With Introduction and Notes
W. PATTERSON ATKINSON, A.M.
VICE-PRINCIPAL OF THE LINCOLN HIGH SCHOOL JERSEY CITY
ALLYN AND BACON
Boston New York Chicago
COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY ALLYN AND BACON.
Norwood Press J. S. Cushing Co.—Berwick & Smith Co. Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.
This book is the result of actual work with first year High School pupils. Furthermore, the completed text has been tried out with them. Their difficulties, standards of reading, and the average development of their minds and taste have constantly been remembered. Whatever teaching quality the book may possess is due to their criticisms.
Hearty thanks are due Messrs. G. P. Putnam's Sons, Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons, The Thomas Y. Crowell Company, and The Houghton Mifflin Company for gracious permission to use copyrighted material.
PORTRAITS OF AUTHORS vii
I. Definition and Development ix
II. Forms xvi
III. The Short-story as Narration xvii
IV. Representative Short-stories xxi
V. Bibliography xxv
WASHINGTON IRVING: Rip Van Winkle (1820) 1
EDGAR ALLAN POE: The Gold Bug (1842) 23
The Purloined Letter (1845) 69
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE: Howe's Masquerade (1838) 93
The Birthmark (1843) 112
FRANCIS BRET HARTE: The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1869) 134
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON: The Sire de Maletroit's Door (1878) 148
Markheim (1885) 174
RUDYARD KIPLING: Wee Willie Winkie (1888) 196
LIST OF PORTRAITS
WASHINGTON IRVING Frontispiece
EDGAR ALLAN POE 23
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE 93
FRANCIS BRET HARTE 134
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON 148
RUDYARD KIPLING 196
DEFINITION AND DEVELOPMENT
Mankind has always loved to tell stories and to listen to them. The most primitive and unlettered peoples and tribes have always shown and still show this universal characteristic. As far back as written records go we find stories; even before that time, they were handed down from remote generations by oral tradition. The wandering minstrel followed a very ancient profession. Before him was his prototype—the man with the gift of telling stories over the fire at night, perhaps at the mouth of a cave. The Greeks, who ever loved to hear some new thing, were merely typical of the ready listeners.
In the course of time the story passed through many forms and many phases—the myth, e.g. The Labors of Hercules; the legend, e.g. St. George and the Dragon; the fairy tale, e.g. Cinderella; the fable, e.g. The Fox and the Grapes; the allegory, e.g. Addison's The Vision of Mirza; the parable, e.g. The Prodigal Son. Sometimes it was merely to amuse, sometimes to instruct. With this process are intimately connected famous books, such as "The Gesta Romanorum" (which, by the way, has nothing to do with the Romans) and famous writers like Boccaccio.
Gradually there grew a body of rules and a technique, and men began to write about the way stories should be composed, as is seen in Aristotle's statement that a story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Definitions were made and the elements named. In the fullness of time story-telling became an art.
Similar stories are to be found in many different literatures because human nature is fundamentally the same the world over; that is, people are swayed by the same motives, such as love, hate, fear, and the like. Another reason for this similarity is the fact that nations borrowed stories from other nations, changing the names and circumstances. Writers of power took old and crude stories and made of them matchless tales which endure in their new form, e.g. Hawthorne's Rappaccini's Daughter. Finally the present day dawned and with it what we call the short-story.
The short-story—Prof. Brander Matthews has suggested the hyphen to differentiate it from the story which is merely short and to indicate that it is a new species—is a narrative which is short and has unity, compression, originality, and ingenuity, each in a high degree. The notion of shortness as used in this definition may be inexactly though easily grasped by considering the length of the average magazine story. Compression means that nothing must be included that can be left out. Clayton Hamilton expresses this idea by the convenient phrase "economy of means." By originality is meant something new in plot, point, outcome, or character. (See Introduction III for a discussion of these terms.) Ingenuity suggests cleverness in handling the theme. The short-story also is impressionistic because it leaves to the reader the reconstruction from hints of much of the setting and details.
[Footnote 1: The Philosophy of the Short-Story in Pen and Ink, page 72. (Longmans, Green & Co., 1888.)]
[Footnote 2: Ibid.]
[Footnote 3: Materials of Fiction, page 175. (Doubleday, Page & Co., 1912.)]
Mr. Hamilton has also constructed another useful definition. He says: "The aim of a short-story is to produce a single narrative effect with the greatest economy of means that is consistent with the utmost emphasis."
[Footnote 4: Materials of Fiction, page 173. (Doubleday, Page & Co., 1912.)]
However, years before, in 1842, in his celebrated review of Hawthorne's Tales Edgar Allan Poe had laid down the same theory, in which he emphasizes what he elsewhere calls, after Schlegel, the unity or totality of interest, i.e. unity of impression, effect, and economy. Stevenson, too, has written critically of the short-story, laying stress on this essential unity, pointing out how each effect leads to the next, and how the end is part of the beginning.
[Footnote 5: Graham's Magazine, May, 1842.]
[Footnote 6: Vailima Letters, I, page 147.]
America may justly lay claim to this new species of short narrative. Beginning in the early part of the nineteenth century there had begun to appear in this country stories showing variations from the English type of story which "still bore upon it marks of its origin; it was either a hard, formal, didactic treatise, derived from the moral apologue or fable; or it was a sentimental love-tale derived from the artificial love-romance that followed the romance of chivalry." The first one to stand out prominently is Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle, which was published in 1820. This story, while more leisurely and less condensed than the completely developed form of the short-story, had the important element of humor, as well as freshness, grace, and restraint, nothing being said that should not be said.
[Footnote 7: Krapp's Irving's Tales of a Traveller, etc. Introduction. (Scott, Foresman & Co.)]
The next writer in the order of development is Edgar Allan Poe, whose Berenice appeared in 1835. With it the short-story took definite form. Poe's contribution is structure and technique; that is, he definitely introduced the characteristics noted in the definition—unity, compression, originality, and ingenuity. With almost mathematical precision he sets out to obtain an effect. To quote from his before-mentioned review of Hawthorne his own words which are so definite as almost to compose a formula of his way of writing a short-story and are so thoughtful as to be nearly the summary of any discussion of the subject: "A skillful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents—he then combines such events—as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect. If his very initial sentence tend not to the out-bringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step. In the whole composition there should be no word written of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one preestablished design. And by such means, with such care and skill, a picture is at length painted which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art a sense of the fullest satisfaction. The idea of the tale has been presented unblemished because undisturbed; and this is an end unattainable by the novel." It is to be noted that Poe roused interest in his effect by the method of suspense, that is, by holding back the solution of the plot, by putting off telling what the reader wants to know, though he continually aggravates the desire to know by constant hints, the full significance of which is only realized when the story is done. His stories are of two main classes: what have been called stories of "impressionistic terror," that is, stories of great fear induced in a character by a mass of rather vague and unusual incidents, such as The Fall of the House of Usher (1839) and The Pit and the Pendulum (1843); and stories of "ratiocination," that is, of the ingenious thinking out of a problem, as The Mystery of Marie Roget (1843). In the latter type he is the originator of the detective story.
The writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne exhibit the next stage of development. While lacking some of the technical excellence of Poe by often not knowing how to begin or how to end a story, by sacrificing economy or compression, yet he presented something new in making a story of situation, that is, by putting a character in certain circumstances and working out the results, as The Birthmark (1843). His stories also fall into two groups, the imaginative, like Howe's Masquerade (1838), and the moralizing introspective, or, as they have been called, the "moral-philosophic," that is, stories which look within the human mind and soul and deal with great questions of conduct, such as The Ambitious Guest (1837). Hawthorne was the descendant of Puritans, men given to serious thought and sternly religious. It is this strain of his inheritance which is evidenced in the second group. In all his writing there is some outward symbol of the circumstances or the state of mind. It is seen, for example, in The Minister's Black Veil (1835).
In 1868 was published Luck of Roaring Camp, by Bret Harte. In this story and those that immediately followed, the author advanced the development of the short-story yet another step by introducing local color. Local color means the peculiar customs, scenery, or surroundings of any kind, which mark off one place from another. In a literary sense he discovered California of the days of the early rush for gold. Furthermore, he made the story more definite. He confined it to one situation and one effect, thus approaching more to what may be considered the normal form.
With the form of the short-story fairly worked out, the next development is to be noted in the tone and subject matter. Local color became particularly evident, humor became constantly more prominent, and then the analysis of the working of the human mind, psychologic analysis, held the interest of some foremost writers. Stories of these various kinds came to the front about the third quarter of the last century. "Mark Twain" (Samuel Langhorne Clemens), Thomas Bailey Aldrich, and Frank R. Stockton preeminently and admirably present the humor so peculiarly an American trait. Local color had its exponents in George W. Cable, who presented Louisiana; "Charles Egbert Craddock" (Miss M. N. Murfree), who wrote of Tennessee; Thomas Nelson Page, who gave us Virginia; and Miss M. E. Wilkins (Mrs. Charles M. Freeman), who wrote of New England, to mention only the most notable. With psychologic analysis the name of Henry James is indissolubly linked. The Passionate Pilgrim (1875) may be taken as an excellent example of his work.
By this time the American short-story had crossed to England and found in Robert Louis Stevenson an artist who could handle it with consummate skill. He passed it on a more finished and polished article than when he received it, because by a long course of self-training he had become a master in the use of words. His stories remind one of Hawthorne because there is generally in them some underlying moral question, some question of human action, something concerning right and wrong. But they also have another characteristic which is more obvious to the average reader—their frank romance. By romance is meant happenings either out of the usual course of events, such as the climax of Lochinvar, or events that cannot occur.
The latest stage in the development of the short-story is due to Rudyard Kipling, who has made it generally more terse, has filled it with interest in the highest degree, has found new local color, chiefly in India, and has given it virility and power. His subject matter is, in the main, interesting to all kinds of readers. His stories likewise fulfill all the requirements of the definition. Being a living genius he is constantly showing new sides of his ability, his later stories being psychologic. His writings fall into numerous groups—soldier tales; tales of machinery; of animals; of the supernatural; of native Indian life; of history; of adventure;—the list could be prolonged. Sometimes they are frankly tracts, sometimes acute analyses of the working of the human mind.
So in the course of a little less than a century there has grown to maturity a new kind of short narrative identified with American Literature and the American people, exhibiting the foremost traits of the American character, and written by a large number of authors of different rank whose work, of a surprisingly high average of technical excellence, appears chiefly in the magazines.
Though the short-story has achieved a normal or general form of straightforward narrative, as in Kipling's An Habitation Enforced or Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews' Amici, yet it exhibits many variations in presentation. Sometimes it is a series of letters as in James' A Bundle of Letters, sometimes a group of narrative, letters, and telegrams as in Thomas Bailey Aldrich's Marjorie Daw; again, a letter and a paragraph as in Henry Cuyler Bunner's A Letter and a Paragraph, or a gathering of letters, telegrams, newspaper clippings, and advertisements as Bunner and Matthews' Documents in the Case.
Again it may be told in the first person as in Stevenson's Pavilion on the Links, or in the third person as in Kipling's The Bridge Builders. Yet again it may be a conundrum as Stockton's famous The Lady or the Tiger!
But besides the forms due to the manner of presentation there are other forms due to the emphasis placed on one of the three elements of a narrative—-action, character, and setting. Consequently using this principle of classification we have three forms which may be exemplified by Kipling's William the Conqueror, wherein action is emphasized; his Tomb of His Ancestors, wherein character is emphasized; and his An Error in the Fourth Dimension, wherein setting is emphasized.
Using yet another principle of classification—material—we obtain: stories of dramatic interest, that is, of some striking happening that would hold the audience of a play in a highly excited state, as Stevenson's Sire de Maletroit's Door; of love, as Bunner's Love in Old Cloathes; of romantic adventure, as Kipling's Man Who Would Be King; of terror, as Poe's Pit and the Pendulum; of the supernatural, as Crawford's The Upper Berth; of humor, as humor, as Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews' A Good Samaritan; of animals, as Kipling's Rikki-tikki-tavi; of psychological analysis, as James' Madonna of the Future; and so on.
THE SHORT-STORY AS NARRATION
All the previous discussion must not obscure the fact that the short-story is a form of narration and subject to all that pertains thereto. Now what is narration and what does it imply?
Narration is that form of discourse which presents a series of events in the order of time. Events or action presuppose actors, or characters as they are generally called, and a place where the action may take place; likewise time and circumstances within which the actors act. These three, which may be conveniently spoken of as actors, action, and environment, are three of the elements of narration. But there is a fourth. To make an interesting story there must be something for the chief character, technically called the protagonist, to overcome, such as an adversary, a situation, or an idea, which thing is called the obstacle. Furthermore, there must be something in the story near the beginning which brings the protagonist into conflict with the obstacle. Often this conflict, technically the collision, is brought about by another character. But it may be some happening. Whatever it is, it is called the complicating force. Then again, toward the end of the story, there is something else which either helps the protagonist to overcome the obstacle, or the obstacle to overcome the protagonist. This is called the resolving force.
As these two forces work in different parts of the story, the action is conveniently divided into parts to which names have been attached. First comes the introduction or proposition, wherein the time, place, circumstances, and protagonist are presented; then the entanglement, wherein the protagonist is brought into collision with the obstacle by the complicating force, and the interest begins to deepen. Next we have the climax, in which the struggle, and consequently the interest, are at their height; and this in turn is followed by the resolution, where the resolving force works and the knot begins to be untied. Finally there is the denouement or conclusion.
The career of each character may be conveniently spoken of as a line of interest. When the lines of interest become entangled we have the plot.
The following diagram illustrates to the eye the development of a story. Of course it must be distinctly understood that no story is the result of a mere substitution in a formula. Sometimes the various steps in the working-out of a story overlap in such a manner that its development according to a prescribed plan is not apparent.
Small c is sometimes called the crisis, being the point at which the action is most intense and begins to turn toward the end.
LIST OF REPRESENTATIVE SHORT-STORIES
1. ALDRICH: Marjorie Daw.
2. Quite So.
3. ANDREWS: Amici.
4. The Glory of the Commonplace.
5. A Good Samaritan.
6. BUNNER: "As One Having Authority."
7. Love in Old Cloathes.
8. BUNNER AND MATTHEWS: Documents in the Case.
9. CABLE: Posson Jone.
10. CHILD: The Man in the Shadow.
11. CLEMENS: Jumping Frog.
12. COBB: To the Editor of the Sun.
13. COLCORD: The Game of Life and Death.
14. DAVIS, R. H.: The Bar Sinister.
16. The Lion and the Unicorn.
17. DOYLE: The Red-Headed League.
18. A Scandal in Bohemia.
19. The Striped Chest.
20. Through the Veil.
21. GARLAND: The Return of a Private.
22. GEROULD: On the Staircase.
23. HALE: The Man without a Country.
24. HARDY: The Three Strangers.
25. HARRIS: The Wonderful Tar Baby.
26. HARTE: Luck of Roaring Camp.
27. Tennessee's Partner.
28. HAWTHORNE: The Ambitious Guest.
29. Ethan Brand.
30. The Gray Champion.
31. The Great Stone Face.
32. "O. HENRY": Friends in San Rosario.
33. Jimmie Hayes and Muriel.
34. IRVING: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
35. The Spectre Bridegroom.
36. JAMES: A Passionate Pilgrim.
37. JANVIER: In the St. Peter's Set.
38. The Passing of Thomas.
39. JEWETT: A Native of Winby.
40. KIPLING: The Brushwood Boy.
41. An Habitation Enforced.
42. The Maltese Cat.
43. My Lord the Elephant.
46. The Tomb of His Ancestors.
47. Wee Willie Winkie.
48. William the Conqueror.
49. LONDON: The White Silence.
50. MORRIS: The Trap.
51. MURFREE: The "Harnt" that Walks Chilhowee.
52. PAGE: Marse Chan.
53. Meh Lady.
55. PARKER: The Stake and the Plumb Line.
56. POE: The Fall of the House of Usher.
57. The Murders in the Rue Morgue.
58. The Pit and the Pendulum.
59. ROBERTS: From the Teeth of the Tide.
60. SPEARMAN: Jimmie the Wind.
61. SMITH, F. H.: Colonel Carter of Cartersville.
62. STEVENSON: The Bottle Imp.
63. A Lodging for the Night.
64. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
65. The Merry Men.
66. The Pavilion on the Links.
67. STOCKTON: The Lady or the Tiger?
68. The Transferred Ghost.
69. A Story of Seven Devils.
70. VAN DYKE: The Blue Flower.
71. WILKINS (FREEMAN): A New England Nun.
72. The Revolt of Mother.
BALDWIN, CHARLES SEARS. American Short-stories. Longmans, Green, & Co., 1904.
CANBY, HENRY SEIDEL, A Study of the Short-story. Henry Holt & Co., 1913.
DAWSON, W. J. AND CONINGSBY, The Great English Short-story Writers. Harper and Brothers, 1910.
HAMILTON, CLAYTON, Materials and Methods of Fiction (Chapters X and XI). Doubleday, Page & Co., 1908.
MATTHEWS, BRANDER, The Short-story. American Book Co., 1907.
PERRY, BLISS, A Study of Prose Fiction (Chapter XII). Houghton Mifflin Co., 1902.
SMITH, C. ALPHONSO, The American Short-story. Ginn & Co., 1912.
[The following Tale was found among the papers of the late Diedrich Knickerbocker, an old gentleman of New York, who was very curious in the Dutch history of the province, and the manners of the descendants from its primitive settlers. His historical researches, however, did not lie so much among books as among men; for the former are lamentably scanty on his favorite topics; whereas he found the old burghers, and still more their wives, rich in that legendary lore, so invaluable to true history. Whenever, therefore, he happened upon a genuine Dutch family, snugly shut up in its low-roofed farmhouse, under a spreading sycamore, he looked upon it as a little clasped volume of black-letter, and studied it with the zeal of a book-worm.
The result of all these researches was a history of the province during the reign of the Dutch governors, which he published some years since. There have been various opinions as to the literary character of his work, and, to tell the truth, it is not a whit better than it should be. Its chief merit is its scrupulous accuracy, which indeed was a little questioned on its first appearance, but has since been completely established; and it is now admitted into all historical collections, as a book of unquestionable authority.
The old gentleman died shortly after the publication of his work, and now that he is dead and gone, it cannot do much harm to his memory to say that his time might have been much better employed in weightier labors. He, however, was apt to ride his hobby his own way; and though it did now and then kick up the dust a little in the eyes of his neighbors, and grieve the spirit of some friends, for whom he felt the truest deference and affection; yet his errors and follies are remembered "more in sorrow than in anger," and it begins to be suspected, that he never intended to injure or offend. But however his memory may be appreciated by critics, it is still held dear by many folks, whose good opinion is well worth having; particularly by certain biscuit-bakers, who have gone so far as to imprint his likeness on their new-year cakes; and have thus given him a chance for immortality, almost equal to the being stamped on a Waterloo Medal, or a Queen Anne's Farthing.]
RIP VAN WINKLE
A POSTHUMOUS WRITING OF DIEDRICH KNICKERBOCKER
By Woden, God of Saxons, From whence comes Wensday, that is Wodensday, Truth is a thing that ever I will keep Unto thylke day in which I creep into My sepulchre—
Whoever has made a voyage up the Hudson must remember the Kaatskill mountains. They are a dismembered branch of the great Appalachian family, and are seen away to the west of the river, swelling up to a noble height, and lording it over the surrounding country. Every change of season, every change of weather, indeed, every hour of the day, produces some change in the magical hues and shapes of these mountains, and they are regarded by all the good wives, far and near, as perfect barometers. When the weather is fair and settled, they are clothed in blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening sky; but, sometimes, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will gather a hood of gray vapors about their summits, which, in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory.
At the foot of these fairy mountains, the voyager may have descried the light smoke curling up from a village whose shingle-roofs gleam among the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the fresh green of the nearer landscape. It is a little village of great antiquity, having been founded by some of the Dutch colonists, in the early times of the province, just about the beginning of the government of the good Peter Stuyvesant, (may he rest in peace!) and there were some of the houses of the original settlers standing within a few years, built of small yellow bricks brought from Holland, having latticed windows and gable fronts, surmounted with weather-cocks.
In that same village, and in one of these very houses (which, to tell the precise truth, was sadly time-worn and weather-beaten), there lived many years since, while the country was yet a province of Great Britain, a simple good-natured fellow of the name of Rip Van Winkle. He was a descendant of the Van Winkles who figured so gallantly in the chivalrous days of Peter Stuyvesant, and accompanied him to the siege of Fort Christina. He inherited, however, but little of the martial character of his ancestors. I have observed that he was a simple good-natured man; he was, moreover, a kind neighbor, and an obedient hen-pecked husband. Indeed, to the latter circumstance might be owing that meekness of spirit which gained him such universal popularity; for those men are most apt to be obsequious and conciliating abroad, who are under the discipline of shrews at home. Their tempers, doubtless, are rendered pliant and malleable in the fiery furnace of domestic tribulation; and a curtain lecture is worth all the sermons in the world for teaching the virtues of patience and long-suffering. A termagant wife may, therefore, in some respects, be considered a tolerable blessing; and if so, Rip Van Winkle was thrice blessed.
Certain it is, that he was a great favorite among all the good wives of the village, who, as usual with the amiable sex, took his part in all family squabbles; and never failed, whenever they talked those matters over in their evening gossipings, to lay all the blame on Dame Van Winkle. The children of the village, too, would shout with joy whenever he approached. He assisted at their sports, made their playthings, taught them to fly kites and shoot marbles, and told them long stories of ghosts, witches, and Indians. Whenever he went dodging about the village, he was surrounded by a troop of them, hanging on his skirts, clambering on his back, and playing a thousand tricks on him with impunity; and not a dog would bark at him throughout the neighborhood.
The great error in Rip's composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor. It could not be from the want of assiduity or perseverance; for he would sit on a wet rock, with a rod as long and heavy as a Tartar's lance, and fish all day without a murmur, even though he should not be encouraged by a single nibble. He would carry a fowling-piece on his shoulder for hours together, trudging through woods and swamps, and up hill and down dale, to shoot a few squirrels or wild pigeons. He would never refuse to assist a neighbor even in the roughest toil, and was a foremost man at all country frolics for husking Indian corn, or building stone-fences; the women of the village, too, used to employ him to run their errands, and to do such little odd jobs as their less obliging husbands would not do for them. In a word Rip was ready to attend to anybody's business but his own; but as to doing family duty, and keeping his farm in order, he found it impossible.
In fact, he declared it was of no use to work on his farm; it was the most pestilent little piece of ground in the whole country; everything about it went wrong, and would go wrong, in spite of him. His fences were continually falling to pieces; his cow would either go astray or get among the cabbages; weeds were sure to grow quicker in his fields than anywhere else; the rain always made a point of setting in just as he had some out-door work to do, so that though his patrimonial estate had dwindled away under his management, acre by acre, until there was little more left than a mere patch of Indian corn and potatoes, yet it was the worst conditioned farm in the neighborhood.
His children, too, were as ragged and wild as if they belonged to nobody. His son Rip, an urchin begotten in his own likeness, promised to inherit the habits, with the old clothes of his father. He was generally seen trooping like a colt at his mother's heels, equipped in a pair of his father's cast-off galligaskins, which he had much ado to hold up with one hand, as a fine lady does her train in bad weather.
Rip Van Winkle, however, was one of those happy mortals, of foolish, well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy, eat white bread or brown, whichever can be got with least thought or trouble, and would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound. If left to himself, he would have whistled life away in perfect contentment; but his wife kept continually dinning in his ears about his idleness, his carelessness, and the ruin he was bringing on his family. Morning, noon, and night, her tongue was incessantly going, and everything he said or did was sure to produce a torrent of household eloquence. Rip had but one way of replying to all lectures of the kind, and that, by frequent use, had grown into a habit. He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, cast up his eyes, but said nothing. This, however, always provoked a fresh volley from his wife; so that he was fain to draw off his forces, and take to the outside of the house—the only side which, in truth, belongs to a hen-pecked husband.
Rip's sole domestic adherent was his dog Wolf, who was as much hen-pecked as his master; for Dame Van Winkle regarded them as companions in idleness, and even looked upon Wolf with an evil eye, as the cause of his master's going so often astray. True it is, in all points of spirit befitting an honorable dog, he was as courageous an animal as ever scoured the woods—but what courage can withstand the ever-during and all-besetting terrors of a woman's tongue? The moment Wolf entered the house his crest fell, his tail drooped to the ground, or curled between his legs, he sneaked about with a gallows air, casting many a sidelong glance at Dame Van Winkle, and at the least flourish of a broom-stick or ladle, he would fly to the door with yelping precipitation.
Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle as years of matrimony rolled on; a tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use. For a long while he used to console himself, when driven from home, by frequenting a kind of perpetual club of the sages, philosophers, and other idle personages of the village; which held its sessions on a bench before a small inn, designated by a rubicund portrait of His Majesty George the Third. Here they used to sit in the shade through a long lazy summer's day, talking listlessly over village gossip, or telling endless sleepy stories about nothing. But it would have been worth any statesman's money to have heard the profound discussions that sometimes took place, when by chance an old newspaper fell into their hands from some passing traveller. How solemnly they would listen to the contents, as drawled out by Derrick Van Bummel, the schoolmaster, a dapper learned little man, who was not to be daunted by the most gigantic word in the dictionary; and how sagely they would deliberate upon public events some months after they had taken place.
The opinions of this junto were completely controlled by Nicholas Vedder, a patriarch of the village, and landlord of the inn, at the door of which he took his seat from morning till night, just moving sufficiently to avoid the sun and keep in the shade of a large tree; so that the neighbors could tell the hour by his movements as accurately as by a sun-dial. It is true he was rarely heard to speak, but smoked his pipe incessantly. His adherents, however (for every great man has his adherents), perfectly understood him, and knew how to gather his opinions. When anything that was read or related displeased him, he was observed to smoke his pipe vehemently, and to send forth short, frequent and angry puffs; but when pleased, he would inhale the smoke slowly and tranquilly, and emit it in light and placid clouds; and sometimes, taking the pipe from his mouth, and letting the fragrant vapor curl about his nose, would gravely nod his head in token of perfect approbation.
From even this stronghold the unlucky Rip was at length routed by his termagant wife, who would suddenly break in upon the tranquillity of the assemblage and call the members all to naught; nor was that august personage, Nicholas Vedder himself, sacred from the daring tongue of this terrible virago, who charged him outright with encouraging her husband in habits of idleness.
Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair; and his only alternative, to escape from the labor of the farm and clamor of his wife, was to take gun in hand and stroll away into the woods. Here he would sometimes seat himself at the foot of a tree, and share the contents of his wallet with Wolf, with whom he sympathized as a fellow-sufferer in persecution. "Poor Wolf," he would say, "thy mistress leads thee a dog's life of it; but never mind, my lad, whilst I live thou shalt never want a friend to stand by thee!" Wolf would wag his tail, look wistfully in his master's face, and if dogs can feel pity I verily believe he reciprocated the sentiment with all his heart.
In a long ramble of the kind on a fine autumnal day, Rip had unconsciously scrambled to one of the highest parts of the Kaatskill mountains. He was after his favorite sport of squirrel shooting, and the still solitudes had echoed and re-echoed with the reports of his gun. Panting and fatigued, he threw himself, late in the afternoon, on a green knoll, covered with mountain herbage, that crowned the brow of a precipice. From an opening between the trees he could overlook all the lower country for many a mile of rich woodland. He saw at a distance the lordly Hudson, far, far below him, moving on its silent but majestic course, with the reflection of a purple cloud, or the sail of a lagging bark, here and there sleeping on its glassy bosom, and at last losing itself in the blue highlands.
On the other side he looked down into a deep mountain glen, wild, lonely, and shagged, the bottom filled with fragments from the impending cliffs, and scarcely lighted by the reflected rays of the setting sun. For some time Rip lay musing on this scene; evening was gradually advancing; the mountains began to throw their long blue shadows over the valleys; he saw that it would be dark long before he could reach the village, and he heaved a heavy sigh when he thought of encountering the terrors of Dame Van Winkle.
As he was about to descend, he heard a voice from a distance, hallooing, "Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!" He looked round, but could see nothing but a crow winging its solitary flight across the mountain. He thought his fancy must have deceived him, and turned again to descend, when he heard the same cry ring through the still evening air: "Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!"—at the same time Wolf bristled up his back, and giving a low growl, skulked to his master's side, looking fearfully down into the glen. Rip now felt a vague apprehension stealing over him; he looked anxiously in the same direction, and perceived a strange figure slowly toiling up the rocks, and bending under the weight of something he carried on his back. He was surprised to see any human being in this lonely and unfrequented place, but supposing it to be some one of the neighborhood in need of his assistance, he hastened down to yield it.
On nearer approach he was still more surprised at the singularity of the stranger's appearance. He was a short square-built old fellow, with thick bushy hair, and a grizzled beard. His dress was of the antique Dutch fashion—a cloth jerkin strapped round the waist—several pair of breeches, the outer one of ample volume, decorated with rows of buttons down the sides, and bunches at the knees. He bore on his shoulder a stout keg, that seemed full of liquor, and made signs for Rip to approach and assist him with the load. Though rather shy and distrustful of this new acquaintance, Rip complied with his usual alacrity; and mutually relieving one another, they clambered up a narrow gully, apparently the dry bed of a mountain torrent. As they ascended, Rip every now and then heard long rolling peals, like distant thunder, that seemed to issue out of a deep ravine, or rather cleft, between lofty rocks, toward which their rugged path conducted. He paused for an instant, but supposing it to be the muttering of one of those transient thunder-showers which often take place in mountain heights, he proceeded. Passing through the ravine, they came to a hollow, like a small amphitheatre, surrounded by perpendicular precipices, over the brinks of which impending trees shot their branches, so that you only caught glimpses of the azure sky and the bright evening cloud. During the whole time Rip and his companion had labored on in silence; for though the former marvelled greatly what could be the object of carrying a keg of liquor up this wild mountain, yet there was something strange and incomprehensible about the unknown, that inspired awe and checked familiarity.
On entering the amphitheatre, new objects of wonder presented themselves. On a level spot in the centre was a company of odd-looking personages playing at nine-pins. They were dressed in a quaint outlandish fashion; some wore short doublets, others jerkins, with long knives in their belts, and most of them had enormous breeches, of similar style with that of the guide's. Their visages, too, were peculiar: one had a large beard, broad face, and small piggish eyes: the face of another seemed to consist entirely of nose, and was surmounted by a white sugar-loaf hat set off with a little red cock's tail. They all had beards, of various shapes and colors. There was one who seemed to be the commander. He was a stout old gentleman, with a weather-beaten countenance; he wore a laced doublet, broad belt and hanger, high-crowned hat and feather, red stockings, and high-heeled shoes, with roses in them. The whole group reminded Rip of the figures in an old Flemish painting, in the parlor of Dominie Van Shaick, the village parson, and which had been brought over from Holland at the time of the settlement.
What seemed particularly odd to Rip was, that though these folks were evidently amusing themselves, yet they maintained the gravest faces, the most mysterious silence, and were, withal, the most melancholy party of pleasure he had ever witnessed. Nothing interrupted the stillness of the scene but the noise of the balls, which, whenever they were rolled, echoed along the mountains like rumbling peals of thunder.
As Rip and his companion approached them, they suddenly desisted from their play, and stared at him with such fixed statue-like gaze, and such strange, uncouth, lack-lustre countenances, that his heart turned within him, and his knees smote together. His companion now emptied the contents of the keg into large flagons, and made signs to him to wait upon the company. He obeyed with fear and trembling; they quaffed the liquor in profound silence, and then returned to their game.
By degrees Rip's awe and apprehension subsided. He even ventured, when no eye was fixed upon him, to taste the beverage, which he found had much of the flavor of excellent Hollands. He was naturally a thirsty soul, and was soon tempted to repeat the draught. One taste provoked another; and he reiterated his visits to the flagon so often that at length his senses were overpowered, his eyes swam in his head, his head gradually declined, and he fell into a deep sleep.
On waking, he found himself on the green knoll whence he had first seen the old man of the glen. He rubbed his eyes—it was a bright sunny morning. The birds were hopping and twittering among the bushes, and the eagle was wheeling aloft, and breasting the pure mountain breeze. "Surely," thought Rip, "I have not slept here all night." He recalled the occurrences before he fell asleep. The strange man with a keg of liquor—the mountain ravine—the wild retreat among the rocks—the woe-begone party at nine-pins—the flagon—"Oh! that flagon! that wicked flagon!" thought Rip—"what excuse shall I make to Dame Van Winkle!"
He looked round for his gun, but in place of the clean well-oiled fowling-piece, he found an old firelock lying by him, the barrel incrusted with rust, the lock falling off, and the stock worm-eaten. He now suspected that the grave roysters of the mountain had put a trick upon him, and, having dosed him with liquor, had robbed him of his gun. Wolf, too, had disappeared, but he might have strayed away after a squirrel or partridge. He whistled after him and shouted his name, but all in vain; the echoes repeated his whistle and shout, but no dog was to be seen.
He determined to revisit the scene of the last evening's gambol, and if he met with any of the party, to demand his dog and gun. As he rose to walk, he found himself stiff in the joints, and wanting in his usual activity. "These mountain beds do not agree with me," thought Rip, "and if this frolic should lay me up with a fit of rheumatism, I shall have a blessed time with Dame Van Winkle." With some difficulty he got down into the glen: he found the gully up which he and his companion had ascended the preceding evening; but to his astonishment a mountain stream was now foaming down it, leaping from rock to rock, and filling the glen with babbling murmurs. He, however, made shift to scramble up its sides, working his toilsome way through thickets of birch, sassafras, and witch-hazel, and sometimes tripped up or entangled by the wild grapevines that twisted their coils or tendrils from tree to tree, and spread a kind of network in his path.
At length he reached to where the ravine had opened through the cliffs to the amphitheatre; but no traces of such opening remained. The rocks presented a high impenetrable wall over which the torrent came tumbling in a sheet of feathery foam, and fell into a broad deep basin, black from the shadows of the surrounding forest. Here, then, poor Rip was brought to a stand. He again called and whistled after his dog; he was only answered by the cawing of a flock of idle crows, sporting high in air about a dry tree that overhung a sunny precipice; and who, secure in their elevation, seemed to look down and scoff at the poor man's perplexities. What was to be done? the morning was passing away, and Rip felt famished for want of his breakfast. He grieved to give up his dog and gun; he dreaded to meet his wife; but it would not do to starve among the mountains. He shook his head, shouldered the rusty firelock, and, with a heart full of trouble and anxiety, turned his steps homeward.
As he approached the village he met a number of people, but none whom he knew, which somewhat surprised him, for he had thought himself acquainted with every one in the country round. Their dress, too, was of a different fashion from that to which he was accustomed. They all stared at him with equal marks of surprise, and whenever they cast their eyes upon him, invariably stroked their chins. The constant recurrence of this gesture induced Rip, involuntarily, to do the same, when, to his astonishment, he found his beard had grown a foot long!
He had now entered the skirts of the village. A troop of strange children ran at his heels, hooting after him, and pointing at his gray beard. The dogs, too, not one of which he recognized for an old acquaintance, barked at him as he passed. The very village was altered; it was larger and more populous. There were rows of houses which he had never seen before, and those which had been his familiar haunts had disappeared. Strange names were over the doors—strange faces at the windows—every thing was strange. His mind now misgave him; he began to doubt whether both he and the world around him were not bewitched. Surely this was his native village, which he had left but the day before. There stood the Kaatskill mountains—there ran the silver Hudson at a distance—there was every hill and dale precisely as it had always been—Rip was sorely perplexed—"That flagon last night," thought he, "has addled my poor head sadly!"
It was with some difficulty that he found the way to his own house, which he approached with silent awe, expecting every moment to hear the shrill voice of Dame Van Winkle. He found the house gone to decay—the roof fallen in, the windows shattered, and the doors off the hinges. A half-starved dog that looked like Wolf was skulking about it. Rip called him by name, but the cur snarled, showed his teeth, and passed on. This was an unkind cut indeed—"My very dog," sighed poor Rip, "has forgotten me!"
He entered the house, which, to tell the truth, Dame Van Winkle had always kept in neat order. It was empty, forlorn, and apparently abandoned. This desolateness overcame all his connubial fears—he called loudly for his wife and children—the lonely chambers rang for a moment with his voice, and then all again was silence.
He now hurried forth, and hastened to his old resort, the village inn—but it too was gone. A large rickety wooden building stood in its place, with great gaping windows, some of them broken and mended with old hats and petticoats, and over the door was painted, "the Union Hotel, by Jonathan Doolittle." Instead of the great tree that used to shelter the quiet little Dutch inn of yore, there now was reared a tall naked pole, with something on the top that looked like a red night-cap, and from it was fluttering a flag, on which was a singular assemblage of stars and stripes—all this was strange and incomprehensible. He recognized on the sign, however, the ruby face of King George, under which he had smoked so many a peaceful pipe; but even this was singularly metamorphosed. The red coat was changed for one of blue and buff, a sword was held in the hand instead of a sceptre, the head was decorated with a cocked hat, and underneath was painted in large characters, GENERAL WASHINGTON.
There was, as usual, a crowd of folk about the door, but none that Rip recollected. The very character of the people seemed changed. There was a busy, bustling, disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy tranquillity. He looked in vain for the sage Nicholas Vedder, with his broad face, double chin, and fair long pipe, uttering clouds of tobacco-smoke instead of idle speeches; or Van Bummel, the schoolmaster, doling forth the contents of an ancient newspaper. In place of these, a lean, bilious-looking fellow, with his pockets full of handbills, was haranguing vehemently about rights of citizens—elections—members of congress—liberty—Bunker's Hill—heroes of seventy-six—and other words, which were a perfect Babylonish jargon to the bewildered Van Winkle.
The appearance of Rip, with his long grizzled beard, his rusty fowling-piece, his uncouth dress, and an army of women and children at his heels, soon attracted the attention of the tavern politicians. They crowded round him, eying him from head to foot with great curiosity. The orator bustled up to him, and, drawing him partly aside, inquired "on which side he voted?" Rip stared in vacant stupidity. Another short but busy little fellow pulled him by the arm, and, rising on tiptoe, inquired in his ear, "Whether he was Federal or Democrat?" Rip was equally at a loss to comprehend the question; when a knowing, self-important old gentleman, in a sharp cocked hat, made his way through the crowd, putting them to the right and left with his elbows as he passed, and planting himself before Van Winkle, with one arm akimbo, the other resting on his cane, his keen eyes and sharp hat penetrating, as it were, into his very soul, demanded in an austere tone, "what brought him to the election with a gun on his shoulder, and a mob at his heels, and whether he meant to breed a riot in the village?"—"Alas! gentlemen," cried Rip, somewhat dismayed, "I am a poor quiet man, a native of the place, and a loyal subject of the king, God bless him!"
Here a general shout burst from the by-standers—"A tory! a tory! a spy! a refugee! hustle him! away with him!" It was with great difficulty that the self-important man in the cocked hat restored order; and, having assumed a tenfold austerity of brow, demanded again of the unknown culprit, what he came there for, and whom he was seeking? The poor man humbly assured him that he meant no harm, but merely came there in search of some of his neighbors, who used to keep about the tavern.
"Well—who are they?—name them."
Rip bethought himself a moment, and inquired, "Where's Nicholas Vedder?"
There was a silence for a little while, when an old man replied, in a thin piping voice, "Nicholas Vedder! why, he is dead and gone these eighteen years! There was a wooden tombstone in the church-yard that used to tell all about him, but that's rotten and gone too."
"Where's Brom Dutcher?"
"Oh, he went off to the army in the beginning of the war; some say he was killed at the storming of Stony Point—others say he was drowned in a squall at the foot of Antony's Nose. I don't know—-he never came back again."
"Where's Van Bummel, the schoolmaster?"
"He went off to the wars too, was a great militia general, and is now in congress."
Rip's heart died away at hearing of these sad changes in his home and friends, and finding himself thus alone in the world. Every answer puzzled him, too, by treating of such enormous lapses of time, and of matters which he could not understand: war—congress—Stony Point;—he had no courage to ask after any more friends, but cried out in despair, "Does nobody here know Rip Van Winkle?"
"Oh, Rip Van Winkle!" exclaimed two or three. "Oh, to be sure! that's Rip Van Winkle yonder, leaning against the tree."
Rip looked, and beheld a precise counterpart of himself, as he went up the mountain; apparently as lazy, and certainly as ragged. The poor fellow was now completely confounded. He doubted his own identity, and whether he was himself or another man. In the midst of his bewilderment, the man in the cocked hat demanded who he was, and what was his name?
"God knows," exclaimed he, at his wit's end; "I'm not myself—I'm somebody else—that's me yonder—no—that's somebody else got into my shoes—I was myself last night, but I fell asleep on the mountain, and they've changed my gun, and every thing's changed, and I'm changed, and I can't tell what's my name, or who I am!"
The by-standers began now to look at each other, nod, wink significantly, and tap their fingers against their foreheads. There was a whisper, also, about securing the gun, and keeping the old fellow from doing mischief, at the very suggestion of which the self-important man in the cocked hat retired with some precipitation. At this critical moment a fresh comely woman pressed through the throng to get a peep at the gray-bearded man. She had a chubby child in her arms, which, frightened at his looks, began to cry. "Hush, Rip," cried she, "hush, you little fool; the old man won't hurt you." The name of the child, the air of the mother, the tone of her voice, all awakened a train of recollections in his mind. "What is your name, my good woman?" asked he.
"And your father's name?"
"Ah, poor man, Rip Van Winkle was his name, but it's twenty years since he went away from home with his gun, and never has been heard of since—his dog came home without him; but whether he shot himself, or was carried away by the Indians, nobody can tell. I was then but a little girl."
Rip had but one question more to ask; but he put it with a faltering voice:
"Where's your mother?"
"Oh, she too had died but a short time since; she broke a blood-vessel in a fit of passion at a New-England peddler."
There was a drop of comfort, at least, in this intelligence. The honest man could contain himself no longer. He caught his daughter and her child in his arms. "I am your father!" cried he—"Young Rip Van Winkle once—old Rip Van Winkle now!—Does nobody know poor Rip Van Winkle?"
All stood amazed, until an old woman, tottering out from among the crowd, put her hand to her brow, and peering under it in his face for a moment, exclaimed, "Sure enough! it is Rip Van Winkle—it is himself! Welcome home, again, old neighbor—-Why, where have you been these twenty long years?"
Rip's story was soon told, for the whole twenty years had been to him but as one night. The neighbors stared when they heard it; some were seen to wink at each other, and put their tongues in their cheeks: and the self-important man in the cocked hat, who, when the alarm was over, had returned to the field, screwed down the corners of his mouth, and shook his head—upon which there was a general shaking of the head throughout the assemblage.
It was determined, however, to take the opinion of old Peter Vanderdonk, who was seen slowly advancing up the road. He was a descendant of the historian of that name, who wrote one of the earliest accounts of the province. Peter was the most ancient inhabitant of the village, and well versed in all the wonderful events and traditions of the neighborhood. He recollected Rip at once, and corroborated his story in the most satisfactory manner. He assured the company that it was a fact, handed down from his ancestor the historian, that the Kaatskill mountains had always been haunted by strange beings. That it was affirmed that the great Hendrick Hudson, the first discoverer of the river and country, kept a kind of vigil there every twenty years, with his crew of the Half-moon; being permitted in this way to revisit the scenes of his enterprise, and keep a guardian eye upon the river, and the great city called by his name. That his father had once seen them in their old Dutch dresses playing at nine-pins in a hollow of the mountain; and that he himself had heard, one summer afternoon, the sound of their balls, like distant peals of thunder.
To make a long story short, the company broke up, and returned to the more important concerns of the election. Rip's daughter took him home to live with her; she had a snug, well-furnished house, and a stout cheery farmer for a husband, whom Rip recollected for one of the urchins that used to climb upon his back. As to Rip's son and heir, who was the ditto of himself, seen leaning against the tree, he was employed to work on the farm; but evinced an hereditary disposition to attend to any thing else but his business.
Rip now resumed his old walks and habits; he soon found many of his former cronies, though all rather the worse for the wear and tear of time; and preferred making friends among the rising generation, with whom he soon grew into great favor.
Having nothing to do at home, and being arrived at that happy age when a man can be idle with impunity, he took his place once more on the bench at the inn door, and was reverenced as one of the patriarchs of the village, and a chronicle of the old times "before the war." It was some time before he could get into the regular track of gossip, or could be made to comprehend the strange events that had taken place during his torpor. How that there had been a revolutionary war—that the country had thrown off the yoke of old England—and that, instead of being a subject of his Majesty George the Third, he was now a free citizen of the United States. Rip, in fact, was no politician; the changes of states and empires made but little impression on him; but there was one species of despotism under which he had long groaned, and that was—petticoat government. Happily that was at an end; he had got his neck out of the yoke of matrimony, and could go in and out whenever he pleased, without dreading the tyranny of Dame Van Winkle. Whenever her name was mentioned, however, he shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, and cast up his eyes; which might pass either for an expression of resignation to his fate, or joy at his deliverance.
He used to tell his story to every stranger that arrived at Mr. Doolittle's hotel. He was observed, at first, to vary on some points every time he told it, which was, doubtless, owing to his having so recently awaked. It at last settled down precisely to the tale I have related, and not a man, woman, or child in the neighborhood, but knew it by heart. Some always pretended to doubt the reality of it, and insisted that Rip had been out of his head and that this was one point on which he always remained flighty. The old Dutch inhabitants, however, almost universally gave it full credit. Even to this day they never hear a thunderstorm of a summer afternoon about the Kaatskill, but they say Hendrick Hudson and his crew are at their game of nine-pins; and it is a common wish of all hen-pecked husbands in the neighborhood, when life hangs heavy on their hands, that they might have a quieting draught out of Rip Van Winkle's flagon.
The foregoing Tale, one would suspect, had been suggested to Mr. Knickerbocker by a little German superstition about the Emperor Frederick der Rothbart, and the Kypphaueser mountain: the subjoined note, however, which he had appended to the tale, shows that it is an absolute fact, narrated with his usual fidelity:
"The story of Rip Van Winkle may seem incredible to many, but nevertheless I give it my full belief, for I know the vicinity of our old Dutch settlements to have been very subject to marvellous events and appearances. Indeed, I have heard many stranger stories than this, in the villages along the Hudson; all of which were too well authenticated to admit of a doubt. I have even talked with Rip Van Winkle myself, who, when last I saw him, was a very venerable old man, and so perfectly rational and consistent on every other point, that I think no conscientious person could refuse to take this into the bargain; nay, I have seen a certificate on the subject taken before a country justice and signed with a cross, in the justice's own handwriting. The story, therefore, is beyond the possibility of doubt. D. K."—[AUTHOR'S NOTE.]
The following are travelling notes from a memorandum-book of Mr. Knickerbocker:
The Kaatsberg, or Catskill mountains, have always been a region full of fable. The Indians considered them the abode of spirits, who influenced the weather, spreading sunshine or clouds over the landscape, and sending good or bad hunting seasons. They were ruled by an old squaw spirit, said to be their mother. She dwelt on the highest peak of the Catskills, and had charge of the doors of day and night to open and shut them at the proper hour. She hung up the new moons in the skies, and cut up the old ones into stars. In times of drought, if properly propitiated, she would spin light summer clouds out of cobwebs and morning dew, and send them off from the crest of the mountain, flake after flake, like flakes of carded cotton, to float in the air; until, dissolved by the heat of the sun, they would fall in gentle showers, causing the grass to spring, the fruits to ripen, and the corn to grow an inch an hour. If displeased, however, she would brew up clouds black as ink, sitting in the midst of them like a bottle-bellied spider in the midst of its web; and when these clouds broke, woe betide the valleys.
In old times, say the Indian traditions, there was a kind of Manitou or Spirit, who kept about the wildest recesses of the Catskill Mountains, and took a mischievous pleasure in wreaking all kinds of evils and vexations upon the red men. Sometimes he would assume the form of a bear, a panther, or a deer, lead the bewildered hunter a weary chase through tangled forests and among ragged rocks; and then spring off with a loud ho! ho! leaving him aghast on the brink of a beetling precipice or raging torrent.
The favorite abode of this Manitou is still shown. It is a great rock or cliff on the loneliest part of the mountains, and, from the flowering vines which clamber about it, and the wild flowers which abound in its neighborhood, is known by the name of the Garden Rock. Near the foot of it is a small lake, the haunt of the solitary bittern, with water-snakes basking in the sun on the leaves of the pond-lilies which lie on the surface. This place was held in great awe by the Indians, insomuch that the boldest hunter would not pursue his game within its precincts. Once upon a time, however, a hunter who had lost his way, penetrated to the garden rock, where he beheld a number of gourds placed in the crotches of trees. One of these he seized and made off with it, but in the hurry of his retreat he let it fall among the rocks, when a great stream gushed forth, which washed him away and swept him down precipices, where he was dashed to pieces, and the stream made its way to the Hudson, and continues to flow to the present day; being the identical stream known by the name of the Kaaters-kill.
THE GOLD BUG
"What ho! what ho! this fellow is dancing mad! He hath been bitten by the Tarantula." All in the Wrong.
Many years ago I contracted an intimacy with a Mr. William Legrand. He was of an ancient Huguenot family, and had once been wealthy; but a series of misfortunes had reduced him to want. To avoid the mortification consequent upon his disasters, he left New Orleans, the city of his forefathers, and took up his residence at Sullivan's Island, near Charleston, South Carolina.
This island is a very singular one. It consists of little else than the sea sand, and is about three miles long. Its breadth at no point exceeds a quarter of a mile. It is separated from the main land by a scarcely perceptible creek, oozing its way through a wilderness of reeds and slime, a favorite resort of the marsh-hen. The vegetation, as might be supposed, is scant, or at least dwarfish. No trees of any magnitude are to be seen. Near the western extremity, where Fort Moultrie stands, and where are some miserable frame buildings, tenanted during summer by the fugitives from Charleston dust and fever, may be found, indeed, the bristly palmetto; but the whole island, with the exception of the western point, and a line of hard, white beach on the sea-coast, is covered with a dense undergrowth of sweet myrtle, so much prized by the horticulturalists of England. The shrub here often attains the height of fifteen or twenty feet, and forms an almost impenetrable coppice, burthening the air with its fragrance.
In the inmost recesses of this coppice, not far from the eastern or more remote end of the island, Legrand had built himself a small hut, which he occupied when I first, by mere accident, made his acquaintance. This soon ripened into friendship,—for there was much in the recluse to excite interest and esteem. I found him well educated, with unusual powers of mind, but infected with misanthropy, and subject to perverse moods of alternate enthusiasm and melancholy. He had with him many books, but rarely employed them. His chief amusements were gunning and fishing, or sauntering along the beach and through the myrtles in quest of shells or entomological specimens; his collection of the latter might have been envied by a Swammerdam. In these excursions he was usually accompanied by an old negro called Jupiter, who had been manumitted before the reverses of the family, but who could be induced, neither by threats nor by promises, to abandon what he considered his right of attendance upon the footsteps of his young "Massa Will." It is not improbable that the relatives of Legrand, conceiving him to be somewhat unsettled in intellect, had contrived to instil this obstinacy into Jupiter, with a view to the supervision and guardianship of the wanderer.
The winters in the latitude of Sullivan's Island are seldom very severe, and in the fall of the year it is a rare event indeed when a fire is considered necessary. About the middle of October, 18—, there occurred, however, a day of remarkable chilliness. Just before sunset I scrambled my way through the evergreens to the hut of my friend, whom I had not visited for several weeks, my residence being at that time in Charleston, a distance of nine miles from the island, while the facilities of passage and re-passage were very far behind those of the present day. Upon reaching the hut I rapped, as was my custom; and, getting no reply, sought for the key where I knew it was secreted, unlocked the door, and went in. A fine fire was blazing upon the hearth. It was a novelty, and by no means an ungrateful one. I threw off an overcoat, took an armchair by the crackling logs, and awaited patiently the arrival of my hosts.
Soon after dark they arrived, and gave me a most cordial welcome. Jupiter, grinning from ear to ear, bustled about to prepare some marsh-hens for supper. Legrand was in one of his fits—how else shall I term them?—of enthusiasm. He had found an unknown bivalve, forming a new genus; and, more than this, he had hunted down and secured, with Jupiter's assistance, a scarabaeus which he believed to be totally new, but in respect to which he wished to have my opinion on the morrow.
"And why not to-night?" I asked, rubbing my hands over the blaze, and wishing the whole tribe of scarabaei at the devil.
"Ah, if I had only known you were here!" said Legrand; "but it's so long since I saw you, and how could I foresee that you would pay me a visit this very night of all others? As I was coming home I met Lieutenant G—— from the fort, and, very foolishly, I lent him the bug; so it will be impossible for you to see it until the morning. Stay here to-night, and I will send Jup down for it at sunrise. It is the loveliest thing in creation!"
"Nonsense! no! the bug. It is of a brilliant gold color, about the size of a large hickory nut, with two jet black spots near one extremity of the back, another, somewhat longer, at the other. The antennae are"—
"Dey ain't no tin in him, Massa Will, I keep a-telling on you," here interrupted Jupiter; "de bug is a goole-bug, solid, ebery bit of him, inside and all, sep him wing—neber feel half so hebby a bug in my life."
"Well, suppose it is, Jup," replied Legrand, somewhat more earnestly, it seemed to me, than the case demanded, "is that any reason for you letting the birds burn? The color"—here he turned to me—"is really almost enough to warrant Jupiter's idea. You never saw a more brilliant metallic lustre than the scales emit; but of this you cannot judge till to-morrow. In the meantime I can give you some idea of the shape." Saying this, he seated himself at a small table on which were a pen and ink, but no paper. He looked for some in a drawer, but found none.
"Never mind," said he at length, "this will answer;" and he drew from his waistcoat pocket a scrap of what I took to be very dirty foolscap, and made upon it a rough drawing with the pen. While he did this, I retained my seat by the fire, for I was still chilly. When the design was complete he handed it to me without rising. As I received it, a loud growl was heard, succeeded by a scratching at the door. Jupiter opened it, and a large Newfoundland, belonging to Legrand, rushed in, leaped upon my shoulders and loaded me with caresses; for I had shown him much attention during previous visits. When his gambols were over, I looked at the paper, and, to speak the truth, found myself not a little puzzled at what my friend had depicted.
"Well!" I said, after contemplating it for some minutes, "this is a strange scarabaeus, I must confess; new to me; never saw anything like it before—unless it was a skull, or a death's-head—which it more nearly resembles than anything else that has come under my observation."
"A death's-head!" echoed Legrand. "Oh—yes—well, it has something of that appearance upon paper, no doubt. The two upper black spots look like eyes, eh? and the longer one at the bottom like a mouth—and then the shape of the whole is oval."
"Perhaps so," said I; "but, Legrand, I fear you are no artist. I must wait until I see the beetle itself, if I am to form any idea of its personal appearance."
"Well, I don't know," said he, a little nettled, "I draw tolerably—should do it at least, have had good masters—and flatter myself that I am not quite a blockhead."
"But, my dear fellow, you are joking then," said I; "this is a very passable skull—indeed, I may say that it is a very excellent skull, according to the vulgar notions about such specimens of physiology—and your scarabaeus must be the queerest scarabaeus in the world if it resembles it. Why, we may get up a very thrilling bit of superstition upon this hint. I presume you will call the bug scarabaeus caput hominis, or something of that kind—there are many similar titles in the Natural Histories. But where are the antennae you spoke of?"
"The antennae!" said Legrand, who seemed to be getting unaccountably warm upon the subject; "I am sure you must see the antennae. I made them as distinct as they are in the original insect, and I presume that is sufficient."
"Well, well," I said, "perhaps you have—still I don't see them;" and I handed him the paper without additional remark, not wishing to ruffle his temper; but I was much surprised at the turn affairs had taken; his ill-humor puzzled me—and, as for the drawing of the beetle, there were positively no antennae visible, and the whole did bear a very close resemblance to the ordinary cuts of a death's-head.
He received the paper very peevishly, and was about to crumple it, apparently to throw it in the fire, when a casual glance at the design seemed suddenly to rivet his attention. In an instant his face grew violently red—in another as excessively pale. For some minutes he continued to scrutinize the drawing minutely where he sat. At length he arose, took a candle from the table, and proceeded to seat himself upon a sea-chest in the farthest corner of the room. Here again he made an anxious examination of the paper, turning it in all directions. He said nothing, however, and his conduct greatly astonished me; yet I thought it prudent not to exacerbate the growing moodiness of his temper by any comment. Presently he took from his coat pocket a wallet, placed the paper carefully in it, and deposited both in a writing-desk, which he locked. He now grew more composed in his demeanor; but his original air of enthusiasm had quite disappeared. Yet he seemed not so much sulky as abstracted. As the evening wore away he became more and more absorbed in revery, from which no sallies of mine could arouse him. It had been my intention to pass the night at the hut, as I had frequently done before, but, seeing my host in this mood, I deemed it proper to take leave. He did not press me to remain, but, as I departed, he shook my hand with even more than his usual cordiality.
It was about a month after this (and during the interval I had seen nothing of Legrand) when I received a visit, at Charleston, from his man Jupiter. I had never seen the good old negro look so dispirited, and I feared that some serious disaster had befallen my friend.
"Well, Jup," said I, "what is the matter now?—how is your master?"
"Why, to speak de troof, massa, him not so berry well as mought be."
"Not well! I am truly sorry to hear it. What does he complain of?"
"Dar! dat's it!—him never plain of notin—but him berry sick for all dat."
"Very sick, Jupiter!—why didn't you say so at once? Is he confined to bed?"
"No, dat he aint!—he aint find nowhar—dat's just whar de shoe pinch—my mind is got to be berry hebby bout poor Massa Will."
"Jupiter, I should like to understand what it is you are talking about. You say your master is sick. Hasn't he told you what ails him?"
"Why, massa, taint worf while for to git mad about de matter—Massa Will say noffin at all aint de matter wid him—but den what make him go about looking dis here way, wid he head down and he soldiers up, and as white as a gose? And den he keep a syphon all de time"—
"Keeps a what, Jupiter?"
"Keeps a syphon wid de figgurs on de slate—de queerest figgurs I ebber did see. Ise gittin to be skeered, I tell you. Hab for to keep mighty tight eye pon him noovers. Todder day he gib me slip fore de sun up and was gone de whole ob de blessed day. I had a big stick ready cut for to gib him deuced good beating when he did come—but Ise sich a fool dat I hadn't de heart arter all—he look so berry poorly."
"Eh?—what?—ah, yes!—upon the whole I think you had better not be too severe with the poor fellow—don't flog him, Jupiter—he can't very well stand it—but can you form no idea of what has occasioned this illness, or rather this change of conduct? Has anything unpleasant happened since I saw you?"
"No, massa, dey aint bin noffin onpleasant since den—'twas fore den I'm feared—'twas de berry day you was dare."
"How? what do you mean?"
"Why, massa, I mean de bug—dare now."
"De bug—I'm berry sartain that Massa Will bin bit somewhere bout de head by dat goole-bug."
"And what cause have you, Jupiter, for such a supposition?"
"Claws enuff, massa, and mouff too. I nebber did see sich a deuced bug—he kick and he bite ebery ting what cum near him. Massa Will cotch him fuss, but had for to let him go gin mighty quick, I tell you—den was de time he must hab got de bite. I didn't like de look of de bug mouff, myself, no how, so I wouldn't take hold ob him wid my finger, but I cotch him wid a piece ob paper dat I found. I rap him up in de paper and stuff piece ob it in he mouff—dad was de way."
"And you think, then, that your master was really bitten by the beetle, and that the bite made him sick?"
"I don't tink noffin bout it—I nose it. What make him dream bout de goole so much, if taint cause he bit by de goole-bug? Ise heerd bout dem goole-bugs fore dis."
"But how do you know he dreams about gold?"
"How I know? why, cause he talk bout it in he sleep, dat's how I nose."
"Well, Jup, perhaps you are right; but to what fortunate circumstance am I to attribute the honor of a visit from you to-day?"
"What de matter, massa?"
"Did you bring any message from Mr. Legrand?"
"No, massa, I bring dis here pissel;" and here Jupiter handed me a note which ran thus:—
"MY DEAR ——
Why have I not seen you for so long a time? I hope you have not been so foolish as to take offence at any little brusquerie of mine; but no, that is improbable.
Since I saw you I have had great cause for anxiety. I have something to tell you, yet scarcely know how to tell it, or whether I should tell it at all.
I have not been quite well for some days past, and poor old Jup annoys me, almost beyond endurance, by his well-meant attentions. Would you believe it?—he had prepared a huge stick, the other day, with which to chastise me for giving him the slip, and spending the day, solus, among the hills on the main land. I verily believe that my ill looks alone saved me a flogging.
I have made no addition to my cabinet since we met.
If you can, in any way, make it convenient, come over with Jupiter. Do come. I wish to see you to-night, upon business of importance. I assure you that it is of the highest importance.
There was something in the tone of this note which gave me great uneasiness. Its whole style differed materially from that of Legrand. What could he be dreaming of? What new crotchet possessed his excitable brain? What "business of the highest importance" could he possibly have to transact? Jupiter's account of him boded no good. I dreaded lest the continued pressure of misfortune had, at length, fairly unsettled the reason of my friend. Without a moment's hesitation, therefore, I prepared to accompany the negro.
Upon reaching the wharf, I noticed a scythe and three spades, all apparently new, lying in the bottom of the boat in which we were to embark.
"What is the meaning of all this, Jup?" I inquired.
"Him syfe, massa, and spade."
"Very true; but what are they doing here?"
"Him de syfe and de spade what Massa Will sis pon my buying for him in de town, and de debbil's own lot of money I had to gib for em."
"But what, in the name of all that is mysterious, is your 'Massa Will' going to do with scythes and spades?"
"Dat's more dan I know, and debbil take me if I don't believe 'tis more dan he know, too. But it's all cum ob de bug."
Finding that no satisfaction was to be obtained of Jupiter, whose whole intellect seemed to be absorbed by "de bug," I now stepped into the boat and made sail. With a fair and strong breeze we soon ran into the little cove to the northward of Fort Moultrie, and a walk of some two miles brought us to the hut. It was about three in the afternoon when we arrived. Legrand had been awaiting us in eager expectation. He grasped my hand with a nervous empressement which alarmed me, and strengthened the suspicions already entertained. His countenance was pale even to ghastliness, and his deep-set eyes glared with unnatural lustre. After some inquiries respecting his health, I asked him, not knowing what better to say, if he had yet obtained the scarabaeus from Lieutenant G——.
"Oh, yes," he replied, coloring violently; "I got it from him the next morning. Nothing should tempt me to part with that scarabaeus. Do you know that Jupiter is quite right about it?"
"In what way?" I asked, with a sad foreboding at heart.
"In supposing it to be a bug of real gold." He said this with an air of profound seriousness, and I felt inexpressibly shocked.
"This bug is to make my fortune," he continued with a triumphant smile, "to reinstate me in my family possessions. Is it any wonder, then, that I prize it? Since Fortune has thought fit to bestow it upon me, I have only to use it properly, and I shall arrive at the gold of which it is the index. Jupiter, bring me that scarabaeus!"
"What, de bug, massa? I'd rudder not go fer trubble dat bug; you mus git him for your own self." Hereupon Legrand arose, with a grave and stately air, and brought me the beetle from a glass case in which it was enclosed. It was a beautiful scarabaeus, and, at that time, unknown to naturalists—of course a great prize in a scientific point of view. There were two round black spots near one extremity of the back, and a long one near the other. The scales were exceedingly hard and glossy, with all the appearance of burnished gold. The weight of the insect was very remarkable, and, taking all things into consideration, I could hardly blame Jupiter for his opinion respecting it; but what to make of Legrand's concordance with that opinion, I could not, for the life of me, tell.
"I sent for you," said he, in a grandiloquent tone, when I had completed my examination of the beetle, "I sent for you that I might have your counsel and assistance in furthering the views of Fate and of the bug"—
"My dear Legrand," I cried interrupting him, "you are certainly unwell, and had better use some little precautions. You shall go to bed, and I will remain with you a few days until you get over this. You are feverish and"—
"Feel my pulse," said he.
I felt it, and, to say the truth, found not the slightest indication of fever.
"But you may be ill, and yet have no fever. Allow me this once to prescribe for you. In the first place, go to bed. In the next"—
"You are mistaken," he interposed; "I am as well as I can expect to be under the excitement which I suffer. If you really wish me well, you will relieve this excitement."
"And how is this to be done?"
"Very easily. Jupiter and myself are going upon an expedition into the hills upon the mainland; and in this expedition we shall need the aid of some person in whom we can confide. You are the only one we can trust. Whether we succeed or fail, the excitement which you now perceive in me will be equally allayed."
"I am anxious to oblige you in any way," I replied; "but do you mean to say that this infernal beetle has any connection with your expedition into the hills."
"Then, Legrand, I can become a party to no such absurd proceeding."
"I am sorry—very sorry—for we shall have to try it by ourselves."
"Try it by yourselves! The man is surely mad! but stay, how long do you propose to be absent?"
"Probably all night. We shall start immediately, and be back, at all events, by sunrise."
"And will you promise me, upon your honor, that when this freak of yours is over, and the bug business (good God!) settled to your satisfaction, you will then return home and follow my advice implicitly, as that of your physician?"
"Yes, I promise; and now let us be off, for we have no time to lose."
With a heavy heart I accompanied my friend. We started about four o'clock—Legrand, Jupiter, the dog, and myself. Jupiter had with him the scythe and spades, the whole of which he insisted upon carrying, more through fear, it seemed to me, of trusting either of the implements within reach of his master, than from any excess of industry or complaisance. His demeanor was dogged in the extreme, and "dat deuced bug" were the sole words which escaped his lips during the journey. For my own part, I had charge of a couple of dark lanterns, while Legrand contented himself with the scarabaeus, which he carried attached to the end of a bit of whip-cord; twirling it to and fro, with the air of a conjurer, as he went. When I observed this last, plain evidence of my friend's aberration of mind, I could scarcely refrain from tears. I thought it best, however, to humor his fancy, at least for the present, or until I could adopt some more energetic measures with a chance of success. In the meantime I endeavored, but all in vain, to sound him in regard to the object of the expedition. Having succeeded in inducing me to accompany him, he seemed unwilling to hold conversation upon any topic of minor importance, and to all my questions vouchsafed no other reply than "we shall see!"
We crossed the creek at the head of the island by means of a skiff, and, ascending the high grounds on the shore of the mainland, proceeded in a northwesterly direction, through a tract of country excessively wild and desolate, where no trace of a human footstep was to be seen. Legrand led the way with decision; pausing only for an instant, here and there, to consult what appeared to be certain landmarks of his own contrivance upon a former occasion.
In this manner we journeyed for about two hours, and the sun was just setting when we entered a region infinitely more dreary than any yet seen. It was a species of tableland, near the summit of an almost inaccessible hill, densely wooded from base to pinnacle, and interspersed with huge crags that appeared to lie loosely upon the soil, and in many cases were prevented from precipitating themselves into the valleys below, merely by the support of the trees against which they reclined. Deep ravines, in various directions, gave an air of still sterner solemnity to the scene.
The natural platform to which we had clambered was thickly overgrown with brambles, through which we soon discovered that it would have been impossible to force our way but for the scythe; and Jupiter, by direction of his master, proceeded to clear for us a path to the foot of an enormously tall tulip-tree, which stood, with some eight or ten oaks, upon the level, and far surpassed them all, and all other trees which I had then ever seen, in the beauty of its foliage and form, in the wide spread of its branches, and in the general majesty of its appearance. When we reached this tree, Legrand turned to Jupiter, and asked him if he thought he could climb it. The old man seemed a little staggered by the question, and for some moments made no reply. At length he approached the huge trunk, walked slowly around it, and examined it with minute attention. When he had completed his scrutiny, he merely said,—
"Yes, massa, Jup climb any tree he ebber see in he life."
"Then up with you as soon as possible, for it will soon be too dark to see what we are about."
"How far mus go up, massa?" inquired Jupiter.
"Get up the main trunk first, and then I will tell you which way to go—and here—stop! take this beetle with you."
"De bug, Massa Will!—de goole-bug!" cried the negro, drawing back in dismay—"what for mus tote de bug way up the tree?—damn if I do!"
"If you are afraid, Jup, a great big negro like you, to take hold of a harmless little dead beetle, why you can carry it up by this string—but, if you do not take it up with you in some way, I shall be under the necessity of breaking your head with this shovel."
"What de matter now, massa?" said Jup, evidently shamed into compliance; "always want for to raise fuss wid old nigger. Was only funnin, any how. Me feered de bug! what I keer for de bug?" Here he took cautiously hold of the extreme end of the string, and, maintaining the insect as far from his person as circumstances would permit, prepared to ascend the tree.
In youth, the tulip-tree, or Liriodendron Tulipiferum, the most magnificent of American foresters, has a trunk peculiarly smooth, and often rises to a great height without lateral branches; but, in its riper age, the bark becomes gnarled and uneven, while many short limbs make their appearance on the stem. Thus the difficulty of ascension, in the present case, lay more in semblance than in reality. Embracing the huge cylinder as closely as possible with his arms and knees, seizing with his hands some projections, and resting his naked toes upon others, Jupiter, after one or two narrow escapes from falling, at length wriggled himself into the first great fork, and seemed to consider the whole business as virtually accomplished. The risk of the achievement was, in fact, now over, although the climber was some sixty or seventy feet from the ground.
"Which way mus go now, Massa Will?" he asked.
"Keep up the largest branch—the one on this side," said Legrand. The negro obeyed him promptly, and apparently with but little trouble, ascending higher and higher, until no glimpse of his squat figure could be obtained through the dense foliage which enveloped it. Presently his voice was heard in a sort of halloo.
"How much fudder is got for go?"
"How high up are you?" asked Legrand.
"Ebber so fur," replied the negro; "can see de sky fru de top ob de tree."
"Never mind the sky, but attend to what I say. Look down the trunk, and count the limbs below you on this side. How many limbs have you passed?"
"One, two, tree, four, fibe—I done pass fibe big limb, massa, pon dis side."
"Then go one limb higher."
In a few minutes the voice was heard again, announcing that the seventh limb was attained.
"Now, Jup," cried Legrand, evidently much excited, "I want you to work your way out upon that limb as far as you can. If you see anything strange, let me know."
By this time what little doubt I might have entertained of my poor friend's insanity was put finally at rest. I had no alternative but to conclude him stricken with lunacy, and I became seriously anxious about getting him home. While I was pondering upon what was best to be done, Jupiter's voice was again heard.
"Mos feerd for to ventur pon dis limb berry far—'tis dead limb putty much all de way."
"Did you say it was a dead limb, Jupiter?" cried Legrand in a quivering voice.
"Yes, massa; him dead as de door-nail; done up for sartain; done departed dis here life."
"What in the name of heaven shall I do?" asked Legrand, seemingly in the greatest distress.
"Do!" said I, glad of an opportunity to interpose a word, "why, come home and go to bed. Come, now, that's a fine fellow! It's getting late, and, besides, you remember your promise."
"Jupiter," cried he, without heeding me in the least, "do you hear me?"
"Yes, Massa Will, hear you ebber so plain."
"Try the wood well, then, with your knife, and see if you think it is very rotten."
"Him rotten, massa, sure nuff," replied the negro in a few moments; "but not so berry rotten as mought be. Mought ventur out leetle way pon de limb by myself, dat's true."
"By yourself? what do you mean?"
"Why, I mean de bug. 'Tis berry hebby bug. Spose I drop him down fuss, and den de limb won't break wid just de weight ob one nigger."
"You infernal scoundrel!" cried Legrand, apparently much relieved; "what do you mean by telling me such nonsense as that? As sure as you drop that beetle I'll break your neck. Look here, Jupiter, do you hear me?"
"Yes, massa; needn't hollo at poor nigger dat style."
"Well, now listen. If you will venture out on the limb as far as you think safe, and not let go the beetle, I'll make you a present of a silver dollar as soon as you get down."
"I'm gwine, Mass Will—deed I is," replied the negro, very promptly—"mos out to the end now."
"Out to the end!" here fairly screamed Legrand, "do you say you are out to the end of that limb?"
"Soon be to de eend, massa,—o-o-o-o-oh! Lor-gol-a-marcy! what is dis here pon de tree?"
"Well!" cried Legrand, highly delighted, "what is it?"
"Why, taint noffin but a skull—somebody bin lef him head up de tree, and de crows done gobble ebery bit ob de meat off."