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The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. IV, No. 22, Aug., 1859 by Various

Part 2 out of 5

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stopped"; and stepping over to the back of the wagon, he grasped his
wife tightly with one arm, and with the other dropped his child into the
street. "Now drive, Ben," said he, in the same hoarse whisper,--"drive
like the Devil!"--for, as her child fell, Hitty shrieked with such a cry
as only the heart of a mother could send out over a newly-murdered
infant. Shriek on shriek, fast and loud and long, broke the slumbers of
the village; nothing Abner could do, neither threat nor force, short of
absolute murder, would avail,--and there was too much real estate
remaining of the Hyde property for Abner Dimock to spare his wife yet.
Ben drove fiend-fashion; but before they passed the last house in the
village, lights were glancing and windows grating as they were opened.
Years after, I heard the story of such a midnight cry borne past
sleeping houses with the quick rattle of wheels; but no one who heard it
could give the right clue to its explanation, and it dried into a

Now Hitty Dimock became careless of good or evil, except one absorbing
desire to get away from her husband,--to search for her child, to know
if it had lived or died. For four nights more that journey was pursued
at the height of their horse's speed; every day they stopped to rest,
and every day Hitty's half-delirious brain laid plans of escape, only to
be balked by Abner Dimock's vigilance; for if he slept, it was with both
arms round her, and the slightest stir awoke him,--and while he woke,
not one propitious moment freed her from his watch. Her brain began to
reel with disappointment and anguish; she began to hate her husband; a
band of iron seemed strained about her forehead, and a ringing sound
filled her ears; her lips grew parched, and her eye glittered; the last
night of their journey Abner Dimock lifted her into the wagon, and she
fainted on the hay.

"What in hell did you bring her for, Dimock?" growled his companion;
"women are d----d plagues always."

"She'll get up in a minute," coolly returned the husband; "can't afford
to leave a goose that lays golden eggs behind; hold on till I lift her
up. Here, Hitty! drink, I tell you! drink!"

A swallow of raw spirit certainly drove away the faintness, but it
brought fresh fire to the fever that burned in her veins, and she was
muttering in delirium before the end of that night's journey brought
them to a small village just above the old house on the river that
figured in the beginning of this history, and which we trust the patient
reader has not forgotten. Abner Dimock left his wife in charge of the
old woman who kept the hovel of a tavern where they stopped, and, giving
Ben the horse to dispose of to some safe purchaser, after he had driven
him down to the old house, returned at night in the boat that belonged
to his negro tenant, and, taking his unconscious wife from her bed,
rowed down the river and landed her safely, to be carried from the skiff
into an upper chamber of the old house, where Jake's wife, Aunt Judy, as
Mr. Dimock styled her, nursed the wretched woman through three weeks of
fever, and "doctored" her with herbs and roots.

The tenacious Hyde constitution, that was a proverb in Greenfield,
conquered at last, and Hitty became conscious, to find herself in a
chamber whose plastered walls were crumbling away with dampness and
festooned with cobwebs, while the uncarpeted floor was checkered with
green stains of mildew, and the very old four-post bedstead on which she
lay was fringed around the rickety tester with rags of green moreen,

Hitty sank back on her pillow with a sigh; she did not even question the
old negress who sat crooning over the fire, as to where she was, or what
had befallen her; but accepted this new place as only another misty
delirium, and in her secret heart prayed, for the hundredth time, to

Slowly she recovered; for prayers to die are the last prayers ever
answered; we live against our will, and tempt living deaths year after
year, when soul and body cry out for the grave's repose, and beat
themselves against the inscrutable will of God only to fall down before
it in bruised and bleeding acquiescence. So she lived to find herself
immured in this damp and crumbling house, with no society but a drinking
and crime-haunted husband, and the ignorant negroes who served
him,--society varied now and then by one or two men revolting enough in
speech and aspect to drive Hitty to her own room, where, in a creaking
chair, she rocked monotonously back and forth, watching the snapping
fire, and dreaming dreams of a past that seemed now but a visionary

For now it was winter, and the heavy drifts of snow that lay on Dimock's
meadow forbade any explorations which the one idea of finding her child
might have driven her to make; and the frozen surface of the river no
white-sailed ship could traverse now, nor the hissing paddle-wheels of a
steamer break the silence with intimations of life, active and salient,
far beyond the lonely precinct of Abner Dimock's home.

So the winter passed by. The noises and lights that had awoke Hitty at
midnight in the house at Greenfield had become so far an institution in
this lonely dwelling that now they disturbed her sleep no more; for it
was a received custom, that, whenever Abner Dimock's two visitors should
appear, the cellar should resound all night with heavy blows and
clinking of metal, and red light as from a forge streamed up through the
doorway; but it disturbed Hitty no more; apathy settled down in black
mist on her soul, and she seemed to think, to care, for nothing.

But spring awoke the dead earth, and sleeping roots aroused with fresh
forces from their torpor, and sent up green signals to the birds above.
A spark of light awoke in Hitty's eye; she planned to get away, to steal
the boat from its hidden cove in the bushes and push off down the
friendly current of the river,--anywhere away from him! anywhere! though
it should be to wreck on the great ocean, but still away from him! Night
after night she rose from her bed to hazard the attempt, but her heart
failed, and her trembling limbs refused their aid. At length moonlight
came to her aid, and when all the house slept she stole downstairs with
bare, noiseless feet, and sped like a ghost across the meadow to the
river-bank. Poor weak hands! vainly they fumbled with the knotted rope
that bound the skiff to a crooked elm over-hanging the water,--all in
vain for many lingering minutes; but presently the obdurate knot gave
way, and, turning to gather up her shawl, there, close behind her, so
close that his hot breath seemed to sear her cheek, stood her husband,
clear in the moonlight, with a sneer on his face, and the lurid glow of
drunkenness, that made a savage brute of a bad man, gleaming in his
deep-set eyes. Hitty neither shrieked nor ran; despair nerved
her,--despair turned her rigid before his face.

"Well," said he, "where are you going?"

"I am going away,--away from you,--anywhere in the world away from you!"
answered she, with the boldness of desperation.

"Ha, ha! going away from me!--that's a d--d good joke, a'n't it? Away
from your husband! You fool! you can't get away from me! you're mine,
soul and body,--this world and the next! Don't you know that? Where's
your promise, eh?--'for better, for worse!'--and a'n't I worse, you
cursed fool, you? You didn't put on the handcuffs for nothing; heaven
and hell can't get you away from me as long as you've got on that little
shiny fetter on your finger,--don't you know that?"

The maddened woman made a quick wrench to pull away from him her left
hand, which he held in his, taunting her with the ring that symbolized
their eternal bonds; but he was too quick for her.

"Hollo!" laughed he; "want to get rid of it, don't you? No, no! that
won't do,--that won't do! I'll make it safe!"

And lifting her like a child in his arms, he carried her across the
meadow, back to the house, and down a flight of crazy steps into the
cellar, where a little forge was all ablaze with white-hot coal, and the
two ill-visaged men she well knew by sight were busy with sets of odd
tools and fragments of metal, while on a bench near by, and in the seat
of an old chair, lay piles of fresh coin. They were a gang of

Abner Dimock thrust his wife into the chair, sweeping the gilt eagles to
the floor as one of the men angrily started up, demanding, with an oath,
what he brought that woman there for to hang them all.

"Be quiet, Bill, can't you?" interposed the other man. "Don't you see
he's drunk? you'll have the Devil to pay, if you cross a drunk Dimock!"

But Abner had not heard the first speaker; he was too much occupied with
tying his wife's arms to the chair,--a proceeding she could nowise
interfere with, since his heavy foot was set upon her dress so as to
hold her own feet in helpless fixedness. He proceeded to take the ring
from her finger, and, searching through a box of various contents that
stood in one corner, extracted from it a delicate steel chain, finely
wrought, but strong as steel can be; then, at the forge, with sundry
tools, carefully chosen and skilfully used, he soldered one end of the
chain to the ring, and, returning to his wife, placed it again upon her

"Here, Bill," growled he, "where's that padlock off the tool-chest, eh?
give it here! This woman's a fool,--ha, ha, ha!--she wanted to get away
from me, and she's my wife!"

Another peal of dissonant laughter interrupted the words.

"What a d----d good joke! I swear I haven't laughed before, this dog's
age! And then she was goin' to rid herself of the ring! as if that would
help it! Why, there's the promise in black and white,--'love, honor, and
obey,'--'I take thee, Abner,'--ha, ha! that's good! But fast bind, fast
find; she a'n't going to get rid of the ring. I'll make it as tight as
the promise; both of 'em 'll last to doomsday. Give me the padlock, you

Bill, the man he addressed, knew too much to hesitate after the savage
look that sent home the last words,--and, drawing from a bag of tools
and dies a tiny padlock and key, he handed them to Dimock, who passed
the chain about Hitty's thin white wrist, and, fastening it with the
padlock, turned the key, and, withdrawing it from the lock, dropped it
into the silvery heat of the forge, and burst into a fit of laughter, so
savage and so inhuman that the bearded lips of his two comrades grew
white with horror to hear the devil within so exult in his possession of
a man.

Hitty sat, statue-like, in her chair; stooping, the man unbound her, and
she rose slowly and steadily to her feet, looking him in the face.

"Look!" said she, raising her shackled arm high in air,--"I shall carry
it to God!"--and so fled, up the broken stairway, out into the
moonlight, across the meadow,--the three men following fast,--over the
fallen boughs that winter had strewn along the shore, out under the
crooked elm, swift as light, poising on the stern of the boat, that had
swung out toward the channel,--and once more lifting her hand high into
the white light, with one spring she dropped into the river, and its
black waters rolled down to the sea.


Wandering along a waste
Where once a city stood,
I saw a ruined tomb,
And in that tomb an urn,--

A sacred funeral-urn,
Without a name or date,
And in its hollow depths
A little human dust!

Whose dust is this, I asked,
In this forgotten urn?
And where this waste now lies
What city rose of old?

None knows; its name is lost;
It was, and is no more:
Gone like a wind that blew
A thousand years ago!

Its melancholy end
Will be the end of all;
For, as it passed away,
The universe will pass!

Its sole memorial
Some ruined world, like ours;
A solitary urn,
Full of the dust of men!


There are numerous swarms of insects and many small quadrupeds,
requiring partial darkness for their security, that come abroad only
during the night or twilight. These would multiply almost without check,
but that certain birds are formed with the power of seeing in the dark,
and, on account of their partial blindness in the daytime, are forced by
necessity to seek their food by night. Many species of insects are most
active after dewfall,--such, especially, as spend a great portion of
their lifetime in the air. Hence the very late hour at which Swallows
retire to rest, the hour succeeding sunset providing them with a fuller
repast than any other part of the day. No sooner has the Swallow
disappeared, than the Whippoorwill and the Night-Jar come forth, to prey
upon the larger kinds of aerial insects. The Bat, an animal of an
antediluvian type, comes out at the same time, and assists in lessening
these multitudinous swarms. The little Owls, though they pursue the
larger beetles and moths, direct their efforts chiefly at the small
quadrupeds that steal out in the early evening to nibble the tender
herbs and grasses. Thus the night, except the hours of total darkness,
is with many species of animals, though they pursue their objects with
comparative stillness and silence, a period of general activity.

In this sketch, I shall treat of the Birds of the Night under two heads,
including, beside the true nocturnal birds that go abroad in the night
to seek their subsistence, those diurnal birds that continue their songs
during a considerable portion of the night. Some species of birds are
partly nocturnal in their habits. Such is the Chimney Swallow. This bird
is seldom out at noonday, which it employs in sleep, after excessive
activity from the earliest morning dawn. It is seen afterwards circling
about in the decline of day, and is sometimes abroad in fine weather the
greater part of the night, when the young broods require almost
unremitted exertions, on the part of the old birds, to procure their

The true nocturnal birds, of which the Owl and the Whippoorwill are
conspicuous examples, are distinguished by a peculiar sensibility of the
eye, that enables them to see clearly by twilight and in cloudy weather,
while they are dazzled by the broad light of day. Their organs of
hearing are proportionally delicate and acute. Their wing-feathers also
have a peculiar downy softness, so that they fly without the usual
fluttering sounds that attend the flight of other birds, and are able to
steal unawares upon their prey, and make their predal excursions without
disturbing the general silence of the hour. This noiseless flight is
very remarkable in the Owl, as may be observed, if a tame one be allowed
to fly about a room, when we can perceive his motions only by our sight.
It is a fact worthy of our attention, that this peculiar structure of
the wing-feathers does not exist in the Woodcock. Nature makes no
useless provisions for her creatures; and hence this nocturnal bird,
which obtains his food by digging into the soil, and gets no part of it
while on the wing, has no need of this contrivance. Neither stillness
nor stealth would assist him in securing his helpless prey.

Among the nocturnal birds, the most notorious is the Owl, of which there
are many species, varying from the size of an Eagle down to the little
Acadian, which is no larger than a Robin. The resemblance of the Owl to
the feline quadrupeds has been a frequent subject of remark. Like the
cat, he sees most clearly by twilight or the light of the moon, seeks
his prey in the night, and spends the principal part of the day in
sleep. The likeness is made stronger by his tufts of feathers, that
correspond to the ears of the quadruped,--by his large head,--his round,
full, and glaring eyes, set widely apart,--by the extreme contractility
of the pupil,--and in his manners, by his lurking and stealthy habit of
surprising his victims. His eyes are partially encircled by a disk of
feathers that yields a peculiarly significant expression to his face.
His hooked bill turned downwards, so as to resemble the nose in a human
countenance, the general flatness of his features, and his upright
position, give him a grave and intelligent look; and it was this
expression that caused him to be selected by the ancients as the emblem
of wisdom, and consecrated to Minerva.

The Owl is remarkable also for the acuteness of his hearing, having a
large ear-drum, and being provided with an apparatus by which he can
exalt this faculty, when under the necessity of listening with greater
attention. Hence, while he is silent in his own motions, he is able to
perceive the least sound from the motion of any other object, and
overtakes his prey by coming upon it in silence and darkness. The
stillness of his flight is one of the circumstances that add mystery to
his character, and which have assisted in rendering him an object of
superstitious dread.

Aware of his defenceless condition in the bright daylight, when his
purblindness would prevent him from evading the attacks of his enemies,
he seeks some obscure retreat where he may pass the day without exposing
himself to observation. It is this necessity which has caused him to
make his abode in desolate and ruined buildings, in old towers and
belfries, and in the crevices of dilapidated walls. In these places he
hides himself from the sight of other birds, who regard him as their
common enemy, and who show him no mercy when he is discovered. Here also
he rears his offspring, and with these solitary haunts his image is
closely associated. In thinly settled and wooded countries, he selects
the hollows of old trees and the clefts of rocks for his retreats. All
the smaller Owls, however, seem to multiply with the increase of human
population, subsisting upon the minute animals that accumulate in
outhouses, orchards, and fallows.

When the Owl is discovered in his hiding-place, the alarm is given, and
there is a general excitement among the small birds. They assemble in
great numbers, and with loud chattering commence assailing and annoying
him in various ways, and soon drive him out of his retreat. The Jay,
usually his first assailant, like a thief employed as a thief-taker,
attacks him with great zeal and animation; the Chickadee, the Nuthatch,
and the small Thrushes peck at his head and eyes; while other birds,
less bold, fly round him, and by their vociferation encourage his
assailants and help to terrify their victim.

It is while sitting on the branch of a tree or on a fence, after his
misfortune and his escape, that he is most frequently seen in the
daytime; and here he has formed a subject for painters, who have
commonly introduced him into their pictures as he appears in one of
these open situations. He is likewise represented ensconced in his own
select retreats, apparently peeping out of his hiding-place while
half-concealed; and the fact of his being seen in these lonely places
has caused many superstitions to be attached to his image. His voice is
supposed to bode misfortune, and his spectral visits are regarded as the
forewarnings of death. His connection with deserted houses and ruins has
invested him with a peculiarly romantic character; while the poets, by
introducing him to deepen the force of their gloomy and pathetic
descriptions, have enlivened these associations; and he deserves,
therefore, in a special degree, to be named among those animals which we
call picturesque.

The gravity of the Owl's general appearance, combined with a sort of
human expression in his countenance, undoubtedly caused him to be
selected by the ancients as the emblem of wisdom. The moderns have
practically renounced this idea, which had no foundation in the real
character of the bird, who possesses only the sly and sinister traits
that mark the feline race. A very different train of associations and a
new series of picturesque images are now suggested by the figure of the
Owl, who has been portrayed more correctly by modern poetry than by
ancient mythology. He is now universally regarded as the emblem of ruin
and desolation, true to his character and habits, which are intimately
allied to this description of scenery.

I will not enter into a speculation concerning the nature and origin of
those agreeable emotions which are so generally produced by the sight of
objects that suggest the ideas of decay and desolation. It is happy for
us, that, by the alchemy of poetry, we are able to turn some of our
misfortunes into sources of melancholy pleasure, after the poignancy of
grief has been assuaged by time. Nature has beneficently provided, also,
that many an object, which is capable of communicating no direct
pleasure to our senses, shall affect us agreeably through the medium of
sentiment. The image of the Owl is calculated to awaken the sentiment of
ruin, and to this feeling of the human soul we may trace the pleasure we
derive from the sight of this bird in his appropriate scenery. Two Doves
upon the mossy branch of a tree in a wild and beautiful sylvan retreat
are the pleasing emblems of innocent love and constancy; but they are
not more suggestive of poetic fancies than an Owl sitting upon an old
gate-post near a deserted house.

I have alluded, in another page, to the faint sounds we hear when the
Night Birds, on a still summer evening, are flying over short distances
in a neighboring wood. There is a feeling of mystery excited by these
sounds, that exalts the pleasure we derive from the delightful influence
of the hour and the season. But the emotions thus produced are of a
cheerful kind, and not equal in intensity to the effects of the scarcely
perceptible sound occasioned by the flight of the Owl, as he glides by
in the dusk of the evening or in the dim light of the moon. Similar in
its influence is the dismal voice of this bird, which is harmonized with
darkness, and, though in some cases not unmusical, is tuned, as it were,
to the terrors of that hour when he makes secret warfare upon the
sleeping inhabitants of the wood.

One of the most interesting of this tribe of birds is the little Acadian
Owl, (_Strix Acadica_,) whose note has formerly excited a great deal of
curiosity. In "The Canadian Naturalist," an account is given of a rural
excursion in April, in the course of which the attention of one of the
party is called by his companion, just after sunset, to a peculiar sound
proceeding from a cedar swamp. It was compared to the measured tinkling
of a cow-bell, or regular strokes upon a piece of iron, quickly
repeated. The one appealed to is able to give no satisfactory
information about it, but remarks, that, "during the months of April and
May, and in the former part of June, we frequently hear, after
nightfall, the sound just described. From its regularity, it is thought
to resemble the whetting of a saw, and hence the bird from which it
proceeds is called the Saw-Whetter." The author could not identify the
bird that uttered this note, but conjectured that it might be a Heron or
a Bittern. It has since been ascertained that this singular note
proceeds from the Acadian Owl. It is like the sound produced by the
filing of a mill-saw, and is said to be the amatory note of the male,
being heard only during the season of incubation.

Mr. S.P. Fowler, of Danvers, informs me that "the Acadian Owl has
another note, which we frequently hear in the autumn, after the breeding
season is over. The parent birds, then accompanied by their young, while
hunting their prey during a bright moonlight night, utter a peculiar
note, resembling a suppressed moan or a low whistle. The little Acadian,
to avoid the annoyance of the birds he would meet by day, and the
blinding light of the sun, retires in the morning, his feathers wet with
dew and rumpled by the hard struggles he has encountered in seizing his
prey, to the gloom of the forest or the thick swamp, where, perched on a
bough, near the trunk of the tree, he sleeps through a summer's day, the
perfect picture of a _used-up_ little fellow, suffering from the sad
effects of a night's carouse. But he is an honest bird, notwithstanding
his late hours and his idle sleeping days; he is also domestic in his
habits, and the father of an interesting family, close at hand, in a
hollow white-birch, and he is ever ready to give them his support and

The Mottled Owl, (_Strix Asio_) or Screech Owl, is somewhat larger than
the Acadian or Whetsaw, and not so familiar as the Barn Owl of Europe,
though resembling it in general habits. He commonly builds in the hollow
of an old tree, also in deserted buildings, whither he resorts in the
daytime to find repose and to escape annoyance. His voice is heard most
frequently in the latter part of summer, when the young Owlets are
abroad, and use their cries for purposes of mutual salutation and
recognition. This wailing note is singularly wild, and not unmusical. It
is not properly a screech or a scream, like that of the Hawk or the
Peacock, but rather a sort of moaning melody, half music and half
bewailment. This wailing song is far from disagreeable, though it has a
cadence which is expressive of dreariness and melancholy. It might be
performed on a small flute, by commencing with D octave and running down
by semitones to a fifth below, and frequently repeating the notes, for
the space of a minute, with occasional pauses and slight variations,
sometimes ascending as well as descending the scale. The bird does not
slur the passages, but utters them with a sort of trembling _staccato_.
The separate notes may be distinctly perceived, with intervals of about
a semitone.

The Owl is not properly regarded as a useful bird. The generality of the
tribe deserve to be considered only as mischievous birds of prey, and no
more entitled to mercy and protection than the Falcons, to which they
are allied. All the little Owls, however, though guilty of destroying
small birds, are very serviceable in ridding our fields and premises of
mischievous animals. They likewise destroy multitudes of large nocturnal
insects, flying above the summits of the trees in pursuit of them, while
at other times their flight is low, when watching for the small animals
that run upon the ground. It is probably on account of its low flight
that the Owl is seldom seen on the wing. Bats, which are employed by
Nature for the same kind of services, fall victims in large numbers to
the Owls of different species, who are the principal means of preventing
their multiplication.

I should wander from my present purpose, were I to attempt a sketch of
the large Owls, as I design only to treat of those birds which
contribute, either as poetic or picturesque objects, to improve the
charms of Nature. I shall say but a passing word, therefore, of the
Great Snowy Owl, almost exclusively an inhabitant of the Arctic regions,
where he frightens both man and beast with his dismal hootings,--or of
the Cat Owl, the prince of these monsters, who should be consecrated to
Pluto,--or of his brother monster, the Gray Owl, that will carry off a
full-grown rabbit. There are several other species, more or less
interesting, ridiculous, or frightful. I will leave them, to speak of
birds of more pleasing habits and a more innocent character.

The next remarkable family of nocturnal birds comprises the
_Moth-Hunters_, including, in New England, only two species,--the
Whippoorwill and the Night-Hawk, or Piramidig. These birds resemble the
Owls in some of their habits; but in their structure, in their mode of
subsistence, and in their general traits of character, they are like
Swallows. They are shy and solitary, take their food while on the wing,
abide chiefly in deep woods, and come abroad only at twilight or in
cloudy weather. They remain, like the Dove, permanently paired, lay
their eggs on the bare ground, and, when perched upon the branch of a
tree, sit upon it lengthwise, unlike other birds. They are remarkable
for their singular voices, of which that of only one species, the
Whippoorwill, can be considered musical. They are known in all parts of
the world, but are particularly numerous in the warmer parts of America.

The Whippoorwill (_Caprimulgus vociferus_) is well known to the
inhabitants of this part of the world, on account of his nocturnal song.
This is heard only in densely wooded and retired situations, and is
associated with the solitude of the forest, as well as the silence of
night. The Whippoorwill is, therefore, emblematic of the rudeness of
primitive Nature, and his voice always reminds us of seclusion and
retirement. Sometimes he wanders away from the wood into the precincts
of the town, and sings near some dwelling-house. Such an incident was
formerly the occasion of superstitious alarm, being regarded as an omen
of some evil to the inmates of the dwelling. The true cause of these
irregular visits is probably the accidental abundance of a particular
kind of insects, which the bird has followed from his retirement.

I believe the Whippoorwill, in this part of the country, is first heard
in May, and continues vocal until the middle of July. He begins to sing
at dusk, and we usually hear his note soon after the Veery, the Philomel
of our summer evenings, has become silent. His song consists of three
notes, in a sort of triple or waltz time, with a slight pause after the
first note in the bar, as given below:--

[Illustration: SONG OF THE WHIPPOORWILL. Whip-poor-Will Whip-p'r-Will
Whip-p'r-Will Whip-]

I should remark, that the bird usually commences his song with the
second syllable of his name, or the second note in the bar. Some birds
fall short of these intervals; but there seems to be an endeavor, on the
part of each individual, to reach the notes as they are written on the
scale. A few sliding notes are occasionally introduced, and an
occasional preluding cluck is heard when we are near the singer.

The note of the Quail so closely resembles that of the Whippoorwill,
that I have thought it might be interesting to compare the two.

[Illustration: NOTE OF THE QUAIL. Bob White. More Wet.]

So great is the general similarity of the notes of these two birds, that
those of the Quail need only to be repeated several times in succession,
without pause, to be mistaken for those of the Whippoorwill. They are
uttered with similar intonations; but the voice of the nocturnal bird is
more harsh, and his song consists of three notes instead of two.

The song of the Whippoorwill, though wanting in mellowness of tone, as
may be perceived when he is only a short distance from us, is to most
people very agreeable, notwithstanding the superstitions associated with
it. Some persons are not disposed to rank the Whippoorwill among
singing-birds, regarding him as more vociferous than musical. But it
would be difficult to determine in what respect his notes differ from
the songs of other birds, except that they approach more nearly to the
precision of artificial music. Yet it will be admitted that considerable
distance is required to "lend enchantment" to the sound of his voice. In
some retired and solitary districts, the Whippoorwills are often so
numerous as to be annoying by their vociferations; but in those places
where only two or three individuals are heard during the season, their
music is the source of a great deal of pleasure, and is a kind of
recommendation to the place.

I was witness of this, some time since, in one of my botanical rambles
in the town of Beverly, which is, for the most part, too densely
populated to suit the habits of these solitary birds. On one of these
excursions, after walking several hours over a rather unattractive
region, I arrived at a very romantic spot, known by the unpoetical name
of Black Swamp. Nature uses her most ordinary materials to form her most
delightful landscapes, and often keeps in reserve prospects of
enchanting beauty, and causes them to rise up, as it were, by magic,
where we should least expect them. Here I suddenly found myself
encompassed by a charming amphitheatre of hills and woods, and in a
valley so beautiful that I could not have imagined anything equal to it.
A neat cottage stood alone in this spot, without a single architectural
decoration, which I am confident would have dissolved the spell that
made the whole scene so attractive. It was occupied by a shoemaker, whom
I recognized as an old acquaintance and a worthy man, who resided here
with his wife and children. I asked them if they could live contented so
far from other families. The wife of the cottager replied, that they
suffered in the winter from their solitude, but in the spring and summer
they preferred it to the town,--"for in this place we hear all the
singing-birds, early and late, and the Whippoorwill sings here every
night during May and June." It was the usual practice of these birds,
they told me, to sing both in the morning and the evening twilight; but
if the moon rose late in the evening, after they had become silent, they
would begin to sing anew, as if to welcome her rising. May the birds
continue to sing to this happy family, and may the voice of the
Whippoorwill never bode them any misfortune!

The Night-Hawk, or Piramidig, (_Caprimulgus Americanus_,) is similar in
many points to the Whippoorwill, and the two species were formerly
considered identical. The former, however, is a smaller bird; he has no
song, and exhibits more of the ways of the Swallow. He is marked by a
white spot on his wings, which is very apparent during his flight. He
takes his prey in a higher part of the atmosphere,--being frequently
seen, at twilight and in cloudy weather, soaring above the house-tops in
quest of insects. The Whippoorwill finds his subsistence chiefly in the
woods, and takes a part of it from the branches of trees, while poising
himself on the wing, like a Humming-Bird. I believe he is never seen
circling aloft like the Night-Hawk.

The movements of the Night-Hawk, during this flight, are performed, for
the most part, in circles, and are very picturesque. The birds are
usually seen in pairs, at such times, but occasionally there are numbers
assembled together; and one might suppose they were engaged in a sort of
aerial dance, or that they were emulating each other in their attempts
at soaring to a great height. It is evident that these evolutions
proceed in part from the pleasure of motion; but they are also connected
with their courtship. While they are soaring and circling in the air,
they occasionally utter the shrill and broken note which has been
supposed to resemble the word Piramidig, whence the name is
derived,--and now and then they dart suddenly aside, to seize a passing

While performing these circumvolutions, the male frequently dives almost
perpendicularly downwards, a distance of forty feet or more, uttering,
when he turns at the bottom of his descent, a singular note, resembling
the twang of a viol-string. This sound has been supposed to proceed from
the action of the air, as the bird dives swiftly through it with open
mouth; but this supposition is rendered improbable by the fact that the
European species makes a similar sound while sitting on its perch. It
has also been alleged that the diving motion of this bird is an act
designed to intimidate those who seem to be approaching his nest; but
this cannot be true, because the bird performs the manoeuvre when he has
no nest to defend. This habit is peculiar to the male, and it is
probably one of those fantastic motions which are noticeable among the
males of the gallinaceous birds, and are evidently their artifices to
attract the attention of the female; very many of these motions may be
observed in the manners of tame Pigeons.

The twanging note produced during the precipitate descent of the
Night-Hawk is one of the picturesque sounds of Nature, and is heard most
frequently in the morning twilight, when the birds are busy collecting
their repast of insects. During an early morning walk, while they are
circling about, we may hear their cry frequently repeated, and
occasionally the booming sound, which, if one is not accustomed to it,
and is not acquainted with this habit of the bird, affects him with a
sensation of mystery, and excites his curiosity in an extraordinary

The sound produced by the European species is a sort of drumming or
whizzing note, like the hum of a spinning-wheel. The male commences this
performance about dusk, and continues it at intervals during a great
part of the night. It is effected while the breast is inflated with air,
like that of a cooing Dove. The Piramidig has the power of inflating
himself in the same manner, and he utters this whizzing note when one
approaches his nest.

The American Woodcock (_Scolopax minor_) is a more interesting bird than
we should infer from his general appearance and physiognomy. He is
mainly nocturnal in his habits, and his ways are worthy of study and
observation. He obtains his food by scratching up the leaves and rubbish
that lie upon the surface of the ground in damp and wooded places, and
by boring into the earth for worms. He remains concealed in the wood
during the day, and comes out to feed at twilight, choosing the open
ploughed lands where worms are abundant; though it is probable that in
the shade of the wood he is more or less busy in scratching among the
leaves in the daytime.

The Woodcock does not commonly venture abroad in the open day, unless he
be disturbed and driven from his retreats. He makes his first appearance
here in the latter part of April, and at this season we may observe that
soaring habit which renders him one of the picturesque objects of
Nature. This soaring takes place soon after sunset, continues during
twilight, and is repeated at the corresponding hour in the morning. If
you listen at this time near the places of his resort, he will soon
reveal himself by a lively peep, frequently uttered, from the ground.
While repeating this note, he may be seen strutting about, like a
turkey-cock, with fantastic jerkings of the tail and a frequent bowing
of the head; and his mate, I believe, is at this time not far off.
Suddenly he springs upward, and with a wide circular sweep, uttering at
the same time a rapid whistling note, he rises in a spiral course to a
great height in the air. At the summit of his ascent, he hovers about
with irregular motions, chirping a medley of broken notes, like
imperfect warbling. This continues about ten or fifteen seconds, when it
ceases, and he descends rapidly to the ground. We seldom hear him while
in his descent, but receive the first intimation of it by hearing a
repetition of his peep, resembling the sound produced by those minute
wooden trumpets sold at the German toy-shops.

No person could watch this playful flight of the Woodcock without
interest; and it is remarkable that a bird with short wings and
difficult flight should be capable of mounting to so great an altitude.
It affords me a vivid conception of the pleasure with which I should
witness the soaring and singing of the Skylark, known to me only by
description. I have but to imagine the chirruping of the Woodcock to be
a melodious series of notes, to feel that I am listening to that bird,
which is so familiarized to our imaginations by English poetry that in
our early days we always expect his greetings with a summer sunrise. It
is with sadness that we first learn in our youth that the Skylark is not
an inhabitant of the New World; and our mornings seem divested of a
great portion of their charms, for the want of this poetical

There is another circumstance connected with the habits of the Woodcock
which increases his importance as an actor in the melodrame of Nature.
When we stroll away from the noise and din of the town, where the
stillness permits us to hear distinctly all those faint sounds which are
turned by the silence of night into music, we may hear at frequent
intervals the hum produced by the irregular flights of the Woodcock, as
he passes over short distances in the wood, where he is collecting his
repast. It resembles the sound of the wings of Doves, rendered distinct
by the stillness of all other things, and melodious by the distance.
There is a feeling of mystery attached to these musical nights that
yields a savor of romance to the quiet voluptuousness of a summer

It is on such occasions, if we are in a moralizing mood, that we may be
keenly impressed with the truth of the saying, that the secret of
happiness consists in keeping alive our susceptibilities by frugal
indulgences, rather than by seeking a multitude of pleasures, that pall
in exact proportion to their abundance. The stillness and darkness of a
quiet night produce this enlivening effect upon our minds. Our
susceptibility is then awakened to such a degree, that slight sounds and
feeble sparks of light convey to our souls an amount of pleasure which
we seldom experience in the daytime from sights and sounds of the most
pleasing description. Thus the player in an orchestra can enjoy such
music only as would deafen common ears by its crash of sounds, in which
they perceive no connection or harmony; while the simple rustic listens
to the rude notes of a flageolet in the hands of a clown with feelings
of ineffable delight. Nature, if the seekers after luxurious and
exciting pleasures could but understand her language, would say to them,
"Except ye become as this simple rustic, ye cannot enter into my

The American Snipe has some of the nocturnal habits of the Woodcock, and
the same habit of soaring at twilight, when he performs a sort of
musical medley, which Audubon has very graphically described in the
following passage:--"The birds are met with in meadows and low grounds,
and, by being on the spot before sunrise, you may see both (male and
female) mount high, in a spiral manner, now with continuous beats of the
wings, now in short sailings, until more than a hundred yards high, when
they whirl round each other with extreme velocity, and dance, as it
were, to their own music; for, at this juncture, and during the space of
five or six minutes, you hear rolling notes mingled together, each more
or less distinct, perhaps, according to the state of the atmosphere. The
sounds produced are extremely pleasing, though they fall faintly on the
ear. I know not how to describe them; but I am well assured that they
are not produced simply by the beatings of their wings, as at this time
the wings are not flapped, but are used in sailing swiftly in a circle,
not many feet in diameter. A person might cause a sound somewhat similar
by blowing rapidly and alternately, from one end to another, across a
set of small pipes, consisting of two or three modulations. This
performance is kept up till incubation terminates; but I have never
observed it at any other period."

Among the Heron family we discover a few nocturnal birds, which, though
not very well known, have some ways that are singular and interesting.
Goldsmith considered one of these birds worthy of introduction into his
"Deserted Village," as contributing to the poetic conception of
desolation. Thus, in his description of the grounds which were the
ancient site of the village, we read,--

"Along its glades, a solitary guest,
The hollow-sounding Bittern guards its nest."

"The Bittern is a shy and solitary bird; it is never seen on the wing in
the daytime, but sits, generally with the head erect, hid among the
reeds and rushes of extensive marshes, from whence it will not stir,
unless disturbed by the sportsman. When it changes its haunts, it
removes in the dusk of the evening, and then, rising in a spiral
direction, soars to a vast height. It flies in the same heavy manner as
the Heron, and might be mistaken for that bird, were it not for the
singularly resounding cry which it utters, from time to time, while on
the wing: but this cry is feeble when compared with the hollow booming
noise which it makes during the night, in the breeding season, from its
swampy retreats. From the loudness and solemnity of its note, an
erroneous notion prevails with the vulgar, that it either thrusts its
head into a reed, which serves as a pipe for swelling its note beyond
its natural pitch, or that it immerges its head in water, and then
produces its boomings by blowing with all its might."

The American Bittern is a smaller bird, but is probably a variety of the
European species. It exhibits the same nocturnal habits, and has
received at the South the name of _Dunkadoo_, from the resemblance of
its common note to these syllables. This is a hollow-sounding noise, but
not so loud as the voice of the Bittern to which Goldsmith alludes. I
have heard it by day proceeding from the wooded swamps, and am at a loss
to explain how so small a bird can produce so low and hollow a note.
Among this family of birds are one or two other nocturnal species,
including the Qua-Bird, which is common to both continents; but there is
little to be said of it that would be interesting in this connection.
The Herons, however, and their allied species, are birds of remarkable
habits, the enumeration and account of which would occupy a considerable
space. In an essay on the flight of birds in particular, the Herons
would furnish a multitude of very interesting facts.

Let us now turn our attention to those diurnal birds that sing in the
night as well as in the day, and which might be comprehended under the
general appellation of Nightingales. These birds do not confine their
singing to the night, like the true nocturnal birds, and are most vocal
when inspired by the light of the moon. Europe has several of these
minstrels of the night. Beside the true Philomel of poetry and romance,
the Reed-Thrush and the Woodcock are of this character. In the United
States, the Mocking-Bird enjoys the greatest reputation; the
Rose-breasted Grosbeak and the New York Thrush are also nocturnal

The Mocking-Bird (_Turdus polyglottus_) is well known in the Middle and
Southern States, but seldom passes a season in New England, except in
the southern part of Rhode Island and Connecticut, which seem to be the
northern limit of its migrations. Probably, like the Rose-breasted
Grosbeak, which is constantly extending its limits in an eastern
direction, the Mocking-Bird may be gradually making progress
northwardly, so that fifty years hence both of these birds may be common
in Massachusetts. The Mocking-Bird is familiar in his habits,
frequenting gardens and orchards, and perching on the roofs of houses
when singing, like the common Robin. Like the Robin, too, who sings at
all hours excepting those of darkness, he is a persevering songster, and
seems to be inspired by living in the vicinity of man. In his manners,
however, he bears more resemblance to the Red Thrush, being
distinguished by his vivacity, and the courage with which he repels the
attacks of his enemies.

The Mocking-Bird is celebrated throughout the world for his musical
powers; but it is difficult to ascertain precisely the character and
quality of his original notes. Hence some naturalists have contended
that he has no song of his own, but confines himself to imitations. That
this is an error, all persons who have listened to him in his native
wild-wood can testify. I should say, from my own observations, not only
that he has a distinct song, peculiarly his own, but that his imitations
are far from being equal to his original notes. Yet it is seldom we hear
him except when he is engaged in mimicry. In his native woods, and
especially at an early hour in the morning, when he is not provoked to
imitation by the voices of other birds and animals, he sometimes pours
forth his own wild notes with full fervor. Yet I have often listened
vainly for hours to hear him utter anything but a few idle repetitions
of monotonous sounds, interspersed with some ludicrous varieties. Why he
should neglect his own pleasing notes, to tease the listener with his
imitations of all imaginable discords, is not easily explained.

Though his imitations are the cause of his notoriety, they are not the
utterances upon which his true merit is based. He would be infinitely
more valuable as a songster, if he were incapable of imitating a single
sound. I would add, that as an imitator of the songs of other birds he
is very imperfect, and in this respect has been greatly overrated by our
ornithologists, who seem to vie with one another in their exaggerations
of his powers. He cannot utter the notes of the rapid singers; he is
successful only in his imitations of those birds whose notes are simple
and moderately delivered. He is, indeed, more remarkable for his
indefatigable propensity than for his powers. Single sounds, from
whatever source they may come, from birds, quadrupeds, reptiles, or
machines, he gives very accurately; but I have heard numbers of
Mocking-Birds in confinement attempt to imitate the Canary, and always
without success. There is a common saying, that the Mocking-Bird will
die of chagrin, if placed in a cage by the side of a caged Bobolink,
mortified because he cannot give utterance to his rapid notes. If this
were the cause of his death, he would also die when caged in a room with
a Canary, a Goldfinch, or any of the rapidly singing Finches. It is also
an error to say of his imitations, as the generality of writers assert,
that they are improvements upon the originals. When he utters the notes
of the Red-Bird, the Golden Robin, or the Common Robin, he does not
improve them; and when he gives us the screaming of the Jay or the
mewing of the Cat, he does not change them into music.

As an original songster, judging him by what he is capable of
performing, however unfrequently he may exercise his powers to the best
advantage, the Mocking-Bird is probably equalled only by two or three of
our singing-birds. His notes are loud, varied, melodious, and of great
compass. They may be compared to those of the Red Thrush, more rapidly
delivered, and having more flute notes and fewer guttural notes and
sudden transitions. He also sings on the wing and with fervor, like the
Linnet, while the other Thrushes sing only from their perch. But his
song has less variety than that of the Red Thrush, and falls short of it
in as many respects as it surpasses it. For the greater part of the
time, the only notes of the Mocking-Bird, when he is not engaged in
mimicry, are a sort of melodious whistle, consisting of two notes about
a fourth apart, uttered in quick, but not rapid, succession, and hardly
to be distinguished from those of the Red-Bird of Virginia.

I heard the notes of the Mocking-Bird the first time in his native
wilds, during a railroad journey by night, through the Pine Barrens of
North Carolina, in the month of June. The journey was very tiresome and
unpleasant, nothing being seen, when looking out upon the landscape, but
a gloomy stretch of level forest, consisting of tall pines, thinly
scattered, without any branches, except at their tops. The dusky forms
of these trees, pictured against the half-luminous sky, seemed like so
many giant spectres watching the progress of our journey, and increased
the loneliness of the hour. Before daylight, when the sky was faintly
crimsoned around the place where the sun was to come forth, the train
made a pause of half an hour, at one of the stations, and the passengers
alighted. While I was looking at the dreary prospect of desert, tired of
my journey and longing for day, suddenly the notes of the Mocking-Bird
came to my ear, and changed all my gloomy feelings into delight.

It is seldom I have felt so vividly the power of one little incident to
change the tone of one's feelings and the humor of the occasion. As a
few drops of oil, cast upon the surface of the waters, will quiet the
troubled waves, so did the glad voice of this merry bird suddenly dispel
all those sombre feelings which had been fostered by dismal scenes and a
lonely journey. Nature never seemed so lovely as when the rising dawn,
with its tearful beams and purple radiance, was greeted by this warbling
salutation, as from some messenger of light, who came to announce that
Morning was soon to step forth from her throne, and extend over all
things her smiles and her beneficence.

Of the other American birds that sing in the night I can say nothing
from my own observation. The most important of these is the New York
Thrush, (_Turdus aquaticus_,) which is said to resemble the River
Nightingale of Europe. This bird, which is common in the Western States,
is said to sing melodiously night and day. Wilson remarks of this
species, "They are eminently distinguished by the loudness, sweetness,
and expressive vivacity of their notes, which begin very high and clear,
falling with an almost imperceptible gradation, till they are scarcely
articulated. At these times the musician is perched on the middle
branches of a tree, over a brook or river-bank, pouring out his charming
melody, that may be distinctly heard for nearly half a mile. The voice
of this little bird appeared to me so exquisitely sweet and expressive,
that I was never tired listening to it." This description is exactly
applicable to the song of the Veery, supposed to be silent by Wilson,
who could not have fallen into such an error, except by having confined
his researches chiefly to the Middle and Southern States.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak (_Loxia rosea_) is said to be an excellent
songster, passing the greater part of the night in singing, and
continuing vocal in confinement. This bird is common in the Western
States, but until lately has seldom been seen in New England. I learn,
however, from Mr. Fowler, that "the Rose-breasted Grosbeak is found in
Essex County, and, though formerly seldom seen, is becoming every year
more common. Like the Wood Thrush and Scarlet Tanager, it is retiring in
its habits, and is usually found in the most sheltered part of the wood,
where, perched about midway on a tree, in fancied concealment, it
warbles its soft, clear, and melodious notes." He thinks this bird is
not heard so frequently by night as by day, though it often sings in the
light of the moon.

In connection with this theme, we cannot help feeling a sense of regret,
almost like melancholy, when we reflect that the true Nightingale and
the Skylark, the classical birds of European literature, are strangers
to our fields and woods. In May and June there is no want of sylvan
minstrels to wake the morn and to sing the vespers of a sweet summer
evening. A flood of song wakes us at the earliest daylight; and the shy
and solitary Veery, after the Vesper-Bird has concluded his evening
hymn, pours his few pensive notes into the very bosom of twilight, and
makes the hour sacred by his melody. But after twilight is sped, and the
moon rises to shed her meek radiance over the sleeping earth, the
Nightingale is not here to greet her rising, and to turn her melancholy
beams into the cheerfulness of daylight. And when the Queen Moon is on
her throne,

"Clustered around by all her starry Fays,"

the Whippoorwill alone brings her the tribute of his monotonous song,
and soothes the dull ear of Night with sounds which, however delightful,
are not of heaven. We have become so familiar with the Lark and the
Nightingale, by the perusal of the romance of rural life, that "neither
breath of Morn, when she ascends" without the charm of this her earliest
harbinger, "nor silent Night" without her "solemn bird," seems holy, as
when we contemplate them in the works of pastoral song. Poetry has
hallowed to our minds the pleasing objects of the Old World; those of
the New have to be cherished in song yet many more years, before they
will be equally sacred to our imaginations.

By some of our writers the Mocking-Bird is put forward as equal in song
to the Nightingale. This assumption might be worthy of consideration, if
the American bird were not a mimic. But his mocking habits almost
annihilate his value as a songster,--as the effect of a good concert
would be spoiled, if the players were constantly introducing, in the
midst of their serious performances, snatches of ridiculous tunes and
uncouth sounds. I have never heard the Nightingale; but if I may judge
from descriptions of its song, and from the notes of those Canaries
which are said to give us perfect imitations of it, we have no bird in
America that equals this classical songster. The following description,
by Pliny, which is said to be superior to any other, may afford us some
idea of the extent of its powers:--"The Nightingale, that for fifteen
days and nights, hid in the thickest shades, continues her note without
intermission, deserves our attention and wonder. How surprising that so
great a voice can reside in so small a body! Such perseverance in so
minute an animal! With what musical propriety are the sounds it produces
modulated! The note at one time drawn out with a long breath, now
stealing off into a different cadence, now interrupted by a break, then
changing into a new note by an unexpected transition, now seeming to
renew the same strain, then deceiving expectation. She sometimes seems
to murmur within herself; full, deep, sharp, swift, drawling, trembling;
now at the top, the middle, and the bottom of the scale. In short, in
that little bill seems to reside all the melody which man has vainly
labored to bring from a variety of musical instruments. Some even seem
to be possessed of a different note from the rest, and contend with each
other with great ardor. The bird, overcome, is then seen to discontinue
its song only with its life."

The cause of the nocturnal singing of birds that do not go abroad during
the night and are strictly diurnal in all their other habits has never
been satisfactorily explained. It is natural that the Whippoorwill,
which is a nocturnal bird, should sing during his hours of wakefulness
and activity. There is also no difficulty in explaining why Ducks and
Geese, and some other social birds, should utter their loud alarm-notes,
when they meet with any midnight disturbance. These birds usually have a
sentinel who keeps awake; and if he give an alarm, the others reply to
it. The crowing of the Cock bears more analogy to the song of a bird,
for it does not seem to be an alarm-note. This domestic bird may be
considered, therefore, a nocturnal songster, if his crowing can be
called a song; though it is remarkable that we seldom hear it during
evening twilight. The Cock sings his matins, but not his vespers; he
crows at the earliest dawn of day, and at midnight upon the rising of
the moon, and whenever he is awakened by artificial light. Many
singing-birds are accustomed to prolong their notes after sunset to a
late hour, and become silent only to commence again at the earliest
daybreak. But the habit of singing in the night is peculiar to a small
number of birds, and the cause of it forms a curious subject of inquiry.

By what means are they enabled to sustain such constant watchfulness,
singing and providing subsistence for their offspring during the day,
and still continuing wakeful and musical while it is night? Why do they
take pleasure in singing, when no one will come in answer to their call?
Have they their worship, like religious beings, and are their midnight
lays but the outpouring of the fervency of their spirits? Do they
rejoice, like the clouds, in the presence of the moon, hailing her beams
as a pleasant relief from the darkness that has surrounded them? Or in
the silence of night, are their songs but responses to the sounds of the
trees, when they bow their heads and shake their rustling leaves in the
wind? When they listen to the streamlet, that makes audible melody only
in the hush of night, do they not answer to it from their leafy perch?
And when the moth flies hummingly through the recesses of the wood, and
the beetle sounds his horn, what are their notes but cheerful responses
to these sounds, that break sweetly upon the quiet of their slumbers?

Wilson remarks, that the hunters in the Southern States, when setting
out on an excursion by night, as soon as they hear the Mocking-Bird
sing, know that the moon is rising. He quotes a writer who supposes that
it may be fear that operates upon the birds when they perceive the Owls
flitting among the trees, and that they sing, as a timid person whistles
in a lonely place, to quiet their fears. But the musical notes of birds
are never used by them to express their fears; they are the language of
love, sometimes animated by jealousy. It must be admitted that the
moonlight awakes these birds, and may be the most frequent exciting
cause of their nocturnal singing; but it is not true that they always
wait for the rising of the moon; and if this were the fact, the question
may still be asked, why these few species alone should be thus affected.

Since Philosophy can give no explanation of this instinct, let Fancy
come to her aid, and assist us in our dilemma,--as when we have vainly
sought from Reason an explanation of the mysteries of Religion, we
humbly submit to the guidance of Faith. With Fancy for our interpreter,
we may suppose that Nature has adapted the works of creation to our
moral as well as our physical wants; and while she has instituted the
night as a time for general rest, she has provided means that shall
soften the gloomy effects of darkness. The birds, which are the
harbingers of all rural delights, are hence made to sing during
twilight; and when they cease, the nocturnal songsters become vocal,
bearing pleasant sensations to the sleepless, and by their lulling
melodies preparing us to be keenly susceptible of all agreeable


Carolling bird, that merrily, night and day,
Tellest thy raptures from the rustling spray,
And wakest the morning with thy varied lay,
Singing thy matins,--
When we have come to hear thy sweet oblation
Of love and joyance from thy sylvan station,
Why, in the place of musical cantation,
Balk us with pratings?

We stroll by moonlight in the dusky forest,
Where the tall cypress shields thee, fervent chorist!
And sit in haunts of Echoes, when thou pourest
Thy woodland solo.
Hark! from the next green tree thy song commences:
Music and discord join to mock the senses,
Repeated from the tree-tops and the fences,
From hill and hollow.

A hundred voices mingle with thy clamor;
Bird, beast, and reptile take part in thy drama;
Out-speak they all in turn without a stammer,--
Brisk Polyglot!
Voices of Killdeer, Plover, Duck, and Dotterel;
Notes bubbling, hissing, mellow, sharp, and guttural;
Of Cat-Bird, Cat, or Cart-Wheel, thou canst utter all,
And all-untaught.

The Raven's croak, the chirping of the Sparrow,
The scream of Jays, the creaking of Wheelbarrow,
And hoot of Owls,--all join the soul to harrow,
And grate the ear.
We listen to thy quaint soliloquizing,
As if all creatures thou wert catechizing,
Tuning their voices, and their notes revising,
From far and near.

Sweet bird! that surely lovest the noise of folly;
Most musical, but never melancholy;
Disturber of the hour that should be holy,
With sound prodigious!
Fie on thee, O thou feathered Paganini!
To use thy little pipes to squawk and whinny,
And emulate the hinge and spinning-jenny,
Making night hideous!

Provoking melodist! why canst thou breathe us
No thrilling harmony, no charming pathos,
No cheerful song of love without its bathos?
The Furies take thee,--
Blast thy obstreperous mirth, thy foolish chatter,--
Gag thee, exhaust thy breath, and stop thy clatter,
And change thee to a beast, thou senseless prater!--
Nought else can check thee!

A lengthened pause ensues:--but hark again!
From the new woodland, stealing o'er the plain,
Comes forth a sweeter and a holier strain!--
Listening delighted,
The gales breathe softly, as they bear along
The warbled treasure,--the delicious throng
Of notes that swell accordant in the song,
As love is plighted.

The Echoes, joyful from their vocal cell,
Leap with the winged sounds o'er hill and dell,
With kindling fervor, as the chimes they tell
To wakeful Even:--
They melt upon the ear; they float away;
They rise, they sink, they hasten, they delay,
And hold the listener with bewitching sway,
Like sounds from heaven!



The gentlemen of our party go one day to visit the Jesuit College in
Havana, yclept "Universidad de Belen." The ladies, weary of dry goods,
manifest some disposition to accompany them. This is at once frowned
down by the unfairer sex, and Can Grande, appealed to by the other side,
shakes his shoulders, and replies, "No, you are only miserable women,
and cannot be admitted into any Jesuit establishment whatever." And so
the male deputation departs with elation, and returns with airs of
superior opportunity, and is more insufferable than ever at dinner, and

They of the feminine faction, on the other hand, consult with more
direct authorities, and discover that the doors of Belen are in no wise
closed to them, and that everything within those doors is quite at their
disposition, saving and excepting the sleeping-apartments of the Jesuit
fathers,--to which, even in thought, they would on no account draw near.
And so they went and saw Belen, whereof one of them relates as follows.

The building is spacious, inclosing a hollow square, and with numerous
galleries, like European cloisters, where the youth walk, study, and
play. We were shown up-stairs, into a pleasant reception-room, where two
priests soon waited on us. One of these, Padre Doyaguez, seemed to be
the decoy-duck of the establishment, and soon fastened upon one of our
party, whose Protestant tone of countenance had probably caught his
attention. Was she a Protestant? Oh, no!--not with that intelligent,
physiognomy!--not with that talent! What was her name? Julia (pronounced
_H_ulia). Hulia was a Roman name, a Catholic name; he had never heard of
a Hulia who was a Protestant;--very strange, it seemed to him, that a
Hulia could hold to such unreasonable ideas. The other priest, Padre
Lluc, meanwhile followed with sweet, quiet eyes, whose silent looks had
more persuasion in them than all the innocent cajoleries of the elder
man. Padre Doyaguez was a man eminently qualified to deal with the sex
in general,--a coaxing voice, a pair of vivacious eyes, whose cunning
was not unpleasing, tireless good-humor and perseverance, and a savor of
sincerity. Padre Lluc was the sort of man that one recalls in quiet
moments with a throb of sympathy,--the earnest eyes, the clear brow, the
sonorous voice. One thinks of him, and hopes that he is satisfied,--that
cruel longing and more cruel doubt shall never spring up in that
capacious heart, divorcing his affections and convictions from the
system to which his life is irrevocably wedded. No, keep still, Padre
Lluc I think ever as you think now, lest the faith that seems a fortress
should prove a prison, the mother a step-dame,--lest the high,
chivalrous spirit, incapable of a safe desertion, should immolate truth
or itself on the altar of consistency.

Between those two advocates of Catholicity, Hulia Protestante walks
slowly through the halls of the University. She sees first a Cabinet of
Natural History, including minerals, shells, fossils, and insects, all
well-arranged, and constituting a very respectable beginning. Padre Lluc
says some good words on the importance of scientific education. Padre
Doyaguez laughs at the ladies' hoops, which he calls Malakoffs, as they
crowd through the doorways and among the glass cases; he repeats
occasionally, "_Hulia Protestante_?" in a tone of mock astonishment, and
receives for answer, "_Si, Hulia Protestante_." Then comes a very
creditable array of scientific apparatus,--not of the order employed by
the judges of Galileo,--electric and galvanic batteries, an orrery, and
many things beside. The library interests us more, with some luxurious
classics, a superb Dante, and a prison-cage of forbidden works, of which
Padre Lluc certainly has the key. Among these were fine editions of
Rousseau and Voltaire, which appeared to be intended for use; and we
could imagine a solitary student, dark-eyed and pale, exploring their
depths at midnight with a stolen candle, and endeavoring, with
self-torment, to reconcile the intolerance of his doctrine with the
charities of his heart. We imagine such a one lost in the philosophy and
sentiment of the "Nouvelle Heloise," and suddenly summoned by the
convent-bell to the droning of the Mass, the mockery of Holy Water, the
fable of the Real Presence. Such contrasts might be strange and
dangerous. No, no, Padre Lluc! keep these unknown spells from your
heart,--let the forbidden books alone. Instead of the Confessions of
Jean Jacques, read the Confessions of St. Augustine,--read the new book,
in three volumes, on the Immaculate Conception, which you show me with
such ardor, telling me that Can Grande, which, in the vernacular, is
Parker, has spoken of it with respect. Beyond the Fathers you must not
get, for you have vowed to be a child all your life. Those clear eyes of
yours are never to look up into the face of the Eternal Father; the
show-box of the Church must content them, with Mary and the saints seen
through its dusty glass,--the august figure of the Son, who sometimes
reproved his mother, crowded quite out of sight behind the woman, whom
it is so much easier to dress up and exhibit. What is this other book
which Parker has read? Padre Doyaguez says, "Hulia, if you read this,
you must become a Catholic." Padre Lluc says, "If Parker has read this
book, I cannot conceive that he is not a Catholic." The quick Doyaguez
then remarks, "Parker is going to Rome to join the Romish Church." Padre
Lluc rejoins, "They say so." Hulia Protestante is inclined to cry out,
"The day that Parker becomes a Catholic, I, too, will become one"; but,
remembering the rashness of vows and the fallibility of men, she does
not adopt that form of expressing _Never_. Parker might, if it pleased
God, become a Catholic, and then the world would have two Popes instead
of one.

We leave at last the disputed ground of the library and ascend to the
observatory, which commands a fine view of the city, and a good sweep of
the heavens for the telescope, in which Padre Lluc seemed especially to
delight. The observatory is commodious, and is chiefly directed by an
attenuated young priest, with a keen eye and hectic cheek; another was
occupied in working out mathematical tables;--for these Fathers observe
the stars, and are in scientific correspondence with astronomers in
Europe. This circumstance gave us real pleasure on their account,--for
science, in all its degrees, is a positive good, and a mental tonic of
the first importance. Earnestly did we, in thought, commend it to those
wearied minds which have undergone the dialectic dislocations, the
denaturalizations of truth and of thought, which enable rational men to
become first Catholics and then Jesuits. For let there be no illusions
about strength of mind, and so on,--this is effected by means of a vast
machinery. As, in the old story, the calves were put in at one end of
the cylinder and taken out leather breeches at the other, or as glass is
cut and wood carved, so does the raw human material, put into the
machine of the Catholic Church, become fashioned according to the will
of those who guide it. Hulia Protestante! you have a free step and a
clear head; but once go into the machine, and you will come out carved
and embossed according to the old traditional pattern,--you as well as
another. Where the material is hard, they put on more power,--where it
is soft, more care; wherefore I caution you here, as I would in a mill
at Lowell or Lawrence,--Don't meddle with the shafts,--don't go too near
the wheel,--in short, keep clear of the machinery. And Hulia does so;
for, at the last attack of Padre Doyaguez, she suddenly turns upon him
and says, "Sir, you are a Doctrinary and a Propagandist." And the good
Father suffers her to depart in peace. But first there is the chapel to
be seen, with its tawdry and poor ornamentation,--and the dormitories of
the scholars, with long double rows of beds and mosquito-nettings. There
are two of these, and each of them has at one end a raised platform,
with curtains and a bed, where rests and watches the shepherd of the
little sheep. Lastly, we have a view of the whole flock, assembled in
their play-ground, and one of them, looking up, sees his mother, who has
kindly accompanied our visit to the institution. Across the distance
that separates us, we see his blue eyes brighten, and, as soon as
permission is given, he bounds like a young roe to her arms, shy and
tender, his English blood showing through his Spanish skin,--for he is a
child of mixed race. We are all pleased and touched, and Padre Lluc
presently brings us a daguerreotype, and says, "It is my mother." To us
it is an indifferent portrait of an elderly Spanish woman,--but to him,
how much! With kindest mutual regard we take leave,--a little surprised,
perhaps, to see that Jesuit priests have mothers, and remember them.


"Far from my thoughts, vain world, begone!"

However enchanting Havana may prove, when seen through the moonlight of
memory, it seems as good a place to go away from as any other, after a
stifling night in a net, the wooden shutters left open in the remote
hope of air, and admitting the music of a whole opera-troupe of dogs,
including bass, tenor, soprano, and chorus. Instead of bouquets, you
throw stones, if you are so fortunate as to have them,--if not,
boot-jacks, oranges, your only umbrella. You are last seen thrusting
frantic hands and feet through the iron bars, your wife holding you back
by the flannel night-gown which you will persist in wearing in this
doubtful climate. At last it is over,--the fifth act ends with a howl
which makes you hope that some one of the performers has come to grief.
But, alas! it is only a stage _denouement_, whose hero will die again
every night while the season lasts. You fall asleep, but the welcome
cordial has scarcely been tasted when you are aroused by a knock at the
door. It is the night-porter, who wakes you at five by appointment, that
you may enjoy your early coffee, tumble into a hired _volante_, and
reach, half dead with sleep, the station in time for the train that goes
to San Antonio.

Now, whether you are a partisan of early rising or not, you must allow
that sunrise and the hour after is the golden time of the day in Cuba.
So this hour of starting,--six o'clock,--so distasteful in our
latitudes, is a matter of course in tropical climates. Arriving at the
station, you encounter new tribulations in the registering and payment
of luggage, the transportation of which is not included in the charge
for your ticket. Your trunks are recorded in a book, and, having paid a
_real_ apiece for them, you receive a paper which entitles you to demand
them again at your journey's end. The Cuban railways are good, but
dear,--the charge being ten cents a mile; whereas in our more favored
land one goes for three cents, and has the chance of a collision and
surgeon's services without any extra payment. The cars have windows
which are always open, and blinds which are always closed, or nearly so.
The seats and backs of seats are of cane, for coolness,--hardness being
secured at the same time. One reaches San Antonio in an hour and a half,
and finds a pleasant village, with a river running through it, several
streets of good houses, several more of bad ones, a cathedral, a
cockpit, a _volante_, four soldiers on horseback, two on foot, a market,
dogs, a bad smell, and, lastly, the American Hotel,--a house built in a
hollow square, as usual,--kept by a strong-minded woman from the States,
whose Yankee thrift is unmistakable, though she has been long absent
from the great centres of domestic economy.

Mrs. L----, always on the watch for arrivals, comes out to receive us.
We are very welcome, she hints, as far as we go; but why are there not
more of us? The smallest favors should be thankfully received, but she
hears that Havana is full of strangers, and she wonders, for her part,
why people will stay in that hot place, and roast, and stew, and have
the yellow fever, when she could make them so comfortable in San
Antonio. This want of custom she continues, during our whole visit, to
complain of. Would it be uncharitable for us to aver that we found other
wants in her establishment which caused us more astonishment, and which
went some way towards accounting for the deficiency complained of? wants
of breakfast, wants of dinner, wants of something good for tea, wants of
towels, wants of candles, wants of ice, or, at least, of the cooling
jars used in the country. Charges exorbitant,--the same as in Havana,
where rents are an ounce a week, and upwards; _volantes_
difficult,--Mrs. L. having made an agreement with the one livery-stable
that they shall always be furnished at most unreasonable prices, of
which she, supposably, pockets half. On the other hand, the village is
really cool, healthy, and pretty; there are pleasant drives over
dreadful roads, if one makes up one's mind to the _volante_, and
delightful river-baths, shaded by roofs of palm-tree thatch. One of the
best of these is at the foot of Mrs. L.'s inclosure, and its use is
included in the privileges of the house. The water is nearly tepid,
clear, and green, and the little fish float hither and thither in
it,--though men of active minds are sometimes reduced to angle for them,
with crooked pins, for amusement. At the hour of one, daily, the ladies
of the house betake themselves to this refreshment; and there is
laughing, and splashing, and holding of hands, and simulation of all the
Venuses that ever were, from the crouching one of the bath, to the
triumphant Cytherea, springing for the first time from the wave.

Such are the resources of the house. Those of the neighborhood are
various. Foremost among them is the _cafetal_, or coffee-plantation, of
Don Juan Torres, distant a league from the village, over which league of
stone, sand, and rut you rumble in a _volante_ dragged by three horses.
You know that the _volante_ cannot upset; nevertheless you experience
some anxious moments when it leans at an obtuse angle, one wheel in air,
one sticking in a hole, the horses balking and kicking, and the
postilion swearing his best. But it is written, the _volante_ shall not
upset,--and so it does not. Long before you see the entrance to the
plantation, you watch the tall palms, planted in a line, that shield,
its borders. An avenue of like growth leads you to the house, where
barking dogs announce you, and Don Juan, an elderly gentleman in
slippers and a Panama hat, his hair, face, and eyes all faded to one hue
of grayness, comes out to accost us. Here, again, Hulia Protestante
becomes the subject of a series of attacks, in a new kind. Don Juan
first exhausts his flower-garden upon her, and explains all that is new
to her. Then she must see his blind Chino, a sightless Samson of a
Cooly, who is working resolutely in a mill. "_Canta!_" says the master,
and the poor slave gives tongue like a hound on the scent. "_Baila!_"
and, a stick being handed him, he performs the gymnastics of his
country, a sort of war-dance without accompaniment. "_El can!_" and,
giving him a broom, they loose the dog upon him. A curious tussle then
ensues,--the dog attacking furiously, and the blind man, guided by his
barking, defending himself lustily. The Chino laughs, the master laughs,
but the visitor feels more inclined to cry, having been bred in those
Northern habits which respect infirmity. A _real_ dismisses the poor
soul with a smile, and then begins the journey round the _cafetal_. The
coffee-blossom is just in its perfection, and whole acres in sight are
white with its flower, which nearly resembles that of the small white
jasmine. Its fragrance is said to be delicious after a rain; but, the
season being dry, it is scarcely discernible. As shade is a great
object in growing coffee, the grounds are laid out in lines of fruit-
trees, and these are the ministers of Hulia's tribulation; for Don
Juan, whether in kindness or in mischief, insists that she shall taste
every unknown fruit,--and as he cuts them and hands them to her, she
is forced to obey. First, a little negro shins up a cocoa-nut-tree,
and flings down the nut, whose water she must drink. One cocoa-nut she
endures,--two,--but three? no, she must rebel, and cry out,--"_No mi
gusta!_" Then she must try a bitter orange, then a sour bitter one, then
a sweet lemon, then a huge fruit of triple verjuice flavor. "What is it
good for?" she asks, after a shuddering plunge into its acrid depths.
"Oh," says the Don, "they eat it in the castors instead of vinegar."
Then come _sapotas, mamey_, Otaheite gooseberries. "Does she like
bananas?" he cuts a tree down with his own hand, and sends the bunch of
fruit to her _volante_;--"Sugar-cane?" he bestows a huge bundle of
sticks for her leisurely rodentation;--he fills her pocket with coral
beans for her children. Having, at last, exhausted every polite
attention, and vainly offered gin, rum, and coffee, as a parting
demonstration, Hulia and her partner escape, bearing with them many
strange flavors, and an agonizing headache, the combined result of sun
and acids. Really, if there exist anywhere on earth a society for the
promotion and encouragement of good manners, it should send a diploma to
Don Juan, admonishing him only to omit the vinegar-fruit in his further
walks of hospitality.

We take the Sunday to visit the nearest sugar-plantation, belonging to
Don Jacinto Gonzales. Sun, not shade, being the desideratum in
sugar-planting, there are few trees or shrubs bordering the
sugar-fields, which resemble at a distance our own fields of Indian
corn, the green of the leaves being lighter, and a pale blue blossom
appearing here and there. The points of interest here are the machinery,
the negroes, and the work. Entering the sugar-house, we find the
_maquinista_ (engineer) superintending some repairs in the machinery,
aided by another white man, a Cooly, and an imp of a black boy, who
begged of all the party, and revenged himself with clever impertinence
on those who refused him. The _maquinista_ was a fine-looking man, from
the Pyrenees, very kind and obliging. He told us that Don Jacinto was
very old, and came rarely to the plantation. We asked him how the
extreme heat of his occupation suited him, and for an answer he opened
the bosom of his shirt, and showed us the marks of innumerable leeches.
The machinery is not very complicated. It consists of a wheel and band,
to throw the canes under the powerful rollers which crush them, and
these rollers, three in number, all moved by the steam-engine. The juice
flows into large copper caldrons, where it is boiled and skimmed. As
they were not at work, we did not see the actual process. Leaving the
sugar-house, we went in pursuit of the _mayoral_, or overseer, who
seemed to inhabit comfortable quarters, in a long, low house, shielded
from the sun by a thick screen of matting. We found him a powerful,
thick-set man, of surly and uncivil manners, girded with a sword, and
further armed with a pistol, a dagger, and a stout whip. He was much too
important a person to waste his words upon us, but signified that the
major-domo would wait on us, which he presently did. We now entered the
negro quarter, a solid range of low buildings, formed around a hollow
square, whose strong entrance is closed at nightfall, and its inmates
kept in strict confinement till the morning hour of work comes round.
Just within the doorway we encountered the trader, who visits the
plantations every Sunday, to tempt the stray cash of the negroes by
various commodities, of which the chief seemed to be white bread,
calicoes, muslins, and bright cotton handkerchiefs. He told us that
their usual weekly expenditure amounted to about twenty-five dollars.
Bargaining with him stood the negro-driver, a tattooed African, armed
with a whip. All within the court swarmed the black bees of the
hive,--the men with little clothing, the small children naked, the women
decent. All had their little charcoal fires, with pots boiling over
them; the rooms within looked dismally dark, close, and dirty; there are
no windows, no air and light save through the ever-open door. The beds
are sometimes partitioned off by a screen of dried palm-leaf, but I saw
no better sleeping-privilege than a board with a blanket or coverlet.
From this we turned to the nursery, where all the children incapable of
work are kept; the babies are quite naked, and sometimes very handsome
in their way, black and shining, with bright eyes and well-formed limbs.
No great provision is made for their amusement, but the little girls
nurse them tenderly enough, and now and then the elders fling them a bit
of orange or _chaimito_, for which they scramble like so many monkeys.
Appeals are constantly made to the pockets of visitors, by open hands
stretched out in all directions. To these "_Nada_"--"Nothing"--is the
safe reply; for, if you give to one, the others close about you with
frantic gesticulation, and you have to break your way through them with
some violence, which hurts your own feelings more than it does theirs.
On _strict_ plantations this is not allowed; but Don Jacinto, like Lord
Ashburton at the time of the Maine treaty, is an old man,--a very old
man; and where discipline cannot be maintained, peace must be secured on
any terms. We visit next the sugar-house, where we find the desired
condiment in various stages of color and refinement. It is whitened with
clay, in large funnel-shaped vessels, open at the bottom, to allow the
molasses to run off. Above are hogsheads of coarse, dark sugar; below is
a huge pit of fermenting molasses, in which rats and small negroes
occasionally commit involuntary suicide, and from which rum is made.--N.
B. Rum is not a wicked word in Cuba; in Boston everybody is shocked when
it is named, and in Cuba nobody is shocked when it is drunk.

And here endeth the description of our visit to the sugar-plantation of
Don Jacinto, and in good time, too,--for by this it had grown so hot,
that we made a feeble rush for the _volante_, and lay back in it,
panting for breath. Encountering a negress with a load of oranges on her
head, we bought and ate the fruit with eagerness, though the oranges
were bitter. The jolting over three miles of stone and rut did not
improve the condition of our aching heads. Arriving at San Antonio, we
thankfully went to bed for the rest of the morning, and dreamed, only
dreamed, that the saucy black boy in the boiling-house had run after us,
had lifted the curtain of the _volante_, screeched a last impertinence
after us, and kissed his hand for a good-bye, which, luckily for him, is
likely to prove eternal.


The Spanish government experiences an unwillingness to admit foreigners
into the Morro, their great stronghold, the causes of which may not be
altogether mysterious. Americans have been of late especially excluded
from it, and it was only by a fortunate chance that we were allowed to
visit it. A friend of a friend of ours happened to have a friend in the
garrison, and, after some delays and negotiations, an early morning hour
was fixed upon for the expedition.

The fort is finely placed at the entrance of the harbor, and is in
itself a picturesque object. It is built of a light, yellowish stone,
which is seen, as you draw near, in strong contrast with the vivid green
of the tropical waters. We approached it by water, taking a rowboat from
the Alameda. As we passed, we had a good view of a daily Havana
spectacle, the washing of the horses. This being by far the easiest and
most expeditious way of cleaning the animals, they are driven daily to
the sea in great numbers, those of one party being tied together; they
disport themselves in the surge and their wet backs glisten in the sun.
Their drivers, nearly naked, plunge in with them, and bring them safely
back to the shore.

But for the Morro. We entered without difficulty, and began at once a
somewhat steep ascent, which the heat, even at that early hour, made
laborious. After some climbing, we reached the top of the parapet, and
looked out from the back of the fortress. On this side, if ever on any,
it will be taken,--for, standing with one's back to the harbor, one
sees, nearly on the right hand, a point where trenches could be opened
with advantage. The fort is heavily gunned and garrisoned, and seems to
be in fighting order. The outer wall is separated from the inner by a
paved space some forty feet in width. The height of both walls makes
this point a formidable one; but scaling-ladders could be thrown across,
if one had possession of the outer wall. The material is the coralline
rock common in this part of the island. It is a soft stone, and would
prove, it is feared, something like the cotton-bag defence of New
Orleans memory,--as the balls thrown from without would sink in, and not
splinter the stone, which for the murderous work were to be wished. A
little perseverance, with much perspiration, brought us to a high point,
called the Lantern, which is merely a small room, where the telescope,
signal-books, and signals are kept. Here we were received by an official
in blue spectacles and with a hole in his boot, but still with that air
of being the chiefest thing on God's earth common to all Spaniards. The
best of all was that we brought a sack of oranges with us, and that the
time was now come for their employment. With no other artillery than
these did we take the very heart of the Morro citadel,--for, on offering
them to the official with the hole, he surrendered at once, smiled, gave
us seats, and sitting down with us, indeed, was soon in the midst of his
half-dozenth orange. Having refreshed ourselves, examined the flags of
all nations, and made all the remarks which our limited Spanish allowed,
we took leave, redescended, and reembarked. One of our party, an old
soldier, had meanwhile been busily scanning the points and angles of the
fortress, pacing off distances, etc., etc. The result of his
observations would, no doubt, be valuable to men of military minds. But
the writer of this, to be candid, was especially engaged with the heat,
the prospect, the oranges, and the soldiers' wives and children, who
peeped out from windows here and there. Such trifling creatures do come
into such massive surroundings, and trifle still!

Our ladies, being still in a furious mood of sight-seeing, desired to
visit the University of Havana, and, having made appointment with an
accomplished Cuban, betook themselves to the College buildings with all
proper escort. Their arrival in the peristyle occasioned some
excitement. One of the students came up, and said, in good English,
"What do you want?" Others, not so polite, stared and whispered in
corners. A message to one of the professors was attended with some
delay, and our Cuban friend, having gone to consult with him, returned
to say, with some embarrassment, that the professor would be happy to
show the establishment to the ladies on Sunday, at two, P.M., when every
male creature but himself would be out of it; but as for their going
through the rooms while the undergraduates were about, that was not to
be thought of. "Why not?" asked the ladies. "For your own sake," said
the messenger, and proceeded to explain that the appearance of the
_skirted_ in these halls of learning would be followed by such
ill-conduct and indignity of impertinence on the part of the _shirted_
as might be intolerable to the one and disadvantageous to the other. Now
there be women, we know, whose horrid fronts could have awed these saucy
little Cubans into decency and good behavior, and some that we know,
whether possessing that power or not, would have delighted in the
fancied exercise of it. What strong-minded company, under these
circumstances, would have turned back? What bolting, tramping, and
rushing would they not have made through the ranks of the astonished
professors and students? The Anniversary set, for example, who sweep the
pews of men, or, coming upon one forlorn, crush him as a boa does a
sheep. Our silly little flock only laughed, colored, and retreated to
the _volantes_, where they held a council of war, and decided to go
visit some establishment where possibly better manners might prevail.

Returning on the Sunday, at the hour appointed, they walked through the
deserted building, and found spacious rooms, the pulpits of the
professors, the benches of the students, the Queen's portrait, a very
limited library, and, for all consolation, some pleasant Latin sentences
over the doors of the various departments, celebrating the solace and
delights of learning. This was seeing the College, literally; but it was
a good deal like seeing the lion's den, the lion himself being absent on
leave,--or like visiting the hippopotamus in Regent's Park on those days
in which he remains steadfastly buried in his tank, and will show only
the tip of a nostril for your entrance-fee. Still, it was a pleasure to
know that learning was so handsomely housed; and as for the little
rabble who could not be trusted in the presence of the sex, we forgave
them heartily, knowing that soberer manners would one day come upon
them, as inevitably as baldness and paternity.

Let me here say, that a few days in Havana make clear to one the
seclusion of women in the East, and its causes. Wherever the animal
vigor of men is so large in proportion to their moral power, as in those
countries, women must be glad to forego their liberties for the
protection of the strong arm. One master is better for them than many.
Whatever tyranny may grow out of such barbarous manners, the institution
springs from a veritable necessity and an original good intention. The
Christian religion should change this, which is justifiable only in a
Mohammedan country. But where that religion is so loosely administered
as in Cuba, where its teachers themselves frequent the cock-pit and the
gaming-table, one must not look for too much of its power in the manners
and morals of men.

The Beneficenza was our next station. It is, as its name signifies, an
institution with a benevolent purpose, an orphan asylum and foundling
hospital in one. The State here charitably considers that infants who
are abandoned by their parents are as much orphaned as they can become
by the interposition of death,--nay, more. The death of parents oftenest
leaves a child with some friend or relative; but the foundling is cut
off from all human relationship,--he belongs only to the hand that takes
him up, when he has been left to die. Despite the kind cruelty of modern
theories, which will not allow of suitable provision for the sufferer,
for fear of increasing the frequency of the crime by which he suffers,
our hearts revolt at the miserable condition of those little creatures
in our great cities, confounded with hopeless pauperism in its desolate
asylums, or farmed out to starve and die. They belong to the State, and
the State should nobly retrieve the world's offence against them. Their
broken galaxy shows many a bright star here and there. Such a little
wailing creature has been found who has commanded great actions and done
good service among men. Let us, then, cherish the race of foundlings, of
whom Moses was the first and the greatest. The princess who reared him
saw not the glorious destiny which lay hid, as a birth-jewel, in his
little basket of reeds. She saw only, as some of us have seen, a
helpless, friendless babe. When he dedicated to her his first edition of
the Pentateuch--But, nay, he did not; for neither gratitude nor
dedications were in fashion among the Jews.

We found the Beneficenza spacious, well-ventilated, and administered
with great order. It stands near the sea, with a fine prospect in view,
and must command a cool breeze, if there be any. The children enjoy
sea-bathing in summer. The superintendent received us most kindly, and
presented us to the sisters who have charge of the children, who were
good specimens of their class. We walked with them through the neat
dormitories, and observed that they were much more airy than those of
the Jesuit College, lately described. They all slept on the sackings of
the cots, beds being provided only in the infirmary. In the latter place
we found but two inmates,--one suffering from ordinary Cuban fever, the
other with ophthalmia.--N.B. Disease of the eyes does not seem to be
common in Cuba, in spite of the tropical glare of the sun; nor do people
nurse and complain of their eyes there, as with us. We found a separate
small kitchen for the sick, which was neat and convenient. The larger
kitchen, too, was handsomely endowed with apparatus, and the
superintendent told us, with a twinkle in his eye, that the children
lived well. Coffee at six, a good breakfast at nine, dinner at the usual
hour, bread and coffee before bed-time;--this seemed very suitable as to
quantity, though differing from our ideas of children's food; but it
must be remembered that the nervous stimulus of coffee is not found to
be excessive in hot climates; it seems to be only what Nature
demands,--no more. The kind nun who accompanied us now showed us, with
some pride, various large presses, set in the wall, and piled to the top
with clean and comfortable children's clothing. We came presently to
where the boys were reciting their catechism. An ecclesiastic was
hearing them;--they seemed ready enough with their answers, but were
allowed to gabble off the holy words in a manner almost unintelligible,
and quite indecorous. They were bright, healthy-looking little fellows,
ranging apparently from eight to twelve in age. They had good
play-ground set off for them, and shady galleries to walk up and down
in. Coming from their quarter, the girls' department seemed quiet
enough. Here was going on the eternal task of needlework, to which the
sex has been condemned ever since Adam's discovery of his want of
wardrobe. Oh, ye wretched, foolish women! why will ye forever sew? "We
must not only sew, but be thankful to sew; that little needle being, as
the sentimental Curtis has said, the only thing between us and the worst
that may befall."

These incipient women were engaged in various forms of sewing,--the most
skilful in a sort of embroidery, like that which forms the border of
_pina_ handkerchiefs. A few were reading and spelling. One poor blind
girl sat amongst them, with melancholy arms folded, and learned
nothing,--they told us, nothing; for the instruction of the blind is not
thought of in these parts. This seemed piteous to us, and made us
reflect how happy are _our_ blinds, to say nothing of our deafs and
dumbs. Idiocy is not uncommon here, and is the result of continual
intermarriage between near relations; but it will be long before they
will provide it with a separate asylum and suitable instruction.

But now came the saddest part of the whole exhibition,--a sight common
enough in Europe, but, by some accident, hitherto unseen by us. Here is
a sort of receptacle, with three or four compartments, which turns on a
pivot. One side of it is open to the street, and in it the wretched
parent lays the more wretched baby,--ringing a small bell, at the same
time, for the new admittance; the parent vanishes, the receptacle turns
on its pivot,--the baby is within, and, we are willing to believe, in
merciful hands.

The sight of this made, for the first time, the crime real to me. I saw,
at a flash, the whole tragedy of desertion,--the cautious approach, the
frightened countenance, the furtive act, and the great avenging pang of
Nature after its consummation. What was Hester Prynne's pillory,
compared to the heart of any of those mothers? I thought, too, of
Rousseau, bringing to such a place as this children who had the right to
inherit divine genius, and deserting them for the sordid reason that he
did not choose to earn their bread,--the helpless mother weeping at
home, and begging, through long years, to be allowed to seek and reclaim

Well, here were the little creatures kindly cared for; yet what a
piteous place was their nursery! Some of the recent arrivals looked as
if ill-usage had been exhausted upon them before they were brought
hither. Blows and drugs and starvation had been tried upon them, but,
with the tenacity of infancy, they clung to life. They would not
die;--well, then, they should live to regret it. Some of them lay on the
floor, deformed and helpless; the older ones formed a little class, and
were going through some elementary exercise when we passed. The babies
had a large room allotted to them, and I found the wet-nurses
apportioned one to each child. This appeared a very generous provision,
as, in such establishments elsewhere, three and even four children are
given to one nurse. They had comfortable cribs, on each of which was
pinned the name of its little inmate, and the date of its
entrance;--generally, the name and age of the child are found written on
a slip of paper attached to its clothing, when it is left in the
receptacle. I saw on one, "Cecilio, three weeks old." He had been but a
few days in the establishment.

Of course, I lingered longest in the babies' room, and longest of all
near the crib of the little Cecilio. He was a pretty baby, and seemed to
me the most ill-used of all, because the youngest. "Could they not bear
with you three weeks, little fellow?" I said. "I know those at whose
firesides such as you would have been welcome guests. That New York
woman whom I met lately, young, rich, and childless,--I could commend
you to her in place of the snarling little spaniel fiend who was her
constant care and companion."

But here the superintendent made a polite bow, saying,--"And now your
Worships have seen all; for the chapel is undergoing repairs, and cannot
be visited." And so we thanked, and departed.


If I shall ever win the home in heaven
For whose sweet rest I humbly hope and pray,
In the great company of the forgiven
I shall be sure to find old Daniel Gray.

I knew him well; in fact, few knew him better;
For my young eyes oft read for him the Word,
And saw how meekly from the crystal letter
He drank the life of his beloved Lord.

Old Daniel Gray was not a man who lifted
On ready words his freight of gratitude,
And was not called upon among the gifted,
In the prayer-meetings of his neighborhood.

He had a few old-fashioned words and phrases,
Linked in with sacred texts and Sunday rhymes;
And I suppose, that, in his prayers and graces,
I've heard them all at least a thousand times.

I see him now,--his form, and face, and motions,
His homespun habit, and his silver hair,--
And hear the language of his trite devotions
Rising behind the straight-backed kitchen-chair.

I can remember how the sentence sounded,--
"Help us, O Lord, to pray, and not to faint!"
And how the "conquering-and-to-conquer" rounded
The loftier aspirations of the saint.

He had some notions that did not improve him:
He never kissed his children,--so they say;
And finest scenes and fairest flowers would move him
Less than a horseshoe picked up in the way.

He could see nought but vanity in beauty,
And nought but weakness in a fond caress,
And pitied men whose views of Christian duty
Allowed indulgence in such foolishness.

Yet there were love and tenderness within him;
And I am told, that, when his Charley died,
Nor Nature's need nor gentle words could win him
From his fond vigils at the sleeper's side.

And when they came to bury little Charley,
They found fresh dew-drops sprinkled in his hair,
And on his breast a rose-bud, gathered early,--
And guessed, but did not know, who placed it there.

My good old friend was very hard on fashion,
And held its votaries in lofty scorn,
And often burst into a holy passion
While the gay crowds went by, on Sunday morn.

Yet he was vain, old Gray, and did not know it!
He wore his hair unparted, long, and plain,
To hide the handsome brow that slept below it,
For fear the world would think that he was vain!

He had a hearty hatred of oppression,
And righteous words for sin of every kind;
Alas, that the transgressor and transgression
Were linked so closely in his honest mind!

Yet that sweet tale of gift without repentance,
Told of the Master, touched him to the core,
And tearless he could never read the sentence:
"Neither do I condemn thee: sin no more."

Honest and faithful, constant in his calling,
Strictly attendant on the means of grace,
Instant in prayer, and fearful most of falling,
Old Daniel Gray was always in his place.

A practical old man, and yet a dreamer,
He thought that in some strange, unlooked-for way,
His mighty Friend in heaven, the great Redeemer,
Would honor him with wealth some golden day.

This dream he carried in a hopeful spirit
Until in death his patient eye grew dim,
And his Redeemer called him to inherit
The heaven of wealth long garnered up for him.

So, if I ever win the home in heaven
For whose sweet rest I humbly hope and pray
In the great company of the forgiven
I shall be sure to find old Daniel Gray.




The Doctor sat at his study-table. It was evening, and the slant beams
of the setting sun shot their golden arrows through the healthy purple
clusters of lilacs that veiled the windows. There had been a shower that
filled them with drops of rain, which every now and then tattooed, with
a slender rat-tat, on the window-sill, as a breeze would shake the
leaves and bear in perfume on its wings. Sweet, fragrance-laden airs
tripped stirringly to and fro about the study-table, making gentle
confusions, fluttering papers on moral ability, agitating treatises on
the great end of creation, mixing up subtile distinctions between
amiable instincts and true holiness, and, in short, conducting
themselves like very unappreciative and unphilosophical little breezes.

The Doctor patiently smoothed back and rearranged, while opposite to him
sat Mary, bending over some copying she was doing for him. One stray
sunbeam fell on her light brown hair, tinging it to gold; her long,
drooping lashes lay over the wax-like pink of her cheeks, as she wrote

"Mary," said the Doctor, pushing the papers from him.

"Sir," she answered, looking up, the blood just perceptibly rising in
her cheeks.

"Do you ever have any periods in which your evidences seem not
altogether clear?"

Nothing could show more forcibly the grave, earnest character of thought
in New England at this time than the fact that this use of the term
"evidences" had become universally significant and understood as
relating to one's right of citizenship in a celestial, invisible

So Mary understood it, and it was with a deepening flush she answered
gently, "No, Sir."

"What! never any doubts?" said the Doctor.

"I am sorry," said Mary, apologetically; "but I do not see how I _can_
have; I never could."

"Ah!" said the Doctor, musingly, "would I could say so! There are times,
indeed, when I hope I have an interest in the precious Redeemer, and
behold an infinite loveliness and beauty in Him, apart from anything I
expect or hope. But even then how deceitful is the human heart! how
insensibly might a mere selfish love take the place of that
disinterested complacency which regards Him for what He is in Himself,
apart from what He is to us! Say, my dear friend, does not this thought
sometimes make you tremble?"

Poor Mary was truth itself, and this question distressed her; she must
answer the truth. The fact was, that it had never come into her blessed
little heart to tremble, for she was one of those children of the
bride-chamber who cannot mourn, because the bridegroom is ever with
them; but then, when she saw the man for whom her reverence was almost
like that for her God thus distrustful, thus lowly, she could not but
feel that her too calm repose might, after all, be the shallow,
treacherous calm of an ignorant, ill-grounded spirit, and therefore,
with a deep blush and a faltering voice, she said,--

"Indeed, I am afraid something must be wrong with me. I _cannot_ have
any fears,--I never could; I try sometimes, but the thought of God's
goodness comes all around me, and I am so happy before I think of it!"

"Such exercises, my dear friend, I have also had," said the Doctor; "but
before I rest on them as evidences, I feel constrained to make the
following inquiries:--Is this gratitude that swells my bosom the result
of a mere natural sensibility? Does it arise in a particular manner
because God has done me good? or do I love God for what He is, as well
as for what He has done? and for what He has done for others, as well as
for what He has done for me? Love to God which is built on nothing but
good received is not incompatible with a disposition so horrid as even
to curse God to His face. If God is not to be loved except when He does
good, then in affliction we are free. If doing _us_ good is all that
renders God lovely to us, then not doing us good divests Him of His
glory, and dispenses us from obligation to love Him. But there must be,
undoubtedly, some permanent reason why God is to be loved by all; and if
not doing us good divests Him of His glory so as to free _us_ from our
obligation to love, it equally frees the universe; so that, in fact, the
universe of happiness, if ours be not included, reflects no glory on its

The Doctor had practised his subtile mental analysis till his
instruments were so fine-pointed and keen-edged that he scarce ever
allowed a flower of sacred emotion to spring in his soul without picking
it to pieces to see if its genera and species were correct. Love,
gratitude, reverence, benevolence,--which all moved in mighty tides in
his soul,--were all compelled to pause midway while he rubbed up his
optical instruments to see whether they were rising in right order.
Mary, on the contrary, had the blessed gift of womanhood,--that vivid
life in the soul and sentiment which resists the chills of analysis, as
a healthful human heart resists cold; yet still, all humbly, she thought
this perhaps was a defect in herself, and therefore, having confessed,
in a depreciating tone, her habits of unanalyzed faith and love, she

"But, my dear Sir, you are my best friend. I trust you will be faithful
to me. If I am deceiving myself, undeceive me; you cannot be too severe
with me."

"Alas!" said the Doctor, "I fear that I may be only a blind leader of
the blind. What, after all, if I be only a miserable self-deceiver? What
if some thought of self has come in to poison all my prayers and
strivings? It is true, I think,--yes, I _think_," said the Doctor,
speaking very slowly and with intense earnestness,--"I think, that, if I
knew at this moment that my name never would be written among those of
the elect, I could still see God to be infinitely amiable and glorious,
and could feel sure that He _could_ not do me wrong, and that it was
infinitely becoming and right that He should dispose of me according to
His sovereign pleasure. I _think_ so;--but still my deceitful
heart!--after all, I might find it rising in rebellion. Say, my dear
friend, are you sure, that, should you discover yourself to be forever
condemned by His justice, you would not find your heart rising up
against Him?"

"Against _Him_?" said Mary, with a tremulous, sorrowful expression on
her face,--"against my Heavenly Father?"

Her face flushed, and faded; her eyes kindled eagerly, as if she had
something to say, and then grew misty with tears. At last she said,--

"Thank you, my dear, faithful friend! I will think about this; _perhaps_
I may have been deceived. How very difficult it must be to know one's
self perfectly!"

Mary went into her own little room, and sat leaning for a long time with
her elbow on the window-seat, watching the pale shells of the
apple-blossoms as they sailed and fluttered downward into the grass, and
listened to a chippering conversation in which the birds in the nest
above were settling up their small housekeeping accounts for the day.

After a while, she took her pen and wrote the following, which the
Doctor found the next morning lying on his study-table:--

"MY DEAR, HONORED FRIEND,--How can I sufficiently thank you for your
faithfulness with me? All you say to me seems true and excellent; and
yet, my dear Sir, permit me to try to express to you some of the many
thoughts to which our conversation this evening has given rise. To love
God because He is good to me you seem to think is not a right kind of
love; and yet every moment of my life I have experienced His goodness.
When recollection brings back the past, where can I look that I see not
His goodness? What moment of my life presents not instances of merciful
kindness to me, as well as to every creature, more and greater than I
can express, than my mind is able to take in? How, then, can I help
loving God because He is good to me? Were I not an object of God's mercy
and goodness, I cannot have any conception what would be my feeling.
Imagination never yet placed me in a situation not to experience the
goodness of God in some way or other; and if I do love Him, how can it
be but because He is good, and to me good? Do not God's children love
Him because He first loved them?

"If I called nothing goodness which did not happen to suit my
inclination, and could not believe the Deity to be gracious and merciful
except when the course of events was so ordered as to agree with my
humor, so far from imagining that I had any love to God, I must conclude
myself wholly destitute of anything good. A love founded on nothing but
good received is not, you say, incompatible with a disposition so horrid
as even to curse God. I am not sensible that I ever in my life imagined
anything _but_ good could come from the hand of God. From a Being
infinite in goodness everything _must_ be good, though we do not always
comprehend how it is so. Are not afflictions good? Does He not even in
judgment remember mercy? Sensible that 'afflictions are but blessings in
disguise,' I would bless the hand that, with infinite kindness, wounds
only to heal, and love and adore the goodness of God equally in
suffering as in rejoicing.

"The disinterested love to God, which you think is alone the genuine
love, I see not how we can be certain we possess, when our love of
happiness and our love of God are so inseparably connected. The joys
arising from a consciousness that God is a benefactor to me and my
friends, (and when I think of God, every creature is my friend,) if
arising from a selfish motive, it does not seem to me possible could be
changed into hate, even supposing God my enemy, whilst I regarded Him as
a Being infinitely just as well as good. If God is my enemy, it must be
because I deserve He should be such; and it does not seem to me
_possible_ that I should hate Him, even if I knew He would always be so.

"In what you say of willingness to suffer eternal punishment, I don't
know that I understand what the feeling is. Is it wickedness in me that
I do not feel a willingness to be left to eternal sin? Can any one
joyfully acquiesce in being thus left? When I pray for a new heart and a
right spirit, must I be willing to be denied, and rejoice that my prayer
is not heard? Could any real Christian rejoice in this? But he fears it
not,--he knows it will never be,--he therefore can cheerfully leave it

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