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Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 10, No. 57, July, 1862 by Various

Part 2 out of 5

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have been sooted, had his relative's place been bestowed upon some lady
of corresponding blueness of blood; but it offended his pride, when he
reflected on her being supplanted by Mrs. Boleyn. The aristocratical
_morgue_ was too strong in him to bear such an insult with
fortitude. Yet none other than Mrs. Boleyn would Henry have,
notwithstanding the certainty of enraging Charles, and with the equal
certainty of disgusting a majority of his own subjects. If it had been
simply a wife that he desired, and if he was thinking merely of the
succession, and so sought only for an opportunity to beget legitimate
children, why did he so pertinaciously insist upon having no one but
"Mistress Anne" for the partner of his throne and bed?

When he married Jane Seymour on the 20th of May, 1536, having had
Anne's head cut off on the 19th, Mr. Froude sees in that infamous
proceeding--a proceeding without parallel in the annals of villany,
and which would have disgraced the worst members of Sawney Bean's
unpromising family--nothing but a simple business-transaction. The
Privy Council and the peers, troubled about the succession, asked
Henry to marry again without any delay, when Anne had been prepared for
condemnation. The King was graciously pleased to comply with this
request, which was probably made in compliance with suggestions from
himself,--the marriage with Jane Seymour having been resolved upon
long before it took place, and the desire to effect it being the cause
of the legal assassination of Anne Boleyn, which could be brought about
only through the "cooking" of a series of charges that could have
originated nowhere out of her husband's vile mind, and which led to the
deaths of six innocent persons. "The indecent haste" of the King's
marriage with the Seymour, Mr. Froude says, "is usually considered a
proof entirely conclusive of the cause of Anne Boleyn's ruin. To
myself the haste is an evidence of something very different. Henry, who
waited seven years for Anne Boleyn, was not without some control over
his passions; and if appetite had been the moving influence with him,
he would scarcely, with the eyes of all the world fixed upon his
conduct, have passed so extravagant an insult upon the nation of which
he was the sovereign. The precipitancy with which he acted is to me a
proof that he looked on matrimony as an indifferent official act which
his duty required at the moment. This was the interpretation which
was given to his conduct by the Lords and Commons of England. In the
absence of any evidence, or shadow of evidence, that among
contemporaries who had means of knowing the truth another judgment was
passed upon it, the deliberate assertion of an Act of Parliament must
be considered a safer guide than modern unsupported conjecture."
[Footnote: Mr. Froude mentions that a request that the King would
marry, similar to that which he received after the fall of Anne
Boleyn, was urged by the Council on the death of Jane Seymour; but, as
he allowed more than two years to elapse between the date of Jane's
death and the date of his marriage with Anne of Cleves, which marriage
he refused to consummate, is not the inference unavoidable that he
wedded Jane Seymour so hurriedly merely to gratify his desire to
possess her person, and that in 1537-39 he was singularly indifferent
to the claims of a question upon his attention?]

We submit that the approving action of men who were partakers of
Henry's guilt is no proof of his innocence. Their conduct throughout
the Boleyn business simply proves that they were slaves, and that the
slaves were as brutal as their master. If Henry was so indifferent in
the matter of matrimony as to look upon all women with the same
feelings, if he married officially as the King, and not lovingly as a
man, how came it to pass that he was thrown into such an agony of rage,
when, being nearly fifty years old, ugly Anne of Cleves was provided
for him? His disappointment and mortification were then so great that
they hastened that political change which led to Cromwell's fall and
execution. When Henry first saw the German lady, he was as much
affected as George, Prince of Wales, was when he first saw Caroline of
Brunswick, but he behaved better than George in the lady's presence.
Much as he desired children, he never consummated his marriage with
Anne of Cleves, though he must have known that the world would be but
ill-peopled, if none but beautiful women were to be married. Had he
fulfilled the contract made with her, he might have had many sons and
daughters, and the House of Tudor might have been reigning over England
at this day. Both his fifth and sixth wives, Catharine Howard and
Catharine Parr, were fine women; and if he had lived long enough to get
rid of the latter, he would, beyond all question, have given her place
to the most beautiful woman whom he could have prevailed upon to risk
his perilous embraces preliminarily to those of the hangman.

If Henry had married solely for the purpose of begetting children, he
never would have divorced and slaughtered Anne Boleyn. During her brief
connection with him, she gave birth to two children, one a still-born
son, and the other the future Queen Elizabeth, who lived to her
seventieth year, and whose enormous vitality and intellectual energy
speak well for the physical excellence of her mother. The miscarriage
that Anne experienced in February, 1536, was probably the occasion of
her repudiation and murder in the following May, as Henry was always
inclined to attribute disappointments of this kind to his wives, who
ever dwelt in the valley of the shadow of death.[Footnote: Henry
thought of divorcing Catharine of Aragon some years before she had
become too old to bear children. She was born in the last month of
1485, and the "King's secret matter," as the divorce question was
called, was in agitation as early as the first half of 1527, and
probably at an earlier period. Catharine was the mother of five
children, but one of whom lived, namely, the Princess Mary, afterward
Mary I.] The most charitable view that can be taken of Henry's
abominable treatment of his second wife is, that he was led by his
superstitious feelings, which _he_ called religion, to sacrifice
her to the manes of his first wife, whom Anne had badly treated, and
who died on the 7th of January, 1536. Henry, after his fashion, was
much moved by Catharine's death, and by perusal of the letter which she
wrote him from her dying bed; and so he resolved to make the only
atonement of which his savage nature was capable, and one, too, which
the bigoted Spanish woman would have been satisfied with, could she
have foreseen it. As the alliance between the royal houses of England
and Spain was sealed with the blood of the innocent Warwick, who was
sent to the scaffold by Henry VII. to satisfy Catharine's father,
Ferdinand of Aragon, so were the wrongs of Catharine to be acknowledged
by shedding the innocent blood of Anne Boleyn. The connection, as it
were, began with the butchery of a boy, reduced to idiocy by
ill-treatment, on Tower Hill, and it ended with the butchery of a
woman, who had been reduced almost to imbecility by cruelty, on the
Tower Green. Heaven's judgement would seem to have been openly
pronounced against that blood-cemented alliance, formed by two of the
greatest of those royal ruffians who figured in the fifteenth century,
and destined to lead to nothing but misery to all who were brought
together in consequence of it's having been made. If one were seeking
for proofs of the direct and immediate interposition of a Higher Power
in the ordering of human affairs, it would be no difficult matter to
discover them in the history of the royal houses of England during
the existence of the Lancastrian, the York, and the Tudor families.
Crime leads to crime therein in regular sequence, the guiltless
suffering with the guilty, and because of their connection with the
guilty, until the palaces of the Henries and the Edwards become as
haunted with horrors as were the halls of the Atridae. The "pale
nurslings that had perished by kindred hands," seen by Cassandra when
she passed the threshold of Agamemnon's abode, might have been
paralleled by similar "phantom dreams," had another Cassandra
accompanied Henry VII. when he came from Bosworth Field to take
possession of the royal abodes at London. She, too, might have spoken,
taking the Tower for her place of denunciation, of "that human
shamble-house, that bloody floor, that dwelling abhorred by Heaven,
privy to so many horrors against the most sacred ties." And she might
have seen in advance the yet greater horrors that were to come, and
that hung "over the inexpiable threshold; the curse passing from
generation to generation."

Mr. Froude thinks that Catharine Howard, the fifth of Henry's wives,
was not only guilty of antenuptial slips, but of unfaithfulness to the
royal bed. It is so necessary to establish the fact of her infidelity,
in order to save the King's reputation,--for he could not with any
justice have punished her for the irregularities of her unmarried
life, and not even in this age, when we have organized divorce, could
such slips be brought forward against a wife of whom a husband had
become weary,--that we should be careful how we attach credit to what
is called the evidence against Catharine Howard; and her
contemporaries, who had means of weighing and criticizing that
evidence, did not agree in believing her guilty. Mr. Froude, who would,
to use a saying of Henry's time, find Abel guilty of murder of Cain,
were that necessary to support his royal favorite's hideous cause, not
only declares that the unhappy girl was guilty throughout, but lugs God
into the tragedy, and makes Him responsible for what was, perhaps, the
cruellest and most devilish of all the many murders perpetrated by
Henry VIII. The luckless lady was but a child at the time she was
devoured by "the jaws of darkness." At most she was but in her
twentieth year, and probably she was a year or two younger than that
age. Any other king than Henry would have pardoned her, if for no other
reason, then for this, that he had coupled her youth with his age, and
so placed her in an unnatural position, in which the temptation to
error was all the greater, and the less likely to be resisted, because
of the girl's evil training,--a training that could not have been
unknown to the King, and on the incidents of which the Protestant plot
for her ruin, and that of the political party of which she was the
instrument, had been founded. But of Henry VIII., far more truly than
of James II., could it have been said by any one of his innumerable
victims, that, though it was in his power to forgive an offender, it
was not in his nature to do so.

No tyrant ever was preceded to the tomb by such an array of victims as
Henry VIII. If Shakspeare had chosen to bring the highest of those
victims around the last bed that Henry was to press on earth, after the
fashion in which he sent the real or supposed victims of Richard III.
to haunt the last earthly sleep of the last royal Plantagenet, he would
have had to bring them up by sections, and not individually, in
battalions, and not as single spies. Buckingham, Wolsey, More, Fisher,
Catharine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Rocheford, Cromwell, Catharine
Howard, Exeter, Montague, Lambert, Aske, Lady Salisbury,
Surrey,--these, and hundreds of others, selected principally from the
patrician order, or from the officers of the old church, might have led
the ghostly array which should have told the monarch to die and to
despair of redemption; while an innumerable host of victims of lower
rank might have followed these more conspicuous sufferers from the
King's "jealous rage." Undoubtedly some of these persons had justly
incurred death, but it is beyond belief that they were all guilty of
the crimes laid to their charge; yet Mr. Froude can find as little
good in any of them as of evil in Henry's treatment of them. He would
have us believe that Henry was scrupulously observant of the law! and
that he allowed Cromwell to perish because he had violated the laws of
England, and sought to carry out that "higher law" which politicians
out of power are so fond of appealing to, but which politicians in
power seldom heed. And such stuff we are expected to receive as
historical criticism, and the philosophy of history! And pray, of what
breach of the law had the Countess of Salisbury been guilty, that she
should be sent to execution when she had arrived at so advanced an age
that she must soon have passed away in the course of Nature? She was
one of Cromwell's victims, and as he had been deemed unfit to live
because of his violations of the laws of the realm, it would follow
that one whose attainder had been procured through his devices could
not be fairly put to death. She suffered ten months after Cromwell, and
could have committed no fresh offence in the interval, as she was a
prisoner in the Tower at the time of her persecutor's fall, and so
remained until the day of her murder. The causes of her death,
however, are not far to seek: she was the daughter of George
Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV., and Henry hated
every member of that royal race which the Tudors had supplanted; and
she was the mother of Reginald Pole, whom the King detested both for
his Plantagenet blood and for the expositions which he made of the
despot's crimes.

One of the victims sacrificed by Mr. Froude on the altar of his Moloch
even he must have reluctantly brought to the temple, and have offered
up with a pang, but whose character he has blackened beyond all
redemption, as if he had used upon it all the dirt he has so
assiduously taken from the character of his royal favorite. There are
few names or titles of higher consideration than that of Henry Howard,
Earl of Surrey. It is sufficient to name Surrey to be reminded of the
high-born scholar, the gallant soldier, one of the founders of English
literature, and a poet of equal vigor of thought and melodiousness of
expression. His early and violent death, at the behest of a tyrant,
who himself had not ten days to live when he stamped--for he could no
longer write--the death-warrant of his noblest subject, has helped to
endear his memory for three centuries; and many a man whose sympathies
are entirely with the Reformation and the "new men" of 1546, regrets
the untimely death of the Byron of those days, though the noble poet
was at the head of the reactionary party, and desired nothing so much
as to have it in his power to dispose of the "new men," in which case
he would have had the heads of Hertford and his friends chopped off as
summarily as his own head fell before the mandate of the King.
Everything else is forgotten in the recollection of the Earl's youth,
his lofty origin, his brilliant talents, his rank as a man of letters,
and his prompt consignment to a bloody grave, the last of the legion of
patricians sent by Henry to the block or the gallows. Yet it is Surrey
upon whom Mr. Froude makes his last attack, and whom he puts down as a
dirty dog, in order that Henry VIII may not be seen devoting what were
all but his very latest hours to the task of completing the judicial
murder of one whom he hated because he was so wonderfully elevated
above all the rest of his subjects as to be believed capable of
snatching at the crown, though three of the King's children were then
alive, and there were several descendants of two of his sisters in both
Scotland and England. Because, of all men who were then living, Surrey
most deserved to reign over England, the jealous tyrant supposed there
could be no safety for his youthful son until the House of Howard had
been humiliated, and both its present head and its prospective head
ceased to exist. Not satisfied with attributing to him political
offences that do not necessarily imply baseness in the offender, Mr.
Froude indorses the most odious charges that have been brought against
Surrey, and which, if well founded, utterly destroy all his claims to
be considered, we will not say a man of honor, but a man of common
decency. Without having stated much that is absolutely new, Mr. Froude
has so used his materials as to create the impression that Surrey, the
man honored for three centuries as one of the most chivalrous of
Englishmen, and as imbued with the elevating spirit of poetry, was a
foul fellow, who sought to engage his sister in one of the vilest
intrigues ever concocted by courtier, in order that she might be made a
useful instrument in the work of changing the political condition of
England. Henry's illegitimate son, Henry Fitz-Roy, Duke of Richmond,
whom he had at one time thought of declaring his successor, died,
leaving a widow, who was Surrey's sister. This lady told Sir Gawin
Carew that her brother had advised her so to bear herself toward the
King that possibly "his Majesty might cast some love unto her, whereby
in process she should bear as great a stroke about him as Madame
d'Estampes did about the French king." Madame d'Estampes was the most
notorious and influential of Francis I.'s many mistresses; and if
Carew's evidence is to be depended upon, we see what was the part
assigned by Surrey to his sister in the political game the old
aristocracy and the Catholics were playing. She, the widow of the
King's son, was to seduce the King, and to become his mistress! Carew's
story was confirmed by another witness, and Lady Richmond had
complained of Surrey's "language to her with abhorrence and disgust,
and had added, 'that she defied her brother, and said that they should
all perish, and she would cut her own throat, rather than she would
consent to such villany.'" On Surrey's trial, Lady Richmond also
confirmed the story, and "revealed his deep hate of the 'new men,' who,
'when the King was dead,' he had sworn 'should smart for it.'" Such is
the tale, and such is the evidence upon which it rests. Its truth at
first appears to be beyond dispute, but it is possible that all the
witnesses lied, and that the whole process was a made-up thing to aid
in reconciling the public to the summary destruction of so illustrious
a man as Surrey; and it was well adapted to that end,--the English
people having exceeded all others in their regard for domestic
decencies and in reverence for the family relations of the sexes.
Should it be said that it is more probable that Surrey was guilty of
the moral offence charged upon him than that his sister could be
guilty of inventing the story and then of perjuring herself to support
it, we can but reply, that Lady Rocheford, wife of Anne Boleyn's
brother, testified that Anne had been guilty of incest with that
brother, and afterward, when about to die, admitted that she had
perjured herself. Of the two offences, supposing Lady Richmond to
have sworn away her brother's life, that of Lady Rocheford was by far
the more criminal, and it is beyond all doubt. So long as there is
room for doubting Surrey's guilt, we shall follow the teaching of the
charitable maxim of our law, and give him the benefit of the doubt
which is his due.

The question of the guilt or innocence of Anne Boleyn is a tempting
one, in connection with Henry VIII.'s history; but we have not now the
space that is necessary to treat it justly. We may take it up another
time, and follow Mr. Froude through his ingenious attempts to show that
Anne must have been guilty of incest and adultery, or else--dreadful
alternative!--we must come to the conclusion that Henry VIII. was not
the just man made perfect on earth.

* * * * *


Bedded in stone, a toad lived well,
Cold and content as toad could be;
As safe from harm as monk in cell,
Almost as safe from good was he

And "What is life?" he said, and dozed;
Then, waking, "Life is rest," quoth he:
"Each creature God in stone hath closed,
That each may have tranquillity.

"And God Himself lies coiled in stone,
Nor wakes nor moves to any call;
Each lives unto himself alone,
And cold and night envelop all."

He said, and slept. With curious ear
Close to the stone, a serpent lay.
"'T is false," he hissed with crafty sneer,
"For well I know God wakes alway.

"And what is life but wakefulness,
To glide through snares, alert and wise,--
With plans too deep for neighbors' guess,
And haunts too close for neighbors' eyes?

"For all the earth is thronged with foes,
And dark with fraud, and set with toils:
Each lies in wait, on each to close,
And God is bribed with share of spoils."

High in the boughs a small bird sang,
And marvelled such a creed should be.
"How strange and false!" his comment rang;
"For well I know that life is glee.

"For all the plain is flushed with bloom,
And all the wood with music rings,
And in the air is scarcely room
To wave our myriad flashing wings.

"And God, amid His angels high,
Spreads over all in brooding joy;
On great wings borne, entranced they lie,
And all is bliss without alloy."

"Ah, careless birdling, say'st thou so?"
Thus mused a man, the trees among:
"Thy creed is wrong; for well I know
That life must not be spent in song.

"For what is life, but toil of brain,
And toil of hand, and strife of will,--
To dig and forge, with loss and pain,
The truth from lies, the good from ill,--

"And ever out of self to rise
Toward love and law and constancy?
But with sweet love comes sacrifice,
And with great law comes penalty.

"And God, who asks a constant soul,
His creatures tries both sore and long:
Steep is the way, and far the goal,
And time is small to waste in song."

He sighed. From heaven an angel yearned:
With equal love his glances fell
Upon the man with soul upturned,
Upon the toad within its cell.

And, strange! upon that wondrous face
Shone pure all natures, well allied:
There subtlety was turned to grace,
And slow content was glorified;

And labor, love, and constancy
Put off their dross and mortal guise,
And with the look that is to be
They looked from those immortal eyes.

To the faint man the angel strong
Beached down from heaven, and shared his pain:
The one in tears, the one in song,
The cross was borne betwixt them twain.

He sang the careless bliss that lies
In wood-bird's heart, without alloy;
He sang the joy of sacrifice;
And still he sang, "_All_ life is joy."

But how, while yet he clasped the pain,
Thrilled through with bliss the angel smiled,
I know not, with my human brain,
Nor how the two he reconciled.

* * * * *


It was a long and terrible conflict,--I will not say where, because
that fact has nothing to do with my story. The Revolutionists were no
match in numbers for the mercenaries of the Dictator, but they fought
with the stormy desperation of the ancient Scythians, and they won, as
they deserved to win: for this was another revolt of freedom against
oppression, of conscience against tyranny, of an exasperated people
against a foreign despot. Every eye shone with the sublimity of a great
principle, and every arm was nerved with a strength grander and more
enduring than that imparted by the fierceness of passion or the
sternness of pride. As I flew from one part of the field to another, in
execution of the orders of my superior officer, I wondered whether
blood as brave and good dyed the heather at Bannockburn, or streamed
down the mountain-gorge where Tell met the Austrians at Morgarten, or
stained with crimson glare the narrow pass held by the Spartan three

Suddenly my horse, struck by a well-aimed ball, plunged forward in the
death-struggle, and fell with me, leaving me stunned for a little time,
though not seriously hurt. With returning consciousness came the
quickened perception which sometimes follows a slight concussion of the
brain, daguerreotyping upon my mind each individual of these fiery
ranks, in vivid, even painful clearness. As I watched with intensified
interest the hurrying panorama, the fine figure and face of my friend
Vilalba flashed before me. I noted at once the long wavy masses of
brown hair falling beneath the martial cap; the mouth, a feature seldom
beautiful in men, blending sweetness and firmness in rare degree, now
compressed and almost colorless; but the eyes! the "empty, melancholy
eyes"! what strange, glassy, introspective fixedness! what inexplicable
fascination, as if they were riveted on some object unseen by other
mortals! A glance sufficed to show to myself, at least, that he was in
a state of tense nervous excitation, similar to that of a subject of
mesmerism. A preternatural power seemed to possess him. He moved and
spoke like a somnambulist, with the same insulation from surrounding
minds and superiority to material obstacles. I had long known him as a
brave officer; but here was something more than bravery, more than the
fierce energy of the hour. His mien, always commanding, was now
imperial. In utter fearlessness of peril, he assumed the most exposed
positions, dashed through the strongest defences, accomplished with
marvellous dexterity a wellnigh impossible _coup-de-main_, and
all with the unrecognizing, changeless countenance of one who has no
choice, no volition, but is the passive slave of some resistless

After the conflict was over, I sought Vilalba, and congratulated him on
his brilliant achievement, jestingly adding that I knew he was leagued
with sorcery and helped on by diabolical arts. The cold evasiveness of
his reply confirmed my belief that the condition I have described was
abnormal, and that he was himself conscious of the fact.

Many years passed away, during which I met him rarely, though our
relations were always those of friendship. I heard of him as actively,
even arduously employed in public affairs, and rewarded by fortune and
position. The prestige of fame, unusual personal graces, and high
mental endowments gave him favor in social life; and women avowed that
the mingled truth and tenderness of his genial and generous nature were
all but irresistible. Nevertheless they were chagrined by his singular
indifference to their allurements; and many a fair one, even more
interested than inquisitive, vainly sought to break the unconquerable
reticence which, under apparent frankness, he relentlessly maintained.
He had, indeed, once been married, for a few years only; but his wife
was not of those who can concentrate and absorb the fulness of another
soul, wedding memory with immortal longing. Thus the problem of my
friend's life-long reserve continued to provoke curiosity until its
solution was granted to me alone, and, with it, the explanation of his
mesmeric entrancement on the occasion to which I have alluded. I repeat
the story because it is literally _true_, and because some of its
incidents may be classed among those psychological phenomena which form
the most occult, the most interesting, and the least understood of all
departments of human knowledge.

During a period of summer recreation I induced Vilalba to renew our
interrupted acquaintance by passing a month with me in my country
home. The moonlight of many years had blended its silver with his
still abundant locks, and the lines of thought were deepened in his
face, but I found him in other respects unchanged. He had the same
deep, metallic voice, so musical that to hear him say the slightest
things was a pleasure, the same graceful courtesy and happy elasticity
of temperament; and was full as ever of noble purposes, and the Roman
self-conviction of power to live them out. One of those nights that
"are not made for slumber" found us lingering beneath the odorous vines
which interlocked their gay blossoms around the slight columns of the
veranda, until even the gray surprise of dawn,--the "soft, guileless
consolations" of our cigars, as Aeschylus says of certain other
incense, the cool, fragrant breezes, gentle as remembered kisses upon
the brow, the tremulous tenderness of the star-beams, the listening
hush of midnight, having swayed us to a mood of pensiveness which found
a reflex in our conversation. From the warning glare of sunlight the
heart shuts close its secrets; but hours like these beguile from its
inmost depths those subtile emotions, and vague, dreamy, delicious
thoughts, which, like plants, waken to life only beneath the protecting
shadows of darkness. "Why is it," says Richter, "that the night puts
warmer love in our hearts? Is it the nightly pressure of helplessness,
or is it the exalting separation from the turmoils of life,--that
veiling of the world in which for the soul nothing then remains but
souls,--that causes the letters in which loved names are written to
appear like phosphorus-writing by night, on _fire_, while day, in
their cloudy traces, they but _smoke_?"

Insensibly we wandered into one of those weird passages of
psychological speculation, the border territory where reason and
illusion hold contested sway,--where the relations between spirit and
matter seem so incomprehensibly involved and complicated that we can
only feel, without being able to analyze them, and even the old words
created for our coarse material needs seem no more suitable than would
a sparrow's wings for the flight of an eagle.

"It is emphatically true of these themes," I remarked, after a long
rambling talk, half reverie, half reason, "that language conceals the
ideas, or, rather, the imaginations they evolve; for the word idea
implies something more tangible than vagaries which the Greek poet
would have called 'the dream of the shadow of smoke.' But yet more
unsatisfactory than the impotence of the type is the obscurity of the
thing typified. We can lay down no premises, because no basis can be
found for them,--and establish no axioms, because we have no
mathematical certainties. Objects which present the assurance of
palpable facts to-day may vanish as meteors to-morrow. The effort to
crystallize into a creed one's articles of faith in these mental
phantasmagoria is like carving a cathedral from sunset clouds, or
creating salient and retreating lines of armed hosts in the northern
lights. Though willing dupes to the pretty fancy, we know that before
the light of science the architecture is resolved into mist, and the
battalions into a stream of electricity."

"Not so," replied Vilalba. "Your sky-visions are a deceit, and you know
it while you enjoy them. But the torch of science is by no means
incendiary to the system of psychology. Arago himself admits that it
may one day obtain a place among the exact sciences, and speaks of the
actual power which one human being may exert over another without the
intervention of any known physical agent; while Cuvier and other noted
scientists concede even more than this."

"Do you, then, believe," I asked, "that there is between the silent
grave and the silent stars an answer to this problem we have discussed
to-night, of the inter-relation between spirit and matter, between
soul and soul? To me it seems hopelessly inscrutable, and all effort
to elucidate it, like the language of the Son of Maia, 'by night
bringeth darkness before the eyes, and in the daytime nought clearer.'
I shall as soon expect to wrest her buried secrets from the Sphinx, or
to revive the lost mysteries of the Egyptian priesthood."

"And yet, most of those marvels," answered my friend, "as well as the
later oracles of Greece, and the clairvoyance, mesmerism, etc., of
modern times, were probably the result of a certain power of the mind
to shake off for a time its fetters in defiance of physical
impediments, and even to exert its control over the senses and will and
perception of another. I do not doubt that in certain conditions of
the mind there arise potentialities wonderful as any ever conceived by
fiction, and that these are guided by laws unannounced as yet, but
which will be found in some future archives, inducted in symmetrical
clearness through the proper process of phenomena, classification, and
generalized statement. My own experience suffices to myself for both
assurance and prophecy. Although the loftiest, sweetest music of the
soul is yet unwritten, its faint articulations interblend with the
jangling discords of life, as the chimes of distant bells float through
the roar of winds and waves, and chant to imperilled hearts the songs
of hope and gladness."

His voice fell to the low, earnest tone of one who has found in life a
pearl of truth unseen by others; and as his eye gleamed in the
starlight, I saw that it wore the same speculative expression as on the
battle-field twenty years before. A slight tremor fled through his
frame, as though he had been touched by an invisible hand, and a faint
smile of recognition brightened his features.

"How can we explain," continued he, after a brief pause, "this mystery
of PRESENCE? Are you not often conscious of being actually nearer to a
mind a thousand miles distant than to one whose outer vestments you can
touch? We certainly feel, on the approach of a person repulsive, not
necessarily to our senses, but to our instincts,--which in this case
are notes of warning from the remote depths of the soul,--as if our
entire being intrenched itself behind a vitally repellent barrier, in
absolute security that no power in the universe can break through it,
in opposition to our will. For the will does not seem to create the
barrier, but to guard it; and, thus defended, material contact with the
individual affects us no more than the touch of a plaster statue. We
are each, and must remain, mutually unknowing and unknown. On the other
hand, does not fixed and earnest thought upon one we love seem to bring
the companion-spirit within the sacred temple of our own being,
infolded as a welcome guest in our warm charities and gentle joys, and
imparting in return the lustre of a serene and living beauty? If, then,
those whom we do not recognize as kindred are repelled, even though
they approach us through the aid and interpretation of the senses, why
may not the loved be brought near without that aid, through the more
subtile and more potent attraction of sympathy? I do not mean nearness
in the sense of memory or imagination, but that actual propinquity of
spirit which I suppose implied in the recognition of Presence. Nor do I
refer to any volition which is dependent on the known action of the
brain, but to a hidden faculty, the germ perhaps of some higher
faculty, now folded within the present life like the wings of a
chrysalis, which looks through or beyond the material existence, and
obtains a truer and finer perception of the spiritual than can be
filtered through the coarser organs of sight and hearing."

"Vilalba, you are evidently a disciple of Des Cartes. Your theory is
based on the idealistic principle, 'I think, therefore I am.' I confess
that I could never be satisfied with mere subjective consciousness on a
point which involves the cooperation of another mind. Nothing less than
the most positive and luminous testimony of the senses could ever
persuade me that two minds could meet and commune, apart from material

"I know," answered Vilalba, "that it is easier to feel than to reason
about things which lie without the pale of mathematical demonstration.
But some day, my friend, you will learn that beyond the arid
abstractions of the schoolmen, beyond the golden dreams of the poets,
there is a truth in this matter, faintly discerned now as the most dim
of yonder stars, but as surely a link in the chain which suspends the
Universe to the throne of God. However, your incredulity is
commendable, for doubt is the avenue to knowledge. I admit that no
testimony is conclusive save that of the senses, and such witness I
have received.

"You speak perpetual enigmas, and I suspect you--for the second
time--of tampering with the black arts. Do you mean to say that you are
a believer in the doctrine of palpable spiritual manifestation?"

"I might say in its favor," was the reply, "that apart from the
pretences and the plausibilities of to-day, many of which result from
the independent action of the mind through clairvoyance, and others
from mere excitation of the nervous sensibilities, the truth of that
theory is possibly implied in the wants of the soul; for a want proves
the existence of an antidote as effectually as a positive and negative
interchangeably bear witness to each other's existence. But if you will
have patience to listen to a story of my own life, I can better explain
how my convictions have been beguiled into the credence which appears
to you unphilosophical, if not absurd."

"I will listen with pleasure,--first lighting another cigar to dispel
the weird shapes which will probably respond to your incantation."

Vilalba smiled slightly.

"Do not be disturbed. The phantoms will not visit you, not, I fear,
myself either. But you must promise faith in my veracity; for I am
about to tell you a tale of fact, and not of fancy.

"It happened to me many years ago,--how flatteringly that little
phrase seems to extend the scale of one's being!--when I had just
entered on the active duties of manhood, that some affairs called me to
New Orleans, and detained me there several months. Letters of
friendship gave me admission into some of the most agreeable French
families of that _quasi_ Parisian city, and in the reception of
their hospitality I soon lost the feeling of isolation which attends a
stranger in a crowded mart. My life at that time was without shadows. I
had health, friends, education, position,--youth, as well, which then
seemed a blessing, though I would not now exchange for it my crown of
years and experience. Fortune only I then had not; and because I had it
not, I am telling you, to-night, this story.

"It chanced, one day, that I was invited to dine at the house of an
aristocratic subject of the old French _regime_. I did not know
the family, and a previous engagement tempted me to decline the
invitation; but one of those mysterious impulses which are in fact the
messengers of Destiny compelled me to go, and I went. Thus slight may
be the thread which changes the entire web of the future! After
greeting my host, and the party assembled in the drawing-room, my
attention was arrested by a portrait suspended in a recess, and partly
veiled by purple curtains, like Isis within her shrine. The lovely,
living eyes beamed upon me out of the shrine, radiant with an internal
light I had never before seen on canvas. The features were harmonious,
the complexion pure and clear, and the whole picture wore an air of
graceful, gentle girlhood, glowing, like Undine, with the flush of 'the
coming soul.' I hardly knew whether the face was strictly beautiful
according to the canons of Art; for only a Shakspeare can be at the
same time critical and sympathetic, and my criticism was baffled and
blinded by the fascination of those wondrous eyes. They reminded me of
what a materialist said of the portraits of Prudhon,--that they were
enough to make one believe in the immortality of the soul. Life
multiplied by feeling into a limitless dream of past and future was
mirrored in their clear depths; the questful gaze seemed reading the
significance of the one through the symbols of the other, and pondering
the lesson with sweetness of assent and ever-earnest longing for fuller

"As I lingered before this fair shadow, I heard my name pronounced,
and, turning, beheld the not less fair original, the daughter of my
host. Now do not fear a catalogue of feminine graces, or a lengthened
romance of the heart, tedious with such platitudes as have been Elysium
to the actors, and weariness to the audience, ever since the world
began. The Enchanted Isles wear no enchantment to unanointed vision;
their skies of Paradise are fog, their angels Harpies, perchance, or
harsh-throated Sirens. Besides, we can never describe correctly those
whom we love, because we see them through the heart; and the heart's
optics have no technology. It is enough to say, that, from almost the
first time I looked upon Blanche, I felt that I had at last found the
gift rarely accorded to us here,--the fulfilment of a promise hidden
in every heart, but often waited for in vain. Hitherto my all-sufficing
self-hood had never been stirred by the mighty touch of Love. I had
been amused by trivial and superficial affections, like the gay
triflers of whom Rasselas says, 'They fancied they were in love, when
in truth they were only idle.' But that sentiment which is never twice
inspired, that new birth of

'A soul within the soul, evolving it sublimely,'

had never until now wakened my pulses and opened my eyes to the higher
and holier heritage. Perhaps you doubt that Psychal fetters may be
forged in a moment's heat; but I believe that the love which is deepest
and most sacred, and which Plato calls the memory of divine beings whom
we knew in some anterior life, that recognition of kindred natures
which precedes reason and asks no leave of the understanding, is not a
gradual and cautious attraction, like the growth of a coral reef, but
sudden and magnetic as the coalescence of two drops of mercury.

"During several following weeks we met many times, and yet, in looking
back to that dream of heaven, I cannot tell how often, nor for how
long. Time is merely the measure given to past emotions, and those
emotions flowed over me in a tidal sweep which merged all details in
one continuous memory. The lone hemisphere of my life was rounded into
completeness, and its feverish unrest changed to deep tranquillity, as
if a faint, tremulous star were transmuted into a calm, full-orbed
planet. Do you remember that story of Plato's--I recall the air-woven
subtilties of the delightful idealist, to illustrate, not to
prove--that story of the banquet where the ripe wines of the Aegean
Isles unchained the tongues of such talkers as Pausanias and Socrates
and others as witty and wise, until they fell into a discourse on the
origin of Love, and, whirling away on the sparkling eddies of fancy,
were borne to that preexistent sphere which, in Plato's opinion,
furnished the key to all the enigmas of this? There they beheld the
complete and original souls, the compound of male and female, dual and
yet one, so happy and so haughty in their perfection of beauty and of
power that Jupiter could not tolerate his godlike rivals, and therefore
cut them asunder, sending the dissevered halves tumbling down to earth,
bewildered and melancholy enough, until some good fortune might restore
to each the _alter ego_ which constituted the divine unity. 'And
thus,' says Plato, 'whenever it happens that a man meets with his other
half, the very counterpart of himself, they are both smitten with
strong love; they recognize their ancient union; they are powerfully
attracted by the consciousness that they belong to each other; and they
are unwilling to be again parted, even for a short time. And if Vulcan
were to stand over them with his fire and forge, and offer to melt them
down and run them together, and of two to make them one again, they
would both say that this was just what they desired!'

"I dare say you have read--unless your partiality for the soft Southern
tongues has chased away your Teutonic taste--that exquisite poem of
Schiller's, 'Das Geheimnitz der Reminiscenz,' the happiest possible
crystallization of the same theory. I recall a few lines from Bulwer's
fine translation:--

"'Why from its lord doth thus my soul depart?
Is it because its native home thou art?
Or were they brothers in the days of yore,
Twin-bound both souls, and in the links they bore
Sigh to be bound once more?

"'Were once our beings blent and intertwining,
And therefore still my heart for thine is pining?
Knew we the light of some extinguished sun,--
The joys remote of some bright realm undone,
Where once our souls were ONE?

"'Yes, it is so! And thou wert bound to me
In the long-vanished eld eternally!
In the dark troubled tablets which enroll
The past my Muse beheld this blessed scroll,--
'One with thy love, my soul'!"

"Now the Athenian dreamer builded better than he knew. That phantom
which perpetually attends and perpetually evades us,--the inevitable
guest whose silence maddens and whose sweetness consoles,--whose filmy
radiance eclipses all beauty,--whose voiceless eloquence subdues all
sound,--ever beckoning, ever inspiring, patient, pleading, and
unchanging,--this is the Ideal which Plato called the dearer self,
because, when its craving sympathies find reflex and response in a
living form, its rapturous welcome ignores the old imperfect being, and
the union only is recognized as Self indeed, complete and undivided.
And that fulness of human love becomes a faint type and interpreter of
the Infinite, as through it we glide into grander harmonies and
enlarged relations with the Universe, urged on forever by insatiable
desires and far-reaching aspirations which testify our celestial
origin and intimate our immortal destiny.

"'Lo! arm in arm, through every upward grade,
From the rude Mongol to the starry Greek,
everywhere we seek
Union and bond, till in one sea sublime
Of love be merged all measure and all time!"

"I never disclosed in words my love to Blanche. Through the lucid
transparency of Presence, I believed that she knew all and
comprehended all, without the aid of those blundering symbols. We never
even spoke of the future; for all time, past and to come, seemed to
converge and centre and repose in that radiant present. In the
enchantment of my new life, I feared lest a breath should disturb the
spell, and send me back to darkness and solitude.

"Of course, this could not last forever. There came a time when I found
that my affairs would compel me to leave New Orleans for a year, or
perhaps a little longer. With the discovery my dream was broken. The
golden web which had been woven around me shrank beneath the iron hand
of necessity, and fell in fragments at my feet. I knew that it was
useless to speak to Blanch of marriage, for her father, a stern and
exacting man in his domestic relations, had often declared that he
would never give his daughter to a husband who had no fortune. If I
sought his permission to address her now, my fate was fixed. There was
no alternative, therefore, but to wait until my return, when I hoped to
have secured, in sufficient measure, the material passport to his
favor. Our parting was necessarily sudden, and, strange as it may seem,
some fatal repression sealed my lips, and withheld me from uttering the
few words which would have made the future wholly ours, and sculptured
my dream of love in monumental permanance. Ah! with what narrow and
trembling planks do we bridge the abyss of misery and despair! But be
patient while I linger for a moment here. The evening before my
departure, I went to take leave of her. There were other guests in the
drawing-room, the atmosphere was heated and oppressive, and after a
little time I proposed to her to retreat with me, for a few moments, to
the fragrant coolness of the garden. We walked slowly along through
clustering flowers and under arching orange-trees, which infolded us
tenderly within their shining arms, as in tremulous silence we waited
for words that should say enough and yet not too much. The glories of
all summer evenings seemed concentred in this one. The moon now
silvered leaf and blossom, and then suddenly fled behind a shadowing
cloud, while the stars shone out with gladness brief and bright as the
promises of my heart. Skilful artists in the music-room thrilled the
air with some of those exquisite compositions of Mendelssohn which
dissolve the soul in sweetness or ravish it with delight, until it
seems as if all past emotions of joy were melted in one rapid and
comprehensive reexperience, and all future inheritance gleamed in
promise before our enraptured vision, and we are hurried on with
electric speed to hitherto unsealed heights of feeling, whence we catch
faint glimpses of the unutterable mysteries of our being, and
foreshadowings of a far-off, glorified existence. The eloquence of
earth and sky and air breathed more than language could have uttered,
and, as my eyes met the eyes of Blanche, the question of my heart was
asked and answered, once for all. I recognized the treasured ideal of
my restless, vagrant heart, and I seemed to hear it murmuring gently,
as if to a long-lost mate, _'Where hast thou stayed so long?'_ I
felt that henceforth there was for us no real parting. Our material
forms might be severed, but our spirits were one and inseparate.

"'On the fountains of our life a seal was set
To keep their waters clear and bright

"And thus, with scarce a word beside, I said the 'God be with you!' and
went out into the world alone, yet henceforth not alone.

"Two years passed away. They had been years of success in my worldly
affairs, and were blessed by memories and hopes which grew brighter
with each day. I had not heard of Blanche, save indirectly through a
friend in New Orleans, but I never doubted that the past was as sacred,
the future as secure, in her eyes as in my own. I was now ready to
return, and to repeat in words the vows which my heart had sworn long
before. I fixed the time, and wrote to my friend to herald my coming.
Before that letter reached him, there came tidings which, like a storm
of desolation, swept me to the dust. Blanche was in France, and
married,--how or when or to whom, I knew not, cared not. The
relentless fact was sufficient. The very foundations of the earth
seemed to tremble and slide from beneath me. The sounds of day
tortured, the silence of night maddened me. I sought forgetfulness in
travel, in wild adventure, in reckless dissipation. With that strange
fatality which often leads us to seek happiness or repose where we have
least chance of finding it, I, too, married. But I committed no
perjury. I offered friendship, and it sufficed. Love I never professed
to give, and the wife whom I merely esteemed had not the mental or the
magnetic ascendancy which might have triumphed for a time over the
image shrined in my inmost heart. I sought every avenue through which
I might fly from that and from myself. I tried mental occupation, and
explored literature and science, with feverish ardor and some reward. I
think it is Coleridge who recommends to those who are suffering from
extreme sorrow the study of a new language. But to a mind of deep
feeling diversion is not relief. If we fly from memory, we are pursued
and overtaken like fugitive slaves, and punished with redoubled
tortures. The only sure remedy for grief is self-evolved. We must
accept sorrow as a guest, not shun it as a foe, and, receiving it into
close companionship, let the mournful face haunt our daily paths, even
though it shut out all friends and dim the light of earth and heaven.
And when we have learned the lesson which it came to teach, the fearful
phantom brightens into beauty, and reveals an 'angel unawares,' who
gently leads us to heights of purer atmosphere and more extended
vision, and strengthens us for the battle which demands unfaltering
heart and hope.

"Do you remember the remark of the child Goethe, when his young reason
was perplexed by attempting to reconcile the terrible earthquake at
Lisbon with the idea of infinite goodness? 'God knows very well that an
immortal soul cannot suffer from mortal accident.' With similar faith
there came to me tranquil restoration. The deluge of passion rolled
back, and from the wreck of my Eden arose a new and more spiritual
creation. But forgetfulness was never possible. In the maddening
turbulence of my grief and the ghastly stillness of its reaction, the
lovely spirit which had become a part of my life seemed to have fled to
the inner temple of my soul, breaking the solitude with glimmering
ray and faint melodious murmur. And when I could bear to look and
listen, it grew brighter and more palpable, until at last it attended
me omnipresently, consoling, cheering, and stimulating to nobler
thought and action.

"Nor was it a ghost summoned by memory, or the airy creation of fancy.
One evening an incident occurred which will test your credulity, or
make you doubt my sanity. I sat alone, and reading,--nothing more
exciting, however, than a daily newspaper. My health was perfect, my
mind unperturbed. Suddenly my eye was arrested by a cloud passing
slowly back and forth several times before me, not projected upon the
wall, but floating in the atmosphere. I looked around for the cause,
but the doors and windows were closed, and nothing stirred in the
apartment. Then I saw a point of light, small as a star at first, but
gradually enlarging into a luminous cloud which filled the centre of
the room. I shivered with strange coldness, and every nerve tingled as
if touched by a galvanic battery. From the tremulous waves of the cloud
arose, like figures in a dissolving view, the form and features of my
lost love,--not radiant as when I last looked upon them, but pale and
anguish-stricken, with clasped hands and tearful eyes; and upon my ears
fell, like arrows of fire, the words, _You have been the cause of all
this; oh, why did you not'_--The question was unfinished, and from
my riveted gaze, half terror, half delight, the vision faded, and I was

"Of course you will pronounce this mere nervous excitement, but, I pray
you, await the sequel. Those burning words told the story of that
mistake which had draped in despair our earthly lives. They were no
reflection from my own mind. In the self-concentration of my
disappointment, I had never dreamed that I alone was in fault,--that I
should have anchored my hope on somewhat more defined than the
voiceless intelligence of sympathy. But the very reproach of the
mysterious visitor brought with it a conviction, positive and
indubitable, that the spiritual portion of our being possesses the
power to act upon the material perception of another, without aid from
material elements. From time to time I have known, beyond the
possibility of deception, that the kindred spirit was still my
companion, my own inalienable possession, in spite of all factitious
ties, of all physical intervention.

"Have you heard that among certain tribes of the North-American Indians
are men who possess an art which enables them to endure torture and
actual death without apparent suffering or even consciousness? I once
chanced to fall in with one of these tribes, then living in Louisiana,
now removed to the far West, and was permitted to witness some
fantastic rites, half warlike, half religious, in which, however,
there was nothing noticeable except this trance-like condition, which
some of the warriors seemed to command at pleasure, manifested by a
tense rigidity of the features and muscles, and a mental exaltation
which proved to be both clairvoyant and clairoyant: a state analogous
to that of hypnotism, or the artificial sleep produced by gazing
fixedly on a near, bright object, and differing only in degree from
the nervous or imaginative control which has been known to arrest and
cure disease, which chained St. Simeon Stylites to his pillar, and
sustains the Hindoo fakirs in their apparently superhuman vigils. These
children of Nature had probed with direct simplicity some of the deep
secrets which men of science often fail to discern through tortuous
devices. I was assured that this trance was merely the result of a
concentrative energy of the will, which riveted the faculties upon a
single purpose or idea, and held every nerve and sense in absolute
abeyance. We are so little accustomed to test the potency of the will
out of the ordinary plane of its operation, that we have little
conception how mighty a lever it may be made, or to what new exercise
it may be directed; and yet we are all conscious of periods in our
lives when, like a vast rock in ocean, it has suddenly loomed up firm
and defiant amid our petty purposes and fretful indecisions, waxing
grander and stronger under opposition, a something apart from, yet a
conscious portion of ourselves,--a master, though a slave,--another
revelation of the divinity within.

"I will confess that curiosity led me long ago to slight experiments in
the direction in which you say the diabolic lies, but my mind was
never concentrated on any one idea of sufficient interest to command
success, until, in some periods of mingled peril and excitement, the
memory of Blanche, and the conscious, even startling nearness of that
sweet presence, have lent to my will unwonted energy and inspiration.

"Twenty years passed slowly away. It is common to speak of the
_flight_ of time. For me, time has no wings. The days and years
are faltering and tardy-footed, laden with the experiences of the
outer and the problems of the inner world, which seem perpetually
multiplied by reflection, like figures in a room mirrored on all
sides. Meanwhile, my wife had died. I have never since sought women
beyond the formal pale of the drawing-room: not from insensibility to
loveliness, but because the memory, 'dearer far than bliss,' of one
irretrievable affection shut out all inferior approach,--like a
solitary planet, admitting no dance of satellites within its orbit.

"At last the long silence was broken. I heard that Blanche was free,
and, with mingled haste and hesitation, I prepared to seek her. The
ideal should be tested, I said to myself, by the actual, and if proved
a deceit, then was all faith a mockery, all promise and premonition a
glittering lie. As soon as winds and waves could carry me, I was in
Louisiana, and in the very dwelling and at the same hour which had
witnessed our parting. Again was it a soft summer evening. The same
faint golden rays painted the sun's farewell, and the same silver moon
looked eloquent response, as on the evening breeze floated sweet
remembered odors of jessamine and orange. Again the ideal beauty of the
lovely portrait met my gaze and seemed to melt into my heart; and
once more, softly, lightly, fell a footstep, and the Presence by which
I had never been forsaken, which I could never forsake, stood before me
in 'palpable array of sense.' It was indeed the living Blanche, calm
and stately as of old,--no longer radiant with the flush of youth, but
serene in tenderest grace and sweet reserve, and beautiful through the
lustre of the inner light of soul. She uttered a faint cry of joy, and
placing her trembling hand in mine, we stood transfixed and silent,
with riveted gaze, reading in each other's eyes feelings too sacred for
speech, too deep for smiles or tears. In that long, burning look, it
seemed as if the emotions of each were imparted to the other, not in
slow succession as through words and sentences, but daguerreotyped or
electrotyped in perfected form upon the conscious understanding. No
language could have made so clear and comprehensible the revelation of
that all-centring, unconquerable love which thrilled our inmost being,
and pervaded the atmosphere around us with subtile and tremulous
vibrations. In that moment all time was fused and forgotten. There was
for us no Past, no Future; there was only the long-waited,
all-embracing Now. I could willingly have died then and there, for I
knew that all life could bring but one such moment. My heart spoke
truly. A change passed over the countenance of Blanche,--an expression
of unutterable grief, like Eve's retrospective look at Eden. Quivering
with strange tremor, again she stood before me, with clasped hands and
tearful eyes, in the very attitude of that memorable apparition, and
again fell upon my ears the mysterious plaint and the uncompleted
question,--_'You have been the cause of all this; oh, why did you

"Now, my friend, can your philosophy explain this startling
verification, this reflex action of the vision, or the fantasy, or
whatever else you may please to term it, whose prophetic shadow fell
upon my astonished senses long years before? In all the intervening
time, we were separated by great distance, no word or sign passed
between us, nor did we even hear of each other except indefinitely and
through chance. Is there, then, any explanation of that vision more
rational than that the spirit thus closely affined with my own was
enabled, through its innate potencies, or through some agency of which
we are ignorant, to impress upon my bodily perceptions its
uncontrollable emotions? That this manifestation was made through what
physiologists call the unconscious or involuntary action of the mind
was proved by the incredulity and surprise of Blanche when I told her
of the wonderful coincidence.

"I need not relate, even if I could do so, the outpouring of long-pent
emotions which relieved the yearning love and haunting memories of sad,
silent, lingering years. It is enough to tell you briefly of the
story which was repeated in fragments through many hours of unfamiliar
bliss. Soon after my departure from New Orleans, the father of Blanche,
with the stern authority which many parents exercise over the
matrimonial affairs of their daughters, insisted upon her forming an
alliance to which the opposition of her own heart was the only
objection. So trifling an impediment was decisively put aside by him,
and Blanche, having delayed the marriage as long as possible, until the
time fixed for my return was past, and unable to plead any open
acknowledgment on my part which could justify her refusal, had no
alternative but to obey. 'I confess,' said she, in faltering tones,
'that, after my fate was fixed, and I was parted from you, as I
believed for life, I tried to believe that the love which had given so
slight witness in words to its truth and fervor must have faded
entirely away, and that I was forgotten, and perhaps supplanted. And
therefore, in the varied pursuits and pleasures of my new sphere, and
in the indulgence and kindness which ministered to the outer, but,
alas! never to the inner life, I sought happiness, and I, too, like
yourself, strove to forget. Ah! that art of forgetting, which the
Athenian coveted as the best of boons,--when was it ever found through
effort or desire? In all scenes of beauty or of excitement, in the
allurements of society, in solitude and in sorrow, my heart still
turned to you with ceaseless longing, as if you alone could touch its
master-chord, and waken the harmonies which were struggling for
expression. By slow degrees, as I learned to dissever you from the
material world, there came a conviction of the nearness of your spirit,
sometimes so positive that I would waken from a reverie, in which I
was lost to sights and sounds around me, with a sense of having been
in your actual presence. I was aware of an effect rather than of an
immediate consciousness,--as if the magnetism of your touch had swept
over me, cooling the fever of my brain, and charming to deep
tranquillity my troubled heart. And thus I learned, through similar
experience, the same belief as yours. I have felt the continuous
nearness, the inseparable union of our spirits, as plainly as I feel
it now, with my hand clasped in yours, and reading in your eyes the
unutterable things which we can never hope to speak, because they are
foreshadowings of another existence.

"What I possess I see afar off lying,
And what I lost is real and undying."

The material presence is indeed very dear, but I believe that it is not
essential to the perpetuity of that love which is nurtured through
mutual and perfect understanding.'

"'It is not essential,' I replied, 'but it is, as you say, very, very
dear, because it is an exponent and participant of the hidden life
which it was designed to aid and to enframe. Blanche, it was you who
first wakened my soul to the glorious revelation, the heavenly
heritage of love. It was you who opened to me the world which lies
beyond the mere external, who gently allured me from the coarse and
clouding elements of sense, and infolded me in the holy purity of that
marriage of kindred natures which alone is hallowed by the laws of
God, and which no accidents of time or place can rend asunder. Apart
from the bitterness of this long separation, the lesson might not have
been learned; but now that it is ineffaceably engraven on both our
hearts, and confirmed in the assurance of this blessed reunion, may I
not hope that for the remainder of our earthly lives we may study
together in visible companionship such further lessons as may be held
in reserve for us?'

"Her face glowed with a soft crimson flush, and again her eyes were
suffused with tears, through which beamed a look of sweet, heavenly
sorrow,--such as might have shone in the orbs of the angel who enforced
upon Adam the sentence of expulsion from Paradise, and who, while
sharing the exile's grief, beheld in the remote horizon, far beyond the
tangled wilderness of Earth, another gate, wide opening to welcome him
to the Immortal Land. She was silent for a little time, and then she
murmured, lingering gently on the words, 'No, it must not be. We are,
indeed, inalienably one, in a nearer and dearer sense than can be
expressed by any transient symbol. Let us not seek to quit the
spiritual sphere in which we have long dwelt and communed together, for
one liable to discord and misinterpretation. I have an irresistible
impression that my life here will be very brief. While I remain, come
to me when you will, let me be the Egeria of your hours of leisure, and
a consoler in your cares,--but let us await, for another and a higher
life, the more perfect consummation of our love. For, oh, believe, as I
believe, faith is no mockery, nor is the heart's prophecy a lie. We
were not born to be the dupes of dreams or the sport of chance. The
voice which whispered to me long ago the promise fulfilled in this hour
tells me that in a bright Hereafter we shall find compensation for
every sorrow, reality for every ideal, and that there at last shall be
resolved in luminous perception the veiled and troubled mystery of

* * * * *



There is no remoteness of life and thought, no hermetically sealed
seclusion, except, possibly, that of the grave, into which the
disturbing influences of this war do not penetrate. Of course, the
general heart-quake of the country long ago knocked at my cottage-door,
and compelled me, reluctantly, to suspend the contemplation of certain
fantasies, to which, according to my harmless custom, I was endeavoring
to give a sufficiently life-like aspect to admit of their figuring in a
romance. As I make no pretensions to state-craft or soldiership, and
could promote the common weal neither by valor nor counsel, it seemed,
at first, a pity that I should be debarred from such unsubstantial
business as I had contrived for myself, since nothing more genuine was
to be substituted for it. But I magnanimously considered that there is
a kind of treason in insulating one's self from the universal fear and
sorrow, and thinking one's idle thoughts in the dread time of civil
war; and could a man be so cold and hard-hearted, he would better
deserve to be sent to Fort Warren than many who have found their way
thither on the score of violent, but misdirected sympathies. I
remembered the touching rebuke administered by King Charles to that
rural squire the echo of whose hunting-horn came to the poor monarch's
ear on the morning before a battle, where the sovereignty and
constitution of England were to be set at stake. So I gave myself up to
reading newspapers and listening to the click of the telegraph, like
other people; until, after a great many months of such pastime, it grew
so abominably irksome that I determined to look a little more closely
at matters with my own eyes.

Accordingly we set out--a friend and myself--towards Washington, while
it was still the long, dreary January of our Northern year, though
March in name; nor were we unwilling to clip a little margin off the
five months' winter, during which there is nothing genial in New
England save the fireside. It was a clear, frosty morning, when we
started. The sun shone brightly on snow-covered hills in the
neighborhood of Boston, and burnished the surface of frozen ponds; and
the wintry weather kept along with us while we trundled through
Worcester and Springfield, and all those old, familiar towns, and
through the village-cities of Connecticut. In New York the streets were
afloat with liquid mud and slosh. Over New Jersey there was still a
thin covering of snow, with the face of Nature visible through the
rents in her white shroud, though with little or no symptom of reviving
life. But when we reached Philadelphia, the air was mild and balmy;
there was but a patch or two of dingy winter here and there, and the
bare, brown fields about the city were ready to be green. We had met
the Spring half-way, in her slow progress from the South; and if we
kept onward at the same pace, and could get through the Rebel lines, we
should soon come to fresh grass, fruit-blossoms, green peas,
strawberries, and all such delights of early summer.

On our way, we heard many rumors of the war, but saw few signs of it.
The people were staid and decorous, according to their ordinary
fashion; and business seemed about as brisk as usual,--though, I
suppose, it was considerably diverted from its customary channels into
warlike ones. In the cities, especially in New York, there was a rather
prominent display of military goods at the shopwindows,--such as
swords with gilded scabbards and trappings, epaulets, carabines,
revolvers, and sometimes a great iron cannon at the edge of the
pavement, as if Mars had dropped one of his pocket-pistols there,
while hurrying to the field. As railway-companions, we had now and then
a volunteer in his French-gray great-coat, returning from furlough, or
a new-made officer travelling to join his regiment, in his new-made
uniform, which was perhaps all of the military character that he had
about him,--but proud of his eagle-buttons, and likely enough to do
them honor before the gilt should be wholly dimmed. The country, in
short, so far as bustle and movement went, was more quiet than in
ordinary times, because so large a proportion of its restless elements
had been drawn towards the seat of conflict. But the air was full of a
vague disturbance. To me, at least, it seemed so, emerging from such a
solitude as has been hinted at, and the more impressible by rumors and
indefinable presentiments, since I had not lived, like other men, in
an atmosphere of continual talk about the war. A battle was momentarily
expected on the Potomac; for, though our army was still on the hither
side of the river, all of us were looking towards the mysterious and
terrible Manassas, with the idea that somewhere in its neighborhood
lay a ghastly battlefield, yet to be fought, but foredoomed of old to
be bloodier than the one where we had reaped such shame. Of all haunted
places, methinks such a destined field should be thickest thronged with
ugly phantoms, ominous of mischief through ages beforehand.

Beyond Philadelphia there was a much greater abundance of military
people. Between Baltimore and Washington a guard seemed to hold every
station along the railroad; and frequently, on the hill-sides, we saw a
collection of weather-beaten tents, the peaks of which, blackened with
smoke, indicated that they had been made comfortable by stove-heat
throughout the winter. At several commanding positions we saw
fortifications, with the muzzles of cannon protruding from the
ramparts, the slopes of which were made of the yellow earth of that
region, and still unsodded; whereas, till these troublous times, there
have been no forts but what were grass-grown with the lapse of at least
a lifetime of peace. Our stopping-places were thronged with soldiers,
some of whom came through the cars, asking for newspapers that
contained accounts of the battle between the Merrimack and Monitor,
which had been fought the day before. A railway-train met us, conveying
a regiment out of Washington to some unknown point; and reaching the
capital, we filed out of the station between lines of soldiers, with
shouldered muskets, putting us in mind of similar spectacles at the
gates of European cities. It was not without sorrow that we saw the
free circulation of the nation's life-blood (at the very heart,
moreover) clogged with such strictures as these, which have caused
chronic diseases in almost all countries save our own. Will the time
ever come again, in America, when we may live half a score of years
without once seeing the likeness of a soldier, except it be in the
festal march of a company on its summer tour? Not in this generation,
I fear, nor in the next, nor till the Millennium; and even that blessed
epoch, as the prophecies seem to intimate, will advance to the sound
of the trumpet.

One terrible idea occurs, in reference to this matter. Even supposing
the war should end to-morrow, and the army melt into the mass of the
population within the year, what an incalculable preponderance will
there be of military titles and pretensions for at least half a century
to come! Every country-neighborhood will have its general or two, its
three or four colonels, half a dozen majors, and captains without
end,--besides non-commissioned officers and privates, more than the
recruiting-offices ever knew of,--all with their campaign-stories,
which will become the staple of fireside-talk forevermore. Military
merit, or rather, since that is not so readily estimated, military
notoriety, will be the measure of all claims to civil distinction. One
bullet-headed general will succeed another in the Presidential chair;
and veterans will hold the offices at home and abroad, and sit in
Congress and the State legislatures, and fill all the avenues of public
life. And yet I do not speak of this deprecatingly, since, very likely,
it may substitute something more real and genuine, instead of the many
shams on which men have heretofore founded their claims to public
regard; but it behooves civilians to consider their wretched prospects
in the future, and assume the military button before it is too late.

We were not in time to see Washington as a camp. On the very day of
our arrival sixty thousand men had crossed the Potomac on their march
towards Manassas; and almost with their first step into the Virginia
mud, the phantasmagory of a countless host and impregnable ramparts,
before which they had so long remained quiescent, dissolved quite
away. It was as if General McClellan had thrust his sword into a
gigantic enemy, and, beholding him suddenly collapse, had discovered
to himself and the world that he had merely punctured an enormously
swollen bladder. There are instances of a similar character in old
romances, where great armies are long kept at bay by the arts of
necromancers, who build airy towers and battlements, and muster
warriors of terrible aspect, and thus feign a defence of seeming
impregnability, until some bolder champion of the besiegers dashes
forward to try an encounter with the foremost foeman, and finds him
melt away in the death-grapple. With such heroic adventures let the
march upon Manassas be hereafter reckoned. The whole business, though
connected with the destinies of a nation, takes inevitably a tinge of
the ludicrous. The vast preparation of men and warlike material,--the
majestic patience and docility with which the people waited through
those weary and dreary months,--the martial skill, courage, and
caution, with which our movement was ultimately made,--and, at last,
the tremendous shock with which we were brought suddenly up against
nothing at all! The Southerners show little sense of humor nowadays,
but I think they must have meant to provoke a laugh at our expense,
when they planted those Quaker guns. At all events, no other Rebel
artillery has played upon us with such overwhelming effect.

The troops being gone, we had the better leisure and opportunity to
look into other matters. It is natural enough to suppose that the
centre and heart of Washington is the Capitol; and certainly, in its
outward aspect, the world has not many statelier or more beautiful
edifices, nor any, I should suppose, more skilfully adapted to
legislative purposes, and to all accompanying needs. But, etc., etc.
[Footnote: We omit several paragraphs here, in which the author speaks
of some prominent Members of Congress with a freedom that seems to have
been not unkindly meant, but might be liable to misconstruction. As he
admits that he never listened to an important debate, we can hardly
recognize his qualification to estimate these gentlemen, in their
legislative and oratorical capacities.]

* * * * *

We found one man, however, at the Capitol, who was satisfactorily
adequate to the business which brought him thither. In quest of him, we
went through halls, galleries, and corridors, and ascended a noble
staircase, balustraded with a dark and beautifully variegated marble
from Tennessee, the richness of which is quite a sufficient cause for
objecting to the secession of that State. At last we came to a barrier
of pine boards, built right across the stairs. Knocking at a rough,
temporary door, we thrust a card beneath; and in a minute or two it was
opened by a person in his shirt-sleeves, a middle-aged figure, neither
tall nor short, of Teutonic build and aspect, with an ample beard of a
ruddy tinge and chestnut hair. He looked at us, in the first place,
with keen and somewhat guarded eyes, as if it were not his practice to
vouchsafe any great warmth of greeting, except upon sure ground of
observation. Soon, however, his look grew kindly and genial, (not that
it had ever been in the least degree repulsive, but only reserved,) and
Leutze allowed us to gaze at the cartoon of his great fresco, and
talked about it unaffectedly, as only a man of true genius can speak
of his own works. Meanwhile the noble design spoke for itself upon the
wall. A sketch in color, which we saw afterwards, helped us to form
some distant and flickering notion of what the picture will be, a few
months hence, when these bare outlines, already so rich in thought and
suggestiveness, shall glow with a fire of their own,--a fire which, I
truly believe, will consume every other pictorial decoration of the
Capitol, or, at least, will compel us to banish those stiff and
respectable productions to some less conspicuous gallery. The work
will be emphatically original and American, embracing characteristics
that neither art nor literature have yet dealt with, and producing new
forms of artistic beauty from the natural features of the
Rocky-Mountain region, which Leutze seems to have studied broadly and
minutely. The garb of the hunters and wanderers of those deserts, too,
under his free and natural management, is shown as the most
picturesque of costumes. But it would be doing this admirable painter
no kind office to overlay his picture with any more of my colorless
and uncertain words; so I shall merely add that it looked full of
energy, hope, progress, irrepressible movement onward, all represented
in a momentary pause of triumph; and it was most cheering to feel its
good augury at this dismal time, when our country might seem to have
arrived at such a deadly stand-still.

It was an absolute comfort, indeed, to find Leutze so quietly busy at
this great national work, which is destined to glow for centuries on
the walls of the Capitol, if that edifice shall stand, or must share
its fate, if treason shall succeed in subverting it with the Union
which it represents. It was delightful to see him so calmly
elaborating his design, while other men doubted and feared, or hoped
treacherously, and whispered to one another that the nation would
exist only a little longer, or that, if a remnant still held together,
its centre and seat of government would be far northward and westward
of Washington. But the artist keeps right on, firm of heart and hand,
drawing his outlines with an unwavering pencil, beautifying and
idealizing our rude, material life, and thus manifesting that we have
an indefeasible claim to a more enduring national existence. In honest
truth, what with the hope-inspiring influence of the design, and what
with Leutze's undisturbed evolvement of it, I was exceedingly
encouraged, and allowed these cheerful auguries to weigh against a
sinister omen that was pointed out to me in another part of the
Capitol. The freestone walls of the central edifice are pervaded with
great cracks, and threaten to come thundering down, under the immense
weight of the iron dome,--an appropriate catastrophe enough, if it
should occur on the day when we drop the Southern stars out of our

Everybody seems to be at Washington, and yet there is a singular dearth
of imperatively noticeable people there. I question whether there are
half a dozen individuals, in all kinds of eminence, at whom a stranger,
wearied with the contact of a hundred moderate celebrities, would turn
round to snatch a second glance. Secretary Seward, to be sure,--a
pale, large-nosed, elderly man, of moderate stature, with a decided
originality of gait and aspect, and a cigar in his mouth,--etc., etc.

[Footnote: We are again compelled to interfere with our friend's
license of personal description and criticism. Even Cabinet Ministers
(to whom the next few pages of the article were devoted) have their
private immunities, which ought to be conscientiously observed,--unless,
indeed, the writer chanced to have some very piquant motives for
violating them.]

* * * * *

Of course, there was one other personage, in the class of statesmen,
whom I should have been truly mortified to leave Washington without
seeing; since (temporarily, at least, and by force of circumstances)
he was the man of men. But a private grief had built up a barrier about
him, impeding the customary free intercourse of Americans with their
chief magistrate; so that I might have come away without a glimpse of
his very remarkable physiognomy, save for a semi-official opportunity
of which I was glad to take advantage. The fact is, we were invited to
annex ourselves, as supernumeraries, to a deputation that was about to
wait upon the President, from a Massachusetts whip-factory, with a
present of a splendid whip.

Our immediate party consisted only of four or five, (including Major
Ben Perley Poore, with his note-book and pencil.) but we were joined
by several other persons, who seemed to have been lounging about the
precincts of the White House, under the spacious porch, or within the
hall, and who swarmed in with us to take the chances of a presentation.
Nine o'clock had been appointed as the time for receiving the
deputation, and we were punctual to the moment; but not so the
President, who sent us word that he was eating his breakfast, and would
come as soon as he could. His appetite, we were glad to think, must
have been a pretty fair one; for we waited about half an hour in one of
the antechambers, and then were ushered into a reception-room, in one
corner of which sat the Secretaries of War and of the Treasury,
expecting, like ourselves, the termination of the Presidential
breakfast. During this interval there were several new additions to
our group, one or two of whom were in a working-garb, so that we formed
a very miscellaneous collection of people, mostly unknown to each
other, and without any common sponsor, but all with an equal right to
look our head-servant in the face. By-and-by there was a little stir on
the staircase and in the passageway, etc., etc.

[Footnote: We are compelled to omit two or three pages, in which the
author describes the interview, and gives his idea of the personal
appearance and deportment of the President. The sketch appears to have
been written in a benign spirit, and perhaps conveys a not inaccurate
impression of its august subject; but it lacks _reverence_, and it
pains us to see a gentleman of ripe age, and who has spent years under
the corrective influence of foreign institutions, falling into the
characteristic and most ominous fault of Young America.]

* * * * *

Good Heavens! what liberties have I been taking with one of the
potentates of the earth, and the man on whose conduct more important
consequences depend than on that of any other historical personage of
the century! But with whom is an American citizen entitled to take a
liberty, if not with his own chief magistrate? However, lest the above
allusions to President Lincoln's little peculiarities (already well
known to the country and to the world) should be misinterpreted, I deem
it proper to say a word or two, in regard to him, of unfeigned respect
and measurable confidence. He is evidently a man of keen faculties,
and, what is still more to the purpose, of powerful character. As to
his integrity, the people have that intuition of it which is never
deceived. Before he actually entered upon his great office, and for a
considerable time afterwards, there is no reason to suppose that he
adequately estimated the gigantic task about to be imposed on him, or,
at least, had any distinct idea how it was to be managed; and I presume
there may have been more than one veteran politician who proposed to
himself to take the power out of President Lincoln's hands into his
own, leaving our honest friend only the public responsibility for the
good or ill success of the career. The extremely imperfect development
of his statesmanly qualities, at that period, may have justified such
designs. But the President is teachable by events, and has now spent a
year in a very arduous course of education; he has a flexible mind,
capable of much expansion, and convertible towards far loftier studies
and activities than those of his early life; and if he came to
Washington a backwoods humorist, he has already transformed himself
into as good a statesman (to speak moderately) as his prime-minister.

Among other excursions to camps and places of interest in the
neighborhood of Washington, we went, one day, to Alexandria. It is a
little port on the Potomac, with one or two shabby wharves and docks,
resembling those of a fishing-village in New England, and the
respectable old brick town rising gently behind. In peaceful times it
no doubt bore an aspect of decorous quietude and dulness; but it was
now thronged with the Northern soldiery, whose stir and bustle
contrasted strikingly with the many closed warehouses, the absence of
citizens from their customary haunts, and the lack of any symptom of
healthy activity, while army-wagons trundled heavily over the
pavements, and sentinels paced the sidewalks, and mounted dragoons
dashed to and fro on military errands. I tried to imagine how very
disagreeable the presence of a Southern army would be in a sober town
of Massachusetts; and the thought considerably lessened my wonder at
the cold and shy regards that are cast upon our troops, the gloom, the
sullen demeanor, the declared or scarcely hidden sympathy with
rebellion, which are so frequent here. It is a strange thing in human
life, that the greatest errors both of men and women often spring from
their sweetest and most generous qualities; and so, undoubtedly,
thousands of warm-hearted, sympathetic, and impulsive persons have
joined the Rebels, not from any real zeal for the cause, but because,
between two conflicting loyalties, they chose that which necessarily
lay nearest the heart. There never existed any other Government against
which treason was so easy, and could defend itself by such plausible
arguments as against that of the United States. The anomaly of two
allegiances (of which that of the State comes nearest home to a man's
feelings, and includes the altar and the hearth, while the General
Government claims his devotion only to an airy mode of law, and has no
symbol but a flag) is exceedingly mischievous in this point of view;
for it has converted crowds of honest people into traitors, who seem to
themselves not merely innocent, but patriotic, and who die for a bad
cause with as quiet a conscience as if it were the best. In the vast
extent of our country,--too vast by far to be taken into one small
human heart,--we inevitably limit to our own State, or, at farthest,
to our own section, that sentiment of physical love for the soil which
renders an Englishman, for example, so intensely sensitive to the
dignity and well-being of his little island, that one hostile foot,
treading anywhere upon it, would make a bruise on each individual
breast. If a man loves his own State, therefore, and is content to be
ruined with her, let us shoot him, if we can, but allow him an
honorable burial in the soil he fights for. [Footnote: We do not
thoroughly comprehend the author's drift in the foregoing paragraph,
but are inclined to think its tone reprehensible, and its tendency
impolitic in the present stage of our national difficulties.]

In Alexandria, we visited the tavern in which Colonel Ellsworth was
killed, and saw the spot where he fell, and the stairs below, whence
Jackson fired the fatal shot, and where he himself was slain a moment
afterwards; so that the assassin and his victim must have met on the
threshold of the spirit-world, and perhaps came to a better
understanding before they had taken many steps on the other side.
Ellsworth was too generous to bear an immortal grudge for a deed like
that, done in hot blood, and by no skulking enemy. The memorial-hunters
have completely cut away the original wood-work around the spot, with
their pocket-knives; and the staircase, balustrade, and floor, as well
as the adjacent doors and doorframes, have recently been renewed; the
walls, moreover, are covered with new paper-hangings, the former having
been torn off in tatters; and thus it becomes something like a
metaphysical question whether the place of the murder actually exists.

Driving out of Alexandria, we stopped on the edge of the city to
inspect an old slave-pen, which is one of the lions of the place, but a
very poor one; and a little farther on, we came to a brick church where
Washington used sometimes to attend service,--a pre-Revolutionary
edifice, with ivy growing over its walls, though not very luxuriantly.
Reaching the open country, we saw forts and camps on all sides; some of
the tents being placed immediately on the ground, while others were
raised over a basement of logs, laid lengthwise, like those of a
log-hut, or driven vertically into the soil in a circle,--thus forming
a solid wall, the chinks closed up with Virginia mud, and above it the
pyramidal shelter of the tent. Here were in progress all the
occupations, and all the idleness, of the soldier in the tented field:
some were cooking the company-rations in pots hung over fires in the
open air; some played at ball, or developed their muscular power by
gymnastic exercise; some read newspapers; some smoked cigars or pipes;
and many were cleaning their arms and accoutrements,--the more
carefully, perhaps, because their division was to be reviewed by the
Commander-in-Chief that afternoon; others sat on the ground, while
their comrades cut their hair,--it being a soldierly fashion (and for
excellent reasons) to crop it within an inch of the skull; others,
finally, lay asleep in breast-high tents, with their legs protruding
into the open air.

We paid a visit to Fort Ellsworth, and from its ramparts (which have
been heaped up out of the muddy soil within the last few months, and
will require still a year or two to make them verdant) we had a
beautiful view of the Potomac, a truly majestic river, and the
surrounding country. The fortifications, so numerous in all this
region, and now so unsightly with their bare, precipitous sides, will
remain as historic monuments, grass-grown and picturesque memorials of
an epoch of terror and suffering: they will serve to make our country
dearer and more interesting to us, and afford fit soil for poetry to
root itself in: for this is a plant which thrives best in spots where
blood has been spilt long ago, and grows in abundant clusters in old
ditches, such as the moat around Fort Ellsworth will be a century
hence. It may seem to be paying dear for what many will reckon but a
worthless weed; but the more historical associations we can link with
our localities, the richer will be the daily life that feeds upon the
past, and the more valuable the things that have been long established:
so that our children will be less prodigal than their fathers in
sacrificing good institutions to passionate impulses and impracticable
theories. This herb of grace, let us hope, may be found in the old
footprints of the war.

Even in an aesthetic point of view, however, the war has done a great
deal of enduring mischief, by causing the devastation of great tracts
of woodland scenery, in which this part of Virginia would appear to
have been very rich. Around all the encampments, and everywhere along
the road, we saw the bare sites of what had evidently been tracts of
hard-wood forest, indicated by the unsightly stumps of well-grown
trees, not smoothly felled by regular axe-men, but hacked, haggled, and
unevenly amputated, as by a sword, or other miserable tool, in an
unskilful hand. Fifty years will not repair this desolation. An army
destroys everything before and around it, even to the very grass; for
the sites of the encampments are converted into barren esplanades, like
those of the squares in French cities, where not a blade of grass is
allowed to grow. As to other symptoms of devastation and obstruction,
such as deserted houses, unfenced fields, and a general aspect of
nakedness and ruin, I know not how much may be due to a normal lack of
neatness in the rural life of Virginia, which puts a squalid face even
upon a prosperous state of things; but undoubtedly the war must have
spoilt what was good, and made the bad a great deal worse. The
carcasses of horses were scattered along the way-side.

One very pregnant token of a social system thoroughly disturbed was
presented by a party of contrabands, escaping out of the mysterious
depths of Secessia; and its strangeness consisted in the leisurely
delay with which they trudged forward, as dreading no pursuer, and
encountering nobody to turn them back. They were unlike the specimens
of their race whom we are accustomed to see at the North, and, in my
judgment, were far more agreeable. So rudely were they attired,--as if
their garb had grown upon them spontaneously,--so picturesquely natural
in manners, and wearing such a crust of primeval simplicity, (which is
quite polished away from the Northern black man,) that they seemed a
kind of creature by themselves, not altogether human, but perhaps quite
as good, and akin to the fauns and rustic deities of olden times. I
wonder whether I shall excite anybody's wrath by saying this. It is no
great matter. At all events, I felt most kindly towards these poor
fugitives, but knew not precisely what to wish in their behalf, nor in
the least how to help them. For the sake of the manhood which is latent
in them, I would not have turned them back; but I should have felt
almost as reluctant, on their own account, to hasten them forward to
the stranger's land; and I think my prevalent idea was, that, whoever
may be benefited by the results of this war, it will not be the present
generation of negroes, the childhood of whose race is now gone forever,
and who must henceforth fight a hard battle with the world, on very
unequal terms. On behalf of my own race, I am glad, and can only hope
that an inscrutable Providence means good to both parties.

There is an historical circumstance, known to few, that connects the
children of the Puritans with these Africans of Virginia, in a very
singular way. They are our brethren, as being lineal descendants from
the Mayflower, the fated womb of which, in her first voyage, sent forth
a brood of Pilgrims upon Plymouth Rock, and, in a subsequent one,
spawned slaves upon the Southern soil,--a monstrous birth, but with
which we have an instinctive sense of kindred, and so are stirred by an
irresistible impulse to attempt their rescue, even at the cost of blood
and ruin. The character of our sacred ship, I fear, may suffer a little
by this revelation; but we must let her white progeny offset her dark
one,--and two such portents never sprang from an identical source

While we drove onward, a young officer on horseback looked earnestly
into the carriage, and recognized some faces that he had seen before;
so he rode along by our side, and we pestered him with queries and
observations, to which he responded more civilly than they deserved. He
was on General McClellan's staff, and a gallant cavalier, high-booted,
with a revolver in his belt, and mounted on a noble horse, which
trotted hard and high without disturbing the rider in his accustomed
seat. His face had a healthy hue of exposure and an expression of
careless hardihood; and, as I looked at him, it seemed to me that the
war had brought good fortune to the youth of this epoch, if to none
beside; since they now make it their daily business to ride a horse and
handle a sword, instead of lounging listlessly through the duties,
occupations, pleasures--all tedious alike--to which the artificial
state of society limits a peaceful generation. The atmosphere of the
camp and the smoke of the battle-field are morally invigorating; the
hardy virtues flourish in them, the nonsense dies like a wilted weed.
The enervating effects of centuries of civilization vanish at once,
and leave these young men to enjoy a life of hardship, and the
exhilarating sense of danger,--to kill men blamelessly, or to be
killed gloriously,--and to be happy in following out their native
instincts of destruction, precisely in the spirit of Homer's heroes,
only with some considerable change of mode. One touch of Nature makes
not only the whole world, but all time, akin. Set men face to face,
with weapons in their hands, and they are as ready to slaughter one
another now, after playing at peace and good-will for so many years, as
in the rudest ages, that never heard of peace-societies, and thought no
wine so delicious as what they quaffed from an enemy's skull. Indeed,
if the report of a Congressional committee may be trusted, that
old-fashioned kind of goblet has again come into use, at the expense of
our Northern head-pieces,--a costly drinking-cup to him that furnishes
it! Heaven forgive me for seeming to jest upon such a subject!--only,
it is so odd, when we measure our advances from barbarism, and find
ourselves just here! [Footnote: We hardly expected this outbreak in
favor of war from the Peaceable Man; but the justice of our cause
makes us all soldiers at heart, however quiet in our outward life. We
have heard of twenty Quakers in a single company of a Pennsylvania

We now approached General McClellan's head-quarters, which, at that
time, were established at Fairfield Seminary. The edifice was situated
on a gentle elevation, amid very agreeable scenery, and, at a
distance, looked like a gentleman's seat. Preparations were going
forward for reviewing a division of ten or twelve thousand men, the
various regiments composing which had begun to array themselves on an
extensive plain, where, methought, there was a more convenient place
for a battle than is usually found in this broken and difficult
country. Two thousand cavalry made a portion of the troops to be
reviewed. By-and-by we saw a pretty numerous troop of mounted officers,
who were congregated on a distant part of the plain, and whom we
finally ascertained to be the Commander-in-Chief's staff, with
McClellan himself at their head. Our party managed to establish itself
in a position conveniently close to the General, to whom, moreover, we
had the honor of an introduction; and he bowed, on his horseback,
with a good deal of dignity and martial courtesy, but no airs nor fuss
nor pretension beyond what his character and rank inevitably gave him.

Now, at that juncture, and, in fact, up to the present moment, there
was, and is, a most fierce and bitter outcry, and detraction loud and
low, against General McClellan, accusing him of sloth, imbecility,
cowardice, treasonable purposes, and, in short, utterly denying his
ability as a soldier, and questioning his integrity as a man. Nor was
this to be wondered at; for when before, in all history, do we find a
general in command of half a million of men, and in presence of an
enemy inferior in numbers and no better disciplined than his own
troops, leaving it still debatable, after the better part of a year,
whether he is a soldier or no? The question would seem to answer
itself in the very asking. Nevertheless, being most profoundly
ignorant of the art of war, like the majority of the General's critics,
and, on the other hand, having some considerable impressibility by
men's characters, I was glad of the opportunity to look him in the
face, and to feel whatever influence might reach me from his sphere. So
I stared at him, as the phrase goes, with all the eyes I had; and the
reader shall have the benefit of what I saw,--to which he is the more
welcome, because, in writing this article, I feel disposed to be
singularly frank, and can scarcely restrain myself from telling truths
the utterance of which I should get slender thanks for.

The General was dressed in a simple, dark-blue uniform, without
epaulets, booted to the knee, and with a cloth cap upon his head; and,
at first sight, you might have taken him for a corporal of dragoons, of
particularly neat and soldier-like aspect, and in the prime of his age
and strength. He is only of middling stature, but his build is very
compact and sturdy, with broad shoulders and a look of great physical
vigor, which, in fact, he is said to possess,--he and Beauregard having
been rivals in that particular, and both distinguished above other men.
His complexion is dark and sanguine, with dark hair. He has a strong,
bold, soldierly face, full of decision; a Roman nose, by no means a
thin prominence, but very thick and firm; and if he follows it, (which
I should think likely,) it may be pretty confidently trusted to guide
him aright. His profile would make a more effective likeness than the
full face, which, however, is much better in the real man than in any
photograph that I have seen. His forehead is not remarkably large, but
comes forward at the eyebrows; it is not the brow nor countenance of a
prominently intellectual man, (not a natural student, I mean, or
abstract thinker,) but of one whose office it is to handle things
practically and to bring about tangible results. His face looked
capable of being very stern, but wore, in its repose, when I saw it, an
aspect pleasant and dignified; it is not, in its character, an American
face, nor an English one. The man on whom he fixes his eye is conscious
of him. In his natural disposition, he seems calm and self-possessed,
sustaining his great responsibilities cheerfully, without shrinking,
or weariness, or spasmodic effort, or damage to his health, but all
with quiet, deep-drawn breaths; just as his broad shoulders would bear
up a heavy burden without aching beneath it.

After we had had sufficient time to peruse the man, (so far as it could
be done with one pair of very attentive eyes,) the General rode off,
followed by his cavalcade, and was lost to sight among the troops. They
received him with loud shouts, by the eager uproar of which--now near,
now in the centre, now on the outskirts of the division, and now
sweeping back towards us in a great volume of sound--we could trace his
progress through the ranks. If he is a coward, or a traitor, or a
humbug, or anything less than a brave, true, and able man, that mass of
intelligent soldiers, whose lives and honor he had in charge, were
utterly deceived, and so was this present writer; for they believed in
him, and so did I; and had I stood in the ranks, I should have shouted
with the lustiest of them. Of course I may be mistaken; my opinion on
such a point is worth nothing, although my impression may be worth a
little more; neither do I consider the General's antecedents as
bearing very decided testimony to his practical soldiership. A
thorough knowledge of the science of war seems to be conceded to him;
he is allowed to be a good military critic; but all this is possible
without his possessing any positive qualities of a great general, just
as a literary critic may show the profoundest acquaintance with the
principles of epic poetry without being able to produce a single
stanza of an epic poem. Nevertheless, I shall not give up my faith in
General McClellan's soldiership until he is defeated, nor in his
courage and integrity even then.

Another of our excursions was to Harper's Ferry,--the Directors of the
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad having kindly invited us to accompany
them on the first trip over the newly laid track, after its breaking up
by the Rebels. It began to rain, in the early morning, pretty soon
after we left Washington, and continued to pour a cataract throughout
the day; so that the aspect of the country was dreary, where it would
otherwise have been delightful, as we entered among the hill-scenery
that is formed by the subsiding swells of the Alleghanies. The latter
part of our journey lay along the shore of the Potomac, in its upper
course, where the margin of that noble river is bordered by gray,
overhanging crags, beneath which--and sometimes right through them--the
railroad takes its way. In one place the Rebels had attempted to arrest
a train by precipitating an immense mass of rock down upon the track,
by the side of which it still lay, deeply imbedded in the ground, and
looking as if it might have lain there since the Deluge. The scenery
grew even more picturesque as we proceeded, the bluffs becoming very
bold in their descent upon the river, which, at Harper's Ferry,
presents as striking a vista among the hills as a painter could desire
to see. But a beautiful landscape is a luxury, and luxuries are thrown
away amid discomfort; and when we alighted into the tenacious mud and
almost fathomless puddle, on the hither side of the Ferry, (the
ultimate point to which the cars proceeded, since the railroad bridge
had been destroyed by the Rebels,) I cannot remember that any very
rapturous emotions were awakened by the scenery.

We paddled and floundered over the ruins of the track, and, scrambling
down an embankment, crossed the Potomac by a pontoon-bridge, a thousand
feet in length, over the narrow line of which--level with the river,
and rising and subsiding with it--General Banks had recently led his
whole army, with its ponderous artillery and heavily laden wagons. Yet
our own tread made it vibrate. The broken bridge of the railroad was a
little below us, and at the base of one of its massive piers, in the
rocky bed of the river, lay a locomotive, which the Rebels had
precipitated there.

As we passed over, we looked towards the Virginia shore, and beheld the
little town of Harper's Ferry, gathered about the base of a round hill
and climbing up its steep acclivity; so that it somewhat resembled the
Etruscan cities which I have seen among the Apennines, rushing, as it
were, down an apparently break-neck height. About midway of the ascent
stood a shabby brick church, towards which a difficult path went
scrambling up the precipice, indicating, one would say, a very fervent
aspiration on the part of the worshippers, unless there was some easier
mode of access in another direction. Immediately on the shore of the
Potomac, and extending back towards the town, lay the dismal ruins of
the United States arsenal and armory, consisting of piles of broken
bricks and a waste of shapeless demolition, amid which we saw
gun-barrels in heaps of hundreds together. They were the relics of the
conflagration, bent with the heat of the fire, and rusted with the
wintry rain to which they had since been exposed. The brightest
sunshine could not have made the scene cheerful, nor have taken away
the gloom from the dilapidated town; for, besides the natural
shabbiness, and decayed, unthrifty look of a Virginian village, it has
an inexpressible forlornness resulting from the devastations of war and
its occupation by both armies alternately. Yet there would be a less
striking contrast between Southern and New-England villages, if the
former were as much in the habit of using white paint as we are. It is
prodigiously efficacious in putting a bright face upon a bad matter.

There was one small shop, which appeared to have nothing for sale. A
single man and one or two boys were all the inhabitants in view, except
the Yankee sentinels and soldiers, belonging to Massachusetts
regiments, who were scattered about pretty numerously. A guard-house
stood on the slope of the hill; and in the level street at its base
were the offices of the Provost-Marshal and other military authorities,
to whom we forthwith reported ourselves. The Provost-Marshal kindly
sent a corporal to guide us to the little building which John Brown
seized upon as his fortress, and which, after it was stormed by the
United States marines, became his temporary prison. It is an old
engine-house, rusty and shabby, like every other work of man's hands in
this God-forsaken town, and stands fronting upon the river, only a
short distance from the bank, nearly at the point where the
pontoon-bridge touches the Virginia shore. In its front wall, on each
side of the door, are two or three ragged loop-holes which John Brown
perforated for his defence, knocking out merely a brick or two, so as
to give himself and his garrison a sight over their rifles. Through
these orifices the sturdy old man dealt a good deal of deadly mischief
among his assailants, until they broke down the door by thrusting
against it with a ladder, and tumbled headlong in upon him. I shall not
pretend to be an admirer of old John Brown, any farther than sympathy
with Whittier's excellent ballad about him may go; nor did I expect
ever to shrink so unutterably from any apophthegm of a sage, whose
happy lips have uttered a hundred golden sentences, as from that
saying, (perhaps falsely attributed to so honored a source,) that the
death of this blood-stained fanatic has "made the Gallows as venerable
as the Cross!" Nobody was ever more justly hanged. He won his
martyrdom fairly, and took it firmly. He himself, I am persuaded, (such
was his natural integrity,) would have acknowledged that Virginia had a
right to take the life which he had staked and lost; although it would
have been better for her, in the hour that is fast coming, if she could
generously have forgotten the criminality of his attempt in its
enormous folly. On the other hand, any common-sensible man, looking at
the matter unsentimentally, must have felt a certain intellectual
satisfaction in seeing him hanged, if it were only in requital of his
preposterous miscalculation of possibilities. [Footnote: Can it be a
son of old Massachusetts who utters this abominable sentiment? For

But, coolly as I seem to say these things, my Yankee heart stirred
triumphantly when I saw the use to which John Brown's fortress and
prison-house has now been put. What right have I to complain of any
other man's foolish impulses, when I cannot possibly control my own?
The engine-house is now a place of confinement for Rebel prisoners.

A Massachusetts soldier stood on guard, but readily permitted our whole
party to enter. It was a wretched place. A room of perhaps twenty-five
feet square occupied the whole interior of the building, having an
iron stove in its centre, whence a rusty funnel ascended towards a hole
in the roof, which served the purposes of ventilation, as well as for
the exit of smoke. We found ourselves right in the midst of the Rebels,
some of whom lay on heaps of straw, asleep, or, at all events, giving
no sign of consciousness; others sat in the corners of the room,
huddled close together, and staring with a lazy kind of interest at the
visitors; two were astride of some planks, playing with the dirtiest
pack of cards that I ever happened to see. There was only one figure in
the least military among all these twenty prisoners of war,--a man with
a dark, intelligent, moustached face, wearing a shabby cotton uniform,
which he had contrived to arrange with a degree of soldierly smartness,
though it had evidently borne the brunt of a very filthy campaign. He
stood erect, and talked freely with those who addressed him, telling
them his place of residence, the number of his regiment, the
circumstances of his capture, and such other particulars as their
Northern inquisitiveness prompted them to ask. I liked the manliness of
his deportment; he was neither ashamed, nor afraid, nor in the
slightest degree sullen, peppery, or contumacious, but bore himself as
if whatever animosity he had felt towards his enemies was left upon the
battle-field, and would not be resumed till he had again a weapon in
his hand.

Neither could I detect a trace of hostile feeling in the countenance,
words, or manner of any prisoner there. Almost to a man, they were
simple, bumpkin-like fellows, dressed in homespun clothes, with faces
singularly vacant of meaning, but sufficiently good-humored: a breed of
men, in short, such as I did not suppose to exist in this country,
although I have seen their like in some other parts of the world. They
were peasants, and of a very low order: a class of people with whom our
Northern rural population has not a single trait in common. They were
exceedingly respectful,--more so than a rustic New-Englander ever
dreams of being towards anybody, except perhaps his minister; and had
they worn any hats, they would probably have been self-constrained to
take them off, under the unusual circumstance of being permitted to
hold conversation with well-dressed persons. It is my belief that not a
single bumpkin of them all (the moustached soldier always excepted) had
the remotest comprehension of what they had been fighting for, or how
they had deserved to be shut up in that dreary hole; nor, possibly, did
they care to inquire into this latter mystery, but took it as a godsend
to be suffered to lie here in a heap of unwashed human bodies, well
warmed and well foddered to-day, and without the necessity of bothering
themselves about the possible hunger and cold of to-morrow. Their dark
prison-life may have seemed to them the sunshine of all their lifetime.

There was one poor wretch, a wild-beast of a man, at whom I gazed with
greater interest than at his fellows; although I know not that each one
of them, in their semi-barbarous moral state, might not have been
capable of the same savage impulse that had made this particular
individual a horror to all beholders. At the close of some battle or
skirmish, a wounded Union soldier had crept on hands and knees to his
feet, and besought his assistance,--not dreaming that any creature in
human shape, in the Christian land where they had so recently been
brethren, could refuse it. But this man (this fiend, if you prefer to
call him so, though I would not advise it) flung a bitter curse at the
poor Northerner, and absolutely trampled the soul out of his body, as
he lay writhing beneath his feet. The fellow's face was horribly ugly;
but I am not quite sure that I should have noticed it, if I had not
known his story. He spoke not a word, and met nobody's eye, but kept
staring upward into the smoky vacancy towards the ceiling, where, it
might be, he beheld a continual portraiture of his victim's
horror-stricken agonies. I rather fancy, however, that his moral sense
was yet too torpid to trouble him with such remorseful visions, and
that, for his own part, he might have had very agreeable reminiscences
of the soldier's death, if other eyes had not been bent reproachfully
upon him and warned him that something was amiss. It was this reproach
in other men's eyes that made him look aside. He was a wild-beast, as I
began with saying,--an unsophisticated wild-beast,--while the rest of
us are partially tamed, though still the scent of blood excites some of
the savage instincts of our nature. What this wretch needed, in order
to make him capable of the degree of mercy and benevolence that exists
in us, was simply such a measure of moral and intellectual development
as we have received; and, in my mind, the present war is so well
justified by no other consideration as by the probability that it will
free this class of Southern whites from a thraldom in which they
scarcely begin to be responsible beings. So far as the education of the
heart is concerned, the negroes have apparently the advantage of them;
and as to other schooling, it is practically unattainable by black or

Looking round at these poor prisoners, therefore, it struck me as an
immense absurdity that they should fancy us their enemies; since,
whether we intend it so or no, they have a far greater stake on our
success than we can possibly have. For ourselves, the balance of
advantages between defeat and triumph may admit of question. For them,
all truly valuable things are dependent on our complete success; for
thence would come the regeneration of a people,--the removal of a foul
scurf that has overgrown their life, and keeps them in a state of
disease and decrepitude, one of the chief symptoms of which is, that,
the more they suffer and are debased, the more they imagine
themselves strong and beautiful. No human effort, on a grand scale, has
ever yet resulted according to the purpose of its projectors. The
advantages are always incidental. Man's accidents are God's purposes.
We miss the good we sought, and do the good we little cared for.
[Footnote: The author seems to imagine that he has compressed a great
deal of meaning into these little, hard, dry pellets of aphoristic
wisdom. We disagree with him. The counsels of wise and good men are
often coincident with the purposes of Providence; and the present war
promises to illustrate our remark.]

Our Government evidently knows when and where to lay its finger upon
its most available citizens; for, quite unexpectedly, we were joined
with some other gentlemen, scarcely less competent than ourselves, in
a commission to proceed to Fortress Monroe and examine into things in
general. Of course, official propriety compels us to be extremely
guarded in our description of the interesting objects which this
expedition opened to our view. There can be no harm, however, in
stating that we were received by the commander of the fortress with a
kind of acid good-nature, or mild cynicism, that indicated him to be a
humorist, characterized by certain rather pungent peculiarities, yet
of no unamiable cast. He is a small, thin old gentleman, set off by a
large pair of brilliant epaulets,--the only pair, so far as my
observation went, that adorn the shoulders of any officer in the Union
army. Either for our inspection, or because the matter had already
been arranged, he drew out a regiment of Zouaves that formed the
principal part of his garrison, and appeared at their head, sitting on
horseback with rigid perpendicularity, and affording us a vivid idea
of the disciplinarian of Baron Steuben's school.

There can be no question of the General's military qualities; he must
have been especially useful in converting raw recruits into trained and
efficient soldiers. But valor and martial skill are of so evanescent a
character, (hardly less fleeting than a woman's beauty,) that
Government has perhaps taken the safer course in assigning to this
gallant officer, though distinguished in former wars, no more active
duty than the guardianship of an apparently impregnable fortress. The
ideas of military men solidify and fossilize so fast, while military
science makes such rapid advances, that even here there might be a
difficulty. An active, diversified, and therefore a youthful,
ingenuity is required by the quick exigencies of this singular war.
Fortress Monroe, for example, in spite of the massive solidity of its
ramparts, its broad and deep moat, and all the contrivances of defence
that were known at the not very remote epoch of its construction, is
now pronounced absolutely incapable of resisting the novel modes of
assault which may be brought to bear upon it. It can only be the
flexible talent of a young man that will evolve a new efficiency out of
its obsolete strength.

It is a pity that old men grow unfit for war, not only by their
incapacity for new ideas, but by the peaceful and unadventurous
tendencies that gradually possess themselves of the once turbulent
disposition, which used to snuff the battle-smoke as its congenial
atmosphere. It is a pity; because it would be such an economy of human
existence, if time-stricken people (whose value I have the better right
to estimate, as reckoning myself one of them) could snatch from their
juniors the exclusive privilege of carrying on the war. In case of
death upon the battle-field, how unequal would be the comparative
sacrifice! On one part, a few unenjoyable years, the little remnant of
a life grown torpid; on the other, the many fervent summers of manhood
in its spring and prime, with all that they include of possible benefit
to mankind. Then, too, a bullet offers such a brief and easy way, such
a pretty little orifice, through which the weary spirit might seize the
opportunity to be exhaled! If I had the ordering of these matters,
fifty should be the tenderest age at which a recruit might be accepted
for training; at fifty-five or sixty, I would consider him eligible for
most kinds of military duty and exposure, excluding that of a forlorn
hope, which no soldier should be permitted to volunteer upon, short of
the ripe age of seventy. As a general rule, these venerable combatants

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