Other Books by the Same Author:
"Journeys to Bagdad" Sixth printing.
"Chimney-Pot Papers" Third printing.
"Hints to Pilgrims"
CHEESE TO COME
CHARLES S. BROOKS
Illustrated by Theodore Diedricksen, Jr.
TO MY FATHER AND MOTHER
I. There's Pippins and Cheese to Come
II. On Buying Old Books
III. Any Stick Will Do to Beat a Dog
IV. Roads of Morning
V. The Man of Grub Street Comes from His Garret
VI. Now that Spring is Here
VII. The Friendly Genii
VIII. Mr. Pepys Sits in the Pit
IX. To an Unknown Reader
X. A Plague of All Cowards
XI. The Asperities of the Early British Reviewers
XII. The Pursuit of Fire
THERE'S PIPPINS AND CHEESE TO COME
There's Pippins and Cheese To Come
In my noonday quest for food, if the day is fine, it is my habit to shun the nearer places of refreshment. I take the air and stretch myself. Like Eve's serpent I go upright for a bit. Yet if time presses, there may be had next door a not unsavory stowage. A drinking bar is nearest to the street where its polished brasses catch the eye. It holds a gilded mirror to such red-faced nature as consorts within. Yet you pass the bar and come upon a range of tables at the rear.
Now, if you yield to the habits of the place you order a rump of meat. Gravy lies about it like a moat around a castle, and if there is in you the zest for encounter, you attack it above these murky waters. "This castle hath a pleasant seat," you cry, and charge upon it with pike advanced. But if your appetite is one to peck and mince, the whiffs that breathe upon the place come unwelcome to your nostrils. In no wise are they like the sweet South upon your senses. There is even a suspicion in you—such is your distemper—that it is too much a witch's cauldron in the kitchen, "eye of newt, and toe of frog," and you spy and poke upon your food. Bus boys bear off the crockery as though they were apprenticed to a juggler and were only at the beginning of their art. Waiters bawl strange messages to the cook. It's a tongue unguessed by learning, yet sharp and potent. Also, there comes a riot from the kitchen, and steam issues from the door as though the devil himself were a partner and conducted here an upper branch. Like the man in the old comedy, your belly may still ring dinner, but the tinkle is faint. Such being your state, you choose a daintier place to eat.
Having now set upon a longer journey—the day being fine and the sidewalks thronged—you pass by a restaurant that is but a few doors up the street. A fellow in a white coat flops pancakes in the window. But even though the pancake does a double somersault and there are twenty curious noses pressed against the glass, still you keep your course uptown.
Nor are you led off because a near-by stairway beckons you to a Chinese restaurant up above. A golden dragon swings over the door. Its race has fallen since its fire-breathing grandsire guarded the fruits of the Hesperides. Are not "soys" and "chou meins" and other such treasures of the East laid out above? And yet the dragon dozes at its post like a sleepy dog. No flame leaps up its gullet. The swish of its tail is stilled. If it wag at all, it's but in friendship or because a gust of wind has stirred it from its dreams.
I have wondered why Chinese restaurants are generally on the second story. A casual inquiry attests it. I know of one, it is true, on the ground level, yet here I suspect a special economy. The place had formerly been a German restaurant, with Teuton scrolls, "Ich Dien," and heraldries on its walls. A frugal brush changed the decoration. From the heart of a Prussian blazonry, there flares on you in Chinese yellow a recommendation to try "Our Chicken Chop Soy." The quartering of the House of Hohenzollern wears a baldric in praise of "Subgum Noodle Warmein," which it seems they cook to an unusual delicacy. Even a wall painting of Rip Van Winkle bowling at tenpins in the mountains is now set off with a pigtail. But the chairs were Dutch and remain as such. Generally, however, Chinese restaurants are on the second story. Probably there is a ritual from the ancient days of Ming Ti that Chinamen when they eat shall sit as near as possible to the sacred moon.
But hold a bit! In your haste up town to find a place to eat, you are missing some of the finer sights upon the way. In these windows that you pass, the merchants have set their choicest wares. If there is any commodity of softer gloss than common, or one shinier to the eye—so that your poverty frets you—it is displayed here. In the window of the haberdasher, shirts—mere torsos with not a leg below or head above—yet disport themselves in gay neckwear. Despite their dismemberment they are tricked to the latest turn of fashion. Can vanity survive such general amputation? Then there is hope for immortality.
But by what sad chance have these blithe fellows been disjointed? If a gloomy mood prevails in you—as might come from a bad turn of the market—you fancy that the evil daughter of Herodias still lives around the corner, and that she has set out her victims to the general view. If there comes a hurdy-gurdy on the street and you cock your ear to the tune of it, you may still hear the dancing measure of her wicked feet. Or it is possible that these are the kindred of Holofernes and that they have supped guiltily in their tents with a sisterhood of Judiths.
Or we may conceive—our thoughts running now to food—that these gamesome creatures of the haberdasher had dressed themselves for a more recent banquet. Their black-tailed coats and glossy shirts attest a rare occasion. It was in holiday mood, when they were fresh-combed and perked in their best, that they were cut off from life. It would appear that Jack Ketch the headsman got them when they were rubbed and shining for the feast. We'll not squint upon his writ. It is enough that they were apprehended for some rascality. When he came thumping on his dreadful summons, here they were already set, fopped from shoes to head in the newest whim. Spoon in hand and bib across their knees—lest they fleck their careful fronts—they waited for the anchovy to come. And on a sudden they were cut off from life, unfit, unseasoned for the passage. Like the elder Hamlet's brother, they were engaged upon an act that had no relish of salvation in it. You may remember the lamentable child somewhere in Dickens, who because of an abrupt and distressing accident, had a sandwich in its hand but no mouth to put it in. Or perhaps you recall the cook of the Nancy Bell and his grievous end. The poor fellow was stewed in his own stew-pot. It was the Elderly Naval Man, you recall—the two of them being the ship's sole survivors on the deserted island, and both of them lean with hunger—it was the Elderly Naval Man (the villain of the piece) who "ups with his heels, and smothers his squeals in the scum of the boiling broth."
And yet by looking on these torsos of the haberdasher, one is not brought to thoughts of sad mortality. Their joy is so exultant. And all the things that they hold dear—canes, gloves, silk hats, and the newer garments on which fashion makes its twaddle—are within reach of their armless sleeves. Had they fingers they would be smoothing themselves before the glass. Their unbodied heads, wherever they may be, are still smiling on the world, despite their divorcement. Their tongues are still ready with a jest, their lips still parted for the anchovy to come.
A few days since, as I was thinking—for so I am pleased to call my muddy stirrings—what manner of essay I might write and how best to sort and lay out the rummage, it happened pat to my needs that I received from a friend a book entitled "The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened." Now, before it came I had got so far as to select a title. Indeed, I had written the title on seven different sheets of paper, each time in the hope that by the run of the words I might leap upon some further thought. Seven times I failed and in the end the sheets went into the waste basket, possibly to the confusion of Annie our cook, who may have mistaken them for a reiterated admonishment towards the governance of her kitchen—at the least, a hint of my desires and appetite for cheese and pippins.
"The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Opened" is a cook book. It is due you to know this at once, otherwise your thoughts—if your nature be vagrant—would drift towards family skeletons. Or maybe the domestic traits prevail and you would think of dress-clothes hanging in camphorated bags and a row of winter boots upon a shelf.
I am disqualified to pass upon the merits of a cook book, for the reason that I have little discrimination in food. It is not that I am totally indifferent to what lies on the platter. Indeed, I have more than a tribal aversion to pork in general, while, on the other hand, I quicken joyfully when noodles are interspersed with bacon. I have a tooth for sweets, too, although I hold it unmanly and deny it as I can. I am told also—although I resent it—that my eye lights up on the appearance of a tray of French pastry. I admit gladly, however, my love of onions, whether they come hissing from the skillet, or lie in their first tender whiteness. They are at their best when they are placed on bread and are eaten largely at midnight after society has done its worst.
A fine dinner is lost within me. A quail is but an inferior chicken—a poor relation outside the exclusive hennery. Terrapin sits low in my regard, even though it has wallowed in the most aristocratic marsh. Through such dinners I hack and saw my way without even gaining a memory of my progress. If asked the courses, I balk after the recital of the soup. Indeed, I am so forgetful of food, even when I dine at home, that I can well believe that Adam when he was questioned about the apple was in real confusion. He had or he had not. It was mixed with the pomegranate or the quince that Eve had sliced and cooked on the day before.
A dinner at its best is brought to a single focus. There is one dish to dominate the cloth, a single bulk to which all other dishes are subordinate. If there be turkey, it should mount from a central platter. Its protruding legs out-top the candles. All other foods are, as it were, privates in Caesar's army. They do no more than flank the pageant. Nor may the pantry hold too many secrets. Within reason, everything should be set out at once, or at least a gossip of its coming should run before. Otherwise, if the stew is savory, how shall one reserve a corner for the custard? One must partition himself justly—else, by an over-stowage at the end, he list and sink.
I am partial to picnics—the spreading of the cloth in the woods or beside a stream—although I am not avid for sandwiches unless hunger press me. Rather, let there be a skillet in the company and let a fire be started! Nor need a picnic consume the day. In summer it requires but the late afternoon, with such borrowing of the night as is necessary for the journey home. You leave the street car, clanking with your bundles like an itinerant tinman. You follow a stream, which on these lower stretches, it is sad to say, is already infected with the vices of the city. Like many a countryman who has come to town, it has fallen to dissipation. It shows the marks of the bottle. Further up, its course is cleaner. You cross it in the mud. Was it not Christian who fell into the bog because of the burden on his back? Then you climb a villainously long hill and pop out upon an open platform above the city.
The height commands a prospect to the west. Below is the smoke of a thousand suppers. Up from the city there comes the hum of life, now somewhat fallen with the traffic of the day—as though Nature already practiced the tune for sending her creatures off to sleep. You light a fire. The baskets disgorge their secrets. Ants and other leviathans think evidently that a circus has come or that bears are in the town. The chops and bacon achieve their appointed destiny. You throw the last bone across your shoulder. It slips and rattles to the river. The sun sets. Night like an ancient dame puts on her jewels:
And now that I have climbed and won this height, I must tread downward through the sloping shade And travel the bewildered tracks till night. Yet for this hour I still may here be stayed And see the gold air and the silver fade And the last bird fly into the last light.
By these confessions you will see how unfit I am to comment on the old cook book of Sir Kenelm Digby. Yet it lies before me. It may have escaped your memory in the din of other things, that in the time when Oliver Cromwell still walked the earth, there lived in England a man by the name of Kenelm Digby, who was renowned in astrology and alchemy, piracy, wit, philosophy and fashion. It appears that wherever learning wagged its bulbous head, Sir Kenelm was of the company. It appears, also, that wherever the mahogany did most groan, wherever the possets were spiced most delicately to the nose, there too did Sir Kenelm bib and tuck himself. With profundity, as though he sucked wisdom from its lowest depth, he spouted forth on the transmutation of the baser metals or tossed you a phrase from Paracelsus. Or with long instructive finger he dissertated on the celestial universe. One would have thought that he had stood by on the making of it and that his judgment had prevailed in the larger problems. Yet he did not neglect his trencher.
And now as time went on, the richness of the food did somewhat dominate his person. The girth of his wisdom grew no less, but his body fattened. In a word, the good gentleman's palate came to vie with his intellect. Less often was he engaged upon some dark saying of Isidore of Seville. Rather, even if his favorite topic astrology were uppermost about the table, his eye travelled to the pantry on every change of dishes. His fingers, too, came to curl most delicately on his fork. He used it like an epicure, poking his viands apart for sharpest scrutiny. His nod upon a compote was much esteemed.
Now mark his further decline! On an occasion—surely the old rascal's head is turned!—he would be found in private talk with his hostess, the Lady of Middlesex, or with the Countess of Monmouth, not as you might expect, on the properties of fire or on the mortal diseases of man, but—on subjects quite removed. Society, we may be sure, began to whisper of these snug parleys in the arbor after dinner, these shadowed mumblings on the balcony when the moon was up—and Lady Digby stiffened into watchfulness. It was when they took leave that she saw the Countess slip a note into her lord's fingers. Her jealousy broke out. "Viper!" She spat the words and seized her husband's wrist. Of course the note was read. It proved, however, that Sir Kenelm was innocent of all mischief. To the disappointment of the gossips, who were tuned to a spicier anticipation, the note was no more than a recipe of the manner that the Countess was used to mix her syllabub, with instruction that it was the "rosemary a little bruised and the limon-peal that did quicken the taste." Advice, also, followed in the postscript on the making of tea, with counsel that "the boiling water should remain upon it just so long as one might say a miserere." A mutual innocence being now established, the Lady Digby did by way of apology peck the Countess on the cheek.
Sir Kenelm died in 1665, full of years. In that day his fame rested chiefly on his books in physic and chirurgery. His most enduring work was still to be published—"The Closet Opened."
It was two years after his death that his son came upon a bundle of his father's papers that had hitherto been overlooked. I fancy that he went spying in the attic on a rainy day. In the darkest corner, behind the rocking horse—if such devices were known in those distant days—he came upon a trunk of his father's papers. "Od's fish," said Sir Kenelm's son, "here's a box of manuscripts. It is like that they pertain to alchemy or chirurgery." He pulled out a bundle and held it to the light—such light as came through the cobwebs of the ancient windows. "Here be strange matters," he exclaimed. Then he read aloud: "My Lord of Bristol's Scotch collops are thus made: Take a leg of fine sweet mutton, that to make it tender, is kept as long as possible may be without stinking. In winter seven or eight days"—"Ho! Ho!" cried Sir Kenelm's son. "This is not alchemy!" He drew out another parchment and read again: "My Lord of Carlile's sack posset, how it's made: Take a pottle of cream and boil in it a little whole cinnamon and three or four flakes of mace. Boil it until it simpreth and bubbleth."
By this time, as you may well imagine, Sir Kenelm's son was wrought to an excitement. It is likely that he inherited his father's palate and that the juices of his appetite were stirred. Seizing an armful of the papers, he leaped down the attic steps, three at a time. His lady mother thrust a curled and papered head from her door and asked whether the chimney were afire, but he did not heed her. The cook was waddling in her pattens. He cried to her to throw wood upon the fire.
That night the Digby household was served a delicacy, red herrings broiled in the fashion of my Lord d'Aubigny, "short and crisp and laid upon a sallet." Also, there was a wheaten flommery as it was made in the West Country—for the cook chose quite at random—and a slip-coat cheese as Master Phillips proportioned it. Also, against the colic, which was ravishing the country, the cook prepared a metheglin as Lady Stuart mixed it—"nettles, fennel and grumel seeds, of each two ounces being small-cut and mixed with honey and boiled together." It is on record that the Lady Digby smiled for the first time since her lord had died, and when the grinning cook bore in the platter, she beat upon the table with her spoon.
The following morning, Sir Kenelm's son posted to London bearing the recipes, with a pistol in the pocket of his great coat against the crossing of Hounslow Heath. He went to a printer at the Star in Little Britain whose name was H. Brome.
Shortly the book appeared. It was the son who wrote the preface: "There needs no Rhetoricating Floscules to set it off. The Authour, as is well known, having been a Person of Eminency for his Learning, and of Exquisite Curiosity in his Researches. Even that Incomparable Sir Kenelme Digbie Knight, Fellow of the Royal Society and Chancellour to the Queen Mother, (Et omen in Nomine) His name does sufficiently Auspicate the Work." The sale of the book is not recorded. It is supposed that the Lady Middlesex, so many of whose recipes had been used, directed that her chair be carried to the shop where the book was for sale and that she bought largely of it. The Countess of Dorset bought a copy and spelled it out word for word to her cook. As for the Lady Monmouth, she bought not a single copy, which neglect on coming to the Digbys aroused a coolness.
To this day it is likely that a last auspicated volume still sits on its shelf with the spice jars in some English country kitchen and that a worn and toothless cook still thumbs its leaves. If the guests about the table be of an antique mind, still will they pledge one another with its honeyed drinks, still will they pipe and whistle of its virtues, still will they—
"EAT"—A flaring sign hangs above the sidewalk. By this time, in our noonday search for food, we have come into the thick of the restaurants. In the jungle of the city, here is the feeding place. Here come the growling bipeds for such bones and messes as are thrown them.
The waiter thrusts a card beneath my nose. "Nice leg of lamb, sir?" I waved him off. "Hold a bit!" I cried. "You'll fetch me a capon in white broth as my Lady Monmouth broileth hers. Put plentiful sack in it and boil it until it simpreth!" The waiter scratched his head. "The chicken pie is good," he said. "It's our Wednesday dish." "Varlet!" I cried—then softened. "Let it be the chicken pie! But if the cook knoweth the manner that Lord Carlile does mix and pepper it, let that manner be followed to the smallest fraction of a pinch!"
On Buying Old Books
By some slim chance, reader, you may be the kind of person who, on a visit to a strange city, makes for a bookshop. Of course your slight temporal business may detain you in the earlier hours of the day. You sit with committees and stroke your profound chin, or you spend your talent in the market, or run to and fro and wag your tongue in persuasion. Or, if you be on a holiday, you strain yourself on the sights of the city, against being caught in an omission. The bolder features of a cathedral must be grasped to satisfy a quizzing neighbor lest he shame you later on your hearth, a building must be stuffed inside your memory, or your pilgrim feet must wear the pavement of an ancient shrine. However, these duties being done and the afternoon having not yet declined, do you not seek a bookshop to regale yourself?
Doubtless, we have met. As you have scrunched against the shelf not to block the passage, but with your head thrown back to see the titles up above, you have noticed at the corner of your eye—unless it was one of your blinder moments when you were fixed wholly on the shelf—a man in a slightly faded overcoat of mixed black and white, a man just past the nimbleness of youth, whose head is plucked of its full commodity of hair. It was myself. I admit the portrait, though modesty has curbed me short of justice.
Doubtless, we have met. It was your umbrella—which you held villainously beneath your arm—that took me in the ribs when you lighted on a set of Fuller's Worthies. You recall my sour looks, but it was because I had myself lingered on the volumes but cooled at the price. How you smoothed and fingered them! With what triumph you bore them off! I bid you—for I see you in a slippered state, eased and unbuttoned after dinner—I bid you turn the pages with a slow thumb, not to miss the slightest tang of their humor. You will of course go first, because of its broad fame, to the page on Shakespeare and Ben Jonson and their wet-combats at the Mermaid. But before the night is too far gone and while yet you can hold yourself from nodding, you will please read about Captain John Smith of Virginia and his "strange performances, the scene whereof is laid at such a distance, they are cheaper credited than confuted."
In no proper sense am I a buyer of old books. I admit a bookish quirk maybe, a love of the shelf, a weakness for morocco, especially if it is stained with age. I will, indeed, shirk a wedding for a bookshop. I'll go in "just to look about a bit, to see what the fellow has," and on an occasion I pick up a volume. But I am innocent of first editions. It is a stiff courtesy, as becomes a democrat, that I bestow on this form of primogeniture. Of course, I have nosed my way with pleasure along aristocratic shelves and flipped out volumes here and there to ask their price, but for the greater part, it is the plainer shops that engage me. If a rack of books is offered cheap before the door, with a fixed price upon a card, I come at a trot. And if a brown dust lies on them, I bow and sniff upon the rack, as though the past like an ancient fop in peruke and buckle were giving me the courtesy of its snuff box. If I take the dust in my nostrils and chance to sneeze, it is the fit and intended observance toward the manners of a former century.
I have in mind such a bookshop in Bath, England. It presents to the street no more than a decent front, but opens up behind like a swollen bottle. There are twenty rooms at least, piled together with such confusion of black passages and winding steps, that one might think that the owner himself must hold a thread when he visits the remoter rooms. Indeed, such are the obscurities and dim turnings of the place, that, were the legend of the Minotaur but English, you might fancy that the creature still lived in this labyrinth, to nip you between his toothless gums—for the beast grows old—at some darker corner. There is a story of the place, that once a raw clerk having been sent to rummage in the basement, his candle tipped off the shelf. He was left in so complete darkness that his fears overcame his judgment and for two hours he roamed and babbled among the barrels. Nor was his absence discovered until the end of the day when, as was the custom, the clerks counted noses at the door. When they found him, he bolted up the steps, nor did he cease his whimper until he had reached the comforting twilight of the outer world. He served thereafter in the shop a full two years and had a beard coming—so the story runs—before he would again venture beyond the third turning of the passage; to the stunting of his scholarship, for the deeper books lay in the farther windings.
Or it may appear credible that in ages past a jealous builder contrived the place. Having no learning himself and being at odds with those of better opportunity, he twisted the pattern of the house. Such was his evil temper, that he set the steps at a dangerous hazard in the dark, in order that scholars—whose eyes are bleared at best—might risk their legs to the end of time. Those of strict orthodoxy have even suspected the builder to have been an atheist, for they have observed what double joints and steps and turnings confuse the passage to the devouter books—the Early Fathers in particular being up a winding stair where even the soberest reader might break his neck. Be these things as they may, leather bindings in sets of "grenadier uniformity" ornament the upper and lighter rooms. Biography straggles down a hallway, with a candle needed at the farther end. A room of dingy plays—Wycherley, Congreve and their crew—looks out through an area grating. It was through even so foul an eye, that when alive, they looked upon the world. As for theology, except for the before-mentioned Fathers, it sits in general and dusty convention on the landing to the basement, its snuffy sermons, by a sad misplacement—or is there an ironical intention?—pointing the way to the eternal abyss below.
It was in this shop that I inquired whether there was published a book on piracy in Cornwall. Now, I had lately come from Tintagel on the Cornish coast, and as I had climbed upon the rocks and looked down upon the sea, I had wondered to myself whether, if the knowledge were put out before me, I could compose a story of Spanish treasure and pirates. For I am a prey to such giddy ambition. A foul street—if the buildings slant and topple—will set me thinking delightfully of murders. A wharf-end with water lapping underneath and bits of rope about will set me itching for a deep-sea plot. Or if I go on broader range and see in my fancy a broken castle on a hill, I'll clear its moat and sound trumpets on its walls. If there is pepper in my mood, I'll storm its dungeon. Or in a softer moment I'll trim its unsubstantial towers with pageantry and rest upon my elbow until I fall asleep. So being cast upon the rugged Cornish coast whose cliffs are so swept with winter winds that the villages sit for comfort in the hollows, it was to be expected that my thoughts would run toward pirates.
There is one rock especially which I had climbed in the rain and fog of early morning. A reckless path goes across its face with a sharp pitch to the ocean. It was so slippery and the wind so tugged and pulled to throw me off, that although I endangered my dignity, I played the quadruped on the narrower parts. But once on top in the open blast of the storm and safe upon the level, I thumped with desire for a plot. In each inlet from the ocean I saw a pirate lugger—such is the pleasing word—with a keg of rum set up. Each cranny led to a cavern with doubloons piled inside. The very tempest in my ears was compounded out of ships at sea and wreck and pillage. I needed but a plot, a thread of action to string my villains on. If this were once contrived, I would spice my text with sailors' oaths and such boasting talk as might lie in my invention. Could I but come upon a plot, I might yet proclaim myself an author.
With this guilty secret in me I blushed as I asked the question. It seemed sure that the shopkeeper must guess my purpose. I felt myself suspected as though I were a rascal buying pistols to commit a murder. Indeed, I seem to remember having read that even hardened criminals have become confused before a shopkeeper and betrayed themselves. Of course, Dick Turpin and Jerry Abershaw could call for pistols in the same easy tone they ordered ale, but it would take a practiced villainy. But I in my innocence wanted nothing but the meager outline of a pirate's life, which I might fatten to my uses.
But on a less occasion, when there is no plot thumping in me, I still feel a kind of embarrassment when I ask for a book out of the general demand. I feel so like an odd stick. This embarrassment applies not to the request for other commodities. I will order a collar that is quite outside the fashion, in a high-pitched voice so that the whole shop can hear. I could bargain for a purple waistcoat—did my taste run so—and though the sidewalk listened, it would not draw a blush. I have traded even for women's garments—though this did strain me—without an outward twitch. Finally, to top my valor, I have bought sheet music of the lighter kind and have pronounced the softest titles so that all could hear. But if I desire the poems of Lovelace or the plays of Marlowe, I sidle close up to the shopkeeper to get his very ear. If the book is visible, I point my thumb at it without a word.
It was but the other day—in order to fill a gap in a paper I was writing—I desired to know the name of an author who is obscure although his work has been translated into nearly all languages. I wanted to know a little about the life of the man who wrote Mary Had a Little Lamb, which, I am told, is known by children over pretty much all the western world. It needed only a trip to the Public Library. Any attendant would direct me to the proper shelf. Yet once in the building, my courage oozed. My question, though serious, seemed too ridiculous to be asked. I would sizzle as I met the attendant's eye. Of a consequence, I fumbled on my own devices, possibly to the increase of my general knowledge, but without gaining what I sought.
They had no book in the Bath shop on piracy in Cornwall. I was offered instead a work in two volumes on the notorious highwaymen of history, and for a moment my plot swerved in that direction. But I put it by. To pay the fellow for his pains—for he had dug in barrels to his shoulders and had a smudge across his nose—I bought a copy of Thomson's "Castle of Indolence," and in my more energetic moods I read it. And so I came away.
On leaving the shop, lest I should be nipped in a neglect, I visited the Roman baths. Then I took the waters in the Assembly Room. It was Sam Weller, you may recall, who remarked, when he was entertained by the select footmen, that the waters tasted like warm flat-irons. Finally, I viewed the Crescent around which the shirted Winkle ran with the valorous Dowler breathing on his neck. With such distractions, as you may well imagine, Cornish pirates became as naught. Such mental vibration as I had was now gone toward a tale of fashion in the days when Queen Anne was still alive. Of a consequence, I again sought the bookshop and stifling my timidity, I demanded such volumes as might set me most agreeably to my task.
I have in mind also a bookshop of small pretension in a town in Wales. For purely secular delight, maybe, it was too largely composed of Methodist sermons. Hell fire burned upon its shelves with a warmth to singe so poor a worm as I. Yet its signboard popped its welcome when I had walked ten miles of sunny road. Possibly it was the chair rather than the divinity that keeps the place in memory. The owner was absent on an errand, and his daughter, who had been clumping about the kitchen on my arrival, was uninstructed in the price marks. So I read and fanned myself until his return.
Perhaps my sluggishness toward first editions—to which I have hinted above—comes in part from the acquaintance with a man who in a linguistic outburst as I met him, pronounced himself to be a numismatist and philatelist. One only of these names would have satisfied a man of less conceit. It is as though the pteranodon should claim also to be the spoon-bill dinosaur. It is against modesty that one man should summon all the letters. No, the numismatist's head is not crammed with the mysteries of life and death, nor is a philatelist one who is possessed with the dimmer secrets of eternity. Rather, this man who was so swelled with titles, eked a living by selling coins and stamps, and he was on his way to Europe to replenish his wares. Inside his waistcoat, just above his liver—if he owned so human an appendage—he carried a magnifying glass. With this, when the business fit was on him, he counted the lines and dots upon a stamp, the perforations on its edge. He catalogued its volutes, its stipples, the frisks and curlings of its pattern. He had numbered the very hairs on the head of George Washington, for in such minutiae did the value of the stamp reside. Did a single hair spring up above the count, it would invalidate the issue. Such values, got by circumstance or accident—resting on a flaw—founded on a speck—cause no ferment of my desires.
For the buying of books, it is the cheaper shops where I most often prowl. There is in London a district around Charing Cross Road where almost every shop has books for sale. There is a continuous rack along the sidewalk, each title beckoning for your attention. You recall the class of street-readers of whom Charles Lamb wrote—"poor gentry, who, not having wherewithal to buy or hire a book, filch a little learning at the open stalls." It was on some such street that these folk practiced their innocent larceny. If one shopkeeper frowned at the diligence with which they read "Clarissa," they would continue her distressing adventures across the way. By a lingering progress up the street, "Sir Charles Grandison" might be nibbled down—by such as had the stomach—without the outlay of a single penny. As for Gibbon and the bulbous historians, though a whole perusal would outlast the summer and stretch to the colder months, yet with patience they could be got through. However, before the end was come even a hasty reader whose eye was nimble on the page would be blowing on his nails and pulling his tails between him and the November wind.
But the habit of reading at the open stalls was not only with the poor. You will remember that Mr. Brownlow was addicted. Really, had not the Artful Dodger stolen his pocket handkerchief as he was thus engaged upon his book, the whole history of Oliver Twist must have been quite different. And Pepys himself, Samuel Pepys, F.R.S., was guilty. "To Paul's Church Yard," he writes, "and there looked upon the second part of Hudibras, which I buy not, but borrow to read." Such parsimony is the curse of authors. To thumb a volume cheaply around a neighborhood is what keeps them in their garrets. It is a less offence to steal peanuts from a stand. Also, it is recorded in the life of Beau Nash that the persons of fashion of his time, to pass a tedious morning "did divert themselves with reading in the booksellers' shops." We may conceive Mr. Fanciful Fopling in the sleepy blink of those early hours before the pleasures of the day have made a start, inquiring between his yawns what latest novels have come down from London, or whether a new part of "Pamela" is offered yet. If the post be in, he will prop himself against the shelf and—unless he glaze and nod—he will read cheaply for an hour. Or my Lady Betty, having taken the waters in the pump-room and lent her ear to such gossip as is abroad so early, is now handed to her chair and goes round by Gregory's to read a bit. She is flounced to the width of the passage. Indeed, until the fashion shall abate, those more solid authors that are set up in the rear of the shop, must remain during her visits in general neglect. Though she hold herself against the shelf and tilt her hoops, it would not be possible to pass. She is absorbed in a book of the softer sort, and she flips its pages against her lap-dog's nose.
But now behold the student coming up the street! He is clad in shining black. He is thin of shank as becomes a scholar. He sags with knowledge. He hungers after wisdom. He comes opposite the bookshop. It is but coquetry that his eyes seek the window of the tobacconist. His heart, you may be sure, looks through the buttons at his back. At last he turns. He pauses on the curb. Now desire has clutched him. He jiggles his trousered shillings. He treads the gutter. He squints upon the rack. He lights upon a treasure. He plucks it forth. He is unresolved whether to buy it or to spend the extra shilling on his dinner. Now all you cooks together, to save your business, rattle your pans to rouse him! If within these ancient buildings there are onions ready peeled—quick!—throw them in the skillet that the whiff may come beneath his nose! Chance trembles and casts its vote—eenie meenie—down goes the shilling—he has bought the book. Tonight he will spread it beneath his candle. Feet may beat a snare of pleasure on the pavement, glad cries may pipe across the darkness, a fiddle may scratch its invitation—all the rumbling notes of midnight traffic will tap in vain their summons upon his window.
Any Stick Will Do To Beat A Dog
Reader, possibly on one of your country walks you have come upon a man with his back against a hedge, tormented by a fiend in the likeness of a dog. You yourself, of course, are not a coward. You possess that cornerstone of virtue, a love for animals. If at your heels a dog sniffs and growls, you humor his mistake, you flick him off and proceed with unbroken serenity. It is scarcely an interlude to your speculation on the market. Or if you work upon a sonnet and are in the vein, your thoughts, despite the beast, run unbroken to a rhyme. But pity this other whose heart is less stoutly wrapped! He has gone forth on a holiday to take the country air, to thrust himself into the freer wind, to poke with his stick for such signs of Spring as may be hiding in the winter's leaves. Having been grinding in an office he flings himself on the great round world. He has come out to smell the earth. Or maybe he seeks a hilltop for a view of the fields that lie below patched in many colors, as though nature had been sewing at her garments and had mended the cloth from her bag of scraps.
On such a journey this fellow is travelling when, at a turn of the road, he hears the sound of barking. As yet there is no dog in sight. He pauses. He listens. How shall one know whether the sound comes up a wrathful gullet or whether the dog bays at him impersonally, as at the distant moon? Or maybe he vents himself upon a stubborn cow. Surely it is not an idle tune he practices. He holds a victim in his mind. There is sour venom on his churlish tooth. Is it best to go roundabout, or forward with such a nice compound of innocence, boldness and modesty as shall satisfy the beast? If one engross oneself on something that lies to the lee of danger, it allays suspicion. Or if one absorb oneself upon the flora—a primrose on the river's brim—it shows him clear and stainless. The stupidest dog should see that so close a student can have no evil in him. Perhaps it would be better to throw away one's stick lest it make a show of violence. Or it may be concealed along the outer leg. Ministers of Grace defend us, what an excitement in the barnyard! Has virtue no reward? Shall innocence perish off the earth? Not one dog, but many, come running out. There has gone a rumor about the barn that there is a stranger to be eaten, and it's likely—if they keep their clamor—there will be a bone for each. Note how the valor oozes from the man of peace! Observe his sidling gait, his skirts pulled close, his hollowed back, his head bent across his shoulder, his startled eye! Watch him mince his steps, lest a lingering heel be nipped! Listen to him try the foremost dog with names, to gull him to a belief that they have met before in happier circumstances! He appeals mutely to the farmhouse that a recall be sounded. The windows are tightly curtained. The heavens are comfortless.
You remember the fellow in the play who would have loved war had they not digged villainous saltpetre from the harmless earth. The countryside, too, in my opinion, would be more peaceful of a summer afternoon were it not overrun with dogs. Let me be plain! I myself like dogs—sleepy dogs blinking in the firelight, friendly dogs with wagging tails, young dogs in their first puppyhood with their teeth scarce sprouted, whose jaws have not yet burgeoned into danger, and old dogs, too, who sun themselves and give forth hollow, toothless, reassuring sounds. When a dog assumes the cozy habits of the cat without laying off his nobler nature, he is my friend. A dog of vegetarian aspect pleases me. Let him bear a mild eye as though he were nourished on the softer foods! I would wish every dog to have a full complement of tail. It's the sure barometer of his warm regard. There's no art to find his mind's construction in the face. And I would have him with not too much curiosity. It's a quality that brings him too often to the gate. It makes him prone to sniff when one sits upon a visit. Nor do I like dogs addicted to sudden excitement. Lethargy becomes them better. Let them be without the Gallic graces! In general, I like a dog to whom I have been properly introduced, with an exchange of credentials. While the dog is by, let his master take my hand and address me in softest tones, to cement the understanding! At bench-shows I love the beasts, although I keep to the middle of the aisle. The streets are all the safer when so many of the creatures are kept within.
Frankly, I would enjoy the country more, if I knew that all the dogs were away on visits. Of course, the highroad is quite safe. Its frequent traffic is its insurance. Then, too, the barns are at such a distance, it is only a monstrous anger can bring the dog. But if you are in need of direction you select a friendly white house with green shutters. You swing open the gate and crunch across the pebbles to the door. To the nearer eye there is a look of "dog" about the place. Or maybe you are hot and thirsty, and there is a well at the side of the house. Is it better to gird yourself to danger or to put off your thirst until the crossroads where pop is sold?
Or a lane leads down to the river. Even at this distance you hear the shallow brawl of water on the stones. A path goes off across a hill, with trees beckoning at the top. There is a wind above and a wider sweep of clouds. Surely, from the crest of the hill the whole county will lie before you. Such tunes as come up from the world below—a school-bell, a rooster crowing, children laughing on the road, a threshing machine on the lower meadows—such tunes are pitched to a marvellous softness. Shall we follow the hot pavement, or shall we dare those lonely stretches?
There is a kind of person who is steeped too much in valor. He will cross a field although there is a dog inside the fence. Goodness knows that I would rather keep to the highroad with such humility as shall not rouse the creature. Or he will shout and whistle tunes that stir the dogs for miles. He slashes his stick against the weeds as though in challenge. One might think that he went about on unfeeling stalks instead of legs as children walk on stilts, or that a former accident had clipped him off above the knees and that he was now jointed out of wood to a point beyond the biting limit. Or perhaps the clothes he wears beneath—the inner mesh and very balbriggan of his attire—is of so hard a texture that it turns a tooth. Be these defenses as they may, note with what bravado he mounts the wall! One leg dangles as though it were baited and were angling for a bite.
There is a French village near Quebec whose population is chiefly dogs. It lies along the river in a single street, not many miles from the point where Wolfe climbed to the Plains of Abraham. There are a hundred houses flat against the roadway and on the steps of each there sits a dog. As I went through on foot, each of these dogs picked me up, examined me nasally and passed me on, not generously as though I had stood the test, but rather in deep suspicion that I was a queer fellow, not to be penetrated at first, but one who would surely be found out and gobbled before coming to the end of the street. As long as I would eventually furnish forth the common banquet, it mattered not which dog took the first nip. Inasmuch as I would at last be garnished for the general tooth, it would be better to wait until all were gathered around the platter. "Good neighbor dog," each seemed to say, "you too sniff upon the rogue! If he be honest, my old nose is much at fault." Meantime I padded lightly through the village, at first calling on the dogs by English names, but later using such wisps as I had of French. "Aucassin, mon pauvre chien. Voici, Tintagiles, alors donc mon cherie. Je suis votre ami," but with little effect.
But the dogs that one meets in the Canadian woods are of the fiercest breed. They border on the wolf. They are called huskies and they are so strong and so fleet of foot that they pull sleds for hours across the frozen lakes at almost the speed of a running horse. It must be confessed that they are handsome and if it happens to be your potato peelings and discarded fish that they eat, they warm into friendliness. Indeed, on these occasions, one can make quite a show of bravery by stroking and dealing lightly with them. But once upon a time in an ignorant moment two other campers and myself followed a lonely railroad track and struck off on a path through the pines in search of a certain trapper on a fur farm. The path went on a broken zigzag avoiding fallen trees and soft hollows, conducting itself on the whole with more patience than firmness. We walked a quarter of a mile, but still we saw no cabin. The line of the railroad had long since disappeared. An eagle wheeled above us and quarrelled at our intrusion. Presently to test our course and learn whether we were coming near the cabin, we gave a shout. Immediately out of the deeper woods there came a clamor that froze us. Such sounds, it seemed, could issue only from bloody and dripping jaws. In a panic, as by a common impulse we turned and ran. Yet we did not run frankly as when the circus lion is loose, but in a shamefaced manner—an attempt at a retreat in good order—something between a walk and a run. At the end of a hundred yards we stopped. No dogs had fallen on us. Danger had not burst its kennel. We hallooed again, to rouse the trapper. At last, after a minute of suspense, came his answering voice, the sweetest sound to be imagined. Whereupon I came down from my high stump which I had climbed for a longer view.
I am convinced that I am not alone in my—shall I say diffidence?—toward dogs. Indeed, there is evidence from the oldest times that mankind, in its more honest moments, has confessed to a fear of dogs. In recognition of this general fear, the unmuzzled Cerberus was put at the gate of Hades. It was rightly felt that when the unhappy pilgrims got within, his fifty snapping heads were better than a bolt upon the door. It was better for them to endure the ills they had, than be nipped in the upper passage. He, also, who first spoke the ancient proverb, Let sleeping dogs lie, did no more than voice the caution of the street. And he, also, who invented the saying that the world is going to the bow-wows, lodged his deplorable pessimism in fitting words.
It was Daniel who sat with the lions. But there are degrees of bravery. On Long Street, within sight of my window—just where the street gets into its most tangled traffic—there has hung for many years the painted signboard of a veterinary surgeon. Its artist was in the first flourish of youth. Old age had not yet chilled him when he mixed his gaudy colors. The surgeon's name is set up in modest letters, but the horse below flames with color. What a flaring nostril! What an eager eye! How arched the neck! Here is a wrath and speed unknown to the quadrupeds of this present Long Street. Such mild-eyed, accumbent, sharp-ribbed horses as now infest the curb—mere whittlings from a larger age—hang their heads at their degeneracy. Indeed, these horses seem to their owners not to be worth the price of a nostrum. If disease settles in them, let them lean against a post until the fit is past! And of a consequence, the doctor's work has fallen off. It has become a rare occasion when it is permitted him to stroke his chin in contemplation of some inner palsy. Therefore to give his wisdom scope, the doctor some time since announced the cellar of the building to be a hospital for dogs. Must I press the analogy? I have seen the doctor with bowl and spoon in hand take leave of the cheerful world. He opens the cellar door. A curdling yelp comes up the stairs. In the abyss below there are twenty dogs at least, all of them sick, all dangerous. Not since Orion led his hunting pack across the heavens has there been so fierce a sound. The door closes. There is a final yelp, such as greets a bone. Doubtless, by this time, they are munching on the doctor. Good sir, had you lived in pre-apostolic days, your name would have been lined with Daniel's in the hymn. I might have spent my earliest treble in your praise.
But there are other kinds of dogs. Gentlest of readers, have you ever passed a few days at Tunbridge Wells? It lies on one of the roads that run from London to the Channel and for several hundred years persons have gone there to take the waters against the more fashionable ailments. Its chief fame was in the days when rich folk, to ward off for the season a touch of ancestral gout, travelled down from London in their coaches. We may fancy Lord Thingumdo crossing his sleek legs inside or putting his head to the window on the change of horses. He has outriders and a horn to sound his coming. His Lordship has a liver that must be mended, but also he has a weakness for the gaming table. Or Lady Euphemia, wrapped in silks, languishes mornings in her lodgings with a latest novel, but goes forth at noon upon the Pantilles to shop in the stalls. A box of patches must be bought. A lace flounce has caught her eye. Bless her dear eyes, as she bends upon her purchase she is fair to look upon. The Grand Rout is set for tonight. Who knows but that the Duke will put the tender question and will ask her to name the happy day?
But these golden days are past. Tunbridge Wells has sunk from fashion. The gaming tables are gone. A band still plays mornings in the Pantilles—or did so before the war—but cheaper gauds are offered in the shops. Emerald brooches are fallen to paste. In all the season there is scarcely a single demand for a diamond garter. If there were now a Rout, the only dancers would be stiff shadows from the past. The healing waters still trickle from the ground and an old woman serves you for a penny, but the miracle has gone. The old world is cured and dead.
Tunbridge Wells is visited now chiefly by old ladies whose husbands—to judge by the black lace caps—have left Lombard Street for heaven. At the hotel where I stopped, which was at the top of the Commons outside the thicker town, I was the only man in the breakfast room. Two widows, each with a tiny dog on a chair beside her, sat at the next table. This was their conversation:
"Did you hear her last night?"
"Was it Flossie that I heard?"
"Yes. The poor dear was awake all night. She got her feet wet yesterday when I let her run upon the grass."
But after breakfast—if the day is sunny and the wind sits in a favoring quarter—one by one the widows go forth in their chairs. These are wicker contrivances that hang between three wheels. Burros pull them, and men walk alongside to hold their bridles. Down comes the widow. Down comes a maid with her wraps. Down comes a maid with Flossie. The wraps are adjusted. The widow is handed in. Her feet are wound around with comforters against a draft. Her salts rest in her lap. Her ample bag of knitting is safe aboard. Flossie is placed beside her. Proot! The donkey starts.
All morning the widow sits in the Pantilles and listens to the band and knits. Flossie sits on the flagging at her feet with an intent eye upon the ball of worsted. Twice in a morning—three times if the gods are kind—the ball rolls to the pavement. Flossie has been waiting so long for this to happen. It is the bright moment of her life—the point and peak of happiness. She darts upon it. She paws it exultantly for a moment. Brief is the rainbow and brief the Borealis. The finger of Time is swift.
The poppy blooms and fades. The maid captures the ball of worsted and restores it.
It lies in the widow's lap. The band plays. The needles click to a long tune. The healing waters trickle from the ground. The old woman whines their merits. Flossie sits motionless, her head cocked and her eye upon the ball. Perhaps the god of puppies will again be good to her.
ROADS OF MORNING
My grandfather's farm lay somewhere this side of the sunset, so near that its pastures barely missed the splash of color. But from the city it was a two hours' journey by horse and phaeton. My grandfather drove. I sat next, my feet swinging clear of the lunchbox. My brother had the outside, a place denied to me for fear that I might fall across the wheel. When we were all set, my mother made a last dab at my nose—an unheeded smudge having escaped my vigilance. Then my grandfather said, "Get up,"—twice, for the lazy horse chose to regard the first summons as a jest. We start. The great wheels turn. My brother leans across the guard to view the miracle. We crunch the gravel. We are alive for excitement. My brother plays we are a steamboat and toots. I toot in imitation, but higher up as if I were a younger sort of steamboat. We hold our hands on an imaginary wheel and steer. We scorn grocery carts and all such harbor craft. We are on a long cruise. Street lights will guide us sailing home.
Of course there were farms to the south of the city and apples may have ripened there to as fine a flavor, and to the east, also, doubtless there were farms. It would be asking too much that the west should have all the haystacks, cherry trees and cheese houses. If your judgment skimmed upon the surface, you would even have found the advantage with the south. It was prettier because more rolling. It was shaggier. The country to the south tipped up to the hills, so sharply in places that it might have made its living by collecting nickels for the slide. Indeed, one might think that a part of the city had come bouncing down the slope, for now it lay resting at the bottom, sprawled somewhat for its ease. Or it might appear—if your belief runs on discarded lines—that the whole flat-bottomed earth had been fouled in its celestial course and now lay aslant upon its beam with its cargo shifted and spilled about.
The city streets that led to the south, which in those days ended in lanes, popped out of sight abruptly at the top of the first ridge. And when the earth caught up again with their level, already it was dim and purple and tall trees were no more than a roughened hedge. But what lay beyond that range of hills—what towns and cities—what oceans and forests—how beset with adventure—how fearful after dark—these things you could not see, even if you climbed to some high place and strained yourself on tiptoe. And if you walked from breakfast to lunch—until you gnawed within and were but a hollow drum—there would still be a higher range against the sky. There are misty kingdoms on this whirling earth, but the ways are long and steep.
The lake lay to the north with no land beyond, the city to the east. But to the west—
Several miles outside the city as it then was, and still beyond its clutches, the country was cut by a winding river bottom with sharp edges of shale. Down this valley Rocky River came brawling in the spring, over-fed and quarrelsome. Later in the year—its youthful appetite having caught an indigestion—it shrunk and wasted to a shadow. By August you could cross it on the stones. The uproar of its former flood was marked upon the shale and trunks of trees here and there were wedged, but now the river plays drowsy tunes upon the stones. There is scarcely enough movement of water to flick the sunlight. A leaf on its idle current is a lazy craft whose skipper nods. There were hickory trees on the point above. May-apples grew in the deep woods, and blackberries along the fences. And in the season sober horses plowed up and down the fields with nodding heads, affirming their belief in the goodness of the soil and their willingness to help in its fruition.
Yet the very core of this valley in days past was a certain depth of water at a turn of the stream. There was a clay bank above it and on it small naked boys stood and daubed themselves. One of them put a band of clay about himself by way of decoration. Another, by a more general smudge, made himself a Hottentot and thereby gave his manners a wider scope and license. But by daubing yourself entire you became an Indian and might vent yourself in hideous yells, for it was amazing how the lungs grew stouter when the clay was laid on thick. Then you tapped your flattened palm rapidly against your mouth and released an intermittent uproar in order that the valley might he warned of the deviltry to come. You circled round and round and beat upon the ground in the likeness of a war dance. But at last, sated with scalps, off you dived into the pool and came up a white man. Finally, you stood on one leg and jounced the water from your ear, or pulled a bloodsucker from your toes before he sapped your life—for this tiny creature of the rocks was credited with the gift of prodigious inflation, and might inhale you, blood, sinews, suspenders and all, if left to his ugly purpose.
Farms should not be too precisely located; at least this is true of farms which, like my grandfather's, hang in a mist of memory. I read once of a wonderful spot—quite inferior, doubtless, to my grandfather's farm—which was located by evil directions intentionally to throw a seeker off. Munchausen, you will recall, in the placing of his magic countries, was not above this agreeable villainy. Robinson Crusoe was loose and vague in the placing of his island. It is said that Izaak Walton waved a hand obscurely toward the stream where he had made a catch, but could not be cornered to a nice direction, lest his pool be overrun. In early youth, I myself went, on a mischievous hint, to explore a remote region which I was told lay in the dark behind the kindling pile. But because I moved in a fearful darkness, quite beyond the pale light from the furnace room, I lost the path. It did not lead me to the peaks and the roaring waters.
But the farm was reached by more open methods. Dolly and the phaeton were the chief instruments. First—if you were so sunk in ignorance as not to know the road—you inquired of everybody for the chewing gum factory, to be known by its smell of peppermint. Then you sought the high bridge over the railroad tracks. Beyond was Kamm's Corners. Here, at a turn of the road, was a general store whose shelves sampled the produce of this whole fair world and the factories thereof. One might have thought that the proprietor emulated Noah at the flood by bidding two of each created things to find a place inside.
Beyond Kamm's Corners you came to the great valley. When almost down the hill you passed a house with broken windows and unkept grass. This house, by report, was haunted, but you could laugh at such tales while the morning sun was up. At the bottom of the hill a bridge crossed the river, with loose planking that rattled as though the man who made nails was dead.
Beyond the bridge, at the first rise of ground, the horse stopped—for I assume that you drove a sagacious animal—by way of hint that every one of sound limb get out and walk to the top of the hill. A suspicious horse turned his head now and again and cast his eye upon the buggy to be sure that no one climbed in again.
Presently you came to the toll-gate at the top and paid its keeper five cents, or whatever large sum he demanded. Then your grandfather—if by fortunate chance you happened to have one—asked after his wife and children, and had they missed the croup; then told him his corn was looking well.
My grandfather—for it is time you knew him—lived with us. Because of a railway accident fifteen years before in which one of his legs was cut off just below the knee, he had retired from public office. Several years of broken health had been followed by years that were for the most part free from suffering. My own first recollection reverts to these better years. I recall a tall man—to my eyes a giant, for he was taller even than my father—who came into the nursery as I was being undressed. There was a wind in the chimney, and the windows rattled. He put his crutches against the wall. Then taking me in his arms, he swung me aloft to his shoulder by a series of somersaults. I cried this first time, but later I came to demand the performance.
Once, when I was a little older, I came upon one of his discarded wooden legs as I was playing in the garret of the house. It was my first acquaintance with such a contrivance. It lay behind a pile of trunks and I was, at the time, on my way to the center of the earth, for the cheerful path dove into darkness behind the chimney. You may imagine my surprise. I approached it cautiously. I viewed it from all sides by such dusty light as fell between the trunks. Not without fear I touched it. It was unmistakably a leg—but whose? Was it possible that there was a kind of Bluebeard in the family, who, for his pleasure, lopped off legs? There had been no breath of such a scandal. Yet, if my reading and studies were correct, such things had happened in other families not very different from ours; not in our own town maybe, but in such near-by places as Kandahar and Serendib—places which in my warm regard were but as suburbs to our street, to be gained if you persevered for a hundred lamp-posts. Or could the leg belong to Annie the cook? Her nimbleness with griddle-cakes belied the thought: And once, when the wind had swished her skirts, manifestly she was whole and sound. Then all at once I knew it to be my grandfather's. Grown familiar, I pulled it to the window. I tried it on, but made bad work of walking.
To the eye my grandfather had two legs all the way down and, except for his crutches and an occasional squeak, you would not have detected his infirmity. Evidently the maker did no more than imitate nature, although, for myself, I used to wonder at the poverty of his invention. There would be distinction in a leg, which in addition to its usual functions, would also bend forward at the knee, or had a surprising sidewise joint—and there would be profit, too, if one cared to make a show of it. The greatest niggard on the street would pay two pins for such a sight.
As my grandfather was the only old gentleman of my acquaintance, a wooden leg seemed the natural and suitable accompaniment of old age. Persons, it appeared, in their riper years, cast off a leg, as trees dropped their leaves. But my grandmother puzzled me. Undeniably she retained both of hers, yet her hair was just as white, and she was almost as old. Evidently this law of nature worked only with men. Ladies, it seemed, were not deciduous. But how the amputation was effected in men—whether by day or night—how the choice fell between the right and left—whether the wooden leg came down the chimney (a proper entrance)—how soon my father would go the way of all masculine flesh and cast his off—these matters I could not solve. The Arabian Nights were silent on the subject. Aladdin's uncle, apparently, had both his legs. He was too brisk in villainy to admit a wooden leg. But then, he was only an uncle. If his history ran out to the end, doubtless he would go with a limp in his riper days. The story of the Bible—although it trafficked in such veterans as Methuselah—gave not a hint. Abraham died full of years. Here would have been a proper test—but the book was silent.
My grandfather in those days had much leisure time. He still kept an office at the rear of the house, although he had given up the regular practice of the law. But a few old clients lingered on, chiefly women who carried children in their arms and old men without neckties who came to him for free advice. These he guided patiently in their troubles, and he would sit an hour to listen to a piteous story. In an extremity he gave them money, or took a well-meant but worthless note. Often his callers overran the dinner hour and my mother would have to jingle the dinner bell at the door to rouse them. Occasionally he would be called on for a public speech, and for several days he would be busy at his desk. Frequently he presided at dinners and would tell a story and sing a song, for he had a fine bass voice and was famous for his singing.
He read much in those last years in science. When he was not reading Trowbridge to his grandchildren, it was Huxley to himself. But when his eyes grew tired, he would on an occasion—if there was canning in the house—go into the kitchen where my mother and grandmother worked, and help pare the fruit. Seriously, as though he were engaged upon a game, he would cut the skin into thinnest strips, unbroken to the end, and would hold up the coil for us to see. Or if he broke it in the cutting it was a point against him in the contest.
His diversion rather than his profit was the care and rental of about twenty small houses, some of which he built to fit his pensioners. My brother and myself often made the rounds with him in the phaeton. At most of the houses he was affectionately greeted as "Jedge" and was held in long conversations across the fence. And to see an Irishman was to see a friend. They all knew him and said, "Good mornin'," as we passed. He and they were good Democrats together.
I can see in memory a certain old Irishman in a red flannel shirt, with his foot upon the hub, bending across the wheel and gesticulating in an endless discussion of politics or crops, while my brother and I were impatient to be off. Dolly was of course patient, for she had long since passed her fretful youth. If by any biological chance it had happened that she had been an old lady instead of a horse, she would have been the kind that spent her day in a rocker with her knitting. Any one who gave Dolly an excuse for standing was her friend. There she stood as though she wished the colloquy to last forever.
It was seldom that Dolly lost her restraint. She would, indeed, when she came near the stable, somewhat hasten her stride; and when we came on our drives to the turning point and at last headed about for home, Dolly would know it and show her knowledge by a quickening of the ears and the quiver of a faint excitement. Yet Dolly lost her patience when there were flies. Then she threw off all repression and so waved her tail that she regularly got it across the reins. This stirred my grandfather to something not far short of anger. How vigorously would he try to dislodge the reins by pulling and jerking! Dolly only clamped down her tail the harder. Experience showed that the only way was to go slowly and craftily and without heat or temper—a slackening of the reins—a distraction of Dolly's attention—a leaning across the dashboard—a firm grasping of the tail out near the end—a sudden raising thereof. Ah! It was done. We all settled back against the cushions. Or perhaps a friendly fly would come to our assistance and Dolly would have to use her tail in another direction.
The whip was seldom used. Generally it stood in its socket. It was ornamental like a flagstaff. It forgot its sterner functions. But Dolly must have known the whip in some former life, for even a gesture toward the socket roused her. If it was rattled she mended her pace for a block. But if on a rare occasion my grandfather took it in his hand, Dolly lay one ear back in our direction, for she knew then he meant business. And what an excitement would arise in the phaeton! We held on tight for fear that she might take it into her mild old head to run away.
But Dolly had her moments. One sunny summer afternoon while she grazed peacefully in the orchard, with her reins wound around the whip handle—the appropriate place on these occasions—she was evidently stung by a bee. My brother was at the time regaling himself in a near-by blackberry thicket. He looked up at an unusual sound. Without warning, Dolly had leaped to action and was tearing around the orchard dragging the phaeton behind her. She wrecked the top on a low hanging branch, then hit another tree, severing thereby all connection between herself and the phaeton, and at last galloped down the lane to the farm house, with the broken shafts and harness dangling behind her. Kipling's dun "with the mouth of a bell and the heart of Hell and the head of the gallows-tree," could hardly have shown more spirit. It was as though one brief minute of a glorious youth had come back to her. It was a last spurting of an old flame before it sunk to ash.
My grandfather gave his leisure to his grandchildren. He carved for us with his knife, with an especial knack for willow whistles. He showed us the colors that lay upon the world when we looked at it through one of the glass pendants of the parlor chandelier. He sat by us when we played duck-on-the-rock. He helped us with our kites and gave a superintendence to our toys. It is true that he was superficial with tin-tags and did not know the difference in value between a Steam Engine tag—the rarest of them all—and a common Climax, but we forgave him as one forgives a friend who is ignorant of Persian pottery. He employed us as gardeners and put a bounty on weeds. We watered the lawn together, turn by turn. When I was no more than four years old, he taught us to play casino with him—and afterwards bezique. How he cried out if he got a royal sequence! With what excitement he announced a double bezique! Or if one of us seemed about to score and lacked but a single card, how intently he contended for the last few tricks to thwart our declaration! And if we got it despite his lead of aces, how gravely he squinted on the cards against deception, with his glasses forward on his nose!
When he took his afternoon nap and lay upon his back on the sofa in the sitting-room, we made paper pin-wheels to see whether his breath would stir them. This trick having come to his notice by a sudden awakening, he sometimes thereafter played to be asleep and snored in such a mighty gust that the wheels spun. He was like a Dutch tempest against a windmill.
If a Dime Museum came to town we made an afternoon of it. He took us to all the circuses and gave us our choice of side-shows. We walked up and down before the stretches of painted canvas, balancing in our desire a sword-swallower against an Indian Princess. Most of the fat women and all the dwarfs that I have known came to my acquaintance when in company with my grandfather. As a young man, it was said, he once ran away from home to join a circus as an acrobat, having acquired the trick of leaping upon a running horse. I fancy that his knack of throwing us to his shoulder by a double somersault was a recollection of his early days. You may imagine with what awe we looked on him even though he now went on crutches. He was the epitome of adventure, the very salt of excitement. It was better having him than a pirate in the house. When the circus had gone and life was drab, he was our tutor in the art of turning cart-wheels and making hand-stands against the door.
And once, when we were away from him, he walked all morning about the garden and in his loneliness he gathered into piles the pebbles that we had dropped.
I was too young to know my grandfather in his active days when he was prominent in public matters. His broader abilities are known to others. But though more than twenty years have passed since his death, I remember his tone of voice, his walk, his way of handling a crutch, all his tricks of speech and conduct as though he had just left the room. And I can think of nothing more beautiful than that a useful man who has faced the world for seventy years and has done his part, should come back in his old age to the nursery and be the playfellow of his grandchildren.
But the best holiday was a trip to the farm.
This farm—to which in our slow trot we have been so long a time in coming—lay for a mile on the upper land, and its grain fields and pastures looked down into the valley. The buildings, however, were set close to the road and fixed their interest on such occasional wagons as creaked by. A Switzer occupied the farm, who owned, in addition to the more immediate members of his family, a cuckoo clock whose weights hung on long cords which by Saturday night reached almost to the floor. When I have sat at his table, I have neglected cheese and the lesser foods, when the hour came near, in order not to miss the cuckoo's popping out. And in the duller spaces, when the door was shut, I have fancied it sitting in the dark and counting the minutes to itself.
The Switzer's specialty was the making of a kind of rubber cheese which one could learn to like in time. Of the processes of its composition, I can remember nothing except that when it was in the great press the whey ran from its sides, but this may be common to all cheeses. I was once given a cup of this whey to drink and I brightened, for until it was in my mouth, I thought it was buttermilk. Beyond was the spring-house with cans of milk set in the cool water and with a trickling sound beneath the boards. From the spring-house there started those mysterious cow-paths that led down into the great gorge that cut the farm. Here were places so deep that only a bit of the sky showed and here the stones were damp. It was a place that seemed to lie nearer to the confusion when the world was made, and rocks lay piled as though a first purpose had been broken off. And to follow a cow-path, regardless of where it led, was, in those days, the essence of hazard; though all the while from the pastures up above there came the flat safe tinkling of the bells.
The apple orchard—where Dolly was stung by the bee—was set on a fine breezy place at the brow of the hill with the valley in full sight. The trees themselves were old and decayed, but they were gnarled and crotched for easy climbing. And the apples—in particular a russet—mounted to a delicacy. On the other side of the valley, a half mile off as a bird would fly, were the buildings of a convent, and if you waited you might hear the twilight bell. To this day all distant bells come to my ears with a pleasing softness, as though they had been cast in a quieter world. Stone arrow-heads were found in a near-by field as often as the farmer turned up the soil in plowing. And because of this, a long finger of land that put off to the valley, was called Indian Point. Here, with an arm for pillow, one might lie for a long hour on a sunny morning and watch the shadows of clouds move across the lowland. A rooster crows somewhere far off—surely of all sounds the drowsiest. A horse in a field below lifts up its head and neighs. The leaves practice a sleepy tune. If one has the fortune to keep awake, here he may lie and think the thoughts that are born of sun and wind.
And now, although it is not yet noon, hunger rages in us. The pancakes, the syrup, the toast and the other incidents of breakfast have disappeared the way the rabbit vanishes when the magician waves his hand. The horrid Polyphemus did not so crave his food. And as yet there is no comforting sniff from the kitchen. Scrubbing and other secular matters engage the farmer's wife. There is as yet not a faintest gurgle in the kettle.
To divert ourselves, we climb three trees and fall out of one. Is twelve o'clock never to come? Have Time and the Hour grown stagnant? We eat apples and throw the cores at the pig to hear him grunt. Is the great round sun stuck? Have the days of Joshua come again? We walk a rail fence. Is it not yet noon? Shrewsbury clock itself—reputed by scholars the slowest of all possible clocks—could not so hold off. I snag myself—but it is nothing that shows when I sit.
Ah! At last! My grandfather is calling from the house. We run back and find that the lunch is ready and is laid upon a table with a red oil-cloth cover. We apply ourselves. Silence....
The journey home started about five o'clock. There was one game we always played. Each of us, having wisely squinted at the sky, made a reckoning and guessed where we would be when the sun set. My grandfather might say the high bridge. I named the Sherman House. But my brother, being precise, judged it to a fraction of a telegraph pole. Beyond a certain turn—did we remember?—well, it would be exactly sixteen telegraph poles further on. What an excitement there was when the sun's lower rim was already below the horizon! We stood on our knees and looked through the little window at the back of the phaeton. With what suspicion we regarded my grandfather's driving! Or if Dolly lagged, did it not raise a thought that she, too, was in the plot against us? The sun sets. We cry out the victor.
The sky flames with color. Then deadens in the east. The dusk is falling. The roads grow dark. Where run the roads of night? While there is light, you can see the course they keep across the country—the dust of horses' feet—a bridge—a vagrant winding on a hill beyond. All day long they are busy with the feet of men and women and children shouting. Then twilight comes, and the roads lead home to supper and the curling smoke above the roof. But at night where run the roads? It's dark beyond the candle's flare—where run the roads of night.
My brother and I have become sleepy. We lop over against my grandfather—
We awake with a start. There is a gayly lighted horse-car jingling beside us. The street lights show us into harbor. We are home at last.
The Man Of Grub Street Comes From His Garret
I have come to live this winter in New York City and by good fortune I have found rooms on a pleasant park. This park, which is but one block in extent, is so set off from the thoroughfares that it bears chiefly the traffic that is proper to the place itself. Grocery carts jog around and throw out their wares. Laundry wagons are astir. A little fat tailor on an occasion carries in an armful of newly pressed clothing with suspenders hanging. Dogs are taken out to walk but are held in leash, lest a taste of liberty spoil them for an indoor life. The center of the park is laid out with grass and trees and pebbled paths, and about it is a high iron fence. Each house has a key to the enclosure. Such social infection, therefore, as gets inside the gates is of our own breeding. In the sunny hours nurses and children air themselves in this grass plot. Here a gayly painted wooden velocipede is in fashion. At this minute there are several pairs of fat legs a-straddle this contrivance. It is a velocipede as it was first made, without pedals. Beau Brummel—for the velocipede dates back to him—may have walked forth to take the waters at Tunbridge Wells on a vehicle not far different, but built to his greater stature. There is also a trickle of drays and wagons across the park—a mere leakage from the streets, as though the near-by traffic in the pressure had burst its pipes. But only at morning and night when the city collects or discharges its people, are the sidewalks filled. Then for a half hour the nozzle of the city plays a full stream on us.
The park seems to be freer and more natural than the streets outside. A man goes by gesticulating as though he practiced for a speech. A woman adjusts her stocking on the coping below the fence with the freedom of a country road. A street sweeper, patched to his office, tunes his slow work to fit the quiet surroundings. Boys skate by or cut swirls upon the pavement in the privilege of a playground.
My work—if anything so pleasant and unforced can carry the name—is done at a window that overlooks this park. Were it not for several high buildings in my sight I might fancy that I lived in one of the older squares of London. There is a look of Thackeray about the place as though the Osbornes might be my neighbors. A fat man who waddles off his steps opposite, if he would submit to a change of coat, might be Jos Sedley starting for his club to eat his chutney. If only there were a crest above my bell-pull I might even expect Becky Sharp in for tea. Or occasionally I divert myself with the fancy that I am of a still older day and that I have walked in from Lichfield—I choose the name at hazard—with a tragedy in my pocket, to try my fortune. Were it not for the fashion of dress in the park below and some remnant of reason in myself, I could, in a winking moment, persuade myself that my room is a garret and my pen a quill. On such delusion, before I issued on the street to seek my coffee-house, I would adjust my wig and dust myself of snuff.
But for my exercise and recreation—which for a man of Grub Street is necessary in the early hours of afternoon when the morning fires have fallen—I go outside the park. I have a wide choice for my wanderings. I may go into the district to the east and watch the children play against the curb. If they pitch pennies on the walk I am careful to go about, for fear that I distract the throw. Or if the stones are marked for hop-scotch, I squeeze along the wall. It is my intention—from which as yet my diffidence withholds me—to present to the winner of one of these contests a red apple which I shall select at a corner stand. Or an ice wagon pauses in its round, and while the man is gone there is a pleasant thieving of bits of ice. Each dirty cheek is stuffed as though a plague of mumps had fallen on the street. Or there may be a game of baseball—a scampering on the bases, a home-run down the gutter—to engage me for an inning. Or shinny grips the street. But if a street organ comes—not a mournful one-legged box eked out with a monkey, but a big machine with an extra man to pull—the children leave their games. It was but the other day that I saw six of them together dancing on the pavement to the music, with skirts and pigtails flying. There was such gladness in their faces that the musician, although he already had his nickel, gave them an extra tune. It was of such persuasive gayety that the number of dancers at once went up to ten and others wiggled to the rhythm. And for myself, although I am past my sportive days, the sound of a street organ, if any, would inflame me to a fox-trot. Even a surly tune—if the handle be quickened—comes from the box with a brisk seduction. If a dirge once got inside, it would fret until it came out a dancing measure.
In this part of town, on the better streets, I sometimes study the fashions as I see them in the shops and I compare them with those of uptown stores. Nor is there the difference one might suppose. The small round muff that sprang up this winter in the smarter shops won by only a week over the cheaper stores. Tan gaiters ran a pretty race. And I am now witness to a dead heat in a certain kind of fluffy rosebud dress. The fabrics are probably different, but no matter how you deny it, they are cut to a common pattern.
In a poorer part of the city still nearer to the East River, where smells of garlic and worse issue from cellarways, I came recently on a considerable park. It was supplied with swings and teeters and drew children on its four fronts. Of a consequence the children of many races played together. I caught a Yiddish answer to an Italian question. I fancy that a child here could go forth at breakfast wholly a Hungarian and come home with a smack of Russian or Armenian added. The general games that merged the smaller groups, aided in the fusion. If this park is not already named—a small chance, for it shows the marks of age—it might properly be called The Park of the Thirty Nations.
Or my inclination may take me to the lower city. Like a poor starveling I wander in the haunts of wealth where the buildings are piled to forty stories, and I spin out the ciphers in my brain in an endeavor to compute the amount that is laid up inside. Also, lest I become discontented with my poverty, I note the strain and worry of the faces that I meet. There is a story of Tolstoi in which a man is whispered by his god that he may possess such land as he can circle in a day. Until that time he had been living on a fertile slope of sun and shadow, with fields ample for his needs. But when the whisper came, at a flash, he pelted off across the hills. He ran all morning, but as the day advanced his sordid ambition broadened and he turned his course into a wider and still wider circle. Here a pleasant valley tempted him and he bent his path to bring it inside his mark. Here a fruitful upland led him off. As the day wore on he ran with a greater fierceness, because he knew he would lose everything if he did not reach his starting place before the sun went down. The sun was coming near the rim of earth when he toiled up the last hill. His feet were cut by stones, his face pinched with agony. He staggered toward the goal and fell across it while as yet there was a glint of light. But his effort burst his heart. Does the analogy hold on these narrow streets? To a few who sit in an inner office, Mammon has made a promise of wealth and domination. These few run breathless to gain a mountain. But what have the gods whispered to the ten thousand who sit in the outer office, that they bend and blink upon their ledgers? Have the gods whispered to them the promise of great wealth? Alas, before them there lies only the dust and heat of a level road, yet they too are broken at the sunset.
Less oppressive are the streets where commerce is more apparent. Here, unless you would be smirched, it is necessary to walk fast and hold your coat-tails in. Packing cases are going down slides. Bales are coming up in hoists. Barrels are rolling out of wagons. Crates are being lifted in. Is the exchange never to stop? Is no warehouse satisfied with what it has? English, which until now you judged a soft concordant language, shows here its range and mastery of epithet. And all about, moving and jostling the boxes, are men with hooks. One might think that in a former day Captain Cuttle had settled here to live and that his numerous progeny had kept the place.
Often I ride on a bus top like a maharajah on an elephant, up near the tusks, as it were, where the view is unbroken. I plan this trip so that I move counter to the procession that goes uptown in the late afternoon. Is there a scene like it in the world? The boulevards of Paris in times of peace are hardly so gay. Fifth Avenue is blocked with motor cars. Fashion has gone forth to select a feather. A ringlet has gone awry and must be mended. The Pomeranian's health is served by sunlight. The Spitz must have an airing. Fashion has wagged its head upon a Chinese vase—has indeed squinted at it through a lorgnette against a fleck—and now lolls home to dinner. Or style has veered an inch, and it has been a day of fitting. At restaurant windows one may see the feeding of the over-fed. Men sit in club windows and still wear their silk hats as though there was no glass between them and the windy world. Footmen in boots and breeches sit as stiffly as though they were toys grown large and had metal spikes below to hold them to their boxes. They look like the iron firemen that ride on nursery fire-engines. For all these sights the bus top is the best place.
And although we sit on a modest roof, the shopkeepers cater to us. For in many of the stores, is there not an upper tier of windows for our use? The commodities of this second story are quite as fine as those below. And the waxen beauties who display the frocks greet us in true democracy with as sweet a simper.
My friend G—— while riding recently on a bus top met with an experience for which he still blushes.
There was a young woman sitting directly in front of him, and when he came to leave, a sudden lurch threw him against her. When he recovered his footing, which was a business of some difficulty, for the bus pitched upon a broken pavement, what was his chagrin to find that a front button of his coat had hooked in her back hair! Luckily G—— was not seized with a panic. Rather, he labored cautiously—but without result. Nor could she help in the disentanglement. Their embarrassment might have been indefinitely prolonged—indeed, G—— was several blocks already down the street—when he bethought him of his knife and so cut off the button. As he pleasantly expressed it to the young woman, he would give her the choice of the button or the coat entire.
Reader, are you inclined toward ferry boats? I cannot include those persons who journey on them night and morning perfunctorily. These persons keep their noses in their papers or sit snugly in the cabin. If the market is up, they can hardly be conscious even that they are crossing a river. Nor do I entirely blame them. If one kept shop on a breezy tip of the Delectable Mountains with all the regions of the world laid out below, he could not be expected to climb up for the hundredth time with a first exhilaration, or to swing his alpenstock as though he were on a rare holiday. If one had business across the Styx too often—although the scenery on its banks is reputed to be unusual—he might in time sit below and take to yawning. Father Charon might have to jog his shoulder to rouse him when the boat came between the further piers.
But are you one of those persons who, not being under a daily compulsion, rides upon a ferry boat for the love of the trip? Being in this class myself, I laid my case the other night before the gateman, and asked his advice regarding routes. He at once entered sympathetically into my distemper and gave me a plan whereby with but a single change of piers I might at an expense of fourteen cents cross the river four times at different angles.
It was at the end of day and a light fog rested on the water. Nothing was entirely lost, yet a gray mystery wrapped the ships and buildings. If New Jersey still existed it was dim and shadowy as though its real life had gone and but a ghost remained. Ferry boats were lighted in defiance of the murk, and darted here and there at reckless angles. An ocean liner was putting out, and several tugs had rammed their noses against her sides. There is something engaging about a tug. It snorts with eagerness. It kicks and splashes. It bursts itself to lend a hand. And how it butts with its nose! Surely its forward cartilages are of triple strength, else in its zest it would jam its nasal passages.
Presently we came opposite lower New York. Although the fog concealed the outlines of the buildings, their lights showed through. This first hour of dark is best, before the day's work is done and while as yet all of the windows are lighted. The Woolworth Tower was suffused in a soft and shadowy light. The other buildings showed like mountains of magic pin-pricks. It was as though all the constellations of heaven on a general bidding had met for conference.
The man of Grub Street, having by this time somewhat dispelled the fumes of dullness from his head, descends from his ferry boat and walks to his quiet park. There is a dull roar from the elevated railway on Third Avenue where the last of the day's crowd goes home. The sidewalks are becoming empty. There is a sheen of water on the pavement. In the winter murk there is a look of Thackeray about the place as though the Sedleys or the Osbornes might be his neighbors. If there were a crest above his bell-pull he might even expect Becky Sharp in for tea.
Now that Spring is here
When the sun set last night it was still winter. The persons who passed northward in the dusk from the city's tumult thrust their hands deep into their pockets and walked to a sharp measure. But a change came in the night. The north wind fell off and a breeze blew up from the south. Such stars as were abroad at dawn left off their shrill winter piping—if it be true that stars really sing in their courses—and pitched their voices to April tunes. One star in particular that hung low in the west until the day was up, knew surely that the Spring had come and sang in concert with the earliest birds. There is a dull belief that these early birds shake off their sleep to get the worm. Rather, they come forth at this hour to cock their ears upon the general heavens for such new tunes as the unfaded stars still sing. If an ear is turned down to the rummage of worms in the earth—for to the superficial, so does the attitude attest—it is only that the other ear may be turned upward to catch the celestial harmonies; for birds know that if there is an untried melody in heaven it will sound first across the clear pastures of the dawn. All the chirping and whistling from the fields and trees are then but the practice of the hour. When the meadowlark sings on a fence-rail she but cons her lesson from the stars.
It is on such a bright Spring morning that the housewife, duster in hand, throws open her parlor window and looks upon the street. A pleasant park is below, of the size of a city square, and already it stirs with the day's activity. The housewife beats her cloth upon the sill and as the dust flies off, she hears the cries and noises of the place. In a clear tenor she is admonished that there is an expert hereabouts to grind her knives. A swarthy baritone on a wagon lifts up his voice in praise of radishes and carrots. His eye roves along the windows. The crook of a hungry finger will bring him to a stand. Or a junkman is below upon his business. Yesterday the bells upon his cart would have sounded sour, but this morning they rattle agreeably, as though a brisker cow than common, springtime in her hoofs, were jangling to her pasture. At the sound—if you are of country training—you see yourself, somewhat misty through the years, barefoot in a grassy lane, with stick in hand, urging the gentle beast. There is a subtle persuasion in the junkman's call. In these tones did the magician, bawling for old lamps, beguile Aladdin. If there were this morning in my lodging an unrubbed lamp, I would toss it from the window for such magic as he might extract from it. And if a fair Princess should be missing at the noon and her palace be skipped from sight, it will follow on the rubbing of it.