Part 2 out of 5
luxury of superstition. Were these the Cyclops of Katahdin? Possibly.
Were they Trolls forging diabolic enginery, or Gypsies of Yankeedom? I
will see,--and went tumbling down the hill-side.
As I entered the circle about the cooking-fire of drift-wood by the
lake, Iglesias said,--
"The beef-steak and the mutton-chops will do for breakfast; now, then,
with your bear!"
"Haw, haw!" guffawed Cancut; and the sound, taking the lake at a stride,
found echoes everywhere, till he grew silent and peered suspiciously
into the dark.
"There's more bears raound 'n yer kin shake a stick at," said one of the
muskrateers. "I wouldn't ricommend yer to stir 'em up naow, haowlin'
"I meant it for laffin'," said Cancut, humbly.
"Ef yer call that 'ere larfin', couldn't yer cry a little to kind er
slick daown the bears?" said the trapper.
Iglesias now invited us to _chocolat a la creme_, made with the boon
of the ex-bar-keeper. I suppose I may say, without flattery, that this
tipple was marvellous. What a pity Nature spoiled a cook by making the
muddler of that chocolate a painter of grandeurs! When Fine Art is in
a man's nature, it must exude, as pitch leaks from a pine-tree. Our
muskrat-hunters partook injudiciously of this unaccustomed dainty, and
were visited with indescribable Nemesis. They had never been acclimated
to chocolate, as had Iglesias and I, by sipping it under the shade of
the mimosa and the palm.
Up to a certain point, an unlucky hunter is more likely to hunt than
a lucky. Satiety follows more speedily upon success than despair upon
failure. Let us thank Heaven for that, brethren dear! I had bagged not a
bear, and must needs satisfy my assassin instincts upon something with
hoofs and horns. The younger trapper of muskrat, being young, was
ardent,--being young, was hopeful,--being young, believed in exceptions
to general rules,--and being young, believed, that, given a good fellow
with a gun, Nature would provide a victim. Therefore he proposed that we
should canoe it along the shallows in this sweetest and stillest of all
the nights. The senior shook his head incredulously; Iglesias shook his
"Since you have massacred all the bears," said Iglesias, "I will go lay
me down in their lair in the barn. If you find me cheek-by-jowl with
Ursa Major when you come back, make a pun and he will go."
It was stiller than stillness upon the lake. Ripogenus, it seemed, had
never listened to such silence as this. Calm never could have been so
beyond the notion of calm. Stars in the empyrean and stars in Ripogenus
winked at each other across ninety-nine billions of leagues as
uninterruptedly as boys at a boarding-school table.
I knelt amidships in the birch with gun and rifle on either side. The
pilot gave one stroke of his paddle, and we floated out upon what seemed
the lake. Whatever we were poised and floating upon he hesitated to
shatter with another dip of his paddle, lest he should shatter the thin
basis and sink toward heaven and the stars.
Presently the silence seemed to demand gentle violence, and the
unwavering water needed slight tremors to teach it the tenderness of its
calm; then my guide used his blade, and cut into glassiness. We crept
noiselessly along by the lake-edge, within the shadows of the pines.
With never a plash we slid. Rare drops fell from the cautious paddle
and tinkled on the surface, overshot, not parted by, our imponderable
passage. Sometimes from far within the forest would come sounds of
rustling branches or crackling twigs. Somebody of life approaches with
stealthy tread. Gentlier, even gentlier, my steersman! Take up no pearly
drop from the lake, mother of pearliness, lest falling it sound too
loudly. Somewhat comes. Let it come unterrified to our ambush among the
shadows by the shore.
Somewhat, something, somebody was coming, perhaps, but some other thing
or body thwarted it and it came not. To glide over glassiness while
uneventful moments link themselves into hours is monotonous. Night and
stillness laid their soothing spell upon me. I was entranced. I lost
myself out of time and space, and seemed to be floating unimpelled and
purposeless, nowhere in Forever.
Somewhere in Now I suddenly found myself.
There he was! There was the moose trampling and snorting hard-by, in the
shallows of Ripogenus, trampling out of being the whole nadir of stars,
making the world conscious of its lost silence by the death of silence
I trembled with sudden eagerness. I seized my gun. In another instant
I should have lodged the fatal pellet! when a voice whispered over my
"I kinder guess yer 've ben asleep an' dreamin', ha'n't yer?"
So I had.
Never a moose came down to cool his clumsy snout in the water and
swallow reflections of stars. Never a moose abandoned dry-browse in the
bitter woods for succulent lily-pads, full in their cells and veins of
water and sunlight. Till long past midnight we paddled and watched and
listened, whisperless. In vain. At last, as we rounded a point, the
level gleam of our dying camp-fire athwart the water reminded us of
passing hours and traveller duties, of rest to-night and toil to-morrow.
My companions, fearless as if there were no bears this side of Ursa
Major, were bivouacked in one of the barns. There I entered skulkingly,
as a gameless hunter may, and hid my untrophied head beneath a mound of
ancient hay, not without the mustiness of its age.
No one clawed us, no one chawed us, that night. A Ripogenus chill awaked
the whole party with early dawn. We sprang from our nests, shook the
hay-seed out of our hair, and were full-dressed without more ceremony,
ready for whatever grand sensation Nature might purvey for our aesthetic
Nothing is ever as we expect. When we stepped into out-of-doors, looking
for Ripogenus, a lake of Maine, we found not a single aquatic fact in
the landscape. Ripogenus, a lake, had mizzled, (as the Americans say,)
literally mizzled. Our simplified view comprised a grassy hill with
barns, and a stern positive pyramid, surely Katahdin; aloft, beyond,
above, below, thither, hither, and yon, Fog, not fog, but FOG.
Ripogenus, the water-body, had had aspirations, and a boon of brief
transfiguration into a cloud-body had been granted it by Nature, who
grants to every terrestrial essence prophetic experiences of what it one
day would be.
In short, and to repeat, Ripogenus had transmuted itself into vapor, and
filled the valley full to our feet. A faint wind had power to billow
this mist-lake, and drive cresting surges up against the eastern
hill-side, over which they sometimes broke, and, involving it totally,
rolled clear and free toward Katahdin, where he stood hiding the glows
of sunrise. Leagues higher up than the mountain rested a presence of
cirri, already white and luminous with full daylight, and from them
drooped linking wreaths of orange mist, clinging to the rosy-violet
granite of the peak.
Up clomb and sailed Ripogenus and befogged the whole; then we
condescended to breakfast.
Singularly enough, mill-dams are always found below mill-ponds.
Analogously in the Maine rivers, below the lakes, rapids are. Rapids
too often compel carries. While we breakfasted without steak of bear
or cutlet of moose, Ripogenus gradually retracted itself, and became
conscious again of what poetry there is in a lake's pause and a rapid's
flow. Fog condensed into water, and water submitting to its destiny went
cascading down through a wild defile where no birch could follow.
The Ripogenus carry is three miles long, a faint path through thickets.
"First half," said Cancut, "'s plain enough; but after that 't would
take a philosopher with his spectacles on to find it."
This was discouraging. Philosophers twain we might deem ourselves; but
what is a craftsman without tools? And never a goggle had we.
But the trappers of muskrats had become our fast friends. They insisted
upon lightening our loads over the brambly league. This was kindly.
Cancut's elongated head-piece, the birch, was his share of the burden;
and a bag of bread, a firkin of various grub, damp blankets for three,
and multitudinous traps, seemed more than two could carry at one trip
over this longest and roughest of portages.
We paddled from the camp to the lake-foot, and there, while the others
compacted the portables for portage, Iglesias and I, at cost of a
ducking with mist-drops from the thickets, scrambled up a crag for a
supreme view of the fair lake and the clear mountain. And we did
well. Katahdin, from the hill guarding the exit of the Penobscot from
Ripogenus, is eminent and emphatic, a signal and solitary pyramid,
grander than any below the realms of the unchangeable, more distinctly
mountainous than any mountain of those that stop short of the venerable
honors of eternal snow.
We trod the trail, we others, easier than Cancut. He found it hard to
thread the mazes of an overgrown path and navigate his canoe at the
same time. "Better," thought he, as he staggered and plunged and bumped
along, extricating his boat-bonnet now from a bower of raspberry-bushes,
now from the branches of a brotherly birch-tree,--"better," thought he,
"were I seated in what I bear, and bounding gayly over the billow. Peril
is better than pother."
Bushwhacking thus for a league, we circumvented the peril, and came upon
the river flowing fair and free. The trappers said adieu, and launched
us. Back then they went to consult their traps and flay their fragrant
captives, and we shot forward.
That was a day all poetry and all music. Mountain airs bent and blunted
the noonday sunbeams. There was shade of delicate birches on either
hand, whenever we loved to linger. Our feather-shallop went dancing
on, fleet as the current, and whenever a passion for speed came after
moments of luxurious sloth, we could change floating at the river's
will into leaps and chasing, with a few strokes of the paddle. All was
untouched, unvisited wilderness, and we from bend to bend the first
discoverers. So we might fancy ourselves; for civilization had been
here only to cut pines, not to plant houses. Yet these fair curves, and
liberal reaches, and bright rapids of the birchen-bowered river were
only solitary, not lonely. It is never lonely with Nature. Without
unnatural men or unnatural beasts, she is capital society by herself.
And so we found her,--a lovely being in perfect toilet, which I
describe, in an indiscriminating, masculine way, by saying that it was a
forest and a river and lakes and a mountain and doubtless sky, all made
resplendent by her judicious disposition of a most becoming light.
Iglesias and I, being old friends, were received into close intimacy.
She smiled upon us unaffectedly, and had a thousand exquisite things to
say, drawing us out also, with feminine tact, to say our best things,
and teaching us to be conscious, in her presence, of more delicate
possibilities of refinement and a tenderer poetic sense. So we voyaged
through the sunny hours, and were happy.
Yet there was no monotony in our progress. We could not always drift and
glide. Sometimes we must fight our way. Below the placid reaches were
the inevitable "rips" and rapids: some we could shoot without hitting
anything; some would hit us heavily, did we try to shoot. Whenever
the rocks in the current were only as thick as the plums in a
boarding-school pudding, we could venture to run the gantlet; whenever
they multiplied to a school-boy's ideal, we were arrested. Just at the
brink of peril we would sweep in by an eddy into a shady pool by the
shore. At such spots we found a path across the carry. Cancut at once
proceeded to bonnet himself with the trickling birch. Iglesias and I
took up the packs and hurried on with minds intent on berries. Berries
we always found,--blueberries covered with a cloudy bloom, blueberries
pulpy, saccharine, plenteous.
Often, when a portage was not quite necessary, a dangerous bit of white
water would require the birch to be lightened. Cancut must steer her
alone over the foam, while we, springing ashore, raced through the thick
of the forest, tore through the briers, and plunged through the punk of
trees older than history, now rotting where they fell, slain by Time the
Giganticide. Cancut then had us at advantage. Sometimes we had laughed
at him, when he, a good-humored malaprop, made vague clutches at the
thread of discourse. Now suppose he should take a fancy to drop down
stream and leave us. What then? Berries then, and little else, unless we
had a chance at a trout or a partridge. It is not cheery, but dreary, to
be left in pathlessness, blanketless, guideless, and with breadths of
lake and mountain and Nature, shaggy and bearish, between man and man.
With the consciousness of a latent shudder in our hearts at such a
possibility, we parted brier and bramble until the rapid was passed, we
scuffled hastily through to the river-bank, and there always, in some
quiet nook, was a beacon of red-flannel shirt among the green leaves
over the blue and shadowy water, and always the fast-sailing Cancut
awaiting us, making the woods resound to amicable hails, and ready again
to be joked and to retaliate.
Such alternations made our voyage a charming olla. We had the placid
glide, the fleet dash, the wild career, the pause, the landing,
the agreeable interlude of a portage, and the unburdened stampede
along-shore. Thus we won our way, or our way wooed us on, until, in
early afternoon, a lovely lakelet opened before us. The fringed
shores retired, and, as we shot forth upon wider calm, lo, Katahdin!
unlooked-for, at last, as a revolution. Our boat ruffled its shadow,
doing pretty violence to its dignity, that we might know the greater
grandeur of the substance. There was a gentle agency of atmosphere
softening the bold forms of this startling neighbor, and giving it
distance, lest we might fear it would topple and crush us. Clouds, level
below, hid the summit and towered aloft. Among them we might imagine the
mountain rising with thousands more of feet of heaven-piercing height:
there is one degree of sublimity in mystery, as there is another degree
We lay to in a shady nook, just off Katahdin's reflection in the river,
while Iglesias sketched him. Meanwhile I, analyzing my view, presently
discovered a droll image in the track of a land-avalanche down the
front. It was a comical fellow, a little giant, a colossal dwarf, six
hundred feet high, and should have been thrice as tall, had it had any
proper development,--for out of his head grew two misdirected skeleton
legs, "hanging down and dangling." The countenance was long, elfin,
sneering, solemn, as of a truculent demon, saddish for his trade, an
ashamed, but unrepentant rascal. He had two immense erect ears, and in
his boisterous position had suffered a loss of hair, wearing nothing
save an impudent scalp-lock. A very grotesque personage. Was he the
guardian imp, the legendary Eft of Katahdin, scoffing already at us as
verdant, and warning that he would make us unhappy, if we essayed to
appear in demon realms and on Brocken heights without initiation?
"A terrible pooty mountain," Cancut observed; and so it is.
Not to fail in topographical duty, I record, that near this lakelet
flows in the river Sowadehunk, and not far below, a sister streamlet,
hardly less melodiously named Ayboljockameegus. Opposite the latter we
landed and encamped, with Katahdin full in front, and broadly visible.
Our camping-place was worthy of its view. On the bank, high and dry, a
noble yellow birch had been strong enough to thrust back the forest,
making a glade for its own private abode. Other travellers had already
been received in this natural pavilion. We had had predecessors, and
they had built them a hut, a half roof of hemlock bark, resting on a
frame. Time had developed the wrinkles in this covering into cracks, and
cracks only wait to be leaks. First, then, we must mend our mansion.
Material was at hand; hemlocks, with a back-load of bark, stood ready to
be disburdened. In August they have worn their garment so long that they
yield it unwillingly. Cancut's axe, however, was insinuating, not to
say peremptory. He peeled off and brought great scales of rough
purple roofing, and we disposed them, according to the laws of
forest architecture, upon our cabin. It became a good example of the
_renaissance_. Storm, if such a traveller were approaching, was shut
out at top and sides; our blankets could become curtains in front and
completely hide us from that unwelcome vagrant, should he peer about
seeking whom he might duck and what he might damage.
Our lodge, built, must be furnished. We need a luxurious carpet, couch,
and bed; and if we have these, will be content without secondary
articles. Here, too, material was ready, and only the artist wanting, to
use it. While Cancut peeled the hemlocks, Iglesias and I stripped off
armfuls of boughs and twigs from the spruces to "bough down" our camp.
"Boughing down" is shingling the floor elaborately with evergreen
foliage; and when it is done well, the result counts among the high
luxuries of the globe. As the feathers of this bed are harsh stems
covered with leafage, the process of bed-making must be systematic, the
stems thoroughly covered, and the surface smooth and elastic. I have
slept on the various beds of the world,--in a hammock, in a pew, on
German feathers, on a bear-skin, on a mat, on a hide; all, all give but
a feeble, restless, unrecreating slumber, compared to the spruce or
hemlock bed in a forest of Maine. This is fragrant, springy, soft,
well-fitting, better than any Sybarite's coach of uncrumpled
rose-leaves. It sweetly rustles when you roll, and, by a gentle
titillation with the little javelin-leaves, keeps up a pleasant
electricity over the cuticle. Rheumatism never, after nights on such a
bed; agues never; vigor, ardor, fervor, always.
We despatched our camp-building and bed-making with speed, for we had
a purpose. The Penobscot was a very beautiful river, and the
Ayboljockameegus a very pretty stream; and if there is one place in the
world where trout, at certain seasons, are likely to be found, it is in
a beautiful river at the mouth of a pretty stream. Now we wanted trout;
it was in the programme that something more delicate than salt-pork
should grace our banquets before Katahdin. Cancut sustained our _a
priori_, that trout were waiting for us over by the Aybol. By this
time the tree-shadows, so stiff at noon, began to relax and drift down
stream, cooling the surface. The trout could leave their shy lairs
down in the chilly deeps, and come up without fear of being parboiled.
Besides, as evening came, trout thought of their supper, as we did of
Hereupon I had a new sensation. We made ready our flies and our rods,
and embarked, as I supposed, to be ferried across and fish from _terra
firma_. But no. Cancut dropped anchor very quietly opposite the Aybol's
mouth. Iglesias, the man of Maine experience, seemed nought surprised.
We were to throw our lines, as it appeared, from the birch; we were to
peril our lives on the unsteady basis of a roly-poly vessel,--to keep
our places and ballast our bowl, during the excitement of hooking
pounds. Self-poise is an acrobatic feat, when a person, not loaded at
the heels, undertakes trout-fishing from a birch.
We threw our flies. Instantly at the lucky hackle something darted,
seized it, and whirled to fly, with the unwholesome bit in its mouth, up
the peaceful Ayboljockameegus. But the lucky man, and he happened to be
the novice, forgot, while giving the capturing jerk of his hook, that
his fulcrum was not solid rock. The slight shell tilted, turned--over
not quite, over enough to give everybody a start. One lesson teaches the
docile. Caution thereafter presided over our fishing. She told us to sit
low, keep cool, cast gently, strike firmly, play lightly, and pull in
steadily. So we did. As the spotted sparklers were rapidly translated
from water to a lighter element, a well-fed cheerfulness developed in
our trio. We could not speak, for fear of breaking the spell; we smiled
at each other. Twenty-three times the smile went round. Twenty-three
trout, and not a pigmy among them, lay at our feet. More fish for one
dinner and breakfast would be waste and wanton self-indulgence. We
stopped. And I must avow, not to claim too much heroism, that the fish
had also stopped. So we paddled home contented.
Then, O Walton! O Davy! O Scrope! ye fishers hard by taverns! luxury was
ours of which ye know no more than a Chinaman does of music. Under
the noble yellow birch we cooked our own fish. We used our scanty
kitchen-battery with skill. We cooked with the high art of simplicity.
Where Nature has done her best, only fools rush in to improve: on the
salmonids, fresh and salt, she has lavished her creative refinements;
cookery should only ripen and develop. From our silver gleaming pile
of pounders, we chose the larger and the smaller for appropriate
experiments. Then we tested our experiments; we tasted our examples.
Success. And success in science proves knowledge and skill. We feasted.
The delicacy of our food made each feaster a finer essence.
So we supped, reclined upon our couch of spruce-twigs. In our good cheer
we pitied the Eft of Katahdin: he might sneer, but he was supperless. We
were grateful to Nature for the grand mountain, for the fair and sylvan
woods, for the lovely river and what it had yielded us.
By the time we had finished our flaky fare and sipped our chocolate from
the Magdalena, Night announced herself,--Night, a jealous, dark lady,
eclipsed and made invisible all her rivals, that she might solely
possess us. Night's whispers lulled us. The rippling river, the rustling
leaves, the hum of insects grew more audible; and these are gentle
sounds that prove wide quietude in Nature, and tell man that the burr
and buzz in his day-laboring brain have ceased, and he had better be
breathing deep in harmony. So we disposed ourselves upon the fragrant
couch of spruce-boughs, and sank slowly and deeper into sleep, as divers
sink into the thick waters down below, into the dreamy waters far below
the plunge of sunshine.
By-and-by, as the time came for rising to the surface again, and the
mind began to be half conscious of facts without it, as the diver may
half perceive light through thinning strata of sea, there penetrated
through my last layers of slumber a pungent odor of wetted embers. It
was raining quietly. Drip was the pervading sound, as if the rain-drops
were counting aloud the leaves of the forest. Evidently a resolute and
permanent wetting impended. On rainy days one does not climb Katahdin.
Instead of rising by starlight, breakfasting by gray, and starting by
rosy dawn, it would be policy to persuade night to linger long into the
hours of a dull day. When daylight finally came, dim and sulky, there
was no rivalry among us which should light the fire. We did not leap,
but trickled slowly forth into the inhospitable morning, all forlorn.
Wet days in camp try "grit." "Clear grit" brightens more crystalline,
the more it is rained upon; sham grit dissolves into mud and water.
Yankees, who take in pulverized granite with every breath of their
native dust, are not likely to melt in a drizzle. We three certainly
did not. We reacted stoutly against the forlorn weather, unpacking our
internal stores of sunshine, as a camel in a desert draws water from his
inner tank when outer water fails. We made the best of it. A breakfast
of trout and trimmings looks nearly as well and tastes nearly as well in
a fog as in a glare: that we proved by experience at Camp Katahdin.
We could not climb the mountain dark and dim; we would not be idle: what
was to be done? Much. Much for sport and for use. We shouldered the
axe and sallied into the dripping forest. Only a faint smoke from the
smouldering logs curled up among the branches of the yellow birch over
camp. We wanted a big smoke, and chopped at the woods for fuel. Speaking
for myself, I should say that our wood-work was ill done. Iglesias
smiled at my axe-handling, and Cancut at his, as chopping we sent chips
far and wide.
The busy, keen, short strokes of the axe resounded through the forest.
When these had done their work, and the bungler paused amid his wasteful
_debris_ to watch his toil's result, first was heard a rustle of leaves,
as if a passing whirlwind had alighted there; next came the crack of
bursting sinews; then the groan of a great riving spasm, and the tree,
decapitated at its foot, crashed to earth, with a vain attempt to clutch
for support at the stiff, unpitying arms of its woodland brotherhood.
Down was the tree,--fallen, but so it should not lie. This tree we
proposed to promote from brute matter, mere lumber, downcast and
dejected, into finer essence: fuel was to be made into fire.
First, however, the fuel must be put into portable shape. We top-sawyers
went at our prostrate and vanquished non-resistant, and without mercy
mangled and dismembered him, until he was merely a bare trunk, a torso
incapable of restoration.
While we were thus busy, useful, and happy, the dripping rain, like a
clepsydra, told off the morning moments. The dinner-hour drew nigh. We
had determined on a feast, and trout were to be its daintiest dainty.
But before we cooked our trout, we must, according to sage Kitchener's
advice, catch our trout. They were, we felt confident, awaiting us in
the refrigerate larder at hand. We waited until the confusing pepper of
a shower had passed away and left the water calm. Then softly and deftly
we propelled our bark across to the Ayboljockameegus. We tossed to the
fish humbugs of wool, silk, and feathers, gauds such as captivate the
greedy or the guileless. Again the "gobemouches" trout, the fellows
on the look-out for novelty, dashed up and swallowed disappointing
juiceless morsels, and with them swallowed hooks.
We caught an apostolic boat-load of beauties fresh and blooming
as Aurora, silver as the morning star, gemmy with eye-spots as a
O feast most festal! Iglesias, of course, was the great artist who
devised and mainly executed it. As well as he could, he covered his pot
and pan from the rain, admitting only enough to season each dish with
gravy direct from the skies. As day had ripened, the banquet grew ripe.
Then as day declined, we reclined on our triclinium of hemlock and
spruce boughs, and made high festival, toasting each other in the
uninebriating flow of our beverages. Jollity reigned. Cancut fattened,
and visibly broadened. Toward the veriest end of the banquet, we seemed
to feel that there had been a slight sameness in its courses. The Bill
of Fare, however, proved the freest variety. And at the close we sat and
sipped our chocolate with uttermost content. No _garcon_, cringing, but
firm, would here intrude with the unhandsome bill. Nothing to pay is the
rarest of pleasures. This dinner we had caught ourselves, we had cooked
ourselves, and had eaten for the benefit of ourselves and no other.
There was nothing to repent of afterwards in the way of extravagance,
and certainly nothing of indigestion. Indigestion in the forest
primeval, in the shadow of Katahdin, is impossible.
While we dined, we talked of our to-morrow's climb of Katahdin. We were
hopeful. We disbelieved in obstacles. To-morrow would be fine. We would
spring early from our elastic bed and stride topwards. Iglesias nerved
himself and me with a history of his ascent some years before, up the
eastern side of the mountain. He had left the house of Mr. Hunt, the
outsider at that time of Eastern Maine, with a squad of lumbermen, and
with them tramped up the furrow of a land-avalanche to the top, spending
wet and ineffective days in the dripping woods, and vowing then to
return and study the mountain from our present camping-spot. I recalled
also the first recorded ascent of the Natardin or Catardin Mountain by
Mr. Turner in 1804, printed in the Massachusetts Historical Society's
Collections, and identified the stream up whose valley he climbed with
the Ayboljockameegus. Cancut offered valuable contributions to our
knowledge from his recent ascent with our Boston predecessors. To-morrow
we would verify our recollections and our fancies.
And so good-night, and to our spruce bed.
Next morning, when we awoke, just before the gray of dawn, the sky was
clear and scintillating; but there was a white cotton night-cap on
the head of Katahdin. As we inspected him, he drew his night-cap down
farther, hinting that he did not wish to see the sun that day. When
a mountain is thus in the sulks after a storm, it is as well not to
disturb him: he will not offer the prize of a view. Experience taught us
this: but then experience is only an empiric at the best.
Besides, whether Katahdin were bare-headed or cloud-capped, it would be
better to blunder upward than lounge all day in camp and eat Sybaritic
dinners. We longed for the nervy climb. We must have it. "Up!" said
tingling blood to brain. "Dash through the forest! Grasp the crag, and
leap the cleft! Sweet flash forth the streamlets from granite fissures.
To breathe the winds that smite the peaks is life."
As soon as dawn bloomed in the woods we breakfasted, and ferried the
river before sunrise. The ascent subdivides itself into five zones. 1. A
scantily wooded acclivity, where bears abound. 2. A dense, swampy forest
region. 3. Steep, mossy mountain-side, heavily wooded. 4. A belt of
dwarf spruces, nearly impenetrable. 5. Ragged rock.
Cancut was our leader to-day. There are by far too many blueberries in
the first zone. No one, of course, intends to dally, but the purple
beauties tempted, and too often we were seduced. Still such yielding
spurred us on to hastier speed, when we looked up after delay and saw
the self-denying far ahead.
To write an epic or climb a mountain is merely a dogged thing; the
result is more interesting to most than the process. Mountains, being
cloud-compellers, are rain-shedders, and the shed water will not always
flow with decorous gayety in dell or glen. Sometimes it stays bewildered
in a bog, and here the climber must plunge. In the moist places great
trees grow, die, fall, rot, and barricade the way with their corpses.
Katahdin has to endure all the ills of mountain being, and we had all
the usual difficulties to fight through doggedly. When we were clumsy,
we tumbled and rose up torn. Still we plodded on, following a path
blazed by the Bostonians, Cancut's late charge, and we grumblingly
Going up, we got higher and drier. The mountain-side became steeper than
it could stay, and several land-avalanches, ancient or modern, crossed
our path. It would be sad to think that all the eternal hills were
crumbling thus, outwardly, unless we knew that they bubble up inwardly
as fast. Posterity is thus cared for in regard to the picturesque.
Cascading streams also shot by us, carrying light and music. From
them we stole refreshment, and did not find the waters mineral and
astringent, as Mr. Turner, the first climber, calumniously asserts.
The trees were still large and surprisingly parallel to the mountain
wall. Deep soft moss covered whatever was beneath, and sometimes this
would yield and let the foot measure a crevice. Perilous pitfalls; but
we clambered unharmed. The moss, so rich, deep, soft, and earthily
fragrant, was a springy stair-carpet of a steep stairway. And sometimes
when the carpet slipped and the state of heels over head seemed
imminent, we held to the baluster-trees, as one after wassail clings to
Even on this minor mountain the law of diminishing vegetation can be
studied. The great trees abandoned us, and stayed indolently down in
shelter. Next the little wiry trees ceased to be the comrades of our
climb. They were no longer to be seen planted upon jutting crags, and,
bold as standard-bearers, inciting us to mount higher. Big spruces,
knobby with balls of gum, dwindled away into little ugly dwarf spruces,
hostile, as dwarfs are said to be always, to human comfort. They grew
man-high, and hedged themselves together into a dense thicket. We could
not go under, nor over, nor through. To traverse them at all, we must
recall the period when we were squirrels or cats, in some former state
Somehow we pierced, as man does ever, whether he owes it to the beast or
the man in him. From time to time, when in this struggle we came to an
open point of rock, we would remember that we were on high, and turn to
assure ourselves that nether earth was where we had left it. We always
found it _in situ_, in belts green, white, and blue, a tricolor of
woods, water, and sky. Lakes were there without number, forest without
limit. We could not analyze yet, for there was work to do. Also,
whenever we paused, there was the old temptation, blueberries. Every
out-cropping ledge offered store of tonic, ozone-fed blueberries, or
of mountain-cranberries, crimson and of concentrated flavor, or of the
white snowberry, most delicate of fruits that grow.
As we were creeping over the top of the dwarf wood, Cancut, who was in
advance, suddenly disappeared; he seemed to fall through a gap in the
spruces, and we heard his voice calling in cavernous tones. We crawled
forward and looked over. It was the upper camp of the Bostonians. They
had profited by a hole in the rocks, and chopped away the stunted scrubs
to enlarge it into a snug artificial abyss. It was snug, and so to the
eye is a cell at Sing-Sing. If they were very misshapen Bostonians, they
may have succeeded in lying there comfortably. I looked down ten feet
into the rough chasm, and I saw, _Corpo di Bacco!_ I saw a cork.
To this station our predecessors had come in an easy day's walk from the
river; here they had tossed through a night, and given a whole day to
finish the ascent, returning hither again for a second night. As we
purposed to put all this travel within one day, we could not stay and
sympathize with the late tenants. A little more squirrel-like skipping
and cat-like creeping over the spruces, and we were out among bulky
boulders and rough _debris_ on a shoulder of the mountain. Alas! the
higher, the more hopeless. Katahdin, as he had taken pains to inform us,
meant to wear the veil all day. He was drawing down the white drapery
about his throat and letting it fall over his shoulders. Sun and wind
struggled mightily with his sulky fit; sunshine rifted off bits of the
veil, and wind seized, whirled them away, and, dragging them over the
spruces below, tore them to rags. Evidently, if we wished to see the
world, we must stop here and survey, before the growing vapor covered
all. We climbed to the edge of Cloudland, and stood fronting the
semicircle of southward view.
Katahdin's self is finer than what Katahdin sees. Katahdin is distinct,
and its view is indistinct. It is a vague panorama, a mappy, unmethodic
maze of water and woods, very roomy, very vast, very simple,--and these
are capital qualities, but also quite monotonous. A lover of largeness
and scope has the proper emotions stirred, but a lover of variety very
soon finds himself counting the lakes. It is a wide view, and it is a
proud thing for a man six feet or less high, to feel that he himself,
standing on something he himself has climbed, and having Katahdin under
his feet a mere convenience, can see all Maine. It does not make Maine
less, but the spectator more, and that is a useful moral result. Maine's
face, thus exposed, has almost no features: there are no great mountains
visible, none that seem more than green hillocks in the distance.
Besides sky, Katahdin's view contains only the two primal necessities
of wood and water. Nowhere have I seen such breadth of solemn forest,
gloomy, were it not for the cheerful interruption of many fair lakes,
and bright ways of river linking them.
Far away on the southern horizon we detected the heights of Mount
Desert, our old familiar haunt. All the northern semicircle was lost to
us by the fog. We lost also the view of the mountain itself. All the
bleak, lonely, barren, ancient waste of the bare summit was shrouded
in cold fog. The impressive gray ruin and Titanic havoc of a granite
mountain top, the heaped boulders, the crumbling crags, the crater-like
depression, the long stern reaches of sierra, the dark curving slopes
channelled and polished by the storms and fine drifting mists of aeons,
the downright plunge of precipices, all the savageness of harsh rock,
unsoftened by other vegetation than rusty moss and the dull green
splashes of lichen, all this was hidden, except when the mist, white and
delicate where we stood, but thick and black above, opened whimsically
and delusively, as mountain mists will do, and gave us vistas into the
upper desolation. After such momentary rifts the mist thickened again,
and swooped forward as if to involve our station, but noon sunshine,
reverberated from the plains and valleys and lakes below, was our
ally; sunshine checked the overcoming mist, and it stayed overhead, an
unwelcome parasol, making our August a chilly November. Besides what our
eyes lost, our minds lost, unless they had imagination enough to create
it, the sentiment of triumph and valiant energy that the man of body and
soul feels upon the windy heights, the highest, whence he looks far and
wide, like a master of realms, and knows that the world is his; and they
lost the sentiment of solemn joy that the man of soul recognizes as one
of the surest intimations of immortality, stirring within him, whenever
he is in the unearthly regions, the higher world.
We stayed studying the pleasant solitude and dreamy breadth of
Katahdin's panorama for a long time, and every moment the mystery of the
mist above grew more enticing. Pride also was awakened. We turned
from sunshine and Cosmos into fog and Chaos. We made ourselves quite
miserable for nought. We clambered up into Nowhere, into a great, white,
ghostly void. We saw nothing but the rough surfaces we trod. We pressed
along crater-like edges, and all below was filled with mist, troubled
and rushing upward like the smoke of a volcano. Up we went,--nothing but
granite and gray dimness. Where we arrived we know not. It was a top,
certainly: that was proved by the fact that there was nothing within
sight. We cannot claim that it was the topmost top; Kimchinjinga might
have towered within pistol-shot; popgun-shot was our extremest range of
vision, except for one instant, when a kind-hearted sunbeam gave us
a vanishing glimpse of a white lake and breadth of forest far in the
unknown North toward Canada.
When we had thus reached the height of our folly and made nothing by it,
we addressed ourselves to the descent, no wiser for our pains. Descent
is always harder than ascent, for divine ambitions are stronger and
more prevalent than degrading passions. And when Katahdin is befogged,
descent is much more perilous than ascent. We edged along very
cautiously by remembered landmarks the way we had come, and so, after
a dreary march of a mile or so through desolation, issued into welcome
sunshine and warmth at our point of departure. When I said "we," I did
not include the grave-stone peddler. He, like a sensible fellow, had
determined to stay and eat berries rather than breathe fog. While we
wasted our time, he had made the most of his. He had cleared Katahdin's
shoulders of fruit, and now, cuddled in a sunny cleft, slept the sleep
of the well-fed. His red shirt was a cheerful beacon on our weary way.
We took in the landscape with one slow, comprehensive look, and, waking
Cancut suddenly, (who sprang to his feet amazed, and cried "Fire!") we
dashed down the mountain-side.
It was long after noon; we were some dozen of miles from camp; we must
speed. No glissade was possible, nor plunge such as travellers make down
through the ash-heaps of Vesuvius; but, having once worried through the
wretched little spruces, mean counterfeits of trees, we could fling
ourselves down from mossy step to step, measuring off the distance by
successive leaps of a second each, and alighting, sound after each, on
moss yielding as a cushion.
On we hastened, retracing our footsteps of the morning across the
avalanches of crumbled granite, through the bogs, along the brooks;
undelayed by the beauty of sunny glade or shady dell, never stopping to
botanize or to classify, we traversed zone after zone, and safely ran
the gantlet of the possible bears on the last level. We found lowland
Nature still the same; Ayboljockameegus was flowing still; so was
Penobscot; no pirate had made way with the birch; we embarked and
paddled to camp.
The first thing, when we touched _terra firma_, was to look back
regretfully toward the mountain. Regret changed to wrath, when we
perceived its summit all clear and mistless, smiling warmly to the
low summer's sun. The rascal evidently had only waited until we were
out of sight in the woods to throw away his night-cap.
One long rainy day had somewhat disgusted us with the old
hemlock-covered camp in the glade of the yellow birch, and we were
reasonably and not unreasonably morbid after our disappointment with
Katahdin. We resolved to decamp. In the last hour of sunlight, floating
pleasantly from lovely reach to reach, and view to view, we could choose
a spot of bivouac where no home-scenery would recall any sorry fact of
the past. We loved this gentle gliding by the tender light of evening
over the shadowy river, marking the rhythm of our musical progress by
touches of the paddle. We determined, too, that the balance of bodily
forces should be preserved: legs had been well stretched over the bogs
and boulders; now for the arms. Never did our sylvan sojourn look so
fair as when we quitted it, and seemed to see among the streaming
sunbeams in the shadows the Hamadryads of the spot returned, and
waving us adieux. We forgot how damp and leaks and puddles had forced
themselves upon our intimacy there; we remembered that we were gay,
though wet, and there had known the perfection of Ayboljockameegus
As we drifted along the winding river, between the shimmering birches on
either bank, Katahdin watched us well. Sometimes he would show the point
of his violet gray peak over the woods, and sometimes, at a broad bend
of the water, he revealed himself fully--and threw his great image down
beside for our nearer view. We began to forgive him, to disbelieve in
any personal spite of his, and to recall that he himself, seen thus, was
far more precious than any mappy dulness we could have seen from his
summit. One great upright pyramid like this was worth a continent of
Sunset came, and with it we landed at a point below a lake-like stretch
of the river, where the charms of a neighbor and a distant view of the
mountain combined. Cancut the Unwearied roofed with boughs an old frame
for drying moose-hides, while Iglesias sketched, and I worshipped
Katahdin. Has my reader heard enough of it,--a hillock only six thousand
feet high? We are soon to drift away, and owe it here as kindly a
farewell as it gave us in that radiant twilight by the river.
From our point of view we raked the long stern front tending westward.
Just before sunset, from beneath a belt of clouds evanescing over the
summit, an inconceivably tender, brilliant glow of rosy violet mantled
downward, filling all the valley. Then the violet purpled richer and
richer, and darkened slowly to solemn blue, that blended with the gloom
of the pines and shadowy channelled gorges down the steep. The peak
was still in sunlight, and suddenly, half way down, a band of roseate
clouds, twining and changing like a choir of Bacchantes, soared around
the western edge and hung poised above the unillumined forests at the
mountain-base; light as air they came and went and faded away, ghostly,
after their work of momentary beauty was done. One slight maple,
prematurely ripened to crimson and heralding the pomp of autumn,
repeated the bright cloud-color amid the vivid verdure of a little
island, and its image wavering in the water sent the flame floating
nearly to our feet.
Such are the transcendent moments of Nature, unseen and disbelieved by
the untaught. The poetic soul lays hold of every such tender pageant of
beauty and keeps it forever. Iglesias, having an additional method of
preservation, did not fail to pencil rapidly the wondrous scene. When
he had finished his dashing sketch of this glory, so transitory, he
peppered the whole with cabalistic cipher, which only he could interpret
Cancut's camp-fire now began to overpower the faint glimmers of
twilight. The single-minded Cancut, little distracted by emotions, had
heaped together logs enough to heat any mansion for a winter. The warmth
was welcome, and the great flame, with its bright looks of familiar
comradery, and its talk like the complex murmur of a throng, made a
fourth in our party by no means terrible, as some other incorporeal
visitors might have been. Fire was not only a talker, but an important
actor: Fire cooked for us our evening chocolate; Fire held the
candlestick, while we, without much ceremony of undressing, disposed
ourselves upon our spruce-twig couch; and Fire watched over our
slumbers, crouching now as if some stealthy step were approaching, now
lifting up its head and peering across the river into some recess where
the water gleamed and rustled under dark shadows, and now sending far
and wide over the stream and the clearing and into every cleft of the
forest a penetrating illumination, a blaze of light, death to all
treacherous ambush. So Fire watched while we slept, and when safety came
with the earliest gray of morning, it, too, covered itself with ashes
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful is dawn in the woods. Sweet the first
opalescent stir, as if the vanguard sunbeams shivered as they dashed
along the chilly reaches of night. And the growth of day, through violet
and rose and all its golden glow of promise, is tender and tenderly
strong, as the deepening passions of dawning love. Presently up comes
the sun very peremptory, and says to people, "Go about your business!
Laggards not allowed in Maine! Nothing here to repent of, while you
lie in bed and curse to-day because it cannot shake off the burden of
yesterday; all clear the past here; all serene the future; into it at
Birch was ready for us. Objects we travel on, if horses, often stampede
or are stampeded; if wagons, they break down; if shanks, they stiffen;
if feet, they chafe. No such trouble befalls Birch; leak, however, it
will, as ours did this morning. We gently beguiled it into the position
taken tearfully by unwhipped little boys, when they are about to receive
birch. Then, with a firebrand, the pitch of the seams was easily
persuaded to melt and spread a little over the leaky spot, and Birch was
sound as a drum.
Staunch and sound Birch needed to be, for presently Penobscot, always a
skittish young racer, began to grow lively after he had shaken off the
weighty shadow of Katahdin, and, kicking up his heels, went galloping
down hill, so furiously that we were at last, after sundry frantic
plunges, compelled to get off his back before worse befell us. In the
balmy morning we made our first portage through a wood of spruces.
How light our firkin was growing! its pork, its hard-tack, and its
condiments were diffused among us three, and had passed into muscle.
Lake Degetus, as pretty a pocket lake as there is, followed the carry.
Next came Lake Ambajeejus, larger, but hardly less lovely. Those who
dislike long names may use its shorter Indian title, Umdo. We climbed a
granite crag draped with moss long as the beard of a Druid,--a crag on
the south side of Ambajeejus or Umdo. Thence we saw Katahdin, noble as
ever, unclouded in the sunny morning, near, and yet enchantingly vague,
with the blue sky which surrounded it. It was still an isolate pyramid
rising with no effect from the fair blue lakes and the fair green sea
of the birch-forest,--a brilliant sea of woods, gay as the shallows of
ocean shot through with sunbeams and sunlight reflected upward from
We sped along all that exquisite day, best of all our poetic voyage.
Sometimes we drifted and basked in sunshine, sometimes we lingered in
the birchen shade; we paddled from river to lake, from lake to river
again; the rapids whirled us along, surging and leaping under us with
magnificent gallop; frequent carries struck in, that we might not lose
the forester in the waterman. It was a fresh world that we traversed
on our beautiful river-path,--new as if no other had ever parted its
At noon we floated out upon Lake Pemadumcook, the largest bulge of
the Penobscot, and irregular as the verb To Be. Lumbermen name it
Bammydumcook: Iglesias insisted upon this as the proper reading; and as
he was the responsible man of the party, I accepted it. Woods, woody
hills, and woody mountains surround Bammydumcook. I have no doubt parts
of it are pretty and will be famous in good time; but we saw little. By
the time we were fairly out in the lake and away from the sheltering
shore, a black squall to windward, hiding all the West, warned us to
fly, for birches swamp in squalls. We deemed that Birch, having brought
us through handsomely, deserved a better fate: swamped it must not be.
We plied paddle valiantly, and were almost safe behind an arm of the
shore when the storm overtook us, and in a moment more, safe, with a
canoe only half-full of Bammydumcook water.
It is easy to speak in scoffing tone; but when that great roaring
blackness sprang upon us, and the waves, showing their white teeth,
snarled around, we were far from being in the mood to scoff. It is
impossible to say too much of the charm of this gentle scenery, mingled
with the charm of this adventurous sailing. And then there were no
mosquitoes, no alligators, no serpents uncomfortably hugging the trees,
no miasmas lurking near; and blueberries always. Dust there was none,
nor the things that make dust. But Iglesias and I were breathing AIR,
--Air sweet, tender, strong, and pure as an ennobling love. It was a day
very happy, for Iglesias and I were near what we both love almost best
of all the dearly-beloveds. It is such influence as this that rescues
the thought and the hand of an artist from enervating mannerism. He
cannot be satisfied with vague blotches of paint to convey impressions
so distinct and vivid as those he is forced to take direct from a Nature
like this. He must be true and powerful.
The storm rolled by and gave us a noble view of Katahdin, beyond a
broad, beautiful scope of water, and rising seemingly directly from it.
We fled before another squall, over another breadth of Bammydumcook, and
made a portage around a great dam below the lake. The world should know
that at this dam the reddest, spiciest, biggest, thickest wintergreen
berries in the world are to be found, beautiful as they are good.
Birch had hitherto conducted himself with perfect propriety. I, the
novice, had acquired such entire confidence in his stability of
character that I treated him with careless ease, and never listened
to the warnings of my comrades that he would serve me a trick. Cancut
navigated Birch through some white water below the dam, and Birch went
curveting proudly and gracefully along, evidently feeling his oats.
When Iglesias and I came to embark, I, the novice, perhaps a little
intoxicated with wintergreen berries, stepped jauntily into the
laden boat. Birch, alas, failed me. He tilted; he turned; he took in
Penobscot,--took it in by the quart, by the gallon, by the barrel; he
would have sunk without mercy, had not Iglesias and Cancut succeeded
in laying hold of a rock and restoring equilibrium. I could not have
believed it of Birch. I was disappointed, and in consternation; and if
I had not known how entirely it was Birch's fault that everybody
was ducked and everybody now had a wet blanket, I should have felt
personally foolish. I punished myself for another's fault and my own
inexperience by assuming the wet blankets as my share at the next carry.
I suppose few of my readers imagine how many pounds of water a blanket
After camps at Katahdin, any residence in the woods without a stupendous
mountain before the door would have been tame. It must have been this,
and not any wearying of sylvan life, that made us hasten to reach the
outermost log-house at the Millinoket carry before nightfall. The
sensation of house and in-door life would be a new one, and so
satisfying in itself that we should not demand beautiful objects to meet
our first blink of awakening eyes.
An hour before sunset, Cancut steered us toward a beach, and pointed out
a vista in the woods, evidently artificial, evidently a road trodden
by feet and hoofs, and ruled by parallel wheels. A road is one of the
kindliest gifts of brother man to man: if a path in the wilderness, it
comes forward like a friendly guide offering experience and proposing
a comrade dash deeper into the unknown world; if a highway, it is the
great, bold, sweeping character with which civilization writes its
autograph upon a continent. Leaving our plunder on the beach, beyond
the reach of plunderers, whose great domain we were about to enter, we
walked on toward the first house, compelled at parting to believe, that,
though we did not love barbarism less, we loved civilization more. In
the morning, Cancut should, with an ox-cart, bring Birch and our traps
over the three miles of the carry.
OUT OF THE WOODS.
What could society do without women and children? Both we found at the
first house, twenty miles from the second. The children buzzed about us;
the mother milked for us one of Maine's vanguard cows. She baked for
us bread, fresh bread,--such bread! not staff of life,--life's
vaulting-pole. She gave us blueberries with cream of cream. Ah, what a
change! We sat on chairs, at a table, and ate from plates. There was a
table-cloth, a salt-cellar made of glass, of glass never seen at
camps near Katahdin. There was a sugar-bowl, a milk-jug, and other
paraphernalia of civilization, including--O memories of Joseph
Bourgogne!--a dome of baked beans, with a crag of pork projecting from
the apex. We partook decorously, with controlled elbows, endeavoring to
appear as if we were accustomed to sit at tables and manage plates. The
men, women, and children of Millinoket were hospitable and delighted to
see strangers, and the men, like all American men in the summer before
a Presidential election, wanted to talk politics. Katahdin's last
full-bodied appearance was here; it rises beyond a breadth of black
forest, a bulkier mass, but not so symmetrical as from the southern
points of view. We slept that night on a feather-bed, and took cold for
want of air, beneath a roof.
By the time we had breakfasted, Cancut arrived with Birch on an
ox-sledge. Here our well-beloved west branch of the Penobscot, called
of yore Norimbagua, is married to the east branch, and of course by
marriage loses his identity, by-and-by, changing from the wild, free,
reckless rover of the forest to a tamish family-man style of river,
useful to float rafts and turn mills. However, during the first moments
of the honeymoon, the happy pair, Mr. Penobscot and Miss Milly Noket,
now a unit under the marital name, are gay enough, and glide along
bowery reaches and in among fair islands, with infinite endearments and
smiles, making the world very sparkling and musical there. By-and-by
they fall to romping, and, to avoid one of their turbulent frolics,
Cancut landed us, as he supposed, on the mainland, to lighten the canoe.
Just as he was sliding away down-stream, we discovered that he had left
us upon an island in the midst of frantic, impassable rapids. "Stop,
stop, John Gilpin!" and luckily he did stop, otherwise he would have
gone on to tidewater, ever thinking that we were before him, while we,
with our forest appetites, would have been glaring hungrily at each
other, or perhaps drawing lots for a cannibal doom. Once again, as we
were shooting a long rapid, a table-top rock caught us in mid-current.
We were wrecked. It was critical. The waves swayed us perilously this
way and that. Birch would be full of water, or overturned, in a moment.
Small chance for a swimmer in such maelstroems! All this we saw, but had
no time to shudder at. Aided by the urgent stream, we carefully and
delicately--for a coarse movement would have been death--wormed our boat
off the rock and went fleeting through a labyrinth of new perils, onward
with a wild exhilaration, like galloping through prairie on fire. Of all
the high distinctive national pleasures of America, chasing buffalo,
stump-speaking, and the like, there is none so intense as shooting
rapids in a birch. Whenever I recall our career down the Penobscot, a
longing comes over me to repeat it.
We dropped down stream without further adventures. We passed the second
house, the first village, and other villages, very white and wide-awake,
melodiously named Nickertow, Pattagumpus, and Mattascunk. We spent the
first night at Mattawamkeag. We were again elbowed at a tavern table,
and compelled to struggle with real and not ideal pioneers for fried
beefsteak and soggy doughboys. The last river day was tame, but not
tiresome. We paddled stoutly by relays, stopping only once, at the
neatest of farm-houses, to lunch on the most airy-substantial bread and
baked apples and cream. It is surprising how confidential a traveller
always is on the subject of his gastronomic delights. He will have the
world know how he enjoyed his dinner, perhaps hoping that the world by
sympathy will enjoy its own.
Late in the afternoon of our eighth day from Greenville, Moosehead Lake,
we reached the end of birch-navigation, the great mill-dams of Indian
Oldtown, near Bangor. Acres of great pine logs, marked three crosses and
a dash, were floating here at the boom; we saw what Maine men suppose
timber was made for. According to the view acted upon at Oldtown,
Senaglecouna has been for a century or centuries training up its lordly
pines, that gang-saws, worked by Penobscot, should shriek through their
helpless cylinders, gnashing them into boards and chewing them into
Poor Birch! how out of its element it looked, hoisted on a freight-car
and travelling by rail to Bangor! There we said adieu to Birch and
Cancut. Peace and plenteous provender be with him! Journeys make friends
or foes; and we remember our fat guide, not as one who from time to time
just did not drown us, but as the jolly comrade of eight days crowded
with novelty and beauty, and fine, vigorous, manly life. END.
* * * * *
Not perfect, nay! but full of tender wants.--THE PRINCESS
I sat by my window sewing, one bright autumn day, thinking much of
twenty other things, and very little of the long seam that slipped away
from under my fingers slowly, but steadily, when I heard the front-door
open with a quick push, and directly into my open door entered Laura
Lane, with a degree of impetus that explained the previous sound in the
hall. She threw herself into a chair before me, flung her hat on the
floor, threw her shawl across the window-sill, and looked at me without
speaking: in fact, she was quite too much out of breath to speak.
I was used to Laura's impetuousness; so I only smiled and said, "Good
"Oh!" said Laura, with a long breath, "I have got something to tell you,
"That's nice," said I; "news is worth double here in the country; tell
me slowly, to prolong the pleasure."
"You must guess first. I want to have you try your powers for once;
"Mr. Lincoln defeated?"
"Oh, no,--at least not that I know of; all the returns from this State
are not in yet, of course not from the others; besides, do you think I'd
make such a fuss about politics?"
"You might," said I, thinking of all the beautiful and brilliant women
that in other countries and other times had made "fuss" more potent than
Laura's about politics.
"But I shouldn't," retorted she.
"Then there is a new novel out?"
"No!" (with great indignation).
"Or the parish have resolved to settle Mr. Hermann?"
"How stupid you are, Sue! Everybody knew that yesterday."
"But I am not everybody."
"I shall have to help you, I see," sighed Laura, half provoked.
"Somebody is going to be married."
"Mademoiselle, the great Mademoiselle!"
Laura stared at me. I ought to have remembered she was eighteen, and
not likely to have read Sevigne. I began more seriously, laying down my
"Is it anybody I know, Laura?"
"Of course, or you wouldn't care about it, and it would be no fun to
"Is it you?"
Laura grew indignant.
"Do you think I should bounce in, in this way, to tell you _I_ was
"Why not? shouldn't you be happy about it?"
"Well, if I were, I should"----
Laura dropped her beautiful eyes and colored.
"The thoughts of youth are long, long
I am sure she felt as much strange, sweet shyness sealing her girlish
lips at that moment as when she came, very slowly and silently, a year
after, to tell me she was engaged to Mr. Hermann. I had to smile and
"Tell me, then, Laura; for I cannot guess."
"I'll tell you the gentleman's name, and perhaps you can guess the
lady's then: it is Frank Addison."
"Frank Addison!" echoed I, in surprise; for this young man was one I
knew and loved well, and I could not think who in our quiet village had
sufficient attraction for his fastidious taste.
He was certainly worth marrying, though he had some faults, being as
proud as was endurable, as shy as a child, and altogether endowed with a
full appreciation, to say the least, of his own charms and merits: but
he was sincere, and loyal, and tender; well cultivated, yet not priggish
or pedantic; brave, well-bred, and high-principled; handsome besides. I
knew him thoroughly; I had held him on my lap, fed him with sugar-plums,
soothed his child-sorrows, and scolded his naughtiness, many a time; I
had stood with him by his mother's dying bed and consoled him by my own
tears, for his mother I loved dearly; so, ever since, Frank had been
both near and dear to me, for a mutual sorrow is a tie that may
bind together even a young man and an old maid in close and kindly
friendship. I was the more surprised at his engagement because I thought
he would have been the first to tell me of it; but I reflected that
Laura was his cousin, and relationship has an etiquette of precedence
above any other social link.
"Yes,--Frank Addison! Now guess, Miss Sue! for he is not here to tell
you,--he is in New York; and here in my pocket I have got a letter for
you, but you shan't have it till you have well guessed."
I was--I am ashamed to confess it--but I was not a little comforted
at hearing of that letter. One may shake up a woman's heart with every
alloy of life, grind, break, scatter it, till scarce a throb of its
youth beats there, but to its last bit it is feminine still; and I felt
a sudden sweetness of relief to know that my boy had not forgotten me.
"I don't know whom to guess, Laura; who ever marries after other
people's fancy? If I were to guess Sally Hetheridge, I might come as
near as I shall to the truth."
"You know better," said she. "Frank Addison is the last man to marry a
dried-up old tailoress."
"I don't know that he is; according to his theories of women and
marriage, Sally would make him happy. She is true-hearted, I am
sure,--generous, kind, affectionate, sensible, and poor. Frank has
always raved about the beauty of the soul, and the degradation of
marrying money,--therefore, Laura, I believe he is going to marry a
beauty and an heiress. I guess Josephine Bowen."
"Susan!" exclaimed Laura, with a look of intense astonishment, "how
could you guess it?"
"Then it is she?"
"Yes, it is,--and I am so sorry! such a childish, giggling, silly little
creature! I can't think how Frank could fancy her; she is just like Dora
in "David Copperfield,"--a perfect gosling! I am as vexed"----
"But she is exquisitely pretty."
"Pretty! well, that is all; he might as well have bought a nice picture,
or a dolly! I am out of all patience with Frank. I haven't the heart to
"Don't be unreasonable, Laura; when you get as old as I am, you will
discover how much better and greater facts are than theories. It's all
very well for men to say,--
'Beauty is unripe childhood's cheat,'--
the soul is all they love,--the fair, sweet character, the lofty mind,
the tender woman's heart, and gentle loveliness; but when you come down
to the statistics of love and matrimony, you find Sally Hetheridge at
sixty an old maid, and Miss Bowen at nineteen adored by a dozen men and
engaged to one. No, Laura, if I had ten sisters, and a fairy godmother
for each, I should request that ancient dame to endow them all with
beauty and silliness, sure that then they would achieve a woman's best
Laura's face burned indignantly; she hardly let me finish before she
"Susan Lee! I am ashamed of you! Here are you, an old maid, as happy as
anybody, decrying all good gifts to a woman, except beauty, because,
indeed, they stand in the way of her marriage! as if a woman was only
made to be a housekeeper!"
Laura's indignation amused me. I went on.
"Yes, I am happy enough; but I should have been much happier, had I
married. Don't waste your indignation, dear; you are pretty enough
to excuse your being sensible, and you ought to agree with my ideas,
because they excuse Frank, and yours do not."
"I don't want to excuse him; I am really angry about it. I can't bear to
have Frank throw himself away; she is pretty now, but what will she be
in ten years?"
"People in love do not usually enter into such remote calculations; love
is to-day's delirium; it has an element of divine faith in it, in not
caring for the morrow. But, Laura, we can't help this matter, and we
have neither of us any conscience involved in it. Miss Bowen may be
better than we know. At any rate, Frank is happy, and that ought to
satisfy both you and me just now."
Laura's eyes filled with tears. I could see them glisten on the dark
lashes, as she affected to tie her hat, all the time untying it as fast
as ever the knot slid. She was a sympathetic little creature, and loved
Frank very sincerely, having known him as long as she could remember.
She gave me a silent kiss, and went away, leaving the letter, yet
unopened, lying in my lap. I did not open it just then. I was thinking
of Josephine Bowen.
Every summer, for three years, Mr. and Mrs. Bowen had come to Ridgefield
for country-air, bringing with them their adopted daughter, whose
baptismal name had resigned in favor of the pet appellation "Kitten,"--a
name better adapted to her nature and aspect than the _Imperatrice_
appellation that belonged to her. She was certainly as charming a little
creature as ever one saw in flesh and blood. Her sweet child's face, her
dimpled, fair cheeks, her rose-bud of a mouth, and great, wistful, blue
eyes, that laughed like flax-flowers in a south-wind, her tiny, round
chin, and low, white forehead, were all adorned by profuse rings and
coils and curls of true gold-yellow, that never would grow long, or be
braided, or stay smooth, or do anything but ripple and twine and push
their shining tendrils out of every bonnet or hat or hood the little
creature wore, like a stray parcel of sunbeams that would shine. Her
delicate, tiny figure was as round as a child's,--her funny hands as
quaint as some fat baby's, with short fingers and dimpled knuckles. She
was a creature as much made to be petted as a King-Charles spaniel,--and
petted she was, far beyond any possibility of a crumpled rose-leaf. Mrs.
Bowen was fat, loving, rather foolish, but the best of friends and the
poorest of enemies; she wanted everybody to be happy, and fat, and well
as she was, and would urge the necessity of wine, and entire idleness,
and horse-exercise, upon a poor minister, just as honestly and
energetically as if he could have afforded them: an idea to the contrary
never crossed her mind spontaneously, but, if introduced there, brought
forth direct results of bottles, bank-bills, and loans of ancient
horses, only to be checked by friendly remonstrance, or the suggestion
that a poor man might be also proud. Mr. Bowen was tall and spare, a
man of much sense and shrewd kindliness, but altogether subject and
submissive to "Kitten's" slightest wish. She never wanted anything; no
princess in a story-book had less to desire; and this entire spoiling
and indulgence seemed to her only the natural course of things. She
took it as an open rose takes sunshine, with so much simplicity,
and heartiness, and beaming content, and perfume of sweet, careless
affection, that she was not given over to any little vanities or
affectations, but was always a dear, good little child, as happy as the
day was long, and quite without a fear or apprehension. I had seen
very little of her in those three summers, for I had been away at the
sea-side, trying to fan the flickering life that alone was left to me
with pungent salt breezes and stinging baptisms of spray, but I had
liked that little pretty well. I did not think her so silly as Laura
did: she seemed to me so purely simple, that I sometimes wondered if her
honest directness and want of guile were folly or not. But I liked to
see her, as she cantered past my door on her pony, the gold tendrils
thick clustered about her throat and under the brim of her black hat,
and her bright blue eyes sparkling with the keen air, and a real
wild-rose bloom on her smiling face. She was a prettier sight even than
my profuse chrysanthemums, whose masses of garnet and yellow and white
nodded languidly to the autumn winds to-day.
I recalled myself from this dream of recollection, better satisfied with
Miss Bowen than I had been before. I could see just how her beauty had
bewitched Frank,--so bright, so tiny, so loving: one always wants to
gather a little, gay, odor-breathing rose-bud for one's own, and such
she was to him.
So then I opened his letter. It was dry and stiff: men's letters almost
always are; they cannot say what they feel; they will be fluent of
statistics, or description, or philosophy, or politics, but as to
feeling,--there they are dumb, except in real love-letters, and, of
course, Frank's was unsatisfactory accordingly. Once, toward the end,
came out a natural sentence: "Oh, Sue! if you knew her, you wouldn't
wonder!" So he had, after all, felt the apology he would not speak; he
had some little deference left for his deserted theories.
Well I knew what touched his pride, and struck that little revealing
spark from his deliberate pen: Josephine Bowen was rich, and he only a
poor lawyer in a country-town: he felt it even in this first flush of
love, and to that feeling I must answer when I wrote him,--not merely to
the announcement, and the delight, and the man's pride. So I answered
his letter at once, and he answered mine in person. I had nothing to say
to him, when I saw him; it was enough to see how perfectly happy and
contented he was,--how the proud, restless eyes, that had always looked
a challenge to all the world, were now tranquil to their depths. Nothing
had interfered with his passion. Mrs. Bowen liked him always, Mr. Bowen
liked him now; nobody had objected, it had not occurred to anybody to
object; money had not been mentioned any more than it would have been in
Arcadia. Strange to say, the good, simple woman, and the good, shrewd
man had both divined Frank's peculiar sensitiveness, and respected it.
There was no period fixed for the engagement, it was indefinite as yet,
and the winter, with all its excitements of South and North, passed by
at length, and the first of April the Bowens moved out to Ridgefield. It
was earlier than usual; but the city was crazed with excitement, and Mr.
Bowen was tried and worn; he wanted quiet. Then I saw a great deal of
Josephine, and in spite of Laura, and her still restless objections to
the child's childish, laughing, inconsequent manner, I grew into liking
her: not that there seemed any great depth to her; she was not specially
intellectual, or witty, or studious, or practical; she did not try to
be anything: perhaps that was her charm to me. I had seen so many women
laboring at themselves to be something, that one who was content to live
without thinking about it was a real phenomenon to me. Nothing bores me
(though I be stoned for the confession, I must make it!) more than a
woman who is bent on improving her mind, or forming her manners, or
moulding her character, or watching her motives, with that deadly-lively
conscientiousness that makes so many good people disagreeable. Why can't
they consider the lilies, which grow by receiving sun and air and dew
from God, and not hopping about over the lots to find the warmest corner
or the wettest hollow, to see how much bigger and brighter they can
grow? It was real rest to me to have this tiny, bright creature come
in to me every day during Frank's office-hours as unintentionally as a
yellow butterfly would come in at the window. Sometimes she strayed to
the kitchen-porch, and, resting her elbows on the window-sill and her
chin on both palms, looked at me with wondering eyes while I made bread
or cake; sometimes she came by the long parlor-window, and sat down on a
_brioche_ at my feet while I sewed, talking in her direct, unconsidered
way, so fresh, and withal so good and pure, I came to thinking the day
very dull that did not bring "Kitten" to see me.
The nineteenth of April, in the evening, my door opened again with an
impetuous bang; but this time it was Frank Addison, his eyes blazing,
his dark cheek flushed, his whole aspect fired and furious.
"Good God, Sue! do you know what they've done in Baltimore?"
"What?" said I, in vague terror, for I had been an alarmist from the
first: I had once lived at the South.
"Fired on a Massachusetts regiment, and killed--nobody knows how many
yet; but killed, and wounded."
I could not speak: it was the lighted train of a powder-magazine burning
before my eyes. Frank began to walk up and down the room.
"I must go! I must! I must!" came involuntarily from his working lips.
"Frank! Frank! remember Josephine."
It was a cowardly thing to do, but I did it. Frank turned ghastly white,
and sat down in a chair opposite me. I had, for the moment, quenched his
ardor; he looked at me with anxious eyes, and drew a long sigh, almost a
"Josephine!" he said, as if the name were new to him, so vitally did the
idea seize all his faculties.
"Well, dear!" said a sweet little voice at the door.
Frank turned, and seemed to see a ghost; for there in the door-way stood
"Kitten," her face perhaps a shade calmer than ordinary, swinging in one
hand the tasselled hood she wore of an evening, and holding her shawl
together with the other. Over her head we discerned the spare, upright
shape of Mr. Bowen looking grim and penetrative, but not unkindly.
"What is the matter?" went on the little lady.
Nobody answered, but Frank and I looked at each other. She came in now
and went toward him, Mr. Bowen following at a respectful distance, as if
he were her footman.
"I've been looking for you everywhere," said she, with the slightest
possible suggestion of reserve, or perhaps timidity, in her voice.
"Father went first for me, and when you were not at Laura's, or the
office, or the post-office, or Mrs. Sledge's, then I knew you were here;
so I came with him, because--because"--she hesitated the least bit
here--"we love Sue."
Frank still looked at her with his soul in his eyes, as if he wanted to
absorb her utterly into himself and then die. I never saw such a look
before; I hope I never may again; it haunts me to this day.
I can pause now to recall and reason about the curious, exalted
atmosphere that seemed suddenly to have surrounded us, as if bare
spirits communed there, not flesh and blood. Frank did not move; he sat
and looked at her standing near him, so near that her shawl trailed
against his chair; but presently when she wanted to grasp something, she
moved aside and took hold of another chair,--not his: it a little thing,
but it interpreted her.
"Well?" said he, in a hoarse tone.
Just then she moved, as I said, and laid one hand on the back of a
chair: it was the only symptom of emotion she showed; her voice was as
childish-clear and steady as before.
"You want to go, Frank, and I thought you would rather be married to me
first; so I came to find you and tell you I would."
Frank sprang to his feet like a shot man; I cried; Josephine stood
looking at us quite steadily, her head a little bent toward me, her eyes
calm, but very wide open; and Mr. Bowen gave an audible grunt. I suppose
the right thing for Frank to have done in any well-regulated novel would
have been to fall on his knees and call her all sorts of names; but
people never do--that is, any people that I know--just what the
gentlemen in novels do; so he walked off and looked out of the window.
To my aid came the goddess of slang. I stopped snuffling directly.
"Josephine," said I, solemnly, "you are a brick!"
"Well, I should think so!" said Mr. Bowen, slightly sarcastic.
Josey laughed very softly. Frank came back from the window, and then the
three went off together, she holding by her father's arm, Frank on his
other side. I could not but look after them as I stood in the hall-door,
and then I came back and sat down to read the paper Frank had flung on
the floor when he came in. It diverted my mind enough from myself to
enable me to sleep; for I was burning with self-disgust to think of
my cowardice. I, a grown woman, supposed to be more than ordinarily
strong-minded by some people, fairly shamed and routed by a girl Laura
Lane called "Dora"!
In the morning, Frank came directly after breakfast. He had found his
tongue now, certainly,--for words seemed noway to satisfy him, talking
of Josephine; and presently she came, too, as brave and bright as ever,
sewing busily on a long housewife for Frank; and after her, Mrs. Bowen,
making a huge pin-ball in red, white, and blue, and full of the trunk
she was packing for Frank to carry, to be filled with raspberry-jam,
hard gingerbread, old brandy, clove-cordial, guava-jelly, strong
peppermints, quinine, black cake, cod-liver oil, horehound-candy,
Brandreth's pills, damson-leather, and cherry-pectoral, packed in with
flannel and cotton bandages, lint, lancets, old linen, and cambric
I could not help laughing, and was about to remonstrate, when Frank
shook his head at me from behind her. He said afterward he let her go
on that way, because it kept her from crying over Josephine. As for
the trunk, he should give it to Miss Dix as soon as ever he reached
In a week, Frank had got his commission as captain of a company in a
volunteer regiment; he went into camp at Dartford, our chief town, and
set to work in earnest at tactics and drill. The Bowens also went to
Dartford, and the last week in May came back for Josey's wedding. I am
a superstitious creature,--most women are,--and it went to my heart
to have them married in May; but I did not say so, for it seemed
imperative, as the regiment were to leave for Washington in June, early.
The day but one before the wedding was one of those warm, soft days that
so rarely come in May. My windows were open, and the faint scent of
springing grass and opening blossoms came in on every southern breath of
wind. Josey had brought her work over to sit beside me. She was hemming
her wedding-veil,--a long cloud of _tulle_; and as she sat there,
pinching the frail stuff in her fingers, and handling her needle with
such deft little ways, as if they were old friends and understood each
other, there was something so youthful, so unconscious, so wistfully
sweet in her aspect, I could not believe her the same resolute, brave
creature I had seen that night in April.
"Josey," said I, "I don't know how you can be willing to let Frank go."
It was a hard thing for me to say, and I said it without thinking.
She leaned back in her chair, and pinched her hem faster than ever.
"I don't know, either," said she. "I suppose it was because I ought. I
don't think I am so willing now, Sue: it was easy at first, for I was
so angry and grieved about those Massachusetts men; but now, when I get
time to think, I do ache over it! I never let him know; for it is just
the same right now, and he thinks so. Besides, I never let myself grieve
much, even to myself, lest he might find it out. I must keep bright till
he goes. It would be so very hard on him, Susy, to think I was crying at
I said no more,--I could not; and happily for me, Frank came in with
a bunch of wild-flowers, that Josey took with a smile as gay as the
columbines, and a blush that outshone the "pinkster-bloomjes," as our
old Dutch "chore-man" called the wild honeysuckle. A perfect shower of
dew fell from them all over her wedding-veil.
The day of her marriage was showery as April, but a gleam of soft,
fitful sunshine streamed into the little church windows, and fell across
the tiny figure that stood by Frank Addison's side, like a ray of
glory, till the golden curls glittered through her veil, and the fresh
lilies-of-the-valley that crowned her hair and ornamented her simple
dress seemed to send out a fresher fragrance, and glow with more pearly
whiteness. Mrs. Bowen, in a square pew, sobbed, and snuffled, and sopped
her eyes with a lace pocket-handkerchief, and spilt cologne all over
her dress, and mashed the flowers on her French hat against the dusty
pew-rail, and behaved generally like a hen that has lost her sole
chicken. Mr. Bowen sat upright in the pew-corner, uttering sonorous
hems, whenever his wife sobbed audibly; he looked as dry as a stick, and
as grim as Bunyan's giant, and chewed cardamom-seeds, as if he were a
After the wedding came lunch: it was less formal than dinner, and
nobody wanted to sit down before hot dishes and go through with the
accompanying ceremonies. For my part, I always did hate gregarious
eating: it is well enough for animals, in pasture or pen; but a thing
that has so little that is graceful or dignified about it as this taking
food, especially as the thing is done here in America, ought, in my
opinion, to be a solitary act. I never bring my quinine and iron to my
friends and invite them to share it; why should I ask them to partake
of my beef, mutton, and pork, with the accompanying mastication, the
distortion of face, and the suppings and gulpings of fluid dishes that
many respectable people indulge in? No,--let me, at least, eat alone.
But I did not do so to-day; for Josey, with the most unsentimental air
of hunger, sat down at the table and ate two sandwiches, three pickled
mushrooms, a piece of pie, and a glass of jelly, with a tumbler of ale
besides. Laura Lane sat on the other side of the table, her great
dark eyes intently fixed on Josephine, and a look in which wonder was
delicately shaded with disgust quivering about her mouth. She was a
feeling soul, and thought a girl in love ought to live on strawberries,
honey, and spring-water. I believe she really doubted Josey's affection
for Frank, when she saw her eat a real mortal meal on her wedding-day.
As for me, I am a poor, miserable, unhealthy creature, not amenable to
ordinary dietetic rules, and much given to taking any excitement, above
a certain amount in lieu of rational food; so I sustained myself on a
cup of coffee, and saw Frank also make tolerable play of knife and fork,
though he did take some blanc-mange with his cold chicken, and profusely
peppered his Charlotte-Russe!
Mrs. Bowen alternately wept and ate pie. Mr. Bowen said the jelly tasted
of turpentine, and the chickens must have gone on Noah's voyage, they
were so tough; he growled at the ale, and asked nine questions about the
coffee, all of a derogatory sort, and never once looked at Josephine,
who looked at him every time he was particularly cross, with a rosy
little smile, as if she knew why! The few other people present behaved
after the ordinary fashion; and when we had finished, Frank and
Josephine, Mr. and Mrs. Bowen, Laura Lane and I, all took the train for
Dartford. Laura was to stay two weeks, and I till the regiment left.
An odd time I had, after we were fairly settled in our quiet hotel, with
those two girls. Laura was sentimental, sensitive, rather high-flown,
very shy, and self-conscious; it was not in her to understand Josey at
all. We had a great deal of shopping to do, as our little bride had put
off buying most of her finery till this time, on account of the few
weeks between the fixing of her marriage-day and its arrival. It was
pretty enough to see the _naive_ vanity with which she selected her
dresses and shawls and laces,--the quite inconsiderate way in which she
spent her money on whatever she wanted. One day we were in a dry-goods'
shop, looking at silks; among them lay one of Marie-Louise blue,--a
plain silk, rich from its heavy texture only, soft, thick, and perfect
"I will have that one," said Josephine, after she had eyed it a moment,
with her head on one side, like a canary-bird. "How much is it?"
"Two fifty a yard, Miss," said the spruce clerk, with an inaccessible
"I shall look so nice in it!" Josey murmured. "Sue, will seventeen yards
do? it must be very full and long; I can't wear flounces."
"Yes, that's plenty," said I, scarce able to keep down a smile at
She would as soon have smoked a cigar on the steps of the hotel as have
mentioned before anybody, much less a supercilious clerk, that she
should "look so nice" in anything. Josey never thought of anything
beyond the fact, which was only a fact. So, after getting another dress
of a lavender tint, still self-colored, but corded and rich, because it
went well with her complexion, and a black one, that "father liked to
see against her yellow wig, as he called it," Mrs. Josephine proceeded
to a milliner's, where, to Laura's further astonishment, she bought
bonnets for herself, as if she had been her own doll, with an utter
disregard of proper self-depreciation, trying one after another, and
discarding them for various personal reasons, till at last she fixed on
a little gray straw, trimmed with gray ribbon and white daisies, "for
camp," she said, and another of white lace, a fabric calculated to wear
twice, perhaps, if its floating sprays of clematis did not catch in any
parasol on its first appearance. She called me to see how becoming both
the bonnets were, viewed herself in various ways in the glass, and at
last announced that she looked prettiest in the straw, but the lace was
most elegant. To this succeeded purchases of lace and shawls, that still
farther opened Laura's eyes, and made her face grave. She confided to
me privately, that, after all, I must allow Josephine was silly and
extravagant. I had just come from that little lady's room, where she sat
surrounded by the opened parcels, saying, with the gravity of a child,--
"I do like pretty things, Sue! I like them more now than I used to,
because Frank likes me. I am so glad I'm pretty!"
I don't know how it was, but I could not quite coincide with Laura's
strictures. Josey was extravagant, to be sure; she was vain; but
something so tender and feminine flavored her very faults that they
charmed me. I was not an impartial judge; and I remembered, through all,
that April night, and the calm, resolute, self-poised character that
invested the lovely, girlish face with such dignity, strength, and
simplicity. No, she was not silly; I could not grant that to Laura.
Every day we drove to the camp, and brought Frank home to dinner. Now
and then he stayed with us till the next day, and even Laura could not
wonder at his "infatuation," as she had once called it, when she saw how
thoroughly Josephine forgot herself in her utter devotion to him; over
this, Laura's eyes filled with sad forebodings.
"If anything should happen to him, Sue, it will kill her," she said.
"She never can lose him and live. Poor little thing! how could Mr. Bowen
let her marry him?"
"Mr. Bowen lets her do much as she likes, Laura, and always has, I
"Yes, she has been a spoiled child, I know, but it is such a pity!"
"_Has_ she been spoiled? I believe, as a general thing, more children
are spoiled by what the Scotch graphically call 'nagging' than by
indulgence. What do you think Josey would have been, if Mrs. Brooks had
been her mother?"
"I don't know, quite; unhappy, I am sure; for Mrs. Brooks's own children
look as if they had been fed on chopped catechism, and whipped early
every morning, ever since they were born. I never went there without
hearing one or another of them told to sit up, or sit down, or keep
still, or let their aprons alone, or read their Bibles; and Joe Brooks
confided to me in Sunday-school that he called Deacon Smith 'old
bald-head,' one day, in the street, to see if a bear wouldn't come and
eat him up, he was so tired of being a good boy!"
"That's a case in point, I think, Laura; but what a jolly little boy! he
ought to have a week to be naughty in, directly."
"He never will, while his mother owns a rod!" said she, emphatically.
I had beguiled Laura from her subject; for, to tell the truth, it was
one I did not dare to contemplate; it oppressed and distressed me too
After Laura went home, we stayed in Dartford only a week, and then
followed the regiment to Washington. We had been there but a few days,
before it was ordered into service. Frank came into my room one night to
"We must be off to-morrow, Sue,--and you must take her back to
Ridgefield at once. I can't have her here. I have told Mr. Bowen. If we
should be beaten,--and we may,--raw troops may take a panic, or may
fight like veterans,--but if we should run, they will make a bee-line
for Washington. I should go mad to have her here with a possibility of
Rebel invasion. She must go; there is no question."
He walked up and down the room, then came back and looked me straight in
"Susan, if I never come back, you will be her good friend, too?"
"Yes," said I, meeting his eye as coolly as it met mine: I had learned a
lesson of Josey. "I shall see you in the morning?"
"Yes"; and so he went back to her.
Morning came. Josephine was as bright, as calm, as natural, as the June
day itself. She insisted on fastening "her Captain's" straps on his
shoulders, purloined his cumbrous pin-ball and put it out of sight, and
kept even Mrs. Bowen's sobs in subjection by the intense serenity of
her manner. The minutes seemed to go like beats of a fever-pulse;
ten o'clock smote on a distant bell; Josephine had retreated, as if
accidentally, to a little parlor of her own, opening from our common
sitting-room. Frank shook hands with Mr. Bowen; kissed Mrs. Bowen
dutifully, and cordially too; gave me one strong clasp in his arms, and
one kiss; then went after Josephine. I closed the door softly behind
him. In five minutes by the ticking clock he came out, and strode
through the room without a glance at either of us. I had heard her say
"Good bye" in her sweet, clear tone, just as he opened the door; but
some instinct impelled me to go in to her at once: she lay in a dead
faint on the floor.
We left Washington that afternoon, and went straight back to Ridgefield.
Josey was in and out of my small house continually: but for her father
and mother, I think she would have stayed with me from choice. Rare
letters came from Frank, and were always reported to me, but, of course,
never shown. If there was any change in her manner, it was more steadily
affectionate to her father and mother than ever; the fitful, playful
ways of her girlhood were subdued, but, except to me, she showed no
symptom of pain, no show of apprehension: with me alone she sometimes
drooped and sighed. Once she laid her little head on my neck, and,
holding me to her tightly, half sobbed,--
"Oh, I wish--I wish I could see him just for once!"
I could not speak to answer her.
As rumors of a march toward Manassas increased, Mr. and Mrs. Bowen took
her to Dartford: there was no telegraph-line to Ridgefield, and but one
daily mail, and now a day's delay of news might be a vital loss. I could
not go with them; I was too ill. At last came that dreadful day of Bull
Run. Its story of shame and blood, trebly exaggerated, ran like fire
through the land. For twenty-four long hours every heart in Ridgefield
seemed to stand still; then there was the better news of fewer dead
than the first report, and we knew that the enemy had retreated, but no
particulars. Another long, long day, and the papers said Colonel ----'s
regiment was cut to pieces; the fourth mail told another story: the
regiment was safe, but Captains Addison, Black, and--Jones, I think,
were missing. The fifth day brought me a letter from Mr. Bowen. Frank
was dead, shot through the heart, before the panic began, cheering on
his men; he had fallen in the very front rank, and his gallant company,
at the risk of their lives, after losing half their number as wounded or
killed, had brought off his body, and carried it with them in retreat,
to find at last that they had ventured all this for a lifeless corpse!
He did not mention Josephine, but asked me to come to them at once, as
he was obliged to go to Washington. I could not, for I was too ill to
travel without a certainty of being quite useless at my journey's end. I
could but just sit up. Five days after, I had an incoherent sobbing sort
of letter from Mrs. Bowen, to say that they had arranged to have the
funeral at Ridgefield the next day but one,--that Josephine would come
out, with her, the night before, and directly to my house, if I was able
to receive them. I sent word by the morning's mail that I was able, and
went myself to the station to meet them.
They had come alone, and Josey preceded her mother into the little room,
as if she were impatient to have any meeting with a fresh face over. She
was pale as any pale blossom of spring, and as calm. Her curls, tucked
away under the widow's-cap she wore, and clouded by the mass of crape
that shrouded her, left only a narrow line of gold above the dead quiet
of her brow. Her eyes were like the eyes of a sleep-walker: they seemed
to see, but not to feel sight. She smiled mechanically, and put a cold
hand into mine. For any outward expression of emotion, one might have
thought Mrs. Bowen the widow: her eyes were bloodshot and swollen, her
nose was red, her lips tremulous, her whole face stained and washed with
tears, and the skin seemed wrinkled by their salt floods. She had cried
herself sick,--more over Josephine than Frank, as was natural.
It was but a short drive over to my house, but an utterly silent one.
Josephine made no sort of demonstration, except that she stooped to pat
my great dog as we went in. I gave her a room that opened out of mine,
and put Mrs. Bowen by herself. Twice in the night I stole in to look at
her: both times I found her waking, her eyes fixed on the open window,
her face set in its unnatural quiet; she smiled, but did not speak. Mrs.
Bowen told me in the morning that she had neither shed a tear nor slept
since the news came; it seemed to strike her at once into this cold
silence, and so she had remained. About ten, a carriage was sent over
from the village to take them to the funeral. This miserable custom of
ours, that demands the presence of women at such ceremonies, Mrs. Bowen
was the last person to evade; and when I suggested to Josey that she
should stay at home with me, she looked surprised, and said, quietly,
but emphatically, "Oh, no!"
After they were gone, I took my shawl and went out on the lawn. There
was a young pine dense enough to shield me from the sun, sitting under
which I could see the funeral-procession as it wound along the river's
edge up toward the burying-ground, a mile beyond the station. But there
was no sun to trouble me; cool gray clouds brooded ominously over all
the sky; a strong south-wind cried, and wailed, and swept in wild gusts
through the woods, while in its intervals a dreadful quiet brooded over
earth and heaven,--over the broad weltering river, that, swollen by
recent rain, washed the green grass shores with sullen flood,--over
the heavy masses of oak and hickory trees that hung on the farther
hill-side,--over the silent village and its gathering people. The
engine-shriek was borne on the coming wind from far down the valley.
There was an air of hushed expectation and regret in Nature itself that
seemed to fit the hour to its event.
Soon I saw the crowd about the station begin to move, and presently the
funeral-bell swung out its solemn tones of lamentation; its measured,
lingering strokes, mingled with the woful shrieking of the wind and the
sighing of the pine-tree overhead, made a dirge of inexpressible force
and melancholy. A weight of grief seemed to settle on my very breath: it
was not real sorrow; for, though I knew it well, I had not felt yet that
Frank was dead,--it was not real to me,--I could not take to my stunned
perceptions the fact that he was gone. It is the protest of Nature,
dimly conscious of her original eternity, against this interruption of
death, that it should always be such an interruption, so incredible, so
surprising, so new. No,--the anguish that oppressed me now was not the
true anguish of loss, but merely the effect of these adjuncts; the pain
of want, of separation, of reaching in vain after that which is gone, of
vivid dreams and tearful waking,--all this lay in wait for the future,
to be still renewed, still suffered and endured, till time should be no
more. Let all these pangs of recollection attest it,--these involuntary
bursts of longing for the eyes that are gone and the voice that is
still,--these recoils of baffled feeling seeking for the one perfect
sympathy forever fled,--these pleasures dimmed in their first
resplendence for want of one whose joy would have been keener and
sweeter to us than our own,--these bitter sorrows crying like children
in pain for the heart that should have soothed and shared them! No,--
there is no such dreary lie as that which prates of consoling Time! You
who are gone, if in heaven you know how we mortals fare, you know that
life took from you no love, no faith,--that bitterer tears fall for you
to-day than ever wet your new graves,--that the gayer words and the
recalled smiles are only like the flowers that grow above you, symbols
of the deeper roots we strike in your past existence,--that to the
true soul there is no such thing as forgetfulness, no such mercy as
Slowly the long procession wound up the river,--here, black with plumed
hearse and sable mourners,--there, gay with regimental band and bright
uniforms,--no stately, proper funeral, ordered by custom and marshalled
by propriety, but a straggling array of vehicles: here, the doctor's old
chaise,--there, an open wagon, a dusty buggy, a long, open omnibus,
such as the village-stable kept for pleasure-parties or for parties of
mourning who wanted to go _en masse_.
All that knew Frank, in or about Ridgefield, and all who had sons or
brothers in the army, swarmed to do him honor; and the quaint, homely
array crept slowly through the valley, to the sound of tolling bell and
moaning wind and the low rush of the swollen river,--the first taste
of war's desolation that had fallen upon us, the first dark wave of a
As it passed out of sight, I heard the wheels cease, one by one, their
crunch and grind on the gravelled road up the slope of the grave-yard.
I knew they had reached that hill-side where the dead of Ridgefield
lie calmer than its living; and presently the long-drawn notes of that
hymn-tune consecrated to such occasions--old China--rose and fell in
despairing cadences on my ear. If ever any music was invented for the
express purpose of making mourners as distracted as any external thing
can make them, it is the bitter, hopeless, unrestrained wail of this
tune. There is neither peace nor resignation in it, but the very
exhaustion of raving sorrow that heeds neither God nor man, but
cries out, with the soulless agony of a wind-harp, its refusal to be
At length it was over, and still in that same dead calm Josephine came
home to me. Mrs. Bowen was frightened, Mr. Bowen distressed. I could not
think what to do, at first; but remembering how sometimes a little thing
had utterly broken me down from a regained calmness after loss, some
homely association, some recall of the past, I begged of Mr. Bowen to
bring up from the village Frank's knapsack, which he had found in one of
his men's hands,--the poor fellow having taken care of that, while he
lost his own: "For the captain's wife," he said. As soon as it came, I
took from it Frank's coat, and his cap and sword. My heart was in my
mouth as I entered Josephine's room, and saw the fixed quiet on her face
where she sat. I walked in, however, with no delay, and laid the things
down on her bed, close to where she sat. She gave one startled look at
them and then at me; her face relaxed from all its quiet lines; she sank
on her knees by the bedside, and, burying her head in her arms, cried,
and cried, and cried, so helplessly, so utterly without restraint, that
I cried, too. It was impossible for me to help it. At last the tears
exhausted themselves; the dreadful sobs ceased to convulse her; all
drenched and tired, she lifted her face from its rest, and held out her
arms to me. I took her up, and put her to bed like a child. I hung the
coat and cap and sword where she could see them. I made her take a cup
of broth, and before long, with her eyes fixed on the things I had hung
up, she fell asleep, and slept heavily, without waking, till the next
I feared almost to enter her room when I heard her stir; I had dreaded
her waking,--that terrible hour that all know who have suffered, the dim
awakening shadow that darkens so swiftly to black reality; but I need
not have dreaded it for her. She told me afterward that in all that
sleep she never lost the knowledge of her grief; she did not come into
it as a surprise. Frank had seemed to be with her, distant, sad, yet
consoling; she felt that he was gone, but not utterly,--that there was
drear separation and loneliness, but not forever.
When I went in, she lay there awake, looking at her trophy, as she came
to call it, her eyes with all their light quenched and sodden out with
crying, her face pale and unalterably sad, but natural in its sweetness
and mobility. She drew me down to her and kissed me.
"May I get up?" she asked; and then, without waiting for an answer, went
on,--"I have been selfish, Sue; I will try to be better now; I won't
run away from my battle. Oh, how glad I am he didn't run away! It is
dreadful now, dreadful! Perhaps, if I had to choose if he should have
run away or--or this, I should have wanted him to run,--I'm afraid I
should. But I am glad now. If God wanted him, I'm glad he went from the
front ranks. Oh, those poor women whose husbands ran away, and were
She seemed to be so comforted by that one thought! It was a strange
trait in the little creature; I could not quite fathom it.
After this, she came down-stairs and went about among us, busying
herself in various little ways. She never went to the grave-yard; but
whenever she was a little tired, I was sure to find her sitting in her
room with her eyes on that cap and coat and sword. Letters of condolence
poured in, but she would not read them or answer them, and they all fell
into my hands. I could not wonder; for, of all cruel conventionalities,
visits and letters of condolence seem to me the most cruel. If friends
can be useful in lifting off the little painful cares that throng in the
house of death till its presence is banished, let them go and do their
work quietly and cheerfully; but to make a call or write a note, to
measure your sorrow and express theirs, seems to me on a par with
pulling a wounded man's bandages off and probing his hurt, to hear him
cry out and hear yourself say how bad it must be!
Laura Lane was admitted, for Frank's sake, as she had been his closest
and dearest relative. The day she came, Josey had a severe headache, and
looked wretchedly. Laura was shocked, and showed it so obviously, that,
had there been any real cause for her alarm, I should have turned her
out of the room without ceremony, almost before she was fairly in it. As
soon as she left, Josey looked at me and smiled.
"Laura thinks I am going to die," said she; "but I'm not. If I could,
I wouldn't, Sue; for poor father and mother want me, and so will the
soldiers by-and-by." A weary, heart-breaking look quivered in her face
as she went on, half whispering,--"But I should--I _should_ like to see
In September she went away. I had expected it ever since she spoke of
the soldiers needing her. Mrs. Bowen went to the sea-side for her annual
asthma. Mr. Bowen went with Josephine to Washington. There, by some
talismanic influence, she got admission to the hospitals, though she
was very pretty, and under thirty. I think perhaps her pale face and
widow's-dress, and her sad, quiet manner, were her secret of success.
She worked here like a sprite; nothing daunted or disgusted her. She
followed the army to Yorktown, and nursed on the transport-ships. One
man said, I was told, that it was "jes' like havin' an apple-tree blow
raound, to see that Mis' Addison; she was so kinder cheery an' pooty,
an' knew sech a sight abaout nussin', it did a feller lots of good only
to look at her chirpin' abaout."
Now and then she wrote to me, and almost always ended by declaring she
was "quite well, and almost happy." If ever she met with one of Frank's
men,--and all who were left reenlisted for the war,--he was sure to be
nursed like a prince, and petted with all sorts of luxuries, and told
it was for his old captain's sake. Mr. and Mrs. Bowen followed her
everywhere, as near as they could get to her, and afforded unfailing
supplies of such extra hospital-stores as she wanted; they lavished on
her time and money and love enough to have satisfied three women, but
Josey found use for it all--for her work. Two months ago, they all came
back to Dartford. A hospital had been set up there, and some one was
needed to put it in operation; her experience would be doubly useful
there, and it was pleasant for her to be so near Frank's home, to be
among his friends and hers.
I went in, to do what I could, being stronger than usual, and found
her hard at work. Her face retained its rounded outline, her lips had
recovered their bloom, her curls now and then strayed from the net under
which she carefully tucked them, and made her look as girlish as ever,
but the girl's expression was gone; that tender, patient, resolute look
was born of a woman's stern experience; and though she had laid aside
her widow's-cap, because it was inconvenient, her face was so sad in its
repose, so lonely and inexpectant, she scarce needed any outward symbol
to proclaim her widowhood. Yet under all this new character lay still
some of those childish tastes that made, as it were, the "fresh perfume"
of her nature: everything that came in her way was petted; a little
white kitten followed her about the wards, and ran to meet her, whenever
she came in, with joyful demonstrations; a great dog waited for her at
home, and escorted her to and from the hospital; and three canaries hung
in her chamber;--and I confess here, what I would not to Laura, that she
retains yet a strong taste for sugar-plums, gingerbread, and the "Lady's
Book." She kept only so much of what Laura called her vanity as to be
exquisitely neat and particular in every detail of dress; and though a
black gown, and a white linen apron, collar, and cuffs do not afford
much room for display, yet these were always so speckless and spotless
that her whole aspect was refreshing.
Last week there was a severe operation performed in the hospital, and
Josephine had to be present. She held the poor fellow's hand till he
was insensible from the kindly chloroform they gave him, and, after the
surgeons were through, sat by him till night, with such a calm, cheerful
face, giving him wine and broth, and watching every indication of pulse
or skin, till he really rallied, and is now doing well.
As I came over, the next day, I met Doctor Rivers at the door of her
"Really," said he, "that little Mrs. Addison is a true heroine!"
The kitten purred about my feet, and as I smiled assent to him, I said
inwardly to myself,--
"Really, she is a true woman!"
Between bright, new Leamington, the growth of the present century,
and rusty Warwick, founded by King Cymbeline in the twilight ages, a
thousand years before the mediaeval darkness, there are two roads,
either of which may be measured by a sober-paced pedestrian in less than
half an hour.
One of these avenues flows out of the midst of the smart parades and
crescents of the former town,--along by hedges and beneath the shadow of
great elms, past stuccoed Elizabethan villas and wayside ale-houses, and
through a hamlet of modern aspect,--and runs straight into the principal
thoroughfare of Warwick. The battlemented turrets of the castle,
embowered half-way up in foliage, and the tall, slender tower of St.
Mary's Church, rising from among clustered roofs, have been visible
almost from the commencement of the walk. Near the entrance of the town
stands St. John's School-House, a picturesque old edifice of stone, with
four peaked gables in a row, alternately plain and ornamented, and wide,
projecting windows, and a spacious and venerable porch, all overgrown
with moss and ivy, and shut in from the world by a high stone fence, not
less mossy than the gabled front. There is an iron gate, through the
rusty open-work of which you see a grassy lawn, and almost expect to
meet the shy, curious eyes of the little boys of past generations,
peeping forth from their infantile antiquity into the strangeness of our
present life. I find a peculiar charm in these long-established English
schools, where the school-boy of to-day sits side by side, as it were,
with his great-grandsire, on the same old benches, and often, I believe,
thumbs a later, but unimproved edition of the same old grammar or
arithmetic. The new-fangled notions of a Yankee school-committee would
madden many a pedagogue, and shake down the roof of many a time-honored
seat of learning, in the mother-country.
At this point, however, we will turn back, in order to follow up the
other road from Leamington, which was the one that I loved best to take.
It pursues a straight and level course, bordered by wide gravel-walks
and overhung by the frequent elm, with here a cottage and there a villa,
on one side a wooded plantation, and on the other a rich field of grass
or grain, until, turning at right angles, it brings you to an arched
bridge over the Avon. Its parapet is a balustrade carved out of
freestone, into the soft substance of which a multitude of persons have
engraved their names or initials, many of them now illegible, while
others, more deeply cut, are illuminated with fresh green moss. These
tokens indicate a famous spot; and casting our eyes along the smooth
gleam and shadow of the quiet stream, through a vista of willows that
droop on either side into the water, we behold the gray magnificence of
Warwick Castle, uplifting itself among stately trees, and rearing its
turrets high above their loftiest branches. We can scarcely think the
scene real, so completely do those machicolated towers, the long line of