Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Joshua Hutchinson, Tonya Allen and PG Distributed
MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. X.--NOVEMBER, 1862.--NO. LXI.
THE HISTORY OF THE APPLE-TREE.
It is remarkable how closely the history of the Apple-tree is connected
with that of man. The geologist tells us that the order of the
_Rosaceae_, which includes the Apple, also the true Grasses, and the
_Labiatae_, or Mints, were introduced only a short time previous to the
appearance of man on the globe.
It appears that apples made a part of the food of that unknown primitive
people whose traces have lately been found at the bottom of the Swiss
lakes, supposed to be older than the foundation of Rome, so old that
they had no metallic implements. An entire black and shrivelled
Crab-Apple has been recovered from their stores.
Tacitus says of the ancient Germans, that they satisfied their hunger
with wild apples (_agrestia poma_) among other things.
Niebuhr observes that "the words for a house, a field, a plough,
ploughing, wine, oil, milk, sheep, apples, and others relating to
agriculture and the gentler way of life, agree in Latin and Greek, while
the Latin words for all objects pertaining to war or the chase are
utterly alien from the Greek." Thus the apple-tree may be considered a
symbol of peace no less than the olive.
The apple was early so important, and generally distributed, that its
name traced to its root in many languages signifies fruit in general.
[Greek: Maelon], in Greek, means an apple, also the fruit of other
trees, also a sheep and any cattle, and finally riches in general.
The apple-tree has been celebrated by the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, and
Scandinavians. Some have thought that the first human pair were tempted
by its fruit. Goddesses are fabled to have contended for it, dragons
were set to watch it, and heroes were employed to pluck it.
The tree is mentioned in at least three places in the Old Testament,
and its fruit in two or three more. Solomon sings,--"As the apple-tree
among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons." And
again,--"Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples." The noblest part
of man's noblest feature is named from this fruit, "the apple of the
The apple-tree is also mentioned by Homer and Herodotus. Ulysses saw in
the glorious garden of Alcinoues "pears and pomegranates, and apple-trees
bearing beautiful fruit" ([Greek: kahi maeleai aglaokarpoi]). And
according to Homer, apples were among the fruits which Tantalus
could not pluck, the wind ever blowing their boughs away from him.
Theophrastus knew and described the apple-tree as a botanist.
According to the Prose Edda, "Iduna keeps in a box the apples which
the gods, when they feel old age approaching, have only to taste of
to become young again. It is in this manner that they will be kept in
renovated youth until Ragnaroek" (or the destruction of the gods).
I learn from Loudon that "the ancient Welsh bards were rewarded for
excelling in song by the token of the apple-spray;" and "in the
Highlands of Scotland the apple-tree is the badge of the clan Lamont."
The apple-tree (_Pyrus malus_) belongs chiefly to the northern temperate
zone. Loudon says, that "it grows spontaneously in every part of Europe
except the frigid zone, and throughout Western Asia, China, and Japan."
We have also two or three varieties of the apple indigenous in North
America. The cultivated apple-tree was first introduced into this
country by the earliest settlers, and it is thought to do as well or
better here than anywhere else. Probably some of the varieties which are
now cultivated were first introduced into Britain by the Romans.
Pliny, adopting the distinction of Theophrastus, says,--"Of trees there
are some which are altogether wild (_sylvestres_), some more civilized
(_urbaniores_)." Theophrastus includes the apple among the last; and,
indeed, it is in this sense the most civilized of all trees. It is as
harmless as a dove, as beautiful as a rose, and as valuable as flocks
and herds. It has been longer cultivated than any other, and so is more
humanized; and who knows but, like the dog, it will at length be no
longer traceable to its wild original? It migrates with man, like the
dog and horse and cow: first, perchance, from Greece to Italy, thence to
England, thence to America; and our Western emigrant is still marching
steadily toward the setting sun with the seeds of the apple in his
pocket, or perhaps a few young trees strapped to his load. At least a
million apple-trees are thus set farther westward this year than any
cultivated ones grew last year. Consider how the Blossom-Week, like the
Sabbath, is thus annually spreading over the prairies; for when man
migrates, he carries with him not only his birds, quadrupeds, insects,
vegetables, and his very sward, but his orchard also.
The leaves and tender twigs are an agreeable food to many domestic
animals, as the cow, horse, sheep, and goat; and the fruit is sought
after by the first, as well as by the hog. Thus there appears to have
existed a natural alliance between these animals and this tree from the
first. "The fruit of the Crab in the forests of France" is said to be "a
great resource for the wild-boar."
Not only the Indian, but many indigenous insects, birds, and quadrupeds,
welcomed the apple-tree to these shores. The tent-caterpillar saddled
her eggs on the very first twig that was formed, and it has since shared
her affections with the wild cherry; and the canker-worm also in
a measure abandoned the elm to feed on it. As it grew apace, the
blue-bird, robin, cherry-bird, king-bird, and many more, came with
haste and built their nests and warbled in its boughs, and so became
orchard-birds, and multiplied more than ever. It was an era in the
history of their race. The downy woodpecker found such a savory morsel
under its bark, that he perforated it in a ring quite round the tree,
before he left it,--a thing which he had never done before, to my
knowledge. It did not take the partridge long to find out how sweet its
buds were, and every winter eve she flew, and still flies, from the
wood, to pluck them, much to the farmer's sorrow. The rabbit, too, was
not slow to learn the taste of its twigs and bark; and when the fruit
was ripe, the squirrel half-rolled, half-carried it to his hole; and
even the musquash crept up the bank from the brook at evening, and
greedily devoured it, until he had worn a path in the grass there; and
when it was frozen and thawed, the crow and the jay were glad to taste
it occasionally. The owl crept into the first apple-tree that became
hollow, and fairly hooted with delight, finding it just the place for
him; so, settling down into it, he has remained there ever since.
My theme being the Wild Apple, I will merely glance at some of the
seasons in the annual growth of the cultivated apple, and pass on to my
The flowers of the apple are perhaps the most beautiful of any tree's,
so copious and so delicious to both sight and scent. The walker is
frequently tempted to turn and linger near some more than usually
handsome one, whose blossoms are two-thirds expanded. How superior it is
in these respects to the pear, whose blossoms are neither colored nor
By the middle of July, green apples are so large as to remind us of
coddling, and of the autumn. The sward is commonly strewed with little
ones which fall still-born, as it were,--Nature thus thinning them for
us. The Roman writer Palladius said,--"If apples are inclined to fall
before their time, a stone placed in a split root will retain them."
Some such notion, still surviving, may account for some of the stones
which we see placed to be overgrown in the forks of trees. They have a
saying in Suffolk, England,--
"At Michaelmas time, or a little before,
Half an apple goes to the core."
Early apples begin to be ripe about the first of August; but I think
that none of them are so good to eat as some to smell. One is worth more
to scent your handkerchief with than any perfume which they sell in the
shops. The fragrance of some fruits is not to be forgotten, along with
that of flowers. Some gnarly apple which I pick up in the road reminds
me by its fragrance of all the wealth of Pomona,--carrying me forward to
those days when they will be collected in golden and ruddy heaps in the
orchards and about the cider-mills.
A week or two later, as you are going by orchards or gardens, especially
in the evenings, you pass through a little region possessed by the
fragrance of ripe apples, and thus enjoy them without price, and without
There is thus about all natural products a certain volatile and ethereal
quality which represents their highest value, and which cannot be
vulgarized, or bought and sold. No mortal has ever enjoyed the perfect
flavor of any fruit, and only the god-like among men begin to taste its
ambrosial qualities. For nectar and ambrosia are only those fine flavors
of every earthly fruit which our coarse palates fail to perceive,--just
as we occupy the heaven of the gods without knowing it. When I see a
particularly mean man carrying a load of fair and fragrant early apples
to market, I seem to see a contest going on between him and his horse,
on the one side, and the apples on the other, and, to my mind, the
apples always gain it. Pliny says that apples are the heaviest of all
things, and that the oxen begin to sweat at the mere sight of a load
of them. Our driver begins to lose his load the moment he tries to
transport them to where they do not belong, that is, to any but the most
beautiful. Though he gets out from time to time, and feels of them, and
thinks they are all there, I see the stream of their evanescent and
celestial qualities going to heaven from his cart, while the pulp and
skin and core only are going to market. They are not apples, but pomace.
Are not these still Iduna's apples, the taste of which keeps the gods
forever young? and think you that they will let Loki or Thjassi carry
them off to Joetunheim, while they grow wrinkled and gray? No, for
Ragnaroek, or the destruction of the gods, is not yet.
There is another thinning of the fruit, commonly near the end of August
or in September, when the ground is strewn with windfalls; and this
happens especially when high winds occur after rain. In some orchards
you may see fully three-quarters of the whole crop on the ground, lying
in a circular form beneath the trees, yet hard and green,--or, if it is
a hill-side, rolled far down the hill. However, it is an ill wind that
blows nobody any good. All the country over, people are busy picking up
the windfalls, and this will make them cheap for early apple-pies.
In October, the leaves falling, the apples are more distinct on the
trees. I saw one year in a neighboring town some trees fuller of fruit
than I remembered to have ever seen before, small yellow apples hanging
over the road. The branches were gracefully drooping with their weight,
like a barberry-bush, so that the whole tree acquired a new character.
Even the topmost branches, instead of standing erect, spread and drooped
in all directions; and there were so many poles supporting the lower
ones, that they looked like pictures of banian-trees. As an old English
manuscript says, "The mo appelen the tree bereth, the more sche boweth
to the folk."
Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits. Let the most beautiful or the
swiftest have it. That should be the "going" price of apples.
Between the fifth and twentieth of October I see the barrels lie under
the trees. And perhaps I talk with one who is selecting some choice
barrels to fulfil an order. He turns a specked one over many times
before he leaves it out. If I were to tell what is passing in my mind, I
should say that every one was specked which he had handled; for he rubs
off all the bloom, and those fugacious ethereal qualities leave it. Cool
evenings prompt the farmers to make haste, and at length I see only the
ladders here and there left leaning against the trees.
It would be well, if we accepted these gifts with more joy and
gratitude, and did not think it enough simply to put a fresh load of
compost about the tree. Some old English customs are suggestive at
least. I find them described chiefly in Brand's "Popular Antiquities."
It appears that "on Christmas eve the farmers and their men in
Devonshire take a large bowl of cider, with a toast in it, and carrying
it in state to the orchard, they salute the apple-trees with much
ceremony, in order to make them bear well the next season." This
salutation consists in "throwing some of the cider about the roots
of the tree, placing bits of the toast on the branches," and then,
"encircling one of the best bearing trees in the orchard, they drink the
following toast three several times:--
'Here's to thee, old apple-tree,
Whence thou mayst bud, and whence thou mayst blow,
And whence thou mayst bear apples enow!
Bushel, bushel, sacks-full!
And my pockets full, too! Hurra!'"
Also what was called "apple-howling" used to be practised in various
counties of England on New-Year's eve. A troop of boys visited the
different orchards, and, encircling the apple-trees, repeated the
"Stand fast, root! bear well, top!
Pray God sent! us a good howling crop:
Every twig, apples big;
Every bough, apples enow!"
"They then shout in chorus, one of the boys accompanying them on a cow's
horn. During this ceremony they rap the trees with their sticks." This
is called "wassailing" the trees, and is thought by some to be "a relic
of the heathen sacrifice to Pomona."
"Wassaile the trees that they may beare
You many a plum and many a peare;
For more or less fruits they will bring
As you so give them wassailing."
Our poets have as yet a better right to sing of cider than of wine; but
it behooves them to sing better than English Phillips did, else they
will do no credit to their Muse.
THE WILD APPLE.
So much for the more civilized apple-trees (_urbaniores_, as Pliny
calls them). I love better to go through the old orchards of ungrafted
apple-trees, at whatever season of the year,--so irregularly planted:
sometimes two trees standing close together; and the rows so devious
that you would think that they not only had grown while the owner was
sleeping, but had been set out by him in a somnambulic state. The rows
of grafted fruit will never tempt me to wander amid them like these. But
I now, alas, speak rather from memory than from any recent experience,
such ravages have been made!
Some soils, like a rocky tract called the Easterbrooks Country in my
neighborhood, are so suited to the apple, that it will grow faster in
them without any care, or if only the ground is broken up once a year,
than it will in many places with any amount of care. The owners of this
tract allow that the soil is excellent for fruit, but they say that it
is so rocky that they have not patience to plough it, and that, together
with the distance, is the reason why it is not cultivated. There are,
or were recently, extensive orchards there standing without order. Nay,
they spring up wild and bear well there in the midst of pines, birches,
maples, and oaks. I am often surprised to see rising amid these trees
the rounded tops of apple-trees glowing with red or yellow fruit, in
harmony with the autumnal tints of the forest.
Going up the side of a cliff about the first of November, I saw a
vigorous young apple-tree, which, planted by birds or cows, had shot
up amid the rocks and open woods there, and had now much fruit on it,
uninjured by the frosts, when all cultivated apples were gathered. It
was a rank wild growth, with many green leaves on it still, and made an
impression of thorniness. The fruit was hard and green, but looked as if
it would be palatable in the winter. Some was dangling on the twigs, but
more half-buried in the wet leaves under the tree, or rolled far down
the hill amid the rocks. The owner knows nothing of it. The day was not
observed when it first blossomed, nor when it first bore fruit, unless
by the chickadee. There was no dancing on the green beneath it in its
honor, and now there is no hand to pluck its fruit,--which is only
gnawed by squirrels, as I perceive. It has done double duty,--not only
borne this crop, but each twig has grown a foot into the air. And this
is _such_ fruit! bigger than many berries, we must admit, and carried
home will be sound and palatable next spring. What care I for Iduna's
apples so long as I can get these?
When I go by this shrub thus late and hardy, and see its dangling fruit,
I respect the tree, and I am grateful for Nature's bounty, even though
I cannot eat it. Here on this rugged and woody hill-side has grown an
apple-tree, not planted by man, no relic of a former orchard, but a
natural growth, like the pines and oaks. Most fruits which we prize and
use depend entirely on our care. Corn and grain, potatoes, peaches,
melons, etc., depend altogether on our planting; but the apple emulates
man's independence and enterprise. It is not simply carried, as I have
said, but, like him, to some extent, it has migrated to this New World,
and is even, here and there, making its way amid the aboriginal trees;
just as the ox and dog and horse sometimes run wild and maintain
Even the sourest and crabbedest apple, growing in the most unfavorable
position, suggests such thoughts as these, it is so noble a fruit.
Nevertheless, _our_ wild apple is wild only like myself, perchance, who
belong not to the aboriginal race here, but have strayed into the woods
from the cultivated stock. Wilder still, as I have said, there grows
elsewhere in this country a native and aboriginal Crab-Apple, _Malus
coronaria_, "whose nature has not yet been modified by cultivation." It
is found from Western New-York to Minnesota, and southward. Michaux
says that its ordinary height "is fifteen or eighteen feet, but it is
sometimes found twenty-five or thirty feet high," and that the large
ones "exactly resemble the common apple-tree." "The flowers are white
mingled with rose-color, and are collected in corymbs." They are
remarkable for their delicious odor. The fruit, according to him, is
about an inch and a half in diameter, and is intensely acid. Yet they
make fine sweetmeats, and also cider of them. He concludes, that, "if,
on being cultivated, it does not yield new and palatable varieties, it
will at least be celebrated for the beauty of its flowers, and for the
sweetness of its perfume."
I never saw the Crab-Apple till May, 1861. I had heard of it through
Michaux, but more modern botanists, so far as I know, have not treated
it as of any peculiar importance. Thus it was a half-fabulous tree
to me. I contemplated a pilgrimage to the "Glades," a portion of
Pennsylvania where it was said to grow to perfection. I thought of
sending to a nursery for it, but doubted if they had it, or would
distinguish it from European varieties. At last I had occasion to go to
Minnesota, and on entering Michigan I began to notice from the cars a
tree with handsome rose-colored flowers. At first I thought it some
variety of thorn; but it was not long before the truth flashed on me,
that this was my long-sought Crab-Apple. It was the prevailing
flowering shrub or tree to be seen from the cars at that season of the
year,--about the middle of May. But the cars never stopped before one,
and so I was launched on the bosom of the Mississippi without having
touched one, experiencing the fate of Tantalus. On arriving at St.
Anthony's Falls, I was sorry to be told that I was too far north for the
Crab-Apple. Nevertheless I succeeded in finding it about eight miles
west of the Falls; touched it and smelled it, and secured a lingering
corymb of flowers for my herbarium. This must have been near its
HOW THE WILD APPLE GROWS.
But though these are indigenous, like the Indians, I doubt whether they
are any hardier than those backwoodsmen among the apple-trees, which,
though descended from cultivated stocks, plant themselves in distant
fields and forests, where the soil is favorable to them. I know of no
trees which have more difficulties to contend with, and which more
sturdily resist their foes. These are the ones whose story we have to
tell. It oftentimes reads thus:--
Near the beginning of May, we notice little thickets of apple-trees just
springing up in the pastures where cattle have been,--as the rocky ones
of our Easter-brooks Country, or the top of Nobscot Hill, in
Sudbury. One or two of these perhaps survive the drought and other
accidents,--their very birthplace defending them against the encroaching
grass and some other dangers, at first.
In two years' time 't had thus
Reached the level of the rocks,
Admired the stretching world,
Nor feared the wandering flocks.
But at this tender age
Its sufferings began;
There came a browsing ox
And cut it down a span.
This time, perhaps, the ox does not notice it amid the grass; but
the next year, when it has grown more stout, he recognizes it for a
fellow-emigrant from the old country, the flavor of whose leaves and
twigs he well knows; and though at first he pauses to welcome it, and
express his surprise, and gets for answer, "The same cause that brought
you here brought me," he nevertheless browses it again, reflecting, it
may be, that he has some title to it.
Thus cut down annually, it does not despair; but, putting forth two
short twigs for every one cut off, it spreads out low along the ground
in the hollows or between the rocks, growing more stout and scrubby,
until it forms, not a tree as yet, but a little pyramidal, stiff, twiggy
mass, almost as solid and impenetrable as a rock. Some of the densest
and most impenetrable clumps of bushes that I have ever seen, as well on
account of the closeness and stubbornness of their branches as of their
thorns, have been these wild-apple scrubs. They are more like the
scrubby fir and black spruce on which you stand, and sometimes walk, on
the tops of mountains, where cold is the demon they contend with, than
anything else. No wonder they are prompted to grow thorns at last, to
defend themselves against such foes. In their thorniness, however, there
is no malice, only some malic acid.
The rocky pastures of the tract I have referred to--for they maintain
their ground best in a rocky field--are thickly sprinkled with these
little tufts, reminding you often of some rigid gray mosses or lichens,
and you see thousands of little trees just springing up between them,
with the seed still attached to them.
Being regularly clipped all around each year by the cows, as a hedge
with shears, they are often of a perfect conical or pyramidal form, from
one to four feet high, and more or less sharp, as if trimmed by the
gardener's art. In the pastures on Nobscot Hill and its spurs, they make
fine dark shadows when the sun is low. They are also an excellent covert
from hawks for many small birds that roost and build in them. Whole
flocks perch in them at night, and I have seen three robins' nests in
one which was six feet in diameter.
No doubt many of these are already old trees, if you reckon from the day
they were planted, but infants still when you consider their development
and the long life before them. I counted the annual rings of some which
were just one foot high, and as wide as high, and found that they were
about twelve years old, but quite sound and thrifty! They were so
low that they were unnoticed by the walker, while many of their
contemporaries from the nurseries were already bearing considerable
crops. But what you gain in time is perhaps in this case, too, lost
in power,--that is, in the vigor of the tree. This is their pyramidal
The cows continue to browse them thus for twenty years or more, keeping
them down and compelling them to spread, until at last they are so broad
that they become their own fence, when some interior shoot, which their
foes cannot reach, darts upward with joy: for it has not forgotten its
high calling, and bears its own peculiar fruit in triumph.
Such are the tactics by which it finally defeats its bovine foes. Now,
if you have watched the progress of a particular shrub, you will see
that it is no longer a simple pyramid or cone, but that out of its apex
there rises a sprig or two, growing more lustily perchance than an
orchard-tree, since the plant now devotes the whole of its repressed
energy to these upright parts. In a short time these become a small
tree, an inverted pyramid resting on the apex of the other, so that
the whole has now the form of a vast hour-glass. The spreading bottom,
having served its purpose, finally disappears, and the generous tree
permits the now harmless cows to come in and stand in its shade, and rub
against and redden its trunk, which has grown in spite of them, and even
to taste a part of its fruit, and so disperse the seed.
Thus the cows create their own shade and food; and the tree, its
hour-glass being inverted, lives a second life, as it were.
It is an important question with some nowadays, whether you should trim
young apple-trees as high as your nose or as high as your eyes. The
ox trims them up as high as he can reach, and that is about the right
height, I think.
In spite of wandering kine, and other adverse circumstances, that
despised shrub, valued only by small birds as a covert and shelter from
hawks, has its blossom-week at last, and in course of time its harvest,
sincere, though small.
By the end of some October, when its leaves have fallen, I frequently
see such a central sprig, whose progress I have watched, when I thought
it had forgotten its destiny, as I had, bearing its first crop of small
green or yellow or rosy fruit, which the cows cannot get at over the
bushy and thorny hedge which surrounds it, and I make haste to taste the
new and undescribed variety. We have all heard of the numerous varieties
of fruit invented by Van Mons and Knight. This is the system of Van Cow,
and she has invented far more and more memorable varieties than both of
Through what hardships it may attain to bear a sweet fruit! Though
somewhat small, it may prove equal, if not superior, in flavor to that
which has grown in a garden,--will perchance be all the sweeter and more
palatable for the very difficulties it has had to contend with. Who
knows but this chance wild fruit, planted by a cow or a bird on some
remote and rocky hill-side, where it is as yet unobserved by man, may be
the choicest of all its kind, and foreign potentates shall hear of it,
and royal societies seek to propagate it, though the virtues of the
perhaps truly crabbed owner of the soil may never be heard of,--at
least, beyond the limits of his village? It was thus the Porter and the
Every wild-apple shrub excites our expectation thus, somewhat as every
wild child. It is, perhaps, a prince in disguise. What a lesson to man!
So are human beings, referred to the highest standard, the celestial
fruit which they suggest and aspire to bear, browsed on by fate; and
only the most persistent and strongest genius defends itself and
prevails, sends a tender scion upward at last, and drops its perfect
fruit on the ungrateful earth. Poets and philosophers and statesmen thus
spring up in the country pastures, and outlast the hosts of unoriginal
Such is always the pursuit of knowledge. The celestial fruits, the
golden apples of the Hesperides, are ever guarded by a hundred-headed
dragon which never sleeps, so that it is an Herculean labor to pluck
This is one, and the most remarkable way, in which the wild apple is
propagated; but commonly it springs up at wide intervals in woods and
swamps, and by the sides of roads, as the soil may suit it, and grows
with comparative rapidity. Those which grow in dense woods are very tall
and slender. I frequently pluck from these trees a perfectly mild and
tamed fruit. As Palladius says, "_Et injussu consternitur ubere mali_":
And the ground is strewn with the fruit of an unbidden apple-tree.
It is an old notion, that, if these wild trees do not bear a valuable
fruit of their own, they are the best stocks by which to transmit to
posterity the most highly prized qualities of others. However, I am not
in search of stocks, but the wild fruit itself, whose fierce gust has
suffered no "inteneration," It is not my
To plant the Bergamot."
THE FRUIT, AND ITS FLAVOR.
The time for wild apples is the last of October and the first of
November. They then get to be palatable, for they ripen late, and they
are still perhaps as beautiful as ever. I make a great account of
these fruits, which the farmers do not think it worth the while to
gather,--wild flavors of the Muse, vivacious and inspiriting. The farmer
thinks that he has better in his barrels, but he is mistaken, unless he
has a walker's appetite and imagination, neither of which can he have.
Such as grow quite wild, and are left out till the first of November, I
presume that the owner does not mean to gather. They belong to children
as wild as themselves,--to certain active boys that I know,--to the
wild-eyed woman of the fields, to whom nothing comes amiss, who gleans
after all the world,--and, moreover, to us walkers. We have met with
them, and they are ours. These rights, long enough insisted upon, have
come to be an institution in some old countries, where they have learned
how to live. I hear that "the custom of grippling, which may be called
apple-gleaning, is, or was formerly, practised in Herefordshire. It
consists in leaving a few apples, which are called the gripples, on
every tree, after the general gathering, for the boys, who go with
climbing-poles and bags to collect them."
As for those I speak of, I pluck them as a wild fruit, native to this
quarter of the earth,--fruit of old trees that have been dying ever
since I was a boy and are not yet dead, frequented only by the
woodpecker and the squirrel, deserted now by the owner, who has not
faith enough to look under their boughs. From the appearance of the
tree-top, at a little distance, you would expect nothing but lichens to
drop from it, but your faith is rewarded by finding the ground strewn
with spirited fruit,--some of it, perhaps, collected at squirrel-holes,
with the marks of their teeth by which they carried them,--some
containing a cricket or two silently feeding within, and some,
especially in damp days, a shelless snail. The very sticks and stones
lodged in the tree-top might have convinced you of the savoriness of the
fruit which has been so eagerly sought after in past years.
I have seen no account of these among the "Fruits and Fruit-Trees of
America," though they are more memorable to my taste than the grafted
kinds; more racy and wild American flavors do they possess, when October
and November, when December and January, and perhaps February and March
even, have assuaged them somewhat. An old farmer in my neighborhood, who
always selects the right word, says that "they have a kind of bow-arrow
Apples for grafting appear to have been selected commonly, not so much
for their spirited flavor, as for their mildness, their size, and
bearing qualities,--not so much for their beauty, as for their fairness
and soundness. Indeed, I have no faith in the selected lists of
pomological gentlemen. Their "Favorites" and "None-suches" and
"Seek-no-farthers," when I have fruited them, commonly turn out very
tame and forgetable. They are eaten with comparatively little zest, and
have no real _tang_ nor _smack_ to them.
What if some of these wildings are acrid and puckery, genuine
_verjuice_, do they not still belong to the _Pomaceae_, which are
uniformly innocent and kind to our race? I still begrudge them to the
cider-mill. Perhaps they are not fairly ripe yet.
No wonder that these small and high-colored apples are thought to make
the best cider. Loudon quotes from the "Herefordshire Report," that
"apples of a small size are always, if equal in quality, to be preferred
to those of a larger size, in order that the rind and kernel may bear
the greatest proportion to the pulp, which affords the weakest and
most watery juice." And he says, that, "to prove this, Dr. Symonds, of
Hereford, about the year 1800, made one hogshead of cider entirely from
the rinds and cores of apples, and another from the pulp only, when the
first was found of extraordinary strength and flavor, while the latter
was sweet and insipid."
Evelyn says that the "Red-strake" was the favorite cider-apple in his
day; and he quotes one Dr. Newburg as saying, "In Jersey 't is a general
observation, as I hear, that the more of red any apple has in its rind,
the more proper it is for this use. Pale-faced apples they exclude as
much as may be from their cider-vat." This opinion still prevails.
All apples are good in November. Those which the farmer leaves out
as unsalable, and unpalatable to those who frequent the markets, are
choicest fruit to the walker. But it is remarkable that the wild apple,
which I praise as so spirited and racy when eaten in the fields or
woods, being brought into the house, has frequently a harsh and crabbed
taste. The Saunterer's Apple not even the saunterer can eat in the
house. The palate rejects it there, as it does haws and acorns, and
demands a tamed one; for there you miss the November air, which is the
sauce it is to be eaten with. Accordingly, when Tityrus, seeing the
lengthening shadows, invites Melibaeus to go home and pass the night
with him, he promises him _mild_ apples and soft chestnuts,--_mitia
poma, castaneae molles_. I frequently pluck wild apples of so rich and
spicy a flavor that I wonder all orchardists do not get a scion from
that tree, and I fail not to bring home my pockets full. But perchance,
when I take one out of my desk and taste it in my chamber, I find it
unexpectedly crude,--sour enough to set a squirrel's teeth on edge and
make a jay scream.
These apples have hung in the wind and frost and rain till they have
absorbed the qualities of the weather or season, and thus are highly
_seasoned_, and they _pierce_ and _sting_ and _permeate_ us with
their spirit. They must be eaten in _season_, accordingly,--that is,
To appreciate the wild and sharp flavors of these October fruits, it is
necessary that you be breathing the sharp October or November air. The
out-door air and exercise which the walker gets give a different tone to
his palate, and he craves a fruit which the sedentary would call harsh
and crabbed. They must be eaten in the fields, when your system is all
aglow with exercise, when the frosty weather nips your fingers, the wind
rattles the bare boughs or rustles the few remaining leaves, and the
jay is heard screaming around. What is sour in the house a bracing walk
makes sweet. Some of these apples might be labelled, "To be eaten in the
Of course no flavors are thrown away; they are intended for the taste
that is up to them. Some apples have two distinct flavors, and perhaps
one-half of them must be eaten in the house, the other out-doors. One
Peter Whitney wrote from Northborough in 1782, for the Proceedings of
the Boston Academy, describing an apple-tree in that town "producing
fruit of opposite qualities, part of the same apple being frequently
sour and the other sweet;" also some all sour, and others all sweet, and
this diversity on all parts of the tree.
There is a wild apple on Nawshawtuct Hill in my town which has to me a
peculiarly pleasant bitter tang, not perceived till it is three-quarters
tasted. It remains on the tongue. As you eat it, it smells exactly like
a squash-bug. It is a sort of triumph to eat and relish it.
I hear that the fruit of a kind of plum-tree in Provence is "called
_Prunes sibarelles_, because it is impossible to whistle after having
eaten them, from their sourness." But perhaps they were only eaten
in the house and in summer, and if tried out-of-doors in a stinging
atmosphere, who knows but you could whistle an octave higher and
In the fields only are the sours and bitters of Nature appreciated; just
as the wood-chopper eats his meal in a sunny glade, in the middle of
a winter day, with content, basks in a sunny ray there and dreams of
summer in a degree of cold which, experienced in a chamber, would make a
student miserable. They who are at work abroad are not cold, but rather
it is they who sit shivering in houses. As with temperatures, so with
flavors; as with cold and heat, so with sour and sweet. This natural
raciness, the sours and bitters which the diseased palate refuses, are
the true condiments.
Let your condiments be in the condition of your senses. To appreciate
the flavor of these wild apples requires vigorous and healthy senses,
_papillae_ firm and erect on the tongue and palate, not easily flattened
From my experience with wild apples, I can understand that there may be
reason for a savage's preferring many kinds of food which the civilized
man rejects. The former has the palate of an out-door man. It takes a
savage or wild taste to appreciate a wild fruit.
What a healthy out-of-door appetite it takes to relish the apple of
life, the apple of the world, then!
"Nor is it every apple I desire,
Nor that which pleases every palate best;
'T is not the lasting Deuxan I require,
Nor yet the red-cheeked Greening I request,
Nor that which first beshrewed the name of
Nor that whose beauty caused the golden
No, no! bring me an apple from the tree of
So there is one thought for the field, another for the house. I would
have my thoughts, like wild apples, to be food for walkers, and will not
warrant them to be palatable, if tasted in the house.
Almost all wild apples are handsome. They cannot be too gnarly and
crabbed and rusty to look at. The gnarliest will have some redeeming
traits even to the eye. You will discover some evening redness dashed or
sprinkled on some protuberance or in some cavity. It is rare that the
summer lets an apple go without streaking or spotting it on some part of
its sphere. It will have some red stains, commemorating the mornings and
evenings it has witnessed; some dark and rusty blotches, in memory of
the clouds and foggy, mildewy days that have passed over it; and a
spacious field of green reflecting the general face of Nature,--green
even as the fields; or a yellow ground, which implies a milder
flavor,--yellow as the harvest, or russet as the hills.
Apples, these I mean, unspeakably fair,--apples not of Discord, but
of Concord! Yet not so rare but that the homeliest may have a share.
Painted by the frosts, some a uniform clear bright yellow, or red, or
crimson, as if their spheres had regularly revolved, and enjoyed the
influence of the sun on all sides alike,--some with the faintest pink
blush imaginable,--some brindled with deep red streaks like a cow,
or with hundreds of fine blood-red rays running regularly from
the stem-dimple to the blossom-end, like meridional lines, on a
straw-colored ground,--some touched with a greenish rust, like a fine
lichen, here and there, with crimson blotches or eyes more or less
confluent and fiery when wet,--and others gnarly, and freckled or
peppered all over on the stem side with fine crimson spots on a white
ground, as if accidentally sprinkled from the brush of Him who paints
the autumn leaves. Others, again, are sometimes red inside, perfused
with a beautiful blush, fairy food, too beautiful to eat,--apple of the
Hesperides, apple of the evening sky! But like shells and pebbles on the
sea-shore, they must be seen as they sparkle amid the withering leaves
in some dell in the woods, in the autumnal air, or as they lie in the
wet grass, and not when they have wilted and faded in the house.
THE NAMING OF THEM.
It would be a pleasant pastime to find suitable names for the hundred
varieties which go to a single heap at the cider-mill. Would it not
tax a man's invention,--no one to be named after a man, and all in the
_lingua vernacula_? Who shall stand godfather at the christening of the
wild apples? It would exhaust the Latin and Greek languages, if they
were used, and make the _lingua vernacula_ flag. We should have to call
in the sunrise and the sunset, the rainbow and the autumn woods and the
wild flowers, and the woodpecker and the purple finch and the squirrel
and the jay and the butterfly, the November traveller and the truant
boy, to our aid.
In 1836 there were in the garden of the London Horticultural Society
more than fourteen hundred distinct sorts. But here are species which
they have not in their catalogue, not to mention the varieties which our
Crab might yield to cultivation.
Let us enumerate a few of these. I find myself compelled, after all, to
give the Latin names of some for the benefit of those who live where
English is not spoken,--for they are likely to have a world-wide
There is, first of all, the Wood-Apple (_Malus sylvatica_); the Blue-Jay
Apple; the Apple which grows in Dells in the Woods, (_sylvestrivallis,_)
also in Hollows in Pastures (_campestrivallis_); the Apple that grows
in an old Cellar-Hole (_Malus cellaris_); the Meadow-Apple; the
Partridge-Apple; the Truant's Apple, (_Cessaloris,_) which no boy will
ever go by without knocking off some, however _late_ it may be; the
Saunterer's Apple,--you must lose yourself before you can find the way
to that; the Beauty of the Air (_Decus Aeris_); December-Eating; the
Frozen-Thawed, (_gelato-soluta_) good only in that state; the Concord
Apple, possibly the same with the _Musketaquidensis_; the Assabet Apple;
the Brindled Apple; Wine of New England; the Chickaree Apple; the Green
Apple (_Malus viridis_);--this has many synonymes; in an imperfect
state, it is the _Cholera morbifera aut dysenterifera, puerulis
dilectissima;_--the Apple which Atalanta stopped to pick up; the
Hedge-Apple (_Malus Sepium_); the Slug-Apple (_limacea_); the
Railroad-Apple, which perhaps came from a core thrown out of the cars;
the Apple whose Fruit we tasted in our Youth; our Particular Apple, not
to be found in any catalogue,--_Pedestrium Solatium_; also the Apple
where hangs the Forgotten Scythe; Iduna's Apples, and the Apples which
Loki found in the Wood; and a great many more I have on my list, too
numerous to mention,--all of them good. As Bodaeus exclaims, referring
to the cultivated kinds, and adapting Virgil to his case, so I, adapting
"Not if I had a hundred tongues, a hundred mouths,
An iron voice, could I describe all the forms
And reckon up all the names of these _wild apples_."
THE LAST GLEANING.
By the middle of November the wild apples have lost some of their
brilliancy, and have chiefly fallen. A great part are decayed on the
ground, and the sound ones are more palatable than before. The note
of the chickadee sounds now more distinct, as you wander amid the old
trees, and the autumnal dandelion is half-closed and tearful. But still,
if you are a skilful gleaner, you may get many a pocket-full even of
grafted fruit, long after apples are supposed to be gone out-of-doors. I
know a Blue-Pearmain tree, growing within the edge of a swamp, almost as
good as wild. You would not suppose that there was any fruit left there,
on the first survey, but you must look according to system. Those which
lie exposed are quite brown and rotten now, or perchance a few
still show one blooming cheek here and there amid the wet leaves.
Nevertheless, with experienced eyes, I explore amid the bare alders and
the huckleberry-bushes and the withered sedge, and in the crevices
of the rocks, which are full of leaves, and pry under the fallen and
decaying ferns, which, with apple and alder leaves, thickly strew the
ground. For I know that they lie concealed, fallen into hollows long
since and covered up by the leaves of the tree itself,--a proper kind of
packing. From these lurking-places, anywhere within the circumference of
the tree, I draw forth the fruit, all wet and glossy, maybe nibbled by
rabbits and hollowed out by crickets and perhaps with a leaf or two
cemented to it, (as Curzon an old manuscript from a monastery's mouldy
cellar,) but still with a rich bloom on it, and at least as ripe and
well kept, if not better than those in barrels, more crisp and lively
than they. If these resources fail to yield anything, I have learned to
look between the bases of the suckers which spring thickly from some
horizontal limb, for now and then one lodges there, or in the very midst
of an alder-clump, where they are covered by leaves, safe from cows
which may have smelled them out. If I am sharp-set, for I do not refuse
the Blue-Pearmain, I fill my pockets on each side; and as I retrace my
steps in the frosty eve, being perhaps four or five miles from home, I
eat one first from this side, and then from that, to keep my balance.
I learn from Topsell's Gesner, whose authority appears to be Albertus,
that the following is the way in which the hedgehog collects and carries
home his apples. He says,--"His meat is apples, worms, or grapes: when
he findeth apples or grapes on the earth, he rolleth himself upon them,
until he have filled all his prickles, and then carrieth them home to
his den, never bearing above one in his mouth; and if it fortune that
one of them fall off by the way, he likewise shaketh off all the
residue, and walloweth upon them afresh, until they be all settled upon
his back again. So, forth he goeth, making a noise like a cart-wheel;
and if he have any young ones in his nest, they pull off his load
wherewithal he is loaded, eating thereof what they please, and laying up
the residue for the time to come."
THE "FROZEN-THAWED" APPLE.
Toward the end of November, though some of the sound ones are yet more
mellow and perhaps more edible, they have generally, like the leaves,
lost their beauty, and are beginning to freeze. It is finger-cold, and
prudent farmers get in their barrelled apples, and bring you the apples
and cider which they have engaged; for it is time to put them into the
cellar. Perhaps a few on the ground show their red cheeks above the
early snow, and occasionally some even preserve their color and
soundness under the snow throughout the winter. But generally at the
beginning of the winter they freeze hard, and soon, though undecayed,
acquire the color of a baked apple.
Before the end of December, generally, they experience their first
thawing. Those which a month ago were sour, crabbed, and quite
unpalatable to the civilized taste, such at least as were frozen while
sound, let a warmer sun come to thaw them, for they are extremely
sensitive to its rays, are found to be filled with a rich sweet cider,
better than any bottled cider that I know of, and with which I am better
acquainted than with wine. All apples are good in this state, and your
jaws are the cider-press. Others, which have more substance, are a sweet
and luscious food,--in my opinion of more worth than the pine-apples
which are imported from the West Indies. Those which lately even I
tasted only to repent of it,--for I am semi-civilized,--which the farmer
willingly left on the tree, I am now glad to find have the property of
hanging on like the leaves of the young oaks. It is a way to keep cider
sweet without boiling. Let the frost come to freeze them first, solid as
stones, and then the rain or a warm winter day to thaw them, and they
will seem to have borrowed a flavor from heaven through the medium of
the air in which they hang. Or perchance you find, when you get home,
that those which rattled in your pocket have thawed, and the ice is
turned to cider. But after the third or fourth freezing and thawing they
will not be found so good.
What are the imported half-ripe fruits of the torrid South, to this
fruit matured by the cold of the frigid North? These are those crabbed
apples with which I cheated my companion, and kept a smooth face that
I might tempt him to eat. Now we both greedily fill our pockets
with them,--bending to drink the cup and save our lappets from the
overflowing juice,--and grow more social with their wine. Was there one
that hung so high and sheltered by the tangled branches that our sticks
could not dislodge it?
It is a fruit never carried to market, that I am aware of,--quite
distinct from the apple of the markets, as from dried apple and
cider,--and it is not every winter that produces it in perfection.
* * * * *
The era of the Wild Apple will soon be past. It is a fruit which will
probably become extinct in New England. You may still wander through old
orchards of native fruit of great extent, which for the most part went
to the cider-mill, now all gone to decay. I have heard of an orchard in
a distant town, on the side of a hill, where the apples rolled down and
lay four feet deep against a wall on the lower side, and this the owner
cut down for fear they should be made into cider. Since the temperance
reform and the general introduction of grafted fruit, no native
apple-trees, such as I see everywhere in deserted pastures, and where
the woods have grown up around them, are set out. I fear that he who
walks over these fields a century hence will not know the pleasure of
knocking off wild apples. Ah, poor man, there are many pleasures which
he will not know! Notwithstanding the prevalence of the Baldwin and the
Porter, I doubt if so extensive orchards are set out to-day in my town
as there were a century ago, when those vast straggling cider-orchards
were planted, when men both ate and drank apples, when the pomace-heap
was the only nursery, and trees cost nothing but the trouble of setting
them out. Men could afford then to stick a tree by every wall-side and
let it take its chance. I see nobody planting trees to-day in such
out-of-the-way places, along the lonely roads and lanes, and at the
bottom of dells in the wood. Now that they have grafted trees, and pay a
price for them, they collect them into a plat by their houses, and fence
them in,--and the end of it all will be that we shall be compelled to
look for our apples in a barrel.
This is the word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.
"Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land!
Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?...
"That which the palmer-worm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that
which the locust hath left hath the canker-worm eaten; and that which
the canker-worm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten.
"Awake, ye drunkards, and weep! and howl, all ye drinkers of wine,
because of the new wine! for it is cut off from your mouth.
"For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose
teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek-teeth of a great
"He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig-tree; he hath made it
clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white....
"Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen! howl, O ye vine-dressers!...
"The vine is dried up, and the fig-tree languisheth; the
pomegranate-tree, the palm-tree also, and the apple-tree, even all the
trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the
sons of men."
* * * * *
LIFE IN THE OPEN AIR.
BY THE AUTHOR OF "CECIL DREEME" AND "JOHN BRENT."
KATAHDIN AND THE PENOBSCOT.
Moosehead Lake is a little bigger than the Lago di Guarda, and
therefore, according to our American standard, rather more important. It
is not very grand, not very picturesque, but considerably better than
no lake,--a meritorious mean; not pretty and shadowy, like a thousand
lakelets all over the land, nor tame, broad, and sham-oceanic, like the
tanks of Niagara. On the west, near its southern end, is a well-intended
blackness and roughness called Squaw Mountain. The rest on that side is
undistinguished pine woods.
Mount Kinneo is midway up the lake, on the east. It is the show-piece of
the region,--the best they can do for a precipice, and really admirably
done. Kinneo is a solid mass of purple flint rising seven hundred feet
upright from the water. By the side of this block could some Archimedes
appear, armed with a suitable "_pou sto_" and a mallet heavy enough,
he might strike fire to the world. Since percussion-guns and friction
cigar-lighters came in, flint has somewhat lost its value; and Kinneo
is of no practical use at present. We cannot allow inutilities in this
world. Where is the Archimedes? He could make a handsome thing of it by
flashing us off with a spark into a new system of things.
Below this dangerous cliff on the lake-bank is the Kinneo House, where
fishermen and sportsmen may dwell, and kill or catch, as skill or
fortune favors. The historical success of all catchers and killers is
well balanced, since men who cannot master facts are always men of
imagination, and it is as easy for them to invent as for the other class
to do. Boston men haunt Kinneo. For a hero who has not skill enough or
imagination enough to kill a moose stands rather in Nowhere with Boston
fashion. The tameness of that pleasant little capital makes its belles
ardent for tales of wild adventure. New-York women are less exacting; a
few of them, indeed, like a dash of the adventurous in their lover; but
most of them are business-women, fighting their way out of vulgarity
into style, and romance is an interruption.
Kinneo was an old station of Iglesias's, in those days when he was
probing New England for the picturesque. When the steamer landed, he
acted as cicerone, and pointed out to me the main object of
interest thereabouts, the dinner-table. We dined with lumbermen and
The moose is the lion of these regions. Near Greenville, a gigantic pair
of moose-horns marks a fork in the road. Thenceforth moose-facts and
moose-legends become the staple of conversation. Moose-meat, combining
the flavor of beefsteak and the white of turtle, appears on the table.
Moose-horns with full explanations, so that the buyer can play the part
of hunter, are for sale. Tame mooselings are exhibited. Sportsmen at
Kinneo can choose a _matinee_ with the trout or a _soiree_ with the
The chief fact of a moose's person is that pair of strange excrescences,
his horns. Like fronds of tree-fern, like great corals or sea-fans,
these great palmated plates of bone lift themselves from his head,
grand, useless, clumsy. A pair of moose-horns overlooks me as I write;
they weigh twenty pounds, are nearly five feet in spread, on the right
horn are nine developed and two undeveloped antlers, the plates are
sixteen inches broad,--a doughty head-piece.
Every year the great, slow-witted animal must renew his head-gear. He
must lose the deformity, his pride, and cultivate another. In spring,
when the first anemone trembles to the vernal breeze, the moose nods
welcome to the wind, and as he nods feels something rattle on his skull.
He nods again, as Homer sometimes did. Lo! something drops. A horn has
dropped, and he stands a bewildered unicorn. For a few days he steers
wild; in this ill-balanced course his lone horn strikes every tree
on this side as he dodges from that side. The unhappy creature is
staggered, body and mind. In what Jericho of the forest can he hide his
diminished head? He flies frantic. He runs amuck through the woods. Days
pass by in gloom, and then comes despair; another horn falls, and he
becomes defenceless; and not till autumn does his brow bear again its
I make no apology for giving a few lines to the great event of a moose's
life. He is the hero of those evergreen-woods,--a hero too little
recognized, except by stealthy assassins, meeting him by midnight for
massacre. No one seems to have viewed him in his dramatic character, as
a forest-monarch enacting every year the tragi-comedy of decoronation
The Kinneo House is head-quarters for moose-hunters. This summer the
waters of Maine were diluvial, the feeding-grounds were swamped. Of this
we took little note: we were in chase of something certain not to
be drowned; and the higher the deluge, the easier we could float to
Katahdin. After dinner we took the steamboat again for the upper end of
It was a day of days for sunny summer sailing. Purple haziness curtained
the dark front of Kinneo,--a delicate haze purpled by this black
promontory, but melting blue like a cloud-fall of cloudless sky upon
loftier distant summits. The lake rippled pleasantly, flashing at every
Suddenly, "Katahdin!" said Iglesias.
Yes, there was a dim point, the object of our pilgrimage.
Katahdin,--the more I saw of it, the more grateful I was to the three
powers who enabled me to see it: to Nature for building it, to Iglesias
for guiding me to it, to myself for going.
We sat upon the deck and let Katahdin grow,--and sitting, talked of
mountains, somewhat to this effect:--
Mountains are the best things to be seen. Within the keen outline of a
great peak is packed more of distance, of detail, of light and shade, of
color, of all the qualities of space, than vision can get in any other
way. No one who has not seen mountains knows how far the eye can reach.
Level horizons are within cannon-shot. Mountain horizons not only may be
a hundred miles away, but they lift up a hundred miles at length, to be
seen at a look. Mountains make a background against which blue sky
can be seen; between them and the eye are so many miles of visible
atmosphere, domesticated, brought down to the regions of earth, not
resting overhead, a vagueness and a void. Air, blue in full daylight,
rose and violet at sunset, gray like powdered starlight by night, is
collected and isolated by a mountain, so that the eye can comprehend it
in nearer acquaintance. There is nothing so refined as the outline of
a distant mountain: even a rose-leaf is stiff-edged and harsh in
comparison. Nothing else has that definite indefiniteness, that melting
permanence, that evanescing changelessness. Clouds in vain strive to
imitate it; they are made of slighter stuff; they can be blunt or
ragged, but they cannot have that solid positiveness.
Mountains, too, are very stationary,--always at their post. They are
characters of dignity, not without noble changes of mood; but these
changes are not bewildering, capricious shifts. A mountain can be
studied like a picture; its majesty, its grace can be got by heart.
Purple precipice, blue pyramid, cone or dome of snow, it is a simple
image and a positive thought. It is a delicate fact, first, of
beauty,--then, as you approach, a strong fact of majesty and power.
But even in its cloudy, distant fairness there is a concise, emphatic
reality altogether uncloudlike.
Manly men need the wilderness and the mountain. Katahdin is the best
mountain in the wildest wild to be had on this side the continent. He
looked at us encouragingly over the hills. I saw that he was all that
Iglesias, connoisseur of mountains, had promised, and was content to
wait for the day of meeting.
The steamboat dumped us and our canoe on a wharf at the lake-head about
four o'clock. A wharf promised a settlement, which, however, did not
exist. There was population,--one man and one great ox. Following the
inland-pointing nose of the ox, we saw, penetrating the forest, a wooden
railroad. Ox-locomotive, and no other, befitted such rails. The train
was one great go-cart. We packed our traps upon it, roofed them with our
birch, and, without much ceremony of whistling, moved on. As we started,
so did the steamboat. The link between us and the inhabited world grew
more and more attenuated. Finally it snapped, and we were in the actual
I am sorry to chronicle that Iglesias hereupon turned to the ox and said
"Now, then, bullgine!"
Why a railroad, even a wooden one, here? For this: the Penobscot at this
point approaches within two and a half miles of Moosehead Lake, and over
this portage supplies are taken conveniently for the lumbermen of an
extensive lumbering country above, along the river.
Corduroy railroad, ox-locomotive, and go-cart train up in the pine woods
were a novelty and a privilege. Our cloven-hoofed engine did not whirr
turbulently along, like a thing of wheels. Slow and sure must the
knock-kneed chewer of cuds step from log to log. Creakingly the wain
followed him, pausing and starting and pausing again with groans of
inertia. A very fat ox was this, protesting every moment against his
employment, where speed, his duty, and sloth, his nature, kept him
bewildered by their rival injunctions. Whenever the engine-driver
stopped to pick a huckleberry, the train, self-braking, stopped also,
and the engine took in fuel from the tall grass that grew between the
sleepers. It was the sensation of sloth at its uttermost.
Iglesias and I, meanwhile, marched along and shot the game of the
country, namely, one _Tetrao Canadensis_, one spruce-partridge, making
in all one bird, quite too pretty to shoot with its red and black
plumage. The spruce-partridge is rather rare in inhabited Maine, and
is malignantly accused of being bitter in flesh, and of feeding on
spruce-buds to make itself distasteful. Our bird we found sweetly
berry-fed. The bitterness, if any, was that we had not a brace.
So, at last, in an hour, after shooting one bird and swallowing six
million berries, for the railroad was a shaft into a mine of them, we
came to the terminus. The chewer of cuds was disconnected, and plodded
off to his stable. The go-cart slid down an inclined plane to the river,
We paid quite freely for our brief monopoly of the railroad to the
superintendent, engineer, stoker, poker, switch-tender, brakeman,
baggage-master, and every other official in one. But who would grudge
his tribute to the enterprise that opened this narrow vista through
toward the Hyperboreans, and planted these once not crumbling sleepers
and once not rickety rails, to save the passenger a portage? Here,
at Bullgineville, the pluralist railroad-manager had his cabin and
clearing, ox-engine house and warehouse.
To balance these symbols of advance, we found a station of the
rear-guard of another army. An Indian party of two was encamped on the
bank. The fusty sagamore of this pair was lying wounded; his fusty squaw
tended him tenderly, minding, meanwhile, a very witch-like caldron
of savory fume. No skirmish, with actual war-whoop and sheen of real
scalping-knife, had put this prostrate chieftain here _hors du combat_.
He had shot himself cruelly by accident. So he informed us feebly, in a
muddy, guttural _patois_ of Canadian French. This aboriginal meeting was
of great value; it helped to eliminate the railroad.
It was now five o'clock of an August evening. Our work-day was properly
done. But we were to camp somewhere, "anywhere out of the world" of
railroads. The Penobscot glimmered winningly. Our birch looked wistful
for its own element. Why not marry shallop to stream? Why not yield
to the enticement of this current, fleet and clear, and gain a few
beautiful miles before nightfall? All the world was before us where to
choose our bivouac. We dismounted our birch from the truck, and laid its
lightness upon the stream. Then we became stevedores, stowing cargo.
Sheets of birch-bark served for dunnage. Cancut, in flamboyant shirt,
ballasted the after-part of the craft. For the present, I, in flamboyant
shirt, paddled in the bow, while Iglesias, similarly glowing, sat _a
la Turque_ midships among the traps. Then, with a longing sniff at the
caldron of Soggysampcook, we launched upon the Penobscot.
Upon no sweeter stream was voyager ever launched than this of our
summer-evening sail. There was no worse haste in its more speed; it
went fleetly lingering along its leafy dell. Its current, unripplingly
smooth, but dimpled ever, and wrinkled with the whirls that mark an
underflow deep and shady, bore on our bark. The banks were low and
gently wooded. No Northern forest, rude and gloomy with pines, stood
stiffly and unsympathizingly watching the graceful water, but cheerful
groves and delicate coppices opened in vistas where level sunlight
streamed, and barred the river with light, between belts of lightsome
shadow. We felt no breeze, but knew of one, keeping pace with us, by a
tremor in the birches as it shook them. On we drifted, mile after mile,
languidly over sweet calms. One would seize his paddle, and make our
canoe quiver for a few spasmodic moments. But it seemed needless and
impertinent to toil, when noiselessly and without any show of energy the
water was bearing us on, over rich reflections of illumined cloud and
blue sky, and shadows of feathery birches, bearing us on so quietly that
our passage did not shatter any fair image, but only drew it out upon
the tremors of the water.
So, placid and beautiful as an interview of first love, went on our
first meeting with this Northern river. But water, the feminine element,
is so mobile and impressible that it must protect itself by much that
seems caprice and fickleness. We might be sure that the Penobscot would
not always flow so gently, nor all the way from forests to the sea
conduct our bark without one shiver of panic, where rapids broke noisy
and foaming over rocks that showed their grinding teeth at us.
Sunset now streamed after us down the river. The arbor-vitae along the
banks marked tracery more delicate than any ever wrought by deftest
craftsman in western window of an antique fane. Brighter and richer than
any tints that ever poured through painted oriel flowed the glories of
sunset. Dear, pensive glooms of nightfall drooped from the zenith slowly
down, narrowing twilight to a belt of dying flame. We were aware of the
ever fresh surprise of starlight: the young stars were born again.
Sweet is the charm of starlit sailing where no danger is. And in days
when the Munki Mannakens were foes of the pale-face, one might dash down
rapids by night in the hurry of escape. Now the danger was before, not
pursuing. We must camp before we were hurried into the first "rips"
of the stream, and before night made bush-ranging and camp-duties
But these beautiful thickets of birch and alder along the bank, how to
get through them? We must spy out an entrance. Spots lovely and damp,
circles of ferny grass beneath elms offered themselves. At last, as to
patience always, appeared the place of wisest choice. A little stream,
the Ragmuff, entered the Penobscot. "Why Ragmuff?" thought we, insulted.
Just below its mouth two spruces were _propylaea_ to a little glade, our
very spot. We landed. Some hunters had once been there. A skeleton lodge
and frame of poles for drying moose-hides remained.
Like skilful campaigners, we at once distributed ourselves over our
work. Cancut wielded the axe; I the match-box; Iglesias the _batterie de
cuisine_. Ragmuff drifted one troutling and sundry chubby chub down
to nip our hooks. We re-roofed our camp with its old covering of
hemlock-bark, spreading over a light tent-cover we had provided. The
last glow of twilight dulled away; monitory mists hid the stars.
Iglesias, as _chef_, with his two _marmitons_, had, meanwhile, been
preparing supper. It was dark when he, the colorist, saw that fire with
delicate touches of its fine brushes had painted all our viands to
perfection. Then, with the same fire stirred to illumination, and
dashing masterly glows upon landscape and figures, the trio partook of
the supper and named it sublime.
Here follows the _carte_ of the Restaurant Ragmuff,--woodland fare, a
banquet simple, but elegant:--
Porc frit au naturel.
Ragmuff blanc. Penobscot mousseux.
The. Chocolat de Bogota.
Petit verre de Cognac.
At that time I had a temporary quarrel with the frantic nineteenth
century's best friend, tobacco,--and Iglesias, being totally at peace
with himself and the world, never needs anodynes. Cancut, therefore, was
the only cloud-blower.
We two solaced ourselves with scorning civilization from our
vantage-ground. We were beyond fences, away from the clash of
town-clocks, the clink of town-dollars, the hiss of town-scandals. As
soon as one is fairly in camp and has begun to eat with his fingers,
he is free. He and truth are at the bottom of a well,--a hollow,
fire-lighted cylinder of forest. While the manly man of the woods is
breathing Nature like an Amreeta draught, is it anything less than the
"Yet some call American life dull."
"Ay, to dullards!" ejaculated Iglesias.
Moose were said to haunt these regions. Toward midnight our would-be
moose-hunter paddled about up and down, seeking them and finding not.
The waters were too high. Lily-pads were drowned. There were no moose
looming duskily in the shallows, to be done to death at their banquet.
They were up in the pathless woods, browsing on leaves and deappetizing
with bitter bark. Starlight paddling over reflected stars was
enchanting, but somniferous. We gave up our vain quest and glided softly
home,--already we called it home,--toward the faint embers of our fire.
Then all slept, as only wood-men sleep, save when for moments Cancut's
trumpet-tones sounded alarums, and we others awoke to punch and batter
the snorer into silence.
In due time, bird and cricket whistled and chirped the reveille. We
sprang from our lair. We dipped in the river and let its gentle friction
polish us more luxuriously than ever did any hair-gloved polisher of
an Oriental bath. Our joints crackled for themselves as we beat the
current. From bath like this comes no unmanly kief, no sensuous,
slumberous, dreamy indifference, but a nervous, intent, keen, joyous
activity. A day of deeds is before us, and we would be doing.
When we issue from the Penobscot, from our baptism into a new life, we
need no valet for elaborate toilet. Attire is simple, when the woods are
When we had taken off the water and put on our clothes, we
simultaneously thought of breakfast. Like a circle of wolves around the
bones of a banquet, the embers of our fire were watching each other over
the ashes; we had but to knock their heads together and fiery fighting
began. The skirmish of the brands boiled our coffee and fried our pork,
and we embarked and shoved off. A thin blue smoke, floating upward, for
an hour or two, marked our bivouac; soon this had gone out, and the
banks and braes of Ragmuff were lonely as if never a biped had trodden
them. Nature drops back to solitude as easily as man to peace;--how
little this fair globe would miss mankind!
The Penobscot was all asteam with morning mist. It was blinding the sun
with a matinal oblation of incense. A crew of the profane should not
interfere with such act of worship. Sacrilege is perilous, whoever be
the God. We were instantly punished for irreverence. The first "rips"
came up-stream under cover of the mist, and took us by surprise. As we
were paddling along gently, we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of
a boiling rapid. Gnashing rocks, with cruel foam upon their lips, sprang
out of the obscure, eager to tear us. Great jaws of ugly blackness
snapped about us as if we were introduced into a coterie of crocodiles.
Symplegades clanged together behind; mighty gulfs, below seducing bends
of smooth water, awaited us before. We were in for it. We spun, whizzed,
dashed, leaped, "cavorted;" we did whatever a birch running the gantlet
of whirlpools and breakers may do, except the fatal finality of a
somerset. That we escaped, and only escaped. We had been only reckless,
not audacious; and therefore peril, not punishment, befell us. The rocks
smote our frail shallop; they did not crush it. Foam and spray dashed in
our faces; solid fluid below the crest did not overwhelm us. There we
were, presently, in water tumultuous, but not frantic. There we were,
three men floating in a birch, not floundering in a maelstrom,--on the
water, not under it,--sprinkled, not drowned,--and in a wild wonder how
we got into it and how we got out of it.
Cancut's paddle guided us through. Unwieldy he may have been in person,
but he could wield his weapon well. And so, by luck and skill, we were
not drowned in the magnificent uproar of the rapid. Success, that
strange stirabout of Providence, accident, and courage, were ours. But
when we came to the next cascading bit, though the mist had now lifted,
we lightened the canoe by two men's avoir-dupois, that it might dance,
and not blunder heavily, might seek the safe shallows, away from the
dangerous bursts of mid-current, and choose passages where Cancut, with
the setting-pole, could let it gently down. So Iglesias and I plunged
through the labyrinthine woods, the stream along.
Not long after our little episode of buffeting, we shot out again upon
smooth water, and soon, for it is never smooth but it is smoothest, upon
a lake, Chesuncook.
Chesuncook is a "bulge" of the Penobscot: so much for its topography. It
is deep in the woods, except that some miles from its opening there is
a lumbering-station, with house and barns. In the wilderness, man makes
for man by a necessity of human instinct. We made for the log-houses.
We found there an ex-barkeeper of a certain well-known New-York cockney
coffee-house, promoted into a frontiersman, but mindful still of
flesh-pots. Poor fellow, he was still prouder that he had once tossed
the foaming cocktail than that he could now fell the forest-monarch.
Mixed drinks were dearer to him than pure air. When we entered the long,
low log-cabin, he was boiling doughnuts, as was to be expected. In
certain regions of America every cook who is not baking pork and beans
is boiling doughnuts, just as in certain other gastronomic quarters
_frijoles_ alternate with _tortillas_.
Doughnuts, like peaches, must be eaten with the dew upon them. Caught as
they come bobbing up in the bubbling pot, I will not say that they are
despicable. Woodsmen and canoemen, competent to pork and beans, can
master also the alternative. The ex-barkeeper was generous with these
brown and glistening langrage-shot, and aimed volley after volley at our
mouths. Nor was he content with giving us our personal fill; into every
crevice of our firkin he packed a pellet of future indigestion. Besides
this result of foraging, we took the hint from a visible cow that milk
might be had. Of this also the ex-barkeeper served us out galore,
sighing that it was not the punch of his metropolitan days. We put our
milk in our tea-pot, and thus, with all the ravages of the past made
good, we launched again upon Chesuncook.
Chesuncook, according to its quality of lake, had no aid to give us with
current. Paddling all a hot August mid-day over slothful water would
be tame, day-laborer's work. But there was a breeze. Good! Come, kind
Zephyr, fill our red blanket-sail! Cancut's blanket in the bow became a
substitute for Cancut's paddle in the stern. We swept along before the
wind, unsteadily, over Lake Chesuncook, at sea in a bowl,--"rolled to
starboard, rolled to larboard," in our keelless craft. Zephyr only
followed us, mild as he was strong, and strong as he was mild. Had he
been puffy, it would have been all over with us. But the breeze only
sang about our way, and shook the water out of sunny calm. Katahdin to
the North, a fair blue pyramid, lifted higher and stooped forward
more imminent, yet still so many leagues away that his features were
undefined, and the gray of his scalp undistinguishable from the green of
his beard of forest. Every mile, however, as we slid drowsily over the
hot lake, proved more and more that we were not befooled,--Iglesias by
memory, and I by anticipation. Katahdin lost nothing by approach, as
some of the grandees do: as it grew bigger, it grew better.
Twenty miles, or so, of Chesuncook, of sun-cooked Chesuncook, we
traversed by the aid of our blanket-sail, pleasantly wafted by the
unboisterous breeze. Undrowned, unducked, as safe from the perils of the
broad lake as we had come out of the defiles of the rapids, we landed at
the carry below the dam at the lake's outlet.
The skin of many a slaughtered varmint was nailed on its shingle, and
the landing-place was carpeted with the fur. Doughnuts, ex-barkeepers,
and civilization at one end of the lake, and here were muskrat-skins,
trappers, and the primeval. Two hunters of moose, in default of their
fern-horned, blubber-lipped game, had condescended to muskrat, and were
making the lower end of Chesuncook fragrant with muskiness.
It is surprising how hospitable and comrade a creature is man. The
trappers of muskrats were charmingly brotherly. They guided us across
the carry; they would not hear of our being porters. "Pluck the
superabundant huckleberry," said they, "while we, suspending your firkin
and your traps upon the setting-pole, tote them, as the spies of Joshua
toted the grape-clusters of the Promised Land."
Cancut, for his share, carried the canoe. He wore it upon his head and
shoulders. Tough work he found it, toiling through the underwood, and
poking his way like an elongated and mobile mushroom through the thick
shrubbery. Ever and anon, as Iglesias and I paused, we would be aware of
the canoe thrusting itself above our heads in the covert, and a voice
would come from an unseen head under its shell,--"It's soul-breaking,
The portage was short. We emerged from the birchen grove upon the river,
below a brilliant cascading rapid. The water came flashing gloriously
forward, a far other element than the tame, flat stuff we had drifted
slowly over all the dullish hours. Water on the go is nobler than water
on the stand; recklessness may be as fatal as stagnation, but it is more
Presently, over the edge, where the foam and spray were springing up
into sunshine, our canoe suddenly appeared, and had hardly appeared,
when, as if by one leap, it had passed the rapid, and was gliding in the
stiller current at our feet. One of the muskrateers had relieved Cancut
of his head-piece, and shot the lower rush of water. We again embarked,
and, guided by the trappers in their own canoe, paddled out upon Lake
LOUIS LEBEAU'S CONVERSION.
Yesterday, while I moved with the languid crowd on the Riva,
Musing with idle eyes on the wide lagoons and the islands,
And on the dim-seen seaward glimmering sails in the distance,
Where the azure haze, like a vision of Indian-Summer,
Haunted the dreamy sky of the soft Venetian December,--
While I moved unwilled in the mellow warmth of the weather,
Breathing air that was full of Old-World sadness and beauty,
Into my thought came this story of free, wild life in Ohio,
When the land was new, and yet by the Beautiful River
Dwelt the pioneers and Indian hunters and boatmen.
Pealed from the campanile, responding from island to island,
Bells of that ancient faith whose incense and solemn devotions
Rise from a hundred shrines in the broken heart of the city;
But in my reverie heard I only the passionate voices
Of the people that sang in the virgin heart of the forest.
Autumn was in the land, and the trees were golden and crimson,
And from the luminous boughs of the over-elms and the maples
Tender and beautiful fell the light in the worshippers' faces,
Softer than lights that stream through the saints on the windows of
While the balsamy breath of the hemlocks and pines by the river
Stole on the winds through the woodland aisles like the breath of a
Loud the people sang old camp-meeting anthems that quaver
Quaintly yet from lips forgetful of lips that have kissed them:
Loud they sang the songs of the Sacrifice and Atonement,
And of the end of the world, and the infinite terrors of Judgment;
Songs of ineffable sorrow, and wailing compassionate warning
For the generations that hardened their hearts to their Saviour;
Songs of exultant rapture for them that confessed Him and followed,
Bearing His burden and yoke, enduring and entering with Him
Into the rest of His saints, and the endless reward of the blessed.
Loud the people sang: but through the sound of their singing
Brake inarticulate cries and moans and sobs from the mourners,
As the glory of God, that smote the apostle of Tarsus,
Smote them and strewed them to earth like leaves in the breath of the
Hushed at last was the sound of the lamentation and singing;
But from the distant hill the throbbing drum of the pheasant
Shook with its heavy pulses the depths of the listening silence,
When from his place arose a white-haired exhorter and faltered:
"Brethren and sisters in Jesus! the Lord hath heard our petitions,
And the hearts of His servants are awed and melted within them,--
Even the hearts of the wicked are touched by His infinite mercy.
All my days in this vale of tears the Lord hath been with me,
He hath been good to me, He hath granted me trials and patience;
But this hour hath crowned my knowledge of Him and His goodness.
Truly, but that it is well this day for me to be with you,
Now might I say to the Lord,--'I know Thee, my God, in all fulness;
Now let Thy servant depart in peace to the rest Thou hast promised!'"
Faltered and ceased. And now the wild and jubilant music
Of the singing burst from the solemn profound of the silence,
Surged in triumph and fell, and ebbed again into silence.
Then from the group of the preachers arose the greatest among them,--
He whose days were given in youth to the praise of the Saviour,--
He whose lips seemed touched like the prophet's of old from the altar,
So that his words were flame, and burned to the hearts of his hearers,
Quickening the dead among them, reviving the cold and the doubting.
There he charged them pray, and rest not from prayer while a sinner
In the sound of their voices denied the Friend of the sinner:
"Pray till the night shall fall,--till the stars are faint in the
Yea, till the sun himself be faint in that glory and brightness,
In that light which shall dawn in mercy for penitent sinners."
Kneeling, he led them in prayer, and the quick and sobbing responses
Spake how their souls were moved with the might and the grace of the
Then while the converts recounted how God had chastened and saved
Children whose golden locks yet shone with the lingering effulgence
Of the touches of Him who blessed little children forever,--
Old men whose yearning eyes were dimmed with the far-streaming
Seen through the opening gates in the heart of the heavenly city,--
Stealthily through the harking woods the lengthening shadows
Chased the wild things to their nests, and the twilight died into
Now the four great pyres that were placed there to light the encampment,
High on platforms raised above the people, were kindled.
Flaming aloof, as if from the pillar by night in the Desert,
Fell their crimson light on the lifted orbs of the preachers,
On the withered brows of the old men, and Israel's mothers,
On the bloom of youth, and the earnest devotion of manhood,
On the anguish and hope in the tearful eyes of the mourners.
Flaming aloof, it stirred the sleep of the luminous maples
With warm summer-dreams, and faint, luxurious languor.
Near the four great pyres the people closed in a circle,
In their midst the mourners, and, praying with them, the exhorters,
And on the skirts of the circle the unrepentant and scorners,--
Ever fewer and sadder, and drawn to the place of the mourners,
One after one, by the prayers and tears of the brethren and sisters,
And by the Spirit of God, that was mightily striving within them,
Till at the last alone stood Louis Lebeau, unconverted.
Louis Lebeau, the boatman, the trapper, the hunter, the fighter,
From the unlucky French of Gallipolis he descended,
Heir to Old-World want and New-World love of adventure.
Vague was the life he led, and vague and grotesque were the rumors
Wherethrough he loomed on the people, the hero of mythical hearsay,--
Quick of hand and of heart, _insouciant_, generous, Western,--
Taking the thought of the young in secret love and in envy.
Not less the elders shook their heads and held him for outcast,
Reprobate, roving, ungodly, infidel, worse than a Papist,
With his whispered fame of lawless exploits at St. Louis,
Wild affrays and loves with the half-breeds out on the Osage,
Brawls at New-Orleans, and all the towns on the rivers,
All the godless towns of the many-ruffianed rivers.
Only she that loved him the best of all, in her loving,
Knew him the best of all, and other than that of the rumors.
Daily she prayed for him, with conscious and tender effusion,
That the Lord would convert him. But when her father forbade him
Unto her thought, she denied him, and likewise held him for outcast,
Turned her eyes when they met, and would not speak, though her heart
Bitter and brief his logic that reasoned from wrong unto error:
"This is their praying and singing," he said, "that makes you reject
You that were kind to me once. But I think my fathers' religion,
With a light heart in the breast, and a friendly priest to absolve one,
Better than all these conversions that only bewilder and vex me,
And that have made man so hard and woman fickle and cruel.
Well, then, pray for my soul, since you would not have spoken to save
Yes,--for I go from these saints to my brethren and sisters, the
Spake and went, while her faint lips fashioned unuttered entreaties,--
Went, and came again in a year at the time of the meeting,
Haggard and wan of face, and wasted with passion and sorrow.
Dead in his eyes was the careless smile of old, and its phantom
Haunted his lips in a sneer of restless incredulous mocking.
Day by day he came to the outer skirts of the circle,
Dwelling on her, where she knelt by the white-haired exhorter, her
With his hollow looks, and never moved from his silence.
Now, where he stood alone, the last of impenitent sinners,
Weeping, old friends and comrades came to him out of the circle,
And with their tears besought him to hear what the Lord had done for
Ever he shook them off, not roughly, nor smiled at their transports.
Then the preachers spake and painted the terrors of Judgment,
And of the bottomless pit, and the flames of hell everlasting.
Still and dark he stood, and neither listened nor heeded:
But when the fervent voice of the while-haired exhorter was lifted,
Fell his brows in a scowl of fierce and scornful rejection.
"Lord, let this soul be saved!" cried the fervent voice of the old man;
"For that the shepherd rejoiceth more truly for one that hath wandered,
And hath been found again, than for all the others that strayed not."
Out of the midst of the people, a woman old and decrepit,
Tremulous through the light, and tremulous into the shadow,
Wavered toward him with slow, uncertain paces of palsy,
Laid her quivering hand on his arm and brokenly prayed him:
"Louis Lebeau, I closed in death the eyes of your mother.
On my breast she died, in prayer for her fatherless children,
That they might know the Lord, and follow Him always, and serve Him.
Oh, I conjure you, my son, by the name of your mother in glory,
Scorn not the grace of the Lord!" As when a summer-noon's tempest
Breaks in one swift gush of rain, then ceases and gathers
Darker and gloomier yet on the lowering front of the heavens,
So brake his mood in tears, as he soothed her, and stilled her
And so he turned again with his clouded looks to the people.
Vibrated then from the hush the accents of mournfullest pity,--
His who was gifted in speech, and the glow of the fires illumined
All his pallid aspect with sudden and marvellous splendor:
"Louis Lebeau," he spake, "I have known you and loved you from
Still, when the others blamed you, I took your part, for I knew you.
Louis Lebeau, my brother, I thought to meet you in heaven,
Hand in hand with her who is gone to heaven before us,
Brothers through her dear love! I trusted to greet you and lead you
Up from the brink of the River unto the gates of the City.
Lo! my years shall be few on the earth. Oh, my brother,
If I should die before you had known the mercy of Jesus,
Yea, I think it would sadden the hope of glory within me!"
Neither yet had the will of the sinner yielded an answer;
But from his lips there broke a cry of unspeakable anguish,
Wild and fierce and shrill, as if some demon within him
Rent his soul with the ultimate pangs of fiendish possession,
And with the outstretched arms of bewildered imploring toward them,
Death-white unto the people he turned his face from the darkness.
Out of the sedge by the creek a flight of clamorous killdees
Rose from their timorous sleep with piercing and iterant challenge,
Wheeled in the starlight and fled away into distance and silence.
White on the other hand lay the tents, and beyond them glided the river,
Where the broadhorn[A] drifted slow at the will of the current,
And where the boatman listened, and knew not how, as he listened,
Something touched through the years the old lost hopes of his
Only his sense was filled with low monotonous murmurs,
As of a faint-heard prayer, that was chorused with deeper responses.
[Footnote A: The old-fashioned flat-boats were so called.]
Not with the rest was lifted her voice in the fervent responses,
But in her soul she prayed to Him that heareth in secret,
Asking for light and for strength to learn His will and to do it:
"Oh, make me clear to know, if the hope that rises within me
Be not part of a love unmeet for me here, and forbidden!
So, if it be not that, make me strong for the evil entreaty
Of the days that shall bring me question of self and reproaches,
When the unrighteous shall mock, and my brethren and sisters shall
Make me worthy to know Thy will, my Saviour, and do it!"
In her pain she prayed, and at last, through her mute adoration,
Rapt from all mortal presence, and in her rapture uplifted,
Glorified she rose, and stood in the midst of the people,
Looking on all with the still, unseeing eyes of devotion,
Vague, and tender, and sweet, as the eyes of the dead, when we dream
Living and looking on us, but they cannot speak, and we cannot:
Knowing only the peril that threatened his soul's unrepentance,
Knowing only the fear and error and wrong that withheld him,
Thinking, "In doubt of me, his soul had perished forever!"
Touched with no feeble shame, but trusting her power to save him,
Through the circle she passed, and straight to the side of her lover,--
Took his hand in her own, and mutely implored him an instant,
Answering, giving, forgiving, confessing, beseeching him all things,--
Drew him then with her, and passed once more through the circle
Unto her place, and knelt with him there by the side of her father,
Trembling as women tremble who greatly venture and triumph,--
But in her innocent breast was the saint's sublime exultation.
So was Louis converted; and though the lips of the scorner
Spared not in after-years the subtle taunt and derision,
(What time, meeker grown, his heart held his hand from its answer,)
Not the less lofty and pure her love and her faith that had saved him,
Not the less now discerned was her inspiration from heaven
By the people, that rose, and embracing, and weeping together,
Poured forth their jubilant songs of victory and of thanksgiving,
Till from the embers leaped the dying flame to behold them,
And the hills of the river were filled with reverberant echoes,--
Echoes that out of the years and the distance stole to me hither,
While I moved unwilled in the mellow warmth of the weather,--
Echoes that mingled and fainted and fell with the fluttering murmurs
In the hearts of the hushing bells, as from island to island
Swooned the sound on the wide lagoons into palpitant silence.
* * * * *
THE DEVELOPMENT AND OVERTHROW OF THE RUSSIAN SERF-SYSTEM.
Close upon the end of the fifteenth century, the Muscovite ideas
of Right were subjected to the strong mind of Ivan the Great, and
compressed into a code.
Therein were embodied the best processes known to his land and time: for
discovering crime, torture and trial by battle; for punishing crime, the
knout and death.
But hidden in this tough mass was one law of greater import than all
others. Thereby were all peasants forbidden to leave the lands they
were then tilling, except during the eight days before and after Saint
George's day. This provision sprang from Ivan's highest views of justice
and broadest views of political economy; the nobles received it with
plaudits, which have found echoes even in these days;[A] the peasants
received it with no murmurs which History has found any trouble in
[Footnote A: See Gerebtzoff, _Histoire de la Civilisation en Russie_.]
Just one hundred years later, there sat upon the Muscovite throne, as
_nominal_ Tzar, the weakling Feodor I.; but behind the throne stood, as
_real_ Tzar, hard, strong Boris Godounoff.
Looking forward to Feodor's death, Boris makes ready to mount the
throne; and he sees--what all other "Mayors of the Palace," climbing
into the places of _faineant_ kings, have seen--that he must link to
his fortunes the fortunes of some strong body in the nation; he breaks,
however, from the general rule among usurpers,--bribing the Church,--and
determines to bribe the nobility.
The greatest grief of the Muscovite nobles seemed to be that the
peasants could escape from their oppression by the emigration allowed at
Saint George's day.
Boris saw his opportunity: he cut off the privilege of Saint George's
day; the peasant was fixed to the soil forever. No Russian law ever
_directly_ enslaved the peasantry,[B] but, through this decree of Boris,
the lord who owned the soil came to own the peasants upon it, just as he
owned its immovable boulders and ledges.
[Footnote B: Haxthausen.]
To this the peasants submitted, but over this wrong History has not
been able to drown their sighs; their proverbs and ballads make Saint
George's day representative of all ill-luck and disappointment.
A few years later, Boris made another bid for oligarchic favor. He
issued a rigorous fugitive-serf law, and even wrenched liberty from
certain free peasants who had entered service for wages before his
edicts. This completed the work, and Russia, which never had the
benefits of feudalism, had now fastened upon her feudalism's worst
curse,--a serf-caste bound to the glebe.
The great waves of wrong which bore serfage into Russia seem to have
moved with a kind of tidal regularity, and the distance between their
crests in those earlier times appears to have been just a hundred
years,--for, again, at the end of the next century, surge over the
nation the ideas of Peter the Great.
The great good things done by Peter the world knows by heart. The world
knows well how he tore his way out of the fetichism of his time,--how,
despite ignorance and unreason, he dragged his nation after him,--how he
dowered the nation with things and thoughts which transformed it from a
petty Asiatic horde to a great European power.
And the praise due to this work can never be diminished. Time shall
but increase it; for the world has yet to learn most of the wonderful
details of his activity. We were present a few years since, when one of
those lesser triumphs of his genius was first unfolded.
It was in that room at the Hermitage--adjoining the Winter Palace--set
apart for the relics of Peter. Our companions were two men noted as
leaders in American industry,--one famed as an inventor, the other famed
as a champion of inventors' rights.
Suddenly from the inventor,[C] pulling over some old dust-covered
machines in a corner, came loud cries of surprise. The cries were
natural indeed. In that heap of rubbish he had found a lathe for turning
irregular forms, and a screw-cutting engine once used by Peter himself:
specimens of his unfinished work were still in them. They had lain there
unheeded a hundred and fifty years; their principle had died with Peter
and his workmen; and not many years since, they were reinvented in
America, and gave their inventors fame and fortune. At the late Paris
Universal Exposition crowds flocked about an American lathe for copying
statuary; and that lathe was, in principle, identical with this old,
forgotten machine of Peter's.
[Footnote C: The late Samuel Colt.]
Yet, though Peter fought so well, and thought so well, he made some
mistakes which hang to this day over his country as bitter curses. For
in all his plan and work to advance the mass of men was one supreme
lack,--lack of any account of the worth and right of the individual man.
Lesser examples of this are seen in his grim jest at Westminster
Hall,--"What use of so many lawyers? I have but two lawyers in Russia,
and one of those I mean to hang as soon as I return;"--or when, at
Berlin, having been shown a new gibbet, he ordered one of his
servants to be hanged in order to test it;--or, in his reviews and
parade-fights, when he ordered his men to use ball, and to take the
buttons off their bayonets.
Greater examples are seen in his Battle of Narva, when he threw away an
army to learn his opponent's game,--in his building of St. Petersburg,
where, in draining marshes, he sacrificed a hundred thousand men the
But the greatest proof of this great lack was shown in his dealings with
Serfage was already recognized in Peter's time as an evil. Peter himself
once stormed forth in protestations and invectives against what he
stigmatized as "selling men like beasts,--separating parents from
children, husbands from wives,--which takes place nowhere else in the
world, and which causes many tears to flow." He declared that a law
should be made against it. Yet it was by his misguided hand that serfage
was compacted into its final black mass of foulness.
For Peter saw other nations spinning and weaving, and he determined that
Russia should at once spin and weave; he saw other nations forging
iron, and he determined that Russia should at once forge iron. He never
stopped to consider that what might cost little in other lands, as a
natural growth, might cost far too much in Russia, as a forced growth.
In lack, then, of quick brain and sturdy spine and strong arm of paid
workmen, he forced into his manufactories the flaccid muscle of serfs.
These, thus lifted from the earth, lost even the little force in the
State they before had; great bodies of serfs thus became slaves; worse
than that, the idea of a serf developed toward the idea of a slave.[D]
[Footnote D: Haxthausen, _Etudes sur la Situation Interieure_, etc., _de
And Peter, misguided, dealt one blow more. Cold-blooded officials were
set at taking the census. These adopted easy classifications; free
peasants, serfs, and slaves were often huddled into the lists under
a single denomination. So serfage became still more difficult to be
distinguished from slavery.[E]
[Footnote E: Gurowski,--also Wolowski in _Revue des Deux Mondes_.]
As this base of hideous wrong was thus widened and deepened, the
nobles built higher and stronger their superstructure of arrogance and
pretension. Not many years after Peter's death, they so over-awed the
Empress Anne that she thrust into the codes of the Empire statutes which
allowed the nobles to sell serfs apart from the soil. So did serfage
bloom _fully_ into slavery.
But in the latter half of the eighteenth century Russia gained a ruler
from whom the world came to expect much.
To mount the throne, Catharine II. had murdered her husband; to keep the
throne, she had murdered two claimants whose title was better than
her own. She then became, with her agents in these horrors, a second
To set herself right in the eyes of Europe, she paid eager court to
that hierarchy of skepticism which in that age made or marred European
reputations. She flattered the fierce Deists by owning fealty to "_Le
Roi Voltaire_;" she flattered the mild Deists by calling in La Harpe
as the tutor of her grandson; she flattered the Atheists by calling in
Diderot as a tutor for herself.
Her murders and orgies were soon forgotten in the new hopes for Russian
regeneration. Her dealings with Russia strengthened these hopes. The
official style required that all persons presenting petitions should
subscribe themselves "Your Majesty's humble serf." This formula she
abolished, and boasted that she had cast out the word serf from the
Russian language. Poets and philosophers echoed this boast over Europe,
--and the serfs waited.
The great Empress spurred hope by another movement. She proposed to
an academy the question of serf-emancipation as a subject for their
prize-essay. The essay was written and crowned. It was filled with
beautiful things about liberty, practical things about moderation,
flattering things about "the Great Catharine,"--and the serfs waited.
Again she aroused hope. It was given out that her most intense delight
came from the sight of happy serfs and prosperous villages. Accordingly,
in her journey to the Crimea, Potemkin squandered millions on millions
in rearing pasteboard villages,--in dragging forth thousands of wretched
peasants to fill them,--in costuming them to look thrifty,--in training
them to look happy. Catharine was rejoiced,--Europe sang paeans,--the
[Footnote F: For further growth of the sentimental fashion thus set, see
_Memoirs of the Princess Daschkaw_, Vol. I. p. 383.]
She seemed to go farther: she issued a decree prohibiting the
enslavement of serfs. But, unfortunately, the palace-intrigues, and the
correspondence with the philosophers, and the destruction of Polish
nationality left her no time to see the edict carried out. But Europe
applauded,--and the serfs waited.
Two years after this came a deed which put an end to all this
uncertainty. An edict was prepared, ordering the peasants of Little
Russia to remain forever on the estates where the day of publication
should find them. This was vile; but what followed was diabolic.
Court-pets were let into the secret. These, by good promises, enticed
hosts of peasants to their estates. The edict was now sprung;--in an
hour the courtiers were made rich, the peasants were made serfs, and
Catharine II. was made infamous forever.
So, about a century after Peter, there rolled over Russia a wave of
wrong which not only drowned honor in the nobility, but drowned hope in
As Russia entered the nineteenth century, the hearts of earnest men must
have sunk within them. For Paul I., Catharine's son and successor, was
infinitely more despotic than Catharine, and infinitely less restrained
by public opinion. He had been born with savage instincts, and educated
into ferocity. Tyranny was written on his features, in his childhood. If
he remained in Russia, his mother sneered and showed hatred to him; if
he journeyed in Western Europe, crowds gathered about his coach to jeer
at his ugliness. Most of those who have seen Gillray's caricature
of him, issued in the height of English spite at Paul's homage to
Bonaparte, have thought it hideously overdrawn; but those who have seen
the portrait of Paul in the Cadet-Corps at St. Petersburg know well
that Gillray did not exaggerate Paul's ugliness, for he could not.
And Paul's face was but a mirror of his character. Tyranny was wrought
into his every fibre. He insisted on an Oriental homage. As his carriage
whirled by, it was held the duty of all others in carriages to stop,
descend into the mud, and bow themselves. Himself threw his despotism
into this formula,--"Know, Sir Ambassador, that in Russia there is
no one noble or powerful except the man to whom I speak, and while I
And yet, within that hideous mass glowed some sparks of reverence
for right. When the nobles tried to get Paul's assent to more open
arrangements for selling serfs apart from the soil, he utterly refused;
and when they overtasked their human chattels, Paul made a law that no
serf should be required to give more than three days in the week to the
tillage of his master's domain.
But, within five years after his accession, Paul had developed into such
a ravenous wild-beast that it became necessary to murder him. This duty
done, there came a change in the spirit of Russian sovereignty as from
March to May; but, sadly for humanity, there came, at the same time, a
change in the spirit of European politics as from May to March.
For, although the new Tzar, Alexander I., was mild and liberal, the
storm of French ideas and armies had generally destroyed in monarchs'
minds any poor germs of philanthropy which had ever found lodgment
there. Still Alexander breasted this storm,--found time to plan for
his serfs, and in 1803 put his hand to the work of helping them toward
freedom. His first edict was for the creation of the class of "free
laborers." By this, masters and serfs were encouraged to enter into
an arrangement which was to put the serf into immediate possession
of himself, of a homestead, and of a few acres,--giving him time to
indemnify his master by a series of payments. Alexander threw his heart
into this scheme; in his kindliness he supposed that the pretended
willingness of the nobles meant something; but the serf-owning caste,
without openly opposing, twisted up bad consequences with good, braided
impossibilities into possibilities: the whole plan became a tangle, and
was thrown aside.
The Tzar now sought to foster other good efforts, especially those made
by some earnest nobles to free their serfs by will. But this plan, also,
the serf-owning caste entangled and thwarted.
At last, the storm of war set in with such fury that all internal
reforms must be lost sight of. Russia had to make ready for those
campaigns in which Napoleon gained every battle. Then came that peaceful
meeting on the raft at Tilsit,--worse for Russia than any warlike
meeting; for thereby Napoleon seduced Alexander, for years, from plans
of bettering his Empire into dreams of extending it.
Coming out of these dreams, Alexander had to deal with such realities
as the burning of Moscow, the Battle of Leipsic, and the occupation of
France; yet, in the midst of those fearful times,--when the grapple of