Part 2 out of 5
enchantress, who, through all the seeming accidents of the day, had
been pursuing a deep-laid plot, and now was awaiting its triumphant
consummation. She did not at first notice Anthrops as he stood in
curious astonishment in the doorway; but presently, looking up, she
motioned him to another place beside herself.
"This is a pleasant place to rest in for a while before we rejoin our
companions," she said; "we are fortunate in finding so pretty a spot."
The natural tone of her frank, girlish voice somewhat dissipated
Anthrops's vague bewilderment, and he accepted the proffered seat at
her side. He for the first time looked attentively at Haguna, as he had
until now been gazing at the shifting diorama behind her. He noticed, to
his surprise, a number of bright shining points, somewhat like stars,
glistening in her hair, and with some hesitation inquired their
nature. Haguna laughed, a low musical laugh, yet with an indescribable
impersonality in it,--as if a spring brook had just then leaped over a
little hill, and were laughing mockingly to itself at its exploit.
"They are souls," she said.
"Dear me!" exclaimed Anthrops; "are souls no bigger than that?"
"How do you know how large they are?" laughed Haguna, beginning to weave
her hair into a curiously intricate braid. "These are but the vital
germs of souls; but I hold them bound as surely by imprisoning these."
"But surely every soul is not so weak; all cannot be so cruelly
Again she laughed, that strange laugh.
"Strong and weak are merely relative terms. There is nothing you know
of so strong that it may not yield to a stronger, and anything can be
captured that is once well laid hold of. I will sing you a song by which
you may learn some of the ways in which other things beside souls are
Still continuing her busy weaving, Haguna began to sing. Except the song
she had hummed in the woods that afternoon, he had never heard her voice
but in speaking, and was astonished at its richness and power; yet it
was a simple chant she sang, that seemed to follow the gliding motion of
"Running waters swiftly flowing,
On the banks fair lilies growing
Watch the dancing sunbeams quiver,
Watch their faces in the river.
Round their long roots, in and out,
The supple river winds about,--
Wily, oily, deep designing,
Their foundations undermining.
Fall the lilies in the river,
Smoothly glides the stream forever."
The subtle song crept into Anthrops's brain, and seemed to spin a web
over it, which, though of lightest gossamer, confined him helplessly in
its meshes. Again she sang:--
"From the swamp the mist is creeping;
Fly the startled sunbeams weeping,
Up the mountain feebly flying,
Paling, waning, fainting, dying.
All their cheerful work undoing,
Crawls the cruel mist pursuing.
Shrouded in a purple dimness,
Quenched the sunlight is in shadow;
Over hill and wood and meadow
Broads the mist in sullen grimness."
She had already woven a great deal of her shining hair into a curious
braid, so broad and intricate as to be almost a golden web. A strange
fascination held Anthrops spell-bound; it was as if her song were
weaving her web, and her fingers chanting her song, and as if both song
and web were made of the wavering cloud that still shifted into endless
dioramas. Once more she sang:--
"Drop by drop the charmed ear tingling,
Rills of music intermingling,
Murmuring in their mazy winding,
All the steeped senses blinding,
Their intricate courses wending,
Closer still the streams are blending.
Down the rapid channel rushing,
Floods of melody are gushing;
Flush the tender rills with gladness,
Drown the listener in sweet madness.
Onward sweeps the eddying singing,
Ever new enchantment bringing.
Break the bubbles on the river,
Faints the wearied sound in darkness;
But, as one that always hearkens,
Floats the charmed soul forever."
As she finished the song, she arose, and threw over the youth the web
of her fatal hair. The charmed song had so incorporated itself with the
odorous air of the cavern, that every breath he drew seemed to be laden
with the subtle music. It oppressed, stifled him; he strove in vain to
escape its influence; and as he felt the soft hair brush his cheek, he
swooned upon the ground.
The philosopher's study was a very different place from the green
wood,--perched up, as it was, on the summit of a bare, bleak mountain.
The room was fitted up with the frugality demanded by philosophic
indifference to luxury, and the abundance necessitated by a wide range
of study. The walls were hung with a number of pictures, in whose
subjects an observer might detect a remarkable similarity. A satirical
pencil had been engaged in depicting some of the most striking instances
of successful manly resistance to female tyranny, of manly contempt for
feminine weakness, of manly endurance of woman-inflicted injury. The
unfortunate Longinus turned with contemptuous pity from the trembling
Zenobia; the valiant Thomas Aquinas hurled his protesting firebrand
against the too charming interruption of his scholastic pursuits; the
redoubtable Conqueror beat his rebellious sweetheart into matrimony.
The flickering light of a wood fire served not merely to illuminate
the actual portraits, but almost to discover the sarcastic face of the
anonymous artist, smiling in triumph from the background. On the hearth
in front of the fire stood the philosopher in earnest conversation with
a venerable friend.
"I am provoked beyond measure," exclaimed our friend, in an exceedingly
vexed tone. "So much as I had hoped from the boy,--that he, too, could
not keep from the silly snare! It is shameful, abominable;--she is
always in my way, upsetting all my plans, interfering with everything I
undertake. Would you believe it? at the death of one of her sisters, the
fools were not content with giving her a funeral good enough for a man,
but they must place her _hair_ in the sky for a constellation!"
"That was indeed an insult to Orion," said his sympathizing friend,
"My hands are absolutely tied," continued the irate philosopher. "I
bestow upon the boys the most careful education, enlarge their minds
by the study of the history and destiny of man, of the world, of the
stellar system, till I may hope that in the contemplation of the
vast universe they have lost their little prejudices and personal
preferences. I strengthen their judgment, assiduously exercise their
powers of ratiocination, fortify their minds with philosophy, train them
to habits of accuracy, patience, and perseverance by long scientific
research; and at the moment when I ought to find them useful as
philosophers, as seekers after eternal Truth, as lovers of imperishable
Wisdom, they degenerate into seekers after eyes and hair and cheeks, and
I know not what nonsense, lovers of frail, perishable women, who appear
to preserve an astonishing longevity on purpose to plague and thwart
His friend pondered deeply upon the vexatious problem.
"You say," he remarked, "that this unfortunate attraction exists in
spite of philosophical training,--that it is exerted towards the
antipodes of their previous associations; that, as they have been
trained to yield only to well-grounded syllogisms, it is the illogical
mode of assault that vanquishes them unguarded; that their reasonable
minds have nothing to say to such, perfectly unreasonable fascinations;
that, in short, the enemy succeeds by supplying a vacuum, as the walls
of Visibis gave way under the pressure of the dammed-up river?"
"Alas, friend, your observations are too true!"
"Then my way becomes clearer. It surely cannot be unknown to you, sagest
of students, that in physical science we oppose a plenum to a vacuum,
in medicine we supply a deficiency of saline secretions by the common
expedient of salt. Wherefore not apply our knowledge painfully gleaned
from lower science to the study of these more complicated phenomena? The
coward who would flee the fire of the enemy may be kept at his post by
the equal dread of death from his commander. Open a double fire upon
these wayward youths. Make the Barbarians enlist in the Roman legions.
In short, teach Haguna and the others philosophy. There will then no
longer be an opposing force of entirely different nature, but merely an
influence of the same kind as he has been accustomed to, though vastly
inferior in power."
The philosopher started,--the idea was so new to him.
"But, my friend," he urged, doubtfully, "do you not remember,
that, after the Romans had painfully learnt ship-building from the
Carthaginians, they vanquished them with their own weapons? Might not
some such danger be apprehended in this case?"
His companion reddened with indignation, then spoke in a tone of mildly
"Are the girls Romans? Do you suppose that in ship-building the silly
little things would ever advance beyond scows? We shall have the double
advantage of the plenum, by their minds being turned in the same
direction as those of our students,--and of the defeat and shipwreck,
through fighting in unseaworthy vessels."
"I have another idea also," observed the philosopher. "Even supposing,
as I must confess there seems to me a possibility, that in a
philosophical tournament, or trial of wits, they should occasionally
come off victorious," (his friend shook his head angrily,) "the effect
of separation that we desire would still be obtained. Haguna would no
longer be able to entangle silly boys in her treacherous hair. Your
suggestion is good; I will act upon it."
After some deliberation, they agreed upon the method of procedure, which
the philosopher immediately began to put into practice.
Shortly after this conversation, invitations were sent to a select
number of the inhabitants of the city to a new kind of entertainment to
be given by the recluse philosopher of the mountain. The entertainment
was to consist of astronomical and chemical exhibitions; the infinitely
great and infinitesimally little were to be conjoined to form an
evening's amusement. Such was the programme; and the eager curiosity
of the select few who were invited brought them punctually to the
philosopher's eyry. Haguna of course was there,--as unconsciously lovely
as if the disappearance of the unfortunate Anthrops were as much
a mystery to her as to the rest of the wondering citizens. The
philosopher, laying aside the brusqueness acquired in his solitude,
devoted himself with the utmost courtesy to the amusement of his guests,
--opened for them dusty cases of butterflies, shells, and rare stones,
which he had collected in his pursuit of the various sciences that
made them a specialty,--placed ponderous tomes open at some curious
or amusing story of otherwise forgotten ages, to arrest the fancy
of elegant literati,--exhibited rare and grotesque curiosities, the
glittering mica that he had picked up in his long researches, as toys
for these idlers of taste.
The flashing gems and gay dresses of the brilliant assemblage
illuminated the dusky old study; the rustling of silks, and the merry
laughter, only a trifle subdued by the novelty of the circumstances, the
eager chattering, the tripping sound of girlish feet darting in and
out of every quaint nook and corner, the varied flow of sprightly
conversation, scared the solemn quiet of the library. Looming down
grimly from the shelves that lined the walls, stood ponderous volumes,
monuments over the graves in which their authors were buried. Oh, the
life's blood that had been wrung into those forgotten pages! Oh, the
eager hope and sickening disappointment, the vehement aspirations,
the intense longings, the bitter hatred, the scorn, the greater than
angelic, the human love and benevolence, the fortitude, the courage, the
whole strange life of hundreds of dead men, that burned between those
thick covers! Often books do not reveal their authors until many years
after their death. They are read at first for the mite of fuel that they
bring to some blazing controversy; the man is entirely forgotten in his
work. But when years, centuries, have passed away, and the fire that
threatened to consume the world has died out as quietly as any common
bonfire, then the "spirits of the mighty dead" come back calmly to their
world-work,--now doubtless seeing its little worth as clearly as their
modern critics, but also hallowing their mighty labors with regal
authority, as the living garment of a human soul. The marble tombs in
graveyards hold empty dust; the real men lie buried alive in quiet
The philosopher entertained his guests well. But underneath all the
polite suavity of his manner could be detected a curious satisfaction at
the contrast between the deep sea of still thought usually embosoming
his library, and this sparkling, shallow little stream now flowing into
it. The prominent popular tricks of science he played off for their
amusement, exhibited the standard stars, enlarged upon the most
wonder-striking and easily understood facts in the sublime science, and
bewildered them with a pleasant enthusiasm of acquisition, by a series
of brilliant chemical experiments. The labors of a lifetime were
concentrated on a few dazzling results: the long tedium of the
means, the painful training, the hard mathematical preparation, the
brain-sickness and heart-sickness of these years of solitude were
But it was round Haguna that he plied the most subtle enchantments,--to
her he exhibited the most glittering decoys of Knowledge. She was
completely fascinated. Her cheeks grew pale, her large dark eyes deeper
and darker, with intense interest. She hung upon every word that fell
from the philosopher's lips, pored over the elegant trifles the scholar
had collected for the wondering ignorant, and stood abashed before the
studied unconsciousness of power,--the power of vast learning, that she
felt for the first time. When the guests were departing, she was still
reluctant to go,--she timidly followed the watchful philosopher to the
mighty telescope that had brought down stars for their playthings that
"My ignorance and weakness overwhelm me," she exclaimed; "would that I
could spend my life in this awful library!"
The philosopher repressed his exultation at this confession, and
"Nothing is easier, Madam, than the gratification of your laudable
desire. I am in the habit of receiving pupils, and should be most happy
to admit you to my class."
An eager light leaped into her lovely face as she earnestly thanked him
for his condescension, and engaged to begin the lessons on the very next
day. So, when the guests had all gone, and the scared quiet ventured to
brood again over its ancient nestling-place, the wily philosopher
threw himself back into his great chair, and laughed a long while with
The next day Haguna wended her lonely way to the bleak hill. It was so
stony and bare and treeless,--jutting out against the gray cold sky
like a giant sentinel stripped naked, yet still with dogged obstinacy
clinging to his post. The hard path pushed up over jagged stones that
cut her tender feet, and they left bleeding waymarks on the difficult
ascent. Woe, woe to poor trembling Haguna! Uncouth birds whizzed in
circles round her head, clanging and clamoring with their shrill voices,
striving to beat her back with their flapping wings. The faint sweet
fragrance of brier-roses clustering at the foot of the mountain wafted
reproachfully upon the chill air an entreaty to return. Once, turning at
a sudden bend in the road, she spied a merry party of girls and children
crowning each other with quickly fading wreaths of clover-blossoms. A
rosy-cheeked child in the centre of the group, enjoying the glory of his
first coronation, accidentally pointed his fat fore-finger at her, as
if in derision of her undertaking. It was strange, that, although she
presently pressed forward eagerly again, she felt glad that none of
those laughing girls would leave the sunny valley to follow her example.
She had flung her whole soul into the scheme, as is the fashion with
girls, and could not recover it again now. It seemed absolutely
necessary that somewhere some woman like herself should be compelled
to scale this ascent, and she--one of those girls in the valley, for
instance, might not be nearly so well able as herself to face this
bleakness. Thus she might preserve those sportive triflers in their
everlasting childhood by the warning of her sad devotion. Faint shadows
of gigantic tasks to be conquered when the hill was surmounted swam
through her mind. And somewhat whimsically associated with these, a
portrait of the learned Hooker occurred vividly to her imagination,--his
face disfigured through his devotion to sedentary pursuits.
Involuntarily she smoothed her soft cheek with her little hand. It was
still round and velvet as an August peach. Nevertheless she threw this
possibility into the burden she was going to assume for humanity,
and felt happier as the burden waxed heavier. The innate hunger for
sacrifice was gratified, with only the definite prospect of suffering
from loss of complexion; a concrete living shape was given to the vague
longing that possessed her; and she cheerfully marched on, strong in the
hope of the love and reverence she was sure her devotion would gain. Ah,
sweet Haguna, Haguna! Sweating enough and toil enough already! Go back,
dear child, from a work thou canst not understand, and imprison sunbeams
for the panting world in flowery valleys!
By this time she had reached the philosophic hermitage. Her future
master met her at the door, and, saluting her with grave courtesy, led
the way to a small unfurnished apartment, from whose windows nothing
could be seen but the distant sea and sky,--always a solemn monotone of
sea and sky.
"And so," he said, with mild irony, "even the maidens must dim their
bright eyes with philosophy! Can they leave their dolls so long?"
The hot blood rushed into Haguna's face, as she exclaimed, with intense
"Is it my fault that I am a girl? I come to you to learn, to satisfy
the insatiable thirst for knowledge which you have awakened,--and you
reproach me with my ignorance! I have just discovered that the one thing
I have secretly needed always was to learn to exercise my mind cramped
with inaction, to share with you labor and toil."
"Poor child," sighed the philosopher, excited to sudden pity by her
ardor, "you know little of the sweat of brain-toil! Do you know that it
takes years of painful study to arrive at a single valuable result? that
for a distant, doubtful advantage, all your bright, unfettered life must
be sacrificed? Each enjoyment must be stinted and weighed,--each day
valued only as another step to be climbed in the endless ladder,--all
simple, sweet enjoyment of earth and air and sky, the careless, golden
halo of each free day, must be given up. Everything must be squared
according to an inexorable plan; self must be despised, passions
restrained and clarified, till the life becomes thin and attenuated
through careful discipline,--all hopes and fears laid aside till the
soul becomes accustomed to its chilly atmosphere. Then body and mind
must be trained to endure a fearful weariness, to pass the days under
such a stern pressure of toil that all loving, graceful interests shall
be rooted out of the stony soil. You must be prepared to lose precious
truths in a gulf of delusion,--to leave all your old beacon-lights and
wander forth in an eternal dark. The troubles that beset weak souls
may be dissipated, but new strength brings dreadful trials. Tremendous
conflicts, undreamt-of in your innocence, will agitate your adventurous
Intellect, penetrating into vast regions of Doubt, where the mind made
for belief often reels into madness, goaded by harassing anxiety.
Often the lonely night-hours must be spent in sore battle with fearful
spectres revived by the roaming soul from their frequent graves.
All this and more must he dare who aspires to the lofty service of
"All this and more would I gladly suffer," cried Haguna. "There is a
fire now in my brain; you have kindled it, and it must be fed. And,
moreover, I wish to endure this trial for its own sake; for it is not
fitting that men should suffer more than women. Perhaps, too,--am I
presumptuous in thinking so?--two workers may so lessen the toil of one
that this lonely trial maybe greatly helped by even my assistance."
And her bosom heaved, and glorious tears welled up into her deep blue
eyes. The repentant philosopher placed his hand on her lovely head, and
lifted a tress of her soft hair.
"Ah, child, child, you know little about it! What! will you sacrifice
these glorious tresses to a hard and joyless course of study? For none
can study Euclid with me with hair like this."
"Willingly! willingly!" cried Haguna, impetuously, and pulled a pair of
scissors from her pocket to immediately make the beautiful offering.
The reluctant philosopher arrested her hand.
"Rash girl! consider yet a moment. You are exchanging a treasure whose
value you know for--you know not what. You will bitterly repent."
But Haguna, would not consider. She impatiently tore away her hand, and
in a few minutes had closely shorn her head, and the neglected hair lay
in rich profusion on the floor. As it lay there, the warm golden brown
color faded and faded, and some glittering things entangled in its
abundant masses beamed forth for a moment like tiny stars, and then
disappeared. And had Haguna stepped into a cloud, that so great a change
had come over her? The fine contour of head and forehead, the soft
outline of face, the delicate moulding of the chin were the same
still,--the dark eyes glowed with even new lustre; but the graceful
throat and white arm were hidden in a dark muffling cloak, the delicious
blush had faded from the cheek, whose color was now firm and tranquil,
the well-cut lips had settled into almost too harsh lines, an air of
indescribably voluptuous grace had forever fled. Ah, hapless Haguna!
The philosopher made no further remonstrance, but led her immediately
to the library, and, seating her at the table, opened a worn copy of
Euclid, and began at "Two straight lines," and so forth.
A few moments after, Anthrops, released from his imprisonment, opened
the door of the upper room, walked quietly down-stairs, and returned to
the city, much to the joy of his friends and relations, who had long
mourned him as lost.
About a year after this, Anthrops strolled into the philosopher's study,
to inquire the solution of a certain problem.
"I will refer you," said his old instructor, "to my accomplished pupil";
then raising his voice,--"Haguna!"
Anthrops, startled at hearing her name in such a connection, awaited her
entrance with anxious curiosity. She speedily came in obedience to
the summons, bowed with an air of grave abstraction to Anthrops, and,
seating herself, composedly awaited the commands of her master. Her
former captive asked himself, wondering, if this could be the airy,
laughing, winsome maiden with whom in days past he had ridden into the
green forest. The billows of hair had ebbed away; the short, ungraceful,
and somewhat thin remnant was meant for use in covering the head, not
for luxurious beauty. All falling laces, all fluttering ribbons, all
sparkling jewels were discarded from the severe simplicity of the
scholastic gown; and with them had disappeared the glancing ripple that
before had sunnily flowed around her, like wavy undulations through a
field of corn. Very clear and still were the violet eyes, but their dewy
lustre had long ago dried up. Like a flowering tree whose blossoms have
been prematurely swept off by a cold wind was the maiden, as she sat
there, abstractedly drawing geometrical diagrams with her pencil.
"Now, Sir," said the philosopher, "if you will state your difficulty, I
have no doubt my pupil can afford you assistance."
So saying, he withdrew into a corner, that the discussion might have
Haguna now looking inquiringly at Anthrops. He cleared his throat with a
somewhat dictatorial "hem!" and began.
"These circumstances, Madam, are really so unusual, that you must excuse
me, if I"--
"Proceed, Sir, to the point."
"When, avoiding the barbarous edict of Justinian, which condemned to a
perpetual silence the philosophic loquacity of the Athenian schools, the
second heptacle of wise men undertook a perilous journey to implore the
protection of Persia, they undoubtedly must at some stages of their
travels have passed the night on the road. In this case, the method of
so passing the time becomes an interesting object of research. Did the
last of the Greeks provide themselves with tents,--effeminately impede
their progress with luggage? Did they, skirting the north of the Arabian
desert, repose under the scattered palm-trees,--or rather, wandering
among the mountains of Assyria, find surer and colder shade? The
importance of this inquiry becomes evident upon reflecting that the
characters of the great are revealed by their behavior in the incidental
events of their lives."
"It is evident to my mind," returned Haguna, thoughtfully, "that the
seven sages, joyfully escaping from the frivolous necessities of
society, would return to the privileges of the children of eternal
Nature, and sleep confidingly under the blue welkin."
"Rheumatism," suggested Anthrops.
"Rheumatism!" echoed Haguna, disdainfully. "What is rheumatism? What are
any mere pains of the flesh, to the glorious content of the unshackled
spirit revelling in the freedom of its own nature? Thus the cultivated
Reason returns, with a touching appreciation of the Beautiful and the
Fit, to the simple couch of childish spontaneity. Mankind, after
long confinement in marble palaces, sepulchres of their inner being,
retrograde to the golden age. The wisdom of the world lies down to sleep
under the open sky. Such a beautiful comparison! It must be true."
"Really, Madam, your conclusions, although attained with great rapidity
of reasoning, are hardly deducible from the premises. Let me remark"--
"Reduce Camenes to Celarent, and the argument is plainly irrefragable.
It requires a mind deeply toned to sympathy with the inner significance
of all things to"--
"Contemporary testimony is absolutely necessary, if not suspiciously
sullied by credulity or deceit,--in which case, the nearest trustworthy
historian, if not more than a hundred years from the specified time, is
incomparably preferable. But"--
Haguna again interrupted, her voice a little raised with excitement. The
dispute waxed warm, on either side authorities were quoted and rejected,
and how it terminated has never been recorded. But the philosopher in
the corner rubbed his hands with satisfaction, exclaiming,--
"Thank fortune, we may now have a little peace!"
THE FLOWER OF LIBERTY.
What flower is this that greets the morn,
Its hues from heaven so freshly born?
With burning star and flaming band
It kindles all the sunset land;--
O, tell us what its name may be!
Is this the Flower of Liberty?
It is the banner of the free,
The starry Flower of Liberty!
In savage Nature's far abode
Its tender seed our fathers sowed;
The storm-winds rocked its swelling bud,
Its opening leaves were streaked with blood,
Till, lo! earth's tyrants shook to see
The full-blown Flower of Liberty!
Then hail the banner of the free,
The starry Flower of Liberty!
Behold its streaming rays unite
One mingling flood of braided light,--
The red that fires the Southern rose,
With spotless white from Northern snows,
And, spangled o'er its azure, see
The sister Stars of Liberty!
Then hail the banner of the free,
The starry Flower of Liberty!
The blades of heroes fence it round;
Where'er it springs is holy ground;
From tower and dome its glories spread;
It waves where lonely sentries tread;
It makes the land as ocean free,
And plants an empire on the sea!
Then hail the banner of the free,
The starry Flower of Liberty!
Thy sacred leaves, fair Freedom's flower,
Shall ever float on dome and tower,
To all their heavenly colors true,
In blackening frost or crimson dew,--
And GOD love us as we love thee,
Thrice holy Flower of Liberty!
Then hail the banner of the free,
The starry FLOWER OF LIBERTY!
ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE.
The memory of Alexis de Tocqueville belongs scarcely less to America
than to France. His book on "Democracy in America" was the foundation of
his fame. As a successful investigation by a foreigner of the nature and
working of institutions dissimilar from those of his own country, and
in many essential respects different from any which were elsewhere
established, it stands quite alone in political literature. It is still
further remarkable as the work of a very young man. Its merits were at
once acknowledged; and though twenty-six years have passed since it
appeared, it has been superseded by no later work. The book has a double
character, which has given to it an equal authority on both sides of
the Atlantic. For while it is a profound and sagacious analysis of the
spirit and methods of the American social and political system, it
is intended at the same time--more, however, by implied than open
comparison--to exhibit the relations of the principles established
here to the development of modern society and government in France and
elsewhere in Europe. It is a manual alike for the political theorist
and the practical statesman; and whatever changes our institutions may
undergo, its value will remain undiminished.
The volumes of Tocqueville's Inedited Works and Correspondence, with a
Memoir by his friend M. Gustave de Beaumont, which have lately appeared
in Paris, have, therefore, a special claim to the attention of American
readers. Their intrinsic interest is great as illustrating the life and
character not only of one of the most original and independent thinkers
of this generation, but also of a man not less distinguished by the
elevation and integrity of his character than by the power of his
intellect. The race of such men has seemed of late years to be dying out
in France. In the long list of her public characters during the past
thirty years, there are few names which can share the honor with
Tocqueville's of being those neither of apostates nor of schemers. Men
who hold to their principles in the midst of revolutions, who for the
sake of honor resist the temptations of power, who have faith in liberty
and in progress even when their hopes are overthrown, are rare at all
times and in all lands. "France no longer produces such men," said the
Duke de Broglie, when he heard of Tocqueville's death.
No book has been published of more importance than this in its
exhibition of the condition of thought and of society in France during
recent years. None has given more convincing evidence of the suppression
of intellectual liberty under the new Imperial rule. The reserves and
the omissions to which M. de Beaumont has been forced in the performance
of his work as editor display the oppressive nature of the censorship to
which the writings of the most honest and superior men are liable,
and the burdensome restraints by which such men are controlled and
disheartened. M. de Beaumont's notice of the life of Tocqueville, and
Tocqueville's own later correspondence, appear to a thoughtful reader as
accusations against Imperial despotism, as protests against the wrongs
from which freedom is now suffering in France. There is in them a
pervading tone of sadness, and, here and there, an expression of
bitterness of feeling, all the more effective for being conveyed in
restrained and unimpassioned words. There is no place for such men as
these in a system like that by which Louis Napoleon governs France.
The men of strong character, of incorruptible integrity, of thoughtful
moderation, and of fixed principles are more dangerous to the permanence
of despotic rule than the Victor Hugos, the Ledru Rollins, or the
Orsinis. It is the men with whom the love of liberty is founded upon
intellectual and moral convictions, not those with whom it is a hot and
reckless passion, that are the most to be feared by a ruler whose power
is based on the ignorance, the fears, the selfish ambitions, and the
material interests of the people whom he flatters and corrupts.
Tocqueville was born a thinker. His physical organization was delicate,
but he had an energy of spirit which led him often to overtask his
bodily forces in long-continued mental exertions. Without brilliancy
of imagination and with little liveliness of fancy, he possessed the
faculty of acute and discriminating observation, and early acquired the
rare power of deep and continuous reflection. His mind was large and
calm. The candor of his intellect was never stained by passion. He had
not the faculties of an original discoverer in the domain of abstract
truth, but, as an investigator of the causes of political and social
conditions, of the relation between particular facts and general
theories, of the influence of systems and institutions upon the life of
communities, he has rarely been surpassed. His book on "Democracy in
America," and still more his later work on "The Old Regime and the
Revolution," display in a remarkable degree the union of philosophic
insight and practical good sense, of clearness of thought and
condensation of statement.
But, however great the value of his writings may be, a still greater
value attaches to the character of the man himself, as it is displayed
in these volumes. M. de Beaumont's brief and affectionate memoir of his
friend, and Tocqueville's own letters, are not so much narratives of
events as evidences of character. His life was, indeed, not marked with
extraordinary incidents. It was the life of a man whose career was
limited both by his own temperament and by the public circumstances of
his times; of one who set more value upon ideas than upon events; who
sought intellectual satisfactions and distinctions rather than personal
advancement; who affected his contemporaries by his thought and his
integrity of principle more than by power of commanding position or
energy of resolute will. Although for many years in public life, he made
little mark on public affairs. But his influence, though indirect,
was perhaps not the less strong or permanent. The course of political
affairs is in the long run greatly modified, if not completely guided,
by the thinkers of a nation. Tocqueville's convictions kept him for the
most part in opposition to the successive governments of France during
the period of his public life. But his reputation and the weight of his
authority are continually increasing, and of the Frenchmen of the last
generation few have done so much as he to extend by his writings the
knowledge, and to strengthen by his example the love of those principles
by which liberty is maintained and secured, and upon which the real
advancement of society depends. The leading facts of his life may be
Born in 1805, at Paris, of an old and honorable family, his early years
were passed at home. As a youth, he was for some time at the college of
Metz; but his education was irregular, and he was not distinguished for
scholarship. In 1826 and 1827 he travelled with one of his brothers in
Italy and Sicily, and on his return to France was attached to the Court
of Justice at Versailles, where his father, the Count de Tocqueville,
was then Prefect, in the quality of _Juge-Auditeur_, an office to which
there is none correspondent in our courts. It was at this time that his
friendship with M. Gustave de Beaumont began.
For more than two years he performed the duties of this place with
marked fidelity and ability. But at the same time he pursued studies
less narrow and technical than the law, investigating with ardor the
general questions of politics, and laying the foundation of those
principles and opinions which he afterward developed in his writings and
his public life. He witnessed the Revolution of 1830 with regret, not
because he was personally attached to the elder branch of the Bourbons,
but because he dreaded the effect of a sudden and violent change of
dynasty upon the stability of those constitutional institutions which
were of too recent establishment to be firmly rooted in France, but to
which he looked as the safeguard of liberty. He gave his adhesion to the
new government without hesitation, but without enthusiasm; and having
little hope of advancement in his career as magistrate, he applied to
the Ministry of the Interior early in 1831 for an official mission to
America to examine the system of our prisons, which at that time was
exciting attention in France. But the real motive which led him
to desire to visit America was his wish to study the democratic
institutions of the United States with reference to their bearing upon
the political and social questions which underlay the violent changes
and revolutions of government in France, and of which a correct
appreciation was of continually increasing importance. It was plain that
the dominating principle in the modern development of society was that
of democratic equality; and this being the case, the question of prime
importance presenting itself for solution was, How is liberty to be
reconciled with equality and saved from the inevitable dangers to which
it is exposed? or in other words, Can equality, which, by dividing
men and reducing the mass to a common level, smooths the way for the
establishment of a despotism, either of an individual or of the mob, be
made to promote and secure liberty? For the study of this question,
and of others naturally connected with it, the United States afforded
opportunities nowhere else to be found.
Accompanied by M. de Beaumont, Tocqueville passed a year in this
country, and the chief results of his visit appeared in the first two
volumes of his "Democracy in America," which were published in January,
1835. The success of the book was instant and extraordinary. His
publisher, who had undertaken it with reluctance, had ventured on a
first edition of but five hundred copies; and in one of his letters,
shortly after its publication, Tocqueville tells pleasantly of the
bookseller's ingenuous surprise at the interest which the work had
excited. "I went yesterday morning to Gosselin's [the publisher]; he
received me with the most beaming face in the world, saying to me,
'Well, now, so it seems you have made a _chef-d'oeuvre_.' Does not
that expression paint the complete man of business? I sat down, and we
talked of our second edition."
From this time Tocqueville was famous. In the autumn of the same year,
1835, he married an English lady, Miss Mottley, who had long resided in
France, and the happiness of his private life was secured at the very
moment when he was entering upon the cares and anxieties of a public
career. In 1836 the French Academy decreed for his book an extraordinary
prize; in 1838 he was elected a member of the Institute; and in 1841,
a year after the publication of the last volumes of his work, he was
chosen member of the Academy. From 1839 to 1848, Tocqueville, elected
and reelected from Valognes, sat without interruption in the Chamber of
Deputies, where he constantly voted with the constitutional opposition.
His nature was too sensitive and his health too delicate to enable him
to hold a foremost place as orator in the debates of this period. His
habits of mind were, moreover, those of a writer rather than of a public
speaker. But the firmness and moderation of his principles and the
clearness and justice of his opinions secured for him a general respect,
and gave weight and influence to his counsels. "In 1839, having been
named reporter on the proposition relative to the abolition of slavery
in the colonies, he succeeded," says his biographer, "not only in
tracing with an able and sure hand the great principles of justice and
of humanity which should lead on the triumph of this holy cause, but
also, by words full of respect for existing interests and acquired
rights, in preparing the government and the public mind for a
concession, and the colonists for a compromise." He was frequently
intrusted with the duty of reporting on other projects of the first
importance; but special labors of this sort did not prevent him from
taking broad and large views of the political and moral tendencies of
the time, and of forecasting with clear insight the results of the
measures of the government and of the influences at work upon the
people. On the 27th of January, 1848, he announced the Revolution, which
he saw to be at hand. A passage from his speech on this occasion is
given by M. de Beaumont. It is striking, when read by the light of
subsequent events, for the truth of its inferences, the force of its
statements, and its prophetic warnings. After speaking of the opinions
and ideas prevalent among the working classes, he said, "When such
opinions take root, when they spread themselves so widely, when they
strike down deeply into the masses, they must bring about, sooner or
later, I do not know when, I do not know how, but they must bring about,
sooner or later, the most formidable revolutions.... I believe that at
this moment we are asleep upon a volcano. (_Dissent_.) I am profoundly
convinced of it."
Tocqueville, thus anticipating the Revolution, was more afflicted and
disappointed than surprised, when it overthrew the monarchy in February.
He had comprehended beforehand that its character was to be rather
social than simply political. He had determined to accept it as a
necessary evil. He measured from the first the risk to which the
principles to the maintenance of which he was devoted were exposed, the
peril which, threatened liberty itself. Believing that the Republic now
afforded the only and perhaps the last chance of liberty in France, and
that its downfall would result in throwing power into the hands of an
individual ruler, he determined to give all his support to the new
government, and to endeavor to work out the good of his country by means
which gave little encouragement or hope of success. He took part in the
Constituent Assembly, was one of the committee to form the Constitution,
and in the autumn of 1848 represented France as plenipotentiary at the
Conference held at Brussels, which had for its object the mediation of
France and England between Austria and Sardinia. The next year, having
just been elected a member of the Legislative Assembly, he was invited
by the President of the Republic to take the portfolio of Foreign
Affairs in the ministry of M. Barrot. He did not hold office long.
The ministry was too honest and too firm to suit the designs of the
President, and on the 31st of October Louis Napoleon announced, in a
message which took the Assembly by surprise, that it had been dismissed,
and a new set of ministers appointed. The President endeavored to retain
Tocqueville, and to win him over to his party; but Tocqueville already
presaged the fall of the Republic, and witnessed with anxiety and
discouragement the approach of the Empire. He remained a member of the
Assembly to the last. He was one of the deputies arrested on the 2d of
December, 1851, and was confined for a time at Vincennes. "Here ended
his political life. It ended with liberty in France."
The remaining years of Tocqueville's life were spent in a retirement
which might have been happy, had he not felt too deeply for happiness
the despotism which weighed upon France. He engaged in the studies that
resulted in his masterly work on "The Old Regime and the Revolution";
but these studies, instead of diverting him from the contemplation
of what France had lost, gave poignancy to the sorrow excited by her
present condition. All his hopes for the prevalence of the principles
which he had sought during life to confirm and establish, all his
personal ambitions as a public man, were completely broken down. But,
though thus defeated in hope and in desire, he was not overcome in
spirit. And the record of the closing years of his life shows, more than
that of any other portion of it, the firmness, the strength, and the
sweetness of his character.
His health, which had never been vigorous, became from year to year more
and more uncertain, and the labor which he gave to the historical work
to which he now devoted himself was frequently followed by exhaustion.
He passed some time in England, where be had many warm friends, in
examining the collections in the British Museum concerning the French
Revolution; and in 1855 he made a visit of considerable length to
Germany for the purpose of studying the social institutions of the
country, so far as they might illustrate the condition of France under
the old regime. At the beginning of 1856 the first part of his great
work was published. The impression produced by it was extraordinary. It
was, as it were, a key that opened to men the secrets of a history with
the events of which they were so familiar that it had seemed to them
nothing more was to be learned concerning it. The book is one which,
though unfinished, is, so far as it advances, complete. It will retain
its place as an historical essay of the highest value; for it is a study
of the past, undertaken not merely with the intention of elucidating the
facts of a particular period of history, but also with the design of
investigating and establishing the general principles in politics and
government of which facts and events are but the external indications.
Tocqueville was too honest to write according to any predetermined
theory; but he also penetrated too deeply into the causes of things not
to arrive, at length, at definite conclusions as to the meaning and
teachings of history.
Tocqueville had now reached the summit of fame as an author. He enjoyed
the harvest of success, and his ambition was urged by it to new
exertion. But in the summer of 1858 he had an alarming attack of
bleeding at the lungs, accompanied with a general prostration of
strength. In the autumn, his physicians ordered him to the South, and
early in November he arrived at Cannes, where he was to spend the
winter. But neither change of climate nor tender nursing was sufficient
to prevent his disease from progressing. He suffered much, but he still
hoped. He became worse as the spring came on, and on the 16th of April,
1859, he died. He was fifty-four years old, but he had lived a long
life, if life be measured by thought and moral progress.
In his domestic life Tocqueville had been most happy, and it was in his
own home that his character appeared in its most delightful aspect. In
society he was a converser of extraordinary brilliancy. Few men were his
rivals in this art, so well practised in Paris. His flow of ideas was
not more remarkable than the choiceness and vigor of his expression. But
he was not a tyrant in talk, and he was as ready to listen as to seek
for listeners. His social powers were at the service of his friends. He
was not of a gay temper, but he had a peculiar thoughtfulness for others
which gave a charm to his manners far superior to that of careless
vivacity. M. de Beaumont speaks of him in his relations to his friends
in words full of feeling:--
"I have said that he had many friends; but he experienced a still
greater happiness, that of never losing one of them. He had also another
happiness: it was the knowing how to love them all so well, that none
ever complained of the share he received, even while seeing that of the
others. He was as ingenious as he was sincere in his attachments; and
never, perhaps, did example prove better than his how many charms
good-wit adds to good-will (_combien l'esprit ajoute de charmes a la
"Good as he was," continues M. de Beaumont, "he aspired without ceasing
to become better; and it is certain that each day he drew nearer to that
moral perfection which seemed to him the only end worthy of man....
Each day he brought into all his sentiments and all his actions
something of deeper piety, and stronger gratitude to God.... He was
more patient, more laborious, more watchful to lose nothing of that life
which he loved so well, and which he had the right to find beautiful,
he who made of it so noble a use! Finally, it may be said to his honor,
that at an epoch in which each man tends to concentrate his regard upon
himself, he had no other aim than that of seeking for truths useful to
his fellows, no other passion than that of increasing their well-being
and their dignity."--Vol. I. p. 124.
The correspondence of a man about whom such--words may be said without
exaggeration has more than a merely literary interest. This book is
one of which the literary critic is not the final judge. Tocqueville's
letters, like every genuine series of letters written without thought
of publication, have the charm and more than the simplicity of
autobiography. Their merit lies not so much in grace of style,
picturesqueness of description, or familiar freedom of composition,
as in their exhibition of power of thought combined with delicacy
and refinement of feeling, and in the frequent expression of ardent
patriotism and strong personal sympathies with public or with private
interests. They are the letters of a man who took a grave view of life,
regarding it "as an affair with which we are charged, which must be
carried through and ended with honor to ourselves." They are the letters
also of a man of strong and faithful affections; and the long series of
them addressed during twenty-five years to the Count Louis de Kergorlay
has, in addition to its interest from its variety of topics, a special
moral value as the record of a close and confidential friendship
maintained in spite of the widest divergence of political opinion during
a period of unusual political excitement. Few men have the temper or the
sentiment requisite for the support of intimate relations under
such conditions. But his friendships occupied a very large place in
Tocqueville's life. In them he found happiness and repose. To one of his
friends he writes in 1844, "The remembrance of you is the more precious
to me because it calms in me all those troubles of the soul that
politics engender." And thus in the most trying passages of his life,
and especially in the discouragement of his later years, the thought
of his friends seems to have been constantly with him, and his
correspondence with them became almost a necessity for his spirit.
His letters, or rather that portion of them which M. de Beaumont has
published, and which must some day be succeeded by a fuller collection,
have thus a double character: they contain the judgments of a wide and
profound thinker on the subjects which interested him, while they show
him in the most amiable and attractive light as a generous and constant
friend. They are not to be compared in wit or elaborate finish with the
brilliant letters of Courier; they have not the striking originality and
terse vigor of those of De Maistre, but they have the grace of simple
and pure feeling, and the worth of clear, manly, high-toned thought. No
one capable of appreciating them can read them without learning to
feel toward their author not merely respect, but also a strong personal
regard. The two following extracts have a special appropriateness to
the present condition of our own country, while at the same time they
display the qualities most characteristic of Tocqueville's intellect.
They are both from letters addressed to one of the most distinguished
correspondents of his later years, Madame de Swetchine.
"There are, it seems to me, two distinct divisions in morals, one as
important as the other in the eyes of God, but in which in our days his
ministers instruct us with very unequal ardor. One belongs to private
life: it embraces the relative duties of mankind as fathers, as sons, as
wives, as husbands. The other regards public life: the duties of every
citizen toward his country, and toward that human society of which he
forms a special part. Am I deceived in believing that the clergy of our
time are very much occupied with the first portion of morals, and very
little with the second? This appears to me especially observable in the
manner in which women think and feel. I see a great number of them who
have a thousand private virtues in which the direct and beneficent
action of religion manifests itself,--who, thanks to it, are most
faithful wives and excellent mothers, who show themselves just and
indulgent toward their domestics, charitable to the poor. But as to that
portion of duties which is connected with public life, they do not
seem to have even the idea of it. Not only they do not practise them
themselves, which is natural enough, but they do not seem even to have
the thought of inculcating them on those over whom they have influence.
It is a side of education that is, as it were, invisible to them. It
was not so under that old regime which, in the midst of many vices,
developed proud and manly virtues. I have often heard it told, that
my grandmother, who was a very religious (_tres sainte_) woman, after
impressing upon her young son the exercise of all the duties of private
life, failed not to add,--'And then, my child, never forget that a man
owes himself above all to his country; that there is no sacrifice that
he ought not to make for her; that he cannot remain indifferent to her
fate; that God requires of him that he be always ready to consecrate,
if need be, his time, his fortune, even his life, to the service of the
State and of the king."--Vol. II. p. 341.
"I do not ask of the priests to require of the men whose education is
committed to them, or over whom they exercise influence, I do not ask of
them to require of these men, as a duty of conscience, to support the
republic or the monarchy; but I avow that I desire that they should
oftener tell them, that, as they are Christians, so they belong to one
of those great human associations which God has established, without
doubt in order to render more visible and more sensible the bonds which
ought to unite individuals to each other,--associations which are named
the people, and whose territory is called the country. I desire that
they should cause the fact to penetrate more deeply into the souls of
men, that each man owes himself to this collective existence before
belonging to himself; that in regard to this existence no man is allowed
to be indifferent, still less to make of indifference a sort of feeble
virtue which enervates many of the most noble instincts that have been
given to us; that all are responsible for what happens to it, and that
all, according to their light, are bound to labor constantly for its
prosperity, to take care that it be submitted only to beneficent,
respectable, and lawful authorities.... This is what I wish should be
inculcated on men, and especially on women. Nothing has more struck me,
in an experience now of considerable length in public affairs, than the
influence that women always exercise in this matter,--influence so much
the greater as it is indirect. I do not doubt that it is they above all
who give to every nation a certain moral temperament, which shows itself
afterwards in politics."--Vol. II. p. 348. Tocqueville's services to
France, to liberty, did not end with his life. The example, no less than
the writings of such a man, bears fruit in later times. It belongs to no
one land. Wherever men are striving in thought or in action to support
the cause of freedom and of law, to strengthen institutions founded
on principles of equal justice, to secure established liberties by
defending the government in which they are embodied, his teachings will
be prized, and his memory be honored.
AGNES OF SORRENTO.
THE MONK'S STRUGGLE.
The golden sunshine of the spring morning was deadened to a sombre tone
in the shadowy courts of the Capuchin convent. The reddish brown of the
walls was flecked with gold and orange spots of lichen; and here
and there, in crevices, tufts of grass, or even a little bunch of
gold-blooming flowers, looked hardily forth into the shadowy air. A
covered walk, with stone arches, inclosed a square filled with dusky
shrubbery. There were tall funereal cypresses, whose immense height and
scraggy profusion of decaying branches showed their extreme old age.
There were gaunt, gnarled olives, with trunks twisted in immense
serpent folds, and boughs wreathed and knotted into wild, unnatural
contractions, as if their growth had been a series of spasmodic
convulsions, instead of a calm and gentle development of Nature. There
were overgrown clumps of aloes, with the bare skeletons of former
flower-stalks standing erect among their dusky horns or lying rotting on
the ground beside them. The place had evidently been intended for the
culture of shrubbery and flowers, but the growth of the trees had long
since so intercepted the sunlight and fresh air that not even grass
could find root beneath their branches. The ground was covered with a
damp green mould, strewn here and there with dead boughs, or patched
with tufts of fern and lycopodium, throwing out their green hairy roots
into the moist soil. A few half-dead roses and jasmines, remnants of
former days of flowers, still maintained a struggling existence, but
looked wan and discouraged in the effort, and seemed to stretch and pine
vaguely for a freer air. In fact, the whole garden might be looked upon
as a sort of symbol of the life by which it was surrounded,--a life
stagnant, unnatural, and unhealthy, cut off from all those thousand
stimulants to wholesome development which are afforded by the open plain
of human existence, where strong natures grow distorted in unnatural
efforts, though weaker ones find in its lowly shadows a congenial
We have given the brighter side of conventual life in the days we are
describing: we have shown it as often a needed shelter of woman's
helplessness during ages of political uncertainty and revolution; we
have shown it as the congenial retreat where the artist, the poet, the
student, and the man devoted to ideas found leisure undisturbed to
develop themselves under the consecrating protection of religion. The
picture would be unjust to truth, did we not recognize, what, from our
knowledge of human nature, we must expect, a conventual life of far less
elevated and refined order. We should expect that institutions which
guarantied to each individual a livelihood, without the necessity of
physical labor or the responsibility of supporting a family, might in
time come to be incumbered with many votaries in whom indolence and
improvidence were the only impelling motives. In all ages of the world
the unspiritual are the majority,--the spiritual the exceptions. It was
to the multitude that Jesus said, "Ye seek me, not because ye saw the
miracles, but because ye did eat and were filled,"--and the multitude
has been much of the same mind from that day to this.
The convent of which we speak had been for some years under the lenient
rule of the jolly Brother Girolamo,--an easy, wide-spread, loosely
organized body, whose views of the purpose of human existence were
decidedly Anacreontic. Fasts he abominated; night-prayers he found
unfavorable to his constitution; but he was a judge of olives and good
wine, and often threw out valuable hints in his pastoral visits on the
cooking of maccaroni, for which he had himself elaborated a savory
recipe; and the cellar and larder of the convent, during his pastorate,
presented so many urgent solicitations to conventual repose, as to
threaten an inconvenient increase in the number of brothers. The monks
in his time lounged in all the sunny places of the convent like so many
loose sacks of meal, enjoying to the full the _dolce far niente_ which
seems to be the universal rule of Southern climates. They ate and drank
and slept and snored; they made pastoral visits through the surrounding
community which were far from edifying; they gambled, and tippled, and
sang most unspiritual songs; and keeping all the while their own private
pass-key to Paradise tucked under their girdles, were about as jolly
a set of sailors to Eternity as the world had to show. In fact, the
climate of Southern Italy and its gorgeous scenery are more favorable
to voluptuous ecstasy than to the severe and grave warfare of the true
Christian soldier. The sunny plains of Capua demoralized the soldiers of
Hannibal, and it was not without a reason that ancient poets made those
lovely regions the abode of Sirens whose song maddened by its sweetness,
and of a Circe who made men drunk with her sensual fascinations, till
they became sunk to the form of brutes. Here, if anywhere, is the
lotos-eater's paradise,--the purple skies, the enchanted shores, the
soothing gales, the dreamy mists, which all conspire to melt the energy
of the will, and to make existence either a half-doze of dreamy apathy
or an awaking of mad delirium.
It was not from dreamy, voluptuous Southern Italy that the religious
progress of the Italian race received any vigorous impulses. These came
from more northern and more mountainous regions, from the severe, clear
heights of Florence, Perugia, and Assisi, where the intellectual and the
moral both had somewhat of the old Etruscan earnestness and gloom.
One may easily imagine the stupid alarm and helpless confusion of these
easy-going monks, when their new Superior came down among them hissing
with a white heat from the very hottest furnace-fires of a new religious
experience, burning and quivering with the terrors of the world to
come,--pale, thin, eager, tremulous, and yet with all the martial
vigor of the former warrior, and all the habits of command of a former
princely station. His reforms gave no quarter to right or left; sleepy
monks were dragged out to midnight-prayers, and their devotions
enlivened with vivid pictures of hell-fire and ingenuities of eternal
torment enough to stir the blood of the most torpid. There was to be
no more gormandizing, no more wine-bibbing; the choice old wines were
placed under lock and key for the use of the sick and poor in the
vicinity; and every fast of the Church, and every obsolete rule of the
order, were revived with unsparing rigor. It is true, they hated their
new Superior with all the energy which laziness and good living had left
them, but they every soul of them shook in their sandals before him; for
there is a true and established order of mastery among human beings, and
when a man of enkindled energy and intense will comes among a flock of
irresolute commonplace individuals, he subjects them to himself by a
sort of moral paralysis similar to what a great, vigorous gymnotus
distributes among a fry of inferior fishes. The bolder ones, who made
motions of rebellion, were so energetically swooped upon, and consigned
to the discipline of dungeon and bread-and-water, that less courageous
natures made a merit of siding with the more powerful party, mentally
resolving to carry by fraud the points which they despaired of
accomplishing by force.
On the morning we speak of, two monks might have been seen lounging on
a stone bench by one of the arches, looking listlessly into the sombre
garden-patch we have described. The first of these, Father Anselmo, was
a corpulent fellow, with an easy swing of gait, heavy animal features,
and an eye of shrewd and stealthy cunning: the whole air of the man
expressed the cautious, careful voluptuary. The other, Father Johannes,
was thin, wiry, and elastic, with hands like birds' claws, and an eye
that reminded one of the crafty cunning of a serpent. His smile was a
curious blending of shrewdness and malignity. He regarded his companion
from time to time obliquely from the corners of his eyes, to see what
impression his words were making, and had a habit of jerking himself up
in the middle of a sentence and looking warily round to see if any one
were listening, which indicated habitual distrust.
"Our holy Superior is out a good while this morning," he said, at
The observation was made in the smoothest and most silken tones, but
they carried with them such a singular suggestion of doubt and inquiry
that they seemed like an accusation.
"Ah?" replied the other, perceiving evidently some intended undertone of
suspicion lurking in the words, but apparently resolved not to commit
himself to his companion.
"Yes," said the first; "the zeal of the house of the Lord consumes him,
the blessed man!"
"Blessed man!" echoed the second, rolling up his eyes, and giving a deep
sigh, which shook his portly proportions so that they quivered like
"If he goes on in this way much longer," continued Father Johannes,
"there will soon be very little mortal left of him; the saints will
Father Anselmo gave something resembling a pious groan, but darted
meanwhile a shrewd observant glance at the speaker.
"What would become of the convent, were he gone?" said Father Johannes.
"All these blessed reforms which he has brought about would fall back;
for our nature is fearfully corrupt, and ever tends to wallow in the
mire of sin and pollution. What changes hath he wrought in us all! To be
sure, the means were sometimes severe. I remember, brother, when he had
you under ground for more than ten days. My heart was pained for you;
but I suppose you know that it was necessary, in order to bring you to
that eminent state of sanctity where you now stand."
The heavy, sensual features of Father Anselmo flushed up with some
emotion, whether of anger or of fear it was hard to tell; but he gave
one hasty glance at his companion, which, if a glance could kill, would
have struck him dead, and then there fell over his countenance, like a
veil, an expression of sanctimonious humility, as he replied,--
"Thank you for your sympathy, dearest brother. I remember, too, how I
felt for you that week when you were fed only on bread and water, and
had to take it on your knees off the floor, while the rest of us sat at
table. How blessed it must be to have one's pride brought down in that
way! When our dear, blessed Superior first came, brother, you were as a
bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, but now what a blessed change! It must
give you so much peace! How you must love him!"
"I think we love him about equally," said Father Johannes, his dark,
thin features expressing the concentration of malignity. "His labors
have been blessed among us. Not often does a faithful shepherd meet so
loving a flock. I have been told that the great Peter Abelard found far
less gratitude. They tried to poison him in the most holy wine."
"How absurd!" interrupted Father Anselmo, hastily; "as if the blood of
the Lord, as if our Lord himself, could be made poison!"
"Brother, it is a fact," insisted the former, in tones silvery with
humility and sweetness.
"A fact that the most holy blood can be poisoned?" replied the other,
with horror evidently genuine.
"I grieve to say, brother," said Father Johannes, "that in my profane
and worldly days I tried that experiment on a dog, and the poor brute
died in five minutes. Ah, brother," he added, observing that his obese
companion was now thoroughly roused, "you see before you the chief of
sinners! Judas was nothing to me; and yet, such are the triumphs
of grace, I am an unworthy member of this most blessed and pious
brotherhood; but I do penance daily in sackcloth and ashes for my
"But, Brother Johannes, was it really so? did it really happen?"
inquired Father Anselmo, looking puzzled. "Where, then, is our faith?"
"Doth our faith rest on human reason, or on the evidence of our senses,
Brother Anselmo? I bless God that I have arrived at that state where I
can adoringly say, 'I believe, because it is impossible.' Yea, brother,
I know it to be a fact that the ungodly have sometimes destroyed holy
men, like our Superior, who could not be induced to taste wine for
any worldly purpose, by drugging the blessed cup; so dreadful are the
ragings of Satan in our corrupt nature!"
"I can't see into that," said Father Anselmo, still looking confused.
"Brother," answered Father Johannes, "permit an unworthy sinner to
remind you that you must not try to see into anything; all that is
wanted of you in our most holy religion is to shut your eyes and
believe; all things are possible to the eye of faith. Now, humanly
speaking," he added, with a peculiarly meaning look, "who would believe
that you kept all the fasts of our order, and all the extraordinary ones
which it hath pleased our blessed Superior to lay upon us, as you surely
do? A worldling might swear, to look at you, that such flesh and color
must come in some way from good meat and good wine; but we remember how
the three children throve on the pulse and rejected the meat from the
The countenance of Father Anselmo expressed both anger and alarm at
this home-thrust, and the changes did not escape the keen eye of Father
Johannes, who went on.
"I directed the eyes of our holy father upon you as a striking example
of the benefits of abstemious living, showing that the days of miracles
are not yet past in the Church, as some skeptics would have us believe.
He seemed to study you attentively. I have no doubt he will honor you
with some more particular inquiries,--the blessed saint!"
Father Anselmo turned uneasily on his seat and stealthily eyed his
companion, to see, if possible, how much real knowledge was expressed by
his words, and then answered on quite another topic.
"How this garden has fallen to decay! We miss old Father Angelo
sorely, who was always trimming and cleansing it. Our Superior is too
heavenly-minded to have much thought for earthly things, and so it
Father Johannes watched this attempt at diversion with a glitter of
stealthy malice, and, seeming to be absorbed in contemplation, broke out
again exactly where he had left off on the unwelcome subject.
"I mind me now, Brother Anselmo, that, when you came out of your cell to
prayers, the other night, your utterance was thick, and your eyes heavy
and watery, and your gait uncertain. One would swear that you had been
drunken with new wine; but we knew it was all the effect of fasting and
devout contemplation, which inebriates the soul with holy raptures, as
happened to the blessed Apostles on the day of Pentecost. I remarked the
same to our holy father, and he seemed to give it earnest heed, for
I saw him watching you through all the services. How blessed is such
"The Devil take him!" said Father Anselmo, suddenly thrown off his
guard; but checking himself, he added, confusedly,--"I mean"--
"I understand you, brother," said Father Johannes; "it is a motion of
the old nature not yet entirely subdued. A little more of the discipline
of the lower vaults, which you have found so precious, will set all that
"You would not inform against me?" said Father Anselmo, with an
expression of alarm.
"It would be my duty, I suppose," said Father Johannes, with a sigh;
"but, sinner that I am, I never could bring my mind to such proceedings
with the vigor of our blessed father. Had I been Superior of the
convent, as was talked of, bow differently might things have proceeded!
I should have erred by a sinful laxness. How fortunate that it was he,
instead of such a miserable sinner as myself!"
"Well, tell me, then, Father Johannes,--for your eyes are shrewd as a
lynx's,--is our good Superior so perfect as he seems? or does he have
his little private comforts sometimes, like the rest of us? Nobody,
you know, can stand it to be always on the top round of the ladder to
Paradise. For my part, between you and me, I never believed all that
story they read to us so often about Saint Simon Stylites, who passed so
many years on the top of a pillar and never came down. Trust me, the old
boy found his way down sometimes, when all the world was asleep, and got
somebody to do duty for him meantime, while he took a little something
comfortable. Is it not so?"
"I am told to believe, and I do believe," said Father Johannes, casting
down his eyes, piously; "and, dear brother, it ill befits a sinner like
me to reprove; but it seemeth to me as if you make too much use of the
eyes of carnal inquiry. Touching the life of our holy father, I cannot
believe the most scrupulous watch can detect anything in his walk or
conversation other than appears in his profession. His food is next to
nothing,--a little chopped spinach or some bitter herb cooked without
salt for ordinary days, and on fast days he mingles this with ashes,
according to a saintly rule. As for sleep, I believe he does without
it; for at no time of the night, when I have knocked at the door of
his cell, have I found him sleeping. He is always at his prayers or
breviary. His cell hath only a rough, hard board for a bed, with a log
of rough wood for a pillow; yet he complains of that as tempting to
Father Anselmo shrugged his fat shoulders, ruefully.
"It's all well enough," he said, "for those that want to take this hard
road to Paradise; but why need they drive the flock up with them?"
"True enough, Brother Anselmo," said Father Johannes; "but the flock
will rejoice in it in the end, doubtless. I understand he is purposing
to draw yet stricter the reins of discipline. We ought to be thankful."
"Thankful? We can't wink but six times a week now," said Father Anselmo;
"and by-and-by he won't let us wink at all."
"Hist! hush! here he comes," said Father Johannes, "What ails him? he
looks wild, like a man distraught."
In a moment more, in fact, Father Francesco strode hastily through the
corridor, with his deep-set eyes dilated and glittering, and a vivid
hectic flush on his hollow cheeks. He paid no regard to the salutation
of the obsequious monks; in fact, he seemed scarcely to see them, but
hurried in a disordered manner through the passages and gained the room
of his cell, which he shut and locked with a violent clang.
"What has come over him now?" said Father Anselmo.
Father Johannes stealthily followed some distance, and then stood with
his lean neck outstretched and his head turned in the direction where
the Superior had disappeared. The whole attitude of the man, with
his acute glittering eye, might remind one of a serpent making an
observation before darting after his prey.
"Something is working him," he said to himself; "what may it be?"
Meanwhile that heavy oaken door had closed on a narrow cell,--bare of
everything which could be supposed to be a matter of convenience in
the abode of a human being. A table of the rudest and most primitive
construction was garnished with a skull, whose empty eyeholes and
grinning teeth were the most conspicuous objects in the room. Behind
this stood a large crucifix, manifestly the work of no common master,
and bearing evident traces in its workmanship of Florentine art: it was,
perhaps, one of the relics of the former wealth of the nobleman who
had buried his name and worldly possessions in this living sepulchre. A
splendid manuscript breviary, richly illuminated, lay open on the table;
and the fair fancy of its flowery letters, the lustre of gold and silver
on its pages, formed a singular contrast to the squalid nakedness of
everything else in the room. This book, too, had been a family heirloom;
some lingering shred of human and domestic affection sheltered itself
under the protection of religion in making it the companion of his
self-imposed life of penance and renunciation.
Father Francesco had just returned from the scene in the confessional we
have already described. That day had brought to him one of those pungent
and vivid inward revelations which sometimes overset in a moment some
delusion that has been the cherished growth of years. Henceforth the
reign of self-deception was past,--there was no more self-concealment,
no more evasion. He loved Agnes,--he knew it,--he said it over and over
again to himself with a stormy intensity of energy; and in this hour
the whole of his nature seemed to rise in rebellion against the awful
barriers which hemmed in and threatened this passion. He now saw clearly
that all that he had been calling fatherly tenderness, pastoral zeal,
Christian unity, and a thousand other evangelical names, was nothing
more nor less than a passion that had gone to the roots of existence and
absorbed into itself all that there was of him. Where was he to look for
refuge? What hymn, what prayer had he not blent with her image? It was
this that he had given to her as a holy lesson,--it was that that she
had spoken of to him as the best expression of her feelings. This prayer
he had explained to her,--he remembered just the beautiful light in her
eyes, which were fixed on his so trustingly. How dear to him had been
that unquestioning devotion, that tender, innocent humility!--how dear,
and how dangerous!
We have read of flowing rivulets wandering peacefully without ripple or
commotion, so long as no barrier stayed their course, suddenly chafing
in angry fury when an impassable dam was thrown across their waters. So
any affection, however genial and gentle in its own nature, may become
an ungovernable, ferocious passion, by the intervention of fatal
obstacles in its course. In the case of Father Francesco, the sense of
guilt and degradation fell like a blight over all the past that had been
so ignorantly happy. He thought he had been living on manna, but found
it poison. Satan had been fooling him, leading him on blindfold, and
laughing at his simplicity, and now mocked at his captivity. And how
nearly had he been hurried by a sudden and overwhelming influence to the
very brink of disgrace! He felt himself shiver and grow cold to think of
it. A moment more and he had blasted that pure ear with forbidden words
of passion; and even now he remembered, with horror, the look of grave
and troubled surprise in those confiding eyes, that had always looked
up to him trustingly, as to God. A moment more and he had betrayed the
faith he taught her, shattered her trust in the holy ministry, and
perhaps imperilled her salvation. He breathed a sigh of relief when he
thought of it,--he had not betrayed himself, he had not fallen in her
esteem, he still stood on that sacred vantage-ground where his power
over her was so great, and where at least he possessed her confidence
and veneration. There was still time for recollection, for self-control,
for a vehement struggle which should set all right again: but, alas! how
shall a man struggle who finds his whole inner nature boiling in furious
rebellion against the dictates of his conscience,--self against self?
It is true, also, that no passions are deeper in their hold, more
pervading and more vital to the whole human being, than those that make
their first entrance through the higher nature, and, beginning with a
religious and poetic ideality, gradually work their way through the
whole fabric of the human existence.
From grosser passions, whose roots lie in the senses, there is always a
refuge in man's loftier nature. He can cast them aside with contempt,
and leave them as one whose lower story is flooded can remove to a
higher loft, and live serenely with a purer air and wider prospect. But
to love that is born of ideality, of intellectual sympathy, of harmonies
of the spiritual and Immortal nature, of the very poetry and purity of
the soul, if it be placed where reason and religion forbid its exercise
and expression, what refuge but the grave,--what hope but that wide
eternity where all human barriers fall, all human relations end, and
love ceases to be a crime? A man of the world may struggle by change of
scene, place, and employment. He may put oceans between himself and the
things that speak of what he desires to forget. He may fill the void in
his life with the stirring excitement of the battlefield, or the whirl
of travel from city to city, or the press of business and care. But what
help is there for him whose life is tied down to the narrow sphere of
the convent,--to the monotony of a bare cell, to the endless repetition
of the same prayers, the same chants, the same prostrations, especially
when all that ever redeemed it from monotony has been that image and
that sympathy which conscience now bids him forget?
When Father Francesco precipitated himself into his cell and locked
the door, it was with the desperation of a man who flies from a mortal
enemy. It seemed to him that all eyes saw just what was boiling within
him,--that the wild thoughts that seemed to scream their turbulent
importunities in his ears were speaking so loud that all the world would
hear. He should disgrace himself before the brethren whom he had so
long been striving to bring to order and to teach the lessons of holy
self-control. He saw himself pointed at, hissed at, degraded, by the
very men who had quailed before his own reproofs; and scarcely, when he
had bolted the door behind him, did he feel himself safe. Panting and
breathless, he fell on his knees before the crucifix, and, bowing his
head in his hands, fell forward upon the floor. As a spent wave melts at
the foot of a rock, so all his strength passed away, and he lay awhile
in a kind of insensibility,--a state in which, though consciously
existing, he had no further control over his thoughts and feelings. In
that state of dreamy exhaustion his mind seemed like a mirror, which,
without vitality or will of its own, simply lies still and reflects the
objects that may pass over it. As clouds sailing in the heavens cast
their images, one after another, on the glassy floor of a waveless sea,
so the scenes of his former life drifted in vivid pictures athwart his
memory. He saw his father's palace,--the wide, cool, marble halls,--the
gardens resounding with the voices of falling waters. He saw the fair
face of his mother, and played with the jewels upon her hands. He saw
again the picture of himself, in all the flush of youth and health,
clattering on horseback through the streets of Florence with troops of
gay young friends, now dead to him as he to them. He saw himself in the
bowers of gay ladies, whose golden hair, lustrous eyes, and siren wiles
came back shivering and trembling in the waters of memory in a thousand
undulating reflections. There were wild revels,--orgies such as Florence
remembers with shame to this day. There was intermingled the turbulent
din of arms,--the haughty passion, the sudden provocation, the swift
revenge. And then came the awful hour of conviction, the face of that
wonderful man whose preaching had stirred all souls,--and then those
fearful days of penance,--that darkness of the tomb,--that dying to the
world,--those solemn vows, and the fearful struggles by which they had
"Oh, my God!" he cried, "is it all in vain?--so many prayers? so many
struggles?--and shall I fail of salvation at last?"
He seemed to himself as a swimmer, who, having exhausted his last gasp
of strength in reaching the shore, is suddenly lifted up on a cruel wave
and drawn back into the deep. There seemed nothing for him but to fold
his arms and sink.
For he felt no strength now to resist,--he felt no wish to conquer,--he
only prayed that he might lie there and die. It seemed to him that
the love which possessed him and tyrannized over his very being was a
doom,--a curse sent upon him by some malignant fate with whose power it
was vain to struggle. He detested his work,--he detested his duties,--he
loathed his vows,--and there was not a thing in his whole future to
which he looked forward otherwise than with the extreme of aversion,
except one to which he clung with a bitter and defiant tenacity,--the
spiritual guidance of Agnes. Guidance!--he laughed aloud, in the
bitterness of his soul, as he thought of this. He was her guide,--her
confessor,--to him she was bound to reveal every change of feeling;
and this love that he too well perceived rising in her heart for
another,--he would wring from her own confessions the means to repress
and circumvent it. If she could not be his, he might at least prevent
her from belonging to any other,--he might at least keep her always
within the sphere of his spiritual authority. Had he not a right to do
this?--had he not a right to cherish an evident vocation,--a right to
reclaim her from the embrace of an excommunicated infidel, and present
her as a chaste bride at the altar of the Lord? Perhaps, when that
was done, when an irrevocable barrier should separate her from all
possibility of earthly love, when the awful marriage-vow should have
been spoken which should seal her heart for heaven alone, he might
recover some of the blessed calm which her influence once brought over
him, and these wild desires might cease, and these feverish pulses be
Such were the vague images and dreams of the past and future that
floated over his mind, as he lay in a heavy sort of lethargy on the
floor of his cell, and hour after hour passed away. It grew afternoon,
and the radiance of evening came on. The window of the cell overlooked
the broad Mediterranean, all one blue glitter of smiles and sparkles.
The white-winged boats were flitting lightly to and fro, like
gauzy-winged insects in the summer air,--the song of the fishermen
drawing their nets on the beach floated cheerily upward. Capri lay like
a half-dissolved opal in shimmering clouds of mist, and Naples
gleamed out pearly clear in the purple distance. Vesuvius, with its
cloud-spotted sides, its garlanded villas and villages, its silvery
crown of vapor, seemed a warm-hearted and genial old giant lying down
in his gorgeous repose and holding all things on his heaving bosom in a
So was the earth flooded with light and glory, that the tide poured into
the cell, giving the richness of an old Venetian painting to its bare
and squalid furniture. The crucifix glowed along all its sculptured
lines with rich golden hues. The breviary, whose many-colored leaves
fluttered as the wind from the sea drew inward, was yet brighter in its
gorgeous tints. It seemed a sort of devotional butterfly perched before
the grinning skull, which was bronzed by the enchanted light into warmer
tones of color, as if some remembrance of what once it saw and felt came
back upon it. So also the bare, miserable board which served for
the bed, and its rude pillow, were glorified. A stray sunbeam, too,
fluttered down on the floor like a pitying spirit, to light up that
pale, thin face, whose classic outlines had now a sharp, yellow setness,
like that of swooning or death; it seemed to linger compassionately on
the sunken, wasted cheeks, on the long black lashes that fell over the
deep hollows beneath the eyes like a funereal veil. Poor man! lying
crushed and torn, like a piece of rockweed wrenched from its rock by a
storm and thrown up withered upon the beach!
From the leaves of the breviary there depends, by a fragment of gold
braid, a sparkling something that wavers and glitters in the evening
light. It is a cross of the cheapest and simplest material, that once
belonged to Agnes. She lost it from her rosary at the confessional, and
Father Francesco saw it fall, yet would not warn her of the loss, for he
longed to posses something that had belonged to her. He made it a mark
to one of her favorite hymns; but she never knew where it had gone.
Little could she dream, in her simplicity, what a power she held over
the man who seemed to her an object of such awful veneration. Little did
she dream that the poor little tinsel cross had such a mighty charm with
it, and that she herself, in her childlike simplicity, her ignorant
innocence, her peaceful tenderness and trust, was raising such a
turbulent storm of passion in the heart which she supposed to be above
the reach of all human changes.
And now, through the golden air, the Ave Maria is sounding from the
convent-bells, and answered by a thousand tones and echoes from the
churches of the old town, and all Christendom gives a moment's adoring
pause to celebrate the moment when an angel addressed to a mortal maiden
words that had been wept and prayed for during thousands of years. Dimly
they sounded through his ear, in that half-deadly trance,--not with
plaintive sweetness and motherly tenderness, but like notes of doom and
vengeance. He felt rebellious impulses within, which rose up in hatred
against them, and all that recalled to his mind the faith which seemed
a tyranny, and the vows which appeared to him such a hopeless and
But now there came other sounds nearer and more earthly. His quickened
senses perceive a busy patter of sandalled feet outside his cell, and a
whispering of consultation,--and then the silvery, snaky tones of Father
Johannes, which had that oily, penetrative quality which passes through
all substances with such distinctness.
"Brethren," he said, "I feel bound in conscience to knock. Our blessed
Superior carries his mortifications altogether too far. His faithful
sons must beset him with filial inquiries."
The condition in which Father Francesco was lying, like many abnormal
states of extreme exhaustion, seemed to be attended with a mysterious
quickening of the magnetic forces and intuitive perceptions. He felt
the hypocrisy of those tones, and they sounded in his ear like the
suppressed hiss of a deadly serpent. He had always suspected that this
man hated him to the death; and he felt now that he was come with his
stealthy-tread and his almost supernatural power of prying observation,
to read the very inmost secrets of his heart. He knew that he longed for
nothing so much as the power to hurl him from his place and to reign in
his stead; and the instinct of self-defence roused him. He started up
as one starts from a dream, waked by a whisper in the ear, and, raising
himself on his elbow, looked towards the door.
A cautious rap was heard, and then a pause. Father Francesco smiled with
a peculiar and bitter expression. The rap became louder, more energetic,
stormy at last, intermingled with vehement calls on his name.
Father Francesco rose at length, settled his garments, passed his
hands over his brow, and then, composing himself to an expression of
deliberate gravity, opened the door and stood before them.
"Holy father," said Father Johannes, "the hearts of your sons have
been saddened. A whole day have you withdrawn your presence from our
devotions. We feared you might have fainted, your pious austerities so
often transcend the powers of Nature."
"I grieve to have saddened the hearts of such affectionate sons," said
the Superior, fixing his eye keenly on Father Johannes; "but I have
been performing a peculiar office of prayer to-day for a soul in deadly
peril, and have been so absorbed therein that I have known nothing that
passed. There is a soul among us, brethren," he added, "that stands at
this moment so near to damnation that even the most blessed Mother of
God is in doubt for its salvation, and whether it can be saved at all
God only knows."
These words, rising up from a tremendous groundswell of repressed
feeling, had a fearful, almost supernatural earnestness that made the
body of the monks tremble. Most of them were conscious of living but a
shabby, shambling, dissembling life, evading in every possible way the
efforts of their Superior to bring them up to the requirements of their
profession; and therefore, when these words were bolted out among them
with such a glowing intensity, every one of them began mentally feeling
for the key of his own private and interior skeleton-closet, and
wondering which of their ghastly occupants was coming to light now.
Father Johannes alone was unmoved, because he had long since ceased to
have a conscience. A throb of moral pulsation had for years been an
impossibility to the dried and hardened fibre of his inner nature. He
was one of those real, genuine, thorough unbelievers in all religion and
all faith and all spirituality, whose unbelief grows only more callous
by the constant handling of sacred things. Ambition was the ruling
motive of his life, and every faculty was sharpened into such
acuteness under its action that his penetration seemed at times almost
While he stood with downcast eyes and hands crossed upon his breast,
listening to the burning words which remorse and despair wrung from his
Superior, he was calmly and warily studying to see what could be made of
the evident interior conflict that convulsed him. Was there some secret
sin? Had that sanctity at last found the temptation that was more than a
match for it? And what could it be?
To a nature with any strong combative force there is no tonic like the
presence of a secret and powerful enemy, and the stealthy glances
of Father Johannes's serpent eye did more towards restoring Father
Francesco to self-mastery than the most conscientious struggles could
have done. He grew calm, resolved, determined. Self-respect was dear to
him,--and dear to him no less that reflection of self-respect which a
man reads in other eyes. He would not forfeit his conventual honor, or
bring a stain on his order, or, least of all, expose himself to the
scoffing eye of a triumphant enemy. Such were the motives that now came
to his aid, while as yet the whole of his inner nature rebelled at the
thought that he must tear up by the roots and wholly extirpate this love
that seemed to have sent its fine fibres through every nerve of his
being. "No!" he said to himself, with a fierce interior rebellion,
"_that_ I will not do! Right or wrong, come heaven, come hell, I _will_
love her; and if lost I must be, lost I will be!" And while this
determination lasted, prayer seemed to him a mockery. He dared not pray
alone now, when most he needed prayer; but he moved forward with dignity
towards the convent-chapel to lead the vesper devotions of his brethren.
Outwardly he was calm and rigid as a statue; but as he commenced the
service, his utterance had a terrible meaning and earnestness that were
felt even by the most drowsy and leaden of his flock. It is singular
how the dumb, imprisoned soul, locked within the walls of the body,
sometimes gives such a piercing power to the tones of the voice during
the access of a great agony. The effect is entirely involuntary, and
often against the most strenuous opposition of the will; but one
sometimes hears another reading or repeating words with an intense
vitality, a living force, which tells of some inward anguish or conflict
of which the language itself gives no expression.
Never were the long-drawn intonations of the chants and prayers of the
Church pervaded by a more terrible, wild fervor than the Superior that
night breathed into them. They seemed to wail, to supplicate, to combat,
to menace, to sink in despairing pauses of helpless anguish, and anon to
rise in stormy agonies of passionate importunity; and the monks quailed
and trembled, they scarce knew why, with forebodings of coming wrath and
In the evening exhortation, which it had been the Superior's custom to
add to the prayers of the vesper-hour, he dwelt with a terrible and
ghastly eloquence on the loss of the soul.
"Brethren," he said, "believe me, the very first hour of a damned spirit
in hell will outweigh all the prosperities of the most prosperous life.
If you could gain the whole world, that one hour of hell would outweigh
it all; how much more such miserable, pitiful scraps and fragments of
the world as they gain who for the sake of a little fleshly ease neglect
the duties of a holy profession! There is a broad way to hell through a
convent, my brothers, where miserable wretches go who have neither the
spirit to serve the Devil wholly, nor the patience to serve God; there
be many shaven crowns that gnash their teeth in hell to-night,--many a
monk's robe is burning on its owner in living fire, and the devils call
him a fool for choosing to be damned in so hard a way. 'Could you not
come here by some easier road than a cloister?' they ask. 'If you must
sell your soul, why did you not get something for it?' Brethren, there
be devils waiting for some of us; they are laughing at your paltry
shifts and evasions, at your efforts to make things easy,--for they know
how it will all end at last. Rouse yourselves! Awake! Salvation is no
easy matter,--nothing to be got between sleeping and waking. Watch,
pray, scourge the flesh, fast, weep, bow down in sackcloth, mingle your
bread with ashes, if by any means ye may escape the everlasting fire!"
"Bless me!" said Father Anselmo, when the services were over, casting
a half-scared glance after the retreating figure of the Superior as he
left the chapel, and drawing a long breath; "it's enough to make one
sweat to hear him go on. What has come over him? Anyhow, I'll give
myself a hundred lashes this very night: something must be done."
"Well," said another, "I confess I did hide a cold wing of fowl in the
sleeve of my gown last fast-day. My old aunt gave it to me, and I was
forced to take it for relation's sake; but I'll do so no more, as I'm a
living sinner. I'll do a penance this very night."
Father Johannes stood under one of the arches that looked into the
gloomy garden, and, with his hands crossed upon his breast, and his
cold, glittering eye fixed stealthily now on one and now on another,
listened with an ill-disguised sneer to these hasty evidences of fear
and remorse in the monks, as they thronged the corridor on the way to
their cells. Suddenly turning to a young brother who had lately joined
the convent, he said to him,--
"And what of the pretty Clarice, my brother?"
The blood flushed deep into the pale cheek of the young monk, and his
frame shook with some interior emotion, as he answered,--
"She is recovering."
"And she sent for thee to shrive her?"
"My God!" said the young man, with an imploring, wild expression in his
dark eyes, "she did; but I would not go."
"Then Nature is still strong," said Father Johannes, pitilessly eying
the young man.
"When will it ever die?" said the stripling, with a despairing gesture;
"it heeds neither heaven nor hell."
"Well, patience, boy! if you have lost an earthly bride, you have gained
a heavenly one. The Church is our espoused in white linen. Bless the
Lord, without ceasing, for the exchange."
There was an inexpressible mocking irony in the tones in which this was
said, that made itself felt to the finely vitalized spirit of the youth,
though to all the rest it sounded like the accredited average pious talk
which is more or less the current coin of religious organizations.
Now no one knows through what wanton deviltry Father Johannes broached
this painful topic with the poor youth; but he had a peculiar faculty,
with his smooth tones and his sanctimonious smiles, of thrusting red-hot
needles into any wounds which he either knew or suspected under the
coarse woollen robes of his brethren. He appeared to do it in all
coolness, in a way of psychological investigation.
He smiled, as the youth turned away, and a moment after started as if a
thought had suddenly struck him.
"I have it!" he said to himself. "There may be a woman at the bottom
of this discomposure of our holy father; for he is wrought upon by
something to the very bottom of his soul. I have not studied human
nature so many years for nothing. Father Francesco hath been much in the
guidance of women. His preaching hath wrought upon them, and perchance
among them.--Aha!" he said to himself, as he paced up and down, "I have
it! I'll try an experiment upon him!"
THE SERPENT'S EXPERIMENT.
Father Francesco sat leaning his head on his hand by the window of his
cell, looking out upon the sea as it rose and fell, with the reflections
of the fast coming stars glittering like so many jewels on its breast.
The glow of evening had almost faded, but there was a wan, tremulous
light from the moon, and a clearness, produced by the reflection of such
an expanse of water, which still rendered objects in his cell quite
In the terrible denunciations and warnings just uttered, he had been
preaching to himself, striving to bring a force on his own soul by which
he might reduce its interior rebellion to submission; but, alas! when
was ever love cast out by fear? He knew not as yet the only remedy
for such sorrow,--that there is a love celestial and divine, of which
earthly love in its purest form is only the sacramental symbol and
emblem, and that this divine love can by God's power so outflood human
affections as to bear the soul above all earthly idols to its only
immortal rest. This great truth rises like a rock amid stormy seas, and
many is the sailor struggling in salt and bitter waters who cannot yet
believe it is to be found. A few saints like Saint Augustin had reached
it,--but through what buffetings, what anguish!
At this moment, however, there was in the heart of the father one of
those collapses which follow the crisis of some mortal struggle. He
leaned on the windowsill, exhausted and helpless.
Suddenly, a kind of illusion of the senses came over him, such as is not
infrequent to sensitive natures in severe crises of mental anguish. He
thought he heard Agnes singing, as he had sometimes heard her when he
had called in his pastoral ministrations at the little garden and paused
awhile outside that he might hear her finish a favorite hymn, which,
like a shy bird, she sang all the more sweetly for thinking herself
Quite as if they were sung in his ear, and in her very tones, he heard
the words of Saint Bernard, which we have introduced to our reader:--
Jesu dulcis memoria,
Dans vera cordi gaudia:
Sed super mel et omnia
Ejus dulcis praesentia.
"Jesu, spes poenitentibus,
Quam pius es petentibus,
Quam bonus te quaerentibus,
Sed quis invenientibus!"
Soft and sweet and solemn was the illusion, as if some spirit breathed
them with a breath of tenderness over his soul; and he threw himself
with a burst of tears before the crucifix.
"O Jesus, where, then, art Thou? Why must I thus suffer? She is not the
one altogether lovely; it is Thou,--Thou, her Creator and mine! Why,
why cannot I find Thee? Oh, take from my heart all other love but Thine
Yet even this very prayer, this very hymn, were blent with the
remembrance of Agnes; for was it not she who first had taught him the
lesson of heavenly love? Was not she the first one who had taught him to
look upward to Jesus other than as an avenging judge? Michel Angelo has
embodied in a fearful painting, which now deforms the Sistine Chapel,
that image of stormy vengeance which a religion debased by force
and fear had substituted for the tender, good shepherd of earlier
Christianity. It was only in the heart of a lowly maiden that Christ had
been made manifest to the eye of the monk, as of old he was revealed to
the world through a virgin. And how could he, then, forget her, or cease
to love her, when every prayer and hymn, every sacred round of the
ladder by which he must climb, was so full of memorials of her? While
crying and panting for the supreme, the divine, the invisible love, he
found his heart still craving the visible one,--the one so well known,
revealing itself to the senses, and bringing with it the certainty of
As he was thus kneeling and wrestling with himself, a sudden knock at
his door startled him. He had made it a point, never, at any hour of the
day or night, to deny himself to a brother who sought him for counsel,
however disagreeable the person and however unreasonable the visit. He
therefore rose and unbolted the door, and saw Father Johannes standing
with folded arms and downcast head, in an attitude of composed humility.
"What would you with me, brother?" he asked, calmly.
"My father, I have a wrestling of mind for one of our brethren whose
case I would present to you."
"Come in, my brother," said the Superior. At the same time he lighted a
little iron lamp, of antique form, such as are still in common use in
that region, and, seating himself on the board which served for his
couch, made a motion to Father Johannes to be seated also.
The latter sat down, eying, as he did so, the whole interior of the
apartment, so far as it was revealed by the glimmer of the taper.
"Well, my son," said Father Francesco, "what is it?"
"I have my doubts of the spiritual safety of Brother Bernard," said
"Wherefore?" asked the Superior, briefly.
"Holy father, you are aware of the history of the brother, and of the
worldly affliction that drove him to this blessed profession?"
"I am," replied the Superior, with the same brevity.
"He narrated it to me fully," said Father Johannes. "The maiden he was
betrothed to was married to another in his absence on a long journey,
being craftily made to suppose him dead."
"I tell you I know the circumstances," said the Superior.
"I merely recalled them, because, moved doubtless by your sermon, he
dropped words to me to-night which led me to suppose that this sinful,
earthly love was not yet extirpated from his soul. Of late the woman was
sick and nigh unto death, and sent for him."
"But he did not go?" interposed Father Francesco.
"No, he did not,--grace was given him thus far,--but he dropped words
to me to the effect, that in secret he still cherished the love of this
woman; and the awful words your Reverence has been, speaking to us
to-night have moved me with fear for the youth's soul, of the which I,
as an elder brother, have had some charge, and I came to consult with
you as to what help there might be for him."
Father Francesco turned away his head a moment and there was a pause;
at last he said, in a tone that seemed like the throb of some deep,
"The Lord help him!"
"Amen!" said Father Johannes, taking keen note of the apparent emotion.
"You must have experience in these matters, my father," he added, after
a pause,--"so many hearts have been laid open to you. I would crave to
know of you what you think is the safest and most certain cure for this
love of woman, if once it hath got possession of the heart."
"Death!" said Father Francesco, after a solemn pause.
"I do not understand you," said Father Johannes.
"My son," said Father Francesco, rising up with an air of authority,
"you do not understand,--there is nothing in you by which you should
understand. This unhappy brother hath opened his case to me, and I have
counselled him all I know of prayer and fastings and watchings and
mortifications. Let him persevere in the same; and if all these fail,
the good Lord will send the other in His own time. There is an end to
all things in this life, and that end shall certainly come at last. Bid
him persevere and hope in this.--And now, brother," added the Superior,
with dignity, "if you have no other query, time flies and eternity comes
on,--go, watch and pray, and leave me to my prayers also."
He raised his hand with a gesture of benediction, and Father Johannes,
awed in spite of himself, felt impelled to leave the apartment.
"Is it so, or is it not?" he said. "I cannot tell. He did seem to wince
and turn away his head when I proposed the case; but then he made fight
at last. I cannot tell whether I have got any advantage or not; but
patience! we shall see!"
* * * * *
HEALTH IN THE CAMP.
All the world has heard a great deal of the sufferings and mortality
of the English and French armies in the late Russian war; and in most
countries the story has been heard to some purpose. Reforms and new
methods have been instituted in almost every country in Europe,--so
strong has been the effect of the mere outline of the case, which is all
that has been furnished to the public. The broad facts of the singular
mortality first, and the singular healthfulness of the British army
afterwards, on the same spot and under the same military circumstances
as before, have interested all rulers of armies, and brought about great
benefits to the soldier, throughout the length and breadth of Europe.
Within these broad outlines there was a multitude of details which were
never recorded in a systematic way, or which, for good and sufficient
reasons, could not be made public at the time; and these details are the
part of the story most interesting to soldiers actually in the field
or likely to be called there soon. They are also deeply interesting to
every order of persons concerned in a civil war; for such a war summons
forth a citizen soldiery to form a system for themselves in regard to
the life of the march and the camp, and to do the best they can for that
life and health which they have devoted to their country. Under such
circumstances it cannot but be interesting to the patriots in the camp
and to their families at home to know some facts which they cannot have
heard before of the mistakes made at the beginning of the last Russian
war, and the repair of those mistakes before the end of it. The prompt
and anxious care exercised by the American Sanitary Commission, and the
benevolent diligence bestowed on the organization of hospitals for the
Federal forces, show that the lesson of the Crimean campaign has been
studied in the United States; and this is an encouragement to afford
further illustrations of the case, when new material is at command.
I am thinking most of the volunteer forces at this moment, for the
obvious reason that their health is in greater danger than that of the
professional soldier. The regular troops live under a system which is
always at work to feed, clothe, lodge, and entertain them: whereas
the volunteers are quitting one mode of life for another, all the
circumstances of which had to be created at the shortest notice. To them
their first campaign must be very like what it was to British soldiers
who had never seen war to be sent to Turkey first, and then to the
Crimea, to live a new kind of life, and meet discomforts and dangers
which they had never dreamed of. I shall therefore select my details
with a view to the volunteers and their friends in the first place.
The enthusiasm which started the volunteers of every Northern State on
their new path of duty could hardly exceed that by which the British
troops were escorted from their barrack-gates to the margin of the sea.
The war was universally approved (except by a clique of peace-men); and
there was a universal confidence that the troops would do their duty
well, though not one man in a thousand of them had ever seen war. As
they marched down to their ships, in the best mood, and with every
appearance of health and spirit, nobody formed any conception of what
would happen. Parliament had fulfilled the wishes of the people
by voting liberal sums for the due support of the troops; the
Administration desired and ordered that everything should be done for
the soldier's welfare; and as far as orders and arrangements went, the
scheme was thoroughly well intended and generous. Who could anticipate,
that, while the enemy never once gained a battle or obtained an
advantage over British or French, two-thirds of that fine stout British
force would perish in a few months? Of the twenty-five thousand who went
out, eighteen thousand were dead in a year; and the enemy was answerable
for a very small proportion of those deaths. Before me lie the returns
of six months of those twelve, showing the fate of the troops for that
time; and it furnishes the key to the whole story.
In those six months, the admissions into hospital in the Crimea
(exclusive of the Santari Hospital) were 52,548. The number shows that
many must have entered the hospitals more than once, as well as that the
place of the dead was supplied by new comers from England. Of these,
nearly fifty thousand were absolutely untouched by the Russians. Only
3,806 of the whole number were wounded. Even this is not the most
striking circumstance. It is more impressive that three-fourths of the
sick suffered unnecessarily. Seventy-five per cent. of them suffered
from preventable diseases. That is, the naturally sick were 12,563;
while the needlessly sick were 36,179. When we look at the deaths from
this number, the case appears still more striking. The deaths were
5,359; and of these scarcely more than the odd hundreds were from
wounds,--that is, 373. Of the remainder, little more than one-tenth were
unavoidable deaths. The natural deaths, as we may call them, were only
521; while the preventable deaths were 4,465. Very different would have
been the spirit of the parting in England, if the soldiers' friends had
imagined that so small a number would fall by Russian gun or bayonet, or
by natural sickness, while the mortality from mismanagement would at one
season of the next year exceed that of London in the worst days of the
That the case was really what is here represented was proved by the
actual prevention of this needless sickness during the last year of the