Part 2 out of 5
"Shan't I go for the doctor, father?" she asked.
"No, my dear, the spasm will pass off presently." But his face grew more
ashy pale, and his jaw drooped.
"Dear father," said the frightened girl, "what shall I do for you? Oh,
dear, if mother were only at home, or Hugh, to run for the doctor!"
"Mildred, my daughter," he gasped with difficulty, "the blacksmith,--send
for Ralph Hardwick,--quick! In the ebony cabinet, middle drawer, you will
find----Oh! oh!--God bless you, my daughter!--God bless"----
The angels, only, heard the conclusion of the sentence; for the speaker,
Walter Kinloch, was dead, summoned to the invisible world without a
warning and with hardly a struggle.
But Mildred thought he had fainted, and, raising the window, called loudly
for Lucy Ransom, the only female domestic then in the house.
Lucy, frightened out of her wits at the sudden call, came rushing to the
piazza, flat-iron in hand, and stood riveted to the spot where she first
saw the features on which the awful shadow of death had settled.
"Rub his hands, Lucy!" said Mildred. "Run for some water! Get me the
Lucy attempted to obey all three orders at once, and therefore did
Mildred held the unresisting hand. "It is warm," she said. "But the
pulse,--I can't find it"
"Deary, no," said Lucy, "you won't find it."
"Why, you don't mean"----
"Yes, Mildred, he's dead!" And she let fall her flat-iron, and covered her
face with her apron.
But Mildred kept chafing her father's temples and hands,--calling
piteously, in hopes to get an answer from the motionless lips. Then she
sank down at his feet, and clasped his knees in an agony of grief.
A carriage stopped at the door, and a hasty step came up the walk.
"Lucy Ransom," said Mrs. Kinloch, (for it was she, just returned from her
drive,) "Lucy Ransom, what are you blubbering about? Here on the piazza,
and with your flat-iron! What is the matter?"
"Matter enough!" said Lucy. "See!--see Mr."----But the sobs were too
frequent. She became choked, and fell into an hysterical paroxysm.
By this time Mrs. Kinloch had stepped upon the piazza, and saw the
drooping head, the dangling arms, and the changed face of her husband.
"Dead! dead!" she exclaimed. "My God! what has happened? Mildred, who was
with him? Was the doctor sent for? or Squire Clamp? or Mr. Rook? What did
he say to you, dear?" And she tried to lift up the sobbing child, who
still clung to the stiffening knees where she had so often climbed for a
"Oh, mother! _is_ he dead?--no life left?"
"Calm yourself, my dear child," said Mrs. Kinloch. "Tell me, did he say
Mildred replied, "He was faint, and before I could give him the cordial he
asked for he was almost gone. 'The blacksmith,' he said, 'send for Ralph
Hardwick'; then he said something of the ebony cabinet, but could not
speak the words which were on his lips." She could say no more, but gave
way to uncontrollable tears and sobs.
By this time, Mrs. Kinloch's son, Hugh Branning, who had been to the
stable with the horse and carriage, came whistling through the yard, and
cutting off weeds or twigs along the path with sharp cuts of his whip.
"Which way is the wind now?" said he, as he approached; "the governor
asleep, Mildred crying, and you scolding, mother?" In a moment, however,
the sight of the ghastly face transfixed the thoughtless youth, as it had
done his mother; and, dropping his whip, he stood silent, awe-struck, in
the presence of the dead.
"Hugh," said Mrs. Kinloch, speaking in a very quiet tone, "go and tell
Squire Clamp to come over here."
In a few minutes the dead body was carried into the house by George, the
Asiatic servant, aided by a villager who happened to pass by. Squire
Clamp, the lawyer of the town, came and had a conference with Mrs. Kinloch
respecting the funeral. Neighbors came to offer sympathy, and aid, if need
should be. Then the house was put in order, and crape hung on the door-
handle. The family were alone with their dead.
On the village green the boys were playing a grand game of "round ball,"
for it was a half-holiday. The clear, silvery tones of the bell were
heard, and we stopped to listen. Was it a fire? No, the ringing was not
vehement enough. A meeting of the church? In a moment we should know. As
the bell ceased, we looked up to the white taper spire to catch the next
sound. One stroke. It was a death, then,--and of a man. We listened for
the age tolled from the belfry. Fifty-five. Who had departed? The sexton
crossed the green on his way to the shop to make the coffin, and informed
us. Our bats and balls had lost their interest for us; we did not even ask
our tally-man, who cut notches for us on a stick, how the game stood. For
Squire Walter Kinloch was the most considerable man in our village of
Innisfield. Without being highly educated, he was a man of reading and
intelligence. In early life he had amassed a fortune in the China trade,
and with it he had brought back a deeply bronzed complexion, a scar from
the creese of a Malay pirate, and the easy manners which travel always
gives to observant and sensible men. But his rather stately carriage
produced no envy or ill-will among his humbler neighbors, for his
superiority was never questioned. Men bowed to him with honest good-will,
and boys, who had been flogged at school for confounding Congo and
Coromandel, and putting Borneo in the Bight of Benin, made an awkward
obeisance and stared wonderingly, as they met the man who had actually
sailed round the world, and had, in his own person, illustrated the
experiment of walking with his head downwards among the antipodes. His
house had no rival in the country round, and his garden was considered a
miracle of art, having, in popular belief, all the fruits, flowers, and
shrubs that had been known from the days of Solomon to those of Linnaeus.
Prodigious stories were told of his hoard of gold, and some of the less
enlightened thought that even the outlandish ornaments of the balustrade
over the portico were carven silver. Curious vases adorned the hall and
side-board; and numberless quaint trinkets, whose use the villagers could
not even imagine, gave to the richly-furnished rooms an air of Oriental
magnificence. Tropical birds sang or chattered in cages, and a learned but
lawless parrot talked, swore, or made mischief, as he chose. The tawny
servant George, brought by Mr. Kinloch from one of the islands of the
Pacific, completed his claims upon the admiration of the untravelled.
He was just ready to enjoy the evening of life, when the night of death
closed upon him with tropic suddenness. He left one child only, his
daughter Mildred, then just turned of eighteen; and as Mrs. Kinloch had
only one son to claim her affection, the motherless girl would seem to be
well provided for. Mildred was sweet-tempered, and her step-mother had
hitherto been discreet and kind.
The funeral was over, and the townspeople recovered from the shock which
the sudden death had caused. Administration was granted to the widow
conjointly with Squire Clamp, the lawyer, and the latter was appointed
guardian for Mildred during her minority.
Squire Clamp was an ill-favored man, heavy-browed and bald, and with a
look which, in a person of less consequence, would have been called "hang-
dog,"--owing partly, no doubt, to the tribulation he had suffered from his
vixen spouse, whose tongue was now happily silenced. He was the town's
only lawyer, (a fortunate circumstance,) so that he could frequently
manage to receive fees for advice from both parties in a controversy. He
made all the wills, deeds, and contracts, and settled all the estates he
could get hold of. But no such prize as the Kinloch property had ever
before come into his hands.
If Squire Clamp's reputation for shrewdness had belonged to an irreligious
man, it would have been of questionable character; but as he was a zealous
member of the church, he was protected from assaults upon his integrity.
If there were suspicions, they were kept close, not bruited abroad.
He was now an almost daily visitor at the widow Kinloch's. What was the
intricate business that required the constant attention of a legal
adviser? The settlement of the estate, so far as the world knew, was an
easy matter. The property consisted of the dwelling-house, a small tract
of land near the village, a manufactory at the dam, by the side of Ralph
Hardwick's blacksmith's shop, and money, plate, furniture, and stocks.
There were no debts. There was but one child, and, after the assignment of
the widow's dower, the estate was Mildred's. Nothing, therefore, could be
simpler for the administrators. The girl trusted to the good faith of her
stepmother and the justice of the lawyer, who now stood to her in the
place of a father. She was an orphan, and her innocence and childlike
dependence would doubtless be a sufficient spur to the consciences of her
protectors. So the girl thought, if she thought at all,--and so all
charitable people were bound to think.
How wearily the days passed during the month after the funeral! The shadow
of death seemed to darken everything. Doors creaked dismally when they
were opened. The room where the body had been laid seemed to have grown a
century older than the other parts of the once bright and cheerful house,
--its atmosphere was so stagnant and full of mould. The family spoke only
in suppressed tones; their countenances were as sad as their garments. All
this was terrible to the impressible, imaginative, and naturally buoyant
temper of Mildred. It was like dwelling in a tomb, and her heart cried out
for very loneliness. She must do something to take her mind out of the
sunless vault,--she must resume her relations with the dwellers in the
upper air. All at once she thought of her father's last words,--of Ralph
Hardwick, and the ebony cabinet. It was in the next room. She opened the
door, half expecting to see some bodiless presence in the silent space.
She could hear her own heart beat between the tickings of the great Dutch
clock, as she stepped across the floor. How still was everything! The air
tingled in her ears as though now disturbed for the first time.
She opened the cabinet, which was not locked, and pulled out the middle
drawer. She found nothing but a dried rose-bud and a lock of sunny hair
wrapped in a piece of yellowed paper. Was it her mother's hair? As
Mildred remembered her mother, the color of her hair was dark, not golden.
Still it might have been cut in youth, before its hue had deepened. And
what a world of mystery, of feeling, of associations there was in that
scentless and withered rose-bud! What fair hand had first plucked it? What
pledge did it carry? Was the subtile aroma of love ever blended with its
fragrance? Had her father borne it with him in his wanderings? The secret
was in his coffin. The struggling lips could not utter it before they were
stiffened into marble. Yet she could not believe that these relics were
the sole things to which he had referred. There must have been something
that more nearly concerned her,--something in which the blacksmith or his
nephew was interested.
In order to show the position of Mrs. Kinloch and her son in our story, it
will be necessary to make the reader acquainted with some previous
Six years before this date, Mrs. Kinloch was the Widow Branning. Her
husband's small estate had melted like a snow-bank in the liquidation of
his debts. She had only one child, Hugh, to support; but in a country town
there is generally little that a woman can do to earn a livelihood; and
she might often have suffered from want, if the neighbors had not relieved
her. If she left her house for any errand, (locks were but seldom used in
Innisfield,) she would often on her return find a leg of mutton, a basket
of apples or potatoes, or a sack of flour, conveyed there by some unknown
hands. In winter nights she would hear the voices of Ralph Hardwick, the
village blacksmith, and his boys, as they drew sled-loads of wood, ready
cut and split, to keep up her kitchen fire. Other friends ploughed and
planted her garden, and performed numberless kind offices. But, though
aided in this way by charity, Mrs. Branning never lost her self-respect
nor her standing in the neighborhood.
Everybody knew that she was poor, and she knew that everybody knew it; yet
so long as she was not in absolute want, and the poor-house, that bugbear
of honest poverty, was yet far distant, she managed to keep a cheerful
heart, and visited her neighbors on terms of entire equality.
At this period Walter Kinloch's wife died, leaving an only child. During
her sickness, Mrs. Branning had been sent for to act as nurse and
temporary house-keeper, and, at the urgent request of the widower,
remained for a time after the funeral. Weeks passed, and her house was
still tenantless. Mildred had become so much attached to the motherly
widow and her son, that she would not allow the servants to do anything
for her. So, without any definite agreement, their relations continued.
By-and-by the village gossips began to query and surmise. At the sewing-
society the matter was fully discussed.
Mrs. Greenfield, the doctor's wife, admitted that it would be an excellent
match, "jest a child apiece, both on 'em well brought up, used to good
company, and all that; but, land's sakes! he, with his mint o' money,
a'n't a-goin' to marry a poor widder that ha'n't got nothin' but her
husband's pictur' and her boy,--not he!"
Others insinuated that Mrs. Branning knew what she was about when she went
to Squire Kinloch's, and his wife was 'most gone with consumption.
"'Twasn't a mite strange that little Mildred took to her so kindly; plenty
of women could find ways to please a child, if so be they could have such
a chance to please themselves."
The general opinion seemed to be that Mrs. Branning would marry the
Squire, if she could get him; but that as to his intentions, the matter
was quite doubtful. Nevertheless, after being talked about for a year, the
parties were duly published, married, and settled down into the quiet
routine of country life.
Doubtless the accident of daily contact was the secret of the match. Had
Mrs. Branning been living in her own poorly-furnished house, Mr. Kinloch
would hardly have thought of going to seek her. But as mistress of his
establishment she had an opportunity to display her house-wifely
qualities, as well as to practise those nameless arts by which almost any
clever woman knows how to render herself agreeable.
The first favorable impression deepened, until the widower came to believe
that the whole parish did not contain so proper a person to be the
successor of Mrs. Kinloch, as his housekeeper. Their union, though
childless, was as happy as common; there was nothing of the romance of a
first attachment,--little of the tenderness that springs from fresh
sensibilities, for she at least was of a matter-of-fact turn. But there
was a constant and hearty good feeling, resulting from mutual kindness and
If the step-mother made any difference in her treatment of the two
children, it was in favor of the gentle Mildred. And though the Squire
naturally felt more affection for his motherless daughter, yet he was
proud of his step-son, gave him the advantages of the best schools, and
afterwards sent him for a year to college. But the lad's spirits were too
buoyant for the sober notions of the Faculty. He was king in the
gymnasium, and was minutely learned in the natural history and botany of
the neighborhood; at least, he knew all the haunts of birds, rabbits, and
squirrels, as well as the choicest orchards of fruit.
After repeated admonitions without effect, a letter was addressed to his
stepfather by vote at a Faculty-meeting. A damsel at service in the
President's house overheard the discussion, and found means to warn the
young delinquent of his danger; for she, as well as most people who came
within the sphere of his attraction, felt kindly toward him.
The stage-coach that conveyed the next morning's mail to Innisfield
carried Hugh Branning as a passenger. Alighting at the post-office, he
took out the letter superscribed in the well-known hand of the President,
pocketed it, and returned by the next stage to college. This prank only
moved the Squire to mirth, when he heard of it. He knew that Hugh was a
lad of spirit,--that in scholarship he was by no means a dunce; and as
long as there was no positive tendency to vice, he thought but lightly of
his boyish peccadilloes. But it was impossible for such irregularities to
continue, and after a while Mr. Kinloch yielded to his step-son's request
and took him home.
Next year it was thought best that the young man should go to sea, and a
midshipman's commission was procured for him. Now, for the second time,
after an absence of three years, Hugh was at home in all the dignity of
navy blue, anchor buttons, glazed cap, and sword.
"I have brought you the statement of the property, Mrs. Kinloch," said Mr.
Clamp. "It is merely a legal form, embracing the items which you gave to
me; it must be returned at the next Probate term."
Mrs. Kinloch took the paper and glanced over it.
"This statement must be sworn to, Mrs. Kinloch."
"We are joined in the administration, and both must swear to it."
There was a pause. Mrs. Kinloch, resting her hands on her knee, tossed the
hem of her dress with her foot, as though meditating.
"I shall of course readily make oath to the schedule," he continued,--"at
least, after you have done so; for I have no personal knowledge of the
effects of the deceased."
His manner was decorous, but he regarded her keenly. She changed the
"People seem to think I have a mint in the house; and _such_ bills as come
in! Sawin, the cabinet-maker, has sent his to-day, as soon as my husband
is fairly under ground: forty dollars for a cherry coffin, which he made
in one day. Cleaver, the butcher, too, has sent a bill running back for
five years or more. Now I _know_ that Mr. Kinloch never had an ounce of
meat from him that he didn't pay for. If they all go on in this way, I
sha'n't have a cent left. Everybody tries to cheat the widow"----
"And orphan," interposed Mr. Clamp.
She looked at him quietly; but he was imperturbable.
"We must begin to collect what is due," she continued.
"Did you refer to the notes from Ploughman?" asked Mr. Clamp. "He is
perfectly good; and he will pay the interest till we want to use the
"I wasn't thinking of Ploughman," she replied, "but of Mark Davenport,
Uncle Ralph Hardwick's nephew. They say he is a teacher in one of the
fashionable schools in New York,--and he must be able to pay, if he's ever
"Well, when he comes on here, I will present the notes."
"But I don't intend to wait till he comes; can't you send the demands to a
lawyer where he is?"
"Certainly, if you wish it; but that course will necessarily be attended
with some expense."
"I choose to have it done," said Mrs. Kinloch, decisively. "Mildred, who
has always been foolishly partial to the young upstart, insists that her
father intended to give up the notes to Mark, and she thinks that was what
he wanted to send for Uncle Ralph about, just before he died. I don't
believe it, and I don't intend to fling away _my_ money upon such folks."
"You are quite right, ma'am," said the lawyer. "The inconsiderate
generosity of school-children would be a poor basis for the transactions
"And besides," continued Mrs. Kinloch, "I want the young man to remember
the blacksmith's shop that he came from, and get over his ridiculous
notion of looking up to our family."
"Oh ho!" said Mr. Clamp, "that is it? Well, you are a sagacious woman,"--
looking at her with unfeigned admiration.
"I _can_ see through a millstone, when there is a hole in it," said Mrs.
Kinloch. "And I mean to stop this nonsense."
"To be sure,--it would be a very unequal match in every way. Besides, I'm
told that he isn't well-grounded in doctrine. He even goes to Brooklyn to
hear Torchlight preach." And Mr. Clamp rolled up his eyes, interlocking
his fingers, as he was wont when at church-meeting he rose to exhort.
"I don't pretend to be a judge of doctrine, further than the catechism
goes," said the widow; "but Mr. Book says that Torchlight is a dangerous
man, and will lead the churches off into infidelity."
"Yes, Mrs. Kinloch, the free-thinking of this age is the fruitful parent
of all evil,--of Mormonism, Unitarianism, Spiritualism, and of all those
forms of error which seek to overthrow"----
There was a crash in the china-closet. Mrs. Kinloch went to the door, and
leading out Lucy Ransom, the maid, by the ear, exclaimed, "You hussy, what
were you there for? I'll teach you to be listening about in closets,"
(giving the ear a fresh tweak,) "you eavesdropper!"
"Quit!" cried Lucy. "I didn't mean to listen. I was there rubbin' the
silver 'fore you come. Then I didn't wanter come out, for I was afeard."
"What made the smash, then?" demanded Mrs. Kinloch.
"I was settin' things on the top shelf, and the chair tipped over."
"Don't make it worse by fibbing! If that was so, how came the chair to tip
the way it did? You were trying to peep over the door. Go to the kitchen!"
Lucy went out with fallen plumes. Mr. Clamp took his hat to go also.
"Don't go till I get you the notes," said Mrs. Kinloch.
As she brought them, he said, "I will send these by the next mail, with
instructions to collect."
While his hand was on the latch, she spoke again:--
"Mr. Clamp, did you ever look over the deed of the land we own about the
dam where the mill stands?"
"No, ma'am, I have never seen it."
"I wish you would have the land surveyed according to this title," she
said. "Quite privately, you know. Just have the line run, and let me know
about it. Perhaps it will be as well to send over to Riverbank and get
Gunter to do it; he will keep quiet about it."
Mr. Clamp stood still a moment. Here was a woman whom he was expecting to
lead like a child, but who on the other hand had fairly bridled and
saddled _him_, so that he was driven he knew not whither.
"Why do you propose this, may I ask, Mrs. Kinloch?"
"Oh, I have heard," she replied, carelessly, "that there was some error in
the surveys. Mr. Kinloch often talked of having it corrected, but, like
most men, put it off". Now, as we may sell the property, we shall want to
know what we have got."
"Certainly, Mrs. Kinloch, I will follow your prudent suggestions,"--adding
to himself, as he walked away, "I shall have to be tolerably shrewd to get
ahead of that woman. I wonder what she is driving at."
Ralph Hardwick was the village blacksmith. His shop stood on the bank of
the river, not far from the dam. The great wheel below the flume rolled
all day, throwing over its burden of diamond drops, and tilting the
ponderous hammer with a monotonous clatter. What a palace of wonders to
the boys was that grim and sooty shop!--the roar of the fires, as they
were fed by the laboring bellows; the sound of water, rushing, gurgling,
or musically dropping, heard in the pauses; the fiery shower of sparkles
that flew when the trip-hammer fell; and the soft and glowing mass held by
the smith's tongs with firm grasp, and turning to some form of use under
his practised eye! How proud were the young amateur blacksmiths when the
kind-hearted owner of the shop gave them liberty to heat and pound a bit
of nail-rod, to mend a skate or a sled-runner, or sharpen a pronged fish-
spear! Still happier were they, when, at night, with his sons and nephew,
they were allowed to huddle on the forge, sitting on the bottoms of old
buckets or boxes, and watching the fire, from the paly blue border of
flame in the edge of the damp charcoal, to the reddening, glowing column
that shot with an arrowy stream of sparks up the wide-throated chimney.
How the dark rafters and nail-pierced roof grew ruddy as the white-hot
ploughshare or iron bar was drawn from the fire!--what alternations of
light and shadow! No painter ever drew figure in such relief as the
blacksmith presented in that wonderful light, with his glistening face,
his tense muscles, and his upraised arm.
Alas! the hammer is still; the wheel dashes no more the glittering spray;
the fire has died out in the forge; the blacksmith's long day's work is
He settled in Innisfield when it was but a district attached to a
neighboring town. There were but three or four houses in the now somewhat
populous village. He came on foot, driving his cow; his wife following in
the wagon, with their little stock of household goods,--not forgetting his
hammer, more potent than Prospero's wand. The minister, the doctor, and
Squire Kinloch, who constituted the aristocracy, yielded precedence in
date to Ralph Hardwick, Knight of the Ancient Order of the Anvil.
So he toiled, faithful to his calling. By day the din of his hammer rarely
ceased, and by night the flame and sparks from his chimney were a Pharos
to all travellers approaching the town. Children were born to him, for
which he blessed God, and worked the harder. He attained a moderate
prosperity, secure from want, but still dependent upon labor for bread. At
length his wife died; he wept like a true and faithful husband as he was,
and thenceforth was both mother and father to his babes.
During all his life he kept Sunday with religious scrupulousness, and with
his family went to the house of worship in all weathers. From the very
first he had been leader of the choir, and had given the pitch with a fork
hammered and tuned by his own hands. With a clear and sympathetic voice,
he had such an instinctive taste and power of expression, that his song of
penitence or praise was far more devotional than the labored efforts of
many more highly cultivated singers. Music and poetry flowed smoothly and
naturally from his lips, but in uttering the common prose of daily life
his organs were rebellious. The truth must be spoken,--he stammered badly,
incurably. Whether it was owing to the attempt to overcome his impediment
by making his speech musical, or to the cadences of his hammer beating
time while his brain was shaping its airy fancies, his thoughts ran
naturally in verse.
Do not smile at the thought of Vulcan's callused fingers touching the
chords of the lyre to delicate music. The sun shone as lovingly upon the
swart face of the blacksmith in his shop-door, as upon the scholar at his
library-window. "Poetry was an angel in his breast," making his heart glad
with her heavenly presence; he did not "make her his drudge, his maid-of-
all-work," as professional verse-makers do.
Mr. Hardwick's younger sister was married to a hard-working, stern,
puritanical man named Davenport, (not her first love,) who removed to a
Western State when it was almost a wilderness, cleared for himself a farm,
and built a log-house. The toil and privations of frontier life soon
wrought their natural effects upon Mrs. Davenport's delicate constitution.
She fell into a rapid decline and died. Her husband was seized with a
fever the summer after, and died also, leaving two children, Mark and
Anna. The blacksmith had six motherless children of his own; but he set
out for the West, and brought the orphans home with him. He thenceforth
treated them like his own offspring, manifesting a woman's tenderness as
well as a father's care for them.
Mark was a comely lad, with the yellow curling hair, the clear blue eyes,
and the marked symmetry of features that belonged to his uncle. He had an
inborn love of reading and study; he was first in his class at every
winter's school, and had devoured all the books within his reach. Then he
borrowed an old copy of Adam's Latin Grammar from Dr. Greenfield, and
committed the rules to memory without a teacher. That was his introduction
to the classics.
But Mr. Hardwick believed in the duty and excellence of work, and Mark, as
well as his cousins, was trained to make himself useful. So the Grammar
was studied and Virgil read at chance intervals, when a storm interrupted
out-door work, or while waiting at the upper mill for a grist, or of
nights at the shop by the light of the forge fire. The paradigms were
committed to memory with an anvil accompaniment; and long after, he never
could scan a line of Homer, especially the oft-repeated
[Greek :Tou d'au | Taelema | chos pep | numenos | antion | aeuda],
without hearing the ringing blows of his uncle's hammer keeping tune to
At sixteen years of age he was ready to enter college, though he had
received little aid in his studies, except when some schoolmaster who was
versed in the humanities chanced to be hired for the winter. But his uncle
was not able to support him at any respectable university, and the lad's
prospects for such an education as he desired seemed to be none of the
At this point an incident occurred which changed the course of our hero's
life, and as it will serve to explain how he came to give his notes to Mr.
Kinloch, on which the administrators are about to bring suit, it should
properly be related here.
Mark Davenport was at work on a farm a short distance from the village. He
hoped to enter college the following autumn, and he knew no means to
obtain money for a portion of his outfit except by the labor of his hands.
He could get twenty dollars a month for the summer season. Sixty, or
possibly seventy dollars!--what ideas of opulence were suggested by the
sound of those words!
It was a damp, drizzly day; there was not a settled rain, yet it was too
wet to work in the corn. Mark was therefore busy in picking loose stones
from the surface of a field cultivated the year before, and now "seeded
down" for grass. A portion of the field bordered on a pond, and the alders
upon its margin formed a dense green palisade, over which might be seen
the gray surface of the water freckled by the tiny drops of rain. Low
clouds trailed their gauzy robes over the top of Mount Quobbin, and flecks
of mist swept across the blue sides of the loftier Mount Elizabeth.
"What a perfect day for fishing!" thought Mark. "If I had my tackle here,
and a frog's leg or a shiner, I would soon have a pickerel out from
under those lilypads."
But he kept at work, and, having his basket full of stones, carried them
to the pond and plumped them in. A growl of anger came up from behind the
"What the Devil do you mean, you lubber, throwing stones over here to
scare away the fish?"
The bushes parted at the same time, showing Hugh Branning sitting in the
end of his boat, and apparently just ready to fling out his line.
"If I had known you were there fishing," said Mark, "I shouldn't have
thrown the stones into the water. But," he continued, while every fibre
tingled with indignation, "I will have you to know that I am not to be
talked to in that way by you or anybody else."
"I would like to know how you are going to help yourself," said Hugh,
stepping ashore and advancing.
"You will find out, Mr. Insolence, if you don't leave this field. You
a'n't on the quarter-deck yet, bullying a tar with his hat off."
"Bless me! how the young Vulcan talks!"
"I have talked all I am going to. Now get into your boat and be off!"
"I don't propose to be in a hurry," said Hugh, with provoking coolness,
standing with his arms a-kimbo.
The remembrance of Hugh's usual patronizing airs, together with his
insulting language, was too much for Mark's impetuous temper. He was in a
delirium of rage, and he rushed upon his antagonist. Hugh stood warily
upon the defensive, and parried Mark's blows with admirable skill; he had
not the muscle nor the endurance of the young blacksmith, but he had
considerable skill in boxing, and was perfectly cool; and though Mark
finally succeeded in grappling and hurling to the ground his lithe and
resolute foe, it was not until he had been pretty severely pommelled
himself, especially in his face. Mark set his knee on the breast of his
adversary and waited to hear "Enough." Hugh ground his teeth, but there
was no escape; no feint nor sudden movement could reverse their positions;
and, out of breath, he gave up in sullen despair.
"Let me up," he said, at length. Mark arose, and being by this time
thoroughly sobered, he walked off without a word and picked up his basket.
Hugh, on the other hand, was more and more angry every minute. The
indignity he had suffered was not to be tamely submitted to. He got into
the boat and took his oar; he looked back and saw Mark commencing work
again; the temptation was too strong. He picked up one of the largest of
the stones that Mark had emptied into the shallow margin of the pond; he
threw it with all his force, and hurriedly pushed off from shore without
stopping to ascertain the extent of the mischief he had done. He knew that
the stone did not miss, for he saw Mark fall heavily to the ground, and
that was enough. The injury was serious. Mark was carried to the farm-
house and was confined to his bed for six weeks with a brain fever, being
delirious for the greater part of the time. Hugh Branning found the town
quite uncomfortable; the eyes of all the people he met seemed to scorch
him. He was bold and self-reliant; but no man can stand up singly against
the indignation of a whole community. He went on a visit to Boston, and
not long after, to the exceeding grief of his mother, entered the navy.
When Mark was recovering, Mr. Rook,
the clergyman, called and offered to aid him in his college course, if he
would agree to study for the ministry. But the young man declined the
proposal, because he thought himself unfitted for the sacred calling.
"No," he added, with a smile, "I'm not made for an evangelist; not much
like the beloved disciple at all events, but rather like peppery Peter,--
ready, if provoked, to whisk off an ignoble ear."
Mr. Rook returned home sorrowful; and at the next meeting of the sewing-
circle the unfortunate Mark received a full share of attention; for the
offer of aid came partly from this society. When this matter had been the
talk of the village for a day or two, Squire Kinloch made some errand to
the house where Mark was. What passed between them the young man did not
choose to relate, but he showed his Uncle Hardwick the Squire's check for
two hundred and fifty dollars, and told him he should receive a similar
sum each year until he finished his collegiate course.
The promise was kept; the yearly supply was furnished; and Mark graduated
with honor, having given notes amounting to a thousand dollars. With
cheerful alacrity he commenced teaching in a popular seminary, intending
to pay his debts before studying a profession.
It was Saturday night, and Mr. Hardwick was closing his shop. A customer
was just leaving, his horse's feet newly rasped and white, and a sack of
harrow-teeth thrown across his back. The boys, James and Milton, had been
putting a load of charcoal under cover, for the wind was southerly and
there were signs of rain. Of course they had become black enough with
coal-dust,--not a streak of light was visible, except around their eyes.
They were capering about and contemplating each other's face with
uproarious delight, while the blacksmith, though internally chuckling at
their antics, preserved a decent gravity, and prepared to go to his house.
He drew a bucket of water, and bared his muscular arms, then, after
washing them, soused his curly hair and begrimed face, and came out
wonderfully brightened by the operation. The boys continued their sports,
racing, wrestling, and putting on grotesque grimaces.
Charlotte, the youngest child, now came to the shop to say that supper was
"C-come, boys, you've ha-had play enough," said Mr. Hardwick. "J-James,
put Ch-Charlotte down. M-M-Milton, it's close on to S-Sabba'day. Now w-
Just as the merriment was highest, Charlotte standing on James's
shoulders, and Milton chasing them, while the blacksmith was looking on,--
his honest face glistening with soap and good-humor,--Mildred Kinloch
passed by on her way home from a walk by the river. She looked towards the
shop-door and bowed to Mr. Hardwick.
"G-good evenin', M-Miss Mildred," said he; "I'm g-glad to see yon lookin'
The tone was hearty, and with a dash of chivalrous sentiment rarely heard
in a smithy. His look of half-parental, half-admiring fondness was
touching to see.
"Oh, Uncle Ralph," she replied, "I am never melancholy when I see you. You
have all the cheerfulness of this spring day in your face."
"Y-yes, I hev to stay here in the old shop; b-but I hear the b-birds in
the mornin', and all day I f-feel as ef I was out under the b-blue sky,
an' rejoicin' with all livin' creaturs in the sun and the s-sweet air of
"I envy you your happy frame; everything has sonic form or hue of beauty
for you. I must have you read to me again. I never take up Milton without
thinking of you."
"I c-couldn't wish to be remembered in any p-pleasanter way."
"Well, good evening. I must hurry home, for it grows damp here by the
mill-race. Tell Lizzy and Anna to come and see me. We are quite lonesome
"P-p'raps Mark'll come with 'em."
"Mark? Is he here? When did he come?"
"H-he'll be here t-to-night."
"You surprise me!"
"'Tis rather s-sudden. He wrote y-yes-terday 't he'd g-got to come on
"Urgent business?" she repeated, thoughtfully. "I wonder if Squire
The blacksmith nodded, with a gesture towards his children, as though he
would not have them hear.
"Yes," he added, in a low tone, "I g-guess that is it."
"I must go home," said Mildred, hurriedly.
"Well, G-God bless you, my daughter! D-don't forgit your old sooty friend.
And ef ever y-you want the help of a s-stout hand, or of an old gray head,
don't fail to come to the ber-blacksmith's shop."
"Thank you, Uncle Ralph! thank you with all my heart! Good-night!"
She walked lightly up the hill towards the principal street. But she had
not gone half a dozen yards before a hand grasped her arm. She turned with
"Mark Davenport!" she exclaimed, "Is it you? How you frightened me!"
"Yes, Mildred, it is Mark, your old friend" (with a meaning emphasis). "I
couldn't resist the temptation of giving you a little surprise."
"But when did you come to town?"
"I have just reached here from the station at Riverbank. I went to the
house first, and was just going to see Uncle at the shop, when I caught
sight of you."
Mark drew her arm within his own, and noticed, not without pleasure, how
she yet trembled with agitation.
"I am very glad to see you," said Mildred; "but isn't your coming sudden?"
"Yes, I had some news from home yesterday which determined me to come, and
I started this morning."
"Quick and impetuous as ever!"
"Yes, I don't deliberate long."
There was a pause.
"I wish you had only been here to see father before he died."
"I wish I might have seen him."
"I am sure _he_ would never have desired to put you to any trouble."
"I suppose he would not have _troubled_ me, though I never expected to do
less than repay him the money he was so good as to lend me; but I don't
think he would have been so abrupt and peremptory as Squire Clamp."
"Why, what has he done?"
"This is what he has done. A lawyer's clerk, as I supposed him to be,
called upon me yesterday morning with a statement of the debt and
interest, and made a formal demand of payment. I had only about half the
amount in bank, and therefore could not meet it. Then the clerk appeared
in his true character as a sheriff's officer, drew out his papers, and
served a writ upon me, besides a trustee process on the principal of the
school, so as to attach whatever might be due to me."
"Oh, Mark, were you treated so?"
"Just so,--entrapped like a wild animal. To be sure, it was a legal
process, but one designed only for extreme cases, and which no gentleman
ever puts in force against another."
"I don't know what this can mean. Squire Clamp is cruel enough, I know;
but mother, surely, would never approve such conduct."
"After all, the mortification is the principal thing; for, with what I
have, and what Uncle can raise for me, I can pay the debt. I have said too
much already, Mildred. I don't want to put any of my burdens on your
little shoulders. In fact, I am quite ashamed of having spoken on the
subject at all; but I have so little concealment, that it popped out
before I thought twice."
They were approaching the house, both silent, neither seeming to be bold
enough to touch the tenderer chords that thrilled in unison.
"Mildred," said Mark, "I don't know how much is meant by this suit. I
don't know that I shall be able to see you again, unless it be casually,
in the street, as to-night, (blessed accident!)--but remember, that,
whatever may happen, I am always the same that I have been to you."
Here his voice failed him. With such a crowd of memories,--of hopes and
desires yet unsatisfied,--with the crushing burden of debt and poverty,--
he could not command himself to say what his heart, nevertheless, ached in
retaining. Here he was, with the opportunity for which during all his
boyhood he had scarcely dared to hope, and yet he was dumb. They were at
the gate, under the dense shade of the maples.
"Good-night, dear Mildred!" said Mark.
He took her hand, which was fluttering as by electrical influence, and
raised it tenderly to his lips.
"Good-night," he said again.
She did not speak, but grasped his hand with fervor. He walked away slowly
towards his uncle's house, but often stopped and looked back at the
slender figure whose outlines he could barely see in the gateway under the
trees. Then, as he lost sight of her, he remembered with shame the selfish
prominence he had given to his own troubles. He was ashamed, too, of the
cowardice which had kept him from uttering the words which had trembled on
his lips. But in a moment the thought of the future checked that regret.
Gloomy as his own lot might be, he could bear it; but he had no right to
involve another's happiness. Thus he alternated between pride and
abasement, hope and dejection, as many a lover has done before and since.
Sunday was a great day in Innisfield; for there, as in all Puritan
communities, religion was the central and engrossing idea. As the bell
rang for service, every ear in town heard it, and all who were not sick or
kept at home by the care of young children turned their steps towards the
house of God. The idea that there could be any choice between going to
hear preaching and remaining at home was so preposterous, that it never
entered into the minds of any but the openly wicked. Whatever might be
their inclinations, few had the hardihood to absent themselves from
meeting, still less to ride out for pleasure, or to stroll through the
woods or upon the bank of the river. A steady succession of vehicles--
"thorough-braced" wagons, a few more stylish carriages with elliptic
springs, and here and there an ancient chaise--tended from all quarters to
the meeting-house. The horses, from the veteran of twenty years' service
down to the untrimmed and half-trained colt, knew what the proprieties of
the day required. They trotted soberly, with faces as sedate as their
drivers', and never stopped to look in the fence-corners as they passed
along, to see what they could find to be frightened at. Nor would they
often disturb worship by neighing, unless they became impatient at the
length of the sermon.
Mr. Hardwick and his family, as we have before mentioned, went regularly
to meeting; Lizzy and Mark sat with him in the singers' seats, the others
in a pew below. The only guardian of the house on Sundays was a large
ungainly cur, named Caesar. The habits of this dog deserve a brief
mention. On all ordinary occasions he followed his master or others of the
family, seeming to take a human delight in their company. Whenever it was
desirable to have him remain at home, nothing short of tying him would
answer the purpose. After a time he came to know the signs of preparation,
and would skulk. Upon setting out, Mr. Hardwick would tell one of the boys
to catch Caesar so that he should not follow, but he was not to be found;
and in the course of ten minutes he would be trotting after his master as
composedly as if nothing had ever happened to interrupt their friendly
relations. It was impossible to resist such persevering affection, and at
length Mr. Hardwick gave up the contest, and allowed Caesar to travel when
and where he chose. But on Sunday he sat on the front-door step, erect
upon his haunches, with one ear dropping forward, and the other upright
like the point of a starched shirt-collar; and though on week-days he was
fond of paying the usual courtesies to his canine acquaintances, and (if
the truth must be told) of barking at strange horses occasionally, yet
nothing could induce him either to follow any of the family, or accost a
dog, or chase after foreign vehicles, on the day of rest. Once only he
forgot what was due to his character, and gave a few yelps in holy time.
But James, with a glance at his father, who was stoutly orthodox, averred
that Caesar's conduct was justifiable, inasmuch as the man he barked at
was one of a band of new-light fanatics who worshipped in the school-
house, and the horse, moreover, was not shod at a respectable place, but
at a tinker's shop in the verge of the township. A dog with such powers of
discrimination certainly merits a place in this true history.
The services of Sunday were finished. Those who, with dill and caraway,
had vainly struggled against drowsiness, had waked up with a jerk at the
benediction, and moved with their neighbors along the aisles, a slow and
sluggish stream. The nearest friends passed out side by side with meekly
composed faces, and without greeting each other until they reached the
vestibule. So slow and solemn was the progress out of church, that merry
James Hardwick averred that he saw Deacon Stone, a short fat man, actually
dozing, his eyes softly shutting and opening like a hen's, as he was borne
along by the crowd. The Deacon had been known to sleep while he stood up
in his pew during prayer, but perhaps James's story was rather apocryphal.
Mark Davenport, of course, had been the object of considerable attention
during the day, and at the meeting-house-door numbers of his old
acquaintances gathered round him. No one was more cordial in manner than
Squire Clamp. His face was wrinkled into what were meant for smiles, and
his voice was even smoother and more insinuating than usual. It was only
by a strong effort that Mark gulped down his rising indignation, and
Sunday in Innisfield ended at sunset, though labor was not resumed until
the next day; but neighbors called upon each other in the twilight, and
talked over the sermons of the day, and the affairs of the church and
parish. That evening, while Mr. Hardwick's family were sitting around the
table reading, a long growl was heard from Caesar at the door, followed by
an emphatic "Get out!" The growls grew fiercer, and James went to the door
to see what was the matter. Squire Clamp was the luckless man. The dog had
seized his coat-tail, and had pulled it forward, so that he stood face to
face with the Squire, who was vainly trying to free himself by poking at
his adversary with a great baggy umbrella. James sent away the dog with a
reprimand, but laughed as he followed the angry man into the house. He
always cited this afterwards as a new proof of the sagacity of the grim
and uncompromising Caesar.
"S-sorry you've had such a t-time with the dog," said Mr. Hardwick; "he
don't g-ginerally bark at pup-people."
"Oh, no matter," said the Squire, contemplating the measure of damage in
the skirt of his coat. "A good, sound sermon Mr. Rook gave us to-day. The
doctrines of the decrees and sovereignty, and the eternal destruction of
the impenitent, were strongly set forth."
"Y-yes, I sp-spose so. I d-don't profit so m-much by that inst-struction,
however. I th-think more of the e-every-day religion he u-usually
preaches."--Mr. Hardwick trotted one foot with a leg crossed and with an
air which showed to his children and to Mark plainly enough how impatient
he was of the Squire's beginning so far away from what he came to say.
"Why, you don't doubt these fundamental points?" asked Mr. Clamp.
"No, I don't d-doubt, n-nor I don't th-think much about 'em; they're t-too
deep for me, and I ler-let 'em alone. We shall all un-know about these
things in God's goo-good time. I th-think more about keepin' peace among
n-neighbors, bein' kuh-kindly to the poor, h-helpin" on the cause of
eddication, and d-doin' ginerally as I would be done by."--Mr. Hardwick's
emphasis could not be mistaken, and Squire Clamp was a little uneasy.
"Oh, yes, Mr. Hardwick," he replied, "all the town knows of your practical
religion." Then turning to Mark, he said, blandly, "So you came home
yesterday. How long do you propose to stay?"
The young man never had the best control of his temper, and it was now
rapidly coming up to the boiling-point. "Mr. Clamp," said he, "if you had
asked a pickerel the same question, he would probably tell you that you
knew best how and when he came on shore, and that for himself he expected
to get back into water as soon as he got the hook out of his jaws."
"I am sorry to see this warmth," said Mr. Clamp; "I trust you have not
been put to any trouble."
"Really," said Mark, bitterly, "you have done your best to ruin me in the
place where I earn my living, but 'trust I have not been put to any
trouble'! Your sympathy is as deep as your sincerity."
"Mark," said Mr. Hardwick, "you're sa-sayin' more than is necess-ssary."
"Indeed, he is quite unjust," rejoined the lawyer. "I saw an alteration in
his manner to-day, and for that reason I came here. I prefer to keep the
friendship of all men, especially of those of my townsmen and brethren in
the church whose piety and talents I so highly respect."
"S-sartinly, th-that's right I don't like to look around, wh-when I take
the ker-cup at the Sacrament, and see any man that I've wronged; an' I
don't f-feel eomf'table nuther to see anybody der-drinkin' from the same
cup that I think has tried to w-wrong me or mine."
"You can save yourself that anxiety about Mr. Clamp, Uncle," said Mark.
"He is not so much concerned about our Christian fellowship as he is about
his fees. He couldn't live here, if he didn't manage to keep on both sides
of every little quarrel in town. Having done me what mischief he could, he
wants now to salve the wound over."
"My young friend, what is the reason of this heat?" asked Mr. Clamp,
"I don't care to talk further," Mark retorted. "I might as well explain
the pathology of flesh bruises to a donkey who had maliciously kicked me."
Mr. Clamp wiped his bald head, on which the perspiration was beginning to
gather. His stock of pious commonplaces was exhausted, and he saw no
prospect of calming Mark's rage, or of making any deep impression on the
blacksmith. He therefore rose to depart. "Good evening," said he. "I pray
you may become more reasonable, and less disposed to judge harshly of your
friend and brother."
Mark turned his back on him. Mr. Hardwick civilly bade him good-night.
Lizzy and Anna, who had retreated during the war of words, came back, and
the circle round the table was renewed.
"Yer-you'll see one thing," said Mr. Hardwick. "He'll b-bring you, and
p'r'aps me, too, afore the church for this talk."
"The sooner, the better," said Mark.
"I d'no," said Mr. Hardwick. "Ef we must live in f-fellowship, a der-
diffi-culty in church isn't per-pleasant But 'tis uncomf'table for
straight wood to be ker-corded up with such ker-crooked sticks as him."
[To be continued.]
A PERILOUS BIVOUAC.
It is a pleasant June morning out on the Beauport slopes; the breeze comes
laden with perfume from shady Mount Lilac; and it is good to bask here in
the meadows and look out upon the grand panorama of Quebec, with ita
beautiful bay sweeping in bold segments of shoreline to the mouth of the
River St Charles. The king-bird, too lazy to give chase to his proper
quarry, the wavering butterfly, sways to and fro upon a tall weed; and
there, at the bend of the brook, sits an old kingfisher on a dead branch,
gorged with his morning meal, and regardless of his reflected image in the
still pool beneath. The _goguelu_ rises suddenly up from his tuft of
grass, and, having sung a few staves of his gurgling song, drops down
again like a cricket-ball and is no more seen, Smooth-plumaged wax-wings
are pruning their feathers in the tamarac-trees; and high up over the
waters of the bay sails a long-winged fish-hawk, taking an extended and
generally liberal view of sundry important matters connected with the
[Footnote 1: This name is given by the French Canadians to the bobolink or
rice bunting. It is an old, I believe an obsolete, French word, and means
Many a year has gone by since I last looked upon this picture, and then it
was a winter scene; for it was near the end of March, which is winter
enough in this region, and the blue water of the bay there was flagged
over with a rough white pavement of crisp snow. I think I see it now,
faintly ruled with two lines of _sapins_, or young fir saplings,--one
marking out the winter road to the Island of Orleans, and the other that
from Quebec to Montmorency; and this memory recalls to me how it fell upon
a certain day, the incidents of which are expanding upon my mind like
those dissolving views that come up out of the dark, I set up a camp-fire
just where that wood-barge nods drowsily at anchor, about a mile this side
of the town. It was a sort of bivouac a man is not likely to forget in a
hurry; not that it makes much of a story, after all,--but a trifling
scratch will sometimes leave its mark on a man for life. I was quartered
in Quebec then; didn't go much into society, though, because I devoted
much of my young energies to shooting and fishing, which were worth any
expenditure of energy in those days. And so I restricted my evening rounds
of duty to one or two houses which were conducted on the always-at-home
principle, walking in and hanging up my wide-awake when it suited me, and
staying away when it didn't,--which was about the oftener.
In the winter of eighteen hundred and no matter what, I got three months'
leave of absence, with the intention of devoting a great portion of it to
a long-planned expedition, an invasion of the wild mountain-region lying
north of Quebec, towards the head-waters of the Saguenay,--a district
seldom disturbed by the presence of civilized man, but abandoned to the
semi-barbarous hunter and trapper, and frequented much by that prince of
roving bucks, the shy but stately caribou. I need not go into the details
of my two-months' hunt. It was like any other expedition of the sort,
about which so much information has already been given to the world in the
pleasant narratives of the wandering family of MacNimrod. I succeeded in
procuring many hairy and horned trophies of trap and rifle, as well as in
converting myself from some semblance of respectability into the veriest
looking cannibal that ever breakfasted on an underdone enemy. The return
from the chase furnished the little adventure I have alluded to,--a very
small adventure, but deeply impressed upon a memory now a good deal cut up
with tracks and traces of strange beasts of accidents, quaint "vestiges of
creation," ineffaceably stamped upon what poor Andrew Romer used to call
the "old red sandstone," in playful allusion to what his friends well knew
was a heart of hearts.
The snow lay heavy in the woods, wet and heavy with the breath of coming
spring, as I tramped out of them one March morning, and found myself on
the queen's highway, within short rifle-shot of the rushing Montmorency,
whose roar had reached us through the forest an hour or two before. In the
early days of our hunt I had been so lucky as to run down and kill a large
moose, whose antlered head was a valuable trophy; and so I confided it to
the especial charge of my faithful follower, Zachary Hiver, a _brule_ or
half-breed of the Chippewa nation, who had hunted buffaloes with me on the
plains of the Saskatchewan and gaffed my salmon in the swift waters of the
Mingan and Escoumains. I had promised him powder and lead enough to
maintain his rifle for the probable remainder of his earthly hunting-
career, if he succeeded in safely conveying to Quebec the hide and horns
of the mammoth stag of the forest. These he had concealed, accordingly, in
a safe hiding-place, or _cache_, to be touched at on our return; and now
as he emerged from the dark pine copse, with his ropy locks tasselling his
flat skull, and a tattered blanket-coat fluttering in ribbons from his
brown and brawny chest, his interest in the venture appeared in the
careful manner in which he drew after him a long, slender _tobaugan_,
heavily packed with the hard-won proceeds of trap and gun. Foremost among
these were displayed the broad antlers of the moose of my affections,
whose skin served as a tarpaulin for the remainder of the baggage, round
which it was snugly tucked in with thongs of kindred material.
We halted on a broad ledge of rock by the western verge of the bay of the
Falls, glad of an opportunity of enjoying my independence to the last,
unfettered by the conventionalities for which I was beginning to be imbued
with a savage contempt. Here we set up a primitive kitchen-range, and,
having feasted upon cutlets of the caribou, scientifically treated by a
skewer process with which Zach was familiar, we lounged like "lazy
shepherds" in the sun, and the eye of the Indian flashed as I produced
from the folds of my sash a leather-covered flask which did not look as if
it was meant to contain water. During the weeks of the chase I had been
very careful to conceal this treasure from Zach, knowing how helpless an
Indian becomes under the influence of the "fire-water"; and as I had had a
pull at it myself only two or three times, under circumstances of unusual
adversity and hardship, there still remained in it a very respectable
allowance for two, from which I subtracted a liberal measure, handing over
the balance to Zach, who gulped down the _skiltiwauboh_ with a fiendish
grin and a subsequent inhuman grunt As I lit my pipe after this
satisfactory arrangement, the roar of the mighty Montmorency, whirling
down its turbulent perpendicular flood behind a half-drawn curtain of
green and azure ice, sounded like exquisite music to my ears, and I looked
towards Quebec and blinked at its fire-flashing tin spires and house-tops
burning through the coppery morning fog, until my mind's eye became
telescopic, and my thoughts, unsentimental though I be, reverted to
civilized society and its _agrements_, and particularly to a certain
steep-roofed cottage situated on a suburban road, in the boudoirs of which
I liked to imagine one pined for my return. If memory has its pleasures,
has it not also its glimpses of regret?--and who can say that the former
compensate for the latter? Even now I see her as she used to step out on
the veranda,--the lithe Indian girl, rivalling the choicest "desert-
flower" of Arabia in the rich darkness of her eyes and hair, and in the
warm mantling of her golden-ripe complexion,--unutterably graceful in the
thorough-bred ease of her elastic movements,--Zosime MacGillivray, perfect
type and model of the style and beauty of the _brulee_. She was the only
child of a retired trader of the old North-West Fur Company and his Indian
wife; had been partly educated in England; possessed rather more than the
then average Colonial allowance of accomplishments; and was, altogether,
so much in harmony with my roving forest-inclinations, that I sometimes
thought, half seriously, how pleasant and respectable it would be to have
one such at the head of one's camp-equipage, and how much nicer a
companion she would be on a hunt than that disreputable old scoundrel,
"Pack the _tobaugan_, Zach! The sun will come out strong by and by, and
the longer we tarry here, the heavier the snow will be for our stretch to
the Citadel. Up, there! _leve-toi, cochon!_" shouted I, in the elegant
terms of address which experience had taught me were the only ones that
had any effect upon the stolid sensibilities of the half-breed,--at the
same time administering to him a kick that produced a _thud_ and a grunt,
as if actually bestowed on the unclean quadruped to which I had just
likened him. The ragamuffin was very slow this time in getting the traps
together on the _tobaugan_, and, if I had not attended to the matter
myself, the moose trophy, at least, would in all probability have been
left to perish, and would never have pointed a moral and adorned a tale,
as it now does, in its exalted position among the reminiscences of things
past. At length we got under way, and, as a walk over the open plain
offered a pleasing variety to a man who had been feeling his way so long
through the dim old woods, I determined to descend from the ridge of
Beauport, and proceed over the snow-covered surface of the bay, in a
bird's-eye line, to our point of destination. Winding down the almost
perpendicular declivity, sometimes sliding down on our snow-shoes, with
the _tobaugan_ running before us, "on its own hook," at a fearful pace,
and sometimes obliged to descend, hand under hand, by the tangled roots
and shrubs, we soon found ourselves on the great white winter-prairie of
the grand St. Lawrence, upon which I strode forward with renewed energy,
steering my course, like the primitive steeple-chasers of my boyhood's
home, upon the highest church-tower looming up from the heterogeneous
huddle of motley houses that just showed their gable-tops over the low
ring of mist which mingled with the smoke of the Lower Town.
After a progress of about five miles, I found I had very materially
widened the distance between myself and Zach, who, encumbered by the
baggage, and by the spring snow which each moment accumulated in wet heavy
cakes upon his snow-shoes, was now a good mile in my rear. This I was
surprised at, as he generally outwalked me, even when carrying on his back
a heavy load, with perhaps a canoe on his head, cocked-hat fashion, as he
was often obliged to do in our fishing-excursions to the northern lakes.
It now occurred to me, however, that I had incautiously left the brandy-
flask in his charge, and when he came up with me I gathered from his fishy
eye, and the thick dribblings of his macaronic gibberish,--which was
compounded of sundry Indian dialects and French-Canadian _patois_,
coarsely ground up with bits of broken English,--that the modern Circe,
who changes men into beasts, had wrought her spells upon him; a
circumstance at which I was terribly annoyed, as foreboding an ignominious
entry into the city by back-lane and sally-port, instead of my long-
anticipated triumphal progress up St. Louis Street, bearded in splendor,
bristling with knife and rifle, and followed by my wild Indian _coureur-
des-bois_, drawing my antlered trophies after him upon the _tobaugan_ as
upon a festival car.
"Kaween nishishin! kaw-ween!" howled the big monster, in his mixed-pickle
macaronio,--"je me sens saisi du mal-aux-raquettes, je ne pouvons plus.
Why you go so dam fast, when hot sun he make snow for tire, eh? Sacr-r-re
raquettes! il me semble qu'ils se grossissent de plus en plus a chaque
demarche. Stop for smoke, eh?--v'la! good place for camp away there,
kitchee hogeemaus endaut, big chief's house may-be!" grinned he, as he
indicated with Indian instinct and a wavering finger a structure of some
kind that peered through the fog at a short distance on our left.
We were now within about a mile of Quebec. The Indian's intoxication had
increased to a ludicrous extent, so that to have ventured into the town
with him must have resulted in a reckless exposure of myself to the just
obloquy and derision of the public; while, on the other hand, if I left
him alone upon the wide world of ice, and dragged the _tobaugan_ to town
myself, the unfortunate _brule_ must inevitably have stepped into some
treacherous snow-drift or air-hole, and thus miserably perished. So I made
up my mind for a camp on the ice; and, diverging from our course in the
direction pointed out by the Indian, we soon arrived at the object
indicated by him, which proved to be a stout framework about twelve feet
square, constructed of good heavy timber solidly covered with deal
boarding, and conveying indubitable evidence, to my thinking, of the
remains of one of the _cabanes_ or shanties commonly erected on the ice by
those engaged in the "tommy-cod" fishery,--portable structures, so fitted
together as to admit of being put up and removed piecemeal, to suit the
convenience of their proprietors. I blessed mentally the careless
individual who had thus unconsciously provided for our especial shelter;
and as the wind had now suddenly arisen sharp from the west, driving the
fog before it with clouds of fine drifting snow, I was glad to get under
the lee of the providential wall, in the hospitable shelter of which,
before two minutes had elapsed, "Stephano, my drunken butler," was snoring
away like a phalanx of bullfrogs, with his head bolstered up somehow
between the great moose-horns, and his brawny limbs rolled carelessly in
the warm but somewhat unsavory skin of the dead monarch of the forest. I
gloried in his calm repose; for the day was yet young, and I flattered
myself that a three-hours' snooze would restore his muddled intellects to
their normal mediocrity of useful instinct, and that I might still achieve
my triumphal entry into the city,--a procession I had been so much in the
habit of picturing to myself over the nocturnal camp-fire, that it had
become a sort of nightmare with me. Indeed, I had idealized it roughly in
my pocket-book, intending to transfer the sketches, for elaboration on
canvas, to Tankerville, the regimental Landseer, whose menagerie of living
models, consisting of two bears, one calf-moose, one _loup-cervier_, three
bloated raccoons, and a bald eagle, formed at once the terror and delight
of the rising generation of the barracks.
Having got up a small fire with the assistance of the chips and scraps of
wood that were plentifully scattered around, I placed my snow-shoes one on
top of the other, and sat down on them,--a sort of preparatory step in my
transition to civilization, for they had somewhat the effect of a cane-
bottomed chair minus the legs and without a back. Then I filled my short
black pipe from the seal-skin tobacco-pouch, the contents of which had so
often assuaged my troubled spirit when I brooded over griefs which _then_
were immature, if not imaginary. It was a very pleasant smoke, I
recollect,--so pleasant, that I rather congratulated myself upon my
position; the only drawback to it being that I was shut out from a view of
the town, as the wind and drift rendered it indispensable for comfort in
smoking--that I should keep strictly to leeward of my bulwark. Tobacco is
notoriously a promoter of reflection; there must be something essentially
retrospective in the nature of the weed. I retired upon the days of my
boyhood, my legs and feet becoming clairvoyant of the corduroys and
highlows of that happy period of my existence, as the revolving curls of
pale smoke exhibited to me, with marvellous fidelity, many quaint
successive _tableaux_ of the old familiar scenes of home,--sentimental,
some of them,--comic, others,--like the domestic incidents revealed with
exaggerations on the hazy field of a magic-lantern. I thought of my poor
mother, and of the excellent parting advice she gave me,--but more
particularly of the night-caps with strings, which she extracted such a
solemn promise from me to wear carefully every night in all climates, and
which, on the second evening of my sojourn in barracks, were so
unceremoniously reduced to ashes in a noisy _auto-da-fe_. These
retrospective pictures were succeeded by others of more modern date,
coming round in a progressive series, until I had painted myself up to
within a few weeks of my present position, the foreground of my existence.
Then I remembered promises made by me of contributions to a certain
album,--further contributions,--for I had already furnished several pages
of it with food for mind and eye in the form of melancholy verses and
"funny" sketches, with brief dramatic dialogues beneath the latter, to
elucidate the "story." I particularly recollected having volunteered a
translation or imitation of a pretty song in Ruy Blas; and as the fit was
upon me, I produced my pocketbook, to commit to paper a version of it
which I had mentally devised. The leaves of my book were all filled,
however; some with memoranda,--a sort of savage diary it was,--some with
sketches of scenes in the wilderness: there was not a corner vacant.
Turning towards the planking of my bulwark, I perceived that it was
smoothly planed and clean, and to work on it I went, pencil in hand. First
I wrote "Zosime MacGillivray," in several different styles of chirography,
flourished and plain, and even in old text. Then I sketched out a rough
design for an ornamental heading, with a wreath of flowers encircling the
words "To Zozzy," and beneath this work of Art I inscribed the effort of
my muse, which ran thus:--
Fields and forests rejoice
In their silver-toned throng;
_I_ hear but the voice
Of the bird in thy song!
In April's glad shower
Flash petals and leaves,
Less bright than the flower
Round thy heart that weaves!
Stars waken, stars slumber,
Stars wink in the sky,
Bright numberless number;
But none like thine eye!
For bird-song and flower
And star from above
Combine in thy bower;
Their union is love!
My mind being considerably relieved by this gush of sentiment, I felt
myself entitled to unbend a little, and, turning my attention to artistic
pursuits, principally of a humorous character, I developed successively
many long-pent-up imaginings in the way of severe studies of sundry
garrison notables. There was "Bendigo" Phillips, with boxing-gloves
fearfully brandished, appearing in the attitude in which he polished off
young Thurlow of the R.A., under the pretence of giving him a lesson in
the noble art of self-defence, but in reality to revenge himself upon him
for an ill-timed interference in a certain _affaire du coeur_. The agony
of young Thurlow, pretending to look pleased, was depicted by a very
successful stroke of Art. To the extreme right you might have beheld
Vegetable Warren, the staff-surgeon, slightly exaggerated in the semblance
of a South-Down wether nibbling at a gigantic Swedish turnip. Written
lampoons of the fiercest character accompanied the illustrations. But my
boldest effort was an atrocious and libellous cartoon of the commandant of
the garrison, popularly known as "Old Wabbles,"--I believe from the
preternatural manner in which his wide Esquimaux boots vacillated about
his long, lean shanks. This _chef d'oeuvre_ was executed upon a rather
large scale, and I imparted considerable force and breadth to the design
by "coaling in" the shadows with a charred stick. Then calling color to my
aid, as far as my limited means admitted, I scraped from the edges of the
moose-hide a portion of the red-streaked fat, and, having impasted
therewith the bacchanalian nose of my subject, I stepped back a few paces
to contemplate the effect. So ludicrous was the resemblance, that I
laughed outright in the pride of my success,--a transient hilarity, nipped
suddenly in the bud by the loud boom of a cannon, accompanied rather than
followed by a rushing sound a few feet above my head, and a thundering
bump and splutter upon the ice some thirty or forty yards beyond me, as
the heavy shot skipped and ricochetted away with receding bounds to its
vanishing-point somewhere in the neighborhood of the Island of Orleans.
Two strides to the front, and a glance at the broad, black ring emblazoned
on the hitherto disregarded face of my bulwark, and the truth flashed upon
my staggering senses.
I was encamped in the lee of the bran-new artillery target, and they were
just commencing practice, on this fine bright afternoon, by pitching
thirty-two-pound shot into and about it, at intervals--as I pretty well
knew--of distressingly uncertain duration. With frantic strength I grasped
the Indian by the neck, and, plunging madly through the snow, dragged him
after me a few paces in the direction of our former track; but, hampered
as he was by the moose-trappings, the weight was too much for me, and I
dropped him, instinctively continuing to run with breathless speed, until,
having gained a considerable distance away from any probable line of fire,
I flung myself down upon the snow, and was somewhat startled at finding
Zach very close upon my tracks, tearing along on all fours with a vague
sense of danger of some kind, and looking, in his strange envelope, like
an infuriated bull-moose in the act of charging a hunter. A shot struck
the corner of the target just as we got away from it, slightly splintering
it, so as to give the bewildered Indian a pleasant practical lesson in the
science of gunnery and fortification.
Two minutes elapsed,--three minutes,--five minutes,--not another shot; but
it might commence again at any moment, and I stood at a respectful
distance from the danger, uncertain what course to pursue for the recovery
of my traps, all of which, rifle, snow-shoes, and _tobaugan_ loaded with
spoils, lay in pledge with the two-faced friend whose treacherous shelter
had no longer any charm for me, when I beheld several sleighs approaching
us from the town at a fearful pace, in the foremost of which, when within
range of rifle, I recognized Old Wabbles, the commandant.
"Who the Devil are you?" shouted he, as he drove right at us. "Two
Indians, ha!--somebody said it was _one_ Indian with a moose after him, a
man and a moose. Where's Thurlow?--_he_ had the telescope, and asserted
there was a man running round the target and a moose after him. I don't
see the moose." Zach had dropped the hide and horns from his "recreant
limbs," and was seated solemnly upon the snow, in all the majesty of his
"By Jove, it's Kennedy!" cried Tankerville, whose artistical eye detected
me through my hirsute and fluttering disguise. "What a picturesque
object!--I congratulate you, old fellow!--easiest and pleasantest way in
the world of making a living!--lose no time about it, but send in your
papers at once!--continue assiduously to neglect your person, and you're
worth a guinea an hour for the rest of your prime, as a living model on
the full pay of the Academies!"
I was soon bewildered by a torrent of inquiries from all sides: as to how
I came behind the target,--what success I had had in the woods,--how many
miles I had come to-day,--whether I had got the martin-skin I had promised
to this one, and the silver fox I undertook to trap for that,--when,
suddenly, a diversion was created by a roar from Phillips, who had
proceeded to inspect my spoils behind the target, and now stood looking at
my portrait-gallery of living celebrities, his great chest heaving with
laughter; and before I could satisfy my inquiring friends, the whole crowd
had rushed pell-mell to the exhibition.
"Caught, by all that's lovely!" shouted Phillips, repeating my verses at
the top of his voice,--
"The bird-song and flower
And star from above
Combine in thy bower;
Their union is love!"
"Ritoorala loorala loorala loo, ritoorala loorala loorala loo!" chorused
everybody, as he sang the last verse to the vulgar melody of 'Tatter Jack
Welch,' knocking the poetry out of my constitution at once and forever,
like the ashes out of a pipe. "Hooray for Miss Mac! Who should have
thought it, Darby?"--That was _my_ pet name in the regiment.
"How like!--how very like!--That's Warren there, nibbling the turnip. And
there's Thurlow,--ha! ha! ha! how good! And that--that--that's me, by
Jingo!--he he! he! he!--not so good that, somehow,--neck too long by half
a foot. But the Colonel!--only look at his boots!--He must'n't see this,
though, by Jove!--Choke the Colonel off, boys!--take him round to the
front!--do something!" whispered good-natured Symonds, anxious to keep me
clear of the scrape.
But it was too late. The last objects that met my view were the ghastly
legs of the Commandant, as he strode through the circle in front of my
Art-exhibition. I saw no more. A soldier is but a mortal man. Rushing to
the nearest cariole,--it was the Commandant's,--I leaped into it, and,
lashing the horse furiously towards the town, never pulled rein until I
got up to my long-deserted quarters in the Citadel. There I barricaded
myself into my own room, directing my servant to proceed to the target
or my scattered property. I had still a month's leave of absence before
me, availing myself of which, I started next morning for New York,
subsequently obtained an extension of leave, sailed for England, and
there negotiating an exchange from a regiment whose facings no longer
suited my taste for colors, I soon found myself gazetted into a less
objectionable one lying at Corfu.
I have never seen Tankerville's famous picture of my triumphal entry into
The dead leaves their rich mosaics,
Of olive and gold and brown,
Had laid on the rain-wet pavements,
Through all the embowered town.
They were washed by the Autumn tempest,
They were trod by hurrying feet,
And the maids came out with their besoms
And swept them into the street,
To be crushed and lost forever
'Neath the wheels, in the black mire lost,--
The Summer's precious darlings,
She nurtured at such cost!
O words that have fallen from me!
O golden thoughts and true!
Must I see in the leaves a symbol
Of the fate which awaiteth you?
Again has come the Spring-time,
With the crocus's golden bloom,
With the smell of the fresh-turned earth-mould,
And the violet's perfume.
O gardener! tell me the secret
Of thy flowers so rare and sweet!--
--"I have only enriched my garden
With the black mire from the street."
What _is_ a Gaucho?
That is precisely what I am going to tell you.
Take my hand, if you please. Shod with the shoes of swiftness, we have
annihilated space and time. We are standing in the centre of a boundless
plain. Look north and south and east and west: for five hundred miles
beyond the limit of your vision, the scarcely undulating level stretches
on either hand. Miles, leagues, away from us, the green of the torrid
grass is melting into a misty dun; still further miles, and the misty dun
has faded to a shadowy blue; more miles, it rounds at last away into the
sky. A hundred miles behind us lies the nearest village; two hundred in
another direction will bring you to the nearest town. The swiftest horse
may gallop for a day and night unswervingly, and still not reach a
dwelling-place of man. We are placed in the midst of a vast, unpeopled
circle, whose radii measure a thousand miles.
But see! a cloud arises in the South. Swiftly it rolls towards us; behind
it there is tumult and alarm. The ground trembles at its approach; the air
is shaken by the bellowing that it covers. Quick! let us stand aside! for,
as the haze is lifted, we can see the hurrying forms of a thousand cattle,
speeding with lowered horns and fiery eyes across the plain. Fortunately,
they do not observe our presence; were it otherwise, we should be trampled
or gored to death in the twinkling of an eye. Onward they rush; at last
the hindmost animals have passed; and see, behind them all there scours a
He glances at us, as he rushes by, and determines to give us a specimen of
his only art. Shaking his long, wild locks, as he rises in the stirrup and
presses his horse to its maddest gallop, he snatches from his saddle-bow
the loop of a coil of rope, whirls it in his right hand for an instant,
then hurls it, singing through the air, a distance of fifty paces. A jerk
and a strain,--a bellow and a convulsive leap,--his lasso is fast around
the horns of a bull in the galloping herd. The horseman flashes a
murderous knife from his belt, winds himself up to the plunging beast,
severs at one swoop the tendon of its hind leg, and buries the point of
his weapon in the victim's spinal marrow. It falls dead. The man, my
friend, is a Gaucho; and we are standing on the Pampas of the Argentine
Let us examine this dexterous wielder of the knife and cord. _He, Juan de
Dios!_ Come hither, O Centaur of the boundless cattle-plains! We will not
ask you to dismount,--for that you never do, we know, except to eat and
sleep, or when your horse falls dead, or tumbles into a _bizcachero_; but
we want to have a look at your savage self, and the appurtenances
And first, you say, the meaning of his name. The title, Gaucho, is applied
to the descendants of the early Spanish colonists, whose homes are on the
Pampa, instead of in the town,--to the rich _estanciero_, or owner of
square leagues of cattle, in common with the savage herdsman whom he
employs,--to Generals and Dictators, as well as to the most ragged Pampa-
Cossack in their pay. Our language is incapable of expressing the idea
conveyed by this term; and the Western qualification "backwoodsman" is
perhaps the nearest approach to a synonyme that we can attain.
The head of our swarthy friend is covered with a species of Neapolitan
cap, (let me confess, in a parenthesis, that my ideas of such head-
coverings arc derived from the costume of graceful Signor Brignoli in
"Masaniello,") which was once, in all probability, of scarlet hue, but now
almost rivals in color the jet-black locks which it confines. His face--
well, we will pass that over, and, on our return to civilized life, will
refer the curious inquirer for a fac-simile to the first best painting of
Salvator, there to select at pleasure the most ferocious bandit
countenance that he can find. And now the remainder of his person. He
wears an open jacket of dirt-crusted serge, covered in front with a
gorgeous eruption of plated buttons, and a waistcoat of the same material,
adorned with equal profuseness, and showing at the neck a substratum of
dubious crimson, supposed to be a flannel shirt. So far, you may say,
there is nothing suspicious or very outlandish about his rig; but
_turpiter desinit formosus superne_,--there is something highly remarkable
_a continuacion_. Do you see that blanket which is drawn tightly up, fore
and aft, toward his waist, and, there confined by means of a belt which
his _querida_ has richly ornamented for him, falls over in uneven folds
like an abbreviated kilt? That is the famous _chiripa_, or Gaucho
petticoat, which, like the _bracae_ of the Northern barbarians some
nineteen hundred years ago, distinguishes him from the inhabitants of
civilized communities. Below the _chiripa_, his limbs are cased in
_calzoncillos_, stout cotton drawers or pantalets, which terminate in a
fringe (you should see the elaborate worsted-work that adorns the hem of
his gala-pair) an inch or two above the ankle. His feet are thrust into a
pair of _botas de potro_, or colt's-foot boots, manufactured from the hide
of a colt's fore-leg, which he strips off whole, chafes in his hand until
it becomes pliable and soft, sews up at the lower extremity,--and puts on,
the best riding-boot that the habitable world can show. Add a monstrous
spur to each heel of this _chaussure_, and you will have fully equipped
the worthy Juan de Dios for active service.--But stay! his accoutrements!
We must not forget that Birmingham-made butcher-knife, which, for a dozen
years, has never been for a moment beyond his reach; nor the coiling
lasso, and the _bolas_, or balls of iron, fastened at each end of a thong
of hide, which he can hurl a distance of sixty feet, and inextricably
entangle around the legs of beast or man; nor the _recado_, or saddle, his
only seat by day, and his pillow when he throws himself upon the ground to
sleep under the canopy of heaven. Neither must we omit the _mate_ gourd
which dangles at his waist, in readiness to receive its infusion of
_yerba_, or Paraguay tea, which he sucks through that tin tube, called
_bombilla_, and looking for all the world like the broken spout of an oil-
can with a couple of pieces of nutmeg-grater soldered on, as strainers, at
the lower end; nor the string of sapless _charque_ beef, nor the pouchful
of villanous tobacco, nor the paper for manufacturing it into
_cigarritos_, nor the cow's-horn filled with tinder, and the flint and
steel attached. Thus mounted, clothed, and equipped, he is ready for a
gallop of a thousand leagues.
He is a strange individual, this Gaucho Juan. Born in a hut built of mud
and maize-stalks somewhere on the superficies of these limitless plains,
he differs little, in the first two years of his existence, from peasant
babies all the world over; but so soon as he can walk, he becomes an
equestrian. By the time he is four years old there is scarcely a colt in
all the Argentine that he will not fearlessly mount; at six, he whirls a
miniature lasso around the horns of every goat or ram he meets. In those
important years when our American youth are shyly beginning to claim the
title of young men, and are spending anxious hours before the mirror in
contemplation of the slowly-coming down upon their lip, young Juan (who
never saw a dozen printed books, and perhaps has only _heard_ of looking-
glasses) is galloping, like a portion of the beast he rides, over a
thousand miles of prairie, lassoing cattle, ostriches, and guanacos,
fighting single-handed with the jaguar, or lying stiff and stark behind
the heels of some plunging colt that he has too carelessly bestrid.
At twenty-one he is in his glory. Then we must look for him in the
_pulperias_, the bar-rooms of the Pampas, whither he repairs on Sundays
and _fiestas_, to get drunk on _aguardiente_ or on Paraguay rum. There you
may see him seated, listening open-mouthed to the _cantor_, or Gaucho
troubadour, as he sings the marvellous deeds of some desert hero,
persecuted, unfortunately, by the myrmidons of justice for the numerous
_misfortunes_ (_Anglice_, murders) upon his head,--or narrates in
impassioned strain, to the accompaniment of his guitar, the circumstances
of one in which he has borne a part himself,--or chants the frightful end
of the Gaucho Attila, Quiroga, and the punishment that overtook his
murderer, the daring Santos Perez. When the song is over, the cards are
dealt. Seated upon a dried bull's-hide, each man with his unsheathed knife
placed ostentatiously at his side, the jolly Gauchos commence their game.
Suddenly Manuel exclaims, that Pedro or Estanislao or Antonio is playing
false. Down fly the cards; up flash the blades; a ring is formed. Manuel,
to tell the truth, has accused his friend Pedro only for the sake of a
little sport; he has never _marked_ a man yet, and thinks it high time
that that honor were attained. So the sparks fly from the flashing blades,
and Pedro's nose has got another gash in it, and Manuel is bleeding in a
dozen places, but he will not give in just yet. Unfortunate Gaucho! Pedro
the next moment slips in a sticky pool of his own blood, and Manuel's
knife is buried in his heart! "He is killed! Manuel has had a misfortune!"
exclaim the ring; "fly, Manuel, fly!" In another minute, and just as the
_vigilantes_ are throwing themselves upon their horses to pursue him, he
has galloped out of sight.
Twenty miles from the _pulperia_ he draws rein, dismounts, wipes his
bloody knife on the grass, and slices off a collop of _charque_, which he
munches composedly for his supper. Very likely this _misfortune_ will make
him a _Gaucho malo_. The _Gaucho malo_ is an outlaw, at home only in the
desert, intangible as the wind, sanguinary, remorseless, swift. His
brethren of the _estancia_ pronounce his name occasionally, but in lowered
tones, and with a mixture of terror and respect; he is looked up to by
them as a sort of higher being. His home is a movable point upon an area
of twenty thousand square miles; his horse, the finest steed that he can
find upon the Pampas between Buenos Ayres and the Andes, between the Gran
Chaco and Cape Horn; his food, the first beef that he captures with his
lasso; his dainties, the tongues of cows which he kills, and abandons,
when he has stripped them of his favorite titbit, to the birds of prey.
Sometimes he dashes into a village, drinks a gourdful of _aguardiente_
with the admiring guests at the _pulperia_, and spurs away again into
obscurity, until at length the increasing number of his _desgracias_
tempts the mounted emissaries of justice to pursue him, in the hope of
extra reward. If suddenly beset by seven or eight of these desert police,
the _Gaucho malo_ slashes right and left with his redoubted knife,--kills
one, maims another, wounds them all. Perhaps he reaches his horse and is
off and away amid a shower of harmless balls;--or he is taken; in which
case, all that remains, the day after, of the _Gaucho malo_, is a lump of
Then there is the guide, or _vaqueano_. This man, as one who knows him
well informs us, is a grave and reserved Gaucho, who knows by heart the
peculiarities of twenty thousand leagues of mountain, wood, and plain! He
is the only _map_ that an Argentinian general takes with him in a
campaign; and the _vaqueano_ is never absent from his side. No plan is
formed without his concurrence. The army's fate, the success of a battle,
the conquest of a province, is entirely dependent upon his integrity and
skill; and, strange to say, there is scarcely an instance on record of
treachery on the part of a _vaqueano_. He meets a pathway which crosses
the road upon which he is travelling, and he can tell you the exact
distance of the remote watering-place to which it leads; if he meet with a
thousand similar pathways in a journey of five hundred miles, it will
still be the same. He can point out the fords of a hundred rivers; he can
guide you in safety through a hundred trackless woods, Stand with him at
midnight on the Pampa,--let the track be lost,--no moon or stars; the
_vaqueano_ quietly dismounts, examines the foliage of the trees, if any
are near, and if there are none, plucks from the ground a handful of
roots, chews them, smells and tastes the soil, and tells
you that so many hours' travel due north or south will bring you to your
destination. Do not doubt him; he is infallible.
A mere _vaqueano_ was General Rivera of Uruguay,--but he knew every tree,
every hillock, every dell, in a region extending over more than 70,000
square miles! Without his aid, Brazil would have been powerless in the
Banda Oriental; without his aid, the Argentinians would never have
triumphed over Brazil. As a smuggler in 1804, as a custom-house officer a
few years later, as a patriot, a freebooter, a Brazilian general, an
Argentinian commander, as President of Uruguay against Lavalleja, as an
outlaw against General Oribe, and finally against Rosas, allied with
Oribe, as champion of the Banda Oriental del Uruguay, Rivera had certainly
ample opportunities for perfecting himself in that study of which he was
the ardent devotee.
Cooper has told us how and by what signs, in years that have forever
faded, the Huron tracked his flying foe through the forests of the North;
we read of Cuban bloodhounds, and of their frightful baying on the scent
of the wretched maroon; we know how the Bedouin follows his tribe over
pathless sands;--and yet all these are bunglers, in comparison with the
In the interior of the Argentine every Gaucho is a trailer or
_rastreador_. On those vast feeding-grounds of a million cattle, whose
tracks intersect each other in every direction, the herdsman can
distinguish with unerring accuracy the footprints of his own peculiar
charge. When an animal is missing from the herd, he throws himself upon
his horse, gallops to the spot where he remembers having seen it last,
gazes for a moment upon the trampled soil, and then shoots off for miles
across the waste. Every now and then he halts, surveys the trail, and
again speeds onward in pursuit. At last he reaches the limits of another
_estancia_, and the pasturage of a stranger herd. His eagle eye singles
out at a glance the estray; rising in his stirrup, he whirls the lasso for
a moment above his head, launches it through the air, and coolly drags the
recalcitrant beast away on the homeward trail. He is nothing but a common,
comparatively unskilled, _rastreador_.
The official trailer is of another stamp. Like his kinsman, the
_vaqueano_, he is a personage well convinced of his own importance; grave,
reserved, taciturn, whose word is law. Such a one was the famous Calebar,
the dreaded thief-taker of the Pampas, the Vidocq of Buenos Ayres. This
man during more than forty years exercised his profession in the Republic,
and a few years since was living, at an advanced age, not far from Buenos
Ayres. There appeared to be concentrated in him the acuteness and keen
perceptions of all the brethren of his craft; it was impossible to deceive
him; no one whose trail he had once beheld could hope to escape discovery.
An adventurous vagabond once entered his house, during his temporary
absence on a journey to Buenos Ayres, and purloined his best saddle. When
the robbery was discovered, his wife covered the robber's trail with a
kneading-trough. Two months later Calebar returned, and was shown the
almost obliterated footprint. Months rolled by; the saddle was apparently
forgotten; but a year and a half later, as the _rastreador_ was again at
Buenos Ayres, a footprint in the street attracted his notice. He followed
the trail; passed from street to street and from _plaza_ to _plaza_, and
finally entering a house in the suburbs, laid his hand upon the begrimed
and worn-out saddle which had once been his own _montura de fiesta_!
In 1830, a prisoner, awaiting the death-penalty, effected his escape from
jail. Calebar, with a detachment of soldiers, was put upon the scent.
Expecting this, and knowing that the gallows lay behind him, the fugitive
had adopted every expedient for baffling his pursuers: he had walked long
distances upon tiptoe; had scrambled along walls; had walked backwards,
crawled, doubled, leaped; but all in vain! Calebar's blood was up; his
reputation was at stake; to fail now would be an indelible disgrace. If
now and then he found himself at fault, he as often recovered the trail,
until the bank of a water-course was reached, to which the flying criminal
had taken. The trail was lost; the soldiers would have turned back; but
Calebar had no such thought. He patiently followed the course of the
_acequia_ for a few rods, and suddenly halting, said to his companions,
"Here is the spot at which he left the canal; there is no trail,--not a
footprint,--but do you see those drops of water upon the grass?" With this
slight clue they were led towards a vineyard. Calebar examined it at every
side, and bade the soldiers enter, saying, "He is there!" The men obeyed
him, but shortly reported that no living being was within the walls. "He
is there!" quietly reiterated Calebar; and, in fact, a second more
thorough examination resulted in the capture of the trembling fugitive,
who was executed on the following day.--There can be no doubt regarding
the literal exactness of this anecdote.
At another time, we are told, a party of political prisoners, incarcerated
by General Rosas, had contrived a plan of escape, in which they were to be
aided by friends outside. When all was ready, one of the party suddenly
"But Calebar! you forget him!"
"Calebar!" echoed his friends; "true, it is useless to escape while he can
Nor was any flight attempted until the dreaded trailer had been bribed to
fall ill for a few days, when the prisoners succeeded in making good their
He who would learn more of Calebar and his brother-trailers, let him
procure a copy of the little work that now lies before us, in the shape
of a tattered duo-decimo, which has come to us across the Andes and around
Cape Horn, from the most secluded corner of the Argentine Confederation.
Badly printed and barbarously bound, this "Life of Juan Facundo Quiroga"
is nevertheless replete with the evidence of genius, and bears the stamp
of a generously-cultivated mind. Its author, indeed, the poet-patriot-
philosopher, Don Domingo F. Sarmiento, may be called the Lamartine of
South America, whose eventful career may some day invite us to an
examination. Suffice it now to say, that he was expelled by Rosas in 1840
from Buenos Ayres, and that he took his way to Chile, with the intention
in that hospitable republic of devoting his pen to the service of his
oppressed country. At the baths of Zonda he wrote with charcoal, under a
delineation of the national arms: _On ne tue point les idees_! which
inscription, having been reported to the Gaucho chieftain, a committee was
appointed to decipher and translate it. When the wording of the
significant hint was conveyed to Rosas, he exclaimed,--"Well, what does it
mean?" The answer was conveyed to him in 1852; and the sentence serves as
epigraph to the present life of his associate and victim, Facundo Quiroga.
[Footnote 1: _Vida de Juan Facundo Quiroga_, etc., por Domingo F.
Sarmiento. Santiago, 1845.]
In this extraordinary character we see the quintessence of that desert-
life some types of which we have endeavored to delineate. As one who,
rising from the lowest station to heights of uncontrolled power, as a
representative of a class of rulers unfortunately too common in the
republics that descend from Spain, and as a remarkable instance of brutal
force and barbaric stubbornness triumphing over reason, science,
education, and, in a word, civilization, he is admirably portrayed by Sr.
Sarmiento. Ours be the task to condense into a few pages the story of his
life and death.
The Argentine province of La Rioja embraces vast tracts of sandy desert
Destitute of rivers, bare of trees, it is only by means of artificial and
scanty irrigation that the peasant can cultivate a narrow strip of land.
Inclosed by these arid wastes lies, nevertheless, a fertile region
entitled the Plains, which, in despite of its name, is broken by ridges of
hills, and supports a luxuriant vegetation with pastures trodden by
unnumbered herds. The character of the people is Oriental; their
appearance actually recalls, as we are told, that of the ancient dwellers
about Jerusalem; their very customs have rather an Arabic than a Spanish
Somewhere upon these _Llanos_, and toward the close of the eighteenth
century, Don Prudencio Quiroga, as a well-to-do _estanciero_ or grazier,
was gladdened (doubtless) by the birth of a lusty son. He called him Juan
Facundo. For the first few years of his existence, we may safely believe,
the future general was scarcely, distinguishable from a common baby.
Obstinate he doubtless was, and fierce and cruel in his tiny way; were his
mother still alive, the good woman could doubtless tell us of many a
bitter moment spent in lamenting her infant's waywardness; but we hear
nothing of him until the year 1799, when he was sent to San Juan, a town
then celebrated for its schools and learning, to acquire the rudiments of
knowledge. At the age of eleven the boy already manifested the character
of the future man. Solitary, disdainful, rebellious, his intercourse with
his schoolfellows was limited to the interchange of blows, his only
amusement lay in the annoyance of those with whom he was brought in
contact. He is already a perfect Gaucho; can wield the lasso, and the
_bolas_, and the knife; is a fearless _ginete_, a consummate horseman. One
day at school, the master, irritated beyond endurance, exhibits a new rod,
bought expressly, so he says, "for flogging Facundo." When the boy is
called up to recite, he blunders, stammers, hesitates, on purpose. Down
comes the rod; with a vigorous kick Facundo upsets the pedagogue's rickety
throne, and takes to his heels. After a three-days' search, he is
discovered secreted in a vineyard outside the town.
This little incident, of so trifling import at the time,--was remembered
in after years as an early indication of the ferocious and uncontrollable
_caudillo's_ character. But it was soon eclipsed by the reckless deeds
that followed each other in quick succession between his fifteenth and
twentieth years. He speedily became notorious in the little town for his
wild moroseness, for his savage ferocity when excited, for his inordinate
love of cards. Gaming, a passion with many, was a necessary of life to
him; it was the only pursuit to which he was ever constant; it gave rise
to the quarrel in which, while yet a schoolboy, he for the first time
By and by we lose--sight of the student of San Juan. He has absolutely
_sunk_ out of sight. Yet, if we peer into filthy _pulperias_ here and
there between San Luis and San Juan, we may catch a glimpse of a shaggy,
swarthy savage, gambling, gambling as if for life; and we may also hear of
more than one affray in which his dagger has "come home richer than it
went." A little later, the son of wealthy Don Prudencio has become-not a
common laborer--but a comrade of common laborers. He chooses the most
toilsome, the most umntellectual, but, at the same time, the most
remunerative handicraft,--that of the _tapiador_, or builder of mud
walls. At San Juan, in the orchard of the Godoys,--at Fiambala, in La
Rioja, in the city of Mendoza,--they will show you walls which the hands
of General Facundo Quiroga, _Comandante de Campana, etc., etc., put
together. Wherever he works, he is noted for the ascendency which he
maintains over the other peons. They are entirely subject to his will;
they do nothing without his advice; he is worth, say his employers, a
dozen overseers. Ah, he is yet to rule on, a larger scale!
Did these people ever think,--as they watched the sombre, stubborn Gaucho
sweating over a _tapia_, subjecting a drove of peons to his authority, or,
stretched upon a hide, growing ferocious as the luck went against him at
cards,--that here was one of those forces which mould or overturn the
world? Could it ever have occurred to the Godoys of San Juan, to the
worthy municipality of Mendoza, that this scowling savage was yet to place
his heel upon their prostrate forms, and most thoroughly to exhibit,
through weary, sanguinary years, the reality of that tremendous saying,--
"The State? _I_ am the State!"?
Doubtless no. Little as the comrades of Maximin imagined that the
truculent Goth was yet to wear the blood-stained purple, little as the
clients of Robespierre dreamed of the vortex toward which he was being
insensibly hurried by the stream of years, did the men, whose names are
thrown out from their obscurity by the glare of his misdeeds, conceive
that their fortunes, their lives, all things but their souls, were shortly
to depend upon the capricious breath of this servant who so quietly pounds
away upon their mud inclosures.
He does not long, however, remain the companion of peons. Eighteen hundred
and ten has come, bringing with it liberty, and bloodshed, and universal
discord. The sun of May beams down upon a desolated land. For the mild,
although repressive viceregal sway is substituted that of a swarm of
military chieftains, who, fighting as patriots against Liniers and his
ill-fated troops, as rivals with each other, or as _montanero_-freebooters
against all combined, swept the plains with their harrying lancers from
the seacoast to the base of the Cordillera.
In this period of anarchy we catch another glimpse of Juan Facundo. He has
worked his way down to Buenos Ayres, nine hundred miles from home, and
enlists in the regiment of _Arribenos_, raised by his countryman, General
Ocampo, to take part in the liberation of Chile. But even the
infinitesimal degree of discipline to which his fellow-soldiers had been
reduced was too much for his wild spirit; already he feels that command,
and not obedience, is his birthright; there is soon a vacancy in the
With three companions Quiroga took to the desert. He was followed and
overtaken by an armed detachment, or _partida_; summoned to surrender; the
odds are overpowering. But this man bids defiance to the world; he is yet,
in this very region, to rout well-appointed and disciplined armies with a
handful of men; and he engages the _partida_. A sanguinary conflict is the
result, in which Quiroga, slaying four or five of his assailants, comes
off victorious, and pursues his journey in the teeth of other bands which
are ordered to arrest him. He reaches his native plains, and, after a
flying visit to his parents, we again lose sight of the _Gaucho malo_.
Blurred rumors of his actions have, indeed, been preserved; accounts of
brutality toward his gray-haired father, of burnings of the dwelling in
which he first saw the light, of endless gaming, and plentiful shedding of
blood; but we hear nothing positive concerning him until the year 1818.
Somewhere in that year he determines to join the band of freebooters under
Ramirez, which was then devastating the eastern provinces. And here--O
deep designs of Fate!--the very means intended to check his mad career
serve only to accelerate its development. Dupuis, governor of San Luis,
through which province he is passing on his way to join Ramirez, arrests
the _Gaucho malo_, and throws him into the common jail, there to rot or
starve as Fortune may direct.
But she had other things in store for him. A number of Spanish officers,
captured by San Martin in Chile, were confined within the same walls.
Goaded to the energy of despair by their sufferings, and convinced that
after all they could die no more than once, the Spaniards rose one day,
broke open the doors of their prison, and proceeded to that part of the
building where the common malefactors, and among them Juan Facundo, were
confined. No sooner was Facundo set at liberty, than he snatched the bolt
of the prison-gate, from the very hand which had just withdrawn it to set
him free, crushed the Spaniard's skull with the heavy iron, and swung it
right and left, until, according to his own statement, made at a later
date, no less than fourteen corpses were stiffening on the ground. His
example incited his companions to aid him in subduing the revolt of their
fellow-prisoners; and, as a reward for "loyal and heroic conduct," he was
restored to his privileges as a citizen.
Thus, in the energetic language of his biographer, was his name ennobled,
and cleansed, but with _blood_, from the stains that defiled it.
Persecuted no longer, nay, even caressed by the government, he returned to
his native plains, to stalk with added haughtiness and new titles to
esteem among his brother Gauchos of La Rioja.
Having in this manner taken a rapid survey of the most salient points in
his private career up to the year 1820, we may pause for a moment, before
studying his public life, to glance at the condition of his native country
in the first decade of its independence. The partial separation from
Spain, which was effected on the 25th May, 1810, was followed by a long
and bloody struggle, in all the southern provinces, between the royal
forces and the adherents of the Provisional Junta. Such framework of
government as had been in existence was practically annihilated, and the
various provinces of the late Viceroyalty of Buenos Ayres fell a prey to
the military chieftains who could attract around them the largest number
of Gaucho cavalry,--while civilization, commerce, and every peaceful art,
declined at a rapid rate. No alteration in this state of affairs was
effected by the final Declaration of Independence, made at Tucuman, July
9, 1816; and in 1820, Buenos Ayres, the seat of the government which
claimed to be supreme, was seized by a confederacy of the provincial
chiefs, who secured, by the destruction of the Directorial Government,
complete and unchallenged independence for themselves. During this
anarchical period, the famous Artigas was harrying the Banda Oriental;
Rosas and Lopez were preparing for their blood-stained careers; Bustos,
Ibarra, and a host of other _caudillos_, ruled the interior provinces; and
Juan Facundo Quiroga was raised to irresponsible power.
In his native province of La Rioja the mastery had for many years been
disputed by two powerful houses, the Ocampos and the Davilas, both
descended from noble families in Spain. In the year 1820 the former were
triumphant, and possessed all the authority then wielded in the province.
From them Facundo received the appointment of Sergeant-Major of Militia,
with the powers of _Comandante de Campana_, or District Commandant.
In any other country the nomination to such a post of a man rendered
notorious by his contempt for authority, who already boasted of no less
than thirty murders, and who had voluntarily placed himself in the lowest
ranks of society, would be a thing absolutely incredible; but the Ocampos
probably felt the insecurity of their authority, and were sufficiently
sagacious to attempt, at least, to render that man a useful adherent or
ally, who might, if allured by their foes, prove a terrible weapon against
them. But they found in Quiroga no submissive servant. So openly did he
disregard the injunctions of his superiors, that a corps of the principal
officers in the army entreated their general, Ocampo, to seize upon and
execute the rebellious Gaucho, but failed in inducing him to adopt their
advice. It was not long before he had occasion to repent his leniency, or
A mutiny having occurred among some troops at San Juan, a detachment was
sent against them, and with it Quiroga and his horsemen. The mutineers
proved victorious, and, headed by their ringleaders, Aldao and Corro,
continued their line of march towards the North. While Ocampo with his
beaten troops fell back to wait for reinforcements, Quiroga pursued the
retreating victors, harassed their rear, clogged their every movement, and
proved so formidable to the enemy, that Aldao, abandoning his companion,
made an arrangement with the government of La Rioja, by which he was to be
allowed free passage into San Luis, whither Quiroga was ordered to conduct
him. He joined Aldao.
And here, close upon the summit of the steep he has so easily ascended, we
cannot help pausing for an instant to reflect upon the singular
manifestation of _destiny_ in his life. History acquaints us with no
similar character who displayed so little forethought with such
astonishing results. He premeditated nothing, unless now and then a
murder. He took no trouble to form a plan of government, yet his authority
was unquestioned during many years in Mendoza, Cordova, and San Juan. Even
his most monstrous acts of perfidy appear to have been committed on the
spur of the moment, with less calculation than he gave to a game at cards.
Thrown upon the world with brutal passions scarcely controlled by a
particle of reason, whirled hither and thither in a general and fearful
cataclysm, he shows us preeminently the wonderful designs of Providence
carried into effect, as it were, by a succession of blind and sudden
impulses. In a community of established order the gallows would have put a
speedy check upon his misdeeds; in the Argentine Confederation of 1820 he
was gradually lifted, by an ever-rising tide of blood, to the eminence of
Only for a while, however; for the stream did not cease to rise. The flood
that had elevated him alone disregarded his commands. For a few moments he
might maintain his footing upon the fearful peak; and then--
But as yet he is only _Comandante de Campana_, escorting the rebel Aldao
into San Luis. He took no pains to conceal his discontent with the