Part 9 out of 13
For certain purposes, literary productions through all the recorded
ages may be roughly divided into two classes. The first consisting of
only a score or two, perhaps less, of typical, primal, representative
works, different from any before, and embodying in themselves their
own main laws and reasons for being. Then the second class, books and
writings innumerable, incessant--to be briefly described as radiations
or offshoots, or more or less imitations of the first. The works of
the first class, as said, have their own laws, and may indeed be
described as making those laws, and amenable only to them. The sharp
warning of Margaret Fuller, unquell'd for thirty years, yet sounds in
the air: "It does not follow that because the United States print and
read more books, magazines, and newspapers than all the rest of the
world, that they really have, therefore, a literature."
OUR REAL CULMINATION
The final culmination of this vast and varied Republic will be the
production and perennial establishment of millions of comfortable city
homesteads and moderate-sized farms, healthy and independent, single
separate ownership, fee simple, life in them complete but cheap,
within reach of all. Exceptional wealth, splendor, countless
manufactures, excess of exports, immense capital and capitalists, the
five-dollar-a-day hotels well fill'd, artificial improvements,
even books, colleges, and the suffrage--all, in many respects, in
themselves, (hard as it is to say so, and sharp as a surgeon's lance,)
form, more or less, a sort of anti-democratic disease and monstrosity,
except as they contribute by curious indirections to that
culmination--seem to me mainly of value, or worth consideration, only
with reference to it.
There is a subtle something in the common earth, crops, cattle, air,
trees, &c., and in having to do at first hand with them, that forms
the only purifying and perennial element for individuals and for
society. I must confess I want to see the agricultural occupation of
America at first hand permanently broaden'd. Its gains are the only
ones on which God seems to smile. What others--what business, profit,
wealth, without a taint? What fortune else--what dollar--does
not stand for, and come from, more or less imposition, lying,
AN AMERICAN PROBLEM
One of the problems presented in America these times is, how to
combine one's duty and policy as a member of associations, societies,
brotherhoods or what not, and one's obligations to the State and
Nation, with essential freedom as an individual personality, without
which freedom a man cannot grow or expand, or be full, modern, heroic,
democratic, American. With all the necessities and benefits of
association, (and the world cannot get along without it,) the true
nobility and satisfaction of a man consist in his thinking and acting
for himself. The problem, I say, is to combine the two, so as not to
THE LAST COLLECTIVE COMPACTION
I like well our polyglot construction-stamp, and the retention
thereof, in the broad, the tolerating, the many-sided, the collective.
All nations here--a home for every race on earth. British, German,
Scandinavian, Spanish, French, Italian--papers published, plays acted,
speeches made, in all languages--on our shores the crowning resultant
of those distillations, decantations, compactions of humanity, that
have been going on, on trial, over the earth so long.
PIECES IN EARLY YOUTH
--Like dough; soft; yielding to pressure; pale----_Webster's
We are all docile dough-faces,
They knead us with the fist,
They, the dashing southern lords,
We labor as they list;
For them we speak--or hold our tongues,
For them we turn and twist.
We join them in their howl against
Free soil and "abolition,"
That firebrand--that assassin knife--
Which risk our land's condition,
And leave no peace of life to any
To put down "agitation," now,
We think the most judicious;
To damn all "northern fanatics,"
Those "traitors" black and vicious;
The "reg'lar party usages"
For us, and no "new issues."
Things have come to a pretty pass,
When a trifle small as this,
Moving and bartering nigger slaves,
Can open an abyss,
With jaws a-gape for "the two great parties;"
A pretty thought, I wis!
We know not where they're found.
Rights of the masses--progress!--bah!
Words that tickle and sound;
But claiming to rule o'er "practical men"
Is very different ground.
Beyond all such we know a term
Charming to ears and eyes,
With it we'll stab young Freedom,
And do it in disguise;
Speak soft, ye wily dough-faces--
That term is "compromise."
And what if children, growing up,
In future seasons read
The thing we do? and heart and tongue
Accurse us for the deed?
The future cannot touch us;
The present gain we heed.
Then, all together, dough-faces!
Let's stop the exciting clatter,
And pacify slave-breeding wrath
By yielding all the matter;
For otherwise, as sure as guns,
The Union it will shatter.
Besides, to tell the honest truth
(For us an innovation,)
Keeping in with the slave power
Is our personal salvation;
We've very little to expect
From t' other part of the nation.
Besides it's plain at Washington
Who likeliest wins the race,
What earthly chance has "free soil"
For any good fat place?
While many a daw has feather'd his nest,
By his creamy and meek dough-face.
Take heart, then, sweet companions,
Be steady, Scripture Dick!
Webster, Cooper, Walker,
To your allegiance stick!
With Brooks, and Briggs and Phoenix,
Stand up through thin and thick!
We do not ask a bold brave front;
We never try that game;
'Twould bring the storm upon our heads,
A huge mad storm of shame;
Evade it, brothers--"compromise"
Will answer just the same.
DEATH IN THE SCHOOL-ROOM (_A Fact_)
Ting-a-ling-ling-ling! went the little bell on the teacher's desk of
a village-school one morning, when the studies of the earlier part of
the day were about half completed. It was well understood that this
was a command for silence and attention; and when these had been
obtained, the master spoke. He was a low thick-set man, and his name
"Boys," said he, "I have had a complaint enter'd, that last night some
of you were stealing fruit from Mr. Nichols's garden. I rather think I
know the thief. Tim Barker, step up here, sir."
The one to whom he spoke came forward. He was a slight, fair-looking
boy of about thirteen; and his face had a laughing, good-humor'd
expression, which even the charge now preferr'd against him, and the
stern tone and threatening look of the teacher, had not entirely
dissipated. The countenance of the boy, however, was too unearthly
fair for health; it had, notwithstanding its fleshy, cheerful look, a
singular cast as if some inward disease, and that a fearful one,
were seated within. As the stripling stood before that place of
judgment--that place so often made the scene of heartless and coarse
brutality, of timid innocence confused, helpless child-hood outraged,
and gentle feelings crush' d--Lugare looked on him with a frown
which plainly told that he felt in no very pleasant mood. (Happily a
worthier and more philosophical system is proving to men that schools
can be better govern'd than by lashes and tears and sighs. We are
waxing toward that consummation when one of the old-fashion'd
school-masters, with his cowhide, his heavy birch-rod, and his many
ingenious methods of child-torture, will be gazed upon as a scorn'd
memento of an ignorant, cruel, and exploded doctrine. May propitious
gales speed that day!)
"Were you by Mr. Nichols's garden-fence last night?" said Lugare.
"Yes, sir," answer'd the boy, "I was."
"Well, sir, I'm glad to find you so ready with your confession. And
so you thought you could do a little robbing, and enjoy yourself in
a manner you ought to be ashamed to own, without being punish'd, did
"I have not been robbing," replied the boy quickly. His face was
suffused, whether with resentment or fright, it was difficult to tell.
"And I didn't do anything last night, that I am ashamed to own."
"No impudence!" exclaim'd the teacher, passionately, as he grasp'd a
long and heavy ratan: "give me none of your sharp speeches, or I'll
thrash you till you beg like a dog."
The youngster's face paled a little; his lip quiver'd, but he did not
"And pray, sir," continued Lugare, as the outward signs of wrath
disappear'd from his features; "what were you about the garden for?
Perhaps you only receiv'd the plunder, and had an accomplice to do the
more dangerous part of the job?"
"I went that way because it is on my road home. I was there again
afterwards to meet an acquaintance; and--and--But I did not go into
the garden, nor take anything away from it. I would not steal,--hardly
to save myself from starving."
"You had better have stuck to that last evening. You were seen, Tim
Barker, to come from under Mr. Nichols's garden-fence, a little
after nine o'clock, with a bag full of something or other over your
shoulders. The bag had every appearance of being filled with fruit,
and this morning the melon-beds are found to have been completely
clear'd. Now, sir, what was there in that bag?"
Like fire itself glow'd the face of the detected lad. He spoke not a
word. All the school had their eyes directed at him. The perspiration
ran down his white forehead like rain-drops.
"Speak, sir!" exclaimed Lugare, with a loud strike of his ratan on the
The boy look'd as though he would faint. But the unmerciful teacher,
confident of having brought to light a criminal, and exulting in
the idea of the severe chastisement he should now be justified in
inflicting, kept working himself up to a still greater and greater
degree of passion. In the meantime, the child seem'd hardly to know
what to do with himself. His tongue cleav'd to the roof of his mouth.
Either he was very much frighten'd, or he was actually unwell.
"Speak, I say!" again thunder'd Lugare; and his hand, grasping his
ratan, tower'd above his head in a very significant manner.
"I hardly can, sir," said the poor fellow faintly. His voice was husky
and thick. "I will tell you some--some other time. Please let me go to
my seat--I a'n't well."
"Oh yes; that's very likely;" and Mr. Lugare bulged out his nose and
cheeks with contempt. "Do you think to make me believe your lies? I've
found you out, sir, plainly enough; and I am satisfied that you are
as precious a little villain as there is in the State. But I will
postpone settling with you for an hour yet. I shall then call you up
again; and if you don't tell the whole truth then, I will give you
something that'll make you remember Mr. Nichols's melons for many a
month to come:--go to your seat."
Glad enough of the ungracious permission, and answering not a sound,
the child crept tremblingly to his bench. He felt very strangely,
dizzily--more as if he was in a dream than in real life; and laying
his arms on his desk, bow'd down his face between them. The pupils
turn'd to their accustom'd studies, for during the reign of Lugare in
the village-school, they had been so used to scenes of violence and
severe chastisement, that such things made but little interruption in
the tenor of their way.
Now, while the intervening hour is passing, we will clear up the
mystery of the bag, and of young Barker being under the garden fence
on the preceding night. The boy's mother was a widow, and they both
had to live in the very narrowest limits. His father had died when he
was six years old, and little Tim was left a sickly emaciated infant
whom no one expected to live many months. To the surprise of all,
however, the poor child kept alive, and seem'd to recover his health,
as he certainly did his size and good looks. This was owing to the
kind offices of an eminent physician who had a country-seat in the
neighborhood, and who had been interested in the widow's little
family. Tim, the physician said, might possibly outgrow his disease;
but everything was uncertain. It was a mysterious and baffling malady;
and it would not be wonderful if he should in some moment of apparent
health be suddenly taken away. The poor widow was at first in a
continual state of uneasiness; but several years had now pass'd, and
none of the impending evils had fallen upon the boy's head. His mother
seem'd to feel confident that he would live, and be a help and an
honor to her old age; and the two struggled on together, mutually
happy in each other, and enduring much of poverty and discomfort
without repining, each for the other's sake.
Tim's pleasant disposition had made him many friends in the village,
and among the rest a young fanner named Jones, who, with his elder
brother, work'd a large farm in the neighborhood on shares. Jones very
frequently made Tim a present of a bag of potatoes or corn, or some
garden vegetables, which he took from his own stock; but as his
partner was a parsimonious, high-tempered man, and had often said that
Tim was an idle fellow, and ought not to be help'd because he did not
work, Jones generally made his gifts in such a manner that no one knew
anything about them, except himself and the grateful objects of
his kindness. It might be, too, that the widow was both to have it
understood by the neighbors that she received food from anyone; for
there is often an excusable pride in people of her condition which
makes them shrink from being consider'd as objects of "charity" as
they would from the severest pains. On the night in question, Tim had
been told that Jones would send them a bag of potatoes, and the place
at which they were to be waiting for him was fixed at Mr. Nichols's
garden-fence. It was this bag that Tim had been seen staggering under,
and which caused the unlucky boy to be accused and convicted by
his teacher as a thief. That teacher was one little fitted for his
important and responsible office. Hasty to decide, and inflexibly
severe, he was the terror of the little world he ruled so
despotically. Punishment he seemed to delight in. Knowing little of
those sweet fountains which in children's breasts ever open quickly at
the call of gentleness and kind words, he was fear'd by all for
his sternness, and loved by none. I would that he were an isolated
instance in his profession.
The hour of grace had drawn to its close, and the time approach'd at
which it was usual for Lugare to give his school a joyfully-receiv'd
dismission. Now and then one of the scholars would direct a furtive
glance at Tim, sometimes in pity, sometimes in indifference or
inquiry. They knew that he would have no mercy shown him, and though
most of them loved him, whipping was too common there to exact much
sympathy. Every inquiring glance, however, remain'd unsatisfied, for
at the end of the hour, Tim remain'd with his face completely hidden,
and his head bow'd in his arms, precisely as he had lean'd himself
when he first went to his seat. Lugare look'd at the boy occasionally
with a scowl which seem'd to bode vengeance for his sullenness. At
length the last class had been heard, and the last lesson recited,
and Lugare seated himself behind his desk on the platform, with his
longest and stoutest ratan before him.
"Now, Barker," he said, "we'll settle that little business of yours.
Just step up here."
Tim did not move. The school-room was as still as the grave. Not a
sound was to be heard, except occasionally a long-drawn breath.
"Mind me, sir, or it will be the worse for you. Step up here, and take
off your jacket!"
The boy did not stir any more than if he had been of wood. Lugare
shook with passion. He sat still a minute, as if considering the best
way to wreak his vengeance. That minute, passed in death-like silence,
was a fearful one to some of the children, for their faces whiten'd
with fright. It seem'd, as it slowly dropp'd away, like the minute
which precedes the climax of an exquisitely-performed tragedy, when
some mighty master of the histrionic art is treading the stage, and
you and the multitude around you are waiting, with stretch'd nerves
and suspended breath, in expectation of the terrible catastrophe.
"Tim is asleep, sir," at length said one of the boys who sat near him.
Lugare, at this intelligence, allow'd his features to relax from their
expression of savage anger into a smile, but that smile look'd more
malignant if possible, than his former scowls. It might be that he
felt amused at the horror depicted on the faces of those about him; or
it might be that he was gloating in pleasure on the way in which he
intended to wake the slumberer.
"Asleep! are you, my young gentleman!" said he; "let us see if we
can't find something to tickle your eyes open. There's nothing like
making the best of a bad case, boys. Tim, here, is determin'd not to
be worried in his mind about a little flogging, for the thought of it
can't even keep the little scoundrel awake."
Lugare smiled again as he made the last observation. He grasp'd his
ratan firmly, and descended from his seat. With light and stealthy
steps he cross'd the room and stood by the unlucky sleeper. The boy
was still as unconscious of his impending punishment as ever. He might
be dreaming some golden dream of youth and pleasure; perhaps he was
far away in the world of fancy, seeing scenes, and feeling delights,
which cold reality never can bestow. Lugare lifted his ratan high over
his head, and with the true and expert aim which he had acquired by
long practice, brought it down on Tim's back with a force and whacking
sound which seem'd sufficient to wake a freezing man in his last
lethargy. Quick and fast, blow foliow'd blow. Without waiting to see
the effect of the first cut, the brutal wretch plied his instrument of
torture first on one side of the boy's back, and then on the other,
and only stopped at the end of two or three minutes from very
weariness. But still Tim show'd no signs of motion; and as Lugare,
provoked at his torpidity, jerk'd away one of the child's arms, on
which he had been leaning over the desk, his head dropp'd down on the
board with a dull sound, and his face lay turn'd up and exposed to
view. When Lugare saw it, he stood like one transfix'd by a basilisk.
His countenance turn'd to a leaden whiteness; the ratan dropp'd from
his grasp; and his eyes, stretch'd wide open, glared as at some
monstrous spectacle of horror and death. The sweat started in great
globules seemingly from every pore in his face; his skinny lips
contracted, and show'd his teeth; and when he at length stretch'd
forth his arm, and with the end of one of his fingers touch'd the
child's cheek, each limb quiver'd like the tongue of a snake; and his
strength seemed as though it would momentarily fail him. The boy was
dead. He had probably been so for some time, for his eyes were turn'd
up, and his body was quite cold. Death was in the school-room, and
Lugare had been flogging A CORPSE.
-_Democratic Review, August, 1841._
ONE WICKED IMPULSE
That section of Nassau street which runs into the great mart of New
York brokers and stock-jobbers, has for a long time been much occupied
by practitioners of the law. Tolerably well-known amid this class some
years since, was Adam Covert, a middle-aged man of rather limited
means, who, to tell the truth, gained more by trickery than he did
in the legitimate and honorable exercise of his profession. He was
a tall, bilious-faced widower; the father of two children; and had
lately been seeking to better his fortunes by a rich marriage. But
somehow or other his wooing did not seem to thrive well, and, with
perhaps one exception, the lawyer's prospects in the matrimonial way
were hopelessly gloomy.
Among the early clients of Mr. Covert had been a distant relative
named Marsh, who, dying somewhat suddenly, left his son and daughter,
and some little property, to the care of Covert, under a will drawn
out by that gentleman himself. At no time caught without his eyes
open, the cunning lawyer, aided by much sad confusion in the emergency
which had caused his services to be called for, and disguising his
object under a cloud of technicalities, inserted provisions in the
will, giving himself an almost arbitrary control over the property and
over those for whom it was designed. This control was even made to
extend beyond the time when the children would arrive at mature age.
The son, Philip, a spirited and high-temper'd fellow, had some time
since pass'd that age. Esther, the girl, a plain, and somewhat
devotional young woman, was in her nineteenth year.
Having such power over his wards, Covert did not scruple openly to use
his advantage, in pressing his claims as a suitor for Esther's hand.
Since the death of Marsh, the property he left, which had been in real
estate, and was to be divided equally between the brother and sister,
had risen to very considerable value; and Esther's share was to a man
in Covert's situation a prize very well worth seeking. All this time,
while really owning a respectable income, the young orphans often
felt the want of the smallest sum of money--and Esther, on Philip's
account, was more than once driven to various contrivances--the
pawn-shop, sales of her own little luxuries, and the like, to furnish
him with means.
Though she had frequently shown her guardian unequivocal evidence of
her aversion, Esther continued to suffer from his persecutions, until
one day he proceeded farther and was more pressing than usual. She
possess'd some of her brother's mettlesome temper, and gave him
an abrupt and most decided refusal. With dignity, she exposed the
baseness of his conduct, and forbade him ever again mentioning
marriage to her. He retorted bitterly, vaunted his hold on her and
Philip, and swore an oath that unless she became his wife, they should
both thenceforward become penniless. Losing his habitual self-control
in his exasperation, he even added insults such as woman never
receives from any one deserving the name of man, and at his own
convenience left the house. That day, Philip return'd to New York,
after an absence of several weeks on the business of a mercantile
house in whose employment he had lately engaged.
Toward the latter part of the same afternoon, Mr. Covert was sitting
in his office, in Nassau street, busily at work, when a knock at the
door announc'd a visitor, and directly afterward young Marsh enter'd
the room. His face exhibited a peculiar pallid appearance that did
not strike Covert at all agreeably, and he call'd his clerk from an
adjoining room, and gave him something to do at a desk near by.
"I wish to see you alone, Mr. Covert, if convenient," said the
"We can talk quite well enough where we are," answer'd the lawyer;
"indeed, I don't know that I have any leisure to talk at all, for just
now I am very much press'd with business."
"But I _must_ speak to you," rejoined Philip sternly, "at least I must
say one thing, and that is, Mr. Covert, that you are a villain!"
"Insolent!" exclaimed the lawyer, rising behind the table, and
pointing to the door. "Do you see that, sir? Let one minute longer
find you the other side, or your feet may reach the landing by quicker
method. Begone, sir!"
Such a threat was the more harsh to Philip, for he had rather
high-strung feelings of honor. He grew almost livid with suppress'd
"I will see you again very soon," said he, in a low but distinct
manner, his lips trembling as he spoke; and left the office.
The incidents of the rest of that pleasant summer day left little
impression on the young man's mind. He roam'd to and fro without any
object or destination. Along South street and by Whitehall, he watch'd
with curious eyes the movements of the shipping, and the loading
and unloading of cargoes; and listen'd to the merry heave-yo of
the sailors and stevedores. There are some minds upon which great
excitement produces the singular effect of uniting two utterly
inconsistent faculties--a sort of cold apathy, and a sharp
sensitiveness to all that is going on at the same time. Philip's was
one of this sort; he noticed the various differences in the apparel
of a gang of wharf-laborers--turn'd over in his brain whether they
receiv'd wages enough to keep them comfortable, and their families
also--and if they had families or not, which he tried to tell by their
looks. In such petty reflections the daylight passed away. And all the
while the master wish of Philip's thoughts was a desire to see the
lawyer Covert. For what purpose he himself was by no means clear.
Nightfall came at last. Still, however, the young man did not direct
his steps homeward. He felt more calm, however, and entering an eating
house, order'd something for his supper, which, when it was brought to
him, he merely tasted, and stroll'd forth again. There was a kind of
gnawing sensation of thirst within him yet, and as he pass'd a hotel,
he bethought him that one little glass of spirits would perhaps be
just the thing. He drank, and hour after hour wore away unconsciously;
he drank not one glass, but three or four, and strong glasses they
were to him, for he was habitually abstemious.
It had been a hot day and evening, and when Philip, at an advanced
period of the night, emerged from the bar-room into the street, he
found that a thunderstorm had just commenced. He resolutely walk'd on,
however, although at every step it grew more and more blustering.
The rain now pour'd down a cataract; the shops were all shut; few
of the street lamps were lighted; and there was little except the
frequent flashes of lightning to show him his way. When about half the
length of Chatham street, which lay in the direction he had to take,
the momentary fury of the tempest forced him to turn aside into a
sort of shelter form'd by the corners of the deep entrance to a Jew
pawnbroker's shop there. He had hardly drawn himself in as closely as
possible, when the lightning revealed to him that the opposite corner
of the nook was tenanted also.
"A sharp rain, this," said the other occupant, who simultaneously
The voice sounded to the young man's ears a note which almost made him
sober again. It was certainly the voice of Adam Covert. He made some
commonplace reply, and waited for another flash of lightning to show
him the stranger's face. It came, and he saw that his companion was
indeed his guardian.
Philip Marsh had drank deeply--(let us plead all that may be possible
to you, stern moralist.) Upon his mind came swarming, and he could not
drive them away, thoughts of all those insults his sister had told him
of, and the bitter words Covert had spoken to her; he reflected, too,
on the injuries Esther as well as himself had receiv'd, and were still
likely to receive, at the hands of that bold, bad man; how mean,
selfish, and unprincipled was his character--what base and cruel
advantages he had taken of many poor people, entangled in his power,
and of how much wrong and suffering he had been the author, and might
be again through future years. The very turmoil of the elements, the
harsh roll of the thunder, the vindictive beating of the rain, and the
fierce glare of the wild fluid that seem'd to riot in the ferocity of
the storm around him, kindled a strange sympathetic fury in the young
man's mind. Heaven itself (so deranged were his imaginations) appear'd
to have provided a fitting scene and time for a deed of retribution,
which to his disorder'd passion half wore the semblance of a divine
justice. He remember'd not the ready solution to be found in Covert's
pressure of business, which had no doubt kept him later than usual;
but fancied some mysterious intent in the ordaining that he should be
there, and that they two should meet at that untimely hour. All this
whirl of influence came over Philip with startling quickness at that
horrid moment. He stepp'd to the side of his guardian.
"Ho!" said he, "have we met so soon, Mr. Covert? You traitor to my
dead father--robber of his children! I fear to think on what I think
The lawyer's natural effrontery did not desert him.
"Unless you'd like to spend a night in the watch-house, young
gentleman," said he, after a short pause, "move on. Your father was
a weak man, I remember; as for his son, his own wicked heart is his
worst foe. I have never done wrong to either--that I can say, and
"Insolent liar!" exclaimed Philip, his eye flashing out sparks of fire
in the darkness.
Covert made no reply except a cool, contemptuous laugh, which stung
the excited young man to double fury. He sprang upon the lawyer, and
clutch'd him by the neckcloth.
"Take it, then!" he cried hoarsely, for his throat was impeded by the
fiendish rage which in that black hour possess'd him. "You are not fit
He dragg'd his guardian to the earth and fell crushingly upon him,
choking the shriek the poor victim but just began to utter. Then, with
monstrous imprecations, he twisted a tight knot around the gasping
creature's neck, drew a clasp knife from his pocket, and touching the
spring, the long sharp blade, too eager for its bloody work, flew
During the lull of the storm, the last strength of the prostrate man
burst forth into one short loud cry of agony. At the same instant, the
arm of the murderer thrust the blade, once, twice, thrice, deep in his
enemy's bosom! Not a minute had passed since that fatal exasperating
laugh--but the deed was done, and the instinctive thought which came
at once to the guilty one, was a thought of fear and escape.
In the unearthly pause which follow'd, Philip's eyes gave one long
searching sweep in every direction, above and around him. _Above_! God
of the all-seeing eye! What, and who was that figure there?
"Forbear! In Jehovah's name forbear;" cried a shrill, but clear and
It was as if some accusing spirit had come down to bear witness
against the deed of blood. Leaning far out of an open window, appear'
d a white draperied shape, its face possess'd of a wonderful youthful
beauty. Long vivid glows of lightning gave Philip a full opportunity
to see as clearly as though the sun had been shining at noonday. One
hand of the figure was raised upward in a deprecating attitude, and
his large bright black eyes bent down upon the scene below with an
expression of horror and shrinking pain. Such heavenly looks, and the
peculiar circumstance of the time, fill'd Philip's heart with awe.
"Oh, if it is not yet too late," spoke the youth again, "spare him. In
God's voice, I command, 'Thou shalt do no murder!'"
The words rang like a knell in the ear of the terror-stricken and
already remorseful Philip. Springing from the body, he gave a second
glance up and down the walk, which was totally lonesome and deserted;
then crossing into Reade street, he made his fearful way in a half
state of stupor, half-bewilderment, by the nearest avenues to his
When the corpse of the murder'd lawyer was found in the morning, and
the officers of justice commenced their inquiry, suspicion immediately
fell upon Philip, and he was arrested. The most rigorous search,
however, brought to light nothing at all implicating the young man,
except his visit to Covert's office the evening before, and his angry
language there. That was by no means enough to fix so heavy a charge
The second day afterward, the whole business came before the ordinary
judicial tribunal, in order that Philip might be either committed for
the crime, or discharged. The testimony of Mr. Covert's clerk stood
alone. One of his employers, who, believing in his innocence, had
deserted him not in this crisis, had provided him with the ablest
criminal counsel in New York. The proof was declared entirely
insufficient, and Philip was discharged.
The crowded court-room made way for him as he came out; hundreds of
curious looks fixed upon his features, and many a jibe pass'd upon
him. But of all that arena of human faces, he saw only _one_--a sad,
pale, black-eyed one, cowering in the centre of the rest. He had seen
that face twice before--the first time as a warning spectre--the
second time in prison, immediately after his arrest--now for the
_last_ time. This young stranger--the son of a scorn'd race--coming
to the court-room to perform an unhappy duty, with the intention
of testifying to what he had seen, melted at the sight of Philip's
bloodless cheek, and of his sister's convulsive sobs, and forbore
witnessing against the murderer. Shall we applaud or condemn him? Let
every reader answer the question for himself.
That afternoon Philip left New York. His friendly employer own'd a
small farm some miles up the Hudson, and until the excitement of
the affair was over, he advised the young man to go thither. Philip
thankfully accepted the proposal, made a few preparations, took a
hurried leave of Esther, and by nightfall was settled in his new
And how, think you, rested Philip Marsh that night? _Rested_ indeed!
O, if those who clamor so much for the halter and the scaffold to
punish crime, could have seen that sight, they might have learn'd a
lesson then! Four days had elapsed since he that lay tossing upon the
bed there had slumber'd. Not the slightest intermission had come to
his awaken'd and tensely strung sense, during those frightful days.
Disturb'd waking dreams came to him, as he thought what he might do to
gain his lost peace. Far, far away would he go! The cold roll of the
murder'd man's eye, as it turn'd up its last glance into his face--the
shrill exclamation of pain--all the unearthly vividness of the
posture, motions, and looks of the dead--the warning voice from
above--pursued him like tormenting furies, and were never absent from
his mind, asleep or awake, that long weary night. Anything, any place,
to escape such horrid companionship! He would travel inland--hire
himself to do hard drudgery upon some farm--work incessantly through
the wide summer days, and thus force nature to bestow oblivion upon
his senses, at least a little while now and then. He would fly on, on,
on, until amid different scenes and a new life, the old memories were
rubb'd entirely out. He would fight bravely in himself for peace of
mind. For peace he would labor and struggle--for peace he would pray!
At length after a feverish slumber of some thirty or forty minutes,
the unhappy youth, waking with a nervous start, rais'd himself in bed,
and saw the blessed daylight beginning to dawn. He felt the sweat
trickling down his naked breast; the sheet where he had lain was quite
wet with it. Dragging himself wearily, he open'd the window. Ah! that
good morning air--how it refresh'd him--how he lean'd out, and drank
in the fragrance of the blossoms below, and almost for the first time
in his life felt how beautifully indeed God had made the earth, and
that there was wonderful sweetness in mere existence. And amidst the
thousand mute mouths and eloquent eyes, which appear'd as it were to
look up and speak in every direction, he fancied so many invitations
to come among them.
Not without effort, for he was very weak, he dress'd himself, and
issued forth into the open air.
Clouds of pale gold and transparent crimson draperied the eastern sky,
but the sun, whose face gladden'd them into all that glory, was not
yet above the horizon. It was a time and place of such rare, such
Eden-like beauty! Philip paused at the summit of an upward slope,
and gazed around him. Some few miles off he could see a gleam of the
Hudson river, and above it a spur of those rugged cliffs scatter'd
along its western shores. Nearer by were cultivated fields. The clover
grew richly there, the young grain bent to the early breeze, and the
air was filled with an intoxicating perfume. At his side was the large
well-kept garden of his host, in which were many pretty flowers, grass
plots, and a wide avenue of noble trees. As Philip gazed, the holy
calming power of Nature--the invisible spirit of so much beauty and so
much innocence, melted into his soul. The disturb'd passions and the
feverish conflict subsided. He even felt something like envied peace
of mind--a sort of joy even in the presence of all the unmarr'd
goodness. It was as fair to him, guilty though he had been, as to
the purest of the pure. No accusing frowns show'd in the face of the
flowers, or in the green shrubs, or the branches of the trees. They,
more forgiving than mankind, and distinguishing not between the
children of darkness and the children of light--they at least treated
him with gentleness. Was he, then, a being so accurs'd? Involuntarily,
he bent over a branch of red roses, and took them softly between
his hands--those murderous, bloody hands! But the red roses neither
wither'd nor smell'd less fragiant. And as the young man kiss'd them,
and dropp'd a tear upon them, it seem'd to him that he had found pity
and sympathy from Heaven itself.
Though against all the rules of story-writing, we continue our
narrative of these mainly true incidents (for such they are,) no
further. Only to say that _the murderer_ soon departed for a new
field of action--that he is still living--and that this is but one of
thousands of cases of unravel'd, unpunish'd crime--left, not to the
tribunals of man, but to a wider power and judgment.
THE LAST LOYALIST
"_She came to me last night, The floor gave back no tread_."] The
story I am going to tell is a traditional reminiscence of a country
place, in my rambles about which I have often passed the house,
now unoccupied, and mostly in ruins, that was the scene of the
transaction. I cannot, of course, convey to others that particular
kind of influence which is derived from my being so familiar with the
locality, and with the very people whose grandfathers or fathers were
contemporaries of the actors in the drama I shall transcribe. I must
hardly expect, therefore, that to those who hear it thro' the medium
of my pen, the narration will possess as life-like and interesting a
character as it does to myself.
On a large and fertile neck of land that juts out in the Sound,
stretching to the east of New York city, there stood, in the latter
part of the last century, an old-fashion'd country-residence. It had
been built by one of the first settlers of this section of the New
World; and its occupant was originally owner of the extensive tract
lying adjacent to his house, and pushing into the bosom of the salt
waters. It was during the troubled times which mark'd our American
Revolution that the incidents occurr'd which are the foundation of my
story. Some time before the commencement of the war, the owner, whom I
shall call Vanhome, was taken sick and died. For some time before his
death he had lived a widower; and his only child, a lad of ten years
old, was thus left an orphan. By his father's will this child was
placed implicitly under the guardianship of an uncle, a middle-aged
man, who had been of late a resident in the family. His care and
interest, however, were needed but a little while--not two years
claps'd after the parents were laid away to their last repose before
another grave had to be prepared for the son--the child who had been
so haplessly deprived of their fostering care.
The period now arrived when the great national convulsion burst forth.
Sounds of strife and the clash of arms, and the angry voices of
disputants, were borne along by the air, and week after week grew to
still louder clamor. Families were divided; adherents to the crown,
and ardent upholders of the rebellion, were often found in the bosom
of the same domestic circle. Vanhome, the uncle spoken of as guardian
to the young heir, was a man who lean'd to the stern, the high-handed
and the severe. He soon became known among the most energetic of the
loyalists. So decided were his sentiments that, leaving the estate
which he had inherited from his brother and nephew, he join'd the
forces of the British king. Thenceforward, whenever his old neighbors
heard of him, it was as being engaged in the cruelest outrages, the
boldest inroads, or the most determin'd attacks upon the army of his
countrymen or their peaceful settlements. Eight years brought the
rebel States and their leaders to that glorious epoch when the last
remnant of a monarch's rule was to leave their shores--when the last
waving of the royal standard was to flutter as it should be haul'd
down from the staff, and its place fill'd by the proud testimonial of
our warriors' success.
Pleasantly over the autumn fields shone the November sun, when a
horseman, of somewhat military look, plodded slowly along the road
that led to the old Vanhome farmhouse. There was nothing peculiar in
his attire, unless it might be a red scarf which he wore tied round
his waist. He was a dark-featured, sullen-eyed man; and as his glance
was thrown restlessly to the right and left, his whole manner appear'd
to be that of a person moving amid familiar and accustom'd scenes.
Occasionally he stopp'd, and looking long and steadily at some object
that attracted his attention, mutter'd to himself, like one in whose
breast busy thoughts were moving. His course was evidently to the
homestead itself, at which in due time he arrived. He dismounted, led
his horse to the stables, and then, without knocking, though there
were evident signs of occupancy around the building, the traveler made
his entrance as composedly and boldly as though he were master of the
Now the house being in a measure deserted for many years, and the
successful termination of the strife rendering it probable that the
Vanhome estate would be confiscated to the new government, an aged,
poverty-stricken couple had been encouraged by the neighbors to take
possession as tenants of the place. Their name was Gills; and these
people the traveler found upon his entrance were likely to be his host
and hostess. Holding their right as they did by so slight a tenure,
they ventur'd to offer no opposition when the stranger signified his
intention of passing several hours there.
The day wore on, and the sun went down in the west; still the
interloper, gloomy and taciturn, made no signs of departing. But as
the evening advanced (whether the darkness was congenial to his sombre
thoughts, or whether it merely chanced so) he seem'd to grow more
affable and communicative, and informed Gills that he should pass the
night there, tendering him at the same time ample remuneration, which
the latter accepted with many thanks.
"Tell me," said he to his aged host, when they were all sitting around
the ample hearth, at the conclusion of their evening meal, "tell me
something to while away the hours."
"Ah! sir," answered Gills, "this is no place for new or interesting
events. We live here from year to year, and at the end of one we find
ourselves at about the same place which we filled in the beginning."
"Can you relate nothing, then?" rejoin'd the guest, and a singular
smile pass'd over his features; "can you say nothing about your own
place?--this house or its former inhabitants, or former history?"
The old man glanced across to his wife, and a look expressive of
sympathetic feeling started in the face of each.
"It is an unfortunate story, sir," said Gills, "and may cast a chill
upon you, instead of the pleasant feeling which it would be best to
foster when in strange walls."
"Strange walls!" echoed he of the red scarf, and for the first time
since his arrival he half laughed, but it was not the laugh which
comes from a man's heart.
"You must know, sir," continued Gills, "I am myself a sort of intruder
here. The Vanhomes--that was the name of the former residents and
owners--I have never seen; for when I came to these parts the last
occupant had left to join the red-coat soldiery. I am told that he is
to sail with them for foreign lands, now that the war is ended, and
his property almost certain to pass into other hands."
As the old man went on, the stranger cast down his eyes, and listen'd
with an appearance of great interest, though a transient smile or a
brightening of the eye would occasionally disturb the serenity of his
"The old owners of this place," continued the white-haired narrator,
"were well off in the world, and bore a good name among their
neighbors. The brother of Sergeant Vanhome, now the only one of the
name, died ten or twelve years since, leaving a son--a child so small
that the father's willmade provision for his being brought up by his
uncle, whom I mention'd but now as of the British army. He was a
strange man, this uncle; disliked by all who knew him; passionate,
vindictive, and, it was said, very avaricious, even from his
"Well, not long after the death of the parents, dark stories began
to be circulated about cruelty and punishment and whippings and
starvation inflicted by the new master upon his nephew. People who
had business at the homestead would frequently, when they came away,
relate the most fearful things of its manager, and how he misused
his brother's child. It was half hinted that he strove to get the
youngster out of the way in order that the whole estate might fall
into his own hands. As I told you before, however, nobody liked the
man; and perhaps they judged him too uncharitably.
"After things had gone on in this way for some time, a countryman, a
laborer, who was hired to do farm-work upon the place, one evening
observed that the little orphan Vanhome was more faint and pale even
than usual, for he was always delicate, and that is one reason why I
think it possible that his death, of which I am now going to tell you,
was but the result of his own weak constitution, and nothing else. The
laborer slept that night at the farmhouse. Just before the time at
which they usually retired to bed, this person, feeling sleepy with
his day's toil, left the kitchen hearth and wended his way to rest.
In going to his place of repose he had to pass a chamber--the very
chamber where you, sir, are to sleep to-night--and there he heard the
voice of the orphan child uttering half-suppress'd exclamations as if
in pitiful entreaty. Upon stopping, he heard also the tones of the
elder Vanhome, but they were harsh and bitter. The sound of blows
followed. As each one fell it was accompanied by a groan or shriek,
and so they continued for some time. Shock'd and indignant, the
countryman would have burst open the door and interfered to prevent
this brutal proceeding, but he bethought him that he might get himself
into trouble, and perhaps find that he could do no good after all, and
so he passed on to his room.
"Well, sir, the following day the child did not come out among the
work-people as usual. He was taken very ill. No physician was sent for
until the next afternoon; and though one arrived in the course of the
night, it was too late--the poor boy died before morning.
"People talk'd threateningly upon the subject, but nothing could be
proved against Vanhome. At one period there were efforts made to have
the whole affair investigated. Perhaps that would have taken place,
had not every one's attention been swallow'd up by the rumors of
difficulty and war, which were then beginning to disturb the country.
"Vanhome joined the army of the king. His enemies said that he feared
to be on the side of the rebels, because if they were routed his
property would be taken from him. But events have shown that, if this
was indeed what he dreaded, it has happen'd to him from the very means
which he took to prevent it."
The old man paused. He had quite wearied himself with so long talking.
For some minutes there was unbroken silence. Presently the stranger
signified his intention of retiring for the night. He rose, and his
host took a light for the purpose of ushering him to his apartment.
When Gills return'd to his accustom'd situation in the large arm-chair
by the chimney-hearth, his ancient helpmate had retired to rest. With
the simplicity of their times, the bed stood in the same room where
the three had been seated during the last few hours; and now the
remaining two talk'd together about the singular events of the
evening. As the time wore on, Gills show'd no disposition to leave his
cosy chair; but sat toasting his feet, and bending over the coals.
Gradually the insidious heat and the lateness of the hour began to
exercise their influence over the old man. The drowsy indolent feeling
which every one has experienced in getting thoroughly heated through
by close contact with a glowing fire, spread in each vein and sinew,
and relax'd its tone. He lean'd back in his chair and slept.
For a long time his repose went on quietly and soundly. He could not
tell how many hours elapsed; but, a while after midnight, the torpid
senses of the slumberer were awaken'd by a startling shock. It was a
cry as of a strong man in his agony--a shrill, not very loud cry, but
fearful, and creeping into the blood like cold, polish'd steel. The
old man raised himself in his seat and listen'd, at once fully awake.
For a minute, all was the solemn stillness of midnight. Then rose that
horrid tone again, wailing and wild, and making the hearer's hair to
stand on end. One moment more, and the trampling of hasty feet sounded
in the passage outside. The door was thrown open, and the form of the
stranger, more like a corpse than living man, rushed into the room.
"All white!" yell'd the conscience-stricken creature--"all white, and
with the grave-clothes around him. One shoulder was bare, and I saw,"
he whisper'd, "I saw blue streaks upon it. It was horrible, and I
cried aloud. He stepp'd toward me! He came to my very bedside; his
small hand almost touch'd my face. I could not bear it, and fled."
The miserable man bent his head down upon his bosom; convulsive
rattlings shook his throat; and his whole frame waver'd to and fro
like a tree in a storm. Bewilder'd and shock'd, Gills look'd at his
apparently deranged guest, and knew not what answer to make, or what
course of conduct to pursue.
Thrusting out his arms and his extended fingers, and bending down
his eyes, as men do when shading them from a glare of lightning, the
stranger stagger'd from the door, and, in a moment further, dash'd
madly through the passage which led through the kitchen into the outer
road. The old man heard the noise of his falling footsteps, sounding
fainter and fainter in the distance, and then, retreating, dropp'd his
own exhausted limbs into the chair from which he had been arous'd so
terribly. It was many minutes before his energies recover'd their
accustomed tone again. Strangely enough, his wife, unawaken'd by the
stranger's ravings, still slumber'd on as profoundly as ever.
Pass we on to a far different scene--the embarkation of the British
troops for the distant land whose monarch was never more to wield
the sceptre over a kingdom lost by his imprudence and tyranny. With
frowning brow and sullen pace the martial ranks moved on. Boat after
boat was filled, and, as each discharged its complement in the ships
that lay heaving their anchors in the stream, it return'd, and was
soon filled with another load. And at length it became time for the
last soldier to lift his eye and take a last glance at the broad
banner of England's pride, which flapp'd its folds from the top of the
highest staff on the Battery.
As the warning sound of a trumpet called together all who were
laggards--those taking leave of friends, and those who were arranging
their own private affairs, left until the last moment--a single
horseman was seen furiously dashing down the street. A red scarf
tightly encircled his waist. He made directly for the shore, and the
crowd there gather'd started back in wonderment as they beheld his
dishevel'd appearance and ghastly face. Throwing himself violently
from his saddle, he flung the bridle over the animal's neck, and gave
him a sharp cut with a small riding whip. He made for the boat; one
minute later, and he had been left. They were pushing the keel from
the landing--the stranger sprang--a space of two or three feet already
intervened--he struck on the gunwale--and the Last Soldier of King
George had left the American shores.
WILD FRANK'S RETURN
As the sun, one August day some fifty years ago, had just pass'd the
meridian of a country town in the eastern section of Long Island,
a single traveler came up to the quaint low-roof'd village tavern,
open'd its half-door, and enter'd the common room. Dust cover'd the
clothes of the wayfarer, and his brow was moist with sweat. He trod in
a lagging, weary way; though his form and features told of an age not
more than nineteen or twenty years. Over one shoulder was slung a
sailor's jacket, and in his hand he carried a little bundle. Sitting
down on a rude bench, he told a female who made her appearance behind
the bar, that he would have a glass of brandy and sugar. He took off
the liquor at a draught: after which he lit and began to smoke a
cigar, with which he supplied himself from his pocket--stretching out
one leg, and leaning his elbow down on the bench, in the attitude of a
man who takes an indolent lounge.
"Do you know one Richard Hall that lives somewhere here among you?"
"Mr. Hall's is down the lane that turns off by that big locust tree,"
answer'd the woman, pointing to the direction through the open door;
"it's about half a mile from here to his house."
The youth, for a minute or two, puff'd the smoke from his mouth
very leisurely in silence. His manner had an air of vacant
self-sufficiency, rather strange in one of so few years.
"I wish to see Mr. Hall," he said at length--"Here's a silver
six-pence, for any one who will carry a message to him."
"The folks are all away. It's but a short walk, and your limbs are
young," replied the female, who was not altogether pleased with the
easy way of making himself at home which mark'd her shabby-looking
customer. That individual, however, seem'd to give small attention
to the hint, but lean'd and puff'd his cigar-smoke as leisurely as
"Unless," continued the woman, catching a second glance at the
sixpence; "unless old Joe is at the stable, as he's very likely to be.
I'll go and find out for you." And she push'd open a door at her back,
stepp'd through an adjoining room into a yard, whence her voice was
the next moment heard calling the person she had mention'd, in accents
by no means remarkable for their melody or softness.
Her search was successful. She soon return'd with him who was to act
as messenger--a little, wither'd, ragged old man--a hanger-on there,
whose unshaven face told plainly enough the story of his intemperate
habits--those deeply seated habits, now too late to be uprooted, that
would ere long lay him in a drunkard's grave. The youth inform'd him
what the required service was, and promised him the reward as soon as
he should return,
"Tell Richard Hall that I am going to his father's house this
afternoon. If he asks who it is that wishes him here, say the person
sent no name," continued the stranger, sitting up from his indolent
posture, as the feet of old Joe were about leaving the door-stone, and
his blear'd eyes turned to eaten the last sentence of the mandate.
"And yet, perhaps you may as well," added he, communing a moment with
himself: "you may tell him his brother Frank, Wild Frank, it is, who
wishes him to come."
The old man departed on his errand, and he who call'd himself Wild
Frank, toss'd his nearly smoked cigar out of the window, and folded
his arms in thought.
No better place than this, probably, will occur to give a brief
account of some former events in the life of the young stranger,
resting and waiting at the village inn. Fifteen miles east of that
inn lived a farmer named Hall, a man of good repute, well-off in the
world, and head of a large family. He was fond of gain--required all
his boys to labor in proportion to their age; and his right hand man,
if he might not be called favorite, was his eldest son Richard. This
eldest son, an industrious, sober-faced young fellow, was invested by
his father with the powers of second in command; and as strict and
swift obedience was a prime tenet in the farmer's domestic government,
the children all tacitly submitted to their brother's sway--all but
one, and that was Frank. The farmer's wife was a quiet woman, in
rather tender health; and though for all her offspring she had a
mother's love, Frank's kiss ever seem'd sweetest to her lips. She
favor'd him more than the rest--perhaps, as in a hundred similar
instances, for his being so often at fault, and so often blamed. In
truth, however, he seldom receiv'd more blame than he deserv'd, for he
was a capricious, high-temper'd lad, and up to all kinds of mischief.
From these traits he was known in the neighborhood by the name of Wild
Among the farmer's stock there was a fine young blood mare--a
beautiful creature, large and graceful, with eyes like dark-hued
jewels, and her color that of the deep night. It being the custom of
the farmer to let his boys have something about the farm that they
could call their own, and take care of as such, Black Nell, as the
mare was called, had somehow or other fallen to Frank's share. He was
very proud of her, and thought as much of her comfort as his own. The
elder brother, however, saw fit to claim for himself, and several
times to exercise, a privilege of managing and using Black Nell,
notwithstanding what Frank consider'd his prerogative. On one of these
occasions a hot dispute arose, and, after much angry blood, it was
referr'd to the farmer for settlement. He decided in favor of Richard,
and added a harsh lecture to his other son. The farmer was really
unjust; and Wild Frank's face paled with rage and mortification. That
furious temper which he had never been taught to curb, now swell'd
like an overflowing torrent. With difficulty restraining the
exhibition of his passions, as soon as he got by himself he swore that
not another sun should roll by and find him under that roof. Late at
night he silently arose, and turning his back on what he thought an
inhospitable home, in mood in which the child should never leave the
parental roof, bent his steps toward the city.
It may well be imagined that alarm and grief pervaded the whole of
the family, on discovering Frank's departure. And as week after week
melted away and brought no tidings of him, his poor mother's heart
grew wearier and wearier. She spoke not much, but was evidently sick
in spirit. Nearly two years had claps'd when about a week before the
incidents at the commencement of this story, the farmer's family were
joyfully surprised by receiving a letter from the long absent son. He
had been to sea, and was then in New York, at which port his vessel
had just arrived. He wrote in a gay strain; appear'd to have lost the
angry feeling which caused his flight from home; and said he heard in
the city that Richard had married, and settled several miles distant,
where he wished him all good luck and happiness. Wild Frank wound
up his letter by promising, as soon as he could get through the
imperative business of his ship, to pay a visit to his parents and
native place. On Tuesday of the succeeding week, he said he would be
Within half an hour after the departure of old Joe, the form of that
ancient personage was seen slowly wheeling round the locust-tree at
the end of the lane, accompanied by a stout young man in primitive
homespun apparel. The meeting between Wild Frank and his brother
Richard, though hardly of that kind which generally takes place
between persons so closely related, could not exactly be call'd
distant or cool either. Richard press'd his brother to go with him to
the farmhouse, and refresh and repose himself for some hours at least,
but Frank declined.
"They will all expect me home this afternoon," he said, "I wrote to
them I would be there to-day."
"But you must be very tired, Frank," rejoin'd the other; "won't you
let some of us harness up and carry you? Or if you like--" he stopp'd
a moment, and a trifling suffusion spread over his face; "if you like,
I'll put the saddle on Black Nell--she's here at my place now, and you
can ride home like a lord."
Frank's face color'd a little, too. He paused for a moment in thought
--he was really foot-sore, and exhausted with his journey that hot
day--so he accepted his brother's offer.
"You know the speed of Nell, as well as I," said Richard; "I'll
warrant when I bring her here you'll say she's in good order as ever."
So telling him to amuse himself for a few minutes as well as he could,
Richard left the tavern.
Could it be that Black Nell knew her early master? She neigh'd and
rubb'd her nose on his shoulder; and as he put his foot in the stirrup
and rose on her back, it was evident that they were both highly
pleased with their meeting. Bidding his brother farewell, and not
forgetting old Joe, the young man set forth on his journey to his
father's house. As he left the village behind, and came upon the long
monotonous road before him, he thought on the circumstances of his
leaving home--and he thought, too, on his course of life, how it was
being frittered away and lost. Very gentle influences, doubtless, came
over Wild Frank's mind then, and he yearn'd to show his parents that
he was sorry for the trouble he had cost them. He blamed himself for
his former follies, and even felt remorse that he had not acted more
kindly to Richard, and gone to his house. Oh, it had been a sad
mistake of the farmer that he did not teach his children to love one
another. It was a foolish thing that he prided himself on governing
his little flock well, when sweet affection, gentle forbearance, and
brotherly faith, were almost unknown among them.
The day was now advanced, though the heat pour'd down with a strength
little less oppressive than at noon. Frank had accomplish'd the
greater part of his journey; he was within two miles of his home. The
road here led over a high, tiresome hill, and he determined to stop on
the top of it and rest himself, as well as give the animal he rode a
few minutes' breath. How well he knew the place! And that mighty oak,
standing just outside the fence on the very summit of the hill, often
had he reposed under its shade. It would be pleasant for a few minutes
to stretch his limbs there again as of old, he thought to himself;
and he dismounted from the saddle and led Black Nell under the tree.
Mindful of the comfort of his favorite, he took from his little
bundle, which he had strapped behind him on the mare's back, a piece
of strong cord, four or five yards in length, which he tied to the
bridle, and wound and tied the other end, for security, over his own
wrist; then throwing himself at full length upon the ground, Black
Nell was at liberty to graze around him, without danger of straying
It was a calm scene, and a pleasant. There was no rude sound--hardly
even a chirping insect--to break the sleepy silence of the place. The
atmosphere had a dim, hazy cast, and was impregnated with overpowering
heat. The young man lay there minute after minute, as time glided away
unnoticed; for he was very tired, and his repose was sweet to him.
Occasionally he raised himself and cast a listless look at the distant
landscape, veil'd as it was by the slight mist. At length his repose
was without such interruptions. His eyes closed, and though at first
they open'd languidly again at intervals, after a while they shut
altogether. Could it be that he slept? It was so indeed. Yielding to
the drowsy influences about him, and to his prolong'd weariness of
travel, he had fallen into a deep, sound slumber. Thus he lay; and
Black Nell, the original cause of his departure from his home--by a
singular chance, the companion of his return--quietly cropp'd the
grass at his side.
An hour nearly pass'd away, and yet the young man slept on. The light
and heat were not glaring now; a change had come over earth and
heaven. There were signs of one of those thunderstorms that in our
climate spring up and pass over so quickly and so terribly. Masses
of vapor loom' d up in the horizon, and a dark shadow settled on the
woods and fields. The leaves of the great oak rustled together over
the youth's head. Clouds flitted swiftly in the sky, like bodies of
armed men coming up to battle at the call of their leader's trumpet.
A thick rain-drop fell now and then, while occasionally hoarse
mutterings of thunder sounded in the distance; yet the slumberer was
not arous'd. It was strange that Wild Frank did not awake. Perhaps
his ocean life had taught him to rest undisturbed amid the jarring of
elements. Though the storm was now coming on in its fury, he slept
like a babe in its cradle.
Black Nell had ceased grazing, and stood by her sleeping master with
ears erect, and her long mane and tail waving in the wind. It seem'd
quite dark, so heavy were the clouds. The blast blew sweepingly, the
lightning flash'd, and the rain fell in torrents. Crash after crash
of thunder seem'd to shake the solid earth. And Black Nell, she stood
now, an image of beautiful terror, with her fore feet thrust out, her
neck arch'd, and her eyes glaring balls of fear. At length, after a
dazzling and lurid glare, there came a peal--a deafening crash--as if
the great axle was rent. God of Spirits! the startled mare sprang off
like a ship in an ocean-storm! Her eyes were blinded with light;
she dashed madly down the hill, and plunge after plunge--far, far
away--swift as an arrow--dragging the hapless body of the youth
In the low, old-fashion'd dwelling of the farmer there was a large
family group. The men and boys had gather'd under shelter at the
approach of the storm; and the subject of their talk was the return
of the long absent son. The mother spoke of him, too, and her eyes
brighten'd with pleasure as she spoke. She made all the little
domestic preparations--cook'd his favorite dishes--and arranged for
him his own bed, in its own old place. As the tempest mounted to its
fury they discuss'd the probability of his getting soak'd by it;
and the provident dame had already selected some dry garments for a
change. But the rain was soon over, and nature smiled again in her
invigorated beauty. The sun shone out as it was dipping in the west.
Drops sparkled on the leaf-tips--coolness and clearness were in the
The clattering of a horse's hoofs came to the ears of those who were
gather'd there. It was on the other side of the house that the wagon
road lead; and they open'd the door and rush'd in a tumult of glad
anticipations, through the adjoining room to the porch. What a sight
it was that met them there! Black Nell stood a few feet from the door,
with her neck crouch'd down; she drew her breath long and deep, and
vapor rose from every part of her reeking body. And with eyes starting
from their sockets, and mouths agape with stupefying terror, they
beheld on the ground near her a mangled, hideous mass--the rough
semblance of a human form--all batter'd, and cut, and bloody. Attach'd
to it was the fatal cord, dabbled over with gore. And as the mother
gazed--for she could not withdraw her eyes--and the appalling truth
came upon her mind, she sank down without shriek or utterance, into a
deep, deathly swoon.
THE BOY LOVER
Listen, and the old will speak a chronicle for the young. Ah, youth!
thou art one day coming to be old, too. And let me tell thee how thou
mayest get a useful lesson. For an hour, _dream thyself old_. Realize,
in thy thoughts and consciousness, that vigor and strength are subdued
in thy sinews--that the color of the shroud is liken'd in thy very
hairs--that all those leaping desires, luxurious hopes, beautiful
aspirations, and proud confidences, of thy younger life, have long
been buried (a funeral for the better part of thee) in that grave
which must soon close over thy tottering limbs. Look back, then,
through the long track of the past years. How has it been with thee?
Are there bright beacons of happiness enjoy'd, and of good done by the
way? Glimmer gentle rays of what was scatter'd from a holy heart? Have
benevolence, and love, and undeviating honesty left tokens on which
thy eyes can rest sweetly? Is it well with thee, thus? Answerest thou,
it is? Or answerest thou, I see nothing but gloom and shatter'd hours,
and the wreck of good resolves, and a broken heart, filled with
sickness, and troubled among its ruined chambers with the phantoms of
O, youth! youth! this dream will one day be a _reality_--a reality,
either of heavenly peace or agonizing sorrow.
And yet not for all is it decreed to attain the neighborhood of the
three-score and ten years--the span of life. I am to speak of one
who died young. Very awkward was his childhood--but most fragile and
sensitive! So delicate a nature may exist in a rough, unnoticed plant!
Let the boy rest;--he was not beautiful, and dropp'd away betimes. But
for the cause--it is a singular story, to which let crusted worldlings
pay the tribute of a light laugh--light and empty as their own hollow
Love! which with its cankerseed of decay within, has sent young men
and maidens to a long'd-for, but too premature burial. Love! the
child-monarch that Death itself cannot conquer; that has its tokens on
slabs at the head of grass-cover'd tombs--tokens more visible to the
eye of the stranger, yet not so deeply graven as the face and the
remembrances cut upon the heart of the living. Love! the sweet, the
pure, the innocent; yet the causer of fierce hate, of wishes for
deadly revenge, of bloody deeds, and madness, and the horrors of hell.
Love! that wanders over battlefields, turning up mangled human trunks,
and parting back the hair from gory faces, and daring the points of
swords and the thunder of artillery, without a fear or a thought of
Words! words! I begin to see I am, indeed, an old man, and garrulous!
Let me go back--yes, I see it must be many years!
It was at the close of the last century. I was at that time studying
law, the profession my father follow'd. One of his clients was an
elderly widow, a foreigner, who kept a little ale-house, on the banks
of the North River, at about two miles from what is now the centre of
the city. Then the spot was quite out of town and surrounded by fields
and green trees. The widow often invited me to come and pay her
a visit, when I had a leisure afternoon--including also in the
invitation my brother and two other students who were in my father's
office. Matthew, the brother I mention, was a boy of sixteen; he was
troubled with an inward illness--though it had no power over his
temper, which ever retain' d the most admirable placidity and
He was cheerful, but never boisterous, and everybody loved him; his
mind seem'd more develop'd than is usual for his age, though his
personal appearance was exceedingly plain. Wheaton and Brown, the
names of the other students, were spirited, clever young fellows, with
most of the traits that those in their position of life generally
possess. The first was as generous and brave as any man I ever knew.
He was very passionate, too, but the whirlwind soon blew over, and
left everything quiet again. Frank Brown was slim, graceful, and
handsome. He profess'd to be fond of sentiment, and used to fall
regularly in love once a month.
The half of every Wednesday we four youths had to ourselves, and were
in the habit of taking a sail, a ride, or a walk together. One of
these afternoons, of a pleasant day in April, the sun shining, and the
air clear, I bethought myself of the widow and her beer--about which
latter article I had made inquiries, and heard it spoken of in terms
of high commendation. I mention'd the matter to Matthew and to my
fellow-students, and we agreed to fill up our holiday by a jaunt to
the ale-house. Accordingly, we set forth, and, after a fine walk,
arrived in glorious spirits at our destination.
Ah! how shall I describe the quiet beauties of the spot, with its
long, low piazza looking out upon the river, and its clean homely
tables, and the tankards of real silver in which the ale was given us,
and the flavor of that excellent liquor itself. There was the widow;
and there was a sober, stately old woman, half companion, half
servant, Margery by name; and there was (good God! my fingers quiver
yet as I write the word!) young Ninon, the daughter of the widow.
O, through the years that live no more, my memory strays back, and
that whole scene comes up before me once again-and the brightest part
of the picture is the strange ethereal beauty of that young girl!
She was apparently about the age of my brother Matthew, and the most
fascinating, artless creature I had ever beheld. She had blue eyes
and light hair, and an expression of childish simplicity which was
charming indeed. I have no doubt that ere half an hour had elapsed
from the time we enter'd the tavern and saw Ninon, every one of the
four of us loved the girl to the very depth of passion.
We neither spent so much money, nor drank as much beer, as we had
intended before starting from home. The widow was very civil, being
pleased to see us, and Margery served our wants with a deal of
politeness--but it was to Ninon that the afternoon's pleasure was
attributable; for though we were strangers, we became acquainted at
once--the manners of the girl, merry as she was, putting entirely out
of view the most distant imputation of indecorum--and the presence of
the widow and Margery, (for we were all in the common room together,
there being no other company,) serving to make us all disembarrass'd,
and at ease.
It was not until quite a while after sunset that we started on our
return to the city. We made several attempts to revive the mirth and
lively talk that usually signalized our rambles, but they seem'd
forced and discordant, like laughter in a sick-room. My brother was
the only one who preserved his usual tenor of temper and conduct.
I need hardly say that thenceforward every Wednesday afternoon was
spent at the widow's tavern. Strangely, neither Matthew or my two
friends, or myself, spoke to each other of the sentiment that filled
us in reference to Ninon. Yet we all knew the thoughts and feelings of
the others; and each, perhaps, felt confident that his love alone was
unsuspected by his companions.
The story of the widow was a touching yet simple one. She was by birth
a Swiss. In one of the cantons of her native land, she had grown up,
and married, and lived for a time in happy comfort. A son was born to
her, and a daughter, the beautiful Ninon. By some reverse of fortune,
the father and head of the family had the greater portion of his
possessions swept from him. He struggled for a time against the evil
influence, but it press'd upon him harder and harder. He had heard
of a people in the western world--a new and swarming land--where the
stranger was welcom'd, and peace and the protection of the strong arm
thrown around him. He had not heart to stay and struggle amid the
scenes of his former prosperity, and he determin'd to go and make
his home in that distant republic of the west. So with his wife and
children, and the proceeds of what little property was left, he took
passage for New York. He was never to reach his journey's end. Either
the cares that weigh' d upon his mind, or some other cause, consign'd
him to a sick hammock, from which he only found relief through the
Great Dismisser. He was buried in the sea, and in due time his
family arrived at the American emporium. But there, the son too
sicken'd--died, ere long, and was buried likewise. They would not bury
him in the city, but away--by the solitary banks of the Hudson; on
which the widow soon afterwards took up her abode.
Ninon was too young to feel much grief at these sad occurrences; and
the mother, whatever she might have suffer'd inwardly, had a good deal
of phlegm and patience, and set about making herself and her remaining
child as comfortable as might be. They had still a respectable sum in
cash, and after due deliberation, the widow purchas'd the little quiet
tavern, not far from the grave of her boy; and of Sundays and holidays
she took in considerable money--enough to make a decent support for
them in their humble way of living. French and Germans visited the
house frequently, and quite a number of young Americans too. Probably
the greatest attraction to the latter was the sweet face of Ninon.
Spring passed, and summer crept in and wasted away, and autumn had
arrived. Every New Yorker knows what delicious weather we have,
in these regions, of the early October days; how calm, clear, and
divested of sultriness, is the air, and how decently nature seems
preparing for her winter sleep.
Thus it was the last Wednesday we started on our accustomed excursion.
Six months had elapsed since our first visit, and, as then, we were
full of the exuberance of young and joyful hearts. Frequent and hearty
were our jokes, by no means particular about the theme or the method,
and long and loud the peals of laughter that rang over the fields or
along the shore.
We took our seats round the same clean, white table, and received our
favorite beverage in the same bright tankards. They were set before
us by the sober Margery, no one else being visible. As frequently
happen'd, we were the only company. Walking and breathing the keen,
fine air had made us dry, and we soon drain'd the foaming vessels, and
call'd for more. I remember well an animated chat we had about some
poems that had just made their appearance from a great British author,
and were creating quite a public stir. There was one, a tale of
passion and despair, which Wheaton had read, and of which he gave us
a transcript. Wild, startling, and dreamy, perhaps it threw over our
minds its peculiar cast. An hour moved off, and we began to think it
strange that neither Ninon or the widow came into the room. One of us
gave a hint to that effect to Margery; but she made no answer, and
went on in her usual way as before.
"The grim old thing," said Wheaton, "if she were in Spain, they'd make
her a premier duenna!"
I ask'd the woman about Ninon and the widow. She seemed disturb'd, I
thought; but, making no reply to the first part of my question, said
that her mistress was in another part of the house, and did not wish
to be with company.
"Then be kind enough, Mrs. Vinegar," resumed Wheaton, good-naturedly,
"be kind enough to go and ask the widow if we can see Ninon."
Our attendant's face turn'd as pale as ashes, and she precipitately
left the apartment. We laugh'd at her agitation, which Frank Brown
assigned to our merry ridicule.
Quite a quarter of an hour elaps'd before Margery's return. When she
appear'd she told us briefly that the widow had bidden her obey our
behest, and now, if we desired, she would conduct us to the daughter's
presence. There was a singular expression in the woman's eyes, and the
whole affair began to strike us as somewhat odd; but we arose, and
taking our caps, follow'd her as she stepp'd through the door. Back of
the house were some fields, and a path leading into clumps of trees.
At some thirty rods distant from the tavern, nigh one of those clumps,
the larger tree whereof was a willow, Margery stopp'd, and pausing a
minute, while we came up, spoke in tones calm and low:
"Ninon is there!"
She pointed downward with her finger. Great God! There was a _grave_,
new made, and with the sods loosely join'd, and a rough brown stone at
each extremity! Some earth yet lay upon the grass near by. If we had
look'd, we might have seen the resting-place of the widow's son,
Ninon's brother--for it was close at hand. But amid the whole scene
our eyes took in nothing except that horrible covering of death--the
oven-shaped mound. My sight seemed to waver, my head felt dizzy, and
a feeling of deadly sickness came over me. I heard a stifled
exclamation, and looking round, saw Frank Brown leaning against the
nearest tree, great sweat upon his forehead, and his cheeks bloodless
as chalk. Wheaton gave way to his agony more fully than ever I had
known a man before; he had fallen--sobbing like a child, and wringing
his hands. It is impossible to describe the suddenness and fearfulness
of the sickening truth that came upon us like a stroke of thunder.
Of all of us, my brother Matthew neither shed tears, or turned pale,
or fainted, or exposed any other evidence of inward depth of pain. His
quiet, pleasant voice was indeed a tone lower, but it was that which
recall'd us, after the lapse of many long minutes, to ourselves.
So the girl had died and been buried. We were told of an illness that
had seized her the very day after our last preceding visit; but we
inquired not into the particulars.
And now come I to the conclusion of my story, and to the most singular
part of it. The evening of the third day afterward, Wheaton, who had
wept scalding tears, and Brown, whose cheeks had recovered their
color, and myself, that for an hour thought my heart would never
rebound again from the fearful shock--that evening, I say, we three
were seated around a table in another tavern, drinking other beer,
and laughing but a little less cheerfully, and as though we had never
known the widow or her daughter--neither of whom, I venture to affirm,
came into our minds once the whole night, or but to be dismiss'd
again, carelessly, like the remembrance of faces seen in a crowd.
Strange are the contradictions of the things of life! The seventh day
after that dreadful visit saw my brother Matthew--the delicate one,
who, while bold men writhed in torture, had kept the same placid face,
and the same untrembling fingers--him that seventh day saw a clay-cold
corpse, carried to the repose of the churchyard. The shaft, rankling
far down and within, wrought a poison too great for show, and the
THE CHILD AND THE PROFLIGATE
Just after sunset, one evening in summer--that pleasant hour when the
air is balmy, the light loses its glare, and all around is imbued with
soothing quiet--on the door-step of a house there sat an elderly woman
waiting the arrival of her son. The house was in a straggling village
some fifty miles from New York city. She who sat on the door-step was
a widow; her white cap cover'd locks of gray, and her dress, though
clean, was exceedingly homely. Her house--for the tenement she
occupied was her own--was very little and very old. Trees clustered
around it so thickly as almost to hide its color--that blackish gray
color which belongs to old wooden houses that have never been painted;
and to get in it you had to enter a little rickety gate and walk
through a short path, border'd by carrot beds and beets and other
vegetables. The son whom she was expecting was her only child. About
a year before he had been bound apprentice to a rich farmer in the
place, and after finishing his daily task he was in the habit of
spending half an hour at his mother's. On the present occasion the
shadows of night had settled heavily before the youth made his
appearance. When he did, his walk was slow and dragging, and all his
motions were languid, as if from great weariness. He open'd the gate,
came through the path, and sat down by his mother in silence.
"You are sullen to-night, Charley," said the widow, after a moment's
pause, when she found that he return' d no answer to her greeting.
As she spoke she put her hand fondly on his head; it seem'd moist as
if it had been dipp'd in the water. His shirt, too, was soak'd; and as
she pass'd her fingers down his shoulder she left a sharp twinge in
her heart, for she knew that moisture to be the hard wrung sweat of
severe toil, exacted from her young child (he was but thirteen years
old) by an unyielding taskmaster.
"You have work'd hard to-day, my son."
"I've been mowing."
The widow's heart felt another pang.
"Not _all day_, Charley?" she said, in a low voice; and there was a
slight quiver in it.
"Yes, mother, all day," replied the boy; "Mr. Ellis said he couldn't
afford to hire men, for wages are so high. I've swung the scythe ever
since an hour before sunrise. Feel of my hands."
There were blisters on them like great lumps. Tears started in the
widow's eyes. She dared not trust herself with a reply, though her
heart was bursting with the thought that she could not better his
condition. There was no earthly means of support on which she had
dependence enough to encourage her child in the wish she knew he was
forming--the wish not utter'd for the first time--to be freed from his
bondage. "Mother," at length said the boy, "I can stand it no longer.
I cannot and will not stay at Mr. Ellis's. Ever since the day I first
went into his house I've been a slave; and if I have to work so much
longer I know I shall run off and go to sea or somewhere else. I'd as
leave be in my grave as there." And the child burst into a passionate
fit of weeping.
His mother was silent, for she was in deep grief herself. After some
minutes had flown, however, she gather'd sufficient self-possession to
speak to her son in a soothing tone, endeavoring to win him from his
sorrows and cheer up his heart. She told him that time was swift--that
in the course of a few years he would be his own master.--that all
people have their troubles--with many other ready arguments which,
though they had little effect in calming her own distress, she hoped
would act as a solace to the disturb'd temper of the boy. And as the
half hour to which he was limited had now elaps'd, she took him by the
hand and led him to the gate, to set forth on his return. The youth
seemed pacified, though occasionally one of those convulsive sighs
that remain after a fit of weeping, would break from his throat. At
the gate he threw his arms about his mother's neck; each press'd a
long kiss on the lips of the other, and the youngster bent his steps
towards his master's house.
As her child pass'd out of sight the widow return'd, shut the gate and
enter'd her lonely room. There was no light in the old cottage that
night--the heart of its occupant was dark and cheerless. Love, agony,
and grief, and tears and convulsive wrestlings were there. The thought
of a beloved son condemned to labor--labor that would break down a
man--struggling from day to day under the hard rule of a soulless
gold-worshipper; the knowledge that years must pass thus; the
sickening idea of her own poverty, and of living mainly on the grudged
charity of neighbors--thoughts, too, of former happy days--these
rack'd the widow's heart, and made her bed a sleepless one without
The boy bent his steps to his employer's, as has been said. In his way
down the village street he had to pass a public house, the only one
the place contain'd; and when he came off against it he heard the
sound of a fiddle--drown'd, however, at intervals, by much laughter
and talking. The windows were up, and, the house standing close to the
road, Charles thought it no harm to take a look and see what was going
on within. Half a dozen footsteps brought him to the low casement, on
which he lean'd his elbow, and where he had a full view of the room
and its occupants. In one corner was an old man, known in the village
as Black Dave--he it was whose musical performances had a moment
before drawn Charles's attention to the tavern; and he it was who now
exerted himself in a violent manner to give, with divers flourishes
and extra twangs, a tune very popular among that thick-lipp'd race
whose fondness for melody is so well known. In the middle of the room
were five or six sailors, some of them quite drunk, and others in the
earlier stages of that process, while on benches around were more
sailors, and here and there a person dress'd in landsman's attire. The
men in the middle of the room were dancing; that is, they were going
through certain contortions and shufflings, varied occasionally by
exceeding hearty stamps upon the sanded floor. In short the whole
party were engaged in a drunken frolic, which was in no respect
different from a thousand other drunken frolics, except, perhaps,
that there was less than the ordinary amount of anger and quarreling.
Indeed everyone seem' d in remarkably good humor.
But what excited the boy's attention more than any other object was
an individual, seated on one of the benches opposite, who, though
evidently enjoying the spree as much as if he were an old hand at
such business, seem' d in every other particular to be far out of his
element. His appearance was youthful. He might have been twenty-one
or two years old. His countenance was intelligent, and had the air
of city life and society. He was dress'd not gaudily, but in every
respect fashionably; his coat being of the finest broadcloth, his
linen delicate and spotless as snow, and his whole aspect that of one
whose counterpart may now and then be seen upon the pave in Broadway
of a fine afternoon. He laugh'd and talk'd with the rest, and it must
be confess'd his jokes--like the most of those that pass'd current
there--were by no means distinguish'd for their refinement or purity.
Near the door was a small table, cover'd with decanters and glasses,
some of which had been used, but were used again indiscriminately, and
a box of very thick and very long cigars.
One of the sailors--and it was he who made the largest share of the
hubbub--had but one eye. His chin and cheeks were cover'd with huge,
bushy whiskers, and altogether he had quite a brutal appearance.
"Come, boys," said this gentleman, "come, let us take a drink. I know
you're all a getting dry;" and he clench'd his invitation with an
appalling oath. This politeness was responded to by a general moving
of the company toward the table holding the before-mention'd decanters
and glasses. Clustering there around, each one help'd himself to a
very handsome portion of that particular liquor which suited his
fancy; and steadiness and accuracy being at that moment by no means
distinguishing traits of the arms and legs of the party, a goodly
amount of the fluid was spill'd upon the floor. This piece of
extravagance excited the ire of the personage who gave the "treat;"
and that ire was still further increas'd when he discover'd two or
three loiterers who seem'd disposed to slight his request to drink.
Charles, as we have before mention'd, was looking in at the window.
"Walk up, boys! walk up! If there be any skulker among us, blast my
eyes if he shan't go down on his marrow bones and taste the liquor we
have spilt! Hallo!" he exclaim'd as he spied Charles; "hallo, you chap
in the window, come here and take a sup."
As he spoke he stepp'd to the open casement, put his brawny hands
under the boy's arms, and lifted him into the room bodily.
"There, my lads," said he, turning to his companions, "there's a new
recruit for you. Not so coarse a one, either," he added as he took a
fair view of the boy, who, though not what is called pretty, was fresh
and manly looking, and large for his age.
"Come, youngster, take a glass," he continued. And he pour'd one
nearly full of strong brandy.
Now Charles was not exactly frighten'd, for he was a lively fellow,
and had often been at the country merry-makings, and at the parties
of the place; but he was certainly rather abash'd at his abrupt
introduction to the midst of strangers. So, putting the glass aside,
he look'd up with a pleasant smile in his new acquaintance's face.
"I've no need for anything now," he said, "but I'm just as much
obliged to you as if I was."
"Poh! man, drink it down," rejoin'd the sailor, "drink it down--it
won't hurt you."
And, by way of showing its excellence, the one-eyed worthy drain'd
it himself to the last drop. Then filling it again, he renew'd his
efforts to make the lad go through the same operation.
"I've no occasion. Besides, _my mother has often pray'd me not to
drink,_ and I promised to obey her."
A little irritated by his continued refusal, the sailor, with a loud
oath, declared that Charles should swallow the brandy, whether he
would or no. Placing one of his tremendous paws on the back of the
boy's head, with the other he thrust the edge of the glass to his
lips, swearing at the same time, that if he shook it so as to spill
its contents the consequences would be of a nature by no means
agreeable to his back and shoulders. Disliking the liquor, and angry
at the attempt to overbear him, the undaunted child lifted his hand
and struck the arm of the sailor with a blow so sudden that
the glass fell and was smash'd to pieces on the floor; while the
brandy was about equally divided between the face of Charles, the
clothes of the sailor, and the sand. By this time the whole of the
company had their attention drawn to the scene. Some of them laugh'd
when they saw Charles's undisguised antipathy to the drink; but they
laugh'd still more heartily when he discomfited the sailor. All of
them, however, were content to let the matter go as chance would have
it--all but the young man of the black coat, who has been spoken of.
What was there in the words which Charles had spoken that carried the
mind of the young man back to former times--to a period when he was
more pure and innocent than now? "_My mother has often pray'd me not
to drink!_" Ah, how the mist of months roll'd aside, and presented to
his soul's eye the picture of _his_ mother, and a prayer of exactly
similar purport! Why was it, too, that the young man's heart moved
with a feeling of kindness toward the harshly treated child?
Charles stood, his cheek flush'd and his heart throbbing, wiping
the trickling drops from his face with a handkerchief. At first the
sailor, between his drunkenness and his surprise, was much in the
condition of one suddenly awaken'd out of a deep sleep, who cannot
call his consciousness about him. When he saw the state of things,
however, and heard the jeering laugh of his companions, his dull eye
lighting up with anger, fell upon the boy who had withstood him. He
seized Charles with a grip of iron, and with the side of his heavy
boot gave him a sharp and solid kick. He was about repeating the
performance--for the child hung like a rag in his grasp--but all of a
sudden his ears rang, as if pistols were snapp'd close to them; lights
of various hues flicker'd in his eye, (he had but one, it will be
remember'd,) and a strong propelling power caused him to move from his
position, and keep moving until he was brought up by the wall. A blow,
a cuff given in such a scientific manner that the hand from which it
proceeded was evidently no stranger to the pugilistic art, had been
suddenly planted in the ear of the sailor. It was planted by the young
man of the black coat. He had watch'd with interest the proceeding
of the sailor and the boy--two or three times he was on the point of
interfering; but when the kick was given, his rage was uncontrollable.
He sprang from his seat in the attitude of a boxer--struck the sailor
in a manner to cause those unpleasant sensations which have been
described--and would probably have follow'd up the attack, had not
Charles, now thoroughly terrified, clung around his legs and prevented
The scene was a strange one, and for the time quite a silent one. The
company had started from their seats, and for a moment held breathless
but strain'd positions. In the middle of the room stood the young man,
in his not at all ungraceful attitude--every nerve out, and his eyes
He seem'd rooted like a rock; and clasping him, with an appearance of
confidence in his protection, clung the boy.
"You scoundrel!" cried the young man, his voice thick with passion,
"dare to touch the boy again, and I'll thrash you till no sense is
left in your body."
The sailor, now partially recover'd, made some gestures of a
"Come on, drunken brute!" continued the angry youth; "I wish you
would! You've not had half what you deserve!"
Upon sobriety and sense more fully taking their power in the brains of
the one-eyed mariner, however, that worthy determined in his own mind
that it would be most prudent to let the matter drop. Expressing
therefore his conviction to that effect, adding certain remarks to the
purport that he "meant no harm to the lad," that he was surprised
at such a gentleman being angry at "a little piece of fun," and so
forth--he proposed that the company should go on with their jollity
just as if nothing had happen'd. In truth, he of the single eye was
not a bad fellow at heart, after all; the fiery enemy whose advances
he had so often courted that night, had stolen away his good feelings,
and set busy devils at work within him, that might have made his hands
do some dreadful deed, had not the stranger interposed.
In a few minutes the frolic of the party was upon its former footing.
The young man sat down upon one of the benches, with the boy by his
side, and while the rest were loudly laughing and talking, they
two convers'd together. The stranger learn'd from Charles all the
particulars of his simple story--how his father had died years
since--how his mother work' d hard for a bare living--and how
he himself, for many dreary months, had been the servant of a
hard-hearted, avaricious master. More and more interested, drawing the
child close to his side, the young man listen'd to his plainly told
history--and thus an hour pass'd away.
It was now past midnight. The young man told Charles that on the
morrow he would take steps to relieve him from his servitude--that for
the present night the landlord would probably give him a lodging at
the inn--and little persuading did the host need for that.
As he retired to sleep, very pleasant thoughts filled the mind of the
young man--thoughts of a worthy action perform'd--thoughts, too, newly
awakened ones, of walking in a steadier and wiser path than formerly.
That roof, then, sheltered two beings that night--one of them innocent
and sinless of all wrong--the other--oh, to that other what evil had
not been present, either in action or to his desires!
Who was the stranger? To those that, from ties of relationship or
otherwise, felt an interest in him, the answer to that question was
not pleasant to dwell upon. His name was Langton--parentless--a
dissipated young man--a brawler--one whose too frequent companions
were rowdies, blacklegs, and swindlers. The New York police offices
were not strangers to his countenance. He had been bred to the
profession of medicine; besides, he had a very respectable income,
and his house was in a pleasant street on the west side of the city.
Little of his time, however, did Mr. John Langton spend at his
domestic hearth; and the elderly lady who officiated as his
housekeeper was by no means surprised to have him gone for a week or a
month at a time, and she knowing nothing of his whereabouts.
Living as he did, the young man was an unhappy being. It was not so
much that his associates were below his own capacity--for Langton,
though sensible and well bred, was not highly talented or refined--but
that he lived without any steady purpose, that he had no one to
attract him to his home, that he too easily allow'd himself to be
tempted--which caused his life to be, of late, one continued scene of
dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction he sought to drive away by the
brandy bottle, and mixing in all kinds of parties where the object
was pleasure. On the present occasion he had left the city a few days
before, and passing his time at a place near the village where Charles
and his mother lived. He fell in, during the day, with those who were
his companions of the tavern spree; and thus it happen'd that they
were all together. Langton hesitated not to make himself at home with
any associate that suited his fancy.
The next morning the poor widow rose from her sleepless cot; and from
that lucky trait in our nature which makes one extreme follow another,
she set about her toil with a lighten'd heart. Ellis, the farmer,
rose, too, short as the nights were, an hour before day; for his god
was gain, and a prime article of his creed was to get as much work as
possible from every one around him. In the course of the day Ellis was
called upon by young Langton, and never perhaps in his life was the
farmer puzzled more than at the young man's proposal--his desire
to provide for the widow's family, a family that could do him no
pecuniary good, and his willingness to disburse money for that
purpose. The widow, too, was called upon, not only on that day, but
the next and the next.
It needs not that I should particularize the subsequent events of
Langton's and the boy's history--how the reformation of the profligate
might be dated to begin from that time--how he gradually sever'd the
guilty ties that had so long gall'd him--how he enjoy'd his own home
again--how the friendship of Charles and himself grew not slack with
time--and how, when in the course of seasons he became head of a
family of his own, he would shudder at the remembrance of his early
dangers and his escapes.
"Another day," utter'd the poet Lingave, as he awoke in the morning,
and turn'd him drowsily on his hard pallet, "another day comes out,
burthen'd with its weight of woes. Of what use is existence to me?
Crush'd down beneath the merciless heel of poverty, and no promise of
hope to cheer me on, what have I in prospect but a life neglected and
a death of misery?"
The youth paused; but receiving no answer to his questions, thought
proper to continue the peevish soliloquy. "I am a genius, they say,"
and the speaker smiled bitterly, "but genius is not apparel and food.
Why should I exist in the world, unknown, unloved, press'd with cares,
while so many around me have all their souls can desire? I behold the
splendid equipages roll by--I see the respectful bow at the presence
of pride--and I curse the contrast between my own lot, and the fortune
of the rich. The lofty air--the show of dress--the aristocratic
demeanor--the glitter of jewels--dazzle my eyes; and sharp-tooth'
d envy works within me. I hate these haughty and favor'd ones. Why
should my path be so much rougher than theirs? Pitiable, unfortunate
man that I am! to be placed beneath those whom in my heart I
despise--and to be constantly tantalized with the presence of that
wealth I cannot enjoy!" And the poet cover'd his eyes with his hands,
and wept from very passion and fretfulness.
O, Lingave! be more of a man! Have you not the treasures of health and
untainted propensities, which many of those you envy never enjoy? Are
you not their superior in mental power, in liberal views of mankind,
and in comprehensive intellect? And even allowing you the choice,
how would you shudder at changing, in total, conditions with them!
Besides, were you willing to devote all your time and energies, you
could gain property too: squeeze, and toil, and worry, and twist
everything into a matter of profit, and you can become a great man, as
far as money goes to make greatness.
Retreat, then, man of the polish'd soul, from those irritable
complaints against your lot-those longings for wealth and puerile
distinction, not worthy your class. Do justice, philosopher, to your
own powers. While the world runs after its shadows and its bubbles,
(thus commune in your own mind,) we will fold ourselves in our circle
of understanding, and look with an eye of apathy on those things it
considers so mighty and so enviable. Let the proud man pass with his
pompous glance--let the gay flutter in finery--let the foolish enjoy
his folly, and the beautiful move on in his perishing glory; we will
gaze without desire on all their possessions, and all their pleasures.
Our destiny is different from theirs. Not for such as we, the lowly
flights of their crippled wings. We acknowledge no fellow-ship with
them in ambition. We composedly look down on the paths where they
walk, and pursue our own, without uttering a wish to descend, and be
as they. What is it to us that the mass pay us not that deference
which wealth commands? We desire no applause, save the applause of the
good and discriminating--the choice spirits among men. Our intellect
would be sullied, were the vulgar to approximate to it, by professing
to readily enter in, and praising it. Our pride is a towering, and
thrice refined pride.
When Lingave had given way to his temper some half hour, or
thereabout, he grew more calm, and bethought himself that he was
acting a very silly part. He listen'd a moment to the clatter of the
carts, and the tramp of early passengers on the pave below, as they
wended along to commence their daily toil. It was just sunrise, and
the season was summer. A little canary bird, the only pet poor Lingave
could afford to keep, chirp'd merrily in its cage on the wall. How
slight a circumstance will sometimes change the whole current of our
thoughts! The music of that bird abstracting the mind of the poet but
a moment from his sorrows, gave a chance for his natural buoyancy to
Lingave sprang lightly from his bed, and perform'd his ablutions and
his simple toilet--then hanging the cage on a nail outside the window,
and speaking an endearment to the songster, which brought a perfect
flood of melody in return--he slowly passed through his door,
descended the long narrow turnings of the stairs, and stood in the
open street. Undetermin'd as to any particular destination, he folded
his hands behind him, cast his glance upon the ground, and moved
Hour after hour the poet walk'd along--up this street and down
that--he reck'd not how or where. And as crowded thoroughfares are
hardly the most fit places for a man to let his fancy soar in the
clouds--many a push and shove and curse did the dreamer get bestow'd
The booming of the city clock sounded forth the hour twelve--high
"Ho! Lingave!" cried a voice from an open basement window as the poet
He stopp'd, and then unwittingly would have walked on still, not fully
awaken'd from his reverie.
"Lingave, I say!" cried the voice again, and the person to whom the
voice belong'd stretch'd his head quite out into the area in front,
"Stop man. Have you forgotten your appointment?"
"Oh! ah!" said the poet, and he smiled unmeaningly, and descending
the steps, went into the office of Ridman, whose call it was that had
startled him in his walk.
Who was Ridman? While the poet is waiting the convenience of that
personage, it may be as well to describe him.
Ridman was a _money-maker_. He had much penetration, considerable
knowledge of the world, and a disposition to be constantly in the
midst of enterprise, excitement, and stir. His schemes for gaining
wealth were various; he had dipp'd into almost every branch and
channel of business. A slight acquaintance of several years' standing
subsisted between him and the poet. The day previous a boy had call'd
with a note from Ridman to Lingave, desiring the presence of the
latter at the money-maker's room. The poet return'd for answer that he
would be there. This was the engagement which he came near breaking.
Ridman had a smooth tongue. All his ingenuity was needed in the
explanation to his companion of why and wherefore the latter had been
It is not requisite to state specifically the offer made by the man
of wealth to the poet. Ridman, in one of his enterprises, found it
necessary to procure the aid of such a person as Lingave--a writer of
power, a master of elegant diction, of fine taste, in style passionate
yet pure, and of the delicate imagery that belongs to the children
of song. The youth was absolutely startled at the magnificent and
permanent remuneration which was held out to him for a moderate
exercise of his talents.
But the _nature_ of the service required! All the sophistry and art of
Ridman could not veil its repulsiveness. The poet was to labor for the
advancement of what he felt to be unholy--he was to inculcate what
would lower the perfection of man. He promised to give an answer to
the proposal the succeeding day, and left the place.
Now during the many hours there was a war going on in the heart of the