Part 2 out of 5
anything that I have said; but I told him that he must leave you, and
never see you any more."
"Oh, _mimi_, never!"
Madame de Frontignac sat down on the side of the bed with such a look
of utter despair as went to Mary's heart.
"You know that it is best, Virginie; do you not?"
"Oh, yes, I know it; _mais pourtant, c'est dur comme la mort_. Ah,
well, what shall Virginie do now?"
"You have your husband," said Mary.
"_Je ne l'aime point_," said Madame de Frontignac.
"Yes, but he is a good and honorable man, and you should love him."
"Love is not in our power," said Madame de Frontignac.
"Not every kind of love," said Mary, "but some kinds. If you have a
kind, indulgent friend who protects you and cares for you, you can be
grateful to him, you can try to make him happy, and in time you may
come to love him very much. He is a thousand times nobler man, if what
you say is true, than the one who has injured you so."
"Oh, Mary!" said Madame de Frontignac, "there are some cases where we
find it too easy to love our enemies."
"More than that," said Mary; "I believe, that, if you go on patiently
in the way of duty, and pray daily to God, He will at last take out of
your heart this painful love, and give you a true and healthy one. As
you say, such feelings are very sweet and noble; but they are not the
only ones we have to live by;--we can find happiness in duty, in
self-sacrifice, in calm, sincere, honest friendship. That is what you
can feel for your husband."
"Your words cool me," said Madame de Frontignac; "thou art a sweet
snow-maiden, and my heart is hot and tired. I like to feel thee in my
arms," she said, putting her arms around Mary, and resting her head
upon her shoulder. "Talk to me so every day, and read me good cool
verses out of that beautiful Book, and perhaps by-and-by I shall grow
still and quiet like you."
Thus Mary soothed her friend; but every few days this soothing had to
be done over, as long as Burr remained in Newport. When he was finally
gone, she grew more calm. The simple, homely ways of the cottage, the
healthful routine of daily domestic toils, into which she delighted to
enter, brought refreshment to her spirit. That fine tact and exquisite
social sympathy, which distinguish the French above other nations,
caused her at once to enter into the spirit of the life in which she
moved; so that she no longer shocked any one's religious feelings by
acts forbidden by the Puritan idea of Sunday, or failed in any of the
exterior proprieties of religious life. She also read and studied with
avidity the English Bible, which came to her with the novelty of a
wholly new book in a new language; nor was she without a certain
artistic appreciation of the austere precision and gravity of the
religious life by which she was surrounded.
"It is sublime, but a little _glaciale_, like the Alps," she sometimes
said to Mary and Mrs. Marvyn, when speaking of it; "but then," she
added, playfully, "there are the flowers,--_les roses des Alpes_,--and
the air is very strengthening, and it is near to heaven,--_faut
We have shown how she appeared to the eye of New England life; it may
not be uninteresting to give a letter to one of her friends, which
showed how the same appeared to her. It was not a friend with whom she
felt on such terms, that her intimacy with Burr would appear at all in
* * * * *
"You behold me, my charming Gabrielle, quite pastoral, recruiting from
the dissipations of my Philadelphia life in a quiet cottage, with most
worthy, excellent people, whom I have learned to love very much. They
are good and true, as pious as the saints themselves, although they do
not belong to the Church,--a thing which I am sorry for; but then let
us hope, that, if the world is wide, heaven is wider, and that all
worthy people will find room at last. This is Virginie's own little,
pet, private heresy; and when I tell it to the Abbe, he only smiles;
and so I think, somehow, that it is not so very bad as it might be.
"We have had a very gay life in Philadelphia, and now I am growing
tired of the world, and think I shall retire to my cheese, like
"These people in the country here in America have a character quite
their own, very different from the life of cities, where one sees, for
the most part, only a continuation of the forms of good society which
exist in the Old World.
"In the country, these people seem simple, grave, severe, always
industrious, and, at first, cold and reserved in their manners towards
each other, but with great warmth of heart. They are all obedient to
the word of their minister, who lives among them just like any other
man, and marries and has children.
"Everything in their worship is plain and austere; their churches are
perfectly desolate; they have no chants, no pictures, no
carvings,--only a most disconsolate, bare-looking building, where they
meet together, and sing one or two hymns, and the minister makes one or
two prayers, all out of his own thoughts, and then gives them a long,
long discourse about things which I cannot understand enough English to
"There is a very beautiful, charming young girl here, the daughter of
my hostess, who is as lovely and as saintly as St. Catharine, and has
such a genius for religion, that, if she had been in our Church, she
would certainly have been made a saint.
"Her mother is a good, worthy matron; and the good priest lives in the
family. I think he is a man of very sublime religion, as much above
this world as a great mountain; but he has the true sense of liberty
and fraternity; for he has dared to oppose with all his might this
detestable and cruel trade in poor negroes, which makes us, who are so
proud of the example of America in asserting the rights of men, so
ashamed for her inconsistencies.
"Well, now, there is a little romance getting up in the cottage; for
the good priest has fixed his eyes on the pretty saint, and discovered,
what he must be blind not to see, that she is very lovely,--and so, as
he can marry, he wants to make her his wife; and her mamma, who adores
him as if he were God, is quite set upon it. The sweet Marie, however,
has had a lover of her own in her little heart, a beautiful young man,
who went to sea, as heroes always do, to seek his fortune. And the
cruel sea has drowned him; and the poor little saint has wept and
prayed, till she is so thin and sweet and mournful that it makes one's
heart ache to see her smile. In our Church, Gabrielle, she would have
gone into a convent; but she makes a vocation of her daily life, and
goes round the house so sweetly, doing all the little work that is to
be done, as sacredly as the nuns pray at the altar. For you must know,
here in New England, the people, for the most part, keep no servants,
but perform all the household work themselves, with no end of spinning
and sewing besides. It is the true Arcadia, where you find cultivated
and refined people busying themselves with the simplest toils. For
these people are well-read and well-bred, and truly ladies in all
things. And so my little Marie and I, we feed the hens and chickens
together, and we search for eggs in the hay in the barn. And they have
taught me to spin at their great wheel, and at a little one too, which
makes a noise like the humming of a bee.
"But where am I? Oh, I was telling about the romance. Well, so the good
priest has proposed for my Marie, and the dear little soul has accepted
him as the nun accepts the veil; for she only loves him filially and
religiously. And now they are going on, in their way, with preparations
for the wedding. They had what they call 'a quilting' here the other
night, to prepare the bride's quilt,--and all the friends in the
neighborhood came;--it was very amusing to see.
"The morals of this people are so austere, that young men and girls are
allowed the greatest freedom. They associate and talk freely together,
and the young men walk home alone with the girls after evening parties.
And most generally, the young people, I am told, arrange their
marriages among themselves before the consent of the parents is asked.
This is very strange to us. I must not weary you, however, with the
details. I watch my little romance daily, and will let you hear further
as it progresses.
"With a thousand kisses, I am, ever, your loving
CONSULTATIONS AND CONFIDENCES.
Meanwhile, the wedding-preparations were going on at the cottage with
that consistent vigor with which Yankee people always drive matters
when they know precisely what they are about.
The wedding-day was definitely fixed for the first of August; and each
of the two weeks between had its particular significance and value
precisely marked out and arranged in Mrs. Katy Scudder's comprehensive
and systematic schemes.
It was settled that the newly wedded pair were, for a while at least,
to reside at the cottage. It might have been imagined, therefore, that
no great external changes were in contemplation; but it is astonishing,
the amount of discussion, the amount of advising, consulting, and
running to and fro, which can be made to result out of an apparently
slight change in the relative position of two people in the same house.
Dr. H. really opened his eyes with calm amazement. Good, modest soul!
he had never imagined himself the hero of so much preparation. From
morning to night, he heard his name constantly occurring in busy
consultations that seemed to be going on between Miss Prissy and Mrs.
Deacon Twitchel and Mrs. Scudder and Mrs. Jones, and quietly wondered
what they could have so much more than usual to say about him. For a
while it seemed to him that the whole house was about to be torn to
pieces. He was even requested to step out of his study, one day, into
which immediately entered, in his absence, two of the most vigorous
women of the parish, who proceeded to uttermost measures,--first
pitching everything into pie, so that the Doctor, who returned
disconsolately to look for a book, at once gave up himself and his
system of divinity as entirely lost, until assured by one of the
ladies, in a condescending manner, that he knew nothing about the
matter, and that, if he would return after half a day, he would find
everything right again,--a declaration in which he tried to have
unlimited faith, and which made him feel the advantage of a mind
accustomed to believing in mysteries. And it is to be remarked, that on
his return he actually found his table in most perfect order, with not
a single one of his papers missing; in fact, to his ignorant eye the
room looked exactly as it did before; and when Miss Prissy eloquently
demonstrated to him, that every inch of that paint had been scrubbed,
and the windows taken out, and washed inside and out, and rinsed
through three waters, and that the curtains had been taken down, and
washed, and put through a blue water, and starched, and ironed, and put
up again,--he only innocently wondered, in his ignorance, what there
was in a man's being married that made all these ceremonies necessary.
But the Doctor was a wise man, and in cases of difficulty kept his mind
to himself; and therefore he only informed these energetic
practitioners that he was extremely obliged to them, accepting it by
simple faith,--an example which, we recommend to all good men in
The house throughout was subjected to similar renovation. Everything in
every chest or box was vigorously pulled out and hung out on lines in
the clothes-yard to air; for when once the spirit of enterprise has
fairly possessed a group of women, it assumes the form of a "prophetic
fury," and carries them beyond themselves. Let not any ignorant mortal
of the masculine gender, at such hours, rashly dare to question the
promptings of the genius that inspires them. Spite of all the treatises
that have lately appeared, to demonstrate that there are no particular
inherent diversities between men and women, we hold to the opinion that
one thorough season of house-cleaning is sufficient to prove the
existence of awful and mysterious difference between the sexes, and of
subtile and reserved forces in the female line, before which the lords
of creation can only veil their faces with a discreet reverence, as our
Doctor has done.
In fact, his whole deportment on the occasion was characterized by
humility so edifying as really to touch the hearts of the whole synod
of matrons; and Miss Prissy rewarded him by declaring impressively her
opinion, that he was worthy to have a voice in the choosing of the
wedding-dress; and she actually swooped him up, just in a very critical
part of a distinction between natural and moral ability, and conveyed
him bodily, as fairy sprites knew how to convey the most ponderous of
mortals, into the best room, where three specimens of brocade lay
spread out upon a table for inspection.
Mary stood by the side of the table, her pretty head bent reflectively
downward, her cheek just resting upon the tip of one of her fingers, as
she stood looking thoughtfully _through_ the brocades at something
deeper that seemed to lie under them; and when the Doctor was required
to give judgment on the articles, it was observed by the matrons that
his large blue eyes were resting upon Mary, with an expression that
almost glorified his face; and it was not until his elbow was
repeatedly shaken by Miss Prissy, that he gave a sudden start, and
fixed his attention, as was requested, upon the silks. It had been one
of Miss Prissy's favorite theories, that _"that dear blessed man had
taste enough, if he would only give his mind to things"_; and, in fact,
the Doctor rather verified the remark on the present occasion, for he
looked very conscientiously and soberly at the silks, and even handled
them cautiously and respectfully with his fingers, and listened with
grave attention to all that Miss Prissy told him of their price and
properties, and then laid his finger down on one whose snow-white
ground was embellished with a pattern representing lilies of the valley
on a background of green leaves. "This is the one," he said, with an
air of decision; and then be looked at Mary, and smiled, and a murmur
of universal approbation broke out.
"_Il a de la delicatesse_," said Madame de Frontignac, who had been
watching this scene with bright, amused eyes,--while a chorus of loud
acclamations, in which Miss Prissy's voice took the lead, conveyed to
the innocent-minded Doctor the idea, that in some mysterious way he had
distinguished himself in the eyes of his feminine friends; whereat he
retired to his study slightly marvelling, but on the whole well
pleased, as men generally are when they do better than they expect; and
Miss Prissy, turning out all profaner persons from the apartment, held
a solemn consultation, to which only Mary, Mrs. Scudder, and Madame de
Frontignac were admitted. For it is to be observed that the latter had
risen daily and hourly in Miss Prissy's esteem, since her entrance into
the cottage; and she declared, that, if she only would give her a few
hints, she didn't believe but that she could make that dress look just
like a Paris one; and rather intimated that in such a case she might
almost be ready to resign all mortal ambitions.
The afternoon of this day, just at that cool hour when the clock ticks
so quietly in a New England kitchen, and everything is so clean and put
away that there seems to be nothing to do in the house, Mary sat
quietly down in her room to hem a ruffle. Everybody had gone out of the
house on various errands. The Doctor, with implicit faith, had
surrendered himself to Mrs. Scudder and Miss Prissy, to be conveyed up
to Newport, and attend to various appointments in relation to his outer
man, which he was informed would be indispensable in the forthcoming
solemnities. Madame de Frontignac had also gone to spend the day with
some of her Newport friends. And Mary, quite well pleased with the
placid and orderly stillness which reigned through the house, sat
pleasantly murmuring a little tune to her sewing, when suddenly the
trip of a very brisk foot was heard in the kitchen, and Miss Cerinthy
Ann Twitchel made her appearance at the door, her healthy glowing cheek
wearing a still brighter color from the exercise of a three-mile walk
in a July day.
"Why, Cerinthy," said Mary, "how glad I am to see you!"
"Well," said Cerinthy, "I have been meaning to come down all this week,
but there's so much to do in haying-time,--but to-day I told mother I
_must_ come. I brought these down," she said, unfolding a dozen snowy
damask napkins, "that I spun myself, and was thinking of you almost all
the while I spun them, so I suppose they aren't quite so wicked as they
We will observe here, that Cerinthy Ann, in virtue of having a high
stock of animal spirits and great fulness of physical vigor, had very
small proclivities towards the unseen and spiritual, but still always
indulged a secret resentment at being classed as a sinner above many
others, who, as church-members, made such professions, and were, as she
remarked, "not a bit better than she was." She had always, however,
cherished an unbounded veneration for Mary, and had made her the
confidante of most of her important secrets. It soon became very
evident that she had come with one on her mind now.
"Don't you want to come and sit out in the lot?" she said, after
sitting awhile, twirling her bonnet-strings with the air of one who has
something to say and doesn't know exactly how to begin upon it.
Mary cheerfully gathered up her thread, scissors, and ruffling, and the
two stepped over the window-sill, and soon found themselves seated
cozily under the boughs of a large apple-tree, whose descending
branches, meeting the tops of the high grass all around, formed a
seclusion as perfect as heart could desire.
They sat down, pushing away a place in the grass; and Cerinthy Ann took
off her bonnet, and threw it among the clover, exhibiting to view her
black hair, always trimly arranged in shining braids, except where some
glossy curls fell over the rich high, color of her cheeks. Something
appeared to discompose her this afternoon. There were those evident
signs of a consultation impending, which, to an experienced eye, are as
unmistakable as the coming up of a shower in summer.
Cerinthy began by passionately demolishing several heads of clover,
remarking, as she did so, that she "didn't see, for her part, how Mary
could keep so calm when things were coming so near." And as Mary
answered to this only with a quiet smile, she broke out again:--
"I don't see, for my part, how a young girl _could_ marry a minister,
anyhow; but then I think _you_ are just cut out for it. But what would
anybody say, if _I_ should do such a thing?"
"I don't know," said Mary, innocently.
"Well, I suppose everybody would hold up their hands; and yet, if I
_do_ say it myself,"--she added, coloring,--"there are not many girls
who could make a better minister's wife than I could, if I had a mind
"That I am sure of," said Mary, warmly.
"I guess you are the only one that ever thought so," said Cerinthy,
giving an impatient toss. "There's father and mother all the while
mourning over me; and yet I don't see but what I do pretty much all
that is done in the house, and they say I am a great comfort in a
temporal point of view. But, oh, the groanings and the sighings that
there are over me! I don't think it is pleasant to know that your best
friends are thinking such awful things about you, when you are working
your fingers off to help them. It is kind o' discouraging, but I don't
know what to do about it";--and for a few moments Cerinthy sat
demolishing buttercups, and throwing them up in the air till her shiny
black head was covered with golden flakes, while her cheeks grew redder
with something that she was going to say next.
"Now, Mary, there is _that creature_. Well, you know, he won't take
'_No_' for an answer. What shall I do?"
"Suppose, then, you try '_Yes_,'" said Mary, rather archly.
"Oh, pshaw! Mary Scudder, you know better than that, now. I look like
it, don't I?"
"Why, yes," said Mary, looking at Cerinthy, deliberately; "on the
whole, I think you do."
"Well! one thing I must say," said Cerinthy,--"I can't see what _he_
finds in me. I think he is a thousand times too good for me. Why, you
have no idea, Mary, how I _have_ plagued him. I believe that man
_really is a Christian_," she added, while something like a penitent
tear actually glistened in those sharp, saucy, black eyes. "Besides,"
she added, "I have told him everything I could think of to discourage
him. I told him that I had a bad temper, and didn't believe the
doctrines, and couldn't promise that I ever should; and after all, that
creature keeps right on, and I don't know what to tell him."
"Well," said Mary, mildly, "do you think you really love him?"
"Love him?" said Cerinthy, giving a great flounce, "to be sure I don't!
Catch me loving any man! I told him last night I didn't; but it didn't
do a bit of good. I used to think that man was bashful, but I declare I
have altered my mind; he will talk and talk till I don't know what to
do. I tell you, Mary, he talks beautifully, too, sometimes."
Here Cerinthy turned quickly away, and began reaching passionately
after clover-heads. After a few moments, she resumed:--
"The fact is, Mary, that man _needs_ somebody to take care of him; for
he never thinks of himself. They say he has got the consumption; but he
hasn't, any more than I have. It is just the way he neglects
himself,--preaching, talking, and visiting; nobody to take care of him,
and see to his clothes, and nurse him up when he gets a little hoarse
and run down. Well, I suppose if I _am_ unregenerate, I do know how to
keep things in order; and if I should keep _such_ a man's soul in his
body, I should be doing some good in the world; because, if ministers
don't live, of course they can't convert anybody. Just think of his
saying that I could be a comfort to _him_! I told him that it was
perfectly ridiculous. 'And besides,' says I, 'what will everybody
think?' I thought that I had really talked him out of the notion of it
last night; but there he was in again this morning, and told me he had
derived great encouragement from what I had said. Well, the poor man
really is lonesome,--his mother's dead, and he hasn't any sisters. I
asked him why he didn't go and take Miss Olladine Slocum: everybody
says she would make a first-rate minister's wife."
"Well, and what did he say to that?" said Mary.
"Well, something really silly,--about my looks," said Cerinthy, looking
Mary looked up, and remarked the shining black hair, the long dark
lashes lying down over the glowing cheek, where two arch dimples were
nestling, and said, quietly,--
"Probably he is a man of taste, Cerinthy; I advise you to leave the
matter entirely to his judgment."
"You don't, really, Mary!" said the damsel, looking up. "Don't you
think it would injure _him_, if I should?"
"I think not, materially," said Mary.
"Well," said Cerinthy, rising, "the men will be coming home from the
mowing, before I get home, and want their supper. Mother has got one of
her headaches on this afternoon, so I can't stop any longer. There
isn't a soul in the house knows where anything is, when I am gone. If I
should ever take it into my head to go off, I don't know what would
become of father and mother, I was telling mother, the other day, that
I thought unregenerate folks were of some use in _this_ world, any
"Does your mother know anything about it?" said Mary.
"Oh, as to mother, I believe she has been hoping and praying about it
these three months. She thinks that I am such a desperate case, it is
the only way I am to be brought in, as she calls it. That's what set me
against him at first; but the fact is, if girls will let a man argue
with them, he always contrives to get the best of it. I am kind of
provoked about it, too. But, mercy on us! he is so meek, there is no
use of getting provoked at him. Well, I guess I will go home and think
As she turned to go, she looked really pretty. Her long lashes were wet
with a twinkling moisture, like meadow-grass after a shower; and there
was a softened, childlike expression stealing over the careless gayety
of her face.
Mary put her arms round her with a gentle caressing movement, which the
other returned with a hearty embrace. They stood locked in each other's
arms,--the glowing, vigorous, strong-hearted girl, with that pale,
spiritual face resting on her breast, as when the morning, songful and
radiant, clasps the pale silver moon to her glowing bosom.
"Look here now, Mary," said Cerinthy; "your folks are all gone. You may
as well walk with me. It's pleasant now."
"Yes, I will," said Mary; "wait a minute, till I get my bonnet."
In a few moments the two girls were walking together in one of those
little pasture foot-tracks which run so cozily among huckleberry and
juniper bushes, while Cerinthy eagerly pursued the subject she could
not leave thinking of.
Their path now wound over high ground that overlooked the distant sea,
now lost itself in little copses of cedar and pitch-pine, and now there
came on the air the pleasant breath of new hay, which mowers were
harvesting in adjoining meadows.
They walked on and on, as girls will; because, when a young lady has
once fairly launched into the enterprise of telling another all that
_he_ said, and just how _he_ looked, for the last three months, walks
are apt to be indefinitely extended.
Mary was, besides, one of the most seductive little confidantes in the
world. She was so pure from selfishness, so heartily and innocently
interested in what another was telling her, that people in talking with
her found the subject constantly increasing in interest,--although, if
they really had been called upon afterwards to state the exact portion
in words which she added to the conversation, they would have been
surprised to find it so small.
In fact, before Cerinthy Ann had quite finished her confessions, they
were more than a mile from the cottage, and Mary began to think of
returning, saying that her mother would wonder where she was, when she
[To be continued.]
* * * * *
Singing, shining, beautiful May
Lureth me, draweth me, all the day.
Once, when the season wooed me so,
Lion Llewellyn, thou lovedst to go,
Pacing before or close beside,
Reticent, quaint, and dignified,
Roaming with me, wandering wide;
And if ever thy feet inclined,
Weary with roving, to lag behind,
When were my arms to aid thee slow?
"Muver will cahwy her darlin'! So!"
Not to the pines, my warrior gray,
Gray and stately and scarred as they,--
Not to the hill, or the valley glen,
Shall we wander together again.
Nevermore, in the dead of night,
Shall I waken in cold affright,--
Waken at sounds I know too well,
Growl defiant, and horrid yell,
Sounds that bristle the hair, and tell
Strife is raging, and blood is shed,
Blood and--fur, in the conflict dread.
Nevermore, from my bed, shall I
Unto the chamber-window fly,
There, by the wintry moon, to spy
Thee on the well-sweep mounted high,--
Mounting still, from the crafty foe
Creeping and crawling up below;
And, when thou canst no farther go,
See thee crouch for the fearful leap
Off the top of the old well-sweep,
Then, with a swift and dizzy sweep,
Plunge in the crusty snow knee-deep.
Nor, for a lameness gotten so,
Shall I nurse thee again,--all, no!
Nevermore, from my willing hand
Winning the all I can command,
Shall be heard the pathetic tone,
(Solvent sufficient for heart of stone,)
Making thy simple wishes known;
Nor shall the vibrating long-drawn "Mr--r"
Of thy tranquil thunderous purr
Breathe again, to my ear attent,
Bliss o'erflowing and deep content.
As I fondly muse on thee,
I recall the spreading tree
Of thy goodly pedigree,
Which, of shapely branch or bough,
Hath no fairer growth than thou;
And my glance caressing now
Sweeps Alas, and Och Oh-Ow,
Chryssa, Christopher, What-Not,
Zabdas, Bunch, Longinus, Dot,
Tom, Zenobia, Nonesuch,
Turvy, Topsy, Inasmuch,
Zillah, Zillah Number Two,
Fremont, Dayton, Tittattoo,
Hiawatha, And, and If,
Minnehaha, But, and Tiff,
Kitty Clover, Kitty Gray,
Flossy, Frolic, Fayaway,
Quip, and Quirk, and Dearest Mae,
Nippenicket, Dido, Puck,
Minnesinger, Friar Tuck,
Periwinkle, Winkle Less,
Quiz, Albeit, Bonnie, Bess,
Midget, Budget, Mayaret,
Jocko, Sancho, Hans, Coquette,
Daisy Du Da, Ditto, Pet,
Pancks, and Peepy, Tilly, Tarn,
Tattycoram, Zoe, Clam,
Little Dorrit, Uncle Sam,
Tomtit, Pug, Penelope,
Ike, Ulysses, Rosalie,
Punch, and Judy, Ferny Fan,
Cowslip, Hecate, Caliban,
Name them all who may, who can;
For the half has not been told
Of the branches I behold
On the honored parent-stem,
And the later growth from them.
Lion Llewellyn, faithful friend,
Brave and gentle to the end,
Would that I once more might hail,
Like a banner on the gale,
Waving slow, thy jet-ringed tail!
And thy furry coat of mail,
Like the striped and spotted skin
Of thy savage leopard kin,
Would I might again caress
With the old-time tenderness!
Why do I talk of what may not be?
For the pillow of him I fain would see
Was changed long since from my motherly knee
To the garden, under the willow-tree,--
Weeping-willow and flowering moss.
Over it riseth nor pile nor cross;
We, who only have felt his loss,
Needing no sculptured stone to tell
How he battled, and how he fell,
Or where sleepeth who sleeps so well.
What is the destiny of his race?
Is there, I wonder, no other place
Whence they come or whither they go?
Earth-existence the all they know?
Does the living intelligence
Die in them with the dying sense?
Or, from the body passing hence,
Does it find in another sphere
Being in higher form than here?
For summers twain, the willow kept
Its watch where low the warrior slept,
But, on the third, a blight had crept
Upon the vigor of its frame;
Nor knew we how or whence it came.
Whisper it low and fearfully,
The tale of ghostly mystery;
For toothless crones and graybeards said
That from the presence of the dead
An influence around was shed,
Like warlock's foul, unholy spell,
Of malisons and curses fell,
Which steeped that soil with venom dank,
Of which the fated willow drank.
Whether it were or were not so,
At least so much as this we know,
That on the willow fell decay;
And though, when all things else grew gay,
It feebly strove to look as they,
Yet was its summer crown of pride
Worn lightly, and soon cast aside,
And when Spring found it, it had died.
A mound, and a stump with moss o'ergrown,
Now mark the place of his rest alone.
I see that the soft west-wind to-day
From the cherry-trees beareth their blooms away,
And wherever its fitful currents flow,
Rising or falling, swift or slow,
The tender petals like white wings go,
Floating, eddying, wavering low,
Wheeling and sinking in showers of snow;
And under their light and flickering fall,
The mound, and the flowering moss, and all,
Grow blanched and white as a billow's crest.
Thou that often these arms have pressed,
Nestled warm to thy mistress's breast,--
Thou that takest thy colder rest,
Now, in the breathless and pulseless ground,
Close, but untenderly, folded round,--
Ever, by thy drifted mound,
Sleep, the Mystery, be found
Most mysterious, most profound!
And through her enchanted air,
Lighter than petals fair,
Brooding Peace sink downward there;
And the blasted willow make
Haunt perpetual, for thy sake!
TOM PAINE'S FIRST APPEARANCE IN AMERICA.
"It were wise, nay, just,
To strike with men a balance: to forgive,
If not forget, their evil for their good's sake."--_Saul_, A Drama.
In the year 1774, David Williams, a gentleman with deistical theories
and scientific tastes, lived at Chelsea, near London. It was the same
Williams whose tract on Political Liberty, published eight years
afterward, and translated by Brissot, earned for him the dignity of
_citoyen Francais_, when that new order was created by the Revolution.
At the time we speak of, Mr. Williams kept a school for boys. Dr.
Franklin, who knew him well, often visited him. On one of these
occasions, it is said that Williams introduced to the American agent a
bright-eyed man approaching to middle age, named Thomas Paine, who had
been usher in a school and was desirous of trying his fortune in the
New World. After a short conversation, Franklin was so much pleased
with the intelligence of this man, that he gave him full advice with
regard to his voyage and to his movements after reaching his
destination, and wrote in his behalf a letter to his son-in-law, Bache,
introducing him as an "ingenious, worthy young man," very capable of
filling the post of "clerk, or assistant tutor in a school, or
The "young man" was thirty-seven years of age when he landed in
Philadelphia in the autumn of 1774, to begin the real business of his
life. He had been a staymaker, a sailor, an exciseman, a teacher, a
shopkeeper, and an author, to say nothing of his twofold matrimonial
experience. Such a long and various course of schooling had fitted him
to become an American citizen.
His father was a staymaker, a Quaker, and poor. The son was sent to a
free school, where he was taught reading, writing, and arithmetic,
--enough learning to be given to any man at the public expense.
With these three keys, if he is made of the right material, he
can open the world. At thirteen, he worked at his father's trade; at
sixteen, he ran away and shipped on board the privateer "Terrible,"
Captain Death: the names of both craft and captain suggest the black
flag and cross-bones. Before the vessel sailed, his father interfered
and brought him ashore. Luckily for him; for, on her next cruise, the
"Terrible" was taken into St. Malo, a prize to the "Vengeance," after
one of the most desperate sea-fights on record. Her captain was killed;
out of a crew of two hundred men, only twenty-six were found alive,
most of them badly wounded. Visions of sea-life again lured Paine away
from the shop-board. He shipped in another privateer, and this time
actually served out the cruise. In 1759, we find him living at
Sandwich, a staymaker and a married man. In 1761, he was a widower and
an officer of the excise. From this position he was dismissed, for some
reason which escaped both Cobbett and Cheetham, and eleven months
afterward was reinstated on his own petition. In the interval, he found
employment in London as usher in a school, at twenty-five pounds a
year. His leisure moments he devoted to lectures on Natural Science. In
1768, he took a second wife at Lewes, the daughter of a tobacconist;
and the father dying soon after, Paine kept the shop. Here he wrote for
his brother-excisemen a petition to government for an increase of
salary. Four thousand copies were published by subscription. This piece
introduced him to Goldsmith, and a letter from the author to the famous
Doctor still exists, requesting "the honor of his company at the tavern
for an hour or two, to partake of a bottle of wine."
The year 1774 was an eventful one for Paine. He failed in the shop, was
separated from his wife, and dismissed from his office as exciseman.
After petitioning in vain to be reinstated, he determined to emigrate.
His first scheme was, to establish a school for girls in Philadelphia;
but Bache procured him an engagement as assistant editor of the
"Pennsylvania Magazine," at fifty pounds a year. Paine's contributions
were much applauded, and soon attracted subscribers. His "Reflections
on the Life and Death of Lord Clive" were considered admirable, but do
not suit our present taste. A song on the Death of General Wolfe, still
occasionally reprinted, does not rise above a low level of mediocrity.
But here is a paragraph on the Mineral Riches of the Earth, which, many
years later, found favor in the eyes of the surly Cheetham, and may
still be read with some interest:--
* * * * *
"Though Nature is gay, polite, and generous abroad, she is sullen,
rude, and niggardly at home; return the visit, and she admits you with
all the suspicion of a miser, and all the reluctance of an antiquated
beauty retired to replenish her charms. Bred up in antediluvian
notions, she has not yet acquired the European taste of receiving
visitants in her dressing-room: she locks and bolts up her private
recesses with extraordinary care, as if not only resolved to preserve
her hoards, but to conceal her age, and hide the remains of a face that
was young and lovely in the days of Adam. He that would view Nature in
her undress, and partake of her internal treasures, must proceed with
the resolution of a robber, if not a ravisher. She gives no invitation
to follow her to the cavern,--the external earth makes no proclamation
of the interior stores, but leaves to chance and industry the discovery
of the whole. In such gifts as Nature can annually recreate, she is
noble and profuse, and entertains the whole world with the interest of
her fortune, but watches over the capital with the care of a miser. Her
gold and jewels lie concealed in the earth, in caves of utter darkness;
and hoards of wealth, heaps upon heaps, mould in the chests, like the
riches of a necromancer's cell."
* * * * *
An essay against African Slavery, written for Bradford's paper,
introduced Paine to the notice of several distinguished men,--among
others, to that of Dr. Rush. Many years afterward, in a letter to
Cheetham, the Doctor described his first interview with Paine. In this
communication, he insinuates that he suggested the famous pamphlet and
the no less famous signature, "Common Sense." But in 1809, the
venerable Doctor was an old man; and even in earlier days, his keen
appreciation of "_Ille ego qui quondam_" and "_Quorum pars magna fui_,"
as the choicest passages in Virgil, was good-naturedly noticed by his
[Footnote 1: See "Climenole" in The Portfolio, 1803.]
Paine's own account of the work is probably the true one:--
* * * * *
"In October, 1775, Dr. Franklin proposed giving me such materials as
were in his hands towards completing a history of the present
transactions, and seemed desirous to have the first volume out the next
spring. I had then formed the outlines of "Common Sense," and finished
nearly the first part; and as I supposed the Doctor's design in getting
out a history was to open the new year with a new system, I expected to
surprise him with a production on that subject much earlier than he
* * * * *
The times were more suggestive than doctors, even when Franklin was one
of them. When Paine came to America, he found the dispute with England
the all-absorbing topic. The atmosphere was heavy with the approaching
storm. The First Congress was in session in the autumn of that year. On
the 17th of September, John Adams felt certain that the other Colonies
would support Massachusetts. The Second Congress met in May, 1775.
During the winter and spring the quarrel had grown rapidly. Lexington
and Concord had become national watchwords; the army was assembled
about Boston; Washington was chosen commander-in-chief. Then came
Bunker's Hill, the siege of Boston, the attack upon Quebec. There was
open war between Great Britain and her Colonies. The Americans had
drawn the sword, but were unwilling to raise the flag.
From the beginning of the troubles the Colonists had been consistent in
their acts. Public meetings, protests, burnings in effigy, tea-riots,
militia levies, congresses, skirmishes, war, followed each other in
regular and logical succession;--but theoretically they did not make
out so clear a case. They had fine-drawn distinctions, not easy to
appreciate at this day, between taxes levied for the purpose of raising
revenue and duties imposed for the regulation of trade. Parliament
could lay a duty on tobacco in a seaport, but might not make the weed
excisable on a plantation,--could break down a loom in any part of
British America, could shut out all intercourse with foreign nations by
the Navigation Act, but had not the legal right to make the Colonial
merchant write his contracts or draw his bills on stamped paper. As to
independence, very few desired it. "Independence," it was the fashion
to say, "would be ruin and loss of liberty forever." The Colonists
insisted that they were the most loyal of subjects; but they had men
and muskets ready, and were determined to resist the obnoxious acts of
Parliament with both, if necessary. These arguments of our ancestors
led them to an excellent conclusion, and so far are entitled to our
respect; but logically we are afraid that King George had the best of
Before many months had passed, lagging theory was left so far in the
rear by the rapid course of events, that the Colonists felt it
necessary to move up a new set of principles to the van, if they wished
to present a fair front to the enemy. They had raised an army, and
taken the field. Unless they declared themselves a nation, they were
confessedly rebels. And yet almost all hesitated. There was a
deep-seated prejudice in favor of the English government, and a strong
personal liking for the people. Even when it was known that the second
petition to the King--Dickinson's "measure of imbecility"--was
disregarded, as it deserved to be, and that the Hessians were coming,
and all reasonable men admitted that there was no hope for
reconciliation, they still refused to abandon the pleasing delusion,
and talked over the old plans for redress of grievances, and a
constitutional union with the mother country. With little or no belief
in the possibility of either, they stood shivering on the banks of the
Rubicon, that mythical river of irretrievable self-committal,
hesitating to enter its turbid waters. A few of the bolder "shepherds
of the people" tried to urge them onward; but no one was bold enough to
dash in first and lead them through. Paine seized the opportunity. He
had a mind whose eye always saw a subject, when it could perceive it at
all, in its naked truth, stripped of the non-material accessories which
disturb the vision of common men. He saw that reconciliation was
impossible, mere rebellion folly; and that, to succeed in the struggle,
it was necessary to fight Great Britain as an equal,--nation against
nation. This course he recommended in "Common Sense," published in
Paine told the Colonists in this pamphlet that the connection with the
mother country was of no use to them, and was rapidly becoming an
impossibility. "It is not in the power of England to do this continent
justice. The business of it is too weighty and too intricate to be
managed with any tolerable degree of convenience by a power so distant.
_To be always running three or four thousand miles with a tale or a
petition, waiting four or five months for an answer, which, when
obtained, requires five or six more to explain it in, will in a few
years be looked upon as folly and childishness_." As to the protection
of England, what is that but the privilege of contributing to her wars?
"Our trade will always be a protection." "Neutrality is a safer convoy
than a man-of-war." "It is the true interest of America to steer clear
of European contentions, which she can never do while by her dependence
on Britain she is made the make-weight in the scale of European
politics." According to "Common Sense," not only was a separation
necessary and unavoidable, but the present moment was the right time to
establish it. "The time hath found us." The materials of war were
abundant; the union of the Colonies complete. It might be difficult, if
not impossible, to form the continent into a government half a century
hence. Now the task is easy. The interest of all is the same. "There is
no religious difficulty in the way." "I fully believe that it is the
will of the Almighty that there should be a diversity of religious
opinions among us. _I look upon the various denominations among us as
children of the same family, differing only in what is called their
Christian names."_ All things considered, "nothing can settle our
affairs so expeditiously as an open and determined declaration of
independence." "This proceeding may at first appear strange and
difficult. A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a
superficial appearance of being right"; but in a little time it will
become familiar. "And until independence is declared, the continent
will feel itself like a man who continues putting off some unpleasant
business from day to day, yet knows it must be done; hates to set about
it, wishes it over, and is continually haunted with the thoughts of its
necessity." To this he thought it necessary to add a labored argument
against kings from the Old Testament, which may possibly have had much
weight with a people some of whose descendants still triumphantly quote
the same holy book in favour of slavery.
The King's speech, "a piece of finished villany" in the eyes of true
patriots, appeared in Philadelphia on the same day as "Common Sense".
Thus Paine was as lucky in his time of publication as in his choice of
a subject. All contemporaries admit that the pamphlet produced a
prodigious effect. Paine himself says,--"The success it met with was
beyond anything since the invention of printing. I gave the copyright
up to every State in the Union, and the demand ran to not less than one
hundred thousand copies." The authorship was attributed to Dr.
Franklin, to Samuel Adams, and to John Adams.
It is hardly necessary to mention that the movement party, with General
Washington at its head, considered Paine's "doctrines sound, and his
reasoning unanswerable." Even in England, Liberals read and applauded.
The pamphlet was translated into French. When John Adams went to
France, he heard himself called _le fameux Adams_, author of "Common
It soon became apparent that the people were charged with Independence
doctrines, and, like an electrified Leyden jar, only waited for the
touch of a skilful hand to produce the explosion. "Common Sense" drew
the spark. The winged words flew over the country and produced so rapid
a change of opinion, that, in most cases, conservatives judged it
useless to publish the answers they had prepared. One or two appeared.
None attracted attention. About five months later, Congress declared
independence; "as soon," Paine wrote, "as 'Common Sense' could spread
through such an extensive country." In a few years Paine asserted and
believed, that, had it not been for him, the Colonial government would
have continued, and the United States would never have become a nation.
If we countermarch and get into the rear of Time, to borrow an
expression from "The Crisis," and, placing ourselves in January, 1776,
look at "Common Sense" from that date, we may understand without much
difficulty why it produced so great an impression. Paine, as later,
when he brought out the "Rights of Man," caused a chord to vibrate in
the popular mind which was already strung to the exact point of
tension. The publication was not only timely,--it was novel. Paine
founded a new school of pamphleteering. He was the first who wrote
politics for the million. The learned political dissertations of Junius
Brutus, Publius, or Philanglus were guarded in expression,
semi-metaphysical in theory, and Johnsonian in style. They were
relished by comparatively few readers;  but the shrewd illustrations
of "Common Sense," the homely force of its statements, and its concise
and muscular English stirred the mind of every class. Even Paine's
coarse epithets, "Common Ruffian," "Royal Brute of Britain," and the
like, which offended the taste of the leaders of the American
party,--for party-leaders were gentlemen in 1776,--had as much weight
with the rank-and-file as his arguments.
[Footnote 1: Compare, for instance, Judge Drayton's Independence Charge
to the Grand Jury of Charleston, delivered April 23, 1776, with "Common
Paine became suddenly famous. General Charles Lee said "that he burst
upon the world like Jove, in thunder." His acquaintance was sought by
all who were of the true faith in Independence; and when, soon
afterward, he visited New York, he carried with him letters from Dr.
Franklin and John Adams, introducing him to the principal residents "as
a citizen of the world, the celebrated author of 'Common Sense.'" Had
he been a man of fortune or American-born, he might have reached a
place in the foremost rank of the Fathers of the Country. But nativism
was powerful, and position important at that time, as Lee and Gates and
even Hamilton himself experienced. The signature, "Common Sense," Paine
preserved through life. It became what our authorlings, who ought to
know better, will persist in calling a _nom  de plume_--a Yankee
affectation, unknown to French idioms.
[Footnote 1: They generally spell it "_nomme_."]
In the autumn of 1776, Paine joined the army as volunteer aide-de-camp
to General Greene, and served through the gloomy campaign which opened
with the loss of New York in September. He remained in the field until
the army went into winter-quarters after the battles of Trenton and
Princeton. It was not as a combatant that Paine did the States good
service. He played the part of Tyraetus in prose,--an adaptation of the
old Greek lyrist to the eighteenth century and to British America,--and
cheered the soldiers, not with songs, but with essays, continuations of
"Common Sense." The first one was written on the retreat from Fort Lee,
and published under the name of "The Crisis," on the 23d of December,
when misfortune and severe weather had cast down the stoutest hearts.
It began with the well-known phrase, "'These are the times that try
men's souls.' The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this
crisis shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it
now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."--"But after all,"
he continues, "matters might be worse. Howe has done very little. Fort
Washington and Fort Lee were no loss to us. The retreat was admirably
planned and conducted. General Washington is the right man for the
place, 'with a mind that can even nourish upon care.'" He closes with a
cheerful sketch of the spirit and condition of the army, attacks the
Tories, and appeals to the Colonies for union and contributions.
This "Crisis" produced the best effect at home; in England it had the
honor of being burned by the hangman. The succeeding "Crisises" were
brought out at irregular intervals, whenever the occasion seemed to
demand Paine's attention; some of them not longer than a leader in a
daily paper; others swollen to pamphlet dimensions. They were read by
every corporal's guard in the army, and printed in every town of every
State on brown or yellow paper; for white was rarely to be obtained. In
their hours of despondency, the Colonists took consolation and courage
from the "Crisis." "Never," says a contemporary, "was a writer better
calculated for the meridian under which he wrote, or who knew how to
adapt himself more happily to every circumstance... Even Cheetham
admits, that to the army Paine's pen was an appendage almost as
necessary and as formidable as its cannon."
The next campaign opened gloomily for the Colonies. The Tories felt
certain of victory. In the political almanac of that party, 1777 was
_"the year with three gallows in it."_ The English held New York and
ravaged the Jerseys on their way to Philadelphia. Howe issued a
proclamation "commanding all congresses and committees to desist and
cease from their treasonable doings," promising pardon to all who
should come in and take the oath of allegiance. Paine met him with a
"Crisis." "By what means," he asked, "do you expect to conquer America?
If you could not effect it in the summer, when our army was less than
yours, nor in the winter, when we had none, how _are_ you to do it? If
you obtain possession of this city, [Philadelphia,] you could do
nothing with it but plunder it; it would be only an additional
dead-weight on your hands. You have both an army and a country to
contend with. You may march over the country, but you cannot hold it;
if you attempt to garrison it, your army would be like a stream of
water running to nothing. Even were our men to disperse, every man to
his home, engaging to reassemble at some future day, you would be as
much at a loss in that case as now. You would be afraid to send out
your troops in detachments; when we returned, the work would be all to
do." Paine then turns to those who, frightened by the proclamation,
betrayed their country, and paints their folly and its punishment. In
speaking of them, he calls upon the Pennsylvania Council of Safety to
take into serious consideration the case of the Quakers, whose
published protest against breaking off the "happy connection" seemed to
Paine of a treasonable nature. "They have voluntarily read themselves
out of the Continental meeting," he adds, with a humor, doubtless,
little relished by the Friends, "and cannot hope to be restored to it
again, but by payment and penitence."
In April, Paine was elected, on motion of John Adams, Secretary to the
Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs, with a salary of seventy
dollars a month. When Philadelphia surrendered, he accompanied Congress
in the flight to Lancaster. The day after the affair at Brandywine, a
short "Crisis" appeared, explaining the accidents which had caused the
defeat of the Continentals, and insisting that the good cause was safe,
and that Howe's victories were no better than defeats. Paine was right.
The Americans were gaining more ground in Northern New York than they
had lost in Pennsylvania. Burgoyne, who,
"Unconscious of impending fates,
Could push through woods, but not through
had capitulated. The news reached Philadelphia on the 18th of October.
This winter ought to have closed the war. The alliance with France,
Burgoyne's capture, two campaigns without useful results, Washington's
admirable patience and management at Valley Forge, with starvation and
mutiny in the ranks and disaffection to his person in the officers of
the Gates faction, ought to have convinced every Englishman in America
that the attempt to reduce the Colonies was now hopeless. Paine was so
indignant with the reckless obstinacy of the British government, that
he conceived the idea of carrying the war into England with pen and
paper,--weapons he began to think invincible in his hands. "If I could
get over to England," he wrote to his old chief, General Greene,
"without being known, and only remain in safety until I could get out a
proclamation, I could open the eyes of the country with respect to the
madness and stupidity of its government." Greene had no confidence in
the success of this appeal to the English people, and advised Paine not
to attempt it.
In the mean time the French fleet had arrived, bringing M. Gerard, the
first foreign minister to the United States, and with him trouble to
Thomas Paine. It is well known that the French government employed
Beaumarchais, the author of the "Barber of Seville," as their agent to
furnish secret supplies to the American insurgents, and that
Beaumarchais imagined a firm, Rodrigue Hortalez & Co., who shipped to
the United Colonies munitions of war furnished by the King, and were to
receive return cargoes of tobacco, to keep up mercantile appearances.
Silas Deane, a member of Congress from Connecticut, represented the
Americans in the business. In 1777, Congress, out of patience with
Deane for his foolish contracts with foreign officers, recalled him. He
returned, bringing with him a claim of Beaumarchais for the cargoes
already shipped to the United States. As Deane could produce no
vouchers, and Arthur Lee had cautioned Congress against his demands,
the claim was laid on the table until the vouchers should be presented.
Deane, confiding in the support of his numerous friends, appealed to
the public in a newspaper. Congress bore this indignity so
amiably,--refusing, indeed, by a small majority to take notice of
it,--that Henry Laurens, the president, who had laid Deane's appeal
before them for their action, resigned in disgust, and was succeeded by
John Jay. But Paine, whose position as Foreign Secretary enabled him to
know that the supplies had come from the French government, and not
from Beaumarchais, answered Deane in several newspaper articles,
entitled, "Common Sense to the Public on Mr. Deane's Affairs." In these
he exposed the whole claim with his usual unmitigated directness. M.
Gerard immediately announced officially that Paine's papers were false,
and called upon Congress to declare them so and to pay the claim. Party
feeling ran high on this question,--a foreshadowing of the French and
English factions fifteen years later. Congress passed a resolution in
censure of Paine. Mr. Laurens moved that he be heard in his defence;
the motion was lost, and Paine resigned his office. A motion from the
Deane party to refuse his resignation and to discharge him was also
lost,--the Northern States voting generally in Paine's favor. His
resignation was then accepted.
As the French government persisted in denying that the King had
furnished any supplies, Congress admitted the debt, and in October,
1779, drew bills on Dr. Franklin in favor of Beaumarchais, for two
millions and a half of francs, at three years' sight. Beaumarchais
negotiated the bills, built a fine hotel, and lived _en prince_. But
neither he nor Deane was satisfied. They still demanded another
We have no doubt that Paine was correct in his facts, however
injudicious it may have been to use them in his position. Deane's best
friends gave him up, before many years had passed. M. de Lomenie, in
his interesting sketch of Beaumarchais, has tried hard to show the
justice of his demands on the United States, but without much success.
He does not attempt to explain how Beaumarchais, notoriously penniless
in 1775, should have had in 1777 a good claim for three millions' worth
of goods furnished. The American public looked upon Paine as a victim
to state policy, and his position with his friends did not suffer at
all in consequence of his disclosures. Personally, he exulted in his
conduct to the end of his life, and took pleasure in watching and
recording Deane's disreputable career and miserable end. "As he rose
like a rocket, so he fell like the stick," a metaphor which has passed
into a proverb, was imagined by Paine to meet Deane's case.  The
immediate consequence of Paine's resignation was to oblige him to hire
himself out as clerk to an attorney in Philadelphia. In his office,
Paine earned his daily bread by copying law-papers until he was
appointed clerk to the Assembly of Pennsylvania.
[Footnote 1: This Beaumarchais claim was kept alive until the beginning
of the present generation. In 1794, Gouverneur Morris, Minister to the
French Republic, obtained from the Minister of Finance a receipt to the
Crown for a million of francs, signed by Beaumarchais, and sent it home
to meet the claim which had again been presented. In 1806 it
reappeared, urged by the Imperial Ambassador. In 1816, the Duc de
Richelieu, minister of Louis XVIII., sustained it, and declared, on the
strength of Gerard's assertions, that the million receipt did not in
any way concern the United States. In 1824, the daughter of
Beaumarchais came to this country to solicit Congress in person, with
no better success. But at last, in 1835, when our claim of twenty-five
millions on France was settled, eight hundred thousand francs were
allowed to the heirs of Beaumarchais, and the business closed
forever,--not creditably to us. The claim was probably unfounded; but
our government admitted its validity by the fact of payment; and the
money, if due, ought to have been paid forty years before, or a
suitable compensation made for the long delay. To be Liberals in
borrowing and Conservatives in repayment is not a desirable financial
character for a nation to obtain.]
Early in May, 1780, while the Assembly of Pennsylvania was receiving
petitions from all parts of the State, praying for exemption from
taxes, a letter was brought to the speaker from General Washington, and
read to the House by Paine as clerk. It stated simply that the army was
in the utmost distress from the want of every necessary which men could
need and yet retain life; and that the symptoms of discontent and
mutiny were so marked that the General dreaded the event of every hour.
"When the letter was read," says Paine, "I observed a despairing
silence in the House. Nobody spoke for a considerable time. At length a
member, of whose fortitude I had a high opinion, rose. 'If,' said he,
'the account in that letter is true, and we are in the situation there
represented, it appears to me in vain to contend the matter any longer.
We may as well give up first as last.' A more cheerful member
endeavored to dissipate the gloom of the House, and moved an
adjournment, which was carried," Paine, who knew that the Assembly had
neither money nor credit, felt that the voluntary aid of individuals
could alone be relied upon in this conjuncture. He accordingly wrote a
letter to a friend in Philadelphia, a man of influence, explaining the
urgency of affairs, and inclosed five hundred dollars, the amount of
the salary due him as clerk, as his contribution towards a relief fund.
The Philadelphian called a meeting at the coffee-house, read Paine's
communication, and proposed a subscription, heading the list with two
hundred pounds in good money. Mr. Robert Morris put his name down for
the same sum. Three hundred thousand pounds, Pennsylvania currency,
were raised; and it was resolved to establish a bank with the fund for
the relief of the army. This plan was carried out with the best
results. After Morris was appointed Superintendent of Finances, he
developed it into the Bank of North America, which was incorporated
both by act of Congress and by the State of Pennsylvania. Paine
followed up his letter by a "Crisis Extraordinary." Admitting that the
war costs the Colonists a very large sum, he shows that it is trifling,
compared with the burdens the English have to bear. For this reason it
would be less expensive for the Americans to raise almost any amount to
drive the English out than to submit to them and come under their
system of taxation.
Our ancestors read the "Crisis Extraordinary," and understood every
word of it, we may be sure. Paine's lucidity of statement is never more
remarkable than when he handles financial questions. But conviction did
not work its way down to the pocket. Few men gave who could avoid it,
and each State appeared more fearful of paying, by accident, a larger
sum than its neighbor, than of the success of the British arms.
Congress, finding it at last almost impossible to get money or even
provisions at home, resolved to resort again to the financial expedient
which has proved so often profitable to this country, namely, to borrow
in Europe. Colonel Laurens, son of the late President of Congress, was
appointed commissioner to negotiate an annual loan from France of a
million sterling during the continuation of the war. Paine accompanied
him at his request. They sailed in February, 1781, and were graciously
received by King Louis, who promised them six millions of livres as a
present and ten millions as a loan. In little more than ten years, the
American secretary, who stands respectfully and unnoticed in the
presence of his Majesty of France, will sit as one of his judges in a
trial for life! Is there anything more wonderful in the transmutations
of fiction than this? Meanwhile, the future member of the Convention,
as little dreaming of what was in store for him as the King, sailed for
Boston with his principal. They carried with them two millions and a
half in silver,--a great help to Washington in the movement southward,
which ended with the capitulation of Yorktown. While in Paris, Paine
was again seized with the desire of invading England, incognito, with a
pamphlet in his pocket, to open the eyes of the people. But Colonel
Laurens thought no better of this scheme than General Greene, and
brought his secretary safely home again.
Cornwallis had surrendered, and it was evident that the war could not
last much longer. The danger past, the Colonial aversion to pay Union
expenses and to obey the orders of Congress became daily stronger. The
want of a "Crisis," as a corrective medicine for the body politic, was
so much felt, that Robert Morris, with the knowledge and approbation of
Washington, requested Paine to take pen in hand again, offering him, if
his private affairs made it necessary, a salary for his services. Paine
consented. A "Crisis" appeared which produced a most salutary effect.
This was followed a few days later by another, in which a passage
occurs which may be quoted as a specimen of Paine's rhetorical powers.
A rumor was abroad that England was treating with France for a separate
peace. Paine finds it impossible to express his contempt for the
baseness of the ministry who could attempt to sow dissension between
such faithful allies. "We sometimes experience sensations to which
language is not equal. The conception is too bulky to be born alive,
and in the torture of thinking we stand dumb. Our feelings, imprisoned
by their magnitude, find no way out; and in the struggle of expression
every finger tries to be a tongue." It will be difficult to describe
better the struggle of an indignant soul with an insufficient
When peace was proclaimed, Paine, the untiring advocate of
independence, had a right to print his "Io Paean." The last "Crisis"
announces, "that the times that tried men's souls were over, and the
greatest and completest revolution the world ever knew gloriously and
happily accomplished." "America need never be ashamed to tell her
birth, nor relate the stages by which she rose to empire." But it is to
the future he bids her look, rather than to the past. "The remembrance
of what is past, if it operates rightly, must inspire her with the most
laudable of all ambition, that of adding to the fair fame she began
with." "She is now descending to the scenes of quiet and domestic
life,--not beneath the cypress shade of disappointment, but to enjoy in
her own land and under her own vine the sweet of her labors and the
reward of her toil. In this situation may she never forget that a fair
national reputation is of as much importance as independence,--that it
possesses a charm that wins upon the world, and makes even enemies
civil,--that it gives a dignity which is often superior to power, and
commands reverence where pomp and splendor fail." As indispensable to a
future of prosperity and dignity, he warmly recommends the Union. "I
ever feel myself hurt," he says, "when I hear the Union, that great
Palladium of our liberty and safety, the least irreverently spoken of.
It is the most sacred thing in the Constitution of America, and that
which every man should be most proud and tender of." Thus he
anticipated by seventy-five years our "Union-savers" of 1856, few of
whom dreamed that their pet phrases, or something very like them,
originated with Thomas Paine.
The war left Paine no richer than it found him. He had made fame, but
no money, by his writings. None of the proceeds of large editions had
enriched his purse. He had an exalted ideal of an author's duty when
his work is on political subjects. Louis Blanc has written somewhere,
"_Le journalisme est un sacerdoce._" This seems to have been Paine's
thought, although he may not have expressed it so sonorously,--for
there are no phrase-makers like the French. But Paine went, we suspect,
much farther than Louis Blanc; for he held that the priest ought to
take no pay for his ministrations. And he acted up to this unusual
theory in literary ethics. If he took out a copyright, he gave it away
to some public use. As he himself said, late in life,--"I could never
reconcile it to my principles to make money by my polities or my
religion." "In a great affair, where the happiness of man is at stake,
I love to work for nothing; and so fully am I under the influence of
this principle, that I should lose the spirit, the pleasure, and the
pride of it, were I conscious that I looked for reward."
His friends and admirers did not permit him to have the honor of giving
not only his services, but his actual expenses, to the Republic. The
State of New York presented him with a confiscated Royalist estate,
near New Rochelle, three hundred acres of good land, with the necessary
fences and buildings upon it. Pennsylvania voted him five hundred
pounds, currency. And the Virginians were talking about making a
similar donation, when an unlucky pamphlet from Paine appeared,
demolishing the claim of Virginia to the Western country. This
publication changed the views of the chivalry, and Paine lost his
grant. He owned, besides, a small place in Bordentown,--a gift, we
believe, of the State of New Jersey. The other nine States passed him
over. New England had expended enough, both of men and means, for the
cause,--and the South had fine feelings, but no money.
In the autumn of 1783, when Paine was residing at Bordentown, he
received a letter from Washington, who had fixed his quarters at Rocky
Hill, near Princeton, until he could resign his command to Congress. It
* * * * *
"I have learned, since I have been at this place, that you are at
Bordentown,--whether for the sake of retirement or economy; be it for
either or both, or whatever it may, I shall be exceedingly happy to see
"Your presence may remind Congress of your past services to this
country; and if it is in my power to impress them, command my best
exertions with freedom, as they will be rendered cheerfully by one who
entertains a lively sense of the importance of your works, and who,
with much pleasure, subscribes himself
* * * * *
Such a letter of hearty approval and respect, from the greatest man of
the country, perhaps of the age, (we Americans, at least, all think
so,) rich, powerful, honored, is certainly a "handsome testimonial,"
worth writing or fighting for. It was not an empty offer of service.
Washington spoke to several members of Congress in Paine's behalf, and
told them that it would be pleasing to himself, as well as right and
proper, to make a suitable provision for Paine. In 1785, Congress at
last granted him three thousand dollars, much of which they fairly owed
him for his loss on the depreciated currency in which his salary as
Secretary had been paid. Paine accepted the General's invitation, and
spent some time in his family, at Mrs. Berrian's, Rocky Hill. One
evening of his visit was devoted to setting a neighboring creek on
fire. This successful experiment, as performed by the Father of his
Country, assisted by Thomas Paine, General Lincoln, and Colonel Cobb,
is described in a tract on the Yellow Fever, written by Paine a few
years before his death, at the request of Thomas Jefferson.
Until the spring of 1787, Paine spent his time in Philadelphia or in
Bordentown, writing occasionally on subjects which interested him, and
indulging his taste for scientific speculations in the company of
Franklin and Rittenhouse. He was a member of the American Philosophical
Society, as well as an A. M. of the University of Philadelphia. His
reputation, his wonderful memory, the shrewd originality of his
remarks, made him a welcome guest in the best society. He was no talker
or _conversationist_, (an excellent word we should like to see
legitimated,) but a quiet, observing man, who spoke to the point,
inoffensive in manner, and not unprepossessing in appearance. As one of
the lions of the country, he was much looked at, especially by
foreigners. We find a sketch of an interview with him in the Travels of
the Chevalier de Chastellux. De Lafayette and himself requested
permission to call "on that author so celebrated in America and in
Europe by his excellent work entitled 'Common Sense.'" Colonel Laurens
introduced them. "His physiognomy," the Chevalier thinks, "did not
belie the spirit that reigns throughout his works. Our conversation was
agreeable and animated, and such as to form a connection between us;
for he has written to me since my departure, and seems desirous of
maintaining a constant correspondence."
In common with most of the clever men of his day, Paine, as we have
said, cultivated a taste for mechanics and natural science. There was
an awakening of the mind, in physics as well as in politics, at that
period; and it must be confessed that the natural philosophers have
succeeded better than the constitution-makers. Paine's mechanical hobby
was an iron bridge. A single arch, of four hundred feet span, and
twenty feet in height from the chord-line, was to be thrown over the
Schuylkill, near Philadelphia. The idea was suggested to him by a
spider's web, a section of which the bridge resembled; and the
principle he worked upon was, that the small segment of a large circle
was preferable to the great segment of a small circle. Paine made a
complete model of his bridge, in wrought iron and wood, at Bordentown;
but, finding that the insufficiency of capital and of skill in the
working of iron in America would prevent him from carrying out his
plan, he sailed for France to lay his model before the Academie des
Sciences. Franklin, who always liked him, gave him letters to the
celebrated Malesherbes, Le Roy, the Abbe Morellet, the Duke de la
Rochefoucauld, introducing him "as an ingenious, honest man, author of
'Common Sense,' a famous piece, published here with great effect on the
minds of people at the beginning of the Revolution." He had also a
satisfactory credential from Congress, in the shape of the following
resolution, adopted by that body in August, 1785:--
"_Resolved_, That the early, unsolicited, and continued labours of Mr.
Thomas Paine, in explaining and enforcing the principles of the late
Revolution, by ingenious and timely publications upon the nature of
Liberty and Civil Government, have been well received by the citizens
of these States, and merit the approbation of Congress."
TRIAL TRIP OF THE "FLYING CLOUD."
"Through in four days to San Francisco," repeated I. "Marvellous age!"
I hastily computed the distance by an air-line, and placed the speed of
the craft at some thirty miles an hour. That seemed reasonable enough.
Indeed, the whole statement cohered marvellously well; all the parts
harmonized with each other and looked plausible, even reasonable, as I
have said, except the grand fact itself, which was too momentous for
belief. But why should it not be true? What new achievement of the
human mind ought to startle one in this nineteenth century, after
having witnessed the wonders of steam and electro-magnetism? I
determined to sift the matter, but immediately remembered that all the
knowledge I had of it had been imparted to me in the strictest
confidence. The ingenious inventors, as was clearly their right, had
reserved it to themselves to choose the time and way of making their
invention public, when it was to break on the world, some fine morning,
like the discovery of a second moon performing its orbit round the
earth. I sunk into a brown study.
In the evening, Mr. Bonflon called again, as he had promised. He
brought with him a large roll of plans and drawings, for the purpose of
illustrating more clearly the principles and method of construction and
operation of his aerial ship.
They were projected on a large scale, and the workmanship was superb.
Months of hard labor by a finished draughtsman must have been devoted
to their execution. "And what an additional outlay of time and brains,"
thought I, "must have been required, to devise the scheme and construct
the machine itself, so as to elevate the ingenious ideal into an
absolute working reality!" These drawings, Mr. Bonflon informed me,
were duplicates of others which had been privately deposited in the
Patent-Office at Washington.
The one which chiefly attracted my attention was that which represented
the monster steamer complete, with all its appendages and complement of
passengers, in its majestic flight through the air. Below it were the
drifting clouds. Its course lay quite above the storms and hurricanes
and conflicting wind-currents which vex the lower strata of the
atmosphere, where it comes in contact with the earth's uneven surface,
and is kept in motion by the contractions and expansions of alternate
cold and heat, and is broken and set whirling by the forests and gorges
and mountain-tops among which it is compelled to force its way. Above
all this, Mr. Bonflon assured me, as aeronauts report, there is ever a
smooth, quiet atmospheric sea.
"But how is life to be sustained for any considerable time in that
rarefied medium?" inquired I, "when it is asserted that even in
ascending high mountains, the texture of the soft parts of the human
body becomes so loose and flabby from diminished atmospheric pressure
as to cause one, so to speak, to sweat blood,--which oozes perceptibly
from the mouth and nose and eyes, and even from under the
Mr. Bonflon pointed to a long, narrow line which floated rearward at an
angle of about forty-five degrees from the point of its attachment to
"That," said he, "is an India-rubber tube several thousand feet long,
extending down into the respirable atmosphere, and keeping the cabins
always supplied with fresh and wholesome air."
"But would the heavier nether air flow in that direction?" I asked.
"With a little help from the engine," he replied, "a constant current,
whenever needed, is kept up; and the process of breathing is rendered
as easy and agreeable in the cabins of the 'Flying Cloud' as in one's
own parlors at home. On the upper deck, which is not inclosed, you see,
it is different. In the first trial-trip to California, Mr. M----
insisted on remaining above on this deck for six consecutive hours, and
the result was an attack of hemorrhage from the lungs. On his going
below, however, it almost instantly ceased."
I must now endeavor to give the reader some definite idea of this
extraordinary machine, as exhibited in the drawings. Its buoyant power
was, of course, on the principle of the balloon. But the gas-chamber,
or part to be inflated, instead of being globular in form, consisted of
two horizontal cones joined at the base; or more accurately still, it
resembled an immense barrel extended at both ends to a point, and
resting on its side. This shape was given it, according to Mr. Bonflon,
that it might offer the least possible resistance to the element in
which it was intended to move. In structure it was composed of a strong
flexible frame of whalebone and steel, covered with silk, strengthened
and rendered air-tight and water-proof by a coating of India-rubber.
Its size, of course, would depend on the proposed tonnage of a
particular ship. That of the working-model, as nearly as I remember,
was about six hundred feet long, by some seventy or eighty in breadth
in the middle, which was calculated to be amply sufficient to sustain
the immense car beneath, with its engine, and fuel for a week, and
three hundred passengers with their baggage; leaving still a
considerable margin for freight.
Mr. Bonflon here pointed out, with great minuteness, the simple, but
ingenious method devised for the inflation of this enormous machine,
and the regulation of the gas; which I pass over, from an inability to
render it intelligible by mere description.
The car or vessel suspended below, and to which the balloon part bore
the relation of masts and sails, was fashioned after the best model of
a clipper ship, but still farther elongated. Below deck, it was divided
into sitting and dining cabins, state-rooms, kitchen, engine-room, and
so forth; and above was a long, railed, promenade deck. The attachment
between the two parts was by means of a network of ropes, extending
from every quarter, and from the whole circumference of the ship,
connecting with staples in the framework of the balloon, and finally
embracing its entire body in its folds. Two enormous paddle-wheels,
made of oiled silk stretched on delicate frames, and driven by a
steam-engine of the lightest structure possible, furnished the
propelling power; while at the stern, like a vast fin, played the helm,
of a similar material and construction to the paddle-wheels.
All this was explained to me in much fuller detail than I can here
repeat, by Mr. Bonflon, who added, that the materials employed combined
lightness with strength to a much greater degree than had ever before
been achieved,--that the fuel used was of the fluid kind, a new
combination of concentrated combustibles invented by himself,--and that
the weight of the entire machine had been carefully calculated
beforehand, together with its buoyant power, and the results had
demonstrated the accuracy of the mathematics.
I turned on Mr. Bonflon and looked him squarely in the face. He was a
modest man and blushed slightly, but did not shrink. There could be no
dishonesty there. His countenance bore the unmistakable stamp of
integrity, as well as intelligence; and his whole appearance and
bearing were those of a true man.
Had he brought me the newspaper he promised, not yet eight days old,
from San Francisco?
No. He had been detained down-town all day in the whirl of our New York
Babel, and had not yet been home. He would hand it in to-morrow.
Mr. Bonflon had been introduced to me that morning by a friend on whose
acuteness and judgment I felt I had many good reasons to rely. Without
pretending any precise knowledge of the man, or, indeed, any knowledge
at all, beyond what had been gathered from the individual himself in a
very brief acquaintance of Mr. Bonflon's own seeking, he expressed a
warm interest in him personally, as also in the startling discovery he
professed to have made.
In that interview, Mr. Bonflon had informed us in brief, that, after
ten years of patient and toilsome experiment, of disappointment, of
perishing and reviving hope, he had at length achieved the grand object
of his life. He had solved the problem of the navigation of the air. He
had proved by actual results, that the great ocean of atmosphere above
us could be ploughed as successfully and safely as the waters beneath,
and with much greater facility and pleasure. He stated that the first
trial-trip, after the completion of the ship, had been made in the
night from an obscure point in the State of Maryland, and extended
north and northeast, along the Atlantic coast, to New York,--whose glow
of light from a great height, like a phosphorescent mist, was plainly
distinguishable,--and thence to the neighborhood of Boston, and back to
the place of starting; and that a second, with equally favorable
results, had been made from the same point by a more inland route,
northwest to Buffalo and the Canada line; and he named several
well-known persons who were on board at one or the other of these
times, and related some little anecdotes illustrative of their states
of mind and apprehensions while drifting above the earth on the
occasion of these novel voyages.
He said, further, that the President and heads of departments at
Washington were fully cognizant of the matter; and that a third grand
trial-trip, in the interest of government, had been secretly made, with
important dispatches to California, relating to the security of our
rights in the Pacific. Four days had been consumed in the passage out,
including a stoppage of a couple of hours on a fine plateau, near the
head waters of the Missouri, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains; and
the same in the return. They had landed in the night in a deep valley a
few miles out of San Francisco, and remained two days in that city;
which gave a period of ten days to the entire voyage, out and back.
Forty selected individuals, all bound to secresy, had participated in
the risks and excitements of the extraordinary occasion. Mr. Bonflon
was not of the number. An heroic daughter of his was. His partner,
Mons. De Aery, a French gentleman of great mechanical skill, had
managed the affair; and the craft, in the same hands, was now absent on
her second expedition across the American continent.
Such was the sum of Mr. Bonflon's revelations of the morning. What a
discovery! How the announcement would astonish the world! How the
practical fact would overturn the world, upset commerce, and transform
the habits and relations of mankind! America, the pioneer in many
valuable discoveries and reforms, was still ahead,--still destined to
lead the van in the development of the powers and resources of Nature,
and the onward march of nations.
Hurriedly recalling all these points to mind, I requested to know of
Mr. Bonflon how it had been possible, with so many confidants and the
prying propensities of the press, whose agents, like an invisible
police, are everywhere, to keep the matter from becoming public,--at
least, to cover the affair so completely that no hint of the existence
of his machine should have been given in any quarter, or of the vast
changes which its introduction as a power in the world could not fail
To this he replied, that the press had behaved very handsomely; that
the principal papers of the country had _attaches_ aboard on the first
trip to the Pacific; but that all parties--the government, the editors,
together with De Aery and himself--were agreed that the matter should
be kept strictly private, until its practicality and value should be
established beyond the possibility of question.
I now remembered, that, several years ago, a good deal of noise had
been made about a flying-machine which had been constructed in some of
the suburbs of the city,--and that a day had been advertised when it
was to make an ascent, but, it failed. I mentioned the circumstance to
"Yes," he replied. "It was at Hoboken. De Aery and myself spent years
in the construction of that machine, and a large amount of money. On
the day when the trial of its powers was to have taken place, the
weather proved unfavorable, and we met with unexpected delays. The
spectators, who had congregated by thousands, became impatient; and the
mob, breaking in upon us, destroyed in an hour property which had cost
us five thousand dollars and the labor of years."
I felt obliged to sympathize with Mr. Bonflon. He had met with the
usual fortune of public benefactors, and particularly of inventors. His
success, however, should it prove real, in the unexampled brilliancy of
its results, would more than compensate him for all his disappointments
and losses. He would rank as the greatest of discoverers,--as the
master mind of this master century.
Leading him off from this one topic into general conversation, I held
him thus engaged for an hour. I was charmed with his comprehensive
intelligence, and with the scope and liberality of his views. In
everything relating to mechanics, his opinions were marked with
originality. This had evidently been his favorite field, where his
quick perceptions and powers of concentration and analysis had elevated
him to an eminence where he stood almost alone. I had never met his
equal. In plausible suggestions relative to the possibilities of the
future, he took me quite above my level, and left me floating in a maze
of glittering bewilderment. But I could discover no breaks, no
confusion in his mind, on the themes he presented. His premises were
apparently well considered, and his conclusions the fair and natural
sequences flowing from them.
On the following day, Mr. Bonflon called on me again. In the interval,
my friend and myself had held extended consultations. My friend, while
externally calm as the surface of a summer sea, as was his wont, it was
plain for me to see, was internally deeply stirred and excited by the
extraordinary nature of Mr. Bonflon's revelations. Acknowledging a
mutual and increasing interest in the intelligent inventor, we
nevertheless parted in a wilderness of doubt. There was a mystery in
the matter,--a surprise for the world or a surprise for
ourselves,--which time, it would seem, with its busy thumb and finger,
must be left to unravel at its leisure.
Mr. Bonflon had not brought the California paper with him. The two or
three copies only which had come into his possession had been handed
around among his confidential friends, and he had not been able to lay
his hand on one. He informed me that the "Flying Cloud" was expected to
return in three days, and, after remaining two days on the Atlantic
side of the continent, would then start on her third experimental trip
to the Pacific. At that time he expected to make one of the party
himself, and he invited me to accompany him.
I accepted the invitation, and received from him particular
instructions as to the nature of my outfit. It was in the midst of the
heats of summer. He advised, however, a full supply of thick clothing,
on account of the increased chill and coldness of the atmosphere at
high altitudes; and, indeed, recommended a mail of flannel next the
skin. Everything else--the supply of the larder, with an excellent
cook, beds, and so forth--would be found amply provided by De Aery and
himself for the comfort and accommodation of their guests. The station,
or point of departure, Mr. Bonflon informed me, was a retired spot but
a few miles out of the city of Baltimore; and he promised to be at hand
at the proper time to accompany me in person, and see me safely on
board the "Flying Cloud."
I saw nothing more of Mr. Bonflon for several days. Meanwhile I
arranged my affairs for a brief absence, and, as my family were all off
in the country, prepared a special letter for use, if needed, to be
dated and mailed at the last moment, notifying them of a probable gap
in my correspondence, on account of some pressing business which would
take me out of the city for a few days and keep me constantly employed.
In three or four days I received a note from Mr. Bonflon, advising me
to hold myself in readiness; and at the proper time, he presented
himself before me. But he came to apologize. The "Flying Cloud" had
returned. The second trip had been as successfully and safely performed
as the first. Nothing had occurred to mar the pleasure of the voyage;
but, unfortunately, before coming on to New York, De Aery had filled
out the complement of guests for the third grand expedition. Even he
(Mr. Bonflon) should remain behind; but he should see that seats were
reserved for us both, without fail, for the next succeeding trip. Mr.
Bonflon took his leave; and I found myself more deeply involved in
doubt and perplexity than ever. I could hardly say that I was
disappointed, or that I was not. I had thrown myself on a wave, with no
look-out or means of judging where I was to be cast, and had formed no
opinions. As yet, everything looked fair with Mr. Bonflon. His face was
as honest as the morning sun, and it was next to impossible to doubt
him. He might be the prey of some strange phantasm, some monomania; but
the evidences did not show it. The account he had given of himself was
manly and coherent; his claims as a discoverer had been modestly
presented, and were not wholly unsupported by circumstances, or
unreasonable in themselves. Indeed, they must be regarded as coming
within the range of probabilities fully as much as, to human seeming,
had once the established, but ceaseless, wonders of steam locomotion
and electric telegraphing.
Singularly enough,--and it illustrates the constantly shifting scenes
in the kaleidoscope of life,--within an hour, Mr. Bonflon returned with
a new message, and with the programme of the "Flying Cloud" changed, if
not reversed. He had seen De Aery again. One or two of the expected
passengers had telegraphed that untoward circumstances would compel
them to remain behind, and there would be room for us. But no time was
to be lost; the air-steamer would weigh anchor before daylight of the
following morning, and we must start for Baltimore by the next train.
De Aery and several others were already flying over the rail on their
way to Philadelphia.
I did not allow myself to hesitate. With an unusual degree of
excitement, made up of the mingled emotions of wonder, doubt, and, I
frankly confess, apprehension, I dated and superscribed the letter to
my absent family; and, taking my carpet-bag in my hand, packed to
plethora several days before in readiness for the occasion, set out on
the strange and questionable adventure.
The run to Baltimore was made without accident or delay. Mr. Bonflon
and myself conversed a good deal, and I found additional cause to
admire the discriminating character of his mind and the curious and
wonderful stores it contained. Some of the time we dozed, or sunk into
a mental confusion like that to which the body was subjected by the
motion of the cars, and called it sleep. My own most impressive
visions, however, were those of silent wakefulness, and were connected
with the morrow and the "Flying Cloud."
We stopped in the chief city of Maryland only long enough to obtain
some slight refreshments, such as could be furnished readily in the
middle of the night, and proceeded at once to the wharf or station of
our sky-sailer. Ah, how shall I describe my sensations on first
beholding this most wonderful achievement of the age, and thus
satisfying myself that it was an actual existence, and not the mere
chimera of a diseased brain? There she sat like a majestic swan,
floating, as it were, in the pure empyrean, and crowned with a diadem
of stars. The Moon, Arcturus, and the Pleiades might well all make
obeisance to her, and the Milky Way invite her to extend her flight and
plough its snowy fields. I was astonished at her size, the symmetry of
her parts, and the harmony of her proportions, as she lay there at a
great height, which I was quite unable to estimate, in bold relief
against the sky.
But Mr. Bonflon could afford me but a brief time for observation and
the indulgence of my wonder. The stores and most of the passengers were
already on board; and taking me by the arm, he hurried me forward, and
seated me in the small car or tender, by means of which, and the agency
of ropes and pulleys, we were to reach her decks. Our upward movement
immediately commenced. It was steady and gentle, not calculated to
create alarm; and still the notion of quitting Mother Earth for an
indefinite number of days, to rove in the blue unknown of space, was
attended with some apprehensions and regrets. I gazed anxiously at the
receding objects below; but my feelings underwent a change as we
approached the "Flying Cloud" herself, were pulled into her gangway,
and I found myself standing on her solid decks. A brief further period
intervened, and our anchor was loosed; the tremendous machine became
instinct with life; she began to move; and, hurrah! we were under way.
The thoughts and emotions of this bewildering moment it is impossible
to describe. Our craft moved off majestically, like some huge
water-fowl rising from the sea. Her course was westward and upward,
like the eagle with his face turned toward the palace of the sun. At
first the lights in the city of Baltimore became more numerous and
distinct, as intervening objects were surmounted and overlooked. Next
they began to fade, shrinking down into twinkling points like
fireflies, until they disappeared. Forests, hills, and mountains
followed after, as our altitude was increased, blending together like a
hazy landscape, until, on passing above the cloud region, and finding
the level of our track, the earth was wholly lost to our view, and our
course lay through the blue serene of space, without a lighthouse or a
landmark, and nothing but the constant lamps of heaven to guide us in
What a sea! The ocean has its visible surface on which move the ships;
but we had none. The heavens were beneath us as well as above. We were
floating in the great circle of the systems and the suns. We were of
the universe; but were to be numbered with the constellations and the
stars. We could compare ourselves to a company of immortals quitting
the earth and traversing the electric seas which lead to brighter
homes. Or we were voyagers to the sun, or to the nearer Venus, or to
the far distant Centaurus. What a world of new thought was forced upon
us by the fancies and realities and charm and awe of our extraordinary
condition, combined with the profound consciousness we could not fail
to entertain of the effects which this crowning discovery of Messrs.
Bonflon and De Aery must produce on travel, on commerce, on art, and
the common destiny of mankind!
I found the atmosphere of the cabins, as my friend Bonflon had
asserted, agreeable and healthful. I could also occupy the promenade
deck for half an hour with little inconvenience, so far as the levity
of the air was concerned; but the cold was severe; while the system, in
consequence of an undue expansion of its particles, solid and fluid,
from the diminished pressure of the atmosphere, was rendered doubly
susceptible to its influence. The advice given by Mr. Bonflon to case
myself in flannels, with an armament at hand of outer winter clothing,
proved well-timed; and yet a period of lassitude, verging on faintness,
invariably followed every considerable exposure to the open air.
But the pleasure of gazing on those fields of space without
obstruction, without the intervention of so much as a plate of crystal
glass, repaid me for every risk and every ill. Though it might be said
there was no scenery there, where nothing was visible but the stars,
yet far beyond the power of mountain and valley, forest and lake,
waterfall and ocean, did that scene, which was no scene, or next to
none, bind me in the spell of its fascination. The motion of our craft,
as we careered noiselessly through the shoreless and objectless void,
without sense of effort or friction, was a charm of itself,--bringing
to a flower, crystallizing into refulgent stars, the dim, obscure,
however glorious, poetry of life. Here were the wildest imaginations of
the dreamer melted in a crucible, and reproduced in living forms of
usefulness and beauty. In my own years of widely diversified
experience, what had I met with to compare with this? Nothing. The
force of steam was marvellous,--talking over a wire mysterious; but here
I was in a great ship riding among the planets and the stars. I had
likened Niagara to a vast mill-dam, because I could find no peer to set
beside it; so now, in my weakness, the sublime pageant of the "Flying
Cloud" could search out nothing higher in my recollection with which to
compare it than a wild, ride of my youth in a canoe, for a half mile or
so, down the rapids of a river.
But morning was at hand. The rich golden glow of night, to which the
dwellers on the earth's surface are accustomed, as we passed to higher
altitudes, had given place to a thin inky blue. This was obscured by no
fleck or mist, and yet the stars shone through it faint and dim,
despoiling the firmament of its glory. The same loss of power was
manifest on the ushering in of day. The auroral flame, which ordinarily
greets us in the east with such a ruddy laugh, was now nothing better
than a wan and dismal smile; and even the sun, as he struggled up from
what seemed a bed of leaden mist, brought with him only a pallid,
lifeless twilight. It was not that his rays were impeded by cloud or
haze; he had lost his power to shine. He hung there in the heavens like
a great white shield, and looked down on us as rayless and powerless
and devoid of life as a dead man's eye.
Having at length wearied myself with gazing, and feeling chill and weak
from the coldness and tenuity of the atmosphere, I subsided into the
comfort and companionship of the cabins below. Among the passengers I
recognized _attaches_ of the press, besides several gentlemen of
Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, with whom I was somewhat
acquainted. More circumspect, or less slaves to the imagination than
myself, they had contented themselves with in-door observations. But
their enthusiasm was none the less inflamed. In astonishment they
looked at each other; in restless bewilderment they glanced out of the
windows on the desert, trackless plane traversed by the "Flying Cloud,"
and spoke with a species of awe of the shock which the announcement of
what they were then witnessing would give to sober men's minds; and
suggested, in broken sentences, some of the consequences which would be
likely to flow from the grand invention.
What with excitement and lack of sleep, we all found ourselves a little
nervous. Coffee and Havanas failed to allay the feeling; and, in the
absence of the morning papers, we resorted to whist, chess, and our
pocket supplies of the "Atlantic Monthly," "Harper," and so forth, and
to the very select library provided by Messrs. Bonflon and De Aery, the
proprietors, for the use of the passengers,--and at last to our beds.
It could not be denied that we were nervous. With all the smoothness
and beauty of our running, there was a sensation, an uncertain
quivering motion, not at first noticed and not at all definable, about
our craft, that constantly, suggested the idea that we were standing on
nothing, or, at best, nothing better than dissolving quicksands, which
were liable at any moment wholly to slide away and leave us; and it
required some strength of mind to resist the vagary, and prevent it
from effecting a troublesome lodgment in the imagination.
Thus passed the day, which fortunately, in my case, was succeeded by a
night of repose. The restlessness of mind and body once subdued, Nature
asserted her empire, and I slept profoundly until morning. Another day
and night followed, with little variation from the first; and by this
time, the strangeness and mystery of my situation had quite worn away,
and the feeling of security was established. I trod the upper deck with
all the pride, and more than the composure, of a modern monarch on his
But the sameness of the scenery of the vast aerial ocean, in which we
were sailing alone, without consort, without ever descrying a sail, or
even keeping a lookout, without so much as ever discovering a floating
plank to remind us of a wreck, or a seaweed to tell us of the land, was
already beginning to pall on the senses, when there appeared in the
distance before us, and multiplying to the right and the left, a
succession of white, sparkling pyramids and cones, resting on the
clouds and flashing in the nether light, like crystal monuments set to
mark the boundaries of space. These were crests of the Rocky Mountains,
covered with perpetual snow.
I gazed on them with rapture. Right in our eye, nearly due west, stood
out Long's Peak, James's Peak, and the Spanish Peaks, at first small in
size, but momently swelling in dimensions; while, far to the north,
were just discernible the more lofty summits of Mount Hooker and Mount
Brown. Lying between Mount James and the Spanish Peaks, inclining to
their eastern slope, lay the green plateau, not yet visible, where we
were to land. Its position was carefully pointed out to Mr. Bonflon and
myself by Mr. De Aery, but we strained our eyes and used our glasses in
vain. No strength of sight could penetrate the clouds and haze which
covered the body of the mountains, and hid the earth, with the
exception of those lofty silver pinnacles, from our view.
Though these high peaks, like distant masts at sea, were first seen
early in the day, the meridian of noon overtook us before we came up
with them. At length, in increasing numbers and a thousand diversified
shapes, they lay spread out before us, and soon thereafter were
directly under our feet. Our magical machine, coming to a halt,
fluttered like a great bird above them, and gave us an opportunity,
such as probably had never been enjoyed by voyagers before, to spy out
their beauty, their mystery, and their strength.
On nearing the mountains, we had left behind us the twilight of the
void, and come again into the full flood of day. This enabled the sight
to rest upon the scene with pleasure, to examine its diversified
splendors, and penetrate its chasms and gorges, otherwise inaccessible
to man. But to describe them is impossible. Broad fields of sparkling
snow, pyramids of ice, wide fissures shining like steel
mirrors,--produced by some unimaginable convulsion, possibly a thousand
or ten thousand years ago, and large enough to ingulf a city,--with
black humps or spires of granite here and there projecting through the
white; while afar down the rocky sides of interminable swells and
precipices came up a sound of water and a blush of green, betokening
the direction in which we were to look for the generative body of
Mother Earth; all these, and much more which I cannot stop to name,
were grouped in the rough, but magnificent landscape before us.
No cabin could confine me at such a time as this. I stood out on the
upper deck in the extreme bow of the boat; and from an unobstructed
point of view, nearly over the figure-head, in the very abandonment of
daring, feasted my senses on the wondrous glories of this
mountain-scene of enchantment.
De Aery was at the helm. But I have scarcely introduced this
extraordinary gentleman to the reader. He was a tall, black-haired,
mercurial Frenchman, with an eye like a falcon, who, with only an
occasional Gallicism purposely indulged in, spoke American like a
native. I had every confidence in his prudence and skill in the
management of his craft; and still, as I perceived that we were
gradually settling down in the direction of the loftiest of those
snow-peaks, until scarcely fifty feet intervened between us and its
round, polished brow, to all appearance as solid as feldspar, I raised
my voice and accosted him.
"Halloo! Captain!" said I, "are you intending to land us on this
"_Effectivement_," replied he. "_Mon Dieu!_ B----, come here."
I went to him.
"This," said he, "is the very Old Man of the Mountain. I intend to
plant the stars and stripes in the centre of his bald head."
"Capital!" replied I. "But can you achieve it safely?"
"Yes. I can manage my bird with as much ease as a pigeon poises himself
on his wings, or an Indian steers his canoe. See! we are approaching
the crown of the pinnacle."
I watched the experiment with an interest not unmingled with fear. He
held in one hand a handsome American flag, of moderate size, and
occasionally, with a slight motion of his arm, and a glance of pride,
spread out its silken folds on the motionless air. Gradually the
"Flying Cloud," under his skilful hands, closed upon the bleak,
glittering summit, which, rounding off like the bald head of some
venerable giant, was, at its apex, scarcely ten feet in diameter.
"No eagle, even, has ever set his foot here," said De Aery. "There is
not a track, or feather, or mark of any living thing to be seen. The
'Flying Cloud' will be the first to explore many mysteries and to
explode others. Not even do the winds reach this height. Boreas and the
bird of Jove,--I will vanquish them both. I will step out upon that icy
"No, no, Captain," I expostulated. "You might lose your foothold and
"Not at all," rejoined he, with a laugh. "I am as sure-footed as a
goat. But if you think it risky, Monsieur, I forbear. But the snow
looks solid as adamant. I fear I shall not be able to erect this flag,
unless I have a firm spot for my feet."
By this time our craft had reached a proper position,--her stern
alongside and almost in contact with the jutting peak,--to answer the
ambitious purpose of the Frenchman. Raising the flag of the Republic in
his hand, he requested us all to do it proper honor,--to salute it with
a "three times three,"--as he should succeed in securing it in its
place. Cautiously extending the staff, he brought it in contact with
the snow, and gave it several light blows, for the purpose of
ascertaining its solidity. It seemed of almost icy texture, and emitted
a half-sharp and half-muffled sound in reply. Then, elevating the
standard aloft in both hands, he brought it down with force, as the
farmer urges a stake into the ground; not doubting, as would seem, that
a succession of such blows would be needed in order to achieve his
A single stroke of the shaft, however, proved more than enough. To the
surprise and dismay of us all, the firm ringing surface turned out but
a shell, and all beneath, a loose bed of sparkling snow-crystals, like
white sand. The flag sunk down and disappeared, and De Aery, losing his
balance, plunged over and went with it.
We gazed after him in speechless horror. Before any one of us had
sufficiently recovered himself to speak, we were startled by a dull
sound, like a rushing wind, or distant, rumbling thunder; and an
immense mass of snow, many hundred feet in depth, and covering a third
of the cone, parted from its place, and, like a great, foaming wave,
broken and shapeless, rushed down the mountain's side. For the moment,