Part 2 out of 5
How quick the flash that enlightened me while I surveyed the _saliere!_
"It is exquisite! Am I never to sit at your table but some new device
charms me?" I exclaimed. "Is it your design, Mademoiselle?" I said,
turning to Delphine.
Delphine, who had been ice to all the Baron's advances, only curled her
lip. "_Des babioles!_" she said.
"Yes, indeed," cried Mme. de St. Cyr, extending her hand for it. "But
none the less her taste. Is it not a fairy thing? A _Cellini!_ Observe
this curve, these lines! but one man could have drawn them!"--and she
held it for our scrutiny. It was a tiny hand and arm of ivory, parting
the foam of a wave and holding a golden shell, in which the salt seemed
to have crusted itself as if in some secretest ocean-hollow. I looked at
the Baron a moment; his eyes were fastened upon the _saliere_, and all
the color had forsaken his cheeks,--his face counted his years. The
diamond was in that little shell. But how to obtain it? I had no novice
to deal with; nothing but delicate _finesse_ would answer.
"Permit me to examine it," I said. She passed it to her left hand for me
to take. The butler made a step forward.
"Meanwhile, Madame," said the Baron, smiling, "I have no salt."
The instinct of hospitality prevailed;--she was about to return it.
Might I do an awkward thing? Unhesitatingly. Reversing my glass, I
gave my arm a wider sweep than necessary, and, as it met her hand with
violence, the _saliere_ fell. Before it touched the floor I caught it
There was still a pinch of salt left,--nothing more.
"A thousand pardons!" I said, and restored it to the Baron.
His Excellency beheld it with dismay; it was rare to see him bend over
and scrutinize it with starting eyes.
"Do you find there what Count Arnaklos begs in the song," asked
Delphine,--"the secret of the sea, Monsieur?"
He handed it to the butler, observing, "I find here no"----
"Salt, Monsieur?" replied the man, who did not doubt but all had gone
right, and replenished it.
Had one told me in the morning that no intricate manoeuvres, but a
simple blunder, would effect this, I might have met him in the Bois de
"We will not quarrel," said my neighbor, lightly, with reference to the
"Rather propitiate the offended deities by a crumb tossed over the
shoulder," added I.
"Over the left?" asked the Baron, to intimate his knowledge of another
idiom, together with a reproof for my _gaucherie_.
"_A gauche,--quelquefois c'est justement a droit_," I replied.
"Salt in any pottage," said Madame, a little uneasily, "is like surprise
in an individual; it brings out the flavor of every ingredient, so my
cook tells me."
"It is a preventive of palsy," I remarked, as the slight trembling of my
adversary's finger caught my eye.
"And I have noticed that a taste for it is peculiar to those who trace
their blood to Galitzin," continued Madame.
"Let us, therefore, elect a deputation to those mines near Cracow," said
"To our cousins, the slaves there?" laughed her mother.
"I must vote to lay your bill on the table, Mademoiselle," I rejoined.
"But with a _boule blanche_, Monsieur?"
"As the salt has been laid on the floor," said the Baron.
Meanwhile, as this light skirmishing proceeded, my sleeve and Mme. de
St. Cyr's dress were slightly powdered, but I had not seen the diamond.
The Baron, bolder than I, looked under the table, but made no discovery.
I was on the point of dropping my napkin to accomplish a similar
movement, when my accommodating neighbor dropped hers. To restore it, I
stooped. There it lay, large and glowing, the Sea of Splendor, the Moon
of Milk, the Torment of my Life, on the carpet, within half an inch of a
lady's slipper. Mademoiselle de St. Cyr's foot had prevented the Baron
from seeing it; now it moved and unconsciously covered it. All was as
I wished. I hastily restored the napkin, and looked steadily at
Delphine,--so steadily, that she perceived some meaning, as she had
already suspected a game. By my sign she understood me, pressed her foot
upon the stone and drew it nearer. In France we do not remain at table
until unfit for a lady's society,--we rise with them. Delphine needed to
drop neither napkin nor handkerchief; she composedly stooped and picked
up the stone, so quickly that no one saw what it was.
"And the diamond?" said the Baron to the butler, rapidly, as he passed.
"It was in the _saliere!_" whispered the astonished creature.
In the drawing-room I sought the Marquis.
"To-day I was to surrender you your property," I said; "it is here."
"Do you know," he replied, "I thought I must have been mistaken?"
"Any of our volatile friends here might have been," I resumed; "for us
it is impossible. Concerning this, when you return to France, I will
relate the incidents; at present, there are those who will not hesitate
to take life to obtain its possession. The _diligence_ leaves in twenty
minutes; and if I owned the diamond, it should not leave me behind.
Moreover. who knows what a day may bring forth? To-morrow there may be
an _emeute_. Let me restore the thing as you withdraw."
The Marquis, who is not, after all, the Lion of England, pausing a
moment to transmit my words from his ear to his brain, did not afterward
delay to make inquiries or adieux, but went to seek Mme. de St. Cyr
and wish her goodnight, on his departure from Paris. As I awaited his
return, which I knew would not be immediate, Delphine left the Baron and
"You beckoned me?" she asked.
"No, I did not."
"Nevertheless, I come by your desire, I am sure."
"Mademoiselle," I said, "I am not in the custom of doing favors; I have
forsworn them. But before you return me my jewel, I risk my head and
render one last one, and to you."
"Do not, Monsieur, at such price," she responded, with a slight mocking
motion of her hand.
"Delphine! those resolves, last night, in the cellar, were daring; they
were noble, yet they were useless."
She had not started, but a slight tremor ran over her person and
vanished while I spoke.
"They will be allowed to proceed no farther,--the axe is sharpened; for
the last man who adjusted his mask was a spy,--was the Secretary of the
Delphine could not have grown paler than was usual with her of late. She
flashed her eye upon me.
"He was, it may be, Monsieur himself," she said.
"I do not claim the honor of that post."
"But you were there, nevertheless,--a spy!"
"Hush, Delphine! It would be absurd to quarrel. I was there for the
recovery of this stone, having heard that it was in a cellar,--which,
stupidly enough, I had insisted should be a wine-cellar."
"It was, then"----
"In a salt-cellar,--a blunder which, as you do not speak English, you
cannot comprehend. I never mix with treason, and did not wish to assist
at your pastimes. I speak now, that you may escape."
"If Monsieur betrays his friends, the police, why should I expect a
"When I use the police, they are my servants, not my friends. I simply
warn you, that, before sunrise, you will be safer travelling than
sleeping,--safer next week in Vienna than in Paris."
"Thank you! And the intelligence is the price of the diamond? If I had
not chanced to pick it up, my throat," and she clasped it with her
fingers, "had been no slenderer than the others?"
"Delphine, will you remember, should you have occasion to do so in
Vienna, that it is just possible for an Englishman to have affections,
and sentiments, and, in fact, sensations? that, with him, friendship can
be inviolate, and to betray it an impossibility? And even were it
not, I, Mademoiselle, have not the pleasure to be classed by you as a
"You err. I esteem Monsieur highly."
I was impressed by her coolness.
"Let me see if you comprehend the matter," I demanded.
"Perfectly. The arrest will be used to-night, the guillotine to-morrow."
"You will take immediate measures for flight?"
"No,--I do not see that life has value. I shall be the debtor of him who
"A large debt. Delphine, I exact a promise of you. I do not care to have
endangered myself for nothing. It is not worth while to make your mother
unhappy. Life is not yours to throw away. I appeal to your magnanimity."
"'Affections, sentiments, sensations!'" she quoted. "Your own danger
for the affection,--it is an affair of the heart! Mme. de St. Cyr's
unhappiness,--there is the sentiment. You are angry, Monsieur,--that
must be the sensation."
"Delphine, I am waiting."
"Ah, well. You have mentioned Vienna, and why? Liberals are countenanced
"Not in the least. But Madame l'Ambassadrice will be countenanced."
"I do not know her."
"We are not apt to know ourselves."
"Monsieur, how idle are these cross-purposes!" she said, folding her
"Delphine," I continued, taking the fan, "tell me frankly which of these
two men you prefer,--the Marquis or his Excellency."
"The Marquis? He is antiphlogistic,--he is ice. Why should I freeze
myself? I am frozen now,--I need fire!"
Her eyes burned as she spoke, and a faint red flushed her cheek.
"Mademoiselle, you demonstrate to me that life has yet a value to you."
"I find no fire," she said, as the flush fell away.
"I do not affect him."
"You will conquer your prejudice in Vienna."
"I do not comprehend you, Monsieur;--you speak in riddles, which I do
"I will speak plainer. But first let me ask you for the diamond."
"The diamond? It is yours? How am I certified of it? I find it on the
floor; you say it was in my mother's _saliere_; it is her affair, not
mine. No, Monsieur, I do not see that the thing is yours."
Certainly there was nothing to be done but to relate the story, which I
did, carefully omitting the Baron's name. At its conclusion, she placed
the prize in my hand.
"Pardon, Monsieur," she said; "without doubt you should receive it. And
this agent of the government,--one could turn him like hot iron in this
vice,--who was he?"
"The Baron Stahl."
All this time G. had been waiting on thorns, and, leaving her now, I
approached him, displayed for an instant the treasure on my palm, and
slipped it into his. It was done. I bade farewell to this Eye of Morning
and Heart of Day, this thing that had caused me such pain and perplexity
and pleasure, with less envy and more joy than I thought myself capable
of. The relief and buoyancy that seized me, as his hand closed upon it,
I shall not attempt to portray. An abdicated king was not freer.
The Marquis departed, and I, wandering round the _salon_, was next
stranded upon the Baron. He was yet hardly sure of himself. We talked
indifferently for a few moments, and then I ventured on the great loan.
He was, as became him, not communicative, but scarcely thought it would
be arranged. I then spoke of Delphine.
"She is superb!" said the Baron, staring at her boldly.
She stood opposite, and, in her white attire on the background of the
blue curtain, appeared like an impersonation of Greek genius relieved
upon the blue of an Athenian heaven. Her severe and classic outline,
her pallor, her downcast lids, her absorbed look, only heightened the
resemblance. Her reverie seemed to end abruptly, the same red stained
her cheek again, her lips curved in a proud smile, she raised her
glowing eyes and observed us regarding her. At too great distance to
hear our words, she quietly repaid our glances in the strength of her
new decision, and then, turning, began to entertain those next her with
an unwonted spirit.
"She has needed," I replied to the Baron, "but one thing,--to be
aroused, to be kindled. See, it is done! I have thought that a life of
cabinets and policy might achieve this, for her talent is second not
even to her beauty."
"It is unhappy that both should be wasted," said the Baron. "She, of
course, will never marry."
"For various reasons."
"She is poor."
"Which will not signify to your Excellency. Another?"
"She is too beautiful. One would fall in love with her. And to love
one's own wife--it is ridiculous!"
"Who should know?" I asked.
"All the world would suspect and laugh."
"Let those laugh that win."
"No,--she would never do as a wife; but then as"----
"But then in France we do not insult hospitality!"
The Baron transferred his gaze to me for a moment, then tapped his
snuff-box, and approached the circle round Delphine.
It was odd that we, the arch enemies of the hour, could speak without
the intervention of seconds; but I hoped that the Baron's conversation
might be diverting,--the Baron hoped that mine might be didactic.
They were very gay with Delphine. He leaned on the back of a chair and
listened. One spoke of the new gallery of the Tuileries, and the five
pavilions,--a remark which led us to architecture.
"We all build our own houses," said Delphine, at last, "and then
complain that they cramp us here, and the wind blows in there, while
the fault is not in the order, but in us, who increase here and shrink
"You speak in metaphors," said the Baron.
"Precisely. A truth is often more visible veiled than nude."
"We should soon exhaust the orders," I interposed; "for who builds like
"Slight variations, Monsieur! Though we take such pains to conceal the
style, it is not difficult to tell the order of architecture chosen by
the builders in this room. My mother, for instance,--you perceive that
her pavilion would be the florid Gothic."
"Mademoiselle's is the Doric," I said.
"Has been," she murmured, with a quick glance.
"And mine, Mademoiselle?" asked the Baron, indifferently.
"Ah, Monsieur," she returned, looking serenely upon him, "when one has
all the winning cards in hand and yet loses the stake, we allot him _un
pavilion chinois"_--which was the polite way of dubbing him Court Fool.
The Baron's eyes fell. Vexation and alarm were visible on his contracted
brow. He stood in meditation for some time. It must have been evident to
him that Delphine knew of the recent occurrences,--that here in Paris
she could denounce him as the agent of a felony, the participant of a
theft. What might prevent it? Plainly but one thing: no woman would
denounce her husband. He had scarcely contemplated this step on arrival.
The guests were again scattered in groups round the room. I examined
an engraving on an adjacent table. Delphine reclined as lazily in a
_fauteuil_ as if her life did not hang in the balance. The Baron drew
"Mademoiselle," said he, "you allotted me just now a cap and bells.
If two should wear it?--if I should invite another into my _pavilion
chinois_?--if I should propose to complete an alliance, desired by my
father, with the ancient family of St. Cyr?--if, in short, Mademoiselle,
I should request you to become my wife?"
"Eh, bien, Monsieur,--and if you should?" I heard her coolly reply.
But it was no longer any business of mine. I rose and sought Mme. de St.
Cyr, who, I thought, was slightly uneasy, perceiving some mystery to be
afloat. After a few words, I retired.
Archimedes, as perhaps you have never heard, needed only a lever to move
the world. Such a lever I had put into the hands of Delphine, with
which she might move, not indeed the grand globe, with its multiplied
attractions, relations, and affinities, but the lesser world of
circumstances, of friends and enemies, the circle of hopes, fears,
ambitions. There is no woman, as I believe, but could have used it.
The next day was scarcely so quiet in the city as usual. The great loan
had not been negotiated. Both the Baron Stahl and the English minister
had left Paris,--and there was a _coup d'etat_.
But the Baron did not travel alone. There had been a ceremony at
midnight in the Church of St. Sulpice, and her Excellency the Baroness
Stahl, _nee_ de St. Cyr, accompanied him.
It is a good many years since. I have seen the diamond in the Duchess
of X.'s coronet, at the drawing-room, often,--but I have never seen
Delphine. The Marquis begged me to retain the chain, and I gave myself
the pleasure of presenting it, through her mother, to the Baroness
Stahl. I hear, that, whenever she desires to effect any cherished object
which the Baron opposes, she has only to wear this chain, and effect it.
It appears to possess a magical power, and its potent spell enslaves the
Baron as the lamp and ring of Eastern tales enslaved the Afrites.
The life she leads has aroused her. She is no longer the impassive
Silence; she has found her fire. I hear of her as the charm of a
brilliant court, as the soul of a nation of intrigue. Of her beauty one
does not speak, but her talent is called prodigious. What impels me
to ask the idle question, If it were well to save her life for this?
Undoubtedly she fills a station which, in that empire, must be the
summit of a woman's ambition. Delphine's Liberty was not a principle,
but a dissatisfaction. The Baroness Stahl is vehement, is Imperialist,
is successful. While she lives, it is on the top of the wave; when she
dies,--ah! what business has Death in such a world?
As I said, I have never seen Delphine since her marriage. The beautiful
statuesque girl occupies a niche into which the blazing and magnificent
_intrigante_ cannot crowd. I do not wish to be disillusioned. She has
read me a riddle,--Delphine is my Sphinx.
* * * * *
As for Mr. Hay,--I once said the Antipodes were tributary to me, not
thinking that I should ever become tributary to the Antipodes. But such
is the case; since, partly through my instrumentality, that enterprising
individual has been located in their vicinity, where diamonds are not to
be had for the asking, and the greatest rogue is not a Baron.
* * * * *
HAMLET AT THE BOSTON.
We sit before the row of evening lamps,
Each in his chair,
Forgetful of November dusks and damps,
And wintry air.
A little gulf of music intervenes,
A bridge of sighs,
Where still the cunning of the curtain screens
My thought transcends those viols' shrill delight,
The booming bass,
And towards the regions we shall view to-night
Makes hurried pace:
The painted castle, and the unneeded guard
That ready stand;
The harmless Ghost, that walks with helm unbarred
And beckoning hand;
And, beautiful as dreams of maidenhood,
That doubt defy,
Young Hamlet, with his forehead grief-subdued,
And visioning eye.
O fair dead world, that from thy grave awak'st
A little while,
And in our heart strange revolution mak'st
With thy brief smile!
O beauties vanished, fair lips magical,
O mighty hearts, that held the world in thrall!
Come from your graves!
The Poet sees you through a mist of tears,--
Such depths divide
Him, with the love and passion of his years,
From you, inside!
The Poet's heart attends your buskined feet,
Your lofty strains,
Till earth's rude touch dissolves that madness sweet,
And life remains:
Life that is something while the senses heed
The spirit's call,
Life that is nothing when our grosser need
Engulfs it all.
And thou, young hero of this mimic scene,
In whose high breast
A genius greater than thy life hath been
Wear'st thou those glories draped about thy soul
Thou dost present?
And art thou by their feeling and control
'Tis with no feigned power thou bind'st our sense,
No shallow art;
Sure, lavish Nature gave thee heritance
Of Hamlet's heart!
Thou dost control our fancies with a might
So wild, so fond,
We quarrel, passed thy circle of delight,
With things beyond;
Returning to the pillows rough with care,
And vulgar food,
Sad from the breath of that diviner air,
That loftier mood.
And there we leave thee, in thy misty tent
While foes about thee gather imminent,
To us scarce known.
Oh, when the lights are quenched, the music hushed,
The plaudits still,
Heaven keep the fountain, whence the fair stream gushed,
From choking ill!
Let Shakspeare's soul, that wins the world from wrong,
For thee avail,
And not one holy maxim of his song
Before thee fail!
So, get thee to thy couch as unreproved
As heroes blest;
And all good angels, trusted in and loved,
Attend thy rest!
De todos los Generales cual es el mejor?
Es mi General Jose con su Guardia de Honor!
It is only within a century that the world has become habituated to
behold the birth of nations, and already the spectacle has grown too
common to attract more than transitory notice. In the sluggish days that
preceded the revolutionary efforts of our fathers, a nationality was
fixed, seemingly immutable, the growth of scarcely numbered ages, the
daughter of immemorial Time. A people then could place its hand upon its
title-deeds, and, looking back through half a score of centuries, trace
its gradual development from nothingness to power. To-day, on the
contrary,--to use a somewhat daring metaphor,--nations have become
autochthonous; they have repudiated the feeble processes of conception
and tutelage; they spring, armed and full-grown, from the forehead of
their progenitors, or rise, in sudden ripeness, from the soil.
Thousands must now be living, the citizens of prosperous states, who
can recall the days when they had entered upon manhood and yet the name
itself of their nation had no existence. How many, indeed, are still
among us, to whom nations owe the impetus that gave them birth!
Prominent, at least, among those who can lay claim to such distinction,
there still stands one whose career it were well, perhaps, to study. We
will endeavor to profit by a glance at it.
With this intent let us transport ourselves in imagination to the Llanos
or Plains of Venezuela. It is a region similar in some respects, widely
dissimilar in others, to the more celebrated Pampas of the regions to
the south. The wonderful plain, covering more than two hundred thousand
square miles, and forming the basin of the gigantic Orinoco, is a study
in itself. The stranger who descends upon the vast savanna from the
mountains that line and defend the coast is impressed with the momentary
belief, when his eye for the first time sweeps over the level immensity,
that he is again approaching the sea. From the hilly country through
which he has toiled, he beholds at his feet a limitless and dusky plain,
smooth as an ocean in repose, but undulating, like it, in gigantic
sweeps and curves. The Llanos that he sees spread out before him thus
are one huge and exuberant pasture. Like the Pampas of Buenos Ayres,
they are the support of myriads of roaming cattle; but, unlike them,
they are intersected by numerous rivers, and suffer rather from excess
than from lack of moisture. The Orinoco sweeps, in turbid magnificence,
from west to east, traversing their entire breadth; and its countless
tributaries seam in every direction the immense plain thus divided, and
frequently by their unmanageable floods turn it for thousands of miles
into a lake.
The dwellers in this region have a character no less distinctive than
that of the Plains themselves. At long intervals, sometimes scores of
miles apart, their habitations are established; but their home is the
saddle. Innumerable herds of cattle and of horses turn to account the
pasturage of the rich savanna; and the true Llanero exists only as
guardian or proprietor of these savage hosts. He is as much at home in
this trackless expanse of rank vegetation as the mariner navigating
a familiar sea. There are no roads in the Llanos; but he can gallop
unerringly to any given point, be it hundreds of miles away. There are
no boundaries to the huge estates; but he knows when the cattle he is
set to protect are grazing upon their own territory or upon that of a
neighbor. He leads a life in which the extremes of solitariness and of
activity are combined. Separated from his nearest neighbor by a journey
of half a day, visited only rarely at his _hato_ or farm-house by
some casual traveller, or by the itinerant Galician peddler, whom he
contemptuously denominates the _merca-chifles_, the silent horseman
lives wrapt up in ignorance of all but the care of the roving beasts
that are intrusted to his vigilance.
Let us glance somewhat more nearly at the Llanero in his home. If we
are able to obtain an elevated view of the savanna,--let us say, in the
Llanos which constitute the Province of Barinas, and through which the
Apure rolls its rapid current to swell the volume of the Orinoco,--we
shall observe, at distant intervals upon the plain, irregular groups
of palm-trees surmounting the wavy level of the grass. These isolated
clumps or groves, called _matas_ in the provincial idiom, form the
landmarks of the Venezuelan Plains; and in the neighborhood of each we
shall find the _hato_ or dwelling of a Llanero. The building, we shall
find in every case, is a roughly-constructed hut, consisting of a floor
raised a couple of feet above the spongy soil, and covered with a steep
roof of palm-branches, with perhaps a thatch composed of the leaves
of the same invaluable tree. A rough partition of mud-plastered twigs
divides the Llanero's dwelling into unequal apartments; the lesser being
reserved for the use of the females of the household, while the larger,
furnished with half-a-dozen hides, the skin of a jaguar, and a couple of
benches or stools ingeniously manufactured from bamboo, is the general
reception-room, sleeping-apartment, and workshop for the _hatero_, when
the floods are out, or when he takes a fancy at other times to shelter
his head beneath a roof. A few rods from the dwelling is the _corral_ or
cattle-pen, a large oval inclosure, into which, at irregular intervals,
he drives his herds for purposes of branding or enumeration; and near
the _corral_ two or three impatient horses, shackled with a thong
confining the forelegs, are grazing.
The cattle-farms or _hatos_ of the Plains are owned, for the most part,
by the Creole residents of the cities which dot their outskirts, but are
inhabited only by the semibarbarous _hateros_, who attend to the
few requirements of the stock, and slaughter the annual supply. The
_hatero_, although a descendant, and proud that he is so, of the Spanish
settlers, has much intermixture of Indian and negro blood in his
veins. Few of the Llaneros, indeed, could show a pedigree in which the
Castilian blood was not sorely attenuated and diluted with that of
half-a-dozen Indian or negro progenitors. He is born on the Llanos, as
were his ancestors for many generations; and he has no conception of a
land in which cattle-plains are unknown, and where the carcass of an
animal is of more value than the hide. His ideas are restricted to
his occupation, and his religious notions limited to the traditional
instruction handed down from the days when his forefathers lived amid
civilized men, or to the casual teaching of some fervent missionary, who
devotes himself to the spiritual welfare of these lonely dwellers on the
Plains. Eight or ten persons at the utmost form a _hato_, and suffice
for all the requirements of thousands of cattle. The women are as much
accustomed to solitude as the men, and spend their time in domestic
occupations, or in cultivating the little patch of ground upon which
their supply of maize and cassava is grown. The occasion of their
marriage is perhaps the only one of their visit to a town,--perhaps
their only opportunity of seeing a printed book. Men and women alike are
a simple, healthy, ignorant race, borrowing manners, dress, and dialect
rather from the Indian than from the Spanish stock.
Such as he is, nevertheless, and for the purposes which his existence
subserves, the true Llanero is indeed well placed in his peculiar
region. A man of middle stature, usually of broad and powerful build,
short-necked, with square head and narrow forehead, and with eyes that
would be black, if it were not for the fire that flickers in them with a
carbuncle-like intensity. From the hips upward the Llanero is straight
and well-proportioned; but his constant equitation curves and bandies
his legs in a manner plainly visible whenever he attempts to walk. His
distinctive costume consists of the _calzones_, or cotton breeches,
reaching a little below the knee, a tunic or smock-frock of the same
material, confined about his waist with a thong of leather, into which
he thrusts his formidable _machete_ or cutlass, and the inevitable
_poncho_, that many-colored blanket which the entire Spanish-American
race has adopted at the hands of the vanquished Indians, and which he
uses as cloak, as pillow, as bed, and sometimes as saddle. Boots he has
none, nor shoes; but perhaps he may fasten strips of raw hide to
his feet by way of sandals,--and a piece of raw hide covers, in all
probability, his head. He cares little for ornament, since there are so
few about him to admire display; and all his pride is concentrated in
the steed that bears him, the lasso that he can throw with such unerring
aim, and the heavy lance that he uses in driving his ferocious cattle,
or as a death-dealing weapon when he is called upon to take part in some
Upon his _hato_, perhaps, there are between one and two hundred thousand
head of cattle and horses, guarded here and there by isolated posts of
a nature similar to his own. The animals, savage from their birth, roam
the plain in droves of many hundreds, each herd commanded by two or
three bulls or stallions, whose authority is no less despotic than that
of the colonel of a Russian regiment. They sweep from feeding-ground to
feeding-ground, galloping eight or ten abreast, headed by scouts, and
suffering no human being or strange animal to cross their path. As the
dusky squadron hurries, like an incarnate whirlwind, from one point to
another, every one prudently withdraws from their irresistible advance;
and instances have occurred in which large bodies of troops, marching
across the Plains, have been scattered and routed by an accidental
charge of some such wild-eyed regiment. At certain intervals, _la
hierra_, the branding, takes place; when drove after drove are
dexterously compelled within the walls of the _corral_, and there
marked with the initials or cipher of the proprietor. This is the great
festival of the _hatero_, and he invites to it all his neighbors for
scores of leagues around. The bellowing cattle, the plunging steeds, the
excitement of lassoing some bull more refractory than usual, the hissing
of the iron as it sears the brand-mark deep into the animal's hide, all
these are elements of exquisite enjoyment to the unsophisticated Rarey
of the Plains. His great delight, on such occasions, is to display his
skill in lassoing an untamed colt, or in performing the feat called to
_colear_ a bull. He selects from the suspicious herd some fine young
three-year old, grazing somewhat apart from the main body, and creeps
silently towards it. Suddenly the lasso flies in snaky coils over the
head of the beast, and is drawn with strangulating tightness about its
neck. At the first plunge, a brother _hatero_ lassoes the animal's hind
legs, and it is permitted to rear and kick as frantically as it can,
until it drops to the ground exhausted and strangled. The Llanero
immediately approaches the prostrate colt, and deliberately beats its
head with a heavy bludgeon until it becomes quite senseless. He then
places his saddle upon its back, adjusts a murderous bit in its clammy
mouth, and seats himself firmly in the saddle at the moment when the
animal recovers strength enough to rise. The fearful plunges, the wild
bounds, the vicious attempts at biting, which ensue, are all in vain; in
a couple of days he subsides into a mere high-spirited trotter, whom one
can ride with ease after once effecting a mount.
The pastime of "tailing" a bull is somewhat singular. Two or three
horsemen single out an animal upon which to practise it, and secure a
lasso about its horns. Another lasso, deftly thrown about its hind legs,
is fastened to a tree, and the strongest of the party then seizes the
bellowing beast by its tail, which he twists until his victim falls over
on its side and is dispatched. The greatest dexterity is required in
this manoeuvre by all practising it, as the slacking of either lasso
enables the bull to turn upon his caudal persecutor, who is certain to
be gored to death. This, indeed, not unfrequently happens. But a Llanero
cares little for death. He faces it daily in his lonely converse with
thousands of intractable beasts, in his bath in the river swarming with
alligators,--in the swamp teeming with serpents, against whose poison
there is no antidote, and whose bite will destroy the life of a man in a
single hour. Content with the wild excitement of his daily round of duty
and recreation, with his meal of dried beef and cassava-cake, washed
down, it is likely, with a gourdful of _guarapo_, a species of rum, in
comparison with which the New England beverage is innocent and weak, and
with the occasional recurrence of some such turbulent festival as that
of the branding, he cares nothing for the future, and bestows no thought
upon the past. The Llanero may be called a happy man.
Two years more than half a century ago there lived a Creole trader of
some wealth in the little town of Araure, in the province of Barinas,
upon the outskirts of the Llanos. Don Jose had a stalwart son, aged
about sixteen, whom he had trained to active usefulness amid the
monotonous ease of the torrid little municipality. Young Jose Antonio
had received, it is true, only a scanty education, but he could sign
his name, could verify a calculation, and had a shrewd, quick head for
business. The doctors-of-law, tolerably numerous even in little Araure,
pronounced him born for a jurist, and he was a godsend to the litigious
natives of the Captain-Generalcy. The hide-and-tallow merchants nodded
knowingly, as he passed them in the street with a good-humored _Adios_,
and predicted great fortunes for the lad as a future man-of-business.
The Cura thought it a pity that he should prefer the society of the
dusky beauties of Araure to the more hallowed enjoyments of preparation
for a priestly life. And all the while quite other destinies were held
in store by Fate. The remissness of a mercantile correspondent of his
father altered the current of his life, and mightily influenced, even to
the present day, the fortunes of his country.
A sum was owing to Don Jose by a trader of Capudare, and he intrusted
his son with the task of collecting the debt. One fine day, in the
spring of 1807, the lad accordingly set out, in high spirits at his
important mission, armed with a brace of pistols and a cutlass, and
mounted on a trusty mule. The money was duly collected, but, as young
Jose Antonio journeyed home with it, a rumor of his precious charge was
spread, and he was beset in a lonely by-path by four highwaymen. The
pistols flashed from Jose's holsters, and one of the _churriones_ fell
the next moment with a bullet in his brain. Instantly presenting the
second pistol, which was not loaded, he advanced upon the remaining
three, who fell back in consternation, and fled, panic-stricken, from
the boy. Jose Antonio was left alone with the highwayman's corpse. It
was no light thing in Venezuela to commit a homicide without testimony
of innocence, and young Jose hastened homewards with his treasure, in a
state of trepidation far greater than any the living highwaymen could
have inspired. Even in his parents' dwelling, he dreaded, every moment,
the arrival of an order for his arrest, and to appease his groundless
anxiety his father shortly suggested that he should take refuge upon the
Llanos,--the Sherwood of Venezuelan Robin Hoods. The youth was delighted
with the idea, and engaged himself as herdsman in the service of Don
Manuel Pulido, a wealthy proprietor, whom he served so well that he was
very quickly advanced to a position of confidence and command. In a few
months the slayer of the _churrion_ had learned to smile at his recent
apprehensions; but the wild life of the _hato_ had already thrown around
him its subtle fascination, and the sprightly youth of Araure had become
a naturalized son of the Plains. Soon few were able like young Jose to
break an untried steed; few wielded more dexterously the lasso, or could
drive with more unerring force the jagged lance into the side of a
galloping bull. Clad in _poncho_ and _calzones_, he scoured the vast
plain of La Calzada, acquiring, at the same time with manual dexterity
and physical hardihood, the affections, still more important, of the
wild Llaneros with whom only he associated. The lad of eighteen,
scarcely two years a denizen of the Plains, possessed all the influence
and authority of the hoariest Llanero; and now the predictions ran
that this daring Jose Antonio would one day be the most successful
cattle-farmer in Venezuela!
We must leave young Jose among his comrades of the _hato_ for a while,
and glance at the contemporaneous doings of anointed heads, whose
destinies were strangely interwoven with his own.
Far away across the Atlantic, in the shadow of the Pyrenees, events had
been developing themselves to the consummation that should overturn a
splendid throne, shake Europe to its foundations, and electrify Spanish
America with a sympathetic current of revolution, flashing from the
pines of Oregon to the deserts of Patagonia.
The mysterious treachery of Bayonne was consummated. Joseph, brother
of Napoleon, reigned on the throne of which King Charles had been
perfidiously despoiled. Ferdinand, heir to the crown of Spain and the
Indies, had scarcely heard himself proclaimed as the seventh monarch of
that name, when he had resigned his kingly functions to a Regency, and
hastened into the snare which already held his father a captive on the
soil of France. The astounding intelligence arrived in different parts
of South America during the year 1808. The effect was everywhere alike.
One moment of utter bewilderment, an instant's reeling under the shock
of surprise, and then a magnificent outburst of loyalty from the
simple-hearted Creole population! _El Rey_, the King,--that almost
mythical sovereign, who was ignorantly adored as the personification of
wisdom and beneficence, no matter how cruelly Viceroys might misgovern,
or Captains-General oppress,--was it possible to conceive him a captive,
the signer of his own humiliation, the renouncer of his immemorial
rights? And Ferdinand, the young monarch of whom so little was known
and so much expected,--he, too, a voluntary prisoner, while a Frenchman
reigned in Madrid? This was news, indeed, to bewilder nations who
had hitherto remained content in infantile tutelage, unconscious,
undesirous, of the rights of men! Addresses, fervent with loyalty, were
dispatched to Spain, embodying vows of eternal affection towards the
King, and of detestation of Joseph, the usurper. French residents in
Venezuela were publicly execrated by the excited Creoles; the French
flag was insulted, and the French messengers were glad to escape with
their lives from the hands of the infuriated Colonists. No Spanish
monarch ever had a firmer hold upon the Indies than Ferdinand VII. when
Spain was lost to him in July and August, 1808.
But soon there came that inevitable question, first in the catechism of
all human society: Whom shall we obey? The King, whose hand had weighed
not over lightly these many years, an abdicated prisoner at Bayonne;
Ferdinand yielding his authority into the hand of a nameless Regency,
and his capital to the brother of the Corsican Emperor; Spain overrun
by two hundred thousand foreign troops; messengers at hand from Joseph,
from the Regency, from the Junta of the Asturias, from the Junta of
Seville, each alike asserting its right to authority over the Colonies,
as legitimate possessors of jurisdiction in Spain itself! The accession
of Joseph, in fact, gave a momentary independence to Spanish America,
and the royal governors were thrown upon their own resources for the
maintenance of their power. The Colonies were for the first time called
upon to provide for their own defence,--solicited, not commanded, to
obey; and they proved their loyalty by dispatching enormous sums in
gold and silver to the Junta at Cadiz, as well as by their eagerness
to ascertain in whom actually reposed the lawful government of Spain.
Gradually, however, the consciousness of their own entity stole over the
Venezuelans and New Granadians, and they bethought them of establishing
an administrative Junta of their own, until better times should dawn on
Spain. Blindly imprudent, the Viceroy violently opposed the project,
and with such troops as remained in the Colonies the first Juntas were
dispersed or massacred. Squabbles ensued, until the citizens of Caracas
quietly deposed the chief Colonial authorities, and appointed a
_Junta Suprema_ to administer affairs in the name of Ferdinand VII.
Intelligence of this step, however, was received with great alarm by the
sapient Junta of Cadiz, and a proclamation was launched, on the 31st of
August, 1810, declaring the Province of Caracas in a state of rigorous
blockade. A war of manifestoes ensued, until the Provinces became
enlightened as to their own importance and strength, and published, on
the 5th of July, 1811, the Declaration of their Independence. Scarcely
was this done when the Spanish Cortes offered liberal terms of
accommodation, but they were rejected. The nation, that in 1808 thought
it sweet to be subject, declared itself, three years later, for
unqualified independence. The ardent revolutionist, General Miranda,
was placed in command of some hastily-levied forces, and took the field
against the Spanish commander, Don Domingo Monteverde, who had assumed a
hostile attitude immediately after the Declaration.
It is only necessary here to say, that, after some hard-fought and
honorable fields, Miranda and his fellow-officers were completely
successful. All the principal cities were in the hands of the Patriots
before 1812 began. Monteverde, in January of that year, was cooped up in
the remote province of Guiana, and Coro on the sea-coast was also held
by his troops; but elsewhere the new Republic seemed fully established.
Already the point of Constitution-making--the crystallization-point of
republics--had been reached. The ports of Venezuela were for the first
time opened to foreign trade. Her inhabitants were no longer restricted
from the enjoyment of the fruits of their own industry. A gigantic
system of taxation had been brushed, like a spider's web, away.
Two-thirds of the Captain-Generalcy, in a word, were free.
There was little fear among any of the inhabitants of Caracas, in March,
1812, that they would again fall under the dominion of Spain. The
Carnival had been celebrated with greater joyousness than in any year
before; the proverbial gayety of the town was doubled during the
concluding festival of Shrove Tuesday; and Lent had scarcely thrown as
deep a shade as usual over the devoutest inhabitants of the city. Lent
drew to a close, and there was every prospect that Passion Week would
be succeeded by a season of rejoicing over impending defeats of the
Royalist _Goths_ in Coro and Guiana; and Passion Week came. Holy
Thursday fell on the 26th of March.
The solemn festival was ushered in with the most imposing rites of the
Church. In the great cathedral, which dwarfed all other buildings in the
Plaza, there was high mass that day. The famous bell clanged out to all
Caracas remembrance of the agony of our Lord. A silent multitude was
prostrated all day long before the gorgeous altar. Prelates and priests
and acolytes stood, splendid in vestments of purple and white and
gold, solemnly celebrating upon the steps of the sanctuary the holiest
mysteries of the Roman Catholic communion. Above and around, gigantic
tapers flared from candlesticks of beaten gold; and every little while,
the glorious anthems floated forth in majestic cadence, eddying in waves
of harmony about the colonnade that stretched in dusky perspective from
the great door to the altar, soaring above the distant arches, and
swelling upwards in floods of melody, until the vast concavity of the
vaulted nave was filled with a sea of sound. But a sultry heaviness
weighed with the incense upon the air. Elder citizens glanced uneasily
at one another, and the thoughts of many wandered anxiously from the
sacred building. Outside, the streets were empty. All Caracas was
engaged in public worship; and the white dwellings that inclosed the
Plaza, with its converging avenues, looked silently down upon deserted
pavements, echoing only now and then to the careless tread of a party of
negroes, or to the clattering heel of some undevout trooper. The sun had
a glow as of molten copper; the atmosphere was dense; but not a cloud
occupied the heavens. Towards evening the churches and the cathedral
were again emptied, and the throng of worshippers, streaming out into
the streets, prepared to witness the great religious procession that was
to close the ceremonies of the holy day. Still the declining sun glowed
with unnatural intensity of hue; and the evening breeze swept over the
town in unusually fitful and stormy gusts. The air seemed to be laden
with mysterious melancholy, to sigh with a hidden presage of some awful
calamity to come.
Of a sudden it came. A shudder, a tremor, a quivering shock ran, for
hundreds of miles simultaneously, through Venezuela. A groan, swelling
thunderously and threateningly into a hollow roar, burst from the
tortured earth, and swallowed up in its convulsive rumbling the shrieks
of an entire nation suddenly inwrapt in the shadow and agony of death.
For a moment,--as if a supernatural hand were painfully lifting it from
its inmost core,--the earth rocked and heaved through all Venezuela; and
then, almost before the awful exclamation, _El temblor!_ had time to
burst from the lips of that stricken nation, it bounded from the bonds
that held it, and in a moment was quaking, heaving, sliding, surging,
rolling, in awful semblance to the sea. Great gulfs opened and closed
their jaws, swallowing up and again belching forth dwellings, churches,
human beings, overtaken by instantaneous destruction.
A flash and a roar passed through the earth, and a jagged chasm followed
in its track, creating others in its rapid clash and close. Whole
cities shivered, tottered, reeled, and fell in spreading heaps of
undistinguishable ruin. In one minute and fifteen seconds, twenty
thousand human beings perished in Venezuela; and then the Earthquake of
It was after four o'clock in the afternoon when the first subterranean
shock was felt; and long before five the agonized earth was still. Long
before five, the stupefied survivors stood slowly recovering their
faculties of speech and motion. Long before five, a piteous wail
ascended to heaven from fathers and husbands and wives and mothers,
desolately mourning the dead in the streets of Caracas, La Guayra,
Merida, San Felipe, and Valencia. In this manner the Holy Thursday of
1812 drew toward its close. But the physical disasters consequent upon
the great earthquake were of insignificant import as compared with its
moral effect. Colonist and Spaniard had shared alike in suffering and
death during those dreadful moments; but the superstitious population
readily accepted the interpretation which an eager priesthood placed
upon the event, and bowed in the belief that they had suffered
the infliction in punishment of their rebellion against the King.
Nine-tenths of the clergy and monastic brotherhood inwardly hated
and feared the Revolution, and their practised tongues drew terrible
auguries for rebellious Venezuela from the recent throes and upheaval of
the earth. Preachers solemnly proclaimed the fact, that this, without
doubt, was a catastrophe akin to the memorable convulsion which once had
swallowed up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, for mutiny against the Lord; and
the proximate wrath of God could be appeased only by a retrogression
into his chosen paths. The people listened to the fathers, and obeyed
trembling. Miranda, who had struggled against and overcome the material
power of his enemies, was impotent when confronted by spiritual terrors;
and after a few languid combats, his troops deserted, leaving Monteverde
to triumph once more in the assertion of Spanish authority over every
province of Venezuela. His headquarters were established at Caracas,
and there, as well as elsewhere, his troops revelled in the perfidious
torture and execution of their capitulated foes. During nearly two
years, Monteverde reigned in Venezuela.
GUERRA A LA MUERTE!
Yet, towards the close of 1813, the star of liberty glimmered once
more from the summits of the Western Cordillera. During and after the
memorable earthquake, the city of Puerto Cabello, at that time held by
the Patriots, was under the command of a young colonel in the Republican
service, who had devoted a portion of his immense patrimonial wealth
to the culture of his intellectual powers in European travel, (not,
however, without subsequently applying a large share to the necessities
of his country,) and whose name was Simon Bolivar. The treachery of an
officer delivered the citadel of Puerto Cabello into the hands of some
Spanish prisoners who were there confined, and in June, 1812, Colonel
Bolivar was compelled to evacuate the town with all his force. While
Monteverde lorded it over his country, he took refuge in the neighboring
islands, and afterwards in New Granada, where he conceived the daring
project which freed Venezuela, and has perpetuated, with his name, the
simple but expressive title: Liberator, _Libertador_.
It is not our purpose here to follow the intrepid partisan in his
descent, with six hundred New Granadian adherents, from the Andes, upon
the astounded Spaniards. We cannot follow him, nor the generals whom
he created, in their marvellous marches, and still more marvellous
triumphs, during many succeeding years. Suffice it to say, that he
fell like a thunderbolt from a sunny sky upon the confident Royalist
troops,--that he defeated and routed them time after time, broke, with
his terrible lancers, upon encampments which believed him a hundred
miles away, and drove the Royal commanders, with varying success, from
one point to another of Venezuela. His watchword was, _Guerra a la
muerte_, "War unto death!" Every battle-ground became a shamble, every
flight a butchery. The system was inaugurated by his antagonists, who
cruelly slew eight Patriot officers, and eight citizens of Barinas,
shortly after the commencement of hostilities, under circumstances of
peculiar barbarity. Thenceforward Bolivar's men took no prisoners.
In the mean time, Wellington had driven the French across the Pyrenees,
and Ferdinand the Adored ruled once more in Madrid. Even now, judicious
management might have secured again the allegiance of the Colonies; but
the first action of Ferdinand was to vituperate his American subjects
as rebels, whom he commanded to lay down their arms at once; and on
the 18th of February, 1815, there sailed from Cadiz a stately armament
intended to enforce this peremptory order. Sixty-five vessels composed
the fleet, bearing six regiments of infantry, one of dragoons, the
Queen's hussars, artillery, sappers and miners, engineers, and eighteen
pieces of cannon, besides incalculable quantities of arms and munitions
of war. The expedition numbered fifteen thousand men, and was commanded
in chief by the famous soldier, General Don Pablo Morillo, the guerilla
champion, the opposer of the French.
On the 4th of April, this redoubtable army effected a landing; and once
more, all but an insignificant fraction of Venezuela fell under the hand
of Spain. The flood of successful rebellion was rolled back from the
coast, and Bolivar, with his dauntless partisans, was soon confined to
the Llanos, which stretch away in level immensity from the marshy banks
of the Orinoco, the Apure, and their tributaries.
Our readers have already been introduced to these Llanos, and have
beheld their wild inhabitants amid the monotonous avocations of a time
of peace. Let us now approach them while the "blood-red blossom of war"
blazes up from their torrid vegetation. Let us descend upon them at
night, here, at no great distance from the banks of the cayman-haunted
Apure, and we shall gaze upon a different scene. All around us, the
plain extends in the same desolate immensity that we noticed when we
looked upon it from the _hato_; still, as before, we see it covered with
a dense wilderness of reedy grasses that overtop the tallest trooper
in Morillo's army; as before, we notice the scattered palm-islands,
breaking here and there the uniformity of level; and hosts of cattle and
wild horses are still roaming over the plain.
Near a _mata_, or grove of palm-trees, there is a sound of merry voices
to-night. Fires are crackling here and there; huge strips of fresh beef
are roasting on wooden spits; the long grass has been trodden flat in
a wide circumference, and three or four rudely-constructed huts of
palm-branches close the scene on one side. Five hundred men are
collected here,--the elite of the liberators of Venezuela. Gathered
about their camp-fires, these troopers, who have ridden a hundred miles
since morning, are enjoying rest, refreshment, and recreation. But the
word trooper must not conjure up a vision of belted horsemen, rigid in
uniform, with clanking sabres, and helmets of brass. Of a far different
stamp are the figures reclining before us. These are improvised
warriors, _hateros_, cattle-farmers, who, grasping their lances and
lassos, have eagerly exchanged the monotony of pastoral life for the
wild excitement of the charge upon Spanish squadrons, and the ferocious
slaughter of fellow-men. No two of this invincible band are clad
alike. Here is a sergeant, wearing an old and dilapidated blanket
poncho-fashion, with the remains of a palm-leaf hat sheltering his head,
and with limbs which a pair of ragged _calzones_ make only a pretence of
covering. Yet over his left shoulder is slung a gorgeous hussar jacket,
which he wears with the greater pride since it belonged last night to a
lieutenant in the Queen's regiment, whom he slew in cold blood after the
fight! Next to him leans a private, bare-legged and bare-headed, wearing
only an old piece of carpet about his waist, a flannel shirt, and the
uniform coat of a Spanish officer, from which he has cut the right
sleeve in order to secure greater freedom for his arm. A third has made
himself a suit which Robinson Crusoe might have envied. Helmet, jerkin,
breeches, sandals, all have been cut from the same raw bull's hide! His
neighbor, a new recruit, still wears the national dress of his order,
which has not yet been tattered and torn from him by long service; and
he is the envy of the motley troop. But the lack of uniformity in no
wise detracts from valor, nor does it diminish the gayety of these
terrible lancers as they lie idly grouped about the flickering fires.
Half-a-dozen circles are absorbed in as many games at cards; others
are swallowing greedily some improvised fantastic tale; and some are
singing, in wild, irregular cadence, the favorite songs of the Plains.
Their example soon becomes contagious, and group after group chimes in
with the uproarious chant. Listen! From the farthest extremity of the
encampment comes a querying solo:--
"De todos los Generales cual es el valiente?"
and from five hundred throats the response is thundered:--
"Mi General Paez con toda su gente!"
Again the solo demands:--
"De todos los Generales cual es el major?"
and the tumultuous answer is vociferated:--
"Es mi General Jose con su guardia de honor!"
And who may be the valiant General, the General with his guard of honor,
excelling all the rest? This, we learn, is the guard of honor; the
General is Jose Antonio Paez, little Jose Antonio who killed the
highwayman and betook himself to cattle farming on the Plains! Now,
however, he is the famous Llanero chieftain, favorite champion of
Venezuela, brother-in-arms of Bolivar, who allows him, alone of all
the military leaders, the privilege of an especial body-guard. Since
1810,--for five years,--he has been fighting constantly in his country's
service, and has won himself fame while our eyes have been turned in
other directions. Look! he is standing there, at the entrance to his
hut, while the chorus yet echoes among the palm-branches. Scarcely of
middle stature, certainly not more than five feet four in height,--but
broad-shouldered, muscular, with a constitution of iron, equal to
perpetual exertion, capable of every fatigue. His countenance is open
and prepossessing, his features rounded, forehead square, eyes piercing
and intelligent. Like his men, he wears a motley garb,--part Spanish
uniform, part costume of the Llanos; and he leans upon a lance,
decorated with a black bannerol, which has carried death already to
innumerable Loyalist hearts. Thus Jose Antonio Paez stands before us, on
the banks of the Apure, in the twenty-fifth year of his age.
He has perhaps been hitherto too much neglected by us, and we must look
backwards in order to take up the thread of his career. At the very
first outbreak of insurrection in 1810, Paez took service as a volunteer
in the hastily-levied militia of Barinas, and was quickly promoted to
the post of sergeant in a corps of lancers. His influence and example
attracted multitudes of Llanero horsemen to the Revolutionary ranks,
but the calamitous period of the earthquake put an end to his military
service, and he returned, in 1812, to his pastoral post. Soon, however,
came news of Bolivar fighting from the mountains of New Granada; and in
1813 Paez was once more in the saddle, with the commission, this time,
of captain in the Patriot service. The Spaniards soon learned to dread
the fiery lancer of Barinas. They were never safe from his sudden
onslaught; and Puy, the commandant of the Province, rejoiced loudly when
an unlucky defeat placed the indefatigable _guerrillero_ in his power.
Paez was condemned to be shot, and was actually led out, with
other prisoners, to the place of execution; but a concatenation of
extraordinary accidents saved his life, and he escaped once more to the
head of his command. It was not long before he was brought in immediate
contact with the now famous Bolivar, and he rapidly rose to independent
command. In 1815, he was second only to the Liberator. Thousands of grim
Llaneros acknowledged no chieftain beside _el Tio Pepe_,--Uncle Joe.
When Morillo landed, in 1815, with his overwhelming force, only the
Llaneros of Paez held out for the Republic; everywhere else in Venezuela
the banner of Spain waved in triumph, but on the Plains of the Apure
there was neither submission nor peace. Yet, after a while, as the
victorious legions of Morillo flooded, in successive waves from the
coast, the level region of his refuge, Paez was compelled to evacuate
the Plains, and leave them to the invader. With a few hundred of his
horsemen he established himself on the Plains of New Granada. Scarcely
had he grown familiar with his new centre of action when the troops of
Morillo were turned westward for the purpose of curbing the rebellious
spirits in the neighboring Vice-Royalty,--when, quicker than thought,
Paez was once more over the mountains, and recovered by a sudden swoop
the Llanos of Barinas. Thenceforward, this region remained the surest
foothold of the revolution in Venezuela. Encircled with Spanish troops,
it remained, nevertheless, a practical republic in itself, and the
vast basin of the Orinoco was the cradle of Venezuelan freedom. The
Provisional Government consisted of a mere council of generals, who, in
1816, created Paez General and Supreme Chief of the Republic. A vast
stride from the _hatero's_ hut that we saw him inhabiting in 1808!
Paez resigned this dignity in favor of Bolivar in the following year,
contenting himself with his great military command. Surrounded by the
body-guard we have seen, through all the years 1816, 1817, and 1818, now
in Venezuela, now in New Granada, in the Plains to-day, in the mountains
to-morrow, enduring every privation, braving odds apparently the most
overwhelming, fighting pitched battles at midnight, and triumphantly
effecting surprises in the open day, he maintained alive, in the midst
of general discouragement, the cause he had espoused. Bolivar, the
Liberator, was meanwhile endeavoring to make head against the Spaniards
elsewhere, and gathered a considerable force in the interior province of
Guiana. In 1818, the vanguard of the British legion--troops browned by
the sun of Spain, who had marched with Wellington from Lisbon to the
Pyrenees, and who gladly accepted the offers of the Patriots when
Waterloo had put an end to European strife--sailed up the Orinoco, and
effected a junction with the assembled Patriot forces.
At this time, not only the whole of New Granada, but the entire
sea-coast of Venezuela and every important city in the Republic were
possessed by Morillo. Yet the Royalist cause made no progress. Morillo's
dominion was like that famous Haarlem lake which occupied so large an
extent of the lands of Holland; it might be great and threatening, but
barriers insurmountable, though unpretending, forbade its expansion, and
perseverance gradually succeeded in curtailing its limits. Whatever the
hand of Morillo covered, he possessed; but his authority ceased outside
the range of his guns. His men were growing weary of the struggle; few
reinforcements came from Spain; and the troops suffered frightfully,
through their constant fatigues and hardships. The war had become
that most terrible of all wars,--a deliberate system of surprises and
skirmishes. Paez here, Bolivar there, Monagas, Piar, Urdaneta, and a
score of other chieftains, at every vulnerable point, harassed, without
ceasing, the common foe.
In 1819, Bolivar set out upon that marvellous expedition across the
Andes in which, by marching one thousand miles and fighting three
pitched battles what less than eleven weeks, he finally liberated New
Granada, and secured a vast amount of Spanish treasure and munitions of
war. During his absence, Paez was left to keep Morillo in check on the
east of the Cordillera. His plan of operations was, to be everywhere,
and to do everything with his lancers. Venezuela clung with terrible
tenacity to the idea of freedom; and the Republic was converted into two
great camps, perpetually shifting their boundaries, yet ever presenting
the same features. Trade and commerce were at an end; the only business
thought of was that of war unto death. Death, everywhere; death, at all
times; death, in every shape. By the sword and the lance, by famine,
by drowning, by fire, decimated by fever, worn, out by fatigue, the
Spaniards perished. When their convoys failed or were intercepted, it
was impossible to obtain food; no foraging-party dared venture forth
from the fortified encampment; it was necessary that an entire division
should march out into the Llanos, and seek for the nearest herd of
cattle. It not unfrequently happened, in these expeditions, that
the very cattle were enlisted on the Patriot side. Herds of several
thousands of the savage beasts were sometimes driven headlong upon the
Spanish lines, throwing them into confusion, and trampling or goring
great numbers to death. Close in the rear of the resistless herd then
charged the lancers of Paez, with the terrible black bannerol fluttering
in the van. Before the scattered Royalists have time to rally, they are
attacked in every direction by their merciless foes,--and in another
minute the battle is over, and the men of the Plains are out of sight!
Sometimes, too, a detachment traversing the savanna would notice with
affright a column of thin smoke stealing up into the sky a mile to
windward; and almost before the bugle or the drum could summon them
to arms, the flames would be seething and crackling around them, and
roaring away, in an ocean of fire, across the savanna beyond. And then,
in the rear of the flames, dashed the bloodthirsty lancers, and the
blackened embers of the grass turned red with the richness of Spanish
veins! No venture was too arduous for the Llanero chieftain. He
accomplished at one time an exploit in which only the multiplicity of
witnesses who have testified to the achievement permits us to believe.
San Fernando, an important town on the Apure, was strongly fortified,
and was held by the Spaniards as a potent means of annoying the Patriots
in any attempts they might make to cross the river. In order further to
defend the passage, six large river-boats, each containing a piece of
artillery, were anchored at a short distance below the only ford. But
it became necessary that the Apure should be crossed, and Paez quietly
undertook to secure the passage. With a few of his lancers, he rode to
the river-bank, and there gave the command, _Al agua, muchachos!_ "To
the water, boys!" which he was accustomed to use when ordering his men
to bathe. His meaning was at once apprehended. The men, stripping off
their upper clothing, and holding their swords under their arms, plunged
into the stream, shouting loudly to keep off the alligators, and partly
rode, partly swam, nearly half a mile towards the gun-boats. Only the
heads of horses and men were visible above the water, and the crews
of the gun-boats, after a single discharge, which wounded none of the
extraordinary attacking party, threw themselves into the river and made
the best of their way to San Fernando, where they alleged that it was
useless to contest possession of their charge with incarnate devils,
to whom water was the same us dry land, and who butchered all their
prisoners. The gun-boats were navigated in triumph to the Patriot camp,
and did excellent service in ferrying the troops across the Apure.
By the year 1820 the Revolutionists had for the third time perceptibly
gained ground, and Morillo's force, spread like a fan at the inland base
of the sierra, was gradually yielding to the unceasing pressure;--in a
word, the Patriots were at length driving their enemies into the sea.
Towards the close of 1820, Morillo opened negotiations with their
chiefs, and a suspension of hostilities was commenced on the 26th of
November, when the Spanish general gladly quitted the scene of his
fruitless efforts, and retired to Spain with the title of Count of
Carthagena, leaving Generals Morales and La Torre in authority behind
him. The armistice was not prolonged. The Congress of Colombia, as the
united republics of Venezuela and New Granada were then termed, demanded
unqualified independence as the price of peace; and in June--the Battle
Month--of 1821, Bolivar and Paez took up arms once more. The Spanish
troops were concentrated at the base of the mountains, with Valencia and
Caracas in their rear. Before them, the road wound westward, through
tortuous passes, towards Tinaquilla and Barinas, at the former of which
places Bolivar with his forces was now halting. Six thousand men were
in arms on either side; but the troops of the Republic, though ragged,
ill-fed, and badly armed, were flushed with the consciousness of success
and the presentiment of triumph, while those of Spain were dispirited,
worn out, and malcontent.
It was plain to the meanest trooper, however, that Carabobo must be
held; and on intelligence of the Patriot advance, the position, of
amazing strength, was resolutely occupied. It seemed, indeed, that a
regiment could defend such a pass with ease against an army. In order
to debouch upon the Plain of Carabobo, the Patriots must penetrate a
defile, forming a narrow and tortuous pass, the road through which was
a mere seam at the base of a deep ravine. This narrow passage, through
which, of necessity, Bolivar's troops must march in straggling line,
terminated abruptly in a basin or valley shut in by hills, except
upon the northeast, where it opened upon the boundless expanse of the
contested plain. At the mouth of this gorge La Torre lay with all
his force. Despite the unfavorable condition of his men, with whom,
moreover, he was not popular, the odds seemed overwhelmingly in his
favor. He stood on the defensive, in one of the strongest of military
positions, and well provided with artillery, while his adversary was to
struggle through a narrow valley in the face of his opponents, before
a single man could be made available. The mouth of this valley was
blockaded by the Spanish infantry, who stretched in silent lines from
side to side in the evening of the 23d of June. On either flank, the
hills were occupied by corps of riflemen, and the artillery was posted
at their base. No force, it appeared, could enter the beleaguered valley
and live. Bolivar commenced his passage through the defile on the
morning of the 24th, and halted in dismay as he reached the outlet. It
was too apparent that such a conflict as lay before him could not be
braved. At this moment Paez learned that a narrow side-path existed,
permitting the passage of a single file, which led, by a _detour_, to
the plain. It was one of those curious accidents on which the fate of
battles seems to hang; and after some hesitation, Bolivar permitted Paez
to venture the passage. Heading the famous Battalion of Apure, he at
once wheeled to the left, and commenced the toilsome march. One by one
the veterans struggled through the pass, but they were discovered by La
Torre before they issued upon the plain.
Although taken entirely by surprise, the Spaniards had time for a
partial change of front, and before the veterans of Apure had assembled
at the mouth of the pass, a volley of musketry rang out from the Spanish
lines, and the gleaming of bayonets told of a wall of steel across the
path. The scanty force of Paez, however, dashed from the ravine, and,
forming hastily, rushed upon the enemy. Four Royalist battalions
converged upon them, and they were crushed. They fell back, flying in
disorder, and the Spaniards were on the point of securing the pass,
when a shout arose before them that made the stoutest quail. With
one ever-memorable cheer, a long hurrah, which spoke of well-known
unconquerable determination, the British legion, less than eight hundred
strong, with their Colonel, John Ferrier, at their head, appeared at the
mouth of the ravine. Forming instantaneously and in perfect silence,
but with the accuracy of a regiment on parade, they threw forward their
bayonets, and knelt down, sedately, calmly, immovably, to confront
destruction. The remaining troops of Bolivar were in their rear,
traversing slowly the defile; and until they reached its mouth, that
living wall of Anglo-Saxon valor neither stirred nor blenched. Volley
after volley enfiladed their ranks, and, after each discharge, the mass
of men was smaller. Still their cool and ceaseless firing rolled death
into the ranks of the enemy, until at length the troops whom they had
saved from destruction rallied once more. Then, what remained of the
legion, headed by the two or three officers whose lives had been
marvellously preserved, rushed fiercely forward like an avenging flame,
and swept before them the affrighted Spaniards, wildly scattering at
the onslaught which it was impossible to withstand. In another moment,
eighty or ninety of the lancers of Paez issued from the ravine, and,
hurling themselves upon the broken enemy, turned the defeat into an
utter rout. La Torre's troops, with the exception of one regiment, fled
in disgraceful confusion, or perished by hundreds under the lances
of the implacable pursuers; and on the evening of the 24th of June,
Bolivar, encamped upon the Plain of Carabobo, laid his hand upon the
shoulder of Jose Antonio Paez, thenceforward General-in-chief of the
Armies of the Republic of Colombia!
Carabobo decided the War of Independence throughout South America. It
snapped the chain which held Venezuela down, and the Spaniards, hemmed
in for two years longer at Puerto Cabello, which place they defended
with honorable pertinacity, were finally expelled from the free Republic
in November, 1823. The city was taken by storm on the 7th of that month,
and on the 9th the citadel surrendered. General Calzada, the commandant,
with all his officers, and four hundred men, was shortly afterwards
shipped for Spain.
Here the career of the Llanero closes. A new and still more brilliant
avenue to distinction opens before Paez. At this, however, we can
scarcely glance. Our business has been to study him in the saddle,
wielding lasso and sword and lance; nor have we left ourselves room
for adequate allusion to his subsequent life as President and private
citizen, deliverer of his country, and exile in these Northern States.
Yet the record could not be called complete, unless we passed briefly in
review the vicissitudes of the past thirty years.
After the taking of Puerto Cabello, Paez administered the affairs of
Venezuela as Provisional Chief of the State, and held that office under
the Congress of Colombia, until the two republics were dissevered in
1830, when he was elected first President of Venezuela. Only partially
disturbed by a military insurrection, headed by the turbulent General
Jose T. Monagas, which was soon suppressed, the administration of Paez
was such as surprised all lookers-on in America and Europe. He displayed
administrative talents of a high order, with all the firmness and
resolution of a soldier, yet with all the business capacity and peaceful
proclivities of a civilian.
Laying down the Presidential office in 1834, he was again called upon
to assume it four years later, and until the close of 1842 Venezuela
prospered under his direction. The foreign and domestic debt was
liquidated by the products of national industry, and three millions of
dollars were left in the treasury on the accession to the Presidency
of General Soublette, in 1843. Honors had rained on the _ci-devant_
impetuous horseman, whose shout had once so frequently been the prelude
to slaughter and devastation. William the Fourth of England presented
General Paez, in 1837, with a sword of honor; Louis Philippe of France
invested him, in 1843. with the Grand Cordon of the Legion of Honor; and
two years later, there arrived from Oscar of Sweden the Cross of the
Military Order of the Sword.
But in 1850, and thenceforward, until 1858, Jose Antonio Paez trod the
streets of New York as an exile from his native land.
General Jose T. Monagas was elected President of Venezuela in 1848, and
created dissatisfaction by his course of action. Paez placed himself
at the head of an insurrectionary movement against him, and, being
defeated, was imprisoned in the city of Valencia. General Monagas,
influenced, it is probable, by feelings of ancient friendship, and
remembering the pardon extended to himself on a former similar occasion,
contented himself with a decree of exile against the captive veteran,
and Paez embarked for St. Thomas on the 24th of May, 1850. He passed
from St. Thomas to the United States.
All, whose memories extend so far back as the year 1850, remember the
ovation received in New York by the exiled chief. New York grants an
ovation to every one; and Monagas would, doubtless, have been received
with the same demonstration, had the breath of adverse fortune blown him
hither, instead of his antagonist.
After the first effervescence produced by the dropping of a notability
into the caldron of New York, the Llanero general was permitted to enjoy
his placid domesticity without molestation; and in a pleasant street,
far up-town among the Twenties, he lived in the midst of us for eight
quiet years. A curious serenity of evening, for a life so turbulent and
incarnadined in its beginning! How many of the thousands who were
wont to pass the stout old soldier, with his seamed forehead and gray
moustache, as he enjoyed his quiet stroll down Broadway, thought of him
as the lad of Araure, the horseman of Barinas, terror of the Spaniard,
victor of Carabobo, and President of Venezuela? But though retired and
unpretending in his exile, Paez was not neglected in New York; and the
procession which followed him, but a few weeks since, to the steamer
destined to bear him back to his native land,--a procession saddened, it
is true, by the feeble condition to which an accident had temporarily
reduced the chieftain,--showed that his solid worth was recognized and
Not yet, however, is it time for the summing-up of his history. The
exile of 1850 has been solicited to return to his country, and the
ninth anniversary of banishment may find him occupying once more the
Presidential chair. General Monagas having been deposed in March, 1858,
repeated invitations were dispatched, by the Provisional Government, to
Paez, entreating his return; and, after much cautious hesitation, he
resolved, in the following September, to comply with the request.
Subsequent events belong rather to the chronology of the day than to the
page of history we have thrown open here. Our task is at an end; the
career of the Llanero has been unfolded; we have placed ourselves in the
presence of the comrade of Bolivar, and have witnessed the rise of the
BULLS AND BEARS.
SHOWING AT WHAT COST OUR HERO ESCAPED DROWNING.
The boat lay at the wharf, a pretty little craft of six or eight tons,
with a mainsail and jib. It was a delightful afternoon; a gentle
westerly wind swept over a placid sea, and the sky was as clear as the
mirror that reflected its exquisite blue. Greenleaf and Miss Sandford
took their seats amidships, leaving the stern for the boatman. The
ropes were cast off, and the sailor was about stepping aboard, when it
was discovered that the fishing-lines had been left behind. Old Tarry
was dispatched to bring them, and he rolled off as fast as his habitual
gait allowed him. When he was fairly up the hill, Miss Sandford said,--
"You know how to sail a boat, don't you?"
"Yes," said Greenleaf, "I have frequently been out alone; but I thought
I would not take the responsibility of a more precious freight."
"It would be delightful to have a sail by ourselves."
"Charming, truly! Our salt-water friend may be a very estimable person,
but we should be freer to talk in his absence."
"Suppose you try it. I will sit here, and you take his place."
Greenleaf hesitated; the proposal was a tempting one, but he had no
great confidence in his own skill.
"The sea is like a pond," continued his companion. "We can sail out a
short distance, and then return for our pilot, if we like."
Greenleaf allowed himself to be persuaded. He shoved off the boat,
hoisted sail, and they were soon lightly skimming the waters of the bay.
They rounded the rocky point and stood for the eastward. Their boatman
soon appeared on the shore and made frantic gestures to no purpose; they
looked back and rather enjoyed his discomfiture.
Never did the sea have such a fascination for Greenleaf. He held the
rudder and drew the sheets with a feeling of proud mastery, deeper and
more exciting than the horseman feels on the back of his steed. These
first emotions, however, gradually lost their intensity, and he resigned
himself to the measureless content which the gentle motion, the bland
air, and the sunny sky inspired.
What had been the character of Miss Sandford's regard for Greenleaf
hitherto would he a difficult question to answer; it is doubtful whether
she knew, herself. She had been pleased with his conversation and
manners, flattered by his graceful and not too obsequious attentions,
and proud of his success in his art. Living upon the pleasures of the
day, without a thought of the future, she had never seriously reflected
upon the consequences of her flirtation, supposing that, as in every
former case, there would come a time of _ennui_ and coolness. Besides,
she had felt the force of her prudent sister-in-law's suggestion, that a
man without an estate would never be able to supply the necessities of a
woman of fashion. With all her _quasi_ advances a degree of reserve
was mingled, and she persuaded herself that she should never become
entangled beyond the power of retreat. But Greenleaf was not an easy
conquest. She was aware of her influence over him, and employed all her
arts to win and secure his devotion; as long as the least indifference
on his part remained, she was unsatisfied. But in this protracted effort
she had drifted unconsciously from her own firm anchorage. Day by day
his society had grown more and more necessary to her, and her habitual
caution was more and more neglected. The conduct of Greenleaf, without
any design on his part, had been such as to draw her on irresistibly,
until their positions had become reversed; she was now fascinated beyond
self-control, and without a thought of the future, while he was merely
agreeable, but inwardly cool and self-possessed. Still at times the
strange thrills returned as the soft light of her eyes fell upon him,
and the intoxication he felt at his first meeting with her again drowned
his senses in delight.
They did not talk very freely that summer's day. The heart when full
rarely pours itself out in words. A look, a pressure of the hand, or (if
such improprieties are to be imagined) a kiss, expresses the emotions
far better than the most glowing speech. It was enough for Marcia,
steeped in delicious languor, to sway with the rocking boat, to feel the
soft wind dallying with her hair, and to look with unutterable fondness
at her companion.
As long as the ceremonies of society are observed, and people are kept
asunder a room's distance, so that only the mind acts, and the senses
are in repose, reserve may keep up its barrier. Words lose their
electricity in passing through a cool tract of air, and Reason shows all
things in her own clear white light. But establish a magnetic circle by
contact, let hand rest in quivering hand, while eye looks into melting
eye, and Reason may as well resign her sway. When the nerves tingle,
the heart bounds, and the breath quickens, estates, honors, family,
prudence, are of little worth. The Grundys, male and female, may go
hang; the joy of the present so transcends all memory, so eclipses hope
even, that all else is forgotten.
The boat careened somewhat, and Marcia changed her seat to the opposite
side, quite near to Greenleaf. His right hand held the tiller,--his
left, quite unconsciously, it would seem, fell into her open palm. The
subtile influence ran through every fibre. What he said he did not know,
only that he verged towards the momentous subject, and committed himself
so far that he must either come plainly to the point or apologize and
withdraw as best he might. _Could_ he withdraw, while, as he held her
soft hand, that lambent fire played along his nerves? He did not give up
Poor little Alice! Her picture in his breast-pocket no longer weighed
upon his heart.
The breeze freshened, the boat rose and fell with easy motion over the
whitening waves. The sun all at once was obscured. They looked behind
them; a heavy black cloud was rising rapidly in the west. Greenleaf put
the boat about, and, as it met the shock of the sea, they were covered
with spray. To go back in the wind's eye was clearly impossible; they
must beat up, and, hauling as close to the wind as possible, they stood
towards Swampscot. For a mile or two they held this course, and then
tacked. But making very little headway in that direction, the bow was
turned northward again. In coming about they shipped so much water, that
Marcia, though by no means a coward, screamed out, "We are lost!"
She flung herself into the bottom of the boat and laid her head in
Greenleaf's lap like a frightened child. He soothed her and denied that
there was danger; he did not venture to tack again, however, for fear of
being swamped, but determined to run northwardly along the coast in the
hope of getting ashore on some sandy beach before the fury of the storm
should come. The boat now careened so far that her gunwale was under
water; he saw that he must take in the mainsail. With some difficulty he
persuaded Marcia to hold the tiller while he let go the halliards. The
mainsail came down with a run, and the boat kept on with the jib only,
though of course at a slower rate. They were still two or three miles
from shore, and the storm increased momently. They saw Lynn Beach
without hope of gaining it, the wind driving them northward. Neither
could Greenleaf run into the little bay of Swampscot. In spite of his
efforts the boat shot by Phillips's Point, and he must therefore run
upon the rocks beyond the Point or make for Marblehead harbor. But the
latter was an untried and dangerous course for an inexperienced boatman,
and, grim as the coast looked, he was obliged to trust to its tender
mercies for the chance of getting ashore. The rain now fell in blinding
torrents and a blackness as of night brooded over the sea. Greenleaf
was utterly bewildered, but held on to the tiller with his aching,
stiffening hand, and strove to inspire his companion with courage. The
boat was "down by the head," on account of the wind's drawing the jib,
and rolled and plunged furiously. Behind were threatening billows, and
before were ragged, precipitous rocks, around which the surges boiled
and eddied. Greenleaf quailed as he neared the awful coast; his heart
stood still as he thought of the peril to a helpless woman in clambering
up those cliffs, even if she were not drowned before reaching them.
Every flash of lightning seemed to disclose some new horror. If life is
measured by sensations, he lived years of torture in the few minutes
during which he waited for the shock of the bows against the granite
wall. Marcia, fortunately, had become insensible, though her sobbing,
panting breath showed the extremity of terror that had pursued her as
long as consciousness remained. Nearer and nearer they come; an oar's
length, a step; they touch now! No, a wave careens the boat, and she
lightly grazes by. Now opens a cleft, perhaps wide enough for her to
enter. With helm hard down the bow sweeps round, and they float into a
narrow basin with high, perpendicular walls, opening only towards the
sea. When within this little harbor, the boat lodged on a shelving rock
and heeled over as the wave retreated. Greenleaf and his companion, who
had now recovered from her swoon, kept their places as though hanging at
the eaves of a house. They were safe from the fury of the storm without,
but there was no prospect of an immediate deliverance. The rock rose
sheer above them thirty or forty feet, and they were shut up as in the
bottom of a well. The waves dallied about the narrow entrance, shooting
by, meeting, or returning on the sweep of an eddy; but at intervals they
gathered their force, and, tumbling over each other, rushed in, dashing
the spray to the top of the basin, and completely drenching the luckless
voyagers. This, however, was not so serious a matter as it would have
been if their clothes had not been wet before in the heavy rain. The
tide slowly rose, and the boat floated higher and higher against the
rock, as the shadows began to settle over the gulf.
In spite of the peril they had encountered, and their present discomfort
and perplexity, Greenleaf now experienced an indescribable pleasure.
Marcia was exhausted with fatigue and terror, and rested her head upon
his shoulder. Unconsciously, he used the cheering, caressing tones which
the circumstances naturally prompted. It was an occasion to draw out
what was most manly, most tender, most chivalric in him. The pride of
the woman was gone, her artifices forgotten. In that hour she had looked
beyond the factitious distinctions of society; she had found herself
face to face with her companion without disguise, as spirit looks
upon spirit, and she felt herself drawn to him by the loyalty which a
superior nature inevitably inspires.
A slight movement of the boat caused Greenleaf to turn his head. Just
behind him there was a shelf not three feet above the gunwale; beyond
that was a second step, and still farther a winding fissure. After
measuring the distances again with his eye, to be sure that he should
raise no illusive hope, he pointed out to Marcia the way of escape.
Their conversation had naturally taken an affectionate turn, and
Greenleaf's delicate courtesy and hardly ambiguous words had raised
a tumult in her bosom which could no longer be repressed. She flung
herself into his arms, and with tears exclaimed,--
"Dear George, you have saved my life! It is yours! Take me!"
The rush of emotion swept away the last barrier; he yielded to the
impulse; he clasped her fondly in his arms and gave his heart and soul
to her keeping. Carefully he assisted her up by the way he had found,
and when at last they reached the top of the cliff, both fell on their
knees in gratitude to Heaven for their preservation. Then new embraces
and protestations. Rain and salt spray, hunger and fatigue, were of
little moment in that hour.
Near the cliff stood a gentleman's villa, and to that they now hastened
to procure dry clothing before returning home. They found the welcome
hospitality they expected, and after rest and refreshment started to
walk to Swampscot, where they could obtain a carriage for Nahant. But
at the gate they met Easelmann and Mrs. Sandford, who, alarmed at their
long absence, had driven in a barouche along the coast in hope of
hearing some tidings of the boat.
The wanderers were overwhelmed with congratulations, mingled with
deserved reproofs for their rashness in venturing forth without their
pilot. On the way home, Greenleaf told the story which the reader
already knows, omitting only some few passages. Easelmann turned and
said, with a meaning emphasis,--
"I thought so. I thought what would happen. You aren't drowned, to be
sure; but some people _can't_ be drowned; better for them, if they
Greenleaf made no reply to the _brusque_ sarcasm, but drew Marcia closer
to his side. He could not talk after such an adventure, especially while
in contact with the woman for whom he had risked so much.
Poor little Alice!
THE BEGINNING OF THE END.
The flurry in the money-market gradually increased to a storm.
Confidence was destroyed, and business at a stand. The daily bulletins
of failures formed the chief topic of conversation. The merchants and
bankers, especially those who held Western lands, Western securities, or
Western credits, went down one after another. Houses tumbled like a row
of bricks. No class was safe at a time when the relations of debtor and
creditor were so complicated and so universal. Stocks went down with a
run. Bullion was not disappointed in his calculations, and Fletcher, in
spite of his insane whims upon the subject of chances, proved himself
shrewd, vigilant, and energetic. Flushed with success, he made bolder
ventures, and the daily balances grew to be enormous. Within the first
fortnight, Bullion had given Fletcher notes for over five thousand
dollars as his share of the profits. The brokers, even, were astonished
at the silent but all-powerful influence that pressed upon the market,
bringing the best stocks down till they sold like damaged goods at a
sheriff's auction. But Tonsor, the lucky agent, kept his counsel.
Daily he attended the sales at the Board, with apparently exhaustless
resources, _bear_ing pitilessly, triumphantly, until the unlucky bulls
came to think the sight of his face was an ill omen.
Of all men, Sandford felt this steady, determined pressure most keenly.
To sustain the credit of those in whose affairs he was concerned, he was
obliged from time to time to put under the hammer stocks which had been
placed in his hands. Every sale showed the value of these securities
to be sinking, until it really seemed that they would come to be as
worthless as the old Continental currency. But neither he nor other
sufferers had any remedy;--stocks were worth only what they would bring;
prices must take care of themselves; and the calm, determined bids of
Tonsor were like the voice of Fate.
In his extremity, Sandford thought of Monroe, and remembering his own
personal responsibility for the sum he had received, he determined to
"hedge." So he sent for Monroe; he showed him the notes, all amply
secured, if any man's name could be said to give security.
"You see," said Sandford, "how careful I have been. Two good names on
every note. They may fail, it is true. So stocks may go for a song,
and universal bankruptcy follow. See, there is a note signed by Flint,
Steel, & Co., and indorsed by Lameduck, another by Kiteflyer and Co.,
indorsed by Burntwick, and this by Stearine & Star, indorsed by Bullion.
Every dollar will yield at least the eight per cent. I promised."
"The names are good, I should think.--as long as anybody is good," said
Monroe. "Still I should feel safer with a mortgage, or even with stocks;
for if these do go down, they will come up again."
"Stocks!" said Sandford, with an air of contempt. "There isn't a bank
that is worth _that_"--snapping his fingers. "They keep on their legs
only by sufferance; if put to the test, they could not redeem their
notes a day. The factories are worse yet,--rotten, hollow. Railroads,
--eaten up with bonds and mortgages."
"Well, perhaps you have done wisely. Time will show."
"I sent for you," said Sandford, "because I knew you must be anxious. I
gave you a part of the interest, you know. You'll take these notes? You
approve of my judgment?"
"I must, I suppose. Yes,--you can make the transfers to me, if you like.
They may as well remain with you, however."
Sandford drew a long breath with a sense of relief. If he were to be
hard pushed, these notes would serve for collateral securities.
Monroe left the office, not quite so cheerful as when he came. He
remembered his mother's regrets at the disposition of the money,--their
all. His own health had been failing. His relative, whom he went to see,
was dead; and now that his cousin had accepted his invitation to come
and live with him, be felt an increased solicitude about the future.
Sandford's main anxiety now was to provide for Stearine's note, which he
felt assured the promisor could not meet. He dared not let the loss fall
upon the Vortex until every expedient had been tried; for such an affair
would lead at once to an unwelcome investigation of the Company's
accounts. He determined first to see Bullion, to whom the note was due.
He found that gentleman cool, tranquil, and not at all frightened, as
he supposed he would be, at the idea of a protest. The truth was, that
Bullion had already made so much in his operations, that he could easily
"lift" the note; but as long as his capital was yielding such golden
returns, he was not disposed to use it in that way until obliged to do
so. Besides, he believed, from Sandford's anxiety, that he would
himself make an effort to raise the money elsewhere. He was quite easy,
"Stearine must look out for his own paper; if he don't, he must go down.
If I have to pay it, I shall any way get a dividend out of him, and,
what is better, get a few days' time. Time _is_ money, these days."
There was no course for Sandford, then, but to sell or hypothecate the
shares of stock he held. Then the thought of the still falling prices
frightened him. The stocks he had to sell were already quoted far below
their usual price, and he, in common with all the street, had heard of
the secret irresistible influence that was bearing down upon the daily
sales. If Tonsor should come into market against him, the consequences
might be ruinous. It was out of the question for him to stand up against
any further serious depreciation.
To Tonsor he went, in the hope of persuading or buying him off from his
destructive course. As he entered the broker's door he saw Fletcher
hand over a package of bills, and just caught the words, "Forty-five
thousand." What was Fletcher doing? He remembered that he had not met
his old agent for some days, and he knew well that such a scheming brain
would not be idle in a time like this. A light flashed upon him. Was
Fletcher in the conspiracy? If _he_ knew and shared in the scheme, the
secret should be wrenched from him.
Mr. Sandford affected, therefore, to have come to see Fletcher only, and
drew him into a corner.
"Fletcher, what's in the wind? Don't Danforth & Co. do their own buying
and selling? They don't employ Tonsor, do they?"
"You don't expect me to tell their business, do you?"
"Well, no,--not exactly. I thought you might have dipped in on your own
"That's a good joke. How should _I_ have the funds?"
"Any chances to invest, Fletcher? I'll give liberal commissions."
"Chances are plenty for those that have money."
Fletcher started as though he would return to his place of business. But
Sandford dropped his smooth and honeyed tone and spoke more decidedly.
"You can't blind me, Fletcher. You know what the bears are doing. They
are ruining everything, knocking down prices, destroying credit, using
what little money there is for speculation, thriving on the distress of
the public. It's no better than highway-robbery; and it's my belief you
are concerned in the plot."
"You had better go to the nobs, and not talk to me. You might as well
pitch into the tellers or messengers when the banks suspend payment."
"No,--I shan't let you off. The 'nobs,' as you call them, dare not be
seen in this matter; they will pocket the chestnuts, but they will get
some cat's-paw to rake them out of the ashes."
"Well, what are you going to do about it?"
Fletcher was astonished at his own temerity as soon as he had uttered
the words; but his prosperity and the support of Bullion had given him
"Do? you scoundrel!" said Sandford, in a rage that rarely overtook him.
"What am I going to do? I'll break every bone in your skin, if you don't
give up this plot you are in. Do you _dare_ to set yourself to put _me_
down? Don't let any of your tools _dare_ to run my stocks! If you do,
I'll go to a magistrate and have you arrested."
"When I am arrested, my good Sir," said Fletcher, with a face pale as
death, but with lips firmly set, "I advise you to have your accounts
ready. For I shan't be in the jug a minute before you'll have to show
your papers and your cash-book to the Company."
Sandford staggered as though he had received a blow from a bruiser. He
gasped for breath,--turned pale, then red,--at length with difficulty
said, "You defy me, then? We shall see!"
"You have it;--I defy you, hate you, despise you! I have been your slave
long enough. Do your worst. But the instant you move, I promise you that
a man will look after you, d--d quick."
Sandford looked around. Tonsor was calmly counting the pile of
bank-notes before him. It was near eleven. This Board would soon
commence its session. He stepped into the street, slamming the door
"Pretty well, for a beginning!" said Fletcher, meditating, "a shot
betwixt wind and water. So much for Bullion's advice. Bullion is a
trump, and Sandford be hanged!"
SED REVOCARE GRADUM!--
The fatigue, drenching, and terror of the unlucky day's sail produced
their natural effects upon a rather delicate constitution. Miss Sandford
was ill the following day, and, in spite of the doctors, a fever set in.
Her sister-in-law was assiduous in her attentions, and Greenleaf called
daily with inquiries and tender messages. While thus occupied, he had
little time to consider the real state of his feelings towards the new
love, still less to reflect upon his conduct towards the old. For the
first time in his life he became a coward. If he meant to abide by his
last engagement, honor should have led him to break the unwelcome news
to Alice as best he might, and extricate himself from his false and
embarrassing position. If he still loved the girl of his first choice,
and felt that his untruth to her was only the result of a transient,
sensuous passion, it was equally plain that he must resolutely break
away from the beautiful tempter. But he oscillated, pendulum-like,
between the two. When Marcia began to recover, and he was allowed to see
her in her chamber, the influence she had at first exerted returned upon
him with double force. In her helplessness, she appealed powerfully
to the chivalric sentiment which man feels towards the dependent; her
tones, softened by affection and tremulous from weakness, thrilled his
soul; and the touch of her hand was electric. When he returned to his
studio, as he thought of the trustful, unsuspecting, generous heart of
Alice, he was smitten with a pang of remorse too keen to be borne. He
tried to look at her picture, but the face was to him like the sight of
a reproving angel. He could not look steadily upon the placid features;
the calm eyes turned his heart to stone; the sweet mouth was an accuser
he dared not face. But when next he saw Marcia, all was forgotten; while
under her spell he could have braved the world, only too happy to live
and die for her.
For days this struggle continued. His art had no power to amuse him or
engross his thought. His friends were neglected,--Easelmann with the
rest. His enemy could not have wished to see him more completely
miserable. He knew that he must decide, must act; but whatever might be
his determination, he had a most painful duty to perform. Let him do
what he might, he must prove himself a villain. He loathed, detested
himself. Sometimes he was tempted to fly; but then he reflected that he
should in that way prove a scoundrel to two women instead of one. For
three weeks he had not written to Alice, and the last letter he had
received from her was now a month old. He took it from his pocket, where
it lay among the perfumed and tinted evidences of his unfaithfulness. It
was a simple thing, but how the gentle words smote upon his heart!
"MY DEAR GEORGE, (_her_ dear George!)--How I wish I could be with you,
to rejoice over your success! You are really a great artist, the papers
say, and are becoming famous! Not that I love you the more for that. If
you were still unknown to the world, still only a lover of beauty for
its own sake, and content with painting for your own pleasure, I am not
sure that I should not love you the more. But you will believe me, that
I am proud of your success. If I am ambitious, it is for you. I would
have the world see and know you as I do. Yet not as I do,--nobody can
do that. To the world you are a great painter. To me--ah, my dearest
George!--you are the noblest and truest heart that ever woman rested
upon. Nobody but me knows that. I shall be proud of the homage the world
gives you, because at the same time I shall say, 'That is my betrothed,
my husband, whom they praise; what his heart is, no woman knows but
He could read no farther. His emotions were too powerful to be borne in
silence. He yielded, and, strong man as he was, bowed his head and wept.
The tears of childhood, and oftentimes the tears of woman, lie shallow;
they come at the first bidding of sorrow or sympathy. But it is no
common event, no common feeling, that prevails over man; nothing less
than a convulsion like an earthquake unseals the fountain of tears in
him. Whoever has seen the agony of a manly nature in groans and tears
and sobs has something to remember for a life-time.
It was a long night,--a night of unutterable suffering, struggle, and
doubt. The hours seemed shod with lead. Sleep seemed banished from the
universe. But with the coming of dawn the tempest was stilled. In the
clear light of day the path of duty seemed plain. He felt sure that in
his heart of hearts he loved Alice, and her only. He would go at once to
Marcia and tell her of his perfidy, implore the forgiveness of silence
and charity, and bid her farewell. When he had reached this conclusion
he became calm. As he looked out from his window, he saw the world awake
from slumber, and he shared in the gladness of Nature. He even rejoiced
in the prospect of deliverance from his wretched condition, although he
well knew the humiliation he must pass through to attain it. He waited
impatiently for the hour when he could present himself before Marcia,
own his duplicity, and take leave of her. He felt strong in his new
resolution. All vacillation was past. He could face any temptation
without one flutter of inconstancy towards his first-love.
Greenleaf was not the only one in the city with whom the night had
passed heavily. The cloud still hung over the mercantile world.
Failures, by dozens, were announced daily. Men heard the dismal
intelligence, as in time of pestilence they would hear the report of
the dead and dying. No business-man felt secure. No amount of property,
other than ready money, was any safeguard. Neighbor met neighbor,
asking, with doleful accent, "Where is this going to end?" The street,
at 'change hours, presented a crowd of haggard faces, furrowed
with care, their eyes fixed and despairing. Some looked white with
apprehension, some crushed and tearful, others stony, sullen, or
defiant. Whatever was bravest had been drawn out in manly
endeavor; whatever was most generous was excited to sympathy and
brotherly-kindness; whatever was most selfish was stimulated by the
fierce desire for self-preservation; whatever was most fiendish was
roused by blind rage and useless resentment. In the halcyon days of
plenty and prosperity men know little of each other; trade has its
accustomed way; balances are smoothly adjusted; notes are given and paid
with smiling faces; one would think that honor and manliness were the
commonest of qualities. Now, every man was put to the severest proof,
and showed the inborn and essential traits of his nature. Like a ship's
crew on a raft, alone on the ocean without provisions, they looked at
each other as they were. There, in their extremity, were to be seen
calm resignation, unmanly terror, moody despair, turbulent passion, and
stealthy, fiendish glances that blinked not at cannibalism itself.
Mr. Sandford, almost for the first time in his life, had been
rendered nervous with apprehension. To be sure, he was not one of the
"sleek-headed men that sleep o' nights"; he was always busy with some
scheme; but, heretofore, success had followed every plan, and he had
gone on with steadfast confidence. Now the keenest foresight was of
no avail; events defied calculation; misfortunes came without end and
without remedy. It was the moment of fate to him. He had gone to the
last verge, exhausted every resource, and, if there were not some help,
as unlooked for as a shower of gold from heaven, he must stop payment
--he, whose credit had been spotless and without limit, whose name in
the financial world was honor itself, whose influence had been a tower
of strength in every undertaking. It was not without a struggle that he
brought himself to look this inexorable fact in the face. Marcia and his
sister-in-law heard him as he paced the room through the night; they had
noticed his abstracted and downcast air the preceding evening; and at
breakfast the few words that escaped from between his firm-set lips were
sufficiently ominous. It was the first morning that Marcia had appeared
at the table, and in her feeble condition the apprehension of danger
was intense and overpowering. Mrs. Sandford tried in vain to change
the conversation, by significant glances towards the invalid; but the
brother was too much absorbed to notice anything outside of the gloomy