Part 2 out of 6
notes, and was answered by Theodore. At the landing near him was a
half-rotten canoe, partially filled with water, and near it was an old
paddle. Without a moment's thought, Barton pushed it into deep water,
springing into it as it glided away. He had not passed half the
distance to the other boat, when he discovered that it was filling.
With his usual rashness, he determined to reach his friends in it
by his own exertions, and without calling to them for aid, and by an
almost superhuman effort he drove on with his treacherous craft. The
ultimate danger was not much to a light and powerful swimmer, and he
plunged forward. The noise and commotion of forcing his waterlogged
canoe through the water attracted the attention of the party he
was approaching, but who had hardly appreciated his situation as he
lightly sprang from his nearly filled boat into their midst.
"Hullo, Bart! Why under the heavens did you risk that old log? Why
didn't you call to us to meet you?"
"Because," said Bart, excited by his effort and danger, "because to
myself I staked all my future on reaching you in that old hulk, and I
won. Had it sunk, I had made up my mind to go with her, and, like Mr.
Mantalini, in Dickens's last novel, 'become a body, a demnition moist
"What old wreck is it?" inquired Young, looking at the scarcely
perceptible craft that was sinking near them.
"It is the remains of the old canoe made by Thomas Ridgeley, in his
day, I think," said Jonah.
"Nothing of the sort," said Bart; "it is the remains of old Bullock's
'gundalow,' that has been sinking and swimming, like old John Adams
in the Revolution, these five years past. Don't let me think to-night,
Uncle Jonah, that anything from my father's hand came to take me into
the depths of this pond."
The craft occupied by the party was a broad, scow-like float, with low
sides, steady, and of considerable capacity. At the bow was a raised
platform, covered with gravel, on which stood a fire-jack. The crew
were lying on the silent water, engaged with their lines, when Bart so
unceremoniously joined them. He went forward to a vacant place and lay
down in the bottom, declining to take a line.
"What is the matter, Bart?" asked the Doctor.
"I don't know. I've been wandering about in the woods, and I must have
met something, or I have lost something,--I don't know which."
"I guess you saw the wolverine," said Theodore.
"I guess I did;" and pretty soon, "Doctor, is this your robe? Let
me cover myself with it; I am cold!" and there was something almost
plaintive in his voice.
"Let me spread it over you," said the Doctor, with tenderness. "What
ails you, Bart? are you ill?"
"If you left your saddle-bags at home, I think I am; if they are
here, I am very well. Doctor," he went on, "can a man have half of his
faculties shut off and retain the others clear and strong?"
"I don't know,--perhaps so; why?"
"Well, I feel as if one of your astringents had placed its claws on a
full half of me and drawn it all into a pucker; and the other half is
in some way set free, and I feel clairvoyant."
"What do you think you can see?" asked the Doctor.
"A young man--quite a young man--blindfolded, groping backward in the
chambers of his darkened soul, and trying to escape out of it," said
"What a queer fancy!" said the Doctor.
"He must have an unusually large soul," said Uncle Jonah.
"Every soul is big enough for the man to move in, small as it is,"
"What is your youth doing in his, now?" asked the Doctor.
"He is sitting down, resigned," answered Bart.
"If his soul was dark, why was he blindfolded?" asked the Doctor.
"Well, I don't know. For the same reason that men with eyes think that
a blind man cannot see so well in the dark, perhaps," was the answer.
"And see here," looking into the water, "away down here is a beautiful
star. There, I can blot it out with my hand! and see, now, how I can
shatter it into wavelets of stars, and now break it into a hundred, by
merely disturbing the water where I see it, 'like sunshine broken in
a rill.' Who knows but it may be the just-arrived light of an old, old
star which has just come to us? How easy to climb back on one of these
filmy rays, myriads of millions of leagues, home to its source! I
will take off the bandage and let the poor boy see it, and climb if he
"You are fanciful and metaphysical," said the Doctor. "Euclid has not
operated, I fear. Why would you go up to the source of that ray? Would
you expect to find God and heaven there?"
"I should but traverse the smallest portion of God," said Bart, "and
yet how far away He seems just now. Somebody's unshapen hand cuts His
light off; and I cannot see Him by looking down, and I haven't the
strength to look up."
"How incoherently you talk; after all, suppose that there is no
God, for do your best, it is but a sentiment, a belief without
"Oh, Doctor, don't! You are material, and go by lines and angles;
cannot you understand that a God whose existence you would have
to prove is no God at all? that if His works and givings out don't
declare and proclaim him, He is a sham? You cannot see and hear,
Doctor, when you are in one of your material moods. Look up, if you
can see no reflection in the waters below."
"Well, when I look into the revealed heaven, for instance, Bart, I see
it peopled with things of the earth, reflected into it from the earth;
showing that the whole idea is of the earth--earthy."
"Oh, Doctor! like the poor old Galilean; when he thought it was all
up, he went out and dug bait, and started off a-fishing. You attend
to your fishing, and let me dream. If God should attempt to reveal
Himself to you to-night, which I wouldn't do, He would have to
elevate and enlarge and change you to a celestial, so that you could
understand Him; or shrink and shrivel Himself to your capacity, and
address you on your level, as I do, using the language and imagery of
this earth, and you would answer Him as you do me--'It is all of the
earth--earthy.' I want to sleep."
The Doctor pondered as if there was a matter for thought in what
he had heard, and a little ripple of under-talk ran on about the
subjects, the everlasting old, old and eternally new problems that
men have dreamed and stumbled over, and always will--which Bart had
dreamily spoken of as if they were very familiar to his thoughts, and
they spoke of him, and wondered if anything had happened, and pulled
their boat to a new position, while the overtaxed youth subsided
into fitful slumber. Theodore finally awoke him, and said that they
proposed to light up the jack, if he would take the spear, and they
would push out to deeper water, and try for bass. Bart stared about
him uncomprehendingly for a moment. "Oh, Theodore, my fishing days
are over! I will never 'wound the gentle bosom of this lake' with fish
spear, or gig, or other instrument; and I've backed this old rifle
around for the last time to-day."
"Bart, think of all our splendid times in the woods!"
"What a funny dream I had: I dreamed I was a young Indian, not John
Brown's 'little Indian,' but a real red, strapping, painted young
Indian, and our tribe was encamped over on the west side of this
Indian lake, by Otter Point; and I was dreadfully in love with the
"Who didn't love you again," said Theodore.
"Of course not, being a well-brought up young Indianess: and I went
to the Indian spring, that runs into the pond, just above 'Barker's
Landing,' that you all know of."
"I never knew that it was an Indian spring," said Young.
"Well, it is," replied Bart. "It has a sort of an earthen rim around
it, or had a few minutes ago; and the water bubbles up from the
bottom. Well, you drop a scarlet berry into it, and if it rises and
runs over the rim, the sighed-for loves you, or she don't, and I have
forgotten which. I found a scarlet head of ginseng, and dropped the
seeds in one after another, and they all plumped straight to the
"Well, what was the conclusion?"
"Logical. The berries were too heavy for the current, or the current
was too weak for the berries."
"And the Indianess?"
"She and all else faded out."
"Oh, pshaw! how silly!" said Young. "Will you take the spear, or won't
"Will you take the spear, or won't you?" replied Bart, mimicking him
with great effect.
"Have you heard from Henry lately?" asked Uncle Jonah.
"A few days ago," answered Bart, who turned moodily away like a
peevish child angered with half sleep, and a pang from the thrust he
"Henry is the most ambitious young man I ever knew," said the Doctor;
"I fear he may never realize his aspirations."
"Why not?" demanded Bart, with sudden energy. "What is there that my
brother Henry may not hope to win, I would like to know? He will win
it or die in the effort."
"He will not, if he lives a thousand years," said Young, annoyed at
Bart's mimicking him. "It ain't in him."
"What ain't in him, Old Testament?" demanded Bart, with asperity.
"The stuff. I've sounded him; it ain't there!"
"You've sounded him! Just as you are now sounding this bottomless
pond, with a tow string six feet long, having an angle worm at one
end, and an old hairy curmudgeonly grub at the other."
"There, Brother Young," said Uncle Jonah, "stop before worse comes."
"Mr. Young," said Bart, a moment later, with softened voice, making
way towards him, "forgive me if you can. I've done with coarse and
vulgar speeches like that. You believe in Henry, and only spoke to
annoy me. I take it all back. I will even spear you some bass, if
Theodore will light up the jack. Give me the oars, and let me wake up
a little, while we go to better ground below."
For a few moments he handled the polished, slender-tined, long-handled
spear with great dexterity and success, and told the story of old
Leather Stocking spearing bass from the Pioneers. He soon ceased,
however, and declared he would do no more, and his companions,
disgusted with his freaky humor, prepared to return. Bart, casting
down his spear, remained in moody silence until they landed. Theodore
picked up his rifle, the fish were placed in baskets, the tackle
stowed away, the boat secured, and the party proceeded homeward.
Bart lived further from the pond than any of the party, and Theodore,
who loved him, and was kind to his moods, taking a few of the finest
fish, accompanied him home. As they were about to separate from Uncle
Jonah--the father of Theodore--he turned to Bart, and said: "Something
has happened, no matter what; don't be discouraged, you stick to them
old books; there's souls in 'em, and they will carry you out to your
place, some time."
"Thank you, thank you, Uncle Jonah!" said Bart, warmly; "these are the
only encouraging words I've heard for two years."
"Theodore," said Bart, as they walked on, "what an uncomfortable bore
I must have been to-night."
"Oh, I don't know! we thought that something had happened, perhaps."
"No, I'm trying to change, and be more civil and quiet, and have been
thinking it all over, and don't feel quite comfortable; and we have
both something to do besides run in the woods. You were very good to
come with me, Theodore," he said, as they parted at the gate.
AFTER THE FLOOD.
The next morning Bart was not up as usual, and George rushed into the
low-ceiled room, under the roof.
"Bart! breakfast is ready! Ma thinks it strange you ain't up. That was
a splendid big bass. Where did you take him? Are you sick?" as he came
"No, Georgie; I am only languid and dull. I must have been wofully
"I should think you would be, running all day and up all night. I
should think you'd be hungry, too, by this time."
"Georgie, how handsome you look this morning! What a splendid young
man you will be, and so bright, and joyous, and good! Everybody will
love you; no woman will scorn you. There, tell mother not to wait! I
will get up soon."
Some time after, the light, quick step of his mother was heard
approaching his door, where she paused as if to listen.
"I am up, mother," called out Bart; and she found him partly dressed,
and sitting listlessly on his bed, pale and dejected.
"It is nothing, mother; I'm only a little depressed and dull. I'll be
all right in an hour. I ran in the woods a good deal, took cold, and
She looked steadily and wistfully at him. The great change in his face
could not escape her. Weary he looked, and worn, as from a heart-ill.
"What has happened, Barton? Did you go to anybody's house? Whom did
"No; I went to the pond, and met the Doctor and Uncle Jonah, and
Theodore came home with me."
"Did you meet Julia Markham anywhere?"
"I did; she was going home from Coe's by the old road, and I went out
of the woods with her."
A long, hard-drawn breath from his mother, who saw that he took her
question like a stab.
"It is no matter, mother. It had to be over some time."
"Barton! you don't mean, Barton--"
"I do, just that, mother," steadily. "She was kinder in her scorn than
she meant. It was what I needed."
"Her scorn! her scorn, Barton!"
"Yes, her scorn, mother," decidedly and firmly.
"You must have talked and acted foolishly, Barton."
"I did talk and act foolishly, and I take the consequences."
"You are both young, Barton, and you have all the world in which to
overcome your faults and repair your mistakes, and Julia--"
"Not another word of her, mother dear! She has gone more utterly out
of my life than as if she were buried. Then I might think of her; now
I will not," firmly.
"Oh, that this should come to you now, my poor, poor boy!"
"Don't pity me, mother! I am soft enough now, and don't you for a
moment think that I have nothing else to do in this world but to be
killed out of it by the scorn of a girl. Let us not think of these
Markhams. The Judge is ambitious, and proud of his wealth and self,
and his daughter is ambitious too. The world wants me; it has work for
me. I can hear its voices calling me now, and I am not ready. Don't
think I am to sit and languish and pine for any girl;" and his mouth
was firm with will and purpose, and a great swell of pride and pain
agitated the bosom of his mother, who recognized the high elements of
a nature drawn from her own.
"You know, mother," he continued, thoughtfully, "that I am not one
to be loved. I am not handsome and popular, like Morris, whom all
men like and many women love; nor thoughtful and accomplished and
considerate, like Henry, whom everybody esteems and respects, and of
whom so much is expected."
"Do you envy them, Barton?"
"Envy them, mother? Don't I love the world for loving Morris? Don't I
follow him about to feel the gladness that he brings? Don't I live on
the praises of Henry? and don't I tear every man that utters a doubt
of his infallibility? Poor old Dominie Young! I was savage on him last
night, for an unnecessary remark about Henry; and I'll go and hear him
preach, to show my contrition; and penitence can't go further. Now,
mother dear, I probably wanted this, and I am now down on the flat,
hard foundation of things. Don't blame this Julia, and don't think of
her in connection with me. No girl will ever scorn one of your boys
She lingered, and would have said more; but he put her away with
affected gayety, and said he was coming down immediately,--and he did.
But the melancholy chords vibrated long.
There was another overhauling of the little desk, and innumerable
sketches of various excellence, having a family resemblance, with
faults in common, were sent to join the departed verses.
That night, in a letter to Henry, he said: "I've burned the last of my
ships, not saving even a small boat."
* * * * *
Mrs. Ridgeley pondered over the revelation which her woman's
intuitions had drawn from Barton. No woman can understand why a son
of hers should fail with any natural-born daughter of woman, and she
suspected that poor Bart had, with his usual impetuosity, managed the
affair badly. No matter if he had; she felt that he was not an object
of any woman's scorn; and this particular Julia, she had every reason
to know, would live to correct her impressions and mourn her folly.
She, however, was incapable of injustice to even her own sex; and if
Julia did not fancy Barton, she was not to blame, however faulty her
taste. She remembered with satisfaction that she and hers were under
no obligations to the Markhams, and she only hoped that her son would
be equal to adhering to his purpose. She had little fear of this,
although she knew nothing of the offensive manner of his rejection,
and had no intimation of what followed it. To her, Julia was to be
less than the average girl of her acquaintance.
In the afternoon the two mothers met by accident, at the store,
whither Mrs. Ridgeley had gone to make a few small purchases, and
Mrs. Markham to examine the newly-arrived goods. Mrs. Ridgeley had
no special inducement to waste herself on Mrs. Markham, and none to
exhibit any sensibility at the treatment of Barton; her manner was an
admirable specimen of the cool, neighborly, indifferently polite. She
was by nature a thorough-bred and high-spirited woman; and had Julia
openly murdered poor Bart, the manner of his mother would not have
betrayed her knowledge of the fact to Mrs. Markham. That lady
busied herself with some goods until Mrs. Ridgeley had completed her
purchases, when she approached her with her natural graciousness,
which was so spontaneous that it was hardly a virtue, and was met
with much of her own frank suavity. These ladies never discussed the
weather, or their neighbors, or hired girls,--which latter one of them
did not have; and with a moment's inquiry after each other's welfare,
in which each omitted the family of the other, Mrs. Markham asked
Mrs. Ridgeley's judgment as to the relative qualities of two or three
pieces of ladies' fabrics, carelessly saying that she was choosing for
Julia, who was quite undecided. Mrs. Ridgeley thought Miss Markham was
quite right to defer the matter to her mother's judgment, and feared
that her own ignorance of goods of that quality would not enable her
to aid Mrs. Markham. Mrs. Markham casually remarked that there was
much demand for the goods, and that Julia had had a long walk around
to the Coes the day before, and home through the woods, and was
a little wearied to-day, and had referred the matter to her. Mrs.
Ridgeley understood that Miss Markham was accustomed to healthy
out-door exercise, and yet young girls were sometimes, she presumed,
nearly as imprudent as boys, etc.; she trusted Miss Markham would soon
If either of the ladies looked the other in the face while speaking
and spoken to, as is allowable, neither discovered anything by the
scrutiny. Mrs. Markham thought Mrs. Ridgeley must suffer much on
account of the rashness of so many spirited boys, though she believed
that Mrs. Ridgeley was fortunate in the devotion of all her sons. Mrs.
Ridgeley thanked her; as to her boys, she had become accustomed to
their caring for themselves, and when they were out she seldom was
anxious about them. Mrs. Markham thought that they must have some
interesting adventures in their hunting excursions. Mrs. Ridgeley said
that Morris always enjoyed telling of what he had done and met in the
woods, while Barton never mentioned anything, unless he had found a
rare flower, a splendid tree, or a striking view, or something of that
The ladies gave each other much well-bred attention, and Mrs. Markham
went on to remark that she had not seen Barton since his return, but
that Julia had mentioned meeting him once or twice. Mrs. Ridgeley
replied that soon after Barton came home, she remembered that he spoke
of meeting Miss Markham at the store. The faces of the ladies told
nothing to each other. Mrs. Markham gave an animated account of her
call at the house being built by Major Ridgeley for Mr. Snow, in
Auburn, and said that Mr. Snow was promising that Major Ridgeley might
give a ball in it; and the Major undertook to have it ready about New
Year's, and that the ball would be very select, she understood; the
house was to contain a very fine ball-room, etc.
Had Mrs. Ridgeley received a letter recently from Henry? She had.
Would Barton probably go and study with his brother? She thought that
would be pleasant for both. Mrs. Markham was very kind to inquire
about the boys. Would Mrs. Ridgeley permit Mrs. Markham to send her
home in her new buggy? It stood at the door. Mrs. Ridgeley thanked
her; she was going up by Coe's, and so out across the bit of woods,
home. Did not Mrs. Ridgeley fear the animal that had been heard to
scream in these woods? Mrs. Ridgeley did not in the least, and she
doubted if there was one.
The ladies separated. Mrs. Markham decided that Barton had not told
his mother of meeting Julia the day before, nor of their adventure
afterwards, and she was relieved from the duty of explaining anything;
and she thought well of the young man's discretion, or pride.
Mrs. Ridgeley thought that Mrs. Markham was talking at her for a
purpose, perhaps to find out what Barton told her; and it was some
little satisfaction, perhaps, to know that Julia did not feel like
being out,--but then Julia was a noble girl, and would feel regret at
inflicting pain. Poor Bart! Generous Mrs. Ridgeley! It also occurred
to Mrs. Ridgeley that Mrs. Markham did not return to the subject of
the goods, and she was really afraid that Julia might lose her dress.
The marvellous power of Christianity to repeat itself in new forms
apparently variant, and reveal itself under new aspects, or rather its
wonderful fulness and completeness, that enables the different ages of
men, under ever-varying conditions of culture and development, to find
in it their greatest needs supplied, and their highest civilization
advanced, may be an old observation. A change in the theological
thought and speculation of New England was beginning to make its way
to the surface at about the time of the migration of its sons and
daughters to the far-off Ohio wilderness, and many minds carried with
them into the woods a tinge of the new light. Theodore Parker had not
announced the heresy that there was an important difference between
theology and religion, and that life was of more consequence than
creed. But Calvinism had come to mean less to some minds, and there
was another turning back to the great source by strong new seekers,
to whom the accepted formulas had become empty, dry shells, to be
pulverized, and the dead dust kneaded anew with the sweet waters of
the ever fresh fountain. Those who bore the germs of the new thought
to the wild freedom of nature, in the woods, found little to restrain
or direct it; and, as is usual upon the remoulding of religious
thought, while the strong religious nature questions only as to the
true, many of different temperament boldly question the truth of all.
The seeds and sources of a religious revolution are remote, and
its apparent results a generation of heretics and infidels. Heresy
sometimes becomes orthodoxy in its turn, and in its career towards
that, and in its days of zeal and warfare, the infidel often becomes
Those in the new colony, who turned to the somewhat softer and sweeter
givings out of the Great Teacher, and to whom these qualities made the
predominant elements of his doctrines, were few in numbers, scattered
and weak, while the mass of the immigrants were staunch in the
theology of their old home. The holders of the new ideas not only
suffered from the odium of all new heresies, but their doctrines were
especially odious, as tending to destroy the wholesome sanctions of
fitting punishments, while, like the teachers of all ideas at variance
with the old, they were surrounded by and confounded with the herd of
old scoffers and unbelievers, who always try to ally themselves
with those who, for any reason, doubt or question the dogmas always
rejected by them.
And so it is that the apostles of a new dogma come to be weighted
with whatever of odium may attach to the old rejectors of the old; and
there is always this bond of sympathy between the new heretic and the
old infidel; they are both opposed to the holders of the old faith,
and hence so far are allies.
In Newbury, in that far-off time, a dozen families, perhaps,
respectable for intelligence and morality, were zealous acceptors of
the new ideas; and about these, to their great scandal, gathered the
straggling, rude spirits and doubtful characters that lightly float on
the wave of emigration, to be dropped wherever that subsides.
The organizing power of the new ideas in itself, was not great. Their
spirit was not, and cannot, be aggressive. They consisted in part of
a rejection of much that made Puritanism intolerant in doctrine, and
that furnished it with its organizing and militant power.
Men organize to do, and not merely to not do. Among the most earnest
in the support of these ideas were Thomas Ridgeley and his wife, who
were also among the most prominent in their neighborhood. Their
public religious exercises were not frequent, and were holden in a
school-house in their vicinity, the most attractive feature of which
was the excellent singing of the small congregation. Mrs. Ridgeley
came from a family of much local celebrity for their vocal powers,
while her husband was not only an accomplished singer, but master of
several instruments, and in the new settlements he was often employed
as a teacher of music.
The preacher of this small congregation was Mr. Alexander, "Uncle
Aleck," as everybody called him, who lived in the west part of the
town, on the border of "the woods." A man well in years, inferior in
person, with a mild, sweet, benevolent face, and blameless, dreamy
life, he spent much time in "sarching the Scripters," as he expressed
it, in constant conversations and mild disputations of Bible texts
and doctrines, and sermonizing at the Sunday assemblies of his
co-believers. He was a man without culture, without the advantage of
much converse with cultivated people, of rather feeble and slender
mental endowments, but of a wonderfully sweet, serene, cheerful
temper, and a most abiding faith. His was a heart and soul whose love
and compassion embraced the created universe. He believed that God
created only to multiply the objects of His own love, and that the
ultimate end of all Providence was to bless, and he did not doubt that
He would manage to have His way. That He had ever generated forces and
powers beyond His control, he did not believe. The gospels, to him,
were luminous with love, mercy, and protecting providence; and while
his sermons were faulty and confused, his language vicious, and his
pronounciation depraved, so that he furnished occasional provocation
to scoffers among the profane, and to critics among the orthodox,
there was always such sweetness and tenderness, and love so broad,
deep, rich and pure, that few earnest or thoughtful minds ever heard
him without being moved and elevated by his benignant spirit.
He was always in converse with the Master in his early ministrations,
in beautiful, far-off, peaceful Galilee. He was a contented and
happy feeder upon the manna and wine of those early wanderings and
preachings among a simple and primitive people; and was forever
lingering away from Jerusalem, and avoiding the final catastrophe,
which he could never contemplate without shuddering horror. No power
on earth could ever convert his simple faith to the idea that this
great sacrifice was an ill-devised scheme to end in final failure; and
he preached accordingly. The elder Ridgeley had been dead many years;
the simple faith had gained few proselytes; Uncle Aleck's sermons made
little impression, and gained nothing in clearness of statement or
doctrine, but ripened and deepened in tenderness and sweetness. His
people remained unpopular, and nothing but the force of character of a
few saved them from personal proscription.
The Ridgeley boys, the older ones, were steady in the faith of their
parents. Morris openly acknowledged it and Henry had been destined
by his father to its teachings; Barton stood by his mother, however he
esteemed her faith, and occasionally said sharp and pungent things of
its opponents, which confirmed the unpopular estimate in which he was
The Markhams were orthodox. Dr. Lyman was a nearly unbelieving
materialist at this time, but had several times "wabbled," as Bart
expressed it, from orthodoxy to infidelity, without touching the
proscribed ground of Uncle Aleck.
Mr. Young was an obsolete revival exhorter, whose life did little
to illustrate and enforce his givings out. He had a weakness for the
elder Scriptures; and hence the irreverent name applied to him in the
boat by Bart.
Among the adherents of uncle Aleck were the Coes, a mild, moony race,
and recently it was understood that Emeline, the only daughter in a
family of eight or nine, a languid, dreamy, verse-making mystic, had
expressed a wish to receive the rite of Christian baptism, at that
time practised by Uncle Aleck and his associates in Northern Ohio.
The ceremony had been postponed on account of the illness of her
mother, and was finally performed on the Sunday following the
incidents last narrated. A meeting was to be holden in the primitive
forest, near Coe's cabin, on the margin of a deep, crystal pool,
formed naturally by the springs that supplied Coe's Creek. Few events
happened in that quiet region, and this was an event. News of it had
circulated widely, and hundreds attended.
The occasion was not without a certain touching interest. The beauty
of the day, the wildness of the scenery under the grand old trees,
with rude rocks, beautiful slopes, and running, pure water, and the
deepening tints of autumn in sky, cloud and foliage,--the warm shafts
of sunshine that here and there lit it all up,--the sincere gravity
that fell as a Sabbath hush on the expectant multitude, who seemed to
realize the presence of a solemn mystery,--carried back an imaginative
mind to an earlier day and a more primitive people, when the early
Christians, in the absence of schism, administered the same rite.
Uncle Aleck, imbued with the sweetest spirit of his Master, seemed
inspired with a sense of the sacredness of the act he was to perform.
Of its divine origin, and sweet and consecrating efficacy, he had not
the slightest doubt. The simple services of his faith he performed in
a way that harmonized entirely with the occasion and its surroundings.
A grand hymn under the old trees was sung by the choir with fine
effect; a short, fervent prayer, the reading of two or three portions
of one of the gospels, and a few words of sweet and simple fervor,
expressive of a great love and sacrifice, and the unutterable hope
and rest of its grateful acknowledgment in the public act about to be
performed, followed; and then the believing, trembling girl was led
into the translucent waters, which for a single instant closed over
her, and was returned, with a little cry of ecstasy, to her friends.
Another hymn, a simple benediction, and the solemnly impressed crowd
broke up into little knots, and left the spot vacant to the silence of
Conspicuous in this gathering, as conspicuous everywhere where he
appeared, was Major Ridgeley, an elder brother of Bart. Slightly
taller, and absolutely straight in the shoulders, with an uppish turn
to his head, the Major was universally pronounced a handsome man. His
large, bright, hazel eye, pure red and white complexion just touched
by the sun, with a world of black curling hair swept carelessly back
from, an open white brow, with well-formed mouth and chin, and his
frank, dashing, manly way, cheery voice, and gay manner, made him a
universal favorite; and, farmer and carpenter though he was, he was
welcomed as an equal by the best people in the community. He had
little literary cultivation, but mixing freely among men, and received
with universal kindness by all women, he had the ready manners of a
man of the world, which, with a shrewd vigor of mind, qualified him
for worldly success.
Bart came upon the ground with his mother, near whom he remained,
and to whom he was very attentive. To him the whole thing was very
impressive. His poetic fancy idealized it, and carried him back till
he seemed to see and hear the dedication of a young, pure spirit to
the sweet sacredness of a holy life, as in the days of the preachings
of the apostles. When the final hymn was given out he stood by
his brother, facing most of the crowd, and for the first time they
recognized in him a nameless something that declared and asserted
itself--something that vaguely hinted of the sheaf of the boy Joseph,
that arose and stood upright, and to which their sheaves involuntarily
Still very young, and less handsome than his brother, he was yet
more striking, pale and fair, with little color, and a face of boyish
roundness, which began to develop lines of thought and strength. His
brow, not so beautiful, was more ample; his features were regular, but
lacked the light, bright, vivacious expression of Morris; while from
his deep, unwinking eyes men saw calmly looking out a strong, deep
nature, not observed before. He joined his mother and brother in the
last hymn. Everybody knew the Ridgeleys could sing. They carried
the burden of the grand and simple old tune nearly alone. The fine
mezzo-soprano of the mother, the splendid tenor of Morris, and the
rich baritone of Bart, in their united effect, had never been equalled
in the hearing of that assembly. The melody was a sweet and fitting
finale of the day, swelling out and dying away in the high arches of
* * * * *
The Coes were objects of the kindness of Mrs. Markham and Julia,
obnoxious as was their religious faith; but Mrs. Markham was tolerant,
and she and her husband and daughter, with most of the State road
people, were present.
While they were waiting for the crowd to disperse, so that they could
reach their carriage, the Ridgeleys, who began to move out, on their
way home, approached, and were pleasantly recognized by the Markhams,
with whom the Major was a great favorite. The two parties joined,
shook hands, and interchanged a pleasant greeting--all but Bart. He
moved a little away, and acknowledged their presence by holding his
hat in his hand, as if unconscious that he was a spectacle for the
eyes of some of them, and without betraying that he could by any
possibility care. It was a sore trial for him.
Mrs. Markham looked at him several times as if she would go to him,
and an expression once or twice came into the sweet and pensive face
of Julia, that seemed to mean that she wished she could say to him,
"I want so much to thank you for your courage and generosity!" Morris
noticed the strange conduct of Barton, and felt an impulse to call to
him, and on their way home he spoke to him about it.
"Why, Bart, what is the matter? I thought you and the Markhams were on
the best of terms; especially you and Julia and Mrs. Markham."
"Well, Major, you see a shrewd man can be mistaken, don't you?"
"What has happened?"
"That which renders it absolutely impossible that I should ever
voluntarily go into the presence of these Markhams, and especially of
The voice was low, and full of force, with a little bitterness. Morris
looked at his brother with incredulous amazement.
"Morris," said Bart, "don't ask more about it. Mother guessed
something of it. Pray don't refer to it ever again."
Morris walked forward, with their mother; and when he turned back to
the stricken face of his young brother, there was a great tenderness
in his eye; but his brow gathered and his face darkened into a
momentary frown. He was by nature frank and brave, and could not long
do any one injustice. His nature was hopeful, and bright, and manly.
No girl could always scorn his brother Bart; nor did he believe that
Bart would willingly remain scorned.
The town of Burton was one of the oldest in the county. It was the
residence of many wealthy men, the seat of Judge Hitchcock, Chief
Justice of the State, as well as the home of Seabury Ford, a rising
young politician, just commencing a most useful and honorable career,
which was to conduct him to the Chief Magistracy of the State.
The young Whig party had failed to elect Gen. Harrison, but the result
of the contest assured it of success in the campaign of 1840, for
which a vast magazine was rapidly and silently accumulating. The
monetary and credit disasters of '36-'37, occurring in the third term
of uninterrupted party rule, would of themselves have overthrown a
wiser and better administration than that of Mr. Van Buren, patriotic
and enlightened as that was, contrasted with some which followed.
Men, too, were beginning to examine and analyze the nature and designs
of slavery; and already Theodore Weld had traversed the northern and
middle States, and with his marvellous eloquence and logic, second
to none of those who followed him, had stirred to their profoundest
depths the cool, strong, intellectual souls of the New Englanders of
One early October morning, as Gen. Ford, then commander of a brigade
of militia, in which Major Ridgeley held a commission, was arranging
some papers in his law office, a young man paused a moment in front
of the open door, and upon being observed, lifted his hat and stepped
frankly forward. Young men in Ohio then seldom removed their hats to
men, and rarely to women; and the act, gracefully done as it was, was
remarked by the lawyer.
"General Ford, I believe?" said the youth.
"Yes; will you walk in?"
"I am Barton Ridgeley," said the young man, stepping in; "usually
"A brother of Major Ridgeley?"
"Yes; though I am thought not to be much like him."
"The Major is a warm friend of mine," said the General, "and I should
be glad to serve you."
"Thank you, General; I feel awkward over my errand here," hesitating;
"I wanted to see a lawyer in his office, with his books and papers,
and be permitted to look, especially at his books."
"You are entirely welcome. I am not much of a lawyer, and have but a
few books, but nothing would give me more pleasure than to have you
"I may annoy you."
"Not at all. I've not much to do. Take a seat."
Bart did so. He found the General, whom he had only seen at a distance
on muster days, a man of the ordinary height, with heavy shoulders,
with a little stoop in them, a very fine head and face, and a clear,
strong, grayish, hazel eye; and, on the whole, striking in his
appearance. There were files of leading newspapers, the _National
Intelligencer, Ohio State Journal, Courier and Inquirer_, etc. These
did not so much attract the young man's attention; but, approaching a
large book-case, filled compactly with dull yellow books, uniform in
their dingy, leathery appearance, he asked: "Are these law-books?"
"Yes, those are law-books."
"And these, then, are the occult cabalistical books, full of darkness
and quirks and queer terms, in which is hidden away, somewhere, a rule
or twist or turn that will help the wrong side of every case?"
"So people seem to think," said the General, smiling.
"Does a student have to read all of these?"
"Oh, no, not to exceed a dozen or fourteen."
"A-h-h-h! not more than that? Will you show me some of them?"
"Certainly. There, this is Blackstone, four volumes, which covers
the whole field of the law; all the other elementary writers are only
amplifications of the various titles or heads of Blackstone."
"Indeed! only four volumes! Can one be a lawyer by reading
"A thorough mastery of it is an admirable foundation of a good
"How long is it expected that an ordinary dullard would require to
"Some students do it in four months. I have known one or two to do it
in three. They oftener require six, and some a year."
Bart could hardly repress his astonishment. "Four months! a month to
one of these books!" running them over. "They have some notes, I see;
but, General, a man should commit it to memory in that time!"
The General smiled.
"This is an English work; is there an American which answers to
"Yes, Kent's Commentaries, four volumes, which many prefer. I have
not got it. Also Swift's work, in two volumes, which does not stand
so high. Judge Cowan, of New York, has also written a book of some
"Shall I annoy you if I sit down and read Blackstone a little?"
"Not at all."
He read the title-page, glanced at the American preface, etc., and
then plunged in promiscuously. "It has less Latin than I expected. Is
it good classical Latin?"
"It is law Latin, and most of it would have puzzled Cicero and Virgil,
I fear. Are you a Latin scholar?"
"I'm not a scholar at all. I've been an idler, generally, and have
picked up only a few phrases of Latin. I've a brother, a student with
Giddings & Wade, at Jefferson, who would have told me all I want to
know, but I had a fancy to find it out first hand."
"Exactly;" and the General thought he looked like a youth who would
not take things second-hand. "They are able lawyers, and it is said
Giddings will retire from the bar and run for Congress. It is thought
that Mr. Whittlesey will resign, and make an opening."
Bart thought that the General spoke of this with interest, and he made
another dab at Blackstone. He then wandered off to a small but select
case of miscellaneous books. "Adam Smith!" he said, with animation; "I
never saw that before. How interesting it must be to get back to the
beginning of things. And here is Junius, whom I have only read about!
and Hume! and Irving! and Scott's Novels! Oh dear, oh dear! General,
what a happy man you must be, with all these about you, and these
newspapers, to come and go between you and the outside world."
"Oh! I don't know. I have but few books, compared with real libraries,
and yet I must say I have more than I make useful."
Bart plunged into Ivanhoe for a moment, and then laid it down with a
The General, who found much in the frank enthusiasm of Bart to attract
him, asked him many questions about himself, surroundings, etc., all
of which were answered with a modest frankness, that won much on the
open, manly nature of Ford.
Bart said he most of all wanted to study law, but he did not know how
to accomplish it. He was without means, and wanted to remain with his
mother, and he wanted only to look at the books, and learn a little
about what he would have to do, the time, etc. The General said "the
laws of Ohio required two years' study, before admission, which would
be upon examination before the Supreme Court, or by a committee of
lawyers appointed for that purpose; lawyers who received students
usually charged fifty or sixty dollars per year for use of books and
instruction, the last of which often did not amount to much."
Bart looked wistfully at the books, and arose to go. The General
asked him to remain to dinner with such hearty cordiality, that Bart
assented, and the General took him into the house and introduced him
to Mrs. Ford, a tall, slender woman, of fine figure, with striking
features, and really handsome; of very kindly manners, and full of
genuine good womanly qualities, who believed in her husband, and was
full of ambition for him.
The quiet, easy manners, and frank, sparkling conversation of Bart,
won her good-will at once.
"Was he acquainted with Judge Markham's people?"
"Mrs. Markham is one of the most superior and accomplished women I
ever met," said Mrs. Ford. Of course he was acquainted with Julia, who
was thought to be the belle of all that region?
Barton was slightly acquainted with her, and thought her very
beautiful. His acquaintance with young ladies of her position was
very limited, but he could believe that few superiors of hers could be
found anywhere, etc.
Mrs. Ford presumed that a great many young men had their eyes on her,
and it would be a matter of interest to see where her choice would
It was some satisfaction to Bart to feel that he could hear this point
referred to without any but the same pain and bruise of heart that any
thought of her occasioned.
After dinner, General Ford said to Bart that if he really wished to
enter upon the study of the law, he would do what he could for him;
that he would permit him to take home such books as he could spare,
and when he had read one he would examine him upon it, and give him
This was more than had entered Bart's mind; and so unaccustomed was he
to receiving favors, that the sensations of gratitude were new to him,
and he hardly expressed them satisfactorily to himself.
His new tutor had taken a real liking to him; he may have remembered
that the Major was one of the rising young men in the south-west part
of the county, whom he liked also. He called Barton's attention to the
chapters of Blackstone that would demand his more careful reading, and
they parted well pleased with each other.
Bart pushed off across the fields in a right line for home, with the
priceless book in his hand; light came to him, and opportunity. Lord!
how his heart and soul and brain arose and went out to meet them! As
the branches of the young forest-tree that springs up by a river-side
shoot out, rank, and strong, and full, to the beautiful light and air,
and so, too, as the tree grows one-sided and disfigured, the danger is
that this embodiment of young force and energy may develop one-sided.
The poetic, upward tendency of his nature will help him, and his
devotion to his mother will hold him unwarped, while the struggle
with a great, pure, and utterly hopeless passion shall at least make
a sacred desert of his heart, where no unhallowed thought shall take
root. His was eminently a nature to be strengthened and purified by
But he had the law in his hands. No matter how gnarled, warped or
obscure were the paths to its lurking-places, he would find them all
out, and pluck out all its meanings, and make its soul his own. He had
already learned from his brother the fallacy of the vulgar judgment of
the law, and he knew enough of history to know that some of the wisest
and greatest of men were eminent lawyers, and he thought nothing of
the moral dangers of the law as a profession. He had never been even
in a magistrate's court, but he had heard the legends and traditions
of the advocates; had read that eminent fiction, Wirt's Life of
Patrick Henry, and a volume of Charles Phillips's speeches, and had
felt that strong inner going forth of the soul that yearned to find
utterance in oversweeping speech.
Several times on his way home he stopped to read, and only suspended
his studies at the approach of evening, which found him east of the
pond, lying across his direct route, and which he found the means of
Blackstone he took in earnest, and smiled to find nothing that he did
not seem to comprehend, and often went back, fearing that the seeming
might not be the real meaning.
At the end of a week he returned to his kind friend, the General,
not without misgivings as to the result of his work. He found him at
leisure in the afternoon, and was received with much kindness.
"Well, how goes Blackstone?"
"Indeed I don't know; and I am anxious, if you have leisure, to find
The General took the book, and turning to the definition of law, and
the statement of a few elementary principles, found that they were
thoroughly understood. Turning on, he paused with his finger in the
"What do you think of the English Constitution?"
Bart looked a little puzzled.
"The English government seems to be an admirable structure--on paper;
but as to the principles that lie below it, or around it, that
govern and control its workings, and from which it can't depart, I am
"Yes, a good many are; but then there is, as you know, a great
unwritten English Constitution--certain great fixed principles which
from time to time have been observed, through many ages, until their
observance has become a law, from which the government cannot depart,
and they take the form of maxims and rules."
"I think I understand what you mean; but to me everything is in
cloud-land, vague and shifting, and the fact that nobody has ever
attempted to put in writing these principles, or even to enumerate
them, leads one to doubt whether really there are such things. When
king, lords and commons are, in theory and practice, absolutely
omnipotent, I can't comprehend how there can be any other
constitution. When they enact a law, nobody can question it, nobody
can be heard against it; no court can pronounce it unconstitutional.
What may have been thought to be unconstitutional they can declare
to be law, and that ends it. So they can annihilate any one of the
so-called constitutional maxims. When a party in power wants to do a
thing, it is constitutional; when a minister or great noble is to be
got rid of, he is impeached for a violation of the constitution, and
"Well," said the General, smiling, "but this, for instance: the great
palladium of British liberty, taxation, must be accompanied with
"Yes; that, if adhered to, would protect property and its owners;
but then it never has been carried out, even in England, while the
non-taxpayer is wholly out of its reach; and my recollection is, that
the constitutional violation of this palladium of the Constitution by
king, lords and commons, produced a lively commotion, some sixty-odd
"Yes, I've heard of that; but the attempt to tax the colonies was
clearly unconstitutional; they were without representation in the
Parliament that enacted the law."
"But then, General, you are to remember that, according to Blackstone,
Parliament was and is, by the English Constitution, omnipotent. The
fact is, we took one part of the constitution, and George the other;
we kept our part, and all our land, and George maintained his, on his
island, strong as ever; and yet there, property-owners always have
been and always will be taxed, who do not vote. I fear that it will be
found that all the other maxims have from time to time suffered in the
"You must admit, however," said the General, "that the maxims in favor
of personal freedom have usually been adhered to in England proper."
"Yes, the sturdy elements of the natural constitution of the English
people have vindicated their liberty against all constitutional
violations of it; and while I cordially detest them, one and all,
there isn't another nation in Europe that I am willing to be descended
"I fear that is the common sentiment among our people," said the
General. "And so you think the world-famous British Constitution
may be written in one condensed sentence--the old English
formula--Parliament is omnipotent."
"Yes, just that. Parliament is the constitution; everything else is
Without expressing any opinion, the General resumed, and turning at
hop, skip and jump, he found that Bart happened to be at home wherever
he alighted. He finally turned to the last page, and asked questions
with the same result, closing the book with:
"Well, what else have you been doing this week?"
"Not much; I've worked a little, dabbled with geometry some, read
Gibbon a little, newspapers less, run some in the woods, and fooled
away some of my time," answered Bart, with a self-condemning air.
"Have you slept any?"
"Oh, dear!" said the General, laughing good-humoredly, and then
looking grave, "this will never do--never!"
"Well, General," said Bart, crestfallen, "I've only had the book a
week, and although I don't memorize easily, I believe I can commit the
whole before a month is out, except the notes."
"Oh, my dear boy, it isn't that! I don't know but there is a man in
the world who, without having seen a law book before, has taken up and
mastered the first volume of Blackstone in a week, but I never heard
of him. What will never do is--it will not do for you to go on in this
way; you would read up a library in a year, if you lived, but will die
in six months, at this rate."
With tears in his eyes, Bart said: "Do not fear me, General; I am
strong and healthy; besides, there are a good many things worse than
"I am serious," said the General. "No mortal can stand such work
"Well, General, I must work while the fit is on; I am thought to be
incapable of keeping to any one thing long."
"How old are you?"
"In my twenty-second year."
"Have you ever practised speaking in public?"
"I am thought to make sharp and rough answers to folks, quite too
much, I believe," answered Bart, laughing; "but, save in a debating
school, where I was ruled out for creating disorder, I've never tried
"You will grow more thoughtful as you grow older," said the General.
"If I do," said Bart, "I know those who think I can't grow old fast
The General gave him the second volume of Blackstone, with the
injunction to be two weeks with it.
"Suppose I finish it in a week?"
"You must not; but if you do, bring it back, and take a scolding."
"Certainly," said Bart.
The General asked him to go in to tea. Bart thought that would not do,
and excused himself.
* * * * *
The end of another week found Bart at the end of the second volume,
and also at General Ford's office. The General was away; but he found
an opportunity further to cultivate the acquaintance of Mrs. Ford, who
introduced him to several of her circle of acquaintance, and permitted
him to take the third volume of Blackstone.
The work was finished with the fourth week, to General Ford's
satisfaction, and Bart was then set to try his teeth on Buller's "Nisi
Prius," made up of the most condensed of all possible abstracts of
intricate cases, stated in the fewest possible words, and those of old
legal significance, the whole case often not occupying more than four
or five lines.
The cases, as there stated, convey no shadow of an idea to the
unlearned mind. What a tussle poor Bart had with them! How often he
turned them over, and bit at and hammered them, before they could be
made to reveal themselves.
The General looked grim when he handed him the book, and said that he
did so by the advice of Judge Hitchcock. He also loaned him Adam Smith
and Junius, with permission to take any books from his library during
the winter, and they parted--the General to go to his duties in the
Legislature, and Barton to work his way on through the winter and into
The devotion of Bart to his books took him wholly from association
with others. He wrote occasionally to Henry, saying little of what he
was doing, and going rarely to the post-office, and never elsewhere.
He developed more his care of his mother, and a protecting tenderness
to his younger brothers.
Kate Fisher's little party came and went, without Bart's attendance.
The Major was spreading himself out in building houses, clearing land,
and unconsciously preparing the way to a smash-up; and the immediate
care of the family devolved more and more upon the younger brother.
THE YOUNG IDEA SHOOTS.
There was a region south, on the State road, partly in the townships
of Auburn and Mantua, that, like "the woods," long remained a
wilderness, and was known as the "Mantua Woods." Within the last year
or two, the whole of it had been sold and settled, with the average of
new settlers, strong, plain, simple people, with a sprinkling of the
rough, and a little element of the dangerous.
They had built there a neat frame school-house, just on the banks
of Bridge Creek, and were fully bent on availing themselves of the
benefits of the Ohio Common School Fund and laws.
Here, on one bleak, late November Monday morning, in front of the
new school-house, stood Bart Ridgeley, who appeared then and there
pursuant to a stipulation made with him, to keep their first school.
He undertook it with great doubt of his ability to instruct the
pupils, but with none of his capacity to manage them. He stood
surrounded by some forty young specimens of both sexes and all
ages--from rough, stalwart young men, bold and fearless in eye and
bearing, down to urchins of five. One-half were girls, and among them
several well-grown lasses, rustic and sweet.
There had also come up seven or eight of the principal patrons, to
see the young school-master and learn of the prospects. They were
evidently disappointed, and wondered what "Morey" could be thinking of
to hire that pale, green boy, with his neat dress and gloves, to come
down there. Grid Bingham or John Craft would throw him out of the
window in a week. Finally, Jo Keys did not hesitate to recommend him
to go home; while Canfield, who knew his brother Morris, thought he
had better try the school.
Bart was surprised and indignant. He cut the matter very short.
"Gentlemen," he said quietly, but most decidedly, "I came down here to
keep your school, and I shall certainly do it," with a little nod
of his head to Keys. "I shall be glad to see you at almost any other
time, but just now I am engaged." The decided way in which he put an
end to the interview was not without its effect.
He called the scholars in, and began. They brought every sort of
reading-book, from the Bible, English Reader, American Preceptor,
Columbian Orator, Third Part, etc., to a New England Primer. But
beyond reading, and spelling, and writing, he had only arithmetic,
grammar and geography. On the whole, he got off well, and before the
end of the first week was on good terms, apparently, with his whole
school, with one or two exceptions; and so on through the second,
which closed on Friday, and Bart turned gladly and eagerly toward
home, to his mother and brothers.
The close of that week had been a little under a cloud, which left
just a nameless shadow over the commencement of the third, and Bart
began it with an uneasy feeling.
Bingham, a short, stout, compact young ruffian, of twenty-two or
twenty-three, not quite as tall as Bart, but a third more in weight,
and who had an ugly reputation as a quarrelsome fellow of many fights,
had at first treated Bart with good-natured toleration, and said he
would let him go on awhile. With him consorted John Craft, a chap
of about his age, but of better reputation. Bingham had broken up a
school the winter before, just below in Mantua, and was from the
first an object of dread to parents in the new district. He was a
dull scholar, and his blunders had exposed him to ridicule, which the
teacher could not always repress. He left the school, on that Friday,
moody and sullen, and came back on Monday full of mischief.
Not a word was said, that reached Bart's ears, but the young women
had a scared look, and an ominous dread seemed to brood over the
school-room. Monday and Tuesday came and went, as did the scholars,
and also Wednesday forenoon.
The room was arranged with three rows of desks on two sides, and one
on the third. Behind these sat the large scholars, with Grid, near the
door. When he called the scholars in, after the recess, Bart quietly
locked the outside door, and put the key in his pocket. He was cool,
collected, and on the alert.
The first class began to read, each rising while reading, and then
sitting down. Bart had observed that Bingham sat with his book closed,
and wholly inattentive to the exercise, and quietly placed himself
within a few feet of his desk.
As it came Bingham's turn, he sat with an assumed look of swaggering
indifference. "Mr. Bingham," said Bart very quietly, "will you read?"
"I'm not goin' to read for any God damned----" the sentence was never
finished, though Grid was; yet just how, nobody who saw it could quite
tell. Something cracked, and Grid and his desk went sprawling into the
middle of the floor. A hand came upon his collar as the last word
was uttered. It was so sudden that he only seized his desk, which was
taken from its fastening at the bottom as if it were pasteboard,
and went in ruins with its occupant. As he struck, half stunned and
surprised, he arose partly to his feet, and received on the side of
his head a full blow from the fist of Bart.
Craft, who had been amazed at the suddenness of the catastrophe, and
who was to have shared in the fight, if necessary, arose hesitatingly
just as Grid received his _quietus_. Bart turned upon him with his
white, galvanized face, and watery, flashing eyes, "Sit down, John
Craft," in a voice that tore him like a rasp on his spine, and John
sat down. During this time, and until now, no other sound was heard
in the room; now a half sob, with suppressed cries, broke from the
terrified girls and children. "Hush! hush! not a word!" said the still
excited master; "it is over, and nobody much hurt." Bingham now began
to rise, and Bart approached him: "Wait a moment, Mr. Bingham," he
said, and, unlocking the outside door: "There! now take your books and
leave, and don't let me find you about this school-house so long as
I remain--go!" and the humbled bully sullenly picked up his small
property and went.
"Mr. Craft," said Bart, approaching that cowed and trembling youth,
"you and I can get along. I don't want to part with you if you will
remain with me. I will excuse you from school this afternoon, and you
can come back in the morning, and that may be the last of it. I will
not humiliate you and myself with any punishment." There was a
tremor in Bart's voice, and a softness in his face. John arose: "Mr.
Ridgeley, I don't know how I came to--I am very sorry--I want to stay
"All right, John, we will shake hands on it." And they did.
"My poor, poor children!" said Bart, going up to the younger ones, who
had huddled into the farthest corner and clambered on to the desks.
"My poor scared little things, it is all over now, and we are all so
glad and happy, aren't we?" and he took up some of the smallest in his
arms and kissed them, and the still frightened, but glad and rejoicing
young women, looked as if they would be willing to have that passed
round. When they were pacified, and resumed their places, Charley
Smith gathered up the boards and parts of the disabled desk, and Bart,
with a few kind words to the older scholars, resumed the exercises of
Scenes of violence were rare, even in that rude day, among that
people; the sensibilities of the children were deeply wounded, and
none of them were in a fitting condition to profit by their exercises,
which were barely gone through with, and they were early dismissed to
their homes, with the marvellous tale of the afternoon's events.
Bart was in the habit of remaining to write up the copies, and place
everything in order before he left. The young men and older maidens
lingered at the door, and then returned in a body, to say how glad
they were that it had ended as it did. They knew something would
happen, and they were so glad, and then they shook hands with him, and
went hurrying home.
When they left, Bart locked the door, and, throwing himself into
the chair by his table, laid his head down and burst into an
uncontrollable flood of tears;--but he was a man now, and tears only
choked and suffocated him. He was ashamed of himself for his weakness,
and bathing his eyes, walked about the school-room to regain his
composure. Every particle of anger left his bosom before Bingham left
the house, and now he was fully under the influence of the melancholy
part of his nature. Never before, even in childish anger, had he
touched a human being with violence, and now he had exerted his
strength, and had grappled with and struck a fellow-man in a brute
struggle for animal mastery; he felt humiliated and abased. That the
fellow's nature was low, and that he was compelled to act as he had
done, was little comfort to him. He was glad that he decided not to
punish or expel John. Darkness came, and he was aroused by a noise at
the door. He unlocked it, and found Canfield and Morey and Smith.
"Hullo, Ridgeley!" exclaimed the former. "Good God! and so you had
a pitched battle, and licked that bully before he had time to begin;
give me your hand! Who would have thought it?"
"I did," said Morey. "I knowed he'd do it. What will Jo Keys say now,
I wonder?" And the party went inside, and wondered over the wrecked
desk, and asked all about it. And then came in the stalwart Jo
himself, celebrated for his strength.
"Wal, wal, wal! if this don't beat all natur, I give it up! What are
you made of, young man, all spring and whalebone? I'd a bet he would
'a cleaned out a school-house full o' such dainty book chaps. I
give it up. Let me feel o' you," taking Bart good-naturedly by the
shoulder. "You'll do, by----. My Valdy said that when Grid gathered
himself up the first time, he went heels over head, clear to the
And so the good-natured athlete went over with it all, with a huge
relish for the smallest detail, and others came in, until nearly all
the male patrons of the school had assembled; and Bart informally, but
with hearty unanimity, was declared the greatest school-master of his
day; they quoted all the similar instances within the range of memory
or legend, and this achievement was pronounced the greatest. They were
proud of him, and of the exploit, and of themselves that they had him.
Morey, who had taken him because he could find no other, blazed
up into a man of fine discernment; and Jo nearly killed him with
approving slaps on his feeble back. Indeed, his apologies for what he
had said were too striking.
Life in all new communities is run mainly on muscle, and whoever
exhibits skill and bravery in its rough encounters, peaceful or
warlike, always commands a premium. The people among whom Bart lived
had not passed beyond the discipline of brute force, and he shared
the usual fortune of heroes of this sort, of having his powers and
achievements exaggerated, even by those under whose eyes he had acted.
A rumor reached Markham's and Parker's, from which it spread, that
Bart's school had arisen against him, and the first version was that
he was killed, or very dangerously wounded; that he defended himself
with desperation, and killed one or two, but was finally overcome;
that the neighborhood was divided and in arms, and the school-house
had been burned. But the stage came in soon after, and the driver
declared that he had seen Grid Bingham, whom he knew, brought out
dead, that John Craft was badly hurt, and one or two more, and that
Bart, who escaped without injury, would be arrested for murder. It was
finally said that he would not be arrested, but that Grid was either
dead or dying; that he headed four or five of the older boys, and
they were whipped out by Bart single-handed, who locked the door, and
pitched in, etc.
The rumor produced a deep sensation in Newbury; and, whilst it was
thought that Bart had been rash, and undoubtedly in fault, yet he had
behaved handsomely. When it was ascertained that he was victor, it was
generally thought that he was a credit to the place, which was very
natural and proper, considering that he had never before been thought
to be a credit to anything anywhere.
It was called a house-warming, although the proprietor had not taken
possession of the house with his family. The ball-room and most of
the rooms were complete, and the building was, on the whole, in a
good condition to receive a large company. The Major was the presiding
genius of the festivities; and while the affair was in a way informal,
and an assemblage of friends and neighbors of the owner, still he had
made a judicious use of his authority, and had invited a good many
rather prominent people from a distance. The evening of the occasion
saw not only a numerous assemblage, but one in which the highest
grades of society were fully represented.
As it was not strictly a ball, there was not the least impropriety in
the straightest church-members--and they were strict, then--attending
it; and they did. The sleighing was fine, and, as the usage was,
the guests came early, and went early--the next morning. The barns,
stables and neighboring houses were freely offered, and an efficient
corps of attendants were on hand, while the absence of public-houses
in the immediate neighborhood relieved the occasion of the presence
of the unbidden rough element that would otherwise have volunteered an
The Markhams were there, with Julia, and the bevy of beautiful girls
we saw with her at the store; Mrs. Ford from Burton, with some of her
set; two or three from Chardon; the Harmons from Mantua; some of
the Kings from Ravenna; two or three Perkinses from Warren, and many
others. A rather showy young Mr. Greer, a gentleman of leisure, and
who floated about quite extensively, knew everybody, and seemed on
pleasant terms with them all, was among the guests.
The essential elements of pleasure and enjoyment--high and gay
spirits, good-nature, with a desire to please and be pleased, where
everybody was at their best, and where was a large infusion of good
breeding--were present, and a general good time was the logical
There was a plenty of good music, and the younger part of the company
put it to immediate and constant use. The style of dancing was that of
the mediaeval time, between the stately and solemn of the older, and
the easy, gliding, insipid of the present; and one which required, on
the part of the gentlemen, lightness and activity, rather than grace,
and allowed them great license in the matter of fancy steps. Two long
ranks contra-faced, and hence contra dance--degenerated to country
dance--was the prevailing figure; the leading couple commencing and
dancing down with every other couple, until in turn each on the floor
had thus gone through.
The cotillon, with its uniform step and more graceful style, had been
already introduced by instructors, who had found short engagements
under the severe reprobation of the Orthodox churches; but the waltz
was unknown, except in name, and the polka, schottische, etc., had
then never been mentioned on the Reserve.
The young people early took possession of the dancing-hall, where,
surrounded by the elders, a quick succession of Money Musk, Opera
Reel, Chorus Jig, etc., interspersed sparingly with cotillons,
evidenced the relish with which young spirits and light hearts enjoy
the exercises of the ball-room.
Julia Markham was the conceded belle, beautiful and elegant in form
and style, faultless in dress and manner, brilliant with the vivacity
of healthy girlhood. Next to her, undoubtedly, was Miss Walters, with
whom ranked several elegant girls from abroad.
And of the young people here may be remarked what is usually true in
all country places, that there were about three cultivated and refined
girls to one young man of corresponding accomplishments.
As the ball went forward, the elders--and the elders did not dance in
the young Ohio in those days, rarely or never--gathered into various
groups, discussing the dancers and various kindred topics, and the
little odds and ends of graceful "they says" that append themselves to
the persons of those at all noticeable.
Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Markham were the centre of the principal of these.
They were really good friends, and liked each other. Their husbands
were friends, and possible rivals, and watched each other. Both were
ambitious, and lived too near each other.
"Who is Miss Walters?" Mrs. Ford asked.
"She is from Pittsburgh. Her brother is in New Orleans, and she
remains with the Fishers, relatives of hers, till he returns."
"She is very elegant."
"She is indeed, and she and Julia are great friends."
"Who is that dancing with Julia?"
"A Mr. Thorndyke. He is of a Boston family, on a visit to his uncle in
Thorndyke. Mr. Markham knew them, and he came up to call on us."
"He dances a little languidly, I think."
"He feels a little out of place in this mixed company, I presume. His
notions are high Boston."
"How does that suit Julia?"
"It amuses her. He was telling her how this and that is done in
Boston, and she in return told him how we do not do the same things
here, and claimed that our way is the best."
"Here comes Major Ridgeley. He seems much at home in a ball-room."
"Yes, he is one of those ready men, who always appear best in a
He saw and made his way to them; inquired about the General, spoke
of his reply to Byington, complimented the dancing of Julia, inquired
about her partner, and rattled on about several things.
"Will your brother Barton be here this evening?" asked Mrs. Ford.
"I don't know; he thought he would not," was the reply. "He don't go
out at all, lately."
"What an awful time he had with that Bingham!" said Mrs. Ford. "They
say he has broken up two or three schools, and was a powerful and
dangerous man, twenty-five or six years old. I would really like to
see Barton. He is quite a lion."
"Bart is sensitive about it," answered the Major, "and don't speak
of it. Why, I was on my way up from Ravenna, the next day after it
happened, and called at his school-house for half an hour; the desk
had not been put up then, and I asked him what had happened to it, and
he said the boys had torn it down in a scuffle. He never said a word
of the fracas to me, and I only heard of it when I got up to Parker's.
There I found young Johnson, who had just come from there."
"Why, how you talk! What is the reason for that, do you suppose?"
"I don't know. He was at home a few days after, and seemed hurt
and sad over it; and when I asked him how many innocents he had
slaughtered since, he said one in two days, and at that rate they
would just last him through."
"It is funny," said Mrs. Ford.
"As I have observed, Barton is not much inclined to talk about what he
does," said Mrs. Markham; "and, do you know, Major, he has not given
me a chance to speak to him since his return."
"He thinks, possibly, that he is under a cloud," answered the Major.
"He chooses to think so, then," said Mrs. Markham; and the music
closed, and the dancers looked for seats, and the Major went away to
meet an engagement for the next dance.
A little commotion about the door--a little mob of young men and
boys--and a little spreading buzz and whisper--some hand-shakings--two
or three introductions--then another buzz--and Bart made his way
forward, with an air of being annoyed and bored and pushed forward
as if to escape. He was under the inspiration of one of those sudden
impulses upon which he acted, so sudden, often, as to seem not the
result of mental process.
He discovered Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Markham, with Julia, Miss Walters,
and several others, about them, whom he at once approached with the
modest assurance of a thorough-bred gentleman, safe in the certainty
of a gracious reception, and conscious of power to please. A happy
word to the two or three who made way for him, and he stood bowing and
smiling, and turning and bowing to each with the nice discriminating
tact that rendered to all their due.
Mrs. Ford graciously extended her hand, which he took, and bowed very
low over; she was nearest him. Mrs. Markham, in a pleased surprise,
gave him hers, and its reception was, to her nice perception, even
more profoundly acknowledged. To Miss Markham and Miss Walters
precisely the same, with a little of the chivalrous devotion of a
knight to acknowledged beauty.
"The fall and _winter_ style prevails, I presume," he said, in gay
banter, as if anticipating that their gloved hands were not to be
"Your memory is good, Mr. Ridgeley," said Julia, with a little laugh
and a little flush.
"Forgetfulness is not my weakness," he replied.
"I was not aware you knew Mrs. Ford," said Mrs. Markham, observing the
little flutter in Julia's cheeks, and thinking there was a meaning in
"Mrs. Ford and General Ford," he answered with much warmth, "have
been so very, very kind to me, that I have presumed to claim her
acquaintance, even here; but then, they have only known me three
months," with affected despair.
"Well," said Mrs. Ford, "what of that?"
"I find you with those who have known me all my life," with a
deprecating look towards Mrs. Markham.
"Well, Mr. Ridgeley, you are not deserving of forbearance at my hands,
if I only knew of anything bad to say of you."
"What exquisite irony! May I be permitted to know which of my thousand
faults is now specially remembered against me?"
"You have not permitted me, until this moment, even to speak to you
since your return last summer."
"May I ask that you will permit that to stand with my other
misdemeanors until some rare fortune enables me to atone for all at
"And when will that be?"
In that blissful never,
When the Sundays come together,
When the sun and glorious weather
Wrap the earth in spring forever;
As in that past time olden,
Which poets call the golden."
"And so I have poetry, and inspire it myself--that is some
compensation, certainly," said Mrs. Markham, smiling.
"I fear my verses have deepened my offence," said Bart, with affected
Kate Fisher intervened here: "Mr. Ridgeley, I have more cause for
offence than even Mrs. Markham. Why didn't you come to my little
party? I made it on your account."
"The offence was great," he answered, "but then staying away was ample
punishment, as you must know."
"No, I don't know it. I know you weren't there, and your excuse was
merely a regret, which always means one don't want to go."
"Oh, Mrs. Ford!" said Bart, "see what your coming here, or my coming
here, exposes me to!"
"Have I heard the worst?"
"Well, you see, Mrs. Ford," said Kate, "that Mr. Ridgeley can waltz,
and so can Miss Walters, and I made a little party to see them waltz,
and he didn't come."
"That is grave. Will you leave it to me to pass judgment upon him?"
"And do you submit, Mr. Ridgeley?"
"She's so very kind to you," remarked Mrs. Markham.
"I do," said the young man, "and will religiously perform the
"Well, it won't be a religious exercise--you are to waltz with Miss
Walters, now and here."
A little clapping of little hands marked the righteousness of the
"Mrs. Ford," observed the culprit, "your judgment, as usual, falls
heaviest on the innocent. Miss Walters, it remains for you to say
whether this sentence shall be executed. If you will permit me the
honor, I shall undergo execution with an edifying resignation."
The smiling girl frankly placed her hand in his: "I should be sorry to
prevent justice," she said, which was also applauded.
Major Ridgeley was spoken to, and it was understood that the next
dance would be a waltz, which had never before been more than named
in a Yankee ball-room, on the Reserve; and it was anticipated with
curiosity, not unmixed with horror, by many.
The floor was cleared, a simple waltz air came from the band, and the
pleased Miss Walters, in the arms of Barton, was whirled out from her
mob of curious friends, on to and over the nearly vacant floor,
the centre of all eyes, few of which had witnessed such a spectacle
before. The music went on with its measured rise and fall, sweet and
simple, and youth and maiden possessed with it, seemed to abandon
themselves utterly to it, and were controlled and informed by it; with
one impulse, one motion, and one grace, each contributing an exact
proportion, they glided, circling; and while the maiden thus yielded
and was sustained, her attitude, so natural, graceful and womanly,
had nothing languishing, voluptuous or sensuous; a sweet, unconscious
girl, inspired by music and the poetry and grace of its controlling
power, in the dance. Miss Walters dearly loved to dance, and above all
to waltz. She had rarely met a partner who so exactly suited her step
and style, and who so helped the inspiration she was apt to feel.
Bart had had little practice as a waltzer, but natural grace, and the
presence of ladies, usually brought him to his best; and it was not in
nature, perhaps, that he should not receive some inspiration from the
beautiful girl, half given to his embrace, and wholly to his guidance.
So around and around through the hushed and admiring throng they went,
whirling, turning, advancing, retreating, rising and falling, swaying
and sinking, yet always in unison, and in rhythmic obedience to the
Sometimes the music rose loud and rapid, and then languished to almost
dying away; but whatever its movement or time, it was embodied and
realized by the beautiful pair, in their sweeping, graceful motions.
The maiden's face was wrapt with a sweet, joyous light in her
half-shut eyes; his, pale, but lit up and softened in the lamp-light,
seemed fairly beautiful, like a poet's.
"How beautiful!" "How exquisite!" from the ladies.
"What a dance for lovers!" said Mrs. Ford.
"They are lovers, are they not?" asked a lady from Warren.
"I think not," said Mrs. Markham, with a glance at Julia, who, never
withdrawing her eyes, stood with lips slightly apart, and her face
bright with unenvying admiration.
A little ripple--a murmur--and a decided clapping of hands around the
room, with other sounds from the crowd at the entrance, marked the
appreciation of the beautiful performance. The moment that this
reached Barton, he led his delighted partner towards her group of
friends, remarking: "Your admirers are sincere, Miss Walters, but too
demonstrative, I fear."
"Oh, I don't mind it," said the straightforward girl.
"And I have to thank you for your courtesy to me," he went on, "and
only hope that all my punishments may come in the same form."
"Mrs. Ford, is the judgment satisfied?"
"Satisfactory as far as you went, but then you did not serve out your
"Have consideration, I pray, for the minister of justice," bowing to
"She seemed rather to like it," said Mrs. Ford.
"Indeed I did!" and the young ladies gathered about to congratulate
her, and cast admiring glances at her partner.
"Mr. Ridgeley," said Mrs. Markham, "I was not aware that you were an
"You forget," Bart answered mockingly, "that I am travelled; and you
know my only aptitude is for the useless."
"I did not say that."
"You are too kind. I sometimes supply words to obvious thoughts."
"And sometimes to those that have no existence."
The floor filled again, and the music struck up. Standing, a moment
later, at a window, Julia saw a figure pass out, pause at the roadway,
turn and look up. The full glare of the lamps revealed the face of
Bart, from which the light had faded, and its beauty and spirit of
expression had departed. He gazed for an instant up at the brilliant
and joyous scene, where a moment before he had been a central and
applauded figure, and then, muffling his face in his cloak, he turned
He had not intended to go, and sat melancholy through the darkness of
the early night; but somehow, a hungry, intense longing came to him
to go and look for a moment upon the loveliness of Julia, as she would
stand open to the eyes of all, just for one moment, and then to go
away. He felt that he ought not to do it, but he went. He could not
When he reached the place, three miles away, he was annoyed by being
recognized and pointed at, and talked at, on account of his late
encounter with Grid.
"He ain't a powerful-lookin' chap." "I wouldn't be afeared o' him."
"He's a darned sight harder'n he looks," etc.
When he escaped into the ball-room, the impulse to go into the
immediate presence of Julia was followed, and ended by as sudden a
retreat. He had not known how utterly weak and helpless he was, and
felt angry with himself that he could ever wish for the presence of
one who had so scorned him. He was ashamed, also, that the music, the
dance, and gay joyance of the scene he had just left, had still such a
seductive charm for him, and he recorded a mental resolution to avoid
all similar allurements for the future. Having made this resolution,
and strong in his faith of keeping it, he merely turned to take final
leave, as he fell under the eyes of Julia, and without seeing her.
The night outside was cold, dark, and thick, with a pitiless snow,
that was rapidly filling the track along the highway. Bart turned,
without the remotest touch of self-pity, to face it, with a heart as
cold and dark as the night that swallowed him up. He felt that there
was not a heart left behind that would throb with a moment's pain for
him--that would miss him, or wonder at his departure; and he was sure
that he did not care.
Yet, with what a sweet, remonstrating, expostulating call the music
came after him, with its plaining at his desertion! Fainter and
sweeter it came, and died out with a wailing sob, as the night, with
its storm and darkness, blotted him out!
Mrs. Ford, who may have anticipated his attendance at the
supper-table, missed him. His late partner in the dance cast her eyes
inquiringly through the thronged rooms. She remarked to Julia that
she believed Mr. Ridgeley had left, and thought it very strange. Julia
said she presumed he had, and did not say what she thought.
Most of the elders left early; the young people danced the music and
themselves away, and the gray, belated dawn of the next day looked
coldly into the windows of a sacked, soiled, and silent house.
Bart devoted himself unselfishly and unsparingly to his school, to all
its duties and to all his scholars, and especially to the children
of the poor, and the backward pupils. He went early to the house, and
remained late. He was the tender, considerate, elder brother of the
scholars, and was astonished at his power to win regard, and maintain
order. Order maintained itself after one memorable occasion--one to
which he never referred, and of which he did not like to hear. It made
his school famous, and drew to it many visitors, and to himself no
little curiosity and attention.
He endeavored to carry on his law-reading; but beyond reviewing--and
not very thoroughly--Blackstone, he could do little. As usual, he was
homesick; and whenever a week was ended he left the school-house for
his mother's, and never returned until the following Monday morning.
His kind patrons noticed with surprise that he seemed sad and
depressed after the expulsion of Grid, and that this gloominess was
deepened about the time of Snow's ball.
Barton came to take a real pleasure in his school. Formed to love
everything, and without the power of hating, or of long retaining a
resentment, he became attached to his little flock, especially the
younger ones, and was loved in return by them, without reserve or
doubt. He did much to improve, not alone the minds of the older
pupils, but to soften and refine the manners of the young men under
his charge; while the young women, always inclined to idealize, found
how pleasant it was to receive little acts of gentlemanly attention
In the afternoon of a long, bright, March day--one of those wondrous
days, glorious above with sky and sun, and joyous with the first note
of the blue-bird--the little red school-house by the margin of the
maple-woods was filled with the pupils and their parents, assembled
for the last time. Bart, in a low voice, tremulous with emotion, bade
them all good-by, and most of them forever, and taking his little
valise, walked with a saddened heart back to his mother. This time he
had not failed, and he never was to fail again.
How many events and occurrences linked in an endless series unite to
form the sum-total of ordinary human life! Incident to it, they are
in fact all ordinary. If any appear extraordinary, it is because
they occur in the life of an extraordinary individual, or remarkable
consequences flow from them. Like all parts of human life, in and of
themselves they are always fragmentary: springing from what precedes
them, they have no beginning proper; causing and flowing into others,
they have no ending, in effect; and as the dramatic in actual life is
never framed with reference to the unities, so results are constantly
being produced and worked out by accidents, and the prominent events
often contribute nothing to any supposed final catastrophe. Strangers
interlope for a moment, and change destinies, coming out for a
day, from nothing, and going to nowhere, but marring and misshaping
No plot is to develop as this sketch of old-time life continues, and
incidents will be of value only as they tend to mould and develop
the character and powers of one, and little will be noticed save that
which concerns him. It is, perhaps, already apparent that he is very
impressible, that slight forces which would produce little effect on
different natures, are capable of changing his shape, will beat him
flat, roll him round, or convert him into a cube or triangle, and yet,
that certain strong, always acting forces will restore him, with more
or less of the mark or impress of the disturbing cause upon him. He
has a strong, tenacious nature, unstained with the semblance of a
vice. He forms quick resolutions, but can adhere to them. He is tender
to weakness, and fanciful to phantasy. His aptitude for sarcasm and
ridicule, unsparingly as it had been turned upon everybody, brought
upon him general dislike. His indecision and vacillation in adopting
and pursuing a scheme in life, lost him the confidence of his
acquaintances--ready to believe anything of one who had dealt them
so many sharp thrusts. He was sensitive to a fault, and a slight word
would have driven him forever from Julia Markham, and turned him back
upon himself, as a dissolving and transforming fire. Mentally, he was
quick as a flash, with a strong grasp, and a power of ready analysis;
and so little did his mental achievements cost him, that his
acquirements were doubted. He already paid the penalty of a nervous
and brilliant intellect--that of being adjudged not profound. Men
are always being deceived as to the real value of things, by their
We see this illustrated in the case of some grave and ponderous
weakling, who has nothing really in him, and yet who creaks, and
groans, and labors, and toils, to get under way, until our sympathy
with his painful effort leads us so to rejoice over his final delivery
that we have lost all power or disposition to weigh or estimate his
half-strangled, commonplace bantling, when it is finally born, and
we are rather inclined to wonder over it as a prodigy. No doubt the
generation of men who witnessed the mountain in labor, regarded
the sickly, hairy little mouse, finally brought forth, as a genuine
Great is mediocrity! It is the average world, and the majority
conspires to do it reverence. Genius, if such a thing there is, may be
appreciated by school-boys; the average grown world count it as of no
value. If a man has a brilliant intellect, let him bewail it on the
mountains, as the daughter of Jephtha did her virginity. If he has
wit, let him become Brutus.
Readiness and genius are apt to be arrogant; and, when joined with a
lively temper, with an ardent, impetuous nature, they render a young
man an object of dread, dislike, or worse. Bart had grave doubts
of his being a genius, but it had been abundantly manifest to his
sensitive perceptions that he was disliked; and he had in part arrived
at the probable cause, and was now very persistently endeavoring to
correct it by holding his tongue and temper.
Like all young men bent upon a pursuit where his success must depend
upon intellect, he was most anxious to ascertain the quality and
extent of his brain-power--a matter of which a young man can form
no proper idea. Later in life a man is informed by the estimate of
others, and can judge somewhat by what he has done. The youth has
done nothing. He has made no manifestation by which an observer can
determine; when he looks at himself, he can examine his head and face;
but the mind, turned in upon itself, with no mirror, weight, count or
measure, feels the hopelessness of the effort.
If some one would only tell him of his capacity and power, of his
mental weakness and deficiency, it would not, perhaps, change his
course, but might teach him how best to pursue it.
The long, cold winter was past; spring had come, and with it sugar
making, the carnival season, in the open air, among the trees.
The boys had the preparations for sugar making in an advanced stage. A
new camp had been selected on a dry slope, wood had been cut, the tubs
distributed, and they were waiting for Bart and a good day. Both came
together; and on the day following the close of his school, at an
early hour they hurried off to tap the trees.
Spring and gladness were in the air. The trill of the blue-bird was
a thrill; and the first song of the robin was full of lilac and apple
blossoms. The softened winds fell to zephyrs, and whispered strange
mysterious legends to the brown silent trees, and murmured lovingly
over the warming beds of the slumbering flowers. Young juices were
starting up under rough bark, and young blood and spirits throbbed in
the veins of the boys, and loud and repeated bursts of joyous voices
gushed with the fulness of the renewing power of the season.
The day, with its eager hope, strength and joyousness, filled Bart
to the eyes, and his spirit in exultation breaking from the unnatural
thrall that had for many months of darkness and anxious labor
overshadowed it, went with a bound of old buoyancy, and he started
with laughing, open brow, and springy step, over the spongy ground, to
the poetry of life in the woods.
That one day they tapped all the trees. The next, the kettles were
hung on the large crane, the immense logs were rolled up, the kettles
filled with sap, and the blue smoke of the first fire went curling up
gracefully through the tree-tops. What an event, the first fire! Not