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Atlantic Monthly, Volume 3, No. 19, May, 1859 by Various

Part 4 out of 5

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it, if you like. I don't believe it will hurt you or anybody. Besides, I
had a great deal rather finish our talk with pleasant images and gentle
words than with sharp sayings, which will only afford a text, if anybody
repeats them, for endless relays of attacks from Messrs. Ananias,
Shimei, and Rab-sha-keh.

[I must leave such gentry, if any of them show themselves, in the hands
of my clerical friends, many of whom are ready to stand up for the
rights of the laity,--and to those blessed souls, the good women, to
whom this version of the story of a mother's hidden hopes and tender
anxieties is dedicated by their peaceful and loving servant.]

A MOTHER'S SECRET.

How sweet the sacred legend--if unblamed
In my slight verse such holy things are named--
Of Mary's secret hours of hidden joy,
Silent, but pondering on her wondrous boy!
_Ave, Maria! _Pardon, if I wrong
Those heavenly words that shame my earthly song!

The choral host had closed the angel's strain
Sung to the midnight watch on Bethlehem's plain;
And now the shepherds, hastening on their way,
Sought the still hamlet where the Infant lay.
They passed the fields that gleaning Ruth toiled o'er,--
They saw afar the ruined threshing-floor
Where Moab's daughter, homeless and forlorn,
Found Boaz slumbering by his heaps of corn;
And some remembered how the holy scribe,
Skilled in the lore of every jealous tribe,
Traced the warm blood of Jesse's royal son
To that fair alien, bravely wooed and won.
So fared they on to seek the promised sign
That marked the anointed heir of David's line.

At last, by forms of earthly semblance led,
They found the crowded inn, the oxen's shed.
No pomp was there, no glory shone around
On the coarse straw that strewed the reeking ground;
One dim retreat a flickering torch betrayed,--
In that poor cell the Lord of Life was laid!

The wondering shepherds told their breathless tale
Of the bright choir that woke the sleeping vale;
Told how the skies with sudden glory flamed;
Told how the shining multitude proclaimed,
"Joy, joy to earth! Behold the hallowed morn!
In David's city Christ the Lord is born!
'Glory to God!' let angels shout on high,--
'Good-will to men!' the listening Earth reply!"

They spoke with hurried words and accents wild;
Calm in his cradle slept the heavenly child.
No trembling word the mother's joy revealed,--
One sigh of rapture, and her lips were sealed;
Unmoved she saw the rustic train depart,
But kept their words to ponder in her heart.

Twelve years had passed; the boy was fair and tall,
Growing in wisdom, finding grace with all.
The maids of Nazareth, as they trooped to fill
Their balanced urns beside the mountain-rill,--
The gathered matrons, as they sat and spun,
Spoke in soft words of Joseph's quiet son.
No voice had reached the Galilean vale
Of star-led kings or awe-struck shepherds' tale;
In the meek, studious child they only saw
The future Rabbi, learned in Israel's law.

So grew the boy; and now the feast was near,
When at the holy place the tribes appear.
Scarce had the home-bred child of Nazareth seen
Beyond the hills that girt the village-green,
Save when at midnight, o'er the star-lit sands,
Snatched from the steel of Herod's murdering bands,
A babe, close-folded to his mother's breast,
Through Edom's wilds he sought the sheltering West.

Then Joseph spake: "Thy boy hath largely grown;
Weave him fine raiment, fitting to be shown;
Fair robes beseem the pilgrim, as the priest:
Goes he not with us to the holy feast?"

And Mary culled the flaxen fibres white;
Till eve she spun; she spun till morning light;
The thread was twined; its parting meshes through
From hand to hand her restless shuttle flew,
Till the full web was wound upon the beam,--
Love's curious toil,--a vest without a seam!

They reach the holy place, fulfil the days
To solemn feasting given, and grateful praise.
At last they turn, and far Moriah's height
Melts in the southern sky and fades from sight.
All day the dusky caravan has flowed
In devious trails along the winding road
(For many a step their homeward path attends,--
And all the sons of Abraham are as friends).
Evening has come,--the hour of rest and joy;--
Hush! hush!--that whisper,--"Where is Mary's boy?"

O weary hour! O aching days that passed
Filled with strange fears, each wilder than the last:
The soldier's lance,--the fierce centurion's sword,--
The crushing wheels that whirl some Roman lord,--
The midnight crypt that sucks the captive's breath,--
The blistering sun on Hinnom's vale of death!

Thrice on his cheek had rained the morning light,
Thrice on his lips the mildewed kiss of night,
Crouched by some porphyry column's shining plinth,
Or stretched beneath the odorous terebinth.

At last, in desperate mood, they sought once more
The Temple's porches, searched in vain before;
They found him seated with the ancient men,--
The grim old rufflers of the tongue and pen,--
Their bald heads glistening as they clustered near,
Their gray beards slanting as they turned to hear,
Lost in half-envious wonder and surprise
That lips so fresh should utter words so wise.

And Mary said,--as one who, tried too long,
Tells all her grief and half her sense of wrong,--
"What is this thoughtless thing which thou hast done?
Lo, we have sought thee sorrowing, O my son!"

Few words he spake, and scarce of filial tone,--
Strange words, their sense a mystery yet unknown;
Then turned with them and left the holy hill,
To all their mild commands obedient still.

The tale was told to Nazareth's sober men,
And Nazareth's matrons told it oft again;
The maids re-told it at the fountain's side;
The youthful shepherds doubted or denied;
It passed around among the listening friends,
With all that fancy adds and fiction lends,
Till newer marvels dimmed the young renown
Of Joseph's son, who talked the Rabbis down.

But Mary, faithful to its lightest word,
Kept in her heart the sayings she had heard,
Till the dread morning rent the Temple's veil,
And shuddering Earth confirmed the wondrous tale.

Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall:
A mother's secret hope outlives them all.

* * * * *

THE MINISTER'S WOOING.

[Continued.]

CHAPTER XII.

MISS PRISSY.

Will our little Mary really fall in love with the Doctor?--The question
reaches us in anxious tones from all the circle of our readers; and what
especially shocks us is, that grave doctors of divinity, and serious,
stocking-knitting matrons, seem to be the class who are particularly
set against the success of our excellent orthodox hero, and bent on
reminding us of the claims of that unregenerate James, whom we have sent
to sea on purpose that our heroine may recover herself of that foolish
partiality for him which all the Christian world seems bent on
perpetuating.

"Now, really," says the Rev. Mrs. Q., looking up from her bundle of
Sewing-Society work, "you are _not_ going to let Mary marry the
Doctor?"

My dear Madam, is not that just what you did, yourself, after having
turned off three or four fascinating young sinners as good as James any
day? Don't make us believe that you are sorry for it now!

"Is it possible," says Dr. Theophrastus, who is himself a stanch
Hopkinsian divine, and who is at present recovering from his last grand
effort on Natural and Moral Ability,--"is it possible that you are going
to let Mary forget that poor young man and marry Dr. H.? That will never
do in the world!"

Dear Doctor, consider what would have become of you, if some lady at a
certain time had not had the sense and discernment to fall in love with
the _man_ who came to her disguised as a theologian.

"But he's so old!" says Aunt Maria.

Not at all. Old? What do you mean? Forty is the very season of
ripeness,--the very meridian of manly lustre and splendor.

"But he wears a wig."

My dear Madam, so did Sir Charles Grandison, and Lovelace, and all the
other fine fellows of those days; the wig was the distinguishing mark of
a gentleman.

No,--spite of all you may say and declare, we do insist that our Doctor
is a very proper and probable subject for a young lady to fall in love
with.

If women have one weakness more marked than another, it is towards
veneration. They are born worshippers,--makers of silver shrines for
some divinity or other, which, of course, they always think fell
straight down from heaven.

The first step towards their falling in love with an ordinary mortal
is generally to dress him out with all manner of real or fancied
superiority; and having made him up, they worship him.

Now a truly great man, a man really grand and noble in heart and
intellect, has this advantage with women, that he is an idol ready-made
to hand; and so that very painstaking and ingenious sex have less labor
in getting him up, and can be ready to worship him on shorter notice.

In particular is this the case where a sacred profession and a moral
supremacy are added to the intellectual. Just think of the career of
celebrated preachers and divines in all ages. Have they not stood like
the image that "Nebuchadnezzar the king set up," and all womankind,
coquettes and flirts not excepted, been ready to fall down and worship,
even before the sound of cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, and so forth? Is
not the faithful Paula, with her beautiful face, prostrate in reverence
before poor, old, lean, haggard, dying St. Jerome, in the most splendid
painting of the world, an emblem and sign of woman's eternal power of
self-sacrifice to what she deems noblest in man? Does not old Richard
Baxter tell us, with delightful single-heartedness, how his wife fell
in love with him first, spite of his long, pale face,--and how she
confessed, dear soul, after many years of married life, that she had
found him _less_ sour and bitter than she had expected?

The fact is, women are burdened with fealty, faith, reverence, more
than they know what to do with; they stand like a hedge of sweet-peas,
throwing out fluttering tendrils everywhere for something high and
strong to climb by,--and when they find it, be it ever so rough in the
bark, they catch upon it. And instances are not wanting of those who
have turned away from the flattery of admirers to prostrate themselves
at the feet of a genuine hero who never wooed them, except by heroic
deeds and the rhetoric of a noble life.

Never was there a distinguished man whose greatness could sustain the
test of minute domestic inspection better than our Doctor. Strong in a
single-hearted humility, a perfect unconsciousness of self, an honest
and sincere absorption in high and holy themes and objects, there was in
him what we so seldom see,--a perfect logic of life; his minutest deeds
were the true results of his sublimest principles. His whole nature,
moral, physical, and intellectual, was simple, pure, and cleanly. He was
temperate as an anchorite in all matters of living,--avoiding, from a
healthy instinct, all those intoxicating stimuli then common, among the
clergy. In his early youth, indeed, he had formed an attachment to the
almost universal clerical pipe,--but, observing a delicate woman once
nauseated by coming into the atmosphere which he and his brethren had
polluted, he set himself gravely to reflect that that which could so
offend a woman must needs be uncomely and unworthy a Christian man;
wherefore he laid his pipe on the mantelpiece, and never afterwards
resumed the indulgence.

In all his relations with womanhood he was delicate and reverential,
forming his manners by that old precept, "The elder women entreat as
mothers, the younger as sisters,"--which rule, short and simple as
it is, is nevertheless the most perfect _resume_, of all true
gentlemanliness. Then, as for person, the Doctor was not handsome, to be
sure; but he was what sometimes serves with woman better,--majestic
and manly, and, when animated by thought and feeling, having even a
commanding grandeur of mien. Add to all this, that our valiant hero is
now on the straight road to bring him into that situation most likely
to engage the warm partisanship of a true woman,--namely, that of a man
unjustly abused for right-doing,--and one may see that it is ten to one
our Mary may fall in love with him yet, before she knows it.

If it were not for this mysterious selfness-and-sameness which makes
this wild, wandering, uncanonical sailor, James Marvyn, so intimate
and internal,--if his thread were not knit up with the thread of her
life,--were it not for the old habit of feeling for him, thinking for
him, praying for him, hoping for him, fearing for him, which--woe is
us!--is the unfortunate habit of womankind,--if it were not for that
fatal something which neither judgment, nor wishes, nor reason, nor
common sense shows any great skill in unravelling,--we are quite sure
that Mary would be in love with the Doctor within the next six
months; as it is, we leave you all to infer from your own heart and
consciousness what his chances are.

A new sort of scene is about to open on our heroine, and we shall show
her to you, for an evening at least, in new associations, and with a
different background from that homely and rural one in which she has
fluttered as a white dove amid leafy and congenial surroundings.

As we have before intimated, Newport presented a _resume_ of many
different phases of society, all brought upon a social level by the then
universally admitted principle of equality.

There were scattered about in the settlement lordly mansions, whose
owners rolled in emblazoned carriages, and whose wide halls were the
scenes of a showy and almost princely hospitality. By her husband's
side, Mrs. Katy Scudder was allied to one of these families of wealthy
planters, and often recognized the connection with a quiet undertone
of satisfaction, as a dignified and self-respecting woman should. She
liked, once in a while, quietly to let people know, that, although they
lived in the plain little cottage and made no pretensions, yet they had
good blood in their veins,--that Mr. Scudder's mother was a Wilcox, and
that the Wilcoxes were, she supposed, as high as anybody,--generally
ending the remark with the observation, that "all these things, to be
sure, were matters of small consequence, since at last it would be of
far more importance to have been a true Christian than to have been
connected with the highest families of the land."

Nevertheless, Mrs. Scudder was not a little pleased to have in her
possession a card of invitation to a splendid wedding-party that was
going to be given, on Friday, at the Wilcox Manor. She thought it a very
becoming mark of respect to the deceased Mr. Scudder that his widow and
daughter should be brought to mind,--so becoming and praiseworthy,
in fact, that, "though an old woman," as she said, with a complacent
straightening of her tall, lithe figure, she really thought she must
make an effort to go.

Accordingly, early one morning, after all domestic duties had been
fulfilled, and the clock, loudly ticking through the empty rooms, told
that all needful bustle had died down to silence, Mrs. Katy, Mary, and
Miss Prissy Diamond, the dressmaker, might have been observed sitting in
solemn senate around the camphor-wood trunk, before spoken of, and which
exhaled vague foreign and Indian perfumes of silk and sandal-wood.

You may have heard of dignitaries, my good reader,--but, I assure you,
you know very little of a situation of trust or importance compared to
that of _the_ dress-maker in a small New England town.

What important interests does she hold in her hands! How is she
besieged, courted, deferred to! Three months beforehand, all her days
and nights are spoken for; and the simple statement, that _only_ on that
day you can have Miss Clippers, is of itself an apology for any omission
of attention elsewhere,--it strikes home at once to the deepest
consciousness of every woman, married or single. How thoughtfully is
everything arranged, weeks beforehand, for the golden, important season
when Miss Clippers can come! On that day, there is to be no extra
sweeping, dusting, cleaning, cooking, no visiting, no receiving, no
reading or writing, but all with one heart and soul are to wait upon
her, intent to forward the great work which she graciously affords
a day's leisure to direct. Seated in her chair of state, with her
well-worn cushion bristling with pins and needles at her side, her ready
roll of patterns and her scissors, she hears, judges, and decides _ex
cathedra_ on the possible or not possible, in that important art on
which depends the right presentation of the floral part of Nature's
great horticultural show. She alone is competent to say whether there is
any available remedy for the stained breadth in Jane's dress,--whether
the fatal spot by any magical hocus-pocus can be cut out from the
fulness, or turned up and smothered from view in the gathers, or
concealed by some new fashion of trimming falling with generous
appropriateness exactly across the fatal weak point. She can tell you
whether that remnant of velvet will make you a basque,--whether Mamma's
old silk can reappear in juvenile grace for Miss Lucy. What marvels
follow her, wherever she goes! What wonderful results does she contrive
from the most unlikely materials, as everybody after her departure
wonders to see old things become so much better than new!

Among the most influential and happy of her class was Miss Prissy
Diamond,--a little, dapper, doll-like body, quick in her motions and
nimble in her tongue, whose delicate complexion, flaxen curls, merry
flow of spirits, and ready abundance of gayety, song, and story, apart
from her professional accomplishments, made her a welcome guest in every
family in the neighborhood. Miss Prissy laughingly boasted being past
forty, sure that the avowal would always draw down on her quite a storm
of compliments, on the freshness of her sweet-pea complexion and the
brightness of her merry blue eyes. She was well pleased to hear dawning
girls wondering why with so many advantages she had never married. At
such remarks, Miss Prissy always laughed loudly, and declared that she
had always had such a string of engagements with the women that she
never found half an hour to listen to what any _man_ living would say to
her, supposing she could stop to hear him. "Besides, if I were to get
married, nobody else could," she would say. "What would become of all
the wedding-clothes for everybody else?" But sometimes, when Miss Prissy
felt extremely gracious, she would draw out of her little chest just the
faintest tip-end of a sigh, and tell some young lady, in a confidential
undertone, that one of these days she would tell her something,--and
then there would come a wink of her blue eyes and a fluttering of the
pink ribbons in her cap quite stimulating to youthful inquisitiveness,
though we have never been able to learn by any of our antiquarian
researches that the expectations thus excited were ever gratified.

In her professional prowess she felt a pardonable pride. What feats
could she relate of wonderful dresses got out of impossibly small
patterns of silk! what marvels of silks turned that could not be told
from new! what reclaimings of waists that other dress-makers had
hopelessly spoiled! Had not Mrs. General Wilcox once been obliged to
call in her aid on a dress sent to her from Paris? and did not Miss
Prissy work three days and nights on that dress, and make every stitch
of that trimming over with her own hands, before it was fit to be seen?
And when Mrs. Governor Dexter's best silver-gray brocade was spoiled by
Miss Pimlico, and there wasn't another scrap to pattern it with, didn't
she make a new waist out of the cape and piece one of the sleeves
twenty-nine times, and yet nobody would ever have known that there was a
joining in it?

In fact, though Miss Prissy enjoyed the fair average plain-sailing of
her work, she might be said to _revel_ in difficulties. A full pattern
with trimming, all ample and ready, awoke a moderate enjoyment; but the
resurrection of anything half-worn or imperfectly made, the brilliant
success, when, after turning, twisting, piecing, contriving, and,
by unheard-of inventions of trimming, a dress faded and defaced was
restored to more than pristine splendor,--_that_ was a triumph worth
enjoying.

It was true, Miss Prissy, like most of her nomadic compeers, was a
little given to gossip; but, after all, it was innocent gossip,--not
a bit of malice in it; it was only all the particulars about Mrs.
Thus-and-So's wardrobe,--all the statistics of Mrs. That-and-T'other's
china-closet,--all the minute items of Miss Simpkins's wedding-clothes,
--and how her mother cried, the morning of the wedding, and said
that she didn't know anything how she could spare Louisa Jane, only
that Edward was such a good boy that she felt she could love him
like an own son,--and what a providence it seemed that the very ring
that was put into the bride-loaf was one that he gave her when he first
went to sea, when she wouldn't be engaged to him because she thought she
loved Thomas Strickland better, but that was only because she hadn't
found him out, you know,--and so forth, and so forth. Sometimes, too,
her narrations assumed a solemn cast, and brought to mind the hush of
funerals, and told of words spoken in faint whispers, when hands were
clasped for the last time,--and of utterances crushed out from hearts,
when the hammer of a great sorrow strikes out sparks of the divine, even
from common stone; and there would be real tears in the little blue
eyes, and the pink bows would flutter tremulously, like the last
three leaves on a bare scarlet maple in autumn. In fact, dear reader,
_gossip_, like romance, has its noble side to it. How can you love your
neighbor as yourself and not feel a little curiosity as to how he
fares, what he wears, where he goes, and how he takes the great life
tragi-comedy at which you and he are both more than spectators? Show me
a person who lives in a country-village absolutely without curiosity or
interest on these subjects, and I will show you a cold, fat oyster, to
whom the tide-mud of propriety is the whole of existence.

As one of our esteemed collaborators in the ATLANTIC remarks,--"A dull
town, where there is neither theatre nor circus nor opera, must have
some excitement, and the real tragedy and comedy of life _must_ come
in place of the second-hand. Hence the noted gossiping propensities
of country-places, which, so long as they are not poisoned by envy or
ill-will, have a respectable and picturesque side to them,--an undoubted
leave to be, as probably has almost everything, which obstinately and
always insists on being, except sin!"

As it is, it must be confessed that the arrival of Miss Prissy in a
family was much like the setting up of a domestic show-case, through
which you could look into all the families in the neighborhood, and see
the never-ending drama of life,--births, marriages, deaths,--joy
of new-made mothers, whose babes weighed just eight pounds and
three-quarters, and had hair that would part with a comb,--and tears of
Rachels who wept for their children, and would not be comforted because
they were not. Was there a tragedy, a mystery, in all Newport, whose
secret closet had not been unlocked by Miss Prissy? She thought not;
and you always wondered, with an uncertain curiosity, what those things
might be over which she gravely shook her head, declaring, with such a
look,--"Oh, if you only _could_ know!"--and ending with a general sigh
and lamentation, like the confidential chorus of a Greek tragedy.

We have been thus minute in sketching Miss Prissy's portrait, because
we rather like her. She has great power, we admit; and were she a
sour-faced, angular, energetic body, with a heart whose secretions had
all become acrid by disappointment and dyspepsia, she might be a fearful
gnome, against whose family-visitations one ought to watch and pray. As
it was, she came into the house rather like one of those breezy days
of spring, which burst all the blossoms, set all the doors and windows
open, make the hens cackle and the turtles peep,--filling a solemn
Puritan dwelling with as much bustle and chatter as if a box of martins
were setting up housekeeping in it.

Let us now introduce you to the sanctuary of Mrs. Scudder's own private
bedroom, where the committee of exigencies, with Miss Prissy at their
head, are seated in solemn session around the camphor-wood trunk.

"Dress, you know, is of _some_ importance, after all," said Mrs.
Scudder, in that apologetic way in which sensible people generally
acknowledge a secret leaning towards anything so very mundane. While
the good lady spoke, she was reverentially unpinning and shaking out
of their fragrant folds creamy crape shawls of rich Chinese
embroidery,--India muslin, scarfs, and aprons; and already her hands
were undoing the pins of a silvery damask linen in which was wrapped
her own wedding-dress. "I have always told Mary," she continued, "that,
though our hearts ought not to be set on these things, yet they had
their importance."

"Certainly, certainly, Ma'am," chimed in Miss Prissy. "I was saying
to Miss General Wilcox, the other day, _I_ didn't see how we could
'consider the lilies of the field,' without seeing the importance of
looking pretty. I've got a flower-de-luce in my garden now, from one of
the new roots that old Major Seaforth brought over from France, which is
just the most beautiful thing you ever did see; and I was thinking, as
I looked at it to-day, that, if women's dresses only grew on 'em as
handsome and well-fitting as that, why, there wouldn't be any need of
me; but as it is, why, we _must think_, if we want to look well. Now
peach-trees, I s'pose, might bear just as good peaches without the pink
blows, but then who would want 'em to? Miss Deacon Twitchel, when I was
up there the other day, kept kind o' sighin' 'cause Cerintha Ann is
getting a new pink silk made up, 'cause she said it was such a dying
world it didn't seem right to call off our attention: but I told her
it wasn't any pinker than the apple-blossoms; and what with robins and
blue-birds and one thing or another, the Lord is always calling off our
attention; and I think we ought to observe the Lord's works and take a
lesson from 'em."

"Yes, you are quite right," said Mrs. Scudder, rising and shaking out a
splendid white brocade, on which bunches of moss-roses were looped to
bunches of violets by graceful fillets of blue ribbons. "This was my
wedding-dress," she said.

Little Miss Prissy sprang up and clapped her hands in an ecstasy.

"Well, now, Miss Scudder, really!--did I ever see anything more
beautiful? It really goes beyond anything _I_ ever saw. I don't think,
in all the brocades I ever made up, I ever saw so pretty a pattern as
this."

"Mr. Scudder chose it for me, himself, at the silk-factory in Lyons,"
said Mrs. Scudder, with pardonable pride, "and I want it tried on to
Mary."

"Really, Miss Scudder, this ought to be kept for _her_ wedding-dress,"
said Miss Prissy, as she delightedly bustled about the congenial task.
"I was up to Miss Marvyn's, a-working, last week," she said, as she
threw the dress over Mary's head, "and she said that James expected to
make his fortune in that voyage, and come home and settle down."

Mary's fair head emerged from the rustling folds of the brocade, her
cheeks crimson as one of the moss-roses,--while her mother's face assumed
a severe gravity, as she remarked that she believed James had been much
pleased with Jane Spencer, and that, for her part, she should be very
glad, when he came home, if he could marry such a steady, sensible girl,
and settle down to a useful, Christian life.

"Ah, yes,--just so,--a very excellent idea, certainly," said Miss
Prissy. "It wants a little taken in here on the shoulders, and a
little under the arms. The biases are all right; the sleeves will want
altering, Miss Scudder. I hope you will have a hot iron ready for
pressing."

Mrs. Scudder rose immediately, to see the command obeyed; and as her
back was turned, Miss Prissy went on in a low tone,--

"Now, _I_, for my part, don't think there's a word of truth in that
story about James Marvyn and Jane Spencer; for I was down there at work
one day when he called, and I _know_ there couldn't have been anything
between them,--besides, Miss Spencer, her mother, told me there
wasn't.--There, Miss Scudder, you see that is a good fit. It's
astonishing how near it comes to fitting, just as it was. I didn't think
Mary was so near what you were, when you were a girl, Miss Scudder. The
other day, when I was up to General Wilcox's, the General he was in the
room when I was a-trying on Miss Wilcox's cherry velvet, and she was
asking couldn't I come this week for her, and I mentioned I was coming
to Miss Scudder, and the General says he,--'I used to know her when she
was a girl. I tell you, she was one of the handsomest girls in Newport,
by George!' says he. And says I,--'General, you ought to see her
daughter.' And the General,--you know his jolly way,--he laughed, and
says he,--'If she is as handsome as her mother was, I don't want to see
her,' says he. 'I tell you, wife,' says he, 'I but just missed falling
in love with Katy Stephens.'"

"I could have told her more than that," said Mrs. Scudder, with a
flash of her old coquette girlhood for a moment lighting her eyes and
straightening her lithe form. "I guess, if I should show a letter he
wrote me once----But what am I talking about?" she said, suddenly
stiffening back into a sensible woman. "Miss Prissy, do you think it
will be necessary to cut it off at the bottom? It seems a pity to cut
such rich silk."

"So it does, I declare. Well, I believe it will do to turn it up."

"I depend on you to put it a little into modern fashion, you know," said
Mrs. Scudder. "It is many a year, you know, since it was made."

"Oh, never you fear! You leave all that to me," said Miss Prissy. "Now,
there never was anything so lucky as, that, just before all these
wedding-dresses had to be fixed, I got a letter from my sister Martha,
that works for all the first families of Boston. And Martha she is
really unusually privileged, because she works for Miss Cranch, and Miss
Cranch gets letters from Miss Adams,--you know Mr. Adams is Ambassador
now at the Court of St. James, and Miss Adams writes home all the
particulars about the court-dresses; and Martha she heard one of the
letters read, and she told Miss Cranch that she would give the best
five-pound-note she had, if she could just copy that description to send
to Prissy. Well, Miss Cranch let her do it, and I've got a copy of the
letter here in my work-pocket. I read it up to Miss General Wilcox's,
and to Major Seaforth's, and I'll read it to you."

Mrs. Katy Scudder was a born subject of a crown, and, though now a
republican matron, had not outlived the reverence, from childhood
implanted, for the high and stately doings of courts, lords, ladies,
queens, and princesses, and therefore it was not without some awe that
she saw Miss Prissy produce from her little black work-bag the well-worn
epistle.

"Here it is," said Miss Prissy, at last. "I only copied out the parts
about being presented at Court. She says:--

"'One is obliged here to attend the circles of the Queen, which are held
once a fortnight; and what renders it very expensive is, that you cannot
go twice in the same dress, and a court-dress you cannot make use of
elsewhere. I directed my mantua-maker to let my dress be elegant, but
plain as I could possibly appear with decency. Accordingly, it is white
lutestring, covered and full-trimmed with white crape, festooned with
lilac ribbon and mock point-lace, over a hoop of enormous size. There
is only a narrow train, about three yards in length to the gown-waist,
which is put into a ribbon on the left side,--the Queen only having her
train borne. Ruffled cuffs for married ladies,--treble lace ruffles, a
very dress cap with long lace lappets, two white plumes, and a blonde
lace handkerchief. This is my rigging.'"

Miss Prissy here stopped to adjust her spectacles. Her audience
expressed a breathless interest.

"You see," she said, "I used to know her when she was Nabby Smith. She
was Parson Smith's daughter, at Weymouth, and as handsome a girl as
ever I wanted to see,--just as graceful as a sweet-brier bush. I don't
believe any of those English ladies looked one bit better than she did.
She was always a master-hand at writing. Everything she writes about,
she puts it right before you. You feel as if you'd been there. Now, here
she goes on to tell about her daughter's dress. She says:--

"'My head is dressed for St. James's, and in my opinion looks very
tasty. Whilst my daughter is undergoing the same operation, I set myself
down composedly to write you a few lines. Well, methinks I hear Betsey
and Lucy say, "What is cousin's dress?" _White_, my dear girls, like
your aunt's, only differently trimmed and ornamented,--her train being
wholly of white crape, and trimmed with white ribbon; the petticoat,
which is the most showy part of the dress, covered and drawn up in
what are called festoons, with light wreaths of beautiful flowers; the
sleeves, white crape drawn over the silk, with a row of lace round the
sleeve near the shoulder, another half-way down the arm, and a third
upon the top of the ruffle,--a little stuck between,--a kind of hat-cap
with three large feathers and a bunch of flowers,--a wreath of flowers
on the hair.'"

Miss Prissy concluded this relishing description with a little smack of
the lips, such as people sometimes give when reading things that are
particularly to their taste.

"Now, I was a-thinking," she added, "that it would be an excellent way
to trim Mary's sleeves,--three rows of lace, with a sprig to each row."

All this while, our Mary, with her white short-gown and blue
stuff-petticoat, her shining pale brown hair and serious large blue
eyes, sat innocently looking first at her mother, then at Miss Prissy,
and then at the finery.

We do not claim for her any superhuman exemption from girlish feelings.
She was innocently dazzled with the vision of courtly halls and princely
splendors, and thought Mrs. Adams's descriptions almost a perfect
realization of things she had read in "Sir Charles Grandison." If her
mother thought it right and proper she should be dressed and made fine,
she was glad of it; only there came a heavy, leaden feeling in her
little heart, which she did not understand, but we who know womankind
will translate for you: it was, that a certain pair of dark eyes would
not see her after she was dressed; and so, after all, what was the use
of looking pretty?

"I wonder what James _would_ think," passed through her head; for Mary
had never changed a ribbon, or altered the braid of her hair, or pinned
a flower in her bosom, that she had not quickly seen the effect of the
change mirrored in those dark eyes. It was a pity, of course, now she
had found out that she ought not to think about him, that so many
thought-strings were twisted round him.

So while Miss Prissy turned over her papers, and read out of others
extracts about Lord Caermarthen and Sir Clement Cotterel Dormer and the
Princess Royal and Princess Augusta, in black and silver, with a silver
netting upon the coat, and a head stuck full of diamond pins,--and Lady
Salisbury and Lady Talbot and the Duchess of Devonshire, and scarlet
satin sacks and diamonds and ostrich-plumes, and the King's kissing Mrs.
Adams,--little Mary's blue eyes grew larger and larger, seeing far off
on the salt green sea, and her ears heard only the ripple and murmur of
those waters that earned her heart away,--till, by-and-by, Miss Prissy
gave her a smart little tap, which awakened her to the fact that she was
wanted again to try on the dress which Miss Prissy's nimble fingers had
basted.

So passed the day,--Miss Prissy busily chattering, clipping,
basting,--Mary patiently trying on to an unheard-of extent,--and Mrs.
Scudder's neat room whipped into a perfect froth and foam of gauze,
lace, artificial flowers, linings, and other aids, accessories, and
abetments.

At dinner, the Doctor, who had been all the morning studying out his
Treatise on the Millennium, discoursed tranquilly as usual, innocently
ignorant of the unusual cares which were distracting the minds of his
listeners. What should he know of dress-makers, good soul? Encouraged
by the respectful silence of his auditors, he calmly expanded and
soliloquized on his favorite topic, the last golden age of Time, the
Marriage-Supper of the Lamb, when the purified Earth, like a repentant
Psyche, shall be restored to the long-lost favor of a celestial
Bridegroom, and glorified saints and angels shall walk familiarly as
wedding-guests among men.

"Sakes alive!" said little Miss Prissy, after dinner, "did I ever hear
any one go on like that blessed man?--such a spiritual mind! Oh, Miss
Scudder, how you are privileged in having him here! I do really think it
is a shame such a blessed man a'n't thought more of. Why, I could just
sit and hear him talk all day. Miss Scudder, I wish sometimes you'd just
let me make a ruffled shirt for him, and do it all up myself, and put a
stitch in the hem that I learned from my sister Martha, who learned it
from a French young lady who was educated in a convent;--nuns, you know,
poor things, can do _some_ things right; and I think _I_ never saw such
hemstitching as they do there;--and I should like to hemstitch the
Doctor's ruffles; he is _so_ spiritually-minded, it really makes me love
him. Why, hearing him talk put me in mind of a real beautiful song of
Mr. Watts,--I don't know as I could remember the tune."

And Miss Prissy, whose musical talent was one of her special _fortes_,
tuned her voice, a little cracked and quavering, and sang, with a
vigorous accent on each accented syllable,--

"From _the_ third heaven, where God resides,
That holy, happy place,
The New Jerusalem comes down,
Adorned with shining grace.

"Attending angels shout for joy,
And the bright armies sing,--
'Mortals! behold the sacred seat
Of your descending King!'"

"Take care, Miss Scudder!--that silk must be cut exactly on the bias";
and Miss Prissy, hastily finishing her last quaver, caught the silk and
the scissors out of Mrs. Scudder's hand, and fell down at once from
the Millennium into a discourse on her own particular way of covering
piping-cord.

So we go, dear reader,--so long as we have a body and a soul. Two worlds
must mingle,--the great and the little, the solemn and the trivial,
wreathing in and out, like the grotesque carvings on a Gothic
shrine;--only, did we know it rightly, nothing is trivial; since the
human soul, with its awful shadow, makes all things sacred. Have not
ribbons, cast-off flowers, soiled bits of gauze, trivial, trashy
fragments of millinery, sometimes had an awful meaning, a deadly power,
when they belonged to one who should wear them no more, and whose
beautiful form, frail and crushed as they, is a hidden and a vanished
thing for all time? For so sacred and individual is a human being, that,
of all the million-peopled earth, no one form ever restores another.
The mould of each mortal type is broken at the grave; and never, never,
though you look through all the faces on earth, shall the exact form you
mourn ever meet your eyes again! You are living your daily life among
trifles that one death-stroke may make relics. One false step, one
luckless accident, an obstacle on the track of a train, the tangling of
the cord in shifting a sail, and the penknife, the pen, the papers, the
trivial articles of dress and clothing, which to-day you toss idly and
jestingly from hand to hand, may become dread memorials of that awful
tragedy whose deep abyss ever underlies our common life.

CHAPTER XIII.

THE PARTY.

Well, let us proceed to tell how the eventful evening drew on,--how
Mary, by Miss Prissy's care, stood at last in a long-waisted gown
flowered with rose-buds and violets, opening in front to display a white
satin skirt trimmed with lace and flowers,--how her little feet were
put into high-heeled shoes, and a little jaunty cap with a wreath of
moss-rose-buds was fastened over her shining hair,--and how Miss Prissy,
delighted, turned her round and round, and then declared that she must
go and get the Doctor to look at her. She knew he must be a man of
taste, he talked so beautifully about the Millennium; and so, bursting
into his study, she actually chattered him back into the visible world,
and, leading the blushing Mary to the door, asked him, point-blank, if
he ever saw anything prettier.

The Doctor, being now wide awake, gravely gave his mind to the subject,
and, after some consideration, said, gravely, "No,--he didn't think he
ever did." For the Doctor was not a man of compliment, and had a habit
of always thinking, before he spoke, whether what he was going to say
was exactly true; and having lived some time in the family of President
Edwards, renowned for beautiful daughters, he naturally thought them
over.

The Doctor looked innocent and helpless, while Miss Prissy, having
got him now quite into her power, went on volubly to expatiate on the
difficulties overcome in adapting the ancient wedding-dress to its
present modern fit. He told her that it was very nice,--said, "Yes,
Ma'am," at proper places,--and, being a very obliging man, looked at
whatever he was directed to, with round, blank eyes; but ended all with
a long gaze on the laughing, blushing face, that, half in shame and
half in perplexed mirth, appeared and disappeared as Miss Prissy in her
warmth turned her round and showed her.

"Now, don't she look beautiful?" Miss Prissy reiterated for the
twentieth time, as Mary left the room.

The Doctor, looking after her musingly, said to himself,--"'The king's
daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold; she
shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework.'"

"Now, did I ever?" said Miss Prissy, rushing out. "How that good man
does turn everything! I believe you couldn't get anything, that he
wouldn't find a text right out of the Bible about it. I mean to get the
linen for that shirt this very week, with the Miss Wilcox's money; they
always pay well, those Wilcoxes,--and I've worked for them, off and on,
sixteen days and a quarter. To be sure, Miss Scudder, there's no
real need of my doing it, for I must say you keep him looking like a
pink,--but only I feel as if I must do something for such a good man."

The good Doctor was brushed up for the evening with zealous care and
energy; and if he did _not_ look like a pink, it was certainly no fault
of his hostess.

Well, we cannot reproduce in detail the faded glories of that
entertainment, nor relate how the Wilcox Manor and gardens were
illuminated,--how the bride wore a veil of real point-lace,--how
carriages rolled and grated on the gravel works, and negro servants, in
white kid gloves, handed out ladies in velvet and satin.

To Mary's inexperienced eye it seemed like an enchanted dream,--a
realization of all she had dreamed of grand and high society. She had
her little triumph of an evening; for everybody asked who that beautiful
girl was, and more than one gallant of the old Newport first families
felt himself adorned and distinguished to walk with her on his arm.
Busy, officious dowagers repeated to Mrs. Scudder the applauding
whispers that followed her wherever she went.

"Really, Mrs. Scudder," said gallant old General Wilcox, "where have you
kept such a beauty all this time? It's a sin and a shame to hide such a
light under a bushel."

And Mrs. Scudder, though, of course, like you and me, sensible reader,
properly apprised of the perishable nature of such fleeting honors, was,
like us, too, but a mortal, and smiled condescendingly on the follies of
the scene.

The house was divided by a wide hall opening by doors, the front one
upon the street, the back into a large garden, the broad central walk
of which, edged on each side with high clipped hedges of box, now
resplendent with colored lamps, seemed to continue the prospect in a
brilliant vista.

The old-fashioned garden was lighted in every part, and the company
dispersed themselves about it in picturesque groups.

We have the image in our mind of Mary as she stood with her little hat
and wreath of rose-buds, her fluttering ribbons and rich brocade, as it
were a picture framed in the door-way, with her back to the illuminated
garden, and her calm, innocent face regarding with a pleased wonder the
unaccustomed gayeties within.

Her dress, which, under Miss Prissy's forming hand, had been made to
assume that appearance of style and fashion which more particularly
characterized the mode of those times, formed a singular, but not
unpleasing, contrast to the sort of dewy freshness of air and mien which
was characteristic of her style of beauty. It seemed so to represent
a being who was in the world, yet not of it,--who, though living
habitually in a higher region of thought and feeling, was artlessly
curious, and innocently pleased with a fresh experience in an altogether
untried sphere. The feeling of being in a circle to which she did not
belong, where her presence was in a manner an accident, and where she
felt none of the responsibilities which come from being a component part
of a society, gave to her a quiet, disengaged air, which produced all
the effect of the perfect ease of high breeding.

While she stands there, there comes out of the door, of the bridal
reception-room a gentleman with a stylishly-dressed lady on either arm,
with whom he seems wholly absorbed. He is of middle height, peculiarly
graceful in form and moulding, with that indescribable air of
high breeding which marks the polished man of the world. His
beautifully-formed head, delicate profile, fascinating sweetness of
smile, and, above all, an eye which seemed to have an almost mesmeric
power of attraction, were traits which distinguished one of the most
celebrated men of the time, and one whose peculiar history yet lives
not only in our national records, but in the private annals of many an
American family.

"Good Heavens!" he said, suddenly pausing in conversation, as his eye
accidentally fell upon Mary. "Who is that lovely creature?"

"Oh, that," said Mrs. Wilcox,--"why, that is Mary Scudder. Her father
was a family connection of the General's. The family are in rather
modest circumstances, but highly respectable."

After a few moments more of ordinary chit-chat, in which from time to
time he darted upon her glances of rapid and piercing observation, the
gentleman might have been observed to disembarrass himself of one of the
ladies on his arm, by passing her with a compliment and a bow to another
gallant, and, after a few moments more, he spoke something to Mrs.
Wilcox, in a low voice, and with that gentle air of deferential
sweetness which always made everybody well satisfied to do his will. The
consequence was, that in a few moments Mary was startled from her calm
speculations by the voice of Mrs. Wilcox, saying at her elbow, in a
formal tone,--

"Miss Scudder, I have the honor to present to your acquaintance Colonel
Burr, of the United States Senate."

(To be continued.)

THE WALKER OF THE SNOW.

Speed on, speed on, good master!
The camp lies far away;--
We must cross the haunted valley
Before the close of day.

How the snow-blight came upon me
I will tell you as we go,--
The blight of the shadow hunter
Who walks the midnight snow.

To the cold December heaven
Came the pale moon and the stars,
As the yellow sun was sinking
Behind the purple bars.

The snow was deeply drifted
Upon the ridges drear
That lay for miles between me
And the camp for which we steer.

'Twas silent on the hill-side,
And by the solemn wood
No sound of life or motion
To break the solitude,

Save the wailing of the moose-bird
With a plaintive note and low,
And the skating of the red leaf
Upon the frozen snow.
And said I,--"Though dark is falling,
And far the camp must be,
Yet my heart it would be lightsome,
If I had but company."

And then I sang and shouted,
Keeping measure, as I sped,
To the harp-twang of the snow-shoe
As it sprang beneath my tread.

Nor far into the valley
Had I dipped upon my way,
When a dusky figure joined me,
In a capuchon of gray,

Bending upon the snow-shoes
With a long and limber stride;
And I hailed the dusky stranger,
As we travelled side by side.

But no token of communion
Gave he by word or look,
And the fear-chill fell upon me
At the crossing of the brook.

For I saw by the sickly moonlight,
As I followed, bending low,
That the walking of the stranger
Left no foot-marks on the snow.

Then the fear-chill gathered o'er me,
Like a shroud around me cast,
As I sank upon the snow-drift
Where the shadow hunter passed.

And the otter-trappers found me,
Before the break of day,
With my dark hair blanched and whitened
As the snow in which I lay.

But they spoke not, as they raised me;
For they knew that in the night
I had seen the shadow hunter,
And had withered in his blight.

Sancta Maria speed us!
The sun is falling low,--
Before us lies the Valley
Of the Walker of the Snow!

REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.

_A New History of the Conquest of Mexico._ In which Las Casas'
Denunciations of the Popular Historians of that War are fully
vindicated. By ROBERT ANDERSON WILSON, Counsellor at Law; Author of
"Mexico and its Religion," etc, Philadelphia: James Challen & Son.
Boston: Crosby, Nichols, & Co.

(SECOND NOTICE.)

According to the well-authenticated legend of the martyrdom of Saint
Lawrence, the Saint, as he lay upon the grid-iron, conscious that he
had been sufficiently done on one side, begged the cooks, if it were
a matter of indifference to them, to turn him on the other. Common
humanity demanded compliance with so reasonable a request. We fancy that
we hear Mr. Wilson, preferring a similar petition; and we hope we are
too good-natured to be insensible to the appeal. We cannot, at this
moment, indeed, think of him otherwise than good-naturedly. With many
things in his book we have been highly pleased. The number, the
novelty, and the variety of his blunders have given us a very favorable
impression of his ingenuity, and have afforded us constant entertainment
in what we feared was to be a drudgery and a task. We had intended to
cull some of these beauties for the amusement of our readers and
the personal gratification of Mr. Wilson himself. But, as children,
gathering shells on the sea-shore, resign, one after another, the
treasures which they have collected, and grasp at newer, and, therefore,
more pleasing specimens, which are abandoned in their turn, so we,
finding our stores accumulate beyond our means of transportation, and
tantalized by a richness that made the task of selection an impossible
one, have been forced to relinquish the prize and come away with empty
hands. If there be, in the compass of what the author calls "these
volumes,"--though to us, perhaps from inability to distinguish between
unity and duality, his work appears to be comprised in a single tome,--a
sentence decently constructed, a foreign name correctly spelt, a
punctuation-mark rightly placed, a fact clearly and accurately stated,
or an argument that is not capable of an easy reduction to the absurd,
we have not been so unfortunate as to discover it. Mr. Wilson is a man
who, to use Carlyle's favorite expression, has "swallowed all formulas."
The principles that have generally been held to govern the use of
language appear to him mere arbitrary rules, invented by the "sevenfold
censorship" and the Spanish Inquisition, for the purpose of preventing
the free communication of ideas. All such trammels he rejects; and,
accordingly, we have to thank him, so far as mere style is concerned,
for an uninterrupted flow of pleasure in the perusal of his book,
adorned as it is with "graces" that are very far indeed "beyond the
reach of Art."

We come now to those important questions which Mr. Wilson was not,
indeed, the first to agitate, but which he has awakened from their
profound slumbers in the bosom of the Hon. Lewis Cass and the pages
of the "North American Review." We are not to be tempted into writing
another "New History of the Conquest of Mexico"; but we shall endeavor
to state with clearness those points on which the world has had the
temerity to differ from the "high authorities" we have named. It has
been, then, commonly asserted, and is, we fear, by the great mass of
our readers still superstitiously believed, that, at the time of the
discovery of this continent, there existed, in certain portions of it,
nations not wholly barbarous, and yet not civilized, according to our
notions of that term,--nations which had regular governments and
systems of polity, many correct notions in regard to morals, and some
acquaintance with Art and with the refinements of life,--but which were
yet, in a great measure, ignorant of the true principles of science,
little skilled in mechanics, and addicted to the practice of idolatrous
rites. This assertion would seem to have some _prima-facie_ evidence in
its favor. The regions in which these nations are said to have existed
lie within the tropics; and it is a well-established principle, that a
genial climate, a fertile soil, the consequent facilities for obtaining
a subsistence, and the stimulus thus given to the increase of
population, are the first elements of an advance from a savage to a
civilized state, of the abandonment of rude freedom and nomadic habits,
and of the development of a regular social system. This principle is
clearly set forth and elaborately illustrated by Mr. Buckle; and we the
more readily refer to this author, because he stands high in the esteem
of Mr. Wilson, who, in order to prove his own especial fitness for
historical composition, and the incompetence of all who have preceded
him in the attempt, refers to a passage in Buckle, containing an
enumeration of the qualifications which he considers indispensable for
the historian. This enumeration includes all the attainments that have
ever been in the common possession of the human family. Mr. Buckle
remarks, with indisputable truth, that one historian has lacked some of
these qualifications, another historian has lacked others of them. Mr.
Wilson states that "each and every writer" who has preceded him has
lacked them all. Mr. Buckle, by implication, excepts one person, as
uniting in himself all the qualifications, he demands. Mr. Wilson thinks
_he_ is the exception; but we are quite sure that the exception intended
by the author was--Henry Thomas Buckle.

In the Old World, civilization, as all admit, had its origin in tropical
regions. Across the whole extent of the Eastern Continent, races are
found inhabiting the warmer latitudes, which are now, or formerly were,
in what is popularly called a semi-civilized condition. No one, we
believe, has ever been foolish enough to account for this fact by
supposing that a single people or tribe, having attained some degree of
culture, had diffused the germs of knowledge over so large a portion
of the globe. Chinese civilization differs almost as much from that
of Hindostan as from that of England or of France. The Assyrian
civilization was indigenous on the borders of the Euphrates, and the
Egyptian on the borders of the Nile. What is remarkable in these and
in all the other cases that might be cited is, that in those regions
civilization never reached the high point which it has attained in other
parts of the world, less favored at the outset; that it exhibited a
grotesque union of refined ideas and strangely artificial institutions,
with customs, manners, and creeds that seem to the European mind
abhorrent and ridiculous; and that, the internal impulse with which it
started having been exhausted, it either remained stationary, without
further development, or sank into decay, or fell before the hostile
attacks of races that had never yielded to its influence. Now the
civilization which is described as having once existed in America
exhibits these general characteristics, while it has, like each of the
others, its own peculiar traits. If the discoverers had made a different
report, we might have been led to suppose that some such state of things
as we have described had previously existed, but had perished before
their arrival.

Mr. Wilson, however, does not reason in this manner. He has found, from
his own observation,--the only source of knowledge, if such it can
be called, on which he is willing to place much reliance,--that the
Ojibways and Iroquois are savages, and he rightly argues that their
ancestors must have been savages. From these premises, without any
process of reasoning, he leaps at once to the conclusion, that in no
part of America could the aboriginal inhabitants ever have lived in any
other than a savage state. Hence he tells us, that, in all statements
regarding them, everything "must be rejected that is inconsistent
with well-established Indian traits." The ancient Mexican empire was,
according to his showing, nothing more than one of those confederacies
of tribes with which the reader of early New England history is
perfectly familiar. The far-famed city of Mexico was "an Indian village
of the first class,"--such, we may hope, as that which the author saw
on his visit to the Massasaugus, where, to his immense astonishment, he
found the people "clothed, and in their right minds." The Aztecs, he
argues, could not have built temples, for the Iroquois do not build
temples. The Aztecs could not have been idolaters or offered up human
sacrifices, for the Iroquois are not idolaters and do not offer up human
sacrifices. The Aztecs could not have been addicted to cannibalism, for
the Iroquois never eat human flesh, unless driven to it by hunger. This
is what Mr. Wilson means by the "American standpoint"; and those who
adopt his views may consider the whole question settled without any
debate.

But there are some slight difficulties to be overcome, before we can
embrace these views. Putting human testimony aside, there are witnesses
of the past that still give their evidence to the fact, that parts of
this continent were once inhabited by races who had other pursuits
besides hunting and fishing, and whose ideas and manners differed
widely from those of the "red men" of the North. Ruined cities, defaced
temples, broken statues,--relics such as on the Eastern Continent, from
the Straits of Gibraltar to the shores of the Ganges, mark the sites of
fallen empires and extinct civilizations,--relics such as we should have
expected, from _a priori_ reasoning, to meet with in the corresponding
latitudes of the New World,--lie scattered through their whole extent,
proclaiming themselves the works of men who lived in settled communities
and under regular forms of government, who had some knowledge of
architecture and some rude notions of the beautiful and the sublime, who
had strong feelings and vivid conceptions in regard to the agency of
supernal powers in the control of human affairs, but who clothed their
conceptions in uncouth forms, and worshipped their deities with absurd
and debasing rites. Some of these remains being known to Mr. Wilson,
on the evidence of the only pair of eyes in the universe which, in his
estimation, have the faculty of seeing, he cannot treat them, according
to his usual method in such cases, as fabrications of Spanish priests
and lying chroniclers. How, then, does he account for them? He unfolds
a theory on the subject, which he has stolen from the "monkish
chroniclers" whom he treats with so much contempt, and which has long
ago been exploded and set aside. He tells us, that these relics have no
connection with the history of the American Aborigines,--that they have
a different origin and a far greater antiquity,--that they are proofs,
not to be gainsaid, of the discovery of this continent, at a very early
date, by Phoenician adventurers, and of the establishment, in the
regions where they are found, of Phoenician colonies. These ruins, he
tells us, were Phoenician temples, these statues are the representations
of Phoenician gods. In the comparison of facts by which he endeavors to
support this theory, we have been surprised to find him admitting
the testimony of other explorers. But they are, it seems, reluctant
witnesses. Their inferences from the facts which they have themselves
collected are directly opposite to his. "Proving our case," he says, "by
such testimony, we have admitted their statement of fact, only rejecting
their conclusions." Their proper business, it would appear, was to
amass the materials which our author alone was competent to use. He
encountered, indeed, a solitary difficulty; but this, in the most
astonishing manner, has been removed. "Thus far," he writes, "had we
carried the argument, but had here been compelled to stop, for want of
further evidence; and the very stereotype plate that at first occupied
this page, expressed our regrets that we were not able more completely
to identify the Palenque statue as Hercules. At our publishers',
however, the eyes of that distinguished Orientalist, the Rev. Mr.
Osborn, chanced to fall upon a proof of the American goddess in the
fourth note to this chapter, which he at once recognized as Astarte,
represented according to an antique pattern. Her head-dress, he
insisted, was in the ancient form of the mural crown, without the
crescent, the prototype of that worn by Diana of the Ephesians, and so
too, he insisted, was her necklace of 'two rows.'" Thus the chain of
evidence was complete, and, for once, Mr. Wilson derived assistance from
eyes not placed in his own head.

But, whatever distinguished Orientalists may say, undistinguished
Occidentalists may be pardoned for inquiring when it was that this
stream of Phoenician emigration flowed to the American shores, in what
manner such an enormous body of colonists as the hypothesis necessarily
supposes were conveyed hither, and what has become of their descendants.
With an uncommon indulgence to our weakness of faith, Mr. Wilson
condescends to meet these obvious questions. The time he cannot exactly
fix; but it was "thousands of years ago,"--"before the time of Moses."
To the query in regard to the means of conveyance, he answers, that at
that remote period sailing ships were in common use,--as is proved by
representations of them found in Egyptian tombs,--although they were
afterwards superseded by galleys propelled by oars alone. The reason
assigned by Mr. Wilson for this change makes a valuable addition to the
stores of Biblical commentary. "The Greeks," he says, "appear to have
been selected from their imitative powers, to perpetuate such of the
arts and civilization of the elder world, as were to be preserved from
that decree of extermination, pronounced by the Almighty against its
nations. _Commerce had been the chief cause of the total demoralization
of antiquity_, and of this, they were permitted to preserve only a boat
navigation." Coeval with the decline of commerce and the extermination
of sailing ships was the cessation of this Phoenician emigration to
America. The colonists, having no longer any communication with the
mother country, soon dwindled away and perished, in accordance with a
well-known law of Nature. "Extinction is the doom of every immigrant
population in an uncongenial climate (habitat) when migration ceases to
keep up and renew the original stock." The same fate is impending over
us. "In our own country various causes have been assigned for the
recognized delicacy, which is steadily advancing in what may be called
the pure American. The growing smallness of the hands and feet, the
shortening of the jawbones, the diminution in the number of the teeth
and their rapid decay, are matters of daily comment." In like manner,
the Caucasian race is melting away in the colonies of Great Britain,
in South Africa, Australia, and the West Indies. "In these uniform
consequences the most obtuse cannot foil to recognise the operation of
a universal law, whose primary effects are to diminish migration, and
whose ultimate results are the extinction of the exotic population." We
suppose none of our readers are obtuse enough not to be aware of the
gradual shortening of their jawbones, a phenomenon especially noticeable
in members of Congress and popular lecturers. As for the diminution in
the number of our teeth, and their rapid decay, we need, alas! no Wilson
to remind us of these melancholy facts.

What we may call the physical evidence in favor of the Aztec
civilization having been thus disposed of by Mr. Wilson, we come now to
his treatment of the written and traditional testimony, the accounts
that have been handed down to us of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, and
of the condition of the country at the time when that conquest was made.
Mr. Wilson opens his "Chapter Preliminary" with the statement, that, "in
this work, the standard Spanish authorities have been followed as long
as they followed the truth." This declaration excited, we confess,
painful misgivings in our mind; for, if Mr. Wilson was already in
possession of the truth, independently of historical research,--whether
by communications from the spirits of the _Conquistadores_, or by any
other of the easy and popular methods of solving obscure problems,--what
need was there of his consulting the standard authorities at all? But we
were somewhat cheered, when, a little farther on, we found him stating,
that the writer who enters into these discussions must "con musty folios
innumerable"; that "it will not do to denounce in general terms the
venerable precedents [?] so constantly quoted by our annalists," but
that "their defects and their errors must be shown in detail." For
it does appear to us, that, if a great historical question is to be
opened,--if a series of extraordinary events, hitherto believed by the
world to have really happened, are to be denounced as fabulous,--if
numerous writers, whose statements and relations have been regarded
in the main as worthy of credit, are now to be rejected as liars
and impostors,--it is indispensable that the works containing these
relations should be carefully examined, that the statements should be
compared and subjected to the severest scrutiny, and that the refutation
should proceed, step by step, inch by inch, over the whole field of
debate. Has Mr. Wilson taken this course? Has he met with clear and
resolute argument the accounts which he denounces as "fabrications"? Has
he diligently and carefully examined the "standard Spanish authorities"?
Has he "conned musty folios innumerable"? Has he read all the works in
question? _Has he ever seen them?_

We may divide these works into three classes,--not with reference to
their different degrees of merit and importance, but as regards their
accessibility and the relative ease with which they may be consulted.
The first class comprises two or three works which have been translated
into English; and these translations may be procured with facility and
read by any one who has some acquaintance with the English language,
though not acquainted with any other. In the second class we may place a
considerable number of works which have been published indeed, but only
in the original Spanish, or, in a few instances, in French or Italian
translations. Some of them are rare, and difficult to meet with; others
may be found in several of our best libraries. The third class embraces
relations and documents which have never been translated, which have
never been published, of which the originals repose in the Spanish
archives at Simancas or the Escorial, or in private collections,
jealously guarded, in Mexico or Madrid, and of which the only copies
known to exist in this country are in the collection formed, with so
much trouble and at so great cost, by Mr. Prescott. Now the writings
which come under our first category Mr. Wilson has both seen and
read,--to what purpose and with what profit we shall hereafter show. The
publications comprised in the second class we feel very confident he
has never read. The manuscripts, which come under the last head, we are
morally certain he has never seen. That he has not seen them is capable
of the strongest proof, short of absolute demonstration. That he had
no acquaintance with Mr. Prescott's collection is a matter within our
personal knowledge. Had he been in a position to obtain copies for
himself, and had he availed himself of that circumstance, he would not
have failed to proclaim the fact in his loudest and shrillest tones. Nor
does he pretend that he has ever visited Spain, and had access to the
originals. Indeed, we do not think he would have ventured upon such
a step. He tells us, that, "besides the reasons already given for
distrusting the correctness of Spanish statements, there is another,
more secret in character, but not less potent than all combined--fear of
incurring the displeasure of that tribunal which punished unbelief
with fire, torture, and confiscation." If Mr. Wilson, as his language
implies, stands in fear of "fire, torture, and confiscation," and if
this is his most potent reason for distrusting the correctness of
Spanish statements, we can readily understand why he should have chosen
to remain on his native soil and write the history of the Conquest of
Mexico from "the American stand-point." Lastly, Mr. Wilson makes no
allusions to matter contained in the manuscripts which had not been
reproduced in the pages of Prescott. He is careful, indeed, to tell us
very little of the contents of these works; but he talks _about_ them
with the most gratifying candor, and in his choicest phraseology. He
informs us, that "Sarmiento's History of the Peruvian Incas altogether
surpasses that of Dr. Johnson's Rasselas and the Happy Valley." The
history of Dr. Johnson's "Rasselas" is related, we believe, by Boswell.
The great moralist composed his beautiful and philosophical, but
somewhat gloomy romance, in the evenings of a single week, in order to
obtain the means of defraying the expenses of his mother's funeral. The
story is a touching one; but Mr. Wilson's comparison is so inapt, that
we cannot help suspecting him of having had in his mind, not the history
of Johnson's "Rasselas," but Johnson's history of Rasselas. We think it
rather hard, that, having, in general, such a limited amount of meaning
to express, Mr. Wilson should have followed the maxim of Talleyrand, and
employed language chiefly as a means of concealing his thoughts.

Mr. Wilson nowhere asserts, in so many words, that he has had access to
manuscript authorities. His mode of speaking of them, however, implies
as much, and he evidently intends that this inference should be drawn by
his readers. In a printed note, addressed to his publishers, disclaiming
any intention of "assailing the memory of the dead,"--a disclaimer
which was not needed to suggest the reason why his book, loaded with
typographical blunders, was hurried through the press,[A]--he "insists
on the lawyer's privilege of sifting the evidence--a labor which Mr.
Prescott was incapable of performing, from a physical infirmity"; and he
undertakes to prove that Mr. Prescott's "books and manuscripts were not
reliable authorities." Now even "the lawyer's privilege" does not extend
to sifting evidence which he has never heard; and if Mr. Prescott was
"incapable, from a physical infirmity," of properly scrutinizing his
authorities, it was the more necessary that Mr. Wilson, with his own
wonderful eyes, should undertake the task. There is one manuscript which
he might be supposed to have had a strong desire to examine. His book
professes to be a vindication of "Las Casas' denunciations of the
popular historians" of the Conquest. The work of Las Casas, supposed to
contain these denunciations, is his History of the Indies. Mr. Wilson
acknowledges that he has never seen this work; it has, he says, "been
wholly suppressed"; and he is terribly severe on the censorship and the
Inquisition for having been guilty of this suppression. But the only
suppression in the case is, that the book has never been printed. The
original manuscript may be consulted at Madrid. A copy of the most
important parts of it is in Mr. Prescott's collection. Mr. Wilson might
have seen that copy, had he expressed the wish. He did not, however,
give himself this trouble; and we think he was right. The truth is,
that, of all the Spanish historians of the Conquest of Mexico, Las Casas
is the one who has indulged most largely in hyperbole. Writing, with
little personal knowledge, in support of a theory which required him
to magnify the ruin accomplished by the _Conquistadores_, he has
exaggerated the population of the Mexican empire, the number and size of
its towns, and the evidences of its civilization. It was on this very
account that Navarrete, who examined the work with a view to its
publication, came to the decision not to print it. We have little doubt
as to the propriety of that decision; and Mr. Wilson, we think, also did
well in sticking to Cass and "suppressing" Las Casas.[B]

[Footnote A: Author, compositor, and proof-reader were evidently engaged
in a "stampede,"--the (Printer's) Devil having strict orders to make
seizure of the hindmost. Part of a Spanish poem, borrowed, without
acknowledgment, from Prescott, seems to have gone to "pie" on the
imposing-stone, and been suffered to remain in that state.]

[Footnote B: Mr. Wilson would have been less unfortunate, if he
could have "suppressed" the work of Mr. Gallatin to which he has the
effrontery to refer as an authority for his ridiculous assertion, that
the "so-called picture-writing" of the Aztecs was a Spanish invention.
As Mr. Gallatin's essay is within the reach of any of our readers who
may be inclined to consult it, we shall content ourselves with a single
remark on the subject. That learned writer, who had made a real and
thorough study of the Mexican civilization, (having obtained from Mr.
Prescott the books necessary for the purpose,) was so far from denying
that hieroglyphical painting was practised by the Aztecs, or that
authentic copies, and even actual specimens of it, have been preserved,
that he himself constructed a Mexican chronology which has no other
foundation than these same picture-writings. There is one remark in Mr.
Gallatin's work on which Mr. Wilson would have done wisely to ponder. It
is this:--"The conquest of Mexico is an important event in the history
of man. _Mr. Prescott has exhausted the subject._"]

Our reason for believing that Mr. Wilson has never read the works,
relating to his subject, which have been published only in the original
Spanish or in translations into other foreign languages, is a very
simple one. He produces no evidence that he has ever read them. Some of
them he does not even mention. From none of them does he glean a single
fact that was not ready to his hand in the pages of Prescott. Except in
two or three instances, where he filches a reference from the citations
made by the latter historian, he brings forward no statement contained
in any of these books, either to support his own positions or to refute
theirs. Why did he take from Prescott--to whom on this occasion he
confesses his indebtedness--the facts in relation to the early life of
Cortes, (we would he had borrowed the language as well as the matter!)
if he had himself the means of consulting the works from which
Prescott's account was derived? But it is unnecessary to pursue the
argument; Mr. Wilson acknowledges that he knows nothing of the works in
question. "For our purpose," he writes, "the standard histories of the
conquest might as well be blank paper." We believe him; but had
his purpose been, not "to denounce in general terms the venerable
_precedents_ so constantly quoted by our annalists, but to show their
defects and their errors in detail," he would hardly have used them, as
he has done, as mere wadding for the great gun which he was loading,
and which has exploded with such terrible effect. His objection to
the "standard histories" is, that their authors were Spaniards,
ecclesiastics, royal historiographers,--that they wrote under the eye of
the Inquisition and the censorship. Like objections would apply to the
whole field of Spanish history. The reigns of Ferdinand and Isabella,
Charles the Fifth, and Philip the Second must, therefore, be as fabulous
as the conquests of Mexico and Peru. Accordingly, Mr. Wilson, when he
wishes to study the history of Spain, declines to have recourse to
Spanish writers. He goes to writers of other countries, and has a very
natural preference for such as speak the English tongue. Besides that
valuable work known among mortals as the "Encyclopaedia Britannica,"
but usually cited by Mr. Wilson, in an off-hand and familiar way, as
"Britannica," he draws much upon a treasure of his own discovery, "a
ponderous folio" of the seventeenth century, written in English by one
Grimshaw, and containing a full and veritable history of Spain from
the earliest epochs. He makes much of Grimshaw, styling him "our
chronicler." He pats the volume fondly, and calls it "my old
folio,"--just as Mr. Collier pats and fondles _his_ celebrated old
folio. To judge from some specimens which Mr. Wilson gives us, the
venerable Grimshaw cannot have the merit of being very easy of
comprehension. Here is an extract, just as we find it:--"About the year
756, at which time there were great troops of Turks beginne to disperse
themselves over all Armenia, the which did overrunne and spoil the
Sarrazin's country." And here is another:--"Over common, then, in Spain,
and elsewhere, which nevertheless chastise the world in such sort, but
that this sinne is at this day more in use than ever it was, to the
dishonor of our God, contempt of his laws, and confusion of all good
order." Apparently, Mr. Wilson, besides writing in a singular style
himself, is the cause of singularities in the writings of other men.
What is more worthy of note is the credulity with which he swallows the
fabulous inventions of the "monkish chroniclers" when set before him
in English earthenware. We would undertake, for a very trifling
consideration, to furnish him with the Spanish originals of the stories
of "Hispan" and "Hercules," and all the other absurdities with which his
old folio has supplied him. From what source does he imagine them to
have been derived? Does he think they belong to the stock of traditions
in possession of the Anglo-Saxon race,--that Grimshaw got them from
Bagshaw, and Bagshaw from Bradshaw?

Our argument in regard to Mr. Wilson's ignorance of most of the
"standard authorities" will be strengthened by a review of the works
which he actually has used,--or, to speak more correctly, misused,--and
an examination of his reasons for selecting them. They are two in
number. He can hardly be said to overrate the importance of one of
these works,--the celebrated Letters of Cortes. For the events of
the Conquest, and the first impressions made upon the minds of the
discoverers by the aspect of the country, we could have no evidence of
equal value with the dispatches written by the great adventurer from the
field of his enterprises and during the course of the operations. Mr.
Wilson does not, however, consult the original letters. His strong
prejudice against everything Spanish would not allow him to do so. He
has studied them through the medium of a translation; and the reason he
assigns for his preference of this version is, that "it is _better_ than
the original." We have no doubt that it _is_ better for Mr. Wilson's
"purpose"; indeed, we fear, that, had it not been for the labors of the
translator, Mr. George Folsom, the letters of Cortes would, like "most
of the standard histories," have been regarded by Mr. Wilson as "no
better than so much blank paper." Lockhart, by translating the chronicle
of Bernal Diaz, has saved it from similar condemnation,--but only that
it might incur a still more terrible fate. Mr. Wilson's theory in
regard to the origin and character of this work is no less subtile than
startling. According to the common belief, Bernal Diaz was a soldier in
the army of Cortes, accompanied him throughout his campaigns, and, at a
late period of his life, composed a narrative of the memorable events
in which he had participated as an actor or an eye-witness. Writers who
knew him in his old age have left us descriptions of his appearance
and character. Mr. Wilson, however, holds that he never existed. The
chronicle which bears the name is, according to him, a work of fiction,
written by some Spanish De Foe, who had read the common narratives of
the conquest of Mexico, but who had no personal knowledge of the scene
in which his story is laid. What first excited Mr. Wilson's suspicions
was the charming simplicity and apparent truthfulness which, in common
with all readers of Bernal Diaz, he has found to be the distinguishing
characteristics of the narrative. "A striking feature," he tells us,
"in Spanish literature, is the plausibility with which it has carried
a fictitious narrative through its most minute details, completely
captivating the _uninitiated_. If its supporters were not permitted to
write truth, they succeeded in getting up a most excellent imitation. In
Bernal Diaz the alleged individual affairs of private soldiers are so
artfully interwoven with the general history as to give the effect of
truth to the whole. There being n fear of contradiction, this practice
of inventing familiar details could be indulged in to any extent, while
the beauty and simplicity of such a style fixes at once the doubting."

"Ah! si Moliere avait connu l'autre!"--

Oh that Fielding had known Mr. Wilson! Partridge, a mere unsophisticated
booby, thought simplicity the characteristic of Nature, and therefore
out of place in Art. Mr. Wilson, a transcendental Partridge, thinks
simplicity the characteristic of Art, and therefore out of place in
Nature. He is more than ordinarily severe on Mr. Prescott for not having
detected in Bernal Diaz these "striking marks of the _counterfeit_
instead of the _common soldier_." "We differ," he says, "decidedly from
Mr. Prescott." The difference seems to be, that Prescott regarded the
_appearance_ of truthfulness in the narrative of Bernal Diaz as _prima
facie_ evidence of its truthfulness, while Mr. Wilson regards the same
appearance as the most complete evidence of its untruthfulness.

But we have been anxious to discover some more definite and substantial
grounds for Mr. Wilson's hypothesis. In a couple of closely-printed
pages, devoted to the subject, he asks himself, again and again, the
questions,--"Who, then, was Bernal Diaz?"--"Who, then, wrote the
history of Bernal Diaz?" Failing to extract any reply from the singular
individual to whom these queries are addressed, he winds up with the
solemn and emphatic declaration, "On the evidence hereafter to be
presented, we have with much deliberation concluded to _denounce_ Bernal
Diaz as a _myth_." For the evidence here promised we have searched
with a patience of investigation which, if applied to the problem of
perpetual motion or squaring the circle, could not, we humbly think,
have been wholly unproductive; and these are the results. "The author of
'Bernal Diaz' says the march to Jalapa was accomplished in one day;--a
proof that he never saw the country.... Cortez makes the ascent the work
of three days, and says he did not reach Sienchimalen until the fourth
day." The main discrepancy here is Mr. Wilson's own handiwork, as he
has confounded the "Sienchimalen" of Cortes with Jalapa, instead of
identifying it with the "Socochima" of Bernal Diaz. But so far as there
is any real discrepancy, it may be sufficient to remark, in explanation
of it, that Bernal Diaz professes to have written many years after the
events which he narrates, and at a distance from the scone, while the
letters of Cortes were written in the country, and while the events were
taking place. On another occasion, Bernal Diaz represents the Tlascalans
as complaining that they could "get no cotton for their clothing." "If
this writer," says Mr. Wilson, "had really been acquainted with the
tribes of the table-land, he must have known that the fibres of the
_maguey_ were, among them, substitutes for that article, and are even
now used at the city of Mexico in the manufacture of some fine fabrics."
We do not see how Bernal Diaz could be expected to know that the fibres
of the _maguey_ are now used in Mexican manufactures; neither can we
comprehend how his statement, that the Tlascalans had _no_ cotton, is at
variance with Mr. Wilson's assertion, that they used the _maguey_ as a
substitute. We can imagine, however, that an old soldier, writing for
the "uninitiated," might prefer to speak of cotton, for which he had a
Spanish word, rather than enter into explanations in regard to an Indian
substitute for cotton, resembling it in appearance; while it is not easy
to believe, on Mr. Wilson's bare assertion, that an article in
common use throughout the Valley of Mexico was wholly unknown to the
inhabitants of the table-land.

These, and, so far as we can discover, these alone, are the proofs on
which Mr. Wilson convicts Bernal Diaz of being a nonentity,--of having,
like Rosalind in "As you like it," merely "counterfeited to be a _man_."
As a natural _sequitur_ to this delicious train of reasoning, he
proceeds to take this nonentity, this "myth," as his guide throughout
the narrative of the Conquest. "We may safely follow Diaz," he remarks,
"in unimportant particulars"; and the "particulars" of the Conquest
being, in Mr. Wilson's narration of them, all equally "unimportant," he
is so far consistent in following Diaz throughout. Surely the Grecian
fables will never grow old; here again we have blind Polyphemus groping
in pursuit of cunning [Greek: Outis]. But we must be allowed to ask Mr.
Wilson why he has not rather preferred to take Gomara as his guide.
It is true that he entertains a strong loathing, a rooted
aversion, for this harmless old chronicler, whom he calls always
"Gomora,"--associating him, apparently, by some confusion of ideas, with
the ancient city of bad fame, buried with Sodom beneath the waters of
the Dead Sea. But, at least, he does not deny that Gomara had an actual
existence, that he was a veritable somebody,--a reality, and not a
"myth,"--that he was the chaplain of Cortes, that he had access to the
papers of the great commander, that he wrote a history of the Conquest,
and that this history is still extant. Mr. Wilson himself asserts that
the dispatches of Cortes "and the work of Gomora are the only original
documents touching the Conquest of Mexico, its people, its civilization,
its difficulties, and its dangers." After this declaration, it is
somewhat remarkable, that, throughout his narrative of the Conquest,
while continually quoting from Diaz, he makes not a single reference to
Gomara; and he even censures Mr. Present for having pursued a different
course. How shall we explain this fact? Alas for Gomara! he wrote in his
native Castilian, no Lockhart or Folsom had done him into English, and
so he missed his chance of having his statements cited, and, possibly
even,--though we should not like to hazard an assertion on this
point,--of having his name correctly spelt, by the author of the "New
History of the Conquest of Mexico."

It remains only that we should notice, as briefly as possible, the use
which Mr. Wilson has made of his two authorities, the translations of
Bernal Diaz and Cortes, which, rejecting all assistance from other
quarters, he takes for the basis of his narrative. That narrative is
constructed on a plan which, we venture to say, is without a parallel
in literature. Like whatever else is strikingly original, it cannot be
described; we can only hope to convey a faint idea of it by some random
illustrations. To nearly every statement which he notices in the works
before him Mr. Wilson offers a flat contradiction. When these statements
relate to numbers, his method of treating them is a systematic one.
He has picked out of Bernal Diaz, who wrote in an avowed spirit of
hostility to Gomara, a pettish remark, that the exaggerations of the
latter are so great, that, when he says eighty thousand, we may read
one thousand. This piece of rhetoric Mr. Wilson receives literally,
and makes it a rule of measurement, applying it with more or less
exactness,--not, however, to the statements of Gomara, with whose work
he is acquainted only at second hand, but to those of Cortes and of
Bernal Diaz himself! Thus, in every computation of the number of the
enemy's forces, or of the Indian allies who joined the Spaniards in
their contest with the Aztecs, Mr. Wilson "takes the liberty," to use
his own phrase, of "dropping" one or more ciphers from the amount. This
mode of adapting the narrative to his own conceptions he calls "reducing
it to reality." When Cortes--not Gomara, be it remembered--computes the
number of his allies at eighty thousand, Mr. Wilson says, "Let us drop
the thousands, and _assume_ eighty as the actual number. _We must do so
often._" When Cortes writes "thirty-five thousand," Mr. Wilson prefers
to say "three hundred or so." When Diaz writes "twelve thousand," Mr.
Wilson suggests that we should read "five hundred." Cortes says that he
caused a canal to be dug twelve _feet_ deep. Mr. Wilson, speaking as
if he had been an eye-witness, says the canal was only twelve _inches_
deep. In another place he writes, "Accordingly a force of thirteen
horse, two hundred foot, and three hundred--not thirty thousand--Indian
allies were sent to relieve that village"; merely leaving his readers to
the inference that the number placed between dashes is the one given by
Cortes. In a single instance, he admits the estimate of Bernal Diaz, who
puts the loss sustained by the Indians. in a battle at eight hundred;
while Las Casas, whose corrections of other writers Mr. Wilson professes
to "vindicate," says the loss of the Indians on this occasion amounted
to thirty thousand. Las Casas also reckons the number of natives who
fell victims to Spanish cruelty in America at forty millions. This wild
estimate has been often quoted. Mr. Wilson, instead of "vindicating" it,
as he was bound to do, triumphantly refutes it. "There never probably
existed," he most justly remarks, "more than forty millions of savage
races at one time on our globe."

It is not merely the arithmetic of his authorities that Mr. Wilson
undertakes to rectify. When they describe a pitched battle, he asserts
that it was a mere skirmish. When they speak of a large town, he tells
us it was a rude hamlet. When they portray the magnificence of the city
of Mexico, he says that they are "painting wild _figments_"--whatever
that may mean,--and that Montezuma's capital was a mere collection of
huts. Cortes tells us, that, in his retreat, he lost a great portion
of his treasure. Mr. Wilson writes, "The _Conquistador_ was too good a
soldier to hazard his gold; it was _therefore_, in the advance, and came
safely off." Cortes states, that, in a certain battle, he retired from
the front in order to make a new disposition of his rear. Mr. Wilson
replies, that Cortes did _not_ go to the rear, because, though his
presence was greatly needed there, the press must have been too great to
allow of his reaching it. The presents which Cortes, while at Vera Cruz,
received from Montezuma, he transmitted to the Emperor Charles the
Fifth, sending, at the same time, an inventory of the articles, among
which was "a large wheel of gold, with figures of strange animals on it,
and worked with tufts of leaves,--weighing three thousand eight hundred
ounces." The original inventory is still in existence. We have the
evidence of persons who were then at the imperial court of the reception
of these presents, of the sensation which they produced, and of the
ideas which they suggested in regard to the wealth and civilization
of the New World; and we have minute descriptions of the different
articles, including the wheel of gold, from persons who saw them at
Seville and at Valladolid. Mr. Wilson,--without making the least
allusion to this testimony, which we cannot help regarding as of the
strongest possible kind, intimates that the presents were of very little
value,--represents the workmanship, which excited the admiration of the
best European artificers, as a mere specimen of "savage ingenuity,"--and
as for the wheel of gold, tells us that it "never existed but in the
fertile fancy of Cortez."

In general. Mr. Wilson contents himself with the barest, though
broadest, denial of the statements of his authorities, or with silently
substituting his own version of the facts in place of theirs. But he
sometimes condescends to argue the point. His logic is ingenious, but
singularly monotonous. His arguments are all drawn from one source,
namely, his own personal experience. The Tlascalan wall, described by
Cortes and Diaz, can never have been in existence, for Mr. Wilson has
been on the very spot and found no remains of a wall. Other travellers,
it may be remarked, have been more fortunate. Cortes states, that, in
a march across the mountains, some of his Indian allies perished of
thirst. This Mr. Wilson pronounces "impossible," because he himself
travelled over the same route, and did _not_ perish of thirst, as
neither did his horse, though the "sufferings of both," from that or
some other cause, were great. One of the most remarkable acts in the
career of Cortes was his voluntary destruction of the vessels which had
brought his little army to the Mexican coast, in order, as he avers,
that his men might stand committed to follow the fortunes of their
leader, whatever might be the dangers of the enterprise. "This event,"
says Mr. Wilson, "has been the subject of eloquent eulogies for
centuries. Among these Robertson is of course pre-eminent." We are
here left in doubt whether Robertson is to be regarded as a preeminent
century or a pre-eminent eulogy. However this may be, our author denies
that the stranding of the vessels was the voluntary act of the Spanish
general. He is confident that they were cast away in a storm. His "most
potent" reason is, that he himself has "witnessed, not only hereabout,
but elsewhere, upon this tideless shore, wrecks by the grounding of
vessels at anchor." This he calls "submitting the narrative to the
ordeal of proof."

However, as we have already intimated, it is seldom that his authorities
are submitted to this "ordeal," which we admit to be a trying one.
Usually they are informed that their assertions "rest on air,"--that
they are "foolish" and "baseless,"--"wild figments," or "intolerable
nonsense." Cortes states that some of his men, who had been taken
prisoners by the Mexicans, were offered up as sacrifices to the Aztec
deities. Mr. Wilson, after telling that their hearts were cut out, and
their bodies "tumbled to the ground," complains that "to this most
probable act of an Indian enemy, is _foolishly_ added--it was done in
sacrifice to their idols, though the very existence of Indian idols is
_still_ problematical!" Cortes, who had seen too many Indian idols to
entertain any doubts of their existence, ought, nevertheless, not
to have mentioned them, because to Mr. Wilson the matter is still a
problem. Whenever that gentleman finds it inconvenient to "reduce" the
statements of the Spanish historians to "realities," he omits them
altogether. Thus, he says not a word of those fearful spectacles which
struck horror to the hearts of the Spaniards in their visit to the
_teocallis_,--the pyramidal mound garnished with human skulls, the
hideous idols and the blood-stained priests, the chapels drenched with
gore, and other evidences of a diabolical worship. Not unfrequently he
fills up what he considers as gaps in the ordinary narratives. Thus,
he pictures the dying Cuitlahua as "stoically wrapping himself in
his feathered mantle," and "rejoicing at his expected welcome to the
celestial hunting-grounds," where he "felt that he was worthy a name
among the immortal braves." This "wild figment" from Mr. Wilson's
"fertile fancy" was, perhaps, suggested by Theobald's famous emendation
in the description of Falstaff's death-scene,--"a babbled o' green
fields." On such occasions, Mr. Wilson explains that he is relating
the occurrences "as they are understood by one familiar with Indian
affairs." A remarkable example of this method of narration shall close
our citations from his work.

The reader is, doubtless, acquainted with the tradition, said to have
been preserved among the Mexicans, of a fair-complexioned deity, with
flowing beard, who had once ruled over them and taught them the arts
of peace, and, being subsequently driven from the country, promised to
return at some future time. Predictions of his reappearance lingered
amongst them, and were supposed to be accomplished in the arrival of the
Spaniards. Mr. Wilson tells us that "too much stress" has been laid on
this tradition; but we know of no modern writer who has laid any stress
on it except himself. It has been usually supposed to be one of those
myths in which nations partially civilized embalm the memory of their
heroes. Mr. Wilson does not believe the Mexicans to have been partially
civilized. He regards them merely as a horde of savages. Nevertheless,
he believes that among these savages "tradition [in the form here
noticed] had handed down, through untold generations, from a remote
antiquity," the establishment in America of Phoenician colonies, their
history, and their subsequent extinction. Nor is this the whole story.
In order to strengthen his argument, he gives a new and corrected
version of this tradition. "It told," he writes, "that _pale faces_ had
once before occupied the _hot country_, coming from beyond the _great
water_. _Perhaps_ with this were coupled also tales of suffering and
wrongs; _perhaps_ how cruelly they, the natives, had been forced, by
these hard task-masters, to labor upon the truncated pyramids and their
crowning chapels. With unrequited Indian toil, these men had builded
cities and public works which still preserved their memory, though they
themselves had long since perished, having fulfilled their allotted
centuries. But with their decaying monuments they left a fearful
prophecy, and thus it ran: that _floating houses_ would again return to
the eastern coast, wafted by like winds, and filled with the same race,
to teach the same religion, and to practise the same cruelties, until
they again finished their cycle, and gave place to others, such as the
laws of climate and population might determine." When the reader, after
perusing this extraordinary relation, recovers his breath, he naturally
casts his eye towards the bottom of the page, in the hope of finding
some explanation of it. He accordingly discovers a note, in which Mr.
Wilson states that he has "given a _little different shading_ to the
famous tradition," but that "such, _translated into Indian phraseology_,
would be the popular accounts." Now he had a perfect right to
_interpret_ the tradition as he pleased. He was at liberty to conjecture
that it related to the Phoenicians, as the Spaniards were at liberty to
conjecture that it related to St. Thomas. Of the two interpretations, we
prefer the latter. Mr. Wilson, were he consistent, would have done so
too; for how could the Aztecs, when they saw the Spaniards desecrating
the Phoenician temples and destroying the Phoenician idols, suppose that
these people were of the "same race," and had come "to teach the same
religion"? We care little for his inconsistencies; but the feat which
he has here performed, by his "shadings," his "translations into Indian
phraseology," and his medley of "pale faces," "great waters," "floating
houses," "truncated pyramids," "hard taskmasters," "winds," "climates,"
"religions," and "laws of population," we believe to be unsurpassed
by anything ever perpetrated in prose or rhyme, by Grecian bard or
mediaeval monk.

He appears to think himself justified in taking these liberties with the
Muse of History by his anxiety to construct a narrative that should not
overstep the bounds of probability. As if all history were not a chain
of improbabilities, and what is most improbable were not often that
which is most certain! But if, at Mr. Wilson's summons, we reject as
improbable a series of events supported by far stronger evidence than
can be adduced for the conquests of Alexander, the Crusades, or the
Norman conquest of England, what is it, we may ask, that he calls upon
us to believe? His skepticism, as so often happens, affords the measure
of his credulity. He contends that Cortes, the greatest Spaniard of the
sixteenth century, a man little acquainted with books, but endowed with
a gigantic genius and with all the qualities requisite for success in
warlike enterprises and an adventurous career, had his brain so filled
with the romances of chivalry, and so preoccupied with reminiscences
of the Spanish contests with the Moslems, that he saw in the New World
nothing but duplicates of those contests,--that his heated imagination
turned wigwams into palaces, Indian villages into cities like Granada,
swamps into lakes, a tribe of savages into an empire of civilized
men,--that, in the midst of embarrassments and dangers which, even on
Mr. Wilson's showing, must have taxed all his faculties to the utmost,
he employed himself chiefly in coining lies with which to deceive his
imperial master and all the inhabitants of Christendom,--that, although
he had a host of powerful enemies among his countrymen, enemies who were
in a position to discover the truth, his statements passed unchallenged
and uncontradicted by them,--that the numerous adventurers and explorers
who followed in his track, instead of exposing the falsity of his
relations and descriptions, found their interest in embellishing the
narrative,--that a similar drama was performed by other actors and on a
different stage,--that the Peruvian civilization, so analogous to that
of the Aztecs and yet so different from it, was, like that, the baseless
fabric of a vision,--that the whole intellect, in short, of the
sixteenth century was employed in fashioning a gorgeous fable, and that
to this end continents were discovered, nations exterminated, countries
laid waste, evidences forged, and witnesses invented. And this theory
is to be swallowed in one solid and indigestible lump, unleavened with
logic, unmoistened with grammar, unsweetened with rhetoric. Let those
whose appetites are strong, and whose olfactory nerves are not too
delicate, sit down to the repast.

For our own part, we are quite satisfied with the bare contemplation of
the fare. Our readers, also, we suspect, have long ago been satiated.
They have dropped off, one by one, and left us alone with our kind
entertainer. What more we have to say must therefore be bestowed upon
his private ear. We shall speak with the greater freedom. We know
the exquisite pleasure we have given him. We are sure that he is not
ungrateful. When his book comes to a second edition,--with a _change of
title-page_ corresponding to some change in the popular sentiment,--we
shall have to submit to the same honors which he has inflicted on Mr.
Prescott and "Rousseau de St. Hilaire"; he will reprint our article
as "a flattering notice,"--as the "Atlantic Monthly's estimate of his
researches." We beg to call his attention to our closing remarks, which,
indeed, may serve as a digest of the whole. When he has "translated
them into Indian phraseology," (we regret that we cannot save him this
trouble,) and "reduced them to reality," we shall take our leave of
him, not without a mournful presentiment that the separation is to be
eternal.

There are many points of difference between his work and Mr. Prescott's
"History of the Conquest of Mexico"; but the chief distinction, we
think, may be thus stated. If the foundations on which Mr. Prescott's
narrative is built should ever be overthrown,--a contingency which as
yet we do not apprehend,--that narrative would still rank among the
masterpieces of our literature. It could no longer be received as a
truthful relation of what had actually happened in the past; but it
would be received as a most faithful and graphic relation of what had
been asserted, of what was once universally _believed_, to have so
happened. If the reality appears strange, how much stranger would
appear the fiction! The truth of such a story may seem improbable;
the invention of such a story would be little short of miraculous.
Prescott's work, if removed from its place among histories, must stand
in the first rank among works of imagination,--must be classed with the
"Odyssey" and the "Arabian Nights' Entertainments."

But this book of Wilson's must, under all conditions, and in any
contingency, be regarded as worthless. Be the story of the Conquest true
or false, this contains no relation of it, this contains no refutation
of it. Not content with vilifying his authorities, with impugning
their faith, denying their existence, and mangling their names, he has
disfigured their statements, corrupted their narrative, and substituted
gross absurdities for what was at least beautiful and coherent, whether
it was fiction or reality. His book is in every sense a fabrication.
It is no record of the truth; it is not a romance or a fable, artfully
constructed and elegantly told; it is--to use that plain language
which the occasion authorizes and demands--a barefaced, but awkward
falsification of history,--so awkward, that it has cost us little
trouble to detect it,--so barefaced, that it has been a duty, though, of
course, a painful one, to expose it.

_Mothers and Infants, Nurses and Nursing._ Translated from the French
of _A Treatise_, etc., by DR. AL. DONNE, late Head of the Clinical
Department of the Faculty of Paris, etc., etc. Boston: Phillips,
Sampson, & Co. 1859.

When the young Count of Paris was at the tender age which requires the
food that only mothers and their substitutes can supply, M. Donne, the
author of this work, was called in consultation at the royal palace. He
had a new way of examining milk through the microscope, and deciding
upon its healthy and nutritive qualities or its defects, as the case
might be. The whole world was full of the great question just then,--for
the deep-bosomed dame of Normandy or Picardy who should be selected
was to be the nurse not of a child only, but of a dynasty. So thought
short-sighted mortals, at least, in those days,--little dreaming what
cradle would be under the square dome of the Tuileries before twenty
years were past!

M. Donne, as we said, was the man selected from all men for the task
of choosing a nurse for the most important baby of his time. This is a
voucher for his position at that period in the great medical world
of Paris. He is known, also, to the scientific world by a number of
treatises, with some of which we have long been familiar, as, for
instance, the "Cours de Microscopic," with the remarkable Atlas copied
from daguerreotypes taken by the aid of the camera. The present work is
of a somewhat more popular character than his previous productions.

Little "Nursing" America is the father of Young America that is to be.
And there is no denying that our new vital conditions on this side of
the planet suggest some very grave questions,--such as these:--Whether
there be not a gradual deterioration of the primitive European stock
under these influences; and, Whether it is not possible that the
imported human breed may run out here, so that, some time or other, the
resuscitated tribes of Algonquins and Hurons may show a long shank of
the extinct Yankee, as they show the Dodo's foot at the British Museum.

It is this contingency against which many intelligent and worthy persons
are now trying to provide. The indefatigable Dr. Bowditch has made a map
of this State of Massachusetts, showing the distribution of consumption
in its different localities. That is the first thing,--_where_ to live.
We have been told an alleged fact with reference to a certain large New
England town, which, if it were true, would raise the value of real
estate in that place a million of dollars, perhaps, in twenty-four
hours. We do not tell it, though mentioned to us by a celebrated
practitioner and professor, simply because we are afraid it is too good
to be true. At any rate, attention is beginning to be thoroughly awake
as to the point of _where_ we shall live. Now, then, _how_ shall we
live?

It is just as well to begin early. Infancy is too late. If men were
dealt with like other live stock, a contractor might undertake to
deliver at Long Wharf a cargo of three-year old human colts and fillies
of almost any required standard of development and health, in five years
from date. If only a cheap article were required, such and such parents
would be selected; if the young animals were to be of prime quality, he
must know it long enough beforehand, and be particular in his choice.
This is plain speaking, but true,--as everybody knows, who studies the
laws of life. _Ex nihilo nihil fit_. Given a half-starved dyspeptic
and a bloodless negative blonde as parents, Hercules or Apollo is
an impossibility in their progeny. Yet people look with infinite
expectations of health, strength, beauty, intellect, as the product of
$0 times {-1}$. The late Colonel Jaques, of the "Ten Hills Farm," knew
ever so much better;--what a pity so much sound physiology should have
been confined to "Caelobs," and "Dolly Creampot," and the likes of them!

Granted a sound, fair baby,--_viable_, as the French say,--liveable, or
life-capable, and life-worthy. What shall we do with it?

A baby answers to the lively definition of an animal as "a stomach
provided with organs." It lives to feed. It does not know much, but in
its speciality it is unrivalled. The way in which it helps itself from
the sources of life is a masterpiece of hydraulic skill. Once let it
lose the Heaven-imparted art of haustion, and all the arts and academies
of the world can never teach it again.

To manage this little feeding organism, with its wondrous instinct and
capacity of imbibition, is the first great question after that of race
is settled. Shall the mother's blood continue to flow through its
fast-throbbing heart, and all the subtile affinities that bind the two
lives be continued until reason and affection take up the chain where
the link of bodily dependence is broken? Or shall it cleave no more to
her bosom, but transfer its endearing dependence to a stranger, or learn
to call a bottle its mother?

These are some of the questions learnedly, and yet familiarly, discussed
in M. Donne's book. He has laid down many excellent rules for the
physical and moral management of the infant, which the young mother can
readily learn and put in practice. For the physician, his work contains
many interesting facts with reference to the quality and the microscopic
appearances of milk, as obtained from various sources and under
different circumstances.

On one or two points our American experience would somewhat modify the
rules commonly accepted in Paris. The nurse from the French provinces is
evidently a different being from our Milesian milky mothers. So, too,
the rules given by our own venerable and sagacious observer, Dr. James
Jackson, as to the period of separating the infant from its mother or
nurse, should be borne in mind, as laid down in his admirable "Letters
to a Young Physician."

But there is a great deal of information applicable to children and
their mothers in all civilized regions; and as we wish to start fair
with the next generation, we are very glad to have so intelligent a
guide for the management of our infant citizens.

_Street Thoughts._ By the Rev. Henry M. Dexter, Pastor of Pine-Street
Church, Boston. With Illustrations by Billings. Boston: Crosby, Nichols,
& Co. 1859.

If a profusion of introductory mottoes were any indication of the
excellence of a book, this volume would be indeed a _chef-d'oeuvre_. On
the page usually devoted to the Dedication, we have no less than six
more or less appropriate quotations: a Greek one from Julian, a Latin
one from Quintilian, a dramatic one from Shakspeare, a metrical one from
Young, a ponderous philosophical one from Dr. Johnson, and a commonplace
one from Bryant. In consideration of the number and learnedness of these
certificates of character, we approach the lucubrations of the Reverend
Mr. Dexter with profound respect.

In the days when controversial literature was fashionable in England,
and the strife between Protestantism and Catholicism possessed some
interest for the public, we remember with considerable amusement the
manner in which the champions on either side conducted the attack. The
Romish warrior would this month issue a formidable volume entitled "A
Conversation between a Roman Catholic English Nobleman and an Irish
Protestant." In this work the Roman Catholic lord had it all his own
way; the Irish Protestant was accommodatingly weak in all his arguments,
and the noble Papist battered him famously. But the Episcopal side
was on hand next month with a volume entitled "A Dialogue between a
Protestant Peer and an Irish Papist." Here the whole thing was reversed.
The noble was still victorious, but he had changed his religion; and
this time the Roman Catholic was feeble, and the Protestant stalwart. It
is worthy of remark, however, that in both cases the nobleman was on the
right side.

The Reverend Mr. Dexter thoroughly comprehends this ingenious method of
attack. Does he, for instance, desire to impress upon the mind of his
reader that it is in the highest degree criminal to wear kid gloves in
the street, he, by a happy accident, encounters on his way to the
office two persons conversing upon that important topic. He innocently
eavesdrops. The individual who advocates the wearing of gloves is (of
course) frivolous, fashionable, and feeble. His companion, who despises
such vanities, is poor, though honest,--brawny and impregnable. It is
wonderful how stupidly the kid-glove advocate reasons. The honest son
of toil overwhelms him in a few moments. When a man talks so splendidly
about the hard palm of labor being more useful to the world than the
silken fingers of the aristocrat, who would have the courage to reply?
The feeble aristocrat is (very properly) discomfited, and the curtain
falls amid applause from the gallery.

The reverend gentleman seems to combine with his talent for
eavesdropping a most remarkable good-fortune in the contrasts afforded
by the various interlocutors whose conversation he overhears. Whether
he is in a shop, or an omnibus, or on the sidewalk, he is certain to
encounter a foolish person and a sensible person (according to Mr.
Dexter's idea of sense) discussing some important social topic,--such
as, Whether dancing is criminal, or, Whether people should wear
stove-pipe hats. At the end of the discussion, the reverend listener

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