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Atlantic Monthly Volume 7, No. 40, February, 1861 by Various

Part 2 out of 5

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way with confidence, to inspect the resources of the bar, or join the
gay throng of dancers between-decks.

There must be something singularly fascinating in this curious pastime
of fishing with a hand-line from the jumping-off places of a steamboat
or pier. Doubtless it is from a defective sympathetic organization
that the writer of these pages does not himself "seem to see it."
Nevertheless, I look upon the illusion with a respect almost bordering
upon fear, although not quite in that spirit of veneration which moves
illogical savages to fall down and worship the stranger lunatic whom
chance has led to their odorous residences. Dwelling one summer on the
New Jersey shore, I used to loiter, day after day, upon a deserted
wharf, at the end of which was ever to be seen a broad-beamed fisherman,
sitting upon an uncomfortably wooden chair, from which he dabbled
perpetually with his whip-cord line in the shallow water that washed the
slimy face-timbers of the wharf. There he sat, day after day, and
all day, and, for aught I know, all through the summer-night, a
big-timbered, sea-worthy man, reading contentedly a daily paper of local
growth, and pulling up never a better bit of sea-luck than the puny,
mean-spirited fishling called by unscientific persons the _burgall_.
I would at any time have freely given ten cents for the privilege of
overhauling old broad-beam's carpet-bag, which he always placed before
him on the string-piece, with a view, I suppose, of frustrating anything
like a guerrilla plunder-movement upon his widely extended rear. Ay,
there must be something strangely entrancing in dragging the shoal
waters with a hand-line, for unsuspicious, easily duped members of the
acanthopterygian tribe of fishes,--under which alarming denomination
come, I believe, nearly all the finny fellows to be met with on these
sand-banks, from the bluefish to the burgall. Only think how stuck up
they would be above the lowly mollusks of the same waters, if they
knew themselves as Acanthopterygii, and were aware that their
great-grandfather was an Acanthopteryx before them, and so away back in
the age of waters that once were over all! "Very ancient and fish-like"
is their genealogy, to be sure!

In the far-away days, when Neversink _was_, but the twin beacon-towers
that now watch upon its heights were _not_,--when Sandy Hook was a hook
only, and not a telegraph-station, from which the first glimpse of an
inward-bound argosy is winked by lightning right in at the window of the
down-town office where Mercator sits jingling the coins in his trousers'
pockets,--in those days, the only excursion-boats that rocked upon the
ground-swell over the pale, sandy reaches of the Fishing-Banks were the
tiny barklets that shot out on calm days from the sweeping coves, with
their tawny tarred-and-feathered crews: for of such grotesque result of
the decorative art of Lynch doth ever remind me the noble Indian warrior
in his plumes and paint. Unfitted, by the circumscribed character of
their sea-craft, their tackle, and their skill, for pushing their
enterprise out into the deeper water, where the shark might haply say to
the horse-mackerel,--"Come, old horse, let you and me hook ourselves on,
and take these foolish tawny fellows and their brown cockle-shell down
into the under-tow,"--they supplied their primitive wants by enticing
from the shallows the beautiful, sunny-scaled shoal-fish, well named by
ichthyologists _Argyrops_, the "silver-eyed." But the poor Indian,
who knew no Greek,--poor old savage, lament for him with a scholarly
_eheu!_--called this shiner of the sea, in his own barbarous lingo,
_Scuppaug_. Can any master of Indian dialects tell us whether that word,
too, means "him of the silver eye"? If it does, revoke, O student, your
shrill _eheu_ for the Greekless and untrousered savage of the canoe,
suppress your feelings, and go steadily into rhabdomancy with several
divining-rods, in search of the Pierian spring which must surely exist
somewhere among the guttural districts of the Ojibbeway tongue.

And here there is diversion for philologist as well as fisherman; for
while the latter is catching the fish, the former may seize on the fact,
that in this word, _Scuppaug_, is to be found the origin of the two
separate names by which Argyrops, the silver-eyed, is miscalled in local
vernacular. True to the national proclivity for clipping names, the
fishermen of Rhode Island appeal to him by the first syllable only of
his Indian one,--for in the waters thereabout he is talked of by the
familiar abbreviation, _Scup._ But to the excursionists and fishermen of
New York he is known only as _Porgy,_ or _Paugie_, a form as obviously
derived from the last syllable of his Indian name as the emphatic
"siree" of our greatest orators is from the modest monosyllable "sir."
_Porgy_ seems to be the accepted form of the word; but letters of the
old, unphonetic kind are poor guides to pronunciation. And a beautiful,
clean-scaled fish is Porgy,--whose _g_, by-the-by, as I learned from a
funny man in the heterogeneous crowd, is pronounced "hard, as in 'git
eowt.'" A lovely fish is he, as he comes dripping up the side of the
vessel from his briny pastures. Silver is the pervading gleam of his
oval form; but while he is yet wet and fresh, the silver is flushed with
a chromatic radiance of gold, and violet, and pale metallic green, all
blending and harmonizing like the mother-o'-pearl lustre in some rare
sea-shell. The true value of this fish is not of a commercial kind,
for he cannot be deemed particularly exquisite in a gastronomic sense;
neither is he staple as a provision of food. His virtue lies in the
inducement offered to him by the citizen of moderate means, who, for
a trifling outlay, can secure for himself and family the invigorating
influence of the salt sea-breezes, by having a run down outside the Hook
any fine day in summer, with an object. The average weight of the porgy
of these banks may be set down at about a pound.

Five minutes after we came to anchor, there must have been at least two
hundred and fifty whip-cord lines stretching out into the three-fathom
water from every available rail and fender of the old boat. Most of the
men had brought their tackle with them, and their tin canisters of bait.
To those who had not, the articles were ready at hand; for speculators
had mingled in the crowd, one of whom affixed his "shingle" to a post
between-decks, setting forth,--"Fishing-Lines and Hooks, with Sinkers
and Bait,"--the latter consisting of clams in the shell, contained in
a barrel big enough for the supply of the whole flotilla of green boats
and red shirts, which still hung around us like swallows in the wake of
an osprey. Two or three of our excursionists--men, perhaps, whose
minds indulged in dear memories of a brook that babbles by a mill--had
fishing-rods with them, and made great ado with scientific lunges and
casts, producing much discord, indeed, by flicking away wildly outside
their proper sea-limits. Most industrious among the hand-fishers I
remarked a small, spare man, who, under the careful supervision of a
buxom young wife in a "loud" tartan silk, baited no hook nor broke water
with his lead until he had first folded and put carefully away between
the handle and lid of the family prog-basket his tight little black
frock-coat, and passed his small legs through the tough creases of a
pair of stout blue "Denim" overalls. These, pulled up to his neck, and
hitched on there with shoulder-straps, served for waistcoat and trousers
and all, imparting to him the cool atmospheric effect so much admired in
that curious picture of Gainsborough's, known to connoisseurs as "The
Blue Boy." Then he fished the waters with a will; and it was but a
scurvy remark of Flashy Joe, who said that "it was about an even chance
whether he took porgy or porgy took _him_." But it seems to me that this
unskilled labor of fishing from a steamboat must be epidemic, if not
contagious; for even Young New York, who in the early forenoon doubted
visibly his discretion at having got himself into such an ugly scrape as
an "excursion-spree," put off his delicate gloves, and set to hauling,
hand over hand, as if for a bet.

But I believe I have committed a breach of etiquette in giving
precedence to Scuppaug over the skipper, a very large and thoroughly
pickled old man, who now bustled deliberately about the decks, with as
few clothes on his broad back and stern-post legs as were consistent
with decorum and with the requirements of those by-laws of society which
extend even to Sandy Hook and the rest of the Jerseys, as well as to the
fishing-banks that shoal out from the same. Strictly speaking, this old
man of our part of the sea was not the captain of the boat, but the
pilot, who takes command of her when she abandons her proper line on
the rivers, and ventures to that "far Cathay" of city-navigators
indefinitely spoken of as "outside the Hook." The smooth-water captain
of the steamer, who was nobody to talk of now, was a slim, pale young
man, in a black dresscoat, tall, silky hat, and shoes of a material
which has long years ago been patented, on account of its matchless
ability to shine. This commander remained permanently within the
"office," where he was probably very poorly by himself during all this
"high old time." The stout old pilot was the real skipper; and now that
the vessel had come to anchor, he turned from his lighter duties to the
grave pastime of the day, and fished earnestly through a large hole in
the paddlebox,--the porgies that came to his allurements arriving at
their destination by a series of flapping manoeuvres from blade to blade
of the wheel. For so burly a man, and one with such a chest for the
stowage of sea-breezes and monsoons, the skipper was provided with a
wonderfully small voice, suggesting, as he lectured upon sea-fishing to
the novices who were getting into "snarls" with their tackle hard by
where he sat, the circumstance of a tree-toad discoursing from the
hollow of a brave old oak.

"If you want to ketch good fish," said he, sententiously, to Young New
York, whose hook persisted in baiting itself with his thumb,--"if you
want to ketch reel snorters, you must have a heavy line, heavy lead, and
gimp tackle. Then take your own time, haul in, hand over hand, and no
matter what the heft, you'll be sure to fetch him."

Young New York produced from his breast-pocket the blue enamelled case
in which reposed his ivory tablets, and, seating himself upon the
chain-box, wrote down with golden pencil the dictum of the sage.

Notwithstanding the storm of yesterday, from which the discontented
foreboded a stampede of the fish to deeper waters, porgies to an
extraordinary amount were soon heaped on the decks, at the feet of each
fisherman, the more careful of whom put them into baskets or barrels.
But in general they were thrown carelessly on the deck, with a string
passed through their gills to keep them from straying out of their
proper lots. When these bright fishes are lying the deck, it is curious
to watch them flushing and gasping there, with that singular, dubious
expression of mouth peculiar to fishes out of water, as if more struck
by the absence of that element than by their novel position among the
accessories of dry life. Now and then a blackfish was hauled in,--an
event greeted with a loud cheer from all parts of the boat. When a very
large one was announced, people came rushing from all quarters to see
it; but the greatest tribute to largeness in a fish that I remember
anywhere to have seen was the altered expression on the face of a baby
some six months old, whose features settled permanently down into the
collapse of imbecility, from the moment of the arrival on the upper deck
of a blackfish two feet long.

By this time the scene on the forecastle was quite a picture of the
Dutch school. Grouped everywhere among the fish and fishers were
matronly women and unbonneted damsels, most of them with handkerchiefs
tied upon their heads; for they had got over their sea-sickness, now,
and were coming by twos and threes from the saloon, to breathe a little
fresh air and look on at the sport. One pretty, Jewish-looking girl,
wrapped in a red and white shawl, was sitting on the big anchor near
the bows, and three or four others looked quite picturesque, as they
reclined on the heavy coils of the great cable. More central to the
picture than was at all advantageous to it sat our friend Raw Material,
with his head jammed recklessly into the capstan, abandoning himself
to his misery. For the inevitable malady had fallen upon him among the
first; and as he sat there, helpless and without hope, upon one of
those life-preserving stools that remind one, by their shape, of the
"properties" of Saturn in the mythology of old, he looked like Languor
on an hour-glass, timing the duration of Woe. All along the bulwarks
on both sides of the boat, men and boys were crowding upon each other,
casting out and hauling in their lines with unflagging spirit. Slim
city-children, blistered wholesomely as to their legs, from knee to
ankle, by the sun and the salt air, harnessed themselves to little heaps
of fish, and were driven about the upper deck in various fashionable
styles, including four-in-hand and tandem, by other slim city-children,
whose lower extremities had been treated in the same beneficial manner
by the same eminent physicians. The musicians had laid away their
cornopeans and other cunningly twisted horns upon the broad disk of the
big drum, in a dark alcove between-decks, and were fishing savagely in
German and broken English, according to the nationality with which their
affairs happened to get entangled. Even the colored _chef de cuisine_,
a muscular mulatto, with a beard of a rash disposition, coming out on
wrong parts of his face in little eruptive pustules of black wool,
sported his lines out of the galley-airholes, and his porgies were
simmering in the pan while their memories were yet green in the
submarine parishes from which they came. Have these finny creatures
their full revenge upon fishermankind, when a smack sinks foundered into
the swallowing deep? Do the midnight revellers in the sea-caverns
call out in broad Scuppaug to the attendant mermaid for a "half-dozen
large-sized jolterheads on the half monkey-jacket?" To these queries I
hope that Poetical Justice, if still living, will forward a reply at
her earliest convenience. Porgy now began to pervade the air with an
astringent perfume of the sea: none of your Fulton Market smells of
stagnating fish, but a clean, wholesome, coralline odor, such as we
may imagine supplied to the Peris "beneath the dark sea" by the scaly
fellows in the toilet line down there, who are likely to keep it for
sale in conch-shells,--quarts and pints. Porgy prevailed to that extent,
in fact, that it came to be talked of, by-and-by, as a circulating
medium; and a hard-fisted mechanic averred his intention of compensating
his landlady for his board with porgy, for the week that was passing

For some time, luck appeared to favor the starboard side of the boat,
at which the take was much greater than at the other. Hence, discontent
began to crawl in at the port-gangways, and the fishermen on that
side were gradually edging over to the other, to look for a chance of
stealing in their lines clandestinely between the ranks. This led to
an interchange of bad compliments, as well as to a very perceptible
slanting of the deck, and the captain piped out to the hands to shift
the chain-box. And by this action was resolved for me a riddle with
regard to the properties and uses of a prematurely stout man of fabulous
girth, who had been dimly revealed to me, once or twice in the course
of the voyage, through some long vista of the 'tween-decks, but seemed
always to melt into air,--or, more probably, oil,--upon any advance
being made to a closer inspection. Now, as a couple of the deck-hands
hauled and howled unsuccessfully at the unwieldy chain-box, this
mysterious person suddenly appeared, as if spirited up, and, throwing
himself stomach on to the loaded vehicle, shot across with it to the
other side of the deck with wonderful velocity, retiring, then, with a
gliding movement, so as to preserve the rectitude of the deck, which
now seemed inclined to slope rather too much the other way. I will not
undertake to say, for certain, that the stout man was paid for doing
this; but, as his hands were small and remarkably white, indications
that he toiled not with _them_, and as he made his appearance on deck
only when movable ballast was wanted, I am bound to suppose that he
secured a living by sitting heavily and throwing himself on for weight,
in circumstances under which such actions command a standard value.

Three hours having gone by since we came to anchor, the healthful toil
of fishing in the salt sea produced its natural result,--a ravenous
appetite for food and drink; and a common consent to partake of
refreshments now began to develop itself. The wives had much to do with
this, as they detailed themselves along the railings, influencing
their husbands with hints about the hamper and flask. For most of the
family-people had brought their provisions with them; and, in many
cases, the basket was flanked by a stone jar which looked as if it might
contain lager-beer,--as, in several instances, it did. Where there were
many small children in a party, however, I noticed that the beverage
obtained from the jar was milk,--real Orange County cow-produce, let us
hope, and none of that sickly town-abomination, the vending of which
ought to be made by our legislators a felony, at least. Ham-sandwiches,
greatly enhanced in flavor by the circumstance of their outer surfaces
being impressed with a reverse of yesterday's news, from the contact of
the pieces of newspaper in which they were wrapped up, formed the staple
of the feast. Large bowls of the various, seasonable berries were also
in request; and all the shady places of the ship were soon occupied by
families, who distributed themselves in independent groups, as people
do in the sylvan localities dedicated to picnics. All were hungry and
happy, all better in mind and body,--illustrating the wise providence of
the instinct that whispers to the over-wrought artisan and bids him go
sometimes forth on a summer's day to the woods and waters,--a move which
the marine character of the subject impels me to speak of nautically,
but reverently, as taking himself and family into the graving-dock of
Nature, for the necessary repairs.

Some of the girls now stole slyly about among the lines, and popped the
baits timidly into the blue water. The pale seamstress, who has quite
a rose-flush on her cheek now, has hooked a good-sized porgy, and her
screams in this terrible predicament have brought several smart young
men to her rescue. Another girl, pretty and well-dressed,--in the
glove-making line, as I guess from the family she is with, all of
whom, from paterfamilias to baby, are begloved in a manner entirely
irrespective of expense,--is kneeling pensively on the stern-benches
of the upper deck, paying out the line with confidence in herself, but
evidently hoping for masculine assistance in the process of hauling it

And where were our dear friends, the roughs, all this time? and how came
it that they were so quiet? They have been asleep,--snoring off the
effects of last night's diversions, and fortifying their constitutions
against the influences to come. Ever since the music ceased playing,
these fellows have been rolled away, singly or in heaps, in crooked
corners, into which they seem to fit naturally. But now they began to
rally, waking up and stretching themselves and yawning,--the last two
actions appearing to be the leading operations of a rowdy's toilet; and,
gathering round Lobster Bob, who has been steadily employed in opening
oysters for all who have a midsummer faith in those mollusks, they
commenced rapidly swallowing great quantities of the various kinds,
which they seasoned to an alarming extent with coarse black pepper
and brownish salt. The fierce thirst, which, with these men, is not a
consequence, because it is a thing that was and is and ever will be, was
brought vividly to their minds by this unnecessary adstimulation; and
now the bar-keeper, whose lager-beer was wellnigh exhausted, from its
connection with ham-sandwiches, had enough to do to furnish them with
whiskey, of which stimulant there was but too large a supply on hand.
The consequence of this was soon apparent in the ugly hilarity with
which the rowdies entered upon the enjoyment of the afternoon. First, in
spite of the remonstrances of the Teuton whose proper chattel it was,
they seized upon the large drum, with which they made an astounding din
in the public promenades of the vessel, abetted, I am sorry to say, by
some who ought to have known better,--and did, probably, before the
whiskey had curdled their wits. In this proceeding, as in all their
movements, they were marshalled by Flashy Joe, whose comparatively
spruce appearance, when he came on board in the morning, had been a good
deal deteriorated by broken slumbers in places not remote from coals,
and by the subsequent course of drinks. Quiet people were beginning to
express some dissatisfaction with the noise made by these fellows, who,
however, kept pretty much by themselves, as yet, and had got only to the
musical stage of the proceedings, chorusing with unearthly yells a song
contributed to the harmony of the afternoon by the first ruffian, the
burden of which ran,--

"When this old hat was ny-oo, my boys,
When this old hat was ny-oo-ooo!"

No voice in this chorus dwelt more decidedly by itself than the shrill
one belonging to the small, spare man already spoken of as having a
buxom young wife and blue cotton overalls. During his wife's adjournment
to the ladies' cabin, this person, I am obliged to record, had become
boisterously drunk,--a condition in which the contradictory elements
that make up the characters of most men are generally developed to an
instructive extent. In his first paroxysm, the fighting man within him
was all aroused, as is generally the case with diminutive men, when
under the influence of drink. Already he had tucked his sleeves up to
fight a large German musician, who could have put him into the bell of
his brass-horn and played him out, without much trouble. But the song
pacified him; and, with a misty sense of his importance in a convivial
point of view, on account of the manner in which he had acquitted
himself in the chorus, he now essayed a higher flight, and treated the
party to a new version of "The Pope," oddly condensed into one verse, as

"The Pope, he leads a happy life,
He fears no married care nor strife,
His wives are many as be will:
I would the Sultan's place, then, fill!"

At this moment the buxom young wife descended suddenly from the upper
deck by the forecastle-ladder, like Nemesis from a thunder-cloud, and,
seizing upon the small warbler, to whom she administered a preliminary
shake which must have sadly changed the current of his ideas, drove him
ignominiously before her toward the stern of the vessel, rapping him
occasionally about the ears with the hard end of her fan, to keep him on
a straight course. Persons who traced the matter farther said that he
was driven all the way to the upper deck, pushed with gentle violence
into a state-room, the door locked upon him, and the key pocketed by the
lady, who said triumphantly, as she walked away,--"That's the Sultan's
place for _him_, I guess!" The moral to this little episode is but
a horn-book one, and without any pretension to didactic force: That
respectable citizens, like the small, spare man, would do well, on
excursion-trips or elsewhere, to avoid whiskey and black-guards; and
that wives might be saved a deal of trouble by keeping their eyes
permanently on their husbands, when the latter are of uncertain ways.

This little domestic drama had hardly been played out, when a more
serious one--almost a tragedy--was enacted on the forecastle. It
originated in the misconduct of the red man, who, seized with a desire
to catch porgies, went a short way to work for tackle, by snatching away
the line of a peaceable, but stout Frenchman, who was paralyzed for a
moment by the novelty of the thing, but, immediately recovering himself,
expressed his dissent by smashing an earthen-ware dish, containing a
great mess of raw clams for bait, upon the head of the red man, as he
stooped over the railing to fish. This led to a general fight, in which
blood flowed freely, and the roughs were getting rather the upper-hand.
Knives were drawn by some of the Germans and others in self-defence,
and great consternation reigned in the afterpart of the boat and
the neighborhood of the ladies' cabin. Then the slim captain of the
boat--the one in the black dress-coat--hurriedly whispered something to
Lobster Bob, who rushed away aft, where the fight was now agglomerating,
headed by the red man and Flashy Joe, both covered with blood, and
looking like demons, as they wrestled and bit through the Crowd. Just
as they hustled past a large chest intended for the stowage of
life-preservers, Lobster Bob kicked the lid of it open with a bang, and,
seizing up the red man, neck and crop, with his huge, tattooed hands,
dropped him into it and shut down the lid, which was promptly sat upon
by the large, stout, smiling man already favorably spoken of in these
pages, who suddenly made his appearance from nowhere in particular. The
picture of contentment, he sat there like one who knew how, caressing
slowly his large knees with his short, plump hands, until the cries from
the chest began to wax feeble, when he slowly arose, vanished, and I
never saw him again. The red rowdy was then dragged, half-suffocated,
from his imprisonment, and as much life as he ought ever to be intrusted
with restored to him by the stout old skipper, who was at hand with a
couple of buckets full of cold salt-water, with which he drenched him
liberally, as he slunk away. A diversion thus effected, the disturbance
was quelled. All was quiet in a short time, and the word was passed to
heave the anchor and 'bout ship for home.

On the way back, we took a pleasant course inside the Hook, which
brought the charming scenery of the Jersey shore and of Staten Island
before us, as a pleasant drop-curtain on the melodrama just closed. The
music again struck up, and dancing was resumed with fresh vigor,--the
waltzing of all other couples being quite eclipsed by that of Young New
York and little Straw-Goods, who had effectually got rid of her tipsy
persecutor ever since the ground-swell, and was keeping rather in the
background of late, with a sober-minded lady whom she called "aunty."
With the exception of the few who took to whiskey and bad company, all
appeared contented, and the better for their sea-holiday. The very
musicians played with greater spirit than they did before, owing,
perhaps, to their remarkable success in the porgy-fishery. One of the
horn-players, far too knowing to let his fish out of sight, has propped
his music-book up against a pyramid of them, as upon a desk. The
good-looking man who plays upon the double-bass is equally prudent with
regard to his trophies, which he has hung up around the post on which
is pinned the score to which he looks for directions when it becomes
necessary to bind together with string-music the pensive interchanges of
the sax-horn and bassoon.

And now, as our vessel neared the wharf from which we had started while
the sun was yet in the east, I looked forward to see what signs of
the times were astir on the forecastle. All had deserted it, and
were tending aft, with their tackle, their fish, and their
prog-baskets,--all, at least, except Raw Material, of whom we enjoyed
now an uninterrupted view, as he sat in his old position, with his head
jammed obstinately into the capstan. But how was this?--he was round at
the opposite side of it now; and I puzzled myself for a moment, thinking
whether this change of bearings could be accounted for by the fact of
the boat being headed the other way.

But Young New York, who is far more nautical than I am, and has a big
brother in one of the yacht-clubs, derided the idea, and said he must
have gone round with the handspikes, when the anchor was hove.

And there he remained, as we went our way,--a modern Spartan slave in a
kind of marine pillory,--conveying to the red-legged children of Gotham,
as they toddled ashore, a useful lesson on the doubtful relations
existing between whiskey and pleasure.


The beaver cut his timber
With patient teeth that day,
The minks were fish-wards, and the cows
Surveyors of highway,--

When Keezar sat on the hillside
Upon his cobbler's form,
With a pan of coals on either hand
To keep his waxed-ends warm.

And there, in the golden weather,
He stitched and hammered and sung;
In the brook he moistened his leather,
In the pewter mug his tongue.

Well knew the tough old Teuton
Who brewed the stoutest ale,
And he paid the good-wife's reckoning
In the coin of song and tale.

The songs they still are singing
Who dress the hills of vine,
The tales that haunt the Brocken
And whisper down the Rhine.

Woodsy and wild and lonesome,
The swift stream wound away,
Through birches and scarlet maples
Flashing in foam and spray,--

Down on the sharp-horned ledges
Plunging in steep cascade,
Tossing its white-maned waters
Against the hemlock's shade.

Woodsy and wild and lonesome,
East and west and north and south;
Only the village of fishers
Down at the river's mouth;

Only here and there a clearing
With its farm-house rude and new,
And tree-stumps, swart as Indians,
Where the scanty harvest grew.

No shout of home-bound reapers,
No vintage-song he heard,
And on the green no dancing feet
The merry violin stirred.

"Why should folk be glum," said Keezar,
"When Nature herself is glad,
And the painted woods are laughing
At the faces so sour and sad?"

Small heed had the careless cobbler
What sorrow of heart was theirs
Who travailed in pain with the births of God,
And planted a state with prayers,--

Hunting of witches and warlocks,
Smiting the heathen horde,--
One hand on the mason's trowel,
And one on the soldier's sword!

But give him his ale and cider,
Give him his pipe and song,
Little he cared for church or state,
Or the balance of right and wrong.

"'Tis work, work, work," he muttered,--
"And for rest a snuffle of psalms!"
He smote on his leathern apron
With his brown and waxen palms.

"Oh for the purple harvests
Of the days when I was young!
For the merry grape-stained maidens,
And the pleasant songs they sung!

"Oh for the breath of vineyards,
Of apples and nuts and wine!
For an oar to row and a breeze to blow
Down the grand old river Rhine!"

A tear in his blue eye glistened
And dropped on his beard so gray.
"Old, old am I," said Keezar,
"And the Rhine flows far away!"

But a cunning man was the cobbler;
He could call the birds from the trees,
Charm the black snake out of the ledges,
And bring back the swarming bees.

All the virtues of herbs and metals,
All the lore of the woods he knew,
And the arts of the Old World mingled
With the marvels of the New.

Well he knew the tricks of magic,
And the lapstone on his knee
Had the gift of the Mormon's goggles
Or the stone of Doctor Dee.

For the mighty master Agrippa
Wrought it with spell and rhyme
From a fragment of mystic moonstone
In the tower of Nettesheim.

To a cobbler Minnesinger
The marvellous stone gave he,--
And he gave it, in turn, to Keezar,
Who brought it over the sea.

He held up that mystic lapstone,
He held it up like a lens,
And he counted the long years coming
By twenties and by tens.

"One hundred years," quoth Keezar,
"And fifty have I told:
Now open the new before me,
And shut me out the old!"

Like a cloud of mist, the blackness
Rolled from the magic stone,
And a marvellous picture mingled
The unknown and the known.

Still ran the stream to the river,
And river and ocean joined;
And there were the bluffs and the blue sea-line,
And cold north hills behind.

But the mighty forest was broken
By many a steepled town,
By many a white-walled farm-house
And many a garner brown.

Turning a score of mill-wheels,
The stream no more ran free;
White sails on the winding river,
White sails on the far-off sea.

Below in the noisy village
The flags were floating gay,
And shone on a thousand faces
The light of a holiday.

Swiftly the rival ploughmen
Turned the brown earth from their shares;
Here were the farmer's treasures,
There were the craftsman's wares.

Golden the good-wife's butter,
Ruby her currant-wine;
Grand were the strutting turkeys,
Fat were the beeves and swine.

Yellow and red were the apples,
And the ripe pears russet-brown,
And the peaches had stolen blushes
From the girls who shook them down.

And with blooms of hill and wild-wood,
That shame the toil of art,
Mingled the gorgeous blossoms
Of the garden's tropic heart.

"What is it I see?" said Keezar:
"Am I here, or am I there?
Is it a fete at Bingen?
Do I look on Frankfort fair?

"But where are the clowns and puppets,
And imps with horns and tail?
And where are the Rhenish flagons?
And where is the foaming ale?

"Strange things, I know, will happen,--
Strange things the Lord permits;
But that droughty folk should be jolly
Puzzles my poor old wits.

"Here are smiling manly faces,
And the maiden's step is gay;
Nor sad by thinking, nor mad by drinking,
Nor mopes, nor fools are they.

"Hero's pleasure without regretting,
And good without abuse,
The holiday and the bridal
Of beauty and of use.

"Here's a priest and there is a Quaker,--
Do the cat and the dog agree?
Have they burned the stocks for oven-wood?
Have they cut down the gallows-tree?

"Would the old folk know their children?
Would they own the graceless town,
With never a ranter to worry
And never a witch to drown?"

Loud laughed the cobbler Keezar,
Laughed like a school-boy gay;
Tossing his arms above him,
The lapstone rolled away.

It rolled down the rugged hill-side,
It spun like a wheel bewitched,
It plunged through the leaning willows,
And into the river pitched.

There, in the deep, dark water,
The magic stone lies still,
Under the leaning willows
In the shadow of the hill.

But oft the idle fisher
Sits on the shadowy bank,
And his dreams make marvellous pictures
Where the wizard's moonstone sank.

And still, in the summer twilights,
When the river seems to run
Out from the inner glory,
Warm with the melted sun,

The weary mill-girl lingers
Beside the charmed stream,
And the sky and the golden water
Shape and color her dream.

Fair wave the sunset gardens,
The rosy signals fly;
Her homestead beckons from the cloud,
And love goes sailing by!


"In the name of the Prophet:--Figs!"

"Eh, bien, Sare! wiz you Field and ze uzzers! Zey is ver' good men, sans
doute, an' zey know how make ze money; mais--gros materialistes, I tell
you, Sare! Vat zen? I sall sink I know, I! Oui, Monsieur, I, Cesar
Prevost, who has ze honneur to stand before you,--I am ze original
inventeur of ze Telegraphique Communication wiz Europe!"

It was about the period when, with the fast world of cities, De Sauty
was beginning to become type of an "ism"; already the attention of
excitement-hunters had travelled far from Trinity Bay, and Cyrus Field
had yielded his harvest. Nevertheless, to me, who had just come to
town from a quiet country seclusion into which news made its entry
teredo-fashion only, the performances of the Agamemnon and Niagara were
matters of fresh and vivid interest. So I purchased Mr. Briggs's book,
and went to Guy's, to cut the leaves over a steak and a bottle of
Edinburgh ale. It was while I was thus engaged that the little Frenchman
had accosted me, calling my attention to his wares with such perfect
courtesy, such airy grace, that I was forced to look at his baskets.
And looking, I was induced to lay down my book and examine them more
closely; for they were really pretty,--made of extremely white and
delicate wood, showing an exquisite taste in their design, and being
neatly and carefully finished. Then it was, that, having apparently
noticed the title of my book, M. Cesar Prevost had used the language
above quoted, and with such _empressement_ of manner, that my attention
was diverted from his wares to himself. I looked at him with some

He was a little old Frenchman, lean as a haunch of dried venison, and
scarcely less dark in complexion,--though his color was nearer that of
rappee snuff, and had not the rich blood-lined purple of venison. His
face was wofully meagre, and seemed scored and overlaid with care-marks.
Nevertheless, there was an energetic, nervous, almost humorsome mobility
about his mouth; while his little beady black eyes, quick, warm,
scintillant, had ten times the life one would have expected to find
keeping company with his fifty years. In dress, he was very threadbare,
and, sooth to say, not over-clean; yet he was jaunty, and moved with the
air of a man much better clad. I was impressed with his appearance, and
especially with his voice, which was vibrant, firm, and excellently
intoned. It is my foible, perhaps, but I am always charmed with
_bonhommie_, I class originality among the cardinal virtues, and I am
as eager in the chase after eccentricity as a veteran fox-hunter is in
pursuit of Reynard. M. Cesar promised a compensative proportion of all
three qualities, could I only "draw him out"; and besides, he was not
like Mr. Canning's "Knife-Grinder,"--for, evidently, he _had_ a story to

Observing my scrutiny, he smiled; a singular, ironical smile it was, yet
without a particle of bitterness or of cynicism.

"Eh, bien!" said he; "you stare, Monsieur! you sink me an excentrique.
Vraiment! I am use to zat,--I am use to have persons smile
reeseeblement, to tap zere fronts, an' spek of ze strait-jackets. Never
fear,--I am toujours harmless! Mais, Monsieur, it is true, vat I tell
you: I am ze origi_nal_ inventeur of ze Atlantic Telegraph! You mus'
not comprehend me, Sare, to intend somesing vat persons call ze
Telegraph,--such like ze Electric Telegraph of Monsieur Morse,--a
vulgaire sing of ze vire and ze acid. Mon Dieu, non! far more
perfect,--far more grrand,--far more _original!_ Ze acid may burn ze
finger,--ze vire vill become rrusty,--ze isolation subject always to ze
atmosphere. Ah, bah! Vat make you in zat event? As ze pure lustre of ze
diamant of Golconde to ze distorted rays of a morsel of bottle-glass, so
my grrand invention to ze modes of ze telegraph in vogue at present!"

"Monsieur, you shall tell me about it," said I, pointing to a seat on
the other side of the table; "sit down there, and tell me about your
invention, and in your native language,--that is, if you can spare the
time to do so, and to drink a glass of Bordeaux with me."

He accepted my invitation as a gentleman would, sipped his wine like a
connoisseur, passed me a few compliments, such as any French gentleman
might toss to you, if you had asked him to join you in a glass of wine
in one of his city's _cafes_, and then proceeded with his story. My
translation gives but a faint echo of the impression made upon me by
his life, vigor, and originality; but still I have striven to do him as
little injustice as possible.

"Monsieur, it is ten years since I accomplished, put in practice, and
evoked practical results from this international communication, which
your two peoples have failed to establish, in spite of all their money,
their great ships, and the united wisdom of their _savans_. I am a
Frenchman, Monsieur,--and, you know, France is the congenial soil of
Science. In that country, where they laugh ever and _se jouent de tout_,
Science is sacred;--the Academy has even _pas_ of the army; honors there
are higher prized than the very wreaths of glory. Among the votaries
of Science in France, Cesar Prevost was the humblest,--_serviteur,
Monsieur._ Nevertheless, though my place was only in the outermost porch
of the temple, I was a faithful, devoted, self-sacrificing worshipper of
the goddess; and therefore, because earnest fidelity has ever its crown
of reward, it happened to me to make a grand discovery,--a discovery
more momentous, it may be, than that of gunpowder or the telescope,--ten
million hundred times more worth than the vaunted great achievement of
M. le Professeur Morse. Not that its whole import came to me at once.
No, Monsieur, it is full twenty years now since the first light of it
glimmered upon Cesar Prevost's mind, and he gave ten years of his life
to it--ten faithful years--before it was perfect to his satisfaction.
Ah, Monsieur, and 'tis more than one year now that I have been what you
see me, in consequence of it. _Eh, bien!_ I shall die so,--rightly,--but
my discovery shall live forever.

"But pardon, Monsieur,--I see that you are impatient. You shall
immediately hear all I have to say,--after I have, in a few words, given
you a brief insight into the nature of my invention. Come, then!--Has it
ever occurred to Monsieur to reflect upon that something which we call
_Sympathy?_ The philosophers, you know, and the physiologists, the
followers of that _coquin_, Mesmer, and the _betes_ Spiritualists, as
they now dub themselves,--these have written, talked, and speculated
much about it. I doubt not these fellows have aided Monsieur
in perplexing his brain respecting the diverse, the world-wide
ramifications of this physiological problem. The limits, indeed,
of Sympathy have not been, cannot be, rightly set or defined; and
there are those who embrace under such a capitulation half the
dark mysteries that bother our heads when we think of Life's
under-current,--instinct,--clairvoyance,--trance,--ecstasy,--all the
dim and inner sensations of the Spirit, where it touches the Flesh as
perceptibly, but as unseen and unanalyzed, as the kiss of the breeze at
evening. _Sans doute,_ Monsieur, 'tis very wonderful, all this,--and
then, also, 'tis very convenient. Our ships must have a steersman, you
know. And, _par exemple,_ unless we call it sympathetic, that strange
susceptibility which we see in many persons, detect in ourselves
sometimes, what name have we to give it at all? Unless we call it
sympathy, how shall we define those mysterious premonitions, shadowy
warnings, solemn foretokens, that fall upon us now and then as the dew
falls upon the grass-leaf, that make our blood to shiver and our flesh
to quake, and will not by any means permit themselves to be passed by
or nullified? 'T is a fact that is irrepressible; and, in persons with
imagination of morbid tendency, this spontaneous sympathy takes a
hold so strong as to present visibly the image about which there is
concern,--and, behold! your veritable spectre is begotten! So, again, of
your 'love at first sight,' _comme on dit_,--that inevitable attraction
which one person exerts towards another, in spite, it may be, both of
reason and judgment. If this be not child of sympathy, what parentage
shall we assign it? And antipathy, Monsieur, the medal's reverse,--your
_bete noire_, for instance,--expound me that! Why do you so shudder at
sight of this or that innocent object? You cannot reason it away,--'t is
always there; you cannot explain it, nor diagnose its symptoms,--'t is
a part of you, governed by the same laws that govern your 'elective
affinities' throughout. But note, Monsieur! You and I and man in general
are not alone in this: the whole organic world--nay, some say the entire
universe, inorganic as well as organic--is subject to these impalpable
sympathetic forces. Is the hypothesis altogether fanciful of chemical
election and rejection,--of the kiss and the kick of the magnet? Your
Sensitive-Plant, your Dionea, your Rose of Jericho, your Orinoco-blossom
that sets itself afloat in superb faith that the ever-moving waters
will bring it to meet its mate and lover,--are not these instances of
sympathy? And tell me by what means your eye conquers the furious dog
that would bite you,--tell me how that dog is able to follow your
traces, and to find the quail or the fox for you,--tell me how the cat
chills the bird it would spring upon,--how the serpent fascinates its
victim with a flash of its glittering eye. Our 'dumb beasts' yet have a
language of their own, unguessed of us, yet perfectly intelligible
to them,--how? We call this, Instinct. _Eh, bien, Monsieur!_ what is
Instinct, but Sympathy?

"Bah! it amounts to nothing, all this, if we only look at it in such
relations. For centuries have _stupides_ bothered their brains about
such matters, seeking to account for them. As well devote one's time to
puzzling over 'Aelia Laelia'! Mysteries were not meant to be put in
the spelling-books, Monsieur. Ah, bah! a far different path did
Cesar Prevost pursue! He studied these phenomena, not to _explain_
them,--being too wise to dream of living _par amours_ with such barren
virgins as are Whence and Why (your Bacon was very shrewd, Monsieur).
What cared I about _causes_? Let Descartes, and Polignac, and Reid, and
Cudworth, _et id omne genus_, famish themselves in this desert; but ask
it not of Cesar Prevost! He is always considerate to the impossible. He
says this, always:--Here we have certain interesting phenomena; their
causes are involved in mystery impenetrable; their esoteric nature is
beyond the reach of any microscope;--what then? My Heaven! let us do
what we _can_ with them. Let us seek out their _relations_; let us
investigate the laws regulating their interdependence,--if there be such
laws; and _apres_, let us inquire if there be any _practical results_
obtainable from such relations and laws.

"You follow me, Monsieur? _Eh, bien!_ This was the system, and Cesar
Prevost came speedily to _one_ law,--a law so important, that, like
Aaron's serpent, it put all the rest out of sight forever, engrossing
thereafter his whole attention. This law, which pervades the entire
animal economy, and is of course important in proportion to its
universality, is as follows:--_The sympathetic harmony between animals,
other things being equal, is _IN INVERSE PROPORTION _to their rank
in that scale of comparison in which man is taken as the maximum of
perfection._ Consequently, man is most deficient in this instinctive
something, which, for lack of a better term, I have ventured to style
'sympathetic harmony,' while the simplest organization has it most
developed. This last, you perceive, Monsieur, is only inductively
true;--when we get below a certain stage in the scale, we find the
difficulties of observation increase in a larger ratio than the
augmented sympathy, and so we are not compensated; 't is, for instance,
like the telescope, where, after you have reached a certain power, the
deficiency of light overbalances the degree of multiplication. Knowing
this, my first aim was to find out what animal would suit best,--what
one that could be easily observed was most susceptible, most
sympathetic. 'T was a long labor, Monsieur; I shall not tire you with
the details. Enough that I found in the _snail_ the instrument I
needed,--and in the snail of the Rocky Mountains the most perfect of his
kind. You smile, Monsieur. _Eh, bien!_ 't is not philosophic to laugh at
the means by which one achieves something. Smile how you will, 't is a
fact that in the snail which is so common and grows to such an enormous
size in the valleys and on the slopes of your great Cordilleras I found
an animal combining a maximum of sympathetic harmony with the greatest
facility of being observed, the best health and habits, and the utmost
simplicity of _prononcee_ manifestation. But, you ask, what seek I,
then? My Heaven, Monsieur! there was the grand Idea,--the Idea upon
which I build my pride,--the Idea that is _mine!_ When it came to me,
Monsieur, this Idea, a great calm filled all my soul, and I felt then
the spirit of Kepler, when he said he could wait during centuries to
be recognized, since the laws he had demonstrated were eternal and
immutable as the Great God Himself! Yes, Monsieur! For in that crude,
undeveloped Idea were already germinating the wonders of an achievement
grander than any of Schwartz, or Guttenberg, or Galileo. Oh, this
beautiful, grand simplicity of Science, which was able, from the snail
itself, the very type and symbol and byword of torpidity and inaction,
to evolve what was to conquer time and space,--to outrun the wildest
imaginings of Puck himself!"

----What a coltish fire of enthusiasm pranced in the worthy little
Frenchman's veins, to be sure!

"_Eh, bien!_ Now, distance made no matter; it was forever subdued.
I could as soon send messages to the Sun itself as to my next-door
neighbor! Smile on, Monsieur! Cesar Prevost shall not be piqued at your
incredulity. He also was amazed, prostrated, when all the stupendous
consequences of his discovery first flashed upon his mind; and it was
very long before he could rid his mind of the notion that he was become
victim to the phantasms of a ridiculous dream. _Eh, bien!_ 't was very
simple, once analyzed. Know one fact, and you have all. And this one
fact, so simple, yet so grand, was just this:--_That a male and female
snail, having been once, by contact, put in communication with one
another, so as to become what magnetizers call en rapport the one with
the other, continue ever after to sympathize, no matter what space may
divide them._ 'T is in a nutshell, you perceive,--and giving me the
entire principle of an unlimited telegraphic communication. All that was
to do was to systematize it. Tedious work, you may conceive, Monsieur;
yet I did not shrink from it, nor find it irksome, for my assured
result was ever leading me onward. Ah, bah! what did I not dream

"I was not rich, and so, to save the trouble and expense of importing
my snails to Paris,--vast trouble and expense, of course, since my
experiments were so numerous,--I came across the Atlantic, and fixed
myself at a point near St. Louis, where I could study in peace and have
the subjects of my experiments close at hand. I used to pay the trappers
liberally to get my snails for me, instructing them how to gather and
how to transport them; and to divert all suspicion from my real
objects, I pretended to be a _gourmet_, who used the snails solely for
gastronomic purposes,--whereby, Monsieur," said Cesar Prevost, with
a humorous smile, "I was unfortunate enough to inspire the hearty
_garcons_ with a supreme contempt for me, and they used to say I 'vas
not bettaire zan one blarsted Digger Injun!' _Mon Dieu!_ what martyrs
the votaries of Science have been, always!

"_Eh, bien!_ I shall not bother you with my experiments. In brief, let
me give you only results, so as to be just comprehensible. Given my law,
I had to find, _first,_ the manner exactly in which snails manifest
their sympathy, the one for the other,--_c'est a dire,_ how Snail A
tells you that something is happening to his comrade, Snail B. There was
a constant law for this, hard to find, but I achieved it. _Second,_
to make my telegraph perfect, and pat my system beyond the touch of
accident, I had to discover how to _destroy_ the _rapport_ between
Snails A and B. Unless I could do this, I could never be sure my
instruments were perfectly isolated, so to speak. 'Twas a difficult
task, Monsieur; for the snail is the most constant in its attachments of
all the animal kingdom, and I have known them to die, time and again,
because their mates had died,--

"'Pining away in a green and yaller melancholie,'

"as your grand poet has it, Monsieur. Still, I succeeded, and I am very
proud to announce it;--'twas a great feat, indeed--no less than to
_subvert an instinct!_ _Third_, I found out the way to keep them
perfectly isolated, so as to prevent any subvention of a higher
influence from weakening or destroying the previous _rapport_.
_Fourth,_ what sort of influence brought to bear upon Snail B would be
sympathetically indicated most palpably in Snail A. So, Monsieur, you
may fancy I had my hands full.

"But I succeeded, after long labor. Then I spent much time in seeking to
perfect an Alphabetical System, and also a Recording Apparatus, capable
of exactly setting forth the _quality_ of the sympathy manifested, as
well as the _number_ of the manifestations. When these things were
all perfected, I should have a complete system of Telegraph, which no
circumstances of time, distance, or atmosphere could impair, which would
put on record its every step, and permit no opportunity for error or for

"_Eh, bien!_ Man proposes,--God disposes. Monsieur, when I began my
experiments, when I devoted myself, my energies, and my life itself
to developing and utilizing my discovery, my motives were purely,
exclusively scientific. My sole aim was to win the position of an
eminent _savant,_ who, by conferring a signal benefit upon the race,
should merit the common applause of mankind. But, as time wore on, as
my labors began to be successful, as the grand possibilities of my
achievement arrayed themselves before me, other dreams usurped my
brain. I, the inventor of this thing, so glorious in its aspect, so
incomputable in its results,--was I to permit myself to go without
reward? Fame? Ah, bah! what bread would Fame butter? 'Twas a bubble, a
name, an empty, profitless sound, this _coquin_ of Fame! _'Proximus
sum egomet mihi,'_ says Terence,--or, as your English proverb has
it, 'Charity begins at home.' I bethought me of the usual fate of
discoverers and inventors,--neglected, scoffed at, ill-used, left to
starve. The blesser of the world with infinite riches must nibble his
crust _au sixieme._ Why, then? Because, in their sublime eagerness to
serve others, they forget to care for themselves. _Eh, bien!_ One must
still keep his powder dry, said your great Protector. This discovery was
to double the effectiveness of men's hands,--therefore, was grandly to
enrich them. But could it not be also made a notable instrument for
wealth in _one_ man's hands? Ah! brave thought! How, if, none the less
resolved to give man eventually the benefit of my Idea, I should yet
keep it in abeyance, till I had made my own sufficient profit out of it?
It could be done;--surely, to use it well were less difficult than to
have invented it. So dreams of wealth and luxury began to fill my brain.
I would enrich myself till I had become a _power_, emphatically,--till
all purchasable things were within my reach. Then I should likewise
become a benefactor of the race; for my intentions were liberal, and
intelligence sustained adequately can effect miracles. Then, when I had
made myself veritably the Apostle of Riches, I would put the capstone
to man's debt to me, by endowing him with knowledge in the uses of this
great instrument whereby I had made myself so great. Ah, Monsieur, you
see, Haroun Alraschid had set me on his throne for an hour by way of
jest, and I imagined myself Caliph in Bagdad forever!

"Full of such purposes, and of the fiery impatience of yearning begotten
of them, I hastened to bring my work to efficiency for use. I had worked
in silence, alone, secretly; for I dreaded to have my discovery guessed,
my aims anticipated and foreclosed upon. But, hasten how I would,
the processes were too slow for my means,--and just when, like the
alchemist, my crucible promised the grand projection, came the dreaded
explosion. My money exhausted itself! I found myself, a stranger in a
strange land, without a dollar. _Eh, bien, Monsieur!_ 't is not in Cesar
Prevost to despair. Ah, in those days, especially, had I a heart big
with the strength of hope! To accomplish my ends, a partner was needed
at best, money or no money; so now it was only necessary for me to find
one who to the essential qualities of heart and brain conjoined a purse
of sufficient size. Before long, I came across the very man. Monsieur,
when I recall the past, I behold many instances where I erred and was
foolish; but the single bitter reflection I have is, that my own ruin
involved the ruin of John Meavy, my partner and good comrade. I remember
what he was when I found him,--happy, prosperous, large-hearted,--in
every sense a noble man. I ruined him! Ah, could I but--_Eh, bien!_ 't
is too late, now; he is dead; _requiescat!_ I have the bliss to know he
found no fault with the end.--_Passons!_

"When I first knew John Meavy, he was a merchant, living with the quiet
ease of a well-to-do bachelor. Though he had been brought up to trade,
the stain of money was not upon him. Generous, charitable, liberal of
thought, he was the gentlest enthusiast in other men's behalf that ever
the sun shone on. It was the fact that he possessed fifty thousand
dollars and was trustworthy that first drew rue towards him; but I
had not known him long ere I gave him my ardent love, and thereafter
thoughts of wealth were pleasant to me as much for his sake as for my
own. John was a student, and a lover of Science, as well as a man of
trade; and, in the first moments of our intercourse, I took care to let
drop words that I knew would attract his curiosity and interest. Like
all you Americans, John Meavy was a man of perfect faith in all that
regarded 'Progress,' and especially did he believe in the infinite
perfectibility of Science in the hands of an energetic people. This
was the chord upon which I played, and the responsive note was easily
evoked. He sought me out, came to me eagerly, and, by degrees, I
divulged to him all my plans. He was ambitious to work for mankind, and
I convinced him that I could give him the means to do so. My faith,
Monsieur! that John Meavy had not one least morsel of selfishness in all
his character! How far was he from dreaming of wealth for its own sake,
and for the voluptuous surroundings with which my fancy enlarged upon
it! No, indeed,--my invention to John Meavy was nothing; but, as a means
to profit you and me and the rest of us, 't was a thing of the grandest
import. So, at first, he would not have had us keep our secret for a
day; but I--by a sophistry that is only sophistic when we add to the
consideration man's impotent and easily perverted will--brought him into
my plans, showing him what an instrument for good vast riches would be
in his hands. And he was the more easily persuaded because of the very
grand purity of his nature. _Sans doute_, he felt it to be altogether
true, what I told him, that, in _his_ hands, a hundred million dollars
would be worth more to mankind at large than the whole French kingdom.
_Mais, Monsieur_, you cannot own a hundred millions and be good. As
well expect to find the same virtue in London that prevails in a quiet
country-town. You cannot filter oceans, Monsieur, and the dead fish in
them _will_ cause a stink. But I did not know this till afterwards.

"So, having inoculated John, I bestowed upon him my confidence without
reserve; for I knew he was one to appreciate such treatment, and would
repay me in kind. 'Here it all is, _mon ami_,' said I; 'this is my
invention; these the means for reducing it to practice; money is all I
need. If you will join me, and provide the funds required, we will enter
into a partnership for ten years, enrich ourselves, and then give it to
all the world.'

"'Ten years! must the world wait so long?'

"'The world has waited six thousand years for this century, _camarade_.
We shall require so long to enrich ourselves. And then, remember,--the
longer they are kept out of it, the more perfect will our invention
be, and, consequently, the greater their profit from it. Science has
suffered too much already by its seven-months' children, my good friend.
_Eh, bien!_ What say you? Will you be my partner?'

"'Yes, Cesar. 'T is a noble scheme, such as only a noble man could
originate. But, Prevost, do not speak to me of an equal partnership. I
must not pattern after my country's way of overlooking the inventor. Let
us go into business upon this basis:--Prevost one share, John Meavy one
share, Invention one share.'

"'Bah! John Meavy!' I cried. 'If I have discovered something, so also
have you, namely: a pocket deep enough, a heart honest enough, and a
faith strong enough to make that something available;--I expected sooner
to find the philosopher's-stone than all these, good friend. No, John
Meavy,--if you share with me, you share equally. Then I shall be sure
that you are equally interested with myself; so we shall succeed.'

"_Eh, bien!_ We arranged it; and that very day, after I had pointed out
to John the state of my experiments, my noble comrade took me with him
to his place of business, put all his books open before me, explained
exactly the condition of his affairs, and concluded by giving me a check
for five thousand dollars. 'There,' said he, 'take that, pay your
debts, provide for yourself, and go on and reduce your invention to the
practical working you speak about. Meantime, I will wind up my business
in readiness to join you. Six months from now, the firm of Prevost and
Meavy, established to-day, will begin business together.'

"_Mon pauvre_ John Meavy!

"_Eh bien, Monsieur!_" resumed the little Frenchman, after a short
pause,--"one cannot help one's self, after it is too late. _Allons,
donc!_--I had lately, thinking over the matter in the light of my
intense desire to begin a career, and under the pressure of urgent
poverty, given up the notion of bringing my invention to absolute
perfection as a system of telegraphing. Instead of elaborating a
complete alphabet, I proposed to carry into effect a substitute already
perfected, one simple almost beyond belief, needing few preparations,
involving trifling cost, and capable of being made immediately
operative. Further experience has taught me that the very same means,
aided by a little deeper generalization, and an arbitrary set of
signals, would have given me an entire alphabet. But just now I had no
time to extend my experiments, needing all my time to make sure and
acquire skill in what was already achieved. I must insure against the
chance of mistake; for when we were applying our invention to the
acquisition of money, any error would necessarily be fatal.

"The six months went rapidly by, and before they were over I was all
ready. But John said, 'Wait!' He saw no need of hurry; and his affairs
were not quite settled. _Eh, bien!_ I tranquillized my eager, impatient
soul by gaining an insight into the art of book-keeping and the theory
and practice of trade. At last the probationary period expired, and,
prompt to the hour, my comrade announced his readiness to begin our
business. The friends of John Meavy were reluctant to have him leave St.
Louis. They did not know what enterprise he was about to join in; but
they heard that I had some share in it, and they did not scruple to hint
that I might be an adventurer, who would 'diddle' him out of his money.
However, John only smiled, and told me all they said, in his frank way,
as if it were some good joke. So, finally, we took leave of St. Louis,
and came to New York, to organize the great house of Meavy & Prevost:
John bearing his share in the concern, forty odd thousand dollars, with
many letters to persons of eminence and influence; and I carefully
seeing to _my_ share,--a few scientific works, some valuable chemical
apparatus, and two dozen jars full of Rocky Mountain snails! _Eh, bien,
Monsieur!_ my stock in trade was _magnifique_, in comparison with that
with which my compatriot Girard commenced business.

"By John's advice, we began our operations in a plain, quiet way, as
exporters of breadstuffs. This we did, first, that the firm might make
itself well enough known, and gain the confidence of the Bourse, so that
the doors might be open to our subsequent operations; that I, secondly,
might learn the business, and secure the proper recognition as John's
partner. Meantime, John was making himself familiar with the way to
practise my invention; and both of us, gaining daily assurance of our
power by reason of the discovery, were also daily increasing in love and
confidence for each other. Happy days, those, Monsieur! _Eh, bien!_ had
the invention only proved a fiction then!

"In another six months we had matured our plans, and, as our present
business seemed lamentably slow in the light of my gigantic projects, I
was eager enough to begin work in earnest. I had proved our telegraph
thoroughly, and, ere I set out for London, to establish there a branch
of the house of John Meavy & Co., I advised my good comrade to venture
largely, so as to turn our capital over as often as possible, for there
was no room for doubt or fear. But John did not guess how high I dreamed
of rising in fortune; _he_ had no ambition to rival the Rothschilds.

"Monsieur, let me explain to you now the system of work we had agreed
upon, and each slightest detail of which was perfectly familiar to
us from constant manipulation, so that mistake or mishap, from any
conceivable cause, was utterly impossible.

"Our business, nominally the buying of breadstuffs for exportation, was
really one of speculation upon the New York market _as affected_ by the
European markets,--a species of brokerage, which, ostensibly and in
the eyes of the world attended by great risk, was really a thing of
specifically safe and certain profits, thanks to the telegraphic system,
the secret of which we alone possessed. In our tentative efforts, we
fixed upon _flour_ as the best-adapted subject for our experiments,
being a commodity simple to deal with, and requiring fewer complications
in our arrangements than anything else. But, in my own private mind, I
had resolved, that, as soon as our capital had grown large enough,
and our credit was become sufficiently extensive, we would change our
business to that of buying and selling cotton, as a better speculative;
or, perhaps, would enter upon that grand arena of sudden fortune and
sudden ruin, the stock-market. For the present, however, flour suited
us well enough. It is well known, that, at that time, much more than at
present, the price of breadstuffs in New York was regulated by the price
in Liverpool. But Monsieur is not a merchant, I think? _Eh, bien_!--then
I must take care to make myself intelligible. You know, Monsieur, that,
in the stock-market especially, and more or less in every other kind of
speculation, the greater part of the transactions are _fictitious_, to
a certain extent. _Par exemple:_ you buy or you sell so many barrels of
flour, at such a price, _on time_, as it is called,--that is, you engage
to receive, or to deliver, so many barrels, at the prices and in the
times agreed upon, in the hope, that, before the period of your contract
comes round, prices will have so varied as to enable you to buy, or
sell, the quantity bargained for, upon terms that will give you a
profit. In a word, you simply agree to _run the risk_ of a change
of prices such as to give you a profitable return. The operation is
identical with that of betting that such a card will be turned, or
that such a horse will win in a race, or such a candidate be elected
President. On 'Change we are charitable enough to suppose each
speculator possessed of _data_ such as to make his venture seem
reasonable to himself. This is the system, and, though very like
gambling, it has the advantage of presenting to men of small means the
chance of large profits, provided they are willing to run the risk;
since, while with a capital of ten thousand dollars I could make an
_actual_ purchase of only two thousand barrels of flour at five dollars
a barrel, the profit on which, at an advance of twenty-five cents per
barrel, would be very small,--by risking _all_ my money upon a single
venture, and leaving myself a 'margin' of fifty cents to cover the
greatest probable decline in price per barrel, I may purchase 'on time'
all of twenty thousand barrels, the profit upon which, at the same rate,
would be equal to fifty per cent of my entire capital. This is the
legitimate system by which such rapid fortunes are made and lost upon
'Change. Now suppose, that, operating in this way, you are in possession
of a secret means of intelligence, instantaneous, to be relied on,
peculiar to yourself,--does not Monsieur perceive that it insures one
a fortune incalculable, and to be made within the shortest time? If I
to-day learn that to-morrow's steamer will bring news that cotton has
advanced one cent a pound, of course I am justified in buying cotton to
the utmost extent that my capital and credit will afford me means, being
sure of selling it to-morrow at a higher price; and if I am continually
in the receipt of similar information, I can turn my capital over fifty
times in a year, and double it every time. There is actually _no limit_
to the possible fortune of a man who is so favored, provided he conjoins
prudence and boldness to his manner of transacting business. The
supplying of such secret and unshared information to the firm of John
Meavy & Co. was the end of my invention, Monsieur. I was to go to
Liverpool, and act as signaller, while he was to stay in New York,
receive the information, and buy or sell in accordance with it.

"Our apparatus was very simple. At each terminus of our line, so to
speak, we had a room, inaccessible save to ourselves. These rooms,
darkened, and carefully kept at a fixed temperature, contained nothing,
save, in one corner of each, a chronometer regulated with precision,
and, in opposite corners, a set of boxes, containing each a snail. At
the signalling end, at a fixed hour, which the chronometer gives with
the greatest accuracy, and when I know that my partner, by agreement,
will be present at the other end to receive intelligence, I go into my
room, informed as to the condition of the Liverpool market, and prepared
to transmit particulars of the same to him. Here are two boxes, divided
into three compartments each, and a _male_ snail in each compartment.
If flour is down, offering a chance for profit in New York upon 'time'
sales, I approach the box marked _minus_, the three snails of which are
called _x_, _y_, and _z_. I take up a little tube,--such a one as is
used by chemists to drop infinitesimal portions of any liquid; I dip
this into a vial marked _No_. 1, containing a solution of salt in
water,--there is a row of these vials, the solution in each being of a
different strength,--and then, with the moistened tube, I touch snail
_x_, or snail _y_, or snail _z_, or any two of them, or all three, once,
twice, three times, or repeatedly, according to the news I wish to
signal,--noting the effect of the poison, and recording the particulars
in a book kept for the purpose,--recording them with a nicety of
intelligent discrimination such as can be obtained only by long and
practised observation. I send an abstract of this record by every mail
to my partner, so as to verify our results and to detect immediately any
derangement. At _his_ end of our line the brave John Meavy waits before
two similar boxes, in each compartment of which is a _female_ snail. He
is a skilled observer, and his quick eve beholds snails _a_, _b_, _c_
exactly (through sympathy) _repeating_ the effects I am producing in
_x_, _y_, _z_,--though the distance between them is over three thousand
miles! He knows the meaning of these slight effects, and, going upon
'Change, buys or sells with a perfect assurance of profit.

"Such was my telegraph, in its rudest outline; but I had systematized it
to a degree of far greater nicety. I provided entirely against man's
imperfect and defective powers of observation. These movements and
squirmings, which in snails _x_, _y_, _z_, were the effect of a physical
cause, (salt-water.) were, in snails _a_, _b_, _c_, the result of
sympathy for _x_, _y_, _z_, as I have said,--a result constant,
determinate, and always to be depended upon. That is the _law_ of
their _rapport_,--not a _theory_, but a _law_, established by long,
exhaustive, and conclusive experimentation. The reason for it I
cannot assign,--did not pretend to investigate; but the _fact_ I had
ascertained: _x_, _y_, _z_, so touched, squirm, contract, and expand
their articulations, and exude from their pores a certain slimy sweat,
of agony it may be,--anyhow, a slimy exudation comes from them,
--and, _simultaneously_, and _just as much_ in kind, degree, quality,
everything, snails _a_, _b_, _c_ repeat the process. Such is the law,
constant as gravitation. Consequently, all that the _operator_ has to
concern himself about is, to understand that so many touches, with fluid
of such intensity, to so many snails, and repeated so often, produce
such and such an effect upon them, as, collectively considered, to
convey, through _a_, _b_, _c_, a certain piece of information. Knowing
this, skill in manipulation and accurate memory are all the qualities
he requires to conjoin to such knowledge. But the _observer_ has a much
more delicate office to perform, and, until I invented my recording
apparatus, the functions of this post could be discharged only roughly
and imperfectly, so evanescent and complex the manifestations. But I
discovered a _chemical_ observer, employing tests that nothing could
escape, nor anything deceive. The clock that indicates the hour for
receipt of news puts in motion the filaments of certain delicate
machinery connected with the boxes wherein are _a_, _b_, _c_. These
snails are placed upon a gauze-like substance, which, though firm enough
to support them undisturbed, permits both their natural excretions, and
their exudations under excitement, to filter through readily. As soon
as the hour comes, the machinery moves, and there begins to pass the
_recording paper_, so to speak, which I invented,--a paper not meant
to receive any vulgar mechanical impression, but one which, to the
instructed eye, and by the aid of the microscope, sets forth in _plain
language_ the nature of the functional disturbance in each snail, its
quality, its intensity, and its duration. I do not exaggerate, Monsieur.
This paper, in a word, is chemically prepared, saturated in a substance
that renders it perfectly sympathetic to whatever fluid exudes from the
snail, and thus, and by means of its motion, it records the quantity and
quality of the impression with unvarying accuracy. The observing hour
over, the clock-work stops, the paper is examined, and the result
recorded carefully. _Par exemple:_ I touch snail _x_, once, twice, three
times, with the weak solution, No. 1; John Meavy, receiving this fact,
through the sympathetic report of snail _a_, the chemical paper, and the
microscope, reads, as plainly as if it had been printed in pica type:
'_Flour declined threepence_.' If the fluid used is stronger, the
touches more numerous, and bestowed upon _y_ and _z_ also,--then the
decline or advance is proportionately great. Is it not a grandly simple
thing, this telegraph of mine, Monsieur?"

----I was dazzled, perplexed,--so entirely new, strange, incredible was
all this to me; but I expressed to the little Frenchman, in what terms I
could command, my profound sense of his genius and originality.

"_Eh, bien!_ I went to Europe," resumed he, "and John Meavy, my brave
comrade, stayed in New York, buying and selling flour, and turning over
his capital with a rapidity of success that surprised everybody; while
his modest demeanor, his chivalry of manner, and his noble generosity
won the admission of all, that Prosperity chose well, when she elected
John for her favorite.

"At the end of a year we were worth nearly half a million of dollars,
and our credit was perfect. Then, however, John wrote for me to come
home. He was engaged to be married, he said, wanted me to be present at
the ceremony, and wished my aid in effecting some changes in our mode of
business. I was not unwilling, for I also had some suggestions to make.
I was tired of my place as operator; I yearned to quit my post of simple
spectator, and to plunge head-foremost into the strife of money-getting.
Apart from my irksome position, I felt myself more fit for John's
post than he was. As the capital we worked with increased, John waxed
cautious, and, most illogically, announced himself afraid to venture,
--as if his risk were not as great with ten thousand as with a million!
This did not suit me. I felt myself capable of using money as mere
counters, I divested it of all the terrors of magnitude, and thus I knew
I could do as much in proportion with five million dollars as with
five dollars. And the result, I was perfectly aware, would be to those
achieved by John as the elephant in his normal strength compares with
the elephant whose strength is to his size as the flea's strength to
_his_ size. John could take the flea's leap with five dollars, but was
satisfied with the elephant's leap with five million dollars.

"So I took the next steamer, reached New York safely, and was most
cordially welcomed by my noble John Meavy, who seemed exuberant with the
happiness in store for him. Before he would say a word about business,
he insisted upon taking me to his betrothed's, and introduced me to his
lovely Cornelia. He had chosen well, Monsieur: his bride was worthy a
throne; she was worthy John Meavy himself,--a woman refined, charming,
entirely perfect. At John's solicitation, I was his groomsman; I
accompanied him upon his wedding-tour; and mine was the last hand he
clasped, as he stood on the steamer's deck, on his way to Europe to take
my place at the head of the Liverpool house. How many kind words he
lavished upon me! how many a good and kindly piece of advice he murmured
in my ear at that farewell moment! Ah! I do not think John wished to go
thither; he was ever a home-body; and I am sure his wife disliked it
much. But they saw it was my desire, they seemed to regard me as the
builder-up of their fortunes, and they yielded without a murmur. _Bete_
that I was! Yet I was not selfish, Monsieur. Building up in dreams my
fortune Babel-high, I built up also ever the fortune of John Meavy and
his peerless wife to a point just as near the clouds. _Eh, bien!_ it
amounted to nothing in the end, all this; but--I was not selfish!

"Our business was nominally the old one; but, in fact, in accordance
with the new arrangements John and I had agreed upon, I was to begin
cotton-speculation, and John was to keep me informed regarding the
fluctuations of the Liverpool market in that staple. My first efforts,
though successful of necessity, were small, I wished John to gain
confidence in my mode of conducting the business, before I ventured upon
more extensive operations.

"Meantime, John's letters put me in continual fine spirits. He kept his
telegraphic apparatus at home, and so was much with Cornelia. He and his
wife, he said, were very happy; people could not love one another more
than they did. He blessed me a thousand times, because my invention had
taken him to New York, and so had enabled him to meet Cornelia. But--ah,
these 'buts,' Monsieur!--if you will search long enough the brightest,
the clearest blue sky, you will always find some little speck, some
faint film of cloud,--'t is your 'but,' Monsieur!--John fancied his
wife was not altogether so happy as it was possible for her to be. She
did not like the cold, colorless Liverpool, nor the foggy people there.
She pined a little, perhaps, for old home-associations, wrote John.
Could I not think of some means to increase her content? I knew the
human heart so well; I was such a genius, moreover. Ah, bah! Monsieur,
't is the old song: I felt myself capable of sweeping the little cloud
from the sky also, as I had done everything else,--I, this sublime
genius! Monsieur, a moment look upon him, this genius, this triple blind
fool! _Eh, bien!_ I considered:--Cornelia, like all tender, susceptible
people, owes much to _little things_. She will not have to remain there
long; meantime, can I not revive in her mind the associations to which
she is used, and so both make her happy and bless my good comrade, John
Meavy? How, then? Once, during John's wedding-trip, we had stopped one
evening in a little country-town, and while we were there, talking
pleasantly by the open window, a mocking-bird, caged before a house
across the way, had struck up a perfect symphony of his rich and
multitudinous song. Cornelia was delighted beyond measure, and seemed to
yearn for the bird. John tried to buy it; but it was a pet; its owners
were well-to-do, and would not sell: so Cornelia had to go away without
it, and I fancied she was greatly chagrined, though, of course, she said
nothing, and seemed soon to forget it. So now the notion came to me:--I
will send Cornelia a mocking-bird. Its music will charm her,--its notes
will recall a thousand sounds of home,--it will give her occupation,
something to think about and to care for, until more important cares
intervene,--and so it will help to banish this _triste_ mood of _ennui.
Eh, bien!_ I soon had a very fine bird. Ah, Monsieur, I cannot tell
you what a fine bird was that fellow,--_Don Juan_ his name,--such an
arch-rascal! such a merry eye he had! such a proud, Pompadour throat!
such volumes of song! such splendid powers of mimicry! I kept him
with me a week to test his gifts, and I began to envy Cornelia her
treasure,--he was so tame, so bold, so intelligent. In that week, by
whistling to him in my leisure hours, I taught him to perform almost
perfectly that lively _aria_ of Meyerbeer's, _'Folle e quei che l'oro
aduna,'_ and also to mimic beautifully the chirping of a cricket. Well,
I sent _Don Juan_ out, and received due information of his safe arrival.
The medicine acted like a charm. Cornelia wrote me a grateful letter,
full of enthusiastic praises of 'her pet, her darling, the dearest,
sweetest, cutest little bird that ever anybody owned.' And I was more
than rewarded by the heartfelt thanks of my noble John Meavy. _Diantre!_
had I only wrung the thing's neck!

"_Eh, bien!_ The period upon which I calculated for my grand speculative
_coup_ had nearly arrived. Owing to a variety of circumstances, the
cotton-market had for some months been in a very perturbed condition;
and I, who had closely scrutinized its aspects, felt sure that before
long there would be some decided movement that would make itself felt
to all the financial centres. This movement I resolved to profit by, in
order to achieve riches at a single stroke. I had recommended John to
increase his observations, and keep me carefully preadvised of every
change. But I did not tell him how extensively I meant to operate, for
I knew 't would make him anxious, and, moreover, I wished to dazzle him
with a sudden magnificent achievement. Well, things slowly drew towards
the point I desired. There was a certain war in embryo, I thought, the
inevitable result of which would be to beat down the price of cotton to
a minimum. Would the war come off? A steamer arrived with such news as
made it certain that another fortnight would settle the question. How
anxiously, how tremulously I watched my telegraph then,--noting down all
the fluctuations so faithfully reported to me by John Meavy,--all my
brain on fire with visions of unwonted, magnificent achievement! For
two days the prices wavered and rippled to and fro, like the uncertain
rippling of the waters at turning of the tide. Then, on the morning of
the third day, the long-expected change was announced, and in a way that
startled me, prepared though I was,--so violent was the decline. Down,
down, down, down to the very lowest! reported my faithful snails. I did
not need to consult the sympathetic paper, for the agonized writhings of
the poor animals spoke plainly enough to the naked eye. I seized my hat,
rushed to my office, and began my grand _coup. Eh, bien!_ I shall not go
into details. Suffice it to say, for three days I was in communication
with cotton men all over the country; and, without becoming known abroad
as the party at work, I sold 'on time' such a quantity of 'the staple'
that my operations had the effect to put down the prices everywhere; and
if John Meavy's report were correct, our profits during those three days
would exceed three millions of dollars! Having now done all I could, and
feeling completely worn out, I went home, for the first time since
the news, flung myself upon a bed, and slept an unbroken sleep during
twenty-four hours. After that, refreshed and gay, I went once more to
the operating-room to see what further reports had arrived since I had
received the decisive intelligence. Decisive, indeed! Monsieur, when I
looked through the glass lids into the boxes, there lay my snails, stiff
and dead! Not only my faithful ones, _a, b, c,_ but likewise the _plus_
ones, _d, e, f!_ Yes, there they lay, _plus_ and _minus,_ each in his
compartment, convulsed and distorted, as if their last agonies had been
terrible to endure! Stiff and dead! _Mon Dieu, Monsieur!_ and I had
pledged the name and credit of the house of John Meavy and Co. to an
extent from which there _could_ be no recovery, if aught untoward had
happened! _Eh, bien. Monsieur!_ Cesar Prevost is fortunate in a very
elastic temperament. Yet I did not dare think of John Meavy. However, if
the thing was done, it was too late for remedy now. _Eh, bien!_ I
would wait. Meantime, I carefully examined to see if any cause was
discoverable to have produced these deaths. None. 'T was irresistible,
then, that the cause was at John's end. What? An accident,--perhaps,
nervous, he had dosed them too heavily; but--I dared not think about
it,--I would only--wait!

"_Eh, bien, Monsieur!_ It would be seven days yet before I could get
news. I waited,--waited calmly and composedly. _Mon Dieu!_ they talk of
heroism in leading a forlorn hope,--Cesar Prevost was a hero for those
eight days. I do not think about them even now.

"On the third day came a steamer with news of uncertain import, but on
the whole favorable. By the same advice a letter reached me from my old
comrade, John Meavy: his affairs were prosperous, he and his wife very
happy, and _Don Juan_ more charming than ever.

"Monsieur, the fourth day came,--the fifth,--the sixth,--the
seventh,--finding me still waiting. No one, to see me, could have
guessed I had not slept for a week. _Eh, bien!_ I will not dwell upon

"The morning of the eighth day came. I breakfasted, read my paper,
smoked my cigar, and walked leisurely to my counting-room. I answered
the letters. I sauntered round to bank, paid a note that had fallen due,
got a check cashed, and, having counted the money and secured it in my
pocket-book, I walked out and stood upon the bank-steps, talking with a
business-friend, who inquired after John Meavy. 'T was a pleasant theme
to converse about, this,--for _me!_

"A news-boy came running down Wall Street, with papers under his arm.
'Here you are!' he cried. 'Extray! Steamer just in! Latest news from
Europe! All 'bout the new alliance! Consols firm,--cotton riz! Extray,

"I bought one, and the boy ran off as I paid him and snatched the paper
from his hand.

"'You gave that rascal a gold dollar for a half-dime,' said my friend.

"'Did I?'

"A gold dollar! I wondered very quaintly what he would say, when, in a
few days, he heard of the failure of John Meavy & Co. for three millions
of dollars. A gold dollar!

"_Eh, bien, Monsieur!_ I shall not dwell upon it. Enough,--we were
ruined. I had played my grand _coup,_ and lost. For myself, nothing.
But--John Meavy! Oh, Monsieur, I could not think! I went to my office,
and sat there all day, stupid, only twirling my watch-key, and repeating
to myself,--'A gold dollar! a gold dollar!' The afternoon had nearly
gone when one of my clerks roused me:--'A letter for you, Mr. Prevost;
it came by the steamer to-day.'

"Monsieur," said the little Frenchman, producing a well-worn
pocket-book, and taking out from it a tattered, yellow sheet, which he
unfolded before me,--"Monsieur, you shall read that letter."

It was this:--


"You must blame me and poor _Don Juan_ for the suspension of your
Telegraph. I write, myself, to tell you how careless I have been; for
poor John is in such a state of agitation, and seems to fear such
calamities, that I will not let him write;--though what evil can come
of it, beyond the inconvenience, I cannot see, nor will he tell me. You
must answer this immediately, so as to prove to John that nothing has
gone wrong; and so give me a chance to scold this good husband of mine
for his vain and womanish apprehensions. But let me tell you how it
happened to the poor snails,--_Don Juan_ is so tame, that I do not
pretend to keep him shut up in his cage, but let him fly about our
sitting-room, just as he pleases. The next room to this, you know, is
the one where we kept the snails. I have been helping John with these
for some time, and it is my custom, when he goes on 'Change, to look
after the ugly creatures, and especially to open the boxes and give them
air. Well, this morning,--you must not scold me, Cesar, for I have wept
enough for my carelessness, and as I write am trembling all over like
a leaf,--this morning, I went into the snail-room as usual, opened the
boxes, noted how well all six looked, and then, going to the window,
stood there for some minutes, looking out at the people across the way
preparing for the illumination to-night, (for we are going to have peace
at last, and every one is so rejoiced!) and forgetting entirely that I
had left open both the door of this room and that of the sitting-room
also, until I heard the flutter of _Don Juan's_ wings behind me. I
turned, and was horror-stricken to find him perched on the boxes,
and pecking away at the poor snails, as if they were strawberries! I
screamed, and ran to drive him off, but I was too late,--for, just as I
caught him, the greedy fellow picked up and swallowed the last one of
the entire six! I felt almost like killing _him,_ then; but I could
not,--nor could _you_ have done it, Cesar, had you but seen the arch
defiance of his eye, as he fluttered out of my hands, flew back to his
cage, and began to pour forth a whole world of melody!

"My dear Cesar, I know my carelessness was most culpable, but it
_cannot_ be so bad as John fears. Oh, if anything should happen now, by
my fault, when we are so prosperous and happy, I could never forgive
myself! Do write to me as soon as possible, and relieve the anxiety of

"Affectionately yours, CORNELIA."

The little Frenchman looked at me with a glance half sad, half comical,
as I returned the letter to him.

"_Eh, bien, Monsieur!_" said he, shrugging his shoulders,--"you've heard
my story. 'Twas fate,--what could one do?"

"But that is not all,--John Meavy,"--said I.

The little Frenchman looked very grave and sad.

"Monsieur, my brave _camarade,_ John Meavy, had been brought up in a
stern school. His ideas of credit and of mercantile honor were pitched
very high indeed. He imagined himself disgraced forever, and--he did not
survive it."

"You do not mean"----

"I mean, Monsieur, that I lost the bravest and truest and most generous
friend that ever man had, when John Meavy died. And that dose of Prussic
Acid should properly have gone to me, whose fault it all was, instead
of to him, so innocent. _Eh, bien, Monsieur!_ his lot was the happiest,
after all."

"But Cornelia?" said I, after a pause.

The little Frenchman rose, with a quiet and graceful air, full of
sadness, yet of courtesy; and I knew then that he was no longer my guest
and entertainer, but once more the chapman with his wares.

"Monsieur, Cornelia is under my protection. You will comprehend
_that_--after that--she has not escaped with impunity. Some little
strings snapped in the harp. She is _touchee_, here," said he, resting
one finger lightly upon his forehead,--"but 'tis all for the best, _sans
doute._ She is quiet, peaceable,--and she does not remember. She sits in
my house, working, and the bird sings to her ever. 'Tis a gallant bird,
Monsieur. And though I am poor, I can yet make some provision for her
comfort. She has good taste, and is very industrious. These baskets are
all of her make; when I have no other employ, I sell them about, and
use the money for her. _Eh, bien!_ 'tis a small price,--fifty cents; if
Monsieur will purchase one, he will possess a basket really handsome,
and will have contributed something to the comfort of one of the
Good God's _protegees. Mille remerciements, Monsieur,_--for this
purchase,--for your entertainment,--for your courtesy!

"_Bon jour, Monsieur!_"

* * * * *

About half an hour after this, I had occasion to traverse one of the
corridors of Barnan's Hotel, when I saw a group of gentlemen, most of
whom sported "Atlantic Cable Charms" on their watchchains, gathered
about a person who had secured their rapt attention to some story he was

"_Eh, bien, Messieurs!_" I heard him say, in a peculiar naive broken
English, "it would be yet seven days before I could get ze news,--and--I
wait. Oui! calm_lie_, composed_lie_, with insouciance beyond guess, I

"I wonder," said I to myself, as I passed on, "I wonder if M. Cesar
Prevost's account of his remarkable invention of the First Atlantic
Telegraph have not some subtile connection with his desire to find as
speedy and remunerative a sale as possible for his pretty baskets!"


It is seldom that a woman becomes the world's talk but by some great
merit or fault of her own, or some rare qualification so bestowed by
Nature as to be incapable of being hidden. Great genius, rare beauty, a
fitness for noble enterprise, the venturous madness of passion, account
for ninety-nine cases in the hundred of a woman becoming the subject of
general conversation and interest. Lady Byron's was the hundredth case.
There was a time when it is probable that she was spoken of every day in
every house in England where the family could read; and for years the
general anxiety to hear anything that could be told of her was almost as
striking in Continental society and in the United States as in her own
country. Yet she had neither genius, nor conspicuous beauty, nor "a
mission," nor any quality of egotism which could induce her to brave the
observation of the world for any personal aim. She had good abilities,
well cultivated for the time when she was young; she was rather pretty,
and her countenance was engaging from its expression of mingled
thoughtfulness and brightness; she was as lady-like as became her birth
and training; and her strength of character was so tempered with modesty
and good taste that she was about the last woman that could have been
supposed likely to become celebrated in any way, or, yet more, to be
passionately disputed about and censured, in regard to her temper and
manners: yet such was her lot. No breath of suspicion ever dimmed her
good repute, in the ordinary sense of the expression: but to this day
she is misapprehended, wherever her husband's genius is adored; and she
is charged with precisely the faults which it was most impossible for
her to commit. For the original notoriety she was not answerable; but
for the protracted misapprehension of her character she was. She early
decided that it was not necessary or desirable to call the world into
council on her domestic affairs; her husband's doing it was no reason
why she should; and for nearly forty years she preserved a silence,
neither haughty nor sullen, but merely natural, on matters in which
women usually consider silence appropriate. She never inquired what
effect this silence had on public opinion in regard to her, nor
countenanced the idea that public opinion bore any relation whatever to
her private affairs and domestic conduct. Such independence and such
reticence naturally quicken the interest and curiosity of survivors;
and they also stimulate those who knew her as she was to explain her
characteristics to as many as wish to understand them, after disputing
about them for the lifetime of a whole generation.

Anne Isabella Noel Milbanke (that was her maiden name) was an only
child. Her father, Sir Ralph Milbanke, was the sixth baronet of that
name. Her mother was a Noel, daughter of Viscount and Baron Wentworth,
and remotely descended from royalty,--that is, from the youngest son of
Edward I. After the death of Lady Milbanke's father and brother, the
Barony of Wentworth was in abeyance between the daughter of Lady
Milbanke and the son of her sister till 1856, when, by the death of that
cousin, Lord Scarsdale, Lady Byron became possessed of the inheritance
and title. During her childhood and youth, however, her parents were not
wealthy; and it was understood that Miss Milbanke would have no fortune
till the death of her parents, though her expectations were great.
Though this want of immediate fortune did not prove true, the report of
it was probably advantageous to the young girl, who was sought for other
things than her fortune. When Lord Byron thought of proposing, the
friend who had brought him to the point of submitting to marriage
objected to Miss Milbanke on two grounds,--that she had no fortune, and
that she was a learned lady. The gentleman was as wrong in his facts
as mischievous in his advice to the poet to many. Miss Milbanke had
fortune, and she was not a learned lady. Such men as the two who held
a consultation on the points, whether a man entangled in intrigues and
overwhelmed with debts should release himself by involving a trusting
girl in his difficulties, and whether the girl should be Miss Milbanke
or another, were not likely to distinguish between the cultivated
ability of a sensible girl and the pedantry of a blue-stocking; and
hence, because Miss Milbanke was neither ignorant nor silly, she was
called a learned lady by Lord Byron's associates. He bore testimony, in
due time, to her agreeable qualities as a companion,--her brightness,
her genial nature, her quiet good sense; and we heard no more of her
"learning" and "mathematics," till it suited her enemies to get up a
theory of incompatibility of temper between her and her husband. The
fact was, she was well-educated, as education was then, and had the
acquirements which are common in every house among the educated classes
of English society.

She was born in 1792, and passed her early years chiefly on her father's
estates of Halnaby, near Darlington, Yorkshire, and Seaham, in Durham.
She retained a happy recollection of her childhood and youth, if one may
judge by her attachment to the old homes, when she had lost the power of
attaching herself, in later life, to any permanent home. When an offer
of service was made to her, some years since, by a person residing on
the Northumberland coast, the service she asked was that a pebble might
be sent her from the beach at Seaham, to be made into a brooch, and worn
for love of the old place.

Her father, as a Yorkshire baronet, spent his money freely. A good deal
of it went in election-expenses, and the hospitality of the house was
great. It was too orderly and sober and old-fashioned for Lord Byron's
taste, and he quizzed it accordingly; but he admitted the kindliness of
it, and the amiability which made guests glad to go there and sorry to
come away. His special records of Miss Milbanke's good-humor, spirit,
and pleasantness indicate the source of subsequent misrepresentations of
her. Till he saw it, he could not conceive that order and dutifulness
could coexist with liveliness and great charms of mind and manners; and
when the fact was out of sight, he went back to his old notion, that
affectionate parents and dutiful daughters must be dull, prudish, and

"Bell" was beloved as only daughters are, but so unspoiled as to be
sought in marriage as eagerly as if she had been a merry member of a
merry tribe. Lord Byron himself offered early, and was refused, like
many other suitors. Her feelings were not the same, however, to him as
to others. It is no wonder that a girl not out of her teens should be
captivated by the young poet whom the world was beginning to worship for
his genius as very few men are worshipped in their prime, and who could
captivate young and old, man, woman, and child, when he chose to try.
As yet, his habits of life and mind had not told upon his manners,
conversation, and countenance as they did afterwards. The beauty of his
face, the reserved and hesitating grace of his manner, and the pith and
strength of such conversation as he was tempted into might well win
the heart of a girl who was certainly far more fond of poetry than of
mathematics. Yet she refused him. Perhaps she did not know him enough.
Perhaps she did not know her own feelings at the moment. She afterwards
found that she had always loved him. His renewed offers at the close
of two years made her very happy. She was drawing near the end of her
portion of life's happiness; and she seems to have had no suspicion of
the baselessness of her natural and innocent bliss. It is probable that
nobody about her knew, any more than herself, how and why Lord Byron
offered to her a second time, till Moore published the facts in his
"Life" of the poet. The thrill of disgust which ran through every good
heart, on reading the story, made all sympathizers ask how she
could bear to learn how she had been treated in the confidences of
profligates. Perhaps she had known it long before, as her husband had
repeatedly tried his powers of terrifying and depressing her; but, at
all events, she could bear anything,--not only with courage and in
silence, but with calmness and inexhaustible mercy. According to Moore's
account, a friend of Byron's urged him to marry, as a remedy for the
melancholy restlessness and disorder of his life; "and, after much
discussion, he consented." The next proceedings were in character with
this "consent." Byron named Miss Milbanke: the friend objected, on the
grounds of her possession of learning and supposed want of fortune; and
Byron actually commissioned his adviser to propose for him to the lady
he did not prefer. She refused him; and then future proceedings were
determined by his friend's admiration of the letter he had got ready for
Miss Milbanke. It was such a pretty letter, it would be a pity not to
send it. So it was sent.

If she could have known, as she hung over that letter, what eyes had
read lines that should have been her own secret property, and as what
kind of alternative the letter had been prepared, what a different life
might hers have been! But she could not dream of being laid hold of as a
speculation in that style, and she was happy,--as women are for once in
their lives, and as she deserved to be. There was another alternative,
besides that of two ladies to be weighed in the balance. Byron was
longing to go abroad again, and he would have preferred that to
marrying; but the importunity of his friends decided him for marriage.
In a short time, and for a short time, Miss Milbanke's influence was too
strong for his wayward nature and his pernicious friends to resist. His
heart was touched, his mind was soothed, and he thought better of women,
and perhaps of the whole human race, than he had ever done before. He
wrote to Moore, who owned he had "never liked her," and who boded evil
things from the marriage, that she was so good that he wished he was
better,--that he had been quite mistaken in supposing her of "a very
cold disposition." These gentlemen had heard of her being regarded as "a
pattern lady in the North"; and they had made up an image of a prude and
a blue in their own minds, which Byron presently set himself to work to
pull down. He wrote against Moore's notion of her as "strait-laced," in
a spirit of justice awakened by his new satisfactions and hopes: but
there are in the narrative no signs of love on his part,--nothing more
than an amiable complacency in the discovery of her attachment to him.

The engagement took place in September, 1814, and the marriage in the
next January. Moore saw him in the interval, and had no remaining hope,
from that time, that Byron could ever make or find happiness in
married life. He was satisfied that love was, in Byron's case, only an
imagination; and he pointed to a declaration of Byron's, that, when in
the society of the woman he loved, even at the happiest period of his
attachment, he found himself secretly longing to be alone. Secretly
during the courtship, but not secretly after marriage.

"Tell me, Byron," said his wife, one day, not long after they were
married, and he was moodily staring into the fire,--"am I in your way?"

"Damnably," was the answer.

It will be remembered by all readers that the reason he assigned for the
good terms on which he remained with his half-sister, Mrs. Leigh, was
that they seldom or never saw each other.

When Moore saw him in London, he was in a troubled state of mind about
his affairs. His embarrassments were so pressing that he meditated
breaking off the match; but it was within a month of the wedding-day,
and he said he had gone too far to retract.--How it was that Sir Ralph
Milbanke did not make it his business to ascertain all the conditions
of a union with a man of Byron's reputation it is difficult to imagine.
Every movement of the idolized poet was watched, anecdotes of his life
and ways were in all mouths; and a prudent father, if encouraging his
addresses at all, should naturally have ascertained the chances of his
daughter having an honorable and happy home. Sir Ralph probably thought
so, when there were ten executions in the house in the first few months
after the marriage. Those difficulties, however, did not affect the
happiness of the marriage unfavorably. The wife was not the less of the
heroic temperament for being "a pattern young lady." She was one whose
spirit was sure to rise under pressure, and who was always most cheerful
when trouble called forth her energies on behalf of others. Liberal with
her own property, making light of privation, full of clear and practical
resource in emergency, she won her husband's admiration in the midst of
the difficulties into which he had plunged her. For a time he was not
ashamed of that admiration; and his avowals of it are happily on record.

They were married on the second of January. The wedding-day was
miserable. Byron awoke in one of his melancholy moods, and wandered
alone in the grounds till called to be married. His wayward mind was
full of all the associations that were least congenial with the day.
His thoughts were full of Mary Chaworth, and of old scenes in his life,
which he fancied he loved because he was now leaving them behind.
He declared that his poem of "The Dream" was a true picture of his
wedding-morning; and there are circumstances, not told in his "Life,"
which render this probable. After the ceremony and breakfast, the young
couple left Seaham for Sir Ralph's seat at Halnaby. Towards dusk of that
winter-day, the carriage drove up to the door, where the old butler
stood ready to receive his young lady and her bridegroom. The moment the
carriage-door was opened, the bridegroom jumped out and walked away.
When his bride alighted, the old servant was aghast. She came up
the steps with the listless gait of despair. Her face and movements
expressed such utter horror and desolation, that the old butler longed
to offer his arm to the lonely young creature, as an assurance of
sympathy and protection. Various stories got abroad as to the cause of
this horror, one probably as false as another; and, for his own part,
Byron met them by a false story of Miss Milbanke's lady's-maid having
been stuck in, bodkin-wise, between them. As Lady Byron certainly soon
got over the shock, the probability is that she satisfied herself that
he had been suffering under one of the dark moods to which he was
subject, both constitutionally and as the poet of moods.

It is scarcely possible at our time of day to make sufficient allowance
for such a woman having entered upon such a marriage, in spite of the
notoriety of the risks. Byron was then the idol of much more than the
literary world. His poetry was known by heart by multitudes of men and
women who read very little else; and one meets, at this day, elderly
men, who live quite outside of the regions of literature, who believe
that there never could have been such a poet before, and would say, if
they dared, that there will never be such another again. He appeared at
the moment when society was restless and miserable, and discontented
with the Fates and the universe and all that it contained. The general
sensibility had not for long found any expression in poetry. Literature
seemed something quite apart from experience, and with which none but
a particular class had any concern. At such a time, when Europe
lay desolate under the ravage and incessant menace of the French
Empire,--when England had an insane King, a profligate Regent, an
atrocious Ministry, and a corrupt Parliament,--when the war drained the
kingdom of its youth, and every class of its resources,--when there was
chronic discontent in the manufacturing districts, and hunger among the
rural population, with a perpetual extension of pauperism, swallowing
up the working and even the middle classes,--when everybody was full of
anxiety, dread, or a reactionary recklessness,--there suddenly appeared
a new strain of poetry which seemed to express every man's mood. Every
man took up the song. Byron's musical woe resounded through the land.
People who had not known exactly what was the matter with them now found
that life was what Byron said it was, and that they were sick of it. I
can well remember the enthusiasm,--the better, perhaps, for never having
shared it. At first I was too young, and afterwards I found too much of
moods and too little of matter to create any lasting attachment to
his poetry. But the music of it rang in all ears, and the rush of its
popularity could not be resisted by any but downright churlish persons.
I remember how ladies, in morning calls, recited passages of Byron to
each other,--and how gentlemen, in water-parties, whispered his short
poems to their next neighbor. If a man was seen walking with his head
down and his lips moving, he was revolving Byron's last romance; and
children who began, to keep albums wrote, in double lines on the first
page, some stanza which caught them by its sound, if they were not up to
its sense. On some pane in every inn-window there was a scrap of Byron;
and in young ladies' portfolios there were portraits of the poet,
recognizable, through all bad drawing and distortion, by the cast of the
beautiful features and the Corsair style. Where a popularity like this
sprang up, there must be sufficient reason for it to cause it to involve
more or less all orders of minds; and the wisest and most experienced
men, and the most thoroughly trained scholars, fell into the general
admiration, and keenly enjoyed so melodious an expression of a general
state of feeling, without asking too pertinaciously for higher views and
deeper meanings. Old Quakers were troubled at detecting hidden copies
and secret studies of Byron among young men and maidens who were to be
preserved from all stimulants to the passions; and they were yet more
troubled, when, looking to see what the charm was which so wrought upon
the youth of their sect, they found themselves carried away by it,
beyond all power to forget what they had read. The idolatry of the poet,
which marked that time, was an inevitable consequence of the singular
aptness of his utterance. His dress, manners, and likings were adopted,
so far as they could be ascertained, by hundreds of thousands of youths
who were at once sated with life and ambitious of fame, or at least of a
reputation for fastidious discontent; young ladies declared that Byron
was everything that was great and good; and even our best literature of
criticism shows how respectful and admiring the hardest reviewers grew,
after the poet had become the pet and the idol of all England. At such a
time, how should "Bell" Milbanke resist the intoxication,--even before
the poet addressed himself particularly to her? A great reader in the
quietness of her home, where all her tastes were indulged,--a lover of
poetry, and so genial and sympathizing as to be always sure to be filled
with the spirit of her time,--how could she fail to idolize Byron as
others did? And what must have been her exaltation, when he told her
that the welfare of his whole life depended upon her! Between her
exaltation, her love, her sympathy, and her admiration, she might well
make allowance for his eccentricities first, and for worse afterwards.
Thus, probably, it was that she got over the shock of that
wedding-drive, and was again the bright, affectionate, trusting and
winning woman whom he had described before and was to describe again to
his skeptical friend Moore.

Before six weeks were over, he wrote to Moore (after some previous
hankerings) that he should go abroad soon, "and alone, too." He did not
go then. In April the death of Lord Wentworth occurred, causing Sir
Ralph and Lady Milbanke to take the name of Noel, according to Lord
Wentworth's will, and assuring the prospect of ultimate accession of
wealth. Meantime, the new expenses of his married life, entered upon
without any extrication from old debts, caused such embarrassment, that,
after many other humiliations had been undergone, he offered his
books for sale. As Lady Byron maintained a lifelong silence about the
sufferings of her married life, little is known of that miserable year
beyond what all the world saw: executions in the house; increasing gloom
and recklessness in the husband; a bright patience and resoluteness in
the wife; and an immense pity felt by the poet's adorers for his trials
by a persecuting Fate. During the summer and autumn, his mention of his
wife to his correspondents became less frequent and more formal. His
tone about his approaching "papaship" tells nothing. He was not likely
to show to such men any good or natural feelings on the occasion. In
December, his daughter, Augusta Ada, was born; and early in January, he
wrote to Moore so melancholy a "Heigho!" on occasion of his having been
married a year, as to incite that critical observer to write him an
inquiry about the state of his domestic spirits. The end was near, and
the world was about to see its idol and his wife tested in moral action
of a very stringent kind.

By means of the only publication ever made or authorized by Lady Byron
on the subject of her domestic life, her vindication of her parents,
contained in the Appendix of Moore's "Life" of the poet, we know, that,
during her confinement, Lord Byron's nearest relatives were alarmed by
tokens of eccentricity so marked, that they informed her, as soon as she
was recovered, that they believed him insane. His confidential servant
bore the same testimony; and she naturally believed it, when she resumed
her place in the household, and saw how he was going on. On the sixth of
January, the day after he wrote the "Heigho!" to Moore, he desired his
wife, in writing, to go to her parents on the first day that it was
possible for her to travel. Her physicians would not let her go earlier
than the fifteenth; and on that day she went. She never saw her husband

She had, in agreement with his family, consulted Dr. Baillie on her
husband's behalf; and he, supposing the insanity to be real, advised,
before seeing Lord Byron, that she should obey his wish about absenting
herself, as an experiment,--and that, in the interval, she should
converse only on light and cheerful topics. She observed these
directions, and, in the spirit of them, wrote two letters, on the
journey, which bore no marks of the trouble which existed between them.
These letters were afterwards used, even circulated, to create a belief
that Lady Byron had been suddenly persuaded to desert her husband,
though he at least was well aware that the fact was not so. It soon
appeared that he was not insane. Such was the decision of physicians,
relatives, and presently of Lady Byron herself. While there was any
room for supposing disease to be the cause of his conduct, she and
her parents were anxious to use all tenderness with him, and devote
themselves to his welfare; but when it became necessary to consider him

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