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

Suburban Sketches by W.D. Howells

Part 2 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.

from voteless, helpless women when we offer them places; nay, that we
ought to be glad if they do not reproach us for making that a personal
favor which ought to be a common right. I would prefer, on the whole, to
believe that this selfishness is not a concerted act on our part, but a
flower of advanced civilization; it is a ripe fruit in European countries,
and it is more noticeable in Boston than anywhere else in America. It is,
in fact, one of the points of our high polish which people from the
interior say first strikes them on coming among us; for they declare--no
doubt too modestly--that in their Boeotian wilds our Athenian habit is
almost unknown. Yet it would not be fair to credit our whole population
with it. I have seen a laborer or artisan rise from his place, and offer
it to a lady, while a dozen well-dressed men kept theirs; and I know
several conservative young gentlemen, who are still so old-fashioned as
always to respect the weakness and weariness of women. One of them, I
hear, has settled it in his own mind that if the family cook appears in a
car where he is seated, he must rise and give her his place. This,
perhaps, is a trifle idealistic; but it is magnificent, it is princely.
From his difficult height, we decline--through ranks that sacrifice
themselves for women with bundles or children in arms, for old ladies, or
for very young and pretty ones--to the men who give no odds to the most
helpless creature alive. These are the men who do not act upon the
promptings of human nature like the laborer, and who do not refine upon
their duty like my young gentlemen, and make it their privilege to
befriend the idea of womanhood; they are men who have paid for their seats
and are going to keep them. They have been at work, very probably, all
day, and no doubt they are tired; they look so, and try hard not to look
ashamed of publicly considering themselves before a sex which is born
tired, and from which our climate and customs have drained so much health
that society sometimes seems little better than a hospital for invalid
woman, where every courtesy is likely to be a mercy done to a sufferer.
Yet the two young men of whom I began to speak were not apparently of this
class, and let us hope they were foreigners,--say Englishmen, since we
hate Englishmen the most. They were the only men seated, in a car full of
people; and when four or five ladies came in and occupied the aisle before
them, they might have been puzzled which to offer their places to, if one
of the ladies had not plainly been infirm. They settled the question--if
there was any in their minds--by remaining seated, while the lady in front
of them swung uneasily to and fro with the car, and appeared ready to sink
at their feet. In another moment she had actually done so; and, too weary
to rise, she continued to crouch upon the floor of the car for the course
of a mile, the young men resolutely keeping their places, and not rising
till they were ready to leave the car. It was a horrible scene, and
incredible,--that well-dressed woman sitting on the floor, and those two
well-dressed men keeping their places; it was as much out of keeping with
our smug respectabilities as a hanging, and was a spectacle so paralyzing
that public opinion took no action concerning it. A shabby person,
standing upon the platform outside, swore about it, between
expectorations: even the conductor's heart was touched; and he said he had
seen a good many hard things aboard horse-cars, but that was a little the
hardest; he had never expected to come to that. These were simple people
enough, and could not interest me a great deal, but I should have liked to
have a glimpse of the complex minds of those young men, and I should still
like to know something of the previous life that could have made their
behavior possible to them. They ought to make public the philosophic
methods by which they reached that pass of unshamable selfishness. The
information would be useful to a race which knows the sweetness of self-
indulgence, and would fain know the art of so drugging or besotting the
sensibilities that it shall no feel disgraced by any sort of meanness.
They might really have much to say for themselves; as, that the lady,
being conscious she could no longer keep her feet, had no right to crouch
at theirs, and put them to so severe a test; or that, having suffered her
to sink there, they fell no further in the ignorant public opinion by
suffering her to continue there.

But I doubt if that other young man could say anything for himself, who,
when a pale, trembling woman was about to drop into the vacant place at
his side, stretched his arm across it with, "This seat's engaged," till a
robust young fellow, his friend, appeared, and took it and kept it all the
way out from Boston. The commission of such a tragical wrong, involving a
violation of common usage as well as the infliction of a positive cruelty,
would embitter the life of an ordinary man, if any ordinary man were
capable of it; but let us trust that nature has provided fortitude of
every kind for the offender, and that he is not wrung by keener remorse
than most would feel for a petty larceny. I dare say he would be eager at
the first opportunity to rebuke the ingratitude of women who do not thank
their benefactors for giving them seats. It seems a little odd, by the
way, and perhaps it is through the peculiar blessing of Providence, that,
since men have determined by a savage egotism to teach the offending sex
manners, their own comfort should be in the infliction of the penalty, and
that it should be as much a pleasure as a duty to keep one's place.

Perhaps when the ladies come to vote, they will abate, with other
nuisances, the whole business of overloaded public conveyances. In the
mean time the kindness of women to each other is a notable feature of all
horse-car journeys. It is touching to see the smiling eagerness with which
the poor things gather close their volumed skirts and make room for a
weary sister, the tender looks of compassion which they bend upon the
sufferers obliged to stand, the sweetness with which they rise, if they
are young and strong, to offer their place to any infirm or heavily
burdened person of their sex.

But a journey to Boston is not entirely an experience of bitterness. On
the contrary, there are many things besides the mutual amiability of these
beautiful martyrs which relieve its tedium and horrors. A whole car-full
of people, brought into the closest contact with one another, yet in the
absence of introductions never exchanging a word, each being so sufficient
to himself as to need no social stimulus whatever, is certainly an
impressive and stately spectacle. It is a beautiful day, say; but far be
it from me to intimate as much to my neighbor, who plainly would rather
die than thus commit himself with me, and who, in fact, would well-nigh
strike me speechless with surprise if he did so. If there is any necessity
for communication, as with the conductor, we essay first to express
ourselves by gesture, and then utter our desires with a certain hollow and
remote effect, which is not otherwise to be described. I have sometimes
tried to speak above my breath, when, being about to leave the car, I have
made a virtue of offering my place to the prettiest young woman standing,
but I have found it impossible; the _genius loci_, whatever it was,
suppressed me, and I have gasped out my sham politeness as in a courteous
nightmare. The silencing influence is quite successfully resisted by none
but the tipsy people who occasionally ride out with us, and call up a
smile, sad as a gleam of winter sunshine, to our faces by their artless
prattle. I remember one eventful afternoon that we were all but moved to
laughter by the gayeties of such a one, who, even after he had ceased to
talk, continued to amuse us by falling asleep, and reposing himself
against the shoulder of the lady next him. Perhaps it is in acknowledgment
of the agreeable variety they contribute to horse-car life, that the
conductor treats his inebriate passengers with such unfailing tenderness
and forbearance. I have never seen them molested, though I have noticed
them in the indulgence of many eccentricities, and happened once even to
see one of them sit down in a lady's lap. But that was on the night of
Saint Patrick's day. Generally all avoidable indecorums are rare in the
horse-cars, though during the late forenoon and early afternoon, in the
period of lighter travel, I have found curious figures there:--among
others, two old women, in the old-clothes business, one of whom was
dressed, not very fortunately, in a gown with short sleeves, and
inferentially a low neck; a mender of umbrellas, with many unwholesome
whity-brown wrecks of umbrellas about him; a peddler of soap, who offered
cakes of it to his fellow-passengers at a discount, apparently for
friendship's sake; and a certain gentleman with a pock-marked face, and a
beard dyed an unscrupulous purple, who sang himself a hymn all the way to
Boston, and who gave me no sufficient reason for thinking him a sea-
captain. Not far from the end of the Long Bridge, there is apt to be a
number of colored ladies waiting to get into the car, or to get out of
it,--usually one solemn mother in Ethiopia, and two or three mirthful
daughters, who find it hard to suppress a sense of adventure, and to keep
in the laughter that struggles out through their glittering teeth and
eyes, and who place each other at a disadvantage by divers accidental and
intentional bumps and blows. If they are to get out, the old lady is not
certain of the place where, and, after making the car stop, and parleying
with the conductor, returns to her seat, and is mutely held up to public
scorn by one taciturn wink of the conductor's eye.

Among horse-car types, I am almost ashamed to note one so common and
observable as that middle-aged lady who gets aboard and will not see the
one vacant seat left, but stands tottering at the door, blind and deaf to
all the modest beckonings and benevolent gasps of her fellow-passengers.
An air as of better days clings about her; she seems a person who has
known sickness and sorrow; but so far from pitying her, you view her with
inexpressible rancor, for it is plain that she ought to sit down, and that
she will not. But for a point of honor the conductor would show her the
vacant place; this forbidding, however, how can he? There she stands and
sniffs drearily when you glance at her, as you must from time to time, and
no wild turkey caught in a trap was ever more incapable of looking down
than this middle-aged (shall I say also unmarried?) lady.

Of course every one knows the ladies and gentlemen who sit cater-
cornered, and who will not move up; and equally familiar is that large and
ponderous person, who, feigning to sit down beside you, practically sits
down upon you, and is not incommoded by having your knee under him. He
implies by this brutal conduct that you are taking up more space than
belongs to you, and that you are justly made an example of.

I had the pleasure one day to meet on the horse-car an advocate of one of
the great reforms of the day. He held a green bag upon his knees, and
without any notice passed from a question of crops to a discussion of
suffrage for the negro, and so to womanhood suffrage. "Let the women
vote," said he,--"let 'em vote if they want to. _I_ don't care. Fact
is, I should like to see 'em do it the first time. They're excitable, you
know; they're excitable;" and he enforced his analysis of female character
by thrusting his elbow sharply into my side. "Now, there's my wife; I'd
like to see her vote. Be fun, I tell you. And the girls,--Lord, the girls!
Circus wouldn't be anywhere." Enchanted with the picture which he appeared
to have conjured up for himself, he laughed with the utmost relish, and
then patting the green bag in his lap, which plainly contained a violin,
"You see," he went on, "I go out playing for dancing-parties. Work all day
at my trade,--I'm a carpenter,--and play in the evening. Take my little
old ten dollars a night. And _I_ notice the women a good deal; and
_I_ tell you they're _all_ excitable, and _I sh'd_ like to see 'em vote.
Vote right and vote often,--that's the ticket, eh?" This friend of
womanhood suffrage--whose attitude of curiosity and expectation seemed
to me representative of that of a great many thinkers on the subject--no
doubt was otherwise a reformer, and held that the coming man would
not drink wine--if he could find whiskey. At least I should have said
so, guessing from the odors he breathed along with his liberal sentiments.

Something of the character of a college-town is observable nearly always
in the presence of the students, who confound certain traditional ideas of
students by their quietude of costume and manner, and whom Padua or
Heidelberg would hardly know, but who nevertheless betray that they are
banded to--

"Scorn delights and live laborious days,"

by a uniformity in the cut of their trousers, or a clannishness of cane or
scarf, or a talk of boats and base-ball held among themselves. One cannot
see them without pleasure and kindness; and it is no wonder that their
young-lady acquaintances brighten so to recognize them on the horse-cars.
There is much good fortune in the world, but none better than being an
undergraduate twenty years old, hale, handsome, fashionably dressed, with
the whole promise of life before: it's a state of things to disarm even
envy. With so much youth forever in her heart, it must be hard for our
Charlesbridge to grow old: the generations arise and pass away but in her
veins is still this tide of warm blood, century in and century out, so
much the same from one age to another that it would be hardy to say it was
not still one youthfulness. There is a print of the village as it was a
cycle since, showing the oldest of the college buildings and upon the
street in front a scholar in his scholar's-cap and gown, giving his arm to
a very stylish girl of that period, who is dressed wonderfully like the
girl of ours, so that but for the student's antique formality of costume,
one might believe that he was handing her out to take the horse-car. There
is no horse-car in the picture,--that is the only real difference between
then and now in our Charlesbridge, perennially young and gay. Have there
not ever been here the same grand ambitions, the same high hopes,--and is
not the unbroken succession of youth in these?

As for other life on the horse-car, it shows to little or no effect, as I
have said. You can, of course, detect certain classes; as, in the morning
the business-men going in, to their counters or their desks, and in the
afternoon the shoppers coming out, laden with paper parcels. But I think
no one can truly claim to know the regular from the occasional passengers
by any greater cheerfulness in the faces of the latter. The horse-car will
suffer no such inequality as this, but reduces us all to the same level of
melancholy. It would be but a very unworthy kind of art which should seek
to describe people by such merely external traits as a habit of carrying
baskets or large travelling-bags in the car; and the present muse scorns
it, but is not above speaking of the frequent presence of those lovely
young girls in which Boston and the suburban towns abound, and who,
whether they appear with rolls of music in their hands, or books from the
circulating-libraries, or pretty parcels or hand-bags, would brighten even
the horse-car if fresh young looks and gay and brilliant costumes could do
so much. But they only add perplexity to the anomaly, which was already
sufficiently trying with its contrasts of splendor and shabbiness, and
such intimate association of velvets and patches as you see in the
churches of Catholic countries, but nowhere else in the world except in
our "coaches of the sovereign people."

In winter, the journey to or from Boston cannot appear otherwise than very
dreary to the fondest imagination. Coming out, nothing can look more
arctic and forlorn than the river, double-shrouded in ice and snow, or
sadder than the contrast offered to the same prospect in summer. Then all
is laughing, and it is a joy in every nerve to ride out over the Long
Bridge at high tide, and, looking southward, to see the wide crinkle and
glitter of that beautiful expanse of water, which laps on one hand the
granite quays of the city, and on the other washes among the reeds and
wild grasses of the salt-meadows. A ship coming slowly up the channel, or
a dingy tug violently darting athwart it, gives an additional pleasure to
the eye, and adds something dreamy or vivid to the beauty of the scene. It
is hard to say at what hour of the summer's-day the prospect is loveliest;
and I am certainly not going to speak of the sunset as the least of its
delights. When this exquisite spectacle is presented, the horse-car
passenger, happy to cling with one foot to the rear platform-steps, looks
out over the shoulder next him into fairy-land. Crimson and purple the bay
stretches westward till its waves darken into the grassy levels, where,
here and there, a hay-rick shows perfectly black against the light. Afar
off, southeastward and westward, the uplands wear a tinge of tenderest
blue; and in the nearer distance, on the low shores of the river, hover
the white plumes of arriving and departing trains. The windows of the
stately houses that overlook the water take the sunset from it
evanescently, and begin to chill and darken before the crimson burns out
of the sky. The windows are, in fact, best after nightfall, when they are
brilliantly lighted from within; and when, if it is a dark, warm night,
and the briny fragrance comes up strong from the falling tide, the lights
reflected far down in the still water, bring a dream, as I have heard
travelled Bostonians say, of Venice and her magical effects in the same
kind. But for me the beauty of the scene needs the help of no such
association; I am content with it for what it is. I enjoy also the hints
of spring which one gets in riding over the Long Bridge at low tide in the
first open days. Then there is not only a vernal beating of carpets on the
piers of the drawbridge, but the piles and walls left bare by the receding
water show green patches of sea-weeds and mosses, and flatter the willing
eye with a dim hint of summer. This reeking and saturated herbage--which
always seems to me, in contrast with dry land growths, what the water-
logged life of seafaring folk is to that which we happier men lead on
shore,--taking so kindly the deceitful warmth and brightness of the sun,
has then a charm which it loses when summer really comes; nor does one,
later, have so keen an interest in the men wading about in the shallows
below the bridge, who, as in the distance they stoop over to gather
whatever shell-fish they seek, make a very fair show of being some
ungainlier sort of storks, and are as near as we can hope to come to the
spring-prophesying storks of song and story. A sentiment of the drowsiness
that goes before the awakening of the year, and is so different from the
drowsiness that precedes the great autumnal slumber, is in the air, but is
gone when we leave the river behind, and strike into the straggling
village beyond.

I maintain that Boston, as one approaches it and passingly takes in the
line of Bunker Hill Monument, soaring pre�minent among the emulous
foundry-chimneys of the sister city, is fine enough to need no comparison
with other fine sights. Thanks to the mansard curves and dormer-windows of
the newer houses, there is a singularly picturesque variety among the
roofs that stretch along the bay, and rise one above another on the city's
three hills, grouping themselves about the State House, and surmounted by
its India-rubber dome. But, after all, does human weakness crave some
legendary charm, some grace of uncertain antiquity, in the picturesqueness
it sees? I own that the future, to which we are often referred for the
"stuff that dreams are made of," is more difficult for the fancy than the
past, that the airy amplitude of its possibilities is somewhat chilly, and
that we naturally long for the snug quarters of old, made warm by many
generations of life. Besides, Europe spoils us ingenuous Americans, and
flatters our sentimentality into ruinous extravagances. Looking at her
many-storied former times, we forget our own past, neat, compact, and
convenient for the poorest memory to dwell in. Yet an American not
infected with the discontent of travel could hardly approach this superb
city without feeling something of the coveted pleasure in her, without a
reverie of her Puritan and Revolutionary times, and the great names and
deeds of her heroic annals. I think, however, we were well to be rid of
this yearning for a native American antiquity; for in its indulgence one
cannot but regard himself and his contemporaries as cumberers of the
ground, delaying the consummation of that hoary past which will be so
fascinating to a semi-Chinese posterity, and will be, ages hence, the
inspiration of Pigeon-English poetry and romance. Let us make much of our
two hundred and fifty years, and cherish the present as our golden age. We
healthy-minded people in the horse-cars are loath to lose a moment of it,
and are aggrieved that the draw of the bridge should be up, naturally
looking on what is constantly liable to happen as an especial malice of
the fates. All the drivers of the vehicles that clog the draw on either
side have a like sense of personal injury; and apparently it would go hard
with the captain of that leisurely vessel below if he were delivered into
our hands. But this impatience and anger are entirely illusive.

We are really the most patient people in the world, especially as regards
any incorporated, non-political oppressions. A lively Gaul, who travelled
among us some thirty years ago, found that, in the absence of political
control, we gratified the human instinct of obedience by submitting to
small tyrannies unknown abroad, and were subject to the steamboat-captain,
the hotel-clerk, the stage-driver, and the waiter, who all bullied us
fearlessly; but though some vestiges of this bondage remain, it is
probably passing away. The abusive Frenchman's assertion would not at
least hold good concerning the horse-car conductors, who, in spite of a
lingering preference for touching or punching passengers for their fare
instead of asking for it, are commonly mild-mannered and good-tempered,
and disposed to molest us as little as possible. I have even received from
one of them a mark of such kindly familiarity as the offer of a check
which he held between his lips, and thrust out his face to give me, both
his hands being otherwise occupied; and their lives are in nowise such
luxurious careers as we should expect in public despots. The oppression of
the horse-car passenger is not from them, and the passenger himself is
finally to blame for it. When the draw closes at last, and we rumble
forward into the city street, a certain stir of expectation is felt among
us. The long and eventful journey is nearly ended, and now we who are to
get out of the cars can philosophically amuse ourselves with the passions
and sufferings of those who are to return in our places. You must choose
the time between five and six o'clock in the afternoon, if you would make
this grand study of the national character in its perfection. Then the
spectacle offered in any arriving horse-car will serve your purpose. At
nearly every corner of the street up which it climbs stands an experienced
suburban, who darts out upon the car, and seizes a vacant place in it.
Presently all the places are taken, and before we reach Temple Street,
where helpless groups of women are gathered to avail themselves of the
first seats vacated, an alert citizen is stationed before each passenger
who is to retire at the summons, "Please pass out forrad." When this is
heard in Bowdoin Square, we rise and push forward, knuckling one another's
backs in our eagerness, and perhaps glancing behind us at the tumult
within. Not only are all our places occupied, but the aisle is left full
of passengers precariously supporting themselves by the straps in the
roof. The rear platform is stormed and carried by a party with bundles;
the driver is instantly surrounded by another detachment; and as the car
moves away from the office, the platform steps are filled.

"Is it possible," I asked myself, when I had written as far as this in the
present noble history, "that I am not exaggerating? It can't be that this
and the other enormities I have been describing are of daily occurrence in
Boston. Let me go verify, at least, my picture of the evening horse-car."
So I take my way to Bowdoin Square, and in the conscientious spirit of
modern inquiry, I get aboard the first car that comes up. Like every other
car, it is meant to seat twenty passengers. It does this, and besides it
carries in the aisle and on the platform forty passengers standing. The
air is what you may imagine, if you know that not only is the place so
indecently crowded, but that in the centre of the car are two adopted
citizens, far gone in drink, who have the aspect and the smell of having
passed the day in an ash-heap. These citizens being quite helpless
themselves, are supported by the public, and repose in singular comfort
upon all the passengers near them; I, myself, contribute an aching back to
the common charity, and a genteelly dressed young lady takes one of them
from time to time on her knee. But they are comparatively an ornament to
society till the conductor objects to the amount they offer him for fare;
for after that they wish to fight him during the journey, and invite him
at short intervals to step out and be shown what manner of men they are.
The conductor passes it off for a joke, and so it is, and a very good one.

In that unhappy mass it would be an audacious spirit who should say of any
particular arm or leg, "It is mine," and all the breath is in common.
Nothing, it would seem, could add to our misery; but we discover our error
when the conductor squeezes a tortuous path through us, and collects the
money for our transportation. I never can tell, during the performance of
this feat, whether he or the passengers are more to be pitied.

The people who are thus indecorously huddled and jammed together, without
regard to age or sex, otherwise lead lives of at least comfort, and a good
half of them cherish themselves in every physical way with unparalleled
zeal. They are handsomely clothed; they are delicately neat in linen; they
eat well, or, if not well, as well as their cooks will let them, and at
all events expensively; they house in dwellings appointed in a manner
undreamt of elsewhere in the world,--dwellings wherein furnaces make a
summer-heat, where fountains of hot and cold water flow at a touch, where
light is created or quenched by the turning of a key, where all is
luxurious upholstery, and magical ministry to real or fancied needs. They
carry the same tastes with them to their places of business; and when they
"attend divine service," it is with the understanding that God is to
receive them in a richly carpeted house, deliciously warmed and perfectly
ventilated, where they may adore Him at their ease upon cushioned seats,--
secured seats. Yet these spoiled children of comfort, when they ride to or
from business or church, fail to assert rights that the benighted Cockney,
who never heard of our plumbing and registers, or even the oppressed
Parisian, who is believed not to change his linen from one revolution to
another, having paid for, enjoys. When they enter the "full" horse-car,
they find themselves in a place inexorable as the grave to their
greenbacks, where not only is their adventitious consequence stripped from
them, but the courtesies of life are impossible, the inherent dignity of
the person is denied, and they are reduced below the level of the most
uncomfortable nations of the Old World. The philosopher accustomed to draw
consolation from the sufferings of his richer fellow-men, and to infer an
overruling Providence from their disgraces, might well bless Heaven for
the spectacle of such degradation, if his thanksgiving were not prevented
by his knowledge that this is quite voluntary. And now consider that on
every car leaving the city at this time the scene is much the same;
reflect that the horror is enacting, not only in Boston, but in New York,
Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, Chicago, Cincinnati,--wherever the
horse-car, that tinkles well-nigh round the Continent, is known; remember
that the same victims are thus daily sacrificed, without an effort to
right themselves: and then you will begin to realize--dimly and
imperfectly, of course--the unfathomable meekness of the American
character. The "full" horse-car is a prodigy whose likeness is absolutely
unknown elsewhere, since the Neapolitan gig went out; and I suppose it
will be incredible to the future in our own country. When I see such a
horse-car as I have sketched move away from its station, I feel that it is
something not only emblematic and interpretative, but monumental; and I
know that when art becomes truly national, the overloaded horse-car will
be celebrated in painting and sculpture. And in after ages, when the
oblique-eyed, swarthy American of that time, pausing before some
commemorative bronze or historical picture of our epoch, contemplates this
stupendous spectacle of human endurance, I hope he will be able to
philosophize more satisfactorily than we can now, concerning the mystery
of our strength as a nation and our weakness as a public.



They were not a large family, and their pursuits and habits were very
simple; yet the summer was lapsing toward the first pathos of autumn
before they found themselves all in such case as to be able to take the
day's pleasure they had planned so long. They had agreed often and often
that nothing could be more charming than an excursion down the Harbor,
either to Gloucester, or to Nahant, or to Nantasket Beach, or to Hull and
Hingham, or to any point within the fatal bound beyond which is
seasickness. They had studied the steamboat advertisements, day after day,
for a long time, without making up their minds which of these charming
excursions would be the most delightful; and when they had at last fixed
upon one and chosen some day for it, that day was sure to be heralded by a
long train of obstacles, or it dawned upon weather that was simply
impossible. Besides, in the suburbs, you are apt to sleep late, unless the
solitary ice-wagon of the neighborhood makes a very uncommon rumbling in
going by; and I believe that the excursion was several times postponed by
the tardy return of the pleasurers from dreamland, which, after all, is
not the worst resort, or the least interesting--or profitable, for the
matter of that. But at last the great day came,--a blameless Thursday
alike removed from the cares of washing and ironing days, and from the
fatigues with which every week closes. One of the family chose
deliberately to stay at home; but the severest scrutiny could not detect a
hindrance in the health or circumstances of any of the rest, and the
weather was delicious. Everything, in fact, was so fair and so full of
promise, that they could almost fancy a calamity of some sort hanging over
its perfection, and possibly bred of it; for I suppose that we never have
anything made perfectly easy for us without a certain reluctance and
foreboding. That morning they all got up so early that they had time to
waste over breakfast before taking the 7.30 train for Boston; and they
naturally wasted so much of it that they reached the station only in
season for the 8.00. But there is a difference between reaching the
station and quietly taking the cars, especially if one of your company has
been left at home, hoping to cut across and take the cars at a station
which they reach some minutes later, and you, the head of the party, are
obliged, at a loss of breath and personal comfort and dignity, to run down
to that station and see that the belated member has arrived there, and
then hurry back to your own, and embody the rest, with their accompanying
hand-bags and wraps and sun-umbrellas, into some compact shape for removal
into the cars, during the very scant minute that the train stops at
Charlesbridge. Then when you are all aboard, and the tardy member has been
duly taken up at the next station, and you would be glad to spend the time
in looking about on the familiar variety of life which every car presents
in every train on every road in this vast American world, you are
oppressed and distracted by the cares which must attend the pleasure-
seeker, and which the more thickly beset him the more deeply he plunges
into enjoyment.

I can learn very little from the note-book of the friend whose adventures
I am relating in regard to the scenery of Somerville, and the region
generally through which the railroad passes between Charlesbridge and
Boston; but so much knowledge of it may be safely assumed on the part of
the reader as to relieve me of the grave responsibility of describing it.
Still, I may say that it is not unpicturesque, and that I have a pleasure,
which I hope the reader shares, in anything like salt meadows and all
spaces subject to the tide, whether flooded by it or left bare with their
saturated grasses by its going down. I think, also, there is something
fine in the many-roofed, many-chimneyed highlands of Chelsea (if it is
Chelsea), as you draw near the railroad bridge, and there is a pretty
stone church on a hill-side there which has the good fortune, so rare with
modern architecture and so common with the old, of seeming a natural
outgrowth of the spot where it stands, and which is as purely an object of
aesthetic interest to me, who know nothing of its sect or doctrine, as any
church in a picture could be; and there is, also, the Marine Hospital on
the heights (if it is the Marine Hospital), from which I hope the inmates
can behold the ocean, and exult in whatever misery keeps them ashore.

But let me not so hasten over this part of my friend's journey as to omit
all mention of the amphibious Irish houses which stand about on the low
lands along the railroad-sides, and which you half expect to see plunge
into the tidal mud of the neighborhood, with a series of hoarse croaks, as
the train approaches. Perhaps twenty-four trains pass those houses every
twenty-four hours, and it is a wonder that the inhabitants keep their
interest in them, or have leisure to bestow upon any of them. Yet, as you
dash along so bravely, you can see that you arrest the occupations of all
these villagers as by a kind of enchantment; the children pause and turn
their heads toward you from their mud-pies (to the production of which
there is literally no limit in that region); the matron rests one
parboiled hand on her hip, letting the other still linger listlessly upon
the wash-board, while she lifts her eyes from the suds to look at you; the
boys, who all summer long are forever just going into the water or just
coming out of it, cease their buttoning or unbuttoning; the baby, which
has been run after and caught and suitably posed, turns its anguished eyes
upon you, where also falls the mother's gaze, while her descending palm is
arrested in mid air. I forbear to comment upon the surprising populousness
of these villages, where, in obedience to all the laws of health, the
inhabitants ought to be wasting miserably away, but where they flourish
in spite of them. Even Accident here seems to be robbed of half her
malevolence; and that baby (who will presently be chastised with terrific
uproar) passes an infancy of intrepid enjoyment amidst the local perils,
and is no more affected by the engines and the cars than by so many
fretful hens with their attendant broods of chickens.

[Illustration: "That sweet young blonde, who arrives by most trains."]

When sometimes I long for the excitement and variety of travel, which, for
no merit of mine, I knew in other days, I reproach myself, and silence all
my repinings with some such question as, Where could you find more variety
or greater excitement than abounds in and near the Fitchburg Depot when a
train arrives? And to tell the truth, there is something very inspiring in
the fine eagerness with which all the passengers rise as soon as the
locomotive begins to slow, and huddle forward to the door, in their
impatience to get out; while the suppressed vehemence of the hackmen is
also thrilling in its way, not to mention the instant clamor of the
baggage-men as they read and repeat the numbers of the checks in strident
tones. It would be ever so interesting to depict all these people, but it
would require volumes for the work, and I reluctantly let them all pass
out without a word,--all but that sweet young blonde who arrives by most
trains, and who, putting up her eye-glass with a ravishing air,
bewitchingly peers round among the bearded faces, with little tender looks
of hope and trepidation, for the face which she wants, and which presently
bursts through the circle of strange visages. The owner of the face then
hurries forward to meet that sweet blonde, who gives him a little drooping
hand as if it were a delicate flower she laid in his; there is a brief
mutual hesitation long enough merely for an electrical thrill to run from
heart to heart through the clasping hands, and then he stoops toward her,
and distractingly kisses her. And I say that there is no law of conscience
or propriety worthy the name of law--barbarity, absurdity, call it rather--
to prevent any one from availing himself of that providential near-
sightedness, and beatifying himself upon those lips,--nothing to prevent
it but that young fellow, whom one might not, of course, care to provoke.

Among the people who now rush forward and heap themselves into the two
horse-cars and one omnibus, placed before the depot by a wise forethought
for the public comfort to accommodate the train-load of two hundred
passengers, I always note a type that is both pleasing and interesting to
me. It is a lady just passing middle life; from her kindly eyes the
envious crow, whose footprints are just traceable at their corners, has
not yet drunk the brightness, but she looks just a thought sadly, if very
serenely, from them. I know nothing in the world of her; I may have seen
her twice or a hundred times, but I must always be making bits of romances
about her. That is she in faultless gray, with the neat leather bag in her
lap, and a bouquet of the first autumnal blooms perched in her shapely
hands which are prettily yet substantially gloved in some sort of
gauntlets. She can be easy and dignified, my dear middle-aged heroine,
even in one of our horse-cars, where people are for the most part packed
like cattle in a pen. She shows no trace of dust or fatigue from the
thirty or forty miles which I choose to fancy she has ridden from the
handsome elm-shaded New England town of five or ten thousand people, where
I choose to think she lives. From a vague horticultural association with
those gauntlets, as well as from the autumnal blooms, I take it she loves
flowers, and gardens a good deal with her own hands, and keeps house-
plants in the winter, and of course a canary. Her dress, neither rich nor
vulgar, makes me believe her fortunes modest and not recent; her gentle
face has just so much intellectual character as it is good to see in a
woman's face; I suspect that she reads pretty regularly the new poems and
histories, and I know that she is the life and soul of the local book-
club. Is she married, or widowed, or one of the superfluous forty
thousand? That is what I never can tell. But I think that most probably
she is married, and that her husband is very much in business, and does
not share so much as he respects her tastes. I have no particular reason
for thinking that she has no children now, and that the sorrow for the one
she lost so long ago has become only a pensive silence, which, however, a
long summer twilight can yet deepen to tears.... Upon my word! Am I then
one to give way to this sort of thing? Madam, I ask pardon. I have no
right to be sentimentalizing you. Yet your face is one to make people
dream kind things of you, and I cannot keep my reveries away from it.

But in the mean time I neglect the momentous history which I have proposed
to write, and leave my day's pleasurers to fade into the background of a
fantastic portrait. The truth is, I cannot look without pain upon the
discomforts which they suffer at this stage of their joyous enterprise. At
the best, the portables of such a party are apt to be grievous
embarrassments: a package of shawls and parasols and umbrellas and India-
rubbers, however neatly made up at first, quickly degenerates into a
shapeless mass, which has finally to be carried with as great tenderness
as an ailing child; and the lunch is pretty sure to overflow the hand-bags
and to eddy about you in paper parcels; while the bottle of claret, that
bulges the side of one of the bags, and

"That will show itself without,"

defying your attempts to look as it were cold tea, gives a crushing touch
of disreputability to the whole affair. Add to this the fact that but half
the party have seats, and that the others have to sway and totter about
the car in that sudden contact with all varieties of fellow-men, to which
we are accustomed in the cars, and you must allow that these poor
merrymakers have reasons enough to rejoice when this part of their day's
pleasure is over. They are so plainly bent upon a sail down the Harbor,
that before they leave the car they become objects of public interest, and
are at last made to give some account of themselves.

"Going for a sail, I presume?" says a person hitherto in conversation with
the conductor. "Well, I wouldn't mind a sail myself to-day."

"Yes," answers the head of the party, "going to Gloucester."

"Guess not," says, very coldly and decidedly, one of the passengers, who
is reading that morning's "Advertiser;" and when the subject of this
surmise looks at him for explanations, he adds, "The City Council has
chartered the boat for to-day."

Upon this the excursionists fall into great dismay and bitterness, and
upbraid the City Council, and wonder why last night's "Transcript" said
nothing about its oppressive action, and generally bewail their fate. But
at last they resolve to go somewhere, and, being set down, they make up
their warring minds upon Nahant, for the Nahant boat leaves the wharf
nearest them; and so they hurry away to India Wharf, amidst barrels and
bales and boxes and hacks and trucks, with interminable string-teams
passing before them at every crossing.

"At any rate," says the leader of the expedition, "we shall see the
Gardens of Maolis,--those enchanted gardens which have fairly been
advertised into my dreams, and where I've been told," he continues, with
an effort to make the prospect an attractive one, yet not without a sense
of the meagreness of the materials, "they have a grotto and a wooden

Of course, there is no reason in nature why a wooden bull should be more
pleasing than a flesh-and-blood bull, but it seems to encourage the
company, and they set off again with renewed speed, and at last reach
India Wharf in time to see the Nahant steamer packed full of
excursionists, with a crowd of people still waiting to go aboard. It does
not look inviting, and they hesitate. In a minute or two their spirits
sink so low, that if they should see the wooden bull step out of a grotto
on the deck of the steamer the spectacle could not revive them. At that
instant they think, with a surprising singleness, of Nantasket Beach, and
the bright colors in which the Gardens of Maolis but now appeared fade
away, and they seem to see themselves sauntering along the beautiful
shore, while the white-crested breakers crash upon the sand, and run up

"In tender-curving lines of creamy spray,"

quite to the feet of that lotus-eating party.

"Nahant is all rocks," says the leader to Aunt Melissa, who hears him with
a sweet and tranquil patience, and who would enjoy or suffer anything with
the same expression; "and as you've never yet seen the open sea, it's
fortunate that we go to Nantasket, for, of course, a beach is more
characteristic. But now the object is to get there. The boat will be
starting in a few moments, and I doubt whether we can walk it. How far is
it," he asks, turning toward a respectable-looking man, "to Liverpool

"Well, it's consid'able ways," says the man, smiling.

"Then we must take a hack," says the pleasurer to his party. "Come on."

"I've got a hack," observes the man, in a casual way, as if the fact might
possibly interest.

"O, you have, have you? Well, then, put us into it, and drive to Liverpool
Wharf; and hurry."

Either the distance was less than the hackman fancied, or else he drove
thither with unheard-of speed, for two minutes later he set them down on
Liverpool Wharf. But swiftly as they had come the steamer had been even
more prompt, and she now turned toward them a beautiful wake, as she
pushed farther and farther out into the harbor.

The hackman took his two dollars for his four passengers, and was rapidly
mounting his box,--probably to avoid idle reproaches. "Wait!" said the
chief pleasurer. Then, "When does the next boat leave?" he asked of the
agent, who had emerged with a compassionate face from the waiting-rooms on
the wharf.

"At half past two."

"And it's now five minutes past nine," moaned the merrymakers.

"Why, I'll tell you what you can do," said the agent; "you can go to
Hingham by the Old Colony cars, and so come back by the Hull and Hingham

"That's it!" chorused his listeners, "we'll go;" and "Now," said their
spokesman to the driver, "I dare say you didn't know that Liverpool Wharf
was so near; but I don't think you've earned your money, and you ought to
take us on to the Old Colony Depot for half-fares at the most."

The driver looked pained, as if some small tatters and shreds of
conscience were flapping uncomfortably about his otherwise dismantled
spirit. Then he seemed to think of his wife and family, for he put on the
air of a man who had already made great sacrifices, and "I couldn't,
really, I couldn't afford it," said he; and as the victims turned from him
in disgust, he chirruped to his horses and drove off.

"Well," said the pleasurers, "we won't give it up. We will have our day's
pleasure after all. But what _can_ we do to kill five hours and a
half? It's miles away from everything, and, besides, there's nothing even
if we were there." At this image of their remoteness and the inherent
desolation of Boston they could not suppress some sighs, and in the mean
time Aunt Melissa stepped into the waiting-room, which opened on the
farther side upon the water, and sat contentedly down on one of the
benches; the rest, from sheer vacuity and irresolution, followed, and
thus, without debate, it was settled that they should wait there till the
boat left. The agent, who was a kind man, did what he could to alleviate
the situation: he gave them each the advertisement of his line of boats,
neatly printed upon a card, and then he went away.

All this prospect of waiting would do well enough for the ladies of the
party, but there is an impatience in the masculine fibre which does not
brook the notion of such prolonged repose; and the leader of the excursion
presently pretended an important errand up town,--nothing less, in fact,
than to buy a tumbler out of which to drink their claret on the beach. A
holiday is never like any other day to the man who takes it, and a festive
halo seemed to enwrap the excursionist as he pushed on through the busy
streets in the cool shadow of the vast granite palaces wherein the genius
of business loves to house itself in this money-making land, and inhaled
the odors of great heaps of leather and spices and dry goods as he passed
the open doorways,--odors that mixed pleasantly with the smell of the
freshly watered streets. When he stepped into a crockery store to make his
purchase a sense of pleasure-taking did not fail him, and he fell
naturally into talk with the clerk about the weather and such pastoral
topics. Even when he reached the establishment where his own business days
were passed some glamour seemed to be cast upon familiar objects. To the
disenchanted eye all things were as they were on all other dullish days of
summer, even to the accustomed bore leaning up against his favorite desk
and transfixing his habitual victim with his usual theme. Yet to the gaze
of this pleasure-taker all was subtly changed, and he shook hands right
and left as he entered, to the marked surprise of the objects of his
effusion. He had merely come to get some newspapers to help pass away the
long moments on the wharf, and when he had found these, he hurried back
thither to hear what had happened during his absence.

It seemed that there had hardly ever been such an eventful period in the
lives of the family before, and he listened to a minute account of it from
Cousin Lucy. "You know, Frank," says she, "that Sallie's one idea in life
is to keep the baby from getting the whooping-cough, and I declare that
these premises have done nothing but re�cho with the most dolorous whoops
ever since you've been gone, so that at times, in my fear that Sallie
would think I'd been careless about the boy, I've been ready to throw
myself into the water, and nothing's prevented me but the doubt whether it
wouldn't be better to throw in the whoopers instead."

At this moment a pale little girl, with a face wan and sad through all its
dirt, came and stood in the doorway nearest the baby, and in another
instant she had burst into a whoop so terrific that, if she had meant to
have his scalp next it could not have been more dreadful. Then she
subsided into a deep and pathetic quiet, with that air peculiar to the
victims of her disorder of having done nothing noticeable. But her
outburst had set at work the mysterious machinery of half a dozen other
whooping-coughers lurking about the building, and all unseen they wound
themselves up with appalling rapidity, and in the utter silence which
followed left one to think they had died at the climax.

"Why, it's a perfect whooping-cough factory, this place," cries Cousin
Lucy in a desperation. "Go away, do, please, from the baby, you poor
little dreadful object you," she continues, turning upon the only visible
operative in the establishment. "Here, take this," and she bribes her with
a bit of sponge-cake, on which the child runs lightly off along the edge
of the wharf. "That's been another of their projects for driving me wild,"
says Cousin Lucy,--"trying to take their own lives in a hundred ways
before my face and eyes. Why _will_ their mothers let them come here
to play?"

Really, they were very melancholy little figures, and might have gone near
to make one sad, even if they had not been constantly imperilling their
lives. Thanks to its being summer-time, it did not much matter about the
scantiness of their clothing, but their squalor was depressing, it seemed,
even to themselves, for they were a mournful-looking set of children, and
in their dangerous sports trifled silently and almost gloomily with death.
There were none of them above eight or nine years of age, and most of them
had the care of smaller brothers, or even babes in arms, whom they were
thus early inuring to the perils of the situation. The boys were dressed
in pantaloons and shirts which no excess of rolling up in the legs and
arms could make small enough, and the incorrigible too-bigness of which
rendered the favorite amusements still more hazardous from their liability
to trip and entangle the wearers. The little girls had on each a solitary
garment, which hung about her gaunt person with antique severity of
outline; while the babies were multitudinously swathed in whatever
fragments of dress could be tied or pinned or plastered on. Their faces
were strikingly and almost ingeniously dirty, and their distractions among
the coal-heaps and cord-wood constantly added to the variety and advantage
of these effects.

"Why do their mothers let them come here?" muses Frank aloud. "Why,
because it's so safe, Cousin Lucy. At home, you know, they'd have to be
playing upon the sills of fourth-floor windows, and here they're out of
the way and can't hurt themselves. Why, Cousin Lucy, this is their park,--
their Public Garden, their Bois de Boulogne, their Cascine. And look at
their gloomy little faces! Aren't they taking their pleasure in the spirit
of the very highest fashion? I was at Newport last summer, and saw the
famous driving on the Avenue in those pony phaetons, dog-carts, and tubs,
and three-story carriages with a pair of footmen perching like storks upon
each gable, and I assure you that all those ornate and costly phantasms
(it seems to me now like a sad, sweet vision) had just the expression of
these poor children. We're taking a day's pleasure ourselves, cousin, but
nobody would know it from our looks. And has nothing but whooping-cough
happened since I've been gone?"

"Yes, we seem to be so cut off from every-day associations that I've
imagined myself a sort of tourist, and I've been to that Catholic church
over yonder, in hopes of seeing the Murillos and Raphaels--but I found it
locked up, and so I trudged back without a sight of the masterpieces. But
what's the reason that all the shops hereabouts have nothing but luxuries
for sale? The windows are perfect tropics of oranges, and lemons, and
belated bananas, and tobacco, and peanuts."

"Well, the poor really seem to use more of those luxuries than anybody
else. I don't blame them. I shouldn't care for the necessaries of life
myself, if I found them so hard to get."

"When I came back here," says Cousin Lucy, without heeding these flippant
and heartless words, "I found an old gentleman who has something to do
with the boats, and he sat down, as if it were a part of his business, and
told me nearly the whole history of his life. Isn't it nice of them,
keeping an Autobiographer? It makes the time pass so swiftly when you're
waiting. This old gentleman was born--who'd ever think it?--up there in
Pearl Street, where those pitiless big granite stores are now; and, I
don't know why, but the idea of any human baby being born in Pearl Street
seemed to me one of the saddest things I'd ever heard of."

Here Cousin Lucy went to the rescue of the nurse and the baby, who had got
into one of their periodical difficulties, and her interlocutor turned to
Aunt Melissa.

"I think, Franklin," says Aunt Melissa, "that it was wrong to let that
nurse come and bring the baby."

"Yes, I know, Aunty, you have those old-established ideas, and they're
very right," answers her nephew; "but just consider how much she enjoys
it, and how vastly the baby adds to the pleasure of this charming

Aunt Melissa made no reply, but sat thoughtfully out upon the bay. "I
presume you think the excursion is a failure," she said, after a while;
"but I've been enjoying every minute of the time here. Of course, I've
never seen the open sea, and I don't know about it, but I feel here just
as if I were spending a day at the seaside."

"Well," said her nephew, "I shouldn't call this exactly a watering-place.
It lacks the splendor and gayety of Newport, in a certain degree, and it
hasn't the illustrious seclusion of Nahant. The surf isn't very fine, nor
the beach particularly adapted to bathing; and yet, I must confess, the
outlook from here is as lovely as anything one need have."

And to tell the truth, it was very pretty and interesting. The landward
environment was as commonplace and mean as it could be: a yardful of
dismal sheds for coal and lumber, and shanties for offices, with each
office its safe and its desk, its whittled arm-chair and its spittoon, its
fly that shooed not, but buzzed desperately against the grimy pane, which,
if it had really had that boasted microscopic eye, it never would have
mistaken for the unblemished daylight. Outside of this yard was the usual
wharfish neighborhood, with its turmoil of trucks and carts and fleet
express-wagons, its building up and pulling down, its discomfort and
clamor of every sort, and its shops for the sale, not only of those
luxuries which Lucy had mentioned, but of such domestic refreshments as
lemon-pie and hulled-corn.

When, however, you turned your thoughts and eyes away from this aspect of
it, and looked out upon the water, the neighborhood gloriously retrieved
itself. There its poverty and vulgarity ceased; there its beauty and grace
abounded. A light breeze ruffled the face of the bay, and the innumerable
little sail-boats that dotted it took the sun and wind upon their wings,
which they dipped almost into the sparkle of the water, and flew lightly
hither and thither like gulls that loved the brine too well to rise wholly
from it; larger ships, farther or nearer, puffed or shrank their sails as
they came and went on the errands of commerce, but always moved as if bent
upon some dreamy affair of pleasure; the steamboats that shot vehemently
across their tranquil courses seemed only gayer and vivider visions, but
not more substantial; yonder, a black sea-going steamer passed out between
the far-off islands, and at last left in the sky above those reveries of
fortification, a whiff of sombre smoke, dark and unreal as a memory of
battle; to the right, on some line of railroad, long-plumed trains arrived
and departed like pictures passed through the slide of a magic-lantern;
even a pile-driver, at work in the same direction, seemed to have no
malice in the blows which, after a loud clucking, it dealt the pile, and
one understood that it was mere conventional violence like that of a Punch
to his baby.

"Why, what a lotus-eating life this is!" said Frank, at last. "Aunt
Melissa, I don't wonder you think it's like the seaside. It's a great deal
better than the seaside. And now, just as we've entered into the spirit of
it, the time's up for the 'Rose Standish' to come and bear us from its
delights. When will the boat be in?" he asked of the Autobiographer, whom
Lucy had pointed out to him.

"Well, she's _ben_ in half an hour, now. There she lays, just outside
the 'John Romer.'"

There, to be sure, she lay, and those pleasure-takers had been so lost in
the rapture of waiting and the beauty of the scene as never to have
noticed her arrival.


It is noticeable how many people there are in the world that seem bent
always upon the same purpose of amusement or business as one's self. If
you keep quietly about your accustomed affairs, there are all your
neighbors and acquaintance hard at it too; if you go on a journey, choose
what train you will, the cars are filled with travellers in your
direction. You take a day's pleasure, and everybody abandons his usual
occupation to crowd upon your boat, whether it is to Gloucester, or
Nahant, or to Nantasket Beach you go. It is very hard to believe that,
from whatever channel of life you abstract yourself, still the great sum
of it presses forward as before: that business is carried on though you
are idle, that men amuse themselves though you toil, that every train is
as crowded as that you travel on, that the theatre or the church fills its
boxes or pews without you perfectly well. I suppose it would not be quite
agreeable to believe all this; the opposite illusion is far more
flattering; for if each one of us did not take the world with him now at
every turn, should he not have to leave it behind him when he died? And
that, it must be owned, would not be agreeable, nor is the fact quite
conceivable, though ever so many myriads in so many million years have
proved it.

When our friends first went aboard the "Rose Standish" that day they were
almost the sole passengers, and they had a feeling of ownership and
privacy which was pleasant enough in its way, but which they lost
afterwards; though to lose it was also pleasant, for enjoyment no more
likes to be solitary than sin does, which is notoriously gregarious, and I
dare say would hardly exist if it could not be committed in company. The
preacher, indeed, little knows the comfortable sensation we have in being
called fellow-sinners, and what an effective shield for his guilt each
makes of his neighbor's hard-heartedness.

Cousin Frank never felt how strange was a lonely transgression till that
day, when in the silence of the little cabin he took the bottle of claret
from the handbag, and prepared to moisten the family lunch with it. "I
think, Aunt Melissa," he said, "we had better lunch now, for it's a
quarter past two, and we shall not get to the beach before four. Let's
improvise a beach of these chairs, and that water-urn yonder can stand for
the breakers. Now, this is truly like Newport and Nahant," he added, after
the little arrangement was complete; and he was about to strip away the
bottle's jacket of brown paper, when a lady much wrapped up came in, and,
reclining upon one of the opposite seats, began to take them all in with a
severe serenity of gaze that made them feel for a moment like a party of
low foreigners,--like a set of German atheists, say. Frank kept on the
bottle's paper jacket, and as the single tumbler of the party circled from
mouth to mouth, each of them tried to give the honest drink the false air
of a medicinal potion of some sort; and to see Aunt Melissa sipping it, no
one could have put his hand on his heart and sworn it was not elderberry
wine, at the worst. In spite of these efforts, they all knew that they had
suffered a hopeless loss of repute; yet after the loss was confessed, I am
not sure that they were not the gayer and happier through this "freedom of
a broken law." At any rate, the lunch passed off very merrily, and when
they had put back the fragments of the feast into the bags, they went
forward to the bow of the boat, to get good places for seeing the various
people as they came aboard, and for an outlook upon the bay when the boat
should start.

I suppose that these were not very remarkable people, and that nothing but
the indomitable interest our friends took in the human race could have
enabled them to feel any concern in their companions. It was, no doubt,
just such a company as goes down to Nantasket Beach every pleasant day in
summer. Certain ones among them were distinguishable as sojourners at the
beach, by an air of familiarity with the business of getting there, an
indifference to the prospect, and an indefinable touch of superiority.
These read their newspapers in quiet corners, or, if they were not of the
newspaper sex, made themselves comfortable in the cabins, and looked about
them at the other passengers with looks of lazy surprise, and just a hint
of scorn for their interest in the boat's departure. Our day's pleasurers
took it that the lady whose steady gaze had reduced them, when at lunch,
to such a low ebb of shabbiness, was a regular boarder, at the least, in
one of the beach hotels. A few other passengers were, like themselves,
mere idlers for a day, and were eager to see all that the boat or the
voyage offered of novelty. There were clerks and men who had book-keeping
written in a neat mercantile hand upon their faces, and who had evidently
been given that afternoon for a breathing-time; and there were strangers
who were going down to the beach for the sake of the charming view of the
harbor which the trip afforded. Here and there were people who were not to
be classed with any certainty,--as a pale young man, handsome in his
undesirable way, who looked like a steamboat pantry boy not yet risen to
be bar-tender, but rapidly rising, and who sat carefully balanced upon the
railing of the boat, chatting with two young girls, who heard his broad
sallies with continual snickers, and interchanged saucy comments with that
prompt up-and-coming manner which is so large a part of non-humorous
humor, as Mr. Lowell calls it, and now and then pulled and pushed each
other. It was a scene worth study, for in no other country could anything
so bad have been without being vastly worse; but here it was evident that
there was nothing worse than you saw; and, indeed, these persons formed a
sort of relief to the other passengers, who were nearly all monotonously
well-behaved. Amongst a few there seemed to be acquaintance, but the far
greater part were unknown to one another, and there were no words wasted
by any one. I believe the English traveller who has taxed our nation with
inquisitiveness for half a century is at last beginning to find out that
we do not ask questions because we have the still more vicious custom of
not opening our mouths at all when with strangers.

It was a good hour after our friends got aboard before the boat left her
moorings, and then it was not without some secret dreads of sea-sickness
that Aunt Melissa saw the seething brine widen between her and the
familiar wharf-house, where she now seemed to have spent so large a part
of her life. But the multitude of really charming and interesting objects
that presently fell under her eye soon distracted her from those gloomy

There is always a shabbiness about the wharves of seaports; but I must own
that as soon as you get a reasonable distance from them in Boston, they
turn wholly beautiful. They no longer present that imposing array of
mighty ships which they could show in the days of Consul Plancus, when the
commerce of the world sought chiefly our port, yet the docks are still
filled with the modester kinds of shipping, and if there is not that
wilderness of spars and rigging which you see at New York, let us believe
that there is an aspect of selection and refinement in the scene, so that
one should describe it, not as a forest, but, less conventionally, as a
gentleman's park of masts. The steamships of many coastwise freight lines
gloom, with their black, capacious hulks, among the lighter sailing-craft,
and among the white, green-shuttered passenger-boats; and behind them
those desperate and grimy sheds assume a picturesqueness, their sagging
roofs and crooked gables harmonizing agreeably with the shipping; and then
growing up from all, rises the mellow-tinted brick-built city, roof, and
spire, and dome,--a fair and noble sight, indeed, and one not surpassed
for a certain quiet and cleanly beauty by any that I know.

Our friends lingered long upon this pretty prospect, and, as inland people
of light heart and easy fancy will, the ladies made imagined voyages in
each of the more notable vessels they passed,--all cheap and safe trips,
occupying half a second apiece. Then they came forward to the bow, that
they might not lose any part of the harbor's beauty and variety, and
informed themselves of the names of each of the fortressed islands as they
passed, and forgot them, being passed, so that to this day Aunt Melissa
has the Fort Warren rebel prisoners languishing in Fort Independence. But
they made sure of the air of soft repose that hung about each, of that
exquisite military neatness which distinguishes them, and which went to
Aunt Melissa's housekeeping heart, of the green, thick turf covering the
escarpments, of the great guns loafing on the crests of the ramparts and
looking out over the water sleepily, of the sentries pacing slowly up and
down with their gleaming muskets.

"I never see one of those fellows," says Cousin Frank, "without setting
him to the music of that saddest and subtlest of Heine's poems. You know
it, Lucy;" and he repeats:--

"Mein Herz, mein Herz is traurig,
Doch lustig leuchtet der Mai;
Ich stehe gelehnt an der Linde,
Hoch auf der alten Bastei.

* * * * *

"Am alten grauen Thurme
Ein Schilderh�uschen steht;
Ein rothger�ckter Bursche
Dort auf und nieder geht.

"Er spielt mit seiner Flinte,
Sie funkelt im Sonnenroth,
Er pr�sentirt, und schultert,--
Ich wollt', er sch�sse mich todt."

"O!" says Cousin Lucy, either because the poignant melancholy of the
sentiment has suddenly pierced her, or because she does not quite
understand the German,--you never can tell about women. While Frank smiles
down upon her in this amiable doubt, their party is approached by the
tipsy man who has been making the excursion so merry for the other
passengers, in spite of the fact that there is very much to make one sad
in him. He is an old man, sweltering in rusty black, a two days' gray
beard, and a narrow-brimmed, livid silk hat, set well back upon the nape
of his neck. He explains to our friends, as he does to every one whose
acquaintance he makes, that he was in former days a seafaring man, and
that he has brought his two little grandsons here to show them something
about a ship; and the poor old soul helplessly saturates his phrase with
the rankest profanity. The boys are somewhat amused by their grandsire's
state, being no doubt familiar with it, but a very grim-looking old lady
who sits against the pilot-house, and keeps a sharp eye upon all three,
and who is also doubtless familiar with the unhappy spectacle, seems not
to find it a joke. Her stout matronly umbrella trembles in her hand when
her husband draws near, and her eye flashes; but he gives her as wide a
berth as he can, returning her glare with a propitiatory drunken smile and
a wink to the passengers to let them into the fun. In fact, he is full of
humor in his tipsy way, and one after another falls the prey of his free
sarcasm, which does not spare the boat or any feature of the excursion. He
holds for a long time, by swiftly successive stories of his seafaring
days, a very quiet gentleman, who dares neither laugh too loudly nor show
indifference for fear of rousing that terrible wit at his expense, and
finds his account in looking down at his boots.

"Well, sir," says the deplorable old sinner, "we was forty days out from
Liverpool, with a cargo of salt and iron, and we got caught on the Banks
in a calm. 'Cap'n,' says I,--I 'us sec'n' mate,--''s they any man aboard
this ship knows how to pray?' 'No,' says the cap'n; 'blast yer prayers!'
'Well,' says I, 'cap'n, I'm no hand at all to pray, but I'm goin' to see
if prayin' won't git us out 'n this.' And I down on my knees, and I made a
first-class prayer; and a breeze sprung up in a minute and carried us
smack into Boston."

At this bit of truculent burlesque the quiet man made a bold push, and
walked away with a somewhat sickened face, and as no one now intervened
between them, the inebriate laid a familiar hand upon Cousin Frank's
collar, and said with a wink at his late listener: "Looks like a lerigious
man, don't he? I guess I give him a good dose, if he _does_ think
himself the head-deacon of this boat." And he went on to state his ideas
of religion, from which it seemed that he was a person of the most
advanced thinking, and believed in nothing worth mentioning.

It is perhaps no worse for an Infidel to be drunk than a Christian, but my
friend found this tipsy blasphemer's case so revolting, that he went to
the hand-bag, took out the empty claret-bottle, and seeking a solitary
corner of the boat, cast the bottle into the water, and felt a thrill of
uncommon self-approval as this scapegoat of all the wine at his grocer's
bobbed off upon the little waves. "Besides, it saves carrying the bottle
home," he thought, not without a half-conscious reserve, that if his
penitence were ever too much for him, he could easily abandon it. And
without the reflection that the gate is always open behind him, who could
consent to enter upon any course of perfect behavior? If good resolutions
could not be broken, who would ever have the courage to form them? Would
it not be intolerable to be made as good as we ought to be? Then,
admirable reader, thank Heaven even for your lapses, since it is so
wholesome and saving to be well ashamed of yourself, from time to time.

"What an outrage," said Cousin Frank, in the glow of virtue, as he
rejoined the ladies, "that that tipsy rascal should be allowed to go on
with his ribaldry. He seems to pervade the whole boat, and to subject
everybody to his sway. He's a perfect despot to us helpless sober people,--
I wouldn't openly disagree with him on any account. We ought to send a
Round Robin to the captain, and ask him to put that religious liberal in
irons during the rest of the voyage."

In the mean time, however, the object of his indignation had used up all
the conversible material in that part of the boat, and had deviously
started for the other end. The elderly woman with the umbrella rose and
followed him, somewhat wearily, and with a sadness that appeared more in
her movement than in her face; and as the two went down the cabin, did the
comical affair look, after all, something like tragedy? My reader, who
expects a little novelty in tragedy, and not these stale and common
effects, will never think so.

"You'll not pretend, Frank," says Lucy, "that in such an intellectual
place as Boston a crowd as large as this can be got together, and no
distinguished literary people in it. I know there are some notables
aboard: do point them out to me. Pretty near everybody has a literary

"Why, that's what we call our Boston look, Cousin Lucy. You needn't have
written anything to have it,--it's as general as tubercular consumption,
and is the effect of our universal culture and habits of reading. I heard
a New-Yorker say once that if you went into a corner grocery in Boston to
buy a codfish, the man would ask you how you liked 'Lucille,' whilst he
was tying it up. No, no; you mustn't be taken in by that literary look;
I'm afraid the real literary men don't always have it. But I _do_ see
a literary man aboard yonder," he added, craning his neck to one side, and
then furtively pointing,--"the most literary man I ever knew, one of the
most literary men that ever lived. His whole existence is really bound up
in books; he never talks of anything else, and never thinks of anything
else, I believe. Look at him,--what kind and pleasant eyes he's got!
There, he sees me!" cries Cousin Frank, with a pleasurable excitement.
"How d'ye do?" he calls out.

"O Cousin Frank, introduce us," sighs Lucy.

"Not I! He wouldn't thank me. He doesn't care for pretty girls outside of
books; he'd be afraid of 'em; he's the bashfullest man alive, and all his
heroines are fifty years old, at the least. But before I go any further,
tell me solemnly, Lucy, you're not interviewing me? You're not going to
write it to a New York newspaper? No? Well, I think it's best to ask,
always. Our friend there--he's everybody's friend, if you mean nobody's
enemy, by that, not even his own--is really what I say,--the most literary
man I ever knew. He loves all epochs and phases of literature, but his
passion is the Charles Lamb period and all Lamb's friends. He loves them
as if they were living men; and Lamb would have loved him if he could have
known him. He speaks rapidly, and rather indistinctly, and when you meet
him and say Good day, and you suppose he answers with something about the
weather, ten to one he's asking you what you think of Hazlitt's essays on
Shakespeare, or Leigh Hunt's Italian Poets, or Lamb's roast pig, or Barry
Cornwall's songs. He couldn't get by a bookstall without stopping--for
half an hour, at any rate. He knows just when all the new books in town
are to be published, and when each bookseller is to get his invoice of old
English books. He has no particular address, but if you leave your card
for him at any bookstore in Boston, he's sure to get it within two days;
and in the summer-time you're apt to meet him on these excursions. Of
course, he writes about books, and very tastefully and modestly; there's
hardly any of the brand-new immortal English poets, who die off so
rapidly, but has had a good word from him; but his heart is with the older
fellows, from Chaucer down; and, after the Charles Lamb epoch, I don't
know whether he loves better the Elizabethan age or that of Queen Anne.
Think of him making me stop the other day at a bookstall, and read through
an essay out of the "Spectator!" I did it all for love of him, though
money couldn't have persuaded me that I had time; and I'm always telling
him lies, and pretending to be as well acquainted as he is with authors I
hardly know by name,--he seems so fondly to expect it. He's really almost
a disembodied spirit as concerns most mundane interests--his soul is in
literature, as a lover's in his mistress's beauty; and in the next world,
where, as the Swedenborgians believe, spirits seen at a distance appear
like the things they most resemble in disposition, as doves, hawks, goats,
lambs, swine, and so on, I'm sure that I shall see his true and kindly
soul in the guise of a noble old Folio, quaintly lettered across his back
in old English text, _Tom. I._"

While our friends talked and looked about them, a sudden change had come
over the brightness and warmth of the day; the blue heaven had turned a
chilly gray, and the water looked harsh and cold. Now, too, they noted
that they were drawing near a wooden pier built into the water, and that
they had been winding about in a crooked channel between muddy shallows,
and that their course was overrun with long, disheveled sea-weed. The
shawls had been unstrapped, and the ladies made comfortable in them.

"Ho for the beach!" cried Cousin Frank, with a vehement show of
enthusiasm. "Now, then, Aunt Melissa, prepare for the great enjoyment of
the day. In a few moments we shall be of the elves

'That on the sand with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him
When he comes back.'

Come! we shall have three hours on the beach, and that will bring us well
into the cool of the evening, and we can return by the last boat."

"As to the cool of the evening," said Aunt Melissa, "I don't know. It's
quite cool enough for comfort at present, and I'm sure that anything more
wouldn't be wholesome. What's become of our beautiful weather?" she asked,
deeply plotting to gain time.

"It's one of our Boston peculiarities, not to say merits," answered Frank,
"which you must have noticed already, that we can get rid of a fine day
sooner than any other region. While you're saying how lovely it is, a
subtle change is wrought, and under skies still blue and a sun still warm
the keen spirit of the east wind pierces every nerve, and all the fine
weather within you is chilled and extinguished. The gray atmosphere
follows, but the day first languishes in yourself. But for this, life in
Boston would be insupportably perfect, if this is indeed a drawback. You'd
find Bostonians to defend it, I dare say. But this isn't a regular east
wind to-day; it's merely our nearness to the sea."

"I think, Franklin," said Aunt Melissa, "that we won't go down to the
beach this afternoon," as if she had been there yesterday, and would go
to-morrow. "It's too late in the day; and it wouldn't be good for the
child, I'm sure."

"Well, aunty, it was you determined us to wait for the boat, and it's your
right to say whether we shall leave it or not. I'm very willing not to go
ashore. I always find that, after working up to an object with great
effort, it's surpassingly sweet to leave it unaccomplished at last. Then
it remains forever in the region of the ideal, amongst the songs that
never were sung, the pictures that never were painted. Why, in fact,
should we force this pleasure? We've eaten our lunch, we've lost the warm
heart of the day; why should we poorly drag over to that damp and sullen
beach, where we should find three hours very long, when by going back now
we can keep intact that glorious image of a day by the sea which we've
been cherishing all summer? You're right, Aunt Melissa; we won't go
ashore; we will stay here, and respect our illusions."

At heart, perhaps, Lucy did not quite like this retreat; it was not in
harmony with the youthful spirit of her sex, but she reflected that she
could come again,--O beneficent cheat of Another Time, how much thou
sparest us in our over-worked, over-enjoyed world!--she was very
comfortable where she was, in a seat commanding a perfect view for the
return trip; and she submitted without a murmur. Besides, now that the
boat had drawn up to the pier, and discharged part of her passengers, and
was waiting to take on others, Lucy was interested in a mass of fluttering
dresses and wide-rimmed straw hats that drew down toward the "Rose
Standish," and gracefully thronged the pier, and prettily hesitated about,
and finally came aboard with laughter and little false cries of terror,
attended through all by the New England disproportion of that sex which is
so foolish when it is silly. It was a large picnic party which had been
spending the day upon the beach, as each of the ladies showed in her face,
where, if the roses upon her cheeks were somewhat obscured by the
imbrowning seaside sun, a bright pink had been compensatingly bestowed
upon the point of her nose. A mysterious quiet fell upon them all when
they were got aboard and had taken conspicuous places, which was accounted
for presently when a loud shout was heard from the shore, and a man beside
an ambulant photographic machine was seen wildly waving his hat. It is
impossible to resist a temptation of this kind, and our party all yielded,
and posed themselves in striking and characteristic attitudes,--even Aunt
Melissa sharing the ambition to appear in a picture which she should never
see, and the nurse coming out strong from the abeyance in which she had
been held, and lifting the baby high into the air for a good likeness. The
frantic gesticulator on the shore gave an impressive wave with both hands,
took the cap from the instrument, turned his back, as photographers always
do, with that air of hiding their tears, for the brief space that seems so
long, and then clapped on the cap again, while a great sigh of relief went
up from the whole boat-load of passengers. They were taken.

But the interval had been a luckless one for the "Rose Standish," and when
she stirred her wheels, clouds of mud rose to the top of the water, and
there was no responsive movement of the boat. She was aground in the
falling tide.

"There seems a pretty fair prospect of our spending some time here, after
all," said Frank, while the ladies, who had reluctantly given up the idea
of staying, were now in a quiver of impatience to be off. The picnic was
shifted from side to side; the engine groaned and tugged, Captain Miles
Standish and his crew bestirred themselves vigorously, and at last the
boat swung loose, and strode down the sea-weedy channels; while our
friends, who had already done the great sights of the harbor, now settled
themselves to the enjoyment of its minor traits and beauties. Here and
there they passed small parties on the shore, which, with their yachts
anchored near, or their boats drawn up from the water, were cooking an
out-door meal by a fire that burned bright red upon the sands in the late
afternoon air. In such cases, people willingly indulge themselves in
saluting whatever craft goes by, and the ladies of these small picnics, as
they sat round the fires, kept up a great waving of handkerchiefs, and
sometimes cheered the "Rose Standish," though I believe the Bostonians are
ordinarily not a demonstrative race. Of course the large picnic on board
fluttered multitudinous handkerchiefs in response, both to these people
ashore and to those who hailed them from vessels which they met. They did
not refuse the politeness even to the passengers on a rival boat when she
passed them, though at heart they must have felt some natural pangs at
being passed. The water was peopled everywhere by all sorts of sail
lagging slowly homeward in the light evening breeze; and on some of the
larger vessels there were family groups to be seen, and a graceful smoke,
suggestive of supper, curled from the cook's galley. I suppose these ships
were chiefly coasting craft, of one kind or another, come from the
Provinces at farthest; but to the ignorance and the fancy of our friends,
they arrived from all remote and romantic parts of the world,--from India,
from China, and from the South Seas, with cargoes of spices and gums and
tropical fruits; and I see no reason why one should ever deny himself the
easy pleasure they felt in painting the unknown in such lively hues. The
truth is, a strange ship, if you will let her, always brings you precious
freight, always arrives from Wonderland under the command of Captain
Sinbad. How like a beautiful sprite she looks afar off, as if she came
from some finer and fairer world than ours! Nay, we will not go out to
meet her; we will not go on board; Captain Sinbad shall bring us the
invoice of gold-dust, slaves, and rocs' eggs to-night, and we will have
some of the eggs for breakfast; or if he never comes, are we not just as
rich? But I think these friends of ours got a yet keener pleasure out of
the spectacle of a large and stately ship, that with all sails spread
moved silently and steadily out toward the open sea. It is yet grander and
sweeter to sail toward the unknown than to come from it; and every vessel
that leaves port has this destination, and will bear you thither if you

"It may be that the gulf shall wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew,"

absently murmured Lucy, looking on this beautiful apparition.

"But I can't help thinking of Ulysses' cabin-boy, yonder," said Cousin
Frank, after a pause; "can you, Aunt Melissa?"

"I don't understand what you're talking about Franklin," answered Aunt
Melissa, somewhat severely.

"Why, I mean that there is a poor wretch of a boy on board there, who's
run away, and whose heart must be aching just now at the thought of the
home he has left. I hope Ulysses will be good to him, and not swear at him
for a day or two, or knock him about with a belaying-pin. Just about this
time his mother, up in the country, is getting ready his supper, and
wondering what's become of him, and torturing herself with hopes that
break one by one; and to-night when she goes up to his empty room, having
tried to persuade herself that the truant's come back and climbed in at
the window"--

"Why, Franklin, this isn't true, is it?" asks Aunt Melissa.

"Well, no, let's pray Heaven it isn't, in this case. It's been true often
enough to be false for once."

"What a great, ugly, black object a ship is!" said Cousin Lucy.

Slowly the city rose up against the distance, sharpening all its outlines,
and filling in all its familiar details,--like a fact which one dreams is
a dream, and which, as the mists of sleep break away, shows itself for

The air grows closer and warmer,--it is the breath of the hot and toil-
worn land.

The boat makes her way up through the shipping, seeks her landing, and
presently rubs herself affectionately against the wharf. The passengers
quickly disperse themselves upon shore, dismissed each with an appropriate
sarcasm by the tipsy man, who has had the means of keeping himself drunk
throughout, and who now looks to the discharge of the boat's cargo.

As our friends leave the wharf-house behind them, and straggle uneasily,
and very conscious of sunburn, up the now silent length of Pearl Street to
seek the nearest horse-cars, they are aware of a curious fidgeting of the
nurse, who flies from one side of the pavement to the other and violently
shifts the baby from one arm to the other.

"What's the matter?" asks Frank; but before the nurse can answer, "Thim
little divils," he perceives that the whooping-coughers of the morning
have taken the occasion to renew a pleasant acquaintance, and are
surrounding the baby and nurse with an atmosphere of whooping-cough.

"I say, friends! we can't stand this, you know," says the anxious father.
"We must part some time, and this is a favorable moment. Now I'll give you
all this, if you don't come another step!" and he empties out to them,
from the hand-bags he carries, the fragments of lunch which the frugal
mind of Aunt Melissa had caused her to store there. Upon these the
whooping-coughers hurl themselves in a body, and are soon left round the
corner. Yet they would have been no disgrace to our party, whose
appearance was now most disreputable: Frank and Lucy stalked ahead, with
shawls dragging from their arms, the former loaded down with hand-bags and
the latter with India-rubbers; Aunt Melissa came next under a burden of
bloated umbrellas; the nurse last, with her hat awry, and the baby a
caricature of its morning trimness, in her embrace. A day's pleasure is so
demoralizing, that no party can stand it, and come out neat and orderly.

[Illustration: "Frank and Lucy stalked ahead, with shawls dragging from
their arms."]

"Cousin Frank," asked Lucy, awfully, "what if we should meet the
Mayflowers now?"--the Mayflowers being a very ancient and noble Boston
family whose acquaintance was the great pride and terror of our friends'

"I should cut them dead," said Frank, and scarcely spoke again till his
party dragged slowly up the steps of their minute suburban villa.

At the door his wife met them with a troubled and anxious face.

"Calamities?" asked Frank, desperately.

"O, calamities upon calamities! We've got a lost child in the kitchen,"
answered Mrs. Sallie.

"O good heavens!" cried her husband. "Adieu, my dreams of repose, so
desirable after the quantity of active enjoyment I've had! Well, where is
the lost child?"


"Where is the lost child?" repeats Frank, desperately. "Where have you got

"In the kitchen."

"Why in the kitchen?"

"How's baby?" demands Mrs. Sallie, with the incoherent suddenness of her
sex, and running halfway down the steps to meet the nurse. "Um, um, um-m-
m-m," sounds, which may stand for smothered kisses of rapture and
thanksgiving that baby is not a lost child. "Has he been good, Lucy? Take
him off and give him some cocoa, Mrs. O'Gonegal," she adds in her
business-like way, and with a little push to the combined nurse and baby,
while Lucy answers, "O beautiful!" and from that moment, being warned
through all her being by something in the other's tone, casts aside the
matronly manner which she has worn during the day, and lapses into the
comfortable irresponsibility of young-ladyhood.

"What kind of a time did you have?"

"Splendid!" answers Lucy. "Delightful, _I_ think," she adds, as if
she thought others might not think so.

"I suppose you found Gloucester a quaint old place."

"O," says Frank, "we didn't go to Gloucester; we found that the City
Fathers had chartered the boat for the day, so we thought we'd go to

"Then you've seen your favorite Gardens of Maolis! What in the world
_are_ they like?"

"Well; we didn't see the Gardens of Maolis; the Nahant boat was so crowded
that we couldn't think of going on her, and so we decided we'd drive over
to the Liverpool Wharf and go down to Nantasket Beach."

"That was nice. I'm so glad on Aunt Melissa's account. It's much better to
see the ocean from a long beach than from those Nahant rocks."

"That's what _I_ said. But, you know, when we got to the wharf the
boat had just left."

"You _don't_ mean it! Well, then, what under the canopy _did_
you do?"

"Why, we sat down in the wharf-house, and waited from nine o'clock till
half-past two for the next boat."

"Well, I'm glad you didn't back out, at any rate. You did show pluck, you
poor things! I hope you enjoyed the beach after you _did_ get there."

"Why," says Frank, looking down, "we never got there."

"Never got there!" gasps Mrs. Sallie. "Didn't you go down on the afternoon


"Why didn't you get to the beach, then?"

"We didn't go ashore."

"Well, that's _like_ you, Frank."

"It's a great deal more like Aunt Melissa," answers Frank. "The air felt
so raw and chilly by the time we reached the pier, that she declared the
baby would perish if it was taken to the beach. Besides, nothing would
persuade her that Nantasket Beach was at all different from Liverpool

"Never mind, never mind!" says Mrs. Sallie. "I don't wish to hear anything
more. That's your idea of a day's pleasure, is it? I call it a day's
disgrace, a day's miserable giving-up. There, go in, go in; I'm ashamed of
you all. Don't let the neighbors see you, for pity's sake.--We keep him in
the kitchen," she continues, recurring to Frank's long-unanswered question
concerning the lost child, "because he prefers it as being the room
nearest to the closet where the cookies are. He's taken advantage of our
sympathies to refuse everything but cookies."

"I suppose that's one of the rights of lost childhood," comments Frank,
languidly; "there's no law that can compel him to touch even cracker."

"Well, you'd better go down and see what _you_ can make of him. He's
driven _us_ all wild."

So Frank descends to the region now redolent of the preparing tea, and
finds upon a chair, in the middle of the kitchen floor, a very forlorn
little figure of a boy, mutely munching a sweet-cake, while now and then a
tear steals down his cheeks and moistens the grimy traces of former tears.
He and baby are, in the mean time regarding each other with a steadfast
glare, the cook and the nurse supporting baby in this rite of hospitality.

"Well, my little man," says his host, "how did you get here?"

The little man, perhaps because he is heartily sick of the question, is
somewhat slow to answer that there was a fire; and that he ran after the
steamer; and a girl found him and brought him up here.

"And that's all the blessed thing you can get out of him," says cook; and
the lost boy looks as if he felt cook to be perfectly right.

In spite of the well-meant endeavors of the household to wash him and
brush him, he is still a dreadfully travel-stained little boy, and he is
powdered in every secret crease and wrinkle by that dust of old
Charlesbridge, of which we always speak with an air of affected disgust,
and a feeling of ill-concealed pride in an abomination so strikingly and
peculiarly our own. He looks very much as if he had been following fire-
engines about the streets of our learned and pulverous suburb ever since
he could walk, and he certainly seems to feel himself in trouble to a
certain degree; but there is easily imaginable in his bearing a conviction
that after all the chief care is with others, and that, though unhappy, he
is not responsible. The principal victim of his sorrows is also penetrated
by this opinion, and after gazing forlornly upon him for a while, asks
mechanically, "What's your name?"

"Freddy," is the laconic answer.

"Freddy--?" trying with an artful inflection to lead him on to his

"Freddy," decidedly and conclusively.

"O, bless me! What's the name of the street your papa lives on?"

This problem is far too deep for Freddy, and he takes a bite of sweet-cake
in sign that he does not think of solving it. Frank looks at him gloomily
for a moment, and then determines that he can grapple with the difficulty
more successfully after he has had tea. "Send up the supper, Bridget. I
think, my dear," he says, after they have sat down, "we'd better all
question our lost child when we've finished."

So, when they have finished, they have him up in the sitting-room, and the
inquisition begins.

"Now, Freddy," his host says, with a cheerful air of lifelong friendship
and confidence, "you know that everybody has got two names. Of course your
first name is Freddy, and it's a very pretty name. Well, I want you to
think real hard, and then tell me what your other name is, so I can take
you back to your mamma."

At this allusion the child looks round on the circle of eager and
compassionate faces, and begins to shed tears and to wring all hearts.

"What's your name?" asks Frank, cheerfully,--"your _other_ name, you

"Freddy," sobbed the forlorn creature.

"O good heaven! this'll never do," groaned the chief inquisitor. "Now,
Freddy, try not to cry. What is your papa's name,--Mr.--?" with the
leading inflection as before.

"Papa," says Freddy.

[Illustration: "They skirmish about him with every sort of query."]

"O, that'll never do! Not Mr. Papa?"

"Yes," persists Freddy.

"But, Freddy," interposes Mrs. Sallie, as her husband falls back baffled,
"when ladies come to see your mamma, what do they call her? Mrs.--?"
adopting Frank's alluring inflection.

"Mrs. Mamma," answers Freddy, confirmed in his error by this course; and a
secret dismay possesses his questioners. They skirmish about him with
every sort of query; they try to entrap him into some kind of revelation
by apparently irrelevant remarks; they plan ambuscades and surprises; but
Freddy looks vigilantly round upon them, and guards his personal history
from every approach, and seems in every way so to have the best of it,
that it is almost exasperating.

"Kindness has proved futile," observes Frank, "and I think we ought as a
last resort, before yielding ourselves to despair, to use intimidation.
Now, Fred," he says, with sudden and terrible severity, "what's your
father's name?"

The hapless little soul is really moved to an effort of memory by this,
and blubbers out something that proves in the end to resemble the family
name, though for the present it is merely a puzzle of unintelligible

"Blackman?" cries Aunt Melissa, catching desperately at these sounds.

On this, all the man and brother is roused in Freddy's bosom, and he roars
fiercely, "No! he ain't a black man! He's white!"

"I give it up," says Frank, who has been looking for his hat. "I'm afraid
we can't make anything out of him; and I'll have to go and report the case
to the police. But, put him to bed, do, Sallie; he's dropping with sleep."

So he went out, of course supported morally by a sense of duty, but I am
afraid also by a sense of adventure in some degree. It is not every day
that, in so quiet a place as Charlesbridge, you can have a lost child cast
upon your sympathies; and I believe that when an appeal is not really
agonizing, we like so well to have our sympathies touched, we favorites of
the prosperous commonplace, that most of us would enter eagerly into a
pathetic case of this kind, even after a day's pleasure. Such was
certainly the mood of my friend, and he unconsciously prepared himself for
an equal interest on the part of the police; but this was an error. The
police heard his statement with all proper attention, and wrote it in full
upon the station-slate, but they showed no feeling whatever, and behaved
as if they valued a lost child no more than a child snug at home in his
own crib. They said that no doubt his parents would be asking at the
police-stations for him during the night, and, as if my friend would
otherwise have thought of putting him into the street, they suggested that
he should just keep the lost child till he was sent for. Modestly enough
Frank proposed that they should make some inquiry for his parents, and was
answered by the question whether they could take a man off his beat for
that purpose; and remembering that beats in Charlesbridge were of such
vastness that during his whole residence there he had never yet seen a
policeman on his street, he was obliged to own to himself that his
proposal was absurd. He felt the need of reinstating himself by something
more sensible, and so he said he thought he would go down to the Port and
leave word at the station there; and the police tacitly assenting to this
he went.

I who have sometimes hinted that the Square is not a centre of gayety, or
a scene of the greatest activity by day, feel it right to say that it has
some modest charms of its own on a summer's night, about the hour when
Frank passed through it, when the post-office has just been shut, and when
the different groups that haunt the place in front of the closing shops
have dwindled to the loungers fit though few who will keep it well into
the night, and may there be found, by the passenger on the last horse-car
out from Boston, wrapt in a kind of social silence, and honorably attended
by the policeman whose favored beat is in that neighborhood. They seem a
feature of the bygone village life of Charlesbridge, and accord pleasantly
with the town-pump and the public horse-trough, and the noble elm that by
night droops its boughs so pensively, and probably dreams of its happy
younger days when there were no canker-worms in the world. Sometimes this
choice company sits on the curbing that goes round the terrace at the elm-
tree's foot, and then I envy every soul in it,--so tranquil it seems, so
cool, so careless, so morrowless. I cannot see the faces of that luxurious
society, but there I imagine is the local albino, and a certain blind man,
who resorts thither much by day, and makes a strange kind of jest of his
own, with a flicker of humor upon his sightless face, and a faith that
others less unkindly treated by nature will be able to see the point
apparently not always discernible to himself. Late at night I have a fancy
that the darkness puts him on an equality with other wits, and that he
enjoys his own brilliancy as well as any one.

At the Port station Frank was pleased and soothed by the tranquil air of
the policeman, who sat in his shirt-sleeves outside the door, and seemed
to announce, by his attitude of final disoccupation, that crimes and
misdemeanors were no more. This officer at once showed a desirable
interest in the case. He put on his blue coat that he might listen to the
whole story in a proper figure, and then he took down the main points on
the slate, and said that they would send word round to the other stations
in the city, and the boy's parents could hardly help hearing of him that

Returned home, Frank gave his news, and then he and Mrs. Sallie went up to
look at the lost child as he slept. The sumptuous diet to which he had
confined himself from the first seemed to agree with him perfectly, for he
slept unbrokenly, and apparently without a consciousness of his woes. On a
chair lay his clothes, in a dusty little pathetic heap; they were well-
kept clothes, except for the wrong his wanderings had done them, and they
showed a motherly care here and there, which it was not easy to look at
with composure. The spectators of his sleep both thought of the curious
chance that had thrown this little one into their charge, and considered
that he was almost as completely a gift of the Unknown as if he had been
following a steamer in another planet, and had thence dropped into their
yard. His helplessness in accounting for himself was as affecting as that
of the sublimest metaphysician; and no learned man, no superior intellect,
no subtle inquirer among us lost children of the divine, forgotten home,
could have been less able to say how or whence he came to be just where he
found himself. We wander away and away; the dust of the road-side gathers
upon us; and when some strange shelter receives us, we lie down to our
sleep, inarticulate, and haunted with dreams of memory, or the memory of
dreams, knowing scarcely more of the past than of the future.

"What a strange world!" sighed Mrs. Sallie; and then, as this was a mood
far too speculative for her, she recalled herself to practical life
suddenly. "If we should have to adopt this child, Frank"--

"Why, bless my soul, we're not obliged to adopt him! Even a lost child
can't demand that."

"We shall adopt him, if they don't come for him. And now, I want to know"
(Mrs. Sallie spoke as if the adoption had been effected) "whether we shall
give him our name, or some other?"

"Well, I don't know. It's the first child I've ever adopted," said Frank
"and upon my word, I can't say whether you have to give him a new name or
not. In fact, if I'd thought of this affair of a name, I'd never have
adopted him. It's the greatest part of the burden, and if his father will
only come for him, I'll give him up without a murmur."

In the interval that followed the proposal of this alarming difficulty,
and while he sat and waited vaguely for whatever should be going to happen
next, Frank was not able to repress a sense of personal resentment towards
the little vagrant sleeping so carelessly there, though at the bottom of
his heart there was all imaginable tenderness for him. In the fantastic
character which, to his weariness, the day's pleasure took on, it seemed
an extraordinary unkindness of fate that this lost child should have been
kept in reserve for him after all the rest; and he had so small
consciousness of bestowing shelter and charity, and so profound a feeling
of having himself been turned out of house and home by some surprising and
potent agency, that if the lost child had been a regiment of Fenians
billeted upon him, it could not have oppressed him more. While he remained
perplexed in this perverse sentiment of invasion and dispossession,
"Hark!" said Mrs. Sallie, "what's that?"

It was a noise of dragging and shuffling on the walk in front of the
house, and a low, hoarse whispering.

"I don't know," said Frank, "but from the kind of pleasure I've got out of
it so far, I should say that this holiday was capable of an earthquake
before midnight."


They listened, as they must, and heard the outer darkness rehearse a
raucous dialogue between an unseen Bill and Jim, who were the more
terrible to the imagination from being so realistically named, and who
seemed to have in charge some nameless third person, a mute actor in the
invisible scene. There was doubt, which he uttered, in the mind of Jim,
whether they could get this silent comrade along much farther without
carrying him; and there was a growling assent from Bill that he _was_
pretty far gone, that was a fact, and that maybe Jim _had_ better go
for the wagon; then there were quick, retreating steps; and then there was
a profound silence, in which the audience of this strange drama sat
thrilled and speechless. The effect was not less dreadful when there rose
a dull sound, as of a helpless body rubbing against the fence, and at last
lowered heavily to the ground.

"O!" cried Mrs. Sallie. "Do go out and help. He's dying!"

But even as she spoke the noise of wheels was heard. A wagon stopped
before the door; there came a tugging and lifting, with a sound as of
crunching gravel, and then a "There!" of great relief.

"Frank!" said Mrs. Sallie very solemnly, "if you don't go out and help
those men, I'll never forgive you."

Really, the drama had grown very impressive; it was a mystery, to say the
least; and so it must remain forever, for when Frank, infected at last by
Mrs. Sallie's faith in tragedy, opened the door and offered his tardy
services, the wagon was driven rapidly away without reply. They never
learned what it had all been; and I think that if one actually honors
mysteries, it is best not to look into them. How much finer, after all, if
you have such a thing as this happen before your door at midnight, not to
throw any light upon it! Then your probable tipsy man cannot be proved
other than a tragical presence, which you can match with any inscrutable
creation of fiction; and if you should ever come to write a romance, as
one is very liable to do in this age, there is your unknown, a figure of
strange and fearful interest, made to your hand, and capable of being
used, in or out of the body, with a very gloomy effect.

While our friends yet trembled with this sensation, quick steps ascended
to their door, and then followed a sharp, anxious tug at the bell.

"Ah!" cried Frank, prophetically, "here's the father of our adopted son;"
and he opened the door.

The gentleman who appeared there could scarcely frame the question to
which Frank replied so cheerfully: "O yes; he's here, and snug in bed, and
fast asleep. Come up-stairs and look at him. Better let him be till
morning, and then come after him," he added, as they looked down a moment
on the little sleeper.

"O no, I couldn't," said the father, _con expressione_; and then he
told how he had heard of this child's whereabouts at the Port station, and
had hurried to get him, and how his mother did not know he was found yet,
and was almost wild about him. They had no idea how he had got lost, and
his own blind story was the only tale of his adventure that ever became

By this time his father had got the child partly awake, and the two men
were dressing him in men's clumsy fashion; and finally they gave it up,
and rolled him in a shawl. The father lifted the slight burden, and two
small arms fell about his neck. The weary child slept again.

"How has he behaved?" asked the father.

"Like a little hero," said Frank, "but he's been a cormorant for cookies.
I think it right to tell you, in case he shouldn't be very brilliant to-
morrow, that he wouldn't eat a bit of anything else."

The father said he was the life of their house; and Frank said he knew how
that was,--that he had a life of the house of his own; and then the father
thanked him very simply and touchingly, and with the decent New England
self-restraint, which is doubtless so much better than any sort of
effusion. "Say good-night to the gentleman, Freddy," he said at the door;
and Freddy with closed eyes murmured a good-night from far within the land
of dreams, and then was borne away to the house out of which the life had
wandered with his little feet.

"I don't know, Sallie," said Frank, when he had given all the eagerly
demanded particulars about the child's father,--"I don't know whether I
should want many such holidays as this, in the course of the summer. On
the whole, I think I'd better overwork myself and not take any relaxation,
if I mean to live long. And yet I'm not sure that the day's been
altogether a failure, though all our purposes of enjoyment have
miscarried. I didn't plan to find a lost child here, when I got home, and
I'm afraid I haven't had always the most Christian feeling towards him;
but he's really the saving grace of the affair; and if this were a little
comedy I had been playing, I should turn him to account with the jaded
audience, and advancing to the foot-lights, should say, with my hand on my
waistcoat, and a neat bow, that although every hope of the day had been
disappointed, and nothing I had meant to do had been done, yet the man who
had ended at midnight by restoring a lost child to the arms of its father,
must own that, in spite of adverse fortune, he had enjoyed A Day's

[Illustration: "A gaunt figure of forlorn and curious


It was long past the twilight hour, which has been already mentioned as so
oppressive in suburban places, and it was even too late for visitors, when
a resident, whom I shall briefly describe as a Contributor to the
magazines, was startled by a ring at his door. As any thoughtful person
would have done upon the like occasion, he ran over his acquaintance in
his mind, speculating whether it were such or such a one, and dismissing
the whole list of improbabilities, before he laid down the book he was
reading, and answered the bell. When at last he did this, he was rewarded
by the apparition of an utter stranger on his threshold,--a gaunt figure
of forlorn and curious smartness towering far above him, that jerked him a
nod of the head, and asked if Mr. Hapford lived there. The face which the
lamp-light revealed was remarkable for a harsh two days' growth of beard,
and a single bloodshot eye; yet it was not otherwise a sinister
countenance, and there was something in the strange presence that appealed
and touched. The contributor, revolving the facts vaguely in his mind, was
not sure, after all, that it was not the man's clothes rather than his
expression that softened him toward the rugged visage: they were so
tragically cheap, and the misery of helpless needlewomen, and the
poverty and ignorance of the purchaser, were so apparent in their shabby
newness, of which they appeared still conscious enough to have led the way
to the very window, in the Semitic quarter of the city, where they had
lain ticketed, "This nobby suit for $15."

But the stranger's manner put both his face and his clothes out of mind,
and claimed a deeper interest when, being answered that the person for
whom he asked did not live there, he set his bristling lips hard together,
and sighed heavily.

"They told me," he said, in a hopeless way, "that he lived on this street,
and I've been to every other house. I'm very anxious to find him, Cap'n,"--
the contributor, of course, had no claim to the title with which he was
thus decorated,--"for I've a daughter living with him, and I want to see
her; I've just got home from a two years' voyage, and"--there was a
struggle of the Adam's-apple in the man's gaunt throat--"I find she's
about all there is left of my family."

How complex is every human motive! This contributor had been lately
thinking, whenever he turned the pages of some foolish traveller,--some
empty prattler of Southern or Eastern lands, where all sensation was long
ago exhausted, and the oxygen has perished from every sentiment, so has it
been breathed and breathed again,--that nowadays the wise adventurer sat
down beside his own register and waited for incidents to seek him out. It
seemed to him that the cultivation of a patient and receptive spirit was
the sole condition needed to insure the occurrence of all manner of
surprising facts within the range of one's own personal knowledge; that
not only the Greeks were at our doors, but the fairies and the genii, and
all the people of romance, who had but to be hospitably treated in order
to develop the deepest interest of fiction, and to become the characters
of plots so ingenious that the most cunning invention were poor beside
them. I myself am not so confident of this, and would rather trust Mr.
Charles Reade, say, for my amusement than any chance combination of
events. But I should be afraid to say how much his pride in the character
of the stranger's sorrows, as proof of the correctness of his theory,
prevailed with the contributor to ask him to come in and sit down; though
I hope that some abstract impulse of humanity, some compassionate and
unselfish care for the man's misfortunes as misfortunes, was not wholly
wanting. Indeed, the helpless simplicity with which he had confided his
case might have touched a harder heart. "Thank you," said the poor fellow,
after a moment's hesitation. "I believe I will come in. I've been on foot
all day, and after such a long voyage it makes a man dreadfully sore to
walk about so much. Perhaps you can think of a Mr. Hapford living
somewhere in the neighborhood."

He sat down, and, after a pondering silence, in which he had remained with
his head fallen upon his breast, "My name is Jonathan Tinker," he said,
with the unaffected air which had already impressed the contributor, and
as if he felt that some form of introduction was necessary, "and the girl
that I want to find is Julia Tinker." Then he added, resuming the eventful
personal history which the listener exulted, while he regretted, to hear:
"You see, I shipped first to Liverpool, and there I heard from my family;
and then I shipped again for Hong-Kong, and after that I never heard a
word: I seemed to miss the letters everywhere. This morning, at four
o'clock, I left my ship as soon as she had hauled into the dock, and
hurried up home. The house was shut, and not a soul in it; and I didn't
know what to do, and I sat down on the doorstep to wait till the neighbors
woke up, to ask them what had become of my family. And the first one come
out he told me my wife had been dead a year and a half, and the baby I'd
never seen, with her; and one of my boys was dead; and he didn't know
where the rest of the children was, but he'd heard two of the little ones
was with a family in the city."

The man mentioned these things with the half-apologetic air observable in
a certain kind of Americans when some accident obliges them to confess the
infirmity of the natural feelings. They do not ask your sympathy, and you
offer it quite at your own risk, with a chance of having it thrown back
upon your hands. The contributor assumed the risk so far as to say,
"Pretty rough!" when the stranger caused; and perhaps these homely words
were best suited to reach the homely heart. The man's quavering lips
closed hard again, a kind of spasm passed over his dark face, and then two
very small drops of brine shone upon his weather-worn cheeks. This
demonstration, into which he had been surprised, seemed to stand for the
passion of tears into which the emotional races fall at such times. He
opened his lips with a kind of dry click, and went on:--

"I hunted about the whole forenoon in the city, and at last I found the
children. I'd been gone so long they didn't know me, and somehow I thought
the people they were with weren't over-glad I'd turned up. Finally the
oldest child told me that Julia was living with a Mr. Hapford on this
street, and I started out here to-night to look her up. If I can find her,
I'm all right. I can get the family together, then, and start new."

"It seems rather odd," mused the listener aloud, "that the neighbors let
them break up so, and that they should all scatter as they did."

"Well, it ain't so curious as it seems, Cap'n. There was money for them at
the owners', all the time; I'd left part of my wages when I sailed; but
they didn't know how to get at it, and what could a parcel of children do?
Julia's a good girl, and when I find her I'm all right."

The writer could only repeat that there was no Mr. Hapford living on that
street, and never had been, so far as he knew. Yet there might be such a
person in the neighborhood; and they would go out together, and ask at
some of the houses about. But the stranger must first take a glass of
wine; for he looked used up.

The sailor awkwardly but civilly enough protested that he did not want to
give so much trouble, but took the glass, and, as he put it to his lips,
said formally, as if it were a toast or a kind of grace, "I hope I may
have the opportunity of returning the compliment." The contributor thanked
him; though, as he thought of all the circumstances of the case, and
considered the cost at which the stranger had come to enjoy his
politeness, he felt little eagerness to secure the return of the
compliment at the same price, and added, with the consequence of another
set phrase, "Not at all." But the thought had made him the more anxious to
befriend the luckless soul fortune had cast in his way; and so the two
sallied out together, and rang door-bells wherever lights were still seen
burning in the windows, and asked the astonished people who answered their
summons whether any Mr. Hapford were known to live in the neighborhood.

And although the search for this gentleman proved vain, the contributor
could not feel that an expedition which set familiar objects in such novel
light? was altogether a failure. He entered so intimately into the cares
and anxieties of his _protege,_ that at times he felt himself in some
inexplicable sort a shipmate of Jonathan Tinker, and almost personally a
partner of his calamities. The estrangement of all things which takes
place, within doors and without, about midnight may have helped to cast
this doubt upon his identity;--he seemed to be visiting now for the first
time the streets and neighborhoods nearest his own, and his feet stumbled
over the accustomed walks. In his quality of houseless wanderer, and--so
far as appeared to others--possibly worthless vagabond, he also got a new
and instructive effect upon the faces which, in his real character, he
knew so well by their looks of neighborly greeting; and it is his belief
that the first hospitable prompting of the human heart is to shut the door
in the eyes of homeless strangers who present themselves after eleven
o'clock. By that time the servants are all abed, and the gentleman of the
house answers the bell, and looks out with a loath and bewildered face,

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest