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Etexts from Twice Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Part 2 out of 5

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who, like the rest of her sect, was a persecuted wanderer. She
had been taken from the prison a short time before, carried into
the uninhabited wilderness, and left to perish there by hunger or
wild beasts. This was no uncommon method of disposing of the
Quakers, and they were accustomed to boast that the inhabitants
of the desert were more hospitable to them than civilized man.

"Fear not, little boy, you shall not need a mother, and a kind
one," said Dorothy, when she had gathered this information. "Dry
your tears, Ilbrahim, and be my child, as I will be your mother."

The good woman prepared the little bed, from which her own
children had successively been borne to another resting-place.
Before Ilbrahim would consent to occupy it, he knelt down, and as
Dorothy listened to his simple and affecting prayer, she
marvelled how the parents that had taught it to him could have
been judged worthy of death. When the boy had fallen asleep, she
bent over his pale and spiritual countenance, pressed a kiss upon
his white brow, drew the bedclothes up about his neck, and went
away with a pensive gladness in her heart.

Tobias Pearson was not among the earliest emigrants from the old
country. He had remained in England during the first years of the
civil war, in which he had borne some share as a cornet of
dragoons, under Cromwell. But when the ambitious designs of his
leader began to develop themselves, he quitted the army of the
Parliament, and sought a refuge from the strife, which was no
longer holy, among the people of his persuasion in the colony of
Massachusetts. A more worldly consideration had perhaps an
influence in drawing him thither; for New England offered
advantages to men of unprosperous fortunes, as well as to
dissatisfied religionists, and Pearson had hitherto found it
difficult to provide for a wife and increasing family. To this
supposed impurity of motive the more bigoted Puritans were
inclined to impute the removal by death of all the children, for
whose earthly good the father had been over-thoughtful. They had
left their native country blooming like roses, and like roses
they had perished in a foreign soil. Those expounders of the ways
of Providence, who had thus judged their brother, and attributed
his domestic sorrows to his sin, were not more charitable when
they saw him and Dorothy endeavoring to fill up the void in their
hearts by the adoption of an infant of the accursed sect. Nor did
they fail to communicate their disapprobation to Tobias; but the
latter, in reply, merely pointed at the little quiet, lovely boy,
whose appearance and deportment were indeed as powerful arguments
as could possibly have been adduced in his own favor. Even his
beauty, however, and his winning manners, sometimes produced an
effect ultimately unfavorable; for the bigots, when the outer
surfaces of their iron hearts had been softened and again grew
hard, affirmed that no merely natural cause could have so worked
upon them.

Their antipathy to the poor infant was also increased by the ill
success of divers theological discussions, in which it was
attempted to convince him of the errors of his sect. Ilbrahim, it
is true, was not a skilful controversialist; but the feeling of
his religion was strong as instinct in him, and he could neither
be enticed nor driven from the faith which his father had died
for. The odium of this stubbornness was shared in a great measure
by the child's protectors, insomuch that Tobias and Dorothy very
shortly began to experience a most bitter species of persecution,
in the cold regards of many a friend whom they had valued. The
common people manifested their opinions more openly. Pearson was
a man of some consideration, being a representative to the
General Court and an approved lieutenant in the trainbands, yet
within a week after his adoption of Ilbrahim he had been both
hissed and hooted. Once, also, when walking through a solitary
piece of woods, he heard a loud voice from some invisible
speaker; and it cried, "What shall be done to the backslider? Lo!
the scourge is knotted for him, even the whip of nine cords, and
every cord three knots!" These insults irritated Pearson's temper
for the moment; they entered also into his heart, and became
imperceptible but powerful workers towards an end which his most
secret thought had not yet whispered.

. . . . . . . . .

On the second Sabbath after Ilbrahim became a member of their
family, Pearson and his wife deemed it proper that he should
appear with them at public worship. They had anticipated some
opposition to this measure from the boy, but he prepared himself
in silence, and at the appointed hour was clad in the new
mourning suit which Dorothy had wrought for him. As the parish
was then, and during many subsequent years, unprovided with a
bell, the signal for the commencement of religious exercises was
the beat of a drum. At the first sound of that martial call to
the place of holy and quiet thoughts, Tobias and Dorothy set
forth, each holding a hand of little Ilbrahim, like two parents
linked together by the infant of their love. On their path
through the leafless woods they were overtaken by many persons of
their acquaintance, all of whom avoided them, and passed by on
the other side; but a severer trial awaited their constancy when
they had descended the hill, and drew near the pine-built and
undecorated house of prayer. Around the door, from which the
drummer still sent forth his thundering summons, was drawn up a
formidable phalanx, including several of the oldest members of
the congregation, many of the middle aged, and nearly all the
younger males. Pearson found it difficult to sustain their united
and disapproving gaze, but Dorothy, whose mind was differently
circumstanced, merely drew the boy closer to her, and faltered
not in her approach. As they entered the door, they overheard the
muttered sentiments of the assemblage, and when the reviling
voices of the little children smote Ilbrahim's ear, he wept.

The interior aspect of the meeting-house was rude. The low
ceiling, the unplastered walls, the naked wood work, and the
undraperied pulpit, offered nothing to excite the devotion,
which, without such external aids, often remains latent in the
heart. The floor of the building was occupied by rows of long,
cushionless benches, supplying the place of pews, and the broad
aisle formed a sexual division, impassable except by children
beneath a certain age.

Pearson and Dorothy separated at the door of the meeting-house,
and Ilbrahim, being within the years of infancy, was retained
under the care of the latter. The wrinkled beldams involved
themselves in their rusty cloaks as he passed by; even the
mild-featured maidens seemed to dread contamination; and many a
stern old man arose, and turned his repulsive and unheavenly
countenance upon the gentle boy, as if the sanctuary were
polluted by his presence. He was a sweet infant of the skies that
had strayed away from his home, and all the inhabitants of this
miserable world closed up their impure hearts against him, drew
back their earthsoiled garments from his touch, and said, "We are
holier than thou."

Ilbrahim, seated by the side of his adopted mother, and retaining
fast hold of her hand, assumed a grave and decorous demeanor,
such as might befit a person of matured taste and understanding,
who should find him self in a temple dedicated to some worship
which he did not recognize, but felt himself bound to respect.
The exercises had not yet commenced, however, when the boy's
attention was arrested by an event, apparently of trifling
interest. A woman, having her face muffled in a hood, and a cloak
drawn completely about her form, advanced slowly up the broad
aisle and took a place upon the foremost bench. Ilbrahim's faint
color varied, his nerves fluttered, he was unable to turn his
eyes from the muffled female.

When the preliminary prayer and hymn were over, the minister
arose, and having turned the hour-glass which stood by the great
Bible, commenced his discourse. He was now well stricken in
years, a man of pale, thin countenance, and his gray hairs were
closely covered by a black velvet skullcap. In his younger days
he had practically learned the meaning of persecution from
Archbishop Laud, and he was not now disposed to forget the lesson
against which he had murmured then. Introducing the often
discussed subject of the Quakers, he gave a history of that sect,
and a description of their tenets, in which error predominated,
and prejudice distorted the aspect of what was true. He adverted
to the recent measures in the province, and cautioned his hearers
of weaker parts against calling in question the just severity
which God-fearing magistrates had at length been compelled to
exercise. He spoke of the danger of pity, in some cases a
commendable and Christian virtue, but inapplicable to this
pernicious sect. He observed that such was their devilish
obstinacy in error, that even the little children, the sucking
babes, were hardened and desperate heretics. He affirmed that no
man, without Heaven's especial warrants should attempt their
conversion, lest while he lent his hand to draw them from the
slough, he should himself be precipitated into its lowest depths.

The sands of the second hour were principally in the lower half
of the glass when the sermon concluded. An approving murmur
followed, and the clergyman, having given out a hymn, took his
seat with much self-congratulation, and endeavored to read the
effect of his eloquence in the visages of the people. But while
voices from all parts of the house were tuning themselves to
sing, a scene occurred, which, though not very unusual at that
period in the province, happened to be without precedent in this

The muffled female, who had hitherto sat motionless in the front
rank of the audience, now arose, and with slow, stately, and
unwavering step, ascended the pulpit stairs. The quiverings of
incipient harmony were hushed, and the divine sat in speechless
and almost terrified astonishment, while she undid the door, and
stood up in the sacred desk from which his maledictions had just
been thundered. She then divested herself of the cloak and hood,
and appeared in a most singular array. A shapeless robe of
sackcloth was girded about her waist with a knotted cord; her
raven hair fell down upon her shoulders, and its blackness was
defiled by pale streaks of ashes, which she had strown upon her
head. Her eyebrows, dark and strongly defined, added to the
deathly whiteness of a countenance, which, emaciated with want,
and wild with enthusiasm and strange sorrows, retained no trace
of earlier beauty. This figure stood gazing earnestly on the
audience, and there was no sound, nor any movement, except a
faint shuddering which every man observed in his neighbor, but
was scarcely conscious of in himself. At length, when her fit of
inspiration came, she spoke, for the first few moments, in a low
voice, and not invariably distinct utterance. Her discourse gave
evidence of an imagination hopelessly entangled with her reason;
it was a vague and incomprehensible rhapsody, which, however,
seemed to spread its own atmosphere round the hearer's soul, and
to move his feelings by some influence unconnected with the
words. As she proceeded, beautiful but shadowy images would
sometimes be seen, like bright things moving in a turbid river;
or a strong and singularly-shaped idea leaped forth, and seized
at once on the understanding or the heart. But the course of her
unearthly eloquence soon led her to the persecutions of her sect,
and from thence the step was short to her own peculiar sorrows.
She was naturally a woman of mighty passions, and hatred and
revenge now wrapped themselves in the garb of piety; the
character of her speech was changed, her images became distinct
though wild, and her denunciations had an almost hellish

"The Governor and his mighty men," she said, "have gathered
together, taking counsel among themselves and saying, 'What shall
we do unto this people even unto the people that have come into
this land to put our iniquity to the blush?' And lo! the devil
entereth into the council chamber, like a lame man of low stature
and gravely apparelled, with a dark and twisted countenance, and
a bright, downcast eye. And he standeth up among the rulers; yea,
he goeth to and fro, whispering to each; and every man lends his
ear, for his word is 'Slay, slay!' But I say unto ye, Woe to them
that slay! Woe to them that shed the blood of saints! Woe to them
that have slain the husband, and cast forth the child, the tender
infant, to wander homeless and hungry and cold, till he die; and
have saved the mother alive, in the cruelty of their tender
mercies! Woe to them in their lifetime! cursed are they in the
delight and pleasure of their hearts! Woe to them in their death
hour, whether it come swiftly with blood and violence, or after
long and lingering pain! Woe, in the dark house, in the
rottenness of the grave, when the children's children shall
revile the ashes of the fathers! Woe, woe, woe, at the judgment,
when all the persecuted and all the slain in this bloody land,
and the father, the mother, and the child, shall await them in a
day that they cannot escape! Seed of the faith, seed of the
faith, ye whose hearts are moving with a power that ye know not,
arise, wash your hands of this innocent blood! Lift your voices,
chosen ones; cry aloud, and call down a woe and a judgment with

Having thus given vent to the flood of malignity which she
mistook for inspiration, the speaker was silent. Her voice was
succeeded by the hysteric shrieks of several women, but the
feelings of the audience generally had not been drawn onward in
the current with her own. They remained stupefied, stranded as it
were, in the midst of a torrent, which deafened them by its
roaring, but might not move them by its violence. The clergyman,
who could not hitherto have ejected the usurper of his pulpit
otherwise than by bodily force, now addressed her in the tone of
just indignation and legitimate authority.

"Get you down, woman, from the holy place which you profane," he
said. "Is it to the Lord's house that you come to pour forth the
foulness of your heart and the inspiration of the devil? Get you
down, and remember that the sentence of death is on you; yea, and
shall be executed, were it but for this day's work!"

"I go, friend, I go, for the voice hath had its utterance,"
replied she, in a depressed and even mild tone. "I have done my
mission unto thee and to thy people. Reward me with stripes,
imprisonment, or death, as ye shall be permitted."

The weakness of exhausted passion caused her steps to totter as
she descended the pulpit stairs. The people, in the mean while,
were stirring to and fro on the floor of the house, whispering
among themselves, and glancing towards the intruder. Many of them
now recognized her as the woman who had assaulted the Governor
with frightful language as he passed by the window of her prison;
they knew, also, that she was adjudged to suffer death, and had
been preserved only by an involuntary banishment into the
wilderness. The new outrage, by which she had provoked her fate,
seemed to render further lenity impossible; and a gentleman in
military dress, with a stout man of inferior rank, drew towards
the door of the meeting-house, and awaited her approach.

Scarcely did her feet press the floor, however, when an
unexpected scene occurred. In that moment of her peril, when
every eye frowned with death, a little timid boy pressed forth,
and threw his arms round his mother.

"I am here, mother; it is I, and I will go with thee to prison,"
he exclaimed.

She gazed at him with a doubtful and almost frightened
expression, for she knew that the boy had been cast out to
perish, and she had not hoped to see his face again. She feared,
perhaps, that it was but one of the happy visions with which her
excited fancy had often deceived her, in the solitude of the
desert or in prison. But when she felt his hand warm within her
own, and heard his little eloquence of childish love, she began
to know that she was yet a mother.

"Blessed art thou, my son," she sobbed. "My heart was withered;
yea, dead with thee and with thy father; and now it leaps as in
the first moment when I pressed thee to my bosom."

She knelt down and embraced him again and again, while the joy
that could find no words expressed itself in broken accents, like
the bubbles gushing up to vanish at the surface of a deep
fountain. The sorrows of past years, and the darker peril that
was nigh, cast not a shadow on the brightness of that fleeting
moment. Soon, however, the spectators saw a change upon her face,
as the consciousness of her sad estate returned, and grief
supplied the fount of tears which joy had opened. By the words
she uttered, it would seem that the indulgence of natural love
had given her mind a momentary sense of its errors, and made her
know how far she had strayed from duty in following the dictates
of a wild fanaticism.

"In a doleful hour art thou returned to me, poor boy," she said,
"for thy mother's path has gone darkening onward, till now the
end is death. Son, son, I have borne thee in my arms when my
limbs were tottering, and I have fed thee with the food that I
was fainting for; yet I have ill performed a mother's part by
thee in life, and now I leave thee no inheritance but woe and
shame. Thou wilt go seeking through the world, and find all
hearts closed against thee and their sweet affections turned to
bitterness for my sake. My child, my child, how many a pang
awaits thy gentle spirit, and I the cause of all!"

She hid her face on Ilbrahim's head, and her long, raven hair,
discolored with the ashes of her mourning, fell down about him
like a veil. A low and interrupted moan was the voice of her
heart's anguish, and it did not fail to move the sympathies of
many who mistook their involuntary virtue for a sin. Sobs were
audible in the female section of the house, and every man who was
a father drew his hand across his eyes. Tobias Pearson was
agitated and uneasy, but a certain feeling like the consciousness
of guilt oppressed him, so that he could not go forth and offer
himself as the protector of the child. Dorothy, however, had
watched her husband's eye. Her mind was free from the influence
that had begun to work on his, and she drew near the Quaker
woman, and addressed her in the hearing of all the congregation.

"Stranger, trust this boy to me, and I will be his mother," she
said, taking Ilbrahim's hand. "Providence has signally marked out
my husband to protect him, and he has fed at our table and lodged
under our roof now many days, till our hearts have grown very
strongly unto him. Leave the tender child with us, and be at ease
concerning his welfare."

The Quaker rose from the ground, but drew the boy closer to her,
while she gazed earnestly in Dorothy's face. Her mild but
saddened features, and neat matronly attire, harmonized together,
and were like a verse of fireside poetry. Her very aspect proved
that she was blameless, so far as mortal could be so, in respect
to God and man; while the enthusiast, in her robe of sackcloth
and girdle of knotted cord, had as evidently violated the duties
of the present life and the future, by fixing her attention
wholly on the latter. The two females, as they held each a hand
of Ilbrahim, formed a practical allegory; it was rational piety
and unbridled fanaticism contending for the empire of a young

"Thou art not of our people," said the Quaker, mournfully.

"No, we are not of your people," replied Dorothy, with mildness,
"but we are Christians, looking upward to the same heaven with
you. Doubt not that your boy shall meet you there, if there be a
blessing on our tender and prayerful guidance of him. Thither, I
trust, my own children have gone before me, for I also have been
a mother; I am no longer so," she added, in a faltering tone,
"and your son will have all my care."

"But will ye lead him in the path which his parents have
trodden?" demanded the Quaker. "Can ye teach him the enlightened
faith which his father has died for, and for which I, even I, am
soon to become an unworthy martyr? The boy has been baptized in
blood; will ye keep the mark fresh and ruddy upon his forehead?"

"I will not deceive you," answered Dorothy. "If your child become
our child, we must breed him up in the instruction which Heaven
has imparted to us; we must pray for him the prayers of our own
faith; we must do towards him according to the dictates of our
own consciences, and not of yours. Were we to act otherwise, we
should abuse your trust, even in complying with your wishes."

The mother looked down upon her boy with a troubled countenance,
and then turned her eyes upward to heaven. She seemed to pray
internally, and the contention of her soul was evident.

"Friend," she said at length to Dorothy, "I doubt not that my son
shall receive all earthly tenderness at thy hands. Nay, I will
believe that even thy imperfect lights may guide him to a better
world, for surely thou art on the path thither. But thou hast
spoken of a husband. Doth he stand here among this multitude of
people? Let him come forth, for I must know to whom I commit this
most precious trust."

She turned her face upon the male auditors, and after a momentary
delay, Tobias Pearson came forth from among them. The Quaker saw
the dress which marked his military rank, and shook her head; but
then she noted the hesitating air, the eyes that struggled with
her own, and were vanquished; the color that went and came, and
could find no resting place. As she gazed, an unmirthful smile
spread over her features, like sunshine that grows melancholy in
some desolate spot. Her lips moved inaudibly, but at length she

"I hear it, I hear it. The voice speaketh within me and saith,
'Leave thy child, Catharine, for his place is here, and go hence,
for I have other work for thee. Break the bonds of natural
affection, martyr thy love, and know that in all these things
eternal wisdom hath its ends.' I go, friends; I go. Take ye my
boy, my precious jewel. I go hence, trusting that all shall be
well, and that even for his infant hands there is a labor in the

She knelt down and whispered to Ilbrahim, who at first struggled
and clung to his mother, with sobs and tears, but remained
passive when she had kissed his cheek and arisen from the ground.
Having held her hands over his head in mental prayer, she was
ready to depart.

"Farewell, friends in mine extremity," she said to Pearson and
his wife; "the good deed ye have done me is a treasure laid up in
heaven, to be returned a thousand-fold hereafter. And farewell
ye, mine enemies, to whom it is not permitted to harm so much as
a hair of my head, nor to stay my footsteps even for a moment.
The day is coming when ye shall call upon me to witness for ye to
this one sin uncommitted, and I will rise up and answer."

She turned her steps towards the door, and the men, who had
stationed themselves to guard it, withdrew, and suffered her to
pass. A general sentiment of pity overcame the virulence of
religious hatred. Sanctified by her love and her affliction, she
went forth, and all the people gazed after her till she had
journeyed up the hill, and was lost behind its brow. She went,
the apostle of her own unquiet heart, to renew the wanderings of
past years. For her voice had been already heard in many lands of
Christendom; and she had pined in the cells of a Catholic
Inquisition before she felt the lash and lay in the dungeons of
the Puritans. Her mission had extended also to the followers of
the Prophet, and from them she had received the courtesy and
kindness which all the contending sects of our purer religion
united to deny her. Her husband and herself had resided many
months in Turkey, where even the Sultan's countenance was
gracious to them; in that pagan land, too, was Ilbrahim's
birthplace, and his oriental name was a mark of gratitude for the
good deeds of an unbeliever.

. . . . . . . . .

When Pearson and his wife had thus acquired all the rights over
Ilbrahim that could be delegated, their affection for him became
like the memory of their native land, or their mild sorrow for
the dead, a piece of the immovable furniture of their hearts. The
boy, also, after a week or two of mental disquiet, began to
gratify his protectors by many inadvertent proofs that he
considered them as parents, and their house as home. Before the
winter snows were melted, the persecuted infant, the little
wanderer from a remote and heathen country, seemed native in the
New England cottage, and inseparable from the warmth and security
of its hearth. Under the influence of kind treatment, and in the
consciousness that he was loved, Ilbrahim's demeanor lost a
premature manliness, which had resulted from his earlier
situation; he became more childlike, and his natural character
displayed itself with freedom. It was in many respects a
beautiful one, yet the disordered imaginations of both his father
and mother had perhaps propagated a certain unhealthiness in the
mind of the boy. In his general state, Ilbrahim would derive
enjoyment from the most trifling events, and from every object
about him; he seemed to discover rich treasures of happiness, by
a faculty analogous to that of the witch hazel, which points to
hidden gold where all is barren to the eye. His airy gayety,
coming to him from a thousand sources, communicated itself to the
family, and Ilbrahim was like a domesticated sunbeam, brightening
moody countenances, and chasing away the gloom from the dark
corners of the cottage.

On the other hand, as the susceptibility of pleasure is also that
of pain, the exuberant cheerfulness of the boy's prevailing
temper sometimes yielded to moments of deep depression. His
sorrows could not always be followed up to their original source,
but most frequently they appeared to flow, though Ilbrahim was
young to be sad for such a cause, from wounded love. The
flightiness of his mirth rendered him often guilty of offences
against the decorum of a Puritan household, and on these
occasions he did not invariably escape rebuke. But the slightest
word of real bitterness, which he was infallible in
distinguishing from pretended anger, seemed to sink into his
heart and poison all his enjoyments, till he became sensible that
he was entirely forgiven. Of the malice, which generally
accompanies a superfluity of sensitiveness, Ilbrahim was
altogether destitute: when trodden upon, he would not turn; when
wounded, he could but die. His mind was wanting in the stamina
for self-support; it was a plant that would twine beautifully
round something stronger than itself, but if repulsed, or torn
away, it had no choice but to wither on the ground. Dorothy's
acuteness taught her that severity would crush the spirit of the
child, and she nurtured him with the gentle care of one who
handles a butterfly. Her husband manifested an equal affection,
although it grew daily less productive of familiar caresses.

The feelings of the neighboring people, in regard to the Quaker
infant and his protectors, had not undergone a favorable change,
in spite of the momentary triumph which the desolate mother had
obtained over their sympathies. The scorn and bitterness, of
which he was the object, were very grievous to Ilbrahim,
especially when any circumstance made him sensible that the
children, his equals in age, partook of the enmity of their
parents. His tender and social nature had already overflowed in
attachments to everything about him, and still there was a
residue of unappropriated love, which he yearned to bestow upon
the little ones who were taught to hate him. As the warm days of
spring came on, Ilbrahim was accustomed to remain for hours,
silent and inactive, within hearing of the children's voices at
their play; yet, with his usual delicacy of feeling, he avoided
their notice, and would flee and hide himself from the smallest
individual among them. Chance, however, at length seemed to open
a medium of communication between his heart and theirs; it was by
means of a boy about two years older than Ilbrahim, who was
injured by a fall from a tree in the vicinity of Pearson's
habitation. As the sufferer's own home was at some distance,
Dorothy willingly received him under her roof, and became his
tender and careful nurse.

Ilbrahim was the unconscious possessor of much skill in
physiognomy, and it would have deterred him, in other
circumstances, from attempting to make a friend of this boy. The
countenance of the latter immediately impressed a beholder
disagreeably, but it required some examination to discover that
the cause was a very slight distortion of the mouth, and the
irregular, broken line, and near approach of the eyebrows.
Analogous, perhaps, to these trifling deformities, was an almost
imperceptible twist of every joint, and the uneven prominence of
the breast; forming a body, regular in its general outline, but
faulty in almost all its details. The disposition of the boy was
sullen and reserved, and the village schoolmaster stigmatized him
as obtuse in intellect; although, at a later period of life, he
evinced ambition and very peculiar talents. But whatever might be
his personal or moral irregularities, Ilbrahim's heart seized
upon, and clung to him, from the moment that he was brought
wounded into the cottage; the child of persecution seemed to
compare his own fate with that of the sufferer, and to feel that
even different modes of misfortune had created a sort of
relationship between them. Food, rest, and the fresh air, for
which he languished, were neglected; he nestled continually by
the bedside of the little stranger, and, with a fond jealousy,
endeavored to be the medium of all the cares that were bestowed
upon him. As the boy became convalescent, Ilbrahim contrived
games suitable to his situation, or amused him by a faculty which
he had perhaps breathed in with the air of his barbaric
birthplace. It was that of reciting imaginary adventures, on the
spur of the moment, and apparently in inexhaustible succession.
His tales were of course monstrous, disjointed, and without aim;
but they were curious on account of a vein of human tenderness
which ran through them all, and was like a sweet, familiar face,
encountered in the midst of wild and unearthly scenery. The
auditor paid much attention to these romances, and sometimes
interrupted them by brief remarks upon the incidents, displaying
shrewdness above his years, mingled with a moral obliquity which
grated very harshly against Ilbrahim's instinctive rectitude.
Nothing, however, could arrest the progress of the latter's
affection, and there were many proofs that it met with a response
from the dark and stubborn nature on which it was lavished. The
boy's parents at length removed him, to complete his cure under
their own roof.

Ilbrahim did not visit his new friend after his departure; but he
made anxious and continual inquiries respecting him, and informed
himself of the day when he was to reappear among his playmates.
On a pleasant summer afternoon, the children of the neighborhood
had assembled in the little forest-crowned amphitheatre behind
the meeting-house, and the recovering invalid was there, leaning
on a staff. The glee of a score of untainted bosoms was heard in
light and airy voices, which danced among the trees like sunshine
become audible; the grown men of this weary world, as they
journeyed by the spot, marvelled why life, beginning in such
brightness, should proceed in gloom; and their hearts, or their
imaginations, answered them and said, that the bliss of childhood
gushes from its innocence. But it happened that an unexpected
addition was made to the heavenly little band. It was Ilbrahim,
who came towards the children with a look of sweet confidence on
his fair and spiritual face, as if, having manifested his love to
one of them, he had no longer to fear a repulse from their
society. A hush came over their mirth the moment they beheld him,
and they stood whispering to each other while he drew nigh; but,
all at once, the devil of their fathers entered into the
unbreeched fanatics, and sending up a fierce, shrill cry, they
rushed upon the poor Quaker child. In an instant, he was the
centre of a brood of baby-fiends, who lifted sticks against him,
pelted him with stones, and displayed an instinct of destruction
far more loathsome than the bloodthirstiness of manhood.

The invalid, in the meanwhile, stood apart from the tumult,
crying out with a loud voice, "Fear not, Ilbrahim, come hither
and take my hand;" and his unhappy friend endeavored to obey him.
After watching the victim's struggling approach with a calm smile
and unabashed eye, the foulhearted little villain lifted his
staff and struck Ilbrahim on the mouth, so forcibly that the
blood issued in a stream. The poor child's arms had been raised
to guard his head from the storm of blows; but now he dropped
them at once. His persecutors beat him down, trampled upon him,
dragged him by his long, fair locks, and Ilbrahim was on the
point of becoming as veritable a martyr as ever entered bleeding
into heaven. The uproar, however, attracted the notice of a few
neighbors, who put themselves to the trouble of rescuing the
little heretic, and of conveying him to Pearson's door.

Ilbrahim's bodily harm was severe, but long and careful nursing
accomplished his recovery; the injury done to his sensitive
spirit was more serious, though not so visible. Its signs were
principally of a negative character, and to be discovered only by
those who had previously known him. His gait was thenceforth
slow, even, and unvaried by the sudden bursts of sprightlier
motion, which had once corresponded to his overflowing gladness;
his countenance was heavier, and its former play of expression,
the dance of sunshine reflected from moving water, was destroyed
by the cloud over his existence; his notice was attracted in a
far less degree by passing events, and he appeared to find
greater difficulty in comprehending what was new to him than at a
happier period. A stranger, founding his judgment upon these
circumstances, would have said that the dulness of the child's
intellect widely contradicted the promise of his features, but
the secret was in the direction of Ilbrahim's thoughts, which
were brooding within him when they should naturally have been
wandering abroad. An attempt of Dorothy to revive his former
sportiveness was the single occasion on which his quiet demeanor
yielded to a violent display of grief; he burst into passionate
weeping, and ran and hid himself, for his heart had become so
miserably sore that even the hand of kindness tortured it like
fire. Sometimes, at night and probably in his dreams, he was
heard to cry "Mother! Mother!" as if her place, which a stranger
had supplied while Ilbrahim was happy, admitted of no substitute
in his extreme affliction. Perhaps, among the many life-weary
wretches then upon the earth, there was not one who combined
innocence and misery like this poor, broken-hearted infant, so
soon the victim of his own heavenly nature.

While this melancholy change had taken place in Ilbrahim, one of
an earlier origin and of different character had come to its
perfection in his adopted father. The incident with which this
tale commences found Pearson in a state of religious dulness, yet
mentally disquieted, and longing for a more fervid faith than he
possessed. The first effect of his kindness to Ilbrahim was to
produce a softened feeling, and incipient love for the child's
whole sect; but joined to this, and resulting perhaps from
self-suspicion, was a proud and ostentatious contempt of all
their tenets and practical extravagances. In the course of much
thought, however, for the subject struggled irresistibly into his
mind, the foolishness of the doctrine began to be less evident,
and the points which had particularly offended his reason assumed
another aspect, or vanished entirely away. The work within him
appeared to go on even while he slept, and that which had been a
doubt, when he lay down to rest, would often hold the place of a
truth, confirmed by some forgotten demonstration, when he
recalled his thoughts in the morning. But while he was thus
becoming assimilated to the enthusiasts, his contempt, in nowise
decreasing towards them, grew very fierce against himself; he
imagined, also, that every face of his acquaintance wore a sneer,
and that every word addressed to him was a gibe. Such was his
state of mind at the period of Ilbrahim's misfortune; and the
emotions consequent upon that event completed the change, of
which the child had been the original instrument.

In the mean time, neither the fierceness of the persecutors, nor
the infatuation of their victims, had decreased. The dungeons
were never empty; the streets of almost every village echoed
daily with the lash; the life of a woman, whose mild and
Christian spirit no cruelty could embitter, had been sacrificed;
and more innocent blood was yet to pollute the hands that were so
often raised in prayer. Early after the Restoration, the English
Quakers represented to Charles II that a "vein of blood was open
in his dominions;" but though the displeasure of the voluptuous
king was roused, his interference was not prompt. And now the
tale must stride forward over many months, leaving Pearson to
encounter ignominy and misfortune; his wife to a firm endurance
of a thousand sorrows; poor Ilbrahim to pine and droop like a
cankered rosebud; his mother to wander on a mistaken errand,
neglectful of the holiest trust which can be committed to a

. . . . . . . . .

A winter evening, a night of storm, had darkened over Pearson's
habitation, and there were no cheerful faces to drive the gloom
from his broad hearth. The fire, it is true, sent forth a glowing
heat and a ruddy light, and large logs, dripping with half-melted
snow, lay ready to be cast upon the embers. But the apartment was
saddened in its aspect by the absence of much of the homely
wealth which had once adorned it; for the exaction of repeated
fines, and his own neglect of temporal affairs, had greatly
impoverished the owner. And with the furniture of peace, the
implements of war had likewise disappeared; the sword was broken,
the helm and cuirass were cast away forever; the soldier had done
with battles, and might not lift so much as his naked hand to
guard his head. But the Holy Book remained, and the table on
which it rested was drawn before the fire, while two of the
persecuted sect sought comfort from its pages.

He who listened, while the other read, was the master of the
house, now emaciated in form, and altered as to the expression
and healthiness of his countenance; for his mind had dwelt too
long among visionary thoughts, and his body had been worn by
imprisonment and stripes. The hale and weather-beaten old man who
sat beside him had sustained less injury from a far longer course
of the same mode of life. In person he was tall and dignified,
and, which alone would have made him hateful to the Puritans, his
gray locks fell from beneath the broad-brimmed hat, and rested on
his shoulders. As the old man read the sacred page the snow
drifted against the windows, or eddied in at the crevices of the
door, while a blast kept laughing in the chimney, and the blaze
leaped fiercely up to seek it. And sometimes, when the wind
struck the hill at a certain angle, and swept down by the cottage
across the wintry plain, its voice was the most doleful that can
be conceived; it came as if the Past were speaking, as if the
Dead had contributed each a whisper, as if the Desolation of Ages
were breathed in that one lamenting sound.

The Quaker at length closed the book, retaining however his hand
between the pages which he had been reading, while he looked
steadfastly at Pearson. The attitude and features of the latter
might have indicated the endurance of bodily pain; he leaned his
forehead on his hands, his teeth were firmly closed, and his
frame was tremulous at intervals with a nervous agitation.

"Friend Tobias," inquired the old man, compassionately, "hast
thou found no comfort in these many blessed passages of

"Thy voice has fallen on my ear like a sound afar off and
indistinct," replied Pearson without lifting his eyes. "Yea, and
when I have hearkened carefully the words seemed cold and
lifeless, and intended for another and a lesser grief than mine.
Remove the book," he added, in a tone of sullen bitterness. "I
have no part in its consolations, and they do but fret my sorrow
the more."

"Nay, feeble brother, be not as one who hath never known the
light," said the elder Quaker earnestly, but with mildness. "Art
thou he that wouldst be content to give all, and endure all, for
conscience' sake; desiring even peculiar trials, that thy faith
might be purified and thy heart weaned from worldly desires? And
wilt thou sink beneath an affliction which happens alike to them
that have their portion here below, and to them that lay up
treasure in heaven? Faint not, for thy burden is yet light."

"It is heavy! It is heavier than I can bear!" exclaimed Pearson,
with the impatience of a variable spirit. "From my youth upward I
have been a man marked out for wrath; and year by year, yea, day
after day, I have endured sorrows such as others know not in
their lifetime. And now I speak not of the love that has been
turned to hatred, the honor to ignominy, the ease and
plentifulness of all things to danger, want, and nakedness. All
this I could have borne, and counted myself blessed. But when my
heart was desolate with many losses I fixed it upon the child of
a stranger, and he became dearer to me than all my buried ones;
and now he too must die as if my love were poison. Verily, I am
an accursed man, and I will lay me down in the dust and lift up
my head no more."

"Thou sinnest, brother, but it is not for me to rebuke thee; for
I also have had my hours of darkness, wherein I have murmured
against the cross," said the old Quaker. He continued, perhaps in
the hope of distracting his companion's thoughts from his own
sorrows. "Even of late was the light obscured within me, when the
men of blood had banished me on pain of death, and the constables
led me onward from village to village towards the wilderness. A
strong and cruel hand was wielding the knotted cords; they sunk
deep into the flesh, and thou mightst have tracked every reel and
totter of my footsteps by the blood that followed. As we went

"Have I not borne all this; and have I murmured?" interrupted
Pearson impatiently.

"Nay, friend but hear me," continued the other. "As we journeyed
on, night darkened on our path, so that no man could see the rage
of the persecutors or the constancy of my endurance, though
Heaven forbid that I should glory therein. The lights began to
glimmer in the cottage windows, and I could discern the inmates
as they gathered in comfort and security every man with his wife
and children by their own evening hearth. At length we came to a
tract of fertile land; in the dim light, the forest was not
visible around it; and behold! there was a straw-thatched
dwelling which bore the very aspect of my home, far over the wild
ocean, far in our own England. Then came bitter thoughts upon me;
yea, remembrances that were like death to my soul. The happiness
of my early days was painted to me; the disquiet of my manhood,
the altered faith of my declining years. I remembered how I had
been moved to go forth a wanderer when my daughter, the youngest,
the dearest of my flock, lay on her dying bed, and--"

"Couldst thou obey the command at such a moment?" exclaimed
Pearson, shuddering.

"Yea, yea," replied the old man hurriedly. "I was kneeling by her
bedside when the voice spoke loud within me; but immediately I
rose, and took my staff, and gat me gone. Oh! that it were
permitted me to forget her woful look when I thus withdrew my
arm, and left her journeying through the dark valley alone! for
her soul was faint, and she had leaned upon my prayers. Now in
that night of horror I was assailed by the thought that I had
been an erring Christian and a cruel parent; yea, even my
daughter, with her pale, dying features, seemed to stand by me
and whisper, 'Father, you are deceived; go home and shelter your
gray head.' O Thou, to whom I have looked in my farthest
wanderings," continued the Quaker, raising his agitated eyes to
heaven, "inflict not upon the bloodiest of our persecutors the
unmitigated agony of my soul, when I believed that all I had done
and suffered for Thee was at the instigation of a mocking fiend!
But I yielded not; I knelt down and wrestled with the tempter,
while the scourge bit more fiercely into the flesh. My prayer was
heard, and I went on in peace and joy towards the wilderness."

The old man, though his fanaticism had generally all the calmness
of reason, was deeply moved while reciting this tale; and his
unwonted emotion seemed to rebuke and keep down that of his
companion. They sat in silence, with their faces to the fire,
imagining, perhaps, in its red embers new scenes of persecution
yet to be encountered. The snow still drifted hard against the
windows, and sometimes, as the blaze of the logs had gradually
sunk, came down the spacious chimney and hissed upon the hearth.
A cautious footstep might now and then be heard in a neighboring
apartment, and the sound invariably drew the eyes of both Quakers
to the door which led thither. When a fierce and riotous gust of
wind had led his thoughts, by a natural association, to homeless
travellers on such a night, Pearson resumed the conversation.

"I have well-nigh sunk under my own share of this trial,"
observed he, sighing heavily; "yet I would that it might be
doubled to me, if so the child's mother could be spared. Her
wounds have been deep and many, but this will be the sorest of

"Fear not for Catharine," replied the old Quaker, "for I know
that valiant woman, and have seen how she can bear the cross. A
mother's heart, indeed, is strong in her, and may seem to contend
mightily with her faith; but soon she will stand up and give
thanks that her son has been thus early an accepted sacrifice.
The boy hath done his work, and she will feel that he is taken
hence in kindness both to him and her. Blessed, blessed are they
that with so little suffering can enter into peace!"

The fitful rush of the wind was now disturbed by a portentous
sound; it was a quick and heavy knocking at the outer door.
Pearson's wan countenance grew paler, for many a visit of
persecution had taught him what to dread; the old man, on the
other hand, stood up erect, and his glance was firm as that of
the tried soldier who awaits his enemy.

"The men of blood have come to seek me," he observed with
calmness. "They have heard how I was moved to return from
banishment; and now am I to be led to prison, and thence to
death. It is an end I have long looked for. I will open unto
them, lest they say, 'Lo, he feareth!' "

"Nay, I will present myself before them," said Pearson, with
recovered fortitude. "It may be that they seek me alone, and know
not that thou abidest with me."

"Let us go boldly, both one and the other," rejoined his
companion. "It is not fitting that thou or I should shrink."

They therefore proceeded through the entry to the door, which
they opened, bidding the applicant "Come in, in God's name!" A
furious blast of wind drove the storm into their faces, and
extinguished the lamp; they had barely time to discern a figure,
so white from head to foot with the drifted snow that it seemed
like Winter's self, come in human shape, to seek refuge from its
own desolation.

"Enter, friend, and do thy errand, be it what it may," said
Pearson. "It must needs be pressing, since thou comest on such a
bitter night."

"Peace be with this household," said the stranger, when they
stood on the floor of the inner apartment.

Pearson started, the elder Quaker stirred the slumbering embers
of the fire till they sent up a clear and lofty blaze; it was a
female voice that had spoken; it was a female form that shone
out, cold and wintry, in that comfortable light.

"Catharine, blessed woman!" exclaimed the old man, "art thou come
to this darkened land again? art thou come to bear a valiant
testimony as in former years? The scourge hath not prevailed
against thee, and from the dungeon hast thou come forth
triumphant; but strengthen, strengthen now thy heart, Catharine,
for Heaven will prove thee yet this once, ere thou go to thy

"Rejoice, friends!" she replied. "Thou who hast long been of our
people, and thou whom a little child hath led to us, rejoice! Lo!
I come, the messenger of glad tidings, for the day of persecution
is overpast. The heart of the king, even Charles, hath been moved
in gentleness towards us, and he hath sent forth his letters to
stay the hands of the men of blood. A ship's company of our
friends hath arrived at yonder town, and I also sailed joyfully
among them."

As Catharine spoke, her eyes were roaming about the room, in
search of him for whose sake security was dear to her. Pearson
made a silent appeal to the old man, nor did the latter shrink
from the painful task assigned him.

"Sister," he began, in a softened yet perfectly calm tone, "thou
tellest us of His love, manifested in temporal good; and now must
we speak to thee of that selfsame love, displayed in chastenings.
Hitherto, Catharine, thou hast been as one journeying in a
darksome and difficult path, and leading an infant by the hand;
fain wouldst thou have looked heavenward continually, but still
the cares of that little child have drawn thine eyes and thy
affections to the earth. Sister! go on rejoicing, for his
tottering footsteps shall impede thine own no more."

But the unhappy mother was not thus to be consoled; she shook
like a leaf, she turned white as the very snow that hung drifted
into her hair. The firm old man extended his hand and held her
up, keeping his eye upon hers, as if to repress any outbreak of

"I am a woman, I am but a woman; will He try me above my
strength?" said Catharine very quickly, and almost in a whisper.
"I have been wounded sore; I have suffered much; many things in
the body; many in the mind; crucified in myself, and in them that
were dearest to me. Surely," added she, with a long shudder, "He
hath spared me in this one thing." She broke forth with sudden
and irrepressible violence. "Tell me, man of cold heart, what has
God done to me? Hath He cast me down, never to rise again? Hath
He crushed my very heart in his hand? And thou, to whom I
committed my child, how hast thou fulfilled thy trust? Give me
back the boy, well, sound, alive, alive; or earth and Heaven
shall avenge me!"

The agonized shriek of Catharine was answered by the faint, the
very faint, voice of a child.

On this day it had become evident to Pearson, to his aged guest,
and to Dorothy, that Ilbrahim's brief and troubled pilgrimage
drew near its close. The two former would willingly have remained
by him, to make use of the prayers and pious discourses which
they deemed appropriate to the time, and which, if they be
impotent as to the departing traveller's reception in the world
whither he goes, may at least sustain him in bidding adieu to
earth. But though Ilbrahim uttered no complaint, he was disturbed
by the faces that looked upon him; so that Dorothy's entreaties,
and their own conviction that the child's feet might tread
heaven's pavement and not soil it, had induced the two Quakers to
remove. Ilbrahim then closed his eyes and grew calm, and, except
for now and then a kind and low word to his nurse, might have
been thought to slumber. As nightfall came on, however, and the
storm began to rise, something seemed to trouble the repose of
the boy's mind, and to render his sense of hearing active and
acute. If a passing wind lingered to shake the casement, he
strove to turn his head towards it; if the door jarred to and fro
upon its hinges, he looked long and anxiously thitherward; if the
heavy voice of the old man, as he read the Scriptures, rose but a
little higher, the child almost held his dying breath to listen;
if a snow-drift swept by the cottage, with a sound like the
trailing of a garment, Ilbrahim seemed to watch that some
visitant should enter.

But, after a little time, he relinquished whatever secret hope
had agitated him, and with one low, complaining whisper, turned
his cheek upon the pillow. He then addressed Dorothy with his
usual sweetness, and besought her to draw near him; she did so,
and Ilbrahim took her hand in both of his, grasping it with a
gentle pressure, as if to assure himself that he retained it. At
intervals, and without disturbing the repose of his countenance,
a very faint trembling passed over him from head to foot, as if a
mild but somewhat cool wind had breathed upon him, and made him
shiver. As the boy thus led her by the hand, in his quiet
progress over the borders of eternity, Dorothy almost imagined
that she could discern the near, though dim, delightfulness of
the home he was about to reach; she would not have enticed the
little wanderer back, though she bemoaned herself that she must
leave him and return. But just when Ilbrahim's feet were pressing
on the soil of Paradise he heard a voice behind him, and it
recalled him a few, few paces of the weary path which he had
travelled. As Dorothy looked upon his features, she perceived
that their placid expression was again disturbed; her own
thoughts had been so wrapped in him, that all sounds of the
storm, and of human speech, were lost to her; but when
Catharine's shriek pierced through the room, the boy strove to
raise himself.

"Friend, she is come! Open unto her!" cried he.

In a moment his mother was kneeling by the bedside; she drew
Ilbrahim to her bosom, and he nestled there, with no violence of
joy, but contentedly, as if he were hushing himself to sleep. He
looked into her face, and reading its agony, said, with feeble
earnestness, "Mourn not, dearest mother. I am happy now." And
with these words the gentle boy was dead.

. . . . . . . . .

The king's mandate to stay the New England persecutors was
effectual in preventing further martyrdoms; but the colonial
authorities, trusting in the remoteness of their situation, and
perhaps in the supposed instability of the royal government,
shortly renewed their severities in all other respects.
Catharine's fanaticism had become wilder by the sundering of all
human ties; and wherever a scourge was lifted there was she to
receive the blow, and whenever a dungeon was unbarred thither she
came, to cast herself upon the floor. But in process of time a
more Christian spirit --a spirit of forbearance, though not of
cordiality or approbation--began to pervade the land in regard to
the persecuted sect. And then, when the rigid old Pilgrims eyed
her rather in pity than in wrath; when the matrons fed her with
the fragments of their children's food, and offered her a lodging
on a hard and lowly bed; when no little crowd of schoolboys left
their sports to cast stones after the roving enthusiast; then did
Catharine return to Pearson's dwelling and made that her home.

As if Ilbrahim's sweetness yet lingered round his ashes; as if
his gentle spirit came down from heaven to teach his parent a
true religion, her fierce and vindictive nature was softened by
the same griefs which had once irritated it. When the course of
years had made the features of the unobtrusive mourner familiar
in the settlement, she became a subject of not deep, but general,
interest; a being on whom the otherwise superfluous sympathies of
all might be bestowed. Every one spoke of her with that degree of
pity which it is pleasant to experience; every one was ready to
do her the little kindnesses which are not costly, yet manifest
good will and when at last she died, a long train of her once
bitter persecutors followed her, with decent sadness and tears
that were not painful, to her place by Ilbrahim's green and
sunken grave.


A young fellow, a tobacco pedlar by trade, was on his way from
Morristown, where he had dealt largely with the Deacon of the
Shaker settlement, to the village of Parker's Falls, on Salmon
River. He had a neat little cart, painted green, with a box of
cigars depicted on each side panel, and an Indian chief, holding
a pipe and a golden tobacco stalk, on the rear. The pedlar drove
a smart little mare, and was a young man of excellent character,
keen at a bargain, but none the worse liked by the Yankees; who,
as I have heard them say, would rather be shaved with a sharp
razor than a dull one. Especially was he beloved by the pretty
girls along the Connecticut, whose favor he used to court by
presents of the best smoking tobacco in his stock; knowing well
that the country lasses of New England are generally great
performers on pipes. Moreover, as will be seen in the course of
my story, the pedlar was inquisitive, and something of a tattler,
always itching to hear the news and anxious to tell it again.

After an early breakfast at Morristown, the tobacco pedlar, whose
name was Dominicus Pike, had travelled seven miles through a
solitary piece of woods, without speaking a word to anybody but
himself and his little gray mare. It being nearly seven o'clock,
he was as eager to hold a morning gossip as a city shopkeeper to
read the morning paper. An opportunity seemed at hand when, after
lighting a cigar with a sun-glass, he looked up, and perceived a
man coming over the brow of the hill, at the foot of which the
pedlar had stopped his green cart. Dominicus watched him as he
descended, and noticed that he carried a bundle over his shoulder
on the end of a stick, and travelled with a weary, yet determined
pace. He did not look as if he had started in the freshness of
the morning, but had footed it all night, and meant to do the
same all day.

"Good morning, mister," said Dominicus, when within speaking
distance. "You go a pretty good jog. What's the latest news at
Parker's Falls?"

The man pulled the broad brim of a gray hat over his eyes, and
answered, rather sullenly, that he did not come from Parker's
Falls, which, as being the limit of his own day's journey, the
pedlar had naturally mentioned in his inquiry.

"Well then," rejoined Dominicus Pike, "let's have the latest news
where you did come from. I'm not particular about Parker's Falls.
Any place will answer."

Being thus importuned, the traveller--who was as ill looking a
fellow as one would desire to meet in a solitary piece of
woods--appeared to hesitate a little, as if he was either
searching his memory for news, or weighing the expediency of
telling it. At last, mounting on the step of the cart, he
whispered in the ear of Dominicus, though he might have shouted
aloud and no other mortal would have heard him.

"I do remember one little trifle of news," said he. "Old Mr.
Higginbotham, of Kimballton, was murdered in his orchard, at
eight o'clock last night, by an Irishman and a nigger. They
strung him up to the branch of a St. Michael's pear-tree, where
nobody would find him till the morning."

As soon as this horrible intelligence was communicated, the
stranger betook himself to his journey again, with more speed
than ever, not even turning his head when Dominicus invited him
to smoke a Spanish cigar and relate all the particulars. The
pedlar whistled to his mare and went up the hill, pondering on
the doleful fate of Mr. Higginbotham whom he had known in the way
of trade, having sold him many a bunch of long nines, and a great
deal of pigtail, lady's twist, and fig tobacco. He was rather
astonished at the rapidity with which the news had spread.
Kimballton was nearly sixty miles distant in a straight line; the
murder had been perpetrated only at eight o'clock the preceding
night; yet Dominicus had heard of it at seven in the morning,
when, in all probability, poor Mr. Higginbotham's own family had
but just discovered his corpse, hanging on the St. Michael's
pear-tree. The stranger on foot must have worn seven-league boots
to travel at such a rate.

"Ill news flies fast, they say," thought Dominicus Pike; "but
this beats railroads. The fellow ought to be hired to go express
with the President's Message."

The difficulty was solved by supposing that the narrator had made
a mistake of one day in the date of the occurrence; so that our
friend did not hesitate to introduce the story at every tavern
and country store along the road, expending a whole bunch of
Spanish wrappers among at least twenty horrified audiences. He
found himself invariably the first bearer of the intelligence,
and was so pestered with questions that he could not avoid
filling up the outline, till it became quite a respectable
narrative. He met with one piece of corroborative evidence. Mr.
Higginbotham was a trader; and a former clerk of his, to whom
Dominicus related the facts, testified that the old gentleman was
accustomed to return home through the orchard about nightfall,
with the money and valuable papers of the store in his pocket.
The clerk manifested but little grief at Mr. Higginbotham's
catastrophe, hinting, what the pedlar had discovered in his own
dealings with him, that he was a crusty old fellow, as close as a
vice. His property would descend to a pretty niece who was now
keeping school in Kimballton.

What with telling the news for the public good, and driving
bargains for his own, Dominicus was so much delayed on the road
that he chose to put up at a tavern, about five miles short of
Parker's Falls. After supper, lighting one of his prime cigars,
he seated himself in the bar-room, and went through the story of
the murder, which had grown so fast that it took him half an hour
to tell. There were as many as twenty people in the room,
nineteen of whom received it all for gospel. But the twentieth
was an elderly farmer, who had arrived on horseback a short time
before, and was now seated in a corner smoking his pipe. When the
story was concluded, he rose up very deliberately, brought his
chair right in front of Dominicus, and stared him full in the
face, puffing out the vilest tobacco smoke the pedlar had ever

"Will you make affidavit," demanded he, in the tone of a country
justice taking an examination, "that old Squire Higginbotham of
Kimballton was murdered in his orchard the night before last, and
found hanging on his great pear-tree yesterday morning?"

"I tell the story as I heard it, mister," answered Dominicus,
dropping his half-burnt cigar; "I don't say that I saw the thing
done. So I can't take my oath that he was murdered exactly in
that way."

"But I can take mine," said the farmer, "that if Squire
Higginbotham was murdered night before last, I drank a glass of
bitters with his ghost this morning. Being a neighbor of mine, he
called me into his store, as I was riding by, and treated me, and
then asked me to do a little business for him on the road. He
didn't seem to know any more about his own murder than I did."

"Why, then, it can't be a fact!" exclaimed Dominicus Pike.

"I guess he'd have mentioned, if it was," said the old farmer;
and he removed his chair back to the corner, leaving Dominicus
quite down in the mouth.

Here was a sad resurrection of old Mr. Higginbotham! The pedlar
had no heart to mingle in the conversation any more, but
comforted himself with a glass of gin and water, and went to bed
where, all night long, he dreamed of hanging on the St. Michael's
pear-tree. To avoid the old farmer (whom he so detested that his
suspension would have pleased him better than Mr.
Higginbotham's), Dominicus rose in the gray of the morning, put
the little mare into the green cart, and trotted swiftly away
towards Parker's Falls. The fresh breeze, the dewy road, and the
pleasant summer dawn, revived his spirits, and might have
encouraged him to repeat the old story had there been anybody
awake to hear it. But he met neither ox team, light wagon chaise,
horseman, nor foot traveller, till, just as he crossed Salmon
River, a man came trudging down to the bridge with a bundle over
his shoulder, on the end of a stick.

"Good morning, mister," said the pedlar, reining in his mare. "If
you come from Kimballton or that neighborhood, may be you can
tell me the real fact about this affair of old Mr. Higginbotham.
Was the old fellow actually murdered two or three nights ago, by
an Irishman and a nigger?"

Dominicus had spoken in too great a hurry to observe, at first,
that the stranger himself had a deep tinge of negro blood. On
hearing this sudden question, the Ethiopian appeared to change
his skin, its yellow hue becoming a ghastly white, while, shaking
and stammering, he thus replied:"No! no! There was no colored
man! It was an Irishman that hanged him last night, at eight
o'clock. I came away at seven! His folks can't have looked for
him in the orchard yet."

Scarcely had the yellow man spoken, when he interrupted himself,
and though he seemed weary enough before, continued his journey
at a pace which would have kept the pedlar's mare on a smart
trot. Dominicus stared after him in great perplexity. If the
murder had not been committed till Tuesday night, who was the
prophet that had foretold it, in all its circumstances, on
Tuesday morning? If Mr. Higginbotham's corpse were not yet
discovered by his own family, how came the mulatto, at above
thirty miles' distance, to know that he was hanging in the
orchard, especially as he had left Kimballton before the
unfortunate man was hanged at all? These ambiguous circumstances,
with the stranger's surprise and terror, made Dominicus think of
raising a hue and cry after him, as an accomplice in the murder;
since a murder, it seemed, had really been perpetrated.

"But let the poor devil go," thought the pedlar. "I don't want
his black blood on my head; and hanging the nigger wouldn't
unhang Mr. Higginbotham. Unhang the old gentleman; It's a sin, I
know; but I should hate to have him come to life a second time,
and give me the lie!"

With these meditations, Dominicus Pike drove into the street of
Parker's Falls, which, as everybody knows, is as thriving a
village as three cotton factories and a slitting mill can make
it. The machinery was not in motion, and but a few of the shop
doors unbarred, when he alighted in the stable yard of the
tavern, and made it his first business to order the mare four
quarts of oats. His second duty, of course, was to impart Mr.
Higginbotham's catastrophe to the hostler. He deemed it
advisable, however, not to be too positive as to the date of the
direful fact, and also to be uncertain whether it were
perpetrated by an Irishman and a mulatto, or by the son of Erin
alone. Neither did he profess to relate it on his own authority,
or that of any one person; but mentioned it as a report generally

The story ran through the town like fire among girdled trees, and
became so much the universal talk that nobody could tell whence
it had originated. Mr. Higginbotham was as well known at Parker's
Falls as any citizen of the place, being part owner of the
slitting mill, and a considerable stockholder in the cotton
factories. The inhabitants felt their own prosperity interested
in his fate. Such was the excitement, that the Parker's Falls
Gazette anticipated its regular day of publication, and came out
with half a form of blank paper and a column of double pica
emphasized with capitals, and headed HORRID MURDER OF MR.
HIGGINBOTHAM! Among other dreadful details, the printed account
described the mark of the cord round the dead man's neck, and
stated the number of thousand dollars of which he had been
robbed; there was much pathos also about the affliction of his
niece, who had gone from one fainting fit to another, ever since
her uncle was found hanging on the St. Michael's pear-tree with
his pockets inside out. The village poet likewise commemorated
the young lady's grief in seventeen stanzas of a ballad. The
selectmen held a meeting, and, in consideration of Mr.
Higginbotham's claims on the town, determined to issue handbills,
offering a reward of five hundred dollars for the apprehension of
his murderers, and the recovery of the stolen property.

Meanwhile the whole population of Parker's Falls, consisting of
shopkeepers, mistresses of boarding-houses, factory girls,
millmen, and schoolboys, rushed into the street and kept up such
a terrible loquacity as more than compensated for the silence of
the cotton machines, which refrained from their usual din out of
respect to the deceased. Had Mr. Higginbotham cared about
posthumous renown, his untimely ghost would have exulted in this
tumult. Our friend Dominicus, in his vanity of heart, forgot his
intended precautions, and mounting on the town pump, announced
himself as the bearer of the authentic intelligence which had
caused so wonderful a sensation. He immediately became the great
man of the moment, and had just begun a new edition of the
narrative, with a voice like a field preacher, when the mail
stage drove into the village street. It had travelled all night,
and must have shifted horses at Kimballton, at three in the

"Now we shall hear all the particulars," shouted the crowd.

The coach rumbled up to the piazza of the tavern, followed by a
thousand people; for if any man had been minding his own business
till then, he now left it at sixes and sevens, to hear the news.
The pedlar, foremost in the race, discovered two passengers, both
of whom had been startled from a comfortable nap to find
themselves in the centre of a mob. Every man assailing them with
separate questions, all propounded at once, the couple were
struck speechless, though one was a lawyer and the other a young

"Mr. Higginbotham! Mr. Higginbotham! Tell us the particulars
about old Mr. Higginbotham!" bawled the mob. "What is the
coroner's verdict? Are the murderers apprehended? Is Mr.
Higginbotham's niece come out of her fainting fits? Mr.
Higginbotham! Mr. Higginbotham!!"

The coachman said not a word, except to swear awfully at the
hostler for not bringing him a fresh team of horses. The lawyer
inside had generally his wits about him even when asleep; the
first thing he did, after learning the cause of the excitement,
was to produce a large, red pocketbook. Meantime Dominicus Pike,
being an extremely polite young man, and also suspecting that a
female tongue would tell the story as glibly as a lawyer's, had
handed the lady out of the coach. She was a fine, smart girl, now
wide awake and bright as a button, and had such a sweet pretty
mouth, that Dominicus would almost as lief have heard a love tale
from it as a tale of murder.

"Gentlemen and ladies," said the lawyer to the shopkeepers, the
millmen, and the factory girls, "I can assure you that some
unaccountable mistake, or, more probably, a wilful falsehood,
maliciously contrived to injure Mr. Higginbotham's credit, has
excited this singular uproar. We passed through Kimballton at
three o'clock this morning, and most certainly should have been
informed of the murder had any been perpetrated. But I have proof
nearly as strong as Mr. Higginbotham's own oral testimony, in the
negative. Here is a note relating to a suit of his in the
Connecticut courts, which was delivered me from that gentleman
himself. I find it dated at ten o'clock last evening."

So saying, the lawyer exhibited the date and signature of the
note, which irrefragably proved, either that this perverse Mr.
Higginbotham was alive when he wrote it, or--as some deemed the
more probable case, of two doubtful ones--that he was so absorbed
in worldly business as to continue to transact it even after his
death. But unexpected evidence was forthcoming. The young lady,
after listening to the pedlar's explanation, merely seized a
moment to smooth her gown and put her curls in order, and then
appeared at the tavern door, making a modest signal to be heard.

"Good people," said she, "I am Mr. Higginbotham's niece."

A wondering murmur passed through the crowd on beholding her so
rosy and bright; that same unhappy niece, whom they had supposed,
on the authority of the Parker's Falls Gazette, to be lying at
death's door in a fainting fit. But some shrewd fellows had
doubted, all along, whether a young lady would be quite so
desperate at the hanging of a rich old uncle.

"You see," continued Miss Higginbotham, with a smile, "that this
strange story is quite unfounded as to myself; and I believe I
may affirm it to be equally so in regard to my dear uncle
Higginbotham. He has the kindness to give me a home in his house,
though I contribute to my own support by teaching a school. I
left Kimballton this morning to spend the vacation of
commencement week with a friend, about five miles from Parker's
Falls. My generous uncle, when he heard me on the stairs, called
me to his bedside, and gave me two dollars and fifty cents to pay
my stage fare, and another dollar for my extra expenses. He then
laid his pocketbook under his pillow, shook hands with me, and
advised me to take some biscuit in my bag, instead of
breakfasting on the road. I feel confident, therefore, that I
left my beloved relative alive, and trust that I shall find him
so on my return."

The young lady courtesied at the close of her speech, which was
so sensible and well worded, and delivered with such grace and
propriety, that everybody thought her fit to be preceptress of
the best academy in the State. But a stranger would have supposed
that Mr. Higginbotham was an object of abhorrence at Parker's
Falls, and that a thanksgiving had been proclaimed for his
murder; so excessive was the wrath of the inhabitants on learning
their mistake. The millmen resolved to bestow public honors on
Dominicus Pike, only hesitating whether to tar and feather him,
ride him on a rail, or refresh him with an ablution at the town
pump, on the top of which he had declared himself the bearer of
the news. The selectmen, by advice of the lawyer, spoke of
prosecuting him for a misdemeanor, in circulating unfounded
reports, to the great disturbance of the peace of the
Commonwealth. Nothing saved Dominicus, either from mob law or a
court of justice, but an eloquent appeal made by the young lady
in his behalf. Addressing a few words of heartfelt gratitude to
his benefactress, he mounted the green cart and rode out of town,
under a discharge of artillery from the school-boys, who found
plenty of ammunition in the neighboring clay-pits and mud holes.
As he turned his head to exchange a farewell glance with Mr.
Higginbotham's niece, a ball, of the consistence of hasty
pudding, hit him slap in the mouth, giving him a most grim
aspect. His whole person was so bespattered with the like filthy
missiles, that he had almost a mind to ride back, and supplicate
for the threatened ablution at the town pump; for, though not
meant in kindness, it would now have been a deed of charity.

However, the sun shone bright on poor Dominicus, and the mud, an
emblem of all stains of undeserved opprobrium, was easily brushed
off when dry. Being a funny rogue, his heart soon cheered up; nor
could he refrain from a hearty laugh at the uproar which his
story had excited. The handbills of the selectmen would cause the
commitment of all the vagabonds in the State; the paragraph in
the Parker's Falls Gazette would be reprinted from Maine to
Florida, and perhaps form an item in the London newspapers; and
many a miser would tremble for his money bags and life, on
learning the catastrophe of Mr. Higginbotham. The pedlar
meditated with much fervor on the charms of the young
schoolmistress, and swore that Daniel Webster never spoke nor
looked so like an angel as Miss Higginbotham, while defending him
from the wrathful populace at Parker's Falls.

Dominicus was now on the Kimballton turnpike, having all along
determined to visit that place, though business had drawn him out
of the most direct road from Morristown. As he approached the
scene of the supposed murder, he continued to revolve the
circumstances in his mind, and was astonished at the aspect which
the whole case assumed. Had nothing occurred to corroborate the
story of the first traveller, it might now have been considered
as a hoax; but the yellow man was evidently acquainted either
with the report or the fact; and there was a mystery in his
dismayed and guilty look on being abruptly questioned. When, to
this singular combination of incidents, it was added that the
rumor tallied exactly with Mr. Higginbotham's character and
habits of life; and that he had an orchard, and a St. Michael's
pear-tree, near which he always passed at nightfall: the
circumstantial evidence appeared so strong that Dominicus doubted
whether the autograph produced by the lawyer, or even the niece's
direct testimony, ought to be equivalent. Making cautious
inquiries along the road, the pedlar further learned that Mr.
Higginbotham had in his service an Irishman of doubtful
character, whom he had hired without a recommendation, on the
score of economy.

"May I be hanged myself," exclaimed Dominicus Pike aloud, on
reaching the top of a lonely hill, "if I'll believe old
Higginbotham is unhanged till I see him with my own eyes, and
hear it from his own mouth! And as he's a real shaver, I'll have
the minister or some other responsible man for an indorser."

It was growing dusk when he reached the toll-house on Kimballton
turnpike, about a quarter of a mile from the village of this
name. His little mare was fast bringing him up with a man on
horseback, who trotted through the gate a few rods in advance of
him, nodded to the toll-gatherer, and kept on towards the
village. Dominicus was acquainted with the tollman, and, while
making change, the usual remarks on the weather passed between

"I suppose," said the pedlar, throwing back his whiplash, to
bring it down like a feather on the mare's flank, "you have not
seen anything of old Mr. Higginbotham within a day or two?"

"Yes," answered the toll-gatherer. "He passed the gate just
before you drove up, and yonder he rides now, if you can see him
through the dusk. He's been to Woodfield this afternoon,
attending a sheriff's sale there. The old man generally shakes
hands and has a little chat with me; but to-night, he nodded,--as
if to say, 'Charge my toll,' and jogged on; for wherever he goes,
he must always be at home by eight o'clock."

"So they tell me," said Dominicus.

"I never saw a man look so yellow and thin as the squire does,"
continued the toll-gatherer. "Says I to myself, to-night, he's
more like a ghost or an old mummy than good flesh and blood."

The pedlar strained his eyes through the twilight, and could just
discern the horseman now far ahead on the village road. He seemed
to recognize the rear of Mr. Higginbotham; but through the
evening shadows, and amid the dust from the horse's feet, the
figure appeared dim and unsubstantial; as if the shape of the
mysterious old man were faintly moulded of darkness and gray
light. Dominicus shivered.

"Mr. Higginbotham has come back from the other world, by way of
the Kimballton turnpike," thought he.

He shook the reins and rode forward, keeping about the same
distance in the rear of the gray old shadow, till the latter was
concealed by a bend of the road. On reaching this point, the
pedlar no longer saw the man on horseback, but found himself at
the head of the village street, not far from a number of stores
and two taverns, clustered round the meeting-house steeple. On
his left were a stone wall and a gate, the boundary of a woodlot,
beyond which lay an orchard, farther still, a mowing field, and
last of all, a house. These were the premises of Mr.
Higginbotham, whose dwelling stood beside the old highway, but
had been left in the background by the Kimballton turnpike.
Dominicus knew the place; and the little mare stopped short by
instinct; for he was not conscious of tightening the reins.

"For the soul of me, I cannot get by this gate!" said he,
trembling. "I never shall be my own man again, till I see whether
Mr. Higginbotham is hanging on the St. Michael's pear-tree!"

He leaped from the cart, gave the rein a turn round the gate
post, and ran along the green path of the wood-lot as if Old Nick
were chasing behind. Just then the village clock tolled eight,
and as each deep stroke fell, Dominicus gave a fresh bound and
flew faster than before, till, dim in the solitary centre of the
orchard, he saw the fated pear-tree. One great branch stretched
from the old contorted trunk across the path, and threw the
darkest shadow on that one spot. But something seemed to struggle
beneath the branch!

The pedlar had never pretended to more courage than befits a man
of peaceful occupation, nor could he account for his valor on
this awful emergency. Certain it is, however, that he rushed
forward, prostrated a sturdy Irishman with the butt end of his
whip, and found--not indeed hanging on the St. Michael's
pear-tree, but trembling beneath it, with a halter round his
neck--the old, identical Mr. Higginbotham!

"Mr. Higginbotham," said Dominicus tremulously, "you're an honest
man, and I'll take your word for it. Have you been hanged or

If the riddle be not already guessed, a few words will explain
the simple machinery by which this "coming event" was made to
"cast its shadow before." Three men had plotted the robbery and
murder of Mr. Higginbotham; two of them, successively, lost
courage and fled, each delaying the crime one night by their
disappearance; the third was in the act of perpetration, when a
champion, blindly obeying the call of fate, like the heroes of
old romance, appeared in the person of Dominicus Pike.

It only remains to say, that Mr. Higginbotham took the pedlar
into high favor, sanctioned his addresses to the pretty
schoolmistress, and settled his whole property on their children,
allowing themselves the interest. In due time, the old gentleman
capped the climax of his favors, by dying a Christian death, in
bed, since which melancholy event Dominicus Pike has removed from
Kimballton, and established a large tobacco manufactory in my
native village.


In some old magazine or newspaper I recollect a story, told as
truth, of a man--let us call him Wakefield--who absented himself
for a long time from his wife. The fact, thus abstractedly
stated, is not very uncommon, nor--without a proper distinction
of circumstances--to be condemned either as naughty or
nonsensical. Howbeit, this, though far from the most aggravated,
is perhaps the strangest, instance on record, of marital
delinquency; and, moreover, as remarkable a freak as may be found
in the whole list of human oddities. The wedded couple lived in
London. The man, under pretence of going a journey, took lodgings
in the next street to his own house, and there, unheard of by his
wife or friends, and without the shadow of a reason for such
self-banishment, dwelt upwards of twenty years. During that
period, he beheld his home every day, and frequently the forlorn
Mrs. Wakefield. And after so great a gap in his matrimonial
felicity--when his death was reckoned certain, his estate
settled, his name dismissed from memory, and his wife, long, long
ago, resigned to her autumnal widowhood--he entered the door one
evening, quietly, as from a day's absence, and became a loving
spouse till death.

This outline is all that I remember. But the incident, though of
the purest originality, unexampled, and probably never to be
repeated, is one, I think, which appeals to the generous
sympathies of mankind. We know, each for himself, that none of us
would perpetrate such a folly, yet feel as if some other might.
To my own contemplations, at least, it has often recurred, always
exciting wonder, but with a sense that the story must be true,
and a conception of its hero's character. Whenever any subject so
forcibly affects the mind, time is well spent in thinking of it.
If the reader choose, let him do his own meditation; or if he
prefer to ramble with me through the twenty years of Wakefield's
vagary, I bid him welcome; trusting that there will be a
pervading spirit and a moral, even should we fail to find them,
done up neatly, and condensed into the final sentence. Thought
has always its efficacy, and every striking incident its moral.

What sort of a man was Wakefield? We are free to shape out our
own idea, and call it by his name. He was now in the meridian of
life; his matrimonial affections, never violent, were sobered
into a calm, habitual sentiment; of all husbands, he was likely
to be the most constant, because a certain sluggishness would
keep his heart at rest, wherever it might be placed. He was
intellectual, but not actively so; his mind occupied itself in
long and lazy musings, that ended to no purpose, or had not vigor
to attain it; his thoughts were seldom so energetic as to seize
hold of words. Imagination, in the proper meaning of the term,
made no part of Wakefield's gifts. With a cold but not depraved
nor wandering heart, and a mind never feverish with riotous
thoughts, nor perplexed with originality, who could have
anticipated that our friend would entitle himself to a foremost
place among the doers of eccentric deeds? Had his acquaintances
been asked, who was the man in London the surest to perform
nothing today which should be remembered on the morrow, they
would have thought of Wakefield. Only the wife of his bosom might
have hesitated. She, without having analyzed his character, was
partly aware of a quiet selfishness, that had rusted into his
inactive mind; of a peculiar sort of vanity, the most uneasy
attribute about him; of a disposition to craft which had seldom
produced more positive effects than the keeping of petty secrets,
hardly worth revealing; and, lastly, of what she called a little
strangeness, sometimes, in the good man. This latter quality is
indefinable, and perhaps non-existent.

Let us now imagine Wakefield bidding adieu to his wife. It is the
dusk of an October evening. His equipment is a drab great-coat, a
hat covered with an oilcloth, top-boots, an umbrella in one hand
and a small portmanteau in the other. He has informed Mrs.
Wakefield that he is to take the night coach into the country.
She would fain inquire the length of his journey, its object, and
the probable time of his return; but, indulgent to his harmless
love of mystery, interrogates him only by a look. He tells her
not to expect him positively by the return coach, nor to be
alarmed should he tarry three or four days; but, at all events,
to look for him at supper on Friday evening. Wakefield himself,
be it considered, has no suspicion of what is before him. He
holds out his hand, she gives her own, and meets his parting kiss
in the matter-of-course way of a ten years' matrimony; and forth
goes the middle-aged Mr. Wakefield, almost resolved to perplex
his good lady by a whole week's absence. After the door has
closed behind him, she perceives it thrust partly open, and a
vision of her husband's face, through the aperture, smiling on
her, and gone in a moment. For the time, this little incident is
dismissed without a thought. But, long afterwards, when she has
been more years a widow than a wife, that smile recurs, and
flickers across all her reminiscences of Wakefield's visage. In
her many musings, she surrounds the original smile with a
multitude of fantasies, which make it strange and awful: as, for
instance, if she imagines him in a coffin, that parting look is
frozen on his pale features; or, if she dreams of him in heaven,
still his blessed spirit wears a quiet and crafty smile. Yet, for
its sake, when all others have given him up for dead, she
sometimes doubts whether she is a widow.

But our business is with the husband. We must hurry after him
along the street, ere he lose his individuality, and melt into
the great mass of London life. It would be vain searching for him
there. Let us follow close at his heels, therefore, until, after
several superfluous turns and doublings, we find him comfortably
established by the fireside of a small apartment, previously
bespoken. He is in the next street to his own, and at his
journey's end. He can scarcely trust his good fortune, in having
got thither unperceived--recollecting that, at one time, he was
delayed by the throng, in the very focus of a lighted lantern;
and, again, there were footsteps that seemed to tread behind his
own, distinct from the multitudinous tramp around him; and, anon,
he heard a voice shouting afar, and fancied that it called his
name. Doubtless, a dozen busybodies had been watching him, and
told his wife the whole affair. Poor Wakefield! Little knowest
thou thine own insignificance in this great world! No mortal eye
but mine has traced thee. Go quietly to thy bed, foolish man:
and, on the morrow, if thou wilt be wise, get thee home to good
Mrs. Wakefield, and tell her the truth. Remove not thyself, even
for a little week, from thy place in her chaste bosom. Were she,
for a single moment, to deem thee dead, or lost, or lastingly
divided from her, thou wouldst be wofully conscious of a change
in thy true wife forever after. It is perilous to make a chasm in
human affections; not that they gape so long and wide--but so
quickly close again!

Almost repenting of his frolic, or whatever it may be termed,
Wakefield lies down betimes, and starting from his first nap,
spreads forth his arms into the wide and solitary waste of the
unaccustomed bed. "No,"-thinks he, gathering the bedclothes about
him,--"I will not sleep alone another night."

In the morning he rises earlier than usual, and sets himself to
consider what he really means to do. Such are his loose and
rambling modes of thought that he has taken this very singular
step with the consciousness of a purpose, indeed, but without
being able to define it sufficiently for his own contemplation.
The vagueness of the project, and the convulsive effort with
which he plunges into the execution of it, are equally
characteristic of a feeble-minded man. Wakefield sifts his ideas,
however, as minutely as he may, and finds himself curious to know
the progress of matters at home--how his exemplary wife will
endure her widowhood of a week; and, briefly, how the little
sphere of creatures and circumstances, in which he was a central
object, will be affected by his removal. A morbid vanity,
therefore, lies nearest the bottom of the affair. But, how is he
to attain his ends? Not, certainly, by keeping close in this
comfortable lodging, where, though he slept and awoke in the next
street to his home, he is as effectually abroad as if the
stage-coach had been whirling him away all night. Yet, should he
reappear, the whole project is knocked in the head. His poor
brains being hopelessly puzzled with this dilemma, he at length
ventures out, partly resolving to cross the head of the street,
and send one hasty glance towards his forsaken domicile.
Habit--for he is a man of habits--takes him by the hand, and
guides him, wholly unaware, to his own door, where, just at the
critical moment, he is aroused by the scraping of his foot upon
the step. Wakefield! whither are you going?

At that instant his fate was turning on the pivot. Little
dreaming of the doom to which his first backward step devotes
him, he hurries away, breathless with agitation hitherto unfelt,
and hardly dares turn his head at the distant corner. Can it be
that nobody caught sight of him? Will not the whole
household--the decent Mrs. Wakefield, the smart maid servant, and
the dirty little footboy--raise a hue and cry, through London
streets, in pursuit of their fugitive lord and master? Wonderful
escape! He gathers courage to pause and look homeward, but is
perplexed with a sense of change about the familiar edifice, such
as affects us all, when, after a separation of months or years,
we again see some hill or lake, or work of art, with which we
were friends of old. In ordinary cases, this indescribable
impression is caused by the comparison and contrast between our
imperfect reminiscences and the reality. In Wakefield, the magic
of a single night has wrought a similar transformation, because,
in that brief period, a great moral change has been effected. But
this is a secret from himself. Before leaving the spot, he
catches a far and momentary glimpse of his wife, passing athwart
the front window, with her face turned towards the head of the
street. The crafty nincompoop takes to his heels, scared with the
idea that, among a thousand such atoms of mortality, her eye must
have detected him. Right glad is his heart, though his brain be
somewhat dizzy, when he finds himself by the coal fire of his

So much for the commencement of this long whimwham. After the
initial conception, and the stirring up of the man's sluggish
temperament to put it in practice, the whole matter evolves
itself in a natural train. We may suppose him, as the result of
deep deliberation, buying a new wig, of reddish hair, and
selecting sundry garments, in a fashion unlike his customary suit
of brown, from a Jew's old-clothes bag. It is accomplished.
Wakefield is another man. The new system being now established, a
retrograde movement to the old would be almost as difficult as
the step that placed him in his unparalleled position.
Furthermore, he is rendered obstinate by a sulkiness occasionally
incident to his temper, and brought on at present by the
inadequate sensation which he conceives to have been produced in
the bosom of Mrs. Wakefield. He will not go back until she be
frightened half to death. Well; twice or thrice has she passed
before his sight, each time with a heavier step, a paler cheek,
and more anxious brow; and in the third week of his
non-appearance he detects a portent of evil entering the house,
in the guise of an apothecary. Next day the knocker is muffled.
Towards nightfall comes the chariot of a physician, and deposits
its big-wigged and solemn burden at Wakefield's door, whence,
after a quarter of an hour's visit, he emerges, perchance the
herald of a funeral. Dear woman! Will she die? By this time,
Wakefield is excited to something like energy of feeling, but
still lingers away from his wife's bedside, pleading with his
conscience that she must not be disturbed at such a juncture. If
aught else restrains him, he does not know it. In the course of a
few weeks she gradually recovers; the crisis is over; her heart
is sad, perhaps, but quiet; and, let him return soon or late, it
will never be feverish for him again. Such ideas glimmer through
the midst of Wakefield's mind, and render him indistinctly
conscious that an almost impassable gulf divides his hired
apartment from his former home. "It is but in the next street!"
he sometimes says. Fool! it is in another world. Hitherto, he has
put off his return from one particular day to another;
henceforward, he leaves the precise time undetermined. Not
tomorrow--probably next week--pretty soon. Poor man! The dead
have nearly as much chance of revisiting their earthly homes as
the self-banished Wakefield.

Would that I had a folio to write, instead of an article of a
dozen pages! Then might I exemplify how an influence beyond our
control lays its strong hand on every deed which we do, and
weaves its consequences into an iron tissue of necessity.
Wakefield is spell-bound. We must leave him for ten years or so,
to haunt around his house, without once crossing the threshold,
and to be faithful to his wife, with all the affection of which
his heart is capable, while he is slowly fading out of hers. Long
since, it must be remarked, he had lost the perception of
singularity in his conduct.

Now for a scene! Amind the throng of a London street we
distinguish a man, now waxing elderly, with few characteristics
to attract careless observers, yet bearing, in his whole aspect,
the handwriting of no common fate, for such as have the skill to
read it. He is meagre; his low and narrow forehead is deeply
wrinkled; his eyes, small and lustreless, sometimes wander
apprehensively about him, but oftener seem to look inward. He
bends his head, and moves with an indescribable obliquity of
gait, as if unwilling to display his full front to the world.
Watch him long enough to see what we have described, and you will
allow that circumstances--which often produce remarkable men from
nature's ordinary handiwork--have produced one such here. Next,
leaving him to sidle along the footwalk, cast your eyes in the
opposite direction, where a portly female, considerably in the
wane of life, with a prayer-book in her hand, is proceeding to
yonder church. She has the placid mien of settled widowhood. Her
regrets have either died away, or have become so essential to her
heart, that they would be poorly exchanged for joy. Just as the
lean man and well-conditioned woman are passing, a slight
obstruction occurs, and brings these two figures directly in
contact. Their hands touch; the pressure of the crowd forces her
bosom against his shoulder; they stand, face to face, staring
into each other's eyes. After a ten years' separation, thus
Wakefield meets his wife!

The throng eddies away, and carries them asunder. The sober
widow, resuming her former pace, proceeds to church, but pauses
in the portal, and throws a perplexed glance along the street.
She passes in, however, opening her prayer-book as she goes. And
the man! with so wild a face that busy and selfish London stands
to gaze after him, he hurries to his lodgings, bolts the door,
and throws himself upon the bed. The latent feelings of years
break out; his feeble mind acquires a brief energy from their
strength; all the miserable strangeness of his life is revealed
to him at a glance: and he cries out, passionately, "Wakefield !
Wakefield! You are mad!"

Perhaps he was so. The singularity of his situation must have so
moulded him to himself, that, considered in regard to his
fellow-creatures and the business of life, he could not be said
to possess his right mind. He had contrived, or rather he had
happened, to dissever himself from the world--to vanish--to give
up his place and privileges with living men, without being
admitted among the dead. The life of a hermit is nowise parallel
to his. He was in the bustle of the city, as of old; but the
crowd swept by and saw him not; he was, we may figuratively say,
always beside his wife and at his hearth, yet must never feel the
warmth of the one nor the affection of the other. It was
Wakefield's unprecedented fate to retain his original share of
human sympathies, and to be still involved in human interests,
while he had lost his reciprocal influence on them. It would be a
most curious speculation to trace out the effect of such
circumstances on his heart and intellect, separately, and in
unison. Yet, changed as he was, he would seldom be conscious of
it, but deem himself the same man as ever; glimpses of the truth
indeed. would come, but only for the moment; and still he would
keep saying, "I shall soon go back!"--nor reflect that he had
been saying so for twenty years.

I conceive, also, that these twenty years would appear, in the
retrospect, scarcely longer than the week to which Wakefield had
at first limited his absence. He would look on the affair as no
more than an interlude in the main business of his life. When,
after a little while more, he should deem it time to reenter his
parlor, his wife would clap her hands for joy, on beholding the
middle-aged Mr. Wakefield. Alas, what a mistake! Would Time but
await the close of our favorite follies, we should be young men,
all of us, and till Doomsday.

One evening, in the twentieth year since he vanished, Wakefield
is taking his customary walk towards the dwelling which he still
calls his own. It is a gusty night of autumn, with frequent
showers that patter down upon the pavement, and are gone before a
man can put up his umbrella. Pausing near the house, Wakefield
discerns, through the parlor windows of the second floor, the red
glow and the glimmer and fitful flash of a comfortable fire. On
the ceiling appears a grotesque shadow of good Mrs. Wakefield.
The cap, the nose and chin, and the broad waist, form an
admirable caricature, which dances, moreover, with the
up-flickering and down-sinking blaze, almost too merrily for the
shade of an elderly widow. At this instant a shower chances to
fall, and is driven, by the unmannerly gust, full into
Wakefield's face and bosom. He is quite penetrated with its
autumnal chill. Shall he stand, wet and shivering here, when his
own hearth has a good fire to warm him, and his own wife will run
to fetch the gray coat and small-clothes, which, doubtless, she
has kept carefully in the closet of their bed chamber? No!
Wakefield is no such fool. He ascends the steps--heavily!--for
twenty years have stiffened his legs since he came down--but he
knows it not. Stay, Wakefield! Would you go to the sole home that
is left you? Then step into your grave! The door opens. As he
passes in, we have a parting glimpse of his visage, and recognize
the crafty smile, which was the precursor of the little joke that
he has ever since been playing off at his wife's expense. How
unmercifully has he quizzed the poor woman! Well, a good night's
rest to Wakefield!

This happy event--supposing it to be such--could only have
occurred at an unpremeditated moment. We will not follow our
friend across the threshold. He has left us much food for
thought, a portion of which shall lend its wisdom to a moral, and
be shaped into a figure. Amid the seeming confusion of our
mysterious world, individuals are so nicely adjusted to a system,
and systems to one another and to a whole, that, by stepping
aside for a moment, a man exposes himself to a fearful risk of
losing his place forever. Like Wakefield, he may become, as it
were, the Outcast of the Universe.



[1] The Indian tradition, on which this somewhat extravagant tale
is founded, is both too wild and too beautiful to be adequately
wrought up in prose. Sullivan, in his History of Maine, written
since the Revolution, remarks, that even then the existence of
the Great Carbuncle was not entirely discredited.

At nightfall, once in the olden time, on the rugged side of one
of the Crystal Hills, a party of adventurers were refreshing
themselves, after a toilsome and fruitless quest for the Great
Carbuncle. They had come thither, not as friends nor partners in
the enterprise, but each, save one youthful pair, impelled by his
own selfish and solitary longing for this wondrous gem. Their
feeling of brotherhood, however, was strong enough to induce them
to contribute a mutual aid in building a rude hut of branches,
and kindling a great fire of shattered pines, that had drifted
down the headlong current of the Amonoosuck, on the lower bank of
which they were to pass the night. There was but one of their
number, perhaps, who had become so estranged from natural
sympathies, by the absorbing spell of the pursuit, as to
acknowledge no satisfaction at the sight of human faces, in the
remote and solitary region whither they had ascended. A vast
extent of wilderness lay between them and the nearest settlement,
while a scant mile above their heads was that black verge where
the hills throw off their shaggy mantle of forest trees, and
either robe themselves in clouds or tower naked into the sky. The
roar of the Amonoosuck would have been too awful for endurance if
only a solitary man had listened, while the mountain stream
talked with the wind.

The adventurers, therefore, exchanged hospitable greetings, and
welcomed one another to the hut, where each man was the host, and
all were the guests of the whole company. They spread their
individual supplies of food on the flat surface of a rock, and
partook of a general repast; at the close of which, a sentiment
of good fellowship was perceptible among the party, though
repressed by the idea, that the renewed search for the Great
Carbuncle must make them strangers again in the morning. Seven
men and one young woman, they warmed themselves together at the
fire, which extended its bright wall along the whole front of
their wigwam. As they observed the various and contrasted figures
that made up the assemblage, each man looking like a caricature
of himself, in the unsteady light that flickered over him, they
came mutually to the conclusion, that an odder society had never
met, in city or wilderness, on mountain or plain.

The eldest of the group, a tall, lean, weather-beaten man, some
sixty years of age, was clad in the skins of wild animals, whose
fashion of dress he did well to imitate, since the deer, the
wolf, and the bear, had long been his most intimate companions.
He was one of those ill-fated mortals, such as the Indians told
of, whom, in their early youth, the Great Carbuncle smote with a
peculiar madness, and became the passionate dream of their
existence. All who visited that region knew him as the Seeker,
and by no other name. As none could remember when he first took
up the search, there went a fable in the valley of the Saco, that
for his inordinate lust after the Great Carbuncle, he had been
condemned to wander among the mountains till the end of time,
still with the same feverish hopes at sunrise--the same despair
at eve. Near this miserable Seeker sat a little elderly
personage, wearing a high-crowned hat, shaped somewhat like a
crucible. He was from beyond the sea, a Doctor Cacaphodel, who
had wilted and dried himself into a mummy by continually stooping
over charcoal furnaces, and inhaling unwholesome fumes during his
researches in chemistry and alchemy. It was told of him, whether
truly or not, that at the commencement of his studies, he had
drained his body of all its richest blood, and wasted it, with
other inestimable ingredients, in an unsuccessful experiment--and
had never been a well man since. Another of the adventurers was
Master Ichabod Pigsnort, a weighty merchant and selectman of
Boston, and an elder of the famous Mr. Norton's church. His
enemies had a ridiculous story that Master Pigsnort was
accustomed to spend a whole hour after prayer time, every morning
and evening, in wallowing naked among an immense quantity of
pine-tree shillings, which were the earliest silver coinage of
Massachusetts. The fourth whom we shall notice had no name that
his companions knew of, and was chiefly distinguished by a sneer
that always contorted his thin visage, and by a prodigious pair
of spectacles, which were supposed to deform and discolor the
whole face of nature, to this gentleman's perception. The fifth
adventurer likewise lacked a name, which was the greater pity, as
he appeared to be a poet. He was a bright-eyed man, but wofully
pined away, which was no more than natural, if, as some people
affirmed, his ordinary diet was fog, morning mist, and a slice of
the densest cloud within his reach, sauced with moonshine,
whenever he could get it. Certain it is, that the poetry which
flowed from him had a smack of all these dainties The sixth of
the party was a young man of haughty mien, and sat somewhat apart
from the rest, wearing his plumed hat loftily among his elders,
while the fire glittered on the rich embroidery of his dress, and
gleamed intensely on the jewelled pommel of his sword. This was
the Lord de Vere, who, when at home, was said to spend much of
his time in the burial vault of his dead progenitors, rummaging
their mouldy coffins in search of all the earthly pride and
vainglory that was hidden among bones and dust; so that, besides
his own share, he had the collected haughtiness of his whole line
of ancestry.

Lastly, there was a handsome youth in rustic garb, and by his
side a blooming little person, in whom a delicate shade of maiden
reserve was just melting into the rich glow of a young wife's
affection. Her name was Hannah and her husband's Matthew; two
homely names, yet well enough adapted to the simple pair, who
seemed strangely out of place among the whimsical fraternity
whose wits had been set agog by the Great Carbuncle.

Beneath the shelter of one hut, in the bright blaze of the same
fire, sat this varied group of adventurers, all so intent upon a
single object, that, of whatever else they began to speak, their
closing words were sure to be illuminated with the Great
Carbuncle. Several related the circumstances that brought them
thither. One had listened to a traveller's tale of this
marvellous stone in his own distant country, and had immediately
been seized with such a thirst for beholding it as could only be
quenched in its intensest lustre. Another, so long ago as when
the famous Captain Smith visited these coasts, had seen it
blazing far at sea, and had felt no rest in all the intervening
years till now that he took up the search. A third, being
encamped on a hunting expedition full forty miles south of the
White Mountains, awoke at midnight, and beheld the Great
Carbuncle gleaming like a meteor, so that the shadows of the
trees fell backward from it. They spoke of the innumerable
attempts which had been made to reach the spot, and of the
singular fatality which had hitherto withheld success from all
adventurers, though it might seem so easy to follow to its source
a light that overpowered the moon, and almost matched the sun. It
was observable that each smiled scornfully at the madness of
every other in anticipating better fortune than the past, yet
nourished a scarcely hidden conviction that he would himself be
the favored one. As if to allay their too sanguine hopes, they
recurred to the Indian traditions that a spirit kept watch about
the gem, and bewildered those who sought it either by removing it
from peak to peak of the higher hills, or by calling up a mist
from the enchanted lake over which it hung. But these tales were
deemed unworthy of credit, all professing to believe that the
search had been baffled by want of sagacity or perseverance in
the adventurers, or such other causes as might naturally obstruct
the passage to any given point among the intricacies of forest,
valley, and mountain.

In a pause of the conversation the wearer of the prodigious

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