Part 2 out of 5
I think that it would make you smile
To see him kneel and hear him plead,--
I leaning on my sword the while,
With a half-laugh, to watch his need:--
At last my good blade finds his heart,
And then this red stain will depart.
RAMBLES IN AQUIDNECK.
Newport has many beaches, each bearing a distinctive appellation. To
the one of which we are speaking rightfully belongs the name of
Easton; but it is more widely known by that of the town itself, and
still more familiarly to the residents as "The Beach." It lies east of
the city, a mile from the harbor, and is about half a mile in length.
Its form is that of the new moon, the horns pointing southward.
Let us go there now. No better time could be chosen by the naturalist,
for the tide will be at its lowest ebb. Descending Bath Road, the
beautiful crescent lies before us on the right,--Easton's Pond, with
its back-ground of farms, upon the left. There is no wind to-day to
break the surface of the standing water, and it gives back the dwarf
willows upon its banks and the houses on the hill-side with more than
Daguerrian fidelity. The broad ocean lies rocking in the sunshine, not
as one a-weary, but resting at his master's bidding, waiting to begin
anew the work he loves. In the horizon, the ships, motionless in the
calm, spread all sail to catch the expected breeze. The waves idly
chase each other to the shore, in childish strife to kiss first the
Turning the sea-wall and crossing a bit of shingle on the right, we
stand upon the western extremity of the beach.
At our feet, a smooth, globular object, of the size of a crab-apple,
is lying half-buried in the sand. Taking it in your hand, you find it
to be a univalve shell, the inhabitant of which is concealed behind a
closely-fitting door, resembling a flake of undissolved glue.
It is a Natica. Place it gently in this pool and watch for a few
moments. Slowly and cautiously the horny operculum is pushed out,
turned back, and hidden beneath a thick fleshy mantle, which spreads
over half the shell. Two long tentacles appear upon its front, like
the horns of an ox, and it begins to glide along upon its one huge
Had you seen it thus at first, you could not have believed it possible
for so bulky a body to be retracted into so small a shell. Lift it
into the air, and a stream of water pours forth as it contracts.
Two kinds are common here, one of which has a more conical spire than
the other. The animals differ somewhat in other points, but both have
a cream-colored base, and a mantle of pale cream clouded with purple.
You may get them from half an inch to three inches in diameter. Take
them home and domesticate them, and you will see surprising things.
I kept one of middling size for many months. During two or three weeks
I wondered how he lived, for he was never seen to eat. He used to
climb to the top of the tank and slide down the slippery glass as
though it were a _montagne russe_. Then he would wander about upon the
bottom, ploughing deep furrows in the sand, and end by burrowing
beneath it. There he would stay whole days, entirely out of sight.
One morning I found him on his back, his body bent upward, with the
edge of the base turned in all round towards the centre. Did you ever
see an apple-dumpling before it was boiled, just as the cook was
pinching the dough together? Yes? Then you may imagine the appearance
of my Natica; but no greening pared and cored lay within that puckered
Two days passed with no visible change; but on the third day the
strange gasteropod unfolded both himself and the mystery. From his
long embrace fell the shell of a Mactra, nearly as broad as his own.
Near the hinge was a smooth, round hole, through which the poor Clam
had been sucked. Foot, stomach, siphon, muscles, all but a thin strip
of mantle, were gone. The problem of the Natica's existence was
solved, and the verification was found in more than one Buccinum minus
the animal,--the number of the latter victims being still an unknown
Not in sport had Natty driven the plough, not in idleness had he
hollowed the sand. He sought his food in the furrow, and dug riches in
Doubtless he killed the bivalve,--for until the time of its
disappearance it had been in full vigor,--but with what weapon? And
whereabouts in that soft bundle was hidden the wimble which bored the
A few days after, a Crab, of the size of a dime, died. Nat soon
learned the fact, and enveloped the crustacean as he had done the
mollusk. Thirty hours sufficed to drill through the Crab's
foundation-wall, and to abstract the unguarded treasure.
Every week some rifled Trivittatum tells a new tale of his felonious
His last feat was worthy of a cannibal, for it was the savage act of
devouring a fellow-Natica. You might suppose that in this case the
trap-like operculum would afford an easy entrance to one familiar with
its use; but, true to his secret system, the burglar broke in as
before. How did he do this? Did he abrade the stone-work with flinty
sand until a hole was worn? Did he apply an acid to the limy wall
until it opened before him? Who can find the tools of the cunning
workman, or the laboratory where his corrodents are composed?
Some rods farther south, the shore is covered with smooth stones, and
there you may find the Limpet in great numbers. Patella is the Latin
name, but children call it Tent-Shell. Oval at the base, it slopes
upward to a point a little aside from the centre.
In this locality they are small, seldom more than an inch in length.
At first, you will not readily distinguish them, they are so nearly of
the color of the stones to which they are attached. This is one of
those Providential adjustments by which the weak are rendered as
secure as the strong. Slow in their movements, without offensive
weapons, their form and their coloring are their two great safeguards.
The stones to which they adhere are variegated with brown and purple
blotches of incipient Coralline, and the shells are beautifully
mottled with every shade of those colors. Some are lilac, heightening
nearly to crimson; others are dark chocolate and white, sharply
Pebbles and Patella alike are half-covered with Confervae, and from
the top of the latter, fronds of Ulva are often found floating like
flags. I have one with a clump of Corallina rising from its apex, like
a coppice on the summit of a hill.
By atmospheric pressure, its union with the stone is so close that it
is not easy to pull it away without injury; but if you slip it along,
until by some slight inequality air is admitted beneath the hitherto
exhausted receiver, the little pneumatician is obliged to yield.
When turned upon its back, or resting against glass, the soft arms,
sprawling aimlessly about, and the bare, round head, give it the
appearance of an infant in a cradle, so that a tank well stocked with
them might be taken for a Liliputian foundling-hospital.
They are as innocent as they look, being vegetable-feeders, and
finding most of their sustenance in matters suspended in the water. A
friend of mine placed several upon the side of a vessel coated with
Conferva. In a few days, each industrious laborer had mowed round him
a circular space several times larger than himself.
They are not ambulatory, but remain on one spot for successive weeks,
Sometimes they raise the shell so as to allow a free circulation
beneath; but if some predatory Prawn draw near, the tent is lowered in
a twinkling, so as effectually to shut out the submarine Tartar.
Tread warily, or you will trip upon the slimy Fucus that fringes the
seaward side of every rock. This is one of the few Algae that grow
here in luxuriance. The slate has not the deep fissures necessary to
afford shelter to the more delicate kinds; and the heavy swell of the
sea drags them from their slight moorings. Therefore, though Ulva,
Chondrus, Cladophora, Enteromorpha, and as many more, are within our
reach, we will not stop to gather them; for Newport has other shores,
where we can get them in full perfection.
We will take some tufts of Corallina, however, for that is temptingly
fine. What a curious plant it is! Its root, a mere crustaceous disk,
and its fronds, depositing shelly matter upon their surface, bear so
strong a resemblance to the true Corals, that, until recently,
naturalists have thought it a zoophyte.
Here the plants are of a dull brick-red; but in less exposed
situations they are purple. If you wish them to live and increase, you
must chip off a bit of the rock on which they are growing. With a
chisel, or even a knife, you can do it without difficulty, for the
soft slate scales and crumbles under a slight blow.
For an herbarium, it ought to be gummed at once to the paper, for it
becomes so brittle, in drying, that it falls to pieces with the most
careful handling. In the air and light it fades white, but the
elegance of its pinnate branches will well repay any pains you may
bestow upon it.
If you have a lingering belief in its animal nature, steeping it in
acid will cause the carbonate of lime and your credulity to disappear
together, leaving the vegetable tissue clearly revealed.
Between low-water and the Cliff are hundreds of pools rich in
vegetable and animal life--Look at this one: it is a lakelet of
exquisite beauty. Bordered with the olive-colored Rock-Weed, fronds of
purple and green Laver rise from its limpid depths. Amphipods of
varied hue emerge from the clustering weeds, cleave the clear water
with easy swiftness, and hide beneath the opposite bank. Here a
graceful Annelid describes Hogarth's line of beauty upon the sandy
bottom. There another glides over the surface with sinuous course,
rowed by more oars than a Venetian galley, more brilliant in its
iridescence than the barge of Cleopatra, albeit
"The poop was beaten gold,
Purple the sails."
We loiter here, forgetful that we are only at the first end of the bow
along whose curve we propose to walk. Let us go on. The firm sand
affords pleasanter footing than the slippery stones we leave behind
us, but it seems bare of promise to the curiosity-hunter. Nevertheless
we will hunt, and quite at variance with my experience will it be, if
we return empty-handed.
Here is something already. Dark-colored, horny, flat, oblong, each
corner furnished with a wiry, thorn-like projection;--what is it? A
child tells you it is a Mermaid's Purse, and, giving the empty bag a
shake, you straightway conclude that the maids of the sea know "hard
times," as well as those of the land. But the Purse is not always so
light. Sometimes it is found to contain a most precious deposit, the
egg which is to produce a future fish.
These egg-cases belong to different members of the Ray family. I saw
one last winter, in which the inmate was fully developed. Should some
old seaman hear me, he might say that I am telling a "fish-story" in
good earnest. He might inform you furthermore, that the object in
question is "but a pod of sea-weed, and that he has seen hundreds of
them in the Gulf Stream." I cannot help it, neither do I question his
veracity. Notwithstanding, these two eyes of mine, in sound condition,
awake, and in broad day, did see the supposed pericarp, with one side
taken off, and did behold, lying within, as veritable a Raia as ever
was caught upon the New-England coast. Moreover, its countenance was
no more classical, in its minuteness, than that of its most ancient
ancestor in its hugeness.
Observe those bubbles trembling upon the edge of the wave. One is left
by the receding tide, and a nearer view shows it to be a jelly-like
globe, clearer than the crystal of Merlin. Dropped softly into a
vessel of water, at first it lies quiescent and almost invisible upon
the bottom. A moment after, it rises in quick undulations, flashing
prismatic tints with every motion. Again it rests, and we see that it
is banded by eight meridians, composed of square, overlapping plates.
It swims, and the plates become paddles, propelling the frail craft,--
prisms, dividing the sunbeams into rainbow hues. Suddenly two lines of
gossamer are dropped from unseen openings in its sides, and trailed
behind it as it goes. Twisting, lengthening, shortening, they are
drawn back and re-coiled within, and
"The ethereal substance closed,
Not long divisible."
This delicate wonder is the Cydippe. Though among the most charming of
marine creatures, none is more liable to be overlooked, owing to its
extreme subtilty. So unsubstantial and shadowy are they, that a lady,
on seeing them for the first time, declared them to be "the ghosts of
gooseberries." Indeed, you will find them ghost-like, if you attempt
to keep them, for they
"Shrink in haste away
And vanish from our sight."
The whole high-water line is strewn with the blanched and parted
valves of the Beach Clam. Here and there yellowish streaks appear upon
the gray sand, formed by the detritus of submarine shells. Among the
fragments are often found perfect specimens, some of them with the
We can examine them as we go back, but now let us cross the "Creek."
It is a creek only by courtesy or an Americanism, at the present day;
but when those miles of fertile fields upon the north were
unreclaimed, the dank herbage hindered evaporation, and Easton's Pond
was fed by unfailing streams. Then the vast body of overflowing water
swept a deep channel, which the sea, rolling far up towards the pond,
widened and made permanent. Boats came from ships in the offing, and
followed its course to "Green End," with no fear of grounding; and
traditionary pirates there bestowed in secret caves their ill-gotten
Now, the Creek is a mere streamlet, and the flow of the tide is
restricted to its mouth. With our rubbers we may ford it dry-shod; but
if you choose to cross the bridge, we must wade through shifting sand,
and our walk will be the longer. In midsummer the bed is dry, and
almost obliterated by the drift. On the approach of autumnal rains,
the farmers plough a passage for the water, to prevent their lands
from being submerged.
On the east side, masses of conglomerate rock are strewn in wild
confusion. By the action of untold ages the connecting cement is worn
away from between the pebbles, leaving them prominent; and wherever
the attrition of the sea has loosened one from its bed, the hollow has
become the habitation of Mollusca and Algae.
Beyond that ponderous boulder are many dark recesses among the
overlying stones. Strip back your sleeve, thrust in your hand, and
grope carefully about In this way I once grasped a prickly thing that
startled me. Drawing it to light, it proved to be an Echinus,
Sea-Urchin, or Sea-Egg. That one was not larger than a walnut, was
shaped like a _brioche_, and resembled a chestnut-burr. Its color was
a delicate green, verging to brown.
Much larger living Echini are found on this spot. There is a shell
now, more than two inches in diameter. It is wholly covered with
spines half an inch in length. Radiating from a common centre,
flexible at the base, they stand erect at right angles with the shell
when the Urchin is in health; but in disease or death order is lost,
and they lie across each other in great confusion. Their connection
with the shell is very remarkable, for it is by a ball-and-socket
joint,--the same articulation which gives the human hip its marvellous
liberty of action. Between them are five rows of minute holes, and, in
life, a transparent, hair-like foot is protruded from each, at the
pleasure of the owner. When disposed to change its situation, it
stretches forth those on the side towards which it would go, fixes
them by means of the sucker at the tip of each, and, simultaneously
withdrawing those in the rear, pulls itself along.
The mouth, placed in the centre of the base, is very large in
proportion to the size of the animal. It is formed of five shelly,
wedge-shaped pieces, each ending in a hard, triangular tooth. The
whole mouth is a conical box, called by naturalists "Aristotle's
The shell is hardly thicker than that of a hen's egg, and is even more
fragile. When the spines are rubbed off, the brioche-like shape is
modified, and in place of the depression in the middle of the upper
side there is seen a slight prominence.
Mine was a very inoffensive creature. He occupied the same corner for
many weeks, and changed his place only when a different arrangement of
stones was made. He then wandered to a remote part of the tank and
chose a new abode. Both retreats were on the shady side of a stone
overhung with plants. There for months he quietly kept house, only
going up and down his hand-breadth of room once or twice a day.
Minding his own business without hurt to his neighbor, he dwelt in
unambitious tranquillity. Had he not fallen a victim to the most cruel
maltreatment, he might still adorn his humble station.
As he was sitting one evening at the door of his house, bending about
his lithe arms in the way he was wont, two itinerant Sticklebacks
chanced to pass that way. They paused, and, not seeing the necessity
for organs of which they had never known the use, they at once decided
on their removal.
In vain did the poor Hedgehog oppose them. With all the pertinacity of
ignorance, they maintained their certainty of his abnormal condition;
and with all the officiousness of quackery, they insisted upon
immediate amputation. Aided by two volunteer assistants, the self-made
surgeons cut off limb after limb before their reckless butchery could
At last I effected their dismissal. But their pitiable patient was too
far reduced for recovery. His exhausted system never rallied from the
shock, and he survived but a few days.
Alas! alas! that so exemplary a member of the community should have
perished through piscine empiricism!
How many things you have collected! Your well-filled basket attests
your industry and zeal, and suggests the fruitful question of the
novelist, "What will you do with it?" Will you throw its contents on
the sand, and go away satisfied with these imperfect glimpses of
sea-life? Will you take them home indeed, but consign them to a
crowded bowl, to die like the prisoners in the Black Hole of Calcutta?
Or will you give to each a roomy basin with water, and plants to keep
This were well; and you could thus study their structure at leisure,
but not their habits. To know the character of an individual, you must
watch him among his fellows; you must observe his bearing to the
small; you must see how he demeans himself in presence of the great.
To do this, the surroundings must be such that none shall be conscious
of restraint, but that every one, with homely ease, may act out his
own peculiar nature. In short, you must make ready for them another
Atlantic, in all things but breadth like its grand prototype.
Nor is this a difficult undertaking. By following the advice of some
experienced person, you may avoid all those failures which are apt to
attend the experiments of a tyro. I will direct you to our pioneer in
aquarian science, Mr. Charles E. Hammett. He can furnish you with all
you want, give you most efficient aid, and add thereto a great amount
of practical information.
You need have no fears for the population of your colony; for in our
future walks we shall meet new objects of beauty and interest, and in
such variety and abundance that your only embarrassment will be which
And now the ramble of to-day is ended. The "punctual sea" has risen,
and, waking his dreaming waves, he gives to them their several tasks.
Some, with gentle touch, lave the heated rock; these, swift of foot,
bring drink to the thirsty sand; those carry refreshing coolness to
the tepid pool. Charged with blessings come they all, and, singing
'mid their joyous labor, they join in a chorus of praise to their God
and our God; while from each of our hearts goes up the ready response,
"Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy works, and I will rejoice
in giving praise for the operations of thy hands!"
ANN POTTER'S LESSON.
My sister Mary Jane is older than I,--as much as four years. Father
died when we were both small, and didn't leave us much means beside
the farm. Mother was rather a weakly woman; she didn't feel as though
she could farm it for a living. It's hard work enough for a man to get
clothes and victuals off a farm in West Connecticut; it's up-hill work
always; and then a man can turn to, himself, to ploughin' and
mowin';--but a woman a'n't of no use, except to tell folks what to do;
and everybody knows it's no way to have a thing done, to send.
Mother talked it all over with Deacon Peters, and he counselled her to
sell off all the farm but the home-lot, which was sot out for an
orchard with young apple-trees, and had a garden-spot to one end of
it, close by the house. Mother calculated to raise potatoes and beans
and onions enough to last us the year round, and to take in sewin'
so's to get what few groceries we was goin' to want. We kept Old Red,
the best cow; there was pasture enough for her in the orchard, for the
trees wa'n't growed to be bearin' as yet, and we 'lotted a good deal
on milk to our house; besides, it saved butcher's meat.
Mother was a real pious woman, and she was a high-couraged woman too.
Old Miss Perrit, an old widder-woman that lived down by the bridge,
come up to see her the week after father died. I remember all about
it, though I wa'n't but ten years old; for when I see Miss Perrit
comin' up the road, with her slimpsy old veil hanging off from her
bumbazine bonnet, and her doleful look, (what Nancy Perrit used to
call "mother's company-face,") I kinder thought she was comin' to our
house; and she was allers so musical to me, I went in to the
back-door, and took up a towel I was hemmin', and set down in the
corner, all ready to let her in. It don't seem as if I could 'a' been
real distressed about father's dyin' when I could do so; but children
is just like spring weather, rainin' one hour and shinin' the next,
and it's the Lord's great mercy they be; if they begun to be feelin'
so early, there wouldn't be nothin' left to grow up. So pretty quick
Miss Perrit knocked, and I let her in. We hadn't got no spare room in
that house; there was the kitchen in front, and mother's bed-room, and
the buttery, and the little back-space opened out on't behind. Mother
was in the bed-room; so, while I called her, Miss Perrit set down in
the splint rockin'-chair that creaked awfully, and went to rockin'
back and forth, and sighin', till mother come in. "Good-day, Miss
Langdon!" says she, with a kind of a snuffle, "how _dew_ you dew? I
thought I'd come and see how you kep' up under this here affliction. I
rec'lect very well how I felt when husband died. It's a dreadful thing
to be left a widder in a hard world;--don't you find it out by this?"
I guess mother felt quite as bad as ever Miss Perrit did, for
everybody knew old Perrit treated his wife like a dumb brute while he
was alive, and died drunk; but she didn't say nothin'. I see her give
a kind of a swaller, and then she spoke up bright and strong.
"I don't think it is a hard world, Miss Perrit. I find folks kind and
helpful, beyond what I'd any right to look for. I try not to think
about my husband, any more than I can help, because I couldn't work,
if I did, and I've got to work. It's most helpful to think the Lord
made special promises to widows, and when I remember Him I a'n't
Miss Perrit stopped rockin' a minute, and then she begun to creak the
chair and blow her nose again, and she said,--
"Well, I'm sure it's a great mercy to see anybody rise above their
trouble the way you do; but, law me! Miss Langdon, you a'n't got
through the fust pair o' bars on't yet Folks is allers kinder
neighborly at the fust; they feel to help you right off, every way
they can,--but it don't stay put, they get tired on't; they blaze
right up like a white-birch-stick, an' then they go out all of a heap;
there's other folks die, and they don't remember you, and you're just
as bad off as though you wa'n't a widder."
Mother kind of smiled,--she couldn't help it; but she spoke up again
just as steady.
"I don't expect to depend on people, Miss Perrit, so long as I have my
health. I a'n't above takin' friendly help when I need to, but I mean
mostly to help myself. I can get work to take in, and when the girls
have got their schoolin' they will be big enough to help me. I am not
afraid but what I shall live and prosper, if I only keep my health."
"Hem, well!" whined out Miss Perrit. "I allers thought you was a
pretty mighty woman, Miss Langdon, and I'm glad to see you're so
high-minded; but you a'n't sure of your health, never. I used to be
real smart to what I am now, when Perrit was alive; but I took on so,
when he was brought home friz to death that it sp'iled my nerves; and
then I had to do so many chores out in the shed, I got cold and had
the dreadfullest rheumatiz! and when I'd got past the worst spell of
that and was quite folksy again, I slipped down on our door-step and
kinder wrenched my ankle, and ef't hadn't 'a' been for the neighbors,
I don't know but what Nancy and I should 'a' starved."
Mother did laugh this time. Miss Perrit had overshot the mark.
"So the neighbors were helpful, after all!" said she. "And if ever I
get sick, I shall be willin' to have help, Miss Perrit. I'm sure I
would take what I would give; I think givin' works two ways. I don't
feel afraid yet."
Miss Perrit groaned a little, and wiped her eyes, and got up to go
away. She hadn't never offered to help mother, and she went off to the
sewing-circle and told that Miss Langdon hadn't got no feelings at
all, and she b'lieved she'd just as soon beg for a livin' as not.
Polly Mariner, the tailoress, come and told mother all she said next
day, but mother only smiled, and set Polly to talkin' about the best
way to make over her old cloak. When she was gone, I begun to talk
about Miss Perrit, and I was real mad; but mother hushed me right up.
"It a'n't any matter, Ann," said she. "Her sayin' so don't make it so.
Miss Perrit's got a miserable disposition, and I'm sorry for her; a
mint of money wouldn't make her happy; she's a doleful Christian, she
don't take any comfort in anything, and I really do pity her."
And that was just the way mother took everything.
At first we couldn't sell the farm. It was down at the foot of
Torringford Hill, two good miles from meetin', and a mile from the
school-house; most of it was woodsy, and there wa'n't no great market
for wood about there. So for the first year Squire Potter took it on
shares, and, as he principally seeded it down to rye, why, we sold the
rye and got a little money, but 'twa'n't a great deal,--no more than
we wanted for clothes the next winter. Aunt Langdon sent us down a lot
of maple-sugar from Lee, and when we wanted molasses we made it out of
that. We didn't have to buy no great of groceries, for we could spin
and knit by fire-light, and, part of the land bein' piny woods, we had
a good lot of knots that were as bright as lamps for all we wanted.
Then we had a dozen chickens, and by pains and care they laid pretty
well, and the eggs were as good as gold. So we lived through the first
year after father died, pretty well.
Anybody that couldn't get along with mother and Major (I always called
Mary Jane "Major" when I was real little, and the name kind of stayed
by) couldn't get along with anybody. I was as happy as a cricket
whilst they were by, though, to speak truth, I wasn't naturally so
chirpy as they were; I took after father more, who was a kind of a
despondin' man, down-hearted, never thinkin' things could turn out
right, or that he was goin' to have any luck. That was my natur', and
mother see it, and fought ag'inst it like a real Bunker-Hiller; but
natur' is hard to root up, and there was always times when I wanted to
sulk away into a corner and think--nobody wanted me, and that I was
poor and humbly, and had to work for my living.
I remember one time I'd gone up into my room before tea to have one of
them dismal fits. Miss Perrit had been in to see mother, and she'd
been tellin' over what luck Nancy'd had down to Hartford: how't she
had gone into a shop, and a young man had been struck with her good
looks, an' he'd turned out to be a master-shoemaker, and Nancy was
a-goin' to be married, and so on, a rigmarole as long as the moral
law,--windin' up with askin' mother why she didn't send us girls off
to try our luck, for Major was as old as Nance Perrit. I'd waited to
hear mother say, in her old bright way, that she couldn't afford it,
and she couldn't spare us, if she had the means, and then I flung up
into our room, that was a lean-to in the garret, with a winder in the
gable end, and there I set down by the winder with my chin on the
sill, and begun to wonder why we couldn't have as good luck as the
Perrits. After I'd got real miserable, I heerd a soft step comin' up
stairs, and Major come in and looked at me and then out of the winder.
"What's the matter of you, Anny?" said she.
"Nothing," says I, as sulky as you please.
"Nothing always means something," says Major, as pleasant as pie; and
then she scooched down on the floor and pulled my two hands away, and
looked me in the face as bright and honest as ever you see a dandelion
look out of the grass. "What is it, Anny? Spit it out, as John Potter
says; you'll feel better to free your mind."
"Well," says I, "Major, I'm tired of bad luck."
"Why, Anny! I didn't know as we'd had any. I'm sure, it's three years
since father died, and we have had enough to live on all that time,
and I've got my schooling, and we are all well; and just look at the
apple-trees,--all as pink as your frock with blossoms; that's good for
new cloaks next winter, Anny."
"'Ta'n't that, Major. I was thinkin' about Nancy Perrit. If we'd had
the luck to go to Hartford, may-be you'd have been as well off as she;
and then I'd have got work, too. And I wish I was as pretty as she is,
Major; it does seem too bad to be poor and humbly too."
I wonder she didn't laugh at me, but she was very feelin' for folks,
always. She put her head on the window-sill along of mine, and kinder
nestled up to me in her lovin' way, and said, softly,--
"I wouldn't quarrel with the Lord, Anny."
"Why, Major! you scare me! I haven't said nothing against the Lord.
What do you mean?" said I,--for I was touchy, real touchy.
"Well, dear, you see we've done all we can to help ourselves; and
what's over and above, that we can't help,--that is what the Lord
orders, a'n't it? and He made you, didn't He? You can't change your
face; and I'm glad of it, for it is Anny's face, and I wouldn't have
it changed a mite: there'll always be two people to think it's sightly
enough, and may-be more by-and-by; so I wouldn't quarrel with it, if I
Major's happy eyes always helped me. I looked at her and felt better.
She wasn't any better-lookin' than I; but she always was so chirk, and
smart, and neat, and pretty-behaved, that folks thought she was
handsome after they knowed her.
Well, after a spell, there was a railroad laid out up the valley, and
all the land thereabouts riz in price right away; and Squire Potter he
bought our farm on speculation, and give a good price for it; so't we
had two thousand dollars in the bank, and the house and lot, and the
barn, and the cow. By this time Major was twenty-two and I was
eighteen; and Squire Potter he'd left his house up on the hill, and
he'd bought out Miss Perrit's house, and added on to't, and moved down
not far from us, so's to be near the railroad-depot, for the sake of
bein' handy to the woods, for cuttin' and haulin' of them down to the
track. Twasn't very pleasant at first to see our dear old woods goin'
off to be burned that way; but Squire Potter's folks were such good
neighbors, we gained as much as we lost, and a sight more, for folks
are greatly better'n trees,--at least, clever folks.
There was a whole raft of the Potters, eight children of 'em all, some
too young to be mates for Major and me; but Mary Potter, and Reuben,
and Russell, they were along about as old as we were: Russell come
between Major and me; the other two was older.
We kinder kept to home always, Major and me, because we hadn't any
brothers to go out with us; so we were pretty shy of new friends at
first. But you couldn't help bein' friendly with the Potters, they was
such outspoken, kindly creturs, from the Squire down to little Hen.
And it was very handy for us, because now we could go to
singin'-schools and quiltin's, and such-like places, of an evenin';
and we had rather moped at home for want of such things,--at least I
had, and I should have been more moped only for Major's sweet ways.
She was always as contented as a honey-bee on a clover-head, for the
same reason, I guess.
Well, there was a good many good things come to us from the Potters'
movin' down; but by-and-by it seemed as though I was goin' to get the
bitter of it. I'd kept company pretty steady with Russell. I hadn't
give much thought to it, neither; I liked his ways, and he seemed to
give in to mine very natural, so't we got along together first-rate.
It didn't seem as though we'd ever been strangers, and I wasn't one to
make believe at stiffness when I didn't feel it. I told Russell pretty
much all I had to tell, and he was allers doin' for me and runnin'
after me jest as though he'd been my brother. I didn't know how much I
did think of him, till, after a while, he seemed to take a sight of
notice of Major. I can't say he ever stopped bein' clever to me, for
he didn't; but he seemed to have a kind of a hankerin' after Major all
the time. He'd take her off to walk with him; he'd dig up roots in the
woods for her posy-bed; he'd hold her skeins of yarn as patient as a
little dog; he'd get her books to read. Well, he'd done all this for
me; but when I see him doin' it for her, it was quite different; and
all to once I know'd what was the matter. I'd thought too much of
Oh, dear! those was dark times! I couldn't blame him; I knew well
enough Major was miles and miles better and sweeter and cleverer than
I was; I didn't wonder he liked her; but I couldn't feel as if he'd
done right by me. So I schooled myself considerable, talking to myself
for being jealous of Major. But 'twasn't all that;--the hardest of it
all was that I had to mistrust Russell. To be sure, he hadn't said
nothin' to me in round words; I couldn't ha' sued him; but he'd looked
and acted enough; and now,--dear me! I felt all wrung out and flung
By-and-by Major begun to see somethin' was goin' wrong, and so did
Russell. She was as good as she could be to me, and had patience with
all my little pettish ways, and tried to make me friendly with
Russell; but I wouldn't. I took to hard work, and, what with cryin'
nights, and hard work all day, I got pretty well overdone. But it all
went on for about three months, till one day Russell come up behind
me, as I was layin' out some yarn to bleach down at the end of the
orchard, and asked me if I'd go down to Meriden with him next day, to
a pic-nic frolic, in the woods.
"No!" says I, as short as I could.
Russell looked as though I had slapped him. "Anny," says he, "what
have I done?"
I turned round to go away, and I catched my foot in a hank of yarn,
and down I come flat on to the ground, havin' sprained my ankle so bad
that Russell had to pick me up and carry me into the house like a
There was an end of Meriden for me; and he wouldn't go, either, but
come over and sat by me, and read to me, and somehow or other, I don't
remember just the words, he gave me to understand that--well--that he
wished I'd marry him.
It's about as tirin' to be real pleased with anything as it is to be
troubled, at first. I couldn't say anything to Russell; I just cried.
Major wasn't there; mother was dryin' apples out in the shed; so
Russell he didn't know what to do; he kind of hushed me up, and begged
of me not to cry, and said he'd come for his answer next day. So he
come, and I didn't say, "No," again. I don't believe I stopped to
think whether Major liked him. She would have thought of me, first
thing;--I believe she wouldn't have had him, if she'd thought I wanted
him. But I a'n't like Major; it come more natural to me to think about
myself; and besides, she was pious, and I wasn't. Russell was.
However, it turned out all right, for Major was 'most as pleased as I
was; and she told me, finally, that she'd known a long spell that
Russell liked me, and the reason he'd been hangin' round her so long
was, he'd been tellin' her his plans, and they'd worked out
considerable in their heads before she could feel as though he had a
good enough lookout to ask me to marry him.
That wasn't so pleasant to me, when I come to think of it; I thought
I'd ought to have been counselled with. But it was just like Major;
everybody come to her for a word of help or comfort, whether they took
her idee or not,--she had such feelin' for other folks's trouble.
I got over that little nub after a while; and then I was so pleased,
everything went smooth ag'in. I was goin' to be married in the spring;
and we were goin' straight out to Indiana, onto some wild land Squire
Potter owned out there, to clear it and settle it, and what Russell
cleared he was to have. So mother took some money out of the bank to
fit me out, and Major and I went down to Hartford to buy my things.
I said before, we wasn't either of us any great things to look at; but
it come about that one day I heerd somebody tell how we did look, and
I thought considerable about it then and afterwards. We was buyin'
some cotton to a store in the city, and I was lookin' about at all the
pretty things, and wonderin' why I was picked out to be poor when so
many folks was rich and had all they wanted, when presently I heerd a
lady in a silk gown say to another one, so low she thought I didn't
hear her,--"There are two nice-looking girls, Mrs. Carr."
"Hem,--yes," said the other one; "they look healthy and strong: the
oldest one has a lovely expression, both steady and sweet; the other
don't look happy."
I declare, that was a fact. I was sorry, too, for I'd got everything
in creation to make anybody happy, and now I was frettin' to be rich.
I thought I'd try to be like Major; but I expect it was mostly because
of the looks of it, for I forgot to try before long.
Well, in the spring we was married; and when I come to go away, Major
put a little red Bible into my trunk for a weddin' present; but I was
cryin' too hard to thank her. She swallowed down whatever choked her,
and begged of me not to cry so, lest Russell should take it hard that
I mourned to go with him. But just then I was thinkin' more of Major
and mother than I was of Russell; they'd kept me bright and cheery
always, and kept up my heart with their own good ways when I hadn't no
strength to do it for myself; and now I was goin' off alone with
Russell, and he wasn't very cheerful-dispositioned, and somehow my
courage give way all to once.
But I had to go; railroads don't wait for nobody; and what with the
long journey, and the new ways and things and people, I hadn't no time
to get real down once before we got to Indiana. After we left the boat
there was a spell of railroad, and then a long stage-ride to
Cumberton; and then we had to hire a big wagon and team, so's to get
us out to our claim, thirty miles west'ard of Cumberton. I hadn't no
time to feel real lonesome now, for all our things hed got to be
onpacked, and packed over ag'in in the wagon; some on 'em had to be
stored up, so's to come another time. We was two days gettin' to the
claim, the roads was so bad,--mostly what they call corduroy, but a
good stretch clear mud-holes. By the time we got to the end on't, I
was tired out, just fit to cry; and such a house as was waitin' for
us!--a real log shanty! I see Russell looked real beat when he see my
face; and I tried to brighten up; but I wished to my heart I was back
with mother forty times that night, if I did once. Then come the worst
of all, clutterin' everything right into that shanty; for our
frame-house wouldn't be done for two months, and there wa'n't scarce
room for what we'd brought, so't we couldn't think of sendin' for what
was stored to Cumberton. I didn't sleep none for two nights, because
of the whip-poor-wills that set on a tree close by, and called till
mornin' light; but after that I was too tired to lie awake.
Well, it was real lonesome, but it was all new at first, and Russell
was to work near by, so't I could see him, and oftentimes hear him
whistle; and I had the garden to make, round to the new house, for I
knew more about the plantin' of it than he did, 'specially my
posy-bed, and I had a good time gettin' new flowers out of the woods.
And the woods was real splendid,--great tall tulip-trees, as high as a
steeple and round as a quill, without any sort o' branches ever so fur
up, and the whole top full of the yeller tulips and the queer
snipped-lookin' shiny leaves, till they looked like great bow-pots on
sticks; then there's lots of other great trees, only they're all
mostly spindled up in them woods. But the flowers that grow round on
the ma'sh edges and in the clearin's do beat all.
So time passed along pretty glib till the frame-house was done, and
then we had to move in, and to get the things from Cumberton, and
begin to feel as though we were settled for good and all; and after
the newness had gone off, and the clearin' got so fur that I couldn't
see Russell no more, and nobody to look at, if I was never so
lonesome, then come a pretty hard spell. Everything about the house
was real handy, so't I'd get my work cleared away, and set down to sew
early; and them long summer-days that was still and hot, I'd set, and
set, never hearin' nothin' but the clock go "tick, tick, tick," (never
"tack," for a change,) and every now'n'then a great crash and roar in
the woods where he was choppin', that I knew was a tree; and I worked
myself up dreadfully when there was a longer spell 'n common come
betwixt the crashes, lest that Russell might 'a' been ketched under
the one that fell. And settin' so, and worryin' a good deal, day in
and day out, kinder broodin' over my troubles, and never thinkin'
about anybody but myself, I got to be of the idee that I was the
worst-off creature goin'. If I'd have stopped to think about Russell,
may-be I should have had some sort of pity for him, for he was jest as
lonesome as I, and I wasn't no kind of comfort to come home to,--'most
always cryin', or jest a-goin' to.
So the summer went along till 'twas nigh on to winter, and I wa'n't in
no better sperrits. And now I wa'n't real well, and I pined for
mother, and I pined for Major, and I'd have given all the honey and
buckwheat in Indiana for a loaf of mother's dry rye-bread and a drink
of spring-water. And finally I got so miserable, I wished I wa'n't
never married,--and I'd have wished I was dead, if 'twa'n't for bein'
doubtful where I'd go to, if I was. And worst of all, one day I got so
worked up I told Russell all that. I declare, he turned as white as a
turnip. I see I'd hurt him, and I'd have got over it in a minute and
told him so,--only he up with his axe and walked out of the door, and
never come home till night, and then I was too stubborn to speak to
Well, things got worse, 'n' one day I was sewin' some things and
cryin' over 'em, when I heard a team come along by, and, before I
could get to the door, Russell come in, all red for joy, and says,--
"Who do you want to see most, Anny?"
Somehow the question kind of upset me;--I got choked, and then I bu'st
"Oh, mother and Major!" says I; and I hadn't more'n spoke the word
before mother had both her good strong arms round me, and Major's real
cheery face was a-lookin' up at me from the little pine cricket, where
she'd sot down as nateral as life. Well, I _was_ glad, and so was
Russell, and the house seemed as shiny as a hang-bird's-nest, and
by-and-by the baby came;--but I had mother.
'Twas 'long about in March when I was sick, and by the end of April I
was well, and so's to be stirrin' round again. And mother and Major
begun to talk about goin' home; and I declare, my heart was up in my
mouth every time they spoke on't, and I begun to be miserable ag'in.
One day I was settin' beside of mother; Major was out in the garden,
fixin' up things, and settin' out a lot of blows she'd got in the
woods, and singin' away, and says I to mother,--
"What be I going to do, mother, without you and Major? I 'most died of
clear lonesomeness before you come!"
Mother laid down her knittin', and looked straight at me.
"I wish you'd got a little of Major's good cheer, Anny," says she.
"You haven't any call to be lonely here; it's a real good country, and
you've got a nice house, and the best of husbands, and a dear little
baby, and you'd oughter try to give up frettin'. I wish you was pious,
Anny; you wouldn't fault the Lord's goodness the way you do."
"Well, Major don't have nothin' to trouble her, mother,' says I.
'She's all safe and pleasant to home; she a'n't homesick."
Mother spoke up pretty resolute:--
"There a'n't nobody in the world, Anny, but what has troubles. I
didn't calculate to tell you about Major's; but sence you lay her
lively ways to luck, may-be you'd better know 'em. She's been engaged
this six months to Reuben Potter, and he's goin' off in a slow
consumption; he won't never live to marry her, and she knows it."
"And she come away to see me, mother?"
"Yes, she did. I can't say I thought she need to, but Russell wrote
you was pinin' for both of us, and I didn't think you could get along
without me, but I told her to stay with Reuben, and I'd come on alone.
And says she, 'No, mother, you a'n't young and spry enough to go alone
so fur, and the Lord made you my mother and Anny my sister before I
picked out Reuben for myself. I can't never have any kin but you, and
I might have had somebody beside Reuben, though it don't seem likely
now; but he's got four sisters to take care of him, and he thinks and
I think it's what I ought to do; so I'm goin' with you.' So she come,
Anny; and you see how lively she keeps, just because she don't want to
dishearten you none. I don't know as you can blame her for kinder
hankerin' to get home."
I hadn't nothin' to say; I was beat So mother she went on:--
"Fact is, Anny, Major's always a-thinkin' about other folks; it comes
kind of nateral to her, and then bein' pious helps it. I guess, dear,
when you get to thinkin' more about Russell an' the baby, you'll
forget some of your troubles. I hope the Lord won't have to give you
no harder lesson than lovin', to teach you Major's ways."
So, after that, I couldn't say no more to mother about stayin'; but
when they went away, I like to have cried myself sick,--only baby had
to be looked after, and I couldn't dodge her.
Bym-by we had letters from home; they got there all safe, and Reuben
wa'n't no worse, Major said;--ef't had been me wrote the letter, I
should have said he wa'n't no better!--And I fell back into the old
lonesome days, for baby slept mostly; and the summer come on extreme
hot; and in July, Russell, bein' forced to go to Cumberton on some
land business, left me to home with baby and the hired man,
calculatin' to be gone three days and two nights.
The first day he was away was dreadful sultry; the sun went down away
over the woods in a kind of a red-hot fog, and it seemed as though the
stars were dull and coppery at night; even the whip-poor-wills was too
hot to sing; nothin' but a doleful screech-owl quavered away, a half a
mile off, a good hour, steady. When it got to be mornin', it didn't
seem no cooler; there wa'n't a breath of wind, and the locusts in the
woods chittered as though they was fryin'. Our hired man was an old
Scotchman, by name Simon Grant; and when he'd got his breakfast, he
said he'd go down the clearin' and bring up a load of brush for me to
burn. So he drove off with the team, and, havin' cleared up the
dishes, I put baby to sleep, and took my pail to the barn to milk the
cow,--for we kept her in a kind of a home-lot like, a part that had
been cleared afore we come, lest she should stray away in the woods,
if we turned her loose; she was put in the barn, too, nights, for fear
some stray wild-cat or bear might come along and do her a harm. So I
let her into the yard, and was jest a-goin' to milk her when she begun
to snort and shake, and finally giv' the pail a kick, and set off,
full swing, for the fence to the lot. I looked round to see what was
a-comin', and there, about a quarter of a mile off, I see the most
curus thing I ever see before or since,--a cloud as black as ink in
the sky, and hangin' down from it a long spout like, something like an
elephant's trunk, and the whole world under it looked to be all beat
to dust. Before I could get my eyes off on't, or stir to run, I see it
was comin' as fast as a locomotive; I heerd a great roar and
rush,--first a hot wind, and then a cold one, and then a crash,--an'
'twas all as dark as death all round, and the roar appeared to be
I didn't know for quite a spell where I was. I was flat on my face,
and when I come to a little, I felt the grass against my cheek, and I
smelt the earth; but I couldn't move, no way; I couldn't turn over,
nor raise my head more'n two inches, nor draw myself up one. I was
comfortable so long as I laid still; but if I went to move, I
couldn't. It wasn't no use to wriggle; and when I'd settled that, I
jest went to work to figger out where I was and how I got there, and
the best I could make out was that the barn-roof had blowed off and
lighted right over me, jest so as not to hurt me, but so't I could'nt
Well, there I lay. I knew baby was asleep in the trundle-bed, and
there wa'n't no fire in the house; but how did I know the house wa'n't
blowed down? I thought that as quick as a flash of lightnin'; it
kinder struck me; I couldn't even see, so as to be certain! I wasn't
naterally fond of children, but somehow one's own is different, and
baby was just gettin' big enough to be pretty; and there I lay,
feelin' about as bad as I could, but hangin' on to one hope,--that old
Simon, seein' the tornado, would come pretty soon to see where we was.
I lay still quite a spell, listenin'. Presently I heerd a low,
whimperin', pantin' noise, comin' nearer and nearer, and I knew it was
old Lu, a yeller hound of Simon's, that he'd set great store by,
because he brought him from the Old Country. I heerd the dog come
pretty near to where I was, and then stop, and give a long howl. I
tried to call him, but I was all choked up with dust, and for a while
I couldn't make no sound. Finally I called, "Lu! Lu! here, Sir!" and
if ever you heerd a dumb creature laugh, he barked a real laugh, and
come springin' along over towards me. I called ag'in, and he begun to
scratch and tear and pull,--at boards, I guessed, for it sounded like
that; but it wa'n't no use, he couldn't get at me, and he give up at
length and set down right over my head and give another howl, so long
and so dismal I thought I'd as lieves hear the bell a-tollin' my age.
Pretty soon, I heerd another sound,--the baby cryin'; and with that Lu
jumped off whatever 'twas that buried me up, and run. "At any rate,"
thinks I, "baby's alive." And then I bethought myself if 'twa'n't a
painter, after all; they scream jest like a baby, and there's a lot of
them, or there was then, right round in our woods; and Lu was dreadful
fond to hunt 'em; and he never took no notice of baby;--and I couldn't
stir to see!
Oh, dear! the sweat stood all over me! And there I lay, and Simon
didn't come, nor I didn't hear a mouse stir; the air was as still as
death, and I got nigh distracted. Seemed as if all my life riz right
up there in the dark and looked at me. Here I was, all helpless,
may-be never to get out alive; for Simon didn't come, and Russell was
gone away. I'd had a good home, and a kind husband, and all I could
ask; but I hadn't had a contented mind; I'd quarrelled with
Providence, 'cause I hadn't got everything,--and now I hadn't got
nothing. I see just as clear as daylight how I'd nussed up every
little trouble till it growed to a big one,--how I'd sp'ilt Russell's
life, and made him wretched,--how I'd been cross to him a great many
times when I had ought to have been a comfort; and now it was like
enough I shouldn't never see him again,--nor baby, nor mother, nor
Major. And bow could I look the Lord in the face, if I did die? That
took all my strength out. I lay shakin' and chokin' with the idee, I
don't know how long; it kind of got hold of me and ground me down; it
was worse than all. I wished to gracious I didn't believe in hell; but
then it come to mind, What should I do in heaven, ef I was there? I
didn't love nothin' that folks in heaven love, except the baby; I
hadn't been suited with the Lord's will on earth, and 'twa'n't likely
I was goin' to like it any better in heaven; and I should be ashamed
to show my face where I didn't belong, neither by right nor by want So
I lay. Presently I heerd in my mind this verse, that I'd learned years
back in Sabbath School,--
"Wherefore He is able also to save them to
there it stopped, but it was a plenty for me. I see at once there
wasn't no help anywhere else, and for once in my life I did pray, real
earnest, and--queer enough--not to get out, but to be made good. I
kind of forgot where I was, I see so complete what I was; but after a
while I did pray to live in the flesh; I wanted to make some amends to
Russell for pesterin' on him so.
It seemed to me as though I'd laid there two days. A rain finally come
on, with a good even-down pour, that washed in a little, and cooled my
hot head; and after it passed by I heerd one whippoor-will singin',
so't I knew it was night. And pretty soon I heerd the tramp of a
horse's feet;--it come up; it stopped; I heerd Russell say out loud,
"O Lord!" and give a groan, and then I called to him. I declare, he
So I got him to go look for baby first, because I could wait; and lo!
she was all safe in the trundle-bed, with Lu beside of her, both on
'em stretched out together, one of her little hands on his nose; and
when Russell looked in to the door she stirred a bit, and Lu licked
her hand to keep her quiet. It tells in the Bible about children's
angels always seein' the face of God, so's to know quick what to do
for 'em, I suppose; and I'm sure her'n got to her afore the tornado;
for though the house-roof had blowed off, and the chimbley tumbled
down, there wa'n't a splinter nor a brick on her bed, only close by
the head on't a great hunk of stone had fell down, and steadied up the
clothes-press from tumblin' right on top of her.
So then Russell rode over, six miles, to a neighbor's, and got two
men, and betwixt 'em all they pried up the beams of the barn, that had
blowed on to the roof and pinned it down over me, and then lifted up
the boards and got me out; and I wa'n't hurt, except a few bruises:
but after that day I begun to get gray hairs.
Well, Russell was pretty thankful, I b'lieve,--more so'n he need to be
for such a wife. We fixed up some kind of a shelter, but Lu howled so
all night we couldn't sleep. It seems Russell had seen the tornado to
Cumberton, and, judgin' from its course 'twould come past the
clearin', he didn't wait a minute, but saddled up and come off; but it
had crossed the road once or twice, so it was nigh about eleven
o'clock afore he got home; but it was broad moonlight. So I hadn't
been under the roof only about fifteen hours; but it seemed more.
In the mornin' Russell set out to find Simon, and I was so trembly I
couldn't bear to stay alone, and I went with him, he carryin' baby,
and Lu goin' before, as tickled as he could be. We went a long spell
through the woods, keepin' on the edge of the tornado's road; for't
had made a clean track about a quarter of a mile wide, and felled the
trees flat,--great tulips cut off as sharp as pipe-stems, oaks twisted
like dandelion-stems, and hickories curled right up in a heap.
Presently Lu give a bark, and then such a howl! and there was Simon,
dead enough; a big oak had blowed down, with the trunk right acrost
his legs above the knees, and smashed them almost off. 'Twas plain it
hadn't killed him to once, for the ground all about his head was tore
up as though he'd fought with it, and Russell said his teeth and hands
was full of grass and grit where he'd bit and tore, a-dyin' so hard. I
declare, I shan't never forget that sight! Seems as if my body was
full of little ice-spickles every time I think on't.
Well, Russell couldn't do nothin'; we had no chance to lift the tree,
so we went back to the house, and he rode away after neighbors; and
while he was gone, I had a long spell of thinkin'. Mother said she
hoped I wouldn't have no hard lesson to teach me Major's ways; but I
had got it, and I know I needed it, 'cause it did come so hard. I
b'lieve I was a better woman after that. I got to think more of other
folks's comfort than I did afore, and whenever I got goin' to be
dismal ag'in I used to try 'n' find somebody to help; it was a sure
When the neighbors come, Russell and they blasted and chopped the tree
off of Simon, and buried him under a big pine that we calculated not
to fell. Lu pined, and howled, and moaned for his master, till I got
him to look after baby now and then, when I was hangin' out clothes or
makin' garden, and he got to like her in the end on't near as well as
After a while there come more settlers out our way, and we got a
church to go to; and the minister, Mr. Jones, he come to know if I was
a member, and when I said I wa'n't, he put in to know if I wasn't a
"Well," says I, "I don't know, Sir." So I up and told him all about
it, and how I had had a hard lesson; and he smiled once or twice, and
"Your husband thinks you are a Christian, Sister Potter, don't he?"
"Yes, I do," says Russell, a-comin' in behind me to the door,--for
he'd just stepped out to get the minister a basket of plums. "I ha'n't
a doubt on't, Mr. Jones."
The minister looked at him, and I see he was kinder pleased.
"Well," says he, "I don't think there's much doubt of a woman's bein'
pious when she's pious to home; and I don't want no better testimony'n
yours, Mr. Potter. I shall admit you to full fellowship, sister, when
we have a church-meetin' next; for it's my belief you experienced
religion under that blowed-down barn."
And I guess I did.
LE MARAIS DU CYGNE.
[1: The massacre of unarmed and unoffending men in Southern Kansas
took place near the Marais du Cygne of the French _voyageurs_.]
A blush as of roses
Where rose never grew!
Great drops on the bunch-grass,
But not of the dew!
A taint in the sweet air
For wild bees to shun!
A stain that shall never
Bleach out in the sun!
Back, steed of the prairies!
Sweet song-bird, fly back!
Wheel hither, bald vulture!
Gray wolf, call thy pack!
The foul human vultures
Have feasted and fled;
The wolves of the Border
Have crept from the dead.
From the hearths of their cabins,
The fields of their corn,
Unwarned and unweaponed,
The victims were torn,--
By the whirlwind of murder
Swooped up and swept on
To the low, reedy fen-lands,
The Marsh of the Swan.
With a vain plea for mercy
No stout knee was crooked;
In the mouths of the rifles
Right manly they looked.
How paled the May sunshine,
Green Marais du Cygne,
When the death-smoke blew over
Thy lonely ravine!
In the homes of their rearing,
Yet warm with their lives,
Ye wait the dead only,
Poor children and wives!
Put out the red forge-fire,
The smith shall not come;
Unyoke the brown oxen,
The ploughman lies dumb.
Wind slow from the Swan's Marsh,
O dreary death-train,
With pressed lips as bloodless
As lips of the slain!
Kiss down the young eyelids,
Smooth down the gray hairs;
Let tears quench the curses
That burn through your prayers.
Strong man of the prairies,
Mourn bitter and wild!
Wail, desolate woman!
Weep, fatherless child!
But the grain of God springs up
From ashes beneath,
And the crown of His harvest
Is life out of death.
Not in vain on the dial
The shade moves along
To point the great contrasts
Of right and of wrong:
Free homes and free altars
And fields of ripe food;
The reeds of the Swan's Marsh,
Whose bloom is of blood.
On the lintels of Kansas
That blood shall not dry;
Henceforth the Bad Angel
Shall harmless go by:
Henceforth to the sunset,
Unchecked on her way,
Shall Liberty follow
The march of the day.
The ancient statue of Minerva, in the Villa Albani, was characterized
as the Goddess of Wisdom by an aged countenance. Phidias reformed this
idea, and gave to her beauty and youth. Previous artists had imitated
Nature too carelessly,--not deeply perceiving that wisdom and virtue,
striving in man to resist senescence and decay, must in a goddess
accomplish their purpose, and preserve her in perpetual bloom. Yet
even decay and disease are often ineffectual; the young soul gleams
through these impediments, and would be poorly expressed in figures of
age. Accepting, therefore, this ideal representation, age and wisdom
can never be companions; youth is wise, and age is imbecile.
Our childhood grows in value as we grow in years. It is to that time
that every one refers the influence which reaches to his present and
somehow moulds it. It may have been an insignificant circumstance,--a
word,--a book,--praise or reproof; but from it has flowed all that he
is. We should seem ridiculous in men's eyes, were we known to give
that importance to certain trifles which in our private and inmost
thought they really have. Each finds somewhat in his childhood
peculiar and remarkable, on which he loves to dwell. It gives him a
secret importance in his own eyes, and he bears it about with him as a
kind of inspiring genius. Intimations of his destiny, gathered from
early memories, float dimly before him, and are ever beckoning him on.
That which he really is no one knows save himself. His words and
actions do but inadequately reveal the being he is. We are all greater
than we seem to each other. The heart's deepest secrets will not be
told. The secret of the interest and delight we take in romances and
poetry is that they realize the expectations and hopes of youth. It is
the world we had painted and expected. He is unhappy who has never
known the eagerness of childish anticipation.
Full of anticipations, full of simple, sweet delights, are these
years, the most valuable of lifetime. Then wisdom and religion are
intuitive. But the child hastens to leave its beautiful time and
state, and watches its own growth with impatient eye. Soon he will
seek to return. The expectation of the future has been disappointed.
Manhood is not that free, powerful, and commanding state the
imagination had delineated. And the world, too, disappoints his hope.
He finds there things which none of his teachers ever hinted to him.
He beholds a universal system of compromise and conformity, and in a
fatal day he learns to compromise and conform. At eighteen the youth
requires much stricter truth of men than at twenty-four.
At twenty-four the prophecies of childhood and boyhood begin to be
fulfilled, the longings of the heart to be satisfied. He finds and
tastes that life which once seemed to him so full of satisfaction and
advantage. The inclination to speak in the first person passes away,
and his composition is less autobiographical. The claims of society
and friends begin to be respected. Solitude and musing are less sweet.
The morbid effusions of earlier years, once so precious, no longer
please. Now he regards most his unwritten thought. He uses fewer
adjectives and alliterations, more verbs and dogmatism. There was a
time when his genius was not domesticated, and he did his work
somewhat awkwardly, yet with a fervor prophetic of settled wisdom and
eloquence. The youth is almost too much in earnest. He aims at nothing
less than all knowledge, all wisdom, all power. Perchance the end of
all this is that he may discover his own proper work and tendency, and
learn to know himself from the revelations of his own nature in
For it is by this sign we choose companions and books. Not that they
are the best persons or the best thoughts; but some subtile affinity
attracts and invites as to another self. In the choosing of companions
there seems to be no choice at all. "We meet, we know not how or when;
and though we should remember the history, yet friendship has an
anterior history we know not of. We all have friends, but the one want
of the soul is a friend,--that other self, that one without whom man
is incomplete and but the opaque face of a planet. For such we
patiently wait and hope, knowing that when we become worthy of him,
continents, nor caste, nor opinion can separate us."
A like experience is known to the young man in his reading. 'Tis in
vain to advise as to reading; a higher power controls the matter. Of
course there are some books all must read, as every one learns the
alphabet and spelling-book; but his use and combination of them he
shall share with no one. Some spiritual power is ever drawing us
towards what we love. Thus in books one constantly meets his own idea,
his own feelings, even his most private ones, which he thought could
not be known or appreciated beyond his own bosom. Therefore he quickly
falls in love with those books that discover him to himself, and that
are the keepers of his secrets. Here is a part of himself written out
in immortal letters. Here is that thought long dimly haunting the
mind, but which never before found adequate expression. Here is a
memorable passage transcribed out of his experience.
The fascination of books consists in their revelations of the
half-conscious images of the reader's mind. There is a wonderful
likeness and coincidence in the thoughts of men. But not alone in
books does one meet his own image at every turn. He beholds himself
strewn in a thousand fragments throughout the world; and all his
culture is nothing but assimilation of himself to them, until he can
say with wise Ulysses, "I am a part of all that I have met."
Thus Nature compels the youth to seek every means of stimulating
himself to activity. He has learned that in periods of transition and
change fresh life flows in upon him, dilating the heart and disclosing
new realms of thought. He thanks the gods for every mood, Doric or
dithyrambic, for each new relation, for each new friend, and even for
his sorrows and misfortunes. Out of these comes the complete wisdom
which shall make old age but another more fair and perfect youth. Even
the face and form shall be fortified against time and fate. In the
physiognomy of age much personal history is revealed. The dimples and
folds of infancy have become the furrows of thought and care. Yet,
sometimes retaining their original beauty, they are an ornament, and
in them we read the record of deep thought and experience.
But the wrinkles of some old people are characterless; running in all
directions, appearing as though a finely-woven cloth had left its
impress upon the face, revealing a life aimless and idle, or
distracted by a thousand cross-purposes and weaknesses.
If now youth will permit us to look a little deeper into its heart, we
will attempt to celebrate that unpublished and vestal wisdom written
there. Age does us only indirect justice,--by the value it gives to
memory. It slights and forgets its own present. This day with its
trivialities dwindles and vanishes before the teeming hours wherein it
learned and felt and suffered;--so the circles, which are the tree's
memories of its own growth, are more distinct near the centre, where
its growth began, than in the outer and later development. Give age
the past, and let us be content with our legacy, which is the future.
Still shall youth cast one retrospective glance at the experience of
its nonage, ere it assumes its prerogative, and quite forgets it.
When the first surprise at the discovery of the faculties is over,
begins the era of experience. The aspiration conducting to experiment
has revealed the power or the inability. Henceforth the youth will
know his relations to the world. But as yet men are ignorant how it
stands between them. There has been only a closet performance, a
morning rehearsal. He sees the tribute to genius, to industry, to
birth, to fortune. At first he yields reluctantly to novitiate and
culture; he yearns for action. His masters tell him that the world is
coy, must be approached cautiously, and with something substantial in
the hand. The old bird will not be caught with chaff. He does not yet
understand the process of accumulation and transmutation. The fate of
the Danaides is his, and he draws long with a bottomless bucket. But
at last his incompetency can no further be concealed. Then he either
submits to the suggestions of despair and oblivion or bravely begins
his work. The exhilaration and satisfaction which he felt at his first
performances, in this hour of renunciation, are changed to bitterness
and disgust. He remembers the old oracle: "In the Bacchic procession
many carry the thyrsus, but few are inspired." The possibility of
ultimate failure threatens him more and more while he reflects; as the
chasm which you wish to leap grows impassable, if you measure and
deliberate. But the vivacity of youth preserves him from any permanent
misanthropy or doubt. Nature makes us blind where we should be injured
by seeing. We partake of the lead of Saturn, the activity of fire, the
forgetfulness of water. His academic praises console him, maugre his
depreciation of them. His little fame, the homage of his little world,
have in them the same sweetness as the reverberation of ages. Heaven
would show him his capacity for those things to which he aspires by
giving him an early and representative realization of them. It is a
happy confidence. Reality is tyrannous. Let him construe everything in
the poet's mood. He shall dream, and the day will have more
significance. Youth belongs to the Muse.
How the old men envy us! They wisely preclude us from their world,
since they know how it would bereave us of all that makes our state so
full of freedom and delight, and to them so suggestive of the past.
"I remember, when I think,
That my youth was half divine."
Thus the great have ever chosen young men for companions. Was it not
Plato who wished he were the heavens, that he might look down upon his
young companion with a thousand eyes? Thus they do homage to the gift
of youth, and by its presence contrive to nestle into its buoyant and
pure existence. If youth will enjoy itself virtuously with gymnastics,
with music, with friendship, with poetry, there will come no hours of
lamentation and repentance. They attend the imbecile and thoughtless.
These halcyon days will return to temper and grace the period of old
age; as upon the ripened peach reappear the hues of its early
Among his seniors the youth perceives a certain jealousy of him. They
pretend that all has been said and done. They awe him with their great
names. He has to learn, that, though Jew and Greek have spoken,
nevertheless he must reiterate and interpret to his own people and
generation. Perchance in the process something new will likewise be
added. Many things still wait an observer. Still is there infinite
hope and expectation, which youth must realize. In war, in peace, in
politics, in books, all eyes are turned to behold the rising of his
Reluctantly does the youth yield to the claims of moderation and
reserve. Abandonment to an object has hitherto been his highest
wisdom. But in the pursuit of the most heroic friendship, or the most
sovereign passion, the youth discovers that a certain continence is
necessary. He cannot approach too closely; for that moment love is
changed into disgust and hate. He would drink the nectar to the lees.
This is one of Nature's limitations, and has many analogies; and he
who would never see the bottom of any cup, and always be possessed
with a divine hunger, must observe them. I remember how it piqued my
childish curiosity that the moon seemed always to retreat when I ran
towards her, and to pursue when I fled. It was a very significant
symbol. Stand a little apart, and things of their own accord will come
more than half-way. Nobody ever goes to meet a loafer. Self-centred,
domesticated persons attract. What would be the value of the heavens,
if we could bring the stars into our lap? They cannot be approached or
appropriated. Upon the highest mountain the horizon sinks you in a
valley, and far aloft in night and mystery gleam the retreating stars.
It must be remembered that indirect vision is much more delicate than
direct. Looking askance, with a certain oblique and upward glance,
constitutes the art and power of the poet; for so a gentle invitation
is offered the imagination to contribute its aid. We see clearest when
the eye is elongated and slightly curtained. Persons with round,
protuberant eyes are obliged to reduce their superfluous visual power
by artificial means. We subordinate the external organ in order to
liberate the inner eye of the mind. The musing, pensive Hindoos, who
have elongated eyes, look through the surface of things to their
essence, and call the world Illusion,--the illusory energy of Vishnu.
There is a vulgar trick of wishing to touch everything. But the
greatest caution is necessary, in beholding a statue or painting, not
to draw too near; and it is thus with every other beautiful thing.
Nature secretly writes, _Hands off!_--and men do but translate her
hieroglyph in their galleries and museums. The sense of touch is only
a provision against the loss of sight and hearing. We should cultivate
these, until, like the Scandinavian Heimdal, we can hear the trees and
the flowers grow, and see with Heraclitus the breathing of the stars.
The youth once loved Nature after this somewhat gross and material
fashion, for the berries she gave him, the flowers she wove in his
hair, and the brooks that drove his mimic mills. He chased the
butterfly, he climbed the trees, he would stand in the rain, paint his
cheeks with berry juice, dabble in the mud, and nothing was secure
from his prying fingers and curious eyes. He must touch and taste of
everything, and know every secret. But it eluded him; and he lay down
from his giddy chase, tired and unsatisfied, yet still anticipating
that the morning would reveal all. Later he approaches men and things
in a different mood. Experience has taught him so much. He begins to
feel the use of the past. Memory renders many present advantages as
nothing, and there is a rare and peculiar value to every reminiscence
that connects him with the years from which he is so fast receding.
The bower which his own hands wove from birch-trees and interwove with
green brakes, where at the noon-time he was wont to retreat from the
hot school-house, with the little maid of his choice, and beguile the
hour so happily, suggests a spell and charm to preserve him in
* * * * *
In San Francisco, in 1849, on Dupont Street near Washington, a
wretched tent, patched together from mildewed and weather-worn sails,
was pitched on a hill-side lot, unsightly with sand and thorny bushes,
filthy cast-aways of clothing, worn-out boots, and broken bottles. The
forlorn loneliness of this poor abode, and the perfection of its
Californianness, in all the circumstances of exposure, frailness,
destitution, and dirt, were enough of themselves to make it an object
of interest to the not-too-busy passer; yet, to complete its pitiful
picturesqueness, Pathos had bestowed a case of miniatures and a
beautiful child. Beside the entrance of the tent a rough shingle was
fastened to the canvas, and against this hung an unpainted
picture-frame of pine, in humble counterpart of those gilded rosewood
signs which, at the doors of Daguerreotype galleries, display fancy
"specimens" to the goers-to-and-fro of Broadway. Attracted by an
object so novel in San Francisco then, I paused one morning, in my
walk officeward from the "Anglo-Saxon Dining-Saloon," to examine it.
There were six of them,--six dainty miniature portraits on ivory,
elaborately finished, and full of the finest marks of talent. The
whole were seemingly reproductions of but two heads, a lady's and a
child's,--the lady well fitted to be the mother of the child, which
might well have been divine. There were three studies of each; each
was presented in three characters, chosen as by an artist possessed of
a sentiment of sadness, some touching reminiscence.
In one picture, the lady--evidently English, a pensive blonde, with
large and most sweet blue eyes curtained by the longest lashes,
regular and refined features suggestive of pure blood, budding lips
full of sensibility, a chin and brow that showed intellect as well as
lineage, and cheeks touched with the young rose's tint--was as a
beautiful _debutante_, the flower of rich drawing-rooms, in her first
season: one white moss-rosebud in her smoothly-braided hair; her
dimpled, round, white shoulders left to their own adornment; and for
jewels, only one opal on her ripening bosom;--as much of her dress as
was shown was the simple white bodice of pure maidenhood.
In the next, she had passed an interval of trial, for her courage, her
patience, and her pride,--a very few years, perhaps, but enough to
bestow that haughty, defiant glance, and fix those matchless features
in an almost sneer. No longer was her fair head bowed, her eyes
downcast, in shrinking diffidence; but erect and commanding, she
looked some tyranny, or insolence, or malice, in the face, to look it
down. Jewels encircled her brow, and a bouquet of pearls was happy on
her fuller bosom.
Still a few years further on,--and how changed! "So have I seen a
rose," says that Shakspeare of the pulpit, old Jeremy Taylor, when it
has "bowed the head and broke its stalk; and at night, having lost
some of its leaves and all its beauty, it has fallen into the portion
of weeds and outworn faces." Alas, Farewell, and Nevermore sighed from
those hollow cheeks, those woebegone eyes, those pallid lips, that
willow-like long hair, and the sad vesture of the forsaken Dido.
So with the child. At first, a rosy, careless, curly-pate of three
years or so,--wonder-eyed and eager, all spring and joyance, and
beautiful as Love.
Then pale and pain-fretted, heavy-eyed and weary, feebly half-lying in
a great chair, still,--an unheeded locket scarce held by his thin
fingers, his forehead wrinkled with cruel twinges, the sweet bowed
lines of his lips twisted in whimpering puckers, the curls upon his
vein-traced temples unnaturally bright, as with clamminess,--a painful
picture for a mother's eyes!
But not tragic, like the last; for there the boy had grown. Nine years
had deepened for his clustered curls their hue of golden brown, and
set a seal of anxious thought upon the cold, pale surface of his
intellectual brow, and traced his mouth about with lines of a martyr's
resignation, and filled his profound eyes, dim as violets, with
foreboding speculation, making the lad seem a seer of his own sad
fate. Here, thought I, if I mistake not, is another melancholy chapter
in this San Franciscan romance. This painter learned his art of
Sorrow, and pitiless Experience has bestowed his style; he shall be
for my finding-out.
Home-sickness had marked me for its own one day. I sat alone in my
rude little office, conning over again for the hundredth time strange
chapters of a waif's experience,--reproducing auld-lang-syne, with all
its thronged streets and lonely forest-paths, its old familiar faces,
talks, and songs,--ingathering there, in the name of Love or
Friendship, forms that were dim and voices that were echoes; and many
an "alas," and "too late," and "it might have been," they brought
along with them.
"Let this remembrance comfort me,--that when
My heart seemed bursting,--like a restless wave
That, swollen with fearful longing for the shore.
Throws its strong life on the imagined bliss
Of finding peace and undisturbed calm,--
It fell on rocks and broke in many tears.
"Else could I bear, on all days of the year,--
Not now alone, this gentle summer night,
When scythes are busy in the headed grass,
And the full moon warms me to thoughtfulness,--
This voice that haunts the desert of my soul:
'It might have been!' Alas! 'It might have been!'"
I drew from my battered, weather-beaten sea-box sad store of old
letters, bethumbed and soiled,--an accusation in every one of them,
and small hope of forgiveness, save what the gentle dead might render.
There were pretty little portraits, too.--Ah, well! I put them back,
--a frown, or a shadow of reproachful sadness, on the picture of a
once loving and approving face is the hardest bitterness to bide, the
self-unsparing wanderer can know. Therefore I would fain let these
faces be turned from me,--all save one, a merry minx of maidenhood, of
careless heart, and laughing lips, and somewhat naughty eyes. It was a
steel engraving, not of the finest, torn from some Book of Beauty, or
other silly-sentimental keepsake of the literary catch-penny class,
brought all the way from home, and tenderly saved for the sake of its
strange by-chance resemblance to a smart little _lionne_ I had known
in Virginia, in the days when smart little _lionnes_ made me a sort of
puppy Cumming. The picture, unframed, and exposed to all the chances
of rough travel, had partaken of my share of foul weather and coarse
handling, and been spotted and smutched, and creased and torn, and
every way defaced. I had often wished that I might have a pretty
painting made from it, before it should be spoiled past copying. So
here, I thought, shall be my introduction to my fly-in-amber artist,
of the seedy tent and the romantic miniatures. So pocketing my
picture, I hied me forthwith to Dupont Street.
The tent seemed quite deserted. At first, I feared my rare bird had
flitted; I shook the bit of flying-jib that answered for a door, and
called to any one within, more than once, before an inmate stirred.
Then, so quietly that I had not heard his approach, a lad, of ten
perhaps, came to the entrance, and, timidly peering up into my face,
asked, "Is it my father you wish to see, Sir?"
How beautiful! how graceful! with what touching sweetness of voice!
how intellectual his expression, and how well-bred his air!--plainly a
gentleman's son, and the son of no common gentleman! Instinctively I
drew back a pace to compare him with the child of the "specimens."
Unquestionably the same,--there were the superior brow, the richly
clustered curls of golden brown, the painful lips, and the foreboding
"If your father painted these pretty pictures, my boy,--yes, I would
be glad to see him, if he is within."
"He is not here at present, Sir; he went with my mother to the ship,
to bring away our things. But it is quite a long while since they
went; and I think they will return presently. Take a seat, Sir,
I accepted the stool be offered,--a canvas one, made to "unship" and
fold together,--such a patent accommodation for tired "hurdies" as
amateur sketchers and promiscuous lovers of the picturesque in
landscape take with them on excursions. My accustomed eye took in at a
glance the poor furniture of that very Californian make-shift of a
shelter for fortune-seeking heads. There were chests, boxes, and
trunks, the usual complement, bestowed in every corner, as they could
best be got out of the way,--a small, rough table, on temporary legs,
and made, like the seats, to unship and be stowed,--several other of
the same canvas stools,--a battered chest of drawers, at present doing
the duty of a cupboard,--some kitchen utensils, and a few articles of
table furniture of the plainest delft. As for the kitchen, I had
noticed, as I passed, a portable furnace for charcoal, without, and at
the rear of the tent; it was plain they did their cooking in the open
air. On one side of the entrance, and near the top of the tent, a
small square had been cut from the canvas, and the sides framed with
slats of wood, making a sort of Rembrandtish skylight, through which
some scanty rays of barbaric glory fell on an easel, with its palette,
brushes, and paints. A canvas framed, on which the ground had been
laid, and the outline of a head already traced, was mounted on the
easel; other such frames, as if of finished portraits with their faces
turned to the wall, stood on the earthen floor, supported by a strip
of wood tacked to the tent-cloth near the bottom. On the floor, at the
foot of the easel, lay an artist's sketch-book. A part of the tent
behind was divided off from what, by way of melancholy jest, I may
call the reception-room, or the studio, by a rope stretched across,
from which were suspended a blanket, a travelling shawl, and a
voluminous, and evidently costly, Spanish cloak. Protruding beyond the
edge of this extemporaneous screen, I could see the footposts of an
iron bedstead, and the end of a large _poncho_, which served for a
"Will you amuse yourself with this sketch-book, please," said the
pretty lad, "till my father comes?"
"With pleasure, my boy,--if you are sure your father will not object."
"Oh, no, indeed, Sir! My father has told me I must always entertain
any gentlemen who may call when he is out,--that is, if he is to
return soon; and any one may look at this book;--it is only his
portfolio, in which he sketches whatever new or pretty things we see
on our travels; but there are some very nice pictures in
it,--landscapes, and houses, and people."
"Have you travelled much, then?"
"Oh, yes! we have been travelling ever since I can remember; we have
been far, and seen a great many strange sights, and some such queer
people!--There! that is our shepherd in Australia; isn't he funny? his
name was Dirk. I tied that blue ribbon round his straw hat, that seems
big enough for an umbrella. He looks as if he were laughing, doesn't
he? That's because I was there when my father sketched him; and he
made such droll faces, with his brown skin and his great grizzly
moustaches, when father told him he must make up a pleasant
expression, that it set me laughing,--for my father said he looked
like a Cape lion making love; and then Dirk would laugh too, and spoil
his pleasant expression; and father would scold; and it was so funny!
I loved Dirk very much, he was so good to me; he gave me a tame
kangaroo, and a black swan, and taught me to throw the boomerang; and
once, when he went to Sydney, he spent ever so much money to buy me a
silver bell for Lipse, my yellow lamb. I wonder if Dirk is living yet?
Do you think he is dead, Sir? I should be very much grieved, if he
were; for I promised I would come back to see him when I am a man."
--"_That_ is Dolores,--dear old Dolores! Isn't she fat?"
"Yes, and good, too, I should think, from the kind face she has. Who
"Ah! you never saw Dolores, did you? And you never heard her sing. She
was my Chilena nurse in Valparaiso; and she had a mother--oh, so very
old!--who lived in Santiago. We went once to see her; the other
Santiago--that was Dolores's son--drove us there in the _veloche_.
Wasn't it curious, his name should be the same as the city's? But he
was a bad boy, Santiago,--so mischievous! such a scamp! Father had to
whip him many times; and once the _vigilantes_ took him up, and would
have put him in the chain-gang, for cutting an American sailor with a
knife, in the Calle de San Francisco, if father had not paid five
ounces, and become security for his good behavior. But he ran away,
after all, and went as a common sailor in a nasty guano ship. Dolores
cried very much, and it was long before she would sing for me again.
Oh, she did know such delightful songs!--_Mi Nina_, and _Yo tengo Ojos
"'No quiero, no quiero casarme;
Es mejor, es mejor soltera!'"
And the delightful little fellow merrily piped the whole of that "song
of pleasant glee," one of the most melodious and sauciest bits of
lyric coquetry to be found in Spanish.
"Ah," said he, "but I cannot sing it half so well as Dolores. She had
a beautiful guitar, with a blue ribbon, that her sweetheart gave her
before I was born, when she was young and very pretty;--he brought it
all the way from Acapulco."
--"And _that_ pretty girl is Juanita; she sold pine-apples and grapes
in the Almendral, and every night she would go with her guitar--it was
a very nice one, but did not cost near so much money as Dolores's--and
sing to the American gentlemen in the Star Hotel. My mother said she
was a naughty person, and that she did not dare tell where she got her
gold cross and those jet ear-rings. But I liked her very much, for all
that; and I'm sure she would not steal, for she used to give me a
fresh pine-apple every morning; and whenever her brother Jose came
down from Casa Blanca with the mules and the _pisco_, she sent me a
large melon and some lovely roses."
--"That is the house we lived in at Baltimore. It was painted white,
and there was a paling in front, and a dooryard with grass. We had
some honeysuckles on the porch;--there they are, and there's the
grape-vine. I had a dog-house, too, made to look like a church, and my
father promised to buy me a Newfoundland dog,--one of those great
hairy fellows, with brass collars, you know, that you can ride
on,--when he had sold a great many pictures, and made his fortune. But
we did not make our fortune in Baltimore, and I never got my dog; so
we came here to Tom Tiddler's ground, to pick up gold and silver. When
we are fixed, and get a new tent, my father is going to give me a
little spade and a cradle, to dig gold enough to buy a Newfoundland
dog with, and then I shall borrow a saw and make a dog-house, like the
one I had in Baltimore, out of that green chest. Charley Saunders
lived in that next house in the picture, and he had a martin-box, with
a steeple to it; but his father gave fencing-lessons, and was very
As the intelligent little fellow ran on with his pretty prattle, I was
diligently pursuing the lady and child of the specimens through the
sketches. On every leaf I encountered them, ever changing, yet always
the same. Here was the child by my side,--unquestionably the same;
though now I looked in vain for the anxious mouth and the foreboding
eyes in his face of careless, hopeful urchinhood. But who was the
other?--his mother, no doubt; and yet no trace of resemblance.
"And tell me, who is this beautiful lady, my lad,--here, and here, and
here, and here again? You see I recognize her always,--so lovely, and
so gentle-looking. Your mother?"
"Oh, no, Sir!" and he laughed,--"my mother is very different from
that. That is nobody,--only a fancy sketch."
"Only a fancy sketch!" So, then, I thought, my pretty entertainer,
confiding and communicative as you are, it is plain there are some
things you do not know, or will not tell.
"She is not any one we ever saw;--she never lived. My father made her
out of his own head, as I make stories sometimes; or he dreamed her,
or saw her in the fire. But he is very fond of her, I suppose, because
he made her himself,--just as I think my own stories prettier than any
true ones; and he's always drawing her, and drawing her, and drawing
her. I love her, too, very much,--she looks so natural, and has such
nice ways. Isn't it strange my father--but he's _so_ clever with his
pencil and brushes!--should be able to invent the Lady Angelica?
--that's her name. But my mother does not like her at all, and
gets out of patience with my father for painting so many of her.
Mamma says she has a stuck-up expression,--such a funny word,
'stuck-up'!--and does not look like a lady. Once I told mamma I was
sure she was only jealous, and she grew very angry, and made me cry;
so now I never speak of Lady Angelica before her. What makes me think
my father must have dreamed her is that I dreamed her once myself. I
thought she came to me in such a splendid dress, and told me that she
was not only a live lady, but my own mother, and that mamma was----
Hush! This is my father, Sir."
Wonderful! how the lad had changed!--like a phantom, the thoughtless
prattler was gone in a moment, and in his place stood the seer-boy of
the picture, the profound foreboding eyes fixed anxiously, earnestly,
on the singular man who at that moment entered: a singularly small
man, cheaply but tidily attired in black; even his shoes polished,--a
rare and dandyish indulgence in San Francisco, before the French
bootblacks inaugurated the sumptuary vanity of Day and Martin's lustre
on the stoop of the California Exchange, and made it a necessity no
less than diurnal ablutions; a well-preserved English hat on his head,
which, when he with a somewhat formal air removed it, discovered thin
black locks, beginning to part company with the crown of his head. In
his large, brown eyes an expression of moving melancholy was
established; a nervous tremulousness almost twitched his refined lips,
which, to my surprise, were not concealed by the universal
moustache,--indeed, the smooth chin and symmetrically trimmed
mutton-chop whiskers, in the orthodox English mode, showed that the
man shaved. His nose, slightly aquiline, was delicately cut, and his
nostrils fine; and he had small feet and hands, the latter remarkably
white and tender. As he stood before me, he was never at rest for an
instant, but changed his support from one leg to the other,--they were
slight as a young boy's,--and fumbled, as it were, with his feet; as I
have seen a distinguished medical lecturer, of Boston, gesticulate
with his toes. He played much with his whiskers, too, and his fingers
were often in his hair--as a fidgety and vulgar man would bite his
nails. From all of which I gathered that my new acquaintance was an
intensely nervous person,--very sensitive, of course, and no doubt
He was accompanied by a--female, much taller than he, and as stalwart
as dear woman can be; an especially common-looking person, bungled as
to her dress, which was tawdry-fine, unseasonable for the place as
well as time, inappropriate to herself, inharmonious in its
composition, and every way most vilely put on; a clumsy and, as I
presently perceived, a loud person, whose face, still showing traces
of the coarse but decided beauty it must once have possessed, fell far
short of compensating for the complete gracelessness of her presence.
Her eyes had a bibulous quality, and the bright redness of her nose
vied vulgarly with the rusty redness of her cheeks. I suspected her
complexion of potations, but charitably let it off with--beer; for she
was, at first glance, English. As she jerked off her flaunting bonnet,
and dragged off her loud shawl, saluting me, as she did so, with an
overdone obeisance, she said, "This San Fanfrisko"--why would she, how
could she, always twist the decent name of the metropolis of the
Pacific into such an absurd shape?--"was a norrid 'ole; she happealed
to the gentleman,"--meaning me,--"didn't 'e find it a norrid 'ole,
habsolutely hawful?" And then she went clattering among tinware and
crockery, and snubbed the gentlemanly boy in a sort of tender
While she was thus gracefully employed, the agonized artist, his face
suffused with blushes and fairly ghastly with an enforced smile, was
painfully struggling to abstract himself, by changing the places of
things, shifting the position of his easel, prying in a lost way into
lumbered corners, and pretending to be in search of something,
--ingenious, but unable to disguise his chagrin. He pranced
with his legs, and tumbled his hair, and twitched at his whiskers more
than ever, as he said,--
"My dear," (and the boy had called her Mamma; so, then, it must be a
fancy sketch, after all,) "my dear, no doubt the gentleman is more a
cosmopolite than yourself, and blessed with more facility in adapting
himself to circumstances."
"You know, Madam," I came to his assistance, "we Americans have a
famous trick of living and enjoying a little in advance, of 'going
ahead' of the hour, as it were. We find in San Francisco rather what
it promises to be than what it is, and we take it at its word."
"Oh, pray, don't mention Americans! I positively 'ate the hodious
people. I confess I 'ave a hinsurmountable prejudice hagainst the
race; you are not haware that I am Hinglish. I think I might endure
heven San Fanfrisko, if it were not for the Americans. Are you an
Alternating between the pallor of rage and the flush of mortification,
her husband now turned, with a calmness that had something of
desperation in it, and saved me the trouble and the pain of replying,
by asking, in the frigid tone of one who resented my presence as the
cause of his shame,--
"Did you wish to see me on business, Sir? and have you been waiting
"The success with which your charming little boy has entertained me
has made the time seem very short. I could willingly have waited
That last remark was a mere _contretemps_. I did not mean to be as
severe as he evidently thought me, for he bowed haughtily and
I came at once to business,--drew from my pocket the engraving I had
brought,--"Could he copy that for me?"
"How?--in miniature or life-size?--ivory or canvas?"
"You are, then, a portrait-painter, also?--Ah! to be sure!" and I
glanced at the canvas on the easel.
"Certainly,--I prefer to make portraits."
"And in this case I should prefer to have one. Extravagant as the
vanity may seem, I am willing to indulge in it, for the sake of being
the first, in this land of primitive wants and fierce unrefinements,
to take a step in the direction of the Fine Arts,--unless you have had
calls upon your pencil already."
"Then to-morrow, if you please,--for I cannot remain longer at
present,--we will discuss my whim in detail."
"I shall be at your service, Sir."
"Good day, Madam! And you, my pretty lad, well met,--what is your
"Ferdy, Sir,--Ferdinand Pintal."
At that moment, his father, as if reminded of a neglected courtesy, or
a business form, handed me his card,--"Camillo Alvarez y Pintal."
"Thanks, then, Ferdy, for the pains you took to entertain me. You must
let me improve an acquaintance so pleasantly begun."
The boy's hand trembled as it lay in mine, and his eyes, fixed upon
his father's, wore again the ominous expression of the picture. He did
not speak, and his father took a step toward the door significantly.
But the doleful silence that might have attended my departure was
broken by a demonstration, "as per sample," from my country's fair and
gentle 'ater. "She 'oped I would not be hoffended by the freedom of
'er hobservations on my countrymen. I must hexcuse 'er Hinglish
bluntness; she was haware that she 'ad a somewhat hoff-'and way of
hexpressing 'er hemotions; but when she 'ated she 'ated, and it
relieved 'er to hout with it hat once. Certainly she would
never--bless 'er 'eart, no!--'ave taken me for an American; I was so
With my hand upon the region of my heart, as I had seen stars, when
called before the curtain on the proudest evening of their lives, give
anatomical expression to their overwhelming sense of the honor done
them, I backed off, hat in hand.
"Camillo Alvarez y Pintal," I read again, as I approached the Plaza.
"Can this man be Spanish, then? Surely not;--how could he have
acquired his excellent English, without a trace of foreign accent, or
the least eccentricity of idiom? His child, too, said nothing of that.
English, no doubt, of Spanish parentage; or,--oh, patience! I shall
know by-and-by, thanks to my merry Virginia jade, who shall be arrayed
in resplendent hues, and throned in a golden frame, if she but feed my
curiosity generously enough."
Next day, in the afternoon, having bustled through my daily programme
of business, I betook myself with curious pleasure to my appointment
with Pintal. To my regret, at first, I found him alone; but I derived
consolation from the assurance, that, wherever the engaging boy had
gone, his mother had accompanied him. Even more than at my first
visit, the artist was frigidly reserved and full of warning-off
politeness. With but a brief prelude of courteous commonplaces, he
called me to the business of my visit.
My picture, as I have said, was a fairly executed steel engraving,
taken from some one of the thousands of "Tokens," or "Keepsakes," or
"Amulets," or "Gems," or such like harmless giftbooks, with which
youths of tender sentiment remind preoccupied damsels of their careful
_penchants_. It represented an "airy, fairy Lilian" of eighteen, or
thereabouts, lolling coquettishly, fan in hand, in an antique,
high-backed chair, with "carven imageries," and a tasselled cushion.
She rejoiced in a profusion of brown ringlets, and her costume was
pretty and quaint,--a dainty chemisette, barred with narrow bands of
velvet, as though she had gone to Switzerland, or the South of Italy,
for the sentiment of her bodice,--sleeves quaintly puffed and
"slashed,"--the ample skirt looped up with rosettes and natty little
ends of ribbon; her feet beneath her petticoat, "like little mice,"
stole out, "as if they feared the light." Somewhere, among the many
editions of Dickens's works, I have seen a Dolly Varden that resembled
It was agreed between us that she should be reproduced in a life-size
portrait, with such a distribution of rich colors as the subject
seemed to call for, as his fine taste might select, and his cunning
hand lay on. I sought to break down his reserve, and make myself
acceptable to him, by the display of a discreet geniality, and a
certain frankness, not falling into familiarity, which should seem to
proceed from sympathy, and a _bonhommie_, that, assured of its own
kindly purpose, would take no account of his almost angry distance.
The opportunity was auspicious, and I was on the alert to turn it to
account. I made a little story of the picture, and touched it with
romance. I told him of Virginia,--especially of that part of the State
in which this saucy little lady lived,--of its famous scenery, its
historic places, and the peculiar features of its society. I strove to
make the lady present to his mind's eye by dwelling on her certain
eccentricities, and helping my somewhat particular description of her
character with anecdotes, more or less pointed and amusing, especially
to so grave a foreigner, of her singular ready-wittedness and graceful
audacity. Then I had much to say about her little "ways" of attitude,
gesture, and expression, and some hints to offer for slight changes in
the finer lines of the face, and in the expression, which might make
the likeness more real to both of us, and, by getting up an interest
in him for the picture, procure his favorable impression for myself.
I had the gratification, as my experiment proceeded, to find that it
was by no means unsuccessful. His austerity appreciably relaxed, and
the kindly tone into which his few, but intelligent observations
gradually fell, was accompanied by an encouraging smile, when the
drift of our talk was light. Then I spoke of his child, and eagerly
praised the beauty, the intelligence, and sweet temper of the lad.
'Twas strange how little pleasure he seemed to derive from my sincere
expressions of admiration; indeed, the slight satisfaction he did
permit himself to manifest appeared in his words only, not at all in
his looks; for a shade of deep sadness fell at once upon his handsome
face, and his expression, so full of sensibility, assumed the cast of
anxiety and pain. "He thanked me for my eloquent praises of the boy,
and--not too partially, he hoped--believed that he deserved them all.
A prize of beauty and of love had fallen to him in his little Ferdy,
for which he would be grieved to seem ungrateful. But yet--but
yet--the responsibility, the anxiety, the ceaseless fretting care!
This fierce, unbroken city";--he spoke of it as though it were a
newly-lassoed and untamed mustang,--I liked the simile; "this lawless,
blasphemous, obscene, and dangerous community; these sights of
heartlessness and cruelty; these sounds of selfish, greedy contention;
the absence of all taste and culture,--no lines of beauty, no strains
of music, no tones of kindness, no gestures of gentleness and grace,
no delicate attentions, no ladies' presence, no social circle, no
books, no home, no church;--Good God! what a heathenish barbarism of
coarse instincts, and irreverence, and insulting equalities, and all
manner of gracelessnesses, to bring the dangerous impressionability of
fine childhood to! The boy was nervous, sensitive, of a spirit quick
to take alarms or hurts,--physically unprepared to wrestle with
arduous toil, privation, and exposure,--most apt for the teachings of
gentleness and taste. It was cruel to think--he could wish him dead
first--that his clean, white mind must become smeared and spotted
here, his well-tuned ear reconciled to loud discords, and his fine eye
at peace with deformity; but there was no help for it." And then, as
though he had suddenly detected in my face an expression of surprised
discovery, he said, "But I am sure I do not know how I came to say so
much, or let myself be tedious with sickly egotisms to a polite, but
indifferent, stranger. If you have gathered from them more than I
meant should appear, you will at least do me the justice to believe
that I have not been boasting of what I regard as a calamity."
I essayed to reassure him by urging upon his consideration the
manifest advantages of courage, self-reliance, ingenuity, quick and
economical application of resources, independence, and perseverance,
which his son, if well-trained, must derive from even those rude
surroundings,--at the same time granting the necessity of sleepless
vigilance and severe restraints. But he only shook his head sadly, and
said, "No doubt, no doubt; and I hope, Sir, the fault is in myself,
that I do not appreciate the force and value of all that."
The subject was so plainly full of a peculiar pain for him, he was so
ill at mind on this point, that I could not find it in my heart to
pursue it further at the cost of his feelings. So we talked of other
things: of gold, and the placers, and their unimpaired productiveness,
--of the prospects of the country, and of the character the
mineral element must stamp upon its politics, its commerce, and
its social system,--of San Francisco, and all the enchantments of its
sudden upspringing,--of Alcaldes and town-councils,--of hounds and
gamblers,--of real estate and projected improvements,--of canvas
houses, and iron houses, and fires,--of sudden fortunes, and as sudden
failures,--of speculations and markets, and the prices of clothing,
provisions, and labor,--of intemperance, disease, and hospitals,--of
brawls, murder, and suicide,--till we had exhausted all the
Californian budget; and then I bade him good day. He parted with me
with flattering reluctance, cordially shaking my hand and urging me to
repeat my visit in a few days, when he should be sufficiently forward
with the picture to admit me to a sight of it. I confessed my
impatience for the interval to pass; for my interest was now fully
awakened and very lively;--so well-informed and so polished a
gentleman, so accomplished and so fluent, so ill-starred and sad, so
every way a man with a history!
I saw much of Pintal after this, and he sometimes visited me at my
office. Impelled by increasing admiration and esteem, I succeeded by
the exercise of studious tact in ingratiating myself in his friendship
and confidence; he talked with freedom of his feelings and his