Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Suburban Sketches by W.D. Howells

Part 1 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 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.

Produced by Olaf Voss, Eric Eldred, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.

[Illustration: "She lighted a potent pipe."]



























It was on a morning of the lovely New England May that we left the horse-
car, and, spreading our umbrellas, walked down the street to our new home
in Charlesbridge, through a storm of snow and rain so finely blent by the
influences of this fortunate climate, that no flake knew itself from its
sister drop, or could be better identified by the people against whom they
beat in unison. A vernal gale from the east fanned our cheeks and pierced
our marrow and chilled our blood, while the raw, cold green of the
adventurous grass on the borders of the sopping sidewalks gave, as it
peered through its veil of melting snow and freezing rain, a peculiar
cheerfulness to the landscape. Here and there in the vacant lots abandoned
hoop-skirts defied decay; and near the half-finished wooden houses, empty
mortar-beds, and bits of lath and slate strewn over the scarred and
mutilated ground, added their interest to the scene. A shaggy drift hung
upon the trees before our own house (which had been built some years
earlier), while its swollen eaves wept silently and incessantly upon the
embankments lifting its base several feet above the common level.

This heavenly weather, which the Pilgrim Fathers, with the idea of turning
their thoughts effectually from earthly pleasures, came so far to
discover, continued with slight amelioration throughout the month of May
and far into June; and it was a matter of constant amazement with one who
had known less austere climates, to behold how vegetable life struggled
with the hostile skies, and, in an atmosphere as chill and damp as that of
a cellar, shot forth the buds and blossoms upon the pear-trees, called out
the sour Puritan courage of the currant-bushes, taught a reckless native
grape-vine to wander and wanton over the southern side of the fence, and
decked the banks with violets as fearless and as fragile as New England
girls; so that about the end of June, when the heavens relented and the
sun blazed out at last, there was little for him to do but to redden and
darken the daring fruits that had attained almost their full growth
without his countenance.

Then, indeed, Charlesbridge appeared to us a kind of Paradise. The wind
blew all day from the southwest, and all day in the grove across the way
the orioles sang to their nestlings. The butcher's wagon rattled merrily
up to our gate every morning; and if we had kept no other reckoning, we
should have known it was Thursday by the grocer. We were living in the
country with the conveniences and luxuries of the city about us. The house
was almost new and in perfect repair; and, better than all, the kitchen
had as yet given no signs of unrest in those volcanic agencies which are
constantly at work there, and which, with sudden explosion, make
Herculaneums and Pompeiis of so many smiling households. Breakfast,
dinner, and tea came up with illusive regularity, and were all the most
perfect of their kind; and we laughed and feasted in our vain security. We
had out from the city to banquet with us the friends we loved, and we were
inexpressibly proud before them of the Help, who first wrought miracles of
cookery in our honor, and then appeared in a clean white apron, and the
glossiest black hair, to wait upon the table. She was young, and certainly
very pretty; she was as gay as a lark, and was courted by a young man
whose clothes would have been a credit, if they had not been a reproach,
to our lowly basement. She joyfully assented to the idea of staying with
us till she married.

In fact, there was much that was extremely pleasant about the little place
when the warm weather came, and it was not wonderful to us that Jenny was
willing to remain. It was very quiet; we called one another to the window
if a large dog went by our door; and whole days passed without the
movement of any wheels but the butcher's upon our street, which flourished
in ragweed and butter-cups and daisies, and in the autumn burned, like the
borders of nearly all the streets in Charlesbridge, with the pallid azure
flame of the succory. The neighborhood was in all things a frontier
between city and country. The horse-cars, the type of such civilization--
full of imposture, discomfort, and sublime possibility--as we yet possess,
went by the head of our street, and might, perhaps, be available to one
skilled in calculating the movements of comets; while two minutes' walk
would take us into a wood so wild and thick that no roof was visible
through the trees. We learned, like innocent pastoral people of the golden
age, to know the several voices of the cows pastured in the vacant lots,
and, like engine-drivers of the iron age, to distinguish the different
whistles of the locomotives passing on the neighboring railroad. The
trains shook the house as they thundered along, and at night were a kind
of company, while by day we had the society of the innumerable birds. Now
and then, also, the little ragged boys in charge of the cows--which, tied
by long ropes to trees, forever wound themselves tight up against the
trunks, and had to be unwound with great ado of hooting and hammering--
came and peered lustfully through the gate at our ripening pears. All
round us carpenters were at work building new houses; but so far from
troubling us, the strokes of their hammers fell softly upon the sense,
like one's heart-beats upon one's own consciousness in the lapse from all
fear of pain under the blessed charm of an anaesthetic.

We played a little at gardening, of course, and planted tomatoes, which
the chickens seemed to like, for they ate them up as fast as they ripened;
and we watched with pride the growth of our Lawton blackberries, which,
after attaining the most stalwart proportions, were still as bitter as the
scrubbiest of their savage brethren, and which, when by advice left on the
vines for a week after they turned black, were silently gorged by secret
and gluttonous flocks of robins and orioles. As for our grapes, the frost
cut them off in the hour of their triumph.

So, as I have hinted, we were not surprised that Jenny should be willing
to remain with us, and were as little prepared for her desertion as for
any other change of our moral state. But one day in September she came to
her nominal mistress with tears in her beautiful eyes and protestations of
unexampled devotion upon her tongue, and said that she was afraid she must
leave us. She liked the place, and she never had worked for any one that
was more of a lady, but she had made up her mind to go into the city. All
this, so far, was quite in the manner of domestics who, in ghost stories,
give warning to the occupants of haunted houses; and Jenny's mistress
listened in suspense for the motive of her desertion, expecting to hear no
less than that it was something which walked up and down the stairs and
dragged iron links after it, or something that came and groaned at the
front door, like populace dissatisfied with a political candidate. But it
was in fact nothing of this kind; simply, there were no lamps upon our
street, and Jenny, after spending Sunday evening with friends in East
Charlesbridge, was always alarmed, on her return, in walking from the
horse-car to our door. The case was hopeless, and Jenny and our household
parted with respect and regret.

We had not before this thought it a grave disadvantage that our street was
unlighted. Our street was not drained nor graded; no municipal cart ever
came to carry away our ashes; there was not a water-butt within half a
mile to save us from fire, nor more than the one thousandth part of a
policeman to protect us from theft. Yet, as I paid a heavy tax, I somehow
felt that we enjoyed the benefits of city government, and never looked
upon Charlesbridge as in any way undesirable for residence. But when it
became necessary to find help in Jenny's place, the frosty welcome given
to application at the intelligence offices renewed a painful doubt
awakened by her departure. To be sure, the heads of the offices were
polite enough; but when the young housekeeper had stated her case at the
first to which she applied, and the Intelligencer had called out to the
invisible expectants in the adjoining room, "Anny wan wants to do giner'l
housewark in Charlsbrudge?" there came from the maids invoked so loud, so
fierce, so full a "No!" as shook the lady's heart with an indescribable
shame and dread. The name that, with an innocent pride in its literary and
historical associations, she had written at the heads of her letters, was
suddenly become a matter of reproach to her; and she was almost tempted to
conceal thereafter that she lived in Charlesbridge, and to pretend that
she dwelt upon some wretched little street in Boston. "You see," said the
head of the office, "the gairls doesn't like to live so far away from the
city. Now if it was on'y in the Port...."

This pen is not graphic enough to give the remote reader an idea of the
affront offered to an inhabitant of Old Charlesbridge in these closing
words. Neither am I of sufficiently tragic mood to report here all the
sufferings undergone by an unhappy family in finding servants, or to tell
how the winter was passed with miserable makeshifts. Alas! is it not the
history of a thousand experiences? Any one who looks upon this page could
match it with a tale as full of heartbreak and disaster, while I conceive
that, in hastening to speak of Mrs. Johnson, I approach a subject of
unique interest.

The winter that ensued after Jenny's departure was the true sister of the
bitter and shrewish spring of the same year. But indeed it is always with
a secret shiver that one must think of winter in our regrettable climate.
It is a terrible potency, robbing us of half our lives, and threatening or
desolating the moiety left us with rheumatisms and catarrhs. There is a
much vaster sum of enjoyment possible to man in the more generous
latitudes; and I have sometimes doubted whether even the energy
characteristic of ours is altogether to be praised, seeing that it has its
spring not so much in pure aspiration as in the instinct of self-
preservation. Egyptian, Greek, Roman energy was an inner impulse; but ours
is too often the sting of cold, the spur of famine. We must endure our
winter, but let us not be guilty of the hypocrisy of pretending that we
like it. Let us caress it with no more vain compliments, but use it with
something of its own rude and savage sincerity.

I say, our last Irish girl went with the last snow, and on one of those
midsummer-like days that sometimes fall in early April to our yet bleak
and desolate zone, our hearts sang of Africa and golden joys. A Libyan
longing took us, and we would have chosen, if we could, to bear a strand
of grotesque beads, or a handful of brazen gauds, and traffic them for
some sable maid with crisped locks, whom, uncoffling from the captive
train beside the desert, we should make to do our general housework
forever, through the right of lawful purchase. But we knew that this was
impossible, and that, if we desired colored help, we must seek it at the
intelligence office, which is in one of those streets chiefly inhabited by
the orphaned children and grandchildren of slavery. To tell the truth
these orphans do not seem to grieve much for their bereavement, but lead a
life of joyous and rather indolent oblivion in their quarter of the city.
They are often to be seen sauntering up and down the street by which the
Charlesbridge cars arrive,--the young with a harmless swagger, and the old
with the generic limp which our Autocrat has already noted as attending
advanced years in their race. They seem the natural human interest of a
street so largely devoted to old clothes; and the thoughtful may see a
felicity in their presence where the pawnbrokers' windows display the
forfeited pledges of improvidence, and subtly remind us that we have yet
to redeem a whole race, pawned in our needy and reckless national youth,
and still held against us by the Uncle of Injustice, who is also the
Father of Lies. How gayly are the young ladies of this race attired, as
they trip up and down the side walks, and in and out through the pendent
garments at the shop doors! They are the black pansies and marigolds and
dark-blooded dahlias among womankind. They try to assume something of our
colder race's demeanor, but even the passer on the horse-car can see that
it is not native with them, and is better pleased when they forget us, and
ungenteelly laugh in encountering friends, letting their white teeth
glitter through the generous lips that open to their ears. In the streets
branching upwards from this avenue, very little colored men and maids play
with broken or enfeebled toys, or sport on the wooden pavements of the
entrances to the inner courts. Now and then a colored soldier or sailor--
looking strange in his uniform, even after the custom of several years--
emerges from those passages; or, more rarely, a black gentleman, stricken
in years, and cased in shining broadcloth, walks solidly down the brick
sidewalk, cane in hand,--a vision of serene self-complacency, and so
plainly the expression of virtuous public sentiment that the great colored
louts, innocent enough till then in their idleness, are taken with a
sudden sense of depravity, and loaf guiltily up against the house-walls.
At the same moment, perhaps, a young damsel, amorously scuffling with an
admirer through one of the low open windows, suspends the strife, and bids
him, "Go along now, do!" More rarely yet than the gentleman described, one
may see a white girl among the dark neighbors, whose frowzy head is
uncovered, and whose sleeves are rolled up to her elbows, and who, though
no doubt quite at home, looks as strange there as that pale anomaly which
may sometimes be seen among a crew of blackbirds.

An air not so much of decay as of unthrift, and yet hardly of unthrift,
seems to prevail in the neighborhood, which has none of the aggressive and
impudent squalor of an Irish quarter, and none of the surly wickedness of
a low American street. A gayety not born of the things that bring its
serious joy to the true New England heart--a ragged gayety, which comes of
summer in the blood, and not in the pocket or the conscience, and which
affects the countenance and the whole demeanor, setting the feet to some
inward music, and at times bursting into a line of song or a child-like
and irresponsible laugh--gives tone to the visible life, and wakens a very
friendly spirit in the passer, who somehow thinks there of a milder
climate, and is half persuaded that the orange-peel on the sidewalks came
from fruit grown in the soft atmosphere of those back courts.

It was in this quarter, then, that we heard of Mrs. Johnson; and it was
from a colored boarding-house there that she came out to Charlesbridge to
look at us, bringing her daughter of twelve years with her. She was a
matron of mature age and portly figure, with a complexion like coffee
soothed with the richest cream; and her manners were so full of a certain
tranquillity and grace, that she charmed away all out will to ask for
references. It was only her barbaric laughter and her lawless eye that
betrayed how slightly her New England birth and breeding covered her
ancestral traits, and bridged the gulf of a thousand years of civilization
that lay between her race and ours. But in fact, she was doubly estranged
by descent; for, as we learned later, a sylvan wildness mixed with that of
the desert in her veins: her grandfather was an Indian, and her ancestors
on this side had probably sold their lands for the same value in trinkets
that bought the original African pair on the other side.

The first day that Mrs. Johnson descended into our kitchen, she conjured
from the malicious disorder in which it had been left by the flitting
Irish kobold a dinner that revealed the inspirations of genius, and was
quite different from a dinner of mere routine and laborious talent.
Something original and authentic mingled with the accustomed flavors; and,
though vague reminiscences of canal-boat travel and woodland camps arose
from the relish of certain of the dishes, there was yet the assurance of
such power in the preparation of the whole, that we knew her to be merely
running over the chords of our appetite with preliminary savors, as a
musician acquaints his touch with the keys of an unfamiliar piano before
breaking into brilliant and triumphant execution. Within a week she had
mastered her instrument; and thereafter there was no faltering in her
performances, which she varied constantly, through inspiration or from
suggestion. She was so quick to receive new ideas in her art, that, when
the Roman statuary who stayed a few weeks with us explained the mystery of
various purely Latin dishes, she caught their principle at once; and
visions of the great white cathedral, the Coliseum, and the "dome of
Brunelleschi" floated before us in the exhalations of the Milanese
_risotto_, Roman _stufadino_, and Florentine _stracotto_ that smoked
upon our board. But, after all, it was in puddings that Mrs. Johnson
chiefly excelled. She was one of those cooks--rare as men of genius
in literature--who love their own dishes; and she had, in her personally
child-like simplicity of taste, and the inherited appetites of her
savage forefathers, a dominant passion for sweets. So far as we could
learn, she subsisted principally upon puddings and tea. Through the same
primitive instincts, no doubt, she loved praise. She openly exulted in our
artless flatteries of her skill; she waited jealously at the head of the
kitchen stairs to hear what was said of her work, especially if there were
guests; and she was never too weary to attempt emprises of cookery.

While engaged in these, she wore a species of sightly handkerchief like a
turban upon her head and about her person those mystical swathings in
which old ladies of the African race delight. But she most pleasured our
sense of beauty and moral fitness when, after the last pan was washed and
the last pot was scraped, she lighted a potent pipe, and, taking her stand
at the kitchen door, laded the soft evening air with its pungent odors. If
we surprised her at these supreme moments, she took the pipe from her
lips, and put it behind her, with a low mellow chuckle, and a look of
half-defiant consciousness; never guessing that none of her merits took us
half so much as the cheerful vice which she only feigned to conceal.

Some things she could not do so perfectly as cooking, because of her
failing eyesight; and we persuaded her that spectacles would both become
and befriend a lady of her years, and so bought her a pair of steel-bowed
glasses. She wore them in some great emergencies at first, but had clearly
no pride in them. Before long she laid them aside altogether, and they had
passed from our thoughts, when one day we heard her mellow note of
laughter and her daughter's harsher cackle outside our door, and, opening
it, beheld Mrs. Johnson in gold-bowed spectacles of massive frame. We then
learned that their purchase was in fulfillment of a vow made long ago, in
the life-time of Mr. Johnson, that, if ever she wore glasses, they should
be gold-bowed; and I hope the manes of the dead were half as happy in
these votive spectacles as the simple soul that offered them.

She and her late partner were the parents of eleven children, some of whom
were dead, and some of whom were wanderers in unknown parts. During his
life-time she had kept a little shop in her native town; and it was only
within a few years that she had gone into service. She cherished a natural
haughtiness of spirit, and resented control, although disposed to do all
she could of her own motion. Being told to say when she wanted an
afternoon, she explained that when she wanted an afternoon she always took
it without asking, but always planned so as not to discommode the ladies
with whom she lived. These, she said, had numbered twenty-seven within
three years, which made us doubt the success of her system in all cases,
though she merely held out the fact as an assurance of her faith in the
future, and a proof of the ease with which places were to be found. She
contended, moreover, that a lady who had for thirty years had a house of
her own, was in nowise bound to ask permission to receive visits from
friends where she might be living, but that they ought freely to come and
go like other guests. In this spirit she once invited her son-in-law,
Professor Jones of Providence, to dine with her; and her defied mistress,
on entering the dining-room, found the Professor at pudding and tea
there,--an impressively respectable figure in black clothes, with a black
face rendered yet more effective by a pair of green goggles. It appeared
that this dark professor was a light of phrenology in Rhode Island, and
that he was believed to have uncommon virtue in his science by reason of
being blind as well as black.

I am loath to confess that Mrs. Johnson had not a flattering opinion of
the Caucasian race in all respects. In fact, she had very good
philosophical and Scriptural reasons for looking upon us as an upstart
people of new blood, who had come into their whiteness by no creditable or
pleasant process. The late Mr. Johnson, who had died in the West Indies,
whither he voyaged for his health in quality of cook upon a Down-East
schooner, was a man of letters, and had written a book to show the
superiority of the black over the white branches of the human family. In
this he held that, as all islands have been at their discovery found
peopled by blacks, we must needs believe that humanity was first created
of that color. Mrs. Johnson could not show us her husband's work (a sole
copy in the library of an English gentleman at Port au Prince is not to be
bought for money), but she often developed its arguments to the lady of
the house; and one day, with a great show of reluctance, and many protests
that no personal slight was meant, let fall the fact that Mr. Johnson
believed the white race descended from Gehazi the leper, upon whom the
leprosy of Naaman fell when the latter returned by Divine favor to his
original blackness. "And he went out from his presence a leper as white as
snow," said Mrs. Johnson, quoting irrefutable Scripture. "Leprosy,
leprosy," she added thoughtfully,--"nothing but leprosy bleached you out."

It seems to me much in her praise that she did not exult in our taint and
degradation, as some white philosophers used to do in the opposite idea
that a part of the human family were cursed to lasting blackness and
slavery in Ham and his children, but even told us of a remarkable approach
to whiteness in many of her own offspring. In a kindred spirit of charity,
no doubt, she refused ever to attend church with people of her elder and
wholesomer blood. When she went to church, she said, she always went to a
white church, though while with us I am bound to say she never went to
any. She professed to read her Bible in her bedroom on Sundays; but we
suspected, from certain sounds and odors which used to steal out of this
sanctuary, that her piety more commonly found expression in dozing and

I would not make a wanton jest here of Mrs. Johnson's anxiety to claim
honor for the African color, while denying this color in many of her own
family. It afforded a glimpse of the pain which all her people must
endure, however proudly they hide it or light-heartedly forget it, from
the despite and contumely to which they are guiltlessly born; and when I
thought how irreparable was this disgrace and calamity of a black skin,
and how irreparable it must be for ages yet, in this world where every
other shame and all manner of wilful guilt and wickedness may hope for
covert and pardon, I had little heart to laugh. Indeed, it was so pathetic
to hear this poor old soul talk of her dead and lost ones, and try, in
spite of all Mr. Johnson's theories and her own arrogant generalizations,
to establish their whiteness, that we must have been very cruel and silly
people to turn her sacred fables even into matter of question. I have no
doubt that her Antoinette Anastasia and her Thomas Jefferson Wilberforce--
it is impossible to give a full idea of the splendor and scope of the
baptismal names in Mrs. Johnson's family--have as light skins and as
golden hair in heaven as her reverend maternal fancy painted for them in
our world. There, certainly, they would not be subject to tanning, which
had ruined the delicate complexion, and had knotted into black woolly
tangles the once wavy blonde locks of our little maid-servant Naomi; and I
would fain believe that Toussaint Washington Johnson, who ran away to sea
so many years ago, has found some fortunate zone where his hair and skin
keep the same sunny and rosy tints they wore to his mother's eyes in
infancy. But I have no means of knowing this, or of telling whether he was
the prodigy of intellect that he was declared to be. Naomi could no more
be taken in proof, of the one assertion than of the other. When she came
to us, it was agreed that she should go to school; but she overruled her
mother in this as in everything else, and never went. Except Sunday-school
lessons, she had no other instruction than that her mistress gave her in
the evenings, when a heavy day's play and the natural influences of the
hour conspired with original causes to render her powerless before words
of one syllable.

The first week of her service she was obedient and faithful to her duties;
but, relaxing in the atmosphere of a house which seems to demoralize all
menials, she shortly fell into disorderly ways of lying in wait for
callers out of doors, and, when people rang, of running up the front
steps, and letting them in from the outside. As the season expanded, and
the fine weather became confirmed, she modified even this form of service,
and spent her time in the fields, appearing at the house only when nature
importunately craved molasses. She had a parrot-like quickness, so far as
music was concerned, and learned from the Roman statuary to make the
groves and half-finished houses resound,

"Camicia rossa,
Ove t' ascondi?
T' appella Italia,--
Tu non respondi!"

She taught the Garibaldi song, moreover, to all the neighboring children,
so that I sometimes wondered if our street were not about to march upon
Rome in a body.

In her untamable disobedience, Naomi alone betrayed her sylvan blood, for
she was in all other respects negro and not Indian. But it was of her
aboriginal ancestry that Mrs. Johnson chiefly boasted,--when not engaged
in argument to maintain the superiority of the African race. She loved to
descant upon it as the cause and explanation of her own arrogant habit of
feeling; and she seemed indeed to have inherited something of the Indian's
hauteur along with the Ethiop's supple cunning and abundant amiability.
She gave many instances in which her pride had met and overcome the
insolence of employers, and the kindly old creature was by no means
singular in her pride of being reputed proud.

She could never have been a woman of strong logical faculties, but she had
in some things a very surprising and awful astuteness. She seldom
introduced any purpose directly, but bore all about it and then suddenly
sprung it upon her unprepared antagonist. At other times she obscurely
hinted a reason, and left a conclusion to be inferred; as when she warded
off reproach for some delinquency by saying in a general way that she had
lived with ladies who used to come scolding into the kitchen after they
had taken their bitters. "Quality ladies took their bitters regular," she
added, to remove any sting of personality from her remark; for, from many
things she had let fall, we knew that she did not regard us as quality. On
the contrary, she often tried to overbear us with the gentility of her
former places; and would tell the lady over whom she reigned, that she had
lived with folks worth their three and four hundred thousand dollars, who
never complained as she did of the ironing. Yet she had a sufficient
regard for the literary occupations of the family, Mr. Johnson having been
an author. She even professed to have herself written a book, which was
still in manuscript, and preserved somewhere among her best clothes.

It was well, on many accounts, to be in contact with a mind so original
and suggestive as Mrs. Johnson's. We loved to trace its intricate yet
often transparent operations, and were perhaps too fond of explaining its
peculiarities by facts of ancestry,--of finding hints of the Powwow or the
Grand Custom in each grotesque development. We were conscious of something
warmer in this old soul than in ourselves, and something wilder, and we
chose to think it the tropic and the untracked forest. She had scarcely
any being apart from her affection; she had no morality, but was good
because she neither hated nor envied; and she might have been a saint far
more easily than far more civilized people.

There was that also in her sinuous yet malleable nature, so full of guile
and so full of goodness, that reminded us pleasantly of lowly folk in
elder lands, where relaxing oppressions have lifted the restraints of fear
between master and servant, without disturbing the familiarity of their
relation. She advised freely with us upon all household matters, and took
a motherly interest in whatever concerned us. She could be flattered or
caressed into almost any service, but no threat or command could move her.
When she erred, she never acknowledged her wrong in words, but handsomely
expressed her regrets in a pudding, or sent up her apologies in a favorite
dish secretly prepared. We grew so well used to this form of exculpation,
that, whenever Mrs. Johnson took an afternoon at an inconvenient season,
we knew that for a week afterwards we should be feasted like princes. She
owned frankly that she loved us, that she never had done half so much for
people before, and that she never had been nearly so well suited in any
other place; and for a brief and happy time we thought that we never
should part.

One day, however, our dividing destiny appeared in the basement, and was
presented to us as Hippolyto Thucydides, the son of Mrs. Johnson, who had
just arrived on a visit to his mother from the State of New Hampshire. He
was a heavy and loutish youth, standing upon the borders of boyhood, and
looking forward to the future with a vacant and listless eye. I mean that
this was his figurative attitude; his actual manner, as he lolled upon a
chair beside the kitchen window, was so eccentric, that we felt a little
uncertain how to regard him, and Mrs. Johnson openly described him as
peculiar. He was so deeply tanned by the fervid suns of the New Hampshire
winter, and his hair had so far suffered from the example of the sheep
lately under his charge, that he could not be classed by any stretch of
compassion with the blonde and straight-haired members of Mrs. Johnson's

He remained with us all the first day until late in the afternoon, when
his mother took him out to get him a boarding-house. Then he departed in
the van of her and Naomi, pausing at the gate to collect his spirits, and,
after he had sufficiently animated himself by clapping his palms together,
starting off down the street at a hand-gallop, to the manifest terror of
the cows in the pastures, and the confusion of the less demonstrative
people of our household. Other characteristic traits appeared in Hippolyto
Thucydides within no very long period of time, and he ran away from his
lodgings so often during the summer that he might be said to board round
among the outlying corn-fields and turnip-patches of Charlesbridge. As a
check upon this habit, Mrs. Johnson seemed to have invited him to spend
his whole time in our basement; for whenever we went below we found him
there, balanced--perhaps in homage to us, and perhaps as a token of
extreme sensibility in himself--upon the low window-sill, the bottoms of
his boots touching the floor inside, and his face buried in the grass

We could formulate no very tenable objection to all this, and yet the
presence of Thucydides in our kitchen unaccountably oppressed our
imaginations. We beheld him all over the house, a monstrous eidolon,
balanced upon every window-sill; and he certainly attracted unpleasant
notice to our place, no less by his furtive and hang-dog manner of arrival
than by the bold displays with which he celebrated his departures. We
hinted this to Mrs. Johnson, but she could not enter into our feeling.
Indeed, all the wild poetry of her maternal and primitive nature seemed to
cast itself about this hapless boy; and if we had listened to her we
should have believed there was no one so agreeable in society, or so
quick-witted in affairs, as Hippolyto, when he chose. She used to rehearse
us long epics concerning his industry, his courage, and his talent; and
she put fine speeches in his mouth with no more regard to the truth than
if she had been a historian, and not a poet. Perhaps she believed that he
really said and did the things she attributed to him: it is the destiny of
those who repeatedly tell great things either of themselves or others; and
I think we may readily forgive the illusion to her zeal and fondness. In
fact, she was not a wise woman, and she spoiled her children as if she had
been a rich one.

At last, when we said positively that Thucydides should come to us no
more, and then qualified the prohibition by allowing him to come every
Sunday, she answered that she never would hurt the child's feelings by
telling him not to come where his mother was; that people who did not love
her children did not love her; and that, if Hippy went, she went. We
thought it a master-stroke of firmness to rejoin that Hippolyto must go in
any event; but I am bound to own that he did not go, and that his mother
stayed, and so fed us with every cunning propitiatory dainty, that we must
have been Pagans to renew our threat. In fact, we begged Mrs. Johnson to
go into the country with us, and she, after long reluctation on Hippy's
account, consented, agreeing to send him away to friends during her

We made every preparation, and on the eve of our departure Mrs. Johnson
went into the city to engage her son's passage to Bangor, while we awaited
her return in untroubled security.

But she did not appear till midnight, and then responded with but a sad
"Well, sah!" to the cheerful "Well, Mrs. Johnson!" that greeted her.

"All right, Mrs. Johnson?"

Mrs. Johnson made a strange noise, half chuckle and half death-rattle, in
her throat. "All wrong, sah. Hippy's off again; and I've been all over the
city after him."

"Then you can't go with us in the morning?"

"How _can_ I, sah?"

Mrs. Johnson went sadly out of the room. Then she came back to the door
again, and, opening it, uttered, for the first time in our service, words
of apology and regret: "I hope I ha'n't put you out any. I _wanted_
to go with you, but I ought to _knowed_ I couldn't. All is, I loved
you too much."


Vagabonds the world would no doubt call many of my doorstep acquaintance,
and I do not attempt to defend them altogether against the world, which
paints but black and white and in general terms. Yet I would fain veil
what is only half-truth under another name, for I know that the service of
their Gay Science is not one of such disgraceful ease as we associate with
ideas of vagrancy, though I must own that they lead the life they do
because they love it. They always protest that nothing but their ignorance
of our tongue prevents them from practicing some mechanical trade. "What
work could be harder," they ask, "than carrying this organ about all day?"
but while I answer with honesty that nothing can be more irksome, I feel
that they only pretend a disgust with it, and that they really like organ-
grinding, if for no other reason than that they are the children of the
summer, and it takes them into the beloved open weather. One of my
friends, at least, who in the warmer months is to all appearance a
blithesome troubadour, living

"A merry life in sun and shade,"

as a coal-heaver in winter; and though this more honorable and useful
occupation is doubtless open to him the whole year round, yet he does not
devote himself to it, but prefers with the expanding spring to lay aside
his grimy basket, and, shouldering his organ, to quit the dismal wharves
and carts and cellars, and to wander forth into the suburbs, with his
lazy, soft-eyed boy at his heels, who does nothing with his tambourine but
take up a collection, and who, meeting me the other day in a chance
passage of Ferry Street, knew me, and gave me so much of his father's
personal history.

It was winter even there in Ferry Street, in which so many Italians live
that one might think to find it under a softer sky and in a gentler air,
and which I had always figured in a wide unlikeness to all other streets
in Boston,--with houses stuccoed outside, and with gratings at their
ground-floor windows; with mouldering archways between the buildings, and
at the corners feeble lamps glimmering before pictures of the Madonna;
with weather-beaten shutters flapping overhead, and many balconies from
which hung the linen swathings of young infants, and love-making maidens
furtively lured the velvet-jacketed, leisurely youth below: a place
haunted by windy voices of blessing and cursing, with the perpetual clack
of wooden-heeled shoes upon the stones, and what perfume from the blossom
of vines and almond-trees, mingling with less delicate smells, the
travelled reader pleases to imagine. I do not say that I found Ferry
Street actually different from this vision in most respects; but as for
the vines and almond-trees, they were not in bloom at the moment of my
encounter with the little tambourine-boy. As we stood and talked, the snow
fell as heavily and thickly around us as elsewhere in Boston. With a vague
pain,--the envy of a race toward another born to a happier clime,--I heard
from him that his whole family was going back to Italy in a month. The
father had at last got together money enough, and the mother, who had long
been an invalid, must be taken home; and, so far as I know, the population
of Ferry Street exists but in the hope of a return, soon or late, to the
native or the ancestral land.

More than one of my doorstep acquaintance, in fact, seemed to have no
other stock in trade than this fond desire, and to thrive with it in our
sympathetic community. It is scarcely possible but the reader has met the
widow of Giovanni Cascamatto, a Vesuvian lunatic who has long set fire to
their home on the slopes of the volcano, and perished in the flames. She
was our first Italian acquaintance in Charlesbridge, presenting herself
with a little subscription-book which she sent in for inspection, with a
printed certificate to the facts of her history signed with the somewhat
conventionally Saxon names of William Tompkins and John Johnson. These
gentlemen set forth, in terms vaguer than can be reproduced, that her
object in coming to America was to get money to go back to Italy; and the
whole document had so fictitious an air that it made us doubt even the
nationality of the bearer; but we were put to shame by the decent joy she
manifested in an Italian salutation. There was no longer a question of
imposture in anybody's mind; we gladly paid tribute to her poetic fiction,
and she thanked us with a tranquil courtesy that placed the obligation
where it belonged. As she turned to go with many good wishes, we pressed
her to have some dinner, but she answered with a compliment insurpassably
flattering, she had just dined--in another palace. The truth is, there is
not a single palace on Benicia Street, and our little box of pine and
paper would hardly have passed for a palace on the stage, where these
things are often contrived with great simplicity; but as we had made a
little Italy together, she touched it with the exquisite politeness of her
race, and it became for the instant a lordly mansion, standing on the
Chiaja, or the Via Nuovissima, or the Canalazzo.

I say this woman seemed glad to be greeted in Italian, but not, so far as
I could see, surprised; and altogether the most amazing thing about my
doorstep acquaintance of her nation is, that they are never surprised to
be spoken to in their own tongue, or, if they are, never show it. A
chestnut-roaster, who has sold me twice the chestnuts the same money would
have bought of him in English, has not otherwise recognized the fact that
Tuscan is not the dialect of Charlesbridge, and the mortifying nonchalance
with which my advances have always been received has long since persuaded
me that to the grinder at the gate it is not remarkable that a man should
open the door of his wooden house on Benicia Street, and welcome him in
his native language. After the first shock of this indifference is past,
it is not to be questioned but it flatters with an illusion, which a stare
of amazement would forbid, reducing the encounter to a vulgar reality at
once, and I could almost believe it in those wily and amiable folk to
intend the sweeter effect of their unconcern, which tacitly implies that
there is no other tongue in the world but Italian, and which makes all the
earth and air Italian for the time. Nothing else could have been the
purpose of that image-dealer whom I saw on a summer's day lying at the
foot of one of our meeting-houses, and doing his best to make it a
cathedral, and really giving a sentiment of medieval art to the noble
sculptures of the facade which the carpenters had just nailed up, freshly
painted and newly repaired. This poet was stretched upon his back, eating,
in that convenient posture, his dinner out of an earthen pot, plucking the
viand from it, whatever it was, with his thumb and fore-finger, and
dropping it piecemeal into his mouth. When the passer asked him "Where are
you from?" he held a morsel in air long enough to answer "Da Lucca,
signore," and then let it fall into his throat, and sank deeper into a
reverie in which that crude accent even must have sounded like a gossip's
or a kinsman's voice, but never otherwise moved muscle, nor looked to see
who passed or lingered. There could have been little else in his
circumstances to remind him of home, and if he was really in the sort of
day-dream attributed to him, he was wise not to look about him. I have not
myself been in Lucca, but I conceive that its piazza is not like our
square, with a pump and horse-trough in the midst; but that it has
probably a fountain and statuary, though not possibly so magnificent an
elm towering above the bronze or marble groups as spreads its boughs of
benison over our pump and the horse-car switchman, loitering near it to
set the switch for the arriving cars, or lift the brimming buckets to the
smoking nostrils of the horses, while out from the stable comes clanging
and banging with a fresh team that famous African who has turned white,
or, if he is off duty, one of his brethren who has not yet begun to turn.
Figure, besides, an expressman watering his horse at the trough, a
provision-cart backed up against the curb in front of one of the stores,
various people looking from the car-office windows, and a conductor
appearing at the door long enough to call out, "Ready for Boston!"--and
you have a scene of such gayety as Lucca could never have witnessed in her
piazza at high noon on a summer's day. Even our Campo Santo, if the
Lucchese had cared to look round the corner of the meeting-house at its
moss-grown head stones, could have had little to remind him of home,
though it has antiquity and a proper quaintness. But not for him, not for
them of his clime and faith, is the pathos of those simple memorial slates
with their winged skulls, changing upon many later stones, as if by the
softening of creeds and customs, to cherub's heads,--not for him is the
pang I feel because of those who died, in our country's youth exiles or
exiles' children, heirs of the wilderness and toil and hardship. Could
they rise from their restful beds, and look on this wandering Italian with
his plaster statuettes of Apollo, and Canovan dancers and deities, they
would hold his wares little better than Romish saints and idolatries, and
would scarcely have the sentimental interest in him felt by the modern
citizen of Charlesbridge; but I think that even they must have respected
that Lombard scissors-grinder who used to come to us, and put an edge to
all the cutlery in the house.

He has since gone back to Milan, whence he came eighteen years ago, and
whither he has returned,--as he told me one acute day in the fall, when
all the winter hinted itself, and the painted leaves shuddered earthward
in the grove across the way,--to enjoy a little climate before he died
(_per goder un po' di dima prima di morire_). Our climate was the
only thing he had against us; in every other respect he was a New-
Englander, even to the early stages of consumption. He told me the story
of his whole life, and of how in his adventurous youth he had left Milan
and sojourned some years in Naples, vainly seeking his fortune there.
Afterwards he went to Greece, and set up his ancestral business of
greengrocer in Athens, faring there no better, but rather worse than in
Naples, because of the deeper wickedness of the Athenians, who cheated him
right and left, and whose laws gave him no redress. The Neapolitans were
bad enough, he said, making a wry face, but the Greeks!--and he spat the
Greeks out in the grass. At last, after much misfortune in Europe, he
bethought him of coming to America, and he had never regretted it, but for
the climate. You spent a good deal here,--nearly all you earned,--but then
a poor man was a man, and the people were honest. It was wonderful to him
that they all knew how to read and write, and he viewed with inexpressible
scorn those Irish who came to this country, and were so little sensible of
the benefits it conferred upon them. Boston he believed the best city in
America, and "Tell me," said he, "is there such a thing anywhere else in
the world as that Public Library?" He, a poor man, and almost unknown, had
taken books from it to his own room, and was master to do so whenever he
liked. He had thus been enabled to read Botta's history of the United
States, an enormous compliment both to the country and the work which I
doubt ever to have been paid before; and he knew more about Washington
than I did, and desired to know more than I could tell him of the
financial question among us. So we came to national politics, and then to
European affairs. "It appears that Garibaldi will not go to Rome this
year," remarks my scissors-grinder, who is very red in his sympathies.
"The Emperor forbids! Well, patience! And that blessed Pope, what does he
want, that Pope? He will be king find priest both, he will wear two pairs
of shoes at once!" I must confess that no other of my door-step
acquaintance had so clear an idea as this one of the difference between
things here and at home. To the minds of most we seemed divided here as
there into rich and poor,--_signori, persone eivili_, and _povera
gente_,--and their thoughts about us did not go beyond a speculation
as to our individual willingness or ability to pay for organ-grinding.
But this Lombard was worthy of his adopted country, and I forgive him
the frank expression of a doubt that one day occurred to him, when
offered a glass of Italian wine. He held it daintily between him and
the sun for a smiling moment, and then said, as if our wine must needs be
as ungenuine as our Italian,--was perhaps some expression from the
surrounding currant-bushes, harsh as that from the Northern tongues which
could never give his language the true life and tonic charm,--"But I
suppose this wine is not made of grapes, signor?" Yet he was a very
courteous old man, elaborate in greeting and leave-taking, and with a
quicker sense than usual. It was accounted delicacy in him, that, when he
had bidden us a final adieu, he should never come near us again, though
the date of his departure was postponed some weeks, and we heard him
tinkling down the street, and stopping at the neighbors' houses. He was a
keen-faced, thoughtful-looking man; and he wore a blouse of blue cotton,
from the pocket of which always dangled the leaves of some wild salad
culled from our wasteful vacant lots or prodigal waysides.

[Illustration: "But I suppose this wine is not made of grapes, signor?"]

Altogether different in character was that Triestine, who came one evening
to be helped home at the close of a very disastrous career in Mexico. He
Was a person of innumerable bows, and fluttered his bright-colored
compliments about, till it appeared that never before had such amiable
people been asked charity by such a worthy and generous sufferer. In
Trieste he had been a journalist, and it was evident enough from his
speech that he was of a good education. He was vain of his Italian accent,
which was peculiarly good for his heterogeneously peopled native city; and
he made a show of that marvelous facility of the Triestines in languages,
by taking me down French books, Spanish books, German books, and reading
from them all with the properest accent. Yet with this boyish pride and
self-satisfaction there was mixed a tone of bitter and worldly cynicism, a
belief in fortune as the sole providence. As nearly as I could make out,
he was a Johnson man in American politics; upon the Mexican question he
was independent, disdaining French and Mexicans alike. He was with the
former from the first, and had continued in the service of Maximilian
after their withdrawal, till the execution of that prince made Mexico no
place for adventurous merit. He was now going back to his native country,
an ungrateful land enough, which had ill treated him long ago, but to
which he nevertheless returned in a perfect gayety of temper. What a
light-hearted rogue he was,--with such merry eyes, and such a pleasant
smile shaping his neatly trimmed beard and mustache! After he had supped,
and he Stood with us at the door taking leave, something happened to be
said of Italian songs, whereupon this blithe exile, whom the compassion of
strangers was enabling to go home after many years of unprofitable toil
and danger to a country that had loved him not, fell to caroling a
Venetian barcarole, and went sweetly away in its cadence. I bore him
company as far as the gate of another Italian-speaking signor, and was
there bidden adieu with great effusion, so that I forgot till he had left
me to charge him not to be in fear of the house-dog, which barked but did
not bite. In calling this after him, I had the misfortune to blunder in my
verb. A man of another nation--perhaps another man of his own nation--
would have cared rather for what I said than how I said it; but he, as if
too zealous for the honor of his beautiful language to endure a hurt to it
even in that moment of grief, lifting his hat, and bowing for the last
time, responded with a "Morde, non morsica, signore!" and passed in under
the pines, and next day to Italy.

There is a little old Genoese lady comes to sell us pins, needles, thread,
tape, and the like _roba_, whom I regard as leading quite an ideal
life in some respects. Her traffic is limited to a certain number of
families who speak more or less Italian; and her days, so far as they are
concerned, must be passed in an atmosphere of sympathy and kindliness. The
truth is, we Northern and New World folk cannot help but cast a little
romance about whoever comes to us from Italy, whether we have actually
known the beauty and charm of that land or not. Then this old lady is in
herself a very gentle and lovable kind of person, with a tender mother-
face, which is also the face of a child. A smile plays always upon her
wrinkled visage, and her quick and restless eyes are full of friendliness.
There is never much stuff in her basket, however, and it is something of a
mystery how she manages to live from it. None but an Italian could, I am
sure; and her experience must test the full virtue of the national genius
for cheap salads and much-extenuated soup-meat. I do not know whether it
is native in her, or whether it is a grace acquired from long dealing with
those kindly-hearted customers of hers in Charlesbridge, but she is of a
most munificent spirit, and returns every smallest benefit with some
present from her basket. She makes me ashamed of things I have written
about the sordidness of her race, but I shall vainly seek to atone for
them by open-handedness to her. She will give favor for favor; she will
not even count the money she receives; our bargaining is a contest of the
courtliest civilities, ending in many an "Adieu!" "To meet again!" "Remain
well!" and "Finally!" not surpassed if rivaled in any Italian street. In
her ineffectual way, she brings us news of her different customers,
breaking up their stout Saxon names into tinkling polysyllables which
suggest them only to the practiced sense, and is perfectly patient and
contented if we mistake one for another. She loves them all, but she
pities them as living in a terrible climate; and doubtless in her heart
she purposes one day to go back to Italy, there to die. In the mean time
she is very cheerful; she, too, has had her troubles,--what troubles I do
not remember, but those that come by sickness and by death, and that
really seem no sorrows until they come to us,--yet she never complains. It
is hard to make a living, and the house-rent alone is six dollars a month;
but still one lives, and does not fare so ill either. As it does not seem
to be in her to dislike any one, it must be out of a harmless guile, felt
to be comforting to servant-ridden householders, that she always speaks of
"those Irish," her neighbors, with a bated breath, a shaken head, a hand
lifted to the cheek, and an averted countenance.

Swarthiest of the organ-grinding tribe is he who peers up at my window out
of infinitesimal black eyes, perceives me, louts low, and for form's sake
grinds me out a tune before he begins to talk. As we parley together, say
it is eleven o'clock in the forenoon, and a sober tranquillity reigns upon
the dust and nodding weeds of Benicia Street. At that hour the organ-
grinder and I are the only persons of our sex in the whole suburban
population; all other husbands and fathers having eaten their breakfasts
at seven o'clock, and stood up in the early horse-cars to Boston, whence
they will return, with aching backs and quivering calves, half-pendant by
leathern straps from the roofs of the same luxurious conveyances, in the
evening. The Italian might go and grind his organ upon the front stoop of
any one of a hundred French-roof houses around, and there would be no arm
within strong enough to thrust him thence; but he is a gentleman in his
way, and, as he prettily explains, he never stops to play except where the
window smiles on him: a frowning lattice he will pass in silence. I behold
in him a disappointed man,--a man broken in health, and of a liver baked
by long sojourn in a tropical clime. In large and dim outline, made all
the dimmer by his dialect, he sketches me the story of his life; how in
his youth he ran away from the Milanese for love of a girl in France, who,
dying, left him with so little purpose in the world that, after working at
his trade of plasterer for some years in Lyons, he listened to a certain
gentleman going out upon government service to a French colony in South
America. This gentleman wanted a man-servant, and he said to my organ-
grinder, "Go with me and I make your fortune." So he, who cared not
whither he went, went, and found himself in the tropics. It was a hard
life he led there; and of the wages that had seemed so great in France, he
paid nearly half to his laundress alone, being forced to be neat in his
master's house. The service was not so irksome in-doors, but it was the
hunting beasts in the forest all day that broke his patience at last.

"Beasts in the forest?" I ask, forgetful of the familiar sense of
_bestie_, and figuring cougars at least by the word.

"Yes, those little beasts for the naturalists,--flies, bugs, beetles,--
Heaven knows what."

"But this brought you money?"

"It brought my master money, but me aches and pains as many as you will,
and at last the fever. When that was burnt out, I made up my mind to ask
for more pay, and, not getting it, to quit that service. I think the
signor would have given it,--but the signora! So I left, empty as I came,
and was cook on a vessel to New York."

This was the black and white of the man's story. I lose the color and
atmosphere which his manner as well as his words bestowed upon it. He told
it in a cheerful, impersonal kind of way as the romance of a poor devil
which had interested him, and might possibly amuse me, leaving out no
touch of character in his portrait of the fat, selfish master,--yielding
enough, however, but for his grasping wife, who, with all her avarice and
greed, he yet confessed to be very handsome. By the wave of a hand he
housed them in a tropic residence, dim, cool, close shut, kept by servants
in white linen moving with mute slippered feet over stone floors; and by
another gesture he indicated the fierce thorny growths of the forest in
which he hunted those vivid insects,--the luxuriant savannas, the gigantic
ferns and palms, the hush and shining desolation, the presence of the
invisible fever and death. There was a touch, too, of inexpressible
sadness in his half-ignorant mention of the exiles at Cayenne, who were
forbidden the wide ocean of escape about them by those swift gunboats
keeping their coasts and swooping down upon every craft that left the
shore. He himself had seen one such capture, and he made me see it, and
the mortal despair of the fugitives, standing upright in their boat with
the idle oars in their unconscious hands, while the corvette swept toward

For all his misfortunes, he was not cast down. He had that lightness of
temper which seems proper to most northern Italians, whereas those from
the south are usually dark-mooded, sad-faced men. Nothing surpasses for
unstudied misanthropy of expression the visages of different Neapolitan
harpers who have visited us; but they have some right to their dejected
countenances as being of a yet half-civilized stock, and as real artists
and men of genius. Nearly all wandering violinists, as well as harpers,
are of their race, and they are of every age, from that of mere children
to men in their prime. They are very rarely old, as many of the organ-
grinders are; they are not so handsome as the Italians of the north,
though they have invariably fine eyes. They arrive in twos and threes; the
violinist briefly tunes his fiddle, and the harper unslings his
instrument, and, with faces of profound gloom, they go through their
repertory,--pieces from the great composers, airs from the opera, not
unmingled with such efforts of Anglo-Saxon genius as Champagne Charley and
Captain Jenks of the Horse Marines, which, like the language of
Shakespeare and Milton, hold us and our English cousins in tender bonds of
mutual affection. Beyond the fact that they come "dal Basilicat'," or "dal
Principat'," one gets very little out of these Neapolitans, though I dare
say they are not so surly at heart as they look. Money does not brighten
them to the eye, but yet it touches them, and they are good in playing or
leaving off to him that pays. Long time two of them stood between the
gateway firs on a pleasant summer's afternoon and twanged and scraped
their harmonious strings, till all the idle boys of the neighborhood
gathered about them, listening with a grave and still delight. It was a
most serious company: the Neapolitans, with their cloudy brows, rapt in
their music; and the Yankee children, with their impassive faces, warily
guarding against the faintest expression of enjoyment; and when at last
the minstrels played a brisk measure, and the music began to work in the
blood of the boys, and one of them shuffling his reluctant feet upon the
gravel, broke into a sudden and resistless dance, the spectacle became too
sad for contemplation. The boy danced only from the hips down; no
expression of his face gave the levity sanction, nor did any of his
comrades: they beheld him with a silent fascination, but none was infected
by the solemn indecorum; and when the legs and music ceased their play
together, no comment was made, and the dancer turned unheated away. A
chance passer asked for what he called the Gearybaldeye Hymn, but the
Neapolitans apparently did not know what this was.

My doorstep acquaintance were not all of one race; now and then an alien
to the common Italian tribe appeared,--an Irish soldier, on his way to
Salem, and willing to show me more of his mutilation than I cared to buy
the sight of for twenty-five cents; and more rarely yet an American, also
formerly of the army, but with something besides his wretchedness to sell.
On the hottest day of last summer such a one rang the bell, and was
discovered on the threshold wiping with his poor sole hand the sweat that
stood upon his forehead. There was still enough of the independent citizen
in his maimed and emaciated person to inspire him with deliberation and a
show of that indifference with which we Americans like to encounter each
other; but his voice was rather faint when he asked if I supposed we
wanted any starch to-day.

"Yes, certainly," answered what heart there was within, taking note
willfully, but I hope not wantonly, what an absurdly limp figure he was
for a peddler of starch,--"certainly from you, brave fellow;" and the
package being taken from his basket, the man turned to go away, so very
wearily, that a cheap philanthropy protested: "For shame! ask him to sit
down in-doors and drink a glass of water."

"No," answered the poor fellow, when this indignant voice had been obeyed,
and he had been taken at a disadvantage, and as it were surprised into the
confession, "my family hadn't any breakfast this morning, and I've got to
hurry back to them."

"Haven't _you_ had any breakfast?"

"Well, I wa'n't rightly hungry when I left the house."

"Here, now," popped in the virtue before named, "is an opportunity to
discharge the debt we all owe to the brave fellows who gave us back our
country. Make it beer."

So it was made beer and bread and cold meat, and, after a little pressing,
the honest soul consented to the refreshment. He sat down in a cool
doorway and began to eat and to tell of the fight before Vicksburg. And if
you have never seen a one-armed soldier making a meal, I can assure you
the sight is a pathetic one, and is rendered none the cheerfuller by his
memories of the fights that mutilated him. This man had no very
susceptible audience, but before he was carried off the field, shot
through the body, and in the arm and foot, he had sold every package of
starch in his basket. I am ashamed to say this now, for I suspect that a
man with one arm, who indulged himself in going about under that broiling
sun of July, peddling starch, was very probably an impostor. He computed a
good day's profits of seventy-five cents, and when asked if that was not
very little for the support of a sick wife and three children, he answered
with a quaint effort at impressiveness, and with a trick, as I imagined,
from the manner of the regimental chaplain, "You've done your duty, my
friend, and more'n your duty. If every one did their duty like that, we
should get along." So he took leave, and shambled out into the furnace-
heat, the sun beating upon his pale face, and his linen coat hugging him
close, but with his basket lighter, and I hope his heart also. At any
rate, this was the sentiment which cheap philanthropy offered in self-
gratulation, as he passed out of sight: "There! you are quits with those
maimed soldiers at last, and you have a country which you have paid for
with cold victuals as they with blood."

We have been a good deal visited by one disbanded volunteer, not to the
naked eye maimed, nor apparently suffering from any lingering illness, yet
who bears, as he tells me, a secret disabling wound in his side from a
spent shell, and who is certainly a prey to the most acute form of
shiftlessness. I do not recall with exactness the date of our
acquaintance, but it was one of those pleasant August afternoons when a
dinner eaten in peace fills the digester with a millennial tenderness for
the race too rarely felt in the nineteenth century. At such a moment it is
a more natural action to loosen than to tighten the purse-strings, and
when a very neatly dressed young man presented himself at the gate, and,
in a note of indescribable plaintiveness, asked if I had any little job
for him to do that he might pay for a night's lodging, I looked about the
small domain with a vague longing to find some part of it in disrepair,
and experienced a moment's absurd relief when he hinted that he would be
willing to accept fifty cents in pledge of future service. Yet this was
not the right principle: some work, real or apparent, must be done for the
money, and the veteran was told that he might weed the strawberry bed,
though, as matters then stood, it was clean enough for a strawberry bed
that never bore anything. The veteran was neatly dressed, as I have said:
his coat, which was good, was buttoned to the throat for reasons that
shall be sacred against curiosity, and he had on a perfectly clean paper
collar; he was a handsome young fellow, with regular features, and a
solicitously kept imperial and mustache; his hair, when he lifted his hat,
appeared elegantly oiled and brushed. I did not hope from this figure that
the work done would be worth the money paid, and, as nearly as I can
compute, the weeds he took from that bed cost me a cent apiece, to say
nothing of a cup of tea given him in grace at the end of his labors.

My acquaintance was, as the reader will be glad to learn, a native
American, though it is to be regretted, for the sake of facts which his
case went far to establish, that he was not a New-Englander by birth. The
most that could be claimed was, that he came to Boston from Delaware when
very young, and that there on that brine-washed granite he had grown as
perfect a flower of helplessness and indolence, as fine a fruit of
maturing civilization, as ever expanded or ripened in Latin lands. He
lived, not only a protest in flesh and blood against the tendency of
democracy to exclude mere beauty from our system, but a refutation of
those Old World observers, who deny to our vulgar and bustling communities
the refining and elevating grace of Repose. There was something very
curious and original in his character, from which the sentiment of shame
was absent, but which was not lacking in the fine instincts of personal
cleanliness, of dress, of style. There was nothing of the rowdy in him; he
was gentle as an Italian noble in his manners: what other traits they may
have had in common, I do not know; perhaps an amiable habit of illusion.
He was always going to bring me his discharge papers, but he never did,
though he came often and had many a pleasant night's sleep at my cost. If
sometimes he did a little work, he spent great part of the time contracted
to me in the kitchen, where it was understood, quite upon his own agency,
that his wages included board. At other times, he called for money too
late in the evening to work it out that day, and it has happened that a
new second girl, deceived by his genteel appearance in the uncertain
light, has shown him into the parlor, where I have found him to his and my
own great amusement, as the gentleman who wanted to see me. Nothing else
seemed to raise his ordinarily dejected spirits so much. We all know how
pleasant it is to laugh at people behind their backs; but this veteran
afforded me at a very low rate the luxury of a fellow-being whom one might
laugh at to his face as much as one liked.

Yet with all his shamelessness, his pensiveness, his elegance, I felt that
somehow our national triumph was not complete in him,--that there were yet
more finished forms of self-abasement in the Old World, till one day I
looked out of the window and saw at a little distance my veteran digging a
cellar for an Irishman. I own that the spectacle gave me a shock of
pleasure, and that I ran down to have a nearer view of what human eyes
have seldom, if ever, beheld,--an American, pure blood, handling the pick,
the shovel, and the wheelbarrow, while an Irishman directed his labors.
Upon inspection, it appeared that none of the trees grew with their roots
in the air, in recognition of this great reversal of the natural law; all
the French-roof houses stood right side up. The phenomenon may become more
common in future, unless the American race accomplishes its destiny of
dying out before the more populatory foreigner, but as yet it graced the
veteran with an exquisite and signal distinction. He, however, seemed to
feel unpleasantly the anomaly of his case, and opened the conversation by
saying that he should not work at that job to-morrow, it hurt his side;
and went on to complain of the inhumanity of Americans to Americans.
"Why," said he, "they'd rather give out their jobs to a nigger than to one
of their own kind. I was beatin' carpets for a gentleman on the Avenue,
and the first thing I know he give most of 'em to a nigger. I beat seven
of 'em in one day, and got two dollars; and the nigger beat 'em by the
piece, and he got a dollar an' a half apiece. My luck!"

Here the Irishman glanced at his hireling, and the rueful veteran hastened
to pile up another wheelbarrow with earth. If ever we come to reverse
positions generally with our Irish brethren, there is no doubt but they
will get more work out of us than we do from them at present.

It was shortly after this that the veteran offered to do second girl's
work in my house if I would take him. The place was not vacant; and as the
summer was now drawing to a close, and I feared to be left with him on my
hands for the winter, it seemed well to speak to him upon the subject of
economy. The next time he called, I had not about me the exact sum for a
night's lodging,--fifty cents, namely--and asked him if he thought a
dollar would do He smiled sadly, as if he did not like jesting upon such a
very serious subject, but said he allowed to work it out, and took it.

"Now, I hope you won't think I am interfering with your affairs," said his
benefactor, "but I really think you are a very poor financier. According
to your own account, you have been going on from year to year for a long
time, trusting to luck for a night's lodging. Sometimes I suppose you have
to sleep out-of-doors."

"No, never!" answered the veteran, with something like scorn. "I never
sleep out-doors. I wouldn't do it."

"Well, at any rate, some one has to pay for your lodging. Don't you think
you'd come cheaper to your friends, if, instead of going to a hotel every
night, you'd take a room somewhere, and pay for it by the month?"

"I've thought of that. If I could get a good bed, I'd try it awhile
anyhow. You see the hotels have raised. I used to get a lodgin' and a nice
breakfast for a half a dollar, but now it is as much as you can do to get
a lodgin' for the money, and it's just as dear in the Port as it is in the
city. I've tried hotels pretty much everywhere, and one's about as bad as

If he had been a travelled Englishman writing a book, he could not have
spoken of hotels with greater disdain.

"You see, the trouble with me is, I ain't got any relations around here.
Now," he added, with the life and eagerness of an inspiration, "if I had a
mother and sister livin' down at the Port, say, I wouldn't go hunting
about for these mean little jobs everywheres. I'd just lay round home, and
wait till something come up big. What I want is a home."

At the instigation of a malignant spirit I asked the homeless orphan, "Why
don't you get married, then?"

He gave me another smile, sadder, fainter, sweeter than before, and said:
"When would you like to see me again, so I could work out this dollar?"

A sudden and unreasonable disgust for the character which had given me so
much entertainment succeeded to my past delight. I felt, moreover, that I
had bought the right to use some frankness with the veteran, and I said to
him: "Do you know now, I shouldn't care if I _never_ saw you again?"

I can only conjecture that he took the confidence in good part, for he did
not appear again after that.


Walking for walking's sake I do not like. The diversion appears to me one
of the most factitious of modern enjoyments; and I cannot help looking
upon those who pace their five miles in the teeth of a north wind, and
profess to come home all the livelier and better for it, as guilty of a
venial hypocrisy. It is in nature that after such an exercise the bones
should ache and the flesh tremble; and I suspect that these harmless
pretenders are all the while paying a secret penalty for their bravado.
With a pleasant end in view, or with cheerful companionship, walking is
far from being the worst thing in life; though doubtless a truly candid
person must confess that he would rather ride under the same
circumstances. Yet it is certain that some sort of recreation is necessary
after a day spent within doors; and one is really obliged nowadays to take
a little walk instead of medicine; for one's doctor is sure to have a
mania on the subject, and there is no more getting pills or powders out of
him for a slight indigestion than if they had all been shot away at the
rebels during the war. For this reason I sometimes go upon a pedestrian
tour, which is of no great extent in itself, and which I moreover modify
by keeping always within sound of the horse-car bells, or easy reach of
some steam-car station.

I fear that I should find these rambles dull, but that their utter lack of
interest amuses me. I will be honest with the reader, though, and any
Master Pliable is free to forsake me at this point; for I cannot promise
to be really livelier than my walk. There is a Slough of Despond in full
view, and not a Delectable Mountain to be seen, unless you choose so to
call the high lands about Waltham, which we shall behold dark blue against
the western sky presently. As I sally forth upon Benicia Street, the whole
suburb of Charlesbridge stretches about me,--a vast space upon which I can
embroider any fancy I like as I saunter along. I have no associations with
it, or memories of it, and, at some seasons, I might wander for days in
the most frequented parts of it, and meet hardly any one I know. It is
not, however, to these parts that I commonly turn, but northward, up a
street upon which a flight of French-roof houses suddenly settled a year
or two since, with families in them, and many outward signs of permanence,
though their precipitate arrival might cast some doubt upon this. I have
to admire their uniform neatness and prettiness, and I look at their
dormer-windows with the envy of one to whose weak sentimentality dormer-
windows long appeared the supreme architectural happiness. But, for all my
admiration of the houses, I find a variety that is pleasanter in the
landscape, when I reach, beyond them, a little bridge which appears to
span a small stream. It unites banks lined with a growth of trees and
briers nodding their heads above the neighboring levels, and suggesting a
quiet water-course, though in fact it is the Fitchburg Railroad that purls
between them, with rippling freight and passenger trains and ever-gurgling
locomotives. The banks take the earliest green of spring upon their
southward slope, and on a Sunday morning of May, when the bells are
lamenting the Sabbaths of the past, I find their sunny tranquillity
sufficient to give me a slight heart-ache for I know not what. If I
descend them and follow the railroad westward half a mile, I come to vast
brick-yards, which are not in themselves exciting to the imagination, and
which yet, from an irresistible association of ideas, remind me of Egypt,
and are forever newly forsaken of those who made bricks without straw; so
that I have no trouble in erecting temples and dynastic tombs out of the
kilns; while the mills for grinding the clay serve me very well for those
sad-voiced _sakias_ or wheel-pumps which the Howadji Curtis heard
wailing at their work of drawing water from the Nile. A little farther on
I come to the boarding-house built at the railroad side for the French
Canadians who have by this time succeeded the Hebrews in the toil of the
brick-yards, and who, as they loiter in windy-voiced, good-humored groups
about the doors of their lodgings, insist upon bringing before me the town
of St. Michel at the mouth of the great Mont Cenis tunnel, where so many
peasant folk like them are always amiably quarreling before the
_cabarets_ when the diligence comes and goes. Somewhere, there must
be a gendarme with a cocked hat and a sword on, standing with folded arms
to represent the Empire and Peace among that rural population; if I looked
in-doors, I am sure I should see the neatest of landladies and landladies'
daughters and nieces in high black silk caps, bearing hither and thither
smoking bowls of _bouillon_ and _caf-au-lait_. Well, it takes
as little to make one happy as miserable, thank Heaven! and I derive a
cheerfulness from this scene which quite atones to me for the fleeting
desolation suffered from the sunny verdure on the railroad bank. With
repaired spirits I take my way up through the brick-yards towards the
Irish settlement on the north, passing under the long sheds that shelter
the kilns. The ashes lie cold about the mouths of most, and the bricks are
burnt to the proper complexion; in others these are freshly arranged over
flues in which the fire has not been kindled; but in whatever state I see
them, I am reminded of brick-kilns of boyhood. They were then such palaces
of enchantment as any architect should now vainly attempt to rival with
bricks upon the most desirable corner lot of the Back Bay, and were the
homes of men truly to be envied: men privileged to stay up all night; to
sleep, as it were, out of doors; to hear the wild geese as they flew over
in the darkness; to be waking in time to shoot the early ducks that
visited the neighboring ponds; to roast corn upon the ends of sticks; to
tell and to listen to stories that never ended, save in some sudden
impulse to rise and dance a happy hoe-down in the ruddy light of the kiln-
fires. If by day they were seen to have the redness of eyes of men that
looked upon the whiskey when it was yellow and gave its color in the
flask; if now and then the fragments of a broken bottle strewed the scene
of their vigils, and a head broken to match appeared among those good
comrades, the boyish imagination was not shocked by these things, but
accepted them merely as the symbols of a free virile life. Some such life
no doubt is still to be found in the Dublin to which I am come by the time
my repertory of associations with brick-kilns is exhausted, but, oddly
enough, I no longer care to encounter it.

It is perhaps in a pious recognition of our mortality that Dublin is built
around the Irish grave-yard. Most of its windows look out upon the
sepulchral monuments and the pretty constant arrival of the funeral trains
with their long lines of carriages bringing to the celebration of the sad
ultimate rites those gay companies of Irish mourners. I suppose that the
spectacle of such obsequies is not at all depressing to the inhabitants of
Dublin; but that, on the contrary, it must beget in them a feeling which,
if not resignation to death, is, at least, a sort of sub-acute
cheerfulness in his presence. None but a Dubliner, however, would have
been greatly animated by a scene which I witnessed during a stroll through
this cemetery one afternoon of early spring. The fact that a marble slab
or shaft more or less sculptured, and inscribed with words more or less
helpless, is the utmost that we can give to one whom once we could caress
with every tenderness of speech and touch, and that, after all, the
memorial we raise is rather to our own grief, and is a decency, a mere
conventionality,--this is a dreadful fact on which the heart breaks itself
with such a pang, that it always seems a desolation never recognized, an
anguish never felt before. Whilst I stood revolving this thought in my
mind, and reading the Irish names upon the stones and the black head-
boards,--the latter adorned with pictures of angels, once gilt, but now
weather-worn down to the yellow paint,--a wail of intolerable pathos
filled the air: "O my darling, O my darling! O--O--O!" with sobs and
groans and sighs; and, looking about, I saw two women, one standing
upright beside another that had cast herself upon a grave, and lay
clasping it with her comfortless arms, uttering these cries. The grave was
a year old at least, but the grief seemed of yesterday or of that morning.
At times the friend that stood beside the prostrate woman stooped and
spoke a soothing word to her, while she wailed out her woe; and in the
midst some little ribald Irish boys came scuffling and quarreling up the
pathway, singing snatches of an obscene song; and when both the wailing
and the singing had died away, an old woman, decently clad, and with her
many-wrinkled face softened by the old-fashioned frill running round the
inside of her cap, dropped down upon her knees beside a very old grave,
and clasped her hands in a silent prayer above it.

[Illustration: "Looking about, I saw two women."]

If I had beheld all this in some village _campo santo_ in Italy, I
should have been much more vividly impressed by it, as an aesthetical
observer; whereas I was now merely touched as a human being, and had
little desire to turn the scene to literary account. I could not help
feeling that it wanted the atmosphere of sentimental association, the
whole background was a blank or worse than a blank. Yet I have not been
able to hide from myself so much as I would like certain points of
resemblance between our Irish and the poorer classes of Italians. The
likeness is one of the first things that strikes an American in Italy, and
I am always reminded of it in Dublin. So much of the local life appears
upon the street; there is so much gossip from house to house, and the talk
is always such a resonant clamoring; the women, bareheaded, or with a
shawl folded over the head and caught beneath the chin with the hand, have
such a contented down-at-heel aspect, shuffling from door to door, or
lounging, arms akimbo, among the cats and poultry at their own thresholds,
that one beholding it all might well fancy himself upon some Italian
_calle_ or _vicolo_. Of course the illusion does not hold good
on a Sunday, when the Dubliners are coming home from church in their
best,--their extraordinary best bonnets and their prodigious silk hats. It
does not hold good in any way or at any time, except upon the surface, for
there is beneath all this resemblance the difference that must exist
between a race immemorially civilized and one which has lately emerged
from barbarism "after six centuries of oppression." You are likely to find
a polite pagan under the mask of the modern Italian you feel pretty sure
that any of his race would with a little washing and skillful
manipulation, _restore_, like a neglected painting, into something
genuinely graceful and pleasing; but if one of these Yankeefied Celts were
scraped, it is but too possible that you might find a kern, a Whiteboy, or
a Pikeman. The chance of discovering a scholar or a saint of the period
when Ireland was the centre of learning, and the favorite seat of the
Church, is scarcely one in three.

Among the houses fronting on the main street of Dublin, every other one--I
speak in all moderation--is a grocery, if I may judge by a tin case of
corn-balls, a jar of candy, and a card of shirt-buttons, with an under
layer of primers and ballads, in the windows. You descend from the street
by several steps into these haunts, which are contrived to secure the
greatest possible dampness and darkness; and if you have made an errand
inside, you doubtless find a lady before the counter in the act of putting
down a guilty-looking tumbler with one hand, while she neatly wipes her
mouth on the back of the other. She has that effect, observable in all
tippling women of low degree, of having no upper garment on but a shawl,
which hangs about her in statuesque folds and lines. She slinks out
directly, but the lady behind the counter gives you good evening with

"The affectation of a bright-eyed ease,"

intended to deceive if you chance to be a State constable in disguise, and
to propitiate if you are a veritable customer: "Who was that woman,
lamenting so, over in the grave-yard?" "O, I don't know, sir," answered
the lady, making change for the price of a ballad. "Some Irish folks. They
ginerally cries that way."

In yet earlier spring walks through Dublin, I found a depth of mud
appalling even to one who had lived three years in Charlesbridge. The
streets were passable only to pedestrians skilled in shifting themselves
along the sides of fences and alert to take advantage of every projecting
doorstep. There were no dry places, except in front of the groceries,
where the ground was beaten hard by the broad feet of loafing geese and
the coming and going of admirably small children making purchases there.
The number of the little ones was quite as remarkable as their size, and
ought to have been even more interesting, if, as sometimes appears
probable, such increase shall--together with the well-known ambition of
Dubliners to rule the land--one day make an end of us poor Yankees as a
dominant plurality.

The town was somewhat tainted with our architectural respectability,
unless the newness of some of the buildings gave illusion of this; and,
though the streets of Dublin were not at all cared for, and though every
house on the main thoroughfare stood upon the brink of a slough, without
yard, or any attempt at garden or shrubbery, there were many cottages in
the less aristocratic quarters inclosed in palings, and embowered in the
usual suburban pear-trees and currant-bushes. These, indeed, were
dwellings of an elder sort, and had clearly been inherited from a
population now as extinct in that region as the Pequots, and they were not
always carefully cherished. On the border of the hamlet is to be seen an
old farm-house of the poorer sort, built about the beginning of this
century, and now thickly peopled by Dubliners. Its gate is thrown down,
and the great wild-grown lilac hedge, no longer protected by a fence,
shows skirts bedabbled by the familiarity of lawless poultry, as little
like the steady-habited poultry of other times, as the people of the house
are like the former inmates, long since dead or gone West. I offer the
poor place a sentiment of regret as I pass, thinking of its better days. I
think of its decorous, hard-working, cleanly, school-going, church-
attending life, which was full of the pleasure of duty done, and was not
without its own quaint beauty and grace. What long Sabbaths were kept in
that old house, what scanty holidays! Yet from this and such as this came
the dominion of the whole wild continent, the freedom of a race, the
greatness of the greatest people. It may be that I regretted a little too
exultantly, and that out of this particular house came only peddling of
innumerable clocks and multitudinous tin-ware. But as yet, it is pretty
certain that the general character of the population has not gained by the
change. What is in the future, let the prophets say; any one can see that
something not quite agreeable is in the present; something that takes the
wrong side, as by instinct, in politics; something that mainly helps to
prop up tottering priestcraft among us; something that one thinks of with
dismay as destined to control so largely the civil and religious interests
of the country. This, however, is only the aggregate aspect. Mrs.
Clannahan's kitchen, as it may be seen by the desperate philosopher when
he goes to engage her for the spring house-cleaning, is a strong argument
against his fears. If Mrs. Clannahan, lately of an Irish cabin, can show a
kitchen so capably appointed and so neatly kept as that, the country may
yet be an inch or two from the brink of ruin, and the race which we trust
as little as we love may turn out no more spendthrift than most heirs. It
is encouraging, moreover, when any people can flatter themselves upon a
superior prosperity and virtue, and we may take heart from the fact that
the French Canadians, many of whom have lodgings in Dublin, are not well
seen by the higher classes of the citizens there. Mrs. Clannahan, whose
house stands over against the main gate of the grave-yard, and who may,
therefore, be considered as moving in the best Dublin society, hints, that
though good Catholics, the French are not thought perfectly honest,--
"things have been missed" since they came to blight with their crimes and
vices the once happy seat of integrity. It is amusing to find Dublin
fearful of the encroachment of the French, as we, in our turn, dread the
advance of the Irish. We must make a jest of our own alarms, and even
smile--since we cannot help ourselves--at the spiritual desolation
occasioned by the settlement of an Irish family in one of our suburban
neighborhoods. The householders view with fear and jealousy the erection
of any dwelling of less than a stated cost, as portending a possible
advent of Irish; and when the calamitous race actually appears, a mortal
pang strikes to the bottom of every pocket. Values tremble throughout that
neighborhood, to which the new-comers communicate a species of moral dry-
rot. None but the Irish will build near the Irish; and the infection of
fear spreads to the elder Yankee homes about, and the owners prepare to
abandon them,--not always, however, let us hope, without turning, at the
expense of the invaders, a Parthian penny in their flight. In my walk from
Dublin to North Charlesbridge, I saw more than one token of the
encroachment of the Celtic army, which had here and there invested a
Yankee house with besieging shanties on every side, and thus given to its
essential and otherwise quite hopeless ugliness a touch of the poetry that
attends failing fortunes, and hallows decayed gentility of however poor a
sort originally. The fortunes of such a house are, of course, not to be
retrieved. Where the Celt sets his foot, there the Yankee (and it is
perhaps wholesome if not agreeable to know that the Irish citizen whom we
do not always honor as our equal in civilization loves to speak of us
scornfully as Yankees) rarely, if ever, returns. The place remains to the
intruder and his heirs forever. We gracefully retire before him even in
politics, as the metropolis--if it is the metropolis--can witness; and we
wait with an anxious curiosity the encounter of the Irish and the Chinese,
now rapidly approaching each other from opposite shores of the continent.
Shall we be crushed in the collision of these superior races? Every
intelligence-office will soon be ringing with the cries of combat, and all
our kitchens strewn with pig-tails and bark chignons. As yet we have gay
hopes of our Buddhistic brethren; but how will it be when they begin to
quarter the Dragon upon the Stars and Stripes, and buy up all the best
sites for temples, and burn their joss-sticks, as it were, under our very
noses? Our grasp upon the great problem grows a little lax, perhaps? Is it
true that, when we look so anxiously for help from others, the virtue has
gone out of ourselves? I should hope not.

As I leave Dublin, the houses grow larger and handsomer; and as I draw
near the Avenue, the Mansard-roofs look down upon me with their dormer-
windows, and welcome me back to the American community. There are fences
about all the houses, inclosing ampler and ampler dooryards; the children,
which had swarmed in the thriftless and unenlightened purlieus of Dublin,
diminish in number and finally disappear; the chickens have vanished; and
I hear--I hear the pensive music of the horse-car bells, which in some
alien land, I am sure, would be as pathetic to me as the Ranz des Vaches
to the Swiss or the bagpipes to the Highlander: in the desert, where the
traveller seems to hear the familiar bells of his far-off church, this
tinkle would haunt the absolute silence, and recall the exile's fancy to
Charlesbridge; and perhaps in the mocking mirage he would behold an airy
horse-car track, and a phantasmagoric horse-car moving slowly along the
edge of the horizon, with spectral passengers closely packed inside and
overflowing either platform.

But before I reach the Avenue, Dublin calls to me yet again, in the figure
of an old, old man, wearing the clothes of other times, and a sort of
ancestral round hat. In the act of striking a match he asks me the time of
day, and, applying the fire to his pipe, he returns me his thanks in a
volume of words and smoke. What a wrinkled and unshorn old man! Can age
and neglect do so much for any of us? This ruinous person was associated
with a hand-cart as decrepit as himself, but not nearly so cheerful; for
though he spoke up briskly with a spirit uttered from far within the
wrinkles and the stubble, the cart had preceded him with a very lugubrious
creak. It groaned, in fact, under a load of tin cans, and I was to learn
from the old man that there was, and had been, in his person, for thirteen
years, such a thing in the world as a peddler of buttermilk, and that
these cans were now filled with that pleasant drink. They did not invite
me to prove their contents, being cans that apparently passed their vacant
moments in stables and even manure-heaps, and that looked somehow emulous
of that old man's stubble and wrinkles. I bought nothing, but I left the
old peddler well content, seated upon a thill of his cart, smoking
tranquilly, and filling the keen spring evening air with fumes which it
dispersed abroad, and made to itself a pleasant incense of.

I left him a whole epoch behind, as I entered the Avenue and lounged
homeward along the stately street. Above the station it is far more
picturesque than it is below, and the magnificent elms that shadow it
might well have looked, in their saplinghood, upon the British straggling
down the country road from the Concord fight; and there are some ancient
houses yet standing that must have been filled with exultation at the same
spectacle. Poor old revolutionaries! they would never have believed that
their descendants would come to love the English as we do.

The season has advanced rapidly during my progress from Dublin to the
Avenue; and by the time I reach the famous old tavern, not far from the
station, it is a Sunday morning of early summer, and the yellow sunlight
falls upon a body of good comrades who are grooming a marvelous number of
piebald steeds about the stable-doors. By token of these beasts--which
always look so much more like works of art than of nature--I know that
there is to be a circus somewhere very soon; and the gay bills pasted all
over the stable-front tell me that there are to be two performances at the
Port on the morrow. The grooms talk nothing and joke nothing but horse at
their labor; and their life seems such a low, ignorant, happy life, that
the secret nomad lurking in every respectable and stationary personality
stirs within me and struggles to strike hands of fellowship with them.
They lead a sort of pastoral existence in our age of railroads; they
wander over the continent with their great caravan, and everywhere pursue
the summer from South to North and from North to South again; in the mild
forenoons they groom their herds, and in the afternoons they doze under
their wagons, indifferent to the tumult of the crowd within and without
the mighty canvas near them,--doze face downwards on the bruised, sweet-
smelling grass; and in the starry midnight rise and strike their tents,
and set forth again over the still country roads, to take the next village
on the morrow with the blaze and splendor of their "Grand Entree." The
triumphal chariot in which the musicians are borne at the head of the
procession is composed, as I perceive by the bills, of four colossal gilt
swans, set tail to tail, with lifted wings and curving necks; but the
chariot, as I behold it beside the stable, is mysteriously draped in white
canvas, through which its gilding glitters only here and there. And does
it move thus shrouded in the company's wanderings from place to place, and
is the precious spottiness of the piebalds then hidden under envious
drapery? O happy grooms,--not clean as to shirts, nor especially neat in
your conversation, but displaying a Wealth of art in India-ink upon your
manly chests and the swelling muscles of your arms, and speaking in every
movement your freedom from all conventional gyves and shackles, _"seid
umschlungen!"_--in spirit; for the rest, you are rather too damp, and
seem to have applied your sudsy sponges too impartially to your own
trousers and the horses' legs to receive an actual embrace from a
_dilettante_ vagabond.

The old tavern is old only comparatively; but in our new and changeful
life it is already quaint. It is very long, and low-studded in either
story, with a row of windows in the roof, and a great porch, furnished
with benches, running the whole length of the ground-floor. Perhaps
because they take the dust of the street too freely, or because the guests
find it more social and comfortable to gather in-doors in the wide, low-
ceiled office, the benches are not worn, nor particularly whittled. The
room has the desolate air characteristic of offices which have once been
bar-rooms; but no doubt, on a winter's night, there is talk worth
listening to there, of flocks, and herds and horse-trades, from the
drovers and cattle-market men who patronize the tavern; and the artistic
temperament, at least, could feel no regret if that sepulchrally penitent
bar-room then developed a secret capacity for the wickedness that once
boldly glittered behind the counter in rows of decanters.

The house was formerly renowned for its suppers, of which all that was
learned or gifted in the old college town of Charlesbridge used to
partake; and I have heard lips which breathe the loftiest song and the
sweetest humor--let alone being "dewy with the Greek of Plato"--smacked
regretfully over the memory of those suppers' roast and broiled. No such
suppers, they say, are cooked in the world any more; and I am somehow made
to feel that their passing away is connected with the decay of good

I hope it may be very long before the predestined French-roof villa
occupies the tavern's site, and turns into lawns and gardens its wide-
spreading cattle-pens, and removes the great barn that now shows its
broad, low gable to the street. This is yet older and quainter-looking
than the tavern itself; it is mighty capacious, and gives a still
profounder impression of vastness with its shed, of which the roof slopes
southward down almost to a man's height from the ground, and shelters a
row of mangers, running back half the length of the stable, and serving in
former times for the baiting of such beasts as could not be provided for
within. But the halcyon days of the cattle-market are past (though you may
still see the white horns tossing above the fences of the pens, when a
newly arrived herd lands from the train to be driven afoot to Brighton),
and the place looks now so empty and forsaken, spite of the circus
baggage-wagons, that it were hard to believe these mangers could ever have
been in request, but for the fact that they are all gnawed, down to the
quick as it were, by generations of horses--vanished forever on the
deserted highways of the past--impatient for their oats or hungering for

The day must come, of course, when the mangers will all be taken from the
stable-shed, and exposed for sale at that wonderful second-hand shop which
stands over against the tavern. I am no more surprised than one in a
dream, to find it a week-day afternoon by the time I have crossed thither
from the circus-men grooming their piebalds. It is an enchanted place to
me, and I am a frequent and unprofitable customer there, buying only just
enough to make good my footing with the custodian of its marvels, who is,
of course, too true an American to show any desire to sell. Without, on
either side of the doorway, I am pretty sure to find, among other articles
of furniture, a mahogany and hair-cloth sofa, a family portrait, a
landscape painting, a bath-tub, and a flower-stand, with now and then the
variety of a boat and a dog-house; while under an adjoining shed is heaped
a mass of miscellaneous movables, of a heavier sort, and fearlessly left
there night and day, being on all accounts undesirable to steal. The door
of the shop rings a bell in opening, and ushers the customer into a room
which Chaos herself might have planned in one of her happier moments.
Carpets, blankets, shawls, pictures, mirrors, rocking-chairs, and blue
overalls hang from the ceiling, and devious pathways wind amidst piles of
ready-made clothing, show-cases filled with every sort of knick-knack and
half hidden under heaps of hats and boots and shoes, bookcases,
secretaries, chests of drawers, mattresses, lounges, and bedsteads, to the
stairway of a loft similarly appointed, and to a back room overflowing
with glassware and crockery. These things are not all second-hand, but
they are all old and equally pathetic. The melancholy of ruinous auction
sales, of changing tastes or changing fashions, clings to them, whether
they are things that have never had a home and have been on sale ever
since they were made, or things that have been associated with every phase
of human life.

Among other objects, certain large glass vases, ornamented by the polite
art of potichomanie, have long appealed to my fancy, wherein they
capriciously allied themselves to the history of aging single women in
lonely New England village houses,--pathetic sisters lingering upon the
neutral ground between the faded hopes of marriage and the yet unrisen
prospects of consumption. The work implies an imperfect yet real love of
beauty, the leisure for it a degree of pecuniary ease: the thoughts of the
sisters rise above the pickling and preserving that occupied their
heartier and happier mother; they are in fact in that aesthetic, social,
and intellectual mean, in which single women are thought soonest to wither
and decline. With a little more power, and in our later era, they would be
writing stories full of ambitious, unintelligible, self-devoted and sudden
collapsing young girls and amazing doctors; but as they are, and in their
time, they must do what they can. A sentimentalist may discern on these
vases not only the gay designs with which they ornamented them, but their
own dim faces looking wan from the windows of some huge old homestead, a
world too wide for the shrunken family. All April long the door-yard trees
crouch and shudder in the sour east, all June they rain canker-worms upon
the roof, and then in autumn choke the eaves with a fall of tattered and
hectic foliage. From the window the fading sisters gaze upon the unnatural
liveliness of the summer streets through which the summer boarders are
driving, or upon the death-white drifts of the intolerable winter. Their
father, the captain, is dead; he died with the Calcutta trade, having
survived their mother, and left them a hopeless competency and yonder
bamboo chairs; their only brother is in California; one, though she loved,
had never a lover; her sister's betrothed married West, whither he went to
make a home for her,--and ah! is it vases for the desolate parlor mantel
they decorate, or funeral urns? And when in time, they being gone, the
Californian brother sends to sell out at auction the old place with the
household and kitchen furniture, is it withered rose-leaves or ashes that
the purchaser finds in these jars?

They are empty now; and I wonder how came they here? How came the show-
case of Dr. Merrifield, Surgeon-Chiropodist here? How came here yon
Italian painting?--a poor, silly, little affected Madonna, simpering at me
from her dingy gilt frame till I buy her, a great bargain, at a dollar.
From what country church or family oratory, in what revolution, or stress
of private fortunes,--then from what various cabinets of antiquities, in
what dear Vicenza, or Ferrara, or Mantua, earnest thou, O Madonna? Whose
likeness are you, poor girl, with your everyday prettiness of brows and
chin, and your Raphaelesque crick in the neck? I think I know a part of
your story. You were once the property of that ruined advocate, whose
sensibilities would sometimes consent that a _valet de place_ of
uncommon delicacy should bring to his ancestral palace some singularly
meritorious foreigner desirous of purchasing from his rare collection,--a
collection of rubbish scarcely to be equaled elsewhere in Italy. You hung
in that family-room, reached after passage through stately vestibules and
grand stairways; and O, I would be cheated to the bone, if only I might
look out again from some such windows as were there, upon some such damp,
mouldy, broken-statued, ruinous, enchanted garden as lay below! In that
room sat the advocate's mother and hunchback sister, with their smoky
_scaldini_ and their snuffy priest; and there the wife of the
foreigner, self-elected the taste of his party, inflicted the pang courted
by the advocate, and asked if you were for sale. And then the ruined
advocate clasped his hands, rubbed them, set his head heart-brokenly on
one side, took you down, heaved a sigh, shrugged his shoulders, and sold
you--you! a family heirloom! Well, at least you are old, and you represent
to me acres of dim, religious canvas in that beloved land; and here is the
dollar now asked for you: I could not have bought you for so little at

The Madonna is neighbored by several paintings, if the kind called Grecian
for a reason never revealed by the inventor of an art as old as
potichomanie itself. It was an art by which ordinary lithographs were
given a ghastly transparency, and a tone as disagreeable as chromos; and I
doubt if it could have been known to the Greeks in their best age. But I
remember very well when it passed over whole neighborhoods in some parts
of this country, wasting the time of many young women, and disfiguring
parlor walls with the fruit of their accomplishment. It was always taught
by Professors, a class of learned young men who acquired their title by
abandoning the plough and anvil, and, in a suit of ready-made clothing,
travelling about the country with portfolios under their arms. It was an
experience to make loafers for life of them: and I fancy the girls who
learnt their art never afterwards made so good butter and cheese.

"Non-ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa."

Besides the Grecian paintings there are some mezzotints; full length
pictures of presidents and statesmen, chiefly General Jackson, Henry Clay,
and Daniel Webster, which have hung their day in the offices or parlors of
country politicians. They are all statesmanlike and presidential in
attitude; and I know that if the mighty Webster's lips had language, he
would take his hand out of his waistcoat front, and say to his fellow
mezzotints: "Venerable men! you have come down to us from a former
generation, bringing your household furniture and miscellaneous trumpery
of all kinds with you."

Some old-fashioned entry lanterns divide my interest with certain old
willow chairs of an hour-glass pattern, which never stood upright,
probably, and have now all a confirmed droop to one side, as from having
been fallen heavily asleep in, upon breezy porches, of hot summer
afternoons. In the windows are small vases of alabaster, fly-specked
Parian and plaster figures, and dolls with stiff wooden limbs and papier-
mach heads, a sort of dolls no longer to be bought in these days of
modish, blue-eyed blondes of biscuit and sturdy india-rubber brunettes.
The show-case is full of an incredible variety, as photograph albums,
fishing-hooks, socks, suspenders, steel pens, cutlery of all sorts, and
curious old colored prints of Adelaide, and Kate, and Ellen. A rocking-
horse is stabled near amid pendent lengths of second-hand carpeting, hat-
racks, and mirrors; and standing cheek-by-jowl with painted washstands and
bureaus are some plaster statues, aptly colored and varnished to represent

There is nothing here but has a marked character of its own, some distinct
yet intangible trait acquired from former circumstances; and doubtless all
these things have that lurking likeness to former owners which clothes and
furniture are apt to take on from long association, and which we should
instantly recognize could they be confronted with their late proprietors.
It seems, in very imaginative moments, as if the strange assemblage of
incongruities must have a consciousness of these latent resemblances,
which the individual pieces betray when their present keeper turns the key
upon them, and abandons them to themselves at night; and I have sometimes
fancied such an effect in the late twilight, when I have wandered into
their resting-place, and have beheld them in the unnatural glare of a
kerosene lamp burning before a brightly polished reflector, and casting
every manner of grotesque shadow upon the floor and walls. But this may
have been an illusion; at any rate I am satisfied that the bargain-driving
capacity of the storekeeper is not in the least affected by a weird
quality in his wares; though they have not failed to impart to him
something of their own desultory character. He sometimes leaves a neighbor
in charge when he goes to meals, and then, if I enter, I am watchfully
followed about from corner to corner, and from room to room, lest I pocket
a mattress or slip a book-case under my coat. The storekeeper himself
never watches me; perhaps he knows that it is a purely professional
interest I take in the collection; that I am in the trade and have a
secondhand shop of my own, full of poetical rubbish, and every sort of
literary odds and ends, picked up at random, and all cast higgledy-
piggledy into the same chaotic receptacle. His customers are as little
like ordinary shoppers as he is like common tradesmen. They are in part
the Canadians who work in the brickyards, and it is surprising to find how
much business can be transacted, and how many sharp bargains struck
without the help of a common language. I am in the belief, which may be
erroneous, that nobody is wronged in these trades. The taciturn
storekeeper, who regards his customers with a stare of solemn amusement as
Critturs born by some extraordinary vicissitude of nature to the use of a
language that practically amounts to deafness and dumbness, never suffers
his philosophical interest in them to affect his commercial efficiency; he
drops them now and then a curt English phrase, or expressive Yankee idiom;
he knows very well when they mean to buy and when they do not; and they
equally wary and equally silent, unswayed by the glib allurements of a
salesman, judge of price and quality for themselves, make their solitary
offer, and stand or fall by it.

I am seldom able to conclude a pedestrian tour without a glance at the
wonderful interior of this cheap store, and I know all its contents
familiarly. I recognize wares that have now been on sale there for years;
I miss at first glance such accustomed objects as have been parted with
between my frequent visits, and hail with pleasure the additions to that
extraordinary variety. I can hardly, I suppose, expect the reader to
sympathize with the joy I felt the other night, in discovering among the
latter an adventurous and universally applicable sign-board advertising
This House and Lot for Sale, and, intertwined with the cast-off suspenders
which long garlanded a coffee-mill pendent from the roof, a newly added
second-hand india-rubber ear-trumpet. Here and there, however, I hope a
finer soul will relish, as I do, the poetry of thus buying and offering
for sale the very most recondite, as well as the commonest articles of
commerce, in the faith that one day the predestined purchaser will appear
and carry off the article appointed him from the beginning of time. This
faith is all the more touching, because the collector cannot expect to
live until the whole stock is disposed of, and because, in the order of
nature, much must at last fall to rein unbought, unless the reporter's
Devouring Element appears and gives a sudden tragical turn to the poem.

It is the whistle of a train drawing up at the neighboring station that
calls me away from the second-hand store; for I never find myself able to
resist the hackneyed prodigy of such an arrival. It cannot cease to be
impressive. I stand beside the track while the familiar monster writhes up
to the station and disgorges its passengers,--suburbanly packaged, and
bundled, and bagged, and even when empty-handed somehow proclaiming the
jaded character of men that hurry their work all day to catch the evening
train out, and their dreams all night to catch the morning train in,--and
then I climb the station-stairs, and "hang with grooms and porters on the
bridge," that I may not lose my ever-repeated sensation of having the
train pass under my feet, and of seeing it rush away westward to the
pretty blue hills beyond,--hills not too big for a man born in a plain-
country to love. Twisting and trembling along the track, it dwindles
rapidly in the perspective, and is presently out of sight. It has left the
city and the suburbs behind, and has sought the woods and meadows; but
Nature never in the least accepts it, and rarely makes its path a part of
her landscape's loveliness. The train passes alien through all her moods
and aspects; the wounds made in her face by the road's sharp cuts and
excavations are slowest of all wounds to heal, and the iron rails remain
to the last as shackles upon her. Yet when the rails are removed, as has
happened with a non-paying track in Charlesbridge, the road inspires a
real tenderness in her. Then she bids it take or the grace that belongs to
all ruin; the grass creeps stealthily over the scarified sides of the
embankments; the golden-rod, and the purple-topped iron-weed, and the
lady's-slipper, spring up in the hollows on either side, and--I am still
thinking of that deserted railroad which runs through Charlesbridge--hide
with their leafage the empty tomato-cans and broken bottles and old boots
on the ash-heaps dumped there; Nature sets her velvety willows a waving
near, and lower than their airy tops plans a vista of trees arching above
the track, which is as wild and pretty and illusive a vista as the sunset
ever cared to look through and gild a board fence beyond.

Most of our people come from Boston on the horse-cars, and it is only the
dwellers on the Avenue and the neighboring streets whom hurrying homeward
I follow away from the steam-car station. The Avenue is our handsomest
street; and if it were in the cosmopolitan citizen of Charlesbridge to
feel any local interest, I should be proud of it. As matters are, I
perceive its beauty, and I often reflect, with a pardonable satisfaction,
that it is not only handsome, but probably the very dullest street in the
world. It is magnificently long and broad, and is flanked nearly the whole
way from the station to the colleges by pine palaces rising from spacious
lawns, or from the green of trees or the brightness of gardens. The
splendor is all very new, but newness is not a fault that much affects
architectural beauty, while it is the only one that time is certain to
repair: and I find an honest and unceasing pleasure in the graceful lines
of those palaces, which is not surpassed even by my appreciation of the
vast quiet and monotony of the street itself. Commonly, when I emerge upon
it from the grassy-bordered, succory-blossomed walks of Benicia Street, I
behold, looking northward, a monumental horse-car standing--it appears for
ages, if I wish to take it for Boston--at the head of Pliny Street; and
looking southward I see that other emblem of suburban life, an express-
wagon, fading rapidly in the distance. Haply the top of a buggy nods round
the bend under the elms near the station; and, if fortune is so lavish, a
lady appears from a side street, and, while tarrying for the car, thrusts
the point of her sun-umbrella into the sandy sidewalk. This is the mid-
afternoon effect of the Avenue; but later in the day, and well into the
dusk, it remembers its former gayety as a trotting-course,--with here and
there a spider-wagon, a twinkling-footed mare, and a guttural driver. On
market-days its superb breadth is taken up by flocks of bleating sheep,
and a pastoral tone is thus given to its tranquillity; anon a herd of
beef-cattle appears under the elms; or a drove of pigs, many pausing,
inquisitive of the gutters, and quarrelsome as if they were the heirs of
prosperity instead of doom, is slowly urged on toward the shambles. In the
spring or the autumn, the Avenue is exceptionally enlivened by the
progress of a brace or so of students who, in training for one of the
University Courses of base-ball or boating, trot slowly and earnestly
along the sidewalk, fists up, elbows down, mouths shut, and a sense of
immense responsibility visible in their faces.

The summer is waning with the day as I turn from the Avenue into Benicia
Street. This is the hour when the fly cedes to the mosquito, as the Tuscan
poet says, and, as one may add, the frying grasshopper yields to the
shrilly cricket in noisiness. The embrowning air rings with the sad music
made by these innumerable little violinists, hid in all the gardens round,
and the pedestrian feels a sinking of the spirits not to be accounted for
upon the theory that the street is duller than the Avenue, for it really
is not so.

Quick now, the cheerful lamps of kerosene!--without their light, the cry
of those crickets, dominated for an instant, but not stilled, by the
bellowing of a near-passing locomotive, and the baying of a distant dog,
were too much. If it were the last autumn that ever was to be, it could
not be heralded with notes of dismaller effect. This is in fact the hour
of supreme trial everywhere, and doubtless no one but a newly-accepted
lover can be happy at twilight. In the city, even, it is oppressive; in
the country it is desolate; in the suburbs it is a miracle that it is ever
lived through. The night-winds have not risen yet to stir the languid
foliage of the sidewalk maples; the lamps are not yet lighted, to take
away the gloom from the blank, staring windows of the houses near; it is
too late for letters, too early for a book. In town your fancy would turn
to the theatres; in the country you would occupy yourself with cares of
poultry or of stock: in the suburbs you can but sit upon your threshold,
and fight the predatory mosquito.


At a former period the writer of this had the fortune to serve his country
in an Italian city whose great claim upon the world's sentimental interest
is the fact that--

"The sea is in her broad, her narrow streets
Ebbing and flowing,"

and that she has no ways whatever for hoofs or wheels. In his quality of
United States official, he was naturally called upon for information
concerning the estates of Italians believed to have emigrated early in the
century to Buenos Ayres, and was commissioned to learn why certain persons
in Mexico and Brazil, and the parts of Peru, had not, if they were still
living, written home to their friends. On the other hand, he was intrusted
with business nearly as pertinent and hopeful by some of his own
countrymen, and it was not quite with surprise that he one day received a
neatly lithographed circular with his name and address written in it,
signed by a famous projector of such enterprises, asking him to cooperate
for the introduction of horse-railroads in Venice. The obstacles to the
scheme were of such a nature that it seemed hardly worth while even to
reply to the circular; but the proposal was one of those bold flights of
imagination which forever lift objects out of vulgar association. It has
cast an enduring, poetic charm even about the horse-car in my mind, and I
naturally look for many unprosaic aspects of humanity there. I have an
acquaintance who insists that it is the place above all others suited to
see life in every striking phase. He pretends to have witnessed there the
reunion of friends who had not met in many years, the embrace, figurative
of course, of long lost brothers, the reconciliation of lovers; I do not
know but also some scenes of love-making, and acceptance or rejection. But
my friend is an imaginative man, and may make himself romances. I myself
profess to have beheld for the most part only mysteries; and I think it
not the least of these that, riding on the same cars day after day, one
finds so many strange faces with so little variety. Whether or not that
dull, jarring motion shakes inward and settles about the centres of mental
life the sprightliness that should inform the visage, I do not know; but
it is certain that the emptiness of the average passenger's countenance is
something wonderful, considered with reference to Nature's abhorrence of a
vacuum, and the intellectual repute which Boston enjoys among envious New-
Yorkers. It is seldom that a journey out of our cold metropolis is
enlivened by a mystery so positive in character as the young lady in
black, who alighted at a most ordinary little street in Old Charlesbridge,
and heightened her effect by going into a French-roof house there that had
no more right than a dry goods box to receive a mystery. She was tall,
and her lovely arms showed through the black gauze of her dress with
an exquisite roundness and _morbidezza_. Upon her beautiful wrists
she had heavy bracelets of dead gold, fashioned after some Etruscan
device; and from her dainty ears hung great hoops of the same metal
and design, which had the singular privilege of touching, now and then,
her white columnar neck. A massive chain or necklace, also Etruscan,
and also gold, rose and fell at her throat, and on one little ungloved
hand glittered a multitude of rings. This hand was very expressive,
and took a principal part in the talk which the lady held with her
companion, and was as alert and quick as if trained in the gesticulation
of Southern or Latin life somewhere. Her features, on the contrary,
were rather insipid, being too small and fine; but they were redeemed
by the liquid splendor of her beautiful eyes, and the mortal pallor
of her complexion. She was altogether so startling an apparition, that
all of us jaded, commonplace spectres turned and fastened our weary,
lack-lustre eyes upon her looks, with an utter inability to remove them.
There was one fat, unctuous person seated opposite, to whom his interest
was a torture, for he would have gone to sleep except for her remarkable
presence: as it was, his heavy eyelids fell half-way shut, and drooped
there at an agonizing angle, while his eyes remained immovably fixed upon
that strange, death-white face. How it could have come of that
colorlessness,--whether through long sickness or long residence in a
tropical climate,--was a question that perplexed another of the
passengers, who would have expected to hear the lady speak any language in
the world rather than English; and to whom her companion or attendant was
hardly less than herself a mystery,--being a dragon-like, elderish female,
clearly a Yankee by birth, but apparently of many years' absence from
home. The propriety of extracting these people from the horse-cars and
transferring them bodily to the first chapter of a romance was a thing
about which there could be no manner of doubt, and nothing prevented the
abduction but the unexpected voluntary exit of the pale lady. As she
passed out everybody else awoke as from a dream, or as if freed from a
potent fascination. It is part of the mystery that this lady should never
have reappeared in that theatre of life, the horse-car; but I cannot
regret having never seen her more; she was so inestimably precious to
wonder that it would have been a kind of loss to learn anything about her.

[Illustration: "The young lady in black, who alighted at a most ordinary
little street."]

On the other hand, I should be glad if two young men who once presented
themselves as mysteries upon the same stage could be so distinctly and
sharply identified that all mankind should recognize them at the day of
judgment. They were not so remarkable in the nature as in the degree of
their offense; for the mystery that any man should keep his seat in a
horse-car and let a woman stand is but too sadly common. They say that
this, public unkindness to the sex has come about through the ingratitude
of women, who have failed to return thanks for places offered them, and
that it is a just and noble revenge we take upon them. There might be
something advanced in favor of the idea that we law-making men, who do not
oblige the companies to provide seats for every one, deserve no thanks

Book of the day: