Part 3 out of 6
let such conversation never again pass between us. Go, seek a nobler
theme! we will seek it in the stream of time as the sun set in
the Tigris." As she spake these words she grasped the hand of Elfonzo,
saying at the same time, "Peace and prosperity attend you, my hero:
be up and doing!" Closing her remarks with this expression,
she walked slowly away, leaving Elfonzo astonished and amazed.
He ventured not to follow or detain her. Here he stood alone,
gazing at the stars; confounded as he was, here he stood. The rippling
stream rolled on at his feet. Twilight had already begun to draw
her sable mantle over the earth, and now and then the fiery smoke
would ascend from the little town which lay spread out before him.
The citizens seemed to be full of life and good-humor; but poor Elfonzo
saw not a brilliant scene. No; his future life stood before him,
stripped of the hopes that once adorned all his sanguine desires.
"Alas!" said he, "am I now Grief's disappointed son at last."
Ambulinia's image rose before his fancy. A mixture of ambition
and greatness of soul moved upon his young heart, and encouraged
him to bear all his crosses with the patience of a Job,
notwithstanding he had to encounter with so many obstacles.
He still endeavored to prosecute his studies, and reasonable
progressed in his education. Still, he was not content; there was
something yet to be done before his happiness was complete.
He would visit his friends and acquaintances. They would invite him
to social parties, insisting that he should partake of the amusements
that were going on. This he enjoyed tolerably well. The ladies
and gentlemen were generally well pleased with the Major; as he
delighted all with his violin, which seemed to have a thousand chords--
more symphonious than the Muses of Apollo and more enchanting
than the ghost of the Hills. He passed some days in the country.
During that time Leos had made many calls upon Ambulinia, who was
generally received with a great deal of courtesy by the family.
They thought him to be a young man worthy of attention, though he
had but little in his soul to attract the attention or even win
the affections of her whose graceful manners had almost made
him a slave to every bewitching look that fell from her eyes.
Leos made several attempts to tell her of his fair prospects--
how much he loved her, and how much it would add to his bliss if he
could but think she would be willing to share these blessings
with him; but, choked by his undertaking, he made himself more like an
inactive drone than he did like one who bowed at beauty's shrine.
Elfonzo again wends his way to the stately walls and new-built village.
He now determines to see the end of the prophesy which had been
foretold to him. The clouds burst from his sight; he believes
if he can but see his Ambulinia, he can open to her view the bloody
altars that have been misrepresented to stigmatize his name.
He knows that her breast is transfixed with the sword of reason,
and ready at all times to detect the hidden villainy of her enemies.
He resolves to see her in her own home, with the consoling theme:
"'I can but perish if I go.' Let the consequences be what they may,"
said he, "if I die, it shall be contending and struggling for my
Night had almost overtaken him when he arrived in town. Colonel Elder,
a noble-hearted, high-minded, and independent man, met him at
his door as usual, and seized him by the hand. "Well, Elfonzo,"
said the Colonel, "how does the world use you in your efforts?"
"I have no objection to the world," said Elfonzo, "but the people
are rather singular in some of their opinions." "Aye, well,"
said the Colonel, "you must remember that creation is made up of
many mysteries; just take things by the right handle; be always sure
you know which is the smooth side before you attempt your polish;
be reconciled to your fate, be it what it may; and never find fault
with your condition, unless your complaining will benefit it.
Perseverance is a principle that should be commendable in those who have
judgment to govern it. I should never had been so successful in my
hunting excursions had I waited till the deer, by some magic dream,
had been drawn to the muzzle of the gun before I made an attempt to fire
at the game that dared my boldness in the wild forest. The great
mystery in hunting seems to be--a good marksman, a resolute mind,
a fixed determination, and my world for it, you will never return
home without sounding your horn with the breath of a new victory.
And so with every other undertaking. Be confident that your ammunition
is of the right kind--always pull your trigger with a steady hand,
and so soon as you perceive a calm, touch her off, and the spoils
This filled him with redoubled vigor, and he set out with a stronger
anxiety than ever to the home of Ambulinia. A few short steps soon
brought him to the door, half out of breath. He rapped gently.
Ambulinia, who sat in the parlor alone, suspecting Elfonzo was near,
ventured to the door, opened it, and beheld the hero, who stood
in an humble attitude, bowed gracefully, and as they caught each
other's looks the light of peace beamed from the eyes of Ambulinia.
Elfonzo caught the expression; a halloo of smothered shouts ran
through every vein, and for the first time he dared to impress a kiss
upon her cheek. The scene was overwhelming; had the temptation
been less animating, he would not have ventured to have acted
so contrary to the desired wish of his Ambulinia; but who could
have withstood the irrestistable temptation! What society condemns
the practice but a cold, heartless, uncivilized people that know
nothing of the warm attachments of refined society? Here the dead
was raised to his long-cherished hopes, and the lost was found.
Here all doubt and danger were buried in the vortex of oblivion;
sectional differences no longer disunited their opinions; like the freed
bird from the cage, sportive claps its rustling wings, wheels about
to heaven in a joyful strain, and raises its notes to the upper sky.
Ambulinia insisted upon Elfonzo to be seated, and give her a history
of his unnecessary absence; assuring him the family had retired,
consequently they would ever remain ignorant of his visit.
Advancing toward him, she gave a bright display of her rosy neck,
and from her head the ambrosial locks breathed divine fragrance;
her robe hung waving to his view, while she stood like a goddess
confessed before him.
"It does seem to me, my dear sir," said Ambulinia, "that you have
been gone an age. Oh, the restless hours I have spent since I last
saw you, in yon beautiful grove. There is where I trifled with your
feelings for the express purpose of trying your attachment for me.
I now find you are devoted; but ah! I trust you live not unguarded
by the powers of Heaven. Though oft did I refuse to join my hand
with thine, and as oft did I cruelly mock thy entreaties with
borrowed shapes: yes, I feared to answer thee by terms, in words
sincere and undissembled. O! could I pursue, and you have leisure
to hear the annals of my woes, the evening star would shut Heaven's
gates upon the impending day before my tale would be finished,
and this night would find me soliciting your forgiveness."
"Dismiss thy fears and thy doubts," replied Elfonzo.
"Look, O! look: that angelic look of thine--bathe not thy visage
in tears; banish those floods that are gathering; let my confession
and my presence bring thee some relief." "Then, indeed, I will
be cheerful," said Ambulinia, "and I think if we will go to the
exhibition this evening, we certainly will see something worthy
of our attention. One of the most tragical scenes is to be acted
that has ever been witnessed, and one that every jealous-hearted person
should learn a lesson from. It cannot fail to have a good effect,
as it will be performed by those who are young and vigorous,
and learned as well as enticing. You are aware, Major Elfonzo, who are
to appear on the stage, and what the characters are to represent."
"I am acquainted with the circumstances," replied Elfonzo, "and as I
am to be one of the musicians upon that interesting occasion,
I should be much gratified if you would favor me with your company
during the hours of the exercises."
"What strange notions are in your mind?" inquired Ambulinia.
"Now I know you have something in view, and I desire you to tell
me why it is that you are so anxious that I should continue
with you while the exercises are going on; though if you think I
can add to your happiness and predilections, I have no particular
objection to acquiesce in your request. Oh, I think I foresee,
now, what you anticipate." "And will you have the goodness to tell
me what you think it will be?" inquired Elfonzo. "By all means,"
answered Ambulinia; "a rival, sir, you would fancy in your own mind;
but let me say for you, fear not! fear not! I will be one of the
last persons to disgrace my sex by thus encouraging every one who
may feel disposed to visit me, who may honor me with their graceful
bows and their choicest compliments. It is true that young men too
often mistake civil politeness for the finer emotions of the heart,
which is tantamount to courtship; but, ah! how often are they deceived,
when they come to test the weight of sunbeams with those on whose
strength hangs the future happiness of an untried life."
The people were now rushing to the Academy with impatient anxiety;
the band of music was closely followed by the students; then the parents
and guardians; nothing interrupted the glow of spirits which ran
through every bosom, tinged with the songs of a Virgil and the tide
of a Homer. Elfonzo and Ambulinia soon repaired to the scene,
and fortunately for them both the house was so crowded that they took
their seats together in the music department, which was not in view
of the auditory. This fortuitous circumstances added more the bliss
of the Major than a thousand such exhibitions would have done.
He forgot that he was man; music had lost its charms for him;
whenever he attempted to carry his part, the string of the instrument
would break, the bow became stubborn, and refused to obey the loud
calls of the audience. Here, he said, was the paradise of his home,
the long-sought-for opportunity; he felt as though he could
send a million supplications to the throne of Heaven for such
an exalted privilege. Poor Leos, who was somewhere in the crowd,
looking as attentively as if he was searching for a needle in a haystack;
here is stood, wondering to himself why Ambulinia was not there.
"Where can she be? Oh! if she was only here, how I could relish
the scene! Elfonzo is certainly not in town; but what if he is?
I have got the wealth, if I have not the dignity, and I am sure that
the squire and his lady have always been particular friends of mine,
and I think with this assurance I shall be able to get upon the blind
side of the rest of the family and make the heaven-born Ambulinia
the mistress of all I possess." Then, again, he would drop his head,
as if attempting to solve the most difficult problem in Euclid.
While he was thus conjecturing in his own mind, a very interesting
part of the exhibition was going on, which called the attention
of all present. The curtains of the stage waved continually
by the repelled forces that were given to them, which caused
Leos to behold Ambulinia leaning upon the chair of Elfonzo.
Her lofty beauty, seen by the glimmering of the chandelier,
filled his heart with rapture, he knew not how to contain himself;
to go where they were would expose him to ridicule; to continue
where he was, with such an object before him, without being allowed
an explanation in that trying hour, would be to the great injury
of his mental as well as of his physical powers; and, in the name
of high heaven, what must he do? Finally, he resolved to contain
himself as well as he conveniently could, until the scene was over,
and then he would plant himself at the door, to arrest Ambulinia from
the hands of the insolent Elfonzo, and thus make for himself a more
prosperous field of immortality than ever was decreed by Omnipotence,
or ever pencil drew or artist imagined. Accordingly he made
himself sentinel, immediately after the performance of the evening--
retained his position apparently in defiance of all the world; he waited,
he gazed at every lady, his whole frame trembled; here he stood,
until everything like human shape had disappeared from the institution,
and he had done nothing; he had failed to accomplish that which he
so eagerly sought for. Poor, unfortunate creature! he had not
the eyes of an Argus, or he might have seen his Juno and Elfonzo,
assisted by his friend Sigma, make their escape from the window,
and, with the rapidity of a race-horse, hurry through the blast of
the storm to the residence of her father, without being recognized.
He did not tarry long, but assured Ambulinia the endless chain
of their existence was more closely connected than ever, since he
had seen the virtuous, innocent, imploring, and the constant
Amelia murdered by the jealous-hearted Farcillo, the accursed of
The following is the tragical scene, which is only introduced
to show the subject-matter that enabled Elfonzo to come to such
a determinate resolution that nothing of the kind should ever
dispossess him of his true character, should he be so fortunate
as to succeed in his present undertaking.
Amelia was the wife of Farcillo, and a virtuous woman; Gracia,
a young lady, was her particular friend and confidant. Farcillo grew
jealous of Amelia, murders her, finds out that he was deceived,
AND STABS HIMSELF. Amelia appears alone, talking to herself.
A. Hail, ye solitary ruins of antiquity, ye sacred tombs and
silent walks! it is your aid I invoke; it is to you, my soul,
wrapt in deep mediating, pours forth its prayer. Here I wander upon
the stage of mortality, since the world hath turned against me.
Those whom I believed to be my friends, alas! are now my enemies,
planting thorns in all my paths, poisoning all my pleasures,
and turning the past to pain. What a lingering catalogue of sighs
and tears lies just before me, crowding my aching bosom with
the fleeting dream of humanity, which must shortly terminate.
And to what purpose will all this bustle of life, these agitations
and emotions of the heart have conduced, if it leave behind it
nothing of utility, if it leave no traces of improvement? Can it
be that I am deceived in my conclusions? No, I see that I have
nothing to hope for, but everything for fear, which tends to drive
me from the walks of time.
Oh! in this dead night, if loud winds arise,
To lash the surge and bluster in the skies,
May the west its furious rage display,
Toss me with storms in the watery way.
G. Oh, Amelia, is it you, the object of grief, the daughter of opulence,
of wisdom and philosophy, that thus complaineth? It cannot be you
are the child of misfortune, speaking of the monuments of former ages,
which were allotted not for the reflection of the distressed,
but for the fearless and bold.
A. Not the child of poverty, Gracia, or the heir of glory and peace,
but of fate. Remember, I have wealth more than wit can number; I have
had power more than kings could emcompass; yet the world seems a desert;
all nature appears an afflictive spectacle of warring passions.
This blind fatality, that capriciously sports with the rules
and lives of mortals, tells me that the mountains will never again
send forth the water of their springs to my thirst. Oh, that I
might be freed and set at liberty from wretchedness! But I fear,
I fear this will never be.
G. Why, Amelia, this untimely grief? What has caused the sorrows
that bespeak better and happier days, to those lavish out such
heaps of misery? You are aware that your instructive lessons
embellish the mind with holy truths, by wedding its attention
to none but great and noble affections.
A. This, of course, is some consolation. I will ever love my own
species with feelings of a fond recollection, and while I am
studying to advance the universal philanthropy, and the spotless
name of my own sex, I will try to build my own upon the pleasing
belief that I have accelerated the advancement of one who whispers
of departed confidence.
And I, like some poor peasant fated to reside
Remote from friends, in a forest wide.
Oh, see what woman's woes and human wants require,
Since that great day hath spread the seed of sinful fire.
G. Look up, thou poor disconsolate; you speak of quitting
earthly enjoyments. Unfold thy bosom to a friend, who would be
willing to sacrifice every enjoyment for the restoration of the
dignity and gentleness of mind which used to grace your walks,
and which is so natural to yourself; not only that, but your
paths were strewed with flowers of every hue and of every order.
With verdant green the mountains glow,
For thee, for thee, the lilies grow;
Far stretched beneath the tented hills,
A fairer flower the valley fills.
A. Oh, would to Heaven I could give you a short narrative of my
former prospects for happiness, since you have acknowledged to be
an unchangeable confidant--the richest of all other blessings.
Oh, ye names forever glorious, ye celebrated scenes, ye renowned
spot of my hymeneal moments; how replete is your chart with
sublime reflections! How many profound vows, decorated with
immaculate deeds, are written upon the surface of that precious
spot of earth where I yielded up my life of celibacy, bade youth
with all its beauties a final adieu, took a last farewell of the
laurels that had accompanied me up the hill of my juvenile career.
It was then I began to descend toward the valley of disappointment
and sorrow; it was then I cast my little bark upon a mysterious ocean
of wedlock, with him who then smiled and caressed me, but, alas! now
frowns with bitterness, and has grown jealous and cold toward me,
because the ring he gave me is misplaced or lost. Oh, bear me,
ye flowers of memory, softly through the eventful history of
past times; and ye places that have witnessed the progression of man
in the circle of so many societies, and, of, aid my recollection,
while I endeavor to trace the vicissitudes of a life devoted
in endeavoring to comfort him that I claim as the object of my wishes.
Ah! ye mysterious men, of all the world, how few
Act just to Heaven and to your promise true!
But He who guides the stars with a watchful eye,
The deeds of men lay open without disguise;
Oh, this alone will avenge the wrongs I bear,
For all the oppressed are His peculiar care.
(F. makes a slight noise.)
A. Who is there--Farcillo?
G. Then I must gone. Heaven protect you. Oh, Amelia, farewell,
be of good cheer.
May you stand like Olympus' towers,
Against earth and all jealous powers!
May you, with loud shouts ascend on high
Swift as an eagle in the upper sky.
A. Why so cold and distant tonight, Farcillo? Come, let us each
other greet, and forget all the past, and give security for the future.
F. Security! talk to me about giving security for the future--
what an insulting requisition! Have you said your prayers tonight,
A. Farcillo, we sometimes forget our duty, particularly when we
expect to be caressed by others.
F. If you bethink yourself of any crime, or of any fault, that is
yet concealed from the courts of Heaven and the thrones of grace,
I bid you ask and solicit forgiveness for it now.
A. Oh, be kind, Farcillo, don't treat me so. What do you mean
by all this?
F. Be kind, you say; you, madam, have forgot that kindness you owe
to me, and bestowed it upon another; you shall suffer for your
conduct when you make your peace with your God. I would not slay thy
unprotected spirit. I call to Heaven to be my guard and my watch--
I would not kill thy soul, in which all once seemed just, right,
and perfect; but I must be brief, woman.
A. What, talk you of killing? Oh, Farcillo, Farcillo, what is
F. Aye, I do, without doubt; mark what I say, Amelia.
A. Then, O God, O Heaven, and Angels, be propitious, and have mercy
F. Amen to that, madam, with all my heart, and with all my soul.
A. Farcillo, listen to me one moment; I hope you will not kill me.
F. Kill you, aye, that I will; attest it, ye fair host of light,
record it, ye dark imps of hell!
A. Oh, I fear you--you are fatal when darkness covers your brow;
yet I know not why I should fear, since I never wronged you in all
my life. I stand, sir, guiltless before you.
F. You pretend to say you are guiltless! Think of thy sins,
Amelia; think, oh, think, hidden woman.
A. Wherein have I not been true to you? That death is unkind,
cruel, and unnatural, that kills for living.
F. Peace, and be still while I unfold to thee.
A. I will, Farcillo, and while I am thus silent, tell me the cause
of such cruel coldness in an hour like this.
F. That RING, oh, that ring I so loved, and gave thee as the ring
of my heart; the allegiance you took to be faithful, when it
was presented; the kisses and smiles with which you honored it.
You became tired of the donor, despised it as a plague, and finally
gave it to Malos, the hidden, the vile traitor.
A. No, upon my word and honor, I never did; I appeal to the Most
High to bear me out in this matter. Send for Malos, and ask him.
F. Send for Malos, aye! Malos you wish to see; I thought so.
I knew you could not keep his name concealed. Amelia, sweet Amelia,
take heed, take heed of perjury; you are on the stage of death,
to suffer for YOUR SINS.
A. What, not to die I hope, my Farcillo, my ever beloved.
F. Yes, madam, to die a traitor's death. Shortly your spirit shall
take its exit; therefore confess freely thy sins, for to deny tends
only to make me groan under the bitter cup thou hast made for me.
Thou art to die with the name of traitor on thy brow!
A. Then, O Lord, have mercy upon me; give me courage, give me grace
and fortitude to stand this hour of trial.
F. Amen, I say, with all my heart.
A. And, oh, Farcillo, will you have mercy, too? I never
intentionally offended you in all my life, never LOVED Malos,
never gave him cause to think so, as the high court of Justice
will acquit me before its tribunal.
F. Oh, false, perjured woman, thou didst chill my blood, and makest
me a demon like thyself. I saw the ring.
A. He found it, then, or got it clandestinely; send for him,
and let him confess the truth; let his confession be sifted.
F. And you still wish to see him! I tell you, madam, he hath
already confessed, and thou knowest the darkness of thy heart.
A. What, my deceived Farcillo, that I gave him the ring, in which
all my affections were concentrated? Oh, surely not.
F. Aye, he did. Ask thy conscience, and it will speak with a voice
of thunder to thy soul.
A. He will not say so, he dare not, he cannot.
F. No, he will not say so now, because his mouth, I trust, is hushed
in death, and his body stretched to the four winds of heaven,
to be torn to pieces by carnivorous birds.
A. What, he is dead, and gone to the world of spirits with that
declaration in his mouth? Oh, unhappy man! Oh, insupportable hour!
F. Yes, and had all his sighs and looks and tears been lives, my great
revenge could have slain them all, without the least condemnation.
A. Alas! he is ushered into eternity without testing the matter
for which I am abused and sentenced and condemned to die.
F. Cursed, infernal woman! Weepest thou for him to my face? He that
hath robbed me of my peace, my energy, the whole love of my life?
Could I call the fabled Hydra, I would have him live and perish,
survive and die, until the sun itself would grow dim with age.
I would make him have the thirst of a Tantalus, and roll the
wheel of an Ixion, until the stars of heaven should quit their
A. Oh, invincible God, save me! Oh, unsupportable moment! Oh, heavy
hour! Banish me,, Farcillo--send me where no eye can ever see me, where
no sound shall ever great my ear; but, oh, slay me not, Farcillo; vent thy
rage and thy spite upon this emaciated frame of mine, only spare my life.
F. Your petitions avail nothing, cruel Amelia.
A. Oh, Farcillo, perpetrate the dark deed tomorrow; let me live
till then, for my past kindness to you, and it may be some kind
angel will show to you that I am not only the object of innocence,
but one who never loved another but your noble self.
F. Amelia, the decree has gone forth, it is to be done, and that quickly;
thou art to die, madam.
A. But half an hour allow me, to see my father and my only child,
to tell her the treachery and vanity of this world.
F. There is no alternative, there is no pause: my daughter shall
not see its deceptive mother die; your father shall not know that his
daughter fell disgraced, despised by all but her enchanting Malos.
A. Oh, Farcillo, put up thy threatening dagger into its scabbard;
let it rest and be still, just while I say one prayer for thee and
for my child.
F. It is too late, thy doom is fixed, thou hast not confessed
to Heaven or to me, my child's protector--thou art to die.
Ye powers of earth and heaven, protect and defend me in this alone.
(STABS HER WHILE IMPLORING FOR MERCY.)
A. Oh, Farcillo, Farcillo, a guiltless death I die.
F. Die! die! die!
(Gracia enters running, falls on her knees weeping, and kisses Amelia.)
G. Oh, Farcillo, Farcillo! oh, Farcillo!
F. I am here, the genius of the age, and the avenger of my wrongs.
G. Oh, lady, speak once more; sweet Amelia, on, speak again.
Gone, gone--yes, forever gone! Farcillo, oh, cold-hearted Farcillo,
some evil fiend hath urged you to do this, Farcillo.
F. Say not so again, or you shall receive the same fate. I did
the glorious deed, madam--beware, then, how you talk.
G. I fear not your implements of war; I will let you know you have
not the power to do me harm. If you have a heart of triple brass,
it shall be reached and melted, and thy blood shall chill thy veins
and grow stiff in thy arteries. Here is the ring of the virtuous
and innocent murdered Amelia; I obtained it from Malos, who yet lives,
in hopes that he will survive the wound given him, and says he got
it clandestinely--declares Amelia to be the princess of truth and virtue,
invulnerable to anything like forgetting her first devotion to thee.
The world has heard of your conduct and your jealousy, and with
one universal voice declares her to be the best of all in piety;
that she is the star of this great universe, and a more virtuous
woman never lived since the wheels of time began. Oh, had you waited
till tomorrow, or until I had returned, some kind window would have
been opened to her relief. But, alas! she is gone--yes, forever gone,
to try the realities of an unknown world!
(Farcillo leaning over the body of Amelia.)
F. Malos not dead, and here is my ring! Oh, Amelia! falsely murdered!
Oh, bloody deed! Oh, wretch that I am! Oh, angels forgive me! Oh, God,
withhold thy vengeance! Oh, Amelia! if Heaven would make a thousand
worlds like this, set with diamonds, and all of one perfect chrysolite,
I would not have done this for them all, I would not have frowned
and cursed as I did. Oh, she was heavenly true, nursed in the very
lap of bright angels! Cursed slave that I am! Jealousy, oh! thou
infernal demon! Lost, lost to every sense of honor! Oh! Amelia--
heaven-born Amelia--dead, dead! Oh! oh! oh!--then let me die with
thee. Farewell! farewell! ye world that deceived me! (STABS HIMSELF.)
Soon after the excitement of this tragical scene was over,
and the enlisted feeling for Amelia had grown more buoyant with
Elfonzo and Ambulinia, he determined to visit his retired home,
and make the necessary improvements to enjoy a better day;
consequently he conveyed the following lines to Ambulinia:
Go tell the world that hope is glowing,
Go bid the rocks their silence break,
Go tell the stars that love is glowing,
Then bid the hero his lover take.
In the region where scarcely the foot of man hath ever trod,
where the woodman hath not found his way, lies a blooming grove,
seen only by the sun when he mounts his lofty throne, visited only
by the light of the stars, to whom are entrusted the guardianship
of earth, before the sun sinks to rest in his rosy bed. High cliffs
of rocks surround the romantic place, and in the small cavity of
the rocky wall grows the daffodil clear and pure; and as the wind
blows along the enchanting little mountain which surrounds the
lonely spot, it nourishes the flowers with the dew-drops of heaven.
Here is the seat of Elfonzo; darkness claims but little victory over
this dominion, and in vain does she spread out her gloomy wings.
Here the waters flow perpetually, and the trees lash their tops
together to bid the welcome visitor a happy muse. Elfonzo, during his
short stay in the country, had fully persuaded himself that it was
his duty to bring this solemn matter to an issue. A duty that he
individually owed, as a gentleman, to the parents of Ambulinia,
a duty in itself involving not only his own happiness and his own
standing in society, but one that called aloud the act of the parties
to make it perfect and complete. How he should communicate his
intentions to get a favorable reply, he was at a loss to know;
he knew not whether to address Esq. Valeer in prose or in poetry,
in a jocular or an argumentative manner, or whether he should use
moral suasion, legal injunction, or seizure and take by reprisal;
if it was to do the latter, he would have no difficulty in deciding
in his own mind, but his gentlemanly honor was at stake; so he
concluded to address the following letter to the father and mother
of Ambulinia, as his address in person he knew would only aggravate
the old gentleman, and perhaps his lady.
Cumming, Ga., January 22, 1844
Mr. and Mrs. Valeer--
Again I resume the pleasing task of addressing you, and once more beg
an immediate answer to my many salutations. From every circumstance
that has taken place, I feel in duty bound to comply with my obligations;
to forfeit my word would be more than I dare do; to break my pledge,
and my vows that have been witnessed, sealed, and delivered in the
presence of an unseen Deity, would be disgraceful on my part, as well
as ruinous to Ambulinia. I wish no longer to be kept in suspense
about this matter. I wish to act gentlemanly in every particular.
It is true, the promises I have made are unknown to any but Ambulinia,
and I think it unnecessary to here enumerate them, as they who
promise the most generally perform the least. Can you for a moment
doubt my sincerity or my character? My only wish is, sir, that you
may calmly and dispassionately look at the situation of the case,
and if your better judgment should dictate otherwise, my obligations
may induce me to pluck the flower that you so diametrically opposed.
We have sword by the saints--by the gods of battle, and by that
faith whereby just men are made perfect--to be united. I hope,
my dear sir, you will find it convenient as well as agreeable
to give me a favorable answer, with the signature of Mrs. Valeer,
as well as yourself.
With very great esteem,
your humble servant,
J. I. Elfonzo.
The moon and stars had grown pale when Ambulinia had retired
to rest. A crowd of unpleasant thoughts passed through her bosom.
Solitude dwelt in her chamber--no sound from the neighboring
world penetrated its stillness; it appeared a temple of silence,
of repose, and of mystery. At that moment she heard a still voice
calling her father. In an instant, like the flash of lightning,
a thought ran through her mind that it must be the bearer
of Elfonzo's communication. "It is not a dream!" she said,
"no, I cannot read dreams. Oh! I would to Heaven I was near
that glowing eloquence--that poetical language--it charms the
mind in an inexpressible manner, and warms the coldest heart."
While consoling herself with this strain, her father rushed into
her room almost frantic with rage, exclaiming: "Oh, Ambulinia!
Ambulinia!! undutiful, ungrateful daughter! What does this mean?
Why does this letter bear such heart-rending intelligence?
Will you quit a father's house with this debased wretch, without a
place to lay his distracted head; going up and down the country,
with every novel object that many chance to wander through this region.
He is a pretty man to make love known to his superiors, and you,
Ambulinia, have done but little credit to yourself by honoring
his visits. Oh, wretchedness! can it be that my hopes of happiness
are forever blasted! Will you not listen to a father's entreaties,
and pay some regard to a mother's tears. I know, and I do pray that God
will give me fortitude to bear with this sea of troubles, and rescue
my daughter, my Ambulinia, as a brand from the eternal burning."
"Forgive me, father, oh! forgive thy child," replied Ambulinia.
"My heart is ready to break, when I see you in this grieved state
of agitation. Oh! think not so meanly of me, as that I mourn
for my own danger. Father, I am only woman. Mother, I am only
the templement of thy youthful years, but will suffer courageously
whatever punishment you think proper to inflict upon me, if you will
but allow me to comply with my most sacred promises--if you will but
give me my personal right and my personal liberty. Oh, father! if
your generosity will but give me these, I ask nothing more.
When Elfonzo offered me his heart, I gave him my hand, never to
forsake him, and now may the mighty God banish me before I leave him
in adversity. What a heart must I have to rejoice in prosperity
with him whose offers I have accepted, and then, when poverty comes,
haggard as it may be, for me to trifle with the oracles of Heaven,
and change with every fluctuation that may interrupt our happiness--
like the politician who runs the political gantlet for office one day,
and the next day, because the horizon is darkened a little, he is
seen running for his life, for fear he might perish in its ruins.
Where is the philosophy, where is the consistency, where is the charity,
in conduct like this? Be happy then, my beloved father, and forget me;
let the sorrow of parting break down the wall of separation and make
us equal in our feeling; let me now say how ardently I love you;
let me kiss that age-worn cheek, and should my tears bedew thy face,
I will wipe them away. Oh, I never can forget you; no, never, never!"
"Weep not," said the father, "Ambulinia. I will forbid Elfonzo
my house, and desire that you may keep retired a few days. I will
let him know that my friendship for my family is not linked together
by cankered chains; and if he ever enters upon my premises again,
I will send him to his long home." "Oh, father! let me entreat you
to be calm upon this occasion, and though Elfonzo may be the sport
of the clouds and winds, yet I feel assured that no fate will send
him to the silent tomb until the God of the Universe calls him
hence with a triumphant voice."
Here the father turned away, exclaiming: "I will answer his letter
in a very few words, and you, madam, will have the goodness to stay
at home with your mother; and remember, I am determined to protect
you from the consuming fire that looks so fair to your view."
Cumming, January 22, 1844.
Sir--In regard to your request, I am as I ever have been, utterly opposed
to your marrying into my family; and if you have any regard for yourself,
or any gentlemanly feeling, I hope you will mention it to me no more;
but seek some other one who is not so far superior to you in standing.
W. W. Valeer.
When Elfonzo read the above letter, he became so much depressed
in spirits that many of his friends thought it advisable to use
other means to bring about the happy union. "Strange," said he,
"that the contents of this diminutive letter should cause me to have
such depressed feelings; but there is a nobler theme than this. I know
not why my MILITARY TITLE is not as great as that of SQUIRE VALEER.
For my life I cannot see that my ancestors are inferior to those
who are so bitterly opposed to my marriage with Ambulinia. I know
I have seen huge mountains before me, yet, when I think that I know
gentlemen will insult me upon this delicate matter, should I become
angry at fools and babblers, who pride themselves in their impudence
and ignorance? No. My equals! I know not where to find them.
My inferiors! I think it beneath me; and my superiors! I think
it presumption; therefore, if this youthful heart is protected
by any of the divine rights, I never will betray my trust."
He was aware that Ambulinia had a confidence that was, indeed,
as firm and as resolute as she was beautiful and interesting.
He hastened to the cottage of Louisa, who received him in her usual
mode of pleasantness, and informed him that Ambulinia had just that
moment left. "Is it possible?" said Elfonzo. "Oh, murdered hours!
Why did she not remain and be the guardian of my secrets?
But hasten and tell me how she has stood this trying scene,
and what are her future determinations." "You know," said Louisa,
"Major Elfonzo, that you have Ambulinia's first love, which is
of no small consequence. She came here about twilight, and shed
many precious tears in consequence of her own fate with yours.
We walked silently in yon little valley you see, where we spent
a momentary repose. She seemed to be quite as determined as ever,
and before we left that beautiful spot she offered up a prayer
to Heaven for thee." "I will see her then," replied Elfonzo,
"though legions of enemies may oppose. She is mine by foreordination--
she is mine by prophesy--she is mine by her own free will, and I
will rescue her from the hands of her oppressors. Will you not,
Miss Louisa, assist me in my capture?"
"I will certainly, by the aid of Divine Providence," answered Louisa,
"endeavor to break those slavish chains that bind the richest of prizes;
though allow me, Major, to entreat you to use no harsh means on this
important occasion; take a decided stand, and write freely to Ambulinia
upon this subject, and I will see that no intervening cause hinders
its passage to her. God alone will save a mourning people. Now is
the day and now is the hour to obey a command of such valuable worth."
The Major felt himself grow stronger after this short interview
with Louisa. He felt as if he could whip his weight in wildcats--
he knew he was master of his own feelings, and could now write
a letter that would bring this litigation to AN ISSUE.
Cumming, January 24, 1844.
We have now reached the most trying moment of our lives; we are
pledged not to forsake our trust; we have waited for a favorable hour
to come, thinking your friends would settle the matter agreeably
among themselves, and finally be reconciled to our marriage;
but as I have waited in vain, and looked in vain, I have determined
in my own mind to make a proposition to you, though you may think
it not in accord with your station, or compatible with your rank;
yet, "sub loc signo vinces." You know I cannot resume my visits,
in consequence of the utter hostility that your father has to me;
therefore the consummation of our union will have to be sought
for in a more sublime sphere, at the residence of a respectable
friend of this village. You cannot have an scruples upon this
mode of proceeding, if you will but remember it emanates from one
who loves you better than his own life--who is more than anxious
to bid you welcome to a new and happy home. Your warmest associates
say come; the talented, the learned, the wise, and the experienced
say come;--all these with their friends say, come. Viewing these,
with many other inducements, I flatter myself that you will come
to the embraces of your Elfonzo; for now is the time of your
acceptance of the day of your liberation. You cannot be ignorant,
Ambulinia, that thou art the desire of my heart; its thoughts
are too noble, and too pure, to conceal themselves from you.
I shall wait for your answer to this impatiently, expecting that you
will set the time to make your departure, and to be in readiness
at a moment's warning to share the joys of a more preferable life.
This will be handed to you by Louisa, who will take a pleasure in
communicating anything to you that may relieve your dejected spirits,
and will assure you that I now stand ready, willing, and waiting
to make good my vows.
I am, dear Ambulinia, your
truly, and forever,
J. I. Elfonzo.
Louisa made it convenient to visit Mr. Valeer's, though they
did not suspect her in the least the bearer of love epistles;
consequently, she was invited in the room to console Ambulinia,
where they were left alone. Ambulinia was seated by a small table--
her head resting on her hand--her brilliant eyes were bathed in tears.
Louisa handed her the letter of Elfonzo, when another spirit animated
her features--the spirit of renewed confidence that never fails
to strengthen the female character in an hour of grief and sorrow
like this, and as she pronounced the last accent of his name,
she exclaimed, "And does he love me yet! I never will forget
your generosity, Louisa. Oh, unhappy and yet blessed Louisa! may you
never feel what I have felt--may you never know the pangs of love.
Had I never loved, I never would have been unhappy; but I turn to Him
who can save, and if His wisdom does not will my expected union,
I know He will give me strength to bear my lot. Amuse yourself
with this little book, and take it as an apology for my silence,"
said Ambulinia, "while I attempt to answer this volume of consolation."
"Thank you," said Louisa, "you are excusable upon this occasion;
but I pray you, Ambulinia, to be expert upon this momentous subject,
that there may be nothing mistrustful upon my part." "I will,"
said Ambulinia, and immediately resumed her seat and addressed the
following to Elfonzo:
Cumming, Ga., January 28, 1844.
I hail your letter as a welcome messenger of faith, and can now
say truly and firmly that my feelings correspond with yours.
Nothing shall be wanting on my part to make my obedience your fidelity.
Courage and perseverance will accomplish success. Receive this
as my oath, that while I grasp your hand in my own imagination,
we stand united before a higher tribunal than any on earth.
All the powers of my life, soul, and body, I devote to thee.
Whatever dangers may threaten me, I fear not to encounter them.
Perhaps I have determined upon my own destruction, by leaving
the house of the best of parents; be it so; I flee to you; I share
your destiny, faithful to the end. The day that I have concluded
upon for this task is SABBATH next, when the family with the citizens
are generally at church. For Heaven's sake let not that day
pass unimproved: trust not till tomorrow, it is the cheat of life--
the future that never comes--the grave of many noble births--
the cavern of ruined enterprise: which like the lightning's
flash is born, and dies, and perishes, ere the voice of him
who sees can cry, BEHOLD! BEHOLD!! You may trust to what I say,
no power shall tempt me to betray confidence. Suffer me to add one
I will soothe thee, in all thy grief,
Beside the gloomy river;
And though thy love may yet be brief;
Mine is fixed forever.
Receive the deepest emotions of my heart for thy constant love,
and may the power of inspiration by thy guide, thy portion, and thy all.
In great haste,
"I now take my leave of you, sweet girl," said Louisa, "sincerely
wishing you success on Sabbath next." When Ambulinia's letter was
handed to Elfonzo, he perused it without doubting its contents.
Louisa charged him to make but few confidants; but like most young
men who happened to win the heart of a beautiful girl, he was so
elated with the idea that he felt as a commanding general on parade,
who had confidence in all, consequently gave orders to all.
The appointed Sabbath, with a delicious breeze and cloudless sky,
made its appearance. The people gathered in crowds to the church--
the streets were filled with neighboring citizens, all marching
to the house of worship. It is entirely useless for me to attempt
to describe the feelings of Elfonzo and Ambulinia, who were silently
watching the movements of the multitude, apparently counting them as then
entered the house of God, looking for the last one to darken the door.
The impatience and anxiety with which they waited, and the bliss
they anticipated on the eventful day, is altogether indescribable.
Those that have been so fortunate as to embark in such a noble
enterprise know all its realities; and those who have not had this
inestimable privilege will have to taste its sweets before they can
tell to others its joys, its comforts, and its Heaven-born worth.
Immediately after Ambulinia had assisted the family off to church,
she took advantage of that opportunity to make good her promises.
She left a home of enjoyment to be wedded to one whose love had
been justifiable. A few short steps brought her to the presence
of Louisa, who urged her to make good use of her time, and not
to delay a moment, but to go with her to her brother's house,
where Elfonzo would forever make her happy. With lively speed,
and yet a graceful air, she entered the door and found herself
protected by the champion of her confidence. The necessary
arrangements were fast making to have the two lovers united--
everything was in readiness except the parson; and as they are
generally very sanctimonious on such occasions, the news got
to the parents of Ambulinia before the everlasting knot was tied,
and they both came running, with uplifted hands and injured feelings,
to arrest their daughter from an unguarded and hasty resolution.
Elfonzo desired to maintain his ground, but Ambulinia thought
it best for him to leave, to prepare for a greater contest.
He accordingly obeyed, as it would have been a vain endeavor for him
to have battled against a man who was armed with deadly weapons;
and besides, he could not resist the request of such a pure heart.
Ambulinia concealed herself in the upper story of the house, fearing
the rebuke of her father; the door was locked, and no chastisement
was now expected. Esquire Valeer, whose pride was already touched,
resolved to preserve the dignity of his family. He entered the house
almost exhausted, looking wildly for Ambulinia. "Amazed and astonished
indeed I am," said he, "at a people who call themselves civilized,
to allow such behavior as this. Ambulinia, Ambulinia!" he cried,
"come to the calls of your first, your best, and your only friend.
I appeal to you, sir," turning to the gentleman of the house,
"to know where Ambulinia has gone, or where is she?" "Do you mean
to insult me, sir, in my own house?" inquired the gentleman.
"I will burst," said Mr. V., "asunder every door in your dwelling,
in search of my daughter, if you do not speak quickly, and tell me
where she is. I care nothing about that outcast rubbish of creation,
that mean, low-lived Elfonzo, if I can but obtain Ambulinia.
Are you not going to open this door?" said he. "By the Eternal
that made Heaven and earth! I will go about the work instantly,
if this is not done!" The confused citizens gathered from all
parts of the village, to know the cause of this commotion.
Some rushed into the house; the door that was locked flew open,
and there stood Ambulinia, weeping. "Father, be still," said she,
"and I will follow thee home." But the agitated man seized her,
and bore her off through the gazing multitude. "Father!" she exclaimed,
"I humbly beg your pardon--I will be dutiful--I will obey thy commands.
Let the sixteen years I have lived in obedience to thee by my
future security." "I don't like to be always giving credit,
when the old score is not paid up, madam," said the father. The mother
followed almost in a state of derangement, crying and imploring
her to think beforehand, and ask advice from experienced persons,
and they would tell her it was a rash undertaking. "Oh!" said she,
"Ambulinia, my daughter, did you know what I have suffered--
did you know how many nights I have whiled away in agony,
in pain, and in fear, you would pity the sorrows of a heartbroken
"Well, mother," replied Ambulinia, "I know I have been disobedient;
I am aware that what I have done might have been done much better;
but oh! what shall I do with my honor? it is so dear to me;
I am pledged to Elfonzo. His high moral worth is certainly worth
some attention; moreover, my vows, I have no doubt, are recorded
in the book of life, and must I give these all up? must my fair
hopes be forever blasted? Forbid it, father; oh! forbid it, mother;
forbid it, Heaven." "I have seen so many beautiful skies overclouded,"
replied the mother, "so many blossoms nipped by the frost,
that I am afraid to trust you to the care of those fair days,
which may be interrupted by thundering and tempestuous nights.
You no doubt think as I did--life's devious ways were strewn with
sweet-scented flowers, but ah! how long they have lingered around me
and took their flight in the vivid hope that laughs at the drooping
victims it has murdered." Elfonzo was moved at this sight.
The people followed on to see what was going to become of Ambulinia,
while he, with downcast looks, kept at a distance, until he saw
them enter the abode of the father, thrusting her, that was the
sigh of his soul, out of his presence into a solitary apartment,
when she exclaimed, "Elfonzo! Elfonzo! oh, Elfonzo! where art thou,
with all thy heroes? haste, oh! haste, come thou to my relief.
Ride on the wings of the wind! Turn thy force loose like a tempest,
and roll on thy army like a whirlwind, over this mountain of trouble
and confusion. Oh, friends! if any pity me, let your last efforts
throng upon the green hills, and come to the relief of Ambulinia,
who is guilty of nothing but innocent love." Elfonzo called out with
a loud voice, "My God, can I stand this! arise up, I beseech you,
and put an end to this tyranny. Come, my brave boys," said he,
"are you ready to go forth to your duty?" They stood around him.
"Who," said he, "will call us to arms? Where are my thunderbolts of war?
Speak ye, the first who will meet the foe! Who will go forward with me
in this ocean of grievous temptation? If there is one who desires
to go, let him come and shake hands upon the altar of devotion,
and swear that he will be a hero; yes, a Hector in a cause like this,
which calls aloud for a speedy remedy." "Mine be the deed,"
said a young lawyer, "and mine alone; Venus alone shall quit her
station before I will forsake one jot or tittle of my promise to you;
what is death to me? what is all this warlike army, if it is not
to win a victory? I love the sleep of the lover and the mighty;
nor would I give it over till the blood of my enemies should wreak
with that of my own. But God forbid that our fame should soar
on the blood of the slumberer." Mr. Valeer stands at his door
with the frown of a demon upon his brow, with his dangerous
weapon ready to strike the first man who should enter his door.
"Who will arise and go forward through blood and carnage to the rescue
of my Ambulinia?" said Elfonzo. "All," exclaimed the multitude;
and onward they went, with their implements of battle. Others, of a
more timid nature, stood among the distant hills to see the result of
Elfonzo took the lead of his band. Night arose in clouds;
darkness concealed the heavens; but the blazing hopes that stimulated
them gleamed in every bosom. All approached the anxious spot;
they rushed to the front of the house and, with one exclamation,
demanded Ambulinia. "Away, begone, and disturb my peace no more,"
said Mr. Valeer. "You are a set of base, insolent, and infernal rascals.
Go, the northern star points your path through the dim twilight of
the night; go, and vent your spite upon the lonely hills; pour forth
your love, you poor, weak-minded wretch, upon your idleness and upon
your guitar, and your fiddle; they are fit subjects for your admiration,
for let me assure you, though this sword and iron lever are cankered,
yet they frown in sleep, and let one of you dare to enter my
house this night and you shall have the contents and the weight
of these instruments." "Never yet did base dishonor blur my name,"
said Elfonzo; "mine is a cause of renown; here are my warriors;
fear and tremble, for this night, though hell itself should oppose,
I will endeavor to avenge her whom thou hast banished in solitude.
The voice of Ambulinia shall be heard from that dark dungeon."
At that moment Ambulinia appeared at the window above, and with a
tremulous voice said, "Live, Elfonzo! oh! live to raise my stone
of moss! why should such language enter your heart? why should thy
voice rend the air with such agitation? I bid thee live, once more
remembering these tears of mine are shed alone for thee, in this dark
and gloomy vault, and should I perish under this load of trouble,
join the song of thrilling accents with the raven above my grave,
and lay this tattered frame beside the banks of the Chattahoochee
or the stream of Sawney's brook; sweet will be the song of death to
your Ambulinia. My ghost shall visit you in the smiles of Paradise,
and tell your high fame to the minds of that region, which is far more
preferable than this lonely cell. My heart shall speak for thee till
the latest hour; I know faint and broken are the sounds of sorrow,
yet our souls, Elfonzo, shall hear the peaceful songs together.
One bright name shall be ours on high, if we are not permitted to be
united here; bear in mind that I still cherish my old sentiments,
and the poet will mingle the names of Elfonzo and Ambulinia
in the tide of other days." "Fly, Elfonzo," said the voices
of his united band, "to the wounded heart of your beloved.
All enemies shall fall beneath thy sword. Fly through the clefts,
and the dim spark shall sleep in death." Elfonzo rushes forward
and strikes his shield against the door, which was barricaded,
to prevent any intercourse. His brave sons throng around him.
The people pour along the streets, both male and female, to prevent or
witness the melancholy scene.
"To arms, to arms!" cried Elfonzo; "here is a victory to be won,
a prize to be gained that is more to me that the whole world beside."
"It cannot be done tonight," said Mr. Valeer. "I bear the clang
of death; my strength and armor shall prevail. My Ambulinia shall
rest in this hall until the break of another day, and if we fall,
we fall together. If we die, we die clinging to our tattered rights,
and our blood alone shall tell the mournful tale of a murdered
daughter and a ruined father." Sure enough, he kept watch all night,
and was successful in defending his house and family. The bright
morning gleamed upon the hills, night vanished away, the Major
and his associates felt somewhat ashamed that they had not been as
fortunate as they expected to have been; however, they still leaned
upon their arms in dispersed groups; some were walking the streets,
others were talking in the Major's behalf. Many of the citizen
suspended business, as the town presented nothing but consternation.
A novelty that might end in the destruction of some worthy
and respectable citizens. Mr. Valeer ventured in the streets,
though not without being well armed. Some of his friends congratulated
him on the decided stand he had taken, and hoped he would settle
the matter amicably with Elfonzo, without any serious injury.
"Me," he replied, "what, me, condescend to fellowship with a coward,
and a low-lived, lazy, undermining villain? no, gentlemen, this cannot be;
I had rather be borne off, like the bubble upon the dark blue ocean,
with Ambulinia by my side, than to have him in the ascending
or descending line of relationship. Gentlemen," continued he,
"if Elfonzo is so much of a distinguished character, and is so
learned in the fine arts, why do you not patronize such men? why
not introduce him into your families, as a gentleman of taste
and of unequaled magnanimity? why are you so very anxious that he
should become a relative of mine? Oh, gentlemen, I fear you yet
are tainted with the curiosity of our first parents, who were
beguiled by the poisonous kiss of an old ugly serpent, and who,
for one APPLE, DAMNED all mankind. I wish to divest myself, as far
as possible, of that untutored custom. I have long since learned
that the perfection of wisdom, and the end of true philosophy,
is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambition to
our capacities; we will then be a happy and a virtuous people."
Ambulinia was sent off to prepare for a long and tedious journey.
Her new acquaintances had been instructed by her father how to treat her,
and in what manner, and to keep the anticipated visit entirely secret.
Elfonzo was watching the movements of everybody; some friends
had told him of the plot that was laid to carry off Ambulinia.
At night, he rallied some two or three of his forces, and went
silently along to the stately mansion; a faint and glimmering light
showed through the windows; lightly he steps to the door; there were
many voices rallying fresh in fancy's eye; he tapped the shutter;
it was opened instantly, and he beheld once more, seated beside
several ladies, the hope of all his toils; he rushed toward her,
she rose from her seat, rejoicing; he made one mighty grasp,
when Ambulinia exclaimed, "Huzza for Major Elfonzo! I will defend
myself and you, too, with this conquering instrument I hold in my hand;
huzza, I say, I now invoke time's broad wing to shed around us some
dewdrops of verdant spring."
But the hour had not come for this joyous reunion; her friends
struggled with Elfonzo for some time, and finally succeeded
in arresting her from his hands. He dared not injure them,
because they were matrons whose courage needed no spur;
she was snatched from the arms of Elfonzo, with so much eagerness,
and yet with such expressive signification, that he calmly withdrew
from this lovely enterprise, with an ardent hope that he should be
lulled to repose by the zephyrs which whispered peace to his soul.
Several long days and night passed unmolested, all seemed to have
grounded their arms of rebellion, and no callidity appeared to be
going on with any of the parties. Other arrangements were made
by Ambulinia; she feigned herself to be entirely the votary of a
mother's care, and she, by her graceful smiles, that manhood might
claim his stern dominion in some other region, where such boisterous
love was not so prevalent. This gave the parents a confidence
that yielded some hours of sober joy; they believed that Ambulinia
would now cease to love Elfonzo, and that her stolen affections
would now expire with her misguided opinions. They therefore
declined the idea of sending her to a distant land. But oh! they
dreamed not of the rapture that dazzled the fancy of Ambulinia,
who would say, when alone, youth should not fly away on his rosy
pinions, and leave her to grapple in the conflict with unknown admirers.
No frowning age shall control
The constant current of my soul,
Nor a tear from pity's eye
Shall check my sympathetic sigh.
With this resolution fixed in her mind, one dark and dreary night,
when the winds whistled and the tempest roared, she received intelligence
that Elfonzo was then waiting, and every preparation was then ready,
at the residence of Dr. Tully, and for her to make a quick escape
while the family was reposing. Accordingly she gathered her books,
went the wardrobe supplied with a variety of ornamental dressing,
and ventured alone in the streets to make her way to Elfonzo,
who was near at hand, impatiently looking and watching her arrival.
"What forms," said she, "are those rising before me? What is
that dark spot on the clouds? I do wonder what frightful ghost
that is, gleaming on the red tempest? Oh, be merciful and tell me
what region you are from. Oh, tell me, ye strong spirits, or ye
dark and fleeting clouds, that I yet have a friend." "A friend,"
said a low, whispering voice. "I am thy unchanging, thy aged,
and thy disappointed mother. Why brandish in that hand of thine
a javelin of pointed steel? Why suffer that lip I have kissed
a thousand times to equivocate? My daughter, let these tears sink
deep into thy soul, and no longer persist in that which may be your
destruction and ruin. Come, my dear child, retract your steps,
and bear me company to your welcome home." Without one retorting word,
or frown from her brow, she yielded to the entreaties of her mother,
and with all the mildness of her former character she went along
with the silver lamp of age, to the home of candor and benevolence.
Her father received her cold and formal politeness--"Where has
Ambulinia been, this blustering evening, Mrs. Valeer?" inquired he.
"Oh, she and I have been taking a solitary walk," said the mother;
"all things, I presume, are now working for the best."
Elfonzo heard this news shortly after it happened. "What," said he,
"has heaven and earth turned against me? I have been disappointed
times without number. Shall I despair?--must I give it over?
Heaven's decrees will not fade; I will write again--I will try again;
and if it traverses a gory field, I pray forgiveness at the altar
Desolate Hill, Cumming, Geo., 1844.
Unconquered and Beloved Ambulinia--
I have only time to say to you, not to despair; thy fame shall
not perish; my visions are brightening before me. The whirlwind's
rage is past, and we now shall subdue our enemies without doubt.
On Monday morning, when your friends are at breakfast, they will
not suspect your departure, or even mistrust me being in town,
as it has been reported advantageously that I have left for the west.
You walk carelessly toward the academy grove, where you will find
me with a lightning steed, elegantly equipped to bear you off where
we shall be joined in wedlock with the first connubial rights.
Fail not to do this--think not of the tedious relations of our wrongs--
be invincible. You alone occupy all my ambition, and I alone will
make you my happy spouse, with the same unimpeached veracity.
I remain, forever, your devoted friend and admirer, J. L. Elfonzo.
The appointed day ushered in undisturbed by any clouds; nothing disturbed
Ambulinia's soft beauty. With serenity and loveliness she obeys
the request of Elfonzo. The moment the family seated themselves
at the table--"Excuse my absence for a short time," said she,
"while I attend to the placing of those flowers, which should have
been done a week ago." And away she ran to the sacred grove,
surrounded with glittering pearls, that indicated her coming.
Elfonzo hails her with his silver bow and his golden harp. They meet--
Ambulinia's countenance brightens--Elfonzo leads up his winged steed.
"Mount," said he, "ye true-hearted, ye fearless soul--the day
is ours." She sprang upon the back of the young thunder bolt,
a brilliant star sparkles upon her head, with one hand she
grasps the reins, and with the other she holds an olive branch.
"Lend thy aid, ye strong winds," they exclaimed, "ye moon, ye sun,
and all ye fair host of heaven, witness the enemy conquered."
"Hold," said Elfonzo, "thy dashing steed." "Ride on," said Ambulinia,
"the voice of thunder is behind us." And onward they went,
with such rapidity that they very soon arrived at Rural Retreat,
where they dismounted, and were united with all the solemnities
that usually attend such divine operations. They passed the day
in thanksgiving and great rejoicing, and on that evening they
visited their uncle, where many of their friends and acquaintances
had gathered to congratulate them in the field of untainted bliss.
The kind old gentleman met them in the yard: "Well," said he, "I wish
I may die, Elfonzo, if you and Ambulinia haven't tied a knot with your
tongue that you can't untie with your teeth. But come in, come in,
never mind, all is right--the world still moves on, and no one has
fallen in this great battle."
Happy now is there lot! Unmoved by misfortune, they live among the
fair beauties of the South. Heaven spreads their peace and fame upon
the arch of the rainbow, and smiles propitiously at their triumph,
THROUGH THE TEARS OF THE STORM.
THE CALIFORNIAN'S TALE
Thirty-five years ago I was out prospecting on the Stanislaus,
tramping all day long with pick and pan and horn, and washing a hatful
of dirt here and there, always expecting to make a rich strike,
and never doing it. It was a lovely region, woodsy, balmy, delicious,
and had once been populous, long years before, but now the
people had vanished and the charming paradise was a solitude.
They went away when the surface diggings gave out. In one place,
where a busy little city with banks and newspapers and fire companies
and a mayor and aldermen had been, was nothing but a wide expanse
of emerald turf, with not even the faintest sign that human life
had ever been present there. This was down toward Tuttletown.
In the country neighborhood thereabouts, along the dusty roads,
one found at intervals the prettiest little cottage homes, snug and cozy,
and so cobwebbed with vines snowed thick with roses that the doors
and windows were wholly hidden from sight--sign that these were
deserted homes, forsaken years ago by defeated and disappointed
families who could neither sell them nor give them away. Now and then,
half an hour apart, one came across solitary log cabins of the earliest
mining days, built by the first gold-miners, the predecessors of the
cottage-builders. In some few cases these cabins were still occupied;
and when this was so, you could depend upon it that the occupant
was the very pioneer who had built the cabin; and you could depend
on another thing, too--that he was there because he had once had
his opportunity to go home to the States rich, and had not done it;
had rather lost his wealth, and had then in his humiliation resolved
to sever all communication with his home relatives and friends,
and be to them thenceforth as one dead. Round about California
in that day were scattered a host of these living dead men--
pride-smitten poor fellows, grizzled and old at forty, whose secret
thoughts were made all of regrets and longings--regrets for their
wasted lives, and longings to be out of the struggle and done with it all.
It was a lonesome land! Not a sound in all those peaceful expanses
of grass and woods but the drowsy hum of insects; no glimpse
of man or beast; nothing to keep up your spirits and make you glad
to be alive. And so, at last, in the early part of the afternoon,
when I caught sight of a human creature, I felt a most grateful uplift.
This person was a man about forty-five years old, and he was
standing at the gate of one of those cozy little rose-clad cottages
of the sort already referred to. However, this one hadn't
a deserted look; it had the look of being lived in and petted
and cared for and looked after; and so had its front yard,
which was a garden of flowers, abundant, gay, and flourishing.
I was invited in, of course, and required to make myself at home--
it was the custom of the country.
It was delightful to be in such a place, after long weeks of daily
and nightly familiarity with miners' cabins--with all which this
implies of dirt floor, never-made beds, tin plates and cups,
bacon and beans and black coffee, and nothing of ornament but war
pictures from the Eastern illustrated papers tacked to the log walls.
That was all hard, cheerless, materialistic desolation, but here was a
nest which had aspects to rest the tired eye and refresh that something
in one's nature which, after long fasting, recognizes, when confronted
by the belongings of art, howsoever cheap and modest they may be,
that it has unconsciously been famishing and now has found nourishment.
I could not have believed that a rag carpet could feast me so,
and so content me; or that there could be such solace to the soul
in wall-paper and framed lithographs, and bright-colored tidies
and lamp-mats, and Windsor chairs, and varnished what-nots, with
sea-shells and books and china vases on them, and the score of little
unclassifiable tricks and touches that a woman's hand distributes
about a home, which one sees without knowing he sees them, yet would
miss in a moment if they were taken away. The delight that was
in my heart showed in my face, and the man saw it and was pleased;
saw it so plainly that he answered it as if it had been spoken.
"All her work," he said, caressingly; "she did it all herself--
every bit," and he took the room in with a glance which was full
of affectionate worship. One of those soft Japanese fabrics
with which women drape with careful negligence the upper part of a
picture-frame was out of adjustment. He noticed it, and rearranged
it with cautious pains, stepping back several times to gauge
the effect before he got it to suit him. Then he gave it a light
finishing pat or two with his hand, and said: "She always does that.
You can't tell just what it lacks, but it does lack something
until you've done that--you can see it yourself after it's done,
but that is all you know; you can't find out the law of it.
It's like the finishing pats a mother gives the child's hair
after she's got it combed and brushed, I reckon. I've seen her
fix all these things so much that I can do them all just her way,
though I don't know the law of any of them. But she knows the law.
She knows the why and the how both; but I don't know the why;
I only know the how."
He took me into a bedroom so that I might wash my hands; such a bedroom
as I had not seen for years: white counterpane, white pillows,
carpeted floor, papered walls, pictures, dressing-table, with mirror
and pin-cushion and dainty toilet things; and in the corner a wash-stand,
with real china-ware bowl and pitcher, and with soap in a china dish,
and on a rack more than a dozen towels--towels too clean and white
for one out of practice to use without some vague sense of profanation.
So my face spoke again, and he answered with gratified words:
"All her work; she did it all herself--every bit. Nothing here
that hasn't felt the touch of her hand. Now you would think--
But I mustn't talk so much."
By this time I was wiping my hands and glancing from detail to detail
of the room's belongings, as one is apt to do when he is in a new place,
where everything he sees is a comfort to his eye and his spirit;
and I became conscious, in one of those unaccountable ways,
you know, that there was something there somewhere that the man
wanted me to discover for myself. I knew it perfectly, and I knew
he was trying to help me by furtive indications with his eye, so I
tried hard to get on the right track, being eager to gratify him.
I failed several times, as I could see out of the corner of my eye
without being told; but at last I knew I must be looking straight
at the thing--knew it from the pleasure issuing in invisible waves
from him. He broke into a happy laugh, and rubbed his hands together,
and cried out:
"That's it! You've found it. I knew you would. It's her picture."
I went to the little black-walnut bracket on the farther wall,
and did find there what I had not yet noticed--a daguerreotype-case.
It contained the sweetest girlish face, and the most beautiful,
as it seemed to me, that I had ever seen. The man drank the admiration
from my face, and was fully satisfied.
"Nineteen her last birthday," he said, as he put the picture back;
"and that was the day we were married. When you see her--ah, just wait
till you see her!"
"Where is she? When will she be in?"
"Oh, she's away now. She's gone to see her people. They live
forty or fifty miles from here. She's been gone two weeks today."
"When do you expect her back?"
"This is Wednesday. She'll be back Saturday, in the evening--
about nine o'clock, likely."
I felt a sharp sense of disappointment.
"I'm sorry, because I'll be gone then," I said, regretfully.
"Gone? No--why should you go? Don't go. She'll be disappointed."
She would be disappointed--that beautiful creature! If she had said
the words herself they could hardly have blessed me more. I was
feeling a deep, strong longing to see her--a longing so supplicating,
so insistent, that it made me afraid. I said to myself: "I will
go straight away from this place, for my peace of mind's sake."
"You see, she likes to have people come and stop with us--
people who know things, and can talk--people like you. She delights
in it; for she knows--oh, she knows nearly everything herself,
and can talk, oh, like a bird--and the books she reads, why, you would
be astonished. Don't go; it's only a little while, you know,
and she'll be so disappointed."
I heard the words, but hardly noticed them, I was so deep in my
thinkings and strugglings. He left me, but I didn't know.
Presently he was back, with the picture case in his hand, and he
held it open before me and said:
"There, now, tell her to her face you could have stayed to see her,
and you wouldn't."
That second glimpse broke down my good resolution. I would stay
and take the risk. That night we smoked the tranquil pipe,
and talked till late about various things, but mainly about her;
and certainly I had had no such pleasant and restful time for many
a day. The Thursday followed and slipped comfortably away.
Toward twilight a big miner from three miles away came--one of
the grizzled, stranded pioneers--and gave us warm salutation,
clothed in grave and sober speech. Then he said:
"I only just dropped over to ask about the little madam, and when
is she coming home. Any news from her?"
"Oh, yes, a letter. Would you like to hear it, Tom?"
"Well, I should think I would, if you don't mind, Henry!"
Henry got the letter out of his wallet, and said he would skip
some of the private phrases, if we were willing; then he went
on and read the bulk of it--a loving, sedate, and altogether
charming and gracious piece of handiwork, with a postscript full
of affectionate regards and messages to Tom, and Joe, and Charley,
and other close friends and neighbors.
As the reader finished, he glanced at Tom, and cried out:
"Oho, you're at it again! Take your hands away, and let me see
your eyes. You always do that when I read a letter from her.
I will write and tell her."
"Oh no, you mustn't, Henry. I'm getting old, you know, and any
little disappointment makes me want to cry. I thought she'd
be here herself, and now you've got only a letter."
"Well, now, what put that in your head? I thought everybody knew
she wasn't coming till Saturday."
"Saturday! Why, come to think, I did know it. I wonder
what's the matter with me lately? Certainly I knew it.
Ain't we all getting ready for her? Well, I must be going now.
But I'll be on hand when she comes, old man!"
Late Friday afternoon another gray veteran tramped over from his
cabin a mile or so away, and said the boys wanted to have a little
gaiety and a good time Saturday night, if Henry thought she wouldn't
be too tired after her journey to be kept up.
"Tired? She tired! Oh, hear the man! Joe, YOU know she'd sit up
six weeks to please any one of you!"
When Joe heard that there was a letter, he asked to have it read,
and the loving messages in it for him broke the old fellow all up;
but he said he was such an old wreck that THAT would happen to him
if she only just mentioned his name. "Lord, we miss her so!"
Saturday afternoon I found I was taking out my watch pretty often.
Henry noticed it, and said, with a startled look:
"You don't think she ought to be here soon, do you?"
I felt caught, and a little embarrassed; but I laughed, and said
it was a habit of mine when I was in a state of expenctancy.
But he didn't seem quite satisfied; and from that time on he began
to show uneasiness. Four times he walked me up the road to a point
whence we could see a long distance; and there he would stand,
shading his eyes with his hand, and looking. Several times he said:
"I'm getting worried, I'm getting right down worried. I know
she's not due till about nine o'clock, and yet something seems
to be trying to warn me that something's happened. You don't
think anything has happened, do you?"
I began to get pretty thoroughly ashamed of him for his childishness;
and at last, when he repeated that imploring question still another time,
I lost my patience for the moment, and spoke pretty brutally to him.
It seemed to shrivel him up and cow him; and he looked so wounded
and so humble after that, that I detested myself for having done
the cruel and unnecessary thing. And so I was glad when Charley,
another veteran, arrived toward the edge of the evening, and nestled
up to Henry to hear the letter read, and talked over the preparations
for the welcome. Charley fetched out one hearty speech after another,
and did his best to drive away his friend's bodings and apprehensions.
"Anything HAPPENED to her? Henry, that's pure nonsense. There isn't
anything going to happen to her; just make your mind easy as to that.
What did the letter say? Said she was well, didn't it? And said
she'd be here by nine o'clock, didn't it? Did you ever know her
to fail of her word? Why, you know you never did. Well, then,
don't you fret; she'll BE here, and that's absolutely certain,
and as sure as you are born. Come, now, let's get to decorating--
not much time left."
Pretty soon Tom and Joe arrived, and then all hands set about adoring
the house with flowers. Toward nine the three miners said that
as they had brought their instruments they might as well tune up,
for the boys and girls would soon be arriving now, and hungry for
a good, old-fashioned break-down. A fiddle, a banjo, and a clarinet--
these were the instruments. The trio took their places side by side,
and began to play some rattling dance-music, and beat time with
their big boots.
It was getting very close to nine. Henry was standing in the door
with his eyes directed up the road, his body swaying to the torture
of his mental distress. He had been made to drink his wife's
health and safety several times, and now Tom shouted:
"All hands stand by! One more drink, and she's here!"
Joe brought the glasses on a waiter, and served the party.
I reached for one of the two remaining glasses, but Joe growled
under his breath:
"Drop that! Take the other."
Which I did. Henry was served last. He had hardly swallowed his
drink when the clock began to strike. He listened till it finished,
his face growing pale and paler; then he said:
"Boys, I'm sick with fear. Help me--I want to lie down!"
They helped him to the sofa. He began to nestle and drowse,
but presently spoke like one talking in his sleep, and said:
"Did I hear horses' feet? Have they come?"
One of the veterans answered, close to his ear: "It was Jimmy
Parish come to say the party got delayed, but they're right up
the road a piece, and coming along. Her horse is lame, but she'll
be here in half an hour."
"Oh, I'm SO thankful nothing has happened!"
He was asleep almost before the words were out of his mouth.
In a moment those handy men had his clothes off, and had tucked
him into his bed in the chamber where I had washed my hands.
They closed the door and came back. Then they seemed preparing to leave;
but I said: "Please don't go, gentlemen. She won't know me; I am
They glanced at each other. Then Joe said:
"She? Poor thing, she's been dead nineteen years!"
"That or worse. She went to see her folks half a year after she
was married, and on her way back, on a Saturday evening, the Indians
captured her within five miles of this place, and she's never been
heard of since."
"And he lost his mind in consequence?"
"Never has been sane an hour since. But he only gets bad when
that time of year comes round. Then we begin to drop in here,
three days before she's due, to encourage him up, and ask if he's heard
from her, and Saturday we all come and fix up the house with flowers,
and get everything ready for a dance. We've done it every year
for nineteen years. The first Saturday there was twenty-seven
of us, without counting the girls; there's only three of us now,
and the girls are gone. We drug him to sleep, or he would go wild;
then he's all right for another year--thinks she's with him till the
last three or four days come round; then he begins to look for her,
and gets out his poor old letter, and we come and ask him to read it
to us. Lord, she was a darling!"
A HELPLESS SITUATION
Once or twice a year I get a letter of a certain pattern,
a pattern that never materially changes, in form and substance,
yet I cannot get used to that letter--it always astonishes me.
It affects me as the locomotive always affects me: I saw to myself,
"I have seen you a thousand times, you always look the same way,
yet you are always a wonder, and you are always impossible; to contrive
you is clearly beyond human genius--you can't exist, you don't exist,
yet here you are!"
I have a letter of that kind by me, a very old one. I yearn to print it,
and where is the harm? The writer of it is dead years ago, no doubt,
and if I conceal her name and address--her this-world address--
I am sure her shade will not mind. And with it I wish to print
the answer which I wrote at the time but probably did not send.
If it went--which is not likely--it went in the form of a copy,
for I find the original still here, pigeonholed with the said letter.
To that kind of letters we all write answers which we do not send,
fearing to hurt where we have no desire to hurt; I have done it many
a time, and this is doubtless a case of the sort.
X------, California, JUNE 3, 1879.
Mr. S. L. Clemens, HARTFORD, CONN.:
Dear Sir,--You will doubtless be surprised to know who has presumed
to write and ask a favor of you. Let your memory go back to your days
in the Humboldt mines--'62-'63. You will remember, you and Clagett
and Oliver and the old blacksmith Tillou lived in a lean-to which was
half-way up the gulch, and there were six log cabins in the camp--
strung pretty well separated up the gulch from its mouth at the
desert to where the last claim was, at the divide. The lean-to
you lived in was the one with a canvas roof that the cow fell down
through one night, as told about by you in ROUGHING IT--my uncle
Simmons remembers it very well. He lived in the principal cabin,
half-way up the divide, along with Dixon and Parker and Smith.
It had two rooms, one for kitchen and the other for bunks,
and was the only one that had. You and your party were there on
the great night, the time they had dried-apple-pie, Uncle Simmons
often speaks of it. It seems curious that dried-apple-pie should
have seemed such a great thing, but it was, and it shows how far
Humboldt was out of the world and difficult to get to, and how slim
the regular bill of fare was. Sixteen years ago--it is a long time.
I was a little girl then, only fourteen. I never saw you, I lived
in Washoe. But Uncle Simmons ran across you every now and then,
all during those weeks that you and party were there working
your claim which was like the rest. The camp played out long
and long ago, there wasn't silver enough in it to make a button.
You never saw my husband, but he was there after you left, AND LIVED
IN THAT VERY LEAN-TO, a bachelor then but married to me now.
He often wishes there had been a photographer there in those days,
he would have taken the lean-to. He got hurt in the old Hal Clayton
claim that was abandoned like the others, putting in a blast
and not climbing out quick enough, though he scrambled the best
he could. It landed him clear down on the train and hit a Piute.
For weeks they thought he would not get over it but he did,
and is all right, now. Has been ever since. This is a long
introduction but it is the only way I can make myself known.
The favor I ask I feel assured your generous heart will grant:
Give me some advice about a book I have written. I do not claim
anything for it only it is mostly true and as interesting as most
of the books of the times. I am unknown in the literary world
and you know what that means unless one has some one of influence
(like yourself) to help you by speaking a good word for you.
I would like to place the book on royalty basis plan with any one you
This is a secret from my husband and family. I intend
it as a surprise in case I get it published.
Feeling you will take an interest in this and if possible write
me a letter to some publisher, or, better still, if you could see
them for me and then let me hear.
I appeal to you to grant me this favor. With deepest gratitude I
think you for your attention.
One knows, without inquiring, that the twin of that embarrassing
letter is forever and ever flying in this and that and the other
direction across the continent in the mails, daily, nightly, hourly,
unceasingly, unrestingly. It goes to every well-known merchant,
and railway official, and manufacturer, and capitalist, and Mayor,
and Congressman, and Governor, and editor, and publisher, and author,
and broker, and banker--in a word, to every person who is supposed
to have "influence." It always follows the one pattern: "You do
not know me, BUT YOU ONCE KNEW A RELATIVE OF MINE," etc., etc.
We should all like to help the applicants, we should all be glad
to do it, we should all like to return the sort of answer that
is desired, but--Well, there is not a thing we can do that would
be a help, for not in any instance does that latter ever come from
anyone who CAN be helped. The struggler whom you COULD help does
his own helping; it would not occur to him to apply to you, stranger.
He has talent and knows it, and he goes into his fight eagerly and
with energy and determination--all alone, preferring to be alone.
That pathetic letter which comes to you from the incapable,
the unhelpable--how do you who are familiar with it answer it?
What do you find to say? You do not want to inflict a wound;
you hunt ways to avoid that. What do you find? How do you get out
of your hard place with a contend conscience? Do you try to explain?
The old reply of mine to such a letter shows that I tried that once.
Was I satisfied with the result? Possibly; and possibly not;
probably not; almost certainly not. I have long ago forgotten all
about it. But, anyway, I append my effort:
I know Mr. H., and I will go to him, dear madam, if upon reflection
you find you still desire it. There will be a conversation.
I know the form it will take. It will be like this:
MR. H. How do her books strike you?
MR. CLEMENS. I am not acquainted with them.
H. Who has been her publisher?
C. I don't know.
H. She HAS one, I suppose?
C. I--I think not.
H. Ah. You think this is her first book?
C. Yes--I suppose so. I think so.
H. What is it about? What is the character of it?
C. I believe I do not know.
H. Have you seen it?
C. Well--no, I haven't.
H. Ah-h. How long have you known her?
C. I don't know her.
H. Don't know her?
H. Ah-h. How did you come to be interested in her book, then?
C. Well, she--she wrote and asked me to find a publisher for her,
and mentioned you.
H. Why should she apply to you instead of me?
C. She wished me to use my influence.
H. Dear me, what has INFLUENCE to do with such a matter?
C. Well, I think she thought you would be more likely to examine
her book if you were influenced.
H. Why, what we are here FOR is to examine books--anybody's book
that comes along. It's our BUSINESS. Why should we turn away
a book unexamined because it's a stranger's? It would be foolish.
No publisher does it. On what ground did she request your influence,
since you do not know her? She must have thought you knew her
literature and could speak for it. Is that it?
C. No; she knew I didn't.
H. Well, what then? She had a reason of SOME sort for believing you
competent to recommend her literature, and also under obligations
to do it?
C. Yes, I--I knew her uncle.
H. Knew her UNCLE?
H. Upon my word! So, you knew her uncle; her uncle knows her literature;
he endorses it to you; the chain is complete, nothing further needed;
you are satisfied, and therefore--
C. NO, that isn't all, there are other ties. I know the cabin
her uncle lived in, in the mines; I knew his partners, too; also I
came near knowing her husband before she married him, and I DID
know the abandoned shaft where a premature blast went off and he
went flying through the air and clear down to the trail and hit
an Indian in the back with almost fatal consequences.
H. To HIM, or to the Indian?
C. She didn't say which it was.
H. (WITH A SIGH). It certainly beats the band! You don't know HER,
you don't know her literature, you don't know who got hurt when
the blast went off, you don't know a single thing for us to build
an estimate of her book upon, so far as I--
C. I knew her uncle. You are forgetting her uncle.
H. Oh, what use is HE? Did you know him long? How long was it?
C. Well, I don't know that I really knew him, but I must have
met him, anyway. I think it was that way; you can't tell about
these things, you know, except when they are recent.
H. Recent? When was all this?
C. Sixteen years ago.
H. What a basis to judge a book upon! As first you said you knew him,
and now you don't know whether you did or not.
C. Oh yes, I know him; anyway, I think I thought I did; I'm perfectly
certain of it.
H. What makes you think you thought you knew him?
C. Why, she says I did, herself.
H. SHE says so!
C. Yes, she does, and I DID know him, too, though I don't remember
H. Come--how can you know it when you don't remember it.
C. _I_ don't know. That is, I don't know the process, but I DO know
lots of things that I don't remember, and remember lots of things
that I don't know. It's so with every educated person.
H. (AFTER A PAUSE). Is your time valuable?
C. No--well, not very.
H. Mine is.
So I came away then, because he was looking tired. Overwork, I reckon;
I never do that; I have seen the evil effects of it. My mother
was always afraid I would overwork myself, but I never did.
Dear madam, you see how it would happen if I went there. He would
ask me those questions, and I would try to answer them to suit him,
and he would hunt me here and there and yonder and get me embarrassed
more and more all the time, and at last he would look tired on
account of overwork, and there it would end and nothing done.
I wish I could be useful to you, but, you see, they do not
care for uncles or any of those things; it doesn't move them,
it doesn't have the least effect, they don't care for anything
but the literature itself, and they as good as despise influence.
But they do care for books, and are eager to get them and examine them,
no matter whence they come, nor from whose pen. If you will send
yours to a publisher--any publisher--he will certainly examine it,
I can assure you of that.
A TELEPHONIC CONVERSATION
Consider that a conversation by telephone--when you are simply siting
by and not taking any part in that conversation--is one of the solemnest
curiosities of modern life. Yesterday I was writing a deep article
on a sublime philosophical subject while such a conversation was
going on in the room. I notice that one can always write best when
somebody is talking through a telephone close by. Well, the thing
began in this way. A member of our household came in and asked me
to have our house put into communication with Mr. Bagley's downtown.
I have observed, in many cities, that the sex always shrink from
calling up the central office themselves. I don't know why,
but they do. So I touched the bell, and this talk ensued:
CENTRAL OFFICE. (GRUFFY.) Hello!
I. Is it the Central Office?
C. O. Of course it is. What do you want?
I. Will you switch me on to the Bagleys, please?
C. O. All right. Just keep your ear to the telephone.
Then I heard K-LOOK, K-LOOK, K'LOOK--KLOOK-KLOOK-KLOOK-LOOK-LOOK! then
a horrible "gritting" of teeth, and finally a piping female voice:
Y-e-s? (RISING INFLECTION.) Did you wish to speak to me?
Without answering, I handed the telephone to the applicant, and sat down.
Then followed that queerest of all the queer things in this world--
a conversation with only one end of it. You hear questions asked;
you don't hear the answer. You hear invitations given; you hear
no thanks in return. You have listening pauses of dead silence,
followed by apparently irrelevant and unjustifiable exclamations
of glad surprise or sorrow or dismay. You can't make head or tail
of the talk, because you never hear anything that the person at the
other end of the wire says. Well, I heard the following remarkable
series of observations, all from the one tongue, and all shouted--
for you can't ever persuade the sex to speak gently into a telephone:
Yes? Why, how did THAT happen?
What did you say?
Oh no, I don't think it was.
NO! Oh no, I didn't mean THAT. I meant, put it in while it
is still boiling--or just before it COMES to a boil.
I turned it over with a backstitch on the selvage edge.
Yes, I like that way, too; but I think it's better to baste it
on with Valenciennes or bombazine, or something of that sort.
It gives it such an air--and attracts so much noise.
It's forty-ninth Deuteronomy, sixty-forth to ninety-seventh inclusive.
I think we ought all to read it often.
Perhaps so; I generally use a hair pin.
What did you say? (ASIDE.) Children, do be quiet!
OH! B FLAT! Dear me, I thought you said it was the cat!
Why, _I_ never heard of it.
You astound me! It seems utterly impossible!
Well, what IS this world coming to? Was it right in CHURCH?
And was her MOTHER there?
Why, Mrs. Bagley, I should have died of humiliation! What did
I can't be perfectly sure, because I haven't the notes by me;
but I think it goes something like this: te-rolly-loll-loll, loll
lolly-loll-loll, O tolly-loll-loll-LEE-LY-LI-I-do! And then REPEAT,
Yes, I think it IS very sweet--and very solemn and impressive,
if you get the andantino and the pianissimo right.
Oh, gum-drops, gum-drops! But I never allow them to eat striped candy.
And of course they CAN'T, till they get their teeth, anyway.
Oh, not in the least--go right on. He's here writing--it doesn't
Very well, I'll come if I can. (ASIDE.) Dear me, how it does tire
a person's arm to hold this thing up so long! I wish she'd--