Part 4 out of 5
before thought, and was born of my complete love and perfect reliance on
my future husband, I pushed back the music-stool, and walked straight
across the room to the window.
His head was indeed leaned on his arms; but he was white and insensible.
"Come here!" I said, sternly and commandingly, to Herbert, who stood
where I had left him. "Now, if you can, hold him, while I wheel this
sofa;--and now, ring the bell, if you please."
We placed him on the couch, and Polly came running in.
"Now, good-night, Sir; we can take care of him. With very many thanks
for your politeness," I added, coldly; "and I will send home the book
He muttered something about keeping it as long as I wished, and I turned
my back on him.
"Oh! oh!--what had _he_ thought all this time?--what had he suffered?
How his heart must have been agonized!--how terribly he must have felt
the mortification,--the distress! Oh!"
We recovered him at length from the dead faint into which he had fallen.
Polly, who thought but of the body, insisted on bringing him "a good
heavy-glass of Port-wine sangaree, with toasted crackers in it"; and
wouldn't let him speak till he had drunken and eaten. Then she went out
of the room, and left me alone with my justly incensed lover.
I took a _brioche_, and sat down humbly at the head of the sofa. He held
out his hand, which I took and pressed in mine,--silently, to be
sure; but then no words could tell how I had felt, and now felt,--how
humiliated! how grieved! How wrongly I must have seemed to feel and to
act! how wrongly I must have acted,--though my conscience excused me
from feeling wrongly,--so to have deluded Herbert!
At last I murmured something regretful and tearful about Lieutenant
Herbert--Herbert! how I had admired that name!--and now, this Ithuriel
touch, how it had changed it and him forever to me! What was in a
name?--sure enough! As I gazed on the pale face on the couch, I should
not have cared, if it had been named Alligator,--so elevated was I
beyond all I had thought or called trouble of that sort! so real was the
trouble that could affect the feelings, the sensitiveness, of the noble
being before me!
At length he spoke, very calmly and quietly, setting down the empty
tumbler. I trembled, for I knew it must come.
"I was so glad that fool came in, Del! For, to tell the truth, I felt
really too weak to talk. I haven't slept for two nights, and have been
on my feet and talking for four hours,--then I have had no dinner"--
"And a damned intelligent jury, (I beg your pardon, but it's a great
comfort to swear, sometimes,) that I can't humbug. But I must! I must,
to-morrow!" he exclaimed, springing up from the sofa and walking
hurriedly across the room.
"Oh, do sit down, if you are so tired!"
"I cannot sit down, unless you will let me stop thinking. I have but one
"But if the man is guilty, why do you want to clear him?" said I.
Not a word had he been thinking of me or of Herbert all this time! But
then he had been thinking of a matter of life and death. How all, all my
foolish feelings took to flight! It was some comfort that my lover had
not either seen or suspected them. He thought he must have been nearly
senseless for some time. The last he remembered was, we were looking at
Laura came in from Mrs. Harris's, and, hearing how the case was,
insisted on having a chicken broiled, and that he should eat some
green-apple tarts, of her own cooking,--not sentimental, nor even
wholesome, but they suited the occasion; and we sat, after that, all
three talking, till past twelve o'clock. No danger now, Laura said, of
bad dreams, if he did go to bed.
"But why do you care so very much, if you don't get him off?--you
suppose him guilty, you say?"
"Because, Delphine, his punishment is abominably disproportioned to his
offence. This letter of the law killeth. And then I would get him off,
if possible, for the sake of his son and the family. And besides all
that, Del, it is not for me to judge, you know, but to defend him."
"Yes,--but if you do your best?" I inquired.
"A lawyer never does his best," he replied, hastily, "unless he
succeeds. He must get his client's case, or get him off, I must get some
sleep to-night," he added, "and take another pull. There's a man on the
jury,--he is the only one who holds out. I know I don't get him. And I
know why. I see it in the cold steel of his eyes. His sister was left,
within a week of their marriage-day, by a scoundrel,--left, too, to
disgrace, as well as desertion,--and his heart is bitter towards all
offences of the sort. I must get that man somehow!"
He was standing on the steps, as he spoke, and bidding me good-night;
but I saw his head and heart were both full of his case, _and nothing
The words rang in my ear after he went away: "Within a week of their
marriage-day!" In a week we were to have been married. Thank Heaven, we
were still to be married in a week. And he had spoken of the man as "a
scoundrel," who left her. America, indeed! what matters it? Still, there
would be the same head, the same heart, the same manliness, strength,
nobleness,--all that a woman can truly honor and love. Not military, and
not a scoundrel; but plain, massive, gentle, direct. He would do. And a
sense of full happiness pressed up to my very lips, and bubbled over in
"You are a happy girl, Del. Mrs. Harris says the court and everybody is
talking of Mr. Sampson's great plea in that Shore case. Whether he gets
it or not, his fortune is made. They say there hasn't been such an
argument since Webster's time,--so irresistible. It took every body off
I did not answer a word,--only clothed my soul with sackcloth and ashes,
and called it good enough for me.
We went to bed. But in the middle of the night I waked Laura.
"What's the matter?" said she, springing out of bed.
"Don't, Laura!--nothing," said I.
"Oh, I thought you were ill! I've been sleeping with one eye open, and
just dropped away. What is it?"
"Do lie down, then. I only wanted to ask you a question."
"Oh, _do_ go to sleep! It's after three o'clock now. We never shall get
up. Haven't you been asleep yet?"
"No,--I've been thinking all the time. But you are impatient. It's no
matter. Wait till to-morrow morning."
"No. I am awake now. Tell me, and be done with it, Del."
"But I shall want your opinion, you know."
"Oh, _will_ you tell me, Del?"
"Well, it is this. How do you think a handsome, a _very_ handsome
chess-table would do?"
"Why,--for my aunt's wedding-gift, you know."
"Oh, that! And you have waked me up, at this time of night, from the
nicest dream! You cruel thing!"
"I am so sorry, Laura! But now that you are awake, just tell me how you
like the idea;--I won't ask you another word."
"Very well,--very good,--excellent," murmured Laura.
In the course of the next ten minutes, however, I remembered that Laura
never played chess, and that I had heard Mr. Sampson say once that he
never played now,--that it was too easy for work, and too hard for
amusement. So I put the chess-table entirely aside, and began again.
A position for sleep is, unluckily, the one that is sure to keep one
awake. Lying down, all the blood in my body kept rushing to my brain,
keeping up perpetual images of noun substantives. If I could have spent
my fifty dollars in verbs, in taking a journey, in giving a _fete
champetre_! (Garden lighted with Chinese lanterns, of course,--house
covered inside and out with roses.) Things enough, indeed, there were to
be bought. But the right thing!
A house, a park, a pair of horses, a curricle, a pony-phaeton. But how
many feet of ground would fifty dollars buy?--and scarcely the hoof of
There was a diamond ring. Not for me; because "he" had been too poor
to offer me one. But I could give it to him. No,--that wouldn't do. He
wouldn't wear it,--nor a pin of ditto. He had said, simplicity in dress
was good economy and always good taste. No. Then something else,--that
wouldn't wear, wouldn't tear, wouldn't lose, rust, break.
As to clothes, to which I swung back in despair,--this very Aunt Allen
had always sent us all our clothes. So it would only be getting
more, and wouldn't seem to be anything. She was an odd kind of
woman,--generous in spots, as most people are, I believe. Laura and
I both said, (to each other,) that, if she would allow us a hundred
dollars a year each, we could dress well and suitably on it. But,
instead of that, she sent us every year, with her best love, a
trunk full of her own clothes, made for herself, and only a little
worn,--always to be altered, and retrimmed, and refurbished: so that,
although worth at first perhaps even more than two hundred dollars,
they came, by their unfitness and non-fitness, to be worth to us only
three-quarters of that sum; and Laura and I reckoned that we lost
exactly fifty dollars a year by Aunt Allen's queerness. So much for our
gratitude! Laura and I concluded it would be a good lesson to us about
giving; and she had whispered to me something of the same sort, when
I insisted on dressing Betsy Ann Hemmenway, a little mulatto, in an
Oriental caftan and trousers, and had promised her a red sash for her
waist. To be sure, Mrs. Hemmenway despised the whole thing, and said she
"wouldn't let Betsy Ann be dressed up like a circus-rider, for nobody";
and that she should "wear a bonnet and mantilly, like the rest of
mankind." Which, indeed, she did,--and her bonnet rivalled the
_coiffures_ of Paris in brilliancy and procrastination; for it never
came in sight till long after its little mistress. However, of that
by-and-by. I was only too glad that Aunt Allen had not sent me another
silk gown "with her best love, and, as she was only seventy, perhaps it
might be useful." No,--here was the fifty-dollar note, thank Plutus!
But then, what to do with it? Sleeping, that was the question. Waking,
that was the same.
At twelve o'clock Mr. Sampson came to dine with us, and to say he was
the happiest of men.
"That is, of course, I shall be, next week," said he, smiling and
correcting himself. "But I am rather happy now; for I've got my case,
and Shore has sailed for Australia. Good riddance, and may he never
touch _these_ shores any more!"
He had been shaking hands with everybody, he said,--and was so glad to
be out of it!
"Now that it is all over, I wish you would tell me why you are so glad,
when you honestly believe the man guilty," said I.
"Oh, my child, you are supposing the law to be perfect. Suppose the old
English law to be in force now, making stealing a capital offence. You
wouldn't hang a starving woman or child who stole the baker's loaf from
your window-sill this morning before Polly had time to take it in, would
you? Yet this was the law until quite lately."
"After all, I don't quite see either how you can bear to defend him, if
you think him guilty, or be glad to have him escape, if he is,--I mean,
supposing the punishment to be a fair one."
"Because I am a frail and erring man, Delphine, and like to get my case.
If my client is guilty,--as we will suppose, for the sake of argument,
he is,--he will not be likely to stop his evil career merely because he
has got off now, and will be caught and hanged next time, possibly.
If he does stop sinning, why, so much the better to have time for
repentance, you know."
"Don't laugh,--now be serious."
"I am. Once, I made up my mind as to my client's guilt from what he told
and did not tell me, and went into court with a heavy heart. However, in
the course of the trial, evidence, totally unexpected to all of us, was
brought forward, and my client's innocence fully established. It was a
good lesson to me. I learned by experience that the business of counsel
is to defend or to prosecute, and not to judge. The judge and jury are
stereoscopic and see the whole figure."
How wise and nice it sounded! Any way, I wasn't a stereoscope, for I saw
but one side,--the one "he" was on.
Monday morning. And we were to be married in the evening,--by ourselves,
--nobody else. That was all the stipulation my lover made.
"I will be married morning, noon, or night, as you say, and dress and
behave as you say; but not in a crowd of even three persons."
"Not even Laura?"
"Oh, yes! Laura."
"Not even Polly?"
"Oh, yes! the household."
And then he said, softly, that, if I wanted to please him,--and he knew
his darling Del did,--I would dress in a white gown of some sort, and
put a tea-rose in my beautiful dark hair, and have nobody by but just
the family and old Mr. Price, the Boynton minister.
"I know that isn't what you thought of, exactly. You thought of being
married in church"----
"Oh, dear, dear! old Mr. Price!"--but I did not speak.
"But if you would be willing?"----
"I supposed it would be more convenient," I muttered.
Visions of myself walking up the aisle, with a white silk on, tulle
veil, orange-flowers, of course, (so becoming!) house crowded with
friends, collation, walking under the trees,--all faded off with a
It was of no use talking. Whatever he thought best, I should do, if it
were to be married by the headsman, supposing there were such a person.
This was all settled, then, and had been for a week.
Nobody need say that lovers, or even married lovers, have but one mind.
They have two minds always. And that is sometimes the best of it; since
the perpetual sacrifices made to each other are made no sacrifices, but
sweet triumphs, by their love. Still, just as much as green is composed
of yellow and blue, and purple of red and blue, the rays can any time
be separated, and they always have a conscious life of their own. Of
course, I had a sort of pleasure even in giving up my marriage in
church; but I kept my blue rays, for all that,--and told Laura I dreaded
the long, long prayer in that evening's service, and that I hoped in
mercy old Mr. Price would have his wits about him, and not preach a
"Old Mr. Price is eighty-nine years old, Laura says," said I.
"Yes. He was the minister who married my father and mother, and has
always been our minister," answered my lover.
And so it was settled.
Laura was rolling up tape, Monday morning, as quietly as if there were
to be no wedding. For my part, I wandered up and down, and could not set
myself about anything.
"Old Mr. Price! and a great long prayer! And that is to be the end
of it! My wedding-dress all made, and not to be worn! Flowers ditto!
Nowhere to go, and so I shall stay at home. He has no house; so Taffy is
to come to mine!"
And here I burst out laughing; for it was as well to laugh as cry; and
besides, I said a great many things on purpose to have Laura say what
she always did,--and which, after all, it was sweet to me to hear. Those
were silly days!
"No, Del,--that is not the end of it,--only the beginning of it,--of a
happy, useful, good life,--your path growing brighter and broader every
year,--and--and--we won't talk of the garlands, dear; but your heart
will have bridal-blossoms, whether your head has or not."
Laura kissed me, with tears in her sisterly eyes. She never talks fine,
and went directly out of the room after this.
I thought that women shouldn't swear at all, or, if they did, should
break their oaths as gracefully as I did mine, when I whispered it was
"_so_ good of him, to be willing I should stay in the cottage where I
had always lived, and where every rose-tree and lilac knew me!" And that
was true, too. But not all the truth. What need to be telling truths all
the time? And what had women tongues for, but to hold them sometimes?
Perhaps "he," too, would have preferred a journey to Europe, and a house
on the Mill-Dam.
Things gradually settled themselves. My troubles seemed coming to a
close by mechanical pressure. As to the name, it was better than Fire,
Famine, and Slaughter,--and I was to take it into consideration, any
way, and get used to it, if I could. The other trouble I put aside
for the moment. After it was concluded on that the wedding should be
strictly private, it was not necessary to buy my aunt's present under
a few days, and I could have the decided advantage, in that way, of
avoiding a duplicate.
The Monday of my marriage sped away swiftly. Polly had come up early to
say to "Laury" (for Polly was a free and independent American girl of
forty-five) that "there'd be so much goin' to the door, and such, Betsy
Ann had best be handy by, to answer the bell. Fin'ly, she's down there
with her bunnet off, and goin' to stay."
As usual, Polly's plans were excellent, and adopted. There would be all
the wedding-presents to arrive, congratulatory notes, etc. Everything to
arrange, and a thousand and one things that neither one nor three pairs
of hands could do. How I wished Betsy Ann would consent to dress like an
Oriental child, and look pretty and picturesque,--like a Barbary slave
bearing vessels of gold and silver chalices, instead of her silly
pointed waist and "mantilly," which she persisted in wearing, and which,
of course, gave the look only of a stranger and sojourner in the land!
I hoped she was a careful child,--there were so many things which might
be spoiled, even if they came in boxes. Betsy Ann was instructed, on
pain of--almost death, to be very, very careful, and to put everything
on the table in the library. She was by no means to unpack an article,
not even a bouquet. Laura and myself preferred to arrange everything
ourselves. We proposed to place each of the presents, for that evening
only, in the library, and spread them out as usual; but the very next
day, we determined, they should all be put away, wherever they were to
go,--of course, we could not tell where, till we saw them. That was
Laura's taste, and had come, on reflection, to be mine.
Laura said she should make me presents only of innumerable stitches:
which she had done. Polly, whom it is both impossible and irrelevant to
describe, took the opportunity to scrub the house from top to bottom.
Her own wedding-present to me, homely though it was, I wrapped in silver
paper, and showed it to her lying in state on the library-table, to her
Like the North American Indian, the race of Pollies is fast going out
of American life. You read an advertisement of "an American servant who
wants a place in a genteel family," and visions of something common in
American households, when you were children, come up to your mind's eye.
Without considering the absurdity of an American girl calling herself by
such a name, your eyes fill with tears at the thought of the faithful
and loving service of years ago, when neither sickness, nor sorrow, nor
death itself separated the members of the household, but the nurse-maid
was the beloved friend, living and dying under the same roof that
witnessed her untiring and faithful devotion.
So, when you look after this "American servant," you find alien blood,
lip-service, a surface-warmth that flatters, but does not delude,--a
fidelity that fails you in sickness, or increased toil, or the prospect
of higher wages; and you say to the "American servant,"--
"How long have you been in Boston?"
"Born in Boston, Ma'm,--in Eliot Street, Ma'm."
So was not Polly. Polly had lived with us always. She had a farm of her
own, and needn't have "lived out" five minutes, unless she had chosen.
But she did choose it, and chose to keep her place. And that was a true
friend,--in a humble position, possibly, yet one of her own choosing.
She rejoiced and wept with us, knew all about us,--corresponded
regularly with us when away, and wrote poetry. She had a fair
mind, great shrewdness, and kept a journal of facts. We loved her
dearly,--next to each other, and a hundred times better than we did Aunt
Allen or any of them.
Of course, as the day wore on, and afternoon came, and then almost night
came, and still the bell had not once rung,--not once!--Polly was
not the person to express or to permit the least surprise. Not Caleb
Balderstone himself had a sharper eye to the "honor of the family."
_Why_ it was left to the doctrine of chances to decide. _That_ it was
grew clearer and clearer every hour, as every hour came slowly by,
unladen with box or package, even a bouquet.
Betsy Ann had grinned a great many times, and asked Polly over and over,
"Where the presents all was?" and, "When I was to Miss Russell's, and
Miss Sally was merried, the things come in with a rush,--silver, and
gold, and money, ever so much!"
However, here Polly snubbed her, and told her to "shet up her head
quick. Most of the presents was come long ago."
"Such a piece of work as I hed to ghet up that critter's mouth!" said
Polly, laughing, as she assisted Laura in putting the last graces to my
simple toilet before tea.
"There, now, Miss Sampson to be! I declare to man, you never looked
"'Roses red, violets blue,
Pinks is pootty, and so be you.'"
"How did you shut it, Polly?" said Laura, who was very much surprised,
like myself, at the non-arrivals, and who constantly imagined she
heard the bell. Ten arrivals we had both counted on,--ten,
"Well, I told her the presents was all locked up; and if she was a
clever, good child, and went to school regular, and got her learnin'
good, I'd certain show 'em to her some time. I told her," added Polly,
whisperingly, and holding her hand over her mouth to keep from loud
laughter,--"I told her I'd seen a couple on 'em done up in beautiful
The bell rang at last, and we all sprang as with an electric shock. It
was old Mr. Price, led in reverently by Mr. Sampson. Tea was ready; so
we all sat down to it.
I don't know what other people think of, when they are going to be
married,--I mean at the moment. Books are eloquent on the subject. For
my part. I must confess, I thought of nothing. And let that encourage
the next bride, who will imagine herself a dunce, because she isn't
thinking of something fine and solemn. Perhaps I had so many ideas
pressing in, in all directions, that the mind itself couldn't act. Be
it as it may, I stood as if stupefied,--while old Mr. Price talked and
prayed, it seemed, an age. I was roused, however, and glad enough I
wasn't in church, when he called out,--
"_Ameriky!_ do you take this woman for your wedded wife?" and still more
rejoiced when he added, sternly,--
"_Delphiny!_" (using the long _i_,) "do you take _Ameriky?_"
We both said "Yes." And then he commended us affectionately and
reverently to the protection and love of Him who had himself come to a
wedding. He then came to a close, to Polly's delight, who said she "had
expected nothin' but what the old gentleman would hold on an hour,
--missionaries to China, and all."
Old Mr. Price took a piece of cake and a full glass of wine, and wished
us joy. He was fast passing away, and with him the old-class ministers,
now only traditional, who drank their half-mug of flip at funerals, went
to balls to look benignantly on the scene of pleasure, came home at ten
o'clock to write "the improvement" to their Sunday's sermon, took the
other half-mug, and went to bed peaceably and in charity with the whole
parish. They have gone, with the stagecoaches and country-newspapers;
and the places that knew them will know them no more.
Betsy Ann, who was mercifully admitted to the wedding, pronounced
it without hesitation the "flattest thing she ever see,"--and was
straightway dismissed by Polly, with an extra frosted cake, and a charge
to "get along home with herself." Then Mr. Sampson walked slowly home
with Mr. Price, and Laura and myself were left looking at each other.
"Delphiny!" said Laura.
"Ameriky!" said I.
"Well,--it's over now. If you had happened to be Mrs. Conant's daughter,
you know, your name would have been Keren-happuch!"
"On the whole, I am glad it wasn't in church," said I.
Mr. Sampson returned before we had finished talking of that. And then
Laura, said, suddenly,--
"But you _must_ decide on Aunt Allen's gift, Del. What shall it be? What
will be pretty?"
"You shall decide," said I, amiably, turning to my husband.
"Oh, I have no notion of what is pretty,--at least of but one
thing,--and that is not in Aunt Allen's gift."
He laughed, and I blushed, of course, as he pointed the compliment
straight at me.
"But you _must_ think. I cannot decide, I have thought of five hundred
"Well, Laura,--what do you say?" said he.
"I think a silver salver would be pretty, and useful, too."
"Pretty and useful. Then let it be a silver salver, and be done with
it," said he.
This notion of being "done with it" is so mannish! Here was my Gordian
knot cut at once! However, there was no help for it,--though now, more
than ever, since there was no danger of a duplicate, did I long for the
fifty thousand different beautiful things the fifty dollars would buy.
Circumstances aided us, too, in coming to a conclusion. I was rather
tired of rocking on these billows of uncertainty, even with the chance
of plucking gems from the depths. And Mrs. Harris was coming the next
day to tea, and to go away early to see Piccolomini sing and sparkle.
When we sat down that next day at the table, I poured the tea into a
cup, and placed it on the prettiest little silver tray, and Polly handed
it to Mrs. Harris as if she had done that particular thing all her life.
"Beautiful!" said Mrs. Harris, as it sparkled along back; "one of your
"Yes," I answered, carelessly,--"Aunt Allen's."
So much was well got over. My hope was that Mrs. Harris, who talked
well, and was never weary of that sort of well-doing, would keep on her
own subjects of interest, to the exclusion of mine. Therefore, when she
said pleasantly, _en passant_,--
"By the way, Delphine, I see you have taken my advice about
wedding-presents. You know I always abominated that parading of gifts."
Laura hastened to the rescue, saying,--
"Yes, we quite agree with you, and remember your decided opinions on
that subject. Did you say you had been to the Aquarial Gardens?"
How I wished I had been self-possessed enough to tell the whole story,
with its ridiculous side out, and make a good laugh over it, as it
deserved!--for Mrs. Harris wouldn't stay in the Aquarial Gardens, which
she pronounced a disgusting exhibition of "Creep and Crawl," and that
it was all a set of little horrors; but swung back to wedding-gifts and
"'When I was young,--ah! woful _when!_--
That I should say _when_ I was young!'
"it wasn't fashionable, or, I should say, necessary, to buy something for
a bride," said Mrs. Harris, meditatively, and looking back--as we could
see by her eyes--a long way.
For my part, I thought she had much better choose some other subject,
considering everything. Certainly she had been one of the ten I had
counted on. But she suddenly collected herself!
"I never look at a great needle-book, ('housewife,' we used to call
it,) full of all possible and impossible contrivances and conveniences,
without recalling my Aunt Hovey's patient smile when she gave it to me.
She was rheumatic, and confined for twenty years to her chair; and these
'housewives' she made exquisitely, and each of her young friends on her
wedding-day might count on one. Then Sebiah Collins,--she brought me a
bag of holders,--poor old soul! And Aunt Patty Hobbs gave me a bundle of
rags! She said, 'Young housekeepers was allers a-wantin' rags, and, in
course, there wa'n't nothin' but what was bran'-new out of the store.'
Can I ever forget the Hill children, with their mysterious movements,
their hidings, and their unaccountable absences? and then the
work-basket on my toilet-table, on my wedding-morning! the little
pin-cushions and emery-sacks, the fantastic thimble-cases, and the
fish-shaped needle-books! all as nice as their handy little fingers
could make, and every stitch telling of their earnest love and bright
faces!--Every one of those children is dead. But I keep the work-basket
sacred. I don't know whether it is more pleasure or pain."
She looked up again, as if before her passed a long procession. I had
often seen that expression in the eyes of old, and even of middle-aged
persons, who had had much mental vicissitude, but I had not interpreted
it till now. It was only for a moment; and she added, cheerfully,--
"The future is always pleasant; so we will look that way."
Just then a gentleman wished to see Mr. Sampson on business, and they
two went into the library.
Mrs. Harris talked on, and I led the way to the parlor. She said she
should be called for presently; and then Laura lighted the argand, and
dropped the muslin curtains.
"Oh, isn't this sweet?" exclaimed Mrs. Harris, rapturously, approaching
the table. "How the best work of Art pales before Nature!"
It was only a tall small vase of ground glass, holding a pond-lily,
fully opened. But it was perfect in its way, and I knew by the smile on
Laura's lips that it was her gift.
"Mine is in that corner, Delphine," said Mrs. Harris. "I wouldn't have
it brought here till to-night, when I could see Laura, for fear you
should have a duplicate. So here is my Mercury, that I have looked at
till I love it. I wouldn't give you one that had only the odor of the
shop about it; but you will never look at this, Del, without thoughts of
our little cozy room and your old friend."
"Beautiful! No, indeed! Always!" murmured I.
She drew a little box from her pocket, and took out of it a taper-stand
of chased silver.
"Mrs. Gore asked me to bring it to you, with her love. She wouldn't send
it yesterday, she said, because it would look so like nothing by the
side of costly gifts. Pretty, graceful little thing! isn't it? It is an
evening-primrose, I think,--'love's own light,'--hey, Delphine?"
We had scarcely half admired the taper-stand and the Mercury when the
carriage came for Mrs. Harris, who insisted on taking away Laura with
her to the opera.
"No matter whether you thought of going or not; and, happily, there's
no danger of Delphine being lonely. 'Two are company,' you know Emerson
says, 'but three are a congregation.' So they will be glad to spare you.
There, now! that is all you want,--and this shawl."
After they went, I sat listening for nearly half an hour to the low
murmurs in the next room, and wishing the stranger would only go, so
that I might exhibit my new treasures. At last the strange gentleman
opened the door softly, talking all the way, across the room, through
the entry, and finally whispering himself fairly out-of-doors. When my
husband came in, I was eager to show him the Mercury, and the lily, and
"And do you know, after all, I hadn't the real nobleness and
truthfulness and right-mindedness to tell Mrs. Harris that these and
Aunt Allen's gift were all I had received! I am ashamed of myself, to
have such a mean mortification about what is really of no importance.
Certainly, if my friends don't care enough for me to send me something,
I ought to be above caring for it."
"I don't know that, Del. Your mortification is very natural. How can we
help caring? Do you like your Aunt Allen very much?" added he, abruptly.
"Because she gave me fifty dollars? Yes, I begin to think I do," said I,
He looked at me quickly.
"Your Aunt Allen is very rich, is she not?"
"I believe so. Why? You look very serious. I neither respect nor love
her for her riches; and I haven't seen her these ten years."
He looked sober and abstracted; but when I spoke, he smiled a little.
"Do you remember Ella's chapter on Old China?" said he, sitting down on
the sofa, and--I don't mind saying--putting one arm round my waist.
"Do you remember Bridget's plaintive regret that they had no longer
the good old times when they were poor? and about the delights of the
"Yes,--what made you think of it?"
"What a beautiful chapter that is!--their gentle sorrow that they could
no longer make nice bargains for books! and his wearing new, neat, black
clothes, alas! instead of the overworn suit that was made to hang on
a few weeks longer, that he might buy the old folio of Beaumont and
Fletcher! Do you remember it, Delphine?"
"Yes, I do. And I think there is a deal of pleasure in considering and
contriving,--though it's prettier in a book"--
"For my part," interrupted my husband, as though he had not heard me
speak,--"for my part, I am sorry one cannot have such an exquisite
appreciation of pleasure but through pain; for--I am tired of
labor--and privation--and, in short, poverty. To work so hard, and so
constantly!--with such a long, weary vista before one!--and these petty
gains! Don't you think poverty is the one thing hateful, Delphine?"
He sprang up suddenly, and began walking up and down the room,--up and
down,--up and down; and without speaking any more, or seeming to wish me
"Why, what is it? What do you mean?" said I, faintly; for my heart felt
like lead in my bosom.
He did not answer at first, but walked towards me; then, turning
suddenly away, sprang out of the window at the side of the room, saying,
with a constrained laugh,--
"I shall be in again, presently. In the mean time I leave you to
meditations on the shilling gallery!"
What a strange taunting sound his voice had! There was no insane blood
among the Sampsons, or I might have thought he had suddenly gone crazy.
Or if I had believed in demoniacal presences, I might have thought the
murmuring, whispering old man was some tempter. Some evil influence
certainly had been exerted over him. Scarcely less than deranged could I
consider him now, to be willing thus to address me. It was true, he was
poor,--that he had struggled with poverty. But had it not been my pride,
as I thought it was his, that his battle was bravely borne, and would be
bravely won? I could not, even to myself, express the cruel cowardice of
such words as he had used to his helpless wife. That he felt deeply and
gallingly his poverty was plain. Even in that there was a weakness which
induced more of contempt than pity for him; but was it not base to tell
me of it now? Now, when his load was doubled, he complained of the
burden! Why, I would have lain down and died far sooner than he should
have guessed it of me. And he had thought it--and--said it!
There are emotions that seem to crowd and supersede each other, so
that the order of time is inverted. I came to the point of disdainful
composure, even before the struggle and distress began. I sat quietly
where my husband left me,--such a long, long time! It seemed hours.
I remembered how thoughtful I had determined to be of all our
expenses,--the little account-book in which I had already entered some
items; how I had thought of various ways in which I could assist him;
yes, even little I was to be the most efficient and helpful of wives.
Had I not taken writing-lessons secretly, and formed a thorough
business-hand, and would I not earn many half-eagles with my eagle's
quill? I remembered how I had thought, though I had not said it, (and
how glad now I was I had not!) that we would help each other in sickness
and health,--that we would toil up that weary hill where wealth stands
so lusciously and goldenly shining. But then, hand in hand we were
to have toiled,--hopefully, smilingly, lovingly,--not with this cold
recrimination, nor, hardest of all, with--reproach!
Suddenly, a strange suspicion fell over me. It fell down on me like a
pall. I shuddered with the cold of it.
I knew it wasn't so. I knew he loved me,--that Le meant nothing,--that
it was a passing discontent, a hateful feeling engendered by the sight
of the costly trifles before us. Yes,--I knew that. But, good heavens!
to tell his wife of it!
I sat, with my head throbbing, and holding my hands, utterly tearless;
for tears were no expression of the distressful pain, and blank
disappointment of a life, that I felt. I said I felt this damp, dark
suspicion. It was there like a presence, but it was as indefinite as
dark; and I had a sort of control, in the midst of the tumult in my
brain and heart, as to what thoughts I would let come to me. Not that!
Faults there might be,--great ones,--but not that, the greatest! At
least, if I could not respect, I could forgive,--for he loved me.
Surely, surely, that must be true!
It would come, that flash, like lightning, or the unwilling memories of
the drowning. I remembered the rich Miss Kate Stuart, who, they said,
liked him, and that her father would have been glad to have him for a
son-in-law. And I had asked him once about it, in the careless
gayety of happy love. He had said, he supposed it might have
happened--perhaps--who knows?--if he had not seen me. But he had seen
me! Could it be that he was thinking of?
My calmness was giving way. As soon as I spoke, though it was only in a
word of ejaculation, my pity for myself broke all the flood-gates down,
and I fell on my face in a paroxysm of sobs.
A very calm, loving voice, and a strong arm raising me, brought me back
at once from the wild ocean of passion on which I was tossing. I had not
heard him come in. I was too proud and grieved to speak or to weep. So I
dried my tears and sat stiffly silent.
"You are tired, dear!" said my husband, tenderly.
"No,--it's no matter."
"Everything is matter to me that concerns you. You know that,--you
believe that, Delphine?"
"Why, what a strange sound! just as it used to sound!" I said to myself,
I know not what possessed me; but I was determined to have the truth,
and the whole truth. I turned towards him and looked straight into his
"Tell me, truly, as you hope God will save you at your utmost need, _do_
you love me? Did you marry me from any motive but that of pure, true
"From no other," answered he, with a face of unutterable surprise; and
then added, solemnly, "And may God take me, Delphine, when you cease to
It was enough. There was truth in every breath, in every glance of his
deep eyes. A delicious languor took the place of the horrible tension
that had been every faculty,--a repose so sweet and perfect, that, if
reason had placed the clearest possible proofs of my husband's perfidy
before me, I should simply have smiled and fallen asleep on his true
heart, as I did.
When I opened my eyes, I met his anxious look.
"Why, what has come over you, Del? I did not know you were nervous."
And then remembering, that, although I might be weakest among the weak,
yet that it was his wisdom that was to sustain and comfort me, I said,--
"By-and-by I will tell you all about it,--certainly I will. I must tell
you some time, but not to-night."
"And--I had thought to keep a secret from you, to-night, Del; but, on
the whole, I shall feel better to tell you."
"Oh, yes! Secrets are safest, told. First, then, Del, I will tell you
this secret. I am very foolish. Don't tell of it, will you? See here!"
He held up his closed hand before my face, laughingly.
That man's name, Del, is Drake"----
"And not the Devil!" said I to myself.
"Really? Is that it, truly? What's in your hand?"
"Truly,--really. He lives in Albany. He is the son of a queer man, and
is something of a humorist himself. I have seen one of his sons. He has
two. One's name is Paraclete, and the other Preserved. His daughter is
pretty, very, and her name is Deliverance. They call her Del, for short.
They do, on my word! Worse than Delphine, is it not?"
"Why, don't you like my name?" stammered I, with astonishment.
"Yes, very well. I don't care much about names. But I can tell you,
Uncle Zabdiel and Aunt Jerusha, 'from whom I have expectations,' Del,
think it is 'just about the poorest kind of a name that ever a girl
had.' And our Cousin Abijah thought you were named Delilah, and that
it was a good match for Sampson! I rectified him there; but he still
insists on your being called 'Finy,' in the family, to distinguish you
from the Midianitish woman."
"And so Uncle _Zabdiel_ thinks I have a poor name?" said I, laughing
heartily. "The shield looks neither gold nor silver, from which side
soever we gaze. But I think _he_ might put up with _my_ name!"
My husband never knew exactly what I was laughing at. And why should he?
I was fast overcoming my weakness about names, and thinking they were
nothing, compared to things, after all.
When our laugh (for his was sympathetic) had subsided into a quiet
cheerfulness, he said, again holding up his hand,--
"Not at all curious, Del? You don't ask what Mr. Solitude Drake wanted?"
"I don't think I care what he wanted: company, I suppose."
And I went on making bad puns about solitude sweetened, and ducks and
drakes, as happy people do, whose hearts are quite at ease.
"And you don't want to know at all, Del?" said he, laughing a little
nervously, and dropping from his hand an open paper into mine. "It shall
be my wedding-present to you. It is Mr. Drake's retainer. Pretty stout
one, is it not? This is what made me jump out of the window,--this and
one other thing."
"Why, this is a draft for five hundred dollars!" said I, reading and
staring stupidly at the paper.
"Yes, and I am retained in that great Albany land-case. It involves
millions of property. That is all, Del. But I was so glad, so happy,
that I was likely to do well at last, and that I could gratify all the
wishes, reasonable and unreasonable, of my darling!"
"Is it a good deal?" said I, simply; for, after all, five hundred
dollars did not seem such an Arabian fortune.
"Yes, Del, a good deal. Whichever way it is decided, it will make my
fortune. And now--the other thing. You are sure you are very calm, and
all this won't make you sleepless?"
"Oh, no! I am calm as a clock."
"Well, then,--your Aunt Allen is dead."
"Dead! Is she? Did she leave us all her money?"
"Why, no, you little cormorant. She has left it all about: Legacies, and
Antioch College, and Destitute Societies. But I believe you have some
clothes left to you and Laura. Any way, the will is in there, in the
library: Mr. Drake had a copy of it. And the best of all is, I am to be
the executor, which is enough better than residuary legatee."
"It is very strange!" said I, thinking of the multitude of old gowns I
should have to alter over.
"Yes, it is, indeed, very strange. One of the strangest things about
the matter is, that my good friend Solitude was so taken with 'my queer
name,' as he calls it, that he 'took a fancy to me out of hand.' To be
sure, he listened through my argument in the Shore case, and that may
have helped his opinion of me as a lawyer.--Here comes Laura. Who would
have thought it was one o'clock?"
And who would have thought that my little ugly chrysalis of troubles
would have turned out such beautiful butterflies of blessings?
* * * * *
Marion Dale, I remember you once,
In the days when you blushed like a rose half-blown,
Long ere that wealthy respectable dunce
Sponged up your beautiful name in his own.
I remember you, Marion Dale,
Artless and cordial and modest and sweet:
You never walked in that glittering mail
That covers you now from your head to your feet.
Well I remember your welcoming smile,
When Alice and Annie and Edward and I
Came over to see you;--you lived but a mile
From my uncle's old house, and the grove that stood nigh.
I was no lover of yours, (pray, excuse me!)--
Our minds were different in texture and hue:
I never gave you a chance to refuse me;
Already I loved one less changeful than you.
Still it was ever a pride and a pleasure
Just to be near you,--the Rose of our vale.
Often I thought, "Who will own such a treasure?
Who win the rich love of our Marion Dale?"
I wonder now if you ever remember,
Ever sigh over fifteen years ago,--
Whether your June is all turned to December,--
Whether your life now is happy or no.
Gone are those winters of chats and of dances!
Gone are those summers of picnics and rides!
Gone the aroma of life's young romances!
Gone the swift flow of our passionate tides!
Marion Dale,--no longer our Marion,--
You have gone your way, and I have gone mine:
Lowly I've labored, while fashion's gay clarion
Trumpets your name through the waltz and the wine.
And when I meet you, your smile it is colder;
Statelier, prouder your features have grown;
Rounder each white and magnificent shoulder;
(Rather too low-necked your waist, I must own.)
Jewelled and muslined, your rich hair gold-netted,
Queenly 'mid flattering voices you move,--
Half to your own native graces indebted,
Half to the station and fortune you love.
"Marion" we called you; my wife you called "Alice";
I was plain "Phil";--we were intimate all:
Strange, as we leave now our cards at your palace,
On Mrs. Prime Goldbanks of Bubblemere Hall!
Six golden lackeys illumine the doorway:
Sure, one would think, by the glances they throw,
That we were fresh from the mountains of Norway,
And had forgotten to shake off the snow!
They will permit us to enter, however;
Usher us into her splendid saloon:
There we sit waiting and waiting forever,
As one would watch for the rise of the moon.
Or it may be to-day's not her "reception":
Still she's at home, and a little unbends,--
Framing, while dressing, some harmless deception,
How she shall meet her "American" friends.
Smiling you meet us,--but not quite sincerely;
Low-voiced you greet us,--but this is the _ton_:
This, we must feel it, is courtesy merely,--
Not the glad welcome of days that are gone.
You are in England,--the land where they freeze one,
When they've a mind to, with fashion and form:
Yet, if you choose, you can thoroughly please one:
Currents run through you still youthful and warm.
So one would think, at least, seeing you moving,
Radiant and gay, at the Countess's _fete_.
Say, was that babble so sweeter than loving?
Where was the charm, that you lingered so late?
Ah, well enough, as you dance on in joyance!
Still well enough, at your dinners and calls!
Fashion and riches will mask much annoyance.
Float on, fair lady, whatever befalls!
Yet, Lady Marion, for hours and for hours
You are alone with your husband and lord.
There is a skeleton hid in yon flowers;
There is a spectre at bed and at board.
Needs no confession to tell there is acting
Somewhere about you a tragedy grim.
All your bright rays have a sullen refracting;
Everywhere looms up the image of _him_:
Him,--whom you love not, there is no concealing.
How _could_ you love him, apart from his gold?
Nothing now left but your fire-fly wheeling,--
Flashing one moment, then pallid and cold!
Yet you've accepted the life that he offers,--
Sunk to his level,--not raised him to yours.
All your fair flowers have their roots in his coffers:
Empty the gold-dust, and then what endures?
So, then, we leave you! Your world is not ours.
Alice and I will not trouble you more.
Almost too heavy the scent of these flowers
Down the broad stairway. Quick, open the door!
Here, in the free air, we'll pray for you, lady!
You who are changed to us,--gone from us,--lost!
Soon the Atlantic shall part us, already
Parted by gulfs that can never be crossed!
CHARLESTON UNDER ARMS.
On Saturday morning, January 19, 1861, the steamer Columbia, from New
York, lay off the harbor of Charleston in full sight of Fort Sumter. It
is a circumstance which perhaps would never have reached the knowledge
of the magazine-reading world, nor have been of any importance to it,
but for the attendant fact that I, the writer of this article, was on
board the steamer. It takes two events to make a consequence, as well as
two parties to make a bargain.
The sea was smooth; the air was warmish and slightly misty; the low
coast showed bare sand and forests of pines. The dangerous bar of the
port, now partially deprived of its buoys, and with its main channel
rendered perilous by the hulks of sunken schooners, revealed itself
plainly, half a mile ahead of us, in a great crescent of yellow water,
plainly distinguishable from the steel-gray of the outer ocean. Two
or three square-rigged vessels were anchored to the southward of us,
waiting for the tide or the tugs, while four or five pilot-boats tacked
up and down in the lazy breeze, watching for the cotton-freighters which
ought at this season to crowd the palmetto wharves.
"I wish we could get the duties on those ships to pay some of our
military bills," said a genteel, clean-spoken Charlestonian, to a long,
green, kindly-faced youth, from I know not what Southern military
We had arrived off the harbor about midnight, but had not entered, for
lack of a beacon whereby to shape our course. Now we must wait until
noon for the tide, standing off and on the while merely to keep up our
fires. A pilot came under our quarter in his little schooner, and told
us that the steamer Nashville had got out the day before with only a
hard bumping. No other news had he: Fort Sumter had not been taken, nor
assaulted; the independence of South Carolina had not been recognized;
various desirable events had not happened. In short, the political world
had remained during our voyage in that chaotic _status quo_ so loved by
President Buchanan. At twelve we stood for the bar, sounding our way
with extreme caution. Without accident we passed over the treacherous
bottom, although in places it could not have been more than eighteen
inches below our keel. The shores closed in on both sides as we passed
onward. To the south was the long, low, gray Morris Island, with its
extinguished lighthouse, its tuft or two of pines, its few dwellings,
and its invisible batteries. To the north was the long, low, gray
Sullivan's Island, a repetition of the other, with the distinctions of
higher sand-rolls, a village, a regular fort, and palmettos. We passed
the huge brown Moultrie House, in summer a gay resort, at present a
barrack; passed the hundred scattered cottages of the island, mostly
untenanted now, and looking among the sand-drifts as if they had been
washed ashore at random; passed the low walls of Fort Moultrie,
once visibly yellow, but now almost hidden by the new _glacis_, and
surmounted by piles of barrels and bags of sand, with here and there
palmetto stockades as a casing for the improvised embrasures; passed its
black guns, its solidly built, but rusty barracks, and its weather-worn
palmetto flag waving from a temporary flag-staff. On the opposite side
of the harbor was Fort Johnstone, a low point, exhibiting a barrack, a
few houses, and a sand redoubt, with three forty-two pounders. And
here, in the midst of all things, apparent master of all things, at the
entrance of the harbor proper, and nearly equidistant from either shore,
though nearest the southern, frowned Fort Sumter, a huge and lofty
and solid mass of brickwork with stone embrasures, all rising from
a foundation of ragged granite boulders washed by the tides. The
port-holes were closed; a dozen or so of monstrous cannon peeped from
the summit; two or three sentinels paced slowly along the parapet; the
stars and stripes blew out from the lofty flag-staff. The plan of Fort
Sumter may be briefly described as five-sided, with each angle just so
much truncated as to give room for one embrasure in every story. Its
whole air is massive, commanding, and formidable.
Eighty or a hundred citizens, volunteers, cadets from the military
academy, policemen, and negroes, greeted the arrival of the Columbia at
her wharf. It was a larger crowd than usual, partly because a report had
circulated that we should be forced to bring to off Fort Sumter and give
an account of ourselves, and partly because many persons in Charleston
have lately been perplexed with an abundant leisure. As I drove to my
hotel, I noticed that the streets showed less movement of business
and population than when I knew them four years ago. The place seemed
dirtier, too,--worse paved, shabbier as to its brick-work and stucco,
and worse painted,--but whether through real deterioration, or by
comparison with the neatly finished city which I had lately left, I
cannot decide. There was surely not a third of the usual shipping, nor a
quarter of the accustomed cotton. Here and there were wharves perfectly
bare, not only of masting and of freight, but even of dust, as if they
had not been used for days, or possibly for weeks.
My old hotel was as well kept, and its table as plentiful and excellent
as ever. I believe we are all aware by this time that Charleston has
not suffered from hunger; that beef has not sold at thirty-five cents a
pound, but rather at ten or fifteen; that its Minute Men have not
been accustomed to come down upon its citizens for forced dinners and
dollars; that the State loan was taken willingly by the banks, instead
of unwillingly by private persons; that the rich, so far from being
obliged to give a great deal for the cause of Secession, have generally
given very little; that the streets are well-policed, untrodden by mobs,
and as orderly as those of most cities; that, in short, the revolution
so far has been political, and not social. At the same time exports
and imports have nearly ceased; business, even in the retail form, is
stagnant; the banks have suspended; debts are not paid.
After dinner I walked up to the Citadel square and saw a drill of the
Home Guard. About thirty troopers, all elderly men, and several with
white hair and whiskers, uniformed in long overcoats of homespun gray,
went through some of the simpler cavalry evolutions in spite of their
horses' teeth. The Home Guard is a volunteer police force, raised
because of the absence of so many of the young men of the city at the
islands, and because of the supposed necessity of keeping a strong hand
over the negroes. A malicious citizen assured me that it was in training
to take Fort Sumter by charging upon it at low water. On the opposite
side of the square from where I stood rose the Citadel, or military
academy, a long and lofty reddish-yellow building, stuccoed and
castellated, which, by the way, I have seen represented in one of our
illustrated papers as the United States Arsenal. Under its walls
were half a dozen iron cannon which I judged at that distance to be
twenty-four pounders. A few negroes, certainly the most leisurely part
of the population at this period, and still fewer white people, leaned
over the shabby fence and stared listlessly at the horsemen, with the
air of people whom habit had made indifferent to such spectacles. Near
me three men of the middle class of Charleston talked of those two
eternal subjects, Secession and Fort Sumter. One of them, a rosy-faced,
kindly-eyed, sincere, seedy, pursy gentleman of fifty, congratulated the
others and thanked God because of the present high moral stand of South
Carolina, so much loftier than if she had seized the key to her main
harbor, when she had the opportunity. Her honor was now unspotted; her
good faith and her love of the right were visible to the whole world;
while the position of the Federal Government was disgraced and sapped by
falsity. Better Sumter treacherously in the hands of the United States
than in the hands of South Carolina; better suffer for a time under
physical difficulties than forever under moral dishonor.
Simple-hearted man, a fair type of his fellow-citizens, he saw but his
own side of the question, and might fairly claim in this matter to
be justified by his faith. His bald crown, sandy side-locks, reddish
whiskers, sanguineous cheeks, and blue eyes were all luminous with
confidence in the integrity of his State, and with scorn for the
meanness and wickedness of her enemies. No doubt had he that the fort
ought to be surrendered to South Carolina; no suspicion that the
Government could show a reason for holding it, aside from low
self-interest and malice. He was the honest mouthpiece of a most
peculiar people, local in its opinions and sentiments beyond anything
known at the North, even in self-poised Boston. Changing his subject, he
spoke with hostile, yet chivalrous, respect of the pluck of the Black
Republicans in Congress. They had never faltered; they had vouchsafed no
hint of concession; while, on the other hand, Southerners had shamed him
by their craven spirit. It grieved, it mortified him, to see such a man
as Crittenden on his knees to the North, begging, actually with tears,
for what he ought to demand as a right, with head erect and hands
clenched. He departed with a mysterious allusion to some secret of his
for taking Fort Sumter,--some disagreeably odorous chemical
preparation, I guessed, by the scientific terms in which he beclouded
himself,--something which he expected would soon be called for by the
Governor. May he never smell anything worse, even in the other world,
than his own compounds! Unionist, and perhaps Consolidationist, as I
am, I could not look upon his honest, persuaded face, and judge him a
traitor, at least not to any sentiment of right that was in his own
Our hotel was full of legislators and volunteer officers, mostly
planters or sons of planters, and almost without exception men of
standing and property. South Carolina is an oligarchy in spirit, and
allows no plebeians in high places. Two centuries of plenteous feeding
and favorable climate showed their natural results in the _physique_ of
these people. I do not think that I exaggerate, when I say that they
averaged six feet or nearly in height, and one hundred and seventy
pounds or thereabouts in weight. One or two would have brought in money,
if enterprisingly heralded as Swiss or Belgian giants. The general
physiognomy was good, mostly high-featured, often commanding, sometimes
remarkable for massive beauty of the Jovian type, and almost invariably
distinguished by a fearless, open-eyed frankness, in some instances
running into arrogance and pugnacity. I remember one or two elderly
men, in particular, whose faces would help an artist to idealize a
Lacedaemonian general, or a baron of the Middle Ages. In dress somewhat
careless, and wearing usually the last fashion but one, they struck me
as less tidy than the same class when I saw it four years ago; and I
made a similar remark concerning the citizens of Charleston,--not only
men, but women,--from whom dandified suits and superb silks seem to have
departed during the present martial time. Indeed, I heard that economy
was the order of the day; that the fashionables of Charleston bought
nothing new, partly because of the money pressure, and partly because
the guns of Major Anderson might any day send the whole city into
mourning; that patrician families had discharged their foreign cooks and
put their daughters into the kitchen; that there were no concerts, no
balls, and no marriages. Even the volunteers exhibited little of the
pomp and vanity of war. The small French military cap was often the only
sign of their present profession. The uniform, when it appeared, was
frequently a coarse homespun gray, charily trimmed with red worsted, and
stained with the rains and earth of the islands. One young dragoon in
this sober dress walked into our hotel, trailing the clinking steel
scabbard of his sabre across the marble floor of the vestibule with a
warlike rattle which reminded me of the Austrian officers whom I used
to see, yes, and hear, stalking about the _cafe's_ of Florence. Half a
dozen surrounded him to look at and talk about the weapon. A portly,
middle-aged legislator must draw it and cut and thrust, with a smile of
boyish satisfaction between his grizzled whiskers, bringing the point so
near my nose, in his careless eagerness, that I had to fall back upon
a stronger, that is, a more distant position. Then half a dozen others
must do likewise, their eyes sparkling like those of children examining
a new toy.
"It's not very sharp," said one, running his thumb carefully along the
edge of the narrow and rather light blade.
"Sharp enough to cut a man's head open," averred the dragoon.
"Well, it's a dam' shame that sixty-five men tharr in Sumter should make
such an expense to the State," declared a stout, blonde young rifleman,
speaking with a burr which proclaimed him from the up-country. "We
haven't even troyed to get 'em out. We ought at least to make a troyal."
All strangers at Charleston walk to the Battery. It is the extreme point
of the city peninsula, its right facing on the Ashley, its left on the
Cooper, and its outlook commanding the entire harbor, with Fort Sumter,
Port Pinckney, Fort Moultrie, and Fort Johnstone in the distance. Plots
of thin clover, a perfect wonder in this grassless land; promenades,
neatly fenced, and covered with broken shells instead of gravel; a
handsome bronze lantern-stand, twenty-five feet high, meant for a
beacon; a long and solid stone quay, the finest sea-walk in the United
States; a background of the best houses in Charleston, three-storied and
faced with verandas: such are the features of the Battery. Lately
four large iron guns, mounted like field-pieces, form an additional
attraction to boys and soldierly-minded men. Nobody knew their calibre;
the policemen who watched them could not say; the idlers who gathered
about them disputed upon it: they were eighteen pounders; they were
twenty-fours; they were thirty-sixes. Nobody could tell what they were
there for. They were aimed at Fort Sumter, but would not carry half way
to it. They could hit Fort Pinckney, but that was not desirable. The
policeman could not explain; neither could the idlers; neither can I.
At last it got reported about the city that they were to sink any boats
which might come down the river to reinforce Anderson; though how the
boats were to get into the river, whether by railroad from Washington,
or by balloon from the Free States, nobody even pretended to guess.
Standing on this side of the Ashley, and looking across it, you
naturally see the other side. The long line of nearly dead level, with
its stretches of thin pine-forest and its occasional glares of open
sand, gives you an idea of nearly the whole country about Charleston,
except that in general you ought to add to the picture a number of noble
evergreen oaks bearded with pendent, weird Spanish moss, and occasional
green spikes of the tropical-looking Spanish bayonet. Of palmettos there
are none that I know of in this immediate region, save the hundred or
more on Sullivan's Island and the one or two exotics in the streets
of Charleston. In the middle of the Ashley, which is here more than a
quarter of a mile wide, lies anchored a topsail schooner, the nursery
of the South Carolina navy. I never saw it sail anywhere; but then my
opportunities of observation were limited. Quite a number of boys are on
board of it, studying maritime matters; and I can bear witness that they
are sufficiently advanced to row themselves ashore. Possibly they are
moored thus far up the stream to guard them from sea-sickness, which
might be discouraging to young sailors. However, I ought not to talk on
this subject, for I am the merest civilian and land-lubber.
My first conversation in Charleston on Secession was with an estimable
friend, Northern-born, but drawing breath of Southern air ever since he
attained the age of manhood. After the first salutation, he sat down,
his hands on his knees, gazing on the floor, and shaking his head
soberly, if not sadly.
"You have found us in a pretty fix,--in a pretty fix!"
"But what are you going to do? Are you really going out? You are not a
politician, and will tell me the honest facts."
"Yes, we are going out,'--there is no doubt of it, I have not been a
seceder,--I have even been called one of the disaffected; but I am
obliged to admit that secession is the will of the community. Perhaps
you at the North don't believe that we are honest in our professions and
actions. We are so. The Carolinians really mean to go out of the Union,
and don't mean to come back. They say that they _are_ out, and they
believe it. And now, what are you going to do with us? What is the
feeling at the North?"
"The Union must and shall be preserved, at all hazards. That famous
declaration expresses the present Northern popular sentiment. When I
left, people were growing martial; they were joining military companies;
they wanted to fight; they were angry."
"So I supposed. That agrees with what I hear by letter. Well, I am very
sorry for it. Our people here will not retreat; they will accept a war,
first. If you preserve the Union, it must be by conquest. I suppose you
can do it, if you try hard enough. The North is a great deal stronger
than the South; it can desolate it,--crush it. But I hope it won't be
done. I wish you would speak a good word for us, when you go back. You
can destroy us, I suppose. But don't you think it would be inhuman?
Don't you think it would be impolitic? Do you think it would result in
sufficient good to counterbalance the evident and certain evil?"
"Why, people reason in this way. They say, that, even if we allow the
final independence of the seceding States, we must make it clear that
there is no such thing as the right of secession, but only that of
revolution or rebellion. We must fix a price for going out of the Union,
which shall be so high that henceforward no State will ever be willing
to pay it. We must kill, once for all, the doctrine of peaceable
secession, which is nothing else than national disintegration and ruin.
Lieutenant-Governor Morton of Indiana declares in substance that England
never spent blood and money to wiser purpose than when she laid down
fifty thousand lives and one hundred millions of pounds to prevent her
thirteen disaffected colonies from having their own way. No English
colony since has been willing to face the tremendous issue thus offered
it. Just so it is the interest, it is the sole safety of the Federal
Government, to try to hold in the Cotton States by force, and, if they
go out, to oblige them to pay an enormous price for the privilege.
Revolution is a troublesome luxury, and ought to be made expensive. That
is the way people talk at the North and at Washington. They reason thus,
you see, because they believe that this is not a league, but a nation."
"And our people believe that the States are independent and have a right
to recede from the Confederation without asking its leave. With few
exceptions, all agree on that; it is honest, common public opinion. The
South Carolinians sincerely think that they are exercising a right, and
you may depend that they will not be reasoned nor frightened out of it;
and if the North tries coercion, there will be war. I don't say this
defiantly, but sadly, and merely because I want you to know the truth.
War is abhorrent to my feelings,--especially a war with our own
brethren: and then _we_ are so poorly prepared for it!"
Such was the substance of several conversations. The reader may rely, I
think, on the justness of my friend's opinions, founded as they are on
his honesty of intellect, his moderation, and his opportunities for
studying his fellow-citizens. All told me the same story, but generally
with more passion, sometimes with defiance; defiance toward the
Government, I mean, and not toward me personally; for the better classes
of Charleston are eminently courteous. South Carolina had seceded
forever, defying all the hazards; she would accept nothing but
independence or destruction; she did not desire any supposable
compromise; she had altogether done with the Union. Yet her desire was
not for war; it was simply and solely for escape. She would forget all
her wrongs and insults, she would seek no revenge for the injurious
past, provided she were allowed to depart without a conflict. Nearly
every man with whom I talked began the conversation by asking if the
North meant coercion, and closed it by deprecating hostilities and
affirming the universal wish for _peaceable_ secession. In case of
compulsion, however, the State would accept the gage of battle; her
sister communities of the South would side with her, the moment they saw
her blood flow; Northern commerce would be devoured by privateers of all
nations under the Southern flag; Northern manufactures would perish for
lack of Southern raw material and Southern consumers; Northern banks
would suspend, and Northern finances go into universal insolvency; the
Southern ports would be opened forcibly by England and France, who must
have cotton; the South would flourish in the struggle, and the North
"But why do you venture on this doubtful future?" I asked of one
gentleman. "What is South Carolina's grievance? The Personal-Liberty
"Yes,--they constitute a grievance. And yet not much of one. Some of us
even--the men of the 'Mercury' school, I mean--do not complain of the
Union because of those bills. They say that it is the Fugitive-Slave Law
itself which is unconstitutional; that the rendition of runaways is
a State affair, in which the Federal Government has no concern; that
Massachusetts, and other States, were quite right in nullifying an
illegal and aggressive statute. Besides, South Carolina has lost very
"Is it the Territorial Question which forces you to quit us?"
"Not in its practical issues. The South needs no more territory; has not
negroes to colonize it. The doctrine of 'No more Slave States' is an
insult to us, but hardly an injury. The flow of population has settled
that matter. You have won all the Territories, not even excepting New
Mexico, where slavery exists nominally, but is sure to die out under the
hostile influences of unpropitious soil and climate. The Territorial
Question has become a mere abstraction. We no longer talk of it."
"Then your great grievance is the election of Lincoln?"
"And the grievance is all the greater because he was elected according
to all the forms of law?"
"If he had been got into the Presidency by trickery, by manifest
cheating, your grievance would have been less complete?"
"Is Lincoln considered here to be a bad or dangerous man?"
"Not personally. I understand that he is a man of excellent private
character, and I have nothing to say against him as a ruler, inasmuch as
he has never been tried. Mr. Lincoln is simply a sign to us that we are
in danger, and must provide for our own safety."
"You secede, then, solely because you think his election proves that the
mass of the Northern people is adverse to you and your interests?"
"So Mr. Wigfall of Texas hit the nail on the head, when he said
substantially that the South cannot be at peace with the North until the
latter concedes that slavery is right?"
"Well,--I admit it; that is precisely it."
I desire the reader to note the loyal frankness, the unshrinking honesty
of these avowals, so characteristic of the South Carolina _morale_.
Whenever the native of that State does an act or holds an opinion, it is
his nature to confess it and avow the motives thereof, without quibbling
or hesitation. It is a persuaded, self-poised community, strikingly like
its negative pole on the Slavery Question, Massachusetts. All those
Charlestonians whom I talked with I found open-hearted in their
secession, and patient of my open-heartedness as an advocate of the
Union, although often astonished, I suspect, that any creature capable
of drawing a conclusion from two premises should think so differently
"But have you looked at the platform of the Republicans?" I proceeded.
"It is not adverse to slavery in the States; it only objects to its
entrance into the Territories; it is not an Abolition platform."
"We don't trust in the platform; we believe that it is an incomplete
expression of the party creed,--that it suppresses more than it utters.
The spirit which keeps the Republicans together is enmity to slavery,
and that spirit will never be satisfied until the system is extinct."
"Finally,--yes; gradually and quietly and safely,--that is possible. I
suppose that the secret and generally unconscious _animus_ of the party
is one which will abolitionize it after a long while."
"When will it begin to act in an abolition sense, do you think?"
"I can't say: perhaps a hundred years from now; perhaps two hundred."
There was a general laugh from the half-dozen persons who formed the
"What time do _you_ fix?" I inquired.
"Two years. But for this secession of ours, there would have been bills
before Congress within two years, looking to the abolition of slavery in
the navy-yards, the District of Columbia, etc. That would be only the
point of the wedge, which would soon assume the dimensions of an attack
on slavery in the States. Look how aggressive the party has been in the
question of the Territories."
"The questions are different. When Congress makes local laws for Utah,
it does not follow that it will do likewise for South Carolina. You
might as well infer, that, because a vessel sails from Liverpool to New
York in ten days, therefore it will sail overland to St. Louis in five
Incredulous laughter answered me again. The South has labored under two
delusions: first, that the Republicans are Abolitionists; second, that
the North can be frightened. Back of these, rendering them fatally
effective, lies that other delusion, the imagined right of peaceable
secession, founded on a belief in the full and unresigned sovereignty of
the States. Let me tell a story illustrative of the depth to which
this belief has penetrated. Years ago, a friend of mine, talking to a
Charleston boy about patriotism, asked him, "What is the name of your
country?" "South Carolina!" responded the eight-year-old, promptly and
proudly. What Northern boy, what Massachusetts boy even, would not have
replied, "The United States of America"?
South Carolina, I am inclined to think, has long been a disunionist
community, or nearly so, deceived by the idea that the Confederation is
a bar rather than a help to her prosperity, and waiting only for a good
chance to quit it. Up to the election of Lincoln all timid souls were
against secession; now they are for it, because they think it less
dangerous than submission. For instance, when I asked one gentleman what
the South expected to gain by going out, he replied, "First, safety.
Our slaves have heard of Lincoln,--that he is a black man, or black
Republican, or black something,--that he is to become ruler of this
country on the fourth of March,--that he is a friend of theirs, and will
free them. We must establish our independence in order to make them
believe that they are beyond his help. We have had to hang some of them
in Alabama,--and we expect to be obliged to hang others, perhaps many."
This was not the only statement of the sort which I heard in Charleston.
Other persons assured me of the perfect fidelity of the negroes, and
declared that they would even fight against Northern invaders, if
needful. Skepticism in regard to this last comfortable belief is,
however, not wanting.
"If it comes to a war, you have one great advantage over us," said to me
a military gentleman, lately in the service of the United States. "Your
working-class is a fighting-class, and will constitute the rank and file
of your armies. Our working-class is not a fighting-class. Indeed, there
is some reason to fear, that, if it take up arms at all, it will be on
the wrong side."
My impression is, that a prevalent, though not a universal fear, existed
lest the negroes should rise in partial insurrections on or about the
fourth of March. A Northern man, who had lived for several years in
the back-country of South Carolina, had married there, and had lately
travelled through a considerable portion of the South, informed me that
many of the villages were lately forming Home Guards, as a measure of
defence against the slave population. The Home Guard is frequently a
cavalry corps, and is always composed of men who have passed the usual
term of military service; for it is deemed necessary to reserve the
youth of the country to meet the "Northern masses," the "Federal
mercenaries," on the field of possible battle. By letters from
Montgomery, Alabama, I learn that unusual precautions have been common
during the last winter, many persons locking up their negroes over
night in the quarters, and most sleeping with arms at hand, ready for
nocturnal conflict. Whoever considers the necessarily horrible nature
of a servile insurrection will find in it some palliation for Southern
violence toward suspected incendiaries and Southern precipitation in
matters of secession, however strongly he may still maintain that
lynch-law should not usurp the place of justice, nor revolution the
place of regular government If you live in a powder-magazine, you
positively must feel inhospitably inclined towards a man who presents
himself with a cigar in his mouth. Even if he shows you that it is but a
tireless stump, it still makes you uneasy. And if you catch sight of
a multitude of smokers, distant as yet, but apparently intent on
approaching, you will be very apt to rush toward them, deprecate their
advance, forbid it, or possibly threaten armed resistance, even at the
risk of being considered aggressive.
Are all the South Carolinians disunionists? It seemed so when I was
there in January, 1861, and yet it did not seem so when I was there in
1855 and '56. At that time you could find men in Charleston who held
that the right of secession was but the right of revolution, of
rebellion,--well enough, if successful, but inductive to hanging, if
unfortunate. Now those same men nearly all argue for the right of
peaceable secession, declaring that the State has a right to go out at
will, and that the Federal Government has no right to coerce or punish
it. These turncoats are the sympathetic, who are carried away by a
rush of popular enthusiasm, and the fearful or peaceable, who dread or
dislike violence. Let us see how a timid Unionist can be converted into
an advocate of the right of secession. Let us suppose a boat with three
men on board, which is hailed by a revenue-cutter, with a threat of
firing, if she does not come to. Two of these men believe that the
revenue-officer is performing a legal duty, and desire to obey him; but
the third, a reckless, domineering fellow, seizes the helm, lets the
sail fill, and attempts to run by, meantime declaring at the top of his
voice that the cutter has no business to stop his progress. The others
dare not resist him and cannot persuade him. Now, then, what position
will they take as to the right of the revenue-officer to fire? Ten to
one they will join their comrade whom they lately opposed; they will cry
out, that the pursuer was wrong in ordering them to stop, and ought not
to punish them for disobedience; in short, they will be converted by the
instinct of self-preservation into advocates of the right of peaceable
secession. I understand, indeed I know, that there are a few opponents
of disunion remaining In South Carolina; but, although they are wealthy
people and of good position, it is pretty certain that they have not an
atom of political influence.
Secession peaceable! It is what is most particularly desired at
Charleston, and, I believe, throughout the Cotton States. Certainly,
when I was there, the war-party, the party of the "Mercury," was not in
the ascendant, unless in the sense of having been "hoist with its own
petard" when it cried out for immediate hostilities. Not only Governor
Pickens and his Council, but nearly all the influential citizens, were
opposed to bloodshed. They demanded independence and Fort Sumter, but
desired and hoped to get both by argument. They believed, or tried to
believe, that at last the Administration would hearken to reason and
grant to South Carolina what it seemed to them could not be denied her
with justice. The battle-cry of the "Mercury," urging precipitation
even at the expense of defeat, for the sake of uniting the South, was
listened to without enthusiasm, except by the young and thoughtless.
"We shall never attack Fort Sumter," said one gentleman. "Don't you see
why? I have a son in the trenches, my next neighbor has one, everybody
in the city has one. Well, we shan't let our boys fight; we can't bear
to lose them. We don't want to risk our handsome, genteel, educated
young fellows against a gang of Irishmen, Germans, British deserters,
and New York roughs, not worth killing, and yet instructed to kill to
the best advantage. We can't endure it, and we shan't do it."
This repugnance to stake the lives of South Carolina patricians against
the lives of low-born, mercenaries was a feeling that I frequently heard
expressed. It was betting guineas against pennies, and on a limited
stock of guineas.
Other men, anti-secessionists even, assured me that war was inevitable,
that Fort Sumter would be attacked, that the volunteers were panting for
the strife, that Governor Pickens was excessively unpopular because of
his peaceful inclinations, and that he would soon be forced to give the
signal for battle. Once or twice I was seriously invited to stay a few
days longer, in order to witness the struggle and victory of South
Carolina. However, it was clear that the enthusiasm and confidence of
the people were no longer what they had been. Several dull and costly
weeks had passed since the passage of the secession ordinance.
Stump-speeches, torchlight-processions, fireworks, and other
jubilations, were among bygone things. The flags were falling to pieces,
and the palmettos withering, unnoticed except by strangers. Men had
begun to realize that a hurrah is not sufficient to carry out a great
revolution successfully; that the work which they had undertaken was
weightier, and the reward of it more distant, if not more doubtful, than
they had supposed. The political prophets had been forced, like the
Millerites, to ask an extension for their predictions. The anticipated
fleet of cotton-freighters had not arrived from Europe, and the expected
twelve millions of foreign gold had not refilled the collapsed banks.
The daily expenses were estimated at twenty thousand dollars; the
treasury was in rapid progress of depletion; and as yet no results. It
is not wonderful, that, under these circumstances, the most enthusiastic
secessionists were not gay, and that the general physiognomy of the city
was sober, not to say troubled. It must not be understood, however,
that there was any visible discontent or even discouragement. "We are
suffering in our affairs," said a business-man to me; "but you will
hear no grumbling." "We expect to be poor, very poor, for two or three
years," observed a lady; "but we are willing to bear it, for the sake of
the noble and prosperous end." "Our people do not want concessions,
and will never be tempted back into the Union," was the voice of every
private person, as well as of the Legislature. "I hope the Republicans
will offer no compromise," remarked one excellent person who has not
favored the revolution. "They would be sure to see it rejected: that
would humiliate them and anger them; then there would be more danger of
Hatred of Buchanan, mingled with contempt for him, I found almost
universal. If any Northerner should ever get into trouble in South
Carolina because of his supposed abolition tendencies, I advise him to
bestow a liberal cursing on our Old Public Functionary, assuring him
that he will thereby not only escape tar and feathers, but acquire
popularity. The Carolinians called the then President double-faced
and treacherous, hardly allowing him the poor credit of being a
well-intentioned imbecile. Why should they not consider him false? Up to
the garrisoning of Fort Sumter he favored the project of secession full
as decidedly as he afterwards crossed it. Did he think that he was
laying a train to blow the Republicans off their platform, and leave off
his labor in a fright, when he found that the powder-bags to be exploded
had been placed under the foundations of the Union? The man who could
explain Mr. Buchanan would have a better title than Daniel Webster to be
called The Great Expounder.
During the ten days of my sojourn, Charleston was full of surprising
reports and painful expectations. If a door slammed, we stopped talking,
and looked at each other; and if the sound was repeated, we went to
the window and listened for Fort Sumter. Every strange noise was
metamorphosed by the watchful ear into the roar of cannon or the rush of
soldiery. Women trembled at the salutes which were fired in honor of the
secession of other States, fearing lest the struggle had commenced and
the dearly-loved son or brother in volunteer uniform was already under
the storm of the columbiads. One day, a reinforcement was coming to
Anderson, and the troops must attack him before it arrived; the next
day, Florida had assaulted Fort Pickens, and South Carolina was bound
to dash her bare bosom against Fort Sumter. The batteries were strong
enough to make a breach; and then again, the best authorities had
declared them not strong enough. A columbiad throwing a ball of one
hundred and twenty pounds, sufficient to crack the strongest embrasures,
was on its way from some unknown region. An Armstrong gun capable of
carrying ten miles had arrived or was about to arrive. No one inquired
whether Governor Pickens had suspended the law of gravitation in South
Carolina, in view of the fact that ordinarily an Armstrong gun will not
carry five miles,--nor whether, in such case, the guns of Fort Sumter
might not also be expected to double their range. Major Anderson was
a Southerner, who would surrender rather than shed the blood of
fellow-Southerners. Major Anderson was an army-officer, incapable by his
professional education of comprehending State rights, angry because he
had been charged with cowardice in withdrawing from Fort Moultrie, and
resolved to defend himself to the death.
In the mean time, the city papers were strangely deficient in local news
concerning the revolution,--possibly from a fear of giving valuable
military information to the enemy at Washington. Uselessly did I study
them for particulars concerning the condition of the batteries, and
the number of guns and troops,--finding little in them but mention
of parades, soldierly festivities, offers of service by enthusiastic
citizens, and other like small business. I thought of visiting the
islands, but heard that strangers were closely watched there, and that
a permit from authority to enter the forts was difficult to obtain.
Fortune, or rather, misfortune, favored me in this matter.
After passing six days in Charleston, hearing much that was
extraordinary, but seeing little, I left in the steamer Columbia for New
York. The main opening to the harbor, or Ship Channel, as it is called,
being choked with sunken vessels, and the Middle Channel little known,
our only resource for exit was Maffitt's Channel, a narrow strip of deep
water closely skirting Sullivan's Island. It was half-past six in the
morning, slightly misty and very quiet Passing Fort Sumter, then Fort
Moultrie, we rounded a low break-water, and attempted to take the
channel. I have heard a half-dozen reasons why we struck; but all I
venture to affirm is that we did strike. There was a bump; we hoped it
was the last:--there was another; we hoped again:--there was a third; we
stopped. The wheels rolled and surged, bringing the fine sand from
the bottom and changing the green waters to yellow; but the Columbia
remained inert under the gray morning sky, close alongside of the brown,
damp beach of Sullivan's Island. There was only a faint breeze, and a
mere ripple of a sea; but even those slight forces swung our stern far
enough toward the land to complete our helplessness. We lay broadside to
the shore, in the centre of a small crescent or cove, and, consequently,
unable to use our engines without forcing either bow or stern higher
up on the sloping bottom. The Columbia tried to advance, tried to back
water, and then gave up the contest, standing upright on her flat
flooring with no motion beyond an occasional faint bumping. The tugboat
Aid, half a mile ahead of us, cast off from the vessel which it was
taking out, and came to our assistance. Apparently it had been engaged
during the night in watching the harbor; for on deck stood a score of
volunteers in gray overcoats, while the naval-looking personage with
grizzled whiskers who seemed to command was the same Lieutenant Coste
who transferred the revenue-cutter Aiken from the service of the United
States to that of South Carolina. The Aid took hold of us, broke a large
new hawser after a brief struggle, and then went up to the city to
report our condition.
The morning was lowery, with driving showers running through it from
time to time, and an atmosphere penetratingly damp and cheerless. On the
beach two companies of volunteers were drilling in the rain, no doubt
getting an appetite for breakfast. Without uniforms, their trousers
tucked into their boots, and here and there a white blanket fastened
shawl-like over the shoulders, they looked, as one of our passengers
observed, like a party of returned Californians. Their line was uneven,
their wheeling excessively loose, their evolutions of the simplest and
yet awkwardly executed. Evidently they were newly embodied, and from the
country; for the Charleston companies are spruce in appearance and well
drilled. Half a dozen of them, who had been on sentinel duty during the
night, discharged their guns in the air,--a daily process, rendered
necessary by the moist atmosphere of the harbor at this season; and
then, the exercise being over, there was a general scamper for the
shelter of a neighboring cottage, low-roofed and surrounded by a veranda
after the fashion of Sullivan's Island. Within half an hour they
reappeared in idle squads, and proceeded to kill the heavy time
by staring at us as we stared at them. One individual, learned in
sea-phrase, insulted our misfortune by bawling, "Ship ahoy!" A fellow
in a red shirt, who looked more like a Bowery _bhoy_ than like a
Carolinian, hailed the captain to know if he might come aboard;
whereupon he was surrounded by twenty others, who appeared to
question him and confound him until he thought it best to disappear
unostentatiously. I conjectured that he was a hero of Northern birth,
who had concluded to run away, if he could do it safely.
When we tired of the volunteers, we looked at the harbor and its
inanimate surroundings. A ship from Liverpool, a small steamer from
Savannah, and a schooner or two of the coasting class passed by us
toward the city during the day, showing to what small proportions the
commerce of Charleston had suddenly shrunk. On shore there seemed to be
no population aside from the volunteers, Sullivan's Island is a summer
resort, much favored by Charlestonians in the hot season, because of its
coolness and healthfulness, but apparently almost uninhabited in winter,
notwithstanding that it boasts a village called Moultrieville. Its
hundred cottages are mostly of one model, square, low-roofed, a single
story in height, and surrounded by a veranda, a portion of which is in
some instances inclosed by blinds so as to add to the amount of shelter.
Paint has been sparingly used, when applied at all, and is seldom
renewed, when weather-stained. The favorite colors, at least those which
most strike the eye at a distance, are green and yellow. The yards are
apt to be full of sand-drifts, which are much prized by the possessors,
with whom it is an object to be secured from high tides and other
more permanent aggressions of the ocean. The whole island is but a
verdureless sand-drift, of which the outlines are constantly changing
under the influence of winds and waters. Fort Moultrie, once close to
the shore, as I am told, is now a hundred yards from it; while, half
a mile off, the sea flows over the site of a row of cottages not long
since washed away. Behind Fort Moultrie, where the land rises to its
highest, appears a continuous foliage of the famous palmettos, a low
palm, strange to the Northern eye, but not beautiful, unless to those
who love it for its associations. Compared with its brothers of the
East, it is short, contracted in outline, and deficient in waving grace.
The chill mist and drizzling rain frequently drove us under
cover. "While enjoying my cigar in the little smoking-room on the
promenade-deck, I listened to the talk of four players of euchre, two of
them Georgians, one a Carolinian, and one a pro-slavery New-Yorker.
"I wish the Cap'n would invite old Greeley on board his boat in New
York," said the Gothamite, "and then run him off to Charleston. I'd give
ten thousand dollars towards paying expenses; that is, if they could do
what they was a mind to with him."
"I reckon a little more'n ten thousand dollars'd do it," grinned
"They'd cut him up into little bits," pursued the New-Yorker.
"They'd worry him first like a cat does a mouse," added the Carolinian.
"I'd rather serve Beecher or--what's his name?--Cheever, that trick,"
observed Georgian Second. "It's the cussed parsons that's done all the
mischief. Who played that bower? Yours, eh? My deal."
"I want to smash up some of these dam' Black Republicans," resumed the
New-Yorker. "I want to see the North suffer some. I don't care, if New
York catches it. I own about forty thousand dollars' worth of property
in ---- Street, and I want to see the grass growing all round it.
Blasted, if I can get a hand any way!"
"I say, we should be in a tight place, if the forts went to firing now,"
suggested the Carolinian. "Major Anderson would have a fair chance at
us, if he wanted to do us any harm."
"Damn Major Anderson!" answered the New-Yorker. "I'd shoot him myself,
if I had a chance. I've heard about Bob Anderson till I'm sick of it."
Of this fashion of conversation you may hear any desired amount at the
South, by going among the right sort of people. Let us take it for
granted, without making impertinent inquiry, that nothing of the kind
is ever uttered in any other country, whether in pot-house or parlor.
I suppose that such remarks seem very horrid to ladies and other
gentle-minded folk, who perhaps never heard the like in their lives,
and imagine, when they see the stuff on paper, that it is spoken with
scowling brows, through set teeth, and out of a heart of red-hot
passion. The truth is, that these ferocious phrases are generally
drawled forth in an _ex-officio_ tone, as if the speaker were rather
tired of that sort of thing, meant nothing very particular by it, and
talked thus only as a matter of fashion. It will be observed that the
most violent of these politicians was a New-Yorker. I am inclined to
pronounce, also, that the two Georgians were by birth New-Englanders.
The Carolinian was the most moderate of the company, giving his
attention chiefly to the game, and throwing out his one remark
concerning the worrying of Greeley with an air of simply civil assent
to the general meaning of the conversation, as an exchange of
anti-abolition sentiments. "If you will play that card," he seemed to
say, "I follow suit as a mere matter of course."
There was a second attempt to haul us off at sunset, and a third in the
morning, both unsuccessful. Each tide, though stormless, carried the
Columbia a little higher up the beach; and the tugs, trying singly
to move her, only broke their hawsers and wasted precious time.
Fortunately, the sea continued smooth, so that the ship escaped a
pounding. On Saturday, at eleven, twenty-eight hours after we struck,
all hope of getting off without discharging cargo having been abandoned,
we passengers were landed on Sullivan's Island, to make our way back
to Charleston. Our baggage was forwarded to the ferry in carts, and
we followed at leisure on foot. In company with Georgian First and a
gentleman from Brooklyn, I strolled over the sand-rolls, damp and
hard now with a week's rain, passed one or two of the tenantless
summer-houses, and halted beside the _glacis_ of Fort Moultrie. I do not
wonder that Major Anderson did not consider his small force safe within
this fortification. It is overlooked by neighboring sand-hills and by
the houses of Moultrieville, which closely surround it on the land side,
while its ditch is so narrow and its rampart so low that a ladder of
twenty-five feet in length would reach from the outside of the former to
the summit of the latter. A fire of sharp-shooters from the commanding
points, and two columns of attack, would have crushed the feeble
garrison. No military movement could be more natural than the retreat to
Fort Sumter. What puzzles one, especially on the spot, and what nobody
in Charleston could explain to me, is the fact that this manoeuvre could
be executed unobserved by the people of Moultrieville, few as they are,
and by the guard-boats which patrolled the harbor.
On the eastern side of the fort two or three dozen negroes were engaged
in filling canvas bags with sand, to be used in forming temporary
embrasures. One lad of eighteen, a dark mulatto, presented the very
remarkable peculiarity of chest-nut hair, only slightly curling. The
others were nearly all of the true field-hand type, aboriginal black,
with dull faces, short and thick forms, and an air of animal contentment
or at least indifference. They talked little, but giggled a great deal,
snatching the canvas bags from each other, and otherwise showing their
disbelief in the doctrine of all work and no play. When the barrows were
sufficiently filled to suit their weak ideal of a load, a procession of
them set off along a plank causeway leading into the fort, observing a
droll semblance of military precision and pomp, and forcing a passage
through lounging unmilitary buckras with an air of, "Out of de way, Ole
Dan Tucker!" We glanced at the yet unfinished ditch, half full of water,
and walked on to the gateway. A grinning, skipping negro drummer was
showing a new pair of shoes to the tobacco-chewing, jovial youth who
stood, or rather sat, sentinel.
"How'd you get hold of _them?_" asked the latter, surveying the articles
"Got a special order frum the Cap'm fur 'um. That ee way to do it. Won't
wet through, no matter how it rain. He, he! I'm all right now."
Here he showed ivory to his ears, cut a caper, and danced into the fort.
"D-a-m' nig-ger!" grinned the sentinel, approvingly, looking at us to
see if we also enjoyed the incident. Thus introduced to the temporary
guardian of the fort, we told him that we were from the Columbia, which
he was glad to bear of, wanting to know if she was damaged, how she went
ashore, whether she could get off, etc., etc. He was a fair specimen of
the average country Southerner, lounging, open to address, and fond of
"I've no authority to let you in," he said, when we asked that favor;
"but I'll call the corporal of the guard."
"If you please."
"Corporal of the guard!"
Appeared the corporal, who civilly heard us, and went for the lieutenant
of the guard. Presently a blonde young officer, with a pleasant face,
somewhat Irish in character, came out to us, raising his forefinger in
"We should like to go into the fort, if it is proper," I said. "We ask
hospitality the more boldly, because we are shipwrecked people."
"It is against the regulations. However, I venture to take the
responsibility," was the obliging answer.
We passed in, and wandered unwatched for half an hour about the
irregular, many-angled fortress. One-third of the interior is occupied
by two brick barracks, covered with rusty stucco, and by other brick
buildings, as yet incomplete, which I took to be of the nature of
magazines. On the walls, gaping landward as well as seaward, are thirty
or thirty-five iron cannon, all _en barbette_, but protected toward the
harbor by heavy piles of sand-bags, fenced up either with barrels of
sand or palmetto-logs driven firmly into the rampart. Four eight-inch
columbiads, carrying sixty-four pound balls, pointed at Fort Sumter. Six
other heavy pieces, Paixhans, I believe, faced the neck of the harbor.
The remaining armament of lighter calibre, running, I should judge, from
forty-twos down to eighteens. Only one gun lay on the ground destitute
of a carriage. The place will stand a great deal of battering; for the
walls are nearly bidden by the sand-covered _glacis_, which would catch
and smother four point-blank shots out of five, if discharged from a
distance. Against shells, however, it has no resource; and one mortar
would make it a most unwholesome residence.
"What's this?" asked a volunteer, in homespun gray uniform, who, like
ourselves, had come in by courtesy.
"That's the butt of the old flag-staff," answered a comrade. "Cap'n
Foster cut it down before he left the fort, damn him I It was a dam'
sneaking trick. I've a great mind to shave off a sliver and send it to
The idea of getting a bit of the famous staff as a memento struck
me, and I attempted to put it in practice; but the exceedingly tough
pitch-pine defied my slender pocket-knife.
"Jim, cut the gentleman a piece," said one of the volunteers, Jim drew a
toothpick a foot long and did me the favor, for which I here repeat my
thanks to him.
They were good-looking, healthy fellows, these two, like most of their
comrades, with a certain air of frank gentility and self-respect about
them, being probably the sons of well-to-do planters. It would be a
great mistake to suppose that the volunteers are drawn, to any extent
whatever, from the "poor white trash." The secession movement, like all
the political action of the State at all times, is independent of the
crackers, asks no aid nor advice of them, and, in short, ignores them
"I was here when the Star of the West was fired on," the Lieutenant told
us. "We only had powder for two hours. Anderson could have put us out in
a short time, if he had chosen."
"How rapidly can these heavy guns be fired?"
"About ten times an hour."
"Do you think the defences will protect the garrison against a
"I think the palmetto stockades will answer. I don't know about that
enormous pile of barrels, however. If a shot hits the mass on the top, I
am afraid it will come down, bags and barrels together, bury the gun and
perhaps the gunners."
"What if Sumter should open now?" I suggested.
"We should be here to help," answered the Georgian.
"We should be here to run away," amended my comrade from Brooklyn.
"Well, I suppose we should be of mighty little use, and might as well
clear out," was the sober second-thought of the Georgian.
Having satisfied our curiosity, we thanked the Lieutenant and left Fort
Moultrie. The story of our visit to it excited much surprise, when we
recounted it in the city. Members of the Legislature and other men high
in influence had desired the privilege, but had not applied for it,
expecting a repulse.
A walk down a winding street, bordered by scattered cottages, inclosed
by brown board-fences or railings, and tracked by a horse-railroad built
for the Moultrie House, led us to the ferry-wharf, where we found our
baggage piled together, and our fellow-passengers wandering about in a
state of bored expectation. Sullivan's Island in winter is a good spot
for an economical man, inasmuch as it presents no visible opportunities
of spending money. There were houses of refreshment, as we could see