Part 1 out of 5
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. VI--SEPTEMBER, 1860.--NO. XXXV.
AMONG THE TREES.
In our studies of Trees, we cannot fail to be impressed with their
importance not only to the beauty of landscape, but also in the economy
of life; and we are convinced that in no other part of the vegetable
creation has Nature done so much to provide at once for the comfort, the
sustenance, and the protection of her creatures. They afford the wild
animals their shelter and their abode, and yield them the greater part
of their subsistence. They are, indeed, so evidently indispensable to
the wants of man and brute, that it would be idle to enlarge upon the
subject, except in those details which are apt to be overlooked. In a
state of Nature man makes direct use of their branches for weaving his
tent, and he thatches it with their leaves. In their recesses he hunts
the animals whose flesh and furs supply him with food and clothing, and
from their wood he obtains the implements for capturing and subduing
them. Man's earliest farinaceous food was likewise the product of trees;
for in his nomadic condition he makes his bread from the acorn and the
chestnut: he must become a tiller of the soil, before he can obtain the
products of the cereal herbs. The groves were likewise the earliest
temples for his worship, and their fruits his first offerings upon the
As man advances nearer to civilization, trees afford him the additional
advantage which is derived from their timber. The first houses were
constructed of wood, which enables him by its superior plastic
nature, compared with stone, to progress more rapidly in his ideas of
architecture. Wood facilitates his endeavors to instruct himself in
art, by its adaptedness to a greater variety of purposes than any
other substance. It is, therefore, one of the principal instruments of
civilization which man has derived from the material world. Though the
most remarkable works of the architect are constructed of stone, it
was wood that afforded man that early practice and experience which
initiated him into the laws of mechanics and the principles of art, and
carried him along gradually to perfection.
But as man is nomadic before he is agricultural, and a maker of tents
and wigwams before he builds houses and temples,--in like manner he is
an architect and an idolater before he becomes a student of wisdom; he
is a sacrificer in temples and a priest at their altars, before he is a
teacher of philosophy or an interpreter of Nature. After the attainment
of science, a higher state of mental culture succeeds, causing the mind
to see all Nature invested with beauty and fraught with imaginative
charms, which add new wonders to our views of creation and new dignity
to life. Man now learns to regard trees in other relations beside their
capacity to supply his physical and mechanical wants. He looks upon them
as the principal ornaments of the face of creation, and as forming the
conservatories of Nature, in which she rears those minute wonders of
her skill, the flowers and smaller plants that will flourish only under
their protection, and those insect hosts that charm the student with
their beauty and excite his wonder by their mysterious instincts.
Science, too, has built an altar under the trees, and delivers thence
new oracles of wisdom, teaching man how they are mysteriously wedded
to the clouds, and are thus made the blessed instruments of their
beneficence to the earth.
Not without reason did the ancients place the Naiad and her fountain in
the shady arbor of trees, whose foliage gathers the waters of heaven
into her fount and preserves them from dissipation. From their dripping
shades she distributes the waters, which she has garnered from the
skies, over the plain and the valley: and the husbandman, before he has
learned the marvels of science, worships the beneficent Naiad, who draws
the waters of her fountain from heaven, and from her sanctuary in the
groves showers them upon the arid glebe and adds new verdure to the
plain. After science has explained to us the law by which these supplies
of moisture are furnished by the trees, we still worship the beneficent
Naiad: we would not remove the drapery of foliage that protects her
fountain, nor drive her into exile by the destruction of the trees,
through whose leaves she holds mysterious commerce with the skies and
saves our fields from drought.
It is in these relations, leaving their uses in economy and the arts
untouched, that I would now speak of trees. I would consider them as
they appear to the poet and the painter, as they are connected with
scenery, and with the romance and mythology of Nature, and as serving
the purposes of religion and virtue, of freedom and happiness, of poetry
and science, as well as those of mere taste and economy. I am persuaded
that trees are closely connected with the fate of nations, that they are
the props of industry and civilization, and that in all countries from
which the forests have disappeared the people have sunk into indolence
Though we may not be close observers of Nature, we cannot fail to have
remarked that there is an infinite variety in the forms of trees, as
well as in their habits. By those who have observed them as landscape
ornaments, trees have been classified according to their shape and
manner of growth. They are round-headed or hemispherical, like the Oak
and the Plane; pyramidal, like the Pine and the Fir; obeliscal, like the
Arbor-Vitae and Lombardy Poplar; drooping, like the White Elm and the
Weeping Willow; and umbrella-shaped, like the Palm. These are the
natural or normal varieties in the forms of trees. There are others
which may be considered accidental: such are the tall and irregularly
shaped trees which have been cramped by growing in a dense forest that
does not permit the extension of their lateral branches; such also are
the pollards which have been repeatedly cut down or dwarfed by the axe
of the woodman.
Of the round-headed trees, that extend their branches more or less at
wide angles from their trunk, the Oak is the most conspicuous and the
most celebrated. To the mind of an American, however, the Oak is far
less familiar than the Elm, as a way-side tree; but in England, where
"a cottage-chimney smokes
From betwixt two aged Oaks,"
this tree, which formerly received divine honors in that country, is now
hardly less sacred in the eyes of the inhabitants, on account of their
familiarity with its shelter and its shade, and their ideas of its
usefulness to the human family. The history of the British Isles is
closely interwoven with circumstances connected with the Oak, and the
poetry of Great Britain has derived from it many a theme of inspiration.
The Oak is remarkable for the wide spread of its lower branches and its
broad extent of shade,--for its suggestiveness of power, and consequent
expression of grandeur. It is allied with the romance of early history;
it is celebrated by its connection with the religion and religious rites
of the Druids,--with the customs of the Romans, who formed of its
green leaves the civic crown for their heroes, and who planted it to
overshadow the temple of Jupiter; and many ancient superstitions give
its name a peculiar significance to the poet and the antiquary. From its
timber marine architecture has derived the most important aid, and it
has thereby become associated with the grandeur of commerce and the
exploits of a gallant navy, and is regarded as the emblem of naval
prowess. The Oak, therefore, to the majority of the human race, is,
beyond all other trees, fraught with romantic interest, and invested
with classic and historical dignity.
The American continent contains a great many species of Oak in its
indigenous forest. Of these the White Oak bears the most resemblance to
the classical tree, in its general appearance, in the contorted growth
of its branches, and in the edible quality of its fruit. But the Red
Oak, the most northerly species, exceeds all others in size. No other
attains so great a height, or spreads its branches so widely, or
surpasses it in regularity of form. As we advance south, the White Oak
is conspicuous until we arrive at North Carolina, where the forests and
way-sides exhibit the beautiful Evergreen Oak, which, with its slender
undivided leaves, the minute subdivisions of its branches, and its
general comeliness of form, would be mistaken by a stranger for a
Willow. A close inspection, however, would soon convince him that it has
none of the fragility of the Willow. On the contrary, it is the most
noted of all the genus for its hardness and durability, being the
identical Live Oak which has supplied our navy with the most valuable
of timber. At the South the Evergreen Oak is a common way-side tree,
mingling its hues with the lighter green of the Cypress and the sombre
verdure of the Magnolia.
The Oak exceeds all other trees, not only in actual strength, but also
in that outward appearance by which this quality is manifested. This
expression is due to the general horizontal spread of its principal
boughs, the peculiar angularity of the unions of its small branches, the
want of flexibility in its spray, and its great size when compared with
its height, all manifesting its power to resist the wind and the storm.
Hence it is regarded as the monarch of trees, surpassing all in those
qualities that indicate nobleness and capacity. It is the emblem of
strength, dignity, and grandeur: the severest hurricane cannot overthrow
it, and, by destroying some of its branches, leaves it only with
more wonderful proofs of its resistance. Like the rock that rises in
mid-ocean, it becomes in its old age a just symbol of fortitude, parting
with its limbs one by one, as they are broken by the gale or withered by
decay; but still retaining its many-centuried existence, when, like an
old patriarch, it has seen all its early companions removed.
Standard Oaks are comparatively rare in the New England States, and not
many adorn our way-sides and inclosures, which are mostly shaded by
Elms, Limes, Maples, and Ash-trees. The scarcity of Oaks in these places
is attributable in some degree to the peculiar structure of their roots,
which extend downwards to a great depth in the soil, causing them to be
difficult of transplantation. It is owing in still greater measure to
the value of Oak-wood for ship-timber,--especially as those full-grown
trees which have sprung up by the road-sides, and the noble pasture
Oaks, contain the greatest number of those joints which are in special
demand for ship-building. Year after year, therefore, has witnessed the
gradual disappearance of these venerable trees, which the public should
have protected from the profane hands of the "timberer," by forcing him
to procure his materials from the forest. The community needs to be
taught that a standard tree of good size and well-developed proportions
is of more value for its shade, and as an object in the landscape, than
a whole acre of trees in the middle of a wood.
One of the most majestic trees in the American forest is the Chestnut,
remarkable, like the Oak, for its broad extent of shade. In some parts
of the country it is one of the most common standards in the field and
pasture, having been left unmolested on account of the value of its
fruit and the comparative inferiority of its timber. The foliage of this
tree is dense and flowing, and peculiar in its arrangement. The leaves
are clustered in stars of from five to seven, on short branches that
grow from one of greater length. Hence, at a little distance, the whole
mass of foliage seems to consist of tufts, each containing a tassel of
long pointed leaves, drooping divergently from a common centre. The
flowers come out from the centre of these leaves in the same manner,
and by their silvery green lustre give a pleasing variety to the darker
verdure of the whole mass. "This is the tree," says Gilpin, "which
graces the landscapes of Salvator Rosa. In the mountains of Calabria,
where Salvator painted, the Chestnut flourished. There he studied it
in all its forms, breaking and disposing of it in a thousand beautiful
shapes, as the exigencies of his composition required."
The Beech is one of the same class of trees, but does not equal the
Chestnut in magnitude. It is distinguished by the beauty of its clean,
smooth shaft, which is commonly ribbed or fluted in a perceptible
degree; and in a wood, where there is an assemblage of these columns,
rising without a branch to the height of thirty feet or more, they are
singularly beautiful. A peculiarity often observed in the Beech is a
sort of double head of foliage. This is produced by the habit of the
tree of throwing out a whorl of imperfect branches just below the union
of the main branches with the trunk. The latter, taking more of an
upward direction, cause an observable space a little below the middle
of the height of the tree. This double tier of branches and foliage has
been noticed by painters in the European Beech. I have observed it in
several instances in the American tree.
Standard Beech-trees are not numerous in this part of the country;
indeed, they are seldom seen except in a wood, or in clumps which have
originated from the root of some tree that has perished. I think they
appear to better advantage in groups and small assemblages than when
single, as there is nothing greatly attractive in the form of a standard
Beech; but there is a peculiar sweep of the lateral branches, when they
are standing in a group, which the student of trees cannot fail to
admire. They send out their branches more in right lines than most other
trees, and, as their leaves and the extremities of their spray all have
an upright tendency, they give a beautiful airy appearance to the edge
of a wood. The foliage of other deciduous trees, even when the branches
tend upward, is mostly of a drooping character. The Beech forms a
pleasing exception to this habit, having leaves that point upward and
outwardly, instead of hanging loosely. In most other trees the foliage
is so heavy and flowing, that the courses of their branches are
concealed under their drapery of leaves; but in the Beech all the
lines produced by the branches and foliage are harmonious, and may be
By taking note of these peculiarities in their arborescent growth, one
greatly magnifies his capacity for enjoying the beauties of trees.
Without this observation, their general appearance forms the chief
object of his attention: he observes them only as a person of taste who
cannot distinguish tunes would listen to music. He feels the agreeable
sensation which their forms and aspects produce; but, like one who
thinks without adequate language for his thoughts, his ideas are vague
and indefinite. The Beech is particularly worthy of study, as in many
points it differs characteristically from most other trees. I am
acquainted with no tree in the forest that equals it, when disrobed of
its foliage, in the gracefulness of its spray. There is an airiness
about its whole appearance, at all seasons, that gives an expression of
cheerfulness to the scene it graces, whether it skirt the banks of a
stream or spread out its courteous arms over a sunny knoll or little
There are some trees which are peculiarly American, being confined to
the Western continent, and unknown in other parts of the world. Among
these is the Hickory, a well-known and very common tree, celebrated
rather for its usefulness than its beauty. The different trees of this
family make an important feature in our landscape: they are not abundant
in the forest, but they are conspicuous objects in the open plain, hill,
and pasture. Great numbers of them have become standards; we see them
following the lines of old stone walls that skirt the bounds and avenues
of the farm, in company with the Ash and the Maple. In these situations,
where they would not "cumber the ground," they have been allowed to
grow, without exciting the jealousy of the proprietor of the land.
Accident, under these circumstances, has reared many a beautiful tree,
which would in any other place have been cut down as a trespasser. Thus
Nature is always striving to clothe with beauty those scenes which man
has despoiled; and while the farmer is hoeing and grubbing, and thinking
only of his physical wants, unseen hands are draping all his fences with
luxuriant vinery, and bordering his fields with trees that shall gladden
the eyes of those who can understand their beauties.
The Hickory is not a round-headed tree; it approaches a cylindrical
form, somewhat flattened at the top, but seldom attaining any strict
regularity of shape. It does not expand into a full and flowing head,
but is often divided into distinct masses of foliage, separated by
vacant spaces of considerable size, and presenting an appearance as if
a portion of the tree had been artificially removed. These gaps do not
extend all round the tree; they are irregularly disposed, some trees
having several of them, others none or only one; and they seem to have
been caused, when the tree was young, by the dwindling of some principal
branch. The Hickory throws out its branches at first very obliquely from
the shaft; afterwards the lower ones bend down as the tree increases in
size, and acquire an irregular and contorted shape; for, notwithstanding
their toughness, they bend easily to the weight of their fruit and
This tree is celebrated in the United States for the toughness of its
wood; and the term Hickory is used as emblematical of a sturdy and
vigorous character. It possesses some of the ruggedness, without the
breadth and majesty of the Oak, though it exceeds even this tree
in braving the force of a tempest. It is one of our most common
pasture-trees, and its deep-green foliage makes amends for the general
want of comeliness in its outline.
As we are journeying through the older settlements of New England,
the melancholy forms of the ill-fated Plane-trees tower above the
surrounding objects, and attract our attention not only by their
magnitude, but also by the marks of decay which are stamped upon all.
This appearance is chiefly remarkable in the early part of summer: for
the trees are not dead; but their vitality is so far gone that they are
tardy in putting out their leaves, and seldom before July are they fully
clad in verdure. When they are not in leaf, we may observe an unnatural
growth of slender twigs in tufts at the ends of their branches. This
is caused by the failure of the tree in perfecting its wood before the
growth of the branches is arrested by the autumnal frosts; and this
accident has been repeated annually ever since the trees began to
be affected with their malady. The Plane was formerly a very common
way-side tree in New England, until the fatality occurred which has
caused the greater number of them to perish. It is a fact worthy of
notice, that all the trees of this species below the latitude of Long
Island have escaped the malady.
The Chenar-tree, or Oriental Plane, is celebrated in history, having had
a place in all the public and private grounds of the Greeks and Romans,
as well as of the Eastern nations. The American, or Western Plane,
called in New England the Buttonwood, is not less remarkable for its
size and grandeur. It is one of the loftiest trees, and its lateral
branches, being of great length, give it extraordinary breadth. It also
runs up to an unusual height, compared with other trees, before it forms
a head, so that its lower branches are sometimes elevated above the
roofs of the houses of common height Hence it would be a valuable tree
for road-sides, if it were healthy, as it would allow the largest
vehicles to pass freely under its boughs.
A far more beautiful tree, gracing equally the forest and the way-side,
is the Ash, charming our sight with the gracefulness of its proportions
in winter, with its flowing drapery of verdure in summer, and its
variety of glowing tints in autumn. The Ash has been styled in Europe
"the painter's tree,"--a fact which is worthy of notice, inasmuch as
those writers who have theorized concerning the nature of beauty have
generally regarded trees of broken and irregular shapes, like the
Hickory, as more picturesque than those of prim and symmetrical habit,
like the Ash. The practice of the great masters in painting seems
adverse to this idea, since they have introduced the Ash more frequently
than other trees into their pictures; and it shows the futility of the
attempt to draw a distinction between picturesque and beautiful
trees. All trees, indeed, of every natural shape, may be considered
picturesque, as, in one situation or another, every species may be
introduced to heighten the character of a picture or a landscape.
The Ash never fails to attract attention by the peculiar beauty of its
outlines, the regular subdivision of its branches, its fair proportions
and equal balance without any disagreeable formality. Nothing can exceed
the gracefulness of its pinnate foliage, hanging loosely from its
equally divergent spray, easy of motion, but not fluttering, and always
harmonizing in its tints with the season of the year. Notwithstanding
the different character, in regard to symmetry, of the Ash and the
Hickory, the two trees are often mistaken for each other, and, when the
latter is evenly formed, it is sometimes difficult at first sight to
distinguish it. They differ, however, in all cases, in the opposite
arrangement of the leaves and small branches of the Ash, and their
alternate arrangement in the Hickory. One of these branches invariably
becomes abortive, as the tree increases in size, so that their opposite
character is apparent only in the spray.
In wet places which have never been subjected to the plough, in grounds
partly inundated a great portion of the year, luxuriating in company
with the Northern Cypress, over an undergrowth of Dutch Myrtles and
Button-bushes, we find the singular Tupelo-tree. This tree is the
opposite of the Ash in all its characteristics. There is no regularity
in any part of its growth, and no tree in the forest sports in such a
variety of grotesque and fantastic shapes. Sometimes it spreads out its
branches horizontally, forming a perfectly flat top, as if it had grown
under a platform; again it forms an irregular pyramid, most commonly
leaning from an upright position. It has usually no definable shape,
often sending out one or two branches greatly beyond the rest, some
directed obliquely downwards, others twisted and horizontal. This tree,
if it had no other merit, would be prized for its eccentricities; but it
is not without beauty. It possesses a fine glossy foliage, unrivalled in
its verdure, and every branch is fully clothed with it; and, whatever
may be the age of the tree, it never shows the marks of decrepitude.
The pyramidal trees are included chiefly among the coniferous
evergreens, embracing the Pine, the Fir, the Spruce, and the Cypress.
Though many of the deciduous trees assume more or less of this outline,
it is the normal and characteristic form of the Pines and their kindred
species. It is a peculiarity of the pyramidal trees, with a few
exceptions, to remain always disfigured, after the loss of an important
branch, having no power to fill the vacant space by a new growth. Other
trees readily fill up a vacancy occasioned by the loss of a branch, and
may suffer considerable mutilation without losing their beauty, because
an invariable proportion is not necessary to render them pleasing
objects of sight. On account of the symmetry of their forms, the
pyramidal trees are made ugly by the loss of a limb, as the porch of a
temple would be ruined by the removal of one of its pillars. Hence we
may understand the charm of that irregularity that prevails in the forms
of vegetation. If we remove a branch from an Elm or an Oak, or even from
an Ash, we destroy no positive symmetry; it is like removing a stone
from a loose stone wall; we do but slightly modify its disproportions.
The White Pine may be selected as the American representative of the
pyramidal trees, being the most important as well as the most striking
in its appearance. It is a Northern tree, not extending so far south as
the region of the Cypress and Magnolia, and attaining perfection only on
the northeastern part of the continent. In the New England States, it
contributes more than any other species to the beauty of our landscapes,
where it is commonly seen in scattered groups, but not often as a
solitary standard. We see it in our journeys, projecting over eminences
that are skirted by old roads, shading the traveller from the sun and
protecting him from the wind. We have sat under its fragrant shade, in
our pedestrian tours, when, weary with heat and exercise, we sought its
gift of coolness, and blessed it as one of the benign deities of the
forest. We are familiar with it in all pleasant and solitary places; and
in our afternoon rambles we have listened, underneath its boughs, to the
plaintive note of the Green Warbler, who selects it for his abode, and
who has caught a melancholy tone from the winds that from immemorial
time have tuned to soft music its long sibilant leaves.
The White Pine is a tree that harmonizes with all situations, rude
and cultivated, level and abrupt. On the side of the mountain it adds
grandeur to the declivity, and gives a look of sweeter tranquillity to
the green pastoral meadow. It yields a darker frown to the projecting
cliff, and a more awful uncertainty to the mountain-pass or the hollow
ravine. Amid desolate scenery it spreads a cheerfulness that detracts
nothing from its power over the imagination, while it relieves it of its
terrors by presenting a green bulwark to defend us from the elements.
Nothing can be more cheerful in scenery than the occasional groups of
Pines which have come up spontaneously on the bald hills near our coast,
elsewhere a dreary waste of gray rocks, stunted shrubbery, and prostrate
Juniper. In the forest the White Pine constitutes the very sanctuary of
Nature, its tall pillars extending into the clouds, and its broad canopy
of foliage mixing with the vapors that descend in the storm.
Such are its picturesque aspects: but in a figurative light it may be
regarded as a true symbol of benevolence. Under its outspread roof,
thousands of otherwise unprotected animals, nestling in the bed of dry
leaves which it has spread upon the ground, find shelter and repose. The
squirrel subsists upon the kernels obtained from its cones; the rabbit
browses upon the Trefoil and the spicy foliage of the Hypericum which
are protected in its conservatory of shade; and the fawn reposes on its
brown couch of leaves, unmolested by the outer tempest. From its green
arbors the quails may be roused in midwinter, when they resort thither
to find the still sound berries of the Mitchella and the Wintergreen.
Nature, indeed, seems to have designed this tree to protect the animal
creation, both in summer and winter, and I am persuaded that she has not
conferred upon them a more beneficent gift.
As an object of sight, the White Pine is free from some of the defects
of the Fir and Spruce, having none of their stiffness of foliage and
inflexibility of spray, that cause them to resemble artificial objects.
It has the symmetry of the Fir, joined with a certain flowing grace that
assimilates it to the deciduous trees. With sufficient amplitude to
conceal a look of primness that often arises from symmetry, we observe a
certain negligent flowing of its leafy robes that adds to its dignity a
grace which is apparent to all. It seems to wear its honors like one who
feels no constraint under their burden; and when smitten by a tempest,
it bids no defiance to the gale, bending to its wrath, but securely
resisting its power.
Of the American coniferous trees, the Hemlock is of the next importance,
being, perhaps, in its perfection, a more beautiful tree than the White
Pine, or than any other known evergreen. It is far less formal in its
shape than other trees of the same family. Its branches, being slender
and flexible, do not project stiffly from the shaft; they bend slightly
at their terminations, and are easily moved by the wind; and as they are
very numerous, and covered with foliage, we behold in the tree a dense
mass of glittering verdure, not to be seen in any other tree of the
The Hemlock is unknown as a shade-tree; it is seldom seen by the
road-side, except on the edge of a wood, and not often in cultivated
grounds. The want of success usually attending the transplantation of it
from the woods has prevented the general adoption of it as an ornamental
tree. The Hemlock, when transplanted from the wood, is almost sure to
perish; for Nature will not allow it to be desecrated by any association
with Art. She reserves it for her own demesnes; and if you would possess
one, you must go to its native spot and plant your garden around it,
and take heed, lest, by disturbing its roots, you offend the deity
who protects it. Some noble Hemlocks are occasionally seen in rude
situations, where the cultivator's art has not interrupted their
spontaneous growth; and the poet and the naturalist are inspired with a
more pleasing admiration of their beauty, because they have seen them
only where the solitary birds sing their wild notes, and where the heart
is unmolested by the crowding tumult of human settlements.
The Pitch Pine has neither grace nor elegance, and though it is allied
botanically to the pyramidal trees, it approaches the shape of the
round-headed trees. There is a singular ruggedness about it; and when
bristling all over with the stiff foliage that sometimes covers it from
the extremities of the branches down almost to the roots, it cannot fail
to attract observation. Trees of this species, for the most part too
rough and homely to please the eye, are not generally valued as objects
in the landscape; but there is a variety in their shape that makes
amends for their want of comeliness, and gives them a marked importance.
We do not in general sufficiently appreciate the value of homely objects
among the scenes of Nature,--which are, indeed, the ground-work of all
charming scenery, and set off to advantage the beauty of more comely
things. They prepare us, by increasing our susceptibility, to feel more
keenly the force of beauty in other objects. They give rest and relief
to the eye, after it has experienced the stimulating effects of
beautiful forms and colors, which would soon pall upon the sense; and
they are interesting to the imagination, by leaving it free to dress the
scene with the wreaths of fancy.
It is from these reflections that I have been led to prize many a homely
tree as possessing a high value, by exalting the impressions of beauty
which we derive from other trees, and by relieving Nature of that
monotony which would attend a scene of unexceptional beauty. This
monotony is apparent in almost all dressed grounds of considerable
extent. We soon become entirely weary of the ever-flowing lines of
grace and elegance, and the harmonious blending of forms and colors
introduced by art. On the same principle we may explain the difficulty
of reading with attention a whole volume on one subject, written in
verse. We are soon weary of luxuries; and when we have been strolling in
grounds laid out with gaudy flower-beds, the tired eye, when we go out
into the fields, rests with serene delight upon rough pastures bounded
by stone walls, and hills clothed with lichens and covered with
The homely Pitch Pine serves this important purpose of relief in the
landscapes of Nature. Trees of this species are abundant in sandy
levels, in company with the slender and graceful White Birch, "The Lady
of the Woods," as the poet Coleridge called it. From these Pines proceed
those delightful odors which are wafted to our windows by a mild south
wind, not less perceptible in winter than in summer, and which are in a
different manner as charming as a beautiful prospect.
The Juniper, or Red Cedar, known in some places as the Savin, is another
homely tree that gives character to New England scenery. It is one of
the most frequent accompaniments of the bald hills near certain parts
of our coast, giving them a peculiar aspect of desolation. This tree
acquires larger dimensions and a fuller and fairer shape in the Middle
and Southern States. There the Junipers are beautiful trees, having a
finer verdure than they ever acquire at the North. But the Juniper, with
all its imperfections, its rugged form, and its inferior verdure, is not
to be contemned; and it possesses certain qualities and features which
ought to be prized hardly less than beauty. Its sombre ferruginous green
adds variety to our wood-scenery at all times, and by contrast serves to
make the foliage of other trees the more brilliant and conspicuous.
In the latter part of summer, when the woods have acquired a general
uniformity of verdure, the Junipers enliven the face of Nature by
blending their duller tints with the fading hues of the fully ripened
foliage. Thus will an assemblage of brown and gray clouds soften and at
the same time enliven the deep azure of the heavens.
In this sketch, I have omitted to describe many important trees,
especially those which have but little individuality of character,
leaving them to be the subject of another essay concerning Trees in
Assemblages. I have likewise said nothing here of those species which
are commonly distinguished as flowering trees. But I must not omit,
while speaking of the pyramidal trees, to say a word concerning the
Larch, which has some striking points of form and habit. Like the
Southern Cypress, it differs in its deciduous character from other
coniferous trees: hence both are distinguished by the brilliancy of
their verdure in the early part of summer, when the other evergreens are
particularly sombre; but they are leafless in the winter. The Larch is
beautifully pyramidal in its shape when young. In the vigor of its years
it tends to uniformity, and to variety when it is old. Indeed, an aged
Larch is often as rugged and fantastic as an old Oak. The American and
European Larches differ only in the longer flowing foliage and the
larger cones of the latter. Among the minor beauties of both species may
be mentioned the bright crimson cones that appear in June and resemble
clusters of fruit. The Larch is a Northern tree, being in its perfection
in the latitude of Maine. It seems to delight in the coldest situations,
and, like the Southern Cypress, is found chiefly in low swamps.
There are not many trees that assume the shape of an obelisk, or a long
spire; but Nature, who presents to our eyes an ever-charming variety of
forms as well as hues, in the objects of her creation, has given us the
figure of the obelisk in the Chinese Juniper, in the Balsam Fir, in the
Arbor-Vitae, and lastly in the Lombardy Poplar, which may be offered to
exemplify this class of forms. The Lombardy Poplar is interesting to
thousands who were familiar with it in their youth, as an ornament
to road-sides and village inclosures. It was formerly a favorite
shade-tree, and still retains its privileges in many old-fashioned
places. A century ago great numbers of Poplars were planted on the
village way-sides, in front of dwelling-houses, on the borders of public
grounds, and particularly on the sides of lanes and avenues leading to
houses situated at a short distance from the high-road. Hence a row
of these trees becomes suggestive at once of the approach to some old
mansion or country-seat, which has now, perhaps, been converted into a
farm-house, having exchanged its proud honors of wealth for the more
simple and delightful appurtenances of rustic independence.
Some of these ancient rows of Poplars are occasionally seen in old
fields, where almost all traces of the habitation which they were
intended to grace are obliterated. There is a melancholy pleasure
in surveying these humble ruins, whose history would illustrate the
domestic habits of our ancestors. The cellar of the old house is now
a part of the pasture-land, and its form can be traced by the simple
swelling of the turf. Sumachs and Cornel-bushes have usurped the
place of the exotic shrubbery in the old garden; and the only ancient
companions of the Poplars, now remaining, are here and there a
straggling Lilac or Currant-bush, a tuft of Houseleek, and perhaps,
under the shelter of some dilapidated wall, the White Star of Bethlehem
is seen meekly glowing in the rude society of the wild-flowers.
The Lombardy Poplar, which was formerly a favorite way-side ornament,
a sort of idol of the public, and, like many another idol, exalted to
honors that exceeded its merits, fell suddenly into unpopularity and
disgrace. After having been admired and valued as if its leaves were all
emeralds and its buds apples of gold, it was spurned and ridiculed and
everywhere cut down as a cumberer of the ground. The faults attributed
to it did not belong to the tree, but were the effects of the climate
into which it had been removed. It was brought from the sunny vales of
Italy, where it had been delicately reared by the side of the Orange and
the Myrtle, and transplanted into the cold climate of New England. The
tender constitution of this tree could not endure our rude winters;
and every spring witnessed the decay of a large portion of its small
branches. Hence it became prematurely aged, and in its decline carried
with it the marks of its infirmities.
But, with all these imperfections, the Lombardy Poplar was more worthy
of the honors it received from our predecessors than of its present
disrepute. It is one of the fairest of trees, in the vigor of its health
and the greenness of its youth. But nearly all the old Poplars are
extirpated, and but few young trees are coming up to supply their
places. While I am now writing, I see from my window the graceful spire
of one solitary tree, towering above the surrounding objects in the
landscape, and yielding to the view something of an indescribable charm.
There it stands, the symbol of decayed reputation, in its old age still
retaining the primness of its youth; neither drooping in its infirmities
under the weight of their burden, nor losing in its desertedness the
fine lustre of its foliage; and in its disgrace still bearing itself
proudly, as if conscious that its former honors were deserved, and
not forgetting that dignity which becomes one who has fallen without
There is no other tree that so pleasantly adorns the sides of narrow
lanes and avenues, or so neatly accommodates itself to limited
inclosures. Its foliage is dense and of the liveliest green, tremulous,
and making delicate music to the light fingers of every breeze; its
terebinthine odors scent the soft vernal wind that enters your open
windows with the morning sunshine; its branches, always tending upward,
closely gathered together, and slenderly formed, afford a harbor to the
singing-birds, who revel among them as a favorite resort; and its long
tapering spire, that points to heaven, gives an air of cheerfulness and
religious tranquillity to village scenery.
Of the drooping trees, the Weeping Willow is the most conspicuous
example, unless we except the American Elm; but a remarkable difference
may be observed in the drooping character of these two trees. In the Elm
we perceive a general arching or curvature of all its branches, from
their points of junction with the tree to their extremities; so that two
rows of Elms, meeting over an avenue, would represent, more nearly than
any other trees disposed in the same manner, the vault of a Gothic arch.
A double row of Weeping Willows would make no such figure by the meeting
of their branches. The Weeping Willow extends its long arms in lines
more nearly straight, not originating, as in the Elm, for the most part,
from one common centre of junction, but joining the shaft of the tree at
different points;--hence the drooping character of this tree is observed
only in its long, slender, and terminal spray.
The Weeping Willow is one of the most poetical of trees, being
consecrated to the Muse by the part which has been assigned it in many
a scene of romance, and by its connection with events recorded in
Holy Writ. It is invested with a poetical interest by its symbolical
representation of sorrow in the pendulous character of its spray, by
its fanciful uses as a garland for disappointed lovers, and by the
employment of it in burying-grounds, and in pictures as drooping over
graves. We remember it in sacred history by its association with the
rivers of Babylon, with the tears of the Children of Israel, and with
the forsaken harps of their sorrowing minstrels, who hung them upon its
branches. It is distinguished by the graceful beauty of its outlines,
its light-green delicate foliage, its sorrowing attitude, and its gently
waving spray, all in sweet accordance with its picturesque, poetic, and
Hence the Weeping Willow never fails to give pleasure to the sight even
of the most insensible observer. There are not many whose minds are so
obtuse as to be blind to its peculiarly graceful attitude and motions,
and every one is familiar with its history, as recorded in poetry and
romance, all the incidents of which have served to elevate it above any
association with fashion or vulgarity. When we see it waving its long
branches neatly over some private inclosure, overshadowing the gravelled
walk and the flower-garden,--or watching pensively over the graves of
the dead, where the light hues of its foliage help to soften the glowing
fancies which are apt to arise from our meditations among the tombs,--or
on some wide common, giving solace to the passing traveller, and
inviting the playful children to its shade,--or trailing its sweeping
spray, like the tresses of a Naiad, over some silvery pond or gently
flowing stream,--it is in all cases a delightful object, always
picturesque, always soothing, inspiring, and sacred to memory, and
serving, by its alliance with what is hallowed in literature, to bind us
more closely to Nature.
Above all the trees of the New World, the Elm deserves to be considered
the sovereign tree of New England. It is abundant both in field and
forest, and forms the most remarkable feature in our cleared and
cultivated grounds. Though the Elm is found in almost all parts of the
country, in no other is it so conspicuous as in the Northeastern States,
where, from the earliest settlement of the country, it has been planted
as a shade-tree, and has been valued as an ornament above the proudest
importations from a foreign clime. It is the most remarkable of the
drooping trees except the Willow, which it surpasses in stateliness and
in the variety of its growth.
When I look upon a noble Elm,--though I feel no disposition to contemn
the studies of those who examine its flowers and fruit with the
scrutinizing eye of science, or the calculations of those who consider
only its practical use--it is to me an object of pleasing veneration. I
look upon it as the embodiment of some benign intention of Providence,
who has adapted it in numerous ways to the wants of his creatures. While
admiring its grace and its majesty, I think of the great amount of human
happiness and of comfort to the inferior animals of which it has been
the blessed instrument. How many a happy assemblage of children and
young persons has been, during the past century, repeatedly gathered
under its shade, in the sultry noons of summer! How many a young
May-queen has been crowned under its roof, when the greensward was just
daisied with the early flowers of spring! And how many a weary traveller
has rested from his journey in its benevolent shade, and from a state of
weariness and vexation, when o'erspent by heat and length of way, has
subsided into one of quiet thankfulness and content!
Though the Elm has never been consecrated by the Muse, or dignified
by making a figure in the paintings of the old masters, the native
inhabitant of New England associates its varied forms with all that is
delightful in the scenery of his own land or memorable in its history.
He has beheld many a noble avenue formed of Elms, when standing in rows
in the village, or by the rustic road-side. He has seen them extending
their broad and benevolent arms as a protection over many a spacious old
farm-house and many an humble cottage, and equally harmonizing with all.
They meet his sight in the public grounds of the city, with their ample
shade and flowing spray, inviting him to linger under their pleasant
umbrage in summer; and in winter he has beheld them among the rude hills
and mountains, like spectral figures keeping sentry among their passes,
and, on the waking of the year, suddenly transformed into towers of
luxuriant verdure and beauty. Every year of his life has he seen the
beautiful Hang-Bird weave his pensile habitation upon the long and
flexible branches of the Elm, secure from the reach of every living
creature. From its vast dome of interwoven branches and foliage he has
listened to the songs of the earliest and the latest birds; and under
its shelter he has witnessed many a merry-making assemblage of children,
employed in the sportive games of summer.
To a native of New England, therefore, the Elm has a value more nearly
approaching that of sacredness than any other tree. Setting aside the
pleasure derived from it as an object of visual beauty, it is intimately
associated with the familiar scenes of home and the events of his
early life. In my own mind it is pleasingly allied with those old
dwelling-houses which were built in the early part of the last century,
and form one of the marked features of New England home architecture
during that period. They are known by their broad and ample, but
low-studded rooms, their numerous windows with small panes, their single
chimney in the centre of the roof that sloped down to the lower story in
the back part, and in their general unpretending appearance, reminding
one vividly of that simplicity of life which characterized our people
before the Revolution. Their very homeliness is delightful, by leaving
the imagination free to dwell upon their pleasing suggestions. Not many
of these charming old houses are now extant: but whenever we see one,
we are almost sure to find it accompanied by its Elm, standing upon the
green open space that slopes up to it in front, and waving its long
branches in melancholy grandeur over the venerable habitation which it
seems to have taken under its protection, while it droops with sorrow
over the infirmities of its old companion of a century.
The Elm is remarkable for the variety of forms which it assumes in
different situations. Often it has a drooping spray only when it has
attained a large size; but it almost invariably becomes subdivided
into several equal branches, diverging from a common centre, at a
considerable elevation from the ground. One of these forms is that of a
vase: the base being represented by the roots of the tree that project
above the soil and join the trunk,--the middle by the lower part of
the principal branches, as they swell out with a graceful curve, then
gradually diverge, until they bend downward and form the lip of the
vase, by their circle of terminal branches. Another of its forms is that
of a vast dome, as represented by those trees that send up a single
shaft to the height of twenty feet or more, and then extend their
branches at a wide divergency and to a great length. The Elms which are
remarkable for their drooping character are usually of this shape.
At other times the Elm assumes the shape of a plume, presenting a
singularly fantastical appearance. It rises upwards, with an undivided
shaft, to the height of fifty feet or more, without a limb, and bending
over with a gradual curve from about the middle of its height to its
summit, which is sometimes divided into two or three terminal branches.
The whole is covered from its roots to its summit with a fringe
of vine-like twigs, extremely slender, twisted and irregular, and
resembling a parasitic growth. Sometimes it is subdivided at the usual
height into three or four long branches, which are wreathed In the same
manner, and form a compound plume.
These fantastic forms are very beautiful, and do not impress one with
the idea of monstrosity, as we are affected by the sight of a Weeping
Ash. Though the Elm has many defects of foliage, and is destitute of
those fine autumnal tints which are so remarkable in some other trees,
it is still almost without a rival in the American forest. It presents a
variety in its forms not to be seen in any other tree,--possessing the
dignity of the Oak without its ruggedness, and uniting the grace of the
slender Birch with the lofty grandeur of the Palm and the majesty of the
Cedar of Lebanon.
Of the parasol-trees the North furnishes no true examples, which are
witnessed only in the Palms of the tropics. Not many of our inhabitants
have seen these trees in their living beauty; but all have become so
familiar with them, as they are represented in paintings and engravings,
that they can easily appreciate their effect in the sunny landscapes of
the South. There they may be seen bending over fields tapestried with
Passion-Flowers and verdurous with Myrtles and Orange-trees, and
presenting their long shafts to the tendrils of the Trumpet Honeysuckle
and the palmate foliage of the Climbing Fern. But the slender Palms,
when solitary, afford but little shade. It is when they are standing in
groups, their lofty tops meeting and forming a uniform umbrage, that
they afford any important protection from the heat of the sun.
In pictures of tropical scenery we see these trees standing on the
banks of a stream, or in the vicinity of the sea, near some rude hut
constructed of Bamboo and thatched with the broad leaves of the Fan
Palm. In some warm countries Nature affords the inhabitants an almost
gratuitous subsistence from the fruit of the different Palms,--a
plantation of Dates and Cocoa-nuts supplying the principal wants of the
owner and his family, during the life of the trees. But the Palm is not
suggestive of the arts, for the South is not the region of the highest
civilization. Man's intelligence is greatest in those countries in which
he is obliged to struggle with difficulties sufficient to require the
constant exercise of the mind and body to overcome them. Science and Art
have built their altars in the region of the Oak, and in valleys which
are annually whitened with snow, where labor invigorates the frame, and
where man's contention with the difficulties presented by the elements
sharpens his ingenuity and strengthens all his facilities. Hence, while
the Oak is the symbol of hospitality and of the arts to which it has
given its aid, the Palm symbolizes the voluptuousness of a tropical
clime and the indolence of its inhabitants.
I have said that the North produces no parasol-trees; but it should be
remarked that all kinds of trees occasionally approximate to this shape,
when they have grown compactly in a forest. The general shape which they
assume under these conditions is what I have termed accidental, because
that shape cannot be natural which a growing body is forced to take
when cramped in an unnatural or constrained position. Trees when thus
situated become greatly elongated; their shafts are despoiled of the
greater part of their lateral branches, and the tree has no expansion
until it has made its way above the level of the wood. The trees that
cannot reach this level will in a few years perish; and this is the
fate of the greater number in the primitive forest. But after they have
attained this level, they spread out suddenly into a head. Many such
trees are seen in recent clearings; and when their termination is a
regular hemisphere of branches and foliage, the tree exhibits a shape
nearly approaching that of a parasol.
The Elm, under these circumstances, often acquires a very beautiful
shape. Unlike other trees that send up a single undivided shaft, the
Elm, when growing in the forest as well as in the open plain, becomes
subdivided into several slightly divergent branches, running up almost
perpendicularly until they reach the level of the wood, when they
suddenly spread themselves out, and the tree exhibits the parasol shape
more nearly even than the Palm. When one of these forest Elms is left by
the woodman, and is seen standing alone in the clearing, it presents
to our sight one of the most graceful and beautiful of all arborescent
The rows of Willows, so frequent by the way-side where the road passes
over a wet meadow, afford the most common examples of the pollard forms.
Some of these willows, having escaped the periodical trimming of the
woodcutter, have become noble standards, emulating the Oak in the sturdy
grandeur of their giant arms extending over the road. Most of them,
however, from the repeated cropping which they have suffered, exhibit a
round head of long, slender branches, growing out of the extremity of
the beheaded trunk.
My remarks thus far relate to trees considered as individual objects;
but I must not tire the patience of the reader by extending them
farther, though there are many other relations in which they may be
treated. In whatever light we regard them, they will be found to deserve
attention as the fairest ornaments of Nature, and as objects that should
be held sacred from their importance to our welfare and happiness. The
more we study them, the more desirous are we of their preservation, and
the more convinced of the necessity of using some active means to
effect this purpose. He takes but a narrow view of their importance who
considers only their value in the economy of animal and vegetable life.
The painter has always made them a particular branch of his study; and
the poet understands their advantage in increasing the effect of his
descriptions, and believes them to be the blessed gifts of Providence to
render the earth a beautiful abode and sanctify it to our affections.
The heavenly bodies affect the soul with a deeper sense of creative
power; but trees, like flowers, serve to draw us more closely to the
bosom of Nature, by exemplifying the beauties of her handiwork, and the
wonders of that Wisdom that operates unseen, and becomes, in our search
for it, a source of perpetual delight.
VICTOR AND JACQUELINE.
The three days passed away. And every hour's progress was marked as it
passed over the citizens of Meaux. Leclerc, and the doctrines for which
he suffered, filled the people's thought; he was their theme of speech.
Wonder softened into pity; unbelief was goaded by his stripes to
cruelty; faith became transfigured, while he, followed by the hooting
crowd, endured the penalty of faith. Some men looked on with awe that
would become adoring; some with surprise that would take refuge in study
and conviction. There were tears as well as exultation, solemn joy as
well as execration, in his train. The mother of Leclerc followed
him with her undaunted testimony, "Blessed be Jesus Christ and His
By day, in the field, Jacqueline Gabrie thought over the reports she
heard through the harvesters, of the city's feeling, of its purpose, of
its judgment; by night she prayed and hoped, with the mother of Leclerc;
and wondrous was the growth her faith had in those days.
On the evening of the third day, Jacqueline and Elsie walked into Meaux
together. This was not invariably their habit. Elsie had avoided too
frequent conversation with her friend of late. She knew their paths were
separate, and was never so persuaded of the fact as this night, when, of
her own will, she sought to walk with Jacqueline. The sad face of her
friend troubled her; it moved her conscience that she did not deeply
share in her anxiety. When they came from Domremy, she had relied on
Jacqueline: there was safety in her counsel,--there was wisdom in it:
but now, either?
"It made me scream outright, when I saw the play," said she; "but it is
worse to see your face nowadays,--it is more terrible, Jacqueline."
Jacqueline made no reply to this,--and Elsie regarded the silence as
"You seem to think I have no feeling," said she. "I am as sorry about
the poor fellows as you can be. But I cannot look as if I thought the
day of judgment close at hand, when I don't, Jacqueline."
"Very well, Elsie. I am not complaining of your looks."
"But you are,--or you might as well."
"Let not that trouble you, Elsie. Your face is smooth, at least; and
your voice does not sound like the voice of one who is in grief.
Rejoice,--for, as you say, you have a right to yourself, with which I
am not to interfere. We are old friends,--we came away from Lorraine
together. Do not forget that. I never will forget it."
"But you are done with me. You say nothing to me. I might as well be
dead, for all you care."
"Let us not talk of such things in this manner," said Jacqueline,
mildly. But the dignity of her rebuke was felt, for Elsie said,--
"But I seem to have lost you,--and now we are alone together, I may say
it. Yes, I have lost you, Jacqueline!"
"This is not the first time we have been alone together in these
dreadful three days."
"But now I cannot help speaking."
"You could help it before. Why, Elsie? You had not made up your mind.
But now you have, or you would not speak, and insist on speaking. What
have you to say, then?"
"Jacqueline! Are you Jacqueline?"
"Am I not?"
"You seem not to be."
"How is it, Elsie?"
"You are silent and stern, and I think you are very unhappy,
"I do not know,--not unhappy, I think. Perhaps I am silent,--I have been
so busy. But for all it is so dreadful--no! not unhappy, Elsie."
"Thinking of Leclerc all the while?"
"Of him? Oh, no! I have not been thinking of him,--not constantly. Jesus
Christ will take care of him. His mother is quiet, thinking that. I,
at least, can be as strong as she. I'm not thinking of the shame and
cruelty,--but of what that can be worth which is so much to him, that
he counts this punishment, as they call it, as nothing, as hardly pain,
certainly not disgrace. The Truth, Elsie!--if I have not as much to say,
it is because I have been trying to find the Truth."
"But if you have found it, then I hope I never shall,--if it is the
Truth that makes you so gloomy. I thought it was this business in
"Gloomy? when it may be I have found, or _shall_ find"--
Here Jacqueline hesitated,--looked at Elsie. Grave enough was that look
to expel every frivolous feeling from the heart of Elsie,--at least,
so long as she remained under its influence. It was something to trust
another as Jacqueline intended now to trust her friend. It was a
touching sight to see her seeking her old confidence, and appearing
to rely on it, while she knew how frail the reed was. But this girl,
frivolous as was her spirit, this girl had come with her from the
distant native village; their childhood's recollections were the same.
And Jacqueline determined now to trust her. For in times of blasting
heat the shadow even of the gourd is not to be despised.
"You know what I have looked for so long, Elsie," she said, "you ought
to rejoice with me. I need work for that no longer."
"What is that, Jacqueline?"
Even this question, betraying no such apprehension as Jacqueline's words
seemed to intimate, did not disturb the girl. She was in the mood when,
notwithstanding her show of dependence, she was really in no such
necessity. Never was she stronger than now when she put off all show
of strength. Elsie stood before her in place of the opposing world. To
Elsie's question she replied as readily as though she anticipated the
word, and had no expectation of better recollection,--not to speak of
"To bring him out of suffering he has never been made to endure, as
surely as God lives. As if the Almighty judged men so! I shall send back
no more money to Father La Croix. It is not his prayer, nor my earnings,
that will have to do with the eternity of John Gabrie.--Do you hear me,
"I seem to, Jacqueline."
"Have I any cause for wretched looks, then? I am in sight of better
fortune than I ever hoped for in this world."
"Then don't look so fearful. It is enough to scare one. You are not a
girl to choose to be a fright,--unless this dreadful city has changed
you altogether from what you were. You would frighten the Domremy
children with such a face as that; they used not to fear Jacqueline."
"I shall soon be sailing on a smoother sea. As it is, do not speak of my
looks. That is too foolish."
"But, oh, I feel as if I must hold you,--hold you!--you are leaving
"Come on, Elsie!" exclaimed Jacqueline, as though she almost hoped this
of her dear companion.
"But where?" asked Elsie, not so tenderly.
"Where God leads. I cannot tell."
"I do not understand."
"You would not think the Truth worth buying at the price of your life?"
"Or such a price as he pays who--has been branded to-day?"
"It was not the truth to your mother,--or to mine. It was not the truth
to any one we ever knew, till we came here to Meaux."
"It is true to my heart, Elsie. It is true to my conscience. I know that
I can live for it. And it may be"--
"Hush!--do not! Oh, I wish that I could get you back to Domremy! What is
going to come of this? Jacqueline, let us go home. Come, let us start
to-night. We shall have the moon all night to walk by. There is nothing
in Meaux for us. Oh, if we had never come away! It would have been
better for you to work there for--what you wanted,--for what you came
here to do."
"No, let God's Truth triumph! What am I? Less than that rush! But if His
breath is upon me, I will be moved by it,--I am not a stone."
Then they walked on in silence. Elsie had used her utmost of persuasion,
but Jacqueline not her utmost of resistance. Her companion knew this,
felt her weakness in such a contest, and was silent.
On to town they went together. They walked together through the streets,
passing constantly knots of people who stood about the corners and among
the shops, discussing what had taken place that day. They crossed the
square where the noonday sun had shone on crowds of people, men and
women, gathered from the four quarters of the town and the neighboring
country, assembled to witness the branding of a heretic. They entered
their court-yard together,--ascended the stairway leading to their
lodging. But they were two,--not one.
Elsie's chief desire had been to get Jacqueline safely into the house
ere she could find opportunity for expression of what was passing in her
mind. Her fear was even greater than her curiosity. She had no desire to
learn, under these present circumstances, the arguments and incidents
which the knots of men and women were discussing with so much vehemence
as they passed by. She could guess enough to satisfy her. So she had
hurried along, betraying more eagerness than was common with her to get
out of the street. Not often was she so overcome of weariness,--not
often so annoyed by heat and dust. Jacqueline, without remonstrance,
followed her. But they were two,--not one.
Once safe in their upper room, Elsie appeared to be, after all, not so
devoid of interest in what was passing in the street as her hurried
walk would seem to betoken. She had not quite yet lost her taste for
excitement and display. For immediately she seated herself by the
window, and was all eye and ear to what went on outside.
Jacqueline's demonstrations also were quite other than might have been
anticipated. Each step she took in her chamber gave an indication that
she had a purpose,--and that she would perform it.
She removed from her dress the dust and stain of toil, arranged her
hair, made herself clean and decent, to meet the sober gaze of others.
Then she placed upon the table the remains of their breakfast,--but she
It was nearly dark when Jacqueline said to Elsie,--
"I am now going to see John and his mother. I must see with my own eyes,
and hear with my own ears. I may be able to help them,--and I know they
will be able to help me. John's word will be worth hearing,--and I want
to hear it. He must have learned in these days more than we shall ever
be able to learn for ourselves. Will you go with me?"
"No," cried Elsie,--as though she feared she might against her will
be taken into such company. Then, not for her own sake, but for
Jacqueline's, she added, almost as if she hoped that she might prove
successful in persuasion, "I remember my father and mother. What they
taught me I believe. And that I shall live by. I shall never be wiser
than they were. And I know I never can be happier. They were good and
honest. Jacqueline, we shall never be as happy again as we were in
Domremy, when the pastor blessed us, and we hunted flowers for the
altar,--never!--never!" And Elsie Meril, overcome by her recollections
and her presentiments, burst into tears.
"It was the happiness of ignorance," said Jacqueline, after a solemn
silence full of hurried thought. "No,--I, for one, shall never be as
happy as I was then. But my joy will be full of peace and bliss. It will
be full of satisfaction,--very different, but such as belongs to me,
such as I must not do without. God led us from Domremy, and with me
shall He do as seemeth good to Him. We were children then, Elsie; but
now may we be children no longer!"
"I will be faithful to my mother. Go, Jacqueline,--let me alone."
Elsie said this with so much spirit that Jacqueline answered quickly,
and yet very kindly,--
"I did not mean to trouble you, dear,--but--no matter now."
No sooner had Jacqueline left the house than Elsie went down to a church
near by, where she confessed herself to the priest, and received such
goodly counsel as was calculated to fortify her against Jacqueline in
* * * * *
Jacqueline went to the house of the wool-comber, as of late had been her
nightly custom,--but not, as heretofore, to lighten the loneliness
and anxiety of the mother of Leclerc. Already she had said to the old
"I need not work now for my father's redemption. Then I will work for
you, if your son is disabled. Let us believe that God brought me here
for this. I am strong. You can lean on me. Try it."
Now she went to make repetition of the promise to Leclerc, if,
perchance, he had come back to his mother sick and sore and helpless.
For this reason, when she entered the humble home of the martyr, his
eyes fell on her, and he saw her as she had been an angel; how serene
was her countenance; and her courage was manifestly such as no mortal
fear, no human affliction, could dismay.
Already in that room faithful friends had gathered, to congratulate the
living man, and to refresh their strength from the abounding richness of
Martial Mazurier, the noted preacher, was there, and Victor Le Roy;
besides these, others, unknown by name or presence to Jacqueline.
Among them was the wool-comber,--wounded with many stripes, branded,
a heretic! But a man still, it appeared,--a living man,--brave as any
hero, determined as a saint,--ready to proclaim now the love of God, and
from the couch where he was lying to testify to Jesus and his Truth.
It was a goodly sight to see the tenderness of these men here gathered;
how they were forgetful of all inequalities of station, such as
worldlings live by,--meeting on a new ground, and greeting one another
in a new spirit.
They had come to learn of John. A halo surrounded him; he was
transfigured; and through that cloud of glory they would fain penetrate.
Perchance his eyes, as Stephen's, had seen heaven open, when men had
tried their torments. At least, they had witnessed, when they followed
the crowd, that his face, in contrast with theirs who tormented, shone,
as it had been the face of an angel. They had witnessed his testimony
given in the heroic endurance of physical pain. There was more to be
learned than the crowd were fit to hear or _could_ hear. Broken strains
of the Lord's song they heard him singing through the torture. Now they
had come longing for the full burden of that divinest melody.
Jacqueline entered the room quietly, scarcely observed. She sat down by
the door, and it chanced to be near the mother of Leclerc, near Victor
To their conversation she listened as one who listens for his life,--to
the reading of the Scripture,--to the singing of the psalm,--that grand
"Out of the depths I cry to thee,
Lord God! Oh, hear my prayer!
Incline a gracious ear to me,
And bid me not despair.
If thou rememberest each misdeed,
If each should have its rightful meed,
Lord, who shall stand before thee?
"Lord, through thy love alone we gain
The pardon of our sin:
The strictest life is but in vain,
Our works can nothing win,
That man should boast himself of aught,
But own in fear thy grace hath wrought
What in him seemeth righteous.
"Wherefore my hope is in the Lord,
My works I count but dust;
I build not there, but on his word,
And in his goodness trust.
Up to his care myself I yield;
He is my tower, my rook, my shield,
And for his help I tarry."
To the praying of the broken voice of John Leclerc she listened. In his
prayer she joined. To the eloquence of Mazurier, whose utterances she
laid up in her heart,--to the fervor of Le Roy, which left her eyes not
dry, her soul not calm, but strong in its commotion, grasping fast the
eternal truths which he, too, would proclaim, she listened.
She was not only now among them, she was of them,--of them forevermore.
Though she should never again look on those faces, nor listen to those
voices, of them, of all they represented, was she forevermore. Their God
was hers,--their faith was hers; their danger would she share,--their
work would aid.
Their talk was of the Truth, and of the future of the Truth. Well they
understood that the spirit roused among the people would not be quieted
again,--that what of ferocity in the nature of the bigot and the
powerful had been appeased had but for the moment been satisfied. There
would be unremitting watch for victims; everywhere the net for the
unwary and the fearless would be laid. Blood-thirstiness and lust and
covetousness would make grand their disguises,--broad would their
phylacteries be made,--shining with sacred gems, their breast-plates.
Of course it was of the great God's honor these men would be jealous.
This heresy must needs be uprooted, or no knowing where would be the end
of the wild growth. And, indeed, there was no disputing the fact that
there was danger in open acceptance of such doctrines as defied the
authority of priestcraft,--ay, danger to falsehood, and death to
Fanaticism, cowardice, cruelty, the spirit of persecution, the spirit
of authority aroused, ignorance and vanity and foolishness would make
themselves companions, no doubt. Should Truth succumb to these? Should
Love retreat before the fierce onset of Hate? These brave men said not
so. And they looked above them and all human aid for succor,--Jacqueline
When Mazurier and Victor Le Roy went away, they left Jacqueline with
the wool-comber's mother, but they did not pass by her without notice.
Martial lingered for a moment, looking down on the young girl.
"She is one of us," said the old woman.
Then the preacher laid his hand upon her head, and blessed her.
"Continue in prayer, and listen to the testimony of the Holy Ghost,"
said he. "Then shall you surely come deep into the blessed knowledge and
the dear love of Jesus Christ."
When he had passed on, Victor paused in turn.
"It is good to be here, Jacqueline," said he. '"This is the house of
God; this is the gate of heaven."
And he also went forth, whither Mazurier had gone.
Then beside the bed of the poor wool-comber women like angels
ministered, binding up his wounds, and soothing him with voices soft as
ever spoke to man. And from the peasant whose toil was in harvest-fields
and vineyards came offers of assistance which the poor can best give the
But the wool-comber did not need the hard-earned pence of Jacqueline.
When she said, "Let me serve you now, as a daughter and a sister, you
two,"--he made no mistake in regard to her words and offer. But he had
no need of just such service as she stood prepared to render. In his
toil he had looked forward to the seasons of adversity,--had provided
for a dark day's disablement; and he was able now to smile upon his
mother and on Jacqueline, and to say,--
"I will, indeed, be a brother to you, and my mother will love you as if
you were her child. But we shall not take the bread from your mouth to
prove it. Our daughter and our sister in the Lord, we thank you and love
you, Jacqueline. I know what you have been doing since I went away.
The Lord love you, Jacqueline! You will no longer be a stranger and
friendless in Meaux, while John Leclerc and his mother are alive,--nay,
as long as a true man or woman lives in Meaux. Fear not."
"I will not fear," said Jacqueline.
And she sat by the side of the mother of Leclerc, and thought of her
own mother in the heavens, and was tranquil, and prepared, she said to
herself, to walk, if indeed she must, through the valley of the shadow
of death, and would still fear no evil.
Strengthened and inspired by the scenes of the last three days, Martial
Mazurier began to preach with an enthusiasm, bravery, and eloquence
unknown before to his hearers. He threw himself into the work of
preaching, the new revelation of the ancient eternal Truth, with
an ardor that defied authority, that scorned danger, and with a
recklessness that had its own reward.
Victor Le Roy was his ardent admirer, his constant follower, his
loving friend, his servant. Day by day this youth was studying with
indefatigable zeal the truths and doctrines adopted by his teacher.
Enchanted by the wise man's eloquence, already a convert to the faith
he magnified, he was prepared to follow wherever the preacher led. The
fascination of danger he felt, and was allured by. Frowning faces had
for him no terrors. He could defy evil.
Jacqueline and he might be called most friendly students. Often in
the cool of the day the young man walked out from Meaux along the
country-roads, and his face was always toward the setting sun, whence
towards the east Jacqueline at that hour would be coming. The girls were
living in the region of the vineyards now, and among the vines they
It began to be remarked by some of their companions how much Jacqueline
Gabrie and the young student from the city walked together. But the
subject of their discourse, as they rested under the trees that fringed
the river, was not within the range of common speculation; far enough
removed from the ordinary use to which the peasants put their thought
was the thinking of Le Roy and Jacqueline.
Often Victor went, carefully and with a student's precision, over the
grounds of Martial's arguments, for the satisfaction of Jacqueline.
Much pride as well as joy had he in the service; for he reverenced his
teacher, and feared nothing so much, in these repetitions, as that this
listener, this animated, thinking, feeling Jacqueline, should lose
anything by his transmission of the preacher's arguments and eloquence.
And sometimes, on those special occasions which were now constantly
occurring, she walked with him to the town, and hearkened for herself in
the assemblages of those who were now one in the faith.
Elsie looked on and wondered, but did not jest with Jacqueline, as girls
are wont to jest with one another on such points as seemed involved in
this friendship between youth and youth, between man and woman.
Towards the conclusion of the girls' appointed labor in the vineyard, a
week passed in which Victor Le Roy had not once come out from Meaux in
the direction of the setting sun. He knew the time when the peasants'
labor in the vineyard would be done; Jacqueline had told him; and with
wonder, and with trouble, she lived through the days that brought no
word from him.
At work early and late, Jacqueline had no opportunity of discovering
what was going on in Meaux. But it chanced, on the last day of the last
week in the vineyard, tidings reached her: Martial Mazurier had been
arrested, and would be tried, the rumor said, as John Leclerc had been
tried; and sentence would be pronounced, doubtless, said conjecture,
severe in proportion to the influence the man had acquired, to the
position he held.
Hearing this, oppressed, troubled, yet not doubting, Jacqueline
determined that she would go to Meaux that evening, and so ascertain the
truth. She said nothing to Elsie of her purpose. She was careful in all
things to avoid that which might involve her companion in peril in an
unknown future; but at nightfall she had made herself ready to set
out for Meaux, when her purpose was changed in the first steps by the
appearing of Victor Le Roy.
He had come to Jacqueline,--had but one purpose in his coming; yet it
was she who must say,--
"Is it true, Victor, that Martial Mazurier is in prison?"
His answer surprised her.
"No, it is not true."
But his countenance did not answer the glad expression of her face with
an equal smile. His gravity almost communicated itself to her. Yet this
rebound from her recent dismay surely might demand an opportunity.
"I believe you," said she. "But I was coming to see if it could be true.
It was hard to believe, and yet it has cost me a great deal to persuade
myself against belief, Victor."
"It will cost you still more, Jacqueline. Martial Mazurier has
"He has been in prison, then?"
"He has retracted, and is free again,--has denied himself. No more
glorious words from him, Jacqueline, such as we have heard! He has sold
himself to the Devil, you see."
"Mazurier has thought raiment better than life. _He_ has believed a
man's life to consist in the abundance of the things he possesseth,"
said the youth, bitterly. He continued, looking steadfastly at
Jacqueline,--"Probably I must give up the Truth also. My uncle is dead:
must I not secure my possessions?--for I am no longer a poor man; I
cannot afford to let my life fall into the hands of those wolves."
"Mazurier retracted? I cannot believe it, Victor Le Roy!"
"Believe, then, that yesterday the man was in prison, and to-day he is
at large. Yes, he says that he can serve Jesus Christ more favorably,
more successfully, by complying with the will of the bishop and the
priests. You see the force of his argument. If he should be silenced, or
imprisoned long, or his life should be cut off, he would then be able
to preach no more at all in any way. He only does not believe that
whosoever will save his life, in opposition to the law of the
everlasting gospel, must lose it."
"Oh, do you remember what he said to John,--what he prayed in that room?
Oh, Victor, what does it mean?"
"It means what cannot be spoken,--what I dare not say or think."
"Not that we are wrong, mistaken, Victor?"
"No, Jacqueline, never! it can never mean that! Whatever we may do with
the Truth, we cannot make it false. We may act like cowards, unworthy,
ungrateful, ignorant; but the Truth will remain, Jacqueline."
"Victor, you could not desert it."
"How can I tell, Jacqueline? The last time I saw Martial Mazurier, he
would have said nobler and more loving words than I can command. But
with my own eyes I saw him walking at liberty in streets where liberty
for him to walk could be bought only at an infamous price."
"Is there such danger for all men who believe with John Leclerc, and
with--with you, Victor?"
"Yes, there is danger, such danger."
"Then you must go away. You must not stay in Meaux," she said, quickly,
in a low, determined voice.
"Jacqueline, I must remain in Meaux," he answered, as quickly, with
flushed face and flashing eyes. The dignity of conscious integrity, and
the "fear of fear," a beholder who could discern the tokens might have
perceived in him.
"Oh, then, who can tell? Did he not pray that he might not be led into
"Yes," Victor replied, more troubled than scornful,--"yes, and allowed
himself to be led at last."
"But if you should go away"----
"Would not that be flying from danger?" he asked, proudly.
"Nay, might it not be doing with your might what you found to do, that
you might not be led into temptation?"
"And you are afraid, that, if I stay here, I shall yield to them."
"You say you are not certain, Victor. You repeat Mazurier's words."
"Yet shall I remain. No, I will never run away."
The pride of the young fellow, and the consternation occasioned by the
recreancy of his superior, his belief in the doctrines he had confessed
with Mazurier, and the time-serving of the latter, had evidently thrown
asunder the guards of his peace, and produced a sad state of confusion.
"It were better to run away," said Jacqueline, not pausing to choose the
word,--"far better than to stay and defy the Devil, and then find that
you could not resist him, Victor. Oh, if we could go, as Elsie said,
back to Domremy,--anywhere away from this cruel Meaux!"
"Have you, then, gained nothing, Jacqueline?"
"Everything. But to lose it,--oh, I cannot afford that!"
"Let us stand together, then. Promise me, Jacqueline," he exclaimed,
eagerly, as though he felt himself among defences here, with her.
"What shall I promise, Victor?" she asked, with the voice and the look
of one who is ready for any deed of daring, for any work of love.
"I, too, have preached this word."
Her only comment was, "I know you preached it well."
"What has befallen others may befall me."
So strongly, so confidently did she speak this word, that the young man
went on, manifestly influenced by it, hesitating no more in his speech.
"May befall me," he repeated.
"'Whosoever believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live,'"
she answered, with lofty voice, repeating the divine word. "What is our
life, that we should hold it at the expense of his Truth? Mazurier was
wrong. He can never atone for the wrong he has done."
"I believe it!" exclaimed Victor, with a brightening countenance. The
clouds of doubt rose from his face and floated away, as we see the mists
ascending from the heights, when we are so happy as to live in the wild
hill-country. "You prize Truth more than life. Stand with me in this,
Jacqueline. Speak of this Truth as it has come to me. You are all that
I have left. I have lost Mazurier. Jacqueline, you are a woman, but you
never,--yes! yes! though I dare not say as much of myself, I dare say
it of you,--you never could have bought your liberty at such a price as
Martial has paid. I know not how, even with the opportunity, he will
ever gain the courage to speak of these things again,--those great
mysteries which are hidden from the eyes of the covetous and worldly and
unbelieving. Promise, stand with me, Jacqueline, and I will rely on you.
Forsake me not."
"Victor, has He not said, who can best say it, 'I will never leave you
nor forsake you'?"
"But, Jacqueline, I love you."
Having said these words, the face of the young man emerged wholly from
the eclipse of the former shadow.
"What is this?" said the brave peasant from Domremy, manifestly doubting
whether she had heard aright; and her clear pure eyes were gazing full
on Victor Le Roy, actually looking for an explanation of his words.
"I love you, Jacqueline," he repeated. "And I do not involve you in
danger, oh, my friend! Only let me have it to believe that my life is
dear to Jacqueline, and I shall not be afraid then to lose it, if that
testimony be required of me. Shall we not stand side by side, soldiers
of Christ, stronger in each other than in all the world beside? Shall it
not be so, Jacqueline? True heart, answer me! And if you will not love
me, at least say, say you are my friend, you trust me. I will hold your
"I am your friend, Victor."
"Say my wife, Jacqueline. I honored you, that you came from Domremy.
You are my very dream of Joan,--as brave and as true as beautiful.
Jacqueline, it is not all for the Truth's sake, but for my love's sake.
Is not our work one, moreover? Are we not one in heart and purpose,
Jacqueline? You are alone; let me protect you."
He needed no other answer than he had while his eyes constantly sought
hers. Her calm look, the dignity and strength of her composure, assured
him of all he longed to learn,--assured him that their hearts, even as
their purposes and faith, were one."
"But speak one word," he urged.
The word she spoke was, "I can be true to you, Victor."
Won hardly by a word: too easily, you think? She loved the youth, my
friends, and she loved the Truth for which he dared not say that he
could sacrifice himself.
"We are one, then," said Victor Le Roy. "It concerned me above all
things to prove that, Jacqueline. So you shall have no more to do with
these harvest-fields and vineyards henceforth, except to eat of the
fruits, if God will. You have borne all the burden and heat of labor you
shall ever bear. I can say that, with God's blessing. We shall sit under
our own vine. Death in one direction has prepared for life in another.
I inherit what my uncle can make use of no longer. We shall look out
on our own fields, our harvests; for I think this city will keep us no
longer than may he needful. We will go away into Picardy, and I will
show you where our Joan was a prisoner; and we will go back to Domremy,
and walk in the places she loved, and pray God to bless us by that
fountain, and in the grave-yard where your father and mother sleep. Oh,
Jacqueline, is it not all blessed and all fair?"
She could hardly comprehend all the brightness of this vision which
Victor Le Roy would fain bring before her. The paths he pointed out to
her were new and strange; but she could trust him, could believe that
together they might walk without stumbling.
She had nothing to say of her unfitness, her unworthiness, to occupy the
place to which he pointed. Not a doubt, not a fear, had she to express.
He loved her, and that she knew; and she had no thought of depreciating
his choice, its excellency or its wisdom. Whatever excess of wonder she
may have felt was not communicated. How know I that _she_ marvelled at
her lover's choice, though all the world might marvel?
Then remembering Mazurier, and thinking of her strength of faith, and
her high-heartedness, he was eager that Jacqueline should appoint their
marriage-day. And more than he, perhaps, supposed was betrayed by this
haste. He made his words profoundly good. Strong woman that she was, he
wanted her strength joined to his. He was secretly disquieted, secretly
afraid to trust himself, since this defection of Martial Mazurier.
What did hinder them? They might be married on Sunday, if she would:
they might go down together to the estate, which he must immediately
Through the hurry of thought, and the agitation of heart, and the rush
of seeming impossibilities, he brought out at length in triumph her
She did consent. It should all be as he wished. And so they parted
outside that town of Meaux on the fair summer evening.--plighted
lovers,--hopeful man and woman. For them the evening sky was lovely with
the day's last light; for them the serene stars of night arose.
So they parted under the open sky: he going forward to the city,
strengthened and refreshed in faith and holy courage; she, adorned with
holy hopes which never until now had found place among her visions.
Neither was she prepared for them; until he brought them to a heart
which, indeed, could never be dismayed by the approach and claim of
Love was no strange guest. Fresh and fair as Zephyrus, he came from the
forest depths, and she welcomed him,--no stranger,--though the breath
that bore him was all heavenly, and his aspiration was remote from
earthly sources. Yes, she so imagined.
She went back to the cottage where she and Elsie lodged now, to tell
Elsie what had happened,--to thankfulness,--to gazing forward Into a
new world,--to aspiration, expectation, joy, humility,--to wonder, and
to praise,--to all that my best reader will perceive must be true of
Jacqueline on this great evening of her life.
That same night Victor Le Roy was arrested on charge of
heresy,--arrested and imprisoned. Watchmen were on the look-out when the
lover walked forward with triumphant steps to Meaux.
"This fellow also was among the wool-comber's disciples," said they; and
their successful dealing with Mazurier encouraged the authorities to
hope that soon all this evil would be overcome,--trampled in the dust:
this impudent insurrection of thought should certainly be stifled; youth
and age, high station, low, should be taught alike of Rome.
Tidings reached Martial Mazurier next day of what had befallen Victor Le
Roy, and he went instantly to visit him in prison. It was an interview
which the tender-hearted officials would have invited, had he not
forestalled them by inviting himself to the duty. Mazurier had something
to do in the matter of reconciling his conscience to the part he had
taken, in his recent opportunity to prove himself equally a hero with
Leclerc. He had recanted, done evil, in short, that good might come; and
was not content with having done this thing: how should he be? Now that
his follower was in the same position, he had but one wish,--that he
should follow his example. He did not, perhaps, entirely ascertain his
motive in this; but it is hardly to be supposed that Mazurier was so
persuaded of the justice of his course that he desired to have it
imitated by another under the same circumstances.
No! he was forever disgraced in his own eyes, when he remembered the
valiant John Leclerc; and it was not to be permitted that Victor Le Roy
should follow the example of the wool-comber in preference to that
he had given,--that politic, wise, blood-sparing, flesh--loving,
truth-depreciating, God-defrauding example.
Accordingly he lost no time in seeking Victor in his cell. It was the
very cell in which he himself had lately been imprisoned. Within those
narrow walls he had meditated, prayed, and made his choice. There he had
stood face to face with fate, with God, with Jesus, and had decided--not
in favor of the flogging, and the branding, and the glorious infamy.
There, in spite of eloquence and fervor and devotion, in spite of all
his past vows and his hopes, he had decided to take the place and part
of a timeserver;--for he feared disgrace and pain, and the hissing
and scoff and persecution, more than he feared the blasting anger of
insulted and forsaken Truth.
He found Victor within his cell, his bright face not overcast with
gloom, his eyes not betraying doubts, neither disappointed, astonished,
nor in deep dejection. The mood he deemed unfavorable for his special
word,--poor, deceived, self-deceiving Mazurier!
He was not merely surprised at these indications,--he was at a loss. A
little trepidation, doubt, suspicion would have better suited him. Alas!
and was _his_ hour the extremity of another's weakness, not in the
elevation of another's spiritual strength? Once when he preached the
Truth as moved by the Holy Ghost, it was not to the prudence or the
worldly wisdom of his hearers he appealed, but to the higher feelings
and the noblest powers of men. Then he called on them to praise God by
their faith in all that added to His glory and dominion. But now his
eloquence was otherwise directed,--not full of the old fire and
enthusiasm,--not trustful in God, but dependent on prudence, as though
all help were in man. He had to draw from his own experience now,
things new and old,--and was not, by confession of the result of such
"You are under a mistake," was his argument. "You have not gone deep
into these matters; you have made acquaintance only with the agitated
surface of them." And he proceeded to make good all this assertion, it
was so readily proven! _He_ also had been beguiled,--ah, had he not? He
had been beguiled by the rude eloquence, the insensibility to pain, the
pride of opposition, the pride of poverty, the pride of a rude nature,
exhibited by John Leclerc.
He acknowledged freely, with a fatal candor, that, until he came to
consider these things in their true light, when shut away from all
outward influences, until compelled to quiet meditation beyond the reach
and influence of mere enthusiasm, he had believed with Leclerc, even as
Victor was believing now. He could have gone on, who might tell to what
fanatical length? had it not been for that fortunate arrest which made a
sane man of him!
Leclerc was not quite in the wrong,--not absolutely,--but neither was
he, as Mazurier had once believed, gloriously in the right. It was
clearly apparent to him, that Victor Le Roy, having now also like
opportunity for calm reflection, would come to like conclusions.
With such confident prophecy, Mazurier left the young man. His visit was
brief and hurried;--no duty that could be waived should call him away
from his friend at such a time; but he would return; they would speak of
this again; and he kissed Victor, and blessed him, and went out to bid
the authorities delay yet before the lad was brought to trial, for he
was confident, that, if left to reflection, he would come to his senses,
and choose wisely--between God and Mammon? Mazurier expressed it in
* * * * *
In the street, Elsie Meril heard of Victor's arrest, and she brought the
news to Jacqueline. They had returned to Meaux, to their old lodging,
and a day had passed, during which, moment by moment, his arrival was
anticipated. Elsie went out to buy a gift for Jacqueline, a bit of fine
apparelling which she had coveted from the moment she knew Jacqueline
should be a bride. She stole away on her errand without remark, and
came back with the gift,--but also with that which made it valueless,
unmentionable, though it was a costly offering, purchased with the wages
of more than a week's labor in the fields.
It was almost dark when she returned to Jacqueline. Her friend was
sitting by the window,--waiting,--not for her; and when she went in to
her, it was silently, with no mention of her errand or her love-gift.
Quietly she sat down, thankful that the night was falling, waiting for
its darkness before she should speak words which would make the darkness
to be felt.
"He does not come," said Jacqueline, at length.
"Did you think it was he, when I came up the stairs?" inquired Elsie,
"Oh, no! I can tell your step from all the rest."
"His, too, I think."
"Yes, and his, too. My best friends. Strange, if I could not!"
"Oh, I'm glad you said that, Jacqueline!"
"My best friends," repeated Jacqueline,--not merely to please Elsie.
Love had opened wide her heart,--and Elsie, weak and foolish though
she might be,--Elsie, her old companion, her playmate, her
fellow-laborer,--Elsie, who should be to her a sister always, and share
in her good-fortune,--Elsie had honorable place there.
"Could anything have happened, Jacqueline?" said Elsie, trembling: her
tremulous voice betrayed it.
"Oh, I think not," was the answer.
"But he is so fearless,--he might have fallen into--into trouble."
"What have you heard, Elsie?"
This question was quietly asked, but it struck to the heart of the
questioned girl. Jacqueline suspected!--and yet Jacqueline asked so
calmly! Jacqueline could hear it,--and yet how could this be declared?
Her hesitation quickened what was hardly suspicion into a conviction.
"What have you heard?" Jacqueline again questioned,--not so calmly as
before; and yet it was quite calmly, even to the alarmed ear of Elsie
"They have arrested Victor, Jacqueline."
"I heard it in the street."
Jacqueline arose,--she crossed the chamber,--her hand was on the latch.
Instantly Elsie stood beside her.
"What will you do? I must go with you, Jacqueline."
"Where will you go?" said Jacqueline.
"With you. Wait,--what is it you will do? Or,--no matter, go on, I will
follow you,--and take the danger with you."
"Is there danger? For him there is! and there might be for you,--but
none for me. Stay, Elsie. Where shall I go, in truth?"
Yet she opened the door, and began to descend the stairs even while she
spoke; and Elsie followed her.
First to the house of the wool-comber. John was not at home,--and his
mother could tell them nothing, had heard nothing of the arrest of
Victor. Then to the place which Victor had pointed out to her as the
home of Mazurier. Mazurier likewise they failed to find. Where, then,
was the prison of Le Roy's captivity? That no man could tell them; so
they came home to their lodging at length in the dark night, there to
wait through endless-seeming hours for morning.
On the Sunday they had chosen for their wedding-day Mazurier brought
word of Victor to Jacqueline,--was really a messenger, as he announced
himself, when she opened for him the door of her room in the fourth
story of the great lodging-house. He had come on that day with a
message; but it was not in all things--in little beside the love it was
meant to prove--the message Victor had desired to convey. In want of
more faithful, more trustworthy messenger, Le Roy sent word by this man
of his arrest,--and bade Jacqueline pray for him, and come to him, if
that were possible. He desired, he said, to serve his Master,--and, of
all things, sought the Truth.
To go to the prisoner, Mazurier assured Jacqueline, was impossible, but
she might send a message; indeed, he was here to serve his dear friends.
Ah, poor girl, did she trust the man by whom she sent into a prison
words like these?--
"Hold fast to the faith that is in you, Victor. Let nothing persuade you
that you have been mistaken. We asked for light,--it was given us,--let
us walk in it; and no matter where it leads,--since the light is from
heaven. Do not think of me,--nor of yourself,--but only of Jesus Christ,
who said, 'Whosoever would save his life shall lose it.'"
Mazurier took this message. What did he do with it? He tossed it to the
A week after, Le Roy was brought to trial,--and recanted; and so
recanting, was acquitted and set at liberty.
Mazurier supposed that he meant all kindly in the exertion he made to
save his friend. He would never have ceased from self-reproach, had he
conveyed the words of Jacqueline to Victor,--for the effect of those
words he could clearly foresee.
And so far from attempting to bring about an interview between the pair,
he would have striven to prevent it, had he seen a probability that it
would be allowed. He set little value on such words as Jacqueline spoke,
when her conscience and her love rose up against each other. The
words she had committed to him he could account for by no supposition
acceptable and reasonable to him. There was something about the girl he
did not understand; she was no fit guide for a man who had need of clear
judgment, when such a decision was to be made as the court demanded of
Elsie Meril, between hope and fear, was dumb in these days; but her
presence and her tenderness, though not heroic in action nor wise in
utterance, had a value of which neither she nor Jacqueline was fully
When Jacqueline learned the issue of the trial, and that Victor had
falsified his faith, her first impulse was to fly, that she might never
see his face again. For, the instant she heard his choice, her heart
told her what she had been hoping during these days of suspense. She had
tried to see Martial Mazurier, but without success, since he conveyed,
or promised to convey, her message to the prisoner. Of purpose he had
avoided her. He guessed what strength she would by this time have
attained, and he was determined to save both to each other, though it
might be against their will.
Victor Le Roy's first endeavor, on being liberated, was--of course to
find Jacqueline? Not so. That was far from his first design. His impulse
was to avoid the girl he had dared to love. Mazurier had, indeed,
conveyed to his mind an impression that would have satisfied him, if
anything of this character could do so. But this was impossible. The
secret of his disquiet was far too profound for such easy removal.
He had not in himself the witness that he had fulfilled the will of God.
He was disquieted, humiliated, wretched. He could not think of Leclerc,
nor upon his protestations, except with shame and remorse,--remorse,
already. In his heart, in spite of the impression Mazurier had contrived
to convey, he believed not that Jacqueline would bless him to such
work as he could henceforth perform, no longer a free man,--no longer
possessed of liberty of speech and thought.
He had no sooner renounced his liberty than he became persuaded, by an
overwhelming reasoning, as he had never been convinced before, of
the pricelessness of that he had sacrificed. When he went from the
court-room, from the presence of his judges, he was not a free man,
though the dignitaries called him so. Martial Mazurier walked arm in arm
with him, but the world was a den of horrors, a blackened and accursed
world, to the young man who came from prison, free to use his
freedom--as the priests directed!
He went home from the prison with Mazurier. The world had conquered.
Love had conquered,--Love, that in the conquest felt itself disgraced.
He had sold the divine, he had received the human: it was the old
pottage speculation over again. This privilege of liberty from his
dungeon had looked so fair!--but now it seemed so worthless! This
prospect of life so priceless in contemplation of its loss,--oh, the
beggar who crept past him was an enviable man, compared with young
Victor Le Roy, the heir of love and riches, the heir of liberty and
Yes,--he went home with Mazurier. Where else should he go?
Congratulations attended him. He was compelled to receive them with a
countenance not too sombre, and a grace not all thankless, or--or--they
would say it was of cowardice he had saved his precious body from the
sentence of the judges, and given his precious LIFE up to the sentence
of the JUDGE.
Yes,--Martial took him home. There they might talk at leisure of those
things,--and ask a blessing on the testimony of Jesus, made and kept by
Victor Le Roy was too proud to complain now. He assented to all the
preacher's sophistry. He allowed himself to be cheered. But this was
no such evening as had been spent in the room of the wool-comber, when
Leclerc's voice, strong, even through his weakness, called on God,
and blessed and praised Him, and the spirit conquered the flesh
gloriously,--the old mother of Leclerc sharing his joy, as she had also
shared his anguish. Here was no Jacqueline to say to Victor, "Thou hast
done well! 'Glory be to Jesus Christ, and His witnesses!'"
Mazurier thanked God for the deliverance of His servant! He dedicated
himself and Victor anew to the service of Truth, which they had shrunk
from defending! And his eloquence and fervor seemed to stamp the words
with sincerity. He seemed not in the least to suspect or fear himself.
With Victor Le Roy such self-deception, such sophistry, was simply
* * * * *
Not of purpose did he meet Jacqueline that night. She had heard that Le
Roy was at liberty, and alone now she applied at the door of Martial
Mazurier for admittance, but in vain. The master had signified that his
evening was not to be interrupted. Therefore she returned, from waiting
near his door, to the street where she and Elsie lived.
Should her woman's pride have led her to her lofty lodging, and kept her
there without a sign, till Victor himself came seeking her? She knew
nothing of such pride,--but much of love; and her love took her back to
the post where she had waited many an hour since that disastrous arrest:
she would wait there till morning, if she must,--at least, till one
should enter, or come forth, who might tell her of Victor Le Roy.
The light in the preacher's study she could see from the door-step in a
court-yard where she waited. Should Mazurier come with Victor, she would
let them pass; but if Victor came alone, she had a right to speak.
It was after midnight when the student came down from the preacher's
study. She heard his voice when the door opened,--by the street-lamp
saw his face. And she recognized also the voice of Mazurier, who, till
the last moment of separation, seemed endeavoring to dissuade his friend
from leaving him that night.
He heard footsteps following him, as he passed along the
pavement,--observed that they gained on him. And could it be any other
than Jacqueline who touched his arm, and whispered, "Victor"?
His fast-beating heart told him it was she. He took her hand, and
drew it within his arm, and looked upon her face,--the face of his
"Now where?" said he. "It is late. It is after midnight. Why are you
alone in the street?"
"Waiting for you, Victor. I heard you were at liberty, and I supposed
you were with him. I was safe."
"Yes,--for you fear nothing. That is the only reason. You knew I was
with the preacher, Jacqueline. Why? Because--because I _am_ with him,
"Yes," she said. "I heard it was so, Victor."
"Strange!--strange!--is it not? A prison is a better place to learn the
truth than the pure air of liberty, it seems," said he, bitterly.
"What is that?" she asked. She seemed not to understand his meaning.
"Nothing. I am acquitted of heresy, you know. It seems, what we talked
so bravely meant--nothing. Oh, I am safe, now!"
"It was to preach none the less,--to hold the truth none the less. But
if he lost his life, there was an end of all; or if he lost his
liberty, it was as bad. But he would keep both, and serve God so," said
"Yes," cried Victor, "precisely what he said. I have said the same, you
"If you are quite clear that Leclerc and the rest of us are all wrong,