Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Etexts from Twice Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Part 3 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

spectacles looked round upon the party, making each individual,
in turn, the object of the sneer which invariably dwelt upon his

"So, fellow-pilgrims," said he, "here we are, seven wise men, and
one fair damsel--who, doubtless, is as wise as any graybeard of
the company: here we are, I say, all bound on the same goodly
enterprise. Methinks, now, it were not amiss that each of us
declare what he proposes to do with the Great Carbuncle, provided
he have the good hap to clutch it. What says our friend in the
bear skin? How mean you, good sir, to enjoy the prize which you
have been seeking, the Lord knows how long, among the Crystal

"How enjoy it!" exclaimed the aged Seeker, bitterly. "I hope for
no enjoyment from it; that folly has passed long ago! I keep up
the search for this accursed stone because the vain ambition of
my youth has become a fate upon me in old age. The pursuit alone
is my strength,--the energy of my soul,--the warmth of my
blood,--and the pith and marrow of my bones! Were I to turn my
back upon it I should fall down dead on the hither side of the
Notch, which is the gateway of this mountain region. Yet not to
have my wasted lifetime back again would I give up my hopes of
the Great Carbuncle! Having found it, I shall bear it to a
certain cavern that I wot of, and there, grasping it in my arms,
lie down and die, and keep it buried with me forever."

"O wretch, regardless of the interests of science!" cried Doctor
Cacaphodel, with philosophic indignation. "Thou art not worthy to
behold, even from afar off, the lustre of this most precious gem
that ever was concocted in the laboratory of Nature. Mine is the
sole purpose for which a wise man may desire the possession of
the Great Carbuncle. Immediately on obtaining it--for I have a
presentiment, good people that the prize is reserved to crown my
scientific reputation--I shall return to Europe, and employ my
remaining years in reducing it to its first elements. A portion
of the stone will I grind to impalpable powder; other parts shall
be dissolved in acids, or whatever solvents will act upon so
admirable a composition; and the remainder I design to melt in
the crucible, or set on fire with the blow-pipe. By these various
methods I shall gain an accurate analysis, and finally bestow the
result of my labors upon the world in a folio volume."

"Excellent!" quoth the man with the spectacles. "Nor need you
hesitate, learned sir, on account of the necessary destruction of
the gem; since the perusal of your folio may teach every mother's
son of us to concoct a Great Carbuncle of his own."

"But, verily," said Master Ichabod Pigsnort, "for mine own part I
object to the making of these counterfeits, as being calculated
to reduce the marketable value of the true gem. I tell ye
frankly, sirs, I have an interest in keeping up the price. Here
have I quitted my regular traffic, leaving my warehouse in the
care of my clerks, and putting my credit to great hazard, and,
furthermore, have put myself in peril of death or captivity by
the accursed heathen savages--and all this without daring to ask
the prayers of the congregation, because the quest for the Great
Carbuncle is deemed little better than a traffic with the Evil
One. Now think ye that I would have done this grievous wrong to
my soul, body, reputation, and estate, without a reasonable
chance of profit?"

"Not I, pious Master Pigsnort," said the man with the spectacles.
"I never laid such a great folly to thy charge."

"Truly, I hope not," said the merchant. "Now, as touching this
Great Carbuncle, I am free to own that I have never had a glimpse
of it; but be it only the hundredth part so bright as people
tell, it will surely outvalue the Great Mogul's best diamond,
which he holds at an incalculable sum. Wherefore, I am minded to
put the Great Carbuncle on shipboard, and voyage with it to
England, France, Spain, Italy, or into Heathendom, if Providence
should send me thither, and, in a word, dispose of the gem to the
best bidder among the potentates of the earth, that he may place
it among his crown jewels. If any of ye have a wiser plan, let
him expound it."

"That have I, thou sordid man!" exclaimed the poet. "Dost thou
desire nothing brighter than gold that thou wouldst transmute all
this ethereal lustre into such dross as thou wallowest in
already? For myself, hiding the jewel under my cloak, I shall hie
me back to my attic chamber, in one of the darksome alleys of
London. There, night and day, will I gaze upon it; my soul shall
drink its radiance; it shall be diffused throughout my
intellectual powers, and gleam brightly in every line of poesy
that I indite. Thus, long ages after I am gone, the splendor of
the Great Carbuncle will blaze around my name!"

"Well said, Master Poet!" cried he of the spectacles. "Hide it
under thy cloak, sayest thou? Why, it will gleam through the
holes, and make thee look like a jack-o'-lantern!"

"To think!" ejaculated the Lord de Vere, rather to himself than
his companions, the best of whom he held utterly unworthy of his
intercourse --"to think that a fellow in a tattered cloak should
talk of conveying the Great Carbuncle to a garret in Grub Street!
Have not I resolved within myself that the whole earth contains
no fitter ornament for the great hall of my ancestral castle?
There shall it flame for ages, making a noonday of midnight,
glittering on the suits of armor, the banners, and escutcheons,
that hang around the wall, and keeping bright the memory of
heroes. Wherefore have all other adventurers sought the prize in
vain but that I might win it, and make it a symbol of the glories
of our lofty line? And never, on the diadem of the White
Mountains, did the Great Carbuncle hold a place half so honored
as is reserved for it in the hall of the De Veres!"

"It is a noble thought," said the Cynic, with an obsequious
sneer. "Yet, might I presume to say so, the gem would make a rare
sepulchral lamp, and would display the glories of your lordship's
progenitors more truly in the ancestral vault than in the castle

"Nay, forsooth," observed Matthew, the young rustic, who sat hand
in hand with his bride, "the gentleman has bethought himself of a
profitable use for this bright stone. Hannah here and I are
seeking it for a like purpose."

"How, fellow!" exclaimed his lordship, in surprise. "What castle
hall hast thou to hang it in?"

"No castle," replied Matthew, "but as neat a cottage as any
within sight of the Crystal Hills. Ye must know, friends, that
Hannah and I, being wedded the last week, have taken up the
search of the Great Carbuncle, because we shall need its light in
the long winter evenings; and it will be such a pretty thing to
show the neighbors when they visit us. It will shine through the
house so that we may pick up a pin in any corner and will set all
the windows aglowing as if there were a great fire of pine knots
in the chimney. And then how pleasant, when we awake in the
night, to be able to see one another's faces!"

There was a general smile among the adventurers at the simplicity
of the young couple's project in regard to this wondrous and
invaluable stone, with which the greatest monarch on earth might
have been proud to adorn his palace. Especially the man with
spectacles, who had sneered at all the company in turn, now
twisted his visage into such an expression of ill-natured mirth,
that Matthew asked him, rather peevishly, what he himself meant
to do with the Great Carbuncle.

"The Great Carbuncle!" answered the Cynic, with ineffable scorn.
"Why, you blockhead, there is no such thing in rerum natura. I
have come three thousand miles, and am resolved to set my foot on
every peak of these mountains, and poke my head into every chasm,
for the sole purpose of demonstrating to the satisfaction of any
man one whit less an ass than thyself that the Great Carbuncle is
all a humbug!"

Vain and foolish were the motives that had brought most of the
adventurers to the Crystal Hills; but none so vain, so foolish,
and so impious too, as that of the scoffer with the prodigious
spectacles. He was one of those wretched and evil men whose
yearnings are downward to the darkness, instead of heavenward,
and who, could they but extinguish the lights which God hath
kindled for us, would count the midnight gloom their chiefest
glory. As the Cynic spoke, several of the party were startled by
a gleam of red splendor, that showed the huge shapes of the
surrounding mountains and the rock-bestrewn bed of the turbulent
river with an illumination unlike that of their fire on the
trunks and black boughs of the forest trees. They listened for
the roll of thunder, but heard nothing, and were glad that the
tempest came not near them. The stars, those dial points of
heaven, now warned the adventurers to close their eyes on the
blazing logs, and open them, in dreams, to the glow of the Great

The young married couple had taken their lodgings in the farthest
corner of the wigwam, and were separated from the rest of the
party by a curtain of curiously-woven twigs, such as might have
hung, in deep festoons, around the bridal-bower of Eve. The
modest little wife had wrought this piece of tapestry while the
other guests were talking. She and her husband fell asleep with
hands tenderly clasped, and awoke from visions of unearthly
radiance to meet the more blessed light of one another's eyes.
They awoke at the same instant, and with one happy smile beaming
over their two faces, which grew brighter with their
consciousness of the reality of life and love. But no sooner did
she recollect where they were, than the bride peeped through the
interstices of the leafy curtain, and saw that the outer room of
the hut was deserted.

"Up, dear Matthew!" cried she, in haste. "The strange folk are
all gone! Up, this very minute, or we shall lose the Great

In truth, so little did these poor young people deserve the
mighty prize which had lured them thither, that they had slept
peacefully all night, and till the summits of the hills were
glittering with sunshine; while the other adventurers had tossed
their limbs in feverish wakefulness, or dreamed of climbing
precipices, and set off to realize their dreams with the earliest
peep of dawn. But Matthew and Hannah, after their calm rest, were
as light as two young deer, and merely stopped to say their
prayers and wash themselves in a cold pool of the Amonoosuck, and
then to taste a morsel of food, ere they turned their faces to
the mountain-side. It was a sweet emblem of conjugal affection,
as they toiled up the difficult ascent, gathering strength from
the mutual aid which they afforded. After several little
accidents, such as a torn robe, a lost shoe, and the entanglement
of Hannah's hair in a bough, they reached the upper verge of the
forest, and were now to pursue a more adventurous course. The
innumerable trunks and heavy foliage of the trees had hitherto
shut in their thoughts, which now shrank affrighted from the
region of wind and cloud and naked rocks and desolate sunshine,
that rose immeasurably above them. They gazed back at the obscure
wilderness which they had traversed, and longed to be buried
again in its depths rather than trust themselves to so vast and
visible a solitude.

"Shall we go on?" said Matthew, throwing his arm round Hannah's
waist, both to protect her and to comfort his heart by drawing
her close to it.

But the little bride, simple as she was, had a woman's love of
jewels, and could not forego the hope of possessing the very
brightest in the world, in spite of the perils with which it must
be won.

"Let us climb a little higher," whispered she, yet tremulously,
as she turned her face upward to the lonely sky.

"Come, then," said Matthew, mustering his manly courage and
drawing her along with him, for she became timid again the moment
that he grew bold.

And upward, accordingly, went the pilgrims of the Great
Carbuncle, now treading upon the tops and thickly-interwoven
branches of dwarf pines, which, by the growth of centuries,
though mossy with age, had barely reached three feet in altitude.
Next, they came to masses and fragments of naked rock heaped
confusedly together, like a cairn reared by giants in memory of a
giant chief. In this bleak realm of upper air nothing breathed,
nothing grew; there was no life but what was concentrated in
their two hearts; they had climbed so high that Nature herself
seemed no longer to keep them company. She lingered beneath them,
within the verge of the forest trees, and sent a farewell glance
after her children as they strayed where her own green footprints
had never been. But soon they were to be hidden from her eye
Densely and dark the mists began to gather below, casting black
spots of shadow on the vast landscape, and sailing heavily to one
centre, as if the loftiest mountain peak had summoned a council
of its kindred clouds. Finally, the vapors welded themselves, as
it were, into a mass, presenting the appearance of a pavement
over which the wanderers might have trodden, but where they would
vainly have sought an avenue to the blessed earth which they had
lost. And the lovers yearned to behold that green earth again,
more intensely, alas! than, beneath a clouded sky, they had ever
desired a glimpse of heaven. They even felt it a relief to their
desolation when the mists, creeping gradually up the mountain,
concealed its lonely peak, and thus annihilated, at least for
them, the whole region of visible space. But they drew closer
together, with a fond and melancholy gaze, dreading lest the
universal cloud should snatch them from each other's sight.

Still, perhaps, they would have been resolute to climb as far and
as high, between earth and heaven, as they could find foothold,
if Hannah's strength had not begun to fail, and with that, her
courage also. Her breath grew short. She refused to burden her
husband with her weight, but often tottered against his side, and
recovered herself each time by a feebler effort. At last, she
sank down on one of the rocky steps of the acclivity.

"We are lost, dear Matthew," said she, mournfully. "We shall
never find our way to the earth again. And oh how happy we might
have been in our cottage!"

"Dear heart!--we will yet be happy there," answered Matthew.
"Look! In this direction, the sunshine penetrates the dismal
mist. By its aid, I can direct our course to the passage of the
Notch. Let us go back, love, and dream no more of the Great

"The sun cannot be yonder," said Hannah, with despondence. "By
this time it must be noon. If there could ever be any sunshine
here, it would come from above our heads."

"But look!" repeated Matthew, in a somewhat altered tone. "It is
brightening every moment. If not sunshine, what can it be?"

Nor could the young bride any longer deny that a radiance was
breaking through the mist, and changing its dim hue to a dusky
red, which continually grew more vivid, as if brilliant particles
were interfused with the gloom. Now, also, the cloud began to
roll away from the mountain, while, as it heavily withdrew, one
object after another started out of its impenetrable obscurity
into sight, with precisely the effect of a new creation, before
the indistinctness of the old chaos had been completely swallowed
up. As the process went on, they saw the gleaming of water close
at their feet, and found themselves on the very border of a
mountain lake, deep, bright, clear, and calmly beautiful,
spreading from brim to brim of a basin that had been scooped out
of the solid rock. A ray of glory flashed across its surface. The
pilgrims looked whence it should proceed, but closed their eyes
with a thrill of awful admiration, to exclude the fervid splendor
that glowed from the brow of a cliff impending over the enchanted
lake. For the simple pair had reached that lake of mystery, and
found the longsought shrine of the Great Carbuncle!

They threw their arms around each other, and trembled at their
own success; for, as the legends of this wondrous gem rushed
thick upon their memory, they felt themselves marked out by
fate--and the consciousness was fearful. Often, from childhood
upward, they had seen it shining like a distant star. And now
that star was throwing its intensest lustre on their hearts. They
seemed changed to one another's eyes, in the red brilliancy that
flamed upon their cheeks, while it lent the same fire to the
lake, the rocks, and sky, and to the mists which had rolled back
before its power. But, with their next glance, they beheld an
object that drew their attention even from the mighty stone. At
the base of the cliff, directly beneath the Great Carbuncle,
appeared the figure of a man, with his arms extended in the act
of climbing, and his face turned upward, as if to drink the full
gush of splendor. But he stirred not, no more than if changed to

"It is the Seeker," whispered Hannah, convulsively grasping her
husband's arm. "Matthew, he is dead."

"The joy of success has killed him," replied Matthew, trembling
violently. "Or, perhaps, the very light of the Great Carbuncle
was death!"

"The Great Carbuncle," cried a peevish voice behind them. "The
Great Humbug! If you have found it, prithee point it out to me."

They turned their heads, and there was the Cynic, with his
prodigious spectacles set carefully on his nose, staring now at
the lake, now at the rocks, now at the distant masses of vapor,
now right at the Great Carbuncle itself, yet seemingly as
unconscious of its light as if all the scattered clouds were
condensed about his person. Though its radiance actually threw
the shadow of the unbeliever at his own feet, as he turned his
back upon the glorious jewel, he would not be convinced that
there was the least glimmer there.

"Where is your Great Humbug?" he repeated. "I challenge you to
make me see it!"

"There," said Matthew, incensed at such perverse blindness, and
turning the Cynic round towards the illuminated cliff. "Take off
those abominable spectacles, and you cannot help seeing it!"

Now these colored spectacles probably darkened the Cynic's sight,
in at least as great a degree as the smoked glasses through which
people gaze at an eclipse. With resolute bravado, however, he
snatched them from his nose, and fixed a bold stare full upon the
ruddy blaze of the Great Carbuncle. But scarcely had he
encountered it, when, with a deep, shuddering groan, he dropped
his head, and pressed both hands across his miserable eyes.
Thenceforth there was, in very truth, no light of the Great
Carbuncle, nor any other light on earth, nor light of heaven
itself, for the poor Cynic. So long accustomed to view all
objects through a medium that deprived them of every glimpse of
brightness, a single flash of so glorious a phenomenon, striking
upon his naked vision, had blinded him forever

"Matthew," said Hannah, clinging to him, "let us go hence!"

Matthew saw that she was faint, and kneeling down, supported her
in his arms, while he threw some of the thrillingly cold water of
the enchanted lake upon her face and bosom. It revived her, but
could not renovate her courage.

"Yes, dearest!" cried Matthew, pressing her tremulous form to his
breast,--"we will go hence, and return to our humble cottage. The
blessed sunshine and the quiet moonlight shall come through our
window. We will kindle the cheerful glow of our hearth, at
eventide, and be happy in its light. But never again will we
desire more light than all the world may share with us."

"No," said his bride, "for how could we live by day, or sleep by
night, in this awful blaze of the Great Carbuncle!"

Out of the hollow of their hands, they drank each a draught from
the lake, which presented them its waters uncontaminated by an
earthly lip. Then, lending their guidance to the blinded Cynic,
who uttered not a word, and even stifled his groans in his own
most wretched heart, they began to descend the mountain. Yet, as
they left the shore, till then untrodden, of the spirit's lake,
they threw a farewell glance towards the cliff, and beheld the
vapors gathering in dense volumes, through which the gem burned

As touching the other pilgrims of the Great Carbuncle, the legend
goes on to tell, that the worshipful Master Ichabod Pigsnort soon
gave up the quest as a desperate speculation, and wisely resolved
to betake himself again to his warehouse, near the town dock, in
Boston. But, as he passed through the Notch of the mountains, a
war party of Indians captured our unlucky merchant, and carried
him to Montreal, there holding him in bondage, till, by the
payment of a heavy ransom, he had wofully subtracted from his
hoard of pine-tree shillings. By his long absence, moreover, his
affairs had become so disordered that, for the rest of his life,
instead of wallowing in silver, he had seldom a sixpence worth of
copper. Doctor Cacaphodel, the alchemist, returned to his
laboratory with a prodigious fragment of granite, which he ground
to powder, dissolved in acids, melted in the crucible, and burned
with the blow-pipe, and published the result of his experiments
in one of the heaviest folios of the day. And, for all these
purposes, the gem itself could not have answered better than the
granite. The poet, by a somewhat similar mistake, made prize of a
great piece of ice, which he found in a sunless chasm of the
mountains and swore that it corresponded, in all points, with his
idea of the Great Carbuncle. The critics say, that, if his poetry
lacked the splendor of the gem, it retained all the coldness of
the ice. The Lord de Vere went back to his ancestral hall, where
he contented himself with a wax-lighted chandelier, and filled,
in due course of time, another coffin in the ancestral vault. As
the funeral torches gleamed within that dark receptacle, there
was no need of the Great Carbuncle to show the vanity of earthly

The Cynic, having cast aside his spectacles, wandered about the
world a miserable object, and was punished with an agonizing
desire of light, for the wilful blindness of his former life. The
whole night long, he would lift his splendor-blasted orbs to the
moon and stars; he turned his face eastward, at sunrise, as duly
as a Perisan idolater; he made a pilgrimage to Rome, to witness
the magnificent illumination of St. Peter's Church; and finally
perished in the great fire of London, into the midst of which he
had thrust himself, with the desperate idea of catching one
feeble ray from the blaze that was kindling earth and heaven.

Matthew and his bride spent many peaceful years, and were fond of
telling the legend of the Great Carbuncle. The tale, however,
towards the close of their lengthened lives, did not meet with
the full credence that had been accorded to it by those who
remembered the ancient lustre of the gem. For it is affirmed
that, from the hour when two mortals had shown themselves so
simply wise as to reject a jewel which would have dimmed all
earthly things, its splendor waned. When other pilgrims reached
the cliff, they found only an opaque stone, with particles of
mica glittering on its surface. There is also a tradition that,
as the youthful pair departed, the gem was loosened from the
forehead of the cliff, and fell into the enchanted lake, and
that, at noontide, the Seeker's form may still be seen to bend
over its quenchless gleam.

Some few believe that this inestimable stone is blazing as of
old, and say that they have caught its radiance, like a flash of
summer lightning, far down the valley of the Saco. And be it
owned that, many a mile from the Crystal Hills, I saw a wondrous
light around their summits, and was lured, by the faith of poesy,
to be the latest pilgrim of the GREAT CARBUNCLE.



We can be but partially acquainted even with the events which
actually influence our course through life, and our final
destiny. There are innumerable other events--if such they may be
called--which come close upon us, yet pass away without actual
results, or even betraying their near approach, by the reflection
of any light or shadow across our minds. Could we know all the
vicissitudes of our fortunes, life would be too full of hope and
fear, exultation or disappointment, to afford us a single hour of
true serenity. This idea may be illustrated by a page from the
secret history of David Swan.

We have nothing to do with David until we find him, at the age of
twenty, on the high road from his native place to the city of
Boston, where his uncle, a small dealer in the grocery line, was
to take him behind the counter. Be it enough to say that he was a
native of New Hampshire, born of respectable parents, and had
received an ordinary school education, with a classic finish by a
year at Gilmanton Academy. After journeying on foot from sunrise
till nearly noon of a summer's day, his weariness and the
increasing heat determined him to sit down in the first
convenient shade, and await the coming up of the stage-coach. As
if planted on purpose for him, there soon appeared a little tuft
of maples, with a delightful recess in the midst, and such a
fresh bubbling spring that it seemed never to have sparkled for
any wayfarer but David Swan. Virgin or not, he kissed it with his
thirsty lips, and then flung himself along the brink, pillowing
his head upon some shirts and a pair of pantaloons, tied up in a
striped cotton handkerchief. The sunbeams could not reach him;
the dust did not yet rise from the road after the heavy rain of
yesterday; and his grassy lair suited the young man better than a
bed of down. The spring murmured drowsily beside him; the
branches waved dreamily across the blue sky overhead; and a deep
sleep, perchance hiding dreams within its depths, fell upon David
Swan. But we are to relate events which he did not dream of.

While he lay sound asleep in the shade, other people were wide
awake, and passed to and fro, afoot, on horseback, and in all
sorts of vehicles, along the sunny road by his bedchamber. Some
looked neither to the right hand nor the left, and knew not that
he was there; some merely glanced that way, without admitting the
slumberer among their busy thoughts; some laughed to see how
soundly he slept; and several, whose hearts were brimming full of
scorn, ejected their venomous superfluity on David Swan. A
middle-aged widow, when nobody else was near, thrust her head a
little way into the recess, and vowed that the young fellow
looked charming in his sleep. A temperance lecturer saw him, and
wrought poor David into the texture of his evening's discourse,
as an awful instance of dead drunkenness by the roadside. But
censure, praise, merriment, scorn, and indifference were all one,
or rather all nothing, to David Swan.

He had slept only a few moments when a brown carriage, drawn by a
handsome pair of horses, bowled easily along, and was brought to
a standstill nearly in front of David's resting-place. A linchpin
had fallen out, and permitted one of the wheels to slide off. The
damage was slight, and occasioned merely a momentary alarm to an
elderly merchant and his wife, who were returning to Boston in
the carriage. While the coachman and a servant were replacing the
wheel, the lady and gentleman sheltered themselves beneath the
maple-trees, and there espied the bubbling fountain, and David
Swan asleep beside it. Impressed with the awe which the humblest
sleeped usually sheds around him, the merchant trod as lightly as
the gout would allow; and his spouse took good heed not to rustle
her silk gown, lest David should start up all of a sudden.

"How soundly he sleeps!" whispered the old gentleman. "From what
a depth he draws that easy breath! Such sleep as that, brought on
without an opiate, would be worth more to me than half my income;
for it would suppose health and an untroubled mind."

"And youth, besides," said the lady. "Healthy and quiet age does
not sleep thus. Our slumber is no more like his than our

The longer they looked the more did this elderly couple feel
interested in the unknown youth, to whom the wayside and the
maple shade were as a secret chamber, with the rich gloom of
damask curtains brooding over him. Perceiving that a stray
sunbeam glimmered down upon his face, the lady contrived to twist
a branch aside, so as to intercept it. And having done this
little act of kindness, she began to feel like a mother to him.

"Providence seems to have laid him here," whispered she to her
husband, "and to have brought us hither to find him, after our
disappointment in our cousin's son. Methinks I can see a likeness
to our departed Henry. Shall we waken him?"

"To what purpose?" said the merchant, hesitating. "We know
nothing of the youth's character."

"That open countenance!" replied his wife, in the same hushed
voice, yet earnestly. "This innocent sleep!"

While these whispers were passing, the sleeper's heart did not
throb, nor his breath become agitated, nor his features betray
the least token of interest. Yet Fortune was bending over him,
just ready to let fall a burden of gold. The old merchant had
lost his only son, and had no heir to his wealth except a distant
relative, with whose conduct he was dissatisfied. In such cases,
people sometimes do stranger things than to act the magician, and
awaken a young man to splendor who fell asleep in poverty.

"Shall we not waken him?" repeated the lady persuasively.

"The coach is ready, sir," said the servant, behind.

The old couple started, reddened, and hurried away, mutually
wondering that they should ever have dreamed of doing anything so
very ridiculous. The merchant threw himself back in the carriage,
and occupied his mind with the plan of a magnificent asylum for
unfortunate men of business. Meanwhile, David Swan enjoyed his

The carriage could not have gone above a mile or two, when a
pretty young girl came along, with a tripping pace, which showed
precisely how her little heart was dancing in her bosom. Perhaps
it was this merry kind of motion that caused--is there any harm
in saying it?--her garter to slip its knot. Conscious that the
silken girth--if silk it were--was relaxing its hold, she turned
aside into the shelter of the maple-trees, and there found a
young man asleep by the spring! Blushing as red as any rose that
she should have intruded into a gentleman's bedchamber, and for
such a purpose, too, she was about to make her escape on tiptoe.
But there was peril near the sleeper. A monster of a bee had been
wandering overhead--buzz, buzz, buzz--now among the leaves, now
flashing through the strips of sunshine, and now lost in the dark
shade, till finally he appeared to be settling on the eyelid of
David Swan. The sting of a bee is sometimes deadly. As free
hearted as she was innocent, the girl attacked the intruder with
her handkerchief, brushed him soundly, and drove him from beneath
the mapleshade. How sweet a picture! This good deed accomplished,
with quickened breath, and a deeper blush, she stole a glance at
the youthful stranger for whom she had been battling with a
dragon in the air.

"He is handsome!" thought she, and blushed redder yet.

How could it be that no dream of bliss grew so strong within him,
that, shattered by its very strength, it should part asunder, and
allow him to perceive the girl among its phantoms? Why, at least,
did no smile of welcome brighten upon his face? She was come, the
maid whose soul, according to the old and beautiful idea, had
been severed from his own, and whom, in all his vague but
passionate desires, he yearned to meet. Her, only, could he love
with a perfect love; him, only, could she receive into the depths
of her heart; and now her image was faintly blushing in the
fountain, by his side; should it pass away, its happy lustre
would never gleam upon his life again.

"How sound he sleeps!" murmured the girl.

She departed, but did not trip along the road so lightly as when
she came.

Now, this girl's father was a thriving country merchant in the
neighborhood, and happened, at that identical time, to be looking
out for just such a young man as David Swan. Had David formed a
wayside acquaintance with the daughter, he would have become the
father's clerk, and all else in natural succession. So here,
again, had good fortune--the best of fortunes--stolen so near
that her garments brushed against him; and he knew nothing of the

The girl was hardly out of sight when two men turned aside
beneath the maple shade. Both had dark faces, set off by cloth
caps, which were drawn down aslant over their brows. Their
dresses were shabby, yet had a certain smartness. These were a
couple of rascals who got their living by whatever the devil sent
them, and now, in the interim of other business, had staked the
joint profits of their next piece of villany on a game of cards,
which was to have been decided here under the trees. But, finding
David asleep by the spring, one of the rogues whispered to his
fellow,"Hist!--Do you see that bundle under his head?"

The other villain nodded, winked, and leered.

"I'll bet you a horn of brandy," said the first, "that the chap
has either a pocket-book, or a snug little hoard of small change,
stowed away amongst his shirts. And if not there, we shall find
it in his pantaloons pocket."

"But how if he wakes?" said the other.

His companion thrust aside his waistcoat, pointed to the handle
of a dirk, and nodded.

"So be it!" muttered the second villain.

They approached the unconscious David, and, while one pointed the
dagger towards his heart, the other began to search the bundle
beneath his head. Their two faces, grim, wrinkled, and ghastly
with guilt and fear, bent over their victim, looking horrible
enough to be mistaken for fiends, should he suddenly awake. Nay,
had the villains glanced aside into the spring, even they would
hardly have known themselves as reflected there. But David Swan
had never worn a more tranquil aspect, even when asleep on his
mother's breast.

"I must take away the bundle," whispered one.

"If he stirs, I'll strike," muttered the other.

But, at this moment, a dog scenting along the ground, came in
beneath the maple-trees, and gazed alternately at each of these
wicked men, and then at the quiet sleeper. He then lapped out of
the fountain.

"Pshaw!" said one villain. "We can do nothing now. The dog's
master must be close behind."

"Let's take a drink and be off," said the other

The man with the dagger thrust back the weapon into his bosom,
and drew forth a pocket pistol, but not of that kind which kills
by a single discharge. It was a flask of liquor, with a block-tin
tumbler screwed upon the mouth. Each drank a comfortable dram,
and left the spot, with so many jests, and such laughter at their
unaccomplished wickedness, that they might be said to have gone
on their way rejoicing. In a few hours they had forgotten the
whole affair, nor once imagined that the recording angel had
written down the crime of murder against their souls, in letters
as durable as eternity. As for David Swan, he still slept
quietly, neither conscious of the shadow of death when it hung
over him, nor of the glow of renewed life when that shadow was

He slept, but no longer so quietly as at first. An hour's repose
had snatched, from his elastic frame, the weariness with which
many hours of toil had burdened it. Now he stirred--now, moved
his lips, without a sound--now, talked, in an inward tone, to the
noonday spectres of his dream. But a noise of wheels came
rattling louder and louder along the road, until it dashed
through the dispersing mist of David's slumber-and there was the
stage-coach. He started up with all his ideas about him.

"Halloo, driver!--Take a passenger?" shouted he.

"Room on top!" answered the driver.

Up mounted David, and bowled away merrily towards Boston, without
so much as a parting glance at that fountain of dreamlike
vicissitude. He knew not that a phantom of Wealth had thrown a
golden hue upon its waters--nor that one of Love had sighed
softly to their murmur--nor that one of Death had threatened to
crimson them with his blood--all, in the brief hour since he lay
down to sleep. Sleeping or waking, we hear not the airy footsteps
of the strange things that almost happen. Does it not argue a
superintending Providence that, while viewless and unexpected
events thrust themselves continually athwart our path, there
should still be regularity enough in mortal life to render
foresight even partially available?


In those strange old times, when fantastic dreams and madmen's
reveries were realized among the actual circumstances of life,
two persons met together at an appointed hour and place. One was
a lady, graceful in form and fair of feature, though pale and
troubled, and smitten with an untimely blight in what should have
been the fullest bloom of her years; the other was an ancient and
meanly-dressed woman, of ill-favored aspect, and so withered,
shrunken, and decrepit, that even the space since she began to
decay must have exceeded the ordinary term of human existence. In
the spot where they encountered, no mortal could observe them.
Three little hills stood near each other, and down in the midst
of them sunk a hollow basin, almost mathematically circular, two
or three hundred feet in breadth, and of such depth that a
stately cedar might but just be visible above the sides. Dwarf
pines were numerous upon the hills, and partly fringed the outer
verge of the intermediate hollow, within which there was nothing
but the brown grass of October, and here and there a tree trunk
that had fallen long ago, and lay mouldering with no green
successsor from its roots. One of these masses of decaying wood,
formerly a majestic oak, rested close beside a pool of green and
sluggish water at the bottom of the basin. Such scenes as this
(so gray tradition tells) were once the resort of the Power of
Evil and his plighted subjects; and here, at midnight or on the
dim verge of evening, they were said to stand round the mantling
pool, disturbing its putrid waters in the performance of an
impious baptismal rite. The chill beauty of an autumnal sunset
was now gilding the three hill-tops, whence a paler tint stole
down their sides into the hollow.

"Here is our pleasant meeting come to pass," said the aged crone,
"according as thou hast desired. Say quickly what thou wouldst
have of me, for there is but a short hour that we may tarry

As the old withered woman spoke, a smile glimmered on her
countenance, like lamplight on the wall of a sepulchre. The lady
trembled, and cast her eyes upward to the verge of the basin, as
if meditating to return with her purpose unaccomplished. But it
was not so ordained.

"I am a stranger in this land, as you know," said she at length.
"Whence I come it matters not; but I have left those behind me
with whom my fate was intimately bound, and from whom I am cut
off forever. There is a weight in my bosom that I cannot away
with, and I have come hither to inquire of their welfare."

"And who is there by this green pool that can bring thee news
from the ends of the earth?" cried the old woman, peering into
the lady's face. "Not from my lips mayst thou hear these tidings;
yet, be thou bold, and the daylight shall not pass away from
yonder hill-top before thy wish be granted."

"I will do your bidding though I die," replied the lady

The old woman seated herself on the trunk of the fallen tree,
threw aside the hood that shrouded her gray locks, and beckoned
her companion to draw near.

"Kneel down," she said, "and lay your forehead on my knees."

She hesitated a moment, but the anxiety that had long been
kindling burned fiercely up within her. As she knelt down, the
border of her garment was dipped into the pool; she laid her
forehead on the old woman's knees, and the latter drew a cloak
about the lady's face, so that she was in darkness. Then she
heard the muttered words of prayer, in the midst of which she
started, and would have arisen.

"Let me flee,--let me flee and hide myself, that they may not
look upon me!" she cried. But, with returning recollection, she
hushed herself, and was still as death.

For it seemed as if other voices--familiar in infancy, and
unforgotten through many wanderings, and in all the vicissitudes
of her heart and fortune--were mingling with the accents of the
prayer. At first the words were faint and indistinct, not
rendered so by distance, but rather resembling the dim pages of a
book which we strive to read by an imperfect and gradually
brightening light. In such a manner, as the prayer proceeded, did
those voices strengthen upon the ear; till at length the petition
ended, and the conversation of an aged man, and of a woman broken
and decayed like himself, became distinctly audible to the lady
as she knelt. But those strangers appeared not to stand in the
hollow depth between the three hills. Their voices were
encompassed and reechoed by the walls of a chamber, the windows
of which were rattling in the breeze; the regular vibration of a
clock, the crackling of a fire, and the tinkling of the embers as
they fell among the ashes, rendered the scene almost as vivid as
if painted to the eye. By a melancholy hearth sat these two old
people, the man calmly despondent, the woman querulous and
tearful, and their words were all of sorrow. They spoke of a
daughter, a wanderer they knew not where, bearing dishonor along
with her, and leaving shame and affliction to bring their gray
heads to the grave. They alluded also to other and more recent
woe, but in the midst of their talk their voices seemed to melt
into the sound of the wind sweeping mournfully among the autumn
leaves; and when the lady lifted her eyes, there was she kneeling
in the hollow between three hills.

"A weary and lonesome time yonder old couple have of it,"
remarked the old woman, smiling in the lady's face.

"And did you also hear them?" exclaimed she, a sense of
intolerable humiliation triumphing over her agony and fear.

"Yea; and we have yet more to hear," replied the old woman.
"Wherefore, cover thy face quickly."

Again the withered hag poured forth the monotonous words of a
prayer that was not meant to be acceptable in heaven; and soon,
in the pauses of her breath, strange murmurings began to thicken,
gradually increasing so as to drown and overpower the charm by
which they grew. Shrieks pierced through the obscurity of sound,
and were succeeded by the singing of sweet female voices, which,
in their turn, gave way to a wild roar of laughter, broken
suddenly by groanings and sobs, forming altogether a ghastly
confusion of terror and mourning and mirth. Chains were rattling,
fierce and stern voices uttered threats, and the scourge
resounded at their command. All these noises deepened and became
substantial to the listener's ear, till she could distinguish
every soft and dreamy accent of the love songs that died
causelessly into funeral hymns. She shuddered at the unprovoked
wrath which blazed up like the spontaneous kindling of flames and
she grew faint at the fearful merriment raging miserably around
her. In the midst of this wild scene, where unbound passions
jostled each other in a drunken career, there was one solemn
voice of a man, and a manly and melodious voice it might once
have been. He went to and fro continually, and his feet sounded
upon the floor. In each member of that frenzied company, whose
own burning thoughts had become their exclusive world, he sought
an auditor for the story of his individual wrong, and interpreted
their laughter and tears as his reward of scorn or pity. He spoke
of woman's perfidy, of a wife who had broken her holiest vows, of
a home and heart made desolate. Even as he went on, the shout,
the laugh, the shriek the sob, rose up in unison, till they
changed into the hollow, fitful, and uneven sound of the wind, as
it fought among the pine-trees on those three lonely hills. The
lady looked up, and there was the withered woman smiling in her

"Couldst thou have thought there were such merry times in a
madhouse?" inquired the latter.

"True, true," said the lady to herself; "there is mirth within
its walls, but misery, misery without."

"Wouldst thou hear more?" demanded the old woman.

"There is one other voice I would fain listen to again," replied
the lady, faintly.

"Then, lay down thy head speedily upon my knees, that thou mayst
get thee hence before the hour be past."

The golden skirts of day were yet lingering upon the hills, but
deep shades obscured the hollow and the pool, as if sombre night
were rising thence to overspread the world. Again that evil woman
began to weave her spell. Long did it proceed unanswered, till
the knolling of a bell stole in among the intervals of her words,
like a clang that had travelled far over valley and rising
ground, and was just ready to die in the air. The lady shook upon
her companion's knees as she heard that boding sound. Stronger it
grew and sadder, and deepened into the tone of a death bell,
knolling dolefully from some ivy-mantled tower, and bearing
tidings of mortality and woe to the cottage, to the hall, and to
the solitary wayfarer that all might weep for the doom appointed
in turn to them. Then came a measured tread, passing slowly,
slowly on, as of mourners with a coffin, their garments trailing
on the ground, so that the ear could measure the length of their
melancholy array. Before them went the priest, reading the burial
service, while the leaves of his book were rustling in the
breeze. And though no voice but his was heard to speak aloud,
still there were revilings and anathemas, whispered but distinct,
from women and from men, breathed against the daughter who had
wrung the aged hearts of her parents,--the wife who had betrayed
the trusting fondness of her husband,--the mother who had sinned
against natural affection, and left her child to die. The
sweeping sound of the funeral train faded away like a thin vapor,
and the wind, that just before had seemed to shake the coffin
pall, moaned sadly round the verge of the Hollow between three
Hills. But when the old woman stirred the kneeling lady, she
lifted not her head.

"Here has been a sweet hour's sport!" said the withered crone,
chuckling to herself.


That very singular man, old Dr. Heidegger, once invited four
venerable friends to meet him in his study. There were three
white-bearded gentlemen, Mr. Medbourne, Colonel Killigrew, and
Mr. Gascoigne, and a withered gentlewoman, whose name was the
Widow Wycherly. They were all melancholy old creatures, who had
been unfortunate in life, and whose greatest misfortune it was
that they were not long ago in their graves. Mr. Medbourne, in
the vigor of his age, had been a prosperous merchant, but had
lost his all by a frantic speculation, and was now little better
than a mendicant. Colonel Killigrew had wasted his best years,
and his health and substance, in the pursuit of sinful pleasures,
which had given birth to a brood of pains, such as the gout, and
divers other torments of soul and body. Mr. Gascoigne was a
ruined politician, a man of evil fame, or at least had been so
till time had buried him from the knowledge of the present
generation, and made him obscure instead of infamous. As for the
Widow Wycherly, tradition tells us that she was a great beauty in
her day; but, for a long while past, she had lived in deep
seclusion, on account of certain scandalous stories which had
prejudiced the gentry of the town against her. It is a
circumstance worth mentioning that each of these three old
gentlemen, Mr. Medbourne, Colonel Killigrew, and Mr. Gascoigne,
were early lovers of the Widow Wycherly, and had once been on the
point of cutting each other's throats for her sake. And, before
proceeding further, I will merely hint that Dr. Heidegger and all
his foul guests were sometimes thought to be a little beside
themselves,--as is not unfrequently the case with old people,
when worried either by present troubles or woful recollections.

"My dear old friends," said Dr. Heidegger, motioning them to be
seated, "I am desirous of your assistance in one of those little
experiments with which I amuse myself here in my study."

If all stories were true, Dr. Heidegger's study must have been a
very curious place. It was a dim, old-fashioned chamber,
festooned with cobwebs, and besprinkled with antique dust. Around
the walls stood several oaken bookcases, the lower shelves of
which were filled with rows of gigantic folios and black-letter
quartos, and the upper with little parchment-covered duodecimos.
Over the central bookcase was a bronze bust of Hippocrates, with
which, according to some authorities, Dr. Heidegger was
accustomed to hold consultations in all difficult cases of his
practice. In the obscurest corner of the room stood a tall and
narrow oaken closet, with its door ajar, within which doubtfully
appeared a skeleton. Between two of the bookcases hung a
looking-glass, presenting its high and dusty plate within a
tarnished gilt frame. Among many wonderful stories related of
this mirror, it was fabled that the spirits of all the doctor's
deceased patients dwelt within its verge, and would stare him in
the face whenever he looked thitherward. The opposite side of the
chamber was ornamented with the full-length portrait of a young
lady, arrayed in the faded magnificence of silk, satin, and
brocade, and with a visage as faded as her dress. Above half a
century ago, Dr. Heidegger had been on the point of marriage with
this young lady; but, being affected with some slight disorder,
she had swallowed one of her lover's prescriptions, and died on
the bridal evening. The greatest curiosity of the study remains
to be mentioned; it was a ponderous folio volume, bound in black
leather, with massive silver clasps. There were no letters on the
back, and nobody could tell the title of the book. But it was
well known to be a book of magic; and once, when a chambermaid
had lifted it, merely to brush away the dust, the skeleton had
rattled in its closet, the picture of the young lady had stepped
one foot upon the floor, and several ghastly faces had peeped
forth from the mirror; while the brazen head of Hippocrates
frowned, and said,--"Forbear!"

Such was Dr. Heidegger's study. On the summer afternoon of our
tale a small round table, as black as ebony, stood in the centre
of the room, sustaining a cut-glass vase of beautiful form and
elaborate workmanship. The sunshine came through the window,
between the heavy festoons of two faded damask curtains, and fell
directly across this vase; so that a mild splendor was reflected
from it on the ashen visages of the five old people who sat
around. Four champagne glasses were also on the table.

"My dear old friends," repeated Dr. Heidegger, "may I reckon on
your aid in performing an exceedingly curious experiment?"

Now Dr. Heidegger was a very strange old gentleman, whose
eccentricity had become the nucleus for a thousand fantastic
stories. Some of these fables, to my shame be it spoken, might
possibly be traced back to my own veracious self; and if any
passages of the present tale should startle the reader's faith, I
must be content to bear the stigma of a fiction monger.

When the doctor's four guests heard him talk of his proposed
experiment, they anticipated nothing more wonderful than the
murder of a mouse in an air pump, or the examination of a cobweb
by the microscope, or some similar nonsense, with which he was
constantly in the habit of pestering his intimates. But without
waiting for a reply, Dr. Heidegger hobbled across the chamber,
and returned with the same ponderous folio, bound in black
leather, which common report affirmed to be a book of magic.
Undoing the silver clasps, he opened the volume, and took from
among its black-letter pages a rose, or what was once a rose,
though now the green leaves and crimson petals had assumed one
brownish hue, and the ancient flower seemed ready to crumble to
dust in the doctor's hands.

"This rose," said Dr. Heidegger, with a sigh, "this same withered
and crumbling flower, blossomed five and fifty years ago. It was
given me by Sylvia Ward, whose portrait hangs yonder; and I meant
to wear it in my bosom at our wedding. Five and fifty years it
has been treasured between the leaves of this old volume. Now,
would you deem it possible that this rose of half a century could
ever bloom again?"

"Nonsense!" said the Widow Wycherly, with a peevish toss of her
head. "You might as well ask whether an old woman's wrinkled face
could ever bloom again."

"See!" answered Dr. Heidegger.

He uncovered the vase, and threw the faded rose into the water
which it contained. At first, it lay lightly on the surface of
the fluid, appearing to imbibe none of its moisture. Soon,
however, a singular change began to be visible. The crushed and
dried petals stirred, and assumed a deepening tinge of crimson,
as if the flower were reviving from a deathlike slumber; the
slender stalk and twigs of foliage became green; and there was
the rose of half a century, looking as fresh as when Sylvia Ward
had first given it to her lover. It was scarcely full blown; for
some of its delicate red leaves curled modestly around its moist
bosom, within which two or three dewdrops were sparkling.

"That is certainly a very pretty deception," said the doctor's
friends; carelessly, however, for they had witnessed greater
miracles at a conjurer's show; "pray how was it effected?"

"Did you never hear of the 'Fountain of Youth?' " asked Dr.
Heidegger, "which Ponce De Leon, the Spanish adventurer, went in
search of two or three centuries ago?"

"But did Ponce De Leon ever find it?" said the Widow Wycherly.

"No," answered Dr. Heidegger, "for he never sought it in the
right place. The famous Fountain of Youth, if I am rightly
informed, is situated in the southern part of the Floridian
peninsula, not far from Lake Macaco. Its source is overshadowed
by several gigantic magnolias, which, though numberless centuries
old, have been kept as fresh as violets by the virtues of this
wonderful water. An acquaintance of mine, knowing my curiosity in
such matters, has sent me what you see in the vase."

"Ahem!" said Colonel Killigrew, who believed not a word of the
doctor's story; "and what may be the effect of this fluid on the
human frame?"

"You shall judge for yourself, my dear colonel," replied Dr.
Heidegger; "and all of you, my respected friends, are welcome to
so much of this admirable fluid as may restore to you the bloom
of youth. For my own part, having had much trouble in growing
old, I am in no hurry to grow young again. With your permission,
therefore, I will merely watch the progress of the experiment."

While he spoke, Dr. Heidegger had been filling the four champagne
glasses with the water of the Fountain of Youth. It was
apparently impregnated with an effervescent gas, for little
bubbles were continually ascending from the depths of the
glasses, and bursting in silvery spray at the surface. As the
liquor diffused a pleasant perfume, the old people doubted not
that it possessed cordial and comfortable properties; and though
utter sceptics as to its rejuvenescent power, they were inclined
to swallow it at once. But Dr. Heidegger besought them to stay a

"Before you drink, my respectable old friends," said he, "it
would be well that, with the experience of a lifetime to direct
you, you should draw up a few general rules for your guidance, in
passing a second time through the perils of youth. Think what a
sin and shame it would be, if, with your peculiar advantages, you
should not become patterns of virtue and wisdom to all the young
people of the age!"

The doctor's four venerable friends made him no answer, except by
a feeble and tremulous laugh; so very ridiculous was the idea
that, knowing how closely repentance treads behind the steps of
error, they should ever go astray again.

"Drink, then," said the doctor, bowing: "I rejoice that I have so
well selected the subjects of my experiment."

With palsied hands, they raised the glasses to their lips. The
liquor, if it really possessed such virtues as Dr. Heidegger
imputed to it, could not have been bestowed on four human beings
who needed it more wofully. They looked as if they had never
known what youth or pleasure was, but had been the offspring of
Nature's dotage, and always the gray, decrepit, sapless,
miserable creatures, who now sat stooping round the doctor's
table, without life enough in their souls or bodies to be
animated even by the prospect of growing young again. They drank
off the water, and replaced their glasses on the table.

Assuredly there was an almost immediate improvement in the aspect
of the party, not unlike what might have been produced by a glass
of generous wine, together with a sudden glow of cheerful
sunshine brightening over all their visages at once. There was a
healthful suffusion on their cheeks, instead of the ashen hue
that had made them look so corpse-like. They gazed at one
another, and fancied that some magic power had really begun to
smooth away the deep and sad inscriptions which Father Time had
been so long engraving on their brows. The Widow Wycherly
adjusted her cap, for she felt almost like a woman again.

"Give us more of this wondrous water!" cried they, eagerly. "We
are younger--but we are still too old! Quick--give us more!"

"Patience, patience!" quoth Dr. Heidegger, who sat watching the
experiment with philosophic coolness. "You have been a long time
growing old. Surely, you might be content to grow young in half
an hour! But the water is at your service."

Again he filled their glasses with the liquor of youth, enough of
which still remained in the vase to turn half the old people in
the city to the age of their own grandchildren. While the bubbles
were yet sparkling on the brim, the doctor's four guests snatched
their glasses from the table, and swallowed the contents at a
single gulp. Was it delusion? even while the draught was passing
down their throats, it seemed to have wrought a change on their
whole systems. Their eyes grew clear and bright; a dark shade
deepened among their silvery locks, they sat around the table,
three gentlemen of middle age, and a woman, hardly beyond her
buxom prime.

"My dear widow, you are charming!" cried Colonel Killigrew, whose
eyes had been fixed upon her face, while the shadows of age were
flitting from it like darkness from the crimson daybreak.

The fair widow knew, of old, that Colonel Killigrew's compliments
were not always measured by sober truth; so she started up and
ran to the mirror, still dreading that the ugly visage of an old
woman would meet her gaze. Meanwhile, the three gentlemen behaved
in such a manner as proved that the water of the Fountain of
Youth possessed some intoxicating qualities; unless, indeed,
their exhilaration of spirits were merely a lightsome dizziness
caused by the sudden removal of the weight of years. Mr.
Gascoigne's mind seemed to run on political topics, but whether
relating to the past, present, or future, could not easily be
determined, since the same ideas and phrases have been in vogue
these fifty years. Now he rattled forth full-throated sentences
about patriotism, national glory, and the people's right; now he
muttered some perilous stuff or other, in a sly and doubtful
whisper, so cautiously that even his own conscience could
scarcely catch the secret; and now, again, he spoke in measured
accents, and a deeply deferential tone, as if a royal ear were
listening to his wellturned periods. Colonel Killigrew all this
time had been trolling forth a jolly bottle song, and ringing his
glass in symphony with the chorus, while his eyes wandered toward
the buxom figure of the Widow Wycherly. On the other side of the
table, Mr. Medbourne was involved in a calculation of dollars and
cents, with which was strangely intermingled a project for
supplying the East Indies with ice, by harnessing a team of
whales to the polar icebergs.

As for the Widow Wycherly, she stood before the mirror
courtesying and simpering to her own image, and greeting it as
the friend whom she loved better than all the world beside. She
thrust her face close to the glass, to see whether some
long-remembered wrinkle or crow's foot had indeed vanished. She
examined whether the snow had so entirely melted from her hair
that the venerable cap could be safely thrown aside. At last,
turning briskly away, she came with a sort of dancing step to the

"My dear old doctor," cried she, "pray favor me with another

"Certainly, my dear madam, certainly!" replied the complaisant
doctor; "see! I have already filled the glasses."

There, in fact, stood the four glasses, brimful of this wonderful
water, the delicate spray of which, as it effervesced from the
surface, resembled the tremulous glitter of diamonds. It was now
so nearly sunset that the chamber had grown duskier than ever;
but a mild and moonlike splendor gleamed from within the vase,
and rested alike on the four guests and on the doctor's venerable
figure. He sat in a high-backed, elaborately-carved, oaken
arm-chair, with a gray dignity of aspect that might have well
befitted that very Father Time, whose power had never been
disputed, save by this fortunate company. Even while quaffing the
third draught of the Fountain of Youth, they were almost awed by
the expression of his mysterious visage.

But, the next moment, the exhilarating gush of young life shot
through their veins. They were now in the happy prime of youth.
Age, with its miserable train of cares and sorrows and diseases,
was remembered only as the trouble of a dream, from which they
had joyously awoke. The fresh gloss of the soul, so early lost,
and without which the world's successive scenes had been but a
gallery of faded pictures, again threw its enchantment over all
their prospects. They felt like new-created beings in a
new-created universe.

"We are young! We are young!" they cried exultingly.

Youth, like the extremity of age, had effaced the strongly-marked
characteristics of middle life, and mutually assimilated them
all. They were a group of merry youngsters, almost maddened with
the exuberant frolicsomeness of their years. The most singular
effect of their gayety was an impulse to mock the infirmity and
decrepitude of which they had so lately been the victims. They
laughed loudly at their old-fashioned attire, the wide-skirted
coats and flapped waistcoats of the young men, and the ancient
cap and gown of the blooming girl. One limped across the floor
like a gouty grandfather; one set a pair of spectacles astride of
his nose, and pretended to pore over the black-letter pages of
the book of magic; a third seated himself in an arm-chair, and
strove to imitate the venerable dignity of Dr. Heidegger. Then
all shouted mirthfully, and leaped about the room. The Widow
Wycherly--if so fresh a damsel could be called a widow--tripped
up to the doctor's chair, with a mischievous merriment in her
rosy face.

"Doctor, you dear old soul," cried she, "get up and dance with
me!" And then the four young people laughed louder than ever, to
think what a queer figure the poor old doctor would cut.

"Pray excuse me," answered the doctor quietly. "I am old and
rheumatic, and my dancing days were over long ago. But either of
these gay young gentlemen will be glad of so pretty a partner."

"Dance with me, Clara!" cried Colonel Killigrew

"No, no, I will be her partner!" shouted Mr. Gascoigne.

"She promised me her hand, fifty years ago!" exclaimed Mr.

They all gathered round her. One caught both her hands in his
passionate grasp another threw his arm about her waist--the third
buried his hand among the glossy curls that clustered beneath the
widow's cap. Blushing, panting, struggling, chiding, laughing,
her warm breath fanning each of their faces by turns, she strove
to disengage herself, yet still remained in their triple embrace.
Never was there a livelier picture of youthful rivalship, with
bewitching beauty for the prize. Yet, by a strange deception,
owing to the duskiness of the chamber, and the antique dresses
which they still wore, the tall mirror is said to have reflected
the figures of the three old, gray, withered grandsires,
ridiculously contending for the skinny ugliness of a shrivelled

But they were young: their burning passions proved them so.
Inflamed to madness by the coquetry of the girl-widow, who
neither granted nor quite withheld her favors, the three rivals
began to interchange threatening glances. Still keeping hold of
the fair prize, they grappled fiercely at one another's throats.
As they struggled to and fro, the table was overturned, and the
vase dashed into a thousand fragments. The precious Water of
Youth flowed in a bright stream across the floor, moistening the
wings of a butterfly, which, grown old in the decline of summer,
had alighted there to die. The insect fluttered lightly through
the chamber, and settled on the snowy head of Dr. Heidegger.

"Come, come, gentlemen!--come, Madam Wycherly," exclaimed the
doctor, "I really must protest against this riot."

They stood still and shivered; for it seemed as if gray Time were
calling them back from their sunny youth, far down into the chill
and darksome vale of years. They looked at old Dr. Heidegger, who
sat in his carved arm-chair, holding the rose of half a century,
which he had rescued from among the fragments of the shattered
vase. At the motion of his hand, the four rioters resumed their
seats; the more readily, because their violent exertions had
wearied them, youthful though they were.

"My poor Sylvia's rose!" ejaculated Dr. Heidegger, holding it in
the light of the sunset clouds; "it appears to be fading again."

And so it was. Even while the party were looking at it, the
flower continued to shrivel up, till it became as dry and fragile
as when the doctor had first thrown it into the vase. He shook
off the few drops of moisture which clung to its petals.

"I love it as well thus as in its dewy freshness," observed he,
pressing the withered rose to his withered lips. While he spoke,
the butterfly fluttered down from the doctor's snowy head, and
fell upon the floor.

His guests shivered again. A strange chillness, whether of the
body or spirit they could not tell, was creeping gradually over
them all. They gazed at one another, and fancied that each
fleeting moment snatched away a charm, and left a deepening
furrow where none had been before. Was it an illusion? Had the
changes of a lifetime been crowded into so brief a space, and
were they now four aged people, sitting with their old friend,
Dr. Heidegger?

"Are we grown old again, so soon?" cried they, dolefully.

In truth they had. The Water of Youth possessed merely a virtue
more transient than that of wine. The delirium which it created
had effervesced away. Yes! they were old again. With a shuddering
impulse, that showed her a woman still, the widow clasped her
skinny hands before her face, and wished that the coffin lid were
over it, since it could be no longer beautiful.

"Yes, friends, ye are old again," said Dr. Heidegger, "and lo!
the Water of Youth is all lavished on the ground. Well--I bemoan
it not; for if the fountain gushed at my very doorstep, I would
not stoop to bathe my lips in it--no, though its delirium were
for years instead of moments. Such is the lesson ye have taught

But the doctor's four friends had taught no such lesson to
themselves. They resolved forthwith to make a pilgrimage to
Florida, and quaff at morning, noon, and night, from the Fountain
of Youth.




One afternoon, last summer, while walking along Washington
Street, my eye was attracted by a signboard protruding over a
narrow archway, nearly opposite the Old South Church. The sign
represented the front of a stately edifice, which was designated
as the "OLD PROVINCE HOUSE, kept by Thomas Waite." I was glad to
be thus reminded of a purpose, long entertained, of visiting and
rambling over the mansion of the old royal governors of
Massachusetts; and entering the arched passage, which penetrated
through the middle of a brick row of shops, a few steps
transported me from the busy heart of modern Boston into a small
and secluded courtyard. One side of this space was occupied by
the square front of the Province House, three stories high, and
surmounted by a cupola, on the top of which a gilded Indian was
discernible, with his bow bent and his arrow on the string, as if
aiming at the weathercock on the spire of the Old South. The
figure has kept this attitude for seventy years or more, ever
since good Deacon Drowne, a cunning carver of wood, first
stationed him on his long sentinel's watch over the city.

The Province House is constructed of brick, which seems recently
to have been overlaid with a coat of light-colored paint. A
flight of red freestone steps, fenced in by a balustrade of
curiously wrought iron, ascends from the court-yard to the
spacious porch, over which is a balcony, with an iron balustrade
of similar pattern and workmanship to that beneath. These letters
and figures--16 P.S. 79--are wrought into the iron work of the
balcony, and probably express the date of the edifice, with the
initials of its founder's name. A wide door with double leaves
admitted me into the hall or entry, on the right of which is the
entrance to the bar-room.

It was in this apartment, I presume, that the ancient governors
held their levees, with vice-regal pomp, surrounded by the
military men, the councillors, the judges, and other officers of
the crown, while all the loyalty of the province thronged to do
them honor. But the room, in its present condition, cannot boast
even of faded magnificence. The panelled wainscot is covered with
dingy paint, and acquires a duskier hue from the deep shadow into
which the Province House is thrown by the brick block that shuts
it in from Washington Street. A ray of sunshine never visits this
apartment any more than the glare of the festal torches, which
have been extinguished from the era of the Revolution. The most
venerable and ornamental object is a chimney-piece set round with
Dutch tiles of blue-figured China, representing scenes from
Scripture; and, for aught I know, the lady of Pownall or Bernard
may have sat beside this fireplace, and told her children the
story of each blue tile. A bar in modern style, well replenished
with decanters, bottles, cigar boxes, and net-work bags of
lemons, and provided with a beer pump, and a soda fount, extends
along one side of the room. At my entrance, an elderly person was
smacking his lips with a zest which satisfied me that the cellars
of the Province House still hold good liquor, though doubtless of
other vintages than were quaffed by the old governors. After
sipping a glass of port sangaree, prepared by the skilful hands
of Mr. Thomas Waite, I besought that worthy successor and
representative of so many historic personages to conduct me over
their time honored mansion.

He readily complied; but, to confess the truth, I was forced to
draw strenuously upon my imagination, in order to find aught that
was interesting in a house which, without its historic
associations, would have seemed merely such a tavern as is
usually favored by the custom of decent city boarders, and
old-fashioned country gentlemen. The chambers, which were
probably spacious in former times, are now cut up by partitions,
and subdivided into little nooks, each affording scanty room for
the narrow bed and chair and dressing-table of a single lodger.
The great staircase, however, may be termed, without much
hyperbole, a feature of grandeur and magnificence. It winds
through the midst of the house by flights of broad steps, each
flight terminating in a square landing-place, whence the ascent
is continued towards the cupola. A carved balustrade, freshly
painted in the lower stories, but growing dingier as we ascend,
borders the staircase with its quaintly twisted and intertwined
pillars, from top to bottom. Up these stairs the military boots,
or perchance the gouty shoes, of many a governor have trodden, as
the wearers mounted to the cupola, which afforded them so wide a
view over their metropolis and the surrounding country. The
cupola is an octagon, with several windows, and a door opening
upon the roof. From this station, as I pleased myself with
imagining, Gage may have beheld his disastrous victory on Bunker
Hill (unless one of the tri-mountains intervened), and Howe have
marked the approaches of Washington's besieging army; although
the buildings since erected in the vicinity have shut out almost
every object, save the steeple of the Old South, which seems
almost within arm's length. Descending from the cupola, I paused
in the garret to observe the ponderous white-oak framework, so
much more massive than the frames of modern houses, and thereby
resembling an antique skeleton. The brick walls, the materials of
which were imported from Holland, and the timbers of the mansion,
are still as sound as ever; but the floors and other interior
parts being greatly decayed, it is contemplated to gut the whole,
and build a new house within the ancient frame and brick work.
Among other inconveniences of the present edifice, mine host
mentioned that any jar or motion was apt to shake down the dust
of ages out of the ceiling of one chamber upon the floor of that
beneath it.

We stepped forth from the great front window into the balcony,
where, in old times, it was doubtless the custom of the king's
representative to Show himself to a loyal populace, requiting
their huzzas and tossed-up hats with stately bendings of his
dignified person. In those days the front of the Province House
looked upon the street; and the whole site now occupied by the
brick range of stores, as well as the present court-yard, was
laid out in grass plats, overshadowed by trees and bordered by a
wrought-iron fence. Now, the old aristocratic edifice hides its
time-worn visage behind an upstart modern building; at one of the
back windows I observed some pretty tailoresses, sewing and
chatting and laughing, with now and then a careless glance
towards the balcony. Descending thence, we again entered the
bar-room, where the elderly gentleman above mentioned, the smack
of whose lips had spoken so favorably for Mr. Waite's good
liquor, was still lounging in his chair. He seemed to be, if not
a lodger, at least a familiar visitor of the house, who might be
supposed to have his regular score at the bar, his summer seat at
the open window, and his prescriptive corner at the winter's
fireside. Being of a sociable aspect, I ventured to address him
with a remark calculated to draw forth his historical
reminiscences, if any such were in his mind; and it gratified me
to discover, that, between memory and tradition, the old
gentleman was really possessed of some very pleasant gossip about
the Province House. The portion of his talk which chiefly
interested me was the outline of the following legend. He
professed to have received it at one or two removes from an
eye-witness; but this derivation, together with the lapse of
time, must have afforded opportunities for many variations of the
narrative; so that despairing of literal and absolute truth, I
have not scrupled to make such further changes as seemed
conducive to the reader's profit and delight.

At one of the entertainments given at the Province
House, during the latter part of the siege of Boston, there
passed a scene which has never yet been satisfactorily explained.
The officers of the British army, and the loyal gentry of the
province, most of whom were collected within the beleaguered
town, had been invited to a masked ball; for it was the policy of
Sir William Howe to hide the distress and danger of the period,
and the desperate aspect of the siege, under an ostentation of
festivity. The spectacle of this evening, if the oldest members
of the provincial court circle might be believed, was the most
gay and gorgeous affair that had occurred in the annals of the
government. The brilliantly-lighted apartments were thronged with
figures that seemed to have stepped from the dark canvas of
historic portraits, or to have flitted forth from the magic pages
of romance, or at least to have flown hither from one of the
London theatres, without a change of garments. Steeled knights of
the Conquest, bearded statesmen of Queen Elizabeth, and
high-ruffled ladies of her court, were mingled with characters of
comedy, such as a party-colored Merry Andrew, jingling his cap
and bells; a Falstaff, almost as provocative of laughter as his
prototype; and a Don Quixote, with a bean pole for a lance, and a
pot lid for a shield.

But the broadest merriment was excited by a group of figures
ridiculously dressed in old regimentals, which seemed to have
been purchased at a military rag fair, or pilfered from some
receptacle of the cast-off clothes of both the French and British
armies. Portions of their attire had probably been worn at the
siege of Louisburg, and the coats of most recent cut might have
been rent and tattered by sword, ball, or bayonet, as long ago as
Wolfe's victory. One of these worthies--a tall, lank figure,
brandishing a rusty sword of immense longitude--purported to be
no less a personage than General George Washington; and the other
principal officers of the American army, such as Gates, Lee,
Putnam, Schuyler, Ward and Heath, were represented by similar
scarecrows. An interview in the mock heroic style, between the
rebel warriors and the British commander-in-chief, was received
with immense applause, which came loudest of all from the
loyalists of the colony. There was one of the guests, however,
who stood apart, eyeing these antics sternly and scornfully, at
once with a frown and a bitter smile.

It was an old man, formerly of high station and great repute in
the province, and who had been a very famous soldier in his day.
Some surprise had been expressed that a person of Colonel
Joliffe's known Whig principles, though now too old to take an
active part in the contest, should have remained in Boston during
the siege, and especially that he should consent to show himself
in the mansion of Sir William Howe. But thither he had come, with
a fair granddaughter under his arm; and there, amid all the mirth
and buffoonery, stood this stern old figure, the best sustained
character in the masquerade, because so well representing the
antique spirit of his native land. The other guests affirmed that
Colonel Joliffe's black puritanical scowl threw a shadow round
about him; although in spite of his sombre influence their gayety
continued to blaze higher, like--(an ominous comparison)--the
flickering brilliancy of a lamp which has but a little while to
burn. Eleven strokes, full half an hour ago, had pealed from the
clock of the Old South, when a rumor was circulated among the
company that some new spectacle or pageant was about to be
exhibited, which should put a fitting close to the splendid
festivities of the night.

"What new jest has your Excellency in hand?" asked the Rev.
Mather Byles, whose Presbyterian scruples had not kept him from
the entertainment. "Trust me, sir, I have already laughed more
than beseems my cloth at your Homeric confabulation with yonder
ragamuffin General of the rebels. One other such fit of
merriment, and I must throw off my clerical wig and band."

"Not so, good Doctor Byles," answered Sir William Howe; "if mirth
were a crime, you had never gained your doctorate in divinity. As
to this new foolery, I know no more about it than yourself;
perhaps not so much. Honestly now, Doctor, have you not stirred
up the sober brains of some of your countrymen to enact a scene
in our masquerade?"

"Perhaps," slyly remarked the granddaughter of Colonel Joliffe,
whose high spirit had been stung by many taunts against New
England,--"perhaps we are to have a mask of allegorical figures.
Victory, with trophies from Lexington and Bunker Hill--Plenty,
with her overflowing horn, to typify the present abundance in
this good town--and Glory, with a wreath for his Excellency's

Sir William Howe smiled at words which he would have answered
with one of his darkest frowns had they been uttered by lips that
wore a beard. He was spared the necessity of a retort, by a
singular interruption. A sound of music was heard without the
house, as if proceeding from a full band of military instruments
stationed in the street, playing not such a festal strain as was
suited to the occasion, but a slow funeral march. The drums
appeared to be muffled, and the trumpets poured forth a wailing
breath, which at once hushed the merriment of the auditors,
filling all with wonder, and some with apprehension. The idea
occurred to many that either the funeral procession of some great
personage had halted in front of the Province House, or that a
corpse, in a velvet-covered and gorgeously-decorated coffin, was
about to be borne from the portal. After listening a moment, Sir
William Howe called, in a stern voice, to the leader of the
musicians, who had hitherto enlivened the entertainment with gay
and lightsome melodies. The man was drum-major to one of the
British regiments.

"Dighton," demanded the general, "what means this foolery? Bid
your band silence that dead march--or, by my word, they shall
have sufficient cause for their lugubrious strains! Silence it,

"Please your honor," answered the drum-major, whose rubicund
visage had lost all its color, "the fault is none of mine. I and
my band are all here together, and I question whether there be a
man of us that could play that march without book. I never heard
it but once before, and that was at the funeral of his late
Majesty, King George the Second."

"Well, well!" said Sir William Howe, recovering his
composure--"it is the prelude to some masquerading antic. Let it

A figure now presented itself, but among the many fantastic masks
that were dispersed through the apartments none could tell
precisely from whence it came. It was a man in an old-fashioned
dress of black serge and having the aspect of a steward or
principal domestic in the household of a nobleman or great
English landholder. This figure advanced to the outer door of the
mansion, and throwing both its leaves wide open, withdrew a
little to one side and looked back towards the grand staircase as
if expecting some person to descend. At the same time the music
in the street sounded a loud and doleful summons. The eyes of Sir
William Howe and his guests being directed to the staircase,
there appeared, on the uppermost landing-place that was
discernible from the bottom, several personages descending
towards the door. The foremost was a man of stern visage, wearing
a steeple-crowned hat and a skull-cap beneath it; a dark cloak,
and huge wrinkled boots that came half-way up his legs. Under his
arm was a rolled-up banner, which seemed to be the banner of
England, but strangely rent and torn; he had a sword in his right
hand, and grasped a Bible in his left. The next figure was of
milder aspect, yet full of dignity, wearing a broad ruff, over
which descended a beard, a gown of wrought velvet, and a doublet
and hose of black satin. He carried a roll of manuscript in his
hand. Close behind these two came a young man of very striking
countenance and demeanor, with deep thought and contemplation on
his brow, and perhaps a flash of enthusiiasm in his eye. His
garb, like that of his predecessors, was of an antique fashion,
and there was a stain of blood upon his ruff. In the same group
with these were three or four others, all men of dignity and
evident command, and bearing themselves like personages who were
accustomed to the gaze of the multitude. It was the idea of the
beholders that these figures went to join the mysterious funeral
that had halted in front of the Province House; yet that
supposition seemed to be contradicted by the air of triumph with
which they waved their hands, as they crossed the threshold and
vanished through the portal.

"In the devil's name what is this?" muttered Sir William Howe to
a gentleman beside him; "a procession of the regicide judges of
King Charles the martyr?"

"These," said Colonel Joliffe, breaking silence almost for the
first time that evening,--"these, if I interpret them aright, are
the Puritan governors--the rulers of the old original Democracy
of Massachusetts. Endicott, with the banner from which he had
torn the symbol of subjection, and Winthrop, and Sir Henry Vane,
and Dudley, Haynes, Bellingham, and Leverett."

"Why had that young man a stain of blood upon his ruff?" asked
Miss Joliffe.

"Because, in after years," answered her grandfather, "he laid
down the wisest head in England upon the block for the principles
of liberty."

"Will not your Excellency order out the guard?" whispered Lord
Percy, who, with other British officers, had now assembled round
the General. "There may be a plot under this mummery."

"Tush! we have nothing to fear," carelessly replied Sir William
Howe. "There can be no worse treason in the matter than a jest,
and that somewhat of the dullest. Even were it a sharp and bitter
one, our best policy would be to laugh it off. See--here come
more of these gentry."

Another group of characters had now partly descended the
staircase. The first was a venerable and white-bearded patriarch,
who cautiously felt his way downward with a staff. Treading
hastily behind him, and stretching forth his gauntleted hand as
if to grasp the old man's shoulder, came a tall, soldier-like
figure, equipped with a plumed cap of steel, a bright
breastplate, and a long sword, which rattled against the stairs.
Next was seen a stout man, dressed in rich and courtly attire,
but not of courtly demeanor; his gait had the swinging motion of
a seaman's walk, and chancing to stumble on the staircase, he
suddenly grew wrathful, and was heard to mutter an oath. He was
followed by a noble-looking personage in a curled wig, such as
are represented in the portraits of Queen Anne's time and
earlier; and the breast of his coat was decorated with an
embroidered star. While advancing to the door, he bowed to the
right hand and to the left, in a very gracious and insinuating
style; but as he crossed the threshold, unlike the early Puritan
governors, he seemed to wring his hands with sorrow.

"Prithee, play the part of a chorus, good Doctor Byles," said Sir
William Howe. "What worthies are these?"

"If it please your Excellency they lived somewhat before my day,"
answered the doctor; "but doubtless our friend, the Colonel, has
been hand and glove with them."

"Their living faces I never looked upon," said Colonel Joliffe,
gravely; "although I have spoken face to face with many rulers of
this land, and shall greet yet another with an old man's blessing
ere I die. But we talk of these figures. I take the venerable
patriarch to be Bradstreet, the last of the Puritans, who was
governor at ninety, or thereabouts. The next is Sir Edmund
Andros, a tyrant, as any New England school-boy will tell you;
and therefore the people cast him down from his high seat into a
dungeon. Then comes Sir William Phipps, shepherd, cooper,
sea-captain, and governor--may many of his countrymen rise as
high from as low an origin! Lastly, you saw the gracious Earl of
Bellamont, who ruled us under King William."

"But what is the meaning of it all?" asked Lord Percy.

"Now, were I a rebel," said Miss Joliffe, half aloud, "I might
fancy that the ghosts of these ancient governors had been
summoned to form the funeral procession of royal authority in New

Several other figures were now seen at the turn of the staircase.
The one in advance had a thoughtful, anxious, and somewhat crafty
expression of face, and in spite of his loftiness of manner,
which was evidently the result both of an ambitious spirit and of
long continuance in high stations, he seemed not incapable of
cringing to a greater than himself. A few steps behind came an
officer in a scarlet and embroidered uniform, cut in a fashion
old enough to have been worn by the Duke of Marlborough. His nose
had a rubicund tinge, which, together with the twinkle of his
eye, might have marked him as a lover of the wine cup and good
fellowship; notwithstanding which tokens he appeared ill at ease,
and often glanced around him as if apprehensive of some secret
mischief. Next came a portly gentleman, wearing a coat of shaggy
cloth, lined with silken velvet; he had sense, shrewdness, and
humor in his face, and a folio volume under his arm; but his
aspect was that of a man vexed and tormented beyond all patience,
and harassed almost to death. He went hastily down, and was
followed by a dignified person, dressed in a purple velvet suit
with very rich embroidery; his demeanor would have possessed much
stateliness, only that a grievous fit of the gout compelled him
to hobble from stair to stair, with contortions of face and body.
When Dr. Byles beheld this figure on the staircase, he shivered
as with an ague, but continued to watch him steadfastly, until
the gouty gentleman had reached the threshold, made a gesture of
anguish and despair, and vanished into the outer gloom, whither
the funeral music summoned him.

"Governor Belcher!--my old patron!--in his very shape and dress!"
gasped Doctor Byles. "This is an awful mockery!"

"A tedious foolery, rather," said Sir William Howe, with an air
of indifference. "But who were the three that preceded him?"

"Governor Dudley, a cunning politician--yet his craft once
brought him to a prison," replied Colonel Joliffe. "Governor
Shute, formerly a Colonel under Marlborough, and whom the people
frightened out of the province; and learned Governor Burnet, whom
the legislature tormented into a mortal fever."

"Methinks they were miserable men, these royal governors of
Massachusetts," observed Miss Joliffe. "Heavens, how dim the
light grows!"

It was certainly a fact that the large lamp which illuminated the
staircase now burned dim and duskily: so that several figures,
which passed hastily down the stairs and went forth from the
porch, appeared rather like shadows than persons of fleshly
substance. Sir William Howe and his guests stood at the doors of
the contiguous apartments, watching the progress of this singular
pageant, with various emotions of anger, contempt, or
half-acknowledged fear, but still with an anxious curiosity. The
shapes which now seemed hastening to join the mysterious
procession were recognized rather by striking peculiarities of
dress, or broad characteristics of manner, than by any
perceptible resemblance of features to their prototypes. Their
faces, indeed, were invariably kept in deep shadow. But Doctor
Byles, and other gentlemen who had long been familiar with the
successive rulers of the province, were heard to whisper the
names of Shirley, of Pownall, of Sir Francis Bernard, and of the
well-remembered Hutchinson; thereby confessing that the actors,
whoever they might be, in this spectral march of governors, had
succeeded in putting on some distant portraiture of the real
personages. As they vanished from the door, still did these
shadows toss their arms into the gloom of night, with a dread
expression of woe. Following the mimic representative of
Hutchinson came a military figure, holding before his face the
cocked hat which he had taken from his powdered head; but his
epaulettes and other insignia of rank were those of a general
officer, and something in his mien reminded the beholders of one
who had recently been master of the Province House, and chief of
all the land.

"The shape of Gage, as true as in a looking-glass," exclaimed
Lord Percy, turning pale.

"No, surely," cried Miss Joliffe, laughing hysterically; "it
could not be Gage, or Sir William would have greeted his old
comrade in arms! Perhaps he will not suffer the next to pass

"Of that be assured, young lady," answered Sir William Howe,
fixing his eyes, with a very marked expression, upon the
immovable visage of her grandfather. "I have long enough delayed
to pay the ceremonies of a host to these departing guests. The
next that takes his leave shall receive due courtesy."

A wild and dreary burst of music came through the open door. It
seemed as if the procession, which had been gradually filling up
its ranks, were now about to move, and that this loud peal of the
wailing trumpets, and roll of the muffled drums, were a call to
some loiterer to make haste. Many eyes, by an irresistible
impulse, were turned upon Sir William Howe, as if it were he whom
the dreary music summoned to the funeral or departed power.

"See!--here comes the last!" whispered Miss Joliffe, pointing her
tremulous finger to the staircase.

A figure had come into view as if descending the stairs; although
so dusky was the region whence it emerged, some of the spectators
fancied that they had seen this human shape suddenly moulding
itself amid the gloom. Downward the figure came, with a stately
and martial tread, and reaching the lowest stair was observed to
be a tall man, booted and wrapped in a military cloak, which was
drawn up around the face so as to meet the flapped brim of a
laced hat. The features, therefore, were completely hidden. But
the British officers deemed that they had seen that military
cloak before, and even recognized the frayed embroidery on the
collar, as well as the gilded scabbard of a sword which protruded
from the folds of the cloak, and glittered in a vivid gleam of
light. Apart from these trifling particulars, there were
characteristics of gait and bearing which impelled the wondering
guests to glance from the shrouded figure to Sir William Howe, as
if to satisfy themselves that their host had not suddenly
vanished from the midst of them.

With a dark flush of wrath upon his brow they saw the General
draw his sword and advance to meet the figure in the cloak before
the latter had stepped one pace upon the floor.

"Villain, unmuffle yourself!" cried he. "You pass no farther!"

The figure, without blenching a hair's breadth from the sword
which was pointed at his breast, made a solemn pause and lowered
the cape of the cloak from about his face, yet not sufficiently
for the spectators to catch a glimpse of it. But Sir William Howe
had evidently seen enough. The sternness of his countenance gave
place to a look of wild amazement, if not horror, while he
recoiled several steps from the figure and let fall his sword
upon the floor. The martial shape again drew the cloak about his,
features and passed on; but reaching the threshold, with his back
towards the spectators, he was seen to stamp his foot and shake
his clinched hands in the air. It was afterwards affirmed that
Sir William Howe had repeated that selfsame gesture of rage and
sorrow, when, for the last time, and as the last royal governor,
he passed through the portal of the Province House.

"Hark!--the procession moves," said Miss Joliffe.

The music was dying away along the street, and its dismal strains
were mingled with the knell of midnight from the steeple of the
Old South, and with the roar of artillery, which announced that
the beleaguering army of Washington had intrenched itself upon a
nearer height than before. As the deep boom of the cannon smote
upon his ear, Colonel Joliffe raised himself to the full height
of his aged form, and smiled sternly on the British General.

"Would your Excellency inquire further into the mystery of the
pageant?" said he.

"Take care of your gray head!" cried Sir William Howe, fiercely,
though with a quivering lip. "It has stood too long on a
traitor's shoulders!"

"You must make haste to chop it off, then," calmly replied the
Colonel; "for a few hours longer, and not all the power of Sir
William Howe, nor of his master, shall cause one of these gray
hairs to fall. The empire of Britain in this ancient province is
at its last gasp to-night;--almost while I speak it is a dead
corpse;--and methinks the shadows of the old governors are fit
mourners at its funeral!"

With these words Colonel Joliffe threw on his cloak, and drawing
his granddaughter's arm within his own, retired from the last
festival that a British ruler ever held in the old province of
Massachusetts Bay. It was supposed that the Colonel and the young
lady possessed some secret intelligence in regard to the
mysterious pageant of that night. However this might be, such
knowledge has never become general. The actors in the scene have
vanished into deeper obscurity than even that wild Indian band
who scattered the cargoes of the tea ships on the waves, and
gained a place in history, yet left no names. But superstition,
among other legends of this mansion, repeats the wondrous tale,
that on the anniversary night of Britain's discomfiture the
ghosts of the ancient governors of Massachusetts still glide
through the portal of the Province House. And, last of all, comes
a figure shrouded in a military cloak, tossing his clinched hands
into the air, and stamping his iron-shod boots upon the broad
freestone steps, with a semblance of feverish despair, but
without the sound of a foot-tramp.

When the truth-telling accents of the elderly
gentleman were hushed, I drew a long breath and looked round the
room, striving, with the best energy of my imagination, to throw
a tinge of romance and historic grandeur over the realities of
the scene. But my nostrils snuffed up a scent of cigar smoke,
clouds of which the narrator had emitted by way of visible
emblem, I suppose, of the nebulous obscurity of his tale.
Moreover, my gorgeous fantasies were wofully disturbed by the
rattling of the spoon in a tumbler of whiskey punch, which Mr.
Thomas Waite was mingling for a customer. Nor did it add to the
picturesque appearance of the panelled walls that the slate of
the Brookline stage was suspended against them, instead of the
armorial escutcheon of some far-descended governor. A
stage-driver sat at one of the windows, reading a penny paper of
the day --the Boston Times--and presenting a figure which could
nowise be brought into any picture of "Times in Boston" seventy
or a hundred years ago. On the window seat lay a bundle, neatly
done up in brown paper, the direction of which I had the idle
curiosity to read. "MISS SUSAN HUGGINS, at the PROVINCE HOUSE." A
pretty chambermaid, no doubt. In truth, it is desperately hard
work, when we attempt to throw the spell of hoar antiquity over
localities with which the living world, and the day that is
passing over us, have aught to do. Yet, as I glanced at the
stately staircase down which the procession of the old governors
had descended, and as I emerged through the venerable portal
whence their figures had preceded me, it gladdened me to be
conscious of a thrill of awe. Then, diving through the narrow
archway, a few strides transported me into the densest throng of
Washington Street.




The old legendary guest of the Province House abode in my
remembrance from midsummer till January. One idle evening last
winter, confident that he would be found in the snuggest corner
of the bar-room, I resolved to pay him another visit, hoping to
deserve well of my country by snatching from oblivion some else
unheard-of fact of history. The night was chill and raw, and
rendered boisterous by almost a gale of wind, which whistled
along Washington Street, causing the gas-lights to flare and
flicker within the lamps. As I hurried onward, my fancy was busy
with a comparison between the present aspect of the street and
that which it probably wore when the British governors inhabited
the mansion whither I was now going. Brick edifices in those
times were few, till a succession of destructive fires had swept,
and swept again, the wooden dwellings and warehouses from the
most populous quarters of the town. The buildings stood insulated
and independent, not, as now, merging their separate existences
into connected ranges, with a front of tiresome identity,--but
each possessing features of its own, as if the owner's individual
taste had shaped it,--and the whole presenting a picturesque
irregularity, the absence of which is hardly compensated by any
beauties of our modern architecture. Such a scene, dimly
vanishing from the eye by the ray of here and there a tallow
candle, glimmering through the small panes of scattered windows,
would form a sombre contrast to the street as I beheld it, with
the gas-lights blazing from corner to corner, flaming within the
shops, and throwing a noonday brightness through the huge plates
of glass.

But the black, lowering sky, as I turned my eyes upward, wore,
doubtless, the same visage as when it frowned upon the
ante-revolutionary New Englanders. The wintry blast had the same
shriek that was familiar to their ears. The Old South Church,
too, still pointed its antique spire into the darkness, and was
lost between earth and heaven; and as I passed, its clock, which
had warned so many generations how transitory was their lifetime,
spoke heavily and slow the same unregarded moral to myself. "Only
seven o'clock," thought I. "My old friend's legends will scarcely
kill the hours 'twixt this and bedtime."

Passing through the narrow arch, I crossed the court-yard, the
confined precincts of which were made visible by a lantern over
the portal of the Province House. On entering the bar-room, I
found, as I expected, the old tradition monger seated by a
special good fire of anthracite, compelling clouds of smoke from
a corpulent cigar. He recognized me with evident pleasure; for my
rare properties as a patient listener invariably make me a
favorite with elderly gentlemen and ladies of narrative
propensities. Drawing a chair to the fire, I desired mine host to
favor us with a glass apiece of whiskey punch, which was speedily
prepared, steaming hot, with a slice of lemon at the bottom, a
dark-red stratum of port wine upon the surface, and a sprinkling
of nutmeg strewn over all. As we touched our glasses together, my
legendary friend made himself known to me as Mr. Bela Tiffany;
and I rejoiced at the oddity of the name, because it gave his
image and character a sort of individuality in my conception. The
old gentleman's draught acted as a solvent upon his memory, so
that it overflowed with tales, traditions, anecdotes of famous
dead people, and traits of ancient manners, some of which were
childish as a nurse's lullaby, while others might have been worth
the notice of the grave historian. Nothing impressed me more than
a story of a black mysterious picture, which used to hang in one
of the chambers of the Province House, directly above the room
where we were now sitting. The following is as correct a version
of the fact as the reader would be likely to obtain from any
other source, although, assuredly, it has a tinge of romance
approaching to the marvellous.

In one of the apartments of the Province House
there was long preserved an ancient picture, the frame of which
was as black as ebony, and the canvas itself so dark with age,
damp, and smoke, that not a touch of the painter's art could be
discerned. Time had thrown an impenetrable veil over it, and left
to tradition and fable and conjecture to say what had once been
there portrayed. During the rule of many successive governors, it
had hung, by prescriptive and undisputed right, over the
mantel-piece of the same chamber; and it still kept its place
when Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson assumed the administration of
the province, on the departure of Sir Francis Bernard.

The Lieutenant-Governor sat, one afternoon, resting his head
against the carved back of his stately armchair, and gazing up
thoughtfully at the void blackness of the picture. It was
scarcely a time for such inactive musing, when affairs of the
deepest moment required the ruler's decision, for within that
very hour Hutchinson had received intelligence of the arrival of
a British fleet, bringing three regiments from Halifax to overawe
the insubordination of the people. These troops awaited his
permission to occupy the fortress of Castle William, and the town
itself. Yet, instead of affixing his signature to an official
order, there sat the Lieutenant-Governor, so carefully
scrutinizing the black waste of canvas that his demeanor
attracted the notice of two young persons who attended him. One,
wearing a military dress of buff, was his kinsman, Francis
Lincoln, the Provincial Captain of Castle William; the other, who
sat on a low stool beside his chair, was Alice Vane, his favorite

Book of the day: