Part 2 out of 5
keeper may be put in Laval's place? He is almost dead with grief, that
prisoner is,--I know by his face. After he is gone, there won't be any
prisoner there,--and we could make it very pleasant."
"Pleasant! What do you mean by pleasant?" asked Pauline, inwardly vexed
that her child had suggested the question,--and yet too just, too
kindly disposed, to put the subject away with imperative refusal to
consider it. "I never was in a place so horrid."
"But if it was our home, and all our things were there," urged
Elizabeth, "it would be different. It depends on who lives in a house,
"Yes, that is so; it depends a little, but not entirely. It would be
more than your mother could do to make a pleasant-looking place out of
that prison. You see it in different in the situation, to begin with.
Up where we live the sun is around us all day, if it is anywhere; and
then the little rooms are so light! If you put a flower into them, you
think you have a whole garden. Besides, it's Home up there, and down
here it isn't."--Saying this, Adolphus rose up quickly, as though he
had a mind to quit the spot.
"When they select a man to fill Laval's place, of course they will be
careful to choose one as good and kind," said Pauline, with mild
"The jailer before him was not good and kind," remarked her daughter.
"They dismissed him for it," said Adolphus, quickly.
"But they said the prisoners were half-starved, and abused every way.
It was a good while before it was found out. That might happen again,
and less chance of any one knowing it. He is so near dead now, it
wouldn't take much to kill him."
No one replied to this argument. Pauline and Adolphus talked of other
things, and the musician returned to his music. But all in good time.
Elizabeth was capable of patience, and at last her father said, looking
around him to make sure that his remark would have only two
"That prisoner isn't a man to be talked of about here. You never heard
_me_ mention him. Laval used to give a--a--bad account of him. He had
to be kept alive."
"Till he heard your music, papa, and was moved up to the room with a
window. Did he tell you that?" asked Elizabeth.
"He said be thought the music did him good," acknowledged Adolphus.
"May-be it was the same as with Saul when David played for him. But he
does not look like a bad man, papa. He looks grander than any of our
officers. And he has fought battles, they say. He is very brave."
Both Adolphus and Pauline Montier looked at their daughter with the
most profound surprise when she spoke thus. Not merely her words, but
her manner of speaking, caused this not agreeable perplexity. Her
emotion was not only too obvious, it was too deep for their
understanding. The mother was the first to speak.
"How did you hear all this, child? _I_ never heard him talked of in
this way. They don't talk about him at all,--do they, Adolphus?"
"No," he answered; but he spoke the word very mildly. The tone did not
indicate a want of sympathy in the compassion of his daughter.
Elizabeth looked from her mother to her father. What friends had she,
if these were not her friends?
"The jailer told Sandy, and Sandy told me," she said. "But they never
talk to any other person. Oh! I was afraid to hear about it; but now I
have heard, I was afraid not to speak. Would it be so dreadful for you
to live here, when we could always have music and the garden? And these
woods seem pleasant, when you get acquainted. Day or night I can't get
him out of my mind. It is just as if you were shut up that way, papa. I
am afraid to be happy when any one is so wretched."
The result was, that Elizabeth's words, and not so much her words as
the state of things she contrived to make apparent by them, brought
Adolphus Montier to a clear, resistless sense of the prisoner's fate.
Over the features of that fate he was for days brooding. Now and then a
word that indicated the direction of his thinking would escape him in
his wife's hearing. Silently Pauline followed Adolphus to the end of
all this thinking. Once she walked alone along the unfrequented road
that ran between the prison and the wood, down to the sea; and she
looked at the gloomy fortress, and tried to think about it as she
should, if certain that within its walls her lot would soon be cast.
And more than once Montier walked home that way; and if it chanced that
he had his horn or his drum with him, he marched at quickstep, and
played the liveliest tunes, and emerged from the shadows of the wood
with a spirit undaunted. He had played for the prisoner, whom he had
never yet seen,--but not more for him than for himself.
One Sunday, when the little family walked out together, Adolphus and
his wife fell into a pleasant train of thought,--and when they were
together, thought and speech were generally simultaneous. As they
passed the prison,--for Adolphus had led the way to this path,--Laval
was standing in the door. They stopped to speak with him; whereat he
invited them into his quarters.
In this walk, Elizabeth had fallen behind her parents. When she saw
them going into the prison, she quickened her pace, for her father
beckoned to her. But she was in no earnest haste to follow, as became
sufficiently manifest when she was left alone.
They had not gone far in their talk, however, when she came to the
doorway. Laval, in all his speech, was a deliberate man, and neither
Adolphus nor his wife showed any eagerness in the conduct of the
conversation now begun. The contrast between the gloom of the apartment
and the light and cheerfulness of their own home was apparent to all of
them. Elizabeth felt the oppression under which each of the little
party seemed to labor, the instant she joined her parents. Susceptible
as they all were to the influences of Nature, her sunshine and her
shadow, this gloom which fell upon them was nothing more than might
have been anticipated.
Jailer Laval was homesick, and innocent of a suspicion of what was
passing in the minds of his guests; he was therefore free in making his
complaints, and acknowledged that he was not fit to keep the
prison,--it required a man of more nerve than he had. The dread of the
place where his poor wife had entertained seemed to have taken
possession of him since her death. All the arguments which he once
used, in the endeavor to bolster her courage, he had now forgotten. He
was very cautious when he began to speak of the prisoner, and tried to
divert Adolphus from the point by saying that he would much prefer a
house full of convicts to one so empty as this. There was at least
something like society in that, and something to do.
Adolphus, in spite if his discontent at hearing merely these deductions
of experience, when his desire was to know something of Manuel, heard
nothing of importance. The speech of the jailer on this subject was not
to be had. His mind seemed to be wandering, except when his wife, or
his native land, was referred to; then he brightened into speech, but
never once into cheerfulness. As he sat there in the middle of his
chamber, he seemed to represent the genius of the place,--and anything
less enlivening or desirable in the way of human life could hardly be
imagined. Pauline looked at him and signed. She looked at Adolphus;--a
pang shot through her heart; the shadow of the man seemed to overshadow
him. Out of this place, where all appeared to be fast changing into
It was she who led the way; but, pausing in the court-yard, Elizabeth
evinced still greater haste to be gone, for she ran on with fleet step,
and a heart heavy with foreboding as to the result of this interview.
She was also impatient to get into the open sunlight, and did not rest
in this progress she was making outward till she had come to the
sea-shore. Elizabeth Montier was in a state of dire perplexity just
then, and if she had been asked whether she would really choose to
effect the change proposed in their way of living, it would have been
no easy matter for her to discover her mind.
By the sea-shore she sat down, and her father and mother followed
slowly on. They were not talking as they came. But as they approached
the beach, Adolphus could not resist the prospect before them. Loud was
the blast he blew upon his horn, nor did he cease playing until his
music had restored him to a more natural mood than that in which the
interview with Laval left him. The prison was becoming a less startling
image of desolate dreariness to him. And Adolphus was the master-spirit
in his family. If he was gay, it was barely possible for his wife and
child to be sad. Of the prison not one word was spoken by either. They
had not revealed to each other their inmost mind when they went into
Laval's quarters; they did not reveal it when they came thence. But as
they strolled along the rocky shore, or returned homeward, they thought
of little beside the prison and the prisoner. As to Elizabeth, nothing
required of her that she should urge the matter further. She had
neither heart nor courage for such urging.
It was Adolphus himself who spoke to Pauline the next day, after he had
deliberately thrown himself in the way of the prisoner, that he might
with his own eyes see what manner of man he was; for seeing was
"Pauline," said he, almost persuaded of the truth of his own words,
"you and Elizabeth would make a different place of that prison from
what it is now. I should like to see it tried."
Pauline Montier made no haste to answer; she was afraid that she knew
what he expected of her.
"Do you see," continued Adolphus, "Elizabeth won't speak of it again?
But what must she think of us? He is a man. They say we are all
"I know it," said, almost sighed, his wife.
"Looking out for our own comfort!" exclaimed Adolphus. "So mighty
afraid of doing what we'd have done for us! Besides, I believe we could
make it pretty pleasant. Cool in summer, and warm in winter. I'd
whitewash pretty thorough. And if the windows were rubbed up, your way,
the light might get through."
"Poor Joan Laval!" said Pauline. "Body and mind gave out. She was
different at first."
"Do you think it was the prison?" asked Adolphus, quickly, like a man
halting between two opinions,--there was no knowing which way he would
"Something broke her down," replied his wife. She was looking from one
window,--he from another.
"Joan Laval was Joan Laval," said Adolphus, with an effort. "Always
was. Frightened at her own shadow, I suppose. But--there! we won't
think of it. I know how it looks to you, Pauline. Very well,--I don't
see why we should make ourselves miserable for the sake of somebody who
has got to be miserable anyhow,--and deserves it, I suppose, or he
wouldn't be where he is."
"Poor fellow!" sighed Pauline,--as if it were now her turn on the rack.
Here Adolphus let the matter rest. He had overcome his own scruples so
far as honestly to make this proposal to his wife. But he would do no
more than propose,--not for an instant urge the point. Surely, that
could not be required of him. Charity, he remembered, begins at home.
But Pauline could not let the matter rest here. Her struggle was yet to
come. It was she, then, who alone was unwilling to sacrifice her
present home for the sake of a stranger and prisoner!
Now Pauline Montier was a good Christian woman, and various words of
holy utterance began herewith to trouble her. And from a by no means
tranquil musing over them, she began to ask herself, What, after all,
was home? Was happiness indeed dependent on locality when the heart of
love was hers? Could she not give up so little as a house, in order to
secure the comfort of a son of misfortune,--a solitary man,--a dying
prisoner? What she would not give up freely might any day be taken from
her. If fire did not destroy it, the government, which took delight in
interference, might see fit to order that the house they occupied
should be used again for the original purpose of storage.
And then the discomforts of the prison began to appear very
questionable. She remembered that Joan Laval was, as Adolphus hinted,
weakly, nervous, 'frightened at her own shadow,'--a woman who had
never, for any single day of her life, lived with a lofty purpose,--a
cumberer of the ground, who could only cast a shadow.
She perceived that they would be close to the flower-garden; a minute's
walk would lead them to the pleasant woods,--and Pauline Montier always
loved the woods.
Indeed, when she began to take this ground, the first steps of
occupation alone could be timid or doubtful. After that, her humanity,
her sympathy, her confidence in her husband and daughter, drew the
woman on, till she forgot how difficult the first steps had been.
She surprised both husband and daughter by saying to Adolphus, the
moment she came to her conclusion, that he had better make inquiry of
Laval whether he had signified his intention to resign, and forthwith
seek the appointment from the Governor of the island.
When Pauline said this, she attested her sincerity by making ready to
accompany Adolphus at once to the prison, that they might run no risk
of losing the situation by delay. Seeing that they were of one mind,
and entirely confiding in each other, they all went together to the
prison to consult with Laval. Thus it came to pass, that, before the
week ended, the charge of the prison had been transferred to Adolphus
The family made great efforts in order to impart an air of cheerfulness
and home-comfort to their new dwelling-place. Adolphus whitewashed,
according to promise; Pauline scrubbed, according to nature; they
arranged and rearranged their little stock of furniture,--set the
loud-ticking day-clock on the mantel-shelf, and displayed around it the
china cups, the flower-vase, and the little picture of their native
town which Adolphus cut from a sheet of letter-paper some old friend
had sent him, and framed with more tender feeling than skill. They did
their best, each one, and said to one another, that, when they got used
to the place, to the large rooms and high ceilings and narrow windows,
it would of course seem like home, to them, because--it _was_ their
HOME. Were they not all together? were not these their own household
goods, around them? Still, they needed all this mutual encouragement
and heartiness of cooeperation which was so nobly, so generously
manifested; and it was sincere enough to insure the very result of
contentment and satisfaction which they were so wise as to anticipate.
But the Governor thought,--_The Drummer is getting ambitious; he wants
a big house, and authority!_
Ex-jailer Laval was exceedingly active in assisting his own outgoing
and the incoming of Montier. He helped Adolphus in the heavy labors of
removal, and laughed more during the conduct of these operations than
he had been known to do in years. He said nothing to Prisoner Manuel of
the intended change in jail-administration until the afternoon when for
the last time he walked out with him.
The information was received with apparent indifference, without
question or comment, until Laval, half vexed, and wholly sorrowful for
the sad state of the prisoner, said,--
"I am sorry for you, Sir. I can say that, now I'm going off. I've been
as much a prisoner as you have, I believe. And I wish you were going to
be set free to-night, as I am. I am going home! But I leave you in good
care,--better than mine. I never have gone ahead of my instructions in
taking care of you. I never took advantage of your case, to be cruel or
neglectful. If anything has ever passed that made you think hard of me,
I hope you will forgive it, for I can say I have done the best I could
Thus called upon to speak, the prisoner said, said merely, "I believe
Whereat the jailer spoke again, and with a lighter heart.
"I am glad you're in luck this time,--for you are. You don't know who
is coming to take the charge,--come, I mean, for they are all in, and
settled. That's Montier, the little girl's father. He is a drummer, and
a little of everything else. It's his horn that you hear sometimes. And
you know Elizabeth, who was always so kind about the flowers. His wife,
too, she's a pretty woman, and kind as kind can be."
"What have they come here for?" asked the prisoner, amazed.
"I'll tell you," said Laval, more generous than he had designed to be;
but he knew how he should wish, when the sea rolled between him and
Foray, that he had spoken every comfortable word in his knowledge to
this man; he knew it by his recent experiences of remorse in reference
to his buried wife, and was wise enough to profit by the
knowledge;--"I'll tell you. It's on your account. They were afraid
somebody that didn't know how long you have been here, and how much you
have suffered, would get the place; so they all came together and asked
for it. They had a pretty little house up nigh the barracks, but they
gave it up to come here. You'll see Montier to-night. For when I go
back to your room with you, then I'm going off to--to"----he hesitated,
for foremost among his instructions was this, that he should remain
silent about his purpose of returning home; he was not to go as a
messenger for the prisoner across the ocean to their native land----"to
my business," he said. "If you'll be kind to him, you will make
something by it. I thought I would tell you,--so, when you saw a
strange face in your room, you would know what it meant without
"I thank you," said the prisoner; and to the jailer it now seemed as if
the figure of the man beside him grew in height and strength,--as if he
trod the ground less feebly and listlessly while he spoke these words.
A divine consolation must have strengthened him even then, or he could
never have added with such emphasis, "Wherever you go, take this my
assurance with you,--you have not been cruel or careless. You have done
as well as you could. I thank you for it."
"You don't ask me where I'm going," said the jailer, after a silence
that seemed but brief to him,--such a deal of argument he had
dispatched, so many difficulties he had overcome in those few moments,
whose like, for mental activity and conclusiveness, he had never seen
before, and never would see again. "I shall be asked if I have told
you. But--where did you come from? Do not tell me your name. But whom
did you leave behind you that you would care most should know you are
alive and in good hands?"
These questions, asked in good faith, would have had their answer; but
while the prisoner was preparing such reply as would have proceeded,
brief and wholly to the point, from the confusion of hope and surprise,
the Governor of Foray came in sight, drew near, and, suspicious, as
became him, walked in silence by the prisoner's side, while Laval
obeyed his mute instructions, leading Manuel back to his cell. A vessel
was approaching the shore of Foray.
Having disposed of his prisoner, the jailer in turn was marched, like
one under arrest, up to the fort, where he remained, an object of
suspicion, until his time came for sailing, and, without knowing it, he
went home under guard.
When Adolphus Montier ascended to the prisoner's room that night, he
found him standing by the window. After Laval left him, he had looked
from out that window, and seen the white sail of a vessel; he could not
see it now, but there he stood, watching, as though he knew not that
his chance of hope was over.
As Adolphus entered the room, the prisoner turned immediately to
him,--asking quietly, as if he had not been suddenly tossed into a gulf
of despair by the breeze that brought him hope,--
"Has Laval sailed?"
"When the cannon fired," was the answer.
Then Adolphus placed the dish containing the prisoner's supper on the
table; he had already lighted the lamp in the hall. And now he wanted
to say something, on this his first appearance in the capacity of
keeper, and he knew what to say,--he had prepared himself abundantly,
he thought. But both the heart and the imagination of Adolphus Montier
stood in the way of such utterance as he had prepared. The instant his
eyes fell on that figure, lonely and forlorn, the instant he heard that
question, his kind heart became weakness, he stood in the prisoner's
place,--he saw the vessel sailing on its homeward voyage,--he beheld
men stepping from sea to shore, walking in happy freedom through the
streets of home;--a vision that filled big eyes with tears was before
him, and he was long in controlling his emotion sufficiently to say,--
"We are in Laval's place, Sir, and we hope you will have no cause to
regret the change. I don't know how to be cruel and severe,--but I must
do my duty. But I wasn't put here for a tyrant."
"I know why you are here; Laval told me," said the prisoner.
"Then we're friends, a'n't we?" asked Adolphus; "though I must do my
duty by them that employ me. You understand. I'd set every door and
window of this building wide open for you, if I had my way; though I
don't know what you're here for. But I swear before heaven and earth,
nothing will tempt me to forget my duty to the government;--if you
should escape, it would be over my dead body. So you see my position."
"Yes," said the prisoner; and if anything could have tempted a smile
from him, this manner of speech would have done it. But Adolphus was
far enough from smiling.
"Come, eat something," said he, with tremulous persuasion. "My wife
knows how to get up such things. She will do the best for you she can."
The prisoner again looked out of the window. It was growing dark; the
outline of sea and land was fading out of sight; dreary looked the
world without,--but within the lamp seemed shining with a brighter
light than usual. And here was a person and a speech, a human sympathy,
that almost warmed and soothed him.
He approached the table where Adolphus had spread his supper. He sat in
the chair that was placed for him, and the Drummer waited on him,
recommending Pauline's skill again, much as he might have presented a
petition. The prisoner ate little, but he praised Pauline, and said
outright that he had tasted nothing so palatable as her supper these
five years. This cheered Montier a little, but still his spirits were
almost at the lowest point of depression.
"You seem to pity me," remarked the prisoner, when Adolphus was
gathering up the remains of the frugal supper.
"My God!--yes!" exclaimed Adolphus, stopping short, and looking at the
It was a sort of sympathy that could not harm the person on whom it was
"I consider myself well off to-night," said he, quietly. "It is your
little daughter that works in the garden so much? I have often watched
"Yes," said Adolphus, almost with a sob.
"And you are the man whose music has been so cheering many a time?"
"I want to know what airs you like best," said the poor Drummer,
"I never heard you play one that I did not like."--Precious praise!
"Then you like music? I can be pretty tolerably severe, Sir, if I make
up my mind!" said Adolphus, as if addressing his own conscience, to set
that at rest by this open avowal. "There's no danger of my doing wrong
by the government. I'd have to pay for you with my life. Yes,--for it
would be with my liberty. And there's my wife and child. So you
understand where I am, as I told you before; but, by thunder! you shall
have all the music you want, and all the flowers; and my little girl
can sing pretty well,--her mother taught her. And if you're sick, there
a'n't a better nurse in the hospital than Pauline Montier. There! good
Adolphus took up the tray and hurried out of the room,--and forgot to
fasten the door behind him until he had gone half way down the stairs.
He came back in haste, and turned the great key with half the blood in
his body burning in his face,--not merely an evidence of the exertion
made in that operation, which he endeavored to perform noiselessly. He
was ashamed of this caging business; but he would have argued you out
of countenance then and there, had you ventured a word against the
government,--though, as he said, he was in the dark concerning the
When he went down stairs he found supper prepared, and Pauline and
their daughter waiting for him. He sat down in silence, seeking to
avoid the questioning eyes which turned toward him so expectant and so
hopeful. Discerning his mood, neither wife nor daughter troubled him
with questions; at last, of himself, he broke out vehemently,--
"I wouldn't for the world have lost the chance! Laval wasn't the man to
take care of that gentleman. But he don't say a word against Laval,
mind you. He spoke about the flowers and the music. Oh, hang it!"
Here, in spite of himself, the Drummer was wholly overcome. He bowed
his head to the table and broke into violent weeping. Another barrier
gave way beside. Elizabeth flew to him. He seemed not to heed her, nor
the sudden cry, "Oh, father!" that escaped her. She sat down by his
side,--she wept as he was weeping. It was a stormy emotion that raged
through her heart, when her tears burst forth. She was not weeping for
pity merely, nor because her father wept. Long before he lifted his
head, she was erect, and quiet, and hopeful,--but a child no more. She
was a woman to love, a woman to dare,--fit and ready for the guiding of
an angel. By-and-by Adolphus said to Pauline,--"If any one else had
undertaken this job in our place, we should have deserved to be shut
out of heaven for it. Thinking twice about it! I'm ashamed of myself.
Why,--why,--he looks like a ghost. But he won't look that way long! We
aren't here to browbeat a man, and kill him by inches, I take it."
"No, indeed!" said Pauline, as if the bare idea filled her with
indignation. The three were surely one now.
[To be continued.]
* * * * *
I do not count the hours I spend
In wandering by the sea;
The forest is my loyal friend,
Like God it useth me.
In plains that room for shadows make
Of skirting hills to lie,
Bound in by streams which give and take
Their colors from the sky,
Or on the mountain-crest sublime,
Or down the oaken glade,
Oh, what have I to do with time?
For this the day was made.
Cities of mortals woebegone
Fantastic care derides,
But in the serious landscape lone
Stern benefit abides.
Sheen will tarnish, honey cloy,
And merry is only a mask of sad;
But sober on a fund of joy
The woods at heart are glad.
There the great Planter plants
Of fruitful worlds the grain,
And with a million spells enchants
The souls that walk in pain.
Still on the seeds of all he made
The rose of beauty burns;
Through times that wear, and forms that fade,
Immortal youth returns.
The black ducks mounting from the lake,
The pigeon in the pines,
The bittern's boom, a desert make
Which no false art refines.
Down in yon watery nook,
Where bearded mists divide,
The gray old gods that Chaos knew,
The sires of Nature, hide.
Aloft, in secret veins of air,
Blows the sweet breath of song;
Ah! few to scale those uplands dare,
Though they to all belong.
See thou bring not to field or stone
The fancies found in books;
Leave authors' eyes, and fetch your own,
To brave the landscape's looks.
And if, amid this dear delight,
My thoughts did home rebound,
I should reckon it a slight
To the high cheer I found.
Oblivion here thy wisdom is,
Thy thrift the sleep of cares;
For a proud idleness like this
Crowns all life's mean affairs.
* * * * *
THE GERMAN POPULAR LEGEND OF DOCTOR FAUSTUS.
We doubt whether any popular legend has ever taken deeper root among
the common people and spread farther in the world than the story of Dr.
Faustus and his reckless compact with the Evil One. We do not intend to
compare it, of course, to those ancient traditions which seem to have
constituted a tie of relationship between the most distant nations in
times anterior to history. These are mostly of a mythological
character,--as, for instance, those referring to the existence of
elementary spirits. Their connection with mankind has, in the earliest
times, occupied the imagination of the most widely different races. A
certain analogy we can easily explain by the affinity of human hearts
and human minds. But when we find that exactly the same tradition is
reechoed by the mountains of Norway and Sweden in the ballad of "Sir
Olaf and the Erl-king's Daughter," which the milkmaid of Brittany sings
in the lay of the "Sieur Nann and the Korigan," and in a language
radically different from the Norse,--when, here and there, the same
_forms_ of superstition meet us in the ancient popular poetry of the
Servians and modern Greeks, which were familiar to the Teutonic and
Cambrian races of early centuries,--must we not believe in a primeval
intimate connection between distant nations? are we not compelled to
acknowledge that there must have existed, in those remote times, means
of communication unknown to us?
We repeat, however, that, in calling the legend of Dr. Faustus the most
widely-spread we know of, we cannot allude to these primitive
traditions, the circulation of which is perfectly mysterious. We speak
of such popular legends as admit of their origin being traced. Among
these the Faustus-tradition maybe called comparatively new. To us
Americans, indeed, whose history commences only with the modern history
of Europe, a period of three hundred years seems quite a respectable
space of time. But to the Germans and the Scandinavians, from whose
popular lore the names of Horny Siegfried and Dietric of Berne,
(Theodoric the Great,) and of Roland, are not yet completely erased, a
story of the sixteenth century must appear comparatively modern.
The popularity of the legend of Faustus, although of German origin,
was, almost from its first rise, not confined to German lands. The
French, Dutch, and English versions of the poor Doctor's adventurous
life are but very little younger than his German biographies; and it
was about the same time that he was made the subject of a tragedy by
Marlowe, one of the most gifted of Shakspeare's dramatic predecessors.
We are not afraid of erring, when we ascribe the uncommon popularity
and rapid circulation of this legend principally to its deep and
intrinsic _moral_ interest. Faustus's time of action was exactly the
period of the great religious reformation which shook all Europe.
During the sixteenth century, even the untaught and illiterate classes
learned to watch more closely over the salvation of their souls than
when they felt themselves safe beneath the guardianship of the Holy
Mother Church. And to those who remained under the guidance of the
latter, the dangers of learning and independent thinking, and of
meddling with forbidden subjects, were pointed out by the monks with
two-fold zeal. It cannot, therefore, surprise us, that the life and
death of a famous contemporary, who for worldly goods and worldly
wisdom placed his soul at stake, excited a deep and general interest.
In one feature, indeed, his history bears decidedly the stamp of the
great moral revolution of the time: we mean its awful end. There two
legends of the Middle Ages--and perhaps many more--in which the
fundamental ideas are the same. The two Saints, Cyprianus, (the "Magico
Prodigioso" of Calderon,) and Bishop Theophilus, (the hero of Conrad of
Wuerzburg,) were both tempted by the Devil with worldly goods and
worldly prosperity, and allured into the pool of sin perhaps deeper
than Faustus; but repentance and penitence saved them, and secured to
them finally a place among the saints of the Church. But for Faustus
there is no compromise; his awful compact is binding; and whatever hope
of his salvation modern poetry has excited for the unfortunate Doctor
is, to say the least, in direct contradiction of the popular legend.
Faustus was the Cagliostro of the sixteenth century. It is not an easy
task to find the few grains of historical truth referring to him, among
the chaff of popular fiction that several centuries have accumulated
around his name. A halo so mysterious and miraculous surrounds his
person, that not only have various other famous individuals, who lived
long before or after him, been completely amalgamated with him, but
even his real existence has been denied, and not much over a hundred
years after his death he was declared by scholars to be a mere myth. A
certain J.C. Duerr attempted to prove, in a learned "Dissertatio
Epistolica de Johanne Fausto," (printed at Altorf, in 1676,) that the
magician of that name had never existed, and that all the strange
things which had been related of him referred to the printer John
Faust, or Fust,--who had, indeed, been confounded with him before,
although he lived nearly a century earlier. And when we think of the
superstitious fear and monkish prejudice with which the great invention
of printing was at first regarded, such a confusion of two persons of
similar name, and both, in the eyes of a dark age, servants of Satan,
cannot surprise us. Our John Faustus was also sometimes confounded with
two younger contemporaries, one of whom was called Faustus Socinus, and
made Poland the chief theatre of his operations; the other, George
Sabellicus, expressly named himself Faustus Junior, also Faustus Minor.
Both were celebrated necromancers and astrologers, who probably availed
themselves of the advantage derived from the adoption of the famous
name of Faustus.
A second attempt to prove the historical nonentity of Dr. Faustus was
made at Wittenberg, in the year 1683. Some of his popular biographers
had claimed for him a professorship at that celebrated university, or
at least brought him into connection with it,--a pretension which the
actual professors of that learned institution thought rather
prejudicial to their honor, and which they were desirous of seeing
refuted. Stimulated, as it would seem, by a zeal of this kind, J.G.
Neumann wrote a "Dissertatio de Fausto Praestigiatore," in which he not
only tried to prove that Dr. Faustus had never been at Wittenberg, but
pronounced his whole story fabulous. An attempt like this would not
surprise us in our own time, the age of historical skepticism; but the
seventeenth century gave credit to narratives having much slighter
foundation. Although this dissertation was full of historical mistakes
and erroneous statements, it made some sensation, as is proved by its
four successive editions. It was also translated into German. All
Neumann's endeavors, however, could not stand against the testimony of
contemporaries, who partly had known Faustus personally, partly had
heard of him from living witnesses, and allude to his death as an
occurrence of recent date.
John Faustus, or rather, after the German form of his name, Faust, was
born in the last quarter of the fifteenth century, probably not before
the year 1490. According to the oldest "Volksbuch" (People's Book)
which bears his name, his parents then lived at Roda, in the present
Duchy of Saxe-Weimar. The same place is likewise named as his native
village by G.R. Widmann, his first regular biographer, who says that
his father was a peasant. Although these two works are the
foundation of the great number of later ones referring to the same
subject, some of these latter deviate with respect to Faustus's
birthplace. J.N. Pfitzer, for instance, who, seventy years after
Widmann, published a revised and much altered edition of his book,
makes Faust see the light at Saltwedel, a small town belonging then to
the principality of Anhalt, and must have had his reasons for this
amendment. A confusion of this kind may, indeed, have early arisen from
a change of residence of our hero's parents during his infancy. But the
oldest Volksbuch was written nearly forty years after the death of
Faustus, and Widmann's work appeared even ten years later,--both,
indeed, professing to be founded on the Doctor's writings, as well as
on an autobiographical manuscript, discovered in his library after his
death. Perhaps, however, the assertion of two of his contemporaries,
one of whom was personally acquainted with him, is more entitled to
credit in this respect. Joh. Manlius and Joh. Wier--the latter in his
biography of Cornelius Agrippa--name Kundlingen, in Wuertemberg, as his
Manlius, in his work, "Collectanea Locorum Communium," (Basel, 1600,)
speaks of him as of an acquaintance. He says that Faustus studied at
Krakow, in Poland, where there was a regular professorship of Magic, as
was the case at several universities. Others let him make his studies
at Ingolstadt, and acquire there the honors of a Doctor of Medicine.
Both these statements may be true, as also that he was for some time
the companion and pupil of Cornelius Agrippa, of Nettesheim, the
celebrated scholar, whose learning and mysterious researches after the
philosopher's stone brought him, like many other wise men of the age,
into suspicion of witchcraft. Agrippa had a pet dog, black, like the
mystical companion of Dr. Faustus, and, in the eyes of a superstitious
multitude, like him, the representative of the Evil One. Black dogs
seem to have been everywhere considered as rather suspicious creatures.
The Pope Sylvester II. had also a favorite black poodle, in whom the
Devil was supposed to have taken up his abode. According to Wier,
however, Agrippa's black dog was quite a harmless beast, and remarkable
only for the childlike attachment which the great philosopher had for
him. It may be worth remarking, that this writer, although he speaks of
Faustus in his biography of Agrippa, makes no mention of his ever
having been a friend or scholar of the latter.
In several of the old stories of Faustus, we read that he had a cousin
at Wittenberg, who took him as a boy to his house, brought him up, and
made him his heir when he died. If this was true, it would be more
probable that he was a native of Saxony than of Suabia. It is, however,
more probable that this narrative rests on one of the numerous cases
found in old writings in general, and above all in the history of
Faustus, in which the names Wittenberg and Wuertemberg are confounded.
Our hero's abode at the former place was very probably merely that of a
traveller; he left there, as we shall soon see, a very unenviable
reputation. It is true that Saxony was the principal scene of the
Doctor's achievements; but this very circumstance makes it improbable
that he was born and brought up there, as it is well known that "a
prophet hath no honor in his own country."
Faust's studies were not confined to medicine and the physical
sciences. He was also considered eminent as a philologist and
philosopher. Physiology, however, with its various branches and
degenerate offshoots, was the idol of the scholars of that age, and of
Faustus among the rest. A passionate desire to fathom the mysteries of
Nature, to dive into the most hidden recesses of moral and physical
creation, had seized men of real learning, and seduced them into
mingling absurd astrological and magical fancies with profound and
scholarlike researches. The deepest thinkers of their time, like
Nostradamus, Cardan, Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, Thomas Campanella,
flattered themselves that they could enter, by means of art and
science, into communion with good or evil spirits, on whose aid they
depended for obtaining knowledge, fame, wealth, and worldly honors and
enjoyments. Faustus was one of those whom a passion for inquiry, in
league with a powerful, sensual nature, led astray. What had been
originally an honest thirst for knowledge, a deep interest in the
supernatural, became gradually a morbid craving after the miraculous,
the pretension of having attained the unattainable, and the attempt to
represent it by means of vulgar jugglery.
Dr. Faustus seems at first to have settled as a practising physician,
and at this period of his life Wagner appears as his _famulus_; for we
never find this _Philister_ among scholars as a companion of the
travelling Faustus, although his connection with him was apparently
lasting. According to the popular legend, the Doctor made him his heir,
and expressly obtained for him Auerhahn, (Heathcock,) a familiar spirit
in the shape of a monkey. This was a sort of caricature of
Mephistopheles, who became, through his ludicrous clumsiness, a
pet-devil of the populace in the puppet-shows, particularly in Holland.
Widmann calls Wagner _Waiger_; while in all other publications
referring to him he bears his right name, Christoph Wagner.
What city it was where Faustus lived before the reputation of
witchcraft made him the subject of so much talk remains unsettled.
Wittenberg and Ingolstadt are alternately named. Some of his
biographers relate, that he led a loose and profligate life, and soon
wasted his cousin's inheritance. Others represent him as a deep,
secluded student, laying hold of one science after another, and
unsatisfied by them all, until he found, by means of his physical and
chemical experiments, the secret path to the supernatural, and, in
order to reap their full fruits, allied himself with the hellish
powers. Faustus himself tells us, in his "Mirakel-, Kunst-, und
Wunder-buch," (or rather, the author of this book makes him tell us,)
how his intercourse with the Devil commenced almost accidentally and
against his intentions:--
"I, Doctor Johann Faust, who apply myself to the Free Arts, having read
many kinds of books from my youth, happened once to light upon a book
that contained various conjurations of the spirits. Feeling some desire
to enlarge my ideas on these things, having, indeed, at the beginning,
small belief that the prescriptions of that book would so soon be
verified, I tried them only for an experiment. Nevertheless, I became
aware that a mighty spirit, named Astaroth, presented himself before
me, and asked me wherefore I had cited him. Then, hurried as I was, I
did not know how to make up my mind otherwise than to demand that he
should be serviceable to me in various wishes and desires, which he
promised _conditionale_, asking to make a compact with me. To do this I
was at first not inclined; but as I was only provided with a bad
_circle_, being merely experimenting, I did not dare to bid him
defiance, but was obliged to yield to the circumstances. I therefore
made up my mind, inasmuch as he would serve me, and would be bound to
me a certain number of years. This being settled, this spirit presented
to me another, named Mochiel, who was commanded to serve me. I asked
him how quick he was. Answer: 'Like the wind.' 'Thou shalt not serve
me! get thee back to whence thou earnest!' Now came Aniguel; he
answered, that he was as quick as the bird in the air. 'Thou art still
too slow,' I replied; 'begone!' At the same moment a third stood before
me, named Aziel; this one, too, I asked how quick he was. 'Quick as the
thought of man.' 'Right for me! thee will I keep!' And I accepted him.
This spirit has served me long, as has been made known by many
Whether it was this quick Aziel, or Astaroth himself, who became
Faustus's travelling-companion under the name of Mephistopheles, or
whether the prince of the lower regions in person condescended to play
that part, we do not know; but in all popular stories of the Doctor,
his servant bears the latter name,--while in the various books in
which, under the name of _Hoellenzwang_, the system of his magic is
laid down, he is called Aziel.
In possession of such a power, Faustus soon became tired of his lonely
study. He craved the world for his theatre. His travels seem in reality
to have been very extensive, while in the popular stories a magic
mantle carried him over the whole globe. Conrad Gesner, the great
physiologist, who speaks of him with some respect as a physician,
comparing him with Theophrastus Paracelsus, reckons him among the
_scholastici vagantes_, or _fahrende Schueler_, an order of men already
considerably in the decline, and grown disreputable at that period. As
early as the thirteenth century, we find the custom in Germany, of
young clergymen who did not belong to any monkish order travelling
through the land to get a living,--here by instructing in schools for a
certain period,--there by temporarily serving in churches as
choristers, sacristans, or vicars,--often, too, as clerks and copyists
to lawyers or other private men. When they could no longer find a
livelihood at one place, they went to another. Their offices became, in
course of time, of the most varied and unsuitable order. They were
generally received and treated with hospitality, and this may have been
one reason why all kinds of adventurers were ready to join them. Their
unstable mode of life easily explains their frequenting the society of
other vagabonds, who traversed the country as jugglers,
treasure-diggers, quacks, or sorcerers, and that their clerical dignity
did not prevent their occasionally adopting these professions
themselves. The Chronicle of Limburg, in speaking of the Diet of
Frankfurt in 1397, says: "The number of princes, counts, noblemen,
knights, and esquires, that met there, amounted to five thousand one
hundred and eighty-two"; adding: "Besides these, there were here four
hundred and fifty persons more, such as _fahrende Schueler_, wrestlers,
musicians, jumpers, and trumpeters." The character of the clergy having
sunk so low, the Church declared itself against the custom, and at
several German councils theological students were expressly forbidden
to lead this roving life. It required, however, considerable time for
the ancient custom to become extinct, and we learn, among others, from
Conrad Gesner, that it still existed at the time of the Reformation.
The part played by Faustus was at first in some degree respectable, and
that of a scholar. An old Erfurt Chronicle tells us that he had come to
that city and obtained permission from the university to deliver a
course of lectures on Homer. A dark rumor of his magic powers had
preceded him; the students, therefore, thronged to hear him, and,
deeply interested, requested him to let them see the heroes of Homer by
calling them from their graves. Faustus appointed another day for this,
received the excited youths in a dark chamber, commanded them to be
perfectly silent, and made the great men of the Greek bard rise up, one
by one, before their eyes. At length Polyphemus appeared; and the
one-eyed Cyclops, with his red hair, an iron spear in his hand, and, to
designate him at once as a cannibal, two bloody human thighs in his
mouth, looked so hideous, that the spectators were seized with horror
and disgust, the more so that the wily magician professed to have some
difficulty in dismissing the monster. Suddenly a violent shake of the
whole house was felt; the young men were thrown one over another, and
were seized with terror and dismay. Two of the students insisted upon
having already felt the teeth of the Cyclops.--This ridiculous story
was soon known throughout the city, and confirmed the suspicions of the
Franciscan monks and magistrates, that the learned guest was in league
with the Evil One. It is said that Faustus had previously offered to
procure for them the manuscripts of the lost comedies of Terence and
Plautus, and to leave them for a short time in their hands, to be
copied,--but that the fathers of the city and of the university
declined, because they believed this could be done only by sorcery, or
with the help of Satan. Now they, sent to him the Guardian of the
Convent, Dr. Klinger, in order to convert him and to have masses read
for him, for the purpose of delivering him from his hellish connection.
But Faustus opposed, was by the clergy solemnly delivered to the Devil,
and, in consequence, banished from the city by the magistrates.
We do not know whether it was for similar juggleries, that, when at
Wittenberg, the Elector John the Steadfast ordered him to be arrested,
as Manlius relates. He saved himself by flight Melancthon, in one of
his letters, mentions having made his acquaintance; the whole tone of
the allusion, however, expresses contempt.
The character of the miracles he performed soon ceased to have the
literary tincture of the one related above, and they became mere vulgar
juggleries and exhibitions of legerdemain, suited to the taste of the
multitude. Scholars turned their backs on him, and we find him only
among tipplers and associates of the lowest kind. At one of their
carousals his half-intoxicated companions asked him for a specimen of
his witchcraft. He declared himself willing to gratify them in any
request. They then demanded that he should make a grape-vine full of
ripe fruit grow out of the table around which they sat. Faustus
enjoined complete silence, ordered them to take their knives and keep
themselves in readiness for cutting the fruit, but not to stir before
he gave them leave. And, behold, before the eyes of the gaping youths,
while they themselves were enveloped in a magic mist, there arose a
great vine, with as many bunches of grapes as there were persons in the
room. Suddenly the obscuring mist dissolved, and each one saw the
others with their hands at their own noses, ready to cut them off, as
the promised grapes. But the vine and the magician had disappeared, and
the disenchanted drunkards were left to their own rage.
The reader will be aware that this is the tale of which Goethe availed
himself in representing Faustus's visit to Auerbach's cellar at
Leipzig. Whether it really occurred there is not stated; but that
Faustus was said to have been at Leipzig, and even in Auerbach's
cellar, is an historical fact, attested by two pictures still extant at
this famous old tavern, where many of our curious American travellers
may have seen them. These pictures, which have been retouched and
renovated more than once,--last in 1759,--are marked at the top with
the date 1525. Whether this means the year in which they were painted,
or that in which Faustus performed the great feat which the scene
represents, remains uncertain. As it occurred in the beginning of his
career, upon which we may assume him to have entered somewhere between
1520 and 1525, the date is quite likely to refer to the time of the
feat; but, to judge from the costumes and several other signs, the
pictures cannot have been painted much later. They were evidently made
expressly for the locality, sloping off on both sides at the top, to
suit the shape of the vault. The German inscription at the foot of one
of the pictures indicates that it was written after the Doctor's death,
which must have occurred between 1540 and 1550; but it is probable that
these verses were added at a later time, the more so as the traces of
an older inscription, now no longer legible, may still be discovered.
One of these curious paintings represents Faustus in company with
students and musicians sitting around a table covered with dishes and
bottles. Faustus is lifting his goblet with one hand, and with the
other beating time on the table to the music. At the bottom we read the
following verse in barbarous Latin:--
"Vive. Bibe. Obgregare. Memor Fausti hujus, et hujus
Poenae. Aderat claudo haec. Ast erat ampla
The other picture shows us the same jolly party risen from table, and
all expressing their wonder and astonishment, as Dr. Faustus is just
riding out of the door on a wine-tub. Beneath it is the following
inscription in German:--
"Dr. Faustus zu dieser Frist
Aus Auerbach's Keller geritten ist,
Auf einem Fass mit Wein geschwind,
Welches gesehn manch Mutterkind.
Solches durch seine subtilne Kunst hat gethan,
Und des Teufels Lohn empfangen davon.
On neither of the two pictures does Mephistopheles appear, unless he is
meant to be represented in the shape of the black dog. It is not,
however, Goethe's poodle that meets us here, but a sleek little
creature with a collar around his neck, looking very much like a wooden
Most of the tricks and pranks reported of Dr. Faustus are of the same
absurd kind, though not all of so harmless a character. According to
the popular legend, he travelled like a great lord, had the spirits
pave the highways for him when he rode in the post-coach,--it seems,
then, that he did not always use his mantle,--and lived in the taverns
at which he stopped with an unheard-of luxury. On his departure, he
paid the hosts in a princely manner; but scarcely was he out of sight,
when the gold in the receiver's hand was changed to straw, or to round
slices of gilded horn,--a shabby trick indeed, as he could have as much
money as he liked.
How much we have to believe of all these popular stories we may learn
from Dr. Phil. Begardi's "Zeyger der Gesundtheyt," (Guide to Health,) a
book published in 1539, at Worms, at a time when Faustus seems to have
already disappeared from Germany, after having lost caste there
completely, and when he was trying his fortune in other countries.
"There is still another famous man," says Begardi, "whose name I would
rather not mention at all, only that he himself would not wish to
remain hidden or unknown. For he was roving, _some years ago_, through
all the different countries, principalities, and kingdoms, and has made
known his name and his great skill, boasting not only of his medical
science, but likewise of Chiromancy, Necromancy, Physiognomy, Visions
in Crystals, and more arts of the kind. And he called himself Faustus,
a celebrated experienced master, _philosophum philosophorum_, etc. But
the number of those who have complained to me of having been cheated by
him is very great. Well, his promises were likewise very great, just
like those of Thessalus, (in Galen's time,) and his reputation like
that of Theophrastus; but in deeds he was, I hear, found small and
deceitful. But in taking and receiving money he was never slow, and was
off before any one knew it."
Thus we see the historical Faustus, the esteemed scholar, the skilful
physician, gradually merged in the juggler, the quack, the adventurer,
and the impostor. The popular legend follows him to foreign countries.
His magic mantle carries him, in eight days, over the whole world, and
even into the Infernal regions. He is honorably received at the
Emperor's court at Innspruck, introduces himself invisibly at Rome,
into the Vatican, where the Pope and his cardinals are assembled at a
banquet, snatches away his Holiness's plate and cup from before his
mouth, and, enraged at his crossing himself, boxes his ears. In the
puppet-shows he figures mostly at the court of the Duke of Parma. In
Venice his daring spirit presumed too far. He announced an exhibition
of a flight to heaven. But Mephistopheles, who had hitherto satisfied
his most extravagant demands, though often with grumbling, would not
permit _that_ feat. In the midst of a staring, wondering multitude,
Faustus rose to a certain height by means of his own Satanic skill,
acquired in his long intercourse with the Devil. But now the latter
showed that he was still his master. He suddenly hurled him from on
high, and he fell half dead upon the ground. The twenty-four years of
the compact, however, were not yet ended, and he was therefore restored
to life by the same hellish power.
In a very trite, popular ballad, which we find in "Des Knaben
Wunderhorn," we see, that, when the travellers came to Jerusalem, the
Devil declined still another request. Faustus wishes him to make a
picture of Christ crucified, and to write under it his holy name. But
the Devil declared that he would rather give him back his signature
than be obliged to do _such_ a thing, and succeeded in turning the
Doctor's mind from the subject by showing him, instead, a picture of
Popular imagination seems to have been inexhaustible in stories of this
kind. But, after the twenty-four years of vile enjoyments, the hour of
retribution came at last. According to our scanty historical notices,
Faustus died an unnatural death: he was found dead in his bed, at his
birthplace, Kundlingen, with his neck twisted. How such a death must
have confirmed all the superstitious rumors about him the reader will
easily conceive. But, according to the popular legend, his end was
still more terrible. He seems to have returned to his own country, and
scholars, worthy young men, surround him once more, and become much
attached to him. From this one would suppose him to have been at
Wittenberg, or Ingoldstadt, or any university city, but, instead of
this, we find him in a little Saxon village, called Rimlich. The
twenty-fourth year draws to its close. At last, at the eleventh hour,
Faustus bethinks himself to repent; but it is too late. His end,
related in the simple language of the Volksbuch, is truly awful. He
dismisses his sympathizing friends, bidding them not to be disturbed by
any noises in the night. At midnight a terrible storm arises; it
reaches its height amid thunder and lightning. The friends hear a
fearful shriek. They rise and pray. But when, in the morning, they
enter his room, they are horror-struck at seeing his limbs scattered
round, and the walls, against which the fiend had dashed him to pieces,
covered with his blood. His body was found in the court-yard on a
The horror of this end made a peculiarly awful impression on the
popular mind. During the Thirty Years' War, it once happened that a
troop of Catholic soldiers broke into a village in Saxony, on the Elbe,
named Breda. They were just about to plunder one of the principal
houses, when the judge of the place, who, it seems, was a shrewd man,
stepped out and told them that this village was the one where Dr.
Faustus was carried off by the Devil, and that in this very house the
blood of the Doctor was still to be seen on the walls. The soldiers
were seized with terror, and left the village.
The story of Faustus's adventurous life and shocking death, with its
impressive lessons, appears at first to have been kept extant only by
oral tradition. Nearly forty years passed before it was written down
and printed. But then, indeed, the book was received with so much
favor, that not only several new and enlarged editions appeared in a
short time, but many similar works were published soon after, which,
though founded on the oldest Volksbuch (of 1588) and Widmann's
"Histories," were yet abundant in new facts and inventions. And that
not to the illiterate classes alone was the subject interesting is
proved by the circumstance that a Latin version of the first Volksbuch
was advertised, and (probably) appeared. On the title-pages of all
these books it is expressly stated that they were written as a warning
to, and for the edification of, Christian readers. In 1712, a book was
published at Berlin, under the title, "Zauberkuenste und Leben Dr.
Fausti," (The Magic Arts and Life of Dr. Faust,) as the author of which
Christoph Wagner was named. Wagner himself became the subject of a
Of still greater effect was Faustus's history on the stage. Through the
whole of the seventeenth, as well as the first half of the eighteenth
century, it remained one of the favorite subjects of puppet-shows,
popular melodramas, exhibitions of _ombres chinoises_, and pantomimes.
The more the awful event, with its moral lessons, receded into the
background of time, the more it lost its serious and impressive
character, until it became a mere burlesque, and _Hanswurst_ and
_Casperle_ its principal figures.
The "Historie" had scarcely appeared, when it was translated into
Dutch, and the later publication of other similar works did not prevent
the demand for several new editions. These Dutch books were
illustrated, as were also the _newer_ German ones. Only a little later,
two French versions were published, one of which was even reprinted at
Paris as late as 1712.
In Holland, our hero excited no small interest even among the artists.
There are extant several portraits of Faustus painted by Rembrandt,--
whether ideal, or copied from older pictures, is not known. Another
Dutch painter, Christoph von Sichem, represented two scenes from the
life of the celebrated magician; and of these productions engravings
still exist. On the one, we see Faustus and Mephistopheles,--the
latter dressed like a monk, as, according to the popular tales,
he mostly appeared. On the other, Wagner and Auerhahn, (or Auerhain,)
--the latter in the shape of a monkey. There is a striking contrast
between Faustus and Wagner. The first is a well-dressed man, in
deep meditation; globes and instruments of science surround him;--
the other the impersonation of vulgarity. Various scenes from
Faustus's life adorn the walls. Christoph von Sichem was born in
1580, and flourished at Amsterdam during the first quarter of the
seventeenth century. These pictures were consequently made when the
whole interest of the public for Faustus and his companions was still
Some books seem, to have teen published by Faustus during his
lifetime,--at least, his biographers allude to them; but it was only
after his death that the work which gave his name its chief reputation
became known. This was his peculiar System of Magic, called "Faust's
Hoellenzwang" (Compulsion of Hell). Wagner, who was said to be his
heir, published it first under the title of "Dr. Johannis Faust's
_Magia Celeberrima_, und _Tabula Nigra_, oder _Hoellenzwang_." It
contained all the different forms of conjuration, as well for the
citation as for the dismissal of spirits. There are, besides this,
several other similar works extant, such as his "Schwarzer
Mohrenstern," "Der schwarze Rabe," the "Mirakel-, Kunst-, und
Wunder-buch," already mentioned, and several more, containing about the
same matter, and most of them written in his name. Of all these
productions only manuscripts are known to remain, although they are all
professedly copies of printed works. The most singular thing is, that,
while they are represented as having been published after the
magician's death, some of them are, nevertheless, marked with dates as
early as 1509, 1510, and 1511,--and with the names of Lion, (Lyons,)
London, etc., as the places where they were printed. These
circumstances make their authenticity very doubtful, even if we allow
for mistakes made by the copyists.
Although so large a part of Faustus's life was, according to the
popular legend, spent in Italy, we are not aware that this legend was
ever current among the Italian people. Some unfortunate attempts have
been made to engraft the story of Don Giovanni upon this German stock,
but, as it seems to us, by very arbitrary arguments and conclusions.
The career of a mere rake, who shuns no means of gratifying his low
appetites, has little analogy with that of an originally honest
inquirer, led astray by the want of faith and his sensual nature. The
only resemblance is in the end. There was at first more apparent
success in the endeavor to transplant the tale to Spain, where
Calderon's "Magico Prodigioso" was taken by some critics for a
representation of it. The foundation of Calderon's drama, as mentioned
before, is rather the legend of St. Cyprianus. More may be said in
favor of the radical identity of the stories of Faustus with some
popular legends of the Poles, referring to a necromancer called
Twardowski. But Polish scholars will not admit this; at least, they
object to giving up their great magician, and some attempts have even
been made from that side to prove that theirs is the original whom the
Germans appropriated under the name of _Faust_.
The most interesting result of the publication of the Volksbuch
appeared in England, where it fell, for the first, and in a hundred and
fifty years the only time, into the hands of a poet. Mr. Collier, in
his "History of English Dramatic Poetry," says,--"In 1588, a ballad of
the Life and Death of Dr. Faustus was licensed to be printed"; and
adds,--"This would, according to the language of the time, have meant
any composition in verse, even the play," (of Marlowe,) and
subsequently mentions the same circumstance with reference to "the old
romance of Dr. Faustus." On this, Mr. A. Dyce (Works of Christopher
Marlowe, 1850, I. p. xvi., note) remarks,--"When Mr. Collier states
that the old romance of Faustus was entered into the Stationers' books
in 1588, (according to a note on Henslowe's Diary, p. 42,) he meant, I
apprehend, the old _ballad_." If we bear in mind that the first German
History of Dr. Faustus did not appear before the same year, we should
also conclude that he must have meant the ballad, as a translation
could hardly have been made in so short a time. But considering, on the
other hand, that the tragedy, which cannot have been composed later
than 1589 or 1590, (as the poet, who was murdered in 1593, wrote
several pieces after the one in question,) is evidently and without the
least doubt founded on the Volksbuch, often adopting the very language
of its English version, we must conclude that a translation of the
German work was made immediately after its appearance, or possibly even
from the manuscript,--which Spiess, the German editor, professes to
have obtained from Spires. Although the word "ballad" was not properly
employed for prose romances, it may have been thus used in Henslowe's
Diary by mistake. We are not aware that any _old_ English version of
this "History of Dr. Faustus" is now extant; that from which Mr. Dyce
quotes is of 1648. Marlowe's tragedy was first entered in the
Stationers' books in 1600-1, but brought upon the stage many years
before. In 1597, it had already been played so often that additions
were required. Philips, who wrote about fifty years later, remarks,
that, "of all that Marlowe hath written to the stage, his 'Dr. Faustus'
has made the greatest noise with its devils and such-like tragical
sport." In course of time it was "made into a farce, with the Humors of
Harlequin and Scaramouch," and represented through the whole kingdom,
like similar compositions, with immense applause.
Marlowe's "Faustus" has been judged rather favorably by modern English
critics. Mr. Hazlitt calls it, "though an imperfect and unequal
performance, Marlowe's greatest work." Mr. Hallam remarks,--"There is an
awful melancholy about Marlowe's Mephistopheles, perhaps more
impressive than the malignant mirth of that fiend in the renowned work
of Goethe." Charles Lamb even preferred Marlowe's "Faustus," as a
whole, to the latter! Mr. Collier calls it "a drama of power, novelty,
interest, and variety." So, indeed, it is; but all that power,
interest, novelty, and variety do not belong to Marlowe, but to the
prose romance, after which he wrote. Indeed, he followed it so
closely,--as every reader can see for himself, by reading the play in
Dyce's edition, and comparing it with the notes under the text,--that
sometimes whole scenes are copied, and even whole speeches, as, for
instance, that of the Emperor Charles V. The coarse buffoonery, in
particular, of which the work is full, is retained word for word. Of
the countless absurdities and prolixities of the Volksbuch, Marlowe
has, of course, omitted a great deal, and condensed the story to the
tenth part of its original length; but the fundamental idea, the plot,
and the characters, belong exclusively to the original. Marlowe's
poetical merit lies partly in the circumstance that he was the first to
feel the depth and power of that idea, partly in the thoughts and
pictures with which some speeches, principally the monologues of
Faustus himself, are interwoven. The Faustus of Marlowe is the Faust of
the legend, tired of learning because it is so unproductive, and
selling his soul, not for knowledge, but for wealth and power. His
investigating conversations with Mephistopheles, his inquiries, and the
answers of the latter, are almost as shallow and childish as those in
the People's Book; and Faustus himself remarks, on the information
which his companion gives him,--
"Those slender trifles Wagner could decide;
Has Mephistopheles no greater skill?"
This latter, indeed, seems to us, in spite of the admiration of English
critics, a decided failure. There is in him no trace of either the
cruel, icy-cold malignity of the fiend of Goethe, or the awful grandeur
of Milton's Tempter. It cannot be said that Marlowe's Devil seduces
Faustus. He is almost on the verge of repentance himself; of the two,
he is decidedly the better Christian. The proposition of the compact
comes from Faustus himself, and Mephistopheles only accepts it.
Marlowe's Faustus knows nothing of the feeling of aversion and disgust
with which Goethe's Faust sees himself bound to his hellish companion;
he calls him, repeatedly, "sweet Mephistopheles," and declares,--
"Had I as many souls an there be stars,
I'd give them all for Mephistopheles."
Mr. Hallam, in comparing Marlowe's production with Goethe's,
remarks,--"The fair form of Margaret is wanting." As if this were all
that was wanting! Margaret belonged, indeed, exclusively to Goethe. But
Helena, the favorite ideal of beauty of all old writers, is introduced
in the popular tale, and so, too, in Marlowe. Faustus conjures up her
spirit at the request of the students. Her beauty is described with
glowing colors; "it would," says the old romance, "nearly have enflamed
the students, but that they persuaded themselves she was a spirit,
which made them lightly passe away such fancies." Not so Faustus;
although he is already in the twenty-third year of his compact, he
himself falls in love with the spirit, and keeps her with him until his
end. In all this, Marlowe follows closely; though he has good taste
enough to suppress the figure of the little Justus Faustus, who was the
fruit of this union.
It now only remains to us to consider the way in which modern poets
have apprehended the idea of the Faust-fable. None of the German dramas
and operas which the seventeenth century produced, though they never
failed to draw large audiences, could be compared, in poetical value,
to Marlowe's tragedy. The German stage of that period was of very low
standing, and the few poets who wrote for it, as, for instance,
Lohenstein, preferred foreign subjects,--the more remote in space and
time, the better. The writers of neither the first nor the second
Silesian school were exactly the men to appreciate the depth of a
legend like that of Faustus,--still less the watery poets of the
beginning of the eighteenth century. Lessing, who, with his sharp,
sound criticism, and his clear perception of the beautiful, led the way
to a higher state of things in literature, appears also to have been
the first to discover the deep meaning buried in the popular farces of
Faustus. He pronounced it worthy the genius of a Shakspeare, and
himself attempted to make it the subject of a tragedy. How much it
occupied his mind we may conclude from the circumstance that he seems
to have made for it two plans, essentially different from each other.
We can only regret that they were never executed. Although Lessing was
not a poetical genius like Goethe, the power and acuteness of his mind
were so eminent, the force of his critical faculties was so
penetrating, that his treatment of a subject of so much depth and
intrinsic poetry would have been of the highest interest. This
expectation is also justified by the few sketches of single scenes
which are all that remain of his plans. One of the latter is, indeed,
also in so far remarkable, as we see from it that Lessing's mind
inclined to the modern view, according to which Faustus ought to be and
would be finally saved. One of the devils describes him, before
temptation, as "a solitary, thinking youth, entirely devoted to
wisdom,--living, breathing, only for wisdom and knowledge,--renouncing
every passion but the one for truth,--highly dangerous to thee [Satan]
and to us all, if he were ever to be a teacher of the people." Satan
resolves at once to seduce and destroy him. But Faustus's good angel
has mercy on him. He buries him in a deep sleep, and creates in his
place a phantom, with which the cheated devils try successfully the
whole process of temptation and seduction. All this appears to Faustus
in a dream. He awakes; the Devil discovers his error, and flies with
shame and fury, and Faustus, thanking Providence for its warning,
clings to truth and virtue more firmly than ever.
The other plan, to judge from the fragment we possess, is less
fanciful, and seems to follow more closely the popular tradition,
according to which the temptations of Faustus were by no means
external, but lay deep in his individual mind. In one of its
lightly-sketched scenes, the poet has evidently availed himself of the
one from the Miracle-Book heretofore mentioned, and, indeed, with a
great deal of force. Faustus, impatient and annoyed at the slow process
of human action, desires the quickest servant from hell, and
successively cites seven spirits. One after another he rejects. The
arrows of the plague, the wings of the winds, the beams of light, are
all not quick enough for him. The fifth spirit rises:--
"_Faustus_. How quick art thou?
"_Fifth Spirit_. As quick as the thoughts of men.
"_Faustus_. That is something!--But the thoughts of men are not always
quick. They are slothful when truth and virtue demand them. Thou canst
be quick, if thou wilt. But who will warrant me thy being always
quick?--No, I trust thee as little as I ought to have trusted
myself.--Ah!--(to the sixth spirit.) Now tell me how quick thou art!
"_Sixth Spirit_. As quick as the vengeance of the Avenger.
"_Faustus_. Of the Avenger? Of what Avenger?
"_Sixth Spirit_. Of the All-powerful, the Terrible, who has kept
vengeance for himself alone, because vengeance is his delight.
"_Faustus_. Devil, thou blasphemest, for I see thou art
trembling!--Quick, thou sayest, as the vengeance of----no! he may not
be named among us! Quick, thou sayest, is his vengeance? Quick? And I
still live? And I still sin?
"_Sixth Spirit_. That he suffereth thee still to sin is the beginning
of his vengeance.
"_Faustus_. Oh that a Devil should teach me this!--But no, his
vengeance is not quick; if thou art no quicker, begone!--(To the
seventh spirit.) How quick art thou?
"_Seventh Spirit_. Unsatisfiable (_unzuvergnuegender_) mortal! If I,
too, am not quick enough for thee------
"_Faustus_. Tell me, then, how quick?
"_Seventh Spirit_. No more nor less than the transition from Good to
"_Faustus_. Ha! thou art my devil! Quick as the transition from Good to
Evil!--Yes, that is quick! Nothing is quicker!--Away from here, ye
horrors of Orcus! Away!--Quick as the transition from Good to Evil!--I
have learned how quick that is! I know it!"
Lessing had this fragment printed in the "Literaturbriefe," professedly
as a specimen of one of the old popular dramas, despised at that time
by the higher classes, though Lessing remarks,--"How fond was Germany
once of its Dr. Faustus,--and is so, partly, still!" But even this bold
reformer of German taste seems not to have had the temerity to come
forward at once as the author of a conception so entirely contrary to
the reigning rules and the Frenchified taste by which, at the period of
the "Literaturbriefe," (1759-1763,) Germany was still subjugated.
We do not know whether some of the young poets who took hold of the
subject a short time after were instigated by this fragment of
Lessing's, or whether they were moved by the awakening German Genius,
who, just at that period, was beginning to return to his national
sources for the quenching of his thirst. Between 1770 and 1780, Lenz
and Maler Mueller composed, the former his "Hoellenrichter," the latter
his dramatized Life of Dr. Faustus. No more appropriate hero could have
been found for the young "Kraft-Genies" of the "Sturm und Drang
Periode" (Storm and Stress period) of German literature. Schreiber,
Soden, Klinger, Schink, followed them, the last-named with several
productions referring to the subject. In 1786, Goethe communicated to
the world, for the first time, a fragment of that astonishing dramatic
poem which has since been acknowledged, by the whole literary public,
as his masterpiece, and the most remarkable monument of his great
genius. The whole first part of the tragedy, still under the name of
a fragment, was not published before 1808. Since then Germany may be
said to have been inundated by "Fausts" in every possible shape. Dramas
by Nic. Voigt, K. Schoene, Benkowitz,--operas by Adolph Baeurle, J. von
Voss, Bernard, (with music by Spohr,)--tales in verse and prose by
Kamarack, Seybold, Gerle, and L. Bechstein,--and besides these, the
productions of various anonymous writers, followed close upon each
other in the course of the next twenty years. Chamisso's tragedy of
"Faustus," "in one actus," in truth only a fragment, had already
appeared in the "Musenalmanach" of 1804.
To Goethe the legendary literature of his nation had been familiar from
his boyhood. Very early in life, and several years before the
publication of Maler Mueller's spirited drama, his mind was powerfully
impressed by the Faust-fable, and the greater part of the present
fragmentary poem was already written and ready for print when Mueller's
first sketch, under the title, "Situations in the Life of Dr. Faustus,"
appeared (1776). As the entire poetry of Goethe was more or less
_autobiographical_,--that is, as all his poetical productions reflect,
to a certain extent, his own personal sensations, trials, and
experiences,--he fused himself and his inner life into the mould of
Faustus, with all his craving for knowledge, his passionate love of
Nature, his unsatisfied longings and powerful temptations, adhering
closely in all external action to the popular story, though of course
in a symbolic spirit Goethe had, as he tells us himself, a happy
faculty of delivering himself by poetical production, as well of all
the partly imaginary, partly morbid cares and doubts which troubled his
mind, as of the real and acute sufferings which tormented him, for a
certain period, even to agony. Love, doubt, sorrow, passion,
remorse--all found an egress from his soul into a poem, a novel, a
parable, a dramatic character, or some other form of poetical
expression. He felt as if eased of a burden, after having thus given
his feelings body and shape. Thus his works became his history.
"Faust," in its two parts, is the production of his lifetime. Conceived
in early youth, worked out in manhood, completed in old age, it became
a vehicle for all the various commotions of his existence. There is no
other poem which contains such a diversity of thought and feeling, such
a variety of sentences, pictures, scenes, and situations. For enlarging
on the poetical value of this incomparable work this is not the place.
Closely as Goethe has followed up the popular legend, it is
emphatically and entirely his own production, because it contains his
Nearly a quarter of a century passed before this extraordinary poem was
followed by its second part. It is not difficult to trace in this
continuation, published only after the death of the aged poet, the few
scenes which may have been composed contemporarily with or soon after
the first part; but that the whole is conceived and executed in a
totally different spirit not even the most unconditional admirers of
Goethe's genius will deny. There is no doubt that he regarded his
"Faust" only as a beginning, and always contemplated a continuation.
The _role_ of Dr. Faustus, the popular magician, was only half-played.
Its most brilliant part, his intercourse with the great of the earth
and the heroes of the past, had not yet commenced. But as, in the
course of advancing life, the poet's views and ideas changed, the
mirror of his soul reflected an altered world to him; and as the second
part of "Faust" is hardly less an image of himself than the first, it
is not unnatural that it is as different from the latter as the Goethe
the septuagenarian was from Goethe the youth.
Meanwhile the _literati_ of Germany became exceedingly impatient for
the promised second part; and when the master lingered, and did not
himself come forth with the solution of the mystery, the disciples
attempted to supply him as well as they could. C.C.L. Schoene and J.D.
Hoffmann had both the requisite courage for such an undertaking; and
the first even sent his production, with perfect _naivete_, to the
great master, as the second part of his own work. C. Rosenkranz and
Gustav Pfitzer--two very honorable names--also wrote after-plays.
We must confess that we have never felt any desire to see "Faust"
continued. It ought to have remained a fragment. Its last scene,
perhaps, surpasses, in sublimity and heart-rending power, anything ever
written. No light of this world can ever entirely clear up the sacred
mystery of the Beyond, but that scene gives us a surety for the
salvation of Margaret, and _hope_ for Faust, to every one who has not
forgotten the words of the Lord in the second Prologue:--
"Draw down this spirit from its source,
And, _canst thou catch him_, to perdition
Carry him with thee in thy course;
But stand abashed, if thou must needs confess
That a good man, though passion blur his vision,
Has of the right way still a consciousness."
By the appearance of the second part of "Faust" the magic spell was
completely broken. No work of Art of a more chilling, disenchanting
character was ever produced. For the striking individuality of the
first part, we have here nothing but abstractions; for its deep poetry,
symbolism; for its glow and thrilling pathos, a plastic finish, hard
and cold as marble; for its psychological truth, a bewildering
mysticism. All the fine thoughts and reflections, and all the abundance
of poetical passages, scattered like jewels through the thick mist of
the whole work, cannot compensate for its total want of interest; and
we doubt whether many readers have ever worked their way through its
innumerable obscure sayings and mystical allegories without feeling
something of the truth of Voltaire's remark: "_Tout genre est permis
hors le genre ennuyeux_."
The impression which the first part of "Faust," the poetical
masterpiece of German literature, made among foreigners, was, though in
some instances ultimately powerful, yet on the whole surprisingly slow.
While the popular legend, in its coarsest shape, had, in its time,
spread with the rapidity of a running fire through all countries, the
great German poet's conception of it, two hundred years later, found no
responding echo in either French or English bosoms. Here and there some
eccentric genius may have taken it up, as, for instance, Monk Lewis,
who, in 1816, communicated the fundamental idea to Lord Byron, reading
and translating it to him _viva voce_, and suggesting to him, in this
indirect way, the idea of his "Manfred." But even the more profound
among the few German scholars then extant in England did not understand
"Faust," and were inclined to condemn it,--as, for instance, Coleridge,
who, as we see from his "Table-Talk," misconceived the whole idea of
the poem, and found fault with the execution, because it was different
from what he fancied he himself would have made of this legend, had he
taken it in hand. The first English translation was published in the
same year as the first French version, that is, in 1825; both were
exceedingly imperfect. Since then several other translations in prose
and verse have appeared in both languages, especially in
English,--though the "twenty or thirty metrical ones" of which Mr. C.T.
Brooks speaks in his preface are probably to be taken as a mere mode of
speech,--and lately one by this gentleman himself, in our very midst.
This latter comes, perhaps, as near to perfection as it is possible for
the reproduction of all idiomatic poetical composition in another
language to do. All this indicates that the time for the just
appreciation of German literature in general and of Goethe in
particular is drawing near at last; that its influence has for some
time been felt is proved, among other things, by that paraphrastic
imitation of "Faust," Bailey's "Festus."
That a poem like "Faust" could not at first be generally understood is
not unnatural. Various interpretations of its seeming riddles have been
attempted; and if the volumes of German "Goethe-Literature" are
numerous enough to form a small library, those of the "Faust-
Literature" may be computed to form the fourth part of it. To
the English reader we cannot recommend highly enough, for the full
comprehension of "Faust," the commentary on this poem which Mr. Lewes
gives in his "Life of Goethe," as perhaps the most excellent portion of
that excellent work. Goethe himself has given many a hint on his own
conception, and as to how far it was the reflex of his own soul. "The
puppet-show-fable of 'Faust,'" he says, "murmured with many voices in
my soul. I, too, had wandered into every department of knowledge, and
had returned disgusted, and convinced of the vanity of science. And
life, too, I had tried under various aspects, and had always come back
sorrowing and unsatisfied." "Faust's character," he says in another
place, "at the height to which the modern elaboration (_Ausbildung_) of
the old, crude, popular tale has raised it, represents a man, who,
feeling impatient and uncomfortable within the general limits of earth,
esteems the possession of the highest knowledge, the enjoyment of the
fairest worldly goods, inadequate to satisfy his longings even in the
least degree, a mind which, turning to every side in search of this
satisfaction, ever recedes into itself with increased unhappiness."--He
remarks, too, that "the approbation which this poem has met with, far
and near, may be owing to the rare peculiarity, that it fixes
permanently the developing process of a human mind, which by everything
that torments humanity is also pained, by all that troubles it is also
agitated, by what it condemns is likewise enthralled, and by what it
desires is also made happy."
If this article were devoted to Goethe's "Faust," instead of the
popular legend of Faustus, of which the former is only the most eminent
apprehension, if would be easy to add to these reasons for the
universal "approbation" which it has won still others, founded on the
great genius of the poet. This, however, would by far exceed our
[Footnote 1: Some regard Sabellicus and Faustus Socinus as one and the
[Footnote 2: _Historie von D. Johann Fausten, aan weltbeschreyten
Zauberer und Schwarzkuenstler_, etc. Frankfurt a. M. 1588.]
[Footnote 3: _Wahrhaftige Historien von den greulichen und
abscheulichen Suenden und Lastern, etc., so D. Johannes Faustus, etc.,
bis an sein schreckliches End hat getrieben, etc._, erklaert durch Georg
Rudolf Widmann. Hamburg, 1599.]
[Footnote 4: Live, drink, and be merry, remembering this Faust and his
punishment. It came slowly, but was in ample measure. 1525.]
[Footnote 5: Dr. Faustus on this day From Auerbach's cellar rode away,
Of a barrel of wine astride, Which many mothers'-children eyed; This
through his subtle art achieved, And for it the Devil's reward
[Footnote 6: It first appeared in the fourth volume of his Works.
Leipzig. Goeschen. 1786.]
[Footnote 7: Mr. Brooks's translation.]
[Footnote 8: _Kunst und Alterthum_. B. VI. Heft I., II.]
MISS WIMPLE'S HOOP.
"Believe in God and yourself, and do the best you can."
In Hendrik on the Hudson, fifty miles from New York, there was, winter
before last, a certain "patent seamless."--
But a hooped skirt with a history, touching and teaching, is no theme
for flippancy; so, by your leave, I will unwind my story tenderly, and
with reverential regard for its smooth turns of sequence.
The Wimples, of whom Sally is the last, were among the oldest and most
respectable of Hendrik families. Sally's father, Mr. Paul Wimple, had
been a publisher in good standing, and formerly did a flourishing
business in New York; but seven years ago he failed, and so, quite
penniless, his health sadly broken, his cheerfulness and energy all
gone with his fortunes, without heart for any new beginning, he
returned to Hendrik, his native place.
There, the friends of his youth, steadfast and generous, pitying his
sad plight, and having perfect faith in his unimpeached integrity,
purchased--principally at the sale in bankruptcy of his own effects--a
modest stock of new and second-hand books and magazines, together with
some stationery and a few fancy articles in that line, and
reestablished him in the humble but peaceful calling of a country
bookseller. They called his shop "The Hendrik Athenaeum and Circulating
Library," and all the county subscribed; for, at first, the Wimples
were the fashionable charity, "the Wimples were always so very
respectable, you know," and Sally was such a sweet girl that really it
was quite an interesting case. Mrs. Splurge forthwith began improving
the minds of her girls to the extent of three full annual subscriptions
for Josephine, Adelaide, and Madeline respectively; and that triplet of
fair students, who, separately or conjointly, were at all times
competent to the establishment of a precedent for the graceful
charities of Hendrik good society, handsomely led off with a ten-dollar
investment in "fountain" pens, "cream-laid assembly note,"
motto-wafers, Blessington envelopes "with crest and initial," ivory
tablets, pencil-sharpeners, and ink-erasers.
But all their munificence came to nought. Mr. Paul Wimple's heart was
broken,--as they say of any weary Sysiphus who lies down by his stone
and sleeps forever;--so he died.
Poor little Sally! The first thing she did was to disappoint her
friends, and shock the decencies of Hendrik; for it had been agreed on
all sides that "the poor dear thing would take on dreadfully, or else
fret herself into fits, or perhaps fall into one of them clay-cold,
corpsy swoons, like old Miss Dunks has regular every 'revival.'" But
when they came, with all their tedious commonplaces of a stupid
condolence not wholly innocent of curiosity, Sally thanked them with
dry eyes and prudent lips and quiet nerves, and only said she thought
she should do very well after she had set the house to rights and slept
awhile. The sewing-circle of that week was a coroner's inquest on
Sally's character, and "ungrateful," "cold-blooded," "indecent," "worse
than a hypocrite," were not the hardest epithets in the verdict of the
But Sally set the place to rights, and bade her father's old friends to
the funeral, and buried him with all the money that was in the house,
neither asking nor accepting aid from any; and with the poor pittance
that her severe conscience could afford her sorrow she procured some
cheap material of the doleful sort and went into the most unbecoming of
"full mourning." When she made her appearance in church,--which she
did, as usual, the very first Sunday after the funeral,--that plainest
of bonnets and straitest of black delaines, unadorned save by the
old-fashioned and dingy lace-cape, descended through many shifts of
saving from her long-ago-dead-and-gone mother, were so manifestly a
condescending concession to the conventionalities or superstitions of
Hendrik, and said so plainly, "This is for your 'decencies,'--it is all
that I can honestly spare, and more than you should demand,--my life is
mourning enough,"--that all the congregation bristled at the affront.
Henceforth Miss Wimple--no longer dear Sally, or even Miss Sally, but
sharp "Miss Wimple"--had that pew to herself.
Now I believe it was not generally known in Hendrik that Miss Wimple
had narrowly escaped being a very pretty girl. She was but just in her
nineteenth year when her father died. Her features were regular, her
expression lovely, her complexion, before trouble nipped the roses of
her cheeks, full of the country's freshness. She had tender eyes,
profoundly overshadowed by long, pensive lashes; in the sweet lines of
her very delicate mouth a trace of quiet pride was prettily blended
with thoughtfulness, and a just-forming smile that was always
melancholy. Her feet were little, and her hands were soft and white;
nor had toil and sorrow, and the weariness, and indifference to self,
that come of them, as yet impaired the symmetry of her well-turned
shape, or the elasticity of her free and graceful carriage. Her
deportment was frank and self-reliant, and her manners, though
reserved, far from awkward; her complete presence, indeed, compelled
consideration and invited confidence.
In her father's lifetime, she had sought, on occasions of unwonted
cheerfulness, to please him with certain charming tricks of attire; and
sometimes, with only a white rose-bud gleaming through the braided
shadows of her hair, lighted herself up as with a star; then, not a
carping churl, not an envious coquette in Hendrik, but confessed to the
prettiness of Sally Wimple.
But now there was no longer a grateful life for her white rose-star to
brighten; so she sat down, in her loneliness and sombre unbecomingness,
between her forlorn counters with their pitiful shows of stock, and let
her good looks go by, entertaining only brave thoughts of duty,--till
she grew pale "and fell into the portion of weeds and outworn faces,"
so that "how anybody could see the least beauty in that distressing
Miss Wimple" began to be with many a sincere and almost reasonable
expression of surprise, instead of a malicious sin against knowledge.
She waited for customers, but they seldom came,--often, from opening to
window-barring, not one; for the unwilting little martyr of the Hendrik
Athenaeum and Circulating Library had made herself a highly
disapproved-of Miss Wimple by her ungrateful and contumacious behavior
at her father's death, even if the hard and sharp black lines of that
scrimped delaine had not sufficed to turn the current of admiration,
interest, and custom. Besides, the attractions of her slender stock
were all exhausted. She had not the means of refreshing it with pretty
novelties and sentimental toys in that line,--with albums and
valentines, fancy portfolios and pocket-secretaries, pearl paper-knives
and tortoise-shell cardcases, Chinese puzzles and _papier-mache_
checker-boards. Nor was the Library replenished "to keep up with the
current literature of the day"; its last new novel was a superannuated
dilapidation; not one of its yearly subscribers but had worked through
the catalogue once and a half.
Since the funeral, and especially since the inauguration of the
delaine, Mrs. Marmaduke Splurge had been less alive to the necessity of
improving the minds of her girls; and that virginal ten-dollar
investment had provided Josephine, Adelaide, and Madeline with supplies
of small arms and ammunition enough for a protracted campaign of
epistolary belligerence, interrupted by hair-strokes of coquettish
In the flaunting yellow house on the hill the widow and daughters of
the late Marmaduke Splurge, Esq., railroad-director and real-estate
broker, fondled and hated each other. Mrs. Marmaduke was a
well-preserved woman, stylish, worldly-minded, and weak. Miss
Josephine, her eldest, was handsome, patronizing, _passee_, and a
sentimental fool; Miss Adelaide, who came next, was handsome,
eccentric, malicious, and sly; and Miss Madeline, the youngest, was
handsome, distinguished-looking, intellectual, passionate, and proud.
Mrs. Marmaduke's heart was set on marrying her daughters
"advantageously," and she gave all of her narrow mind to that thankless
department. Josephine insisted on a romantic attachment, and pursued a
visionary spouse with all the ardor and obstinacy of first-rate
stupidity. Adelaide had the weakness to hate Josephine, the shrewdness
to fear Madeline, and the viciousness to despise her mother; she
skilfully and diligently devoted herself to the thwarting of the
family. Madeline waited, only waited,--with a fierceness so dangerously
still that it looked like patience,--hated her insulting bondage, but
waited, like Samson between the pillars upon which the house of Dagon
stood, resolved to free herself, though she dragged down the edifice
and were crushed among the wreck.
Mrs. Marmaduke talked tediously of the trials and responsibilities of
conscientious mothers who have grown-up daughters to provide for, was
given to frequent freshets of tears, consumed many "nervous pills" of
the retired-clergyman-whose-sands-of-life-have-nearly-run-out sort, and
netted bead purses for the Select Home for Poor Gentlemen's Daughters.
Josephine let down her back hair dowdily, partook recklessly of poetry
and pickles, read inordinately in bed,--leaning all night on her
elbow,--and was threatened with spinal curvature and spiritualism.
Adelaide set invisible little traps in every nook and cranny, every
cupboard and drawer, from basement to attic, and with a cheerful,
innocent smile sat watching them night and day. Madeline, fiercely
calm, warned off the others, with pale lips and flashing eyes and
bitter tongue, resenting _en famille_ the devilish endearments she so
sweetly suffered in company; but ever as she groped about in her soul's
blindness she felt for the central props of that house of Dagon.
All the good society of Hendrik said the Splurges were a charming
family, a most attached and happy family, lovely in their lives and in
death not to be divided, and that they looked sweetly in hoops. And yet
the Splurges had but few visitors; the young women of the neighborhood,
when they called there, left always an essential part of their true
selves behind them as they entered, and an ornamental part of their
reputations when they took their departure; nor were the young men
partial to the name,--for Josephine bored them, and Adelaide taunted
them, and Madeline snubbed them, and Mrs. Marmaduke pumped them, and
the combined family confounded them. Only Mr. Philip Withers was the
intimate and encouraged _habitue_ of the house.
Mr. Philip Withers was the very man for the looser principles of
Hendrik,--a fine gentleman's fine son, and his only one, who, by the
death of his father, had come, whilst he was yet very young, into a
pretty property in the neighborhood,--a sort of idyllic man of the
world, with considerable cleverness, a neat miscellaneous education,
handsome person, effective clothes, plausible address, mischievous
brilliancy of versatile talk, a deep voice, two or three
accomplishments best adapted to the atmosphere of sentimental women,
graceful self-possession, small feet, nice hands, striking attitudes, a
subduing smile, magnetic whisper, Machiavellian tact, and French
morals. He could sing you into tears, and dance you into love, and talk
you into wonder; when he drew, you begged for his portrait by himself,
and when he wrote, you solicited his autograph.
Mr. Philip Withers had taken his moustache to foreign parts, and done
the Continent sophisticatedly. He was well-read in cities, and had
brought home a budget of light, popular, and profusely illustrated
articles of talk on an equivocal variety of urban life, which he
prettily distributed among clovery pastorals, Wordsworthian ballads, De
Coverly entertainments, Crayon sketches, and Sparrowgrass Papers, for
the benefit of his country subscribers. From all of which you have no
doubt gathered by this time that Mr. Philip Withers was a graceful
scamp, and a friend of the Splurges,--who had money, which Mr. Philip
Withers had not; for he had been a munificent patron of elegant
pleasures abroad, and since his return had erected an addition to his
father's house in the shape of a pair of handsome mortgages, as a
proprietor of romantic tastes in architecture might flank his front
door with mediaeval donjons.
Mrs. Marmaduke made much of that good-looking and delightful Withers.
Though not a pious man, in the formal sense of the term, she felt sure
he was religious according to that stained-glass and fragrant religion
of the tastes which is an essential attribute of every gentleman,--that
is, of every well-born man of cultivated preferences and sensitive
antipathies,--and she had no doubt that gentlemen's souls could be
saved by that arrangement just as satisfactorily, and so much more
gracefully. She only wished, my dear, you could hear Mr. Withers
express himself on those subjects,--his ideas were so delightfully
"your deal, my love"--clear, his illustrations so sweetly pretty, and
his manner so earnest; really, he stirred her like--"hearts, did you
Josephine Splurge contented herself with letting down her back hair for
Mr. Withers and making eyes at him.
"Good-morrow to the guileless Genevieve!"--Withers delighted in
dispensing equivocal nothings to the dowdy Muse of the sofa and back
"There, you bewildering Joseph Surface, you need not go on,--I know
what you are going to say, and I will neither be flattered nor
fascinated. Come, confess now, like a dear candid creature, throw off
your irresistibly bewitching mask, and own that your sentiments are all
"Josy, dear," Adelaide would insinuate, "what a wonderful memory you
have!--so well managed, too! Now whom _did_ you hear say that?"
Josephine was wont to declare that the Admirable Crichton lived again
in that kaleidoscopic creature; but he was so dazzling, so bewildering,
so dangerous, that to converse with him was like having fireworks in
With Madeline Withers was on strange terms, if any terms at all. She
threatened to him in the middle of his best stories, smiled quietly
when he preached, yawned to his poetical recitations, left the room
when he sang, mistook the subjects of his sketches with a
verisimilitude of innocence that often deceived even himself, was
silent and sneered much whenever he was present. And all these
rudenesses she performed with a successful air of genuine abstraction;
they never failed of their intention by being overdone, or by being too
_directly_ directed at him.
Remarks seldom passed between these two; when they did, Withers spoke
always first, and Madeline replied briefly and with politeness. And yet
there were occasions when a sharp-sighted and suspicious observer might
have detected a strange discomposure in Madeline's conduct in the
presence of Withers,--when, indeed, she seemed to be laboring under
irritability, and proneness to singular excitement, which began with
his entrance and disappeared with his departure. At such times she
would break her haughty quiet with fierce sallies upon her sisters; but
Withers stung her back into silence with sharp and telling retorts,--as
you may have seen a practised beast-tamer in a cage flog an angry
tigress, when her eyes flashed, and her ears were set back, and she
unsheathed her horrid claws, and lashed her sides, and growled with all
the appalling fee-faw-fum of the jungle,--flog her back into her
corner, with nought more formidable than a lady's riding-whip, dainty,
slender, and sharp. But Withers administered the chastisement with such
devilish grace that it was unperceived, save by the quick, shrewd
Adelaide perhaps, who perceived everything,--but never _saw_, nor ever
spoke. If you could have beheld the lips and the eyes of Madeline, on
such occasions, you would have cursed this Philip Withers, or beaten
him to her feet.
Between Withers and Adelaide the relations were plainer; indeed, before
the small Splurge set they appeared as avowed lovers. Toward "Addy"
Withers was all elegant devotion and gracious gallantry, knight-like in
his chivalric and debonair devoir.
For Withers Addy was, openly, all deference and tenderly wistful
solicitude, but in secret not all security and exultation. Even while
it seemed high triumph in her heart's camp, her well-drilled eyes and
ears were still on guard, and her hidden thoughts lay upon their arms.
Still it wore the aspect of a lyric match, and the hearts of humbler
Hendrik lovers set it to music.
"For other guests," Withers seemed to say,
"I wile the hours with tale or song,
Or web of fancy, fringed with careless rhyme;
But how to find a fitting lay for thee,
Who hast the harmonies of every time?"
And Addy _looked_,
"Thou art to me most like a royal guest,
Whose travels bring him to some humble roof,
Where simple rustics spread their festal fare,
And, blushing, own it is not good enough.
"Bethink thee, then, whene'er thou com'st to me,
From high emprise and noble toil to rest,
My thoughts are weak and trivial, matched with thine,
But the poor mansion offers thee its best."
So Mrs. Marmaduke exalted her horn and exceedingly magnified her
manoeuvring office. On the strength of it, she treated herself to
profuse felicitations and fished among her neighbors for more.
And now I will let you into a secret, which, according to the received
rules for story-construction, should be barred against you yet a little
longer. I will fling it wide open at once, instead of holding it ajar
and admitting you edgewise, as it were, one conjecture at a time.
Miss Wimple had a lover;--she had had him since six months before her
father died, and the decayed publisher had never guessed of him nor
Sally confessed him; for the good, thoughtful daughter knew it would
but complicate the old man's perplexities and cares to no purpose. To
be sure, his joyful consent was certain; but so long as he lived, "the
thing was not to be thought of," she said, and it was not wise to plant
in his mind a wish with which her duty could not accord. So Sally's
lover was hushed up,--hidden in discretion as in a closet.
Simon Blount was his name, and he was a young farmer of five hundred
acres in first-rate cultivation, with barns, stables, and offices in
complete repair,--a well-stocked, well-watered place, with "all the
modern improvements," and convenient to the Hendrik branch of the New
York and Bunker Hill railroad.
The young man had inherited this very neat property from his father,--a
thriving, intelligent farmer of the best class, Mr. Wimple's oldest
friend, his playmate in boyhood, and his crony when he died. Simon's
mother and Sally's had likewise been schoolmates, and intimates to the
last, fondly attached to each other, and mutually confiding in each
other's love and truth in times of pain and trouble.
But Mr. Blount and Mrs. Wimple had been dead these ten years;--they
died in the same month. Simon and Sally were children when that
happened, and since then they had grown up together in the closest
family intimacy, interrupted only by Sally's winter schooling in New
York, and renewed every summer by her regular seasons at Hendrik.
To the young man and the ripening maiden, then, their love came as
naturally as violets and clover-blooms, and was as little likely to
take their parents or the familiar country-folk by surprise.
When Simon took trips to New York, he "stopped" at Mr. Wimple's, and
Sally's summer home in Hendrik was always "Aunt Phoebe's," as she had
been taught to call Simon's mother.
You will wonder, then, that Mr. Paul Wimple should have blushed and
struggled and died in the forlorn little "Athenaeum," and that Sally
should sit down in her loneliness and "that fright of a delaine" to
wait for customers that came not, when in their old friends' house were
comfortable mansions, and in their old friends' hearts tearful kisses
and welcome free as air. But you must remember that with sudden poverty
comes, often, shrinking pride, and a degree of suspicion, and high
scorn of those belittled pensioners who hang upon old ties; that old
age, when it is sorely beset, is not always patient, clear-sighted, and
just; that, when the heart of a young girl, in Sally's extremity,
carries the helpless love that had been clad in purple, and couched in
eider, and pampered with bonny cats, and served in gold, to Pride, and
asks, "Stern master, what shall I do with this now?" the answer will
be, "Strip it of its silken fooleries,--let it lie on the ground, the
broad bosom of its honest, hearty mother,--teach it the wholesomeness
of brown bread and cresses, fairly earned, and water from the
spring,--and let it wait on itself, and wait for the rest!" Once, when
the talk at the Splurge house descended for a moment from its lofty
flights to describe few eccentric mocking circles around the Hendrik
Athenaeum and Miss Wimple, Madeline said, "If you have sense or
decency, be silent;--the girl is true and brave, every way better
taught than we, and prouder than she knows. If we were truly as
scornful of her as she is indifferent to us, we would let her glorious
So Miss Wimple waited in her shabby little shop and plied her needle
for hire. Her lover was a handsome fellow, with a bright, frank face,
and a vigorous, agile, and graceful form; there was more than common
intellect in his clear, broad brow, overhung with close clusters of
brown country curls; taste was on his lips and tenderness in his eyes;
his soul was full of generosity, candor, and fidelity; his every
movement and attitude denoted native refinement, and in his talk he
displayed an excellent understanding and remarkable cultivation; for
his father had bestowed on him superior advantages of education;--"as
fine a young fellow, Sir," that estimable old Doctor Vandyke would say,
"as ever you saw."
It was true, Simon's travels had never reached beyond New York; but,
unlike Mr. Philip Withers, he had brought home solid comforts, useful
facts, wholesome sentiments, natural manners, and sensible, but modest
conversation,--instead of an astonishing variety of intellectual
curiosities and intricate moral toys, whereat plain people
marvelled--as in the case of a certain ingenious Chinese puzzle, ball
within ball, all save the last elaborately carved--how the very
diminutive _plain_ one at the centre ever got in there, or ever could
be got out.
In another respect the young farmer enjoyed a noticeable advantage over
the man-of-the-world;--he was quite able to tear down those fancy
donjon additions, and erect a plain, honest, substantial, very
comfortable, and very cheerful Yankee porch on their site.
But Miss Wimple said to Simon,--"For a season you will keep aloof from
this place and from me. I must see you no oftener than it would be
allowable for an occasional customer of the better sort to drop in; and
when you do come, state your business--let it always be _business_, or
pass by--and take your leave, like any indifferent neighbor who came to
change a book, or purchase a trifle, or engage work. On these terms our
love must wait, until by my own unaided exertions--without help, mark
you, Simon, from any man or woman on earth--I have discharged the debt
of charity that is due to the good people of this place who helped my
father in his utmost need, and gave him this shop and these things in
trust. From you, of all men, Simon, I will accept no aid. Play no
tricks of kindness upon me; nor let your love tempt you to experiment,
with disguised charity, upon my purpose. You would only find that you
had failed, and ruined all. The proceeds of this poor shop must belong
to those whose money procured it, until I shall have paid its price; on
no pretext shall that fund be touched for other purposes. I will
sustain myself independently; you know that I ply a nimble needle, and
that my handiwork will be in esteem among the richer folks of Hendrik.
And now, dear Simon, let me have my way. You need no more earnest
assurance of my love than the pains I would take, in this matter, to
make you respect me more. When my task is done, I will deck myself as
of old, and again light up the rose-star in my hair, and stand in the
door and clap my hands to call you hither, and hold you fast; but not
till then. Let me have my way till then."