy of the dining-room of a California hotel. If we looked blank a moment, Monsieur D.'s smile reassured us. He had given all the necessary orders, he said, and would step out and secure a box in the theatre before the zakouski was served. During his absence, we looked out of the window on either side upon surging, whirling, humming pictures of the Great Fair, all vanishing in perspectives of dust and mist.
In half an hour our friend returned, and with him entered the zakouski. I cannot remember half the appetizing ingredients of which it was composed: anchovies, sardines, herrings, capers, cheese, caviare, pate de foie, pickles, cherries, oranges, and olives, were among them. Instead of being a prelude to dinner, it was almost a dinner in itself. Then, after a Russian soup, which always contains as much solid nutriment as meat-biscuit or Arctic pemmican, came the glory of the repast, a mighty sterlet, which was swimming in Volga water when we took our seats at the table. This fish, the exclusive property of Russia, is, in times of scarcity, worth its weight in silver. Its unapproachable flavor is supposed to be as evanescent as the hues of a dying dolphin. Frequently, at grand dinner-parties, it is carried around the table in a little tank, and exhibited, alive, to the guests, when their soup is served, that its freshness, ten minutes afterwards, may be put beyond suspicion. The fish has the appearance of a small, lean sturgeon; but its flesh resembles the melting pulp of a fruit rather than the fibre of its watery brethren. It sinks into juice upon the tongue, like a perfectly ripe peach. In this quality no other fish in the world can approach it; yet I do not think the flavor quite so fine as that of a brook-trout. Our sterlet was nearly two feet long, and may have cost twenty or thirty dollars.
With it appeared an astonishing salad, composed of watermelons, cantaloupes, pickled cherries, cucumbers, and certain spicy herbs. Its color and odor were enticing, and we had all applied the test of taste most satisfactorily before we detected the curious mixture of ingredients. After the second course,—a ragout of beef, accompanied with a rich, elaborate sauce,—three heavy tankards of chased silver, holding two quarts apiece, were placed upon the table. The first of these contained kvass, the second kislischi, and the third hydromel. Each one of these national drinks, when properly brewed, is very palatable and refreshing. I found the kislischi nearly identical with the ancient Scandinavian mead: no doubt it dates from the Varangian rule in Russia. The old custom of passing the tankards around the table, from mouth to mouth, is still observed, and will not be found objectionable, even in these days of excessive delicacy, when ladies and gentlemen are seated alternately at the banquet.
The Russian element of the dinner here terminated. Cutlets and roast fowls made their appearance, with bottles of Ruedesheimer and Lafitte, followed by a dessert of superb Persian melons, from the southern shore of the Caspian Sea.
By this time night had fallen, and Monsieur D. suggested an immediate adjournment to the theatre. What should be the entertainment? Dances of almehs, songs of gypsies, or Chinese jugglers? One of the Ivans brought a programme. It was not difficult to decipher the word "[Russian: MACBETH]," and to recognize, further, in the name of "Ira Aldridge" a distinguished mulatto tragedian, to whom Maryland has given birth (if I am rightly informed) and Europe fame. We had often heard of him, yea, seen his portrait in Germany, decorated with the orders conferred by half a dozen sovereigns; and his presence here, between Europe and Asia, was not the least characteristic feature of the Fair. A mulatto Macbeth, in a Russian theatre, with a Persian and Tartar audience!
On arriving, we were ushered into two whitewashed boxes, which had been reserved for our party. The manager, having been informed of the envoy's presence in Nijni-Novgorod, had delayed the performance half an hour, but the audience bore this infliction patiently. The building was deep and narrow, with space for about eight hundred persons, and was filled from top to bottom. The first act was drawing to a close as we entered. King Duncan, with two or three shabby attendants, stood in the court-yard of the castle,—the latter represented by a handsome French door on the left, with a bit of Tartar wall beyond,—and made his observations on the "pleasant seat" of Macbeth's mansion. He spoke Russian, of course. Lady Macbeth now appeared, in a silk dress of the latest fashion, expanded by the amplest of crinolines. She was passably handsome, and nothing could be gentler than her face and voice. She received the royal party like a well-bred lady, and they all entered the French door together.
There was no change of scene. With slow step and folded arms, Ira Macbeth entered and commenced the soliloquy, "If it were done," etc., to our astonishment, in English! He was a dark, strongly built mulatto, of about fifty, in a fancy tunic, and light stockings over Forrestian calves. His voice was deep and powerful; and it was very evident that Edmund Kean, once his master, was also the model which he carefully followed in the part. There were the same deliberate, over-distinct enunciation, the same prolonged pauses and gradually performed gestures, as I remember in imitations of Kean's manner. Except that the copy was a little too apparent, Mr. Aldridge's acting was really very fine. The Russians were enthusiastic in their applause, though very few of them, probably, understood the language of the part. The Oriental auditors were perfectly impassive, and it was impossible to guess how they regarded the performance.
The second act was in some respects the most amusing thing I ever saw upon the stage. In the dagger-scene, Ira was, to my mind, quite equal to Forrest; it was impossible to deny him unusual dramatic talent; but his complexion, continually suggesting Othello, quite confounded me. The amiable Russian Lady Macbeth was much better adapted to the part of Desdemona: all softness and gentleness, she smiled as she lifted her languishing eyes, and murmured in the tenderest accents, "Infirm of purpose! give me the dagger!" At least, I took it for granted that these were her words, for Macbeth had just said, "Look on 't again I dare not." Afterwards, six Russian soldiers, in tan-colored shirts, loose trousers, and high boots, filed in, followed by Macduff and Malcolm, in the costume of Wallenstein's troopers. The dialogue—one voice English, and all the others Russian—proceeded smoothly enough, but the effect was like nothing which our stage can produce. Nevertheless, the audience was delighted, and when the curtain fell there were vociferous cries of "Aira! Aira! Aldreetch! Aldreetch!" until the swarthy hero made his appearance before the foot-lights.
Monsieur D. conducted our friend P. into the green-room, where he was received by Macbeth in costume. He found the latter to be a dignified, imposing personage, who carried his tragic chest-tones into ordinary conversation. On being informed by P. that the American minister was present, he asked,—
"Of what persuasion?"
P. hastened to set him right, and Ira then remarked, in his gravest tone,—"I shall have the honor of waiting upon him to-morrow morning"; which, however, he failed to do.
This son of the South, no doubt, came legitimately (or, at least, naturally) by his dignity. His career, for a man of his blood and antecedents, has been wonderfully successful, and is justly due, I am convinced, since I have seen him, to his histrionic talents. Both black and yellow skins are sufficiently rare in Europe to excite a particular interest in those who wear them; and I had surmised, up to this time, that much of his popularity might be owing to his color. But he certainly deserves an honorable place among tragedians of the second rank.
We left the theatre at the close of the third act, and crossed the river to our quarters on the hill. A chill mist hung over the Fair, but the lamps still burned, the streets were thronged, and the Don Cossacks kept patient guard at every corner. The night went by like one unconscious minute, in beds unmolested by bug or flea; and when I arose, thoroughly refreshed, I involuntarily called to mind a frightful chapter in De Custine's "Russia," describing the prevalence of an insect which he calls the persica, on the banks of the Volga. He was obliged to sleep on a table, the legs whereof were placed in basins of water, to escape their attacks. I made many inquiries about these terrible persicas, and finally discovered that they were neither more nor less than—cockroaches!—called Prossaki (Prussians) by the Russians, as they are sometimes called Schwaben (Suabians) by the Germans. Possibly they may be found in the huts of the serfs, but they are rare in decent houses.
We devoted the first sunny hours of the morning to a visit to the citadel and a walk around the crest of the hill. On the highest point, just over the junction of the two rivers, there is a commemorative column to Minim, the patriotic butcher of Novgorod, but for whose eloquence, in the year 1610, the Russian might possibly now be the Polish Empire. Vladislas, son of Sigismund of Poland, had been called to the throne by the boyards, and already reigned in Moscow, when Minim appealed to the national spirit, persuaded General Pojarski to head an anti-Polish movement, which was successful, and thus cleared the way for the election of Michael Romanoff, the first sovereign of the present dynasty. Minim is therefore one of the historic names of Russia.
When I stood beside his monument, and the finest landscape of European Russia was suddenly unrolled before my eyes, I could believe the tradition of his eloquence, for here was its inspiration. Thirty or forty miles away stretched the rolling swells of forest and grain-land, fading into dimmest blue to the westward and northward, dotted with villages and sparkling domes, and divided by shining reaches of the Volga. It was truly a superb and imposing view, changing with each spur of the hill as we made the circuit of the citadel. Eastward, the country rose into dark, wooded hills, between which the river forced its way in a narrower and swifter channel, until it disappeared behind a purple headland, hastening southward to find a warmer home in the unfrozen Caspian. By embarking on the steamers anchored below us, we might have reached Perm, among the Ural Mountains, or Astrachan, in less than a week; while a trip of ten days would have taken us past the Caucasus, even to the base of Ararat or Demavend. Such are the splendid possibilities of travel in these days.
The envoy, who visited Europe for the first time, declared that this panorama from the hill of Novgorod was one of the finest things he had seen. There could, truly, be no better preparation to enjoy it than fifteen hundred miles of nearly unbroken level, after leaving the Russian frontier; but I think it would be a "show" landscape anywhere. Why it is not more widely celebrated I cannot guess. The only person in Russia whom I heard speak of it with genuine enthusiasm was Alexander II.
Two hours upon the breezy parapet, beside the old Tartar walls, were all too little; but the droshkies waited in the river-street a quarter of a mile below us, our return to Moscow was ordered for the afternoon, there were amethysts and Persian silks yet to be bought, and so we sighed farewell to an enjoyment rare in Russia, and descended the steep footpath.
P. and I left the rest of the party at the booth of the handsome Bashkir, and set out upon a special mission to the Tartar camp. I had ascertained that the national beverage of Central Asia might be found there,—the genuine koumiss, or fermented milk of the mares of the Uralian steppes. Having drunk palm-wine in India, sam-shoo China, saki in Japan, pulque in Mexico, bouza in Egypt, mead in Scandinavia, ale in England, bock-bier in Germany, mastic in Greece, calabogus in Newfoundland, and—soda-water in the United States, I desired to complete the bibulous cosmos, in which koumiss was still lacking. My friend did not share my curiosity, but was ready for an adventure, which our search for mare's milk seemed to promise.
Beyond the mosques we found the Uzbeks and Kirghiz,—some in tents, some in rough shanties of boards. But they were without koumiss: they had had it, and showed us some empty kegs, in evidence of the fact. I fancied a gleam of diversion stole over their grave, swarthy faces, as they listened to our eager inquiries in broken Russian. Finally we came into an extemporized village, where some women, unveiled and ugly, advised us to apply to the traders in the khan, or caravansera. This was a great barn-like building, two stories high, with broken staircases and creaking floors. A corridor ran the whole length of the second floor, with some twenty or thirty doors opening into it from the separate rooms of the traders. We accosted the first Tartar whom we met; and he promised, with great readiness, to procure us what we wanted. He ushered us into his room, cleared away a pile of bags, saddles, camel-trappings, and other tokens of a nomadic life, and revealed a low divan covered with a ragged carpet. On a sack of barley sat his father, a blind graybeard, nearly eighty years old. On our way through the camp I had noticed that the Tartars saluted each other with the Arabic, "Salaam aleikoom!" and I therefore greeted the old man with the familiar words. He lifted his head: his face brightened, and he immediately answered, "Aleikoom salaam, my son!"
"Do you speak Arabic?" I asked.
"A little; I have forgotten it," said he. "But thine is a new voice. Of what tribe art thou?"
"A tribe far away, beyond Bagdad and Syria," I answered.
"It is the tribe of Damascus. I know it now, my son. I have heard the voice, many, many years ago."
The withered old face looked so bright, as some pleasant memory shone through it, that I did not undeceive the man. His son came in with a glass, pulled a keg from under a pile of coarse caftans, and drew out the wooden peg. A gray liquid, with an odor at once sour and pungent, spirted into the glass, which he presently handed to me, filled to the brim. In such cases no hesitation is permitted. I thought of home and family, set the glass to my lips, and emptied it before the flavor made itself clearly manifest to my palate.
"Well, what is it like?" asked my friend, who curiously awaited the result of the experiment.
"Peculiar," I answered, with preternatural calmness,—"peculiar, but not unpleasant."
The glass was filled a second time; and P., not to be behindhand, emptied it at a draught. Then he turned to me with tears (not of delight) in his eyes, swallowed nothing very hard two or three times, suppressed a convulsive shudder, and finally remarked, with the air of a martyr, "Very curious, indeed!"
"Will your Excellencies have some more?" said the friendly Tartar.
"Not before breakfast, if you please," I answered; "your koumiss is excellent, however, and we will take a bottle with us,"—which we did, in order to satisfy the possible curiosity of the ladies. I may here declare that the bottle was never emptied.
The taste was that of aged buttermilk mixed with ammonia. We could detect no flavor of alcohol, yet were conscious of a light exhilaration from the small quantity we drank. The beverage is said, indeed, to be very intoxicating. Some German physician has established a "koumiss-cure" at Piatigorsk, at the northern base of the Caucasus, and invites invalids of certain kinds to come and be healed by its agency. I do not expect to be one of the number.
There still remained a peculiar feature of the Fair, which I had not yet seen. This is the subterranean network of sewerage, which reproduces, in massive masonry, the streets on the surface. Without it, the annual city of two months would become uninhabitable. The peninsula between the two rivers being low and marshy,—frequently overflowed during the spring freshets,—pestilence would soon be bred from the immense concourse of people: hence a system of cloacae, almost rivalling those of ancient Rome. At each street-corner there are wells containing spiral staircases, by which one can descend to the spacious subterranean passages, and there walk for miles under arches of hewn stone, lighted and aired by shafts at regular intervals. In St. Petersburg you are told that more than half the cost of the city is under the surface of the earth; at Nijni-Novgorod the statement is certainly true. Peter the Great at one time designed establishing his capital here. Could he have foreseen the existence of railroads, he would certainly have done so. Nijni-Novgorod is now nearer to Berlin than the Russian frontier was fifty years ago. St. Petersburg is an accidental city; Nature and the destiny of the empire are both opposed to its existence; and a time will come when its long lines of palaces shall be deserted for some new capital, in a locality at once more southern and more central.
Another walk through the streets of the Fair enabled me to analyze the first confused impression, and separate the motley throng of life into its several elements. I shall not attempt, however, to catch and paint its ever-changing, fluctuating character. Our limited visit allowed us to see only the more central and crowded streets. Outside of these, for miles, extend suburbs of iron, of furs, wool, and other coarser products, brought together from the Ural, from the forests towards the Polar Ocean, and from the vast extent of Siberia. Here, from morning till night, the beloved kvass flows in rivers, the strong stream of shchi (cabbage-soup) sends up its perpetual incense, and the samovar of cheap tea is never empty. Here, although important interests are represented, the intercourse between buyers and sellers is less grave and methodical than in the bazaar. There are jokes, laughter, songs, and a constant play of that repartee in which even the serfs are masters. Here, too, jugglers and mountebanks of all sorts ply their trade; gypsies sing, dance, and tell fortunes; and other vocations, less respectable than these, flourish vigorously. For, whether the visitor be an Ostiak from the Polar Circle, an Uzbek from the Upper Oxus, a Crim-Tartar or Nogai, a Georgian from Tiflis, a Mongolian from the Land of Grass, a Persian from Ispahan, a Jew from Hamburg, a Frenchman from Lyons, a Tyrolese, Swiss, Bohemian, or an Anglo-Saxon from either side of the Atlantic, he meets his fellow-visitors to the Great Fair on the common ground, not of human brotherhood, but of human appetite; and all the manifold nationalities succumb to the same allurements. If the various forms of indulgence could be so used as to propagate ideas, the world would speedily be regenerated; but as things go, "cakes and ale" have more force than the loftiest ideas, the noblest theories of improvement; and the impartial observer will make this discovery as readily at Nijni-Novgorod as anywhere else.
Before taking leave of the Fair, let me give a word to the important subject of tea. It is a much-disputed question with the connoisseurs of that beverage which neither cheers nor inebriates, (though, I confess, it is more agreeable than koumiss,) whether the Russian "caravan tea" is really superior to that which is imported by sea. After much patient observation, combined with serious reflection, I incline to the opinion that the flavor of tea depends, not upon the method of transportation, but upon the price paid for the article. I have tasted bad caravan tea in Russia, and delicious tea in New York. In St. Petersburg you cannot procure a good article for less than three roubles ($2.25, gold) per pound; while the finer kinds bring twelve and even sixteen roubles. Whoever is willing to import at that price can no doubt procure tea of equal excellence. The fact is, that this land-transportation is slow, laborious, and expensive; hence the finer kinds of tea are always selected, a pound thereof costing no more for carriage than a pound of inferior quality; whence the superior flavor of caravan tea. There is, however, one variety to be obtained in Russia which I have found nowhere else, not even in the Chinese sea-ports. It is called "imperial tea", and comes in elegant boxes of yellow silk emblazoned with the dragon of the Hang dynasty, at the rate of from six to twenty dollars a pound. It is yellow, and the decoction from it is almost colorless. A small pinch of it, added to ordinary black tea, gives an indescribably delicious flavor,—the very aroma of the tea-blossom; but one cup of it, unmixed, is said to deprive the drinker of sleep for three nights. We brought some home, and a dose thereof was administered to three unconscious guests during my absence; but I have not yet ascertained the effects which followed.
Monsieur D. brought our last delightful stroll through the glittering streets to an untimely end. The train for Moscow was to leave at three o'clock; and he had ordered an early dinner at the restaurant. By the time this was concluded, it was necessary to drive at once to the station, in order to secure places. We were almost too late; the train, long as it was, was crammed to overflowing; and although both station-master and conductor assisted us, the eager passengers disregarded their authority. With great difficulty, one compartment was cleared for the ladies; in the adjoining one four merchants, in long caftans, with sacks of watermelons as provision for the journey, took their places, and would not be ejected. A scene of confusion ensued, in which station-master, conductor, Monsieur D., my friend P., and the Russian merchants were curiously mixed; but when we saw the sacks of watermelons rolling out of the door, we knew the day was ours. In two minutes more we were in full possession; the doors were locked, and the struggling throngs beat against them in vain.
With a grateful farewell to our kind guide, whose rather severe duties for our sake were now over, we moved away from the station, past heaps of cotton-bales, past hills of drifting sand, and impassive groups of Persians, Tartars, and Bukharians, and slowly mounted the long grade to the level of the upland, leaving the Fair to hum and whirl in the hollow between the rivers, and the white walls and golden domes of Novgorod to grow dim on the crest of the receding hill.
The next morning, at sunrise, we were again in Moscow.
MY AUTUMN WALK.
On woodlands ruddy with autumn The amber sunshine lies; I look on the beauty round me, And tears come into my eyes.
For the wind that sweeps the meadows Blows out of the far South-west, Where our gallant men are fighting, And the gallant dead are at rest.
The golden-rod is leaning And the purple aster waves In a breeze from the land of battles, A breath from the land of graves.
Full fast the leaves are dropping Before that wandering breath; As fast, on the field of battle, Our brethren fall in death.
Beautiful over my pathway The forest spoils are shed; They are spotting the grassy hillocks With purple and gold and red.
Beautiful is the death-sleep Of those who bravely fight In their country's holy quarrel, And perish for the Right.
But who shall comfort the living, The light of whose homes is gone: The bride, that, early widowed, Lives broken-hearted on;
The matron, whose sons are lying In graves on a distant shore; The maiden, whose promised husband Comes back from the war no more?
I look on the peaceful dwellings Whose windows glimmer in sight, With croft and garden and orchard That bask in the mellow light;
And I know, that, when our couriers With news of victory come, They will bring a bitter message Of hopeless grief to some.
Again I turn to the woodlands, And shudder as I see The mock-grape's[B] blood-red banner Hung out on the cedar-tree;
And I think of days of slaughter, And the night-sky red with flames, On the Chattahoochee's meadows, And the wasted banks of the James.
Oh, for the fresh spring-season, When the groves are in their prime, And far away in the future Is the frosty autumn-time!
Oh, for that better season, When the pride of the foe shall yield, And the hosts of God and freedom March back from the well-won field;
And the matron shall clasp her first-born With tears of joy and pride; And the scarred and war-worn lover Shall claim his promised bride!
The leaves are swept from the branches; But the living buds are there, With folded flower and foliage, To sprout in a kinder air.
[B] Ampelopsis, mock-grape. I have here literally translated the botanical name of the Virginia creeper,—an appellation too cumbrous for verse.
FIVE-SISTERS COURT AT CHRISTMAS-TIDE.
For a business street Every Lane certainly is very lazy. It sets out just to make a short passage between two thoroughfares, but, though forced first to walk straight by the warehouses that wall in its entrance, it soon begins to loiter, staring down back alleys, yawning into courts, plunging into stable-yards, and at length standing irresolute at three ways of getting to the end of its journey. It passes by artisans' shops, and keeps two or three masons' cellars and carpenters' lofts, as if its slovenly buildings needed perpetual repairs. It has not at all the air of once knowing better days. It began life hopelessly; and though the mayor and common council and board of aldermen, with ten righteous men, should daily march through it, the broom of official and private virtue could not sweep it clean of its slovenliness. But one of its idle turnings does suddenly end in a virtuous court: here Every Lane may come, when it indulges in vain aspirations for a more respectable character, and take refuge in the quiet demeanor of Every Court. The court is shaped like the letter T with an L to it. The upright beam connects it with Every Lane, and maintains a non-committal character, since its sides are blank walls; upon one side of the cross-beam are four houses, while a fifth occupies the diminutive L of the court, esconcing itself in a snug corner, as if ready to rush out at the cry of "All in! all in!" Gardens fill the unoccupied sides, toy-gardens, but large enough to raise all the flowers needed for this toy-court. The five houses, built exactly alike, are two and a half stories high, and have each a dormer-window, curtained with white dimity, so that they look like five elderly dames in caps; and the court has gotten the name of Five-Sisters Court, to the despair of Every Lane, which felt its sole chance for respectability slip away when the court came to disown its patronymic.
It was at dusk, the afternoon before Christmas, that a young man, Nicholas Judge by name, walking inquiringly down Every Lane, turned into Five-Sisters Court, and stood facing the five old ladies, apparently in some doubt as to which he should accost. There was a number on each door, but no name; and it was impossible to tell from the outside who or what sort of people lived in each. If one could only get round to the rear of the court, one might get some light, for the backs of houses are generally off their guard, and the Five Sisters who look alike in their dimity caps might possibly have more distinct characters when not dressed for company. Perhaps, after the caps are off, and the spectacles removed—But what outrageous sentiments are we drifting toward!
There was a cause for Nicholas Judge's hesitation. In one of those houses he had good reason to believe lived an aunt of his, the only relation left to him in the world, so far as he knew, and by so slender a thread was he held to her that he knew only her maiden name. Through the labyrinth of possible widowhoods, one of which at least was actual, and the changes in condition which many years would effect, he was to feel his way to the Fair Rosamond by this thread. Nicholas was a wise young man, as will no doubt appear when we come to know him better, and, though a fresh country youth, visiting the city for the first time, was not so indiscreet as to ask bluntly at each door, until he got satisfaction, "Does my Aunt Eunice live here?" As the doors in the court were all shut and equally dumb, he resolved to take the houses in order, and proposing to himself the strategy of asking for a drink of water, and so opening the way for further parley, he stood before the door of Number One.
He raised the knocker, (for there was no bell,) and tapped in a hesitating manner, as if he would take it all back in case of an egregious mistake. There was a shuffle in the entry; the door opened slowly, disclosing an old and tidy negro woman, who invited Nicholas in by a gesture, and saying, "You wish to see master?" led him on through a dark passage without waiting for an answer. "Certainly," he thought, "I want to see the master more than I want a drink of water: I will keep that device for the next house"; and, obeying the lead of the servant, he went up stairs, and was ushered into a room, where there was just enough dusky light to disclose tiers of books, a table covered with papers, and other indications of a student's abode.
Nicholas's eye had hardly become accustomed to the dim light, when there entered the scholar himself, the master whom he was to see: a small old man, erect, with white hair and smooth forehead, beneath which projected two beads of eyes, that seemed, from their advanced position, endeavoring to take in what lay round the corner of the head as well as objects directly in front. His long palm-leaved study-gown and tasselled velvet cap lent him a reverend appearance; and he bore in his hand what seemed a curiously shaped dipper, as if he were some wise man coming to slake a disciple's thirst with water from the fountain-head of knowledge.
"Has he guessed my pretended errand?" wondered Nicholas to himself, feeling a little ashamed of his innocent ruse, for he was not in the least thirsty; but the old man began at once to address him, after motioning him to a seat. He spoke abruptly, and with a restrained impatience of manner:—
"So you received my letter appointing this hour for an interview. Well, what do you expect me to do for you? You compliment me, in a loose sort of way, on my contributions to philological science, and tell me that you are engaged in the same inquiries with myself"—
"Sir," said Nicholas, in alarm,—"I ought to explain myself,—I"——
But the old gentleman gave no heed to the interruption, and continued:——
—"And that you have published an article on the Value of Words. You sent me the paper, but I didn't find anything in it. I have no great opinion of the efforts of young men in this direction. It contained commonplace generalities which I never heard questioned. You can't show the value of words by wasting them. I told you I should be plain. Now you want me to give you some hints, you say, as to the best method of pursuing philological researches. In a hasty moment I said you might come, though I don't usually allow visitors. You praise me for what I have accomplished in philology. Young man, that is because I have not given myself up to idle gadding and gossiping. Do you think, if I had been making calls, and receiving anybody who chose to force himself upon me, during the last forty years, that I should have been able to master the digamma, which you think my worthiest labor?"
"Sir," interrupted Nicholas again, thinking that the question, though it admitted no answer, might give him a chance to stand on his own legs once more, "I really must ask your pardon."
"The best method of pursuing philological researches!" continued the old scholar, deaf to Nicholas's remonstrance. "That is one of your foolish general questions, that show how little you know what you are about. But do as I have done. Work by yourself, and dig, dig. Give up your senseless gabbling in the magazines, get over your astonishment at finding that coelum and heaven contain the same idea etymologically, and that there was a large bread-bakery at Skolos, and make up your mind to believe nothing till you can't help it. You haven't begun to work yet. Wait till you have lived as I have, forty years in one house, with your library likely to turn you out of doors, and only an old black woman to speak to, before you begin to think of calling yourself a scholar. Eh?"
And at this point the old gentleman adjusted the dipper, which was merely an ear-trumpet,—though for a moment more mysterious to Nicholas, in its new capacity, than when he had regarded it as a unique specimen of a familiar household-implement,—and thrust the bowl toward the embarrassed youth. In fact, having said all that he intended to say to his unwelcome supposed disciple, he showed enough churlish grace to permit him to make such reply or defence as seemed best.
The old gentleman had pulled up so suddenly in his harangue, and called for an answer so authoritatively, and with such a singular flourish of his trumpet, that Nicholas, losing command of the studied explanation of his conduct, which a moment before had been at his tongue's end, caught at the last sentence spoken, and gained a perilous advantage by asking,—
"Have you, indeed, lived in this house forty years, Sir?"
"Eh! what?" said the old gentleman, impatiently, perceiving that he had spoken. "Here, speak into my trumpet. What is the use of a trumpet, if you don't speak into it?"
"Oh," thought Nicholas to himself, "I see, he is excessively deaf"; and bending over the trumpet, where he saw a sieve-like frame, as if all speech were to be strained as it entered, he collected his force, and repeated the question, with measured and sonorous utterance, "Sir, have you lived in this house forty years?"
"I just told you so," said the old man, not unnaturally starting back. "And if you were going to ask me such an unnecessary question at all," he added, testily, "you needn't have roared it out at me. I could have heard that without my trumpet. Yes, I've lived here forty years, and so has black Maria, who opened the door for you; and I say again that I have accomplished what I have by uninterrupted study. I haven't gone about, bowing to every he, she, and it. I never knew who lived in any of the other houses in the court till to-day, when a woman came and asked me to go out for the evening to her house; and just because it was Christmas-eve, I was foolish enough to be wheedled by her into saying I would go. Miss —— Miss ——, I can't remember her name now. I shall have to ask Maria. There, you haven't got much satisfaction out of me; but do you mind what I said to you, and it will be worth more than if I had told you what books to read. Eh?" And he invited Nicholas once more to drop his words into the trumpet.
"Good afternoon," said Nicholas, hesitatingly,—"thank you,"—at a loss what pertinent reply to make, and in despair of clearing himself from the tangle in which he had become involved. It was plain, too, that he should get no satisfaction here, at least upon the search in which he was engaged. But the reply seemed quite satisfactory to the old gentleman, who cheerfully relinquished him to black Maria, who, in turn, passed him out of the house.
Left to himself, and rid of his personal embarrassment, he began to feel uncomfortably guilty, as he considered the confusion which he had entailed upon the real philological disciple, and would fain comfort himself with the hope that he had acted as a sort of lightning-rod to conduct the old scholar's bolts, and so had secured some immunity for the one at whom the bolts were really shot. But his own situation demanded his attention; and leaving the to-be unhappy young man and the to-be perplexed old gentleman to settle the difficulty over the mediating ear-trumpet, he addressed himself again to his task, and proposed to take another survey of the court, with the vague hope that his aunt might show herself with such unmistakable signs of relationship as to bring his researches to an immediate and triumphant close.
Just as he was turning away from the front of Number One, buttoning his overcoat with an air of self-abstraction, he was suddenly and unaccountably attacked in the chest with such violence as almost to throw him off his feet. At the next moment his ears were assailed by a profusion of apologetic explanations from a young man, who made out to tell him, that, coming out of his house with the intention of calling next door, he had leaped over the snow that lay between, and, not seeing the gentleman, had, most unintentionally, plunged headlong into him. He hoped he had not hurt him; he begged a thousand pardons; it was very careless in him; and then, perfect peace having succeeded this violent attack, the new-comer politely asked,—
"Can you tell me whether Doctor Chocker is at home, and disengaged? I perceive that you have just left his house."
"Do you mean the deaf old gentleman in Number One?" asked Nicholas.
"I was not aware that he was deaf," said his companion.
"And I did not know that his name was Doctor Chocker," said Nicholas, smiling. "But may I ask," said he, with a sudden thought, and blushing so hard that even the wintry red of his cheeks was outshone, "if you were just going to see him?"
"I had an appointment to see him at this hour; and that is the reason why I asked you if he was disengaged."
"He—he is not engaged, I believe," said Nicholas, stammering and blushing harder than ever; "but a word with you, Sir. I must—really—it was wholly unintentional—but unless I am mistaken, the old gentleman thought I was you."
"Thought you were I?" said the other, screwing his eyebrows into a question, and letting his nose stand for an exclamation-point. "But come, it is cold here,—will you do me the honor to come up to my room? At any rate, I should like to hear something about the old fellow." And he turned towards the next house.
"What—!" said Nicholas, "do you live in Number Two?"
"Yes, I have rooms here," said his companion, jumping back over the snow. "You seem surprised."
"It is extraordinary," muttered Nicholas to himself, as he entered the house and followed his new acquaintance up stairs.
Their entrance seemed to create some confusion; for there was an indistinct sound as of a tumultuous retreat in every direction, a scuttling up and down stairs, and a whisking of dresses round corners, with still more indistinct and distant sound of suppressed chattering and a voice berating.
"It is extremely provoking," said the young man, when they had entered his room and the door was shut; "but the people in this house seem to do nothing but watch my movements. You heard that banging about? Well, I seldom come in or go out, especially with a friend, but that just such a stampede takes place in the passage-ways and staircase. I have no idea who lives in the house, except a Mrs. Crimp, a very worthy woman, no doubt, but with too many children, I should guess. I only lodge here; and as I send my money down every month with the bill which I find on my table, I never see Mrs. Crimp. Now I don't see why they should be so curious about me. I'm sure I am very contented in my ignorance of the whole household. It's a little annoying, though, when I bring any one into the house. Will you excuse me a moment, while I ring for more coal?"