A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, and Politics.
VOL. XX.—NOVEMBER, 1867.—NO. CXXI.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
Transcriber's Note: Minor typos have been corrected and footnotes moved to the end of the article.
THE GUARDIAN ANGEL.
MASTER BYLES GRIDLEY CONSULTS WITH JACOB PENHALLOW, ESQUIRE.
Lawyer Penhallow was seated in his study, his day's work over, his feet in slippers, after the comfortable but inelegant fashion which Sir Walter Scott reprobates, amusing himself with a volume of old Reports. He was a knowing man enough, a keen country lawyer, but honest, and therefore less ready to suspect the honesty of others. He had a great belief in his young partner's ability, and, though he knew him to be astute, did not think him capable of roguery.
It was at his request that Mr. Bradshaw had undertaken his journey, which, as he believed,—and as Mr. Bradshaw had still stronger evidence of a strictly confidential nature which led him to feel sure,—would end in the final settlement of the great land claim in favor of their client. The case had been dragging along from year to year, like an English chancery suit; and while courts and lawyers and witnesses had been sleeping, the property had been steadily growing. A railroad had passed close to one margin of the township, some mines had been opened in the county, in which a village calling itself a city had grown big enough to have a newspaper and Fourth of July orations. It was plain that the successful issue of the long process would make the heirs of the late Malachi Withers possessors of an ample fortune, and it was also plain that the firm of Penhallow and Bradshaw were like to receive, in such case, the largest fee that had gladdened the professional existence of its members.
Mr. Penhallow had his book open before him, but his thoughts were wandering from the page. He was thinking of his absent partner, and the probable results of his expedition. What would be the consequence if all this property came into the possession of Silence Withers? Could she have any liberal intentions with reference to Myrtle Hazard, the young girl who had grown up with her, or was the common impression true, that she was bent on endowing an institution, and thus securing for herself a favorable consideration in the higher courts, where her beneficiaries would be, it might be supposed, influential advocates? He could not help thinking that Mr. Bradshaw believed that Myrtle Hazard would eventually come to a part at least of this inheritance. For the story was, that he was paying his court to the young lady whenever he got an opportunity, and that he was cultivating an intimacy with Miss Cynthia Badlam. "Bradshaw wouldn't make a move in that direction," Mr. Penhallow said to himself, "until he felt pretty sure that it was going to be a paying business. If he was only a young minister now, there'd be no difficulty about it. Let any man, young or old, in a clerical white cravat, step up to Myrtle Hazard, and ask her to be miserable in his company through this wretched life, and Aunt Silence would very likely give them her blessing, and add something to it that the man in the white cravat would think worth even more than that was. But I don't know what she'll say to Bradshaw. Perhaps he'd better have a hint to go to meeting a little more regularly. However, I suppose he knows what he's about."
He was thinking all this over when a visitor was announced, and Mr. Byles Gridley entered the study.
"Good evening, Mr. Penhallow," Mr. Gridley said, wiping his forehead. "Quite warm, isn't it, this evening?"
"Warm!" said Mr. Penhallow, "I should think it would freeze pretty thick to-night. I should have asked you to come up to the fire and warm yourself. But take off your coat, Mr. Gridley,—very glad to see you. You don't come to the house half as often as you come to the office. Sit down, sit down."
Mr. Gridley took off his outside coat and sat down. "He does look warm, doesn't he?" Mr. Penhallow thought. "Wonder what has heated up the old gentleman so. Find out quick enough, for he always goes straight to business."
"Mr. Penhallow," Mr. Gridley began at once, "I have come on a very grave matter, in which you are interested as well as myself, and I wish to lay the whole of it before you as explicitly as I can, so that we may settle this night before I go what is to be done. I am afraid the good standing of your partner, Mr. William Murray Bradshaw, is concerned in the matter. Would it be a surprise to you, if he had carried his acuteness in some particular case like the one I am to mention beyond the prescribed limits?"
The question was put so diplomatically that there was no chance for an indignant denial of the possibility of Mr. Bradshaw's being involved in any discreditable transaction.
"It is possible," he answered, "that Bradshaw's keen wits may have betrayed him into sharper practice than I should altogether approve in any business we carried on together. He is a very knowing young man, but I can't think he is foolish enough, to say nothing of his honesty, to make any false step of the kind you seem to hint. I think he might on occasion go pretty near the line, but I don't believe he would cross it."
"Permit me a few questions, Mr. Penhallow. You settled the estate of the late Malachi Withers, did you not?"
"Mr. Wibird and myself settled it together."
"Have you received any papers from any of the family since the settlement of the estate?"
"Let me see. Yes; a roll of old plans of the Withers Place, and so forth,—not of much use, but labelled and kept. An old trunk with letters and account-books, some of them in Dutch,—mere curiosities. A year ago or more, I remember that Silence sent me over some papers she had found in an odd corner,—the old man hid things like a magpie. I looked over most of them,—trumpery not worth keeping,—old leases and so forth."
"Do you recollect giving some of them to Mr. Bradshaw to look over?"
"Now I come to think of it, I believe I did; but he reported to me, if I remember right, that they amounted to nothing."
"If any of those papers were of importance, should you think your junior partner ought to keep them from your knowledge?"
"I need not answer that question, Mr. Gridley. Will you be so good as to come at once to the facts on which you found your suspicions, and which lead you to put these questions to me?"
Thereupon Mr. Gridley proceeded to state succinctly the singular behavior of Murray Bradshaw in taking one paper from a number handed to him by Mr. Penhallow, and concealing it in a volume. He related how he was just on the point of taking out the volume which contained the paper, when Mr. Bradshaw entered and disconcerted him. He had, however, noticed three spots on the paper by which he should know it anywhere. He then repeated the substance of Kitty Fagan's story, accenting the fact that she too noticed three remarkable spots on the paper which Mr. Bradshaw had pointed out to Miss Badlam as the one so important to both of them. Here he rested the case for the moment.
Mr. Penhallow looked thoughtful. There was something questionable in the aspect of this business. It did obviously suggest the idea of an underhand arrangement with Miss Cynthia, possibly involving some very grave consequences. It would have been most desirable, he said, to have ascertained what these papers, or rather this particular paper, to which so much importance was attached, amounted to. Without that knowledge there was nothing, after all, which it might not be possible to explain. He might have laid aside the spotted paper to examine for some object of mere curiosity. It was certainly odd that the one the Fagan woman had seen should present three spots so like those on the other paper, but people did sometimes throw treys at backgammon, and that which not rarely happened with two dice of six faces might happen if they had sixty or six hundred faces. On the whole, he did not see that there was any ground, so far, for anything more than a vague suspicion. He thought it not unlikely that Mr. Bradshaw was a little smitten with the young lady up at The Poplars, and that he had made some diplomatic overtures to the duenna, after the approved method of suitors. She was young for Bradshaw,—very young,—but he knew his own affairs. If he chose to make love to a child, it was natural enough that he should begin by courting her nurse.
Master Byles Gridley lost himself for half a minute in a most discreditable inward discussion as to whether Laura Penhallow was probably one or two years older than Mr. Bradshaw. That was his way,—he could not help it. He could not think of anything without these mental parentheses. But he came back to business at the end of his half-minute.
"I can lay the package before you at this moment, Mr. Penhallow. I have induced that woman in whose charge it was left to intrust it to my keeping, with the express intention of showing it to you. But it is protected by a seal, as I have told you, which I should on no account presume to meddle with."
Mr. Gridley took out the package of papers.
"How damp it is!" Mr. Penhallow said; "must have been lying in some very moist neighborhood."
"Very," Mr. Gridley answered, with a peculiar expression which said, "Never mind about that."
"Did the party give you possession of these documents without making any effort to retain them?" the lawyer asked.
"Not precisely. It cost some effort to induce Miss Badlam to let them go out of her hands. I hope you think I was justified in making the effort I did, not without a considerable strain upon my feelings, as well as her own, to get hold of the papers?"
"That will depend something on what the papers prove to be, Mr. Gridley. A man takes a certain responsibility in doing just what you have done. If, for instance, it should prove that this envelope contained matters relating solely to private transactions between Mr. Bradshaw and Miss Badlam, concerning no one but themselves,—and if the words on the back of the envelope and the seal had been put there merely as a protection for a package containing private papers of a delicate but perfectly legitimate character—"
The lawyer paused, as careful experts do, after bending the bow of an hypothesis, before letting the arrow go. Mr. Gridley felt very warm indeed, uncomfortably so, and applied his handkerchief to his face. Couldn't be anything in such a violent supposition as that,—and yet such a crafty fellow as that Bradshaw,—what trick was he not up to? Absurd! Cynthia was not acting,—Rachel wouldn't be equal to such a performance!—"why then, Mr. Gridley," the lawyer continued, "I don't see but what my partner would have you at an advantage, and, if disposed to make you uncomfortable, could do so pretty effectively. But this, you understand, is only a supposed case, and not a very likely one. I don't think it would have been prudent in you to meddle with that seal. But it is a very different matter with regard to myself. It makes no difference, so far as I am concerned, where this package came from, or how it was obtained. It is just as absolutely within my control as any piece of property I call my own. I should not hesitate, if I saw fit, to break this seal at once, and proceed to the examination of any papers contained within the envelope. If I found any paper of the slightest importance relating to the estate, I should act as if it had never been out of my possession.
"Suppose, however, I chose to know what was in the package, and, having ascertained, act my judgment about returning it to the party from whom you obtained it. In such case I might see fit to restore, or cause it to be restored, to the party, without any marks of violence having been used being apparent. If everything is not right, probably no questions would be asked by the party having charge of the package. If there is no underhand work going on, and the papers are what they profess to be, nobody is compromised but yourself, so far as I can see, and you are compromised at any rate, Mr. Gridley, at least in the good graces of the party from whom you obtained the documents. Tell that party that I took the package without opening it, and shall return it, very likely, without breaking the seal. Will consider of the matter, say a couple of days. Then you shall hear from me, and she shall hear from you. So. So. Yes, that's it. A nice business. A thing to sleep on. You had better leave the whole matter of dealing with the package to me. If I see fit to send it back with the seal unbroken, that is my affair. But keep perfectly quiet, if you please, Mr. Gridley, about the whole matter. Mr. Bradshaw is off, as you know, and the business on which he is gone is important,—very important. He can be depended on for that; he has acted all along as if he had a personal interest in the success of our firm beyond his legal relation to it."
* * * * *
Mr. Penhallow's light burned very late in the office that night, and the following one. He looked troubled and absent-minded, and, when Miss Laura ventured to ask him how long Mr. Bradshaw was like to be gone, answered her in such a way that the girl who waited at table concluded that he didn't mean to have Miss Laury keep company with Mr. Bradshaw, or he'd never have spoke so dreadful hash to her when she ahst about him.
SUSAN POSEY'S TRIAL.
A day or two after Myrtle Hazard returned to the village, Master Byles Gridley, accompanied by Gifted Hopkins, followed her, as has been already mentioned, to the same scene of the principal events of this narrative. The young man had been persuaded that it would be doing injustice to his talents to crowd their fruit prematurely upon the market. He carried his manuscript back with him, having relinquished the idea of publishing for the present. Master Byles Gridley, on the other hand, had in his pocket a very flattering proposal from the same publisher to whom he had introduced the young poet, for a new and revised edition of his work, "Thoughts on the Universe," which was to be remodelled in some respects, and to have a new title not quite so formidable to the average reader.
It would be hardly fair to Susan Posey to describe with what delight and innocent enthusiasm she welcomed back Gifted Hopkins. She had been so lonely since he was away! She had read such of his poems as she possessed—duplicates of his printed ones, or autographs which he had kindly written out for her—over and over again, not without the sweet tribute of feminine sensibility, which is the most precious of all testimonials to a poet's power over the heart. True, her love belonged to another,—but then she was so used to Gifted! She did so love to hear him read his poems,—and Clement had never written that "little bit of a poem to Susie," which she had asked him for so long ago! She received him therefore with open arms,—not literally, of course, which would have been a breach of duty and propriety, but in a figurative sense, which it is hoped no reader will interpret to her discredit.
The young poet was in need of consolation. It is true that he had seen many remarkable sights during his visit to the city; that he had got "smarted up," as his mother called it, a good deal; that he had been to Mrs. Clymer Ketchum's party, where he had looked upon life in all its splendors; and that he brought back many interesting experiences, which would serve to enliven his conversation for a long time. But he had failed in the great enterprise he had undertaken. He was forced to confess to his revered parent, and his esteemed friend Susan Posey, that his genius, which was freely acknowledged, was not thought to be quite ripe as yet. He told the young lady some particulars of his visit to the publisher, how he had listened with great interest to one of his poems,—"The Triumph of Song,"—how he had treated him with marked and flattering attention; but that he advised him not to risk anything prematurely, giving him the hope that by and by he would be admitted into that series of illustrious authors which it was the publisher's privilege to present to the reading public. In short, he was advised not to print. That was the net total of the matter, and it was a pang to the susceptible heart of the poet. He had hoped to have come home enriched by the sale of his copyright, and with the prospect of seeing his name before long on the back of a handsome volume.
Gifted's mother did all in her power to console him in his disappointment.—There was plenty of jealous people always that wanted to keep young folks from rising in the world. Never mind, she didn't believe but what Gifted could make jest as good verses as any of them that they kept such a talk about.—She had a fear that he might pine away in consequence of the mental excitement he had gone through, and solicited his appetite with her choicest appliances,—of which he partook in a measure which showed that there was no immediate cause of alarm.
But Susan Posey was more than a consoler,—she was an angel to him in this time of his disappointment. "Read me all the poems over again," she said,—"it is almost the only pleasure I have left, to hear you read your beautiful verses." Clement Lindsay had not written to Susan quite as often of late as at some former periods of the history of their love. Perhaps it was that which had made her look paler than usual for some little time. Something was evidently preying on her. Her only delight seemed to be in listening to Gifted as he read, sometimes with fine declamatory emphasis, sometimes in low, tremulous tones, the various poems enshrined in his manuscript. At other times she was sad, and more than once Mrs. Hopkins had seen a tear steal down her innocent cheek, when there seemed to be no special cause for grief. She ventured to speak of it to Master Byles Gridley.
"Our Susan's in trouble, Mr. Gridley, for some reason or other that's unbeknown to me, and I can't help wishing you could jest have a few words with her. You're a kind of a grandfather, you know, to all the young folks, and they'd tell you pretty much everything about themselves. I calc'late she isn't at ease in her mind about somethin' or other, and I kind o' think, Mr. Gridley, you could coax it out of her."
"Was there ever anything like it?" said Master Byles Gridley to himself. "I shall have all the young folks in Oxbow Village to take care of at this rate! Susan Posey in trouble, too! Well, well, well, it's easier to get a birch-bark canoe off the shallows than a big ship off the rocks. Susan Posey's trouble will be come at easily enough; but Myrtle Hazard floats in deeper water. We must make Susan Posey tell her own story, or let her tell it, for it will all come out of itself."
* * * * *
"I am going to dust the books in the open shelves this morning. I wonder if Miss Susan Posey wouldn't like to help for half an hour or so," Master Gridley remarked at the breakfast-table.
The amiable girl's very pleasant countenance lighted up at the thought of obliging the old man who had been so kind to her and so liberal to her friend, the poet. She would be delighted to help him; she would dust them all for him, if he wanted her to. No, Master Gridley said, he always wanted to have a hand in it; and, besides, such a little body as she was could not lift those great folios out of the lower shelves without overstraining herself; she might handle the musketry and the light artillery, but he must deal with the heavy guns himself. "As low down as the octavos, Susan Posey, you shall govern; below that, the Salic law."
Susan did not know much about the Salic law; but she knew he meant that he would dust the big books and she would attend to the little ones.
A very young and a very pretty girl is sometimes quite charming in a costume which thinks of nothing less than of being attractive. Susan appeared after breakfast in the study, her head bound with a kerchief of bright pattern, a little jacket she had outgrown buttoned, in spite of opposition, close about her up to the throat, round which a white handkerchief was loosely tied, and a pair of old gauntlets protecting her hands, so that she suggested something between a gypsy, a jaunty soubrette, and the fille du regiment.
Master Gridley took out a great volume from the lower shelf,—a folio in massive oaken covers with clasps like prison hinges, bearing the stately colophon, white on a ground of vermilion, of Nicholas Jenson and his associates. He opened the volume,—paused over its blue and scarlet initial letter,—he turned page after page, admiring its brilliant characters, its broad, white marginal rivers, and the narrower white creek that separated the black-typed twin-columns,—he turned back to the beginning and read the commendatory paragraph, "Nam ipsorum omnia fulgent tum correctione dignissima, tum cura imprimendo splendida ac miranda," and began reading, "Incipit proemium super apparatum decretalium ..." when it suddenly occurred to him that this was not exactly doing what he had undertaken to do, and he began whisking an ancient bandanna about the ears of the venerable volume. All this time Miss Susan Posey was catching the little books by the small of their backs, pulling them out, opening them, and clapping them together, 'p-'p-'p! 'p-'p-'p! and carefully caressing all their edges with a regular professional dusting-cloth, so persuasively that they yielded up every particle that a year had drifted upon them, and came forth refreshed and rejuvenated. This process went on for a while, until Susan had worked down among the octavos, and Master Gridley had worked up among the quartos. He had got hold of Calmet's Dictionary, and was caught by the article Solomon, so that he forgot his occupation again. All at once it struck him that everything was very silent,—the 'p-'p-'p! of clapping the books had ceased, and the light rustle of Susan's dress was no longer heard. He looked up and saw her standing perfectly still, with a book in one hand and her duster in the other. She was lost in thought, and by the shadow on her face and the glistening of her blue eyes he knew it was her hidden sorrow that had just come back to her. Master Gridley shut up his book, leaving Solomon to his fate, like the worthy Benedictine he was reading, without discussing the question whether he was saved or not.
"Susan Posey, child, what is your trouble?"
Poor Susan was in the state of unstable equilibrium which the least touch upsets, and fell to crying. It took her some time to get down the waves of emotion so that speech would live upon them. At last it ventured out,—showing at intervals, like the boat rising on the billow, sinking into the hollow, and climbing again into notice.
"O Mr. Grid—ley—I can't—I can't—tell you or—any—body—what's the mat—mat—matter.—My heart will br—br—break."
"No, no, no, child," said Mr. Gridley, sympathetically stirred a little himself by the sight of Susan in tears and sobbing and catching her breath, "that mustn't be, Susan Posey. Come off the steps, Susan Posey, and stop dusting the books,—I can finish them,—and tell me all about your troubles. I will try to help you out of them, and I have begun to think I know how to help young people pretty well. I have had some experience at it."
But Susan cried and sobbed all the more uncontrollably and convulsively. Master Gridley thought he had better lead her at once to what he felt pretty sure was the source of her troubles, and that, when she had had her cry out, she would probably make the hole in the ice he had broken big enough in a very few minutes.
"I think something has gone wrong between you and your friend, the young gentleman with whom you are in intimate relations, my child, and I think you had better talk freely with me, for I can perhaps give you a little counsel that will be of service."
Susan cried herself quiet at last. "There's nobody in the world like you, Mr. Gridley," she said, "and I've been wanting to tell you something ever so long. My friend—Mr. Clem—Clement Lindsay doesn't care for me as he used to,—I know he doesn't. He hasn't written to me for—I don't know but it's a month. And O Mr. Gridley! he's such a great man, and I am such a simple person,—I can't help thinking—he would be happier with somebody else than poor little Susan Posey!"
This last touch of self-pity overcame her, as it is so apt to do those who indulge in that delightful misery, and she broke up badly, as a horse-fancier would say, so that it was some little time before she recovered her conversational road-gait.
"O Mr. Gridley," she began again, at length, "if I only dared to tell him what I think,—that perhaps it would be happier for us both—if we could forget each other! Ought I not to tell him so? Don't you think he would find another to make him happy? Wouldn't he forgive me for telling him he was free? Were we not too young to know each other's hearts when we promised each other that we would love as long as we lived? Sha'n't I write him a letter this very day and tell him all? Do you think it would be wrong in me to do it? O Mr. Gridley, it makes me almost crazy to think about it. Clement must be free! I cannot, cannot hold him to a promise he doesn't want to keep."
There were so many questions in this eloquent rhapsody of Susan's that they neutralized each other, as one might say, and Master Gridley had time for reflection. His thoughts went on something in this way:—
"Pretty clear case! Guess Mr. Clement can make up his mind to it. Put it well, didn't she? Not a word about our little Gifted! That's the trouble. Poets! how they do bewitch these school-girls! And having a chance every day, too, how could you expect her to stand it?" Then aloud: "Susan Posey, you are a good, honest little girl as ever was. I think you and Clement were too hasty in coming together for life before you knew what life meant. I think if you write Clement a letter, telling him that you cannot help fearing that you two are not perfectly adapted to each other, on account of certain differences for which neither of you is responsible, and that you propose that each should release the other from the pledge given so long ago,—in that case, I say, I believe he will think no worse of you for so doing, and may perhaps agree that it is best for both of you to seek your happiness elsewhere than in each other."
The book-dusting came to as abrupt a close as the reading of Lancelot. Susan went straight to her room, dried her tears so as to write in a fair hand, but had to stop every few lines and take a turn at the "dust-layers," as Mrs. Clymer Ketchum's friend used to call the fountains of sensibility. It would seem like betraying Susan's confidence to reveal the contents of this letter, but the reader may be assured that it was simple and sincere and very sweetly written, without the slightest allusion to any other young man, whether of the poetical or cheaper human varieties.
It was not long before Susan received a reply from Clement Lindsay. It was as kind and generous and noble as she could have asked. It was affectionate, as a very amiable brother's letter might be, and candidly appreciative of the reasons Susan had assigned for her proposal. He gave her back her freedom,—not that he should cease to feel an interest in her, always. He accepted his own release, not that he would ever think she could be indifferent to his future fortunes. And within a very brief period of time after sending his answer to Susan Posey, whether he wished to see her in person, or whether he had some other motive, he had packed his trunk, and made his excuses for an absence of uncertain length at the studio, and was on his way to Oxbow Village.
JUST AS YOU EXPECTED.
The spring of 1861 had now arrived,—that eventful spring which was to lift the curtain and show the first scene of the first act in the mighty drama which fixed the eyes of mankind during four bloody years. The little schemes of little people were going on in all our cities and villages without thought of the fearful convulsion which was soon coming to shatter the hopes and prospects of millions. Our little Oxbow Village, which held itself by no means the least of human centres, was the scene of its own commotions, as intense and exciting to those concerned as if the destiny of the nation had been involved in them.
Mr. Clement Lindsay appeared suddenly in that important locality, and repaired to his accustomed quarters at the house of Deacon Rumrill. That worthy person received him with a certain gravity of manner, caused by his recollection of the involuntary transgression into which Mr. Lindsay had led him by his present of Ivanhoe. He was, on the whole, glad to see him, for his finances were not yet wholly recovered from the injury inflicted on them by the devouring element. But he could not forget that his boarder had betrayed him into a breach of the fourth commandment, and that the strict eyes of his clergyman had detected him in the very commission of the offence. He had no sooner seen Mr. Clement comfortably installed, therefore, than he presented himself at the door of his chamber with the book, enveloped in strong paper and very securely tied round with a stout string.
"Here is your vollum, Mr. Lindsay," the Deacon said. "I understand it is not the work of that great and good mahn who I thought wrote it. I did not see anything immoral in it as fur as I read, but it belongs to what I consider a very dangerous class of publications. These novels and romances are awfully destructive to our youth. I should recommend you, as a young mahn of principle, to burn the vollum. At least I hope you will not leave it about anywhere unless it is carefully tied up. I have written upon the paper round it to warn off all the young persons of my household from meddling with it."
True enough, Mr. Clement saw in strong black letters on the back of the paper wrapping his unfortunate Ivanhoe,—
"DANGEROUS READING FOR CHRISTIAN YOUTH.
"TOUCH NOT THE UNCLEAN THING."
"I thought you said you had Scott's picture hung up in your parlor, Deacon Rumrill," he said, a little amused with the worthy man's fear and precautions.
"It is the great Scott's likeness that I have in my parlor," he said; "I will show it to you if you will come with me."
Mr. Clement followed the Deacon into that sacred apartment.
"That is the portrait of the great Scott," he said, pointing to an engraving of a heavy-looking person whose phrenological developments were a somewhat striking contrast to those of the distinguished Sir Walter.
"I will take good care that none of your young people see this volume," Mr. Clement said; "I trust you read it yourself, however, and found something to please you in it. I am sure you are safe from being harmed by any such book. Didn't you have to finish it, Deacon, after you had once begun?"
"Well,—I—I—perused a consid'able portion of the work," the Deacon answered, in a way that led Mr. Clement to think he had not stopped much short of Finis. "Anything new in the city?"
"Nothing except what you've all had,—Confederate States establishing an army and all that,—not very new either. What has been going on here lately, Deacon?"
"Well, Mr. Lindsay, not a great deal. My new barn is pretty nigh done. I've got as fine a litter of pigs as ever you see. I don't know whether you're a judge of pigs or no. The Hazard gal's come back, spilt, pooty much, I guess. Been to one o' them fashionable schools,—I've heerd that she's learnt to dance. I've heerd say that that Hopkins boy's round the Posey gal,—come to think, she's the one you went with some when you was here,—I'm gettin' kind o' forgetful. Old Doctor Hurlbut's pretty low,—ninety-four year old,—born in '67,—folks ain't ginerally very spry after they're ninety, but he held out wonderful."
"How's Mr. Bradshaw?"
"Well, the young squire, he's off travellin' somewhere in the West, or to Washin'ton, or somewhere else,—I don't jestly know where. They say that he's follerin' up the courts in the business about old Malachi's estate. I don' know much about it."
* * * * *
The news got round Oxbow Village very speedily that Mr. Clement Lindsay, generally considered the accepted lover of Miss Susan Posey, had arrived in that place. Now it had come to be the common talk of the village that young Gifted Hopkins and Susan Posey were getting to be mighty thick with each other, and the prevailing idea was that Clement's visit had reference to that state of affairs. Some said that Susan had given her young man the mitten, meaning thereby that she had signified that his services as a suitor were dispensed with. Others thought there was only a wavering in her affection for her lover, and that he feared for her constancy, and had come to vindicate his rights.
Some of the young fellows, who were doubtless envious of Gifted's popularity with the fair sex, attempted in the most unjustifiable manner to play upon his susceptible nature. One of them informed him that he had seen that Lindsay fellah raound taown with the darndest big stick y' ever did see. Looked kind o' savage and wild like. Another one told him that perhaps he'd better keep a little shady; that are chap that had got the mittin was praowlin' abaout with a pistil,—one o' them Darringers abaout as long as your thumb, an' 'll fire a bullet as big as a potato-ball,—a fellah carries one in his breeches-pocket, an' shoots y' right threugh his own pahnts, withaout ever takin' on it aout of his pocket. The stable-keeper, who it may be remembered once exchanged a few playful words with Mr. Gridley, got a hint from some of these unfeeling young men, and offered the resources of his stable to the youth supposed to be in peril.
"I've got a faaest colt, Mr. Hopkins, that'll put twenty mild between you an' this here village, as quick as any four huffs'll dew it in this here caounty, if you should want to git away suddin. I've heern tell there was some lookin' raound here that wouldn't be wholesome to meet,—jest say the word, Mr. Hopkins, an' I'll have ye on that are colt's back in less than no time, an' start ye off full jump. There's a good many that's kind o' worried for fear something might happen to ye, Mr. Hopkins,—y' see fellahs don't like to have other chaps cuttin' on 'em aout with their gals."
Gifted Hopkins had become excessively nervous by this time. It is true that everything in his intimacy with Susan Posey so far might come under the general head of friendship; but he was conscious that something more was in both their thoughts. Susan had given him mysterious hints that her relations with Clement had undergone a change, but had never had quite courage enough, perhaps had too much delicacy, to reveal the whole truth.
Gifted was walking home, deeply immersed in thoughts excited by the hints which had been thus wantonly thrown out to inflame his imagination, when all at once, on lifting his eyes, he saw Clement Lindsay coming straight towards him. Gifted was unarmed, except with a pair of blunt scissors, which he carried habitually in his pocket. What should he do? Should he fly? But he was never a good runner, being apt to find himself scant o' breath, like Hamlet, after violent exercise. His demeanor on the occasion, did credit to his sense of his own virtuous conduct and his self-possession. He put his hand out, while yet at a considerable distance, and marched up towards Clement, smiling with all the native amiability which belonged to him.
To his infinite relief, Clement put out his hand to grasp the one offered him, and greeted the young poet in the most frank and cordial manner.
"And how is Miss Susan Posey, Mr. Hopkins?" asked Clement, in the most cheerful tone. "It is a long while since I have seen her, and you must tell her that I hope I shall not leave the village without finding time to call upon her. She and I are good friends always, Mr. Hopkins, though perhaps I shall not be quite so often at your mother's as I was during my last visit to Oxbow Village."
Gifted felt somewhat as the subject of one of those old-fashioned forms of argument, formerly much employed to convince men of error in matters of religion, must have felt when the official who superintended the stretching-machine said, "Slack up!"
He told Mr. Clement all about Susan, and was on the point of saying that if he, Mr. Clement, did not claim any engrossing interest in her, he, Gifted, was ready to offer her the devotion of a poet's heart. Mr. Clement, however, had so many other questions to ask him about everybody in the village, more particularly concerning certain young persons in whom he seemed to be specially interested, that there was no chance to work in his own revelations of sentiment.
Clement Lindsay had come to Oxbow Village with a single purpose. He could now venture to trust himself in the presence of Myrtle Hazard. He was free, and he knew nothing to show that she had lost the liberty of disposing of her heart. But after an experience such as he had gone through, he was naturally distrustful of himself, and inclined to be cautious and reserved in yielding to a new passion. Should he tell her the true relations in which they stood to each other,—that she owed her life to him, and that he had very nearly sacrificed his own in saving hers? Why not? He had a claim on her gratitude for what he had done in her behalf, and out of this gratitude there might naturally spring a warmer feeling.
No, he could not try to win her affections by showing that he had paid for them beforehand. She seemed to be utterly unconscious of the fact that it was he who had been with her in the abyss of waters. If the thought came to her of itself, and she ever asked him, it would be time enough to tell her the story. If not, the moment might arrive when he could reveal to her the truth that he was her deliverer, without accusing himself of bribing her woman's heart to reward him for his services. He would wait for that moment.
It was the most natural thing in the world that Mr. Lindsay, a young gentleman from the city, should call to see Miss Hazard, a young lady whom he had met recently at a party. To that pleasing duty he addressed himself the evening after his arrival.
"The young gentleman's goin' a courtin', I calc'late," was the remark of the Deacon's wife when she saw what a handsome figure Mr. Clement was making at the tea-table.
"A very hahnsome young mahn," the Deacon replied, "and looks as if he might know consid'able. An architect, you know,—a sort of a builder. Wonder if he hasn't got any good plans for a hahnsome pigsty. I suppose he'd charge somethin' for one, but it couldn't be much, an' he could take it out in board."
"Better ask him," his wife said; "he looks mighty pleasant; there's nothin' lost by askin', an' a good deal got sometimes, grandma used to say."
The Deacon followed her advice. Mr. Clement was perfectly good-natured about it, asked the Deacon the number of snouts in his menagerie, got an idea of the accommodations required, and sketched the plan of a neat and appropriate edifice for the Porcellarium, as Master Gridley afterwards pleasantly christened it, which was carried out by the carpenter, and stands to this day a monument of his obliging disposition, and a proof that there is nothing so humble that taste cannot be shown in it.
"What'll be your charge for the plan of the pigsty, Mr. Lindsay?" the Deacon inquired with an air of interest,—he might have been involved more deeply than he had intended. "How much should you call about right for the picter an' figgerin'?"
"O, you're quite welcome to my sketch of a plan, Deacon. I've seen much showier buildings tenanted by animals not very different from those your edifice is meant for."
* * * * *
Mr. Clement found the three ladies sitting together in the chill, dim parlor at The Poplars. They had one of the city papers spread out on the table, and Myrtle was reading aloud the last news from Charleston Harbor. She rose as Mr. Clement entered, and stepped forward to meet him. It was a strange impression this young man produced upon her,—not through the common channels of the intelligence,—not exactly that "magnetic" influence of which she had had experience at a former time. It did not overcome her as at the moment of their second meeting. But it was something she must struggle against, and she had force and pride and training enough now to maintain her usual tranquillity, in spite of a certain inward commotion which seemed to reach her breathing and her pulse by some strange, inexplicable mechanism.
Myrtle, it must be remembered, was no longer the simple country girl who had run away at fifteen, but a young lady of seventeen, who had learned all that more than a year's diligence at a great school could teach her, who had been much with girls of taste and of culture, and was familiar with the style and manners of those who came from what considered itself the supreme order in the social hierarchy. Her natural love for picturesque adornment was qualified by a knowledge of the prevailing modes not usual in so small a place as Oxbow Village. All this had not failed to produce its impression on those about her. Persons who, like Miss Silence Withers, believe, not in education, inasmuch as there is no healthy nature to be educated, but in transformation, worry about their charges up to a certain period of their lives. Then, if the transformation does not come, they seem to think their cares and duties are at an end, and, considering their theories of human destiny, usually accept the situation with wonderful complacency. This was the stage which Miss Silence Withers had reached with reference to Myrtle. It made her infinitely more agreeable, or less disagreeable, as the reader may choose one or the other statement, than when she was always fretting about her "responsibility." She even began to take an interest in some of Myrtle's worldly experiences, and something like a smile would now and then disarrange the chief-mourner stillness of her features, as Myrtle would tell some lively story she had brought away from the gay society she had frequented.
Cynthia Badlam kept her keen eyes on her like a hawk. Murray Bradshaw was away, and here was this handsome and agreeable youth coming in to poach on the preserve of which she considered herself the gamekeeper. What did it mean? She had heard the story about Susan's being off with her old love and on with a new one. Ah ha! this is the game, is it?
Clement Lindsay passed not so much a pleasant evening, as one of strange, perplexed, and mingled delight and inward conflict. He had found his marble once more turned to flesh and blood, and breathing before him. This was the woman he was born for; her form was fit to model his proudest ideal from,—her eyes melted him when they rested for an instant on his face,—her voice reached those hidden sensibilities of his inmost nature, which never betray their existence until the outward chord to which they vibrate in response sends its message to stir them. But was she not already pledged to that other,—that cold-blooded, contriving, venal, cynical, selfish, polished, fascinating man of the world, whose artful strategy would pass with nine women out of ten for the most romantic devotion?
If he had known the impression he made, he would have felt less anxiety with reference to this particular possibility. Miss Silence expressed herself gratified with his appearance, and thought he looked like a good young man,—he reminded her of a young friend of hers who—[It was the same who had gone to one of the cannibal islands as a missionary,—and stayed there.] Myrtle was very quiet. She had nothing to say about Clement, except that she had met him at a party in the city, and found him agreeable. Miss Cynthia wrote a letter to Murray Bradshaw that very evening, telling him that he had better come back to Oxbow Village as quickly as he could, unless he wished to find his place occupied by an intruder.
* * * * *
In the mean time, the country was watching the garrison in Charleston Harbor. All at once the first gun of the four years' cannonade hurled its ball against the walls of Fort Sumter. There was no hamlet in the land which the reverberations of that cannon-roar did not reach. There was no valley so darkened by overshadowing hills that it did not see the American flag hauled down on the 13th of April. There was no loyal heart in the North that did not answer to the call of the country to its defenders which went forth two days later. The great tide of feeling reached the locality where the lesser events of our narrative were occurring. A meeting of the citizens was instantly called. The venerable Father Pemberton opened it with a prayer that filled every soul with courage and high resolve. The young farmers and mechanics of that whole region joined the companies to which they belonged, or organized in squads and marched at once, or got ready to march, to the scene of conflict.
The contagion of warlike patriotism reached the most peacefully inclined young persons.
"My country calls me," Gifted Hopkins said to Susan Posey, "and I am preparing to obey her summons. If I can pass the medical examination, which it is possible I may, though I fear my constitution may be thought too weak, and if no obstacle impedes me, I think of marching in the ranks of the Oxbow Invincibles. If I go, Susan, and if I fall, will you not remember me ... as one who ... cherished the tenderest ... sentiments ... towards you ... and who had looked forward to the time when ... when...."
His eyes told the rest. He loved!
Susan forgot all the rules of reserve to which she had been trained. What were cold conventionalities at such a moment? "Never! never!" she said, throwing her arms about his neck and mingling her tears with his, which were flowing freely. "Your country does not need your sword,... but it does need ... your pen. Your poems will inspire ... our soldiers.... The Oxbow Invincibles will march to victory, singing your songs.... If you go ... and if you ... fall.... O Gifted!... I ... I ... yes I ... shall die too!"
His love was returned. He was blest!
"Susan," he said, "my own Susan, I yield to your wishes, at every sacrifice. Henceforth they will be my law. Yes, I will stay and encourage my brave countrymen to go forward to the bloody field. My voice shall urge them on to the battle-ground. I will give my dearest breath to stimulate their ardor.... O Susan! My own, own Susan!"
* * * * *
While these interesting events had been going on beneath the modest roof of the Widow Hopkins, affairs had been rapidly hastening to a similar conclusion under the statelier shadow of The Poplars. Clement Lindsay was so well received at his first visit that he ventured to repeat it several times, with so short intervals that it implied something more than a common interest in one of the members of the household. There was no room for doubt who this could be, and Myrtle Hazard could not help seeing that she was the object of his undisguised admiration. The belief was now general in the village that Gifted Hopkins and Susan Posey were either engaged, or on the point of being so; and it was equally understood that, whatever might be the explanation, she and her former lover had parted company in an amicable manner.
Love works very strange transformations in young women. Sometimes it leads them to try every mode of adding to their attractions,—their whole thought is how to be most lovely in the eyes they would fill so as to keep out all other images. Poor darlings! We smile at their little vanities, as if they were very trivial things compared with the last Congressman's speech or the great election sermon; but Nature knows well what she is about. The maiden's ribbon or ruffle means a great deal more for her than the judge's wig or the priest's surplice.
It was not in this way that the gentle emotion awaking in the breast of Myrtle Hazard betrayed itself. As the thought dawned in her consciousness that she was loved, a change came over her such as the spirit that protected her, according to the harmless fancy she had inherited, might have wept for joy to behold, if tears could flow from angelic eyes. She forgot herself and her ambitions,—the thought of shining in the great world died out in the presence of new visions of a future in which she was not to be her own,—of feelings in the depth of which the shallow vanities which had drawn her young eyes to them for a while seemed less than nothing. Myrtle had not hitherto said to herself that Clement was her lover, yet her whole nature was expanding and deepening in the light of that friendship which any other eye could have known at a glance for the great passion.
Cynthia Badlam wrote a pressing letter to Murray Bradshaw. "There is no time to be lost; she is bewitched, and will be gone beyond hope if this business is not put a stop to."
Love moves in an accelerating ratio; and there comes a time when the progress of the passion escapes from all human formulae, and brings two young hearts, which had been gradually drawing nearer and nearer together, into complete union, with a suddenness that puts an infinity between the moment when all is told and that which went just before.
They were sitting together by themselves in the dimly lighted parlor. They had told each other many experiences of their past lives, very freely, as two intimate friends of different sex might do. Clement had happened to allude to Susan, speaking very kindly and tenderly of her. He hoped this youth to whom she was attached would make her life happy. "You know how simple-hearted and good she is; her image will always be a pleasant one in my memory,—second to but one other."
Myrtie ought, according to the common rules of conversation, to have asked, What other? but she did not. She may have looked as if she wanted to ask,—she may have blushed or turned pale,—perhaps she could not trust her voice; but whatever the reason was, she sat still, with downcast eyes. Clement waited a reasonable time, but, finding it was of no use, began again.
"Your image is the one other,—the only one, let me say, for all else fades in its presence,—your image fills all my thought. Will you trust your life and happiness with one who can offer you so little beside his love? You know my whole heart is yours."
Whether Myrtle said anything in reply or not,—whether she acted like Coleridge's Genevieve,—that is, "fled to him and wept," or suffered her feelings to betray themselves in some less startling confession, we will leave untold. Her answer, spoken or silent, could not have been a cruel one, for in another moment Clement was pressing his lips to hers; after the manner of accepted lovers.
"Our lips have met to-day for the second time," he said, presently.
She looked at him in wonder. What did he mean? The second time! How assuredly he spoke! She looked him calmly in the face, and awaited his explanation.
"I have a singular story to tell you. On the morning of the 16th of June, now nearly two years ago, I was sitting in my room at Alderbank, some twenty miles down the river, when I heard a cry for help coming from the river. I ran down to the bank, and there I saw a boy in an old boat—"
When it came to the "boy" in the old boat, Myrtle's cheeks flamed so that she could not bear it, and she covered her face with both her hands. But Clement told his story calmly through to the end, sliding gently over its later incidents, for Myrtle's heart was throbbing violently, and her breath a little catching and sighing, as when she had first lived with the new life his breath had given her.
* * * * *
"Why did you ask me for myself, when you could have claimed me?" she said.
"I wanted a free gift, Myrtle," Clement answered, "and I have it."
They sat in silence, lost in the sense of that new life which had suddenly risen on their souls.
The door-bell rang sharply. Kitty Fagan answered its summons, and presently entered the parlor and announced that Mr. Bradshaw was in the library, and wished to see the ladies.
OPINIONS OF THE LATE DR. NOTT RESPECTING BOOKS, STUDIES, AND ORATORS.
During the summer of 1833, several professional gentlemen, clergymen, lawyers, and educators were spending their vacation at Saratoga Springs. Among them was Dr. Nott. He was then regarded as a veteran teacher, whose long experience and acknowledged wisdom gave a peculiar value to his matured opinions. The younger members of this little circle of scholars, taking their ease at their inn, purposely sought to "draw out" the Doctor upon those topics in which they felt an especial interest. They were, therefore, in their leisure moments, constantly hearing and asking him questions. One of them, then a tutor in Dartmouth College, took notes of the conversations, and the following dialogue is copied from his manuscript:—
Mr. C. "Doctor, how long have you been at the head of Union College?"
Dr. N. "Thirty years. I am the oldest president in the United States, though not the oldest man in office. I cannot drop down anywhere in the Union without meeting some one of my children."
Mr. C. "And that, too, though so many of them are dead! I believe that nearly half of my class are dead!"
Dr. N. "Indeed! That is a large proportion to die so soon. I think it remarkable that so few deaths have occurred among the members of the college since I have been connected with it. I can distinctly recollect all the individuals who have died at college, and during thirty years there have been but seven. The proportion has been less than one third of one per cent. Very many have died, however, very soon after leaving college. Two or three in almost every class have died within a year after they have graduated. I have been at a loss as to the cause of this marked difference. I can assign no other than the sudden change which then takes place in the student's whole manner and habits of living, diet, &c."
Mr. C. "How do the students generally answer the expectations they have raised during their college course?"
Dr. N. "I have been rarely disappointed. I have found my little anticipatory notes generally fulfilled. I recollect, however, one class, which graduated four or five years ago, in regard to which I have been very happily disappointed. It had given us more trouble, and there were more sceptics in it than in any other class we ever had. But now every one of those infidels except one is studying for the ministry."
Mr. C. "What course do you take with a sceptical student?"
Dr. N. "I remember a very interesting case I had several years ago. There was a young man in college of fine talents, an excellent and exemplary student, but an atheist. He roomed near me. I was interested in him; but I feared his influence. It was very injurious in college, and yet he did nothing worthy of censure. I called him one day to my study. I questioned him familiarly and kindly in relation to his speculative views. He said he was not an atheist, but had very serious doubts and difficulties on the subject, and frankly stated them to me. I did not talk with him religiously, but as a philosopher. I did not think he would bear it. I told him that I felt a peculiar sympathy with young men in his state of mind; for once, during the French Revolution, I had been troubled with the same difficulties myself. I had been over that whole ground; and would gladly assist his inquiries, and direct him to such authors as I thought would aid him in his investigations after truth. As he left my study, I said, 'Now, I expect yet to see you a minister of the Gospel!' He returned to his room; he paced it with emotion; said he to his room-mate (these facts his room-mate communicated to me within a year), 'What do you think the President says?' 'I don't know.' 'He says he expects yet to see me a minister. I a minister! I a minister!'—and he continued to walk the room, and reiterate the words. No immediate effect on his character was produced. But the prophetic words (for so he seemed to regard them) clung to him as a magic talisman, and would never leave his mind; and he is now a pious man, and a student in divinity."
Mr. C. "Doctor, we have been seeking amusement and profit by some exercises in elocution. Mr. G—— and myself have been trying to read Shakespeare a little; but some gentlemen here have had some qualms of conscience as to the propriety of it, and have condemned the reading of Shakespeare as demoralizing. What is your opinion, sir?"
Dr. N. "Why, as to that matter, sir, I always say to my young men, 'Gentlemen, if you wish to get a knowledge of the world and of human nature, read the Bible. The Bible is the first and best book that can be studied for the exhibition of human character; and the man who goes out into the world expecting to find men just such as Moses and Paul have represented them will never be disappointed. If you are contented to read nothing but your Bibles, well, you have it all there. But if you will read any other books, read Homer and Shakespeare. They come nearer, in my estimation, to Moses and Paul, in their delineations of human character, than any other authors I am acquainted with. I would have every young man read Shakespeare. I have always taught my children to read it.' Ministers, as a class, know less practically of human nature than any other class of men. As I belong to the fraternity, I can say this without prejudice. Men are reserved in the presence of a respectable clergyman. I might live in Schenectady, and discharge all my appropriate duties from year to year, and never hear an oath, nor see a man drunk; and if some one should ask me, 'What sort of a population have you in Schenectady? Are they a moral people? Do they swear? Do they get drunk?' for aught that I had seen or heard, I might answer, 'This is, after all, a very decent world. There is very little vice in it. People have entirely left off the sin of profaneness; and, as to intemperance, there is very little of that.' But I can put on my old great-coat, and an old slouching hat, and in five minutes place myself amid the scenes of blasphemy and vice and misery, which I never could have believed to exist if I had not seen them. So a man may walk along Broadway, and think to himself, 'What a fine place this is! How civil the people are! What a decent and orderly and virtuous city New York is!'—while, at the same time, within thirty rods of him are scenes of pollution and crime such as none but an eyewitness can adequately imagine. I would have a minister see the world for himself. It is rotten to the core. Ministers ordinarily see only the brighter side of the world. Almost everybody treats them with civility; the religious, with peculiar kindness and attention. Hence they are apt to think too well of the world. Lawyers, on the other hand, think too ill of it. They see only, or for the most part, its worst side. They are brought in contact with dishonesty and villany in their worst developments. I have observed, in doing business with lawyers, that they are exceedingly hawk-eyed, and jealous of everybody. The omission of a word or letter in a will, they will scan with the closest scrutiny; and while I could see no use for any but the most concise and simple terms to express the wishes of the testator, a lawyer would be satisfied with nothing but the most precise and formal instrument, stuffed full of legal caveats and technicalities."
Mr. C. "Which do you think excels in eloquence, the bar or the pulpit?"
Dr. N. "The bar."
Mr. C. "To what causes do you ascribe the superiority?"
Dr. N. "The superior influence of things of sight over those of faith. The nearness of objects enhances their importance. The subjects on which the lawyer speaks come home to men's business and bosoms. Some present, immediate object is to be gained. The lawyer feels, and he aims to accomplish something. But ministers have plunged into the metaphysics of religion, and gone about to inculcate the peculiarities of a system, and have neither felt themselves, nor been able to make others feel. It has long been a most interesting question to me, Why is the ministry so inefficient? It has seemed to me, that, with the thousands of pulpits in this country for a theatre to act on, and the eye and ear of the whole community thus opened to us, we might overturn the world. Some ascribe this want of efficiency to human depravity. That is not the sole cause of it. The clergy want knowledge of human nature. They want directness of appeal. They want the same go-ahead common-sense way of interesting men which lawyers have."
Mr. C. "Ought they not to cultivate elocution?"
Dr. N. "It seems to me that at those institutions where they pay the most attention to elocution they speak the worst. I have no faith in artificial eloquence. Teach men to think and feel, and, when they have anything to the purpose to say, they can say it. I should about as soon think of teaching a man to weep, or to laugh, or to swallow, as to speak when he has anything to say."
Mr. C. "How, then, do you account for the astonishing power of some tragedians?"
Dr. N. "Ah! the speaking in the theatre is all overacted. There is no nature in it. Those actors, placed in a public assembly, and called upon to address men on some real and momentous occasion, would utterly fail to touch men's hearts, while some plain country-man, who had never learned a rule of art, would find his way at once to the fountains of feeling and action within them. The secret of the influence which is felt in the acting of the teatre is not that it is natural. Let a real tragedy be acted, and let men believe that a real scene is before them, and the theatre would be deserted. No audience in this country could bear the presentation of a natural and real tragedy. Men go to the theatre to be amused. The scenery, the music, the attitudes, the gesticulations, all unite to fix attention and amuse; but the eloquence, so called, of the theatre, is all factitious, and is no more adapted to the real occasions of life than would be the recitative in singing, and it pleases on the same principle that this does."
Mr. C. "But, Doctor, why was it that, when Cooke or Kean appeared on the stage, he engrossed all eyes and ears, and nothing was heard or seen or thought of but himself? The acting of Kean was just as irresistible as the whirlwind. He would take up an audience of three thousand in his fist, as it were, and carry them just where he pleased, through every extreme of passion."
Dr. N. "because these actors were great men. Cooke, as far as I have been able to learn, (I never saw him,—I had once an engagement to meet him in Philadelphia, but he was drunk at the time, and disappointed me,) was perfectly natural. So I suppose Kean to have been. So Garrick was, and Talma. And the secret of the influence of these men was, that they burst the bonds of art and histrionic trick, and stood before their audience in their untrammelled natural strength. Garrick, at his first appearance, could not command an audience. It was first necessary for him entirely to revolutionize the English stage.
"Ministers have, very often, a sanctimonious tone, which by many is deemed a symbol of goodness. I would not say it is a symbol of hypocrisy, as many very pious men have it. One man acquires a tone, and those who study with him learn to associate it with his piety, and come to esteem it an essential part of ministerial qualification. But, instead of its being to me evidence of feeling, it evinces, in every degree of it, want of feeling; and whenever a man rises in his religious feelings sufficiently high, he will break away from the shackles of his perverse habit, and speak in the tone of nature.
"The most eloquent preacher I have ever heard was Dr. L——. General Hamilton at the bar was unrivalled. I heard his great effort in the case of People versus Croswell, for a libel upon Jefferson. There was a curious changing of sides in the position of the advocates. Spencer, the Attorney-General, who had long been climbing the ladder of democracy, managed the cause for the people; and Hamilton, esteemed an old-school Federalist, appeared as the champion of a free press. Of course, it afforded the better opportunity of witnessing the professional skill and rhetorical power of the respective advocates.
"Spencer, in the course of his plea, had occasion to refer to certain decisions of Lord Mansfield, and embraced the opportunity of introducing a splendid ad captandum eulogium on his Lordship,—'A name born for immortality; whose sun of fame would never set, but still hold its course in the heavens, when the humble names of his antagonist and himself should have sunk beneath the waves of oblivion.'
"Hamilton was evidently nettled at this invidious and unnecessary comparison, and cast about in his mind how he might retort upon Spencer. I do not know that my conjecture is right; but it has always seemed to me that his reason for introducing his repartee to Spencer in the odd place where he did, just after a most eloquent and pathetic peroration, was something as follows—'I have now constructed and arranged my argument, and the thread of it must not be broken by the intervention of any such extraneous matter. Neither will it do to separate my peroration from the main body of my argument. I must, then, give up the opportunity of retorting at all, or tack it on after the whole, and take the risk of destroying the effect of my argument.'
"He rose, and went through his argument, which was a tissue of the clearest, most powerful, and triumphant reasoning. He turned every position of his opponent, and took and dismantled every fortification. But his peroration was inimitably fine. As he went on to depict the horrors consequent upon a muzzled press, there was not a dry eye in the court-house. It was the most perfect triumph of eloquence over the passions of men I ever witnessed.
"When he had thus brought his speech to its proper, and what would have been a perfect close, he suddenly changed his tone, and, in a strain of consummate and powerful irony, began to rally his antagonist. He assented to the gentleman's eulogium upon Lord Mansfield. It was deserved. He acknowledged the justice of his remarks in relation to himself (Hamilton) and his ephemeral fame; but he did not see why the gentleman should have included himself in the same oblivious sentence. His course hitherto in the race of fame had been as successful, for aught he knew, as was ever his Lordship's. His strides had been as long and as rapid. His disposition, too, to run the race was as eager, and he knew no reason why he might not yet soar on stronger pinions, and reach a loftier height, than his Lordship had done.
"During the whole reply, the audience were in a titter; and he sat down amidst a burst of incontrollable laughter. Said Spencer to him frowningly, (I sat by the side of the judges on the bench, and both Hamilton and Spencer were within arm's length of me,) 'What do you mean, sir?' Said Hamilton, with an arch smile, 'Nothing but a mere compliment.' 'Very well, sir, I desire no more such compliments.'"
Mr. C. "What was the difference between the oratory of Hamilton and that of Burr?"
Dr. N. "Burr, above all men whom I ever knew, possessed the most consummate tact in evading and covering up the arguments of his opponent. His great art was to throw dust in the eyes of the jury, and make them believe that there was neither force nor sense nor anything else in the arguments of the opposite counsel. He never met a position, nor answered an argument, but threw around them the mist of sophistry, and thus weakened their force. He was the prince of plausibilities. He was always on the right side (in his own opinion), and always perfectly confident.
"Hamilton, on the other hand, allowed to the arguments of his opponent all the weight that could ever be fairly claimed for them, and attacked and demolished them with the club of Hercules. He would never engage in a cause unless he believed he was on the side of justice; and he often threw into the scale of his client the whole weight of his personal character and opinion. His opponents frequently complained of the undue influence he thus exerted upon the court."
Mr. C. "You have heard Webster, I suppose."
Dr. N. "I have never heard him speak. I have the pleasure of a slight personal acquaintance with him, and, from what I know of him, should think he would have less power over the passions of men than Hamilton. He is a giant, and deals with great principles rather than passions.
"Bishop McIlvaine will always be heard. He has an elegant form, a fine voice, and a brilliant imagination, and he can carry an audience just where he pleases."
Mr. C. "You, of course, have heard Dr. Cox."
Dr. N. "Yes, often. He is an original, powerful man, unequal in his performances: sometimes he hits, sometimes he misses; sometimes he rises to the sublimity of powerful speaking, and at others sinks below the common level."
Mr. C. "Have you read his book on Quakerism?"
Dr. N. "As much of it as I can. Some Presbyterians like it. For my part, I confess I do not. He carries his anti-Quaker antipathies too far. It is perfectly natural he should do so. Men who go over from one denomination to another always stand up more than straight, and for two reasons;—first, to satisfy their new friends that they have heartily renounced their former error; secondly, to convince their former friends that they had good reasons for desertion. Baptists who have become such from Presbyterians are uniformly the most bigoted, and vice versa.
"I am disgusted and grieved with the religious controversies of the present age. The divisions of schools, old school and new school, and the polemical zeal and fury with which the contest is waged, are entirely foreign from the true spirit of Christianity. The Christianity of the age is, in my view, most unamiable. It has none of those lovely, mellow features which distinguished primitive Christianity. If Christianity as it now exists should be propagated over the world, and thus the millennium be introduced, we should need two or three more millenniums before the world would be fit to live in."
Mr. C. "Why do you judge so, Doctor?"
Dr. N. "By the style of our religious periodicals. If I had suddenly dropped down here, and wished to ascertain at a bird's-eye view the religious and moral state of the community, I would call for the papers and magazines, and when I had glanced at them I should pronounce that community to be in a low moral and religious state which could tolerate such periodicals. A bad paper cannot live in a good community.
"I have been especially grieved and offended with the recent Catholic controversy. I abhor much in the Catholic religion; but, nevertheless, I believe there is a great deal of religion in that Church. I do not like the condemnation of men in classes. I would not, in controversy with the Catholics, render railing for railing. They cannot be put down so. They must be charmed down by kindness and love."
Mr. C. "I have been much amused by reading that controversy."
Dr. N. "My dear sir, I am sorry to hear you say so. You cannot have read that controversy with pleasure, without having been made a worse man by it."
Mr. C. "Why, I was amused by it, I suppose, just as I should be amused by seeing a gladiator's show."
Dr. N. "Just so; a very good comparison,—a very accurate comparison! It is a mere gladiatorial contest; and the object of it, I fear, is not so much truth as victory."
Mr. C. "But Luther fought so, Doctor."
Dr. N. "I know it; and I have no sympathy with that trait in the character of Luther. The world owes more, perhaps, to Martin Luther than to any other man who has ever lived; and as God makes the wrath of man to praise him, and restrains the remainder, so he raised up Luther as an instrument adapted to his age and the circumstances of the times. But Luther's character in some of its features was harsh, rugged, and unlovely; and in these it was not founded upon the Gospel.
"Compare him with St. Paul. Once they were placed in circumstances almost identically the same. Luther's friends were endeavoring to dissuade him from going to Worms, on account of apprehended danger. Said Luther, 'If there were as many devils at Worms as there are tiles on the roofs of the houses, I would go.'
"When Paul's friends at Caesarea wept, and besought him not to go up to Jerusalem, knowing the things which would befall him there, 'What mean ye,' said he, 'to weep, and break my heart? For I am ready, not to be bound only, but to die also at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.'
"Many a bold, reckless man of the world could have said what Luther said. None but a Christian could have uttered the words of Paul."
Mr. C. "Was it not in part a constitutional difference? Peter and Paul were very different men; so, if Luther had not been a Christian, he would have exhibited the same rugged features of character."
Dr. N. "That is just the point, sir. These traits in his character were no part of his Christianity. They existed, not in consequence, but in spite, of his religion. I want to see, in Christian character, the rich, deep, mellow tint of the Scriptures."
It was by a happy chance that my first acquaintance with Crete and the Cretans was made just previous to the outbreak of the insurrection which has just now brought the island so strongly to the attention of the world, and which will prevent any future traveller of this generation from seeing it, as I saw it, at the highest point of that comparative material prosperity which thirty-five years of such peace as Christian lands enjoy under Turkish rule had created, and before the beginning of that course of destruction which has now made the island one expanse of poverty and ruin. It was in the beginning of the last year of the administration of Ismael Pacha, in August, 1865, that, blockaded a month in Syra by cholera, I finally got passage on a twenty-ton yacht belonging to an English resident of that place, and made a loitering three days' run to Canea.
Crete, though never visited by cholera, was in quarantine at all Greek ports, and intercourse with the great world was limited to occasional voyages of the little caiques of the island to Syra, where they endured two weeks' quarantine, and whence they brought back the mails and a cargo of supplies, so that any arrival was an event to the Cydonians, and that of a yacht flying the English and American flags at once was enough to turn out the entire population. The fitful northerly breeze had kept us the whole afternoon in sight of the port; and it was only as sunset closed the doors of the health-office that we dropped anchor in the middle of the little harbor,—the wondering centre of attraction to a wondering town, whose folk came to assist at the sunsetting and our arrival. Lazy soldiers, lying at full length on the old bronze cannon of the batteries, looked out at us, only raising their heads from their crossed arms; grave Turks, smoking their nargiles in front of the cafes that open on the Marina, turned their chairs round to look at us without stopping their hubble-bubbling; and all about us, where nothing else was, a line of motley humanity—Greek, Turk, Egyptian, Nubian, Abyssinian, under hats, caps, tarbouches, turbans, hats Persian and ecclesiastical, and no hats at all—half circled us with mute and mostly stupid admiration.
It was my first experience of a Turkish town, and perhaps I was more struck with the dilapidation and evident decay than I ought to have been. The sea-wall of the massive Venetian fortification seemed crumbling and carious; the earth-work above it was half washed away; the semicircle of houses on the Marina looked seedy and tottering; the Marina itself was in places under-cut and falling into the water; and above us, overtopping the whole city, the Pacha's palace, built on the still substantial, though time-worn and neglected walls of the old Venetian citadel, reared a lath-and-plaster shabbiness against the glow of the western sky, reminding one of an American seaside hotel in the last stages of popularity and profitable tenancy,—great gaps in the plaster showing the flimsiness of the construction, while a coating of unmitigated whitewash almost defied the sunset glow to modify it. On the western point of the crescent of the Marina, under the height on which stands the palace, is a domed mosque,—one large central dome surrounded by little ones,—with a not ugly minaret, slightly cracked by earthquakes, standing at one side in a little cemetery, among whose turbaned tombstones grow a palm and an olive tree, and beyond which the khan (also serving as custom-house), a two-story house of the Venetian days, relieves the dreary white with a wash of ochre, stained and streaked to any tint almost. A little nearer the bottom of the port is an old Venetian gate, which once shut the Marina in at night while the custom-house guard slept, and over the keystone of which the Lion of St. Mark's still turns his mutilated head to the sea.
On the whole, the look of the thing was not unpicturesque, except for the hopeless whiteness and shabbiness of the principal architectural features, and especially the "Konak" (palace), which was, beyond all disguise of light or circumstance, an eyesore and a nuisance, the more so that its foundations were fine old brown stone masonry, delicious in color, solid, and showing at one end a pointed arched vault, with its portward end fallen down to show the interior, and crowned with an enormous mass of cactus. On the south side, invisible from the port, are three fine Gothic windows, now filled up, but preserving the traceries. The palace could scarcely have had a nobler site, or the site a more ignoble occupancy.
Too late for pratique, we had nothing to do but turn in early, and get ready to go ashore at sunrise.
Once landed, I began to wish that the comparison I had drawn for the Konak was a more just one, and that inside its card-board classicalism could be found the slightest approach to American hospitality. Not an inn of any kind exists in Canea: a dirty, dingy restaurant, which called itself "The Guest-House of the Spheres," offered one small bedroom, which the filth of the place, with its suggestions of bugs and fleas, forbade the title of a sleeping-room. While the yacht stayed I had a bed; but after that it was a dreary prospect for a man who had intended living at his ease in his inn the rest of the summer. And here let me, once for all, give due credit to Crete, and say that, though there is not from one end of the island to the other an inn, the stranger will never wait long, even in the smallest village, to know where he may sleep, and will rarely find a greater difficulty than to reconcile the rival claims to the honor of his presence. In my case, I had no greatly prolonged anxiety, and accepted the proffered hospitality of Mr. Alexis, then Vice-Consul of the United States of America, and now Dutch Consul, to whom most of the few travellers in Crete are more or less under obligations.
I thoroughly enjoyed some days of careless loafing about Canea. I have intimated my slight experience of Turkish towns; and if the critic should think it worth while to remark that I should have seen Constantinople and Cairo, Smyrna and Salonica, before attempting to describe one, I admit the justice of the criticism, and pass over readily all that is Turkish in Canea, the more that it is mainly of negative or destructive character. What remains of interest in Canea is Venetian, though of that there is almost nothing which represents the great period of the sea-republic, except the fine, and in most parts well-conditioned walls. Here and there a double-arched window, with a bit of fine carving in the capitals, peeps out from the jutting uglinesses of seraglio windows, close latticed and mysterious; one or two fine doorways, neglected and battered as to their ornamentation, some coats of arms, three or four arched gateways, and as many fountains, are all that will catch the eye of the artist inside the walls, unless it be the port, with its quaint and picturesque boats of antique pattern.
Canea had its west-end in what is now known as the Castelli,—the slight elevation on which, most probably, the ancient city was built, and on which stood the Venetian citadel, and the aristocratic quarter, enclosed and gated with an interior wall, whose circuit may still be traced in occasional glimpses of the brown stone above and between the Turkish houses. The Castelli of to-day is the principal street of this quarter, running through its centre, and guarded by the gates whose arches remain, valueless and without portcullis, but showing in their present state how strong a defence was needed to assure the patricians in their slumbers against any importunate attempts of their malcontent subjects and fellow-townsmen to clear off the score which the infamous government of the Republic accumulated. One doorway in this street struck me particularly, from the exquisite ornamentation of its stone doorway; but the palace to which it opened is abandoned, and in ruins. Most of the better class of these houses are in the same state, modern repair being only a shabby patching up and whitewashing. The quarter is inhabited almost entirely by Mussulmans; and, though habitable houses are greatly in demand in the business parts of Canea, and many of these old palaces could be made available at a small cost, their owners have so little energy, or so great an aversion to new-comers and Christians, that none of them are put under repairs.
On the walls of the city are many old bronze guns of both Venetian and Turkish manufacture. The former still bear the Lion of St. Mark's, and one long nine-pounder is exquisitely ornamented with a reticulation of vines cast in relief over the whole length of it. It bears the name of Albergetti, its founder. The only modern guns I saw were half a dozen heavy cast-iron thirty-two-pounders of Liege, and a few light bronze guns on the battery commanding the entrance of the harbor. The whole circuit of the walls is still furnished with the ancient bronze guns, of which several are of about twelve-inch calibre, with their stone balls still lying by them.
The harbor of Canea approximates in form to a clumsy L, the bottom of the letter forming the basin in the centre of which our yacht was moored, with a longer recess running eastward from the entrance, and divided from the open sea only by a reef on which the mole is built, following the direction of the coast at this part of the island. The narrow entrance is at the exterior angle of the L, between the water-battery and the lighthouse; and in the interior angle are the Castelli, Konak, &c. Along the inner side of the eastern recess, and across its extremity, is a line of galley-houses,—the penitential offering, it is said, of a patrician exiled here, to purchase his repatriation. Earthquakes have rent their walls, decay has followed disuse, for the harbor has now become so filled up that only a small boat can get into the furthermost of the arches, and the greater part of the galley-houses have dry land out to their entrances, and the ship-yard of to-day is in the vacant space left by the fall of two or three of them.
As might be expected, Canea is a very dull city. Out of the highway of Eastern trade or travel, whoever visits it must do so for itself alone, for the arts of amusing idlers and luring travellers are unknown to it. The only amusements for summer are a nargile on the Marina, studying primitive civilization the while, during the twilight hours, and the afternoon circuit of the ramparts, where every day at five o'clock an execrable band tortures the most familiar arias with clangor of discordant brass. From the ramparts we overlooked the plain, bounded by Mount Malaxa, above which loomed the Aspravouna, showing late in summer strips of snow in the ravines that furrowed the bare crystalline peaks, brown and gray and parched with the drought of three months. The Cretan summer runs rainless from June to October; and the only relief to the aridity of the landscape is formed by the olive-orchards, covering nearly the whole expanse between the sea sands and the treeless ridge of Malaxa with so luxuriant a green, that, accustomed to the olive of Italy, I could scarcely believe these to be the same trees. This I at first supposed to be owing to some peculiarity of the plain, but subsequently found it to be characteristic of the Cretan olive; and I remember hearing Captain Brine of the Racer express the same surprise I myself felt on first seeing the olive here. The trees are like river-side willows in early summer.
To get a clear comprehension of the position of Canea and the ancient advantages of Cydonia, its local predecessor, and at the same time of the whole northwestern district of Crete, one must ascend the hills of the Akroteri,—at least the first ridge, from which the view is superb. The Aspravouna towers higher: we look into the gorges of the Malaxa ridge, and up the ravine of Theriso, to the mountains about Laki,—an immemorial strong-hold of the Cretans, behind which, a sure and impregnable refuge to brave men, is the great plain of Omalos. Farther on are the hills of Selinos and Kisamos, sending off northward two long parallel ridges of considerable altitude, the peninsula of Grabusa, the ancient Corycus, the western land of Crete, and, from where we look, visible in portions above the nearer ridge of Cape Spada, the Dictynnian peninsula, which divides the plain of Cydonia from that of Kisamon and Polyrrhenia, and, but for the glimpses of Corycus above it, shutting in our view, as it bounds the territory dependent on the ancient city.
No site in Crete is more distinctly recognizable from the indications of the ancient geographers than Cydonia. It had "a port with shoals outside," and from this elevation one looks directly down the longer fork of the harbor, and can see how the mole is built on a black reef, whose detached masses extend from the lighthouse eastward to the corner of the city wall, which is built out to meet it, and then descends to the mole, with which it is continuous. Beyond the entrance of the harbor, the reef again appears, gradually nearing the shore; and beyond this, as far as the eye can reach, are no rocks,—no Other nook where a galley could have taken refuge.
How the hearts of the Pelasgian wanderers must have bounded when their exploring prows pushed into this nook, which offered them shelter from all winds that blow! It was a site to gladden the eyes of those builders of cities. Up above them, the bluff rock waiting for the layers of huge stones,—the eastern nook of the port more perfectly protected than the southern, which receives more or less the swell from the northerly winds, and whose inner shore of hard sand tempted the weary keels,—while all around stretched a wide, fertile, and then probably forest-clad plain, doubtless abounding in the stags for which the district was long famous. Here the restless race "located," and seem to have prospered in the days of those brave men who lived before Agamemnon, to whom and to whose allies in the Trojan war they seem to have given much the same trouble that their reputed descendants, the Sphakiotes, did to the Cretan Assembly of 1866, not being either then or now over-devoted to Panhellenism, though never averse to a comfortable fight.
Pashley quotes a Latin author to show that Cydonia was one of the most ancient, if not the most ancient, of Cretan cities,—"Cnossus and Erythraea, and, as the Greeks say, Cydonia, mother of cities." The alleged foundation of the city by Agamemnon was clearly, if anything, only a revival of the more ancient city; and after him successive colonizations rolled their waves in on this beautiful shore, obedient to its irresistible attraction. Dorian, Samiote, Roman, followed, adding new blood, and perhaps new wealth; and when finally, in the degradation of the Byzantine empire, Venice took possession of Crete, Cydonia had so far passed into insignificance, that, "seeking a place to build a fortress to quell the turbulent Greeks," she refounded Cydonia, and called it Canea,—an evident corruption of the old name. With all this building and rebuilding, nothing remains, of the ancient city. A mass of masonry near the Mussulman cemetery, which Chevalier in 1699 saw covered with a mosaic pavement, is still visible, but is Roman work, rubble and mortar. As Pashley says, the modern walls of Canea would have been sufficient to consume all vestiges of the ancient building. The citations he gives ought to put at rest all question, of the identity of Canea with Cydonia, and we shall presently see the only serious objection which has been raised against it disappear under an examination of the geological character of the plain.[A]
Looking from our hill-top southwestwardly across the plain, the eye is carried between two low ranges of hills into a valley which seems a continuation of this plain. Here runs the Iardanos, along which, according to Homer, the Cydonians dwelt. But it is now in no point of its course nearer than ten miles to Canea. This discrepancy troubled the early travellers, who were finally inclined to solve the riddle by supposing Cydonia to have been a district, and not a city merely. But study the plain a little, or Spratt's chart of it, and we shall see that from that far-off river-bed an almost unbroken and very gentle inclination leads through the plain, by the rear of the city, to the bay of Suda, a considerable ridge rising between it and the sea.
Suppose the mountains reclothed with forests, the hillsides pierced with perennial springs, and the flowing of the waters, not, as now, fitful and impetuous, but copious and constant. Then dam up the narrow opening the river has cut through the coast line of hills, in its direct course from the mountains to the sea, with a smaller and similar one cut by a stream coming down from Theriso, and you have the whole water sheet of the north side of the Aspravouna emptying into the bay of Suda. In this supposed route of the Iardanos (now the Platanos), just where it commences its cutting through the hills, is a large marsh, the remnant of what was once a lake of a mile or more in width, when the Iardanos, then a gentle, bounteous river, turned from its present course to run eastward, and deposit its washings where they made the marshes of Tuzla, and the shallows at the head of Suda Bay. Civilization, ship-building, commerce, carried away the forests; and, thus changed[B] into a furious mountain torrent,—three months a roaring flood which no bridge can stride, and the rest of the year almost a dry pebbled bed,—the Iardanos made a straight cut for the sea, drained its lake, forgot its old courses, and changed, in time, its name; and so it happens that the Cydonians no longer dwell along the Iardanos.
While we are on our look-out, let us try to study out another puzzle, which even Spratt left in doubt, i. e. the site of Pergamos. We know that it was near both Cydonia and Achaia, and Spratt pretty conclusively fixes the latter on the Dictynnian peninsula; so that it must have been in our present field of view. Looking this over, we can see but one point of land which offers the indispensable requisites for a city of the heroic ages, and that is the site of the modern Platania, midway between Canea and the peninsula,—a bold hill with a nearly perpendicular face to the north and east, and so abrupt on the west as to be easily fortified, and connected with the hills on the south by a narrow neck of hill,—such a site, in fact, as any one familiar with Pelasgic remains would seek at once in a country where any such remains existed. The fact that no remains exist to show that an ancient city stood here proves no more than at Canea; while the fact that none of the possible sites in the neighborhood show any such remains is conclusive against them, as no modern cities are there to consume the ancient masonry. In our researches in the island, we shall almost invariably find that, where there are remains of ancient cities, there is no modern town, and that, where a modern town stands on an ancient site determined, there are few, if any, antique vestiges. The reason is evident,—the ruins serve as quarry. The change of name even proves more for our hypothesis than against it. The plane-tree was not in ancient times so rare in the island as now, and would hardly have then given a name to a city, while now it not only names Platania, but the river even,—a grove of plane-trees occupying the valley between the city and the mouth of the river. The probability is, then, that the names of both are synchronous; and it would be useless to look for any Platania in ancient times, or any vestige of the name "Pergamos" in modern times, while, if the ancient city stood on a site now abandoned, we should in all probability find both ruins and name to indicate the locality.