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Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 5, No. 30, April, 1860 by Various

Part 3 out of 5

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Miles walking, the sound of breaking waves the other side of me,
Paumanok, there and then as I thought the old thought of likenesses,
These you presented to me, you fish-shaped island,
As I wended the shores I know,
As I walked with that eternal self of me, seeking types.


As I wend the shores I know not,
As I listen to the dirge, the voices of men and women wrecked,
As I inhale the impalpable breezes that set in upon me,
As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer and closer,
At once I find, the least thing that belongs to me, or that I see or
touch, I know not;
I, too, but signify a little washed-up drift,--a few sands and dead
leaves to gather,
Gather, and merge myself as part of the leaves and drift.


Oh, baffled, lost,
Bent to the very earth, here preceding what follows,
Terrified with myself that I have dared to open my mouth,
Aware now, that, amid all the blab whose echoes recoil upon me, I have not
once had the least idea who or what I am,
But that before all my insolent poems the real me still stands
untouched, untold, altogether unreached,
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and bows,
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written or
shall write,
Striking me with insults, till I fall helpless upon the sand!


Oh, I think I have not understood anything,--not a single object,--and
that no man ever can!


I think Nature here, in sight of the sea, is taking advantage of me to
oppress me,
Because I was assuming so much,
And because I have dared to open my mouth to sing at all.


You oceans both! You tangible land! Nature!
Be not too stern with me,--I submit,--I close with you,--
These little shreds shall, indeed, stand for all.


You friable shore, with trails of debris!
You fish-shaped island! I take what is underfoot:
What is yours is mine, my father!


I, too, Paumanok,
I, too, have bubbled up, floated the measureless float, and been
washed on your shores.


I, too, am but a trail of drift and debris,--
I, too, leave little wrecks upon you, you fish-shaped island!


I throw myself upon your breast, my father!
I cling to you so that you cannot unloose me,--
I hold you so firm, till you answer me something.


Kiss me, my father!
Touch me with your lips, as I touch those I love!
Breathe to me, while I hold you close, the secret of the wondrous
murmuring I envy!
For I fear I shall become crazed, if I cannot emulate it, and utter
myself as well as it.


Sea-raff! Torn leaves!
Oh, I sing, some day, what you have certainly said to me!


Ebb, ocean of life! (the flow will return,)--
Cease not your moaning, you fierce old mother!
Endlessly cry for your castaways! Yet fear not, deny not me,--
Rustle not up so hoarse and angry against my feet, as I touch you,
or gather from you.


I mean tenderly by you,--
I gather for myself, and for this phantom, looking down where we lead,
and following me and mine.


Me and mine!
We, loose windrows, little corpses,
Froth, snowy white, and bubbles,
Tufts of straw, sands, fragments,
Buoyed hither from many moods, one contradicting another,
From the storm, the long calm, the darkness, the swell,
Musing, pondering, a breath, a briny tear, a dab of liquid or soil,
Up just as much out of fathomless workings fermented and thrown,
A limp blossom or two, torn, just as much over waves floating,
drifted at random,
Just as much for us that sobbing dirge of Nature,
Just as much, whence we come, that blare of the cloud-trumpets,--
We, capricious, brought hither, we know not whence, spread out before
you,--you, up there, walking or sitting,
Whoever you are,--we, too, lie in drifts at your feet.




Reader, take down your map, and, starting at the now well-known Isthmus
of Panama, run your finger northward along the coast of the Pacific,
until, in latitude 13 deg. north, it shall rest on a fine body of water, or
rather the "counterfeit presentment" thereof, which projects far into
the land, and is designated as the Bay of Fonseca. If your map be of
sufficient scale and moderately exact, you will find represented there
two gigantic volcanoes, standing like warders at the entrance of this
magnificent bay. That on the south is called Coseguina, memorable for
its fearful eruption in 1835; that on the north is named Conchagua or
Amapala, taller than Coseguina, but long extinct, and covered to its
top with verdure. It is remarkable for its regularity of outline and
the narrowness of its apex. On this apex, a mere sugar-loaf crown, are
a _vigia_ or look-out station, and a signal-staff, whence the approach
of vessels is telegraphed to the port of La Union, at the base of the
volcano. A rude hut, half-buried in the earth, and loaded down with
heavy stones, to prevent it from being blown clean away, or sent
rattling down the slopes of the mountain, is occupied by the look-out
man,--an old Indian muffled up to his nose; for it is often bitter cold
at this elevation, and there is no wood wherewith to make a fire. Were
it not for that jar or _tinaja_ of _aguardiente_ which the old man
keeps so snugly in the corner of his burrow, he would have withered up
long ago, like the mummies of the Great Saint Bernard.

But I am not going to work up the old man of the _vigia_; for he was of
little consequence on the 10th day of April, 1853, except as a
wondering spectator on the top of Conchagua, in a group consisting of
an ex-minister of the United States, an officer of the American navy,
and an artist from the good city of New York, to whose ready pencil a
grateful country owes many of the illustrations of tropical scenery
which have of late years lent their interest to popular periodicals and
books of adventure. I might have added to this enumeration the tall,
dark figure of Dolores, servant and guide; but Dolores, with a good
sense which never deserted him, had no sooner disencumbered his
shoulders of his load of provisions, than he bestowed himself in the
burrow, out of the wind, and possibly not far from the _aguardiente_.

The utilitarian reader will ask, at once, the motive of this gathering
on the top of the volcano of Conchagua, five thousand feet above the
sea, wearily attained at no small expenditure of effort and
perspiration. Was it love of adventure merely? ambition to do something
whereof to brag about to admiring aunts or country cousins? Hardly. The
beauty of the wonderful panorama which spreads before the group of
strangers is too much neglected, their instruments are too carefully
adjusted and noted, and their consultations are far too earnest and
protracted, to admit of either supposition. The old man of the _vigia_,
as I have said, was a wondering spectator. He wondered why the eyes of
the strangers, glasses as well as eyes, and theodolites as well as
glasses, should all be directed across the bay, across the level
grounds beyond it, far away to the blue line of the Cordilleras,
cutting the clear sky with their serrated outline. He does not observe
that deep notch in the great backbone of the continent, as regular as
the cleft which the pioneer makes in felling a forest-tree; nor does he
observe that the breeze which ripples the waters at the foot of the
volcano is the north wind sweeping all the way from the Bay of Honduras
through that break in the mountain range, which everywhere else, as far
as the eye can reach, presents a high, unbroken barrier to its passage
to the Pacific. Yet it is simply to determine the bearings of that
notch in the Cordilleras, to fix the positions of the leading features
of the intervening country, and to verify the latitude and longitude of
the old man's flag-staff itself, as a point of departure for future
explorations, that the group of strangers is gathered on the top of

And now, O reader, run your finger due north from the Bay of Fonseca,
straight to the Bay of Honduras, and it will pass, in a figurative way,
through the notch I have described, and through the pass of which we
were in search. You will see, if your map be accurate, that in or near
that pass two large rivers have their rise; one, the Humuya, flows
almost due north into the Atlantic, and the other, the Goascoran,
nearly due south into the Pacific,--together constituting, with the
plain of Comayagua, a great transverse valley extending across the
continent from sea to sea. Through this valley, commencing at Port
Cortes, on the north, and terminating on the Bay of Fonseca on the
south, American enterprise and English capital have combined to
construct a railway, designed to afford a new, if not a shorter and
better route of transit across the continent, between New York and San
Francisco, and between Great Britain and Australia.

But when we stood on the top of Conchagua, on the 10th day of April,
1853, the existence of a pass through the mountains, as well as of that
great transverse valley of which I have spoken, was only inferentially
known. In fact, the whole interior of Honduras was unexplored; its
geography was not understood; its scenery had never been described; its
towns and cities were scarcely known even by name; and its people lived
in almost as profound a seclusion from the world at large as the
dwellers on the banks of the Niger and the Zambezi. It is not, however,
to bore you, O reader, with all the details of our surveys, nor to
bother you with statistics, that I write; for, verily, are not these all
set down in a book? But it is rather to amuse you with the incidents of
our explorations, our quaint encounters with a quaint people of still
quainter manners and habits and with ideas quainter than all, and to
present you with a picture of a country and a society interesting equally
in themselves and from their strong contrasts with our own,--I say, it is
rather with these objects that I invite you, O reader, to join our little
party, and participate in the manifold adventures of "HUNTING A PASS."


The port of La Union, our point of departure, is in the little Republic
of San Salvador, which, in common with Nicaragua and Honduras, touches
on the Bay of Fonseca. It is built near the head of a subordinate bay,
of the same name with itself, at the foot of the volcano of Conchagua,
which rises between it and the sea, cutting it off from the
ocean-breezes, and rendering it, in consequence, comparatively hot and
unhealthy. It is a small town, with a population scarcely exceeding
fifteen hundred souls; but it is, nevertheless, the most important port
of San Salvador. Here, during the season of the great fairs of San
Miguel, may be seen vessels of nearly all the maritime nations,
--broad-hulled and sleepy-looking ships from the German
free-cities, taut American clippers, sturdy English brigs, and even
Peruvian and Genoese nondescripts, with crews in red nightcaps.

At this time La Union holds high holiday; its _Comandante_, content at
other times to lounge about in the luxury of a real undress uniform,
now puts on his broadcloth and sash, and sustains a sweltering dignity;
while all the brown girls of the place, arrayed in their gayest
apparel, wage no timorous war on the hearts and pockets of too
susceptible skippers. "Ah, me!" exclaimed our landlady, "is it not
terrible? Excepting the Senora D. and myself, there is not a married
woman in La Union!" "One wouldn't think so," soliloquized the
_Teniente_, as he gazed reflectively into the street, where a dozen
naked children, squatting in the sand, disputed the freedom of the
highway with a score of lean dogs and bow-backed pigs of voracious

To me there was nothing specially new in La Union. The three years
which had elapsed since my previous visit had not been marked by any
great architectural achievement, and although the same effective
chain-gang of two convicts seemed still to be occupied with the mole,
the advance in that great public work was not perceptible to the eye.
My old host and hostess were also the same,--a shade older in
appearance, perhaps, but with hearts as warm and hospitalities as
lavish as before. Only "La Gringita" had changed from the doe-eyed
child of easy confidences into a quiet and somewhat distant girl, full
in figure, and with a glance which sometimes betrayed the glow of
latent, but as yet unconscious passion. In these sunny climes the bud
blossoms and the young fruit ripens in a single day.

With my companions, however, the case was different. The _Teniente_
could never cease being surprised that the commercial and naval
facilities of the splendid bay before us had been so long overlooked.
"What a place for a naval station, with its spacious and secure
anchorages, abundant water, and facilities for making repairs and
obtaining supplies! Why, all the fleets of the globe might assemble
here, and never foul spars or come across each other's hawsers! What a
site, just in that little bay, for a ship-yard! The bottom is pure
sand, and there are full ten fathoms of water within a hundred yards of
the shore! And then those high islands protecting the entrance! A fort
on that point and a battery over yonder would close in the whole bay,
with its five hundred square miles of area, against every invader, and
make it as safe as Cronstadt!" But what astonished the _Teniente_ more
than anything else was, not that the English had seized the bay in
1849, but that they had ever given it up afterwards. "Bull should
certainly abandon his filibustering habits, or else stick to his
plunder; the example was a bad one for his offspring!"

And as for H., our artist, he, too, was surprised at all times and
about everything. It surprised him "to hear mere children talk
Spanish!" To be able to help himself to oranges from the tree without
paying for them surprised him; so did the habit of sleeping in
hammocks, and the practice of dressing children in the cheap and airy
garb of a straw hat and cigar! He was surprised that he should come to
see "a real volcano, like that of San Miguel, with real smoke rolling
up from its mysterious depths; but what surprised him most was, that
they should give him pieces of soap by way of making change in the
market, and that he could buy a boat-load of oysters for a shilling!"

As for Don Henrique, who had resided twenty years in Nicaragua, he was
only surprised at the surprise of others. He had a quiet, imperturbable
contempt for the country and everything in it, was satisfied with a
cool corridor and cigar, and had no ambition beyond that of some day
returning to Paris. Above all, he was a foe to unnecessary exertion.

The ascent of Conchagua was the most important incident of our stay in
La Union, both in the excitements of the scramble and in the
satisfactory nature of our observations from its summit. We left the
port in the afternoon, with the view of passing the night in the
highest hut on the mountain-side, so as to reach the summit early in
the morning, and thus secure time for our observations. Dona Maria had
given us her own well-trained servant, Dolores, who afterwards became a
most important member of our little party; and he was now loaded down
with baskets and bottles, while the _Teniente_, H., and myself
undertook the responsible charge of the instruments.

Our path was one seldom travelled, and was exceedingly rough and
narrow. Here it would wind down into one of the deep ravines which seam
the mountain near its base, and, after following the little stream
which trickled at its bottom for a short distance, turn abruptly up the
opposite side, and run for a while along a crest or ridge of _scoriae_
or disintegrated lava, only, however, to plunge into another ravine
beyond. And thus alternately scrambling up and down, yet gradually
ascending diagonally, we worked our way towards the hut where we were
to pass the night. The slopes of the mountain were already in shadow,
and the gloom of the dense forests and of the deep ravines was so
profound, that we might have persuaded ourselves that night had fallen,
had we not heard the cheerful notes of unseen birds that were nestling
among the tree-tops. After two hours of ascent, the slope of the
mountain became more abrupt and decided, the ravines shallower, and the
intervening ridges less elevated. The forest, too, became more open,
and the trees smaller and less encumbered with vines, and between them
we could catch occasional glimpses of the bay, with its waters golden
under the slant rays of the declining sun. Finally we came to a kind of
terrace or shelf of the mountain, with here and there little patches of
ground, newly cleared, and black from the recent burning of the
undergrowth,--the only preparation made by the Indian cultivator for
planting his annual maize-crop. He has never heard of a plough; a staff
shod with iron, with which he pries a hole in the earth for the
reception of the seed, is the only agricultural implement with which he
is acquainted. When the young blade appears, he may possibly lop away
the tree-sprouts and rank weeds with his _machete_: but all the rest he
leaves to Nature, and the care of those unseen protectors of the harvest
whom he propitiates in the little church of Conehagua by the offering of a
candle, and in the depth of the forest, in some secluded spot of
ancient sanctity, by libations of _chicha_, poured out, with strange
dances, at the feet of some rudely sculptured idol which his fathers
venerated before him, and which he inwardly believes will come out "all
right" in the end, notwithstanding its present disgrace and the Padre's

The mountain terrace which we had now reached is three thousand feet
above the sea, half a mile long, of varying width, and seems to be the
top of some great bed of _scoriae_ which long ago slipped down on an
inclined plane of lava to its present level. Whatever its origin, it is
certainly a beautiful spot, thinly covered with trees, and carpeted
with grass, on which, at the time of our visit, a few cows were
grazing, while half a dozen goats gazed at us in motionless surprise
from the gray rocks to which they had retreated on our approach. We
found the hut in which we were to rest for the night perched on the
very edge of the terrace, where it overlooked the whole expanse of the
bay, with its high islands and purple shores. At this airy height, and
open to every breeze, its inhabitants enjoy a delicious temperature;
and I could well understand how it was that Dona Maria, notwithstanding
the difficulties of the ascent, often came up here to escape the
debilitating heats of the port, and enjoy the magnificent prospect. The
dwellers on this mountain-perch consisted of an old man with his two
sons and their wives, and a consequent round dozen of children, all of
whom gave Dolores the cordial welcome of an old friend, which was
reflected on his companions with equal warmth. Our mules were quickly
unsaddled and cared for, and our instruments carefully suspended
beneath a rough shed of poles covered with branches of trees, which
stood before the hut, and answered the purpose of a corridor in keeping
off the sun. Here also we chose to swing our hammocks; for the hut
itself was none of the largest, and, having but a single room, would
require packing more closely than suited our tastes, in order to afford
us the narrowest accommodation. It is true, the two Benedicts
volunteered to sleep outside with Dolores, and resign the interior to
the old man, the women, the children, and the strangers. But the
_Teniente_ thought there would be scant room, even if we had the whole
to ourselves; while H. was overcome by "the indelicacy of the

The sunset that evening was one of transcendent beauty, heightened by
the thousand-hued reflections from the masses of clouds which had been
piling up, all the afternoon, around the distant mountains of Honduras,
and which Dolores told us betokened the approach of the rainy season.
Bathed in crimson and gold, they shed a glowing haze over the
intervening country, and were reproduced in the broad mirror of the bay
below us, so that we seemed to be suspended and floating in an
Iris-like sea of light and beauty. But night falls rapidly under the
tropics; the sunsets are as brief as they are brilliant; and as soon as
the sun had sunk below the horizon, the gorgeous colors rapidly faded
away, leaving only leaden clouds on the horizon and a sullen body of
water at our feet.

A love of music seems to be universal among all classes in Central
America, especially among the _Ladinos_ or mixed population. And it is
scarcely possible to find a house, down to the meanest hut, that does
not possess a violin or guitar, or, in default of these, a mandolin, on
which one or more of its inmates are able to perform with considerable
skill, and often with taste and feeling. The violin, however, is
esteemed most highly, and its fortunate possessor cherishes it above
wife or children, he keeps it with his white buckskin shoes, red sash,
and only embroidered shirt, in the solitary trunk with cyclopean lock
and antediluvian key, which goes so far, in Central American economy,
to make up the scanty list of domestic furniture. The youngest of our
hosts was the owner of one of these instruments, of European
manufacture, which had cost him, I dare say, many a load of maize,
wearily carried on his naked back down to the port. As the evening
advanced, he produced it, with an air of satisfaction, from its secure
depository, and, leaning against a friendly tree, gave us a specimen of
his skill. It is true, we did not expect much from our swarthy friend,
whose only garment was his trousers of cotton cloth, tucked up above
his knees; and we were therefore all the more surprised, when, after
some preliminary tuning of the instrument, he pressed the bow on its
strings with a firm and practised hand, and led us, with masterly
touch, through some of the finest melodies of our best operas. Very few
amateurs of any country, with all their advantages of instruction,
could equal the skill of that poor dweller on the flank of the volcano
of Conchagua; none certainly could surpass him in the delicacy and
feeling of his execution. H., on whom, as an artist, and himself no
mean musician, we had already devolved the task of being enthusiastic
and demonstrative over matters of this kind, applauded vehemently, and
cried, "_Bravo!_" and "_Encore!_" and ended in convincing us of the
reality of his delight, by pressing his brandy-flask into the hands of
the performer, and urging him to "drink it all, every drop, and then
give us another!" Our mountain Paganini, I fear, interpreted the behest
too literally; or else H.'s enthusiasm never afterwards rose to so high
a pitch; at any rate, he was never known to manifest it in so expansive
a manner.

"And where did your friend learn his music?"

He had caught it up, he said, from time to time, as he had floated,
with his canoe-load of plantains, chickens, and yucas, around the
vessels-of-war that occasionally visit the port; neglecting his
traffic, no doubt, in eagerly listening to the music of the bands or
the individual performances of the officers. He had had no instructor,
except "_un pobre Italiano_," who came to La Union with an exhibition
of _fantoccini_, died there of fever, and was buried like a Christian
in the Campo Santo adjoining the church: and Paganini removed his hat
reverentially, and made the sign of the cross on his swarthy bosom. And
now, most incredulous of readers, are you answered?

During the night we were visited by the first storm of the season, and
it opened the flood-gates of the skies right grandly, with booming
thunders and blinding lightning, and a dash of rain that came through
our imperfect shelter as through a sieve. Driven inside the hut, where
we contested the few square feet of bare earthen floor with the pigs
and pups of the establishment, we passed a most miserable night, and
were glad to rise with the earliest dawn,--ourselves to continue our
ascent of the mountain, and our hosts to plant their mountain _milpas_,
while the ground was yet moist from the midnight rain. They told us
that the maize, if put into the earth immediately after the first rain
of the season, was always more vigorous and productive than that
planted afterwards; why they knew not; but "so it had been told them by
their fathers."

The air was deliciously fresh and cool, and the foliage of the trees
seemed almost pulsating with life and light under the morning sun, as
we bade our hosts "_A Dios!_" and resumed our course up the mountain.
There was no longer any path, and we had to pick our way as we were
able, among blocks of blistered rocks, over fallen trunks of trees, and
among gnarled oaks, which soon began to replace the more luxuriant
vegetation of the lower slopes. H., dragged from his mule by a scraggy
limb, was shocked to find that the first inquiry of his companions was
not about the safety of his neck, but of the barometer. At the end of
an hour, the ascent becoming every moment more abrupt, we had passed
the belt of trees and bushes, and reached the smooth and scoriaceous
cone, which, during the rainy season, appears from the bay to be
covered with a velvety mantle of green. It was now black and
forbidding, from the recent burning of the dry grass or _sacate_, and
so steep as to render direct ascent impossible. I proposed to leave the
mules and proceed on foot, but the _Teniente_ entered a solemn protest
against anything of the sort:--"If the mules couldn't carry him up, he
couldn't go; his family was affected with hereditary palpitation of the
heart, and if any one of them suffered more from it than the others, he
was the unfortunate victim! Climbing elevations of any kind, and
mountains in particular, brought on severe attacks; and we might as
well understand, at once, that, if in 'Hunting a Pass' there was any
climbing to be done, some one else must do it!" And here I may mention
a curious fact, probably hitherto unknown to the faculty, which was
developed in our subsequent explorations, namely, that palpitation of
the heart is contagious. H. was attacked with it on our third day out,
and Don Henrique had formidable symptoms at sight of the merest

Under the lead of Dolores, by judicious zig-zagging, and by glow and
painful advances, we finally reached the _vigia_,--the mules thoroughly
blown, but the _Teniente_ and the instruments safe. The latter were
speedily set up, and the observations, which were to exercise so
important an influence as a basis for our future operations,
satisfactorily made. We found the mountain to be 4860 feet above the
sea, barometrical admeasurement, and the flagstaff itself in latitude
13 deg. 18' N. and longitude 87 deg. 45' W. We obtained bearings on
nearly all the volcanic cones on the plain of Leon, as also on many of
the detached mountain-peaks of Honduras and San Salvador, as the
commencement of a system of triangulations which subsequently enabled
us to construct the first map of the country at all approximating to
accuracy. At noon on the day of our visit, the thermometer marked a
temperature of 16 deg. of Fahrenheit below that of the port.

It is a singular circumstance, that Captain Sir Edward Belcher, who
surveyed the Bay of Fonseca in 1838, speaks of Conchagua as a mountain
exhibiting no evidences of volcanic origin. Apart from its form, which
is itself conclusive on that point, its lower slopes are ridged all
over with dikes of lava, some of which come down to the water's edge,
in rugged, black escarpments. The mountain had two summits: one
comparatively broad and rugged, with a huge crater, and a number of
smaller vents; and a second and higher one, nearest the bay,--the
_ash-heap_ of the volcano proper, on which the _vigia_ is erected, and
whence our observations were made. This is a sugar-loaf in form, with
steep sides, and at its summit scarcely affording standing-room for a
dozen horsemen. It is connected with the main part of the mountain by a
narrow ridge, barely broad enough for a mule-path, with treeless slopes
on either hand, so steep, that, on our return, the _Teniente_ preferred
risking an attack of "palpitation" to riding along its crest.

After loosening several large stones from the side of the cone, and
watching them bound down the steep declivity, dashing the _scoriae_ like
spray before them, and bearing down the dwarf trees in their path like
grass beneath the mower's scythe, until they rumbled away with many a
crash in the depths of the forest at the base of the mountain, and
after making over to the grateful old man of the _vigia_ the remnants
of Dona Maria's profusion in the shape of sandwiches and cold chicken,
we commenced our descent, taking the shorter path by which I had
descended three years before. It conducted us past the great spring of
Yololtoca, to which the Indian girls of the _pueblo_ of Conchagua,
three miles distant, still come to get their water, and down the
ancient path and over the rocks worn smooth by the naked feet of their
mothers and their mothers' mothers, until, at six o'clock in the
afternoon, we defiled, tired and hungry, into the sweltering streets of
La Union. Oysters _ad libitum_, (which, being translated, means as fast
as three men could open them,) one of Dona Maria's best dinners, and a
bath in the bay at bedtime calmed our appetites and restored our
energies, and we went to sleep with the gratified consciousness that we
had successfully taken the first step in the prosecution of our great

I have alluded to the oysters of La Union; but I should prove
ungrateful indeed, after the manifold delicious repasts which they
afforded us, were I to deny them the tribute of a paragraph. It is
generally believed that the true oyster of our shores is found nowhere
else, or at least only in northern latitudes. But an exception must be
made in favor of the waters of the Bay of Fonseca. Here they are found
in vast beds, in all the subordinate bays where the streams deposit
their sediment, and where, with the rise and fall of the tide, they
obtain that alternation of salt and brackish water which seems to be
necessary to their perfection. They are the same rough-coated,
delicious mollusks as those of our own coasts, and by no means to be
degraded by a comparison with the muddy, long-bearded, and, to
Christian palates, coppery abominations of the British Islands, which
in their flattened shape and scalloped edges seem to betray an impure
ancestry,--in point of fact, to be a bad cross between the scallop and
the oyster.

At low tide some of the beds are nearly bare, and then the Indians take
them up readily with their hands. The ease with which they may be got
will appear from the circumstance, that for some time after our arrival
we paid but a real (twelve and a half cents) for each canoe-load, of
from five to six bushels. The people of La Union seldom use them, and
we were therefore able to establish the "ruling rates." They continued
at a real a load, until H., with reckless generosity, one day paid our
improvised oyster-man two reals for his cargo, who thereupon, appealing
to this bad precedent, refused to go out, unless previously assured of
receiving the advanced rate. This led to the immediate arrest of H., on
an indictment charging him with "wilfully and maliciously combining and
conniving with one Juan Sanchez, (colored,) to put up the price of the
necessaries of life in La Union, in respect of the indispensable
article vulgarly known as _ostrea Virginiana_, but in the language of
the law and of science designated as oysters." On this indictment he
was summarily tried, and, in consequence of aggravating his offence by
an attempt at exculpation, was condemned to suffer the full penalties
of the law, in such cases provided, namely, "to pay the entire cost of
all the oysters that might thenceforth be consumed by the prosecuting
parties and the court, and, at eleven o'clock, past meridian, to be
taken from his bed, thence to the extremity of the mole, and there
_inducted_." Which sentence was carried into rigorous execution. Nor
was he allowed to resume his former rank in the party, until, by a
masterly piece of diplomacy, he organized an opposition oyster-boat,
and a consequent competition, which soon brought Juan Sanchez to terms,
and oysters to their just market-value.

That the aboriginal dwellers around the Bay of Fonseca appreciated its
conchological treasures, we had afterwards ample evidence; for at many
places on its islands and shores we found vast heaps of oyster-shells,
which seemed to have been piled up as reverent reminiscences of the
satisfaction which their contents had afforded.

During my previous visit to La Union, in March, 1850, I had observed
that the north winds, which prevail during that month in the Bay of
Honduras, sometimes sweep entirely across the continent with such force
as to raise a considerable sea in the Bay of Fonseca. I thence inferred
that there must exist a pass or break in the great mountain-range of
the Cordilleras, through which the wind could have an uninterrupted or
but partially interrupted sweep. This was confirmed by the fact that
the current of air which reached the bay was narrow, affecting only a
width of about ten or twelve miles. This circumstance impressed me at
that time only as indicating a remarkable topographical feature of the
country; but afterwards, when the impracticability of a canal at
Nicaragua and the deficiencies in respect of ports for a railway at
Tehuantepec had become established, I was led to reflect upon it in
connection with a plan for inter-oceanic communication by railway
through Honduras; and, as explained in the introduction, we were now
here to test the accuracy of my previous conclusions. Our observations
at the top of Conchagua had signally confirmed them.

We could distinctly make out the existence of a great valley extending
due north, and our glasses revealed a marked depression in the
Cordilleras, which in all the maps were represented as maintaining here
the character of a high, unbroken range. Of course no such valley as
opened before us could exist without a considerable stream flowing
through it. But the maps showed neither valley nor river. This
circumstance did not, however, discourage us; for my former travels and
explorations in Nicaragua had shown me, that, notwithstanding the
country had occupied the attention of geographers for more than three
centuries, in connection with a project for a canal between the oceans,
its leading and most obvious physical features were still either
grossly misconceived or utterly unknown.

The leading fact of the existence of some kind of a pass having been
sufficiently established by our observations from Conchagua, we next
set to work to obtain such information from the natives as might assist
our further proceedings. This was a tedious task, and called for the
exercise of all our patience; for it is impossible to convey in
language an adequate idea of the abject ignorance of most of the
inhabitants of Central America concerning its geography and
topographical features. Those who would naturally be supposed to be
best informed, the priests, merchants, and lawyers, are really the most
ignorant, and it is only from the _arrieros_, or muleteers, and the
_correos_, or runners, that any knowledge of this kind can be obtained,
and then only in a very confused form, and with most preposterous and
contradictory estimates of distances and elevations.

We nevertheless made out that the mouth of a river or _estero_, laid
down in Sir Edward Belcher's chart, on the opposite side of the bay in
front of La Union, was really that of the river Goascoran, a
considerable stream having its rise at a point due north, and not far
from Comayagua, the capital of Honduras, which, we also ascertained,
was seated in the midst of a great plain, bearing the same name. A
large stream, it was said, flowed past that city,--but whether the
Goascoran or some other, or whether it flowed north or south, neither
_arriero_ nor _correo_ could tell.

The navigability of the Goascoran was also a doubtful question.
According to some, it could be forded everywhere; others declared it
impassable for many leagues above its mouth: a discrepancy which we
were able to reconcile by reference to its probable state at different
seasons of the year.

Fixing an early day for taking the field in earnest, and leaving H. and
Don Henrique to make the necessary preparations, I improved the
interval, in company with Lieutenant J., in making a boat exploration
of the Goascoran. Obtaining a ship's gig, with two oarsmen and a supply
of provisions, we left La Union at dawn on the 15th of April. We found
that the river enters the bay by a number of channels, through low
grounds covered with mangrove-trees. It was at half-tide, and we
experienced no difficulty in entering. Our course at first was
tortuous, and it seemed as if the river had lost itself in a labyrinth
of channels, and we were ourselves much confused with regard to our
true direction. Keeping, however, in the strongest current, at the end
of half an hour we penetrated beyond the little delta of the river, and
the belt of mangroves, to firm ground. Here the stream was confined to
a single channel two hundred yards broad, with banks of clay and loam
from six to ten feet high. The lands back appeared to be level, and,
although well covered with ordinary forest-trees, were apparently
subject to overflow. We observed cattle in several grassy openings, and
here and there a _vaquero's_ hut of branches; for it is a general
practice of the _hacienderos_ to drive down their herds to the low
grounds of the coasts and rivers, during the dry season, and as soon as
the grass on the hills or highlands begins to grow sere and yellow. We
observed also occasional heaps of oyster-shells on the banks, or half
washed away by the river; and on the sand-spits at the bends of the
stream, and in all the little shady nooks of the shore, we saw
thousands of water-fowl, ducks of almost every variety, including the
heavy muscovy and the lively teal; and there were flocks of white and
crimson ibises, and solitary, long-legged, contemplative cranes, and
gluttonous pelicans; while myriads of screaming curlews scampered along
the line of the receding tide to snap up imprudent snails and the
numerous minute _crustaceae_ which drift about in these brackish waters.
The familiar kingfisher was also there, coming down with an occasional
arrowy dash on some unsuspecting minnow, and then flapping away
leisurely for a quiet meal in the shady recesses of a neighboring tree.

We fired on a flock of ducks, killing a number and wounding others, all
of which we secured except one which struggled away into an eddy under
the bank. We pushed in, and my hand was extended to pick him up, when a
slimy, corrugated head, with distended jaws and formidable teeth, rose
to the surface before me, paused an instant, then shot forward, and,
closing on the wounded bird, disappeared. The whole was done so quickly
as to escape the notice of my companions, who would hardly believe me
when I told them that we had been robbed by an alligator. We lost a
duck, but gained an admonition; and I scarcely need add that our
half-formed purpose of taking a bath in the next cool bend of the river
was abandoned.

When the tide had run out, we were able to form a better notion of the
river. We found, that, although near the end of the dry season, it was
still a fine stream, with a large body of water, but spread over so
wide a channel as to preclude anything like useful navigation, except
with artificial aids. In places it was so shallow that our little boat
found difficulty in advancing. But this did not disappoint us; for
nothing like a mixed transit with transhipments had ever entered into
my plan, which looked only to an unbroken connection by rail from one
sea to the other. At four o'clock, satisfied that no useful purpose
could be effected by going farther up the stream, we stopped at a
collection of huts called Las Sandias,--not inappropriately, for the
whole sloping bank of the river, which here appeared to be little
better than a barren sand-bed, was covered, for a quarter of a mile,
with a luxuriant crop of water- and musk-melons, now in their
perfection. We purchased as many as we could carry off for a _real_.
They were full, rich, and juicy, and proved to be a grateful
restorative, after our day's exposure to the direct rays of the sun,
and their scarcely less supportable reflection from the water. The
melon-patch of Las Sandias is overflowed daring the rainy season, and
probably the apparently bare, sandy surface hides rich deposits of soil

We found the stream here alive with an active and apparently voracious
fish, varying in length from fourteen to twenty inches, reddish in
color, and closely resembling the Snapper of the Atlantic coast of
Central America. The male inhabitants of Las Sandias were occupied in
catching these fishes with hand-nets, in the rifts and currents; and
the women were busy in cleaning and drying them. Their offal had
accumulated around the huts in offensive heaps, and gave out an odor
which was almost insupportable, but of which the women appeared to take
no notice. We did not, therefore, trespass long on their hospitality,
but returned to our boat and started back to La Union. As night came
on, the trees along the river's bank were thronged with _chachalacas_,
which almost deafened us with their querulous screams. Two
well-directed shots gave us half a dozen,--for the young _chachalaca_
is not to be despised on the table,--and we added them to our stock of
water-fowls and melons as tempting trophies to our companions from the
new Canaan on which they were venturing.

[To be continued.]


The acceptance of a doctrine is often out of all proportion to the
authority that fortifies it. There are sweeps of generalization quite
permeable to objection, which yet find metaphysical support; there are
irrefragable dogmas which the mind drops as futile and fruitless. It is
recorded of Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood, that it
found reception from no physician then over forty years old. We believe
the splendid nebular construction of Laplace has its own difficulties;
yet what noble or aspiring mind does not find interior warranties for
the truth of that audacious synthesis? Is it that the soul darts
responsive impartments to the heavens? that the whirl is elemental in
the mind? that baffling intervals stretch deeper within us, and shoals
of stars with no parallax appear?

Among the functions of Science, then, may well be included its power as
a metre of the intellectual advance of mankind. In these splendid
symbols man writes the record of his advancing humanity. How all is
interwoven with the All! A petrified national mind will certainly
appear in a petrified national Science. And that sublime upsurging from
the depths of human nature which came with the last half of the
eighteenth century appeared not alone in the new political and social
aspirations, but in a fresh insight into Nature. This spirit manifested
itself in the new sciences that sprang from the new modes of
vision,--Magnetism, Electricity, Chemistry,--the old crystalline spell
departing before a dynamical system of Physics, before the thought of
the universe as a living organic whole. And what provokers does the
discovery of the celestial circles bring to new circles of politics and
social life!

The illustrations of Astronomy to this thought are very large. First of
the sciences to assume a perfectly rational form, it presents the
eternal type of the unfolding of the speculative spirit of man. This
springs, no doubt, from the essentially subjective character of
astronomy,--more than all the other sciences a construction of the
creative reason. From the initiative of scientific astronomy, when the
early Greek geometers referred the apparent diurnal movements to
geometrical laws, to the creation of the nebular hypothesis, the
logical filiation of the leading astronomical conceptions obeys
corresponding tidal movements in humanity. Thus it is that

"through the ages one increasing purpose
And the thoughts of men are widened with the
process of the suns."

It was for reasons the Ptolemaic system so long held its sway. It was
for reasons it went, too, when it did, hideous and oppressive
nightmare! The celestial revelations of the sixteenth century came as
the necessary complement of the new mental firmaments then dawning on
the thought of man. The intellectual revolution caused by the discovery
of the double motion of our planet was undoubtedly the mightiest that
man had ever experienced, and its effect was to change the entire
aspect of his speculative and practical activity. What a proof that
ideas rule the world! Two hundred and fifty years ago, certain new
sidereal conceptions arose in the minds of half a dozen philosophers,
(isolated and utterly destitute of political or social influence,
powerful only in the possession of a sublime and seminal
thought,)--conceptions which, during these two centuries, have
succeeded in overthrowing a doctrine as old as the human mind, closely
interknit with the entire texture of opinions, authority, politics, and
religion, and establishing a theory flatly contradicted by the
universal dictates of experience and common sense, and true only to the
transcendental and interpretative Reason!

At the advent of Modern Astronomy, the apparition of the German, John
Kepler, presents itself. Familiarly associated in general apprehension
with that inductive triad known as "Kepler's Laws," which form the
foundation of Celestial Geometry, it is much less generally known that
he was an august and oracular soul, one of those called Mystics and
Transcendentalists, perhaps the greatest genius for analogy that ever
lived,--that he led a truly epic life, a hero and helper of men, a
divine martyr of humanity.

The labors of Kepler were mathematical, optical, cosmographical, and
astronomical,--but chiefly astronomical. Two or three of his principal
works are the "Cosmographic Mystery," (_Mysterium Cosmographicum,_) the
"New Astronomy," (_Astronomia Nova, seu Physica Caelestis,_) and the
"Harmonies of the World" (_Harmonices Mundi_). His whole published
works comprise some thirty or forty volumes, while twenty folio volumes
of manuscript lie in the Library at St. Petersburg. These Euler,
Lexell, and Kraft undertook some years ago to examine and publish, but
the result of this examination has never appeared. An elegant complete
edition of the works of Kepler is at present being issued at Frankfort,
under the editorship of Frisch.[1] It is to be in sixteen volumes, 8vo,
two of which are published. For his biography, the chief source is the
folio volume of Correspondence, published in 1718, by Hansch,[2] who
has prefixed to these letters between Kepler and his contemporaries a
Life, in which his German heartiness beats even through the marble
encasement of his Latinity.

[Footnote 1: _Joannis Kepleri Astronomi Opera Omnia._ Edidit CH.

[Footnote 2: _Epistolae ad Joannem Keplerum scriptae._ MICHAEL GOTTLIEB
HANSCHIUS. Lipsiae, 1718.]

We have always admired, as a stroke of wit, the way Hansch takes to
indicate Kepler's birthplace. Disdaining to use any but mathematical
symbols for so great a mathematician, he writes that he was born on the
21st of December, 1571, in longitude 29 deg. 7', latitude 48 deg. 54'! It
may be worth mentioning, that on this cryptic spot stood the little town
of Weil in the Duchy of Wuertemberg. His birth was cast at a time when
his parents were reduced to great poverty, and he received very little
early schooling. He was, however, sent to Tuebingen, and here he pursued
the scholastic studies of the age, designing for the Church. But the
old eternal creed-questionings arose in his mind. He stumbled at the
omnipresence of Christ's body, wrote a Latin poem against it, and, when
he had completed his studies, got for a _testimonium_ that he had
distinguished himself by his oratorical talents, but was considered
unfit to be a fellow-laborer in the Church of Wuertemberg. A larger
priesthood awaited him.

The astronomical lectureship at the University of Graetz, in Styria,
falling vacant, Kepler was in his twenty-third year appointed to fill
it. He was, as he tells us, "better furnished with talent than
knowledge." But, no doubt, things had conspired to forward him. While
at Tuebingen, under the mathematician Maestlin, he had eagerly seized
all the hints his master threw out of the doctrines of Copernicus,
integrating them with interior authorities of his own. "The motion of the
earth, which Copernicus had proved by mathematical reasons, I wanted
to prove by physical, or, if you prefer it, metaphysical reasons."
So he wrote in his "Prodromus Dissertationum Cosmographicarum,"
which he published two years after going to Graetz, that is, in his
twenty-fifth year. In this book his fiery and mystical spirit first
found expression, flaming forth in meteoric coruscations. The problem
which Kepler attempted to solve in the "Prodromus" was no less than
the determination of the harmonic relations of the distances of
the planets, which it was given him to solve more than twenty years
afterwards. The hypothesis which he adopted proved utterly fallacious;
but his primal intuition, that numerical and geometric relations
connect the velocities, periods, and distances of the planets, was none
the less fruitful and sublime.

Of the facts of Kepler's external life, we may simply say, for the sake
of readier apprehension, that, after remaining six years at Graetz, he,
in 1600, on the invitation of Tycho Brahe, Astronomer Royal to Rodolph
II. of Germany, removed to Prague and associated himself with Tycho,
who shortly afterwards dying, Kepler was appointed in his place. The
chief work was the construction of the new astronomical tables called
the Rodolphine Tables, and on these he was engaged many years. In this
situation he continued till 1613, when he left it to assume a
professorship at Linz. Here he remained some years, and the latter part
of his life was spent as astrologer to Wallenstein. Kepler is described
as small and meagre of person, and he speaks of himself as "troublesome
and choleric in politics and domestic matters." He was twice married,
and left a wife and numerous children ill-provided for.

Indeed, a painful and perturbed life fell to the lot of Kepler. The
most crushing poverty all his life oppressed him. For, though his
nominal salary as Astronomer Royal was large enough, yet the treasury
was so exhausted that it was impossible for him ever to obtain more
than a pittance. What a sad tragedy do these words, in a letter to
Maestlin, reveal:--"I stand whole days in the antechamber, and am nought
for study." And then he adds the sublime compensation: "I keep up my
spirits, however, with the thought that I serve, not the Emperor alone,
but the whole human race,--that I am laboring not merely for the
present generation, but for posterity. If God stand by me and look to
the victuals, I hope to perform something yet." Eternal type of the
consolation which the consciousness of truth brings with it, his
ejaculation on the discovery of his third law remains one of the
sublimest utterances of the human mind:--"The die is cast; the book is
written,--to be read now or by posterity, I care not which: it may well
wait a century for a reader, as God has waited six thousand years for
an observer!" Cast in a stormy and chaotic age, he was persecuted by
both Protestants and Catholics on account of the purity and elevation
of his religious ideas; and from the disclosures of Baron von
Breitschwert [1] it seems, that, in the midst of his sublimest labors,
he spent five years in the defence of his poor old mother against a
charge of witchcraft. He died in 1630, in his sixtieth year, (with the
prospect of starvation before him,) of a fever which he caught when on
a journey to Ratisbon, whither he had gone in the attempt to get part
of his pay!

[Footnote 1: _Johann Keppler's Leben und Wirken: nach neuerlich
aufgefundenen Manuscripten bearbeitet._ Stuttgart, 1813.]

In what bewildering and hampering environment he found himself with the
"Tuebingen doctors" and the "Wuertemberg divines," his letters reveal. On
the publication of the "Prodromus," Hafenreffer wrote to warn
him:--"God forbid you should endeavor to bring your hypothesis openly
into argument with the Holy Scriptures! I require of you to treat the
subject merely as a mathematician, and to leave the peace of the Church
undisturbed." To the Tuebingen doctors he replied:--"The Bible speaks to
me of things belonging to human life as men are used to speak of them.
It is no manual of Optics or of Astronomy; it has a higher object in
view. It is a culpable misuse of it to seek in it for answers on
worldly things. Joshua wished for the day to be lengthened. God
hearkened to his wish. How? This is not to be inquired after." And
surely the long-vexed argument has never since unfolded better
statement than in the words of Kepler:--"The day will soon break when
pious simplicity will be ashamed of its blind superstition,--when men
will recognize truth in the book of Nature as well as in the Holy
Scriptures, and rejoice in the two revelations." [1]

[Footnote 1: _Harmonices Mundi._]

On this avowal he was branded as a hypocrite, heretic, and atheist.

To Maestlin he wrote:--"What is to be done? I think we should imitate
the Pythagoreans, communicate our discoveries _privatim_, and be silent
in public, that we may not die of hunger. The guardians of the Holy
Scriptures make an elephant of a gnat. To avoid the hatred against
novelty, I represented my discovery to the Rector of the University as
a thing already observed by the ancients; but he made its antiquity a
greater charge against it than he could have made of its novelty."

And, indeed, the devotion to truth in that age, as in others, required
an heroic heart. Copernicus kept back the publication of his "De
Revolutionibus Orbium Caeslestium" for thirty-six years, and received a
copy of it only on his death-bed. Galileo tasted the sweets of the
Inquisition. Tycho Brahe was exiled. And Kepler himself was persecuted
all his life, hounded from city to city. And yet the sixteenth century
will ever be memorable in the history of the human mind. The breaking
down of external authority, the uprise of the spirit of inquiry, of
skepticism, and the splendid scientific conquests that came in
consequence, inaugurated a mighty movement which separates the present
promises of mankind from all past periods by an interval so vast as to
make it not merely a great historical development, but the very birth
of humanity. While Tycho Brahe, at the age of fifty-four, was making
his memorable observations at Prague, Kepler, at the age of thirty, was
applying his fiery mind to the determination of the orbit of Mars, and
Galileo, at thirty-six, was bringing his telescope to the revelation of
new celestial intervals and orbs. Within the succeeding century Huygens
made the application of the pendulum to clocks; Napier invented
Logarithms; Descartes and Galileo created the analysis of curves, and
the science of Dynamics; Leibnitz brought the Differential Calculus;
Newton decomposed a ray of light, and synthesized Kepler's Laws into
the theory of Universal Gravitation.

Into this age, when the Old and New met face to face, came the
questioning and quenchless spirit of Kepler. Born into an age of
adventure, this new Prometheus, this heaven-scaler, matched it with an
audacity to lift it to new reaches of realization.

A singular _naivete_, too, marked this august soul. He has the
frankness of Montaigne or Jean Jacques. He used to accuse himself of
gabbling in mathematics,--"_in re mathematica loquax_,"--and claimed to
speak with German freedom,--"_scripsi haec, homo Germanicus, more et
libertate Germanica_." He marries far and near, brings planetary
eclipses into conjunction with pecuniary penumbras, and his treatise on
the perturbations of Mars reveals equal perturbations in his domestic
economy. It may be to this candor, this _gemueth_, that we are to
ascribe the powerful personal magnetism he exercises in common with
Rousseau, Rabelais, and other rich and ingenuous natures. Who would be
otherwise than frank, when frankness has this power to captivate? The
excess of this influence appears in the warmth betrayed by writers over
their favorite. The cool-headed Delambre, in his "Histoire de
l'Astronomie," speaks of Kepler with the heat of a pamphleteer, and
cannot repress a frequent sneer at his contemporary, Galileo. We know
the splendor of the Newtonian synthesis; yet we do not find ourselves
affected by Newton's character or discoveries. He touches us with the
passionless love of a star.

Kepler puts the same _naivete_ into his speculative activity, with a
subtile anatomy laying bare the _metaphysique_ of his science. It was
his habit to illumine his discoveries with an exhibition of the path
that led to them, regarding the method as equally important with the
result,--a principle that has acquired canonical authority in modern
scientific research. "In what follows," writes he, introducing a long
string of hypotheses, the fallacy of which he had already discovered,
"let the reader pardon my credulity, whilst working out all these
matters by my own ingenuity. For it is my opinion that the occasions by
which men have acquired a knowledge of celestial phenomena are not less
admirable than the discoveries themselves." His tentatives, failures,
leadings, his glimpses and his glooms, those aberrations and guesses
and gropings generally so scrupulously concealed, he exposes them all.
From the first flashing of a discovery, through years of tireless toil,
to when the glorious apparition emerges full-orbed and resplendent, we
follow him, becoming party to the process, and sharing the ejaculations
of exultation that leap to his lips. Seventeen years were required for
the discovery of the harmonic law, that the squares of the times of the
planetary revolutions are proportional to the cubes of their mean
distances; and no tragedy ever equalled in affecting intensity the
account he has written of those Promethean years. What rays does he let
into the subtile paths where the spirit travels in its interrogations
of Nature! We should say there was more of what there is of essential
in metaphysics, more of the structural action of the human mind, in his
books, than in the concerted introspection of all the psychologists.
One sees very well that a new astronomy was predicted in the build of
that sky-confronting mind; for harmonic ratios, laws, and rhymes played
in his spheral soul, galaxies and gravitations stretched deeper within,
and systems climbed their flaming ecliptic.

The highest problem of Science is the problem of Method. Hitherto man
has worked on Nature only piecemeal. The understanding and the
logic-faculty are allowed to usurp the rational and creative powers.
One would say that scientists systematically shut themselves out of
three-fourths of their minds, and the English have been insane on
Induction these two hundred years. This unholy divorce has, as it
always must do, brought poverty and impotence into the sciences, many
of which stand apart, stand haggard and hostile, accumulations of
incoherent facts, inhospitable, dead.

It is when contemplated in its historic bearings, as an education of
the faculties of man, that the emphasis that has been placed on special
scientific methods discloses its significance. The speculative
synthesis of Greek and Alexandrine Science was a superb training in
Deduction,--in the descent from consciousness to Nature. Abstracted
from its relations with reality, the scholasticism of the Middle Ages
pushed Deduction to mania and moonshine. Then it was, that, in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Occidental mind, astir under
the oceanic movements of the modern, arose to break the spell of
scholasticism that had fettered and frozen the intellect of man. An
all-invading spirit of inquiry, analysis, skepticism, became rife. An
unappeasable hunger for facts, facts, facts, took possession of the
general intellect. It was felt that abstraction was disease, was
death,--that speculation had to be vitalized and enriched from
experience and experiment. This tendency was inevitable and sublime, no
doubt. But it remains for modern times to emulate Nature and carry on
analysis and synthesis at once. A great discovery is the birth of the
whole soul in its creative activity. Induction becomes fruitful only
when married to Deduction. It is those luminous intuitions that light
along the path of discovery that give the eye and animus to
generalization. Science must be open to influx and new beneficent
affections and powers, and so add fleet wings to the mind in its
exploration of Nature.

In Kepler was the perfect realization of the highest mission of Method.
Powerfully deductive in the structure of his intellect, nourished on
the divine bread of Plato and the Mystics, he yet united to these a
Baconian breadth of practical power. Years before the publication of
the "Novum Organum," he gave, in his "Commentaries on the Motions of
Mars," a specimen of the logic of Induction whose circular sweep has
never been matched. Prolific in the generation of hypotheses, he was
yet remorseless in bringing them to the test of experiment. "Hypotheses
which are not founded in Nature please me not," wrote he,--as Newton
inscribed "_Hypotheses non fingo_" on the "Principia." Surely never was
such heroic self-denial. Centurial vigils of baffling calculations
--(remember, there was then little Algebra, and neither Calculus
nor Logarithms)--were sacrificed without a regret except for
the time expended, his tireless intellect pressing on to new heights of
effort. His first work, the "Mysterium Cosmographicum," is the record
of a splendid blunder that cost him five years' toil, and he spent ten
years of fruitless and baffled effort in the deduction of the laws of
areas and orbital ellipticity.

But this audacious diviner knew well the use of Hypothesis, and he
applied it as an instrument of investigation as it had never been
applied before. The vast significance of Hypothesis in the theory of
Scientific Method has never been recognized. It would be a good piece
of psychology to explore the principles of this subtile mental power,
and might go far to give us a philosophy of Anticipation. The men of
facts, men of the understanding, observers,--as we might
suppose,--universally show a disposition to shun theorizing, as opposed
to the exactness of demonstrative science. And yet it is quite certain,
that, in proportion as one rises to a more liberal apprehension, the
immense provisional power of speculative ideas becomes apparent.
Laplace asserted that no great discovery was ever made without a great
guess; and long before, Plato had intimated of these "sacred suspicions
of truth," that descend dawn-like on the mind, sublime premonitions of
beautiful gates of laws. It is these launching tentatives which bring
phenomena to interior and metaphysical tests and bear the mind
swift-winged to Nature. Of course, there are various kinds of
conjecture, and its value will depend on the brain from which it
departs. But a powerful spirit will justify Hypothesis by the high
functions to which he puts it. His guesses are not for nothing. Many
and long processes go to them.--The inexhaustible fertility displayed
by Kepler is a psychologic marvel. He had that subtile chemistry that
turns even failures to account, consumes them in its flaming ascent to
new reaches. After years of labor on his theory of Mars, he found it
failed in application to latitudes and longitudes "out of opposition."
Remorselessly he let his hypothesis go, and drew from his failure an
important inference, the first step towards emancipation from the
ancient prejudice of uniform, circular motion.

Such a genius for Analogy the world never before saw. The perception of
similitude, of correspondence, shot perpetual and prophetic in this
man's glances. To him had been opened the subtile secret, key to
Nature, that Man and the Universe are built after one pattern, and he
had faith to believe that the laws of his mind would unlock the
phenomena of the world.

The law of Analogy flows from the inherent harmonies of Nature. Of this
wise men have ever been intuitive. The eldest Scriptures express it. It
is in the Zend-Avesta, primal Japhetic utterance. It vivified that
subtile Egyptian symbolism. The early Greeks and the Mystics of
Alexandria knew it. Jamblicus reports of Pythagoras, that "he did not
procure for himself a thing of this kind through instruments or the
voice, but, by employing a certain inevitable divinity, and which it is
difficult to apprehend, he extended his ears and fixed his intellect in
the sublime symphonies of the world,--he alone hearing and
understanding, as it appears, the universal harmony and consonance of
the spheres and the stars that are moved through them, and which
produce a fuller and more intense melody than anything effected by
mortal sounds."

From the sublime intuitions of the harmonies of Nature and the unity of
the Universe unfold the bright doctrines of Series and Degrees, of
Correspondence, of Similitude. On these thoughts all wise spirits have
fed. Indeed, you can hardly say they were ever absent. They are of
those flaming thoughts the soul projects, splendid prophecies that
become the light of all our science and all our day. Plato formulated
these laws. Two thousand years after him, the cosmic brain of
Swedenborg traced their working throughout the universal economies of
matter and spirit, and Fourier endeavored to translate them into axioms
of a new social organization.

These doctrines were ever present to the mind of Kepler; and to what
fruitful account he turned Analogy as a means of inductive speculation
his wonderful anatomy of his discoveries reveals. He fed on the
harmonies of the universe. He has it, that "harmony is the perfection
of relations." The work of his mature intellect was the "Harmonices
Mundi," (Harmonies of the World,) in which many of the sublime leadings
of Modern Science, as the Correlation of Sounds and Colors, the
Significance of Musical Chords, the Undulatory Theory, etc., are
prefigured. We must account him one of the chief of those prophetic
spirits who, by attempting to give phenomena a necessary root in ideas,
have breathed into Science a living soul. The new Transcendental
Anatomy,--the doctrine of Homologies,--the Embryologic scheme,
revealing that all animate forms are developed after one
archetype,--the splendid Nebular guess of Laplace,--the thought of the
Metamorphosis of Plants,--the attempts at profounder explanations of
Light and Colors,--the rising transcendentalism of Chemistry,--the
magnificent intuition of Correspondence, showing a grand unity of
design in the nodes of shells, the phyllotaxism of plants, and the
serialization of planets,--are all signs of the presence of a spirit
that is to usher in a new dispensation of Science, fraught with
divinest messages to the head and heart of man.

Kepler regarded Analogy as the soul of Science, and he has made it an
instrument of prophecy and power. Thus, he inferred from Analogy that
the sun turned on its axis, long before Galileo was able to direct his
telescope to the solar spots and so determine this rotation as an
actual fact. He anticipated a planet between Mars and Jupiter too small
to be seen; and his inference that the obliquity of the ecliptic was
decreasing, but would, after a long-continued diminution, stop, and
then increase again, afterwards acquired the sanction of demonstration.
A like instance of anticipation is afforded in the beautiful experiment
of the freely-suspended ball revolving in an ellipse under the combined
influence of the central and tangential forces, which Jeremiah Horrocks
devised, when pursuing Kepler's theory of planetary motion,--his
intuition being, that the motions of the spheres might be represented
by terrestrial movements. We may mention the observation which the
ill-starred Horrocks makes, in a letter,[1] on the occasion of this
experiment, as one of the sublimities of Science:--"It appears to me,
however, that I have fallen upon the true theory, and that it admits of
being illustrated by natural movements on the surface of the earth; for
Nature everywhere acts according to a uniform plan, and the harmony of
creation is such that small things constitute a faithful type of
greater things." Another instance is afforded in the grand intuition of
Oken, who, when rambling in the Hartz Mountains, lit upon the skull of
a deer, and saw that the cranium was but an expansion of vertebrae, and
that the vertebra is the theoretical archetype of the entire osseous
framework,--the foundation of modern Osteology. And still another is
the well-known instance of the change in polarization predicted by
Fresnel from the mere interpretation of an algebraic symbol. This
prophetic insight is very sublime, and opens up new spaces in man.

[Footnote 1: _Correspondence,_ 1637]

Of the discoveries of Kepler, we can here have to do with their
universal and humanitary bearings alone. It is to be understood,
however, that the three grand sweeps of Deduction which we call
Kepler's Laws formed the foundation of the higher conception of
astronomy, that is, the dynamical theory of astronomical phenomena, and
prepared the way for the "Mecanique Celeste." Whewell, the learned
historian of the Sciences, speaks of them as "by far the most
magnificent and most certain train of truths which the whole expanse of
human knowledge can show"; and Comte declares, that "history tells of
no such succession of philosophical efforts as in the case of Kepler,
who, after constituting Celestial Geometry, strove to pursue that
science of Celestial Mechanics which was by its very nature reserved
for a future generation." These laws are, first, the law of the
velocities of the planets; second, the law of the elliptic orbit of the
planets; and, third, the harmonic law, that the squares of the times of
the planetary revolutions are proportional to the cubes of their mean
distances from the sun. They compass the whole sweep of Celestial
Geometry, and stamp their seer as unapproachably the greatest of
astronomers, as well as one of the chief benefactors of mankind.

The announcement of Kepler's first two laws was made in his New
Astronomy,--"Astronomia Nova, seu Physica Caelestis, tradita
Commentariis de Motibus Stellae Martis: Ex Observationibus G.V.
Tychonis Brahe." Folio. Prague: 1609. This he published in his
thirty-eighth year. The title he gave to this work, "Celestial
Physics," must ever be regarded as a stroke of philosophical genius; it
is the prediction of Newton and Laplace, and prefigures the path on
which astronomical discovery has advanced these two hundred and fifty

An auspicious circumstance conspired to forward the astronomical
discoveries of Kepler. Invited to Prague in 1600 by Tycho Brahe, as
Assistant Royal Astronomer, he had access to the superb series of
observations which Tycho had been accumulating for twenty-five years.
Endowed with a genius for observation unsurpassed in the annals of
science, the noble Dane had obtained a grant from the king of Denmark
of the island of Hven, at the mouth of the Baltic. Here he erected a
magnificent observatory, which he named _Uranienborg_, City of the
Heavens. This he fitted up with a collection of instruments of hitherto
unapproached size and perfection, and here, for twenty years, he
pursued his observations. Thus it was that Kepler, himself a poor
observer, found his complement in one who, without any power of
constructive generalization, was yet the possessor of the richest
series of astronomical observations ever made. From this admirable
conjunction admirable realizations were to be expected. And, indeed,
the "Astronomia Nova" presents an unequalled illustration of
observation vivified by theory, and theory tested and fructified by

To appreciate the significance of the discovery of the elliptical orbit
of the planets, it is necessary to understand the complicated confusion
that prevailed in the conception of planetary motions. The primal
thought was that the motions of the planets were uniform and circular.
This intuition of circular orbits was a happy one, and was, perhaps,
necessitated by the very structure of the human mind. The sweeping and
centrifugal soul, darting manifold rays of equal reach, realizes the
conception of the circle, that is, a figure all of whose radii are
equidistant from a central point. But this conception of the circle
afterwards came to acquire superstitious tenacity, being regarded as
the perfect form, and the only one suitable for such divine natures as
the stars, and was for two thousand years an impregnable barrier to the
progress of Astronomy. To account for every new appearance, every
deviation from circular perfection, a new cycloid was supposed, till
all the simplicity of the original hypothesis was lost in a
complication of epicycles:--

"The sphere,
With centric and eccentric scribbled o'er,
Cycle and epicycle, orb in orb."

By the end of the sixteenth century the number of circles supposed
necessary for the seven stars then known amounted to seventy-four,
while Tycho Brahe was discovering more and more planetary movements for
which these circles would not account.

To push aside forever this complicated chaos and evoke celestial order
and harmony, came Kepler. Long had the sublime intuition possessed him,
that numerical and geometrical relations connect the distances, times,
and revolutions of the planets. He began his studies on the planet
Mars,--a fortunate choice, as the marked eccentricity of that planet
would afford ready suggestions and verifications of the true law of
irregularity, and on which Tycho had accumulated copious data. It had
long been remarked that the angular velocity of each planet increases
constantly in proportion as the body approaches its centre of motion;
but the relation between the distance and the velocity remained wholly
unknown. Kepler discovered it by comparing the maximum and minimum of
these quantities, by which their relation became more sensible. He
found that the angular velocities of Mars at its nearest and farthest
distances from the sun were in inverse proportion to the squares of the
corresponding distances. This law, deduced, was the immediate path to
the law of orbital ellipticity. For, on attempting to apply his
newly-discovered law to Mars, on the old assumption that its orbit was
a circle, he soon found that the results from the combination of the
two principles were such as could not be reconciled with the places of
Mars observed by Tycho. In this dilemma, finding he must give up one or
the other of these principles, he first proposed to sacrifice his own
theory to the authority of the old system,--a memorable example of
resolute candor. But, after indefatigably subjecting it to crucial
experiment, he found that it was the old hypothesis, and not the new
one, that had to be sacrificed.[1] If the orbit was not a circle, what,
then, was it? By a happy stroke of philosophical genius he lit on the
ellipse. On bringing his hypothesis to the test of observation, he
found it was indeed so; and rising from the case of Mars to universal
statement, he generalized the law, that the planetary orbits are
elliptical, having the sun for their common focus.

[Footnote 1: ROBERT SMALL: _Astronomical Discoveries of Kepler_.]

Kepler had now determined the course of each planet. But there was no
known relation between the distances and times; and the evolution of
some harmony between these factors was to him an object of the greatest
interest and the most restless curiosity. Long he dwelt in the dream of
the Pythagorean harmonies. Then he essayed to determine it from the
regular geometrical solids, and afterwards from the divisions of
musical chords. Over twenty years he spent in these baffled efforts. At
length, on the 8th of March, 1618, it occurred to him, that, instead of
comparing the simple times, he should compare the numbers expressing
the similar powers, as squares, cubes, etc.; and lastly, he made the
very comparison on which his discovery was founded, between the squares
of the times and the cubes of the distances. But, through some error of
calculation, no common relation was found between them. Finding it
impossible, however, to banish the subject from his thoughts, he tells
us, that on the 8th of the following May he renewed the last of these
comparisons, and, by repeating his calculations with greater care,
found, with the highest astonishment and delight, that the ratio of the
squares of the periodical times of any two planets was constantly and
invariably the same with the ratio of the cubes of their mean distances
from the sun. Then it was that he burst forth in his memorable
rhapsody:--"What I prophesied twenty-two years ago, as soon as I
discovered the five solids among the heavenly orbits,--what I firmly
believed long before I had seen Ptolemy's harmonics,--what I had
promised my friends in the title of this book, which I named before I
was sure of my discovery,--what sixteen years ago I urged as a thing to
be sought,--that for which I joined Tycho Brahe, for which I settled in
Prague, for which I have devoted the best part of my life to
astronomical contemplation,--at length I have brought to light, and
have recognized its truth beyond my most sanguine expectations. It is
now eighteen months since I got the first glimpse of light, three
months since the dawn, very few days since the unveiled sun, most
admirable to gaze upon, burst out upon me. Nothing holds me; I will
indulge in my sacred fury; I will triumph over mankind by the honest
confession, that I have stolen the golden vases of the Egyptians to
build up a tabernacle for my God far away from the confines of Egypt.
If you forgive me, I rejoice; if you are angry, I can bear it: the die
is cast; the book is written, to be read either now or by posterity, I
care not which: it may well wait a century for a reader, as God has
waited six thousand years for an observer!"

These laws have, no doubt, a universal significance, and may be
translated into problems of life. For, after the farthest sweep of
Induction, a question yet remains to be asked: Whence comes the power
to perceive a law? Whence that subtile correspondence and
consanguinity, that the laws of man's mental structure tally with the
phenomena of the universe? To this problem of problems our science as
yet affords but meagre answers. It seems though, so far in the history
of humanity, it had been but given man to recognize this truth as a
splendid idealism, without the ability to make it potential in his
theory of the world. Yet what a key to new and beautiful gates of laws!

"Who can be sure to find its true degree,
_Magister magnus in igne_ shall he be."

Antique and intuitive nations--Indians, Egyptians, Greeks--sought a
solution of this august mystery in the doctrines of Transmigration and
Anamnesis or Reminiscence. Nothing is whereto man is not kin. He knows
all worlds and histories by virtue of having himself travelled the
mystic spiral descent. Awaking through memory, the processes of his
mind repeat the processes of the visible Kosmos. His unfolding is a
hymn of the origination of the world.

Nature and man having sprung from the same spiritual source, a perfect
agreement subsists between the phenomena of the world and man's
mentality. This is necessary to the very conception of Science. If the
laws of reason did not exist in Nature, we should vainly attempt to
force them upon her: if the laws of Nature did not exist in our reason,
we should not be able to comprehend them.[1] There is a saying reported
of Zoroaster, and, coming from the deeps of fifty centuries, still
authentic and intelligible, that "the congruities of material forms to
the laws of the soul are divine allurements." Ever welcome is the
perception of this truth,--as the sublime audacity of Paracelsus, that
"those who would understand the course of the heavens above must first
of all recognize the heaven in man"; and the affirmation, that "the
laws of Nature are the same as the thoughts within us: the laws of
motion are such as are required by our understanding." It remains to
say that Kepler, too, had intuition of this lofty thought. At the
conclusion of his early work, "The Prodromus Dissertationum
Cosmographicarum," he wrote,--"As men enjoy dainties at the dessert, so
do wise souls gain a taste for heavenly things when they ascend from
their college to the universe and there look around them. Great Artist
of the World! I look with wonder on the works of Thy hands, constructed
after five regular forms, and in the midst the sun, the dispenser of
light and life. I see the moon and stars strewn over the infinite field
of space. Father of the World! what moved Thee thus to exalt a poor, weak
little creature of earth so high that he stands in light a far-ruling
king, almost a god?--_for he thinks Thy thoughts after Thee_."

[Footnote 1: OERSTED: _Soul in Nature._]

It is impossible not to feel freer at the accession of so much power as
these laws bring us. They carry farther on the bounds of humanity. The
stars are the eternal monitions of spirituality. Who can estimate how
much man's thoughts have been colored by these golden kindred? It seems
as though it were but required to show man space,--space, space,
space,--there is that in him will fill and pass it. There is that in
the celestial prodigies--in gulfs of Time and Space--that seems to mate
the greed of the soul. There is that greed in the soul to pass through
worlds and ages,--through growths, griefs, desires, processes,
spheres,--to travel the endless highways,--to pass and resume again. O
Heavens, you are but a splendid fable of the elder mind! Centripetal
and centrifugal are in man, too, and primarily; and an aspiring soul
will ascend into the sweeps and circles, and pass swift and devouring
through baffling intervals and steep-down strata of galaxies and stars.

The thought that overarches the centuries with firmamental sweep is the
thought of the Ensemble. To this all has led along,--but the
disclosures of Astronomy especially. The discovery of the earth's
revolution, at once transporting the stars to distances outside of all
telluric connection, broke the old spell, and replaced the petty
provincialism of the earth as the All-Centre by the vast, sublime
conception of the Universe. Laplace has pointed this out, showing how
to the fantastic and enervating notion of a universe arranged for man
has succeeded the sound and vivifying thought of man discovering, by a
positive exercise of his intelligence, the general laws of the world,
so as to be able to modify them for his own good, within certain
limits. Dawning prophetic on modern times, the thought of the Ensemble
holds the seeds of new humanitary growths. This is the vast similitude
that binds together the ages,--that balances creeds, colors, eras.
Through Nature, man, forms, spirit, the eternal conspiracy works and
weaves. This is the water of spirituality. All is bound up in the
Divine Scheme. The Divine Scheme encloses all.


"Das Vergnuegen ist Nichts als ein hoechst angenehmer Schmerz."--HEINRICH


Full of beautiful blossoms
Stood the tree in early May:
Came a chilly gale from the sunset,
And blew the blossoms away,--

Scattered them, through the garden,
Tossed them into the mere:
The sad tree moaned and shuddered,
"Alas! the fall is here."

But all through the glowing summer
The blossomless tree throve fair,
And the fruit waxed ripe and mellow,
With sunny rain and air;

And when the dim October
With golden death was crowned,
Under its heavy branches
The tree stooped to the ground.

In youth there comes a west wind
Blowing our bloom away,--
A chilly breath of Autumn
Out of the lips of May.

We bear the ripe fruit after,--
Ah, me! for the thought of pain!--
We know the sweetness and beauty
And the heart-bloom never again.


One sails away to sea,--
One stands on the shore and cries;
The ship goes down the world, and the light
On the sullen water dies.

The whispering shell is mute,--
And after is evil cheer:
She shall stand on the shore and cry in vain,
Many and many a year.

But the stately, wide-winged ship
Lies wrecked on the unknown deep;
Far under, dead in his coral bed,
The lover lies asleep.


In the wainscot ticks the death-watch,
Chirps the cricket in the floor,
In the distance dogs are barking,
Feet go by outside my door.

From her window honeysuckles
Stealing in upon the gloom,
Spice and sweets embalm the silence
Dead within the lonesome room.

And the ghost of that dead silence
Haunts me ever, thin and chill,
In the pauses of the death-watch,
When the cricket's cry is still.


She stands in silks of purple,
Like a splendid flower in bloom;
She moves, and the air is laden
With delicate perfume.

The over-vigilant mamma
Can never let her be:
She must play this march for another,
And sing that song for me.

I wonder if she remembers
The song I made for her:
"_The hopes of love are frailer
Than lines of gossamer_":

Made when we strolled together
Through fields of happy June,
And our hearts kept time together,
With birds and brooks in tune,--

And I was so glad of loving,
That I must mimic grief,
And, trusting in love forever,
Must fable unbelief.

I did not hear the prelude,--
I was thinking of these old things.
She is fairer and wiser and older
Than----What is it she sings?

"_The hopes of love are frailer
Than lines of gossamer_."
Alas! the bitter wisdom
Of the song I made for her!


All the long August afternoon,
The little drowsy stream
Whispers a melancholy tune,
As if it dreamed of June
And whispered in its dream.

The thistles show beyond the brook
Dust on their down and bloom,
And out of many a weed-grown nook
The aster-flowers look
With eyes of tender gloom.

The silent orchard aisles are sweet
With smell of ripening fruit.
Through the sere grass, in shy retreat,
Flatter, at coming feet,
The robins strange and mute.

There is no wind to stir the leaves,
The harsh leaves overhead;
Only the querulous cricket grieves,
And shrilling locust weaves
A song of summer dead.




"Mr. and Mrs. Colonel Sprowle's compliments to Mr. Langdon and requests
the pleasure of his company at a social entertainment on Wednesday
evening next.

"_Elm St. Monday._"

On paper of a pinkish color and musky smell, with a large S at the top,
and an embossed border. Envelop adherent, not sealed. Addressed,

----_Langdon Esq.


Brought by H. Frederic Sprowle, youngest son of the Colonel,--the H. of
course standing for the paternal Hezekiah, put in to please the father,
and reduced to its initial to please the mother, she having a marked
preference for Frederic. Boy directed to wait for an answer.

"Mr. Langdon has the pleasure of accepting Mr. and Mrs. Colonel
Sprowle's polite invitation for Wednesday evening."

On plain paper, sealed with an initial.

In walking along the main street, Mr. Bernard had noticed a large house
of some pretensions to architectural display, namely, unnecessarily
projecting eaves, giving it a mushroomy aspect, wooden mouldings at
various available points, and a grandiose arched portico. It looked a
little swaggering by the side of one or two of the mansion-houses that
were not far from it, was painted too bright for Mr. Bernard's taste,
had rather too fanciful a fence before it, and had some fruit-trees
planted in the front-yard, which to this fastidious young gentleman
implied a defective sense of the fitness of things, not promising in
people who lived in so large a house, with a mushroom roof, and a
triumphal arch for its entrance.

This place was known as "Colonel Sprowle's villa," (genteel
friends,)--as "the elegant residence of our distinguished
fellow-citizen, Colonel Sprowle," (Rockland Weekly Universe,)--as "the
neew haouse," (old settlers,)--as "Spraowle's Folly," (disaffected and
possibly envious neighbors,)--and in common discourse, as "the

Hezekiah Sprowle, Esquire, Colonel Sprowle of the Commonwealth's
Militia, was a retired "merchant." An India merchant he might, perhaps,
have been properly called; for he used to deal in West India goods,
such as coffee, sugar, and molasses, not to speak of rum,--also in tea,
salt fish, butter and cheese, oil and candles, dried fruit,
agricultural "p'doose" generally, industrial products, such as boots
and shoes, and various kinds of iron and wooden ware, and at one end of
the establishment in calicoes and other stuffs,--to say nothing of
miscellaneous objects of the most varied nature, from sticks of candy,
which tempted in the smaller youth with coppers in their fists, up to
ornamental articles of apparel, pocket-books, breast-pins, gilt-edged
Bibles, stationery,--in short, everything which was like to prove
seductive to the rural population. The Colonel had made money in trade,
and also by matrimony. He had married Sarah, daughter and heiress of
the late Tekel Jordan, Esq., an old miser, who gave the town clock,
which carries his name to posterity in large gilt letters as a generous
benefactor of his native place. In due time the Colonel reaped the
reward of well-placed affections. When his wife's inheritance fell in,
he thought he had money enough to give up trade, and therefore sold out
his "store," called in some dialects of the English language _shop_,
and his business.

Life became pretty hard work to him, of course, as soon as he had
nothing particular to do. Country people with money enough not to have
to work are in much more danger than city people in the same condition.
They get a specific look and character, which are the same in all the
villages where one studies them. They very commonly fall into a
routine, the basis of which is going to some lounging-place or other, a
bar-room, a reading-room, or something of the kind. They grow slovenly
in dress, and wear the same hat forever. They have a feeble curiosity
for news perhaps, which they take daily as a man takes his bitters, and
then fall silent and think they are thinking. But the mind goes out
under this regimen, like a fire without a draught; and it is not very
strange, if the instinct of mental self-preservation drives them to
brandy-and-water, which makes the hoarse whisper of memory musical for
a few brief moments, and puts a weak leer of promise on the features of
the hollow-eyed future. The Colonel was kept pretty well in hand as yet
by his wife, and though it had happened to him once or twice to come
home rather late at night with a curious tendency to say the same thing
twice and even three times over, it had always been in very cold
weather,--and everybody knows that no one is safe to drink a couple of
glasses of wine in a warm room and go suddenly out into the cold air.

Miss Matilda Sprowle, sole daughter of the house, had reached the age
at which young ladies are supposed in technical language to have _come
out_, and thereafter are considered to be _in company._

"There's one piece o' goods," said the Colonel to his wife, "that we
ha'n't disposed of, nor got a customer for yet. That's Matildy. I don't
mean to set _her_ up at vaandoo. I guess she can have her pick of a

"She's never seen anybody yet," said Mrs. Sprowle, who had had a
certain project for some time, but had kept quiet about it. "Let's have
a party, and give her a chance to show herself and see some of the
young folks."

The Colonel was not very clear-headed, and he thought, naturally
enough, that the party was his own suggestion, because his remark led
to the first starting of the idea. He entered into the plan, therefore,
with a certain pride as well as pleasure, and the great project was
resolved upon in a family council without a dissentient voice. This was
the party, then, to which Mr. Bernard was going. The town had been full
of it for a week. "Everybody was asked." So everybody said that was
invited. But how in respect of those who were not asked? If it had been
one of the old mansion-houses that was giving a party, the boundary
between the favored and the slighted families would have been known
pretty well beforehand, and there would have been no great amount of
grumbling. But the Colonel, for all his title, had a forest of poor
relations and a brushwood swamp of shabby friends, for he had scrambled
up to fortune, and now the time was come when he must define his new
social position.

This is always an awkward business in town or country. An exclusive
alliance between two powers is often the same thing as a declaration of
war against a third. Rockland was soon split into a triumphant
minority, invited to Mrs. Sprowle's party, and a great majority,
uninvited, of which the fraction just on the border line between
recognized "gentility" and the level of the ungloved masses was in an
active state of excitement and indignation.

"Who is she, I should like to know?" said Mrs. Saymore, the tailor's
wife. "There was plenty of folks in Rockland as good as ever Sally
Jordan was, if she _had_ managed to pick up a merchant. Other folks
could have married merchants, if their families wasn't as wealthy as
them old skinflints that willed her their money," etc., etc. Mrs.
Saymore expressed the feeling of many beside herself. She had, however,
a special right to be proud of the name she bore. Her husband was own
cousin to the Saymores of Freestone Avenue (who write the name
_Seymour_, and claim to be of the Duke of Somerset's family, showing a
clear descent from the Protector to Edward Seymour, (1630,)--then a
jump that would break a herald's neck to one Seth Saymore,
(1783,)--from whom to the head of the present family the line is clear
again). Mrs. Saymore, the tailor's wife, was not invited, because her
husband _mended_ clothes. If he had confined himself strictly to
_making_ them, it would have put a different face upon the matter.

The landlord of the Mountain House and his lady were invited to Mrs.
Sprowle's party. Not so the landlord of Pollard's Tavern and his lady.
Whereupon the latter vowed that they would have a party at their house
too, and made arrangements for a dance of twenty or thirty couples, to
be followed by an entertainment. Tickets to this "Social Ball" were
soon circulated, and, being accessible to all at a moderate price,
admission to the "Elegant Supper" included, this second festival
promised to be as merry, if not as select, as the great party.

Wednesday came. Such doings had never been heard of in Rockland as went
on that day at the "villa." The carpet had been taken up in the long
room, so that the young folks might have a dance. Miss Matilda's piano
had been moved in, and two fiddlers and a clarionet-player engaged to
make music. All kinds of lamps had been put in requisition, and even
colored wax-candles figured on the mantel-pieces. The costumes of the
family had been tried on the day before: the Colonel's black suit
fitted exceedingly well; his lady's velvet dress displayed her contours
to advantage; Miss Matilda's flowered silk was considered superb; the
eldest son of the family, Mr. T. Jordan Sprowle, called affectionately
and elegantly "Geordie," voted himself "stunnin'"; and even the small
youth who had borne Mr. Bernard's invitation was effective in a new
jacket and trousers, buttony in front, and baggy in the reverse aspect,
as is wont to be the case with the home-made garments of inland

Great preparations had been made for the refection which was to be part
of the entertainment. There was much clinking of borrowed spoons, which
were to be carefully counted, and much clicking of borrowed china,
which was to be tenderly handled,--for nobody in the country keeps
those vast closets full of such things which one may see in rich
city-houses. Not a great deal could be done in the way of flowers, for
there were no greenhouses, and few plants were out as yet; but there
were paper ornaments for the candlesticks, and colored mats for the
lamps, and all the tassels of the curtains and bells were taken out of
those brown linen bags, in which, for reasons hitherto undiscovered,
they are habitually concealed in some households. In the remoter
apartments every imaginable operation was going on at once,--roasting,
boiling, baking, beating, rolling, pounding in mortars, frying,
freezing; for there was to be ice-cream to-night of domestic
manufacture;--and in the midst of all these labors, Mrs. Sprowle and
Miss Matilda were moving about, directing and helping as they best
might, all day long. When the evening came, it might be feared they
would not be in just the state of mind and body to entertain company.

----One would like to give a party now and then, if one could be a
billionnaire.--"Antoine, I am going to have twenty people to dine
to-day." "_Bien, Madame_." Not a word or thought more about it, but get
home in season to dress, and come down to your own table, one of your
own guests.--"Giuseppe, we are to have a party a week from
to-night,--five hundred invitations,--there is the list." The day
comes. "Madam, do you remember you have your party to-night?" "Why, so
I have! Everything right? supper and all?" "All as it should be,
Madam." "Send up Victorine." "Victorine, full toilet for this
evening,--pink, diamonds, and emeralds. Coiffeur at seven.
_Allez_."--Billionism, or even millionism, must be a blessed kind of
state, with health and clear conscience and youth and good looks,--but
most blessed in this, that it takes off all the mean cares which give
people the three wrinkles between the eyebrows, and leaves them free to
have a good time and make others have a good time, all the way along
from the charity that tips up unexpected loads of wood at widows'
doors, and leaves foundling turkeys upon poor men's doorsteps, and sets
lean clergymen crying at the sight of anonymous fifty-dollar bills, to
the taste which orders a perfect banquet in such sweet accord with
every sense that everybody's nature flowers out full-blown in its
golden-glowing, fragrant atmosphere.

----A great party given by the smaller gentry of the interior is a kind
of solemnity, so to speak. It involves so much labor and anxiety,--its
spasmodic splendors are so violently contrasted with the homeliness of
every-day family-life,--it is such a formidable matter to break in the
raw subordinates to the _manege_ of the cloak-room and the
table,--there is such a terrible uncertainty in the results of
unfamiliar culinary operations,--so many feuds are involved in drawing
that fatal line which divides the invited from the uninvited fraction
of the local universe,--that, if the notes requested the pleasure of
the guests' company on "this solemn occasion," they would pretty nearly
express the true state of things.

The Colonel himself had been pressed into the service. He had pounded
something in the great mortar. He had agitated a quantity of sweetened
and thickened milk in what was called a cream-freezer. At eleven
o'clock, A.M., he retired for a space. On returning, his color was
noted to be somewhat heightened, and he showed a disposition to be
jocular with the female help,--which tendency, displaying itself in
livelier demonstrations than were approved at head-quarters, led to his
being detailed to out-of-door duties, such as raking gravel, arranging
places for horses to be hitched to, and assisting in the construction
of an arch of wintergreen at the porch of the mansion.

A whiff from Mr. Geordie's cigar refreshed the toiling females from
time to time; for the windows had to be opened occasionally, while all
these operations were going on, and the youth amused himself with
inspecting the interior, encouraging the operatives now and then in the
phrases commonly employed by genteel young men,--for he had perused an
odd volume of "Verdant Green," and was acquainted with a Sophomore from
one of the fresh-water colleges.--"Go it on the feed!" exclaimed this
spirited young man. "Nothin' like a good spread. Grub enough and good
liquor; that's the ticket. Guv'nor 'll do the heavy polite, and let me
alone for polishin' off the young charmers." And Mr. Geordie looked
expressively at a handmaid who was rolling gingerbread, as if he were
rehearsing for "Don Giovanni."

Evening came at last, and the ladies were forced to leave the scene of
their labors to array themselves for the coming festivities. The tables
had been set in a back room, the meats were ready, the pickles were
displayed, the cake was baked, the blanc-mange had stiffened, and the
ice-cream had frozen.

At half past seven o'clock, the Colonel, in costume, came into the
front parlor, and proceeded to light the lamps. Some were good-humored
enough and took the hint of a lighted match at once. Others were as
vicious as they could be,--would not light on any terms, any more than
if they were filled with water, or lighted and smoked one side of the
chimney, or sputtered a few sparks and sulked themselves out, or kept
up a faint show of burning, so that their ground glasses looked as
feebly phosphorescent as so many invalid fireflies. With much coaxing
and screwing and pricking, a tolerable illumination was at last
achieved. At eight there was a grand rustling of silks, and Mrs. and
Miss Sprowle descended from their respective bowers or boudoirs. Of
course they were pretty well tired by this time, and very glad to sit
down,--having the prospect before them of being obliged to stand for
hours. The Colonel walked about the parlor, inspecting his regiment of
lamps. By-and-by Mr. Geordie entered.

"Mph! mph!" he sniffed, as he came in. "You smell of lamp-smoke here."

That always galls people,--to have a new-comer accuse them of smoke or
close air, which they have got used to and do not perceive. The Colonel
raged at the thought of his lamps' smoking, and tongued a few anathemas
inside of his shut teeth, but turned down two or three that burned
higher than the rest.

Master H. Frederic next made his appearance, with questionable marks
upon his fingers and countenance. Had been tampering with something
brown and sticky. His elder brother grew playful, and caught him by the
baggy reverse of his more essential garment.

"Hush!" said Mrs. Sprowle,--"there's the bell!"

Everybody took position at once, and began to look very smiling and
altogether at ease.--False alarm. Only a parcel of spoons,--"loaned,"
as the inland folks say when they mean lent, by a neighbor.

"Better late than never!" said the Colonel; "let me heft them spoons."

Mrs. Sprowle came down into her chair again as if all her bones had
been bewitched out of her.

"I'm pretty nigh beat out a'ready," said she, "before any of the folks
has come."

They sat silent awhile, waiting for the first arrival. How nervous they
got! and how their senses were sharpened!

"Hark!" said Miss Matilda,--"what's that rumblin'?"

It was a cart going over a bridge more than a mile off, which at any
other time they would not have heard. After this there was a lull, and
poor Mrs. Sprowle's head nodded once or twice. Presently a crackling
and grinding of gravel;--how much that means, when we are waiting for
those whom we long or dread to see! Then a change in the tone of the

"Yes, they have turned in at our gate. They're comin'. Mother! mother!"

Everybody in position, smiling and at ease. Bell rings. Enter the first
set of visitors. The Event of the Season has begun.

"Law! it's nothin' but the Cranes' folks! I do believe Mahala's come in
that old green de-laine she wore at the Surprise Party!"

Miss Matilda had peeped through a crack of the door and made this
observation and the remark founded thereon. Continuing her attitude of
attention, she overheard Mrs. Crane and her two daughters conversing in
the attiring-room, up one flight.

"How fine everything is in the great house!" said Mrs. Crane,--"jest
look at the picters!" "Matildy Sprowle's drawins," said Ada Azuba, the
eldest daughter.

"I should think so," said Mahala Crane, her younger sister,--a
wide-awake girl, who hadn't been to school for nothing, and performed a
little on the lead pencil herself. "I should like to know whether
that's a hay-cock or a mountain!"

Miss Matilda winced; for this must refer to her favorite monochrome,
executed by laying on heavy shadows and stumping them down into mellow
harmony,--the style of drawing which is taught in six lessons, and the
kind of specimen which is executed in something less than one hour.
Parents and other very near relatives are sometimes gratified with
these productions, and cause them to be framed and hung up, as in the
present instance.

"I guess we won't go down jest yet," said Mrs. Crane, "as folks don't
seem to have come."

So she began a systematic inspection of the dressing-room and its

"Mahogany four-poster,--come from the Jordans', I cal'late. Marseilles
quilt. Ruffles all round the piller. Chintz curtings,--jest put up,--o'
purpose for the party, I'll lay ye a dollar.--What a nice washbowl!"
(Taps it with a white knuckle belonging to a red finger.) "Stone
chaney.--Here's a bran'-new brush and comb,--and here's a scent-bottle.
Come here, girls, and fix yourselves in the glass, and scent your

And Mrs. Crane bedewed her own kerchief with some of the _eau de
Cologne_ of native manufacture,--said on its label to be much superior
to the German article.

It was a relief to Mrs. and the Miss Cranes when the bell rang and the
next guests were admitted. Deacon and Mrs. Soper,--Deacon Soper of the
Rev. Mr. Fairweather's church, and his lady. Mrs. Deacon Soper was
directed, of course, to the ladies' dressing-room, and her husband to
the other apartment, where gentlemen were to leave their outside coats
and hats. Then came Mr. and Mrs. Briggs, and then the three Miss
Spinneys, then Silas Peckham, Head of the Apollinean Institute, and
Mrs. Peckham, and more after them, until at last the ladies'
dressing-room got so full that one might have thought it was a trap
none of them could get out of. The fact is, they all felt a little
awkwardly. Nobody wanted to be first to venture down-stairs. At last
Mr. Silas Peckham thought it was time to make a move for the parlor,
and for this purpose presented himself at the door of the ladies'

"Lorindy, my dear!" he exclaimed to Mrs. Peckham,--"I think there can
be no impropriety in our joining the family down-stairs."

Mrs. Peckham laid her large, flaccid arm in the sharp angle made by the
black sleeve which held the bony limb her husband offered, and the two
took the stair and struck out for the parlor. The ice was broken, and
the dressing-room began to empty itself into the spacious, lighted
apartments below.

Mr. Silas Peckham scaled into the room with Mrs. Peckham alongside,
like a shad convoying a jelly-fish.

"Good evenin', Mrs. Sprowle! I hope I see you well this evenin'. How's
your health, Colonel Sprowle?"

"Very well, much obleeged to you. Hope you and your good lady are well.
Much pleased to see you. Hope you'll enjoy yourselves. We've laid out
to have everything in good shape,--spared no trouble nor ex"----

----"pense,"--said Silas Peckham.

Mrs. Colonel Sprowle, who, you remember, was a Jordan, had nipped the
Colonel's statement in the middle of the word Mr. Peckham finished,
with a look that jerked him like one of those sharp twitches women keep
giving a horse when they get a chance to drive one.

Mr. and Mrs. Crane, Miss Ada Azuba, and Miss Mahala Crane made their
entrance. There had been a discussion about the necessity and propriety
of inviting this family, the head of which kept a small shop for hats
and boots and shoes. The Colonel's casting vote had carried it in the
affirmative.--How terribly the poor old green de-laine did cut up in
the blaze of so many lamps and candles!

----Deluded little wretch, male or female, in town or country, going to
your first great party, how little you know the nature of the ceremony
in which you are to bear the part of victim! What! are not these
garlands and gauzy mists and many-colored streamers which adorn you, is
not this music which welcomes you, this radiance that glows about you,
meant solely for your enjoyment, young miss of seventeen or eighteen
summers, now for the first time swimming into the frothy, chatoyant,
sparkling, undulating sea of laces and silks and satins, and
white-armed, flower-crowned maidens struggling in their waves, beneath
the lustres that make the false summer of the drawing-room?

Stop at the threshold! This is a hall of judgment you are entering; the
court is in session; and if you move five steps forward, you will be at
its bar.

There was a tribunal once in France, as you may remember, called the
_Chambre Ardente_, the Burning Chamber. It was hung all round with
lamps, and hence its name. The burning chamber for the trial of young
maidens is the blazing ballroom. What have they full-dressed you, or
rather half-dressed you for, do you think? To make you look pretty, of
course!--Why have they hung a chandelier above you, flickering all over
with flames, so that it searches you like the noonday sun, and your
deepest dimple cannot hold a shadow? To give brilliancy to the gay
scene, no doubt!--No, my dear! Society is _inspecting_ you, and it
finds undisguised surfaces and strong lights a convenience in the
process. The dance answers the purpose of the revolving pedestal upon
which the "White Captive" turns, to show us the soft, kneaded marble,
which looks as if it had never been hard, in all its manifold aspects

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