Part 1 out of 5
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A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. V.--JUNE, 1860. NO. XXXII.
THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN RAILWAYS.
The condition of our railways, and their financial prospects, should
interest all of us. It has become a common remark, that railways have
benefited everybody but their projectors. There is a strong doubt in the
minds of many intelligent persons, whether _any_ railways have actually
paid a return on the capital invested in them. It is believed that one of
two results inevitably takes place: in the one case, there is not business
enough to earn a dividend; in the other, although the apparent net earnings
are large enough to pay from six to eight per cent. on the cost, yet in a
few years it is discovered that the machine has been wearing itself out so
fast that the cost of renewal has absorbed more than the earnings, and the
deficiency has been made up by creating new capital or running in debt, to
supply the place of what has been worn out and destroyed. The Illinois
Central has been pointed out as an example of the first kind; the New-York
Central, of the second; while the New-York and Erie is a melancholy
instance of a railway which, never having enough legitimate business of its
own, has worn itself out in carrying at unremunerative rates whatever it
could steal from its neighbors. The general opinion of the community, after
the crash of 1857, was, that all our railways approximated more or less
closely to these unhappy conditions, and it was merely a question of time
as to their final bankruptcy and ruin. Even now, when they have recovered
themselves considerably, and are paying dividends again, capitalists are
very shy of them.
It is our belief, contrary to the current opinion, that during the next
decade such a change will have taken place in the condition of our
railways, that we shall see them averaging eight to ten per cent, dividends
on their legitimate cost. We propose in the present article to give the
reasons which have led us to this conclusion.
The causes to which may be traced the languishing condition of our railways
may be stated as follows:--Financial mismanagement; imperfect construction;
and want of individual responsibility in their operation.
The financial mismanagement of our railways has arisen from precisely the
opposite cause to that which has made British railways cost from two to
three times as much as they should have done. Their excess of cost was
owing to their having too much money; ours to our having too little. They
were robbed right and left for Parliamentary expenses, land-damages,
etc. The Great Northern, from London to York, three hundred and fourteen
miles, expended five millions of dollars in getting its charter.
Mr. E. Stephenson says that the cost of land and compensation on British
railways has averaged forty-three thousand dollars per mile, or as much as
the total cost of the railways of Massachusetts.
American railway-companies have never been troubled with too much money.
They have usually commenced with a great desire for economy, selecting a
"cheap" engineer, and getting a low estimate of the probable cost. A
portion of the amount is subscribed for in stock, and the next thing is to
run in debt. "First mortgage bonds" are issued and sold. The proceeds are
expended, and the road is not half done. Another issue is sold at a great
discount, and yet another, if possible. As the road approaches completion,
the desperate Directors raise money by the most desperate expedients, such
as would bankrupt any merchant in the country in his private business.
Sometimes the road has vitality enough to work itself out of its troubles;
but in other cases, unfortunately too numerous, it passes into the hands of
the bond-holders, and all it can earn goes to remunerate trustees, and pay
legal expenses, commissions, etc.
The financial mistakes of our railways have been, endeavoring to do too
much with too little money, and crippling themselves with a load of debt
that no project could stand under. This has led, as a matter of course, to
the second evil,--Imperfect construction. The projectors of a new railway
have thus reasoned with themselves:--"The average cost of our railways has
been between forty and fifty thousand dollars per mile, and this one, no
doubt, will reach those figures before we get through. But it will never do
to talk so, or we could not get the money to build it. Mr. Transit, our
engineer, says it can be opened for twenty thousand dollars per mile, and
we will earn money enough to finish it by-and-by." So they go on, and, to
get the road open for the small sum attainable, everything has to be
"scrimped" and pared down to the lowest scale. The cuttings are taken out
just wide enough for the cars to pass through, and the ends of the ties
overhang the edges of the embankments. Temporary trestle-work of wood is
substituted for stone bridges and culverts. Some reckless fellow tosses
down the iron as fast as a horse can trot, and the road is opened.
Another way in which imperfect construction is inevitable is where
companies admit their inability to be their own financiers by giving some
influential contractor his price, and allowing him to "do his own
engineering," in consideration of his taking such securities as they have
to offer, and which he undertakes to float by means of his superior
connections. Having the thing his own way, and being naturally anxious to
build his road for as little money as possible, he pares down everything
even below the standard of embarrassed railway-boards. If the road will
only hold together until he has sold his bonds, it is all he asks. If the
business is good, the road will perhaps be finished, or what is thought to
be finished, some day or other. If business is dull, nothing is done, and
the bridges and trestle-works remain such murder-traps as that on the
Albany Northern Road which broke down last year.
But it is not with such miserable apologies for railways that we have to
deal. It is on our really valuable roads, like the main lines in
Massachusetts and New York, that we shall show that the evils of imperfect
construction are felt, and will be felt, until a thorough reconstruction
has taken place. It was observed some time ago that the returns of the
Massachusetts railways for 1856 showed that there were 1,325 miles open,
costing on an average $46,480 per mile, or $61,611,721 in all. The receipts
per mile of road were $7,217, the expenses $4,260, leaving a net earning of
$2,957, or 40 per cent. of the whole. This was equal to 6.42 per cent. on
the whole cost of the railways.
For the same year the returns of all the railways in Great Britain showed
that there were 8,502 miles open, costing $173,040 per mile, or
$1,506,826,363 in all; and that the receipts per mile of road were $13,296,
the expenses $6,249, leaving a net earning of $7,047, or 53 per cent of the
whole. This was equal to a dividend of 3.97 per cent. on the whole
cost. These figures showed, that, however extravagantly the British
railways had been built, they certainly were worked more economically than
At first view it might be thought that the economy was due to their greater
business; but further inquiry showed, that, from the better shape of
American cars, and from the wants of the public requiring fewer trains, the
actual receipts per mile run of Massachusetts trains were $1.83 against
$1.44 of British trains. The expenses per mile run of Massachusetts trains
were $1.08, while those of British trains were only 63 3/8 cents. Could
Massachusetts railways be worked as cheaply, the result would be that they
could declare nine per cent. dividends on their cost, instead of six.
Here offered a rich reward for investigation. Accordingly two gentlemen
well known to the railway world, Messrs. Zerah Colburn and Alexander
L. Holley, made a trip to England for the purpose of discovering how it was
that John Bull could work his railways so much cheaper than Brother
Jonathan. The results of their investigations are embodied in a handsome
quarto volume, illustrated with numerous drawings, which has been
subscribed for by most of the railways and prominent railway-men throughout
the country. It is not too much to say, that the effect of it, in directing
the attention of American railway-managers to the weak points of their
system, has resulted already in a saving to the stockholders of our
railways of millions of dollars. [Footnote: The statistics of the English
railways given in this article are taken from the volume here referred to.
Because some cunning English contractors in South America took advantage of
the statements in this book to depreciate the American railway system and
American civil engineers, for their own private advantage in obtaining
work, some Americans have been so foolish as to decry the book altogether,
as traitorous to the interests of the country. Such mingled bigotry and
conceit, shrinking from just criticism, would fetter all progress but
fortunately it is rare.]
More than half the cost of operating a railway consists of the repairs of
track and machinery and the cost of fuel and oil. These expenses are
exactly proportional to the mileage of trains. It was soon seen that the
greater economy of British railways was almost entirely confined to these
The cost of "maintenance of way" upon English railways was 10 1/2 cents per
mile run, against 25 cents on those of Massachusetts. The cost of repairs
of cars and engines was nearly the same on both. The cost of fuel per mile
run was 6 1/2 cents, against 15 cents. While English trains are from 20 to
30 per cent. lighter than ours, they average 25 per cent. faster, so that
practically these conditions must nearly balance each other. In alignment
the English roads are superior to ours, and as to gradients they have some
advantage; although grades of 40 to 52.8 feet per mile are quite common.
In climate they have less severe difficulties to contend with; although
their moist weather, the nature of their soil, and their heavy earthworks
involve much extra expense. In prices, the advantage is at least 20 per
cent, in their favor.
These considerations might account for an economy of 30 per cent. as
compared with our expenses for maintenance of way, but they cannot account
for the great actual economy of 60 per cent. which we have seen. We must
seek farther to find the explanation of this, and we soon discover it by
comparing the condition of the road-beds and tracks on the railways of the
The English railways are thoroughly built, are not opened to the public
until finished, and no expense is spared to keep them in order. American
railways are too often put in operation when half finished. The consequence
is, they never are finished, and are continually wearing out,--not lasting,
on an average, more than half as long as they should, if once thoroughly
constructed. Wooden bridges are allowed to rot down for want of protection.
Rails are left to be battered to pieces for want of drainage and ballast.
One road spends thirty-four thousand dollars a year for "watching cuts,"
and fifty-five thousand more for removing slides that should never have
taken place. Everything is done for the moment, and nothing thoroughly. Who
can wonder that this system tells upon the cost of maintenance of way?
The amount of fuel burned is the exact measure of the resistance to be
overcome, and a rough track must necessarily require a larger amount of
fuel. The English roads now generally burn bituminous coal; most American
roads burn wood; but these being reduced to the same equivalent quantity,
it will be found that the American roads burn nearly twice as much as the
That the cost of the repairs of American cars and engines is not more is
attributable solely to their superior design. An English engine and cars
would be battered to pieces in a few months on our rough roads, on account
of their rigidity and concentration of weight; while those of America, by
yielding to shocks both vertically and horizontally, escape injury.
American cars and engines are as much superior in design to the English as
their roads excel ours in solidity and finish.
But it will be asked, Shall we imitate the notorious extravagance of
British railways built at a cost of one hundred and seventy-three thousand
dollars per mile?
The answer is plain. The only thing about them to be imitated is their
thorough and permanent construction. That this need not involve
extravagance is evident from the fact that the actual cost of construction
has been only eighty-eight thousand dollars per mile of double-track
railway, including all the costly viaducts, tunnels, and bridges, which in
many cases a more judicious location or a bolder use of gradients would
have avoided. The remainder of their cost is made up of law and
Parliamentary expenses, engineering and management, land and damages,
interest on stock, bonuses, dividends paid from capital, etc., etc.,
amounting to eighty-five thousand dollars per mile. The folly of all this
has been seen, and neither the financial nor the engineering errors of that
day are now repeated. To show that a better system prevails, it is only
necessary to state that between 1848 and 1858, 390 miles of first-class
single-track railway have been opened at an average cost of $46.692 per
mile, and in all that relates to economical maintenance are not inferior to
any in the kingdom.
Such railways as these, costing no more than our own, we would hold up for
imitation. How, then, do they differ from ours? or rather, what must be
done to put ours into the same condition of economical efficiency?
In the first place, stone culverts and earth embankments should replace
wooden structures, wherever possible. As fast as wooden bridges decay, they
should be replaced with iron; and if the piers and abutments require it, as
is too often the case, they should be rebuilt in a substantial manner.
The tubular iron bridge we do not recommend, on account of its excessive
cost. For short spans of sixty feet and under, two riveted boiler-plate
girders under the track make a cheap and permanent bridge, and can be
manufactured in any part of the country. For large spans there are several
excellent forms of iron trusses, Bollman's, Fink's, or, still better, the
Cuttings should be widened, if not already wide enough, so as to admit of
good ditches along the track. The slopes should be dressed off and
turfed. This costs little, and prevents the earth from washing down and
choking up the ditches, and much of that terrible nuisance, dust.
The secret of all good road-making, whether railways or common roads, lies
in thorough drainage. Until our railways are well drained, it is of little
use to try to improve the condition of the track. "In an economical view,"
says Mr. Colburn, "the damage occasioned by water is far greater than the
utmost cost of its removal. The track is disturbed, the iron bruised, the
fastenings strained, the chairs broken, the ties rotted, the resistance and
thereby the consumption of fuel increased, and the whole wear and tear
Next to drainage in importance is plenty of good ballast. The New-England
roads are well ballasted, as a general thing; but in the West, where gravel
is scarce, they do not trouble themselves to find a substitute. Even the
great New York and Erie road, after ten years' use, is only half ballasted,
which accounts for its being more than half worn out.
Much has been said and written on the necessity of a good joint for the
rails, and many are the inventions for securing this object,--"compound
rails," "fished joints," "bracket chairs," "sleeve joints," etc., etc. But
without better road-beds no form of superstructure will last, and with
road-beds as good as they ought to be almost any simple and easily adjusted
arrangement will answer well enough.
But a more important matter than all these, so far as the economy of
maintenance is concerned, is the quality and shape of the iron rails,
forming one-eighth of the whole cost of our railways. Where companies,
instead of buying rails, are selling bonds, they have no right to complain,
if the iron turn out as worthless as the debentures. But where they pay
cash, they can insist on good iron, and will get it, if they will pay the
price, which will rule from eighteen to twenty dollars per ton over that of
the poorest article. Nor should the shape and weight of the rail be
overlooked. Experience, that stern schoolmaster, has taught us, that, while
heavy rails of seventy pounds to the yard, and over, of ordinary iron, go
to pieces in three or four years, sixty-pound rails of well-worked and good
iron will last more than double that time. The extraordinary durability of
the forty-five pound rails made for the Reading Railway Company by the Ebbw
Vale Company in 1837 is well known to railway men.
A short calculation will show the superiority, in point of economy, of
light and good rails to heavy rails of an inferior quality. A seventy-pound
rail requires 110 tons to the mile, costing, at 860 per ton, $6,600. At the
end of four years this has to be re-rolled at a cost of $30 per ton, or
$3,300 more. This is equal in eight years to an annual depreciation of
$1,237 per mile. A sixty-pound rail requires 94 tons to a mile, costing for
the best iron that can be rolled $80 per ton, or $7,520 per mile. This
would last eight years, and the annual depreciation would be $940 per mile,
or $297 less than the other. The 30,000 miles of American railways are thus
taxed annually nearly nine millions of dollars for preferring quantity to
In England, it is the custom to retain the best engineering talent upon
railways, after as well as during construction. In this country, as soon as
the engineer has made out his "final estimate," he is dismissed with as
little ceremony as a daylaborer. We employ the best mechanical engineers
that we can find to look after the repairs of our engines and cars; while
the road, which is more important, and upon the good condition of which we
have seen that the success or failure of a railway as a commercial
enterprise may depend, is handed over to some ignorant fellow whose only
qualifications are industry and obedience.
There are no unmixed evils in this world. The impecuniosity of American
railways, besides causing the bad results which we have described, has had
a good effect upon the training of American engineers. Being obliged to do
a great deal with a little money, they have steered clear of those enormous
extravagances which have characterized the works of such engineers as the
late Mr. Brunel, colossal less in proportions than cost. It has been well
observed, that there was more talent shown on a certain division of the
New-York and Erie Railway, in avoiding the necessity for viaducts, than
could possibly have been exhibited in constructing them. This remark is a
key to the difference between the old English and the American systems of
civil engineering. The one is for show, the other for use. We say the _old_
English system, because a better practice has now arisen. Cost is looked to
as well as splendor; and there is no engineer now in England whose
reputation, would sustain him in constructing such monuments of
extravagance as the Great Western Railway or the Britannia Bridge. American
civil engineers have not been fairly treated. The wretched construction of
many of our railways, and the uneconomical condition of all, have been cast
against them by their English brethren as a reproach. But the faults of
construction, we have shown, are attributable to another cause. No engineer
of standing would lend himself to many of the schemes that have been pushed
through in the West. But in order to build a "cheap" road, it is only
necessary to get a "cheap" engineer, and that is a commodity easily picked
up. If their ignorance and blunders tarnish the fair fame of the
profession, it cannot be helped. But if American engineers of standing had
been allowed to finish the railways begun by them, and to take care of them
and see that they were not abused after they were finished, our railway
securities would be quoted at higher rates than they now are.
Although there are many civil engineers of standing and experience who have
been thrown out of employment by the general stoppage of public works, and
who are better qualified to take care of that costly and delicate machine,
a Railway, than men whose knowledge is entirely empirical, yet few railways
employ a resident engineer. Those that follow this practice are generally
supposed to do so because he is a relative of some Director, and wants a
place, and not because such an officer is really required.
"Construction accounts," says Mr. Colburn, "can never be closed, until our
roads are _built_. To attempt it only involves a destruction account of
fearful magnitude. Under our present system, we are _perpetually
rebuilding_ our roads, not realizing the _life_ of our works, and thereby
running capital to waste."
"With good earthwork, thoroughly drained, well-ballasted tracks, rails of
good iron, correct form, not exceeding 60 pounds per yard, and properly
supported at the joints, the ties properly preserved, and the whole
maintained by a judicious system of repairs, the average working expenses
might unquestionably be reduced by as much as 18 cents per mile run."
The mileage of the Massachusetts railways for 1859 was 5,949,761 miles run,
and the expenses of operating $0.93, being a saving of 15 cents over those
of 1856, amounting to $892,464. If, by a judicious expenditure of $5,000
per mile, a still further saving of 18 cents per mile run could be made, it
would amount, on the present mileage, to $1,070,956 per annum, which, the
receipts being equal, would return eight per cent. on the increased capital
of sixty-eight and a half millions of dollars.
* * * * *
We have thus shown the combined effects of financial mismanagement and
imperfect construction upon our railway property. But there is a third evil
to be cured before it can become productive.
Under the present system of railway management, everybody is busy getting
rich at the expense of the stockholders. Railway men are as honest as the
average of mankind, but there is no reason why they should be more so; and
if their temptations are greater, a certain percentage of them will
inevitably yield to those temptations,--just as statistical tables show
that the average number of arrests for drunkenness and disorderly conduct
is greater on Sundays and holidays than on working-days.
A few years ago it was impossible to compare the results of the working of
one railway with those of another. The returns were so ingeniously made
out, that only one thing was certain,--the amount of dividend that it
pleased the Board of Directors to declare. If this was three or four per
cent. for the half-year, the stockholders were delighted, and passed a vote
of thanks to those worthy gentlemen for devoting so much valuable time to
their interests gratuitously. What if a dividend was not earned? it was
easy enough to raise money in Wall Street on the Company's paper, until
some excuse could be found for a new issue of bonds or stock. But those
benefactors of the human race, Tuckerman and Schuyler, put a stop to all
this. After their proceedings became public, and still more certainly after
the crash of 1857, if railways did not earn a dividend, they had to say
so. This led to investigations, and stockholders became "posted," as the
phrase is. Chiefly by the exertions of one newspaper, the "Boston Railway
Times," railway companies were shamed into giving their reports in such
form as to distinguish the expenses per mile run, for fuel, oil, repairs of
road, machines, etc., etc. This gave a common standard of comparison; and,
as we have seen, it was made use of to discover in what particular
departments English railways were worked more economically than our
own. This has led, as we have also seen, to a great reduction in the cost
of operating; and the revival of railways, as an investment, dates from
that time, 1857-8.
But there is something more wanted yet. As we have said, railway men are
not out of the reach of temptation. Let the various officers of a railway
manage it so as not to exceed the average expense of other roads of their
State, and their reputation stands high. Let them reduce their expenses
below the average, and their power is despotic. If they are men of ability,
they can do all this,--operate their road for less than many others, run
their trains regularly and without accident, even treat the public with
civility, and make themselves rich, in a few years, by percentages and
commissions on the cost of supplies, and by other modes, which, perhaps,
had better not be referred to here. If any one doubt this, let him take
pains to inquire how large a proportion of railway-men get rich in a few
years on salaries of from one to two thousand dollars per annum. Nor can
this be prevented; for every new check is only a transfer of power from
intelligent to ignorant hands; and ignorance, however honest, is a more
expensive manager and easier victim than knavery. There is but one remedy.
Make it for men's interest to reduce the expenses of operating to a
minimum. Make it for their interest to do so, by allowing them to share in
the profits, and then the question is solved, and you have a thousand
vigilant guardians of your property day and night. Let all supplies be
furnished by public competition under sealed tender, as is done in the army
and navy, and on the large railways of Great Britain.
There are, no doubt, practical difficulties in the way of carrying out
these changes, as there are in introducing all new systems. You have to
meet the doubts and suspicions of those who are unacquainted with them, the
opposition of interested parties, and the general feeling which influences
all men to let well enough alone. But that there are no insuperable
obstacles in the way is evident from the fact that this system has already
been partially applied on a railway doing a very large business, the
Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore, under the able superintendence of
S. M. Felton, Esq., who, in his last Report, says, "It still works well,
and is productive of much saving to the Company. [Footnote: The cost of
operating this railway for 1859, as per last Report, was only 37.4 per
cent. of the receipts, while that of the railways of Massachusetts for the
same year was 56.9 per cent. The result is a dividend of 8-1/2 per cent.
on capital, after paying the interest on bonded debt.] It promotes
regularity in running the trains, and in all branches of our business. It
diminishes accidents, _by bringing home the responsibility directly upon
individuals_ instead of the corporation."
There is a great deal of significance in this last remark. Every one knows,
that, when an accident happens on a railway, "no one is to blame,"--which
means, that everybody should have so much blame as can be expressed by a
fraction whose numerator is unity and whose denominator represents the
whole number of employees. Such an infinitesimal dose of censure, contrary
to the homeopathic doctrine, always produces infinitesimal results.
To what is the extraordinary success of the Hudson's Bay Company
owing,--that wonderful organization which rules the wilds of British North
America with a discipline which has no parallel in the history of mankind,
except that of the order of Jesuits? Simply to the fact, that every man
whose duties require intelligent action is a partner of the Company, shares
in its gains, and loses with its losses. And so it should be with our
railway-employees. Instead of excusing waste of time and property by the
stereotyped phrase, "The Company is rich and can stand it," they would
strive to exercise a rigid economy, knowing that at the end of the week
their pockets would be so much the heavier.
To show how the thing should be done would involve matters of detail which
would be out of place here. What we desire to show is the
principle. Instead of paying all men alike, good, bad, and indifferent, let
the amount of a man's wages depend on his skill and intelligence; the more
he shows, the better let him be paid. In almost every department of
manufacturing and commercial business this is done. Why not in railway
We subjoin a tabular statement of the railways of the world, made up to
1857, except those of the United States, which are for 1858-9.
|Name of country. |Cost per|Receipts |Percentage of|Percentage of |
| | mile. | per mile| expenses to | net earnings |
| | | of road.| receipts. | to total |
| | | | | capital. |
|Great Britain |$173,040| $13,296 | 47 | 4.00 |
|Australia | 169,225| 6,810 | 72 | 1.02 |
|India | 51,400| 8,645 | 42 | 4.09 |
|France | 128,340| 13,530 | 44 | 6.58 |
|Belgium | 81,955| 10,790 | 58 | 5.48 |
|Austria | 92,325| 13,430 | 54 | 6.75 |
|Prussia | 72,430| 9,915 | 45 | 7.44 |
|Other German States| 66,160| 7,085 | 63 | 5.52 |
|United States | 41,376| 6,170 | 60 | 5.51 |
From this it will be seen how much economy of working has to do with paying
a dividend,--as in the case of the Indian railways, where, although the
receipts are very small, the prime cost and expenses of working are also
very small, and they divide 4.09 per cent, while the Australian railways,
whose cost and expense of working are large, can pay only 1.02 per cent. It
is proper to say, however, that this was during the "gold fever." Railways
are now built in Australia for $50,000 per mile.
The railways of the United States occupy a very favorable position, both as
to cost and amount of receipts per mile. During the last ten years, the
principal efforts of their managers have been directed toward increasing
the receipts. During the next ten, their policy will be to diminish the
working expenses, leaving the receipts to increase with the natural growth
of the country, and avoiding unhealthy competition for that delusive
phantom, "through-trade," which has lured so many railways to financial
shipwreck and ruin. If this policy be steadily followed, we shall see
railway stocks once more a favorite investment.
* * * * *
IN A FOG.
A few minutes before one o'clock on the morning of Sunday, the 8th of
February, 1857, Policeman Smithers, of the Third District, was meditatively
pursuing his path of duty through the quietest streets of Ward Five,
beguiling, as usual, the weariness of his watch by reminiscent
AEthiopianisms, mellifluous in design, though not severely artistic in
execution. Passing from the turbulent precincts of Portland and Causeway
Streets, he had entered upon the solitudes of Green Street, along which he
now dragged himself dreamily enough, ever extracting consolations from
lugubrious cadences mournfully intoned. Very silent was the
neighborhood. Very dismal the night. Very dreary and damp was Mr. Smithers;
for a vile fog wrapped itself around him, filling his body with moist
misery, and his mind with anticipated rheumatic horrors. Still he surged
heavily along, tired Nature with tuneful charms sweetly restoring.
As he wound off a tender tribute to the virtues of the Ancient Tray, and
was about sounding the opening notes of a requiem over the memory of the
lost African Lily, surnamed Dale, one o'clock was announced by the bell of
the Lynde-Street Church. Mr. Smithers's heart warmed a little at the
thought of speedy respite from his midnight toil, and with hastening step
he approached Chambers Street, and came within range of his relief post. He
paused a moment upon the corner, and gazed around. It is the peculiar
instinct of a policeman to become suspicious at every corner.
Nothing stirring. Silence everywhere. He listens acutely. No sound. He
strains his eyes to penetrate the misty atmosphere. He is satisfied that
order reigns. He prepares to resume his march, and the measure of his
Three seconds more, and Policeman Smithers is another being. Now his hand
convulsively grasps his staff; his foot falls lightly on the pavement; his
carol is changed to a quick, sharp inhalation of the breath; for directly
before him, just visible through the fog, a figure, lightly clad, leans
from a window close upon the street, then clambers noiselessly upon the
sill, leaps over, and dashes swiftly down Chambers Street, disappearing in
Gathering himself well together, in an instant, Mr. Smithers is off and
away in pursuit. His heavy rubber-boots spatter over the bricks with an
echo that startles the sober residents from their slumbers. Strong of limb,
and not wholly unaccustomed to such exercise, he rapidly gains upon the
fugitive, who, finding himself so hotly followed, utters a faint cry, as if
unable to control his terror, and suddenly darts into one of the numerous
narrow passages which connect Chambers and Leverett Streets.
Not prepared for this sharp dodge, Mr. Smithers is for a moment unable to
check his headlong plunges, and shoots past the opening a yard or two
before the wet sidewalk affords him a foothold.
In great wrath, he turns about, and gropes his way cautiously through the
lane in the narrow labyrinth of which the fugitive has disappeared,--always
cautiously, for there are precipitous descents in Hammond Avenue, and deep
arched door-ways, from which a sudden onslaught might be dangerous. But he
meets no interruption here. Emerging into Leverett Street, he with
difficulty descries a white garment distantly fluttering in the feeble
light of a street-lamp. Any other color would have eluded him, but the way
is clear now, and it is a mere question of strength and speed. He sets his
teeth together, takes a full breath, and gives chase again.
Mr. Smithers has now passed the limits of his own beat, and he fears his
adventure may be shared by some of his associates. For the world he would
not have this happen. Nothing could tempt him at this moment to swing his
rattle. His blood is roused, and he will make this capture himself, alone
and without aid.
He rapidly reconsiders the chances.
"This fellow does not know the turns," he thinks, "or he would have taken
Cushman Avenue, and then I should have lost him."
This is in his favor. On the other hand, Mr. Smithers's action is impeded
by his heavy overcoat and rubber boots, and he knows that the pursued is
unincumbered in all his movements.
It is a fierce, desperate struggle, that mad race down Leverett Street, at
one o'clock on Sunday morning.
At each corner, the street-lamps throw a dull red haze around, revealing
the fugitive's slender form as he rushes wildly through. Another moment,
and the friendly fog shelters and conceals him from view.
Breathless, panting, sobbing, he ere long is forced to relax his speed. The
policeman, who has held his best energies in reserve, now puts forth his
Presently he gains upon the runaway so that he can detect the white feet
pattering along the red bricks, rising and falling quite noiselessly. He
ejects imprecations upon his own stout boots, which not only fail to fasten
themselves firmly to the slippery pavements, but continually betray by
their noisy splashing his exact position.
As they pass the next lamp, Mr. Smithers sees plainly enough that the end
is near. The fugitive touches the ground with only the balls of his feet,
as if each step were torture, and expels his breath with unceasing
violence. He does not gasp or pant,--he groans.
Just at the bend in Leverett Street, leading to the bridge, there is a dark
and half-hidden aperture among the ill-assorted houses. Into this, as a
forlorn hope, the fugitive endeavors to fling himself. But the game is
up. Here, at last, he is overhauled by Mr. Smithers, who, dropping a heavy
hand upon his shoulder, whirls him violently to the ground. Having
accomplished this exploit with rare dexterity, he forthwith proceeds to set
the captive on his feet again, and to shake him about with sprightly vigor,
according to established usage.
Mr. Smithers next makes a rapid but close examination of his prize, who,
bewildered by the fall, stares vacantly around, and speaks no word. He was
a young man, apparently about twenty years old, with nothing peculiar in
appearance except an unseasonable deficiency in clothing. Coat, waistcoat,
trousers, boots, hat, had he none; shirt, drawers, and stockings made up
his scant raiment. Mr. Smithers set aside the suspicion of burglary, which
he had originally entertained, in favor of domestic disorder. The symptoms
did not, to his mind, point towards delirium tremens.
Suddenly recovering consciousness, the youth was seized with a fit of
trembling so violent that he with difficulty stood upright, and cried out
in piteous tones,--
"For God's sake, let me go! let me go!"
Mr. Smithers answered by gruffly ordering the prisoner to move along with
By some species of inspiration--for, as the era of police uniforms had not
then dawned, it could have been nothing else--the young man conceived the
correct idea of the function of his custodian, and, after verifying his
belief, expressed himself enraptured.
All his perturbation seemed to vanish at the moment.
The affair was getting too deep for Mr. Smithers, who could not fathom the
idea of a midnight malefactor becoming jubilant over his arrest. So he gave
no ear to the torrent of excited explanations that burst upon him, but
silently took the direct route to the station.
Here he resigned his charge to Captain Merrill's care, and, after narrating
the circumstances, went forth again, attended by two choice spirits, to
continue investigations. On reaching Chambers Street, he became confused
and dubious. A row of houses, all precisely alike excepting in color, stood
not far from the corner of Green Street. From a lower window of one of
these he believed that the apparition had sprung; but, in his agitation, he
had neglected to mark with sufficient care the precise spot. Now, no open
window nor any other trace of the event could be discovered.
The three policemen, having arrived at the end of their wits, went back to
the station for an extension.
There they found Captain Morrill listening to a strange and startling
story, the incidents of which can here be more coherently recapitulated
than they were on that occasion by the half-distracted sufferer.
On the morning of Saturday, February the 7th, this young man, whose name
was Richard Lorrimer, and who was a clerk in a New-York mercantile house,
started from that city in the early train for Boston, whither he had been
despatched to arrange some business matters that needed the presence of a
representative of the firm. It chanced to be his first journey of any
extent; but the day was cheerless and gloomy, and the novelty of travel,
which would otherwise have been attractive, was not especially agreeable.
After exhausting the enlivening resources of a package of morning papers,
which at that time overflowed with records of every variety of crime, from
the daily murder to the hourly garrote, he dozed. At Springfield he
dined. Here, also, he fortified himself against returning ennui with a
supply of the day's journals from Boston. Singularly enough, five minutes
after resuming his place, he was once more peacefully slumbering. The pause
at Worcester scarcely roused him; but near Framingham a sharp shriek from
the locomotive, and the rapid working of the brakes, banished his dreams,
and put an end to his drowsy humor for the remainder of the journey. It was
soon made known that the engine was suffering from internal disarrangement,
and that a delay of an hour or more might be expected. The red flag was
despatched to the rear, the lamps were lighted, and the passengers composed
themselves, each as patiently and as comfortably as he could.
Lorrimer felt no inclination for further repose. He was much disturbed at
the prospect of long detention, having received directions to execute a
part of his commission that evening. Comforting himself with the profound
reflection that the fault was not his, he turned wearily to his
A middle-aged man with a keen nose and a snapping eye asked permission to
share the benefit of his treasures of journalism. As the middle-aged man
glanced over the New-York dailies, he ventured an anathema upon the
abominations of Gotham.
The patriotic pride of a genuine New-Yorker never deserts him. Lorrimer
discovered that the maligner of his city was a Bostonian, and a stormy
As between cat and dog, so is the hostility which divides the residents of
these two towns. So the conversation became at once spirited, and
Boston pointed with sarcastic finger to the close columns heavily laden
with iniquitous recitals, the result of a reporter's experience of one day
in the metropolis.
New York, with icy imperturbability, rehearsed from memory the recent
revelations of matrimonial and clerical delinquencies which had given the
City of Notions an unpleasant notoriety.
Boston burst out in eloquent denunciation of the Bowery assassin's knife.
New York was placidly pleased to revert to a tale of bloodshed in the
abiding-place of Massachusetts authority, the State Prison.
Boston fell back upon the garrote,--"the meanest and most diabolical
invention of Five-Point villany,--a thing unknown, Sir, and never to be
known with us, while our police system lasts!"
New York quietly folded together a paper so as to reveal one particular
paragraph, which appeared in smallest type, as seeking to avoid
recognition. Boston read as follows:--
"The garroting system of highway robbery, which has been so fashionable for
some time past in New York, and which has so much alarmed the people of
that city, has been introduced in Boston, and was practised on Thomas
W. Steamburg, barber, on Thursday night. While crossing the Common to his
home, he was attacked by three men; one seized him by the throat and half
strangled him, another sealed his mouth with a gloved hand, and the third
abstracted his wallet, which contained about seventy-five dollars in
This was from the "Courier" of that morning. New York had triumphed, and
Boston, with eyes snapping virulently, sought another portion of the car,
perhaps to hunt up his temper, which had been for some time on the point of
departure, and had now left him altogether.
Lorrimer took to himself great satisfaction, in a mild way, and laughed
inwardly at his opponent's discomfiture.
Presently, the vitalities of the locomotive having been restored, the train
rolled on, and Lorrimer took to calculating the chances of fulfilling his
appointment that evening. He at length abandoned the hope, and resigned
himself to the afflicting prospect of a solitary Sunday in a strange place.
At eight o'clock, P.M., the Boston station was achieved. Then followed, for
Mr. Lorrimer, the hotel, the supper, the vain search for Saturday-evening
amusements, and a discontented stroll in a wilderness of unfamiliar
streets, with spirits dampened by the dismal foggy weather.
He found the Common, and secretly admired, but longed for an opportunity to
vilify it to some ardent native. His point of attack would be, that it
furnished dangerous opportunities for crime, as illustrated in the case he
had recently been discussing. He looked around for some one to accost, and
felt aggrieved at finding no available victim. Finally, in great depth of
spirits, and anxious for a temporary shelter from the all-penetrating
moisture, he wandered into a saloon of inviting appearance, and sought the
While he was accumulating his appetite, a stranger entered the same stall,
and dropped, with a smile and a nod, upon the opposite seat. "I wouldn't
intrude, Sir," he said, "but every other place is filled. It's wonderful
how Boston gives itself up to oysters on Saturday nights,--all other sorts
of rational enjoyment being legally prohibited."
Lorrimer welcomed the stranger, and, delighted at the opportunity of a bit
of discussion, and still cherishing the malignant desire to injure
somebody's feelings in the matter of the Common, opened a conversation by
asking if Boston were really much given to bivalvular excesses.
The stranger, who was a strongly built and rough-visaged man, with nothing
specially attractive about him, except a humorous and fascinating
eye-twinkle, straightened himself, and delivered a short oration.
"Bless me, Sir!" said he, "are you a foreigner? Why, oysters are the
universal bond of brotherhood, not only in Boston, but throughout this
land. They harmonize with our sharp, wide-awake spirit. They are an element
in our politics. Our statesmen, legislators, and high-placed men,
generally, are weaned on them. Why, dear me! oysters are a fundamental idea
in our social system. The best society circles around 'fried' and 'stewed.'
Our 'festive scenes,' you know, depend on them in no small degree for their
zest. That isn't all, either. A full third of our population is over
'oysters' every morning at eleven o'clock. Young Smith, on his way down
town after breakfast, drops into the first saloon and absorbs some
oysters. At precisely eleven o'clock he is overcome with hunger and takes a
few on the 'half-shell.' In the course of an hour appetite clamors, and he
'oysters' again. So on till dinner-time, and, after dinner, oysters at
short intervals until bed-time."
And the stalwart stranger leaned back and laughed lustily for a few
seconds, until, abruptly checking his mirth, he, in solemn tones, directed
the waiter to introduce ale.
Then occurred an interesting exchange of courtesies. Social enlightenment
was vividly illustrated. The sparkling ale was set upon the table. In
silent contemplation, the two gentlemen awaited the subsidence of the
bead. Then, smiling intensely, they cordially grasped the flowing mugs;
they made the edges click; they paused.
"Sir," said one, with genial blandness.
"Sir," responded the other, in like manner.
Contemporaneously they partook of the cheering fluid. Gradually each
gentleman's nose was eclipsed by the aspiring orb of pottery. The mugs
assumed a lofty elevation, then fell, to rise no more. The two gentlemen
beamed with amity. Each respected the other, and the acquaintance was
Lorrimer was charmed to meet an intelligent being who would talk and be
talked to. He flattered himself he had exploited a "character," and was
determined not to allow him to slip away. He cautiously broke to his new
companion the fact that he was a native of New York, and was a little
surprised to see the announcement followed by no manifestation of awe, but
only a lively wink. He reserved his defamatory intentions respecting the
Common, and endeavored to draw the stranger out, who, in return, shot forth
eccentricities as profusely as the emery wheel of the street grinder emits
sparks when assailed by a scissors-blade.
Lorrimer learned that this delightful fellow's name was Glover, and
rejoiced greatly in so much knowledge.
Mr. Glover ordered in ale, and Mr. Lorrimer ordered in oysters,--and from
oysters to ale they pleasantly alternated for the space of two hours.
Cloud-compelling cigars varied at intervals the monotony of the
At length the young gentleman from New York vanquished his last "fried in
crumb," and victory perched upon his knife. Just then the gas-burners began
to meander queerly before his eyes. Around and above him he beheld showers
of glittering sparks,--snaky threads of light,--fantastic figures of
fire,--jets of liquid lustre. He communicated, in confidence, to
Mr. Glover, that his seat seemed to him of the nature of a rocking-chair
operating viciously upon a steep slated roof. Mr. Glover laughed, and
proposed an adjournment.
As they settled their little bills, Lorrimer thoughtlessly displayed a
plethoric pile of bank-notes. He saw, or fancied he saw, his companion gaze
at them in a manner which made him restless; but the circumstance soon
passed from his mind, until later events enforced the recollection.
When they walked into the open air, Mr. Lorrimer first became intimate with
a lamp-post, which he was loath to leave, and then bitterly bewailed his
ignorance of localities. Glover good-naturedly suggested that his young
friend would do well to take up quarters with him, that night, and promised
to conduct him wherever he desired to go, the next morning. His young
friend was not in the humor for hesitation, and, distrusting his own
perambulatory powers, gave himself up, without reserve, to Glover's
guidance. Linked together by their arms, they sailed along, like an
energetic little steam-tug, puffing, plunging, sputtering, under the shadow
of a serene and stately Indiaman.
The fog had now gathered solidity, and hung chillingly over the city's
heart. How desolate were the thoroughfares! The street-lamps gleamed
luridly from their stands, serving only to make the dreary darkness
visible. Lorrimer's late merry fancies were all extinguished as suddenly as
they had blazed forth. Even his sturdy guide showed a depression and
constraint that strangely contrasted with his former gayety. He vainly drew
upon his mirth-account; there was no issue, "Beastly fog!" said he, "we
might drill holes in it, and blast it with gunpowder!" They approached the
Common, and the hideous structure opposite West Street glared on them like
a fiery monster, and seemed exactly the reverse of the gate to a forty-acre
Paradise. Sheltering their faces from the wind, which now added its
inconveniences to the saturating atmosphere, they struck the broad avenue,
and pushed across towards the West End.
The wind sang most doleful strains, and the bending branches of the trees
sighed sadly over them. Lorrimer was filled with an anxious tribulation, as
he remembered the story of the villany that, two nights before, near the
spot where they now walked, and perhaps at the same hour, had been
perpetrated. An impulse, which he could not restrain, caused him to whisper
his fears to his companion. Glover laughed, a little uneasily, he thought,
but made no answer.
Soon they reached the opposite boundary of the Common, and continued
through Hancock Street, ascending and descending the hill. While passing
the reservoir in that dull gray darkness, Lorrimer felt as if under the
shadow of some giant tomb. Hastening forward, for it was growing late, they
threaded a number of the short avenues of Ward Three, and at length, when
young New York's endurance was nearly exhausted, reached their destination
in Chambers Street. It must have been the fatigue which, as they crossed
the threshold, propelled Mr. Lorrimer against the door, causing him to
stain himself unbecomingly with new paint.
They mounted the stairs, and entered a comfortable apartment, in which a
fresh fire was diffusing a most welcome glow, and a spacious bed
luxuriously invited occupancy. Lorrimer had but one grief, which he freely
communicated to his host,--his fingers were liberally decorated with dark
daubs, to which he pointed with unsteady anguish.
"It's a filthy shame!" said he, with more energy of manner than certainty
A section of the chamber was separated from the rest by a screen. Into this
retreat Glover disappeared, and immediately returned with a bottle, from
which he poured an acid that effaced the spots. "It will wash away
anything," said he, laughing.
Lorrimer was superabundantly profuse in thanks, and announced that his mind
was now at ease. By some mysterious process, not clearly explicable to
himself, he contrived to lay aside a portion of his dress, and to dispose
himself within the folds of balmy bedclothes that awaited him. In forty
seconds he was dreaming.
Nearly an hour had elapsed when he half woke from an uneasy slumber, and
strove to collect his drowsy faculties. His sleep had been disturbed by
frightful visions. He had passed through a scene of violence on the Common;
he had been engaged in a life-and-death struggle with his new acquaintance;
he had been seized by unseen hands, and thrown into a vast vault. His brain
throbbed and his heart ached, as he endeavored to disentangle the
bewildering fancies of his sleep from wakeful reality.
He lay with his face to the wall, and the grotesque decorations of the
paper assumed ghostly forms, and moved menacingly before his eyes,
thrilling him through and through.
In a few moments the murmur of voices close at hand aroused him more
effectually. He then recollected the incidents of the night, and reproached
himself for his wild excesses, and his reckless and imprudent confidence in
a stranger. He dreaded to think what the consequences might be, and again
became confused with the memories of his distressing dreams.
Three facts, however, were fastened upon his mind. He could not forget
Glover's singular glance at his roll of bank-notes,--the hesitation to
converse about the garrote,--nor the bottle of acid which would "wash away
anything." Would it wash away stains of blood?
The sounds of subdued conversation again arrested his attention. He
listened earnestly, but without changing his position.
"Speak softly," said a voice which he recognized as Glover's,--"speak
softly; you will wake my guest."
Then the words failed to reach him for a few moments. He strained his ears,
and hardly breathed, for fear of interrupting a syllable. Presently he was
able to distinguish a few sentences.
"Do you call this a profitable job?" said a strange voice.
"Oh, very fair,--worth about fifty dollars, I should guess. I wouldn't
undertake such a piece of work at a smaller chance," said Glover.
"Shall you cut the face?" said the other, after a minute's pause.
"Of course," was the answer; "it's the only way to do it handsomely."
"Hum!--what do you use? steel?"
"Steel, by all means."
"I like it better; and I have a nice bit that has done service in this way
From Lorrimer's brow exuded a deadly sudor. His heart ceased to palpitate.
His muscles became rigid; his eyes fixed. His terror was almost too great
for him to bear. With difficulty he controlled himself, and listened again.
"Can it be done here?" asked the strange voice;--"will not the features be
"There is nothing deeply marked, except the eyes," said Glover, "and I can
easily remove them, you know."
"You can try the acid."
"The other way is best."
"I suppose it must be done quickly."
"So quickly that there will be no chance for any proof."
Lorrimer gasped feebly, and clutched the bedclothes with a nervous,
convulsive movement. He had no power to reflect upon his situation; but he
felt that he was lost. Alone and unaided, he could not hope to combat the
evil designs of two men, a single one of whom he knew was vastly his
superior in strength. His blood seemed to cease flowing in his veins. He
thought for an instant of springing from the bed, and imploring mercy; but
the nature of their conversation, with its minutiae of cruelty, forbade all
hope in that direction. His brain whirled, and he thought that reason was
about to forsake him. But a movement in the room restored him to a sense of
He saw the shadows changing their places, and knew that the light was
moving. He heard faint footsteps. Hope deserted him, and be closed his
eyes, quite despairing. When be opened them a minute later, he was in
Then hope returned. There might yet be a means of escape. They had left
him,--for how long he could not conjecture; but now, at least, he was
alone. What a flood of joy came over him then!
Swiftly and softly he threw off the bedclothes, and by the uncertain light
of the fire, which was still glimmering, found his way noiselessly to the
His trembling limbs at first refused to sustain him, but the thought of his
impending fate, should he remain, invested him with an unexpected
courage. Passing around the foot of the bed, he approached the door of the
As he moved, his shadow, dimly cast by the flickering embers, fell across
the mouth of the inclosure whence Glover had brought the acid. He shuddered
to think what might be hidden by that screen. He burned with curiosity,
even in that moment of danger. For a moment he even rashly thought of
seeking to penetrate the mystery.
Treading lightly, and partially supporting himself by the wall, lest his
feet should press too heavily upon some loose board and cause it to rattle
beneath him, he reached the door. It was not wholly closed, and with utmost
gentleness he essayed to pull it open. With all his care he could not
prevent it from creaking sharply. His nerves were again shaken, and a new
tremor assailed him. Tears filled his eyes. His heart was like ice, only
heavier, within him.
He stood for a minute motionless and half-unconscious. Then recovering
himself by a powerful effort, he advanced once more. Without venturing to
open the door wider, he worked through the narrow aperture, inch by inch,
stopping every few seconds for fear that the rustle of his shirt against
the jamb might be overheard. At length, by almost imperceptible movements,
he succeeded in gaining the head of the staircase.
Then he believed that his deliverance was near at hand. He had thus far
eluded detection, and it only remained for him to descend, and depart by
the outer door.
Bending forward at every step to catch the slightest echo of alarm, he felt
his way down through the darkness. The difficulty at this point was
great. As one recovered from a long illness finds his knees yield under him
at the first attempt to descend a staircase, just so it was with
Lorrimer. At one time a faintness came over him, and he was obliged to sit
down and rest. A movement above aroused him, and, starting up, he hurriedly
groped his way to the street-door.
The darkness was absolute. He could discern nothing, but, after a short
search, he caught hold of the handle and turned it slowly. The door
remained immovable. By another exploration he discovered a large key
suspended from a nail near the centre of the door. This he inserted in the
lock, and turned--with all the caution he could command. It was not enough,
for it snapped loudly.
A voice from the head of the stairs cried out, "Who is there?"
Lorrimer was appalled. He shook the door, but it remained fast. Like
lightning he passed his hand up and down the crevice in search of a hidden
bolt. He found nothing, and felt that he was in the hands of the
murderers;--for he could entertain no doubt of their design. In the agony
of desperation he flung out his arms, and a door beside him flew open. He
entered, and rushed to a window, which was easily lifted, and out of which
he threw himself at the moment that a light streamed into the apartment
When Mr. Lorrimer had finished relating to Captain Morrill, with all the
energy of truth, the more important of the above circumstances, that
officer arose, and, calling to his assistance a couple of his force,
started out in great haste in the direction of Chambers Street. Lorrimer,
who had been provided with shoes, hat, and coat, went with them. After a
little search, a row of houses with windows close upon the street was
found. More diligent examination showed that the door of one of these was
freshly painted. A vigorous assault upon the panels brought down the
household. Mr. Glover, and another person whose voice was identified by
Lorrimer, were marched off with few words to the station. Mr. Lorrimer's
clothes were rescued, and an officer was left to look after the premises.
Mr. Glover, on arriving at the station, expressed great indignation, and
employed uncivil terms in speaking of his late guest. Under the subduing
influences of Captain Merrill's treatment, he soon became tranquil, and
subsequently manifested an excess of hilarity, which the guardians of the
night strove in vain to check. But he answered unreservedly all the
questions which Captain Morrill put to him. His statement ran somewhat
"I met this young man, for the first time, a few hours ago, at an
oyster-saloon on Washington Street. We drank a good deal of ale, and he
lost his balance. I kept mine. I saw he had a pretty large amount of money,
and doubted his ability to keep as good a watch over it as he ought to. So
I took him home with me. On the way he would talk uneasily about garrote
robberies, but I refused to encourage him.
"You want to know about that alarming conversation? Well,"--(here Mr.
Glover was so overcome with merriment, that, after a proper time, the
interposition of official authority became necessary,)--"well, I am an
engraver. My business is mainly to cut heads. Sometimes I use steel,
sometimes copper. My brother, who is also an engraver, and I were
discussing a new commission. I told him I should make use of a good bit of
steel, which had already been engraved upon, but not so deeply but that the
lines could be easily removed, excepting the eyes, which would have to be
scraped away. My allusion to proof is easily explained: it is common for
engravers to have a proof-impression taken of their work after it is
finished, by which they are enabled to detect any imperfections, and remedy
"I am very sorry that my young friend should have considered me so much of
a blood-thirsty ruffian. But the ale of Boston is no doubt strange to him,
and his confusion at finding himself in a large city quite
natural. Besides, his suspicions were in some degree reciprocated. When I
saw him flying out of the window, I was convinced that he must be an
ingenious burglar, and instantly ran back to examine my tools. I am glad to
find that I was wrong. If he will return now with me, he shall be welcome
to his share of the bed."
Mr. Lorrimer politely, but positively, declined.
Captain Morrill urbanely apologized to Mr. Glover, and engaged himself to
make it right in the morning; whereupon Mr. Glover withdrew in cachinnatory
convulsions. Mr. Lorrimer was instructed to resume his proper garments, and
was then conveyed safely to his hotel, where he remained in deep
abstraction until Monday, when, after transacting his business, he took the
afternoon return-train for New York.
The case was not entered upon the records of the Third District Police.
* * * * *
THE GRANADAN GIRL'S SONG.
All day the lime blows in the sun,
All day the silver aspens quiver,
All day along the far blue plain
Winds serpent-like the golden river.
From clustering flower and myrtle bower
Sweet sounds arise forever,
From gleaming tower with crescent dower
Our banner floats forever.
Its purple bloom the grape puts on,
Pulping to this Granadan summer,
And heavy dews shake through the globes
Scarce stirred by some bright-winged new-comer,
On gyon brown hill, where all is still,
Where lightly rides the muleteer,
With jangling bells, whose burden swells
Till shaft and arch rise fine and clear.
As one by one the shadows creep
Back to their lairs in hilly hollows,
A broader splendor issues forth
And on their track in silence follows;
A fuller air swims everywhere,
A freer murmur shakes the bough,
A thousand fires surprise the spires,
And all the city wakes below.
What morn shall rise, what cursed morn,
To find this bright pomp all surrendered,
These palaces an empty shell,
This vigor listless ruin rendered,--
While every sprite of its delight
Mocks fickle echoes through the court,
And in our place a sculptured trace
Saddens some stranger's careless sport?
Oh, gay with all the stately stir,
And bending to your silken flowing,
One day, my banner-poles, ye creak
Naked beneath the high winds blowing!
One day ye fall across the wall
And moulder in the moat's green bosom,
While in the cleft the wild tree left
Bursts into spikes of cruel blossom!
Ah, never dawn that day for me!
O Fate, its fierce foreboding banish!
When all our hosts, like pallid ghosts
Blown on by morning, melt and vanish!
Oh, in the fires of their desires
Consume the toil of those invaders!
And let the brand divide the hand
That grasps the hilt of the Crusaders!
Yet idle words in such a scene!
Yon rosy mists on high careering,--
The Moorish cavaliers who fleet
With hawk and hound and distant cheering,--
The dipping sail puffed to the gale,
The prow that spurns the billow's fawning,--
How can they fade to dimmer shade,
And how this day desert its dawning?
Forget to soar, thou rosy rack!
Ye riders, bronze your airy motion!
Still skim the seas, so snowy craft,--
Forever sail to meet the ocean!
There bid the tide refuse to slide,
Glassing, below, thy drooping pinion,--
Forever cease its wild caprice,
Fallen at the feet of our dominion!
* * * * *
To-day, Estelle, your special messenger, the Humming-Bird, comes darting to
our oriel, my Orient. As I sat sewing, his sudden, unexpected whirr made me
look up. How did he know that the very first Japan-pear-bud opened this
morning? Flower and bird came together by some wise prescience.
He has been sipping honey from your passion-flowers, and now has come to
taste my blossoms. What bright-winged thought of yours sent him so straight
to me, across that wide space of sea and land? Did he dart like a sunbeam
all the way? There were many of them voyaged together; a little line of
wavering light pierced the dark that night.
A large, brave heart has our bold sailor of the upper deep. Old Pindar
never saw our little pet, this darling of the New World; yet he says,--
"Were it the will of Heaven, an osier-bough Were vessel safe enough the
seas to plough."
Here he is, safe enough, not one tiny feather ruffled,--all the intense
life of the tropics condensed into this one live jewel,--the glance of the
sun on emeralds and rubies. Is it soft downy feathers that take this rich
metallic glow, changing their hue with every rapid turn?
Other birds fly: he darts quick as the glance of the eye,--sudden as
thought, he is here, he is there. No floating, balancing motion, like the
lazy butterfly, who fans the air with her broad sails. To the point, always
to the point, he turns in straight lines. How stumbling and heavy is the
flight of the "burly, dozing bumblebee," beside this quick intelligence!
Our knight of the ruby throat, with lance in rest, makes wild and rapid
sallies on this "little mundane bird,"--this bumblebee,--this rolling
sailor, never off his sea-legs, always spinning his long homespun
yarns. This rich bed of golden and crimson flowers is a handsome field of
tournament. What invisible circle sits round to adjudge the prize?
What secret does he bring me under those misty wings,--that busy birring
sound, like Neighbor Clark's spinning-wheel? Is he busy as well, this bit
of pure light and heat? Yes! he, too, has got a little home down in the
swamp over there,--that bit of a knot on the young oak-sapling. Last year
we found a nest (and brought it home) lined with the floss of
willow-catkin, stuck all over with lichens, deep enough to secure the two
pure round pearls from being thrown out, strongly fastened to the forked
branch,--a home so snug, so warm, so soft!--a home "contrived for fairy
Who but the fairies, or Mr. Fine-Ear himself, ever heard the tiny tap of
the young bird, when he breaks the imprisoning shell?
The mother-bird knows well the fine sound. Hours? days? no, weeks, she has
sat to hear at last that least wave of sound.
What! this tiny bit of restless motion sit there still? Minutes must be
long hours to her quick panting heart.
I will just whisper it in your ear, that the meek-looking mother-bird only
comes out between daylight and dark,--just like other busy mothers I have
known, who take a little run out after tea.
Can it be, that Mr. Ruby-Throat, my _preux chevalier_, keeps all the
sunshiny hours for himself, that he may enjoy to the full his own gay
Ah! you know nothing, hear nothing of woman's rights up there, in that
well-ordered household. Were it not well, if we, too, could give up our
royal right of choice,--if we could fall back on our strong earth-born
instincts, to be, to know, to do, one thing?
See how closely our darling curls up his slender black feet and legs, that
we may not see this one bit of mortality about him! No, my little immortal
does not touch the earth; he hangs suspended by that long bill, which just
tethers him to its flowers. Now and then he will let down the little black
tendrils of legs and feet on some bare twig, and there be rests and preens
those already smooth plumules with the long slender bodkin you lent
him. Now, just now, he darts into my room, coquets with my basket of
flowers, "a kiss, a touch, and then away." I heard the whirr of those gauzy
wings; it was not to the flowers alone he told his story. You did well to
trust this most passionate pilgrim with your secret; the room is radiant
with it. Slow-flying doves may well draw the car of Venus; but this arrow
tipped with flame darts before, to tell of its coming. What need of word,
of song, with that iridescent glow? Some day I will hear the whole story;
just now let the Humming-Bird keep it under his misty wings.
I have heard of a lady who reared these little birds from the nest; they
would suck honey from her lips, and fly in and out of her chamber. Only
think of seeing these callow fledglings! It is as if the winged thought
could be domesticated, could learn to make its nest with us and rear its
Bountiful Nature has spared to our cold North this one compact bit from the
* * * * *
I believe we allow that birds are very highly organized creatures,--next to
man, they say. We, with our weary feet plodding always on the earth, our
heavy arms pinioned close to our sides!--look at this live creature, with
thinnest wing cutting the fine air! We, slow in word, slow in
thought!--look at this quivering flame, kindled by some more passionate
glance of Nature! Next to man? Yes, we might say next above. Had it not
been for that fire we stole one day, that Promethean spark, hidden in the
ashes, kept a-light ever since, it had gone hard with us; Nature might have
kept her pet, her darling, high, high above us,--almost out of roach of our
What is our boasted speech, with its harsh, rude sounds, to their gushing
melody? We learn music, certainly, with much pains and care. The bird
cannot tell if it be A sharp or B flat, but he sings.
Our old friend, the friend of our childhood, Mr. White of Selborne, (who
had attended much to the life and conversation of birds,) says, "Their
language is very elliptical; little is said, and much is meant and
understood." Something like a lady's letter, is it not?
How wise we might grow, if we could only "the bird-language rightly spell"!
In the olden times, we are told, the Caliphs and Viziers always listened to
what the birds said about it, before they undertook any new enterprise. I
have often thought I heard wise old folk discoursing, when a company of
hens were busy on the side-hill, scratching and clucking
together. Perchance some day we shall pick up a leaf of that herb which
shall open our ears to these now inarticulate sounds.
Why may we not (just for this summer) believe in Transmigrations, and find
some elder civilization embodied in this community of birds,--all those
lost arts taken wings, not to fly away, but to come flitting and building
in our trees, picking crumbs from our door-steps?
Do they say birds are limited? Who are we that set bounds to this direct
knowledge, this instinct? Mathematical, constructive, they certainly
are. What bold architect has builded so snug, so airy a house,--well
concealed, and yet with a good outlook? We make our dwellings conspicuous;
they hide their pretty art.
We wiseacres, who stay at home, instead of following the seasons round the
globe, should learn the art of making happy homes; yet what housekeeper
will not hang her head in shame and despair, to see this nice adaptation of
use to wants, shown each year in multitudes of nests? Now, only look at
it! always just room enough,--none to spare. First, the four or five eggs
lie comfortably in the small round at the bottom of the nest, with room
enough for the mother robin to give them the whole warmth of her broad red
breast,--her sloping back and wings making a rain-proof roof over her
jewels. Then the callow younglings rise a little higher into the wider
circle. Next the fledglings brim the cup; at last it runs over; four large
clumsy robins flutter to the ground, with much noise, much anxious calling
from papa and mamma,--much good advice, no doubt. They are fairly turned
out to shift for themselves; with the same wise, unfathomable eyes which
have mirrored the round world for so many years, which know all things, say
nothing, older than time, lively and quick as to-day; with the same
touching melody in their long monotonous call; soon with the same power of
wing; next year to build a nest with the same wise economy, each young
robin carrying in his own swelling, bulging breast the model of the hollow
circle, the cradle of other young robins. So you see it is a nest within a
nest,--a whole nest of nests; like Vishnu Sarma's fables, or Scheherazade's
stories, you can never find where one leaves off and another begins, they
shut so one into the other. No wonder the children and philosophers are
they who ask, whether the egg comes from the bird, or the bird from the
egg. Yes, it is a _Heimskringla_, a world-circle, a home-circle, this nest.
You remember that little, old, withered man who used to bring us eggs; the
boys, you know, called him Egg Pop. When the thrifty housewife complained
of the small size of his ware, he always said,--
"Yes, Marm, they be small; but they be monstrous full."
Yes, the packing of the nest is close; but closer is the packing of the
egg. "As full as an egg of meat" is a wise proverb.
Let us look at these first-fruits which the bountiful Spring hangs on our
"To break the eggshell after the meat is out we are taught in our
childhood, and practise it all our lives; which, nevertheless, is but a
superstitious relict, according to the judgment of Pliny, and the intent
hereof was to prevent witch-craft [to keep the fairies out]; for lest
witches should draw or prick their names therein, and veneficiously
mischief their persons, they broke the shell, as Dalecampius hath
observed." This is what Sir Thomas Browne tells us about eggshells. And
Dr. Wren adds, "Least they [the witches] perchance might use them for
boates to sayle in by night." But I, who have no fear of witches, would not
break them,--rather use them, try what an untold variety of forms we may
make out of this delicate oval.
By a little skilful turning and reversing, putting on a handle, a lip here,
a foot there, always following the sacred oval, we shall get a countless
array of pitchers and vases, of perfect finished form, handsome enough to
be the oval for a king's name. Should they attempt to copy our rare vases
in finest Parian, alabaster, or jasper, their art would fail to hit the
delicate tints and smoothness of this fine shell; and then those dots and
dashes, careless as put on by a master's hand!
Are not these rare lines? They look to me as wise as hieroglyphics. Who
knows what rhyme and reason are written there,--what subtile wisdom rounded
into this small curve,--repeated on the breasts and backs of the
birds,--their own notes, it may be, photographed on their swelling breasts
like the musical notes on the harp-shell,--written in bright, almost
audible colors on the petals of flowers,--harmonies, melodies, for ear and
eye? Has this language, older than Erse, older than Sanscrit, ever got
translated? I am afraid, dear, the key has been turned in the lock, and
thrown into the well.
The ornithologists tell us that some birds build nicer nests, sing sweeter
songs, than their companions of the same species. Can experience add wisdom
to instinct? or is it the right of the elder-born,--the birthright of the
young robin who first breaks the shell? Who has rightly looked into these
I half remember the story of a beautiful princess who had all imaginable
wealth in her stately palace, itself builded up of rare and costly
jewels. She had everything that heart could desire,--everything but a roc's
egg. Her mind was contracted with sorrow, till she could procure this one
ornament more to her splendors. I think it turned out that the palace
itself was built within the roc's egg. These birds are immense, and take up
three elephants at a time in their powerful talons, (almost as many as
Gordon Cumming himself, on a good day's hunt,) and their eggs are like
Now, do not you be like the foolish princess, and desire a roc's egg; it
will prove a stone, the egg of a rock, indeed. Be content rather with this
ostrich-egg I send you; with your own slender fingers lift the
lid;--pretty, is it not, the tea-service I send you? The tidy warblers
threw out the emptied shells; one by one I picked them up, and have made
cups and saucers, bowls and pitchers for you: a roc's egg never held
anything one-half so fine.
You will say I am a fairy, as brother Evelyn says, when I relate to him the
fine sights and sounds I have seen and heard in the woods. No, but the
little silent people are very good to me.
Let me, then, go on my bird's-egging and tell you one more fact about our
fairy, our Humming-Bird. Audubon says "that an all-wise Providence has made
this little hero an exception to a rule which prevails almost universally
through Nature,--namely, that the smallest species of a tribe are the most
prolific. The eagle lays one, sometimes two eggs; the small European wren
fifteen; the humming-bird two: and yet this latter is abundantly more
numerous in America than the wren in Europe." All on account of his
wonderful courage, admirable instinct, or whatever it is that guards and
guides him so unerringly.
You see we may well love him whom
Nature herself loves so dearly.
"Ce que Dieu garde est bien garde."
Ah, Estelle! your bonnie birdie, with
his wild whirr, darting back and forth
like a weaver's shuttle weaving fine
wefts, has got into my head; not "bee-bonneted,"
but bird-bonneted, I go. Yes,
this day shall be given to the king, as
our country-folk say, when they go a-pleasuring.
I am off with the little wool-gatherers,
to see what thorn and brier
and fern-stalk and willow-catkin will give
me. Good-day! good-day!
SUSAN, SUSY, SUE.
P. S. "May our friendship never
moult a feather!"
* * * * *
Schatrenschar, the Persian, who could count the stars one by one, who is
known to have been borne, (by the Simorg, the Eternal Fowl,) at midnight,
first to the evening star, and then to the moon, and then set down safely
in his home,--and Al Kahlminar, the Arabian, who was a mystic seer, and had
conversed face to face with the Demons of the Seven Planets, approaching
also, on one occasion, so nigh unto Uriel that his beard was singed by the
sun, wherein that angel resideth,--these, ten million years ago, lived in
their palaces on adjoining estates and lands. But about the boundary-line
atwixt them they could not agree: Schatrenschar maintaining that he had
lived there longest, and had a right to choose where the wall should be
built between himself and a later comer; Al Kahlminar declaring that the
world was not made for Schatrenschar,--furthermore, that the Astronomer had
paid nothing for the land, and had already more than he could attend to,
since his chief devotion was manifestly to the estates he was reputed to
own in Venus and the moon. They came to no decision; and it was beneath the
dignity of these men, who prided themselves on being confidants elect of
invisible and superior worlds, publicly to wrangle about the gross soil of
this. Nevertheless, Schatrenschar, at last, losing patience, cried,--
"Al Kahlminar, 'tis but by the grace of Yezdan, who hath commissioned me to
watch the sacred stars, which reveal not themselves to the violent, that I
am saved this day from flogging thee!"
To this the Seer: "O Schatrenschar, thou must have left in some of thy
other worlds, mayhap in Venus, the limbs which can cope with these."
"Nay," replied the Astronomer, discerning some truth in that remark, "but I
am not alone, Al Kahlminar; I have within my palace two valiant knights,
skilled with the steed and the spear, who are ready to go forth in my stead
at a word."
"And I," answered the Mystic, warming, "have two godly priests, men skilled
by the orthodox beheading of heretics into the aim and valor of Arjoon
himself. Your knights cannot stand before these messengers of Heaven; they
will tremble like aspen-leaves, lest Allah be wroth, if they receive harm."
"If thou shouldst bring forth thy priests, Al Kahlminar, then would I
confront them and thee with the two elephants which my brother sent me
lately from Geestan, on each of which I can place a rook with a slave
cunning with the javelin, before which thy priests will flee; for the
animals see no difference between priests and other mortals;--the elephant
is sagacious, neighbor!"
"And I," said the other, "haye riches, which thou hast not. Whatever thou
hast wherewith to extend thy line into my lot, I can oppose with an equal
force,--nay, with a stronger."
Schatrenschar hereupon paused in deep meditation. Presently a subtile
thought struck him. He took a parchment-leaf and drew thereon a diagram;
and after inscribing several hieroglyphic characters, he cried out,--
"Hearken, Al Kahlminar; hast thou not heard it among the sayings of Sasan,
that the battle is not always to him who hath the superior physical force?
Suppose that in our encounter thy forces stood here, as marked on these
squares: by what stratagem couldst thou reach me, who stand here with even
fewer and weaker men? If thou canst tell as much without my assistance, I
will yield the boundary-line; for it will show thee to have a calculation
equal to my own, as well as riches."
Al Kahlminar pondered long, suffered manifold headaches, closed not an
eyelid for a week, but could not give answer. The Mystic was used to seeing
only those things to see which the eyes must be closed. At length
Schatrenschar opened the problem to him, which so delighted his heart that
he clave unto him, and besought him that their estates should be one, and
that he would use his (Al Kahlminar's) riches as his own. A bower was built
midway between their houses, wherein they sat for hours over other
diagrams, contrived first by the Astronomer afterward by the Mystic: and
out of it arose a curious and knightly play which beareth to this day the
* * * * *
Perhaps this last line of the old Sanscrit story is the only veracious
thing in it. Perhaps it is all true. Who can answer? Was there ever a
great thing whose origin was not in some doubt? If so with the Iliad, with
Platonic Dialogues, with Shakspearian Plays, how naturally so with Chess!
The historic sinew of the above would seem to be, that Schatrenschar, the
Oriental word for Chess, is the name of a very ancient and learned
astronomer of Persia; how much mythologic fat has enveloped said sinew the
reader must decide. Philological inquisition of the origin of the low Latin
_Scacchi_ (whence the French _Echecs_, Ger. _Schach_, and our _Chess,_) has
led to a variety of conclusions. Leunclavius takes it from _Uscoches_,
famous Turkish banditti. Sirmond finds the word's parent in German
_Schaecher_ (robber) and grandparent in _Calculus_! Tolosanus derives
_check-mate_ from Heb. _schach_ (to prevail) and _mat_ (dead). Fabricius
favors the idea we have given above, and says, "A celebrated Persian
astronomer, one Schatrenschar, invented the game of Chess, and gave it his
own name, which it still bears in that country." Nicod derives it from
_Xeque_, a Moorish word for Prince or Lord. Bochart maintains that
_Schach-mat_ is originally Persian, and means "the king is dead." We
incline to accept this last opinion; and believe, that, though the game
must have originated with some person, perhaps Schatrenschar, yet it
reached its present form and perfection only through many touchings and
retouchings of men and generations. Pope's translation of the "Odyssey" has
led many persons to think that chess was known to the ancient Greeks,
because, in describing the sports of Penelope's suitors, the translator
"With rival art and ardor in their mien,
At Chess they vie to captivate the Queen."
But there can be little doubt that this is an anachronism.
In short, we may safely conclude that the game is of purely Oriental
origin. The Hindoos claim to have originated it,--or rather, say that Siva,
the Third Person of their Trinity, (Siva, the Destroyer,--alas! of time?)
gave it to them; Professor Forbes has shown that it has been known among
them five thousand years; but words tell no myths, and the Bengalee name
for Chess, _Shathorunch_, casts its ballot for Persia and
Shatrenschar;--though India may almost claim it, on account of the greater
perfection to which it has brought the game, and the lead it has always
taken in chess-culture. India rejoices in a flourishing chess-school. The
Indian Problem is known as the perfection of Enigmatic Chess. And if Paul
Morphy had gone to Calcutta, instead of London and Paris, he would have
found there one Mohesh Ghutuck, who, without discovering that he was a
P. and move behind his best play, and without becoming too sick to proceed
with the match, would have given him a much finer game than any antagonist
he has yet encountered. This Mohesh, who was presented by his admiring king
with a richly-carved chess-king of solid gold nine inches high, not only
plays a fabulous number of games at once whilst he lies on the ground with
closed eyes, but games that none of the many fine native and English
players of India can engage in but with dismay. Fine, indeed, it would have
been, if the world could have seen in the youths of Calcutta and New
Orleans the extreme West matched with the extreme East!
There is no call for any one to vindicate this game. Chess is a great,
worldwide fact. Wherever a highway is found, there, we may be sure, a
reason existed for a highway. And when we find that the explorer on his
northward voyage, pausing a day in Iceland, may pass his time in keen
encounters with the natives,--that the trader in Kamtschatka and China,
unable to speak a word with the people surrounding him, yet holds a long
evening's converse over the board which is polyglot,--that the missionary
returns from his pulpit, and the Hindoo from his widow-burning, to engage
in a controversy without the _theologicum odium_ attached,--the game
becomes authentic from its universality. It is akin to music, to love, to
joy, in that it sets aside alike social caste and sectarian differences:
kings and peasants, warriors and priests, lords and ladies, mingle over the
board as they are represented upon it. "The earliest chess-men on the banks
of the Sacred River were worshippers of Buddha; a player whose name and
fame have grown into an Arabic proverb was a Moslem; a Hebrew Rabbi of
renown, in and out of the Synagogues, wrote one of the finest chess poems
extant; a Catholic priest of Spain has bestowed his name upon two openings;
one of the foremost problem--composers of the age is a Protestant clergyman
of England; and the Greek Church numbers several cultivators of chess
unrivaled in our day." It has received eulogies from Burton,--from
Castiglione,--from Chatham, who, in reply to a compliment on a grand stroke
of invention and successful oratory, said, "My success arose only from
having been checkmated by discovery, the day before, at chess,"--from
Comenius, the grammarian,--from Conde, Cowley, Denham, Justus van Effen,
Sir Thomas Elyot, Guillim, Helvetia, Huarte, Sir William Jones, Leibnitz,
Lydgate, Olaus Magnus, Pasquier, Sir Walter Raleigh, Rousseau, Voltaire,
Samuel Warren, Warton, Franklin, Buckle, and many others of ability in
every department of letters, philosophy, and art. We know of but one man of
genius or learning--who has repudiated it,--Montaigne. "Or if he
[Alexander] played at chess," says Montaigne, "what string of his soul was
not touched by this idle and childish game? I hate and avoid it because it
is not play enough,--that it is too grave and serious a diversion; and I am
ashamed to lay out as much thought and study upon that as would serve to
much better uses." Looked at simply as a diversion, chess might naturally
impress a man of intellectual earnestness thus. It is not a diversion; a
recreation it may be called, but only as any variation from "the shop" is
recreative. But chess has, by the experiences of many, sufficiently proved
itself to have serious uses to men of thought, and in the way of an
intellectual gymnasium. It is to the limbs and sinews of the
mind--prudence, foresight, memory, combination, analysis--just what a
gymnasium is to the body. In it every muscle, every joint of the
understanding is put under drill; and we know, that, where the mind does
not have exercise for its body, but relics simply on idle cessation for its
reinforcement, it will get too much lymph. Work is worship; but work
without rest is idolatry. And rest is not, as some seem to think, a swoon,
a slumber; it is an active receptivity, a masterly inactivity, which alone
can deserve the fine name of Rest. Such, we believe, our favorite game
secures better than all others. Besides this direct use, one who loves it
finds many other incidental uses starting up about it,--such as made
Archbishop Magnus, the learned historian of Sweden, say, "Anger, love,
peevishness, covetousness, dulness, idleness, and many other passions and
motions of the minds of men may be discovered by it."--But we promised not
to vindicate chess, and shall leave this portion of our topic with the fine
verse of the Oriental bard, Ibn ul Mutazz:--
"O thou whose cynic sneers express
The censure of our favorite chess,
Know that its skill is Science' self,
Its play distraction from distress.
It soothes the anxious lover's care;
It weans the drunkard from excess;
It counsels warriors in their art,
When dangers threat and perils press;
And yields us, when we need them most,
Companions in our loneliness." 
[Footnote 1: Translated in that excellent periodical, which no lover of
chess should be without, _The Chess Monthly_, edited by Fiske and Morphy,
New York. (Vol. i. p. 92.)]
Now that the Persian poet has touched his lyre in our pages, we will not at
once pass to any cold geographical or analytical realm of our subject, but
pause awhile to cull some flowers of song which have sprung up on good
English soil, which the feet of Caissa have ever loved to press. No other
games, and few other subjects, have gathered about them so rich a
literature, or been intertwined with so much philological and historical
lore. Not the least of this is to be found in the English classics, from
which we propose to make one or two selections. We begin where English
poetry begins, with Dan Chaucer; and from many beautiful conceits turning
upon chess, we select one which must receive universal admiration. It is
from the "Booke of the Duchesse."
"My boldnesse is turned to shame,
For false Fortune hath played a game
At the Chesse with me.
"At the Chesse with me she gan to play,
With her false draughts full divers
Sho stale on me, and toke my fers:
And when I sawe my fers away,
Alas! I couth no longer play.
"Therewith Fortune said,' Checke here,
And mate in the mid point of the checkere
With a paune errant.' Alas!
Full craftier to play she was
Than Athalus, that made the game
First of the Chesse, so was his name."
[Footnote 1: Mediaeval name for the Queen, (originally
the Counsellor,)--the strength of the
In the early part of the seventeenth century, Thomas Middleton wrote a
comedy styled "A Game at Chess," which was acted at the Globe
(Shakspeare's) nine times successively. It seems to have been a severe
tirade on the religious aspects of the times. The stage directions are
significant: for example:--Act I., Scene 1. _Enter severally, in order of
the game, the White and Black houses_. Act II., Scene 1. _Enter severally
White Queen's Pawnes and Black Queen's Pawnes_. The Prologue is as
"What of the game called Chesse-play can be made
To make a stage-play shall this day be played.
First you shall see the men in order set,
States, and their Pawnes, when both the sides are met;
The houses well distinguished: in the game
Some men entrapt, and taken to their shame,
Bewarded by their play: and in the close
You shall see checque-mate given to Virtue's foes.
But the fair'st jewel that our hopes can decke
Is so to play our game t'avoid your checke."
The play excited indignation in the partisans of the Romish Church, and was
not only suppressed by James I., but at the demand of the Queen its author
was imprisoned, and was relieved only by a witty verse sent to the King.
The last which we have room to quote is anonymous, and of date near
1632. It may have been written by the celebrated divine, Thomas Jackson, of
Corpus-Christi College, whose discourse comparing the visible world to a
"Devil's Chess-board" evidently suggested the familiar etching in which
Satan contends with a youth for his soul. The lines are entitled:
"A lowly one I saw,
With aim fist high:
Ne to the righte,
Ne to the lefte
Veering, he marched by his Lawe,
The crested Knyghte passed by,
And haughty surplice-vest,
As onward toward his heste
With patient step he prest,
Soothfaste his eye:
Now, lo! the last doore yieldeth,
His hand a sceptre wieldeth,
A crowne his forehead shieldeth!
"So 'mergeth the true-hearted,
With aim fixt high,
From place obscure and lowly:
Veereth he nought;
His work he wroughte.
How many loyall paths be trod,
Soe many royall Crownes hath God!"
It is very clear that the pawns in chess represent the common soldiers in
battle. The Germans call them "peasants" (_Bauern_); the Hindoos call them
_Baul_, or "powers" (in the sense of _force_); and that each of these, if
he can pursue his file to its end, should win a crown has always given to
this game a popular stamp. These pawns are doubtless, next to knights, the
most interesting pieces on the board: Philidor called them "the soul of
At an early period Asiatic chess was divided into two branches,--known
amongst players as Chinese and Indian. They are different games in many
respects, and yet enough alike to show that they were at some period the
same. The Chinese game maintains its place in Eastern Asia, Japan, etc.; in
the islands of the Archipelago, and, with very slight modifications,
throughout the civilized world, the Indian game is played. Indeed, there is
no difference between Indian and European chess, except that in the former
the Bishop is called Elephant,--the Rooks, Boats,--the Queen, Minister: the
movements of the pieces are the same.
Of Chinese chess some description will be more novel. Their chess-board,
like ours, has sixty-four squares, which are not distinguished into
alternate black and white squares. The pieces are not placed on the
squares, but on the corners of the squares. The board is divided into two
equal parts by an uncheckered space, which is called the River. There are
nine points on each line, and forty-five on each half of the board. They
have the same number of pieces with ourselves. Each player has a king, two
guards, two elephants, two knights, two chariots, two cannon, and five
pawns. Each player places nine pieces on the first line of the board,--the
king in the centre, a guard on each side of him, two elephants next, two
knights next, and then the two chariots upon the extremities of the board;
the two cannons go in front of the two knights and the pawns on the fourth
The king moves only one square at a time, but not diagonally, and only in
an _enceinte_, or court, of four squares,--to wit, his own, the queen's,
queen's paw and king's pawn's. Castling is unknown. The two guards remain
in the same limits, but can move only diagonally; thus we have in our king
both the Chinese king and his guard. The elephants move diagonally, two
squares at a time, and cannot pass the river. Their knight moves like ours,
but must not pass over pieces; he can pass the river, which counts as one
square. The chariots and cannon move like our castles, and can cross the
river. The pawns always move one step, and may move sidewise as well as
forward,--taking in the same line in which they move; they cross the
river. The cannon alone can pass over any piece; indeed, a cannon can take
only when there is a piece between it and the piece it takes,--which
intervening piece may belong to either player. The king must not be
opposite the other king without a piece between. All this certainly sounds
very complex and awkward to the English or American player; and our game
has the preferable tendency of increasing the power of the pieces, (as
distinct from pawns,) rather than, with theirs, limiting their powers and
multiplying their number. However, it is probable, whatever may be the
respective merits of the two games, that neither of them will ever be
altered; the Chinese, who can roast his pig only by burning the sty,
because the first historic roast-pig was so roasted, will be likely to
continue his chess as nearly as possible in the same form as the celestial
Tia-hoang and the terrestrial Yin-hoang played it a million years ago. In
Europe and America we have all complacently concluded, that, when David
said he had seen an end of all perfection, it only indicated that he was
unacquainted with chess as played in accordance with Staunton's Handbook.
But it is only the Indian game which has had a development equal to the
development of the civilized arts. This has been chiefly through what are
called by the Italian-French name of _gambits_. There is much prejudice,
amongst a certain class of chess-players, against what is called
"book-chess," but it rarely exists with players of the first rank. These
gambits are as necessary to the first-rate player as are classifications to
the naturalist. They are the venerable results of experience; and he who
tries to excel without an acquaintance with them will find that it is much
as if he should ignore the results of the past and put his hand into the
fire to prove that fire would burn. If he should try every method of
answering a special attack, he would be sure to find in the end that the
method laid down in the gambit was the true one. An acquaintance,
therefore, with these approved openings puts a player at an advanced
starting-point in a game, inexhaustible enough in any case, and where he
need not take time in doing what others have already done. Although we
design in this article to refrain, as much as possible, from technical
chess, it may be well enough to give a list of the usual openings, and
1. P. to K. 4th. 1. P. to K. 4th.
2. Kt. to K.B. 3d. 2. P. to Q. 3d.
1. P. to K. 4th 1. P. to K. 4th.
2. Kt. to K.B. 3d. 2. Kt. to Q.B. 3d.
3. B. to Q.B. 4th. 3. B. to Q.B. 4th.
4. P. to Q. 3d or Q.B. 3d.
RUY LOPEZ'S KNIGHT'S GAME.
1. P. to K. 4th. 1. P. to K. 4th.
2. Kt. to K.B. 3d. 2. Kt. to Q.B. 3d.
3. B. to Q.Kt. 5th.
1. P. to K. 4th. 1. P. to K. 4th.
2. Kt. to K.B. 3d. 2. Kt. to K.B. 3d.
Q. PAWN OR SCOTCH GAME.
(_So named from the great match between London
and Edinburgh in_ 1826, _but first analyzed
as a gambit by Ghulam Xassitrt, Madras,_
1. P. to K. 4th. 1. P. to K. 4th.
2. Kt. to K.B. 3d. 2. Kt. to Q.B. 3d.
3. P. to Q. 4th.
(_Ancient Italian MS_.)
1. P. to K. 4th. 1. P. to Q.B. 4th.
(_Captain Evans_, 1833.)
1. P. to K. 4th. 1. P. to K. 4th.
2. Kt. to K.B. 3d. 2. Kt. to Q.B. 3d.
3. B. to Q.B. 4th. 3. B. to Q.B. 4th.
4. P. to Q.Kt. 4th.
KING'S BISHOP'S GAMBIT.
1. P. to K. 4th. 1. P. to K. 4th.
2. B. to Q.B. 4th. 2. B. to Q.B. 4th.
KING'S KNIGHT'S GAMBIT.
1. P. to K. 4th. 1. P. to K. 4th.
2. P. to K.B. 4th. 2. P. takes P.
3. Kt. to K.B. 3d. 3. P. to K.Kt. 4th.
4. B. to Q.B. 4th. 4. B. to K.Kt. 2d.
_(Johann Allgaier_, 1795.)
1. P. to K. 4th. 1. P. to K. 4th.
2. P. to K.B. 4th. 2. P. takes P.
3. Kt. to K.B. 3d. 3. P. to K.Kt. 4th,
4. P. to K.B. 4th.
(_Preserved by Salvio_, 1604.)
1. P. to K. 4th. 1. P. to K. 4th.
2. P. to K.B. 4th. 2. P. takes P.
3. Kt. to K.B. 3d. 3. P. to K.Kt. 4th.
4. B. to K.B. 4th. 4. P. to K.Kt. 5th.
5. Castles. 5. P. takes Kt.
(_Preserved from the Portuguese by Salvio_, 1604.)
1. P. to K. 4th. 1. P. to K. 4th.
2. P. to K.B. 4th. 2. P. takes P.
3. K.Kt. to B. 3d. 3. P. to K.Kt. 4th.
4. K.B. to Q.B. 4th. 4. P. to K.Kt. 5th.
5. Kt. to K. 5th. 5. Q.to K.R.'s 5th. (ch.)
6. K. to B. Sq. 6. K.Kt. to B. 3d.
1. P. to K. 4th. 1. P. to K. 3d.
These gambits may be classed under what are, in common phrase, termed
"open" or "close" games; an open game being where the pieces are brought
out into more immediate engagement,--a close game where the pawns
interlock, and the pieces can less easily issue to the attack. An instance
of the former may be found in the Allgaier,--of the latter in Philidor's
Defence. These two kinds of games are found in chess-play because they are
found in human temperament; as there are brilliant and daring Napoleons,
and cautious, pertinacious Washingtons in war, so are there in chess
Philidor and La Bourdonnais, Staunton and Morphy. In examining
Mr. Staunton's play, for example, one is struck with the French tact of
M. St. Amant's remark, made many years ago: "M. Staunton has the solidity
of iron, but neither the purity of gold nor the brilliancy of the diamond."
However much Mr. Staunton's ignoble evasion of the match with Morphy--after
bringing him, by his letter, all the way from New Orleans to London, a
voyage which would scarcely have been taken otherwise--may have stained his
reputation as a courageous and honorable chess-player, we cannot be blind
to the fact, that he is the strongest master of the game in Europe. With a
fine mathematical head, (more at home, however, in the Calculus than in
Algebra,)--with an immense power of reserve and masterly repose,--able to
hold an almost incredible number of threads without getting them
entangled,--he has all the qualities which bear that glorious flower,
success. But he is never brilliant; he has outwearied many a deeper man by
his indefatigable evenness and persistance; he is Giant Despair to the
brilliant young men. Mr. Morphy is just the _otherest_ from Staunton. Like
him only in sustained and quiet power, he brings to the board that demon of
his, Memory,--such a memory, too, as no other chess-player has ever
possessed: add to this wonderful analytic power and you have the secret of
this Chess-King. Patient practice, ambition, and leisure have done the
rest. He has thus the _lustre du diamant_, which St. Amant missed in
Mr. Staunton; and we know that the brilliant diamond is hard enough also to
make its mark upon the "solid iron."
Amongst other great living players who incline to the "close game," we may
mention Mr. Harrwitz, whose match with Morphy furnished not one brilliant
game; also Messrs. Slous, Horwitz, Bledow, Szen, and others. But the
tendency has been, ever since the celebrated and magnificent matches of the
two greatest chess geniuses which England and France have ever known,
McDonnel and De la Bourdonnais, to cultivate the bolder and more exciting
open gambits. And under the lead of Paul Morphy this tendency is likely to
be inaugurated as the rule of modern chess. Professor Anderssen, Mayet,
Lange, and Von der Lasa, in Germany,--Dubois and Centurini, at
Rome,--St. Amant, Laroche, and Lecrivain, of Paris,--Loewenthal, Perigal,
Kipping, Owen, Mengredien, etc., of London,--are all players of the heroic
sort, and the games recently played by some of them with Morphy are perhaps
the finest on record. And certainly, whatever may be said of their tendency
to promote careless and reckless play, the open and daring games are at
once more interesting, more brief, and more conducive to the mental drill
which has been claimed as a sufficient compensation for the outlay of
thought and time demanded by chess.
We have already given some specimens of the Poetry of Chess. The Chess
Philosophy itself has penetrated every direction of literature. From the
time that Miranda is "discovered playing chess with Ferdinand" in
Prospero's cell, (an early instance of "discovered mate,") the numberless
Mirandas of Romance have played for and been played for mates. Chess has
even its Mythology,--Caissa being now, we believe, generally received at
the Olympian Feasts. True, some one has been wicked enough to observe that
all chess-stories are divisible into two classes,--in one a man plays for