Part 2 out of 5
her pretty dark eyes and lifted herself and wrung the water out of her
braids; then she sank back.
"Faith! Faith! speak to me!" said Dan, close in her ear. "Don't you know
"Go away," she said, hoarsely, pushing his face with her flat wet palm.
"You let the sail take me over and drown me, while you kissed Georgie's
I flung my hand before her eyes.
"Is there a kiss on those fingers?" I cried, in a blaze. "He never
kissed my hands or my lips. Dan is your husband, Faith!"
For all answer Faith hid her head and gave a little moan. Somehow I
couldn't stand that; so I ran and put my arms round her neck and lifted
her face and kissed it, and then we cried together. And Dan, walking the
floor, took up his hat and went out, while she never cast a look after
him. To think of such a great strong nature and such a powerful depth of
feeling being wasted on such a little limp rag! I cried as much for that
as anything. Then I helped Faith into my bedroom, and running home, I
got her some dry clothes,--after rummaging enough, dear knows! for you'd
be more like to find her nightcap in the tea-caddy than elsewhere,--and
I made her a corner on the settle, for she was afraid to stay in the
bedroom, and when she was comfortably covered there she fell asleep.
Dan came in soon and sat down beside her, his eyes on the floor, never
glancing aside nor smiling, but gloomier than the grave. As for me, I
felt at ease now, so I went and laid my hand on the back of his chair
and made him look up. I wanted he should know the same rest that I
had, and perhaps he did,--for, still looking up, the quiet smile came
floating round his lips, and his eyes grew steady and sweet as they used
to be before he married Faith. Then I went bustling lightly about the
"Dan," I said, "if you'd just bring me in a couple of those chickens
stalking out there like two gentlemen from Spain."
While he was gone I flew round and got a cake into the bake-kettle, and
a pan of biscuit down before the fire; and I set the tea to steep on the
coals, because father always likes his tea strong enough to bear up an
egg, after a hard day's work, and he'd had that to-day; and I put on the
coffee to boil, for I knew Dan never had it at home, because Faith liked
it and it didn't agree with her. And then he brought me in the chickens
all ready for the pot, and so at last I sat down, but at the opposite
side of the chimney. Then he rose, and, without exactly touching me,
swept me back to the other side, where lay the great net I was making
for father; and I took the little stool by the settle, and not far from
him, and went to work.
"Georgie," said Dan, at length, after he'd watched me a considerable
time, "if any word I may have said to-day disturbed you a moment, I want
you to know that it hurt me first, and just as much."
"Yes, Dan," said I.
I've always thought there was something real noble between Dan and me
then. There was I,--well, I don't mind telling you. And he,--yes, I'm
sure he loved me perfectly,--you mustn't be startled, I'll tell you how
it was,--and always had, only maybe he hadn't known it; but it was deep
down in his heart just the same, and by-and-by it stirred. There we
were, both of us thoroughly conscious, yet neither of us expressing it
by a word, and trying not to by a look,--both of us content to wait for
the next life, when we could belong to one another. In those days I
contrived to have it always pleasure enough for me just to know that Dan
was in the room; and though that wasn't often, I never grudged Faith her
right in him, perhaps because I knew she didn't care anything about it.
You see, this is how it was.
When Dan was a lad of sixteen, and took care of his mother, a ship went
to pieces down there on the island. It was one of the worst storms that
ever whistled, and though crowds were on the shore, it was impossible to
reach her. They could see the poor wretches hanging in the rigging, and
dropping one by one, and they could only stay and sicken, for the surf
stove the boats, and they didn't know then how to send out ropes on
rockets or on cannon-balls, and so the night fell, and the people wrung
their hands and left the sea to its prey, and felt as if blue sky could
never come again. And with the bright, keen morning not a vestige of the
ship, but here a spar and there a door, and on the side of a sand-hill
a great dog watching over a little child that he'd kept warm all night.
Dan, he'd got up at turn of tide, and walked down,--the sea running over
the road knee-deep,--for there was too much swell for boats; and when
day broke, he found the little girl, and carried her up to town. He
didn't take her home, for he saw that what clothes she had were the very
finest,--made as delicately,--with seams like the hair-strokes on that
heart's-ease there; and he concluded that he couldn't bring her up as
she ought to be. So he took her round to the rich men, and represented
that she was the child of a lady, and that a poor fellow like
himself--for Dan was older than his years, you see--couldn't do her
justice: she was a slight little thing, and needed dainty training
and fancy food, maybe a matter of seven years old, and she spoke some
foreign language, and perhaps she didn't speak it plain, for nobody knew
what it was. However, everybody was very much interested, and everybody
was willing to give and to help, but nobody wanted to take her, and the
upshot of it was that Dan refused all their offers and took her himself.
His mother'd been in to our house all the afternoon before, and she'd
kept taking her pipe out of her mouth,--she had the asthma, and
smoked,--and kept sighing.
"This storm's going to bring me something," says she, in a mighty
miserable tone. "I'm sure of it!"
"No harm, I hope, Miss Devereux," said mother.
"Well, Rhody,"--mother's father, he was a queer kind,--called his girls
all after the thirteen States, and there being none left for Uncle Mat,
he called him after the state of matrimony,--"Well, Rhody," she replied,
rather dismally, and knocking the ashes out of the bowl, "I don't know;
but I'll have faith to believe that the Lord won't send me no ill
without distincter warning. And that it's good I _have_ faith to
And so when the child appeared, and had no name, and couldn't answer for
herself, Mrs. Devereux called her Faith.
We're a people of presentiments down here on the Flats, and well we
may be. You'd own up yourself, maybe, if in the dark of the night, you
locked in sleep, there's a knock on the door enough to wake the dead,
and you start up and listen and nothing follows; and falling back,
you're just dozing off, and there it is once more, so that the lad in
the next room cries out, "Who's that, mother?" No one answering, you're
half lost again, when _rap_ comes the hand again, the loudest of the
three, and you spring to the door and open it, and there's nought there
but a wind from the graves blowing in your face; and after a while you
learn that in that hour of that same night your husband was lost at sea.
Well, that happened to Mrs. Devereux. And I haven't time to tell you the
warnings I've known of. As for Faith, I mind that she said herself, as
we were in the boat for that clear midnight sail, that the sea had a
spite against her, but third time was trying time.
So Faith grew up, and Dan sent her to school what he could, for he set
store by her. She was always ailing,--a little, wilful, pettish thing,
but pretty as a flower; and folks put things into her head, and she
began to think she was some great shakes; and she may have been a matter
of seventeen years old when Mrs. Devereux died. Dan, as simple at
twenty-six as he had been ten years before, thought to go on just in
the old way, but the neighbors were one too many for him; and they all
represented that it would never do, and so on, till the poor fellow got
perplexed and vexed and half beside himself. There wasn't the first
thing she could do for herself, and he couldn't afford to board her out,
for Dan was only a laboring-man, mackerelling all summer and shoemaking
all winter, less the dreadful times when he stayed out on the Georges;
and then he couldn't afford, either, to keep her there and ruin the poor
girl's reputation;--and what did Dan do but come to me with it all?
Now for a number of years I'd been up in the other part of the town with
Aunt Netty, who kept a shop that I tended between schools and before and
after, and I'd almost forgotten there was such a soul on earth as Dan
Devereux,--though he'd not forgotten me. I'd got through the Grammar
and had a year in the High, and suppose I should have finished with an
education and gone off teaching somewhere, instead of being here now,
cheerful as heart could wish, with a little black-haired hussy tiltering
on the back of my chair.--Rolly, get down! Her name's Laura,--for his
mother.--I mean I might have done all this, if at that time mother
hadn't been thrown on her back, and been bedridden ever since. I haven't
said much about mother yet, but there all the time she was, just as she
is to-day, in her little tidy bed in one corner of the great kitchen,
sweet as a saint, and as patient; and I had to come and keep house for
father. He never meant that I should lose by it, father didn't; begged,
borrowed, or stolen, bought or hired, I should have my books, he said:
he's mighty proud of my learning, though between you and me it's little
enough to be proud of; but the neighbors think I know 'most as much as
the minister,--and I let 'em think. Well, while Mrs. Devereux was sick I
was over there a good deal,--for if Faith had one talent, it was total
incapacity,--and there had a chance of knowing the stuff that Dan was
made of; and I declare to man 'twould have touched a heart of stone to
see the love between the two. She thought Dan held up the sky, and Dan
thought she was the sky. It's no wonder,--the risks our men lead can't
make common-sized women out of their wives and mothers. But I hadn't
been coming in and out, busying about where Dan was, all that time,
without making any mark; though he was so lost in grief about his mother
that he didn't take notice of his other feelings, or think of himself at
all. And who could care the less about him for that? It always brings
down a woman to see a man wrapt in some sorrow that's lawful, and tender
as it is large. And when he came and told me what the neighbors said he
must do with Faith, the blood stood still in my heart.
"Ask mother, Dan," says I,--for I couldn't have advised him. "She knows
best about everything."
So he asked her.
"I think--I'm sorry to think, for I fear she'll not make you a good
wife," said mother, "but that perhaps her love for you will teach her to
be--you'd best marry Faith."
"But I can't marry her!" said Dan, half choking; "I don't want to marry
her,--it--it makes me uncomfortable-like to think of such a thing. I
care for the child plenty----Besides," said Dan, catching at a bright
hope, "I'm not sure that she'd have me."
"Have you, poor boy! What else can she do?"
"Poor little Faith!" said mother. "She's so pretty, Dan, and she's so
young, and she's pliant. And then how can we tell what may turn up about
her some day? She may be a duke's daughter yet,--who knows? Think of the
stroke of good-fortune she may give you!"
"But I don't love her," said Dan, as a finality.
"Perhaps----It isn't----You don't love any one else?"
"No," said Dan, as a matter of course, and not at all with reflection.
And then, as his eyes went wandering, there came over them a misty look,
just as the haze creeps between you and some object away out at sea, and
he seemed to be searching his very soul. Suddenly the look swept off
them, and his eyes struck mine, and he turned, not having meant to, and
faced me entirely, and there came such a light into his countenance,
such a smile round his lips, such a red stamped his cheek, and he bent
a little,--and it was just as if the angel of the Lord had shaken his
wings over us in passing, and we both of us knew that here was a man and
here was a woman, each for the other, in life and death; and I just hid
my head in my apron, and mother turned on her pillow with a little moan.
How long that lasted I can't say, but by-and-by I heard mother's
voice, clear and sweet as a tolling bell far away on some fair Sunday
"The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven: his
eyes behold, his eyelids try the children of men."
And nobody spoke.
"Thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Thou wilt
light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. For with
thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light."
Then came the hush again, and Dan started to his feet, and began to walk
up and down the room as if something drove him; but wearying, he stood
and leaned his head on the chimney there. And mother's voice broke the
stillness anew, and she said,--
"Hath God forgotten to be gracious? His mercy endureth forever. And none
of them that trust in him shall be desolate."
There was something in mother's tone that made me forget myself and my
sorrow, and look; and there she was, as she hadn't been before for six
months, half risen from the bed, one hand up, and her whole face white
and shining with confident faith. Well, when I see all that such trust
has buoyed mother over, I wish to goodness I had it: I take more after
Martha. But never mind, do well here and you'll do well there, say I.
Perhaps you think it wasn't much, the quiet and the few texts breathed
through it; but sometimes when one's soul's at a white heat, it may be
moulded like wax with a finger. As for me, maybe God hardened Pharaoh's
heart,--though how that was Pharaoh's fault I never could see. But
Dan,--he felt what it was to have a refuge in trouble, to have a great
love always extending over him like a wing; he longed for it; he
couldn't believe it was his now, he was so suddenly convicted of all sin
and wickedness; and something sprang up in his heart, a kind of holy
passion that he felt to be possible for this great and tender Divine
Being; and he came and fell on his knees by the side of the bed, crying
out for mother to show him the way; and mother, she put her hand on his
head and prayed,--prayed, oh, so beautifully, that it makes the water
stand in my eyes now to remember what she said. But I didn't feel so
then, my heart and my soul were rebellious, and love for Dan alone kept
me under, not love for God. And in fact, if ever I'd got to heaven
then, love for Dan'd have been my only saving grace; for I was mighty
high-spirited, as a girl. Well, Dan he never made open profession; but
when he left the house, he went and asked Faith to marry him.
Now Faith didn't care anything about Dan,--except the quiet attachment
that she couldn't help, from living in the house with him, and he'd
always petted and made much of her, and dressed her like a doll,--he
wasn't the kind of man to take her fancy: she'd have maybe liked some
slender, smooth-faced chap; but Dan was a black, shaggy fellow, with
shoulders like the cross-tree, and a length of limb like Saul's, and
eyes set deep, like lamps in caverns. And he had a great, powerful
heart,--and, oh, how it was lost! for she might have won it, she might
have made him love her, since I would have stood wide away and aside for
the sake of seeing him happy. But Faith was one of those that, if they
can't get what they want, haven't any idea of putting up with what they
have,--God forgive me, if I'm hard on the child! And she couldn't give
Dan an answer right off, but was loath to think of it, and went flirting
about among the other boys; and Dan, when he saw she wasn't so easily
gotten, perhaps set more value on her. For Faith, she grew prettier
every day; her great brown eyes were so soft and clear, and had a wide,
sorrowful way of looking at you; and her cheeks, that were usually pale,
blossomed to roses when you spoke to her, her hair drooping over them
dark and silky; and though she was slack and untidy and at loose ends
about her dress, she somehow always seemed like a princess in disguise;
and when she had on any thing new,--a sprigged calico, and her little
straw bonnet with the pink ribbons, and Mrs. Devereux's black scarf, for
instance,--you'd have allowed that she might have been daughter to the
Queen of Sheba. I don't know, but I rather think Dan wouldn't have said
any more to Faith, from various motives, you see, notwithstanding the
neighbors were still remonstrating with him, if it hadn't been that Miss
Brown--she that lived round the corner there; the town's well quit
of her now, poor thing!--went to saying the same stuff to Faith,
and telling her all that other folks said. And Faith went home in a
passion,--some of your timid kind nothing ever abashes, and nobody gets
to the windward of them,--and, being perfectly furious, fell to accusing
Dan of having brought her to this, so that Dan actually believed he had,
and was cut to the quick with contrition, and told her that all the
reparation he could make he was waiting and wishing to make, and then
there came floods of tears. Some women seem to have set out with the
idea that life's a desert for them to cross, and they've laid in a
supply of water-bags accordingly,--but it's the meanest weapon! And then
again, there's men that are iron, and not to be bent under calamities,
that these tears can twist round your little finger. Well, I suppose
Faith concluded 'twas no use to go hungry because her bread wasn't
buttered on both sides, but she always acted as if she'd condescended
ninety degrees in marrying Dan, and Dan always seemed to feel that he'd
done her a great injury; and there it was.
I kept in the house for a time; mother was worse.--and I thought the
less Dan saw of me the better; I kind of hoped he'd forget, and find his
happiness where it ought to be. But the first time I saw him, when Faith
had been his wife all the spring, there was the look in his eyes that
told of the ache in his heart. Faith wasn't very happy herself, of
course, though she was careless; and she gave him trouble,--keeping
company with the young men just as before; and she got into a way of
flying straight to me, if Dan ventured to reprove her ever so lightly;
and stormy nights, when he was gone, and in his long trips, she always
locked up her doors and came over and got into my bed; and she was one
of those that never listened to reason, and it was none so easy for me,
you may suppose.
Things had gone on now for some three years, and I'd about lived in my
books,--I'd tried to teach Faith some, but she wouldn't go any farther
than newspaper stories,--when one day Dan took her and me to sail, and
we were to have had a clam-chowder on the Point, if the squall hadn't
come. As it was, we'd got to put up with chicken-broth, and it couldn't
have been better, considering who made it. It was getting on toward the
cool of the May evening, the sunset was round on the other side of the
house, but all the east looked as if the sky had been stirred up
with currant-juice, till it grew purple and dark, and then the two
light-houses flared out and showed us the lip of froth lapping the
shadowy shore beyond, and I--heard father's voice, and he came in.
There was nothing but the fire-light in the room, and it threw about
great shadows, so that at first entering all was indistinct; but I heard
a foot behind father's, and then a form appeared, and something, I never
could tell what, made a great shiver rush down my back, just as when a
creature is frightened in the dark at what you don't see, and so, though
my soul was unconscious, my body felt that there was danger in the air.
Dan had risen and lighted the lamp that swings in the chimney, and
father first of all had gone up and kissed mother, and left the stranger
standing; then he turned round, saying,--
"A tough day,--it's been a tough day; and here's some un to prove it.
Georgie, hope that pot's steam don't belie it, for Mr. Gabriel Verelay
and I want a good supper and a good bed."
At this, the stranger, still standing, bowed.
"Here's the one, father," said I. "But about the bed,--Faith'll have to
stay here,--and I don't see--unless Dan takes him over"----
"That I'll do," said Dan.
"All right," said the stranger, in a voice that you didn't seem to
notice while he was speaking, but that you remembered afterwards like
the ring of any silver thing that has been thrown down; and he dropped
his hat on the floor and drew near the fireplace, warming hands that
were slender and brown, but shapely as a woman's. I was taking up the
supper; so I only gave him a glance or two, and saw him standing there,
his left hand extended to the blaze, and his eye resting lightly and
then earnestly on Faith in her pretty sleep, and turning away much as
one turns from a picture. At length I came to ask him to sit by, and at
that moment Faith's eyes opened.
Faith always woke up just as a baby does, wide and bewildered, and the
fire had flushed her cheeks, and her hair was disordered, and she fixed
her gaze on him as if he had stepped out of her dream, her lips half
parted and then curling in a smile,--but in a second he moved off with
me, and Faith slipped down and into the little bedroom.
Well, we didn't waste many words until father'd lost the edge of his
appetite, and then I told about Faith.
"'F that don't beat the Dutch!" said father. "Here's Mr.--Mr."------
"Gabriel," said the stranger.
"Yes,--Mr. Gabriel Verelay been served the same trick by the same
squall, only worse and more of it,--knocked off the yacht--What's that
you call her?"
"La belle Louise."
"And left for drowned,--if they see him go at all. But he couldn't 'a'
sinked in that sea, if he'd tried. He kep' afloat; we blundered into
him; and here he is."
Dan and I looked round In considerable surprise, for he was dry as an
"Oh," said the stranger, coloring, and with the least little turn of his
words, as if he didn't always speak English, "the good captain reached
shore, and, finding sticks, he kindled a fire, and we did dry our
clothes until it made fine weather once more."
"Yes," said father; "but 't wouldn't been quite such fine weather, I
reckon, if this 'd gone to the fishes!" And he pushed something across
It was a pouch with steel snaps, and well stuffed. The stranger colored
again, and held his hand for it, and the snap burst, and great gold
pieces, English coin and very old French ones, rolled about the table,
and father shut his eyes tight; and just then Faith came back and
slipped into her chair. I saw her eyes sparkle as we all reached,
laughing and joking, to gather them; and Mr. Gabriel--we got into the
way of calling him so,--he liked it best--hurried to get them out of
sight as if he'd committed some act of ostentation. And then, to make
amends, he threw off what constraint he had worn in this new atmosphere
of ours, and was so gay, so full of questions and quips and conceits,
all spoken in his strange way, his voice was so sweet, and he laughed so
much and so like a boy, and his words had so much point and brightness,
that I could think of nothing but the showers of colored stars in
fireworks. Dan felt it like a play, sat quiet, but enjoying, and I saw
he liked it;--the fellow had a way of attaching every one. Father was
uproarious, and kept calling out, "Mother, do you hear?--d' you hear
_that_, mother?" And Faith, she was near, taking it all in as a flower
does sunshine, only smiling a little, and looking utterly happy. Then I
hurried to clear up, and Faith sat in the great arm-chair, and father
got out the pipes, and you could hardly see across the room for the wide
tobacco-wreaths; and then it was father's turn, and he told story after
story of the hardships and the dangers and the charms of our way of
living. And I could see Mr. Gabriel's cheek blanch, and he would bend
forward, forgetting to smoke, and his breath coming short, and then
right himself like a boat after lurching,--he had such natural ways, and
except that he'd maybe been a spoiled child, he would have had a good
heart, as hearts go. And nothing would do at last but he must stay and
live the same scenes for a little; and father told him 't wouldn't
pay;--they weren't so much to go through with as to tell of,--there was
too much prose in the daily life, and too much dirt, and 't wa'n't fit
for gentlemen. Oh, he said, he'd been used to roughing it,--woodsing,
camping and gunning and yachting, ever since he'd been a free man. He
was Canadian, and had been cruising from the St. Lawrence to Florida,
--and now, as his companions would go on without him, he had a mind to
try a bit of coast-life. And could he board here? or was there any handy
place? And father said, there was Dan,--Dan Devereux, a man that hadn't
his match at oar or helm. And Mr. Gabriel turned his keen eye and bowed
again,--and couldn't Dan take Mr. Gabriel? And before Dan could answer,
for he'd referred it to Faith, Mr. Gabriel had forgotten all about it,
and was humming a little French song and stirring the coals with the
tongs. And that put father off in a fresh remembrance; and as the hours
lengthened, the stories grew fearful, and he told them deep into the
midnight, till at last Mr. Gabriel stood up.
"No more, good friend," said he. "But I will have a taste of this life
perilous. And now where is it that I go?"
Dan also stood up.
"My little woman," said he, glancing at Faith, "thinks there's a corner
for you, Sir."
"I beg your pardon"--And Mr. Gabriel paused, with a shadow skimming
over his clear dark face.
Dan wondered what he was begging pardon for, but thought perhaps he
hadn't heard him, so he repeated,--
"My wife"--nodding over his shoulder at Faith, "she's my wife--thinks
"She's your wife?" said Mr. Gabriel, his eyes opening and brightening
the way an aurora runs up the sky, and looking first at one and then at
the other, as if he couldn't understand how so delicate a flower grew on
so thorny a stem.
The red flushed up Dan's face,--and up mine too, for the matter of
that,--but in a minute the stranger had dropped his glance.
"And why did you not tell me," he said, "that I might have found her
Then he raised his shoulders, gave her a saucy bow, with his hand on
Dan's arm,--Dan, who was now too well pleased at having Faith made
happy by a compliment to sift it,--and they went out.
But I was angry enough; and you may imagine I wasn't much soothed by
seeing Faith, who'd been so die-away all the evening, sitting up before
my scrap of looking-glass, trying in my old coral earrings, bowing up my
ribbons, and plaiting and prinking till the clock frightened her into
The next morning, mother, who wasn't used to such disturbance, was ill,
and I was kept pretty busy tending on her for two or three days. Faith
had insisted on going home the first thing after breakfast, and in
that time I heard no more of anybody,--for father was out with the
night-tides, and, except to ask how mother did, and if I'd seen the
stray from the Lobblelyese again, was too tired for talking when he came
back. That had been--let me see--on a Monday, I think,--yes, on a
Monday; and Thursday evening, as in-doors had begun to tell on me, and
mother was so much improved, I thought I'd run out for a walk along the
seawall. The sunset was creeping round everything, and lying in great
sheets on the broad, still river, the children were frolicking in
the water, and all was so gay, and the air was so sweet, that I went
lingering along farther than I'd meant, and by-and-by who should I see
but a couple sauntering toward me at my own gait, and one of them was
Faith. She had on a muslin with little roses blushing all over it,
and she floated along in it as if she were in a pink cloud, and she'd
snatched a vine of the tender young woodbine as she went, and, throwing
it round her shoulders, held the two ends in one hand like a ribbon,
while with the other she swung her white sun-bonnet. She laughed, and
shook her head at me, and there, large as life, under the dark braids
dangled my coral ear-rings, that she'd adopted without leave or license.
She'd been down to the lower landing to meet Dan,--a thing she'd done
before I don't know when,--and was walking up with Mr. Gabriel while Dan
stayed behind to see to things. I kept them talking, and Mr. Gabriel was
sparkling with fun, for he'd got to feeling acquainted, and it had put
him in high spirits to get ashore at this hour, though he liked the sea,
and we were all laughing, when Dan came up. Now I must confess I hadn't
fancied Mr. Gabriel over and above; I suppose my first impression had
hardened into a prejudice; and after I'd fathomed the meaning of Faith's
fine feathers I liked him less than ever. But when Dan came up, he
joined right in, gay and hearty, and liking his new acquaintance so
much, that, thinks I, he must know best, and I'll let him look out for
his interests himself. It would 'a' been no use, though, for Dan to
pretend to beat the Frenchman at his own weapons,--and I don't know that
I should have cared to have him. The older I grow, the less I think of
your mere intellect; throw learning out of the scales, and give me a
great, warm heart,--like Dan's.
Well, it was getting on in the evening, when the latch lifted, and in
ran Faith. She twisted my ear-rings out of her hair, exclaiming,--
"Oh, Georgie, are you busy? Can't you perse my ears now?"
"Pierce them yourself, Faith."
"Well, pierce, then. But I can't,--you know I can't. Won't you now,
Georgie?" and she tossed the ear-rings into my lap.
"Why, Faith," said I, "how'd you contrive to wear these, if your ears
"Oh, I tied them on. Come now, Georgie!"
So I got the ball of yarn and the darning-needle.
"Oh, not such a big one!" cried she.
"Perhaps you'd like a cambric needle," said I.
"I don't want a winch," she pouted.
"Well, here's a smaller one. Now kneel down."
"Yes, but you wait a moment, till I screw up my courage."
"No need. You can talk, and I'll take you at unawares."
So Faith knelt down, and I got all ready.
"And what shall I talk about?" said she. "About Aunt Rhody, or Mr.
Gabriel, or--I'll tell you the queerest thing, Georgie! Going to now?"
"Do be quiet, Faith, and not keep your head flirting about so!"--for
she'd started up to speak. Then she composed herself once more.
"What was I saying? Oh, about that. Yes, Georgie, the queerest thing!
You see, this evening, when Dan was out, I was sitting talkin' with Mr.
Gabriel, and he was wondering how I came to be dropped down here, so I
told him all about it. And he was so interested that I went and showed
him the things I had on when Dan found me,--you know they've been kept
real nice. And he took them, and looked them over, close, admiring them,
and--and--admiring me,--and finally he started, and then held the frock
to the light, and then lifted a little plait, and in the under side of
the belt-lining there was a name very finely wrought,--Virginie des
Violets; and he looked at all the others, and in some hidden corner of
every one was the initials of the same name,--V. des V.
"'That should be your name, Mrs. Devereux,' says he.
"'Oh, no!' says I. 'My name's Faith.'
"Well, and on that he asked, was there no more; and so I took off the
little chain that I've always worn and showed him that, and he asked if
there was a face in it, in what we thought was a coin, you know; and I
said, oh, it didn't open; and he turned it over and over, and finally
something snapped, and there _was_ a face,--here, you shall see it,
And Faith drew it from her bosom, and opened and held it before me; for
I'd sat with my needle poised, and forgetting to strike. And there was
the face indeed, a sad, serious face, dark and sweet, yet the image of
Faith, and with the same mouth,--that so lovely in a woman becomes weak
in a man,--and on the other side there were a few threads of hair, with
the same darkness and fineness as Faith's hair, and under them a little
picture chased in the gold and enamelled, which, from what I've read
since, I suppose must have been the crest of the Des Violets.
"And what did Mr. Gabriel say then?" I asked, giving it back to Faith,
who put her head into the old position again.
"Oh, he acted real queer. 'The very man!' he cried out. 'The man
himself! His portrait,--I have seen it a hundred times!' And then
he told me that about a dozen years ago or more, a ship sailed
from--from--I forget the place exactly, somewhere up there where _he_
came from,--Mr. Gabriel, I mean,--and among the passengers was this
man and his wife, and his little daughter, whose name was Virginie des
Violets, and the ship was never heard from again. But he says that
without a doubt I'm the little daughter and my name is Virginie, though
I suppose every one'll call me Faith. Oh, and that isn't the queerest.
The queerest is, this gentleman," and Faith lifted her head, "was very
rich. I can't tell you how much he owned. Lands that you can walk on a
whole day and not come to the end, and ships, and gold. And the whole of
it's lying idle and waiting for an heir,--and I, Georgie, am the heir."
And Faith told it with cheeks burning and eyes shining, but yet quite as
if she'd been born and brought up in the knowledge.
"It don't seem to move you much, Faith," said I, perfectly amazed,
although I'd frequently expected something of the kind.
"Well, I may never get it, and so on. If I do, I'll give you a silk
dress and set you up in a book-store. But here's a queerer thing yet.
Des Violets is the way Mr. Gabriel's own name is spelt, and his father
and mine--his mother and--Well, some way or other we're sort of
cousins. Only think, Georgie! isn't that--I thought, to be sure, when he
quartered at our house, Dan'd begin to take me to do, if I looked at
him sideways,--make the same fuss that he does, if I nod to any of the
other young men."
"I don't think Dan speaks before he should, Faith."
"Why don't you say Virginie?" says she, laughing.
"Because Faith you've always been, and Faith you'll have to remain, with
us, to the end of the chapter."
"Well, that's as it may be. But Dan can't object now to my going where
I'm a mind to with my own cousin!" And here Faith laid her ear on the
ball of yarn again.
"Hasten, headsman!" said she, out of a novel, "or they'll wonder where I
"Well," I answered, "just let me run the needle through the emery."
"Yes, Georgie," said Faith, going back with her memories while I
sharpened my steel, "Mr. Gabriel and I are kin. And he said that the
moment he laid eyes on me he knew I was of different blood from the rest
of the people"--.
"What people?" asked I.
"Why, you, and Dan, and all these. And he said he was struck to stone
when he heard I was married to Dan,--I must have been entrapped,--the
courts would annul it,--any one could see the difference between us"--
Here was my moment, and I didn't spare it, but jabbed the needle into
the ball of yarn, if her ear did lie between them.
"Yes!" says I, "anybody with half an eye can see the difference between
you, and that's a fact! Nobody'd ever imagine for a breath that you were
deserving of Dan,--Dan, who's so noble he'd die for what he thought was
right,--you, who are so selfish and idle and fickle and"--
And at that Faith burst out crying.
"Oh, I never expected you'd talk about me so, Georgie!" said she between
her sobs. "How could I tell you were such a mighty friend of Dan's? And
besides, if ever I was Virginie des Violets, I'm Faith Devereux now, and
Dan'll resent _any one's_ speaking so about his wife!"
And she stood up, the tears sparkling like diamonds in her flashing dark
eyes, her cheeks red, and her little fist clenched.
"That's the right spirit, Faith," says I, "and I'm glad to see you show
it. And as for this young Canadian, the best thing to do with him is to
send him packing. I don't believe a word he says; it's more than likely
nothing but to get into your good graces."
"But there's the names," said she, so astonished that she didn't
remember she was angry.
"Oh, yes! 'Happened so' A likely story! It's nothing but your envy, and
"Faith!" says I, for I forgot she didn't know how close she struck.
"Well,--I mean----There, don't let's talk about it any more! How under
the sun am I going to get these ends tied?"
"Come here. There! Now for the other one."
"No, I sha'n't let you do that; you hurt me dreadfully, and you got
angry and took the big needle."
"I thought you expected to be hurt."
"I didn't expect to be stabbed."
"Well, just as you please. I suppose you'll go round with one ear-ring."
"Like a little pig with his ear cropped? No, I shall do it myself. See
there, Georgie!" and she threw a bit of a box into my hands.
I opened it, and there lay inside, on their velvet cushion, a pair of
the prettiest things you ever saw,--a tiny bunch of white grapes, and
every grape a round pearl, and all hung so that they would tinkle
together on their golden stems every time Faith shook her head,--and she
had a cunning little way of shaking it often enough.
"These must have cost a penny, Faith," said I. "Where'd you get them?"
"Mr. Gabriel gave them to me, just now. He went up-town and bought them.
And I don't want him to know that my ears weren't bored."
"Mr. Gabriel? And you took them?"
"Of course I took them, and mighty glad to get them."
"Faith, dear," said I, "don't you know that you shouldn't accept
presents from gentlemen, and especially now you're a married woman, and
especially from those of higher station?"
"But he isn't higher."
"You know what I mean. And then, too, he is; for one always takes rank
from one's husband."
Faith looked rather downcast at this.
"Yes," said I,--"and pearls and calico"----
"Just because you haven't got a pair yourself! There, be still! I don't
want any of your instructions in duty!"
"You ought to put up with a word from a friend, Faith," said I. "You
always come to me with your grievances. And I'll tell you what I'll do.
You used to like these coral branches of mine; and if you'll give those
back to Mr. Gabriel, you shall have the coral."
Well, Faith she hesitated, standing there trying to muster her mind to
the needle, and it ended by her taking the coral, though I don't believe
she returned the pearls,--but we none of us ever saw them afterwards.
We'd been talking in a pretty low tone, because mother was asleep; and
just as she'd finished the other ear, and a little drop of blood stood
up on it like a live ruby, the door opened and Dan and Mr. Gabriel came
in. There never was a prettier picture than Faith at that moment, and so
the young stranger thought, for he stared at her, smiling and at ease,
just as if she'd been hung in a gallery and he'd bought a ticket. So
then he sat down and repeated to Dan and mother what she'd told me, and
he promised to send for the papers to prove it all. But he never did
send for them,--delaying and delaying, till the summer wore away; and
perhaps there were such papers and perhaps there weren't. I've always
thought he didn't want his own friends to know where he was. Dan might
be a rich man to-day, if he chose to look them up; but he'd scorch at a
slow fire before he'd touch a copper of it. Father never believed a word
about it, when we recited it again to him.
"So Faith 'a come into her fortune, has she?" said he. "Pretty child!
She 'a'n't had so much before sence she fell heir to old Miss Devereux's
best chany, her six silver spoons, and her surname."
So the days passed, and the greater part of every one Mr. Gabriel was
dabbling in the water somewhere. There wasn't a brook within ten miles
that he didn't empty of trout, for Dan knew the woods as well as the
shores, and he knew the clear nights when the insects can keep free from
the water so that next day the fish rise hungry to the surface; and so
sometimes in the brightest of May noons they'd bring home a string of
those beauties, speckled with little tongues of flame; and Mr. Gabriel
would have them cooked, and make us all taste them,--for we don't care
much for that sort, down here on the Flats; we should think we were
famished, if we had to eat fish. And then they'd lie in wait all day for
the darting pickerel in the little Stream of Shadows above; and when
it came June, up the river he went trolling for bass, and he used
a different sort of bait from the rest,--bass won't bite much at
clams,--and he hauled in great forty-pounders. And sometimes in the
afternoons he took out Faith and me,--for, as Faith would go, whether or
no, I always made it a point to put by everything and go too; and I used
to try and get some of the other girls in, but Mr. Gabriel never would
take them, though he was hail-fellow-well-met with everybody, and was
everybody's favorite, and it was known all round how he found out Faith,
and that alone made him so popular, that I do believe, if he'd only
taken out naturalization-papers, we'd have sent him to General Court.
And then it grew time for the river-mackerel, and they used to bring in
at sunset two or three hundred in a shining heap, together with great
lobsters that looked as if they'd been carved out of heliotrope-stone,
and so old that they were barnacled. And it was so novel to Mr. Gabriel,
that he used to act as if he'd fallen in fairy-land.
After all, I don't know what we should have done without him that
summer: he always paid Dan or father a dollar a day and the hire of the
boat; and the times were so hard, and there was so little doing, that,
but for this, and packing the barrels of clam-bait, they'd have been
idle and fared sorely. But we'd rather have starved: though, as for
that, I've heard father say there never was a time when he couldn't
go out and catch some sort of fish and sell it for enough to get us
something to eat. And then this Mr. Gabriel, he had such a winning way
with him, he was as quick at wit as a bird on the wing, he had a story
or a song for every point, he seemed to take to our simple life as if
he'd been born to it, and he was as much interested in all our trifles
as we were ourselves. Then he was so sympathetic, he felt everybody's
troubles, he went to the city and brought down a wonderful doctor to see
mother, and he got her queer things that helped her more than you'd have
thought anything could, and he went himself and set honeysuckles out
all round Dan's house, so that before summer was over it was a bower of
great sweet blows, and he had an alms for every beggar, and a kind word
for every urchin, and he followed Dan about as a child would follow some
big shaggy dog. He introduced, too, a lot of new-fangled games; he was
what they called a gymnast, and in feats of rassling there wasn't a man
among them all but he could stretch as flat as a flounder. And then he
always treated. Everybody had a place for him soon,--even _I_ did; and
as for Dan, he'd have cut his own heart out of his body, if Mr. Gabriel
'd had occasion to use it. He was a different man from any Dan 'd ever
met before, something finer, and he might have been better, and Dan's
loyal soul was glad to acknowledge him master, and I declare I believe
he felt just as the Jacobites in the old songs used to feel for royal
Charlie. There are some men born to rule with a haughty, careless
sweetness, and others born to die for them with stern and dogged
Well, and all this while Faith wasn't standing still; she was changing
steadily, as much as ever the moon changed in the sky. I noticed it
first one day when Mr. Gabriel'd caught every child in the region and
given them a picnic in the woods of the Stack-Yard-Gate, and Faith was
nowhere to be seen tiptoeing round every one as she used to do, but
I found her at last standing at the head of the table,--Mr. Gabriel
dancing here and there, seeing to it that all should be as gay as he
seemed to be,--quiet and dignified as you please, and feeling every one
of her inches. But it wasn't dignity really that was the matter with
Faith,--it was just gloom. She'd brighten up for a moment or two and
then down would fall the cloud again, she took to long fits of dreaming,
and sometimes she'd burst out crying at any careless word, so that my
heart fairly bled for the poor child,--for one couldn't help seeing that
she'd some secret unhappiness or other; and I was as gentle and soothing
to her as it's in my nature to be. She was in to our house a good deal;
she kept it pretty well out of Dan's way, and I hoped she'd get over it
sooner or later, and make up her mind to circumstances. And I talked
to her a sight about Dan, praising him constantly before her, though I
couldn't hear to do it; and finally, one very confidential evening, I
told her that I'd been in love with Dan myself once a little, but I'd
seen that he would marry her, and so had left off thinking about it;
for, do you know, I thought it might make her set more price on him now,
if she knew somebody else had ever cared for him. Well, that did answer
awhile: whether she thought she ought to make it up to Dan, or whether
he really did grow more in her eyes, Faith got to being very neat and
domestic and praiseworthy. But still there was the change, and it didn't
make her any the less lovely. Indeed, if I'd been a man, I should have
cared for her more than ever: it was like turning a child into a woman:
and I really think, as Dan saw her going about with such a pleasant
gravity, her pretty figure moving so quietly, her pretty face so still
and fair, as if she had thoughts and feelings now, he began to wonder
what had come over Faith, and, if she were really as charming as this,
why he hadn't felt it before; and then, you know, whether you love a
woman or not, the mere fact that she's your wife, that her life is sunk
in yours, that she's something for you to protect and that your honor
lies in doing so, gives you a certain kindly feeling that might ripen
into love any day under sunshine and a south wall.
* * * * *
METHODS OF STUDY IN NATURAL HISTORY
Among the astounding discoveries of modern science is that of the
immense periods which have passed in the gradual formation of our earth.
So vast were the cycles of time preceding even the appearance of man on
the surface of our globe, that our own period seems as yesterday when
compared with the epochs that have gone before it. Had we only the
evidence of the deposits of rock heaped above each other in regular
strata by the slow accumulation of materials, they alone would convince
us of the long and slow maturing of God's work on the earth but when we
add to these the successive populations of whose life this world has
been the theatre, and whose remains are hidden in the rocks into which
the mud or sand or soil of whatever kind on which they lived has
hardened in the course of time,--or the enormous chains of mountains
whose upheaval divided these periods of quiet accumulation by great
convulsions,--or the changes of a different nature in the configuration
of our globe, as the sinking of lands beneath the ocean, or the gradual
rising of continents and islands above it,--or the wearing of great
river-beds, or the filling of extensive water-basins, till marshes first
and then dry land succeeded to inland seas,--or the slow growth of coral
reefs, those wonderful sea-walls raised by the little ocean-architects
whose own bodies furnish both the building-stones and the cement that
binds them together, and who have worked so busily during the long
centuries, that there are extensive countries, mountain-chains, islands,
and long lines of coast consisting solely of their remains,--or the
countless forests that must have grown up, flourished, died, and
decayed, to fill the storehouses of coal that feed the fires of the
human race to-day,--if we consider all these records of the past, the
intellect fails to grasp a chronology for which our experience furnishes
no data, and the time that lies behind us seems as much an eternity to
our conception as the future that stretches indefinitely before us.
The physical as well as the human history of the world has its mythical
age, lying dim and vague in the morning mists of creation, like that of
the heroes and demigods in the early traditions of man, defying all
our ordinary dates and measures. But if the succession of periods that
prepared the earth for the coming of man, and the animals and plants
that accompany him on earth, baffles our finite attempts to estimate its
duration, have we any means of determining even approximately the length
of the period to which we ourselves belong? If so, it may furnish us
with some data for the further solution of these wonderful mysteries of
time, and it is besides of especial importance with reference to the
question of permanence of Species. Those who maintain the mutability of
Species, and account for all the variety of life on earth by the gradual
changes wrought by time and circumstances, do not accept historical
evidence as affecting the question at all. The monuments of those oldest
nations, all whose history is preserved in monumental records, do not
indicate the slightest variation of organic types from that day to this.
The animals that were preserved within their tombs or carved upon their
walls by the ancient Egyptians were the same as those that have their
home in the valley of the Nile today; the negro, whose peculiar features
are unmistakable even in their rude artistic attempts to represent them,
was the same woolly-haired, thick-lipped, flat-nosed, dark-skinned being
in the days of the Rameses that he is now. The Apis, the Ibis, the
Crocodiles, the sacred Beetles, have brought down to us unchanged all
the characters that superstition hallowed in those early days. The
stony face of the Sphinx is not more true to its past, nor the massive
architecture of the Pyramids more unchanged, than they are. But the
advocates of the mutability of Species say truly enough that the most
ancient traditions are but as yesterday in the world's history, and that
what six thousand years could not do sixty thousand years might effect.
Leaving aside, then, all historical chronology, how far back can we
trace our own geological period, and the Species belonging to it? By
what means can we determine its duration? Within what limits, by what
standard, may it be measured? Shall hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds
of thousands, or millions of years be the unit from which we start?
I will begin this inquiry with a series of facts which I myself have
had an opportunity of investigating with especial care respecting the
formation and growth of the Coral Reefs of Florida. But first a few
words on Coral Reefs in general. They are living limestone walls that
are built up from certain depths in the ocean by the natural growth of a
variety of animals, but limited by the level of high-water, beyond which
they cannot rise, since the little beings that compose them die as soon
as they are removed from the vitalizing influence of the pure sea-water.
These walls have a variety of outlines: they may be straight, circular,
semicircular, oblong, according to the form of the coast along which
the little Reef-Builders establish themselves; and their height is, of
course, determined by the depth of the bottom on which they rest. If
they settle about an island on all sides of which the conditions for
their growth are equally favorable, they will raise a wall all around
it, thus encircling it with a ring of Coral growth. The Athols in the
Pacific Ocean, those circular islands inclosing sometimes a fresh-water
lake in mid-ocean, are Coral walls of this kind, that have formed a ring
around a central island. This is easily understood, if we remember that
the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is by no means a stable foundation
for such a structure. On the contrary, over a certain area, which has
already been surveyed with some accuracy by Professor Dana, during the
United States Exploring Expedition, it is subsiding; and if an island
upon which the Reef-Builders have established themselves be situated
in that area of subsidence, it will, of course, sink with the floor on
which it rests, carrying down also the Coral wall to a greater depth in
the sea. In such instances, if the rate of subsidence be more rapid than
the rate of growth in the Corals, the island and the wall itself will
disappear beneath the ocean. But whenever, on the contrary, the rate of
increase in the wall is greater than that of subsidence in the island,
while the latter gradually sinks below the surface, the former rises
in proportion, and by the time it has completed its growth the central
island has vanished, and there remains only a ring of Coral Reef, with
here and there a break, perhaps, at some spot where the more prosperous
growth of the Corals has been checked. If, however, as sometimes
happens, there is no such break, and the wall is perfectly
uninterrupted, the sheet of sea-water so inclosed may be changed to
fresh water by the rains that are poured into it. Such a water-basin
will remain salt, it is true, in its lower part, and the fact that it is
affected by the rise and fall of the tides shows that it is not entirely
secluded from communication with the ocean outside; but the salt water,
being heavier, sinks, while the lighter rain-water remains above, and it
is to all appearance actually changed into a fresh-water lake.
I need not dwell here on the further history of such a Coral island, or
follow it through the changes by which the summit of its circular wall
becomes covered with a fertile soil, a tropical vegetation springs up on
it, and it is at last perhaps inhabited by man. There is something very
attractive in the idea of these green rings inclosing sheltered harbors
and quiet lakes in mid-ocean, and the subject has lost none of its
fascination since the mystery of their existence has been solved by the
investigations of several contemporary naturalists who have enabled us
to trace the whole story of their structure. I would refer all who wish
for a more detailed account of them to Charles Darwin's charming
little volume on "Coral Reefs," where their mode of formation is fully
described, and also to James D. Dana's "Geological Report of the United
States Exploring Expedition."
Coral Reefs are found only in tropical regions: although Polyps, animals
of the same class as those chiefly instrumental in their formation,
are found in all parts of the globe, yet the Reef-Building Polyps are
limited to the Tropics. We are too apt to forget that the homes of
animals are as definitely limited in the water as on the land. Indeed,
the subject of the geographical distribution of animals according to
laws that are established by altitude, by latitude and longitude, by
pressure of atmosphere or pressure of water, already alluded to in
a previous article, is exceedingly interesting, and presents a most
important field of investigation. The climatic effect of different
degrees of altitude upon the growth of animals and plants is the same as
that of different degrees of latitude; and the slope of a high mountain
in the Tropics, from base to summit, presents, in a condensed form, an
epitome, as it were, of the same kind of gradation in vegetable growth
that may be observed from the Tropics to the Arctics. At the base of
such a mountain we have all the luxuriance of growth characteristic
of the tropical forest,--the Palms, the Bananas, the Bread-trees, the
Mimosas; higher up, these give way to a different kind of growth,
corresponding to our Oaks, Chestnuts, Maples, etc.; as these wane, on
the loftier slopes comes in the Pine forest, fading gradually, as it
ascends, into a dwarfish growth of the same kind; and this at last gives
way to the low creeping Mosses and Lichens of the greater heights, till
even these find a foothold no longer, and the summit of the mountain is
clothed in perpetual snow and ice. What have we here but the same series
of changes through which we pass, if, travelling northward from the
Tropics, we leave Palms and Pomegranates and Bananas behind, where the
Live-Oaks and Cypresses, the Orange-trees and Myrtles of the warmer
Temperate Zone come in, and these die out as we reach the Oaks,
Chestnuts, Maples, Elms, Nut-trees, Beeches, and Birches of the colder
Temperate Zone, these again waning as we enter the Pine forests of
the Arctic borders, till, passing out of these, nothing but a dwarf
vegetation, a carpet of Moss and Lichen, fit food for the Reindeer and
the Esquimaux, greets us, and beyond that lies the region of the snow
and ice fields, impenetrable to all but the daring Arctic voyager?
I have thus far spoken of the changes in the vegetable growth alone as
influenced by altitude and latitude, but the same is equally true of
animals. Every zone of the earth's surface has its own animals, suited
to the conditions under which they are meant to live; and with the
exception of those that accompany man in all his pilgrimages, and are
subject to the same modifying influences by which he adapts his home and
himself to all climates, animals are absolutely bound by the laws of
their nature within the range assigned to them. Nor is this the case
only on land, where river-banks, lake-shores, and mountain-ranges might
be supposed to form the impassable boundaries that keep animals within
certain limits; but the ocean as well as the land has its faunae and
florae bound within their respective zooelogical and botanical provinces;
and a wall of granite is not more impassable to a marine animal than
that ocean-line, fluid and flowing and ever-changing though it be, on
which is written for him, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther."
One word as to the effect of pressure on animals will explain this.
We all live under the pressure of the atmosphere. Now thirty-two feet
under the sea doubles that pressure, since a column of water of that
height is equal in weight to the pressure of one atmosphere. At the
depth of thirty-two feet, then, any marine animal is under the pressure
of two atmospheres,--that of the air which surrounds our globe, and of a
weight of water equal to it; at sixty-four feet he is under the pressure
of three atmospheres, and so on,--the weight of one atmosphere being
always added for every thirty-two feet of depth. There is a great
difference in the sensitiveness of animals to this pressure. Some fishes
live at a great depth and find the weight of water genial to them, while
others would be killed at once by the same pressure, and the latter
naturally seek the shallow waters. Every fisherman knows that he must
throw a long line for a Halibut, while with a common fishing-rod he will
catch plenty of Perch from the rocks near the shore; and the differently
colored bands of sea-weed revealed by low tide, from the green line of
the Ulvas through the brown zone of the common Fucas to the rosy and
purple hued sea-weeds of the deeper water show that the florae as well
as the faunae of the ocean have their precise boundaries. This wider
or narrower range of marine animals is in direct relation to their
structure, which enables them to bear a greater or less pressure of
water. All fishes, and, indeed, all animals having a wide range of
distribution in ocean-depths, have a special apparatus of water-pores,
so that the surrounding element penetrates their structure, thus
equalizing the pressure of the weight, which is diminished from without
in proportion to the quantity of water they can admit into their bodies.
Marine animals differ in their ability to sustain this pressure, just
as land animals differ in their power of enduring great variations of
climate and of atmospheric pressure.
Of all air-breathing animals, none exhibits a more surprising power of
adapting itself to great and rapid changes of external influences than
the Condor. It may be seen feeding on the sea-shore under a burning
tropical sun, and then, rising from its repast, it floats up among the
highest summits of the Andes and is lost to sight beyond them, miles
above the line of perpetual snow, where the temperature must be lower
than that of the Arctics. But even the Condor, sweeping at one flight
from tropic heat to arctic cold, although it passes through greater
changes of temperature, does not undergo such changes of pressure as a
fish that rises from a depth of sixty-four feet to the surface of the
sea; for the former remains within the air that surrounds our globe,
and therefore the increase or diminution of pressure to which it is
subjected must be confined within the limits of one atmosphere, while
the latter, at a depth of sixty-four feet, is under a weight equal to
that of three such atmospheres, which is reduced to one when it reaches
the sea-level. The change is even much greater for those fishes that
come from a depth of several hundred feet. These laws of limitation in
space explain many facts in the growth of Coral Reefs that would be
otherwise inexplicable, and which I will endeavor to make clear to my
For a long time it was supposed that the Coral animals inhabited very
deep waters, for they were sometimes brought up on sounding-lines from a
depth of many hundreds or even thousands of feet, and it was taken for
granted that they must have had their home where they were found;
but the facts recently ascertained respecting the subsidence of
ocean-bottoms have shown that the foundation of a Coral wall may have
sunk far below the place where it was laid, and it is now proved beyond
a doubt that no Reef-Building Coral can thrive at a depth of more than
fifteen fathoms, though Corals of other kinds occur far lower, and that
the dead Reef-Corals sometimes brought to the surface from much greater
depths are only broken fragments of some Reef that has subsided with
the bottom on which it was growing. But though fifteen fathoms is the
maximum depth at which any Reef-Builder can prosper, there are many
which will not sustain even that degree of pressure, and this fact has,
as we shall see, an important influence on the structure of the Reef.
Imagine now a sloping shore on some tropical coast descending gradually
below the surface of the sea. Upon that slope, at a depth of from ten
to twelve or fifteen fathoms, and two or three or more miles from the
main-land, according to the shelving of the shore, we will suppose that
one of those little Coral animals to whom a home in such deep waters is
genial has established itself. How it happens that such a being, which
we know is immovably attached to the ground and forms the foundation of
a solid wall, was ever able to swim freely about in the water till it
found a suitable resting-place, I shall explain hereafter, when I say
something of the mode of reproduction of these animals. Accept, for the
moment, my unsustained assertion, and plant our little Coral on this
sloping shore some twelve or fifteen fathoms below the surface of the
sea. The internal structure of such a Coral corresponds to that of the
Sea-Anemone: the body is divided by vertical partitions from top to
bottom, leaving open chambers between, while in the centre hangs the
digestive cavity connecting by an opening in the bottom with all these
chambers; at the top is an aperture which serves as a mouth, surrounded
by a wreath of hollow tentacles, each one connecting at its base with
one of the chambers, so that all parts of the animal communicate freely
with each other. But though the structure of the Coral is identical in
all its parts with that of the Sea-Anemone, it nevertheless presents one
important difference. The body of the Sea-Anemone is soft, while that of
the Coral is hard. It is well known that all animals and plants have the
power of appropriating to themselves and assimilating the materials they
need, each selecting from the surrounding elements whatever contributes
to its well-being. The plant takes carbon, the animal takes oxygen, each
rejecting what the other requires. We ourselves build our bones with
the lime that we find unconsciously in the world around us; much of our
nourishment supplies us with it, and the very vegetables we eat have,
perhaps, themselves been fed from some old lime strata deposited
centuries ago. We all represent materials that have contributed to
construct our bodies. Now Corals possess, in an extraordinary degree,
the power of assimilating to themselves the lime contained in the salt
water around them; and as soon as our little Coral is established on a
firm foundation, a lime deposit begins to form in all the walls of its
body, so that its base, its partitions, and its outer wall, which in
the Sea-Anemone remain always soft, become perfectly solid in the Polyp
Coral and form a frame as hard as bone. It may naturally be asked
where the lime comes from in the sea which the Corals absorb in such
quantities. As far as the living Corals are concerned the answer is
easy, for an immense deal of lime is brought down to the ocean by
rivers that wear away the lime deposits through which they pass. The
Mississippi, whose course lies through extensive lime regions, brings
down yearly lime enough to supply all the animals living in the Gulf of
Mexico. But behind this lies a question not so easily settled, as to
the origin of the extensive deposits of limestone found at the very
beginning of life upon earth. This problem brings us to the threshold of
astronomy, for limestone is metallic in character, susceptible therefore
of fusion, and may have formed a part of the materials of our earth,
even in an incandescent state, when the worlds were forming. But though
this investigation as to the origin of lime does not belong either to
the naturalist or the geologist, its suggestion reminds us that the
time has come when all the sciences and their results are so intimately
connected that no one can be carried on independently of the others.
Since the study of the rocks has revealed a crowded life whose records
are hoarded within them, the work of the geologist and the naturalist
has become one and the same, and at that border-land where the first
crust of the earth condensed out of the igneous mass of materials which
formed its earliest condition their investigation mingles with that of
the astronomer, and we cannot trace the limestone in a little Coral
without going back to the creation of our solar system, when the worlds
that compose it were thrown off from a central mass in a gaseous
When the Coral has become in this way permeated with lime, all parts of
the body are rigid, with the exception of the upper margin, the stomach,
and the tentacles. The tentacles are soft and waving, projected or drawn
in at will, and they retain their flexible character through life, and
decompose when the animal dies. For this reason the dried specimens of
Corals preserved in museums do not give us the least idea of the living
Corals, in which every one of the millions of beings composing such
a community is crowned by a waving wreath of white or green or
As soon as the little Coral is fairly established and solidly attached
to the ground, it begins to bud. This may take place in a variety of
ways, dividing at the top or budding from the base or from the sides,
till the primitive animal is surrounded by a number of individuals like
itself, of which it forms the nucleus, and which now begin to bud in
their turn, each one surrounding itself with a numerous progeny, all
remaining, however, attached to the parent. Such a community increases
till its individuals are numbered by millions; and I have myself counted
no less than fourteen millions of individuals in a Coral mass measuring
not more than twelve feet in diameter. These are the so-called Coral
heads which form the foundation of a Coral wall, and their massive
character and regular form seem to be especially adapted to give a
strong, solid base to the whole structure. They are known in our
classifications as the Astraeans, so named on account of the star-shaped
form of the little pits that are crowded upon the surface, each one
marking the place of a single individual in such a community.
Thus firmly and strongly is the foundation of the reef laid by the
Astraeans; but we have seen that for their prosperous growth they
require a certain depth and pressure of water, and when they have
brought the wall so high that they have not more than six fathoms of
water above them, this kind of Coral ceases to grow. They have, however,
prepared a fitting surface for different kinds of Corals that could not
live in the depths from which the Astraeans have come, but find their
genial home nearer the surface; such a home being made ready for them
by their predecessors, they now establish themselves on the top of the
Coral wall and continue its growth for a certain time. These are the
Mandrinas, or the so-called Brain-Corals, and the Porites. The Mandrinas
differ from the Astraeans by their less compact and definite pits. In
the Astraeans the place occupied by the animal in the community is
marked by a little star-shaped spot, in the centre of which all the
partition-walls meet. But in the Mandrinas, although all the partitions
converge toward the central opening, as in the Astraeans, these central
openings elongate, run into each other, and form waving furrows all over
the surface, instead of the small round pits so characteristic of the
Astraeans. The Porites resemble the Astraeans, but the pits are smaller,
with fewer partitions and fewer tentacles, and their whole substance is
But these also have their bounds within the sea: they in their turn
reach the limit beyond which they are forbidden by the laws of their
nature to pass, and there they also pause. But the Coral wall continues
its steady progress; for here the lighter kinds set in,--the Madrepores,
the Millepores, and a great variety of Sea-Fans and Corallines, and the
reef is crowned at last with a many-colored shrubbery of low feathery
growth. These are all branching in form, and many of them are simple
calciferous plants, though most of them are true animals, resembling,
however, delicate Algae more than any marine animals; but, on
examination of the latter, one finds them to be covered with myriads of
minute dots, each representing one of the little beings out of which the
whole is built.
I would add here one word on the true nature of the Millepores, long
misunderstood by naturalists, because it throws light not only on some
interesting facts respecting Coral Reefs, especially the ancient ones,
but also because it tells us something of the early inhabitants of the
globe, and shows us that a class of Radiates supposed to be missing in
that primitive creation had its representatives then as now. In the
diagram of the geological periods introduced in a previous article, I
have represented all the three classes of Radiates, Polyps, Acalephs,
and Echinoderms, as present on the first floor of our globe that was
inhabited at all. But it is only recently that positive proofs have been
found of the existence of Acalephs or Jelly-Fishes, as they are
called, at that early period. Their very name indicates their delicate
structure; and were there no remains preserved in the rocks of these
soft, transparent creatures, it would yet be no evidence that they did
not exist. Fragile as they are, however, they have left here and there
some faint record of themselves, and in the Museum at Carlsruhe, on a
slab from Solenhofen, I have seen a very perfect outline of one which
remains undescribed to this day. This, however, does not carry them
farther back than the Jurassic period, and it is only lately that I have
satisfied myself that they not only existed, but were among the most
numerous animals in the first representation of organic life.
The earliest Corals correspond in certain features of their structure to
the Millepores. They differ from them as all early animals differ from
the succeeding ones, every geological period having its special set of
representatives. But still they are always true to their class, and have
a certain general correspondence with animals of like kind that follow
them in later periods. In this sense the Millepores are in our epoch the
representatives of those early Corals called by naturalists Tabulata and
Rugosa,--distinguished from the Polyp Corals by the horizontal floors,
waving in some, straight in others, which divide the body transversely
at successive heights through its whole length, and also by the absence
of the vertical partitions, extending from top to bottom of each animal,
so characteristic of the true Polyps. As I have said, they were for a
long time supposed, notwithstanding these differences, to be Polyps, and
I had shared in this opinion, till, during the winter of 1857, while
pursuing my investigations on the Coral Reefs of Florida, one of these
Millepores revealed itself to me in its true character of Acaleph. It is
by its soft parts alone--those parts which are seen only in its living
state, and when the animal is fully open--that its Acalephian character
can be perceived, and this accounts for its being so long accepted as
a Polyp, when studied in the dry Coral stock. Nothing could exceed
my astonishment when for the first time I saw such an animal fully
expanded, and found it to be a true Acaleph. It is exceedingly difficult
to obtain a view of them in this state, for, at any approach, they draw
themselves in, and remain closed to all investigation. Only once, for a
short hour, I had this opportunity; during that time one of these little
creatures revealed to me its whole structure, as if to tell me, once for
all, the story of its existence through all the successive epochs from
the dawn of Creation till now, and then withdrew. With my most patient
watching, I have never been able to see one of them open again. But to
establish the fact that one of the Corals represented from the earliest
period till now, and indeed far more numerous in the beginning than any
other, was in truth no Polyp, but an Acaleph, the glimpse I had was
all-sufficient. It came out as if to bear witness of its class,--as if
to say, "We, too, were among the hosts of living beings with which God
first peopled His earth."
With these branching Corals the reef reaches the level of high-water,
beyond which, as I have said, there can be no further growth, for want
of the action of the fresh sea-water. This dependence upon the vivifying
influence of the sea accounts for one unfailing feature in the Coral
walls. They are always abrupt and steep on the seaward side, but have a
gentle slope towards the land. This is accounted for by the circumstance
that the Corals on the outer side of the reef are in immediate contact
with the pure ocean-water, while by their growth they partially exclude
the inner ones from the same influence,--the rapid growth of the latter
being also impeded by any impurity or foreign material washed away from
the neighboring shore and mingling with the water that fills the channel
between the main-land and the reef. Thus the Coral Reefs, whether built
around an island, or concentric to a rounding shore, or along a straight
line of coast, are always shelving toward the land, while they
are comparatively abrupt and steep toward the sea. This should be
remembered, for, as we shall see hereafter, it has an important bearing
on the question of time as illustrated by Coral Reefs.
I have spoken of the budding of Corals, by which each one becomes the
centre of a cluster; but this is not the only way in which they multiply
their kind. They give birth to eggs also, which are carried on the inner
edge of their partition-walls, till they drop into the sea, where they
float about, little, soft, transparent, pear-shaped bodies, as unlike as
possible to the rigid stony structure they are to assume hereafter. In
this condition they are covered with vibratile cilia or fringes, that
are always in rapid, uninterrupted motion, and keep them swimming about
in the water. It is by means of these little germs of the Corals,
swimming freely about during their earliest stages of growth, that the
reef is continued, at the various heights where special kinds die
out, by those that prosper at shallower depths; otherwise it would be
impossible to understand how this variety of building material, as it
were, is introduced wherever it is needed. This point, formerly a puzzle
to naturalists, has become quite clear since it has been found that
myriads of these little germs are poured into the water surrounding a
reef. There they swim about till they find a genial spot on which to
establish themselves, when they become attached to the ground by one
end, while a depression takes place at the opposite end, which gradually
deepens to form the mouth and inner cavity, while the edges expand to
form the tentacles, and the productive life of the little Coral begins:
it buds from every side, and becomes the foundation of a new community.
I should add, that, beside the Polyps and the Acalephs, Mollusks also
have their representatives among the Corals. There is a group of small
Mollusks called Bryozoa, allied to the Clams by their structure, but
excessively minute when compared to the other members of their class,
which, like the other Corals, harden in consequence of an absorption of
solid materials, and contribute to the formation of the reef. Besides
these, there are certain plants, limestone Algae,--Corallines, as they
are called,--which have their share also in the work.
I had intended to give some account of the Coral Reefs of Florida,
and to show what bearing they have upon the question of time and the
permanence of Species; but this cursory sketch of Coral Reefs in general
has grown to such dimensions that I must reserve a more particular
account of the Florida Reefs and Keys for a future article.
* * * * *
"Did you ever see a ghost?" said a gentleman to his friend.
"No, but I once came very nigh seeing one," was the facetious reply.
The writer of this article has had still better luck,--having _twice_
come very nigh seeing a ghost. In other words, two friends, in whose
veracity and healthy clearness of vision I have perfect confidence, have
assured me that they have distinctly seen a disembodied spirit.
If I had permission to do so, I would record the street in Boston, and
the number of the house, where the first of these two apparitions was
seen; but that would be unpleasant to parties concerned. Years ago, the
lady who witnessed it told me the particulars, and I have recently heard
her repeat them. A cousin, with whom her relations were as intimate as
with a brother, was in the last stages of consumption. One morning, when
she carried him her customary offering of fruit or flowers, she found
him unusually bright, his cheeks flushed, his eyes brilliant, and his
state of mind exceedingly cheerful. He talked of his recovery and future
plans in life with hopefulness almost amounting to certainty. This made
her somewhat sad, for she regarded it as a delusion of his flattering
disease, a flaring up of the life-candle before it sank in the socket.
She thus reported the case, when she returned home. In the afternoon she
was sewing as usual, surrounded by her mother and sisters, and listening
to one who was reading aloud. While thus occupied, she chanced to raise
her eyes from her work and glance to the opposite corner of the room.
Her mother, seeing her give a sudden start, exclaimed, "What is the
matter?" She pointed to the corner of the room and replied, "There is
Cousin ------!" They all told her she had been dreaming, and was only
half wakened. She assured them she had not even been drowsy; and she
repeated with great earnestness, "There is Cousin ------, just as I saw
him this morning. Don't you see him?" She could not measure the time
that the vision remained; but it was long enough for several questions
and answers to pass rapidly between herself and other members of the
family. In reply to their persistent incredulity, she said, "It is very
strange that you don't see him; for I see him as plainly as I do any
of you." She was so obviously awake and in her right mind, that the
incident naturally made an impression on those who listened to her. Her
mother looked at her watch, and despatched a messenger to inquire how
Cousin ------ did. Word was soon brought that he died at the same moment
he had appeared in the house of his relatives. The lady who had
this singular experience is too sensible and well-informed to be
superstitious. She was not afflicted with any disorder of the nerves,
and was in good health at the time.
To my other story I can give "a local habitation and a name" well known.
When Harriet Hosmer, the sculptor, visited her native country a few
years ago, I had an interview with her, during which our conversation
happened to turn upon dreams and visions.
"I have had some experience in that way," said she. "Let me tell you a
singular circumstance that happened to me in Rome. An Italian girl named
Rosa was in my employ for a long time, but was finally obliged to return
to her mother, on account of confirmed ill-health. We were mutually
sorry to part, for we liked each other. When I took my customary
exercise on horseback, I frequently called to see her. On one of these
occasions, I found her brighter than I had seen her for some time past.
I had long relinquished hopes of her recovery, but there was nothing in
her appearance that gave me the impression of immediate danger. I left
her with the expectation of calling to see her again many times. During
the remainder of the day I was busy in my studio, and I do not recollect
that Rosa was in my thoughts after I parted from her. I retired to rest
in good health and in a quiet frame of mind. But I woke from a sound
sleep with an oppressive feeling that some one was in the room. I
wondered at the sensation, for it was entirely new to me; but in vain
I tried to dispel it. I peered beyond the curtain of my bed, but could
distinguish no objects in the darkness. Trying to gather up my thoughts,
I soon reflected that the door was locked, and that I had put the key
under my bolster. I felt for it, and found it where I had placed it. I
said to myself that I had probably had some ugly dream, and had waked
with a vague impression of it still on my mind. Reasoning thus, I
arranged myself comfortably for another nap. I am habitually a good
sleeper, and a stranger to fear; but, do what I would, the idea still
haunted me that some one was in the room. Finding it impossible to
sleep, I longed for daylight to dawn, that I might rise and pursue
my customary avocations. It was not long before I was able dimly to
distinguish the furniture in my room, and soon after I heard, in the
apartments below, familiar noises of servants opening windows and doors.
An old clock, with ringing vibrations, proclaimed the hour. I counted
one, two, three, four, five, and resolved to rise immediately. My bed
was partially screened by a long curtain looped up at one side. As I
raised my head from the pillow, Rosa looked inside the curtain, and
smiled at me. The idea of anything supernatural did not occur to me. I
was simply surprised, and exclaimed, 'Why, Rosa! How came you here,
when you are so ill?' In the old familiar tones, to which I was so much
accustomed, a voice replied, 'I am well, now.' With no other thought
than that of greeting her joyfully, I sprang out of bed. There was
no Rosa there! I moved the curtain, thinking she might perhaps have
playfully hidden herself behind its folds. The same feeling induced me
to look into the closet. The sight of her had come so suddenly, that, in
the first moment of surprise and bewilderment, I did not reflect that
the door was locked. When I became convinced there was no one in the
room but myself, I recollected that fact, and thought I must have seen a
"At the breakfast-table, I said to the old lady with whom I boarded,
'Rosa is dead.' 'What do you mean by that?' she inquired. 'You told me
she seemed better than common when you called to see her yesterday.'
I related the occurrences of the morning, and told her I had a strong
impression Rosa was dead. She laughed, and said I had dreamed it all. I
assured her I was thoroughly awake, and in proof thereof told her I had
heard all the customary household noises, and had counted the clock when
it struck five. She replied, 'All that is very possible, my dear. The
clock struck into your dream. Real sounds often mix with the illusions
of sleep. I am surprised that a dream should make such an impression on
a young lady so free from superstition as you are.' She continued to
jest on the subject, and slightly annoyed me by her persistence in
believing it a dream, when I was perfectly sure of having been wide
awake. To settle the question, I summoned a messenger and sent him to
inquire how Rosa did. He returned with the answer that she died that
morning at five o'clock."
I wrote the story as Miss Hosmer told it to me, and after I had shown
it to her, I asked if she had any objection, to its being published,
without suppression of names. She replied, "You have reported the story
of Rosa correctly. Make what use you please of it. You cannot think it
more interesting, or unaccountable, than I do myself."
A remarkable instance of communication between spirits at the moment of
death is recorded in the Life of the Rev. Joseph S. Buckminster, written
by his sister. When he was dying in Boston, their father was dying in
Vermont, ignorant of his son's illness. Early in the morning, he said to
his wife, "My son Joseph is dead." She told him he had been dreaming.
He calmly replied, "I have not slept, nor dreamed. He is dead." When
letters arrived from Boston, they announced that the spirit of the son
had departed from his body the same night that the father received an
impression of it.
Such incidents suggest curious psychological inquiries, which I think
have attracted less attention than they deserve. It is common to explain
all such phenomena as "optical illusions" produced by "disordered
nerves." But _is_ that any explanation? _How_ do certain states of the
nerves produce visions as distinct as material forms? In the two cases I
have mentioned, there was no disorder of the nerves, no derangement of
health, no disquietude of mind. Similar accounts come to us from all
nations, and from the remotest periods of time; and I doubt whether
there ever was a universal superstition that had not some great,
unchangeable truth for its basis. Some secret laws of our being are
wrapt up in these occasional mysteries, and in the course of the world's
progress we may perhaps become familiar with the explanation, and
find genuine philosophy under the mask of superstition. When any
well-authenticated incidents of this kind are related, it is a very
common inquiry, "What are such visions sent _for_?" The question implies
a supposition of miraculous power, exerted for a temporary and special
purpose. But would it not be more rational to believe that all
appearances, whether spiritual or material, are caused by the operation
of universal laws, manifested under varying circumstances? In the
infancy of the world, it was the general tendency of the human mind to
consider all occasional phenomena as direct interventions of the gods,
for some special purpose at the time. Thus, the rainbow was supposed
to be a celestial road, made to accommodate the swift messenger of the
gods, when she was sent on an errand, and withdrawn as soon as she had
done with it. We now know that the laws of the refraction and reflection
of light produce the radiant iris, and that it will always appear
whenever drops of water in the air present themselves to the sun's rays
in a suitable position. Knowing this, we have ceased to ask what the
rainbow appears _for_.
That a spiritual form is contained within the material body is a very
ancient and almost universal belief. Hindoo books of the remotest
antiquity describe man as a triune being, consisting of the soul, the
spiritual body, and the material body. This form within the outer body
was variously named by Grecian poets and philosophers. They called
it "the soul's image," "the invisible body," "the aerial body," "the
shade." Sometimes they called it "the sensuous soul," and described it
as "_all_ eye and _all_ ear,"--expressions which cannot fail to suggest
the phenomena of clairvoyance. The "shade" of Hercules is described by
poets as dwelling in the Elysian Fields, while his body was converted to
ashes on the earth, and his soul was dwelling on Olympus with the gods.
Swedenborg speaks of himself as having been a visible form to angels in
the spiritual world; and members of his household, observing him at such
times, describe the eyes of his body on earth as having the expression
of one walking in his sleep. He tells us, that, when his thoughts turned
toward earthly things, the angels would say to him, "Now we are losing
sight of you": and he himself felt that he was returning to his material
body. For several years of his life, he was in the habit of seeing and
conversing familiarly with visitors unseen by those around him. The
deceased brother of the Queen of Sweden repeated to him a secret
conversation, known only to himself and his sister. The Queen had asked
for this, as a test of Swedenborg's veracity; and she became pale with
astonishment when every minute particular of her interview with her
brother was reported to her. Swedenborg was a sedate man, apparently
devoid of any wish to excite a sensation, engrossed in scientific
pursuits, and remarkable for the orderly habits of his mind. The
intelligent and enlightened German, Nicolai, in the later years of his
life, was accustomed to find himself in the midst of persons whom he
knew perfectly well, but who were invisible to others. He reasoned very
calmly about it, but arrived at no solution more satisfactory than the
old one of "optical illusion," which is certainly a very inadequate
explanation. Instances are recorded, and some of them apparently well
authenticated, of persons still living in this world, and unconscious of
disease, who have seen _themselves_ in a distinct visible form, without
the aid of a mirror. It would seem as if such experiences had not been
confined to any particular part of the world; for they have given birth
to a general superstition that such apparitions are a forerunner of
death,--or, in other words, of the complete separation of the spiritual
body from the natural body. A friend related to me the particulars of a
fainting-fit, during which her body remained senseless an unusually long
time. When she was restored to consciousness, she told her attendant
friends that she had been standing near the sofa all the time, watching
her own lifeless body, and seeing what they did to resuscitate it. In
proof thereof she correctly repeated to them all they had said and
done while her body remained insensible. Those present at the time
corroborated her statement, so far as her accurate knowledge of all
their words, looks, and proceedings was concerned.
The most numerous class of phenomena concerning the "spiritual body"
relate to its visible appearance to others at the moment of dissolution.
There is so much testimony on this subject, from widely separated
witnesses, that an unprejudiced mind, equally removed from superstition
and skepticism, inclines to believe that they must be manifestations of
some hidden law of our mysterious being. Plato says that everything in
this world is merely the material form of some model previously existing
in a higher world of ethereal spiritual forms; and Swedenborg's
beautiful doctrine of Correspondences is a reappearance of the same
idea. If their theory be true, may not the antecedent type of that
strange force which in the material world we call electricity be a
_spiritual_ magnetism. As yet, we know extremely little of the laws of
electricity, and we know nothing of those laws of _spiritual_ attraction
and repulsion which are perhaps the _cause_ of electricity. There may be
subtile and as yet unexplained causes, connected with the state of the
nervous system, the state of the mind, the accord of two souls under
peculiar circumstances, etc., which may sometimes enable a person who is
in a material body to see another who is in a spiritual body. That such
visions are not of daily occurrence may be owing to the fact that it
requires an unusual combination of many favorable circumstances to
produce them; and when they do occur, they seem to us miraculous
simply because we are ignorant of the laws of which they are transient
Lord Bacon says,--"The relations touching the force of imagination and
the secret instincts of Nature are so uncertain, as they require a great
deal of examination ere we conclude upon them. I would have it first
thoroughly inquired whether there be any secret passages of sympathy
between persons of near blood,--as parents, children, brothers, sisters,
nurse-children, husbands, wives, etc. There be many reports in history,
that, upon the death of persons of such nearness, men have had an inward
feeling of it. I myself remember, that, being in Paris, and my father
dying in London, two or three days before my father's death I had a
dream, which I told to divers English gentlemen, that my father's house
in the country was plastered all over with black mortar. Next to those
that are near in blood, there may be the like passage and instincts of
Nature between great friends and great enemies. Some trial also would be
made whether pact or agreement do anything: as, if two friends should
agree, that, such a day in every week, they, being in far distant
places, should pray one for another, or should put on a ring or tablet
one for another's sake, whether, if one of them should break their vow
and promise, the other should have any feeling of it in absence."
This query of Lord Bacon, whether an agreement between two distant
persons to think of each other at a particular time may not produce an
actual nearness between their spirits, is suggestive. People partially
drowned and resuscitated have often described their last moments of
consciousness as flooded with memories, so that they seemed to be
surrounded by the voices and countenances of those they loved. If this
is common when soul and body are approaching dissolution, may not such
concentration of loving thoughts produce an actual nearness, filling the
person thought of with "a feeling as if somebody were in the room"? And
if the feeling thus induced is very powerful, may not the presence thus
felt become objective, or, in other words, a vision?
The feeling of the nearness of spirits to when the thoughts are busily
occupied with them may have led to the almost universal belief among
ancient nations that the souls of the dead came back on the anniversary
of their death to the places where their bodies were deposited. This
belief invested their tombs with peculiar sacredness, and led the
wealthy to great expense in their construction. Egyptians, Greeks, and
Romans built them with upper apartments, more or less spacious. These
chambers were adorned with vases, sculptures, and paintings on the
walls, varying in costliness and style according to the means or taste
of the builder. The tomb of Cestius in Rome contained a chamber much
ornamented with paintings. Ancient Egyptian tombs abound with sculptures
and paintings, probably representative of the character of the deceased.
Thus, on the walls of one a man is pictured throwing seed into the
ground, followed by a troop of laborers; farther on, the same individual
is represented as gathering in the harvest; then he is seen in
procession with wife, children, friends, and followers, carrying sheaves
to the temple, a thank-offering to the gods. This seems to be a painted
epitaph, signifying that the deceased was industrious, prosperous, and
pious. It was common to deposit in these tombs various articles of
use or ornament, such as the departed ones had been familiar with and
attached to, while on earth. Many things in the ancient sculptures
indicate that Egyptian women were very fond of flowers. It is a curious
fact, that little china boxes with Chinese letters on them, like those
in which the Chinese now sell flower-seeds, have been discovered in some
of these tombs. Probably the ladies buried there were partial to exotics
from China; and perhaps friends placed them there with the tender
thought that the spirit of the deceased would be pleased to see them,
when it came on its annual visit. Sometimes these paintings and
sculptures embodied ideas reaching beyond the earthly existence, and
"the aerial body" was represented floating among stars, escorted by
what we should call angels, but which they named "Spirits of the
Sun." Families and friends visited these consecrated chambers on the
anniversary of the death of those whose bodies were placed in the
room below. They carried with them music and flowers, cakes and wine.
Religious ceremonies were performed, with the idea that the "invisible
body" was present with them and took part in the prayers and offerings.
The visitors talked together of past scenes, and doubtless their
conversation abounded with touching allusions to the character and
habits of the unseen friend supposed to be listening. It was, in fact,
an annual family-gathering, scarcely sadder in its memories than is our
Thanksgiving festival to those who have travelled far on the pilgrimage
St. Paul teaches that "there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual
body." The early Christians had a very vivid faith, that, when the
soul dropped its outer envelope of flesh, it continued to exist in
a spiritual form. When any of their number died, they observed the
anniversary of his departure by placing on the altar an offering to the
church, in his name. On such occasions, they partook of the sacrament,
with the full belief that his unseen form was present with them, and
shared in the sacred rite, as he had done while in the material body. On
the anniversary of the death of martyrs, there were such commemorations
in all the churches; and that their spirits were believed to be present
is evident from the fact that numerous petitions were addressed to them.
In the Roman Catacombs, where many of the early Christians were buried,
are apartments containing sculptures and paintings of apostles and
martyrs. They are few and rude, because the Christians of that period
were poor, and used such worldly goods as they had more for benevolence
than for show. But these memorials, in such a place, indicate the same
feeling that adorned the magnificent tombs of Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
These subterranean apartments were used for religious meetings in the
first centuries of our era, and it is generally supposed that they were
chosen as safe hiding-places from persecution. Very likely it was so;
but it is not improbable that the spot had peculiar attractions to
worshippers, from the feeling that they were in the midst of an unseen
congregation, whose bodies were buried there. If it was so, it would be
but one of many proofs that the early Christians mixed with their new
religion many of the traditions and ceremonies of their forefathers, who
had been educated in other forms of faith. Even in our own time, threads
of these ancient traditions are more or less visible through the whole
warp and woof of our literature and our customs. Many of the tombs in
the Cemetery of Pere la Chaise have pretty upper apartments. On the
anniversary of the death of those buried beneath, friends and relatives
carry thither flowers and garlands. Women often spend the entire day
there, and parties of friends assemble to partake of a picnic repast.
Most of the ancient nations annually observed a day in honor of the
Souls of Ancestors. This naturally grew out of the custom of meeting in
tombs to commemorate the death of relatives. As generations passed away,
it was unavoidable that many of the very old sepulchres should be seldom
or never visited. Still it was believed that the "shades" even of remote
ancestors hovered about their descendants and were cognizant of their
doings. It was impossible to observe separately the anniversaries of
departed millions, and therefore a day was set apart for religious
ceremonies in honor of _all_ ancestors. Hindoo and Chinese families have
from time immemorial consecrated such days; and the Romans observed a
similar anniversary under the name of Parentalia.
Christians retained this ancient custom, but it took a new coloring from
their peculiar circumstances. The ties of the church were substituted
for ties of kindred. Its members were considered _spiritual_ fathers
and brothers, and there was an annual festival in honor of _spiritual_
ancestors. The forms greatly resembled those of the Roman Parentalia.
The gathering-place was usually at the tomb of some celebrated martyr,
or in some chapel consecrated to his memory. Crowds of people came
from all quarters to implore the spirits of the martyrs to send them
favorable seasons, good crops, healthy children, etc., just as the old
Romans had been accustomed to invoke the names of their ancestors for
similar blessings. Prayers were repeated, hymns sung, and offerings
presented to the church, as aforetime to the gods. A great banquet was
prepared, and wine was drunk to the souls of the martyrs so freely that
complete intoxication was common. In view of this and other excesses,
the pious among the bishops exerted their influence to abolish the
custom. But it was so intertwined with the traditional faith of the
populace, and so gratifying to their social propensities, that it was
a long time before it could be suppressed. A vestige of the old
anniversaries in honor of the Souls of Ancestors remains in the Catholic
Church under the name of All-Souls' Day.
In France, the Parentalia of the ancient Romans is annually observed
under the name of "Le Jour des Morts." All Paris flock to the
cemeteries, bearing bouquets, crosses, and garlands to decorate the
tombs of departed ancestors, relatives, and friends. The gay population
is, for that day, sobered by tender and solemn memories. Many a tear
glistens on the wreaths, and the passing traveller notices many a one
whose trembling lips and swollen eyelids indicate that the soul is
immersed in recollections of departed loved ones. The "cities of the
dead" bloom with fresh flowers, in multifarious forms of crosses,
crowns, and hearts. From all the churches prayers ascend for those who
have dropped their earthly garment of flesh, and who live henceforth in
the "spiritual body," which becomes more and more beautiful with the
progress of the soul,--it being, as the ancients called it, "the soul's
You shall not be over-bold
When you deal with arctic cold,
As late I found my lukewarm blood
Chilled wading in the snow-choked wood.
How should I fight? my foeman fine
Has million arms to one of mine.
East, west, for aid I looked in vain;
East, west, north, south, are his domain.
Miles off, three dangerous miles, is home;
Must borrow his winds who there would come.
Up and away for life! be fleet!
The frost-king ties my fumbling feet,
Sings in my ears, my hands are stones,
Curdles the blood to the marble bones,
Tugs at the heartstrings, numbs the sense,
Hems in the life with narrowing fence.
Well, in this broad bed lie and sleep,
The punctual stars will vigil keep,
Embalmed by purifying cold,
The winds shall sing their dead-march old,
The snow is no ignoble shroud,
The moon thy mourner, and the cloud.
Softly,--but this way fate was pointing,
'Twas coming fast to such anointing,
When piped a tiny voice hard by,
Gay and polite, a cheerful cry,
"_Chic-chic-a-dee-dee_!" saucy note,
Out of sound heart and merry throat,
As if it said, "Good day, good Sir!
Fine afternoon, old passenger!
Happy to meet you in these places,
Where January brings few men's faces."
This poet, though he live apart,
Moved by a hospitable heart,
Sped, when I passed his sylvan fort,
To do the honors of his court,
As fits a feathered lord of land,
Flew near, with soft wing grazed my hand,
Hopped on the bough, then, darting low,
Prints his small impress on the snow,
Shows feats of his gymnastic play,
Head downward, clinging to the spray.
Here was this atom in full breath
Hurling defiance at vast death,
This scrap of valor just for play
Fronts the north-wind in waistcoat gray,
As if to shame my weak behavior.
I greeted loud my little saviour:
"Thou pet! what dost here? and what for?
In these woods, thy small Labrador,
At this pinch, wee San Salvador!
What fire burns in that little chest,
So frolic, stout, and self-possest?
Didst steal the glow that lights the West?
Henceforth I wear no stripe but thine:
Ashes and black all hues outshine.
Why are not diamonds black and gray,
To ape thy dare-devil array?
And I affirm the spacious North
Exists to draw thy virtue forth.
I think no virtue goes with size:
The reason of all cowardice
Is, that men are overgrown,
And, to be valiant, must come down
To the titmouse dimension."
'Tis good-will makes intelligence,
And I began to catch the sense
Of my bird's song: "Live out of doors,
In the great woods, and prairie floors.
I dine in the sun; when he sinks in the sea,
I, too, have a hole in a hollow tree.
And I like less when summer beats
With stifling beams on these retreats
Than noontide twilights which snow makes
With tempest of the blinding flakes:
For well the soul, if stout within,
Can arm impregnably the skin;
And polar frost my frame defied,
Made of the air that blows outside."
With glad remembrance of my debt,
I homeward turn. Farewell, my pet!
When here again thy pilgrim comes,
He shall bring store of seeds and crumbs.
Henceforth I prize thy wiry chant
O'er all that mass and minster vaunt:
For men mishear thy call in spring,
As 'twould accost some frivolous wing,
Crying out of the hazel copse, "_Phe--be!_"
And in winter, "_Chic-a-dee-dee!_"
I think old Caesar must have heard
In Northern Gaul my dauntless bird,
And, echoed in some frosty wold,
Borrowed thy battle-numbers bold.
And I shall write our annals new,
And thank thee for a better clew:
I, who dreamed not, when I came here,
To find the antidote of fear,
Now hear thee say in Roman key,
"_Paean! Ve-ni, Vi-di, Vi-ci._"
* * * * *
SALTPETRE AS A SOURCE OF POWER.
Every element of _strength_ in a civilized community demands special
notice. The present material progress of nations brings us every day in
contact with the application of power under various conditions, and the
most thoughtless person is to some extent influenced mentally by the
improvements, taking the places of older means and ways of adaptation,
in the arts of life.
We travel by the aid of steam-power, and we think and speak of a
locomotive or a steamboat as we once thought and spoke of a horse or
a man; and no little feeling of self-sufficiency is engendered by the
conclusion that this new source of power has been brought under control
and put to work in our day.
It is also true that we do not always entertain the most correct view of
what we term the new power of locomotive and steamboat; and as it may
aid us in some further steps connected with the subject of my remarks,
a familiar object, such as a steamboat, may be taken as illustrative of
the application of power, and we may thus obtain some simple ideas of
what power truly is, in Nature.
My travelled friend considers a steamboat as a ship propelled by wheels,
the shaft to which they are attached being moved by the machinery.
He follows back to the piston of the engine and finds the motor
there,--satisfied that he has discovered in the transference of
rectilinear to rotatory motion the reason for the progress of the boat.
A more inquisitive friend does not rest here, but assumes that the power
of the steam flowing through the machine sets in action its parts; and
he rests from farther pursuit of the power, where the larger number
of those who give any observation to the application of steam are
found,--gratified with the knowledge accumulated, and the readiness with
which an explanation of the motion of the boat can be traced to the
power of steam as its source.
We must proceed a little farther on our backward course from the point
where the power is applied, and in our analysis consider the steam as
only the vehicle or carrier of the power; and examining the conditions,
we find that water acted on by fire, while contained in a suitable
vessel, after some time takes up certain properties which enable it
to go forward and move the ponderous machinery of the boat. The water
evidently here derives its new character of steam from the fire, and we
have now reached the source of the _movement_ of steam, and traced it
to the fire. In fact, we have found the source of power, in this most
mechanical of all mechanical machines, to be removed from the department
of knowledge which treats of machines!
But we need not pause here, although we must now enter a little way into
chemical, instead of mechanical science. The fire prepares the water to
act as a carrier of power; it must contain power, therefore; and what
is it which we call fire? In placing on the grate coal or wood, and
providing for the contact of a continuous current of air, we intend to
bring about certain chemical actions as consequent on a disposition
which we know coal and wood to possess. When we apply fire, the chemical
actions commence and the usual effects follow. Now, if we for a moment
dismiss the consideration of the means adopted, it becomes apparent to
every one, that, as the fire will continue to increase with successive
additions of fuel, or as it will continue indefinitely with a regular
supply, there must be something else than mere motor action here. We
cannot call it chemical action, and dismiss the thought, and neglect
further inquiry, unless we would place ourselves with those who regard
the movement of the steamboat as being due to the machinery.
Our farther progress in this analysis will soon open a wide field of
knowledge and inquiry; but it is sufficient for our present purpose, if,
by a careful study of the composition and chemical disposition of the
proximate compounds of the coal and the wood fuel, we arrive at the
conclusion that both are the result of forces which, very slight in
themselves at any moment, yet when acting through long periods of time
become laid up in the form of coal and wood. All that effort which the
tree has exhibited during its growth from the germ of the seed to its
state of maturity, when taken as fuel, is pent up in its substance,
ready, when fire is applied, to escape slowly and continuously. In
the case of the coal, after the growth of the plant from which it was
formed, the material underwent changes which enabled it to conserve more
forces, and to exhibit more energy when fire is applied to its mass; and
hence the distinction between wood and coal.
Our analysis thus far has developed the source of the power moving
the steamboat as existing in the gradual action of forces influencing
vegetation, concentrated and locked up in the fuel. For the purpose of
illustrating the subject of this essay, we require no farther progress
in this direction. A moment of thought at this point and we shall cease
to consider steam-power as _new_; for, long before man appeared on this
earth, the vegetation was collecting and condensing those ordinary
natural powers which we find in fuel. In our time, too, the rains and
dews, heat, motion, and gaseous food, are being stored up in a wondrous
manner, to serve as elements of power which may be used and applied now
In this view, too, we may include the winds, the falling of rain, the
ascent and descent of sap, the condensation of gases,--in short,
the natural powers, exerted before,--as the cause of motion in the
Passing from these considerations not unconnected with the subject, let
us inquire what saltpetre is, and how it is formed.
The term Saltpetre is applied to a variety of bodies, distinguished,
however, by their bases, as potash saltpetre, soda saltpetre, lime
saltpetre, etc., which occur naturally. They are all compounds of nitric
acid and bases, or the gases nitrogen and oxygen united to bases, and
are found in all soils which have not been recently washed by rains, and
which are protected from excessive moisture.
The decomposition of animal and of some vegetable bodies in the soil
causes the production of one constituent of saltpetre, while the earth
and the animal remains supply the other. Evaporation of pure water from
the surface of the earth causes the moisture which rises from below to
bring to the surface the salt dissolved in it; and as this salt is not
volatile, the escape of the moisture leaves it at or near the surface.
Hence, under buildings, especially habitations of men and animals, the
salt accumulates, and in times of scarcity it may be collected. In all
cases of its extraction from the earth several kinds of saltpetre are
obtained, and the usual course is to decompose these by the addition of
salts of potash, so as to form from them potash saltpetre, the kind most
In this decomposition of animal remains and the formation of saltpetre
the air performs an important part, and the changes it effects are
worthy of our attention.
Let us consider the aerial ocean surrounding our earth and resting upon
it, greatly larger in mass and extent than the more familiar aqueous
ocean below it, and more closely and momentarily affecting our
The pure air, consisting of 20.96 volumes of oxygen gas and 79.04
volumes of nitrogen gas, preserves, under all the variations of climate
and height above the surface of the earth, a remarkable constancy of
composition,--the variation of one one-hundredth part never having been
observed. But additions and subtractions are being constantly made,
and the atmosphere, as distinguished from the pure air, is mixed with
exhalations from countless sources on the land and the sea. Wherever man
moves, his fire, his food, the materials of his dwellings, the soil he
disturbs, all add their volatile parts to the atmosphere. Vegetation,
death, and decay pour into it copiously substances foreign to the
composition of pure air. The combustion of one ton of coal adds at least
sixteen tons of impurity to the atmosphere; and when we estimate on
the daily consumption of coal the addition from this source alone, the
amount becomes enormous.
Experiments have been made for the purpose of estimating these
additions, and the results of those most carefully conducted show how
very slightly the combined causes affect the general composition of our
atmosphere; and although the present refined methods of chemists enable
them to detect the presence of an abnormal amount of some substances, no
research has yet been successful in determining how far this varies from
the natural quantity at all times necessarily present in the atmosphere.
It is, however, the comparatively minute portions of nitrogenous matter
in the atmosphere that we are to consider as the source of the nitrous
acids formed there, and of part of that found in the earth. From some
experiments made during the day and night it has been found, that, under
the most favorable circumstances, six millions six hundred and seventy