Part 3 out of 5
war. In the same camp, and under the same circumstances of warfare, the
mortality was reduced, by good management, to a degree unhoped for by
all but those who achieved it. The deaths for the last half year were
one-third fewer than at home! And yet the army that died was composed of
fine, well-trained troops; while the army that lived and flourished was
of a far inferior material when it came out,--raw, untravelled, and
unhardened to the military life.
How did these things happen? There can be no more important question for
Americans at this time.
I will not go into the history of the weaknesses and faults of the
administration of departments at home. They have been abundantly
published already; and we may hope that they bear no relation to the
American case. It is more interesting to look into the circumstances of
the march and the camp, for illustration of what makes the health or the
sickness of the soldier.
Wherever the men were to provide themselves with anything to eat or to
wear out of their pay, they were found to suffer. There is no natural
market, with fair prices, in the neighborhood of warfare; and, on the
one hand, a man cannot often get what he wishes, and, on the other,
he is tempted to buy something not so good for him. If there are
commissariat stores opened, there is an endless accumulation of
business,--a mass of accounts to keep of the stoppages from the men's
pay. On all accounts it is found better for all parties that the wants
of the soldier should be altogether supplied in the form of rations of
varied food and drink, and of clothing varying with climate and season.
In regard to food, which comes first in importance of the five heads of
the soldier's wants, the English soldier was remarkably helpless till
he learned better. The Russians cut that matter very short. Every man
carried a certain portion of black rye bread and some spirit. No cooking
was required, and the men were very independent. But the diet is bad;
and the Russian regiments were composed of sallow-faced men, who died
"like flies" under frequently recurring epidemics. The Turks were in
their own country, and used their accustomed diet. The French are the
most apt, the most practised, and the most economical managers of food
of any of the parties engaged in the war. Their campaigns in Algeria had
taught them how to help themselves; and they could obtain a decent meal
where an Englishman would have eaten nothing, or something utterly
unwholesome. The Sardinians came next, and it was edifying to see how
they could build a fire-place and obtain a fire in a few minutes to boil
their pot. In other ways both French and Sardinians suffered miserably
when the British had surmounted their misfortunes. The mortality from
cholera and dysentery in the French force, during the last year, was
uncalculated and unreported. It was so excessive as, in fact, to close
the war too soon. The Sardinians were ravaged by disease from their huts
being made partly under ground. But, so far as the preparation of their
food went, both had the advantage of the British, in a way which will
never happen again. I believe the Americans and the English are bad
cooks in about the same degree; and the warning afforded by the one may
be accepted by the other.
At the end of a day, in Bulgaria or the Crimea, what happened was this.
The soldiers who did not understand cooking or messing had to satisfy
their hunger any way they could. They were so exhausted that they were
sure to drink up their allowance of grog the first moment they could lay
hands on it. Then there was hard biscuit, a lump of very salt pork or
beef, as hard as a board, and some coffee, raw. Those who had no touch
of scurvy (and they were few) munched their biscuit while they poked
about everywhere with a knife, digging up roots or cutting green wood to
make a fire. Each made a hole in the ground, unless there was a bank
or great stone at hand, and there he tried, for one half-hour after
another, to kindle a fire. When he got up a flame, there was his salt
meat to cook: it ought to have been soaked and stewed for hours; but he
could not wait; and he pulled it to pieces, and gnawed what he could of
it, when it was barely warm. Then he had to roast his coffee, which he
did in the lid of his camp-kettle, burning it black, and breaking it as
small as he could, with stones or anyhow. Such coffee as it would make
could hardly be worth the trouble. It was called by one of the doctors
charcoal and water. Such a supper could not fit a man for outpost duty
for the night, nor give him good sleep after the toils of the day.
The Sardinians, meantime, united in companies, some members of which
were usually on the spot to prepare supper for the rest. They knew how
to look for or provide a shelter for their fire, if only a foot high;
and how to cut three or four little trenches, converging at the fire, so
as to afford a good draught which would kindle even bad fuel. They had
good stews and porridge and coffee ready when wanted. The French always
had fresh bread. They carried portable ovens and good bakers. The
British had flour, after a time, but they did not know how to make
bread; and if men volunteered for the office, day after day, it usually
turned out that they had a mind for a holiday, and knew nothing of
baking; and their bread came out of the oven too heavy, or sour, or
sticky, or burnt, to be eaten. As scurvy spread and deepened, the
doctors made eager demands on Government for lime-juice, and more
lime-juice. Government had sent plenty of lime-juice; but it was somehow
neglected among the stores for twenty-four days when it was most wanted,
as was the supply of rice for six weeks when dysentery was raging. All
the time, the truth was, as was acknowledged afterwards, that the thing
really wanted was good food. The lime-juice was a medicine, a specific;
but it could be of no real use till the frame was nourished with proper
When flour, and preserved vegetables, and fresh meat were served out,
and there were coffee-mills all through the camp, the men were still
unable to benefit by the change as their allies did. They could grind
and make their coffee; but they were still without good fresh bread and
soup. They despised the preserved vegetables, not believing that those
little cakes could do them any good. When they learned at last how two
ounces of those little cakes were equal, when well cooked, to eight
ounces of fresh vegetables, and just as profitable for a stew or with
their meat, they duly prized them, and during the final healthy period
those pressed vegetables were regarded in the camp as a necessary of
life. By that time, Soyer's zeal had introduced good cookery into the
camp. Roads were made by which supplies were continually arriving. Fresh
meat abounded; and it was brought in on its own legs, so that it was
certain that beef was beef, and mutton mutton, instead of goat's flesh
being substituted, as in Bulgaria. By that time it was discovered that
the most lavish orders at home and the profusest expenditure by the
commissariat will not feed and clothe an army in a foreign country,
unless there is some agency, working between the commissariat and the
soldiers, to take care that the food is actually in their hands in an
eatable form, and the clothes on their backs.
It is for American soldiers to judge how much of this applies to their
case. The great majority of the volunteers must be handy, self-helping
men; and bands of citizens from the same towns or villages must be
disposed and accustomed to concerted action; but cooking is probably the
last thing they have any of them turned their hand to. Much depends on
the source of their food-supply. I fear they live on the country they
are in,--at least, when in the enemy's country. This is very easy
living, certainly. To shoot pigs or fowls in road or yard is one way of
getting fresh meat, as ravaging gardens is a short way of feasting on
vegetables. But supposing the forces fed from a regular commissariat
department, is there anything to be learned from the Crimean campaigns?
The British are better supplied with the food of the country, wherever
they are, than the French, because it is their theory and practice to
pay as they go; whereas it is the French, or at least the Bonapartist
theory and practice, to "make the war support itself," that is, to live
upon the people of the country. In the Peninsular War, the French often
found themselves in a desert where they could not stay; whereas, when
Wellington and his troops followed upon their steps, the peasants
reappeared from all quarters, bringing materials for a daily market. In
the Crimea, the faithful and ready payments of the English commissariat
insured plenty of food material, in the form of cattle and flour,
biscuit and vegetables. The defect was in means of transport for
bringing provisions to the camp. The men were trying to eat hard salt
meat and biscuit, when scurvy made all eating difficult, while herds
of cattle were waiting to be slaughtered, and ship-loads of flour were
lying seven miles off. Whole deck-loads of cabbages and onions were
thrown into the sea, while the men in camp were pining for vegetable
food. An impracticable track lay between; and the poor fellows died by
thousands before the road could be made good, and transport-animals
obtained, and the food distributed among the tents and huts. Experience
taught the officers that the food should be taken entire charge of by
departments of the army till it was actually smoking in the men's hands.
There were agents, of course, in all the countries round, to buy up the
cattle, flour, and vegetables needed. The animals should be delivered
at appointed spots, alive and in good condition, that there might be no
smuggling in of joints of doubtful character. There should be a regular
arrangement of shambles, at a proper distance from the tents, and
provided with a special drainage, and means of disposing instantly of
the offal. Each company in the camp should have its kitchen, and one
or two skilled cooks,--one to serve on each day, with perhaps two
assistants from the company. After the regular establishment of the
kitchens, there was always food ready and coffee procurable for the
tired men who came in from the trenches or outpost duty; and it was a
man's own fault, if he went without a meal when off duty.
It was found to be a grave mistake to feed the soldiers on navy salt
beef and pork. Corned beef and pork salted for a fortnight have far more
nourishment and make much less waste in the preparation than meat which
is salted for a voyage of months. After a time, very little of the hard
salted meat was used at all. When it was, it was considered essential
to serve out peas with the pork, and flour, raisins, and suet, for a
pudding, on salt-beef days. In course of time there were additions
which made considerable variety: as rice, preserved potatoes, pressed
vegetables, cheese, dried fruits and suet for puddings, sugar, coffee
properly roasted, and malt liquor. Beer and porter answer much better
than any kind of spirit, and are worth pains and cost to obtain. With
such variety as this, with portable kitchens in the place of the
cumbersome camp-kettle per man, with fresh bread, well-cooked meat and
vegetables, and well-made coffee, the soldiers will have every chance
of health that diet can afford. Whereas hard and long-kept salt meat,
insufficiently soaked and cooked, and hastily broiled meat or fowls,
just killed, and swallowed by hungry men unskilled in preparing food,
help on diseases of the alimentary system as effectually as that
intemperance in melons and cucumbers and unripe grapes and apples which
has destroyed more soldiers than all the weapons of all enemies.
So much for the food. Next in order come the clothing, and care of the
The newspapers have a great deal to say, as we have all seen, about the
badness of much of the clothing furnished to the Federal troops. There
is no need to denounce the conduct of faithless contractors in such a
case; and the glorious zeal of the women, and of all who can help to
make up clothing for the army, shows that the volunteers at least will
be well clad, if the good-will of society can effect it. Whatever the
form of dress, it is the height of imprudence to use flimsy material for
It seems to be everywhere agreed, in a general way, that the soldier's
dress should be of an easy fit, in the first place; light enough for hot
weather and noon service, with resources of warmth for cold weather and
night duty. In Europe, the blouse or loose tunic is preferred to every
other form of coat, and knickerbockers or gaiters to any form of
trousers. The shoe or boot is the weak point of almost all military
forces. The French are getting over it; and the English are learning
from them. The number of sizes and proportions is, I think, five to one
of what it used to be in the early part of the century, so that any
soldier can get fitted. The Duke of Wellington wrote home from the
Peninsula in those days,--"If you don't send shoes, the army can't
march." The enemy marched away to a long distance before the shoes
arrived; and when they came, they were all too small. Such things do not
happen now; but it often does happen that hundreds are made footsore,
and thrown out of the march, by being ill-shod; and there seems reason
to believe that much of the lagging and apparent desertion of stragglers
in the marches of the volunteers of the Federal army is owing to the
difficulty of keeping up with men who walk at ease. If the Southern
troops are in such want of shoes as is reported, that circumstance alone
is almost enough to turn the scale, provided the Northern regiments
attain the full use of their feet by being accurately fitted with stout
shoes or boots. During the darkest days in the Crimea, those who had
boots which would stick on ceased to take them off. They slept in them,
wet or dry, knowing, that, once off, they could never be got on again.
Such things cannot happen in the Northern States, where the stoppage of
the trade in shoes to the South leaves leather, skill, and time for the
proper shoeing of the army; but it may not yet be thoroughly understood
how far the practical value of every soldier depends on the welfare of
his feet, and how many sizes and proportions of shoe are needed for duly
fitting a thousand men.
As for the rest, the conclusion after the Crimean campaign was that
flannel shirts answer better than cotton on the whole. If the shirt is
cotton, there must be a flannel waistcoat; and the flannel shirt answers
the purpose of both, while it is as easily washed as any material. Every
man should have a flannel bandage for the body, in case of illness, or
unusual fatigue, or sudden changes of temperature. The make and pressure
of the knapsack are very important, so that the weight may be thrown on
the shoulders, without pressure on the chest or interference with the
arms. The main object is the avoidance of pressure everywhere, from the
toe-joints to the crown of the head. For this the head-covering should
be studied, that it may afford shelter and shade from heat and light,
and keep on, against the wind, without pressure on the temples or
forehead. For this the neck-tie should he studied, and the cut of the
coat-chest and sleeve, when coats must be worn: and every man must have
some sort of overcoat, for chilly and damp hours of duty. There is great
danger in the wearing of water-proof fabrics, unless they are so loose
as to admit of a free circulation of air between them and the body.
With the clothing is generally connected the care of the person. It
is often made a question, With whom rests the responsibility of the
personal cleanliness of the soldier? The medical men declare that they
do what they can, but that there is nothing to be said when the men are
unsupplied with water; and all persuasions are thrown away when the poor
fellows are in tatters, and sleeping on dirty straw or the bare ground.
The indolent ones, at least, go on from day to day without undressing,
combing, or washing, till they are swarming with vermin; and then they
have lost self-respect. But if, before it is too late, there is an issue
of new shirts, boots, stockings, comforters, or woollen gloves, the
event puts spirit into them; they will strip and wash, and throw out
dirt and rags from their sleeping-places, and feel respectable again.
Perhaps the first consideration should be on the part of the
quartermaster, whose business it is to see to the supply of water; and
the sanitary officer has next to take care that every man gets his eight
or ten gallons per day. If the soldiers are posted near a stream which
can be used for bathing and washing clothes, there ought to be no
difficulty; and every man may fairly be required to be as thoroughly
washed from head to foot every days and as clean in his inner clothing,
as his own little children at home. If on high and dry ground, where the
water-supply is restricted, some method and order are needed; but no
pains should be spared to afford each man his eight or ten gallons.
This cannot be done, unless the source of supply is properly guarded.
When unrestrained access is afforded to a spring-head or pond, the water
is fatally wasted and spoiled. In the Crimea, the English officers
had to build round the spring-heads, and establish a regular order in
getting supplied. Where there is crowding, dirt gets thrown in, the
water is muddied, or animals are brought to drink at the source. This
ruins everything; for animals will not drink below, when the mouth
of horse, mule, or cow has touched the water above. The way is for
guardians to take possession, and board over the source, and make a
reservoir with taps, allowing water to be taken first for drinking and
washing purposes, a flow being otherwise provided by spout and troughs
for the animals, and for cleansing the camp. The difference on the same
spot was enormous between the time when a British sergeant wrote that he
was not so well as at home, and could not expect it, not having had his
shoes or any of his clothes off for five months, and the same time the
next year, when every respectable soldier was fresh and tidy, with his
blood flowing healthfully under a clean skin. The poor sergeant said, in
his days of discomfort: "I wonder what our sweethearts would think of
us, if they were to see us now,--unshaved, unwashed, and quite old men!"
Cut in a year, those who survived had grown young again,--not shaven,
perhaps, for their beards were a great natural comfort on winter duty,
but brushed and washed, in vigorous health, and gay spirits.
The next consideration is the soldier's abode,--whether tent, or hut, or
I have shown certain British doctors demanding lime-juice when food was
necessary first. In the same way, there was a cry from the same quarter
for peat charcoal, instead of preventing the need of disinfectants.
Wherever men are congregated in large numbers,--in a caravan, at a
fair in the East or a protracted camp-meeting in the far West, or as a
military force anywhere, there is always animal refuse which should
not be permitted to lie about for a day or an hour. Dead camels among
Oriental merchants, dead horses among Western soldiers, are the cause of
plague. It is to be hoped that there will never be a military encampment
again without the appointment of officers whose business it shall be to
see that all carrion, offal, and dirt of every kind is put away into
its proper place instantly. For those receptacles, and for stables and
shambles, peat charcoal is a great blessing; but it ought not to be
needed in or about the abodes of the men. The case is different in
different armies. The French have a showy orderliness in their way of
settling themselves on new ground,--forming their camp into streets,
with names painted up, and opening post-office, _cafes_, and bazaars of
camp-followers; but they are not radically neat in their ways. In a few
days or weeks their settlement is a place of stench, turning to disease;
and thus it was, that, notwithstanding their fresh bread, and good
cookery, and clever arrangements, they were swept away by cholera and
dysentery, to an extent unrevealed to this day, while the British force,
once well fed and clothed, had actually only five per cent sick from all
causes, in their whole force.
The Sardinians suffered, as I have already observed, from their way of
making their huts. They excavated a space, to the depth of three or four
feet, and used the earth they threw out to embank the walls raised upon
the edge of the excavation. This procured warmth in winter and coolness
in hot weather; but the interior was damp and ill-ventilated; and as
soon as there was any collection of refuse within, cholera and fever
broke out. It is essential to health that the dwelling should be above
ground, admitting the circulation of air from the base to the ridge of
the roof, where there should be an escape for it at all hours of the day
Among volunteer troops in America, the difficulty would naturally seem
to be the newness of the discipline, the strangeness of the requisite
obedience. Something must be true of all that is said of the scattering
about of food, and other things which have no business to lie about on
the ground. A soldier is out of his duty who throws away a crust of
bread or meat, or casts bones to dogs, or in any way helps to taint the
air or obstruct the watercourses or drains. It may be troublesome to
obey the requisitions of the sanitary authorities; but it is the only
chance for escaping camp-disease.
On the other hand, in fixing on a spot for encampment, it is due to
the soldier to avoid all boggy places, and all places where the air is
stagnant from inclosure by woods, or near burial-grounds, or where the
soil is unfavorable to drainage. The military officer must admit the
advice of the sanitary officer in the case, though he may not be
always able to adopt it. When no overwhelming military considerations
interfere, the soldiers have a right to be placed on the most dry and
pervious soil that may offer, in an airy situation, removed from swamps
and dense woods, and admitting of easy drainage. Wood and water used to
be the quartermaster's sole demands; now, good soil and air are added,
and a suitable slope of the ground, and other minor requisites.
It depends on the character of the country whether quarters in towns and
villages are best, or huts or tents. In Europe, town quarters are found
particularly fatal; and the state of health of the inmates of tents and
huts depends much on the structure and placing of either. Precisely the
same kind of hut in the Crimea held a little company of men in perfect
health, or a set of invalids, carried out one after another to their
graves. Nay, the same hut bore these different characters, according to
its position at the top of a slope, or half-way down, so as to collect
under its floor the drainage from a spring. American soldiers, however,
are hardly likely to be hutted, I suppose; so I need say no more than
that in huts and tents alike it is indispensable to health that there
should be air-holes,--large spaces, sheltered from rain,--in the highest
part of the structure, whether the entrance below be open or closed. The
sanitary officers no doubt have it in charge to see that every man has
his due allowance of cubic feet of fresh air,--in other words, to take
care that each tent or other apartment is well ventilated, and not
crowded. The men's affair is to establish such rules among comrades as
that no one shall stop up air-holes, or overcrowd the place with guests,
or taint the air with unwholesome fumes. In the British army, bell-tents
are not allowed at all as hospital tents. Active, healthy men may use
them in their resting hours; but their condemnation as abodes for the
sick shows how pressing is the duty of ventilating them for the use of
the strongest and healthiest.
A sound and airy tent being provided, the next consideration is of
The surgeons of the British force were always on the lookout for straw
and hay, after being informed at the outset that the men could not have
bedding, though it was hoped there was enough for the hospitals. A few
nights in the dust, among the old bones and rubbish of Gallipoli, and
then in the Bulgarian marshes, showed that it would be better to bestow
the bedding before the men went into hospital, and sheets of material
were obtained for some of them to lie upon. A zealous surgeon pointed
out to the proper officer that this bedding consisted in fact of double
ticking, evidently intended as _paillasses_, to be stuffed with straw.
The straw not being granted, he actually set to work to make hay; and,
being well aided by the soldiers, he soon saw them sleeping on
good mattresses. It was understood in England, and believed by the
Government, that every soldier in camp had three blankets; and after a
time, this came true: but in the interval, during the damp autumn and
bitter winter, they had but one. Lying on wet ground, with one damp and
dirty blanket over them, prepared hundreds for the hospital and the
grave. The mischief was owing to the jealousy of some of the medical
authorities, in the first place, who would not see, believe, or allow to
be reported, the fact that the men were in any way ill-supplied, because
these same doctors had specified the stores that would be wanted,--and
next, to the absence of a department for the actual distribution of
existing stores. With the bedding the case was the same as with the
lime-juice and the rice: there was plenty; but it was not served out
till too late. When the huts were inhabited, in the Crimea, and the
wooden platforms had a dry soil beneath, and every man had a bed of some
sort and three blankets, there was no more cholera or fever.
The American case is radically unlike that of any of the combatants in
the Crimean War, because they are on the soil of their own country,
within reach of their own railways, and always in the midst of the
ordinary commodities of life. In such a position, they can with the
utmost ease be supplied with whatever they really want,--so profuse as
are the funds placed at the command of the authorities. Considering
this, and the well-known handiness of Americans, there need surely be no
disease and death from privation. This may be confidently said while we
have before us the case of the British in the Crimea during the second
winter of the war. A sanitary commission had been sent out; and
under their authority, and by the help of experience, everything was
rectified. The healthy were stronger than ever; there was scarcely any
sickness; and the wounded recovered without drawback. As the British
ended, the Americans ought to begin.
On the last two heads of the soldier's case there is little to be said
here, because the American troops are at home, and not in a perilous
foreign climate, and on the shores of a remote sea. Their drill can
hardly be appointed for wrong hours, or otherwise mismanaged. In regard
to transport, they have not the embarrassment of crowds of sick and
wounded, far away in the Black Sea, without any adequate supply of
mules and carriages, after the horses had died off, and without any
organization of hospital ships at all equal to the demand. Neither do
they depend for clothing and medicines on the arrival of successive
ships through the storms of the Euxine; and they will never see the
dreary spectacle of the foundering of a noble vessel just arriving, in
November, with ample stores of winter clothing, medicines, and comforts,
which six hours more would have placed in safety. Under the head of
transport, they ought to have nothing to suffer.
Having gone through the separate items, and looking at the case as a
whole, we may easily perceive that in America, as in England and France
and every other country, the responsibility of the soldier's health in
camp is shared thus.
The authorities are bound so to arrange their work as that there shall
be no hitch through which disaster shall reach the soldiery. The
relations between the military and medical authorities must be so
settled and made clear as that no professional jealousy among the
doctors shall keep the commanding officers in the dark as to the
needs--of their men, and that no self-will or ignorance in commanding
officers shall neutralize the counsels of the medical men. The military
authorities must not depend on the report of any doctor who may be
incompetent as to the provision made for the men's health, and the
doctor must be authorized to represent the dangers of a bad encampment
without being liable to a recommendation to keep his opinion to himself
till he is asked for it. These particular dangers are best obviated by
the appointment of sanitary officers, to attend the forces, and take
charge of the health of the army, as the physicians and surgeons take
charge of its sickness. If, besides, there is a separate department
between the commissariat and the soldiery, to see that the comforts
provided are actually brought within every man's grasp, the authorities
will have done their part.
The rest is the soldier's own concern. When cruelly pressed by hardship,
the soldiers in Turkey and the Crimea took to drinking; and what they
drank was poison. The vile raid with which they intoxicated themselves
carried hundreds to the grave as surely as arsenic would have done.
When, at last, they were well fed, warm, clean, and comfortable, and
well amused in the coffee-houses opened for them, there was an end, or
a vast diminution, of the evil of drunkenness. Good coffee and harmless
luxuries were sold to them at cost price; and books and magazines and
newspapers, chess, draughts, and other games, were at their command. The
American soldiery are a more cultivated set of men than these, and are
in proportion more inexcusable for any resort to intemperance. They
ought to have neither the external discomfort nor the internal vacuity
which have caused drunkenness in other armies. The resort to strong
drinks so prevalent in the Americans is an ever-lasting mystery to
Europeans, who recognize in them a self-governing people, universally
educated up to a capacity for intellectual interests such as are
elsewhere found to be a safeguard against intemperance in drink. If the
precautions instituted by the authorities are well supported by the
volunteers themselves, the most fatal of all perils will be got rid of.
If not, the army will perish by a veritable suicide. But such a fate
cannot be in store for such an army.
There is something else almost as indispensable to the health of
soldiers as sobriety, and that is subordination. The true, magnanimous,
patriotic spirit of subordination is not more necessary to military
achievement than it is to the personal composure and the trustworthiness
of nerve of the individual soldier. A strong desire and fixed habit of
obedience to command relieve a man of all internal conflict between
self-will and circumstance, and give him possession of his full powers
of action and endurance. If absolute reliance on authority is a
necessity to the great majority of mankind, (which it is,) it is to the
few wisest and strongest a keen enjoyment when they can righteously
indulge in it; and the occasion on which it is supremely a duty--in the
case of military or naval service--is one of privilege. Americans are
less accustomed than others to prompt and exact obedience, being a
self-governing and unmilitary nation: and they may require some time to
become aware of the privileges of subordination to command. But time
will satisfy them of the truth; and those who learn the lesson most
quickly will be the most sensible of the advantage to health of body,
through ease of mind. The abdication of self-will in regard to the
ordering of affairs, the repose of reliance upon the responsible
parties, the exercise of silent endurance about hardships and fatigues,
the self-respect which relishes the honor of cooperation through
obedience, the sense of patriotic devotedness which glows through every
act of submission to command,--all these elevated feelings tend to
composure of the nerves, to the fortifying of brain and limb, and the
genial repose and exaltation of all the powers of mind and body. I
need not contrast with this the case of the discontented and turbulent
volunteer, questioning commands which he is not qualified to judge of,
and complaining of troubles which cannot be helped. It is needless to
show what wear-and-tear is caused by such a spirit, and how nerve and
strength must, in such a case, fail in the hour of effort or of crisis,
and give way at once before the assault of disease. By the aid of
sobriety and the calm and cheerful subordination of the true military
character, the health of the Federal army may be equal to its high
mission: and all friends of human freedom, in all lands, must heartily
pray that it may be so.
There is another department of the subject which I propose to treat of
another month: "Health in the Military Hospital."
"THE STORMY PETREL."
Where the gray crags beat back the northern main,
And all around, the ever restless waves,
Like white sea-wolves, howl on the lonely sands,
Clings a low roof, close by the sounding surge.
If, in your summer rambles by the shore,
His spray-tost cottage you may chance espy,
Enter and greet the blind old mariner.
Full sixty winters he has watched beside
The turbulent ocean, with one purpose warmed:
To rescue drowning men. And round the coast--
For so his comrades named him in his youth--
They know him as "The Stormy Petrel" still.
Once he was lightning-swift, and strong; his eyes
Peered through the dark, and far discerned the wreck
Plunged on the reef. Then with bold speed he flew,
The life-boat launched, and dared the smiting rocks.
'T is said by those long dwelling near his door,
That hundreds have been storm-saved by his arm;
That never was he known to sleep, or lag
In-doors, when danger swept the seas. His life
Was given to toil, his strength to perilous blasts.
In freezing floods when tempests hurled the deep,
And battling winds clashed in their icy caves,
Scared housewives, waking, thought of him, and said,
"'The Stormy Petrel' is abroad to-night,
And watches from the cliffs."
He could not rest
When shipwrecked forms might gasp amid the waves,
And not a cry be answered from the shore.
Now Heaven has quenched his sight; but when he hears
By his lone hearth the sullen sea-winds clang,
Or listens, in the mad, wild, drowning night,
As younger footsteps hurry o'er the beach
To pluck the sailor from his sharp-fanged death,--
The old man starts, with generous impulse thrilled,
And, with the natural habit of his heart,
Calls to his neighbors in a cheery tone,
Tells them he'll pilot toward the signal guns,
And then, remembering all his weight of years,
Sinks on his couch, and weeps that he is blind.
A STORY OF TO-DAY.
Margaret stood looking down in her quiet way at the sloping moors and
fog. She, too, had her place and work. She thought that night she saw it
clearly, and kept her eyes fixed on it, as I said. They plodded steadily
down the wide years opening before her. Whatever slow, unending work
lay in them, whatever hungry loneliness they held for her heart, or
coarseness of deed, she saw it all, shrinking from nothing. She
looked at the tense blue-corded veins in her wrist, full of fine
pure blood,--gauged herself coolly, her lease of life, her power of
endurance,--measured it out against the work waiting for her. The work
would be long, she knew. She would be old before it was finished, quite
an old woman, hard, mechanical, worn out. But the day would be so
bright, when it came, it would atone for all: the day would be bright,
the home warm again; it would hold all that life had promised her of
All? Oh, Margaret, Margaret! Was there no sullen doubt in the brave
resolve? Was there no shadow rose just then, dark, ironical, blotting
out father and mother and home, coming nearer, less alien to your soul
than these, than even your God?
If any such cold, masterful shadow rose out of years gone, and clutched
at the truest life of her heart, she stifled it, and thrust it down.
And yet, leaning on the gate, and thinking drearily, vacantly, she
remembered a time when God came nearer to her than He did now, and came
through that shadow,--when, by the help of that dead hope, He of whom
she read to-night came close, an infinitely tender Helper, who, with the
human love that was in her heart to-day, had loved his mother and John
and Mary. Now, struggle as she would for healthy hopes and warmth, the
world was gray and silent. Her defeated woman's nature called it so,
bitterly. Christ was a dim ideal power, heaven far-off. She doubted if
it held anything as real as that which she had lost.
As if to bring back the old times more vividly to her, there happened
one of those curious little coincidences with which Fate, we think, has
nothing to do. She heard a quick step along the clay road, and a muddy
little terrier jumped up, barking, beside her. She stopped with a
suddenness strange in her slow movements. _"Tiger!"_ she said, stroking
its head with passionate eagerness. The dog licked her hand, smelt her
clothes to know if she were the same: it was two years since he had seen
her. She sat there, softly stroking him. Presently there was a sound of
wheels jogging down the road, and a voice singing snatches of some song,
one of those cheery street-songs that the boys whistle. It was a low,
weak voice, but very pleasant. Margaret heard it through the dark; she
kissed the dog with a strange paleness on her face, and stood up, quiet,
attentive as before. Tiger still kept licking her hand, as it hung by
her side: it was cold, and trembled as he touched it. She waited a
moment, then pushed the dog from her, as if his touch, even, caused her
to break some vow. He whined, but she hurried away, not waiting to know
how he came, or with whom. Perhaps, if Dr. Knowles had seen her face as
she looked back at him, he would have thought there were depths in her
nature which his probing eyes had never reached.
The wheels came close, and directly a cart stopped at the gate. It was
one of those little wagons that hucksters drive; only this seemed to be
a home-made affair, patched up with wicker-work and bits of board. It
was piled up with baskets of vegetables, eggs, and chickens, and on a
broken bench in the middle sat the driver, a woman. You could not
help laughing, when you looked at the whole turn-out, it had such a
make-shift look altogether.
The reins were twisted rope, the wheels uneven. It went jolting along in
such a careless, jolly way, as if it would not care in the least, should
it go to pieces any minute just there in the road. The donkey that drew
it was bony and blind of one eye; but he winked the other knowingly at
you, as if to ask if you saw the joke of the thing. Even the voice of
the owner of the establishment, chirruping some idle song, as I told
you, was one of the cheeriest sounds you ever heard. Joel, up at the
barn, forgot his dignity to salute it with a prolonged "Hillo!" and
presently appeared at the gate.
"I'm late, Joel," said the weak voice. It sounded like a child's near at
"We can trade in the dark, Lois, both bein' honest," he responded,
graciously, hoisting a basket of tomatoes into the cart, and taking out
a jug of vinegar.
"Is that Lois?" said Mrs. Howth, coming to the gate. "Sit still, child.
Don't get down."
But the child, as she called her, had scrambled off the cart, and stood
beside her, leaning on the wheel, for she was helplessly crippled.
"I thought you would be down tonight. I put some coffee on the stove.
Bring it out, Joel."
Mrs. Howth never put up the shield between herself and this member of
"the class,"--because, perhaps, she was so wretchedly low in the social
scale. However, I suppose she never gave a reason for it even to
herself. Nobody could help being kind to Lois, even if he tried. Joel
brought the coffee with more readiness than he would have waited on Mrs.
"Barney will be jealous," he said, patting the bare ribs of the old
donkey, and glancing wistfully at his mistress.
"Give him his supper, surely," she said, taking the hint.
It was a real treat to see how Lois enjoyed her supper, sipping and
tasting the warm coffee, her face in a glow, like an epicure over some
rare Falernian. You would be sure, from, just that little thing, that no
sparkle of warmth or pleasure in the world slipped by her which she did
not catch and enjoy and be thankful for to the uttermost. You would
think, perhaps, pitifully, that not much pleasure or warmth would ever
go down so low, within her reach. Now that she stood on the ground, she
scarcely came up to the level of the wheel; some deformity of her legs
made her walk with a curious rolling jerk, very comical to see. She
laughed at it, when other people did; if it vexed her at all, she never
showed it. She had turned back her calico sun-bonnet, and stood looking
up at Mrs. Howth and Joel, laughing as they talked--with her. The face
would have startled you on so old and stunted a body. It was a child's
face, quick, eager, with that pitiful beauty you always see in deformed
people. Her eyes, I think, were the kindliest, the hopefullest I ever
saw. Nothing but the pale thickness of her skin betrayed the fact that
set Lois apart from even the poorest poor,--the taint in her veins of
"Whoy! be n't this Tiger?" said Joel, as the dog ran yelping about him.
"How comed yoh with him, Lois?"
"Tiger an' his master's good friends o' mine,--you remember they allus
was. An' he's back now, Mr. Holmes,--been back for a month."
Margaret, walking in the porch with her father, stopped.
"Are you tired, father? It is late."
"And you are worn out, poor child! It was selfish in me to forget.
Margaret kissed him, laughing cheerfully, as she led him to his
room-door. He lingered, holding her dress.
"Perhaps it will be easier for you tomorrow than it was to-day?"
"I am sure it will. To-morrow will be sure to be better than to-day."
She left him, and went away with a slow step that did not echo the
promise of her words.
Joel, meanwhile, consulted apart with his mistress.
"Of course," she said, emphatically.--"You must stay until morning,
Lois. It is too late. Joel will toss you up a bed in the loft."
The queer little body hesitated.
"I can stay," she said, at last. "It's his watch at the mill to-night."
"Whose watch?" demanded Joel.
Her face brightened.
"Father's. He's back, mum."
Joel caught himself in a whistle.
"He's very stiddy, Joel,--as stiddy as yuh."
"I am very glad he has come back, Lois," said Mrs. Howth, gravely.
At every place where Lois had been that day she had told her bit of good
news, and at every place it had been met with the same kindly smile and
"I'm glad he's back, Lois."
Yet Joe Yare, fresh from two years in the penitentiary, was not exactly
the person whom society usually welcomes with open arms. Lois had a
vague suspicion of this, perhaps; for, as she hobbled along the path,
she added to her own assurance of his "stiddiness" earnest explanations
to Joel of how he had a place in the Croft Street woollen-mills, and
how Dr. Knowles had said he was as ready a stoker as any in the
The sound of her weak, eager voice was silent presently, and nothing
broke the quiet and cold of the night. Even the morning, when it came
long after, came quiet and cool,--the warm red dawn helplessly smothered
under great waves of gray cloud. Margaret, looking out into the thick
fog, lay down wearily again, closing her eyes. What was the day to her?
Very slowly the night was driven back. An hour after, when she lifted
her head again, the stars were still glittering through the foggy arch,
like sparks of brassy blue, and the sky and hills and valleys were one
drifting, slow-heaving mass of ashy damp. Off in the east a stifled red
film groped through. It was another day coming; she might as well get
up, and live the rest of her life out;--what else had she to do?
Whatever this night had been to the girl, it left one thought sharp,
alive, in the exhausted quiet of her brain: a cowardly dread of the
trial of the day, when she would see him again. Was the old struggle of
years before coming back? Was it all to go over again? She was worn out.
She had been quiet in these--two years: what had gone before she never
looked back upon; but it made her thankful for even this stupid quiet.
And now, when she had planned her life, busy and useful and contented,
why need God have sent the old thought to taunt her? A wild, sickening
sense of what might have been struggled up: she thrust it down,--she had
kept it down all night; the old pain should not come back,--it should
not. She did not think of the love she had given up as a dream, as
verse-makers or sham people do; she knew it to be the reality of her
life. She cried for it even now, with all the fierce strength of her
nature; it was the best she knew; through it she came nearest to God.
Thinking of the day when she had given it up, she remembered it with a
vague consciousness of having fought a deadly struggle with her fate,
and that she had been conquered,--never had lived again. Let it be; she
could not bear the struggle again.
She went on dressing herself in a dreary, mechanical way. Once, a bitter
laugh came on her face, as she looked into the glass, and saw the dead,
dull eyes, and the wrinkle on her forehead. Was that the face to be
crowned with delicate caresses and love? She scorned herself for the
moment, grew sick of herself, balked, thwarted in her true life as she
was. Other women whom God has loved enough to probe to the depths of
their nature have done the same,--saw themselves as others saw them:
their strength drying up within them, jeered at, utterly alone. It is
a trial we laugh at. I think the quick fagots at the stake were fitter
subjects for laughter than the slow gnawing hunger in the heart of many
a slighted woman or a selfish man. They come out of the trial as out of
martyrdom, according to their faith: you see its marks sometimes in a
frivolous old age going down with tawdry hopes and starved eyes to the
grave; you see its victory in the freshest, fullest lives in the earth.
This woman had accepted her trial, but she took it up as an inflexible
fate which she did not understand; it was new to her; its solitude, its
hopeless thirst were freshly bitter. She loathed herself as one whom God
had thought unworthy of every woman's right,--to love and be loved.
She went to the window, looking blankly out into the gray cold. Any
one with keen analytic eye, noting the thin muscles of this woman, the
childish, scarlet lips, the eyes deep, concealing, would have foretold
that she would conquer in the trial, that she would force her soul
down,--but that the forcing down would leave the weak, flaccid body
spent and dead. One thing was certain: no curious eyes would see the
struggle; the body might be nerveless or sickly, but it had the great
power of reticence; the calm with which she faced the closest gaze was
natural to her,--no mask. When she left her room and went down, the
same unaltered quiet that had baffled Knowles steadied her step and
cooled her eyes.
After you have made a sacrifice of yourself for others, did you ever
notice how apt you were to doubt, as soon as the deed was irrevocable,
whether, after all, it were worth while to have done it? How poor seems
the good gained! How new and unimagined the agony of empty hands and
stifled wish! Very slow the angels are, sometimes, that are sent to
Margaret, going down the stairs that morning, found none of the
chivalric unselfish glow of the night before in her home. It was an old,
bare house in the midst of dreary moors, in which her life was slowly to
be worn out: that was all. It did not matter; life was short: she could
thank God for that at least.
She opened the house-door. A draught of cold morning air struck her
face, sweeping from the west; it had driven the fog in great gray banks
upon the hills, or in shimmering broken swamps into the cleft hollows:
a vague twilight filled the space left bare. Tiger, asleep in the hall,
rushed out into the meadow, barking, wild with the freshness and cold,
then back again to tear round her for a noisy good-morning. The touch of
the dog seemed to bring her closer to his master; she put him away; she
dared not suffer even that treachery to her purpose: because, in fact,
the very circumstances that had forced her to give him up made it weak
cowardice to turn again. It was a simple story, yet one which she dared
not tell to herself; for it was not altogether for her father's sake she
had made the sacrifice. She knew, that, though she might be near to
this man Holmes as his own soul, she was a clog on him,--stood in his
way,--kept him back. So she had quietly stood aside, taken up her own
solitary burden, and left him with his clear self-reliant life,--with
his Self, dearer to him than she had ever been. Why should it not be?
she thought,--remembering the man as he was, a master among men. He was
back again; she must see him. So she stood there with this persistent
dread running through her brain.
Suddenly, in the lane by the house, she heard a voice talking to
Joel,--the huckster-girl. What a weak, cheery sound it was in the cold
and fog! It touched her curiously: broke through her morbid thought as
anything true and healthy would have done. "Poor Lois!" she thought,
with an eager pity, forgetting her own intolerable future for the
moment, as she gathered up some breakfast and went with it down the
lane. Morning had come; great heavy bars of light fell from behind the
hills athwart the banks of gray and black fog; there was shifting,
uneasy, obstinate tumult among the shadows; they did not mean to yield
to the coming dawn. The hills, the massed woods, the mist opposed their
immovable front, scornfully. Margaret did not notice the silent contest
until she reached the lane. The girl Lois, sitting in her cart, was
looking, quiet, attentive, at the slow surge of the shadows, and the
slower lifting of the slanted rays.
"T' mornin' comes grand here, Miss Marg'et!" she said, lowering her
Margaret said nothing in reply; the morning, she thought, was gray
and cold, as her own life. She stood leaning on the low cart;
some strange sympathy drew her to this poor wretch, dwarfed,
alone in the world,--some tie of equality, which the odd childish
face, nor the quaint air of content about the creature, did
not lessen. Even when Lois shook down the patched skirt of her flannel
frock straight, and settled the heaps of corn and tomatoes about her,
preparatory for a start, Margaret kept her hand on the side of the cart,
and walked slowly by it down the road. Once, looking at the girl, she
thought with a half smile how oddly clean she was. The flannel skirt she
arranged so complacently had been washed until the colors had run madly
into each other in sheer desperation; her hair was knotted with a
relentless tightness into a comb such as old women wear. The very cart,
patched as it was, had a snug, cozy look; the masses of vegetables,
green and crimson and scarlet, were heaped with a certain reference to
the glow of color, Margaret noticed, wondering if it were accidental.
Looking up, she saw the girl's brown eyes fixed on her face. They were
singularly soft, brooding brown.
"Ye'r' goin' to th' mill, Miss Marg'et?" she asked, in a half whisper.
"Yes. You never go there now, Lois?"
The girl shuddered, and then tried to hide it in a laugh. Margaret
walked on beside her, her hand on the cart's edge. Somehow this
creature, that Nature had thrown impatiently aside as a failure, so
marred, imperfect, that even the dogs were kind to her, came strangely
near to her, claimed recognition by some subtile instinct.
Partly for this, and partly striving to forget herself, she glanced
furtively at the childish face of the distorted little body, wondering
what impression the shifting dawn made on the unfinished soul that was
looking out so intently through the brown eyes. What artist sense had
she,--what could she know--the ignorant huckster--of the eternal laws
of beauty or grandeur? Nothing. Yet something in the girl's face made
her think that these hills, this air and sky, were in fact alive to
her,--real; that her soul, being lower, it might be, than ours, lay
closer to Nature, knew the language of the changing day, of these
earnest-faced hills, of the very worms crawling through the brown mould.
It was an idle fancy; Margaret laughed at herself for it, and turned
to watch the slow morning-struggle which Lois followed with such eager
The light was conquering, growing stronger. Up the gray arch the soft,
dewy blue crept gently, deepening, broadening; below it, the level bars
of light struck full on the sullen black of the west, and worked there
undaunted, tinging it with crimson and imperial purple. Two or three
coy mist-clouds, soon converted to the new allegiance, drifted giddily
about, mere flakes of rosy blushes. The victory of the day came slowly,
but sure, and then the full morning flushed out, fresh with moisture and
light and delicate perfume. The bars of sunlight fell on the lower earth
from the steep hills like pointed swords; the foggy swamp of wet vapor
trembled and broke, so touched, rose at last, leaving patches of damp
brilliance on the fields, and floated majestically up in radiant victor
clouds, led by the conquering wind. Victory: it was in the cold, pure
ether filling the heavens, in the solemn gladness of the hills. The
great forests thrilling in the soft light, the very sleepy river
wakening under the mist, chorded in with a grave bass to the rising
anthem of welcome to the new life which God had freshly given to the
world. From the sun himself, come forth as a bridegroom from his
chamber, to the flickering raindrops on the road-side mullein, the world
seemed to rejoice exultant in victory. Homely, cheerier sounds broke the
outlined grandeur of the morning, on which Margaret looked wearily. Lois
lost none of them; no morbid shadow of her own balked life kept their
meaning from her.
The light played on the heaped vegetables in the old cart; the bony legs
of the donkey trotted on with fresh vigor. There was not a lowing cow in
the distant barns, nor a chirping swallow on the fence-bushes, that
did not seem to include the eager face of the little huckster in their
morning greetings. Not a golden dandelion on the road-side, not a gurgle
of the plashing brown water from the well-troughs, which did not give
a quicker pleasure to the glowing face. Its curious content stung the
woman walking by her side. What secret of recompense had this poor
"Your father is here, Lois," she said carelessly, to break the silence.
"I saw him at the mill yesterday."
Her face kindled instantly.
"He's home, Miss Marg'et,--yes. An' it's all right wid him. Things allus
do come right, some time," she added, in a reflective tone, brushing a
fly off Sawney's ear.
"Always? Who brings them right for you, Lois?"
"The Master," she said, turning with an answering smile.
Margaret was touched. The owner of the mill was not a more real
verity to this girl than the Master of whom she spoke with such quiet
"Are things right in the mill?" she said, testing her.
A shadow came on her face; her eyes wandered uncertainly, as if her weak
brain were confused,--only for a moment.
"They'll come right!" she said, bravely. "The Master'll see to it!"
But the light was gone from her eyes; some old pain seemed to be surging
through her narrow thought; and when she began to talk, it was in a
bewildered, doubtful way.
"It's a black place, th' mill," she said, in a low voice. "It was a good
while I was there: frum seven year old till sixteen. 'T seemed longer t'
me 'n 't was. 'T seemed as if I'd been there allus,--jes' forever, yoh
know. 'Fore I went in, I had the rickets, they say: that's what ails me.
'T hurt my head, they've told me,--made me different frum other folks."
She stopped a moment, with a dumb, hungry look in her eyes. After a
while she looked at Margaret furtively, with a pitiful eagerness.
"Miss Marg'et, I think there _is_ something wrong in my head. Did yoh
ever notice it?"
Margaret put her hand kindly on the broad, misshapen forehead.
"Something is wrong everywhere, Lois," she said, absently.
She did not see the slow sigh with which the girl smothered down
whatever hope had risen just then, nor the wistful look of the brown
eyes that brightened into bravery after a while.
"It'll come right," she said, steadily, though her voice was lower than
"But the mill,"--Margaret recalled her.
"Th' mill,--yes. There was three of us,--father 'n' mother 'n' me,--'n'
pay was poor. They said times was hard. They _was_ hard times, Miss
Marg'et!" she said, with a nervous laugh, the brown eyes strangely
"Yes, hard,"--she soothed her, gently.
"Pay was poor, 'n' many things tuk money." (Remembering the girl's
mother, Margaret knew gin would have covered the "many things.") "Worst
to me was th' mill. I kind o' grew into that place in them years: seemed
to me like as I was part o' th' engines, somehow. Th' air used to be
thick in my mouth, black wi' smoke 'n' wool 'n' smells. It 's better
now there. I got stunted then, yoh know. 'N' th' air in th' alleys was
worse, where we slep'. I think mebbe as 't was then I went wrong in my
head. Miss Marg'et!"
Her voice went lower.
"'T isn't easy to think o' th' Master--down _there_, in them cellars.
Things comes right--slow there,--slow."
Her eyes grew stupid, as if looking down into some dreary darkness.
"But the mill?"
The girl roused herself with a sharp sigh.
"In them years I got dazed in my head, I think. 'T was th' air 'n' th'
work. I was weak allus. 'T got so that th' noise o' th' looms went on in
my head night 'n' day,--allus thud, thud. 'N' hot days, when th' hands
was chaffin' 'n' singin', th' black wheels 'n' rollers was alive,
starin' down at me, 'n' th' shadders o' th' looms was like snakes
creepin',--creepin' anear all th' time. They was very good to me, th'
hands was,--very good. Ther' 's lots o' th' Master's people down there,
out o' sight, that's so low they never heard His name: preachers don't
go there. But He'll see to't. He'll not min' their cursin' o' Him,
seein' they don't know His face, 'n' thinkin' He belongs to th' gentry.
I knew it wud come right wi' me, when times was th' most bad. I knew"--
The girl was trembling now with excitement, her hands working together,
her eyes set, all the slow years of ruin that had eaten into her brain
rising before her, all the tainted blood in her veins of centuries of
slavery and heathenism struggling to drag her down. But above all, the
Hope rose clear, simple: the trust in the Master: and shone in her
scarred face,--through her marred senses.
"I knew it wud come right, allus. I was alone then: mother was dead, and
father was gone, 'n' th' Lord thought 't was time to see to me,--special
as th' overseer was gettin' me an enter to th' poorhouse. So He sent Mr.
Holmes along. Then it come right!"
Margaret did not speak. Even this mill-girl could talk of him, pray for
him; but she never must take his name on her lips!
"He got th' cart fur me, 'n' this blessed old donkey, 'n' my room. Did
yoh ever see my room, Miss Marg'et?"
Her face lighted suddenly with its peculiar childlike smile.
"No? Yoh'll come some day, surely? It's a pore place, yoh'll think; but
it's got th' air,--th' air."
She stopped to breathe the cold morning wind, as if she thought to find
in its fierce freshness the life and brains she had lost.
"Ther' 's places in them alleys 'n' dark holes, Miss Marg'et, like th'
openin's to hell, with th' thick smells 'n' th' sights yoh'd see."
She went back with a terrible clinging pity to the Gehenna from which
she had escaped. The ill of life was real enough to her,--a hungry devil
down in those alleys and dens. Margaret listened, waking to the sense
of a different pain in the world from her own,--lower deeps from which
women like herself draw delicately back, lifting their gauzy dresses.
"Openin's to hell, they're like. People as come down to preach in them
think that, 'pears to me,--'n' think we've but a little way to go, bein'
born so near. It's easy to tell they thinks it,--shows in their looks.
Her face flashed.
"Th' Master has His people 'mong them very lowest, that's not for such
as yoh to speak to. He knows 'em: men 'n' women starved 'n' drunk into
jails 'n' work-houses, that'd scorn to be cowardly or mean,--that shows
God's kindness, through th' whiskey 'n' thievin', to th' orphints
or--such as me. Ther 's things th' Master likes in them, 'n' it'll
come right," she sobbed, "it'll come right at last; they'll have a
Margaret did not speak; let the poor girl sob herself into quiet. What
had she to do with this gulf of pain and wrong? Her own higher life was
starved, thwarted. Could it be that the blood of these her brothers
called against _her_ from the ground? No wonder that the huckster-girl
sobbed, she thought, or talked heresy. It was not an easy thing to see
a mother drink herself into the grave. And yet--was she to blame? Her
Virginian blood was cool, high-bred; she had learned conservatism in her
cradle. Her life in the West had not yet quickened her pulse. So she put
aside whatever social mystery or wrong faced her in this girl, just as
you or I would have done. She had her own pain to bear. Was she her
brother's keeper? It was true, there was wrong; this woman's soul lay
shattered by it; it was the fault of her blood, of her birth, and
Society had finished the work. Where was the help? She was free,--and
liberty, Dr. Knowles said, was the cure for all the soul's diseases,
Well, Lois was quiet now,--ready with her childish smile to be drawn
into a dissertation on Barney's vices and virtues, or a description of
her room, where "th' air was so strong, 'n' the fruit 'n' vegetables
allus stayed fresh,--best in _this_ town," she said, with a bustling
They went on down the road, through the corn-fields sometimes, or on
the riverbank, or sometimes skirting the orchards or barn-yards of the
farms. The fences were well built, she noticed,--the barns wide and
snug-looking: for this county in Indiana is settled by New England
people, as a general thing, or Pennsylvanians. They both leave their
mark on barns or fields, I can tell you! The two women were talking all
the way. In all his life Dr. Knowles had never heard from this silent
girl words as open and eager as she gave to the huckster about paltry,
common things,--partly, as I said, from a hope to forget herself, and
partly from a vague curiosity to know the strange world which opened
before her in this disjointed talk. There were no morbid shadows in this
Lois's life, she saw. Her pains and pleasures were intensely real, like
those of her class. If there were latent powers in her distorted brain,
smothered by hereditary vice of blood, or foul air and life, she knew
nothing of it. She never probed her own soul with fierce self-scorn,
as this quiet woman by her side did;--accepted, instead, the passing
moment, with keen enjoyment. For the rest, childishly trusted "the
This very drive, now, for instance,--although she and the cart and
Barney went through the same routine every day, you would have thought
it was a new treat for a special holiday, if you had seen the perfect
_abandon_ with which they all threw themselves into the fun of the
thing. Not only did the very heaps of ruby tomatoes, and corn in
delicate green casings, tremble and shine as though they enjoyed the
fresh light and dew, but the old donkey cocked his ears, and curved his
scraggy neck, and tried to look as like a high-spirited charger as he
could. Then everybody along the road knew Lois, and she knew everybody,
and there was a mutual liking and perpetual joking, not very refined,
perhaps, but hearty and kind. It was a new side of life for Margaret.
She had no time for thoughts of self-sacrifice, or chivalry, ancient or
modern, watching it. It was a very busy ride,--something to do at every
farmhouse: a basket of eggs to be taken in, or some egg-plants, maybe,
which Lois laid side by side, Margaret noticed,--the pearly white balls
close to the heap of royal purple. No matter how small the basket was
that she stopped for, it brought out two or three to put it in; for Lois
and her cart were the event of the day for the lonely farm-houses. The
wife would come out, her face ablaze from the oven, with an anxious
charge about that butter; the old man would hail her from the barn to
know "ef she'd thought toh look in th' mail yes'rday"; and one or the
other was sure to add, "Jes' time for breakfast, Lois." If she had no
baskets to stop for, she had "a bit o' business," which turned out to be
a paper she had brought for the grandfather, or some fresh mint for the
baby, or "jes' to inquire fur th' fam'ly."
As to the amount that cart carried, it was a perpetual mystery to Lois.
Every day since she and the cart went into partnership, she had gone
into town with a dead certainty in the minds of lookers-on that it
would break down in five minutes, and a triumphant faith in hers in its
unlimited endurance. "This cart'll be right side up fur years to come,"
she would assert, shaking her head. "It's got no more notion o' givin'
up than me nor Barney,--not a bit." Margaret had her doubts,--and so
would you, if you had heard how it creaked under the load,--how they
piled in great straw panniers of apples: black apples with yellow
hearts,--scarlet veined, golden pippin apples, that held the warmth and
light longest,--russet apples with a hot blush on their rough brown
skins,--plums shining coldly in their delicate purple bloom,--peaches
with the crimson velvet of their cheeks aglow with the prisoned heat of
a hundred summer days.
I wish with all my heart some artist would paint me Lois and her cart!
Mr. Kitts, the artist in the city then, used to see it going past his
room out by the coal-pits every day, and thought about it seriously. But
he had his grand battle-piece on hand then,--and after that he went the
way of all geniuses, and died down into colorer for a photographer. He
met them, that day, out by the stone quarry, and touched his hat as he
returned Lois's "Good-morning," and took a couple of great papaws from
her. She was a woman, you see, and he had some of the schoolmaster's
old-fashioned notions about women. He was a sickly-looking soul. One day
Lois had heard him say that there were papaws on his mother's place in
Ohio; so after that she always brought him some every day. She was one
of those people who must give, if it is nothing better than a Kentucky
After they passed the stone quarry, they left the country behind them,
going down the stubble-covered hills that fenced in the town. Even in
the narrow streets, and through the warehouses, the strong, dewy air had
quite blown down and off the fog and dust. Morning (town morning, to be
sure, but still morning) was shining in the red window-panes, in the
tossing smoke up in the frosty air, in the very glowing faces of people
hurrying from market with their noses nipped blue and their eyes
watering with cold. Lois and her cart, fresh with country breath hanging
about them, were not so out of place, after all. House-maids left the
steps half-scrubbed, and helped her measure out the corn and beans,
gossiping eagerly; the newsboys "Hi-d!" at her in a friendly,
patronizing way; women in rusty black, with sharp, pale faces, hoisted
their baskets, in which usually lay a scraggy bit of flitch, on to the
wheel, their whispered bargaining ending oftenest in a low "Thank ye,
Lois!"--for she sold cheaper to some people than they did in the market.
Lois was Lois in town or country. Some subtile power lay in the coarse,
distorted body, in the pleading child's face, to rouse, wherever they
went, the same curious, kindly smile. Not, I think, that dumb, pathetic
eye, common to deformity, that cries, "Have mercy upon me, O my friend,
for the hand of God hath touched me!"--a deeper, mightier charm, rather:
a trust down in the fouled fragments of her brain, even in the bitterest
hour of her bare, wretched life,--a faith, faith in God, faith in her
fellow-man, faith in herself. No human soul refused to answer its
summons. Down in the dark alleys, in the very vilest of the black and
white wretches that crowded sometimes about her cart, there was an
undefined sense of pride in protecting this wretch whose portion of life
was more meagre and low than theirs. Something in them struggled up to
meet the trust in the pitiful eyes,--something which scorned to betray
the trust,--some Christ-like power, smothered, dying, under the filth of
their life and the terror of hell. Not lost. If the Great Spirit of love
and trust lives, not lost!
Even in the cold and quiet of the woman walking by her side the homely
power of the poor huckster was not weak to warm or to strengthen.
Margaret left her, turning into the crowded street leading to the part
of the town where the factories lay. The throng of anxious-faced men and
women jostled and pushed, but she passed through them with a different
heart from yesterday's. Somehow, the morbid fancies were gone; she was
keenly alive; the homely real life of this huckster had fired her,
touched her blood with a more vital stimulus than any tale of crusader.
As she went down the crooked maze of dingy lanes, she could hear Lois's
little cracked bell far off: it sounded like a Christmas song to her.
She half smiled, remembering how sometimes in her distempered brain
the world had seemed a gray, dismal Dance of Death. How actual it
was to-day,--hearty, vigorous, alive with honest work and tears and
pleasure! A broad, good world to live and work in, to suffer or die, if
God so willed it,--God, the good! She entered the vast, dingy factory;
the woollen dust, the clammy air of copperas were easier to breathe in;
the cramped, sordid office, the work, mere trifles to laugh at; and she
bent over the ledger with its hard lines in earnest good-will,
through the slow creeping hours of the long day. She noticed that the
unfortunate chicken was making its heart glad over a piece of fresh
earth covered with damp moss. Dr. Knowles stopped to look at it when he
came, passing her with a surly nod.
"So your master's not forgotten you," he snarled, while the blind old
hen cocked her one eye up at him.
Pike, the manager, had brought in some bills.
"Who's its master?" he said, curiously, stopping by the door.
"Holmes,--he feeds it every morning."
The Doctor drawled out the words with a covert sneer, watching the
quiet, cold face bending over the desk, meantime.
"Bah! it's the first thing he ever fed, then, besides himself. Chickens
must lie nearer his heart than men."
Knowles scowled at him; he had no fancy for Pike's scurrilous gossip.
The quiet face was unmoved. When he heard the manager's foot on the
ladder without, he tested it again. He had a vague suspicion which he
was determined to verify.
"Holmes," he said, carelessly, "has an affinity for animals. No wonder.
Adam must have been some such man as he, when the Lord gave him
'dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air.'"
The hand paused courteously a moment, then resumed its quick, cool
movement over the page. He was not baffled.
"If there were such a reality as mastership, that man was born to rule.
Pike will find him harder to cheat than me, when he takes possession
She looked up now, attentive.
"He came here to take my place in the mills,--buy me out,--articles will
be signed in a day or two. I know what you think,--no,--not worth
a dollar. Only brains and a soul, and he's sold them at a high
figure,--threw his heart in,--the purchaser being a lady. It was light,
I fancy,--starved out, long ago."
The old man's words were spurted out in the bitterness of scorn. The
girl listened with a cool incredulity in her eyes, and went back to her
"Miss Herne is the lady,--my partner's daughter. Herne and Holmes
they'll call the firm. He is here every day, counting future profit."
Nothing could be read on the cold still face; so he left her, cursing,
as he went, men who put themselves up at auction,--worse than Orleans
slaves. Margaret laughed to herself at his passion; as for the story he
hinted, it was absurd. She forgot it in a moment.
Two or three gentlemen down in one of the counting-rooms, just then,
looked at the story from another point of view. They were talking low,
out of hearing from the clerks.
"It's a good thing for Holmes," said one, a burly, farmer-like man, who
was choosing specimens of wool.
"Cheap. And long credit. Just half the concern he takes."
"There is a lady in the case?" suggested a young doctor, who, by virtue
of having spent six months in the South, dropped his _r_-s, and talked
of "niggahs" in a way to make a Georgian's hair stand on end.
"A lady in the case?"
"Of course. Only child of Herne's. _He_ comes down with the dust as
dowry. Good thing for Holmes. 'Stonishin' how he's made his way up. If
money's what he wants in this world, he's making a long stride now to
The young doctor lighted his cigar, asserting that--
"Ba George, some low people did get on, re-markably! Mary Herne, now,
was best catch in town."
"Do you think money is what he wants?" said a quiet little man, sitting
lazily on a barrel,--a clergyman, whom his clerical brothers shook their
heads when they named, but never argued with, and bowed to with uncommon
The wool-buyer hesitated with a puzzled look.
"No," he said, slowly; "Stephen Holmes is not miserly. I've knowed him
since a boy. To buy place, power, perhaps, eh? Yet not that, neither,"
he added, hastily. "We think a sight of him out our way, (self-made, you
see,) and would have had him the best office in the State before this,
only he was so cursedly indifferent."
"Indifferent, yes. No man cares much for stepping-stones in themselves,"
said the clergyman, half to himself.
"Great fault of American society, especially in West," said the young
aristocrat. "Stepping-stones lie low, as my reverend friend suggests;
impudence ascends; merit and refinement scorn such dirty paths,"--with a
mournful remembrance of the last dime in his waistcoat-pocket.
"But do you," exclaimed the farmer, with sudden solemnity, "do you
understand this scheme of Knowles's? Every dollar he owns is in this
mill, and every dollar of it is going into some castle in the air that
no sane man can comprehend."
"Mad as a March hare," contemptuously muttered the doctor.
His reverend friend gave him a look,--after which he was silent.
"I wish to the Lord some one would persuade him out of it," persisted
the wool-man, earnestly looking at the quiet face of his listener. "We
can't spare old Knowles's brain or heart while he ruins himself. It's
something of a Communist fraternity: I don't know the name, but I know
Very hard common-sense shone out of his eyes just then at the clergyman,
whom he suspected of being one of Knowles's abettors.
"There's two ways for 'em to end. If they're made out of the top of
society, they get so refined, so idealized, that every particle flies
off on its own special path to the sun, and the Community's broke; and
if they're made of the lower mud, they keep going down, down together,
--they live to drink and eat, and make themselves as near the brutes as
they can. It isn't easy to believe, Sir, but it's true. I have seen it.
I've seen every one of them the United States can produce. It's _facts_,
Sir; and facts, as Lord Bacon says, are the basis of every sound
The last sentence was slowly brought out, as quotations were not exactly
his _forte_, but, as he said afterwards,--"You see, that nailed the
The parson nodded gravely.
"You'll find no such experiment in the Bible," threw in the young
doctor, alluding to "serious things" as a peace-offering to his reverend
"One, I believe," dryly.
"Well," broke in the farmer, folding up his wool, "that's neither here
nor there. This experiment of Knowles's is like nothing known since
the Creation. Plan of his own. He spends his days now hunting out the
gallows-birds out of the dens in town here, and they're all to be
transported into the country to start a new Arcadia. A few men and women
like himself, but the bulk is from the dens, I tell you. All start fair,
level ground, perpetual celibacy, mutual trust, honor, rise according to
the stuff that's in them,--pah! it makes me sick!"
"Knowles's inclination to that sort of people is easily explained,"
spitefully lisped the doctor. "Blood, Sir. His mother was a half-breed
Creek, with all the propensities of the redskins to fire-water and
'itching palms.' Blood will out."
"Here he is," maliciously whispered the wool-man. "No, it's Holmes," he
added, after the doctor had started into a more respectful posture, and
glanced around frightened.
He, the doctor, rose to meet Holmes's coming footstep,--"a low fellah,
but always sure to be the upper dog in the fight, goin' to marry the
best catch," etc., etc. The others, on the contrary, put on their hats
and sauntered away into the street.
So the day broadened hotly; the shadows of the Lombardy poplars curdling
up into a sluggish pool of black at their roots along the dry gutters.
The old schoolmaster in the shade of the great horse-chestnuts (brought
from the homestead in the Piedmont country, every one) husked corn for
his wife, composing, meanwhile, a page of his essay on the "Sirventes
de Bertrand de Born." The day passed for him as did his life, half in
simple-hearted deed, half in vague visions of a dead world, never to be
real again. Joel, up in the barn by himself, worked through the long day
in the old fashion,--pondering gravely (being of a religious turn) upon
a sermon by the Reverend Mr. Clinche, reported in the "Gazette"; wherein
that disciple of the meek Teacher invoked, as he did once a week, the
curses of the law upon his political opponents, praying the Lord to
sweep them immediately from the face of the earth. Which rendering of
Christian doctrine was so much relished by Joel, and the other leading
members of Mr. Clinche's church, that they hinted to him it might be as
well to continue choosing his texts from Moses and the Prophets
until the excitement of the day was over. The New Testament
was,--well,--hardly suited for the emergency; did not, somehow, chime in
with the lesson of the hour. I may remark, in passing, that this course
of conduct so disgusted the High-Church rector of the parish, that he
not only ignored all new devils, (as Mr. Carlyle might have called
them,) but talked as if the millennium, were _un fait accompli_, and he
had leisure to go and hammer at the poor dead old troubles of Luther's
time. One thing, though, about Joel: while he was joining in Mr.
Clinche's prayer for the "wiping out" of some few thousands, he was
using up all the fragments of the hot day in fixing a stall for a
half-dead old horse he had found by the road-side. Let us hope, that,
even if the listening angel did not grant the prayer, he marked down the
stall at least, as a something done for eternity.
Margaret, through the heat and stifling air, worked steadily alone in
the dusty office, the cold, homely face bent over the books, never
changing but once. It was a trifle then; yet, when she looked back
afterwards, the trifle was all that gave the day a name. The room shook,
as I said, with the thunderous, incessant sound of the engines and the
looms; she scarcely heard it, being used to it. Once, however, another
sound came between,--a slow, quiet tread, passing through the long
wooden corridor,--so firm and measured that it sounded like the
monotonous beatings of a clock. She heard it through the noise in the
far distance; it came slowly nearer, up to the door without,--passed it,
going down the echoing plank walk. The girl sat quietly, looking out at
the dead brick wall. The slow step fell on her brain like the sceptre of
her master; if Knowles had looked in her face then, he would have seen
bared the secret of her life. Holmes had gone by, unconscious of who was
within the door. She had not seen him; it was nothing but a step she
heard. Yet a power, the power of the girl's life, shook off all outward
masks, all surface cloudy fancies, and stood up in her with a terrible
passion at the sound; her blood burned fiercely; her soul looked out
from her face, her soul as it was, as God knew it,--God and this man. No
longer a cold, clear face; you would have thought, looking at it, what a
strong spirit the soul of this woman would be, if set free in heaven
or in hell. The man who held it in his power went on carelessly, not
knowing that the mere sound of his step had raised it as from the
dead. She, and her right, and her pain, were nothing to him now, she
remembered, staring out at the taunting hot sky. Yet so vacant was the
sudden life opened before her when he was gone, that, in the desperation
of her weakness, her mad longing to see him but once again, she would
have thrown herself at his feet, and let the cold, heavy step crush her
life out,--as he would have done, she thought, choking down the icy
smother in her throat, if it had served his purpose, though it cost his
own heart's life to do it. He would trample her down, if she kept him
back from his end; but be false to her, false to himself, that he would
So the hot, long day wore on,--the red bricks, the dusty desk covered
with wool, the miserable chicken peering out, growing sharper and more
real in the glare. Life was no morbid nightmare now; her weak woman's
heart found it actual and near. There was not a pain nor a want, from
the dumb hunger in the dog's eyes that passed her on the street, to her
father's hopeless fancies, that did not touch her sharply through her
own loss, with a keen pity, a wild wish to help to do something to save
others with this poor life left in her hands.
So the hot day wore on in the town and country; the old sun glaring down
like some fierce old judge, intolerant of weakness or shams,--baking the
hard earth in the streets harder for the horses' feet, drying up the
bits of grass that grew between the boulders of the gutter, scaling off
the paint from the brazen faces of the interminable brick houses. He
looked down in that city as in every American town, as in these where
you and I live, on the same countless maze of human faces going day by
day through the same monotonous routine. Knowles, passing through the
restless crowds, read with keen eye among them strange meanings by this
common light of the sun,--meanings such as you and I might read, if our
eyes were clear as his,--or morbid, it may be. A commonplace crowd
like this in the street without: women with cold, fastidious faces,
heavy-brained, bilious men, dapper 'prentices, draymen, prize-fighters,
negroes. Knowles looked about him as into a seething caldron, in which
the people I tell you of were atoms, where the blood of uncounted races
was fused, but not mingled,--where creeds, philosophies, centuries old,
grappled hand to hand in their death-struggle,--where innumerable aims
and beliefs and powers of intellect, smothered rights and triumphant
wrongs, warred together, struggling for victory.
Vulgar American life? He thought it a life more potent, more tragic in
its history and prophecy, than any that has gone before. People called
him a fanatic. It may be that he was one: yet the uncouth old man, sick
in soul from some gnawing pain of his own life, looked into the depths
of human loss with a mad desire to set it right. On the very faces
of those who sneered at him he found some traces of failure or pain,
something that his heart carried up to God with a loud and exceeding
bitter cry. The voice of the world, he thought, went up to heaven a
discord, unintelligible, hopeless,--the great blind world, astray since
the first ages! Was there no hope, no help?
The hot sun shone down, as it had done for six thousand years; it shone
on open problems in the lives of these men and women who walked the
streets, problems whose end and beginning no eye could read. There were
places where it did not shine: down in the fetid cellars, in the slimy
cells of the prison yonder: what riddles of human life lay there he
dared not think of. God knows how the man groped for the light,--for any
voice to make earth and heaven clear to him.
So the hot, long day wore on, for all of them. There was another light
by which the world was seen that day, rarer than the sunshine, purer. It
fell on the dense crowds,--upon the just and the unjust. It went into
the fogs of the fetid dens from which the coarser light was barred, into
the deepest mires where a human soul could wallow, and made them clear.
It lighted the depths of the hearts whose outer pain and passion men
were keen to read in the unpitying sunshine, and bared in those depths
the feeble gropings for the right, the loving hope, the unuttered
prayer. No kindly thought, no pure desire, no weakest faith in a God and
heaven somewhere could be so smothered under guilt that this subtile
light did not search it out, glow about it, shine through it, hold it up
in full view of God and the angels,--lighting the world other than the
sun had done for six thousand years. We have no name for the light: it
has a name,--yonder. Not many eyes were clear to see its shining that
day; and if they did, it was as through a glass, darkly. Yet it belonged
to us also, in the old time, the time when men could "hear the voice of
the Lord God in the garden in the cool of the day." It is God's light
Yet poor Lois caught faint glimpses, I think, sometimes, of its heavenly
clearness. I think it was this light that made the burning of Christmas
fires warmer for her than for others, that showed her all the love and
outspoken honesty and hearty frolic which her eyes saw perpetually in
the old warm-hearted world. That evening, as she sat on the step of her
brown frame shanty, knitting at a great blue stocking, her scarred face
and misshapen body very pitiful to the passers-by, it was this light
that gave to her face its homely, cheery smile. It made her eyes quick
to know the message in the depths of color in the evening sky, or even
the flickering tints of the green creeper on the wall with its crimson
cornucopias filled with hot sunshine. She liked clear, vital colors,
this girl,--the crimsons and blues. They answered her, somehow. They
could speak. There were things in the world that like herself were
marred,--did not understand,--were hungry to know: the gray sky, the
mud swamps, the tawny lichens. She cried sometimes, looking at them,
hardly knowing why: she could not help it, with a vague sense of loss.
It seemed at those times so dreary for them to be alive,--or for her.
Other things her eyes were quicker to see than ours: delicate or grand
lines, which she perpetually sought for unconsciously,--in the homeliest
things, the very soft curling of the woollen yarn in her fingers, as
in the eternal sculpture of the mountains. Was it the disease of her
injured brain that made all things alive to her,--that made her watch,
in her ignorant way, the grave hills, the flashing, victorious rivers,
look pitifully into the face of some dingy mushroom trodden in the mud
before it scarce had lived, just as we should look into human faces to
know what they would say to us? Was it the weakness and ignorance that
made everything she saw or touched nearer, more human to her than to you
or me? She never got used to living as other people do; these sights and
sounds did not come to her common, hackneyed. Why, sometimes, out in the
hills, in the torrid quiet of summer noons, she had knelt by the
shaded pools, and buried her hands in the great slumberous beds of
water-lilies, her blood curdling in a feverish languor, a passioned
trance, from which she roused herself, weak and tired.
She had no self-poised artist sense, this Lois,--knew nothing of
Nature's laws. Yet sometimes, watching the dun sea of the prairie rise
and fall in the crimson light of early morning, or, in the farms,
breathing the blue air trembling up to heaven exultant with the life of
bird and forest, she forgot the poor coarse thing she was, some coarse
weight fell off, and something within, not the sickly Lois of the town,
went out, free, like an exile dreaming of home.
You tell me, that, doubtless, in the wreck of the creature's brain,
there were fragments of some artistic insight that made her thus rise
above the level of her daily life, drunk with the mere beauty of form
and color. I do not know,--not knowing how sham or real a thing you mean
by artistic insight. But I do know that the clear light I told you of
shone for this girl dimly through this beauty of form and color; and
ignorant, with no words for her thoughts, she believed in it as the
Highest that she knew. I think it came to her thus an imperfect
language, (not an outward show of tints and lines, as to some
artists,)--a language, the same that Moses heard when he stood alone,
with nothing between his naked soul and God, but the desert and the
mountain and the bush that burned with fire. I think the weak soul
of the girl staggered from its dungeon, and groped through these
heavy-browed hills, these color-dreams, through even the homely kind
faces on the street, to find the God that lay behind. So the light
showed her the world, and, making its beauty and warmth divine and near
to her, the warmth and beauty became real in her, found their homely
shadows in her daily life. So it showed her, too, through her vague
childish knowledge, the Master in whom she believed,--showed Him to her
in everything that lived, more real than all beside. The waiting earth,
the prophetic sky, the coarsest or fairest atom that she touched was but
a part of Him, something sent to tell of Him,--she dimly felt; though,
as I said, she had no words for such a thought. Yet even more real than
this. There was no pain nor temptation down in those dark cellars where
she went that He had not borne,--not one. Nor was there the least
pleasure came to her or the others, not even a cheerful fire, or kind
words, or a warm, hearty laugh, that she did not know He sent it and was
glad to do it. She knew that well! So it was that He took part in her
humble daily life, and became more real to her day by day. Very homely
shadows her life gave of His light, for it was His: homely, because of
her poor way of living, and of the depth to which the heavy foot of the
world had crushed her. Yet they were there all the time, in her cheery
patience, if nothing more. To-night, for instance, how differently the
surging crowd seemed to her from what it did to Knowles! She looked down
on it from her high wood-steps with an eager interest, ready with her
weak, timid laugh to answer every friendly call from below. She had no
power to see them as types of great classes; they were just so many
living people, whom she knew, and who, most of them, had been kind to
her. Whatever good there was in the vilest face, (and there was always
something,) she was sure to see it. The light made her poor eyes strong
She liked to sit there in the evenings, being alone, yet never growing
lonesome; there was so much that was pleasant to watch and listen to, as
the cool brown twilight came on. If, as Knowles thought, the world was
a dreary discord, she knew nothing of it. People were going from their
work now,--they had time to talk and joke by the way,--stopping, or
walking slowly down the cool shadows of the pavement; while here and
there a lingering red sunbeam burnished a window, or struck athwart the
gray boulder-paved street. From the houses near you could catch a faint
smell of supper: very friendly people those were in these houses; she
knew them all well. The children came out with their faces washed, to
play, now the sun was down: the oldest of them generally came to sit
with her and hear a story.
After it grew darker, you would see the girls in their neat blue
calicoes go sauntering down the street with their sweethearts for
a walk. There was old Polston and his son Sam coming home from the
coal-pits, as black as ink, with their little tin lanterns on their
caps. After a while Sam would come out in his suit of Kentucky jean, his
face shining with the soap, and go sheepishly down to Jenny Ball's, and
the old man would bring his pipe and chair out on the pavement, and his
wife would sit on the steps. Most likely they would call Lois down,
or come over themselves, for they were the most sociable, coziest old
couple you ever knew. There was a great stopping at Lois's door, as
the girls walked past, for a bunch of the flowers she brought from the
country, or posies, as they called them, (Sam never would take any to
Jenny but "old man" and pinks,) and she always had them ready in broken
jugs inside. They were good, kind girls, every one of them,--had taken
it in turn to sit up with Lois last winter all the time she had the
rheumatism. She never forgot that time,--never once.
Later in the evening you would see an old man coming along, close by the
wall, with his head down,--a very dark man, with gray, thin hair,--Joe
Yare, Lois's old father. No one spoke to him,--people always were
looking away as he passed; and if old Mr. or Mrs. Polston were on the
steps when he came up, they would say, "Good-evening, Mr. Yare," very
formally, and go away presently. It hurt Lois more than anything else
they could have done. But she bustled about noisily, so that he would
not notice it. If they saw the marks of the ill life he had lived on his
old face, she did not; his sad, uncertain eyes may have been dishonest
to them, but they were nothing but kind to the misshapen little soul
that he kissed so warmly with a "Why, Lo, my little girl!" Nobody else
in the world ever called her by a pet name.
Sometimes he was gloomy and silent, but generally he told her of all
that had happened in the mill, particularly any little word of notice or
praise he might have received, watching her anxiously until she laughed
at it, and then rubbing his hands cheerfully. He need not have doubted
Lois's faith in him. Whatever the rest did, she believed in him; she
always had believed in him, through all the dark, dark years, when he
was at home, and in the penitentiary. They were gone now, never to come
back. It had come right. She, at least, thought his repentance sincere.
If the others wronged him, and it hurt her bitterly that they did, that
would come right some day too, she would think, as she looked at the
tired, sullen face of the old man bent to the window-pane, afraid to go
out. They had very cheerful little suppers there by themselves in the
odd, bare little room, as homely and clean as Lois herself.
Sometimes, late at night, when he had gone to bed, she sat alone in the
door, while the moonlight fell in broad patches over the quiet square,
and the great poplars stood like giants whispering together. Still the
far sounds of the town came up cheerfully, while she folded up her
knitting, it being dark, thinking how happy an ending this was to a
happy day. When it grew quiet, she could hear the solemn whisper of the
poplars, and sometimes broken strains of music from the cathedral in the
city floated through the cold and moonlight past her, far off into the
blue beyond the hills. All the keen pleasure of the day, the warm,
bright sights and sounds, coarse and homely though they were, seemed to
fade into the deep music, and make a part of it.
Yet, sitting there, looking out into the listening night, the poor
child's face grew slowly pale as she heard it. It humbled her. It made
her meanness, her low, weak life so real to her! There was no pain nor
hunger she had known that did not find a voice in its inarticulate cry.
She! what was she? All the pain and wants of the world must be going up
to God in that sound, she thought. There was something more in it,--an
unknown meaning that her shattered brain struggled to grasp. She could
not. Her heart ached with a wild, restless longing. She had no words
for the vague, insatiate hunger to understand. It was because she was
ignorant and low, perhaps; others could know. She thought her Master was
speaking. She thought the unknown meaning linked all earth and heaven
together, and made it plain. So she hid her face in her hands, and
listened while the low harmony shivered through the air, unheeded by
others, with the message of God to man. Not comprehending, it may
be,--the poor girl,--hungry still to know. Yet, when she looked up,
there were warm tears in her eyes, and her scarred face was bright with
a sad, deep content and love.
So the hot, long day was over for them all,--passed as thousands of days
have done for us, gone down, forgotten: as that long, hot day we call
life will be over some time, and go down into the gray and cold. Surely,
whatever of sorrow or pain may have made darkness in that day for you or
me, there were countless openings where we might have seen glimpses of
that other light than sunshine: the light of the great Tomorrow, of the
land where all wrongs shall be righted. If we had but chosen to see
it,--if we only had chosen!
CONCERNING PEOPLE WHO CARRIED WEIGHT IN LIFE.
WITH SOME THOUGHTS ON THOSE WHO NEVER HAD A CHANCE.
You drive out, let us suppose, upon a certain day. To your surprise and
mortification, your horse, usually lively and frisky, is quite dull
and sluggish. He does not get over the ground as he is wont to do. The
slightest touch of whip-cord, on other days, suffices to make him dart
forward with redoubled speed; but upon this day, after two or three
miles, he needs positive whipping, and he runs very sulkily with it
all. By-and-by his coat, usually smooth and glossy and dry through all
reasonable work, begins to stream like a water-cart. This will not do.
There is something wrong. You investigate; and you discover that your
horse's work, though seemingly the same as usual, is in fact immensely
greater. The blockheads who oiled your wheels yesterday have screwed up
your patent axles too tightly; the friction is enormous; the hotter
the metal gets, the greater grows the friction; your horse's work is
quadrupled. You drive slowly home, and severely upbraid the blockheads.
There are many people who have to go through life at an analogous
disadvantage. There is something in their constitution of body or mind,
there is something in their circumstances, which adds incalculably to
the exertion they must go through to attain their ends, and which holds
them back from doing what they might otherwise have done. Very probably
that malign something exerted its influence unperceived by those around
them. They did not get credit for the struggle they were going through.
No one knew what a brave fight they were making with a broken right arm;
no one remarked that they were running the race, and keeping a fair
place in it, too, with their legs tied together. All they do, they do at
a disadvantage. It is as when a noble race-horse is beaten by a sorry
hack; because the race-horse, as you might see, if you look at the list,
is carrying twelve pounds additional. But such men, by a desperate
effort, often made silently and sorrowfully, may (so to speak) run in
the race, and do well in it, though you little think with how heavy a
foot and how heavy a heart. There are others who have no chance at all.
_They_ are like a horse set to run a race, tied by a strong rope to a
tree, or weighted with ten tons of extra burden. _That_ horse cannot run
even poorly. The difference between their case and that of the men who
are placed at a disadvantage is like the difference between setting a
very near-sighted man to keep a sharp look-out and setting a man who is
quite blind to keep that sharp look-out. Many can do the work of life
with difficulty; some cannot do it at all. In short, there are PEOPLE
WHO CARRY WEIGHT IN LIFE, and there are some WHO NEVER HAVE A CHANCE.
And you, my friend, who are doing the work of life well and
creditably,--you who are running in the front rank, and likely to do so
to the end, think kindly and charitably of those who have broken down
in the race. Think kindly of him who, sadly overweighted, is struggling
onwards away half a mile behind you; think more kindly yet, if that be
possible, of him who, tethered to a ton of granite, is struggling hard
and making no way at all, or who has even sat down and given up the
struggle in dumb despair. You feel, I know, the weakness in yourself
which would have made you break down, if sorely tried like others. You
know there is in your armor the unprotected place at which a well-aimed
or a random blow would have gone home and brought you down. Yes, you are
nearing the winning-post, and you are among the first; but six pounds
more on your back, and you might have been nowhere. You feel, by your
weak heart and weary frame, that, if you had been sent to the Crimea in
that dreadful first winter, you would certainly have died. And you feel,
too, by your lack of moral stamina, by your feebleness of resolution,
that it has been your preservation from you know not what depths of
shame and misery, that you never were pressed very hard by temptation.
Do not range yourself with those who found fault with a certain great
and good Teacher of former days, because he went to be guest with a man
that was a sinner. As if He could have gone to be guest with any man who
* * * * *
There is no reckoning up the manifold _impedimenta_ by which human
beings are weighted for the race of life; but all may be classified
under the two heads of unfavorable influences arising out of the mental
or physical nature of the human beings themselves, and unfavorable
influences arising out of the circumstances in which the human beings
are placed. You have known men who, setting out from a very humble
position, have attained to a respectable standing, but who would have
reached a very much higher place but for their being weighted with a
vulgar, violent, wrong-headed, and rude-spoken wife. You have known men
of lowly origin who had in them the makings of gentlemen, but whom this
single malign influence has condemned to coarse manners and a frowzy,
repulsive home for life. You have known many men whose powers are
crippled and their nature soured by poverty, by the heavy necessity
for calculating how far each shilling will go, by a certain sense of
degradation that comes of sordid shifts. How can a poor parson write an
eloquent or spirited sermon when his mind all the while is running upon
the thought how he is to pay the baker or how he is to get shoes for his
children? It will be but a dull discourse which, under that weight, will
be produced even by a man who, favorably placed, could have done very
considerable things. It is only a great genius here and there who can do
great things, who can do his best, no matter at what disadvantage he may
be placed; the great mass of ordinary men can make little headway with
wind and tide dead against them. Not many trees would grow well, if
watered daily (let us say) with vitriol. Yet a tree which would
speedily die under that nurture might do very fairly, might even do
magnificently, if it had fair play, if it got its chance of common
sunshine and shower. Some men, indeed, though always hampered by
circumstances, have accomplished much; but then you cannot help thinking
how much more they might have accomplished, had they been placed more
happily. Pugin, the great Gothic architect, designed various noble
buildings; but I believe he complained that he never had fair play with
his finest,--that he was always weighted by considerations of expense,
or by the nature of the ground he had to build on, or by the number
of people it was essential the building should accommodate. And so he
regarded his noblest edifices as no more than hints of what he could
have done. He made grand running in the race; but, oh, what running he
could have made, if you had taken off those twelve additional pounds! I
dare say you have known men who labored to make a pretty country-house
on a site which had some one great drawback. They were always battling
with that drawback, and trying to conquer it; but they never could quite
succeed. And it remained a real worry and vexation. Their house was on
the north side of a high hill, and never could have its due share of
sunshine. Or you could not reach it but by climbing a very steep ascent;
or you could not in any way get water into the landscape. When Sir
Walter was at length able to call his own a little estate on the banks
of the Tweed he loved so well, it was the ugliest, bleakest, and least
interesting spot upon the course of that beautiful river; and the public
road ran within a few yards of his door. The noble-hearted man made a
charming dwelling at last; but he was fighting against Nature in the
matter of the landscape round it; and you can see yet, many a year after
he left it, the poor little trees of his beloved plantations contrasting
with the magnificent timber of various grand old places above and below
Abbotsford. There is something sadder in the sight of men who carried
weight within themselves, and who, in aiming at usefulness or at
happiness, were hampered and held back by their own nature. There are
many men who are weighted with a hasty temper; weighted with a nervous,
anxious constitution; weighted with an envious, jealous disposition;
weighted with a strong tendency to evil speaking, lying, and slandering;
weighted with a grumbling, sour, discontented spirit; weighted with a
disposition to vaporing and boasting; weighted with a great want of
common sense; weighted with an undue regard to what other people may be
thinking or saying of them; weighted with many like things, of which
more will be said by-and-by. When that good missionary, Henry Martyn,
was in India, he was weighted with an irresistible drowsiness. He could
hardly keep himself awake. And it must have been a burning earnestness
that impelled him to ceaseless labor, in the presence of such a
drag-weight as that. I am not thinking or saying, my friend, that it is
wholly bad for us to carry weight,--that great good may not come of the
abatement of our power and spirit which may be made by that weight. I
remember a greater missionary than even the sainted Martyn, to whom the
Wisest and Kindest appointed that he should carry weight, and that he
should fight at a sad disadvantage. And the greater missionary tells us
that he knew why that weight was appointed him to carry; and that he
felt he needed it all to save him from a strong tendency to undue
self-conceit. No one knows, now, what the burden was which he bore; but
it was heavy and painful; it was "a thorn in the flesh." Three times
he earnestly asked that it might be taken away; but the answer he got
implied that he needed it yet, and that his Master thought it a better
plan to strengthen the back than to lighten the burden. Yes, the blessed
Redeemer appointed that St. Paul should carry weight in life; and I
think, friendly reader, that we shall believe that it is wisely and
kindly meant, if the like should come to you and me.
We all understand what is meant, when we hear it said that a man is
doing very well, or has done very well, _considering_. I do not know
whether it is a Scotticism to stop short at that point of the sentence.
We do it, constantly, in this country. The sentence would be completed
by saying, _considering the weight he has to carry_, or _the
disadvantage at which he works_. And things which are _very good,
considering_, may range very far up and down the scale of actual merit.
A thing which is _very good, considering_, may be very bad, or may be
tolerably good. It never can be absolutely very good; for, if it
were, you would cease to use the word _considering_. A thing which is
absolutely very good, if it have been done under extremely unfavorable
circumstances, would not be described as _very good, considering_; it
would be described as _quite wonderful, considering_, or as _miraculous,
considering_. And it is curious how people take a pride in accumulating
unfavorable circumstances, that they may overcome them, and gain the
glory of having overcome them. Thus, if a man wishes to sign his name,
he might write the letters with his right hand; and though he write them
very clearly and well and rapidly, nobody would think of giving him any
credit. But if he write his name rather badly with his left hand, people
would say it was a remarkable signature, considering; and if he write
his name very ill indeed with his foot, people would say the writing was
quite wonderful, considering. If a man desire to walk from one end of a
long building to the other, he might do so by walking along the floor;
and though he did so steadily, swiftly, and gracefully, no one would
remark that he had done anything worth notice. But if he choose for his
path a thick rope, extended from one end of the building to the other,
at a height of a hundred feet, and if he walk rather slowly and
awkwardly along it, he will be esteemed as having done something very
extraordinary: while if, in addition to this, he is blindfolded, and has
his feet placed in large baskets instead of shoes, he will, if in any
way he can get over the distance between the ends of the building, be
held as one of the most remarkable men of the age. Yes, load yourself
with weight which no one asks you to carry; accumulate disadvantages
which you need not face, unless you choose; then carry the weight in any
fashion, and overcome the disadvantages in any fashion; and you are a
great man, considering: that is, considering the disadvantages and the
weight. Let this be remembered: if a man is so placed that he cannot do
his work, except in the face of special difficulties, then let him be
praised, if he vanquish these in some decent measure, and if he do his
work tolerably well. But a man deserves no praise at all for work which
he has done tolerably or done rather badly, because he chose to do it
under disadvantageous circumstances, under which there was no earthly
call upon him to do it. In this case he probably is a self-conceited
man, or a man of wrong-headed independence of disposition; and in this
case, if his work be bad absolutely, don't tell him that it is good,
considering. Refuse to consider. He has no right to expect that you
should. There was a man who built a house entirely with his own hands.
He had never learned either mason-work or carpentry: he could quite well
have afforded to pay skilled workmen to do the work he wanted; but he
did not choose to do so. He did the whole work himself. The house was
finished; its aspect was peculiar. The walls were off the perpendicular
considerably, and the windows were singular in shape; the doors fitted
badly, and the floors were far from level. In short, it was a very bad
and awkward-looking house: but it was a wonderful house, considering.
And people said that it was so, who saw nothing wonderful in the
beautiful house next it, perfect in symmetry and finish and comfort, but
built by men whose business it was to build. Now I should have declined
to admire that odd house, or to express the least sympathy with its
builder. He chose to run with a needless hundred-weight on his back: he
chose to walk in baskets instead of in shoes. And if, in consequence
of his own perversity, he did his work badly, I should have refused
to recognize it as anything but bad work. It was quite different with
Robinson Crusoe, who made his dwelling and his furniture for himself,
because there was no one else to make them for him. I dare say his cave
was anything but exactly square; and his chairs and table were cumbrous
enough; but they were wonderful, considering certain facts which he was
quite entitled to expect us to consider. Southey's _Cottonian Library_
was all quite right; and you would have said that the books were very
nicely bound, considering; for Southey could not afford to pay the
regular binder's charges; and it was better that his books should be
done up in cotton of various hues by the members of his own family than
that they should remain not bound at all. You will think, too, of the
poor old parson who wrote a book which he thought of great value, but
which no publisher would bring out. He was determined that all his
labor should not be lost to posterity. So he bought types and a
printing-press, and printed his precious work, poor man: he and his
man-servant did it all. It made a great many volumes; and the task
took up many years. Then he bound the volumes with his own hands; and
carrying them to London, he placed a copy of his work in each of the
public libraries. I dare say he might have saved himself his labor. How
many of my readers could tell what was the title of the work, or what
was the name of its author? Still, _there_ was a man who accomplished
his design, in the face of every disadvantage.
There is a great point of difference between our feeling towards the
human being who runs his race much overweighted and our feeling towards
the inferior animal that does the like. If you saw a poor horse gamely
struggling in a race, with a weight of a ton extra, you would pity it.
Your sympathies would all be with the creature that was making the best
of unfavorable circumstances. But it is a sorrowful fact, that the
drag-weight of human beings not unfrequently consists of things which
make us angry rather than sympathetic. You have seen a man carrying
heavy weight in life, perhaps in the form of inveterate wrong-headedness
and suspiciousness; but instead of pitying him, our impulse would rather
be to beat him upon that perverted head. We pity physical malformation
or unhealthiness; but our bent is to be angry with intellectual and
moral malformation or unhealthiness. We feel for the deformed man, who
must struggle on at that sad disadvantage; feeling it, too, much more
acutely than you would readily believe. But we have only indignation for
the man weighted with far worse things, and things which, in some cases
at least, he can just as little help. You have known men whose extra
pounds, or even extra ton, was a hasty temper, flying out of a sudden
into ungovernable bursts: or a moral cowardice leading to trickery and
falsehood: or a special disposition to envy and evil-speaking: or a
very strong tendency to morbid complaining about their misfortunes and
troubles: or an invincible bent to be always talking of their sufferings
through the derangement of their digestive organs. Now, you grow angry
at these things. You cannot stand them. And there is a substratum of
truth to that angry feeling. A man _can_ form his mind more than he can
form his body. If a man be well-made, physically, he will, in ordinary
cases, remain so: but he may, in a moral sense, raise a great hunchback
where Nature made none. He may foster a malignant temper, a grumbling,
fretful spirit, which by manful resistance might be much abated, if not
quite put down. But still, there should often be pity, where we are
prone only to blame. We find a person in whom a truly disgusting
character has been formed: well, if you knew all, you would know that
the person had hardly a chance of being otherwise: the man could not
help it. You have known people who were awfully unamiable and repulsive:
you may have been told how very different they once were,--sweet-tempered
and cheerful. And surely the change is a far sadder one than
that which has passed upon the wrinkled old woman who was once (as you
are told) the loveliest girl of her time. Yet many a one who will look
with interest upon the withered face and the dimmed eyes, and try to
trace in them the vestiges of radiant beauty gone, will never think of
puzzling out in violent spurts of petulance the perversion of a quick
and kind heart; or in curious oddities and pettinesses the result of