Part 4 out of 5
The sullen animal rage of battle is nothing to the livor, the burning
hatred of the drawing-room. Dalton, defeated, cast a glance of deadly
hostility on the Duke. Nor was it lost. While the waltz continued, for ten
minutes, he stood motionless. Fearing some untoward event, I came down and
took my place near him.
The Duke led Honoria to a sofa. But for his arm she would again have
fallen. Dalton had recovered his courage and natural haughtiness. The tone
of his voice, rich, tender, and delicately expressive, did not change.
"Honoria, you sent for _me_; and the Duke wishes to see the pictures. The
air of the gallery will relieve your faintness."
He offered his arm, which she, rising mechanically, accepted. A deep blush
crimsoned her features, at the allusion to her weakness. Several of the
guests moved after us, as we passed into the gallery. The Duke's shadow,
Reve de Noir, following last, closed the ivory doors. We passed through
the gallery,--where pyramids of sunny fruits, in baskets of fine
porcelain, stood relieved by gold and silver services for wine and coffee,
disposed on the tables,--and thence entered another and smaller room,
devoid of ornament, but the crimson tapestried walls were covered with
works or copies of the great masters of Italy.
Opposite the entrance there was a picture of a woman seated on a throne,
behind which stood a demon whispering in her ear and pointing to a
handsome youth in the circle of the courtiers. The design and color were
in the style of Correggio. Denslow stood close behind me. In advance were
Honoria, Dalton, and the Duke, whose conversation was addressed
alternately to her and Dalton. The lights of the gallery burst forth in
their full refulgence as we approached the picture.
The glorious harmony of its colors,--the force of the shadows, which
seemed to be converging in the rays of a single unseen source of light,--
the unity of sentiment, which drew all the groups together, in the idea;--
I had seen all this before, but with the eyes of supercilious criticism.
Now the picture smote us with awe.
"I have the original of this excellent work," said the Duke, "in my house
at A----, but your copy is nearly as good."
The remark, intended for Honoria, reached the pride of her companion, who
"Your Highness's exquisite judgment is for once at fault. The piece is
original. It was purchased from a well-known collection in Italy, where
there are none others of the school."
Honoria was gazing upon the picture, as I was, in silent astonishment.
"If this," said she, "is a copy, what must have been the genuine work? Did
you never before notice the likeness between the queen, in that picture,
and myself?" she asked, addressing Dalton.
The remark excited general attention. Every one murmured, "The likeness is
"And the demon behind the queen," said Denslow, insipidly, "resembles your
There was another exclamation. No sooner was it observed, than the
likeness to Reve de Noir seemed to be even more perfect.
The Duke made a sign.
Reve de Noir placed himself near the canvas. His profile was the
counterpart of that in the painting. He seemed to have stepped out of it.
"It was I," said the Duke, in a gentle voice, and with a smile which just
disclosed the ivory line under the black moustache, "who caused this
picture to be copied and altered. The beauty of the Hon. Mrs. Denslow,
whom it was my highest pleasure to know, seemed to me to surpass that of
the queen of my original. I first, with great secrecy, unknown to your
wife," continued the Duke, turning to Denslow, "procured a portrait from
the life by memory, which was afterwards transferred to this canvas. The
resemblance to my attendant is, I confess, remarkable and inexplicable."
"But will you tell us by what accident this copy happened to be in Italy?"
"You will remember," replied the Duke, coldly, "that at Paris, noticing
your expressions of admiration for the picture, which you had seen in my
English gallery, I gave you a history of its purchase at Bologna by
myself. I sent my artist to Bologna, with orders to place the copy in the
gallery and to introduce the portrait of the lady; it was a freak of
fancy; I meant it for a surprise; as I felt sure, that, if you saw the
picture, you would secure it.
"It seems to me," replied Dalton, "that the _onus_ of proof rests with
The Duke made a signal to Reve de Noir, who again stepped up to the
canvas, and, with a short knife or stiletto, removed a small portion of
the outer layer of paint, disclosing a very ancient ground of some other
and inferior work, over which the copy seemed to have been painted. The
proof was unanswerable.
"Good copies," remarked the Duke, "are often better than originals."
He offered his arm to Honoria, and they walked through the gallery,--he
entertaining her, and those near him, with comments upon other works. The
crowd followed them, as they moved on or returned, as a cloud of gnats
follow up and down, and to and fro, a branch tossing in the wind.
"Beaten at every point," I said, mentally, looking on the pale features of
the defeated Dalton.
"Yes," he replied, seeing the remark in my face; "but there is yet time. I
am satisfied this is the man with whom we travelled; none other could have
devised such a plan, or carried it out. He must have fallen in love with
Honoria at that time; and simply to see her is the object of his visit to
America. He is a connoisseur in pictures as in women; but he must not be
allowed to ruin us by his arrogant assumptions."
"Excepting his manner and extraordinary personal advantages, I find
nothing in him to awe or astonish."
"His wealth is incalculable; he is used to victories; and that manner
which you affect to slight,--that is everything. 'Tis power, success,
victory. This man of millions, this prince, does not talk; he has but
little use for words. It is manner, and not words, that achieves social
and amatory conquests."
"Bah! You are like the politicians, who mistake accidents for principles.
But even you are talking, while this pernicious foreigner is acting. See!
they have left the gallery, and the crowd of fools is following them. You
cannot stem such a tide of folly."
"I deny that they are fools. Why does that sallow wretch, Lethal, follow
them? Or that enamelled person, Adonais? They are at a serpent-charming,
and Honoria is the bird-of-paradise. They watch with delight, and sketch
as they observe, the struggles of the poor bird. The others are
indifferent or curious, envious or amused. It is only Denslow who is
capped and antlered, and the shafts aimed at his foolish brow glance and
We were left alone in the gallery. Dalton paced back and forth, in his
slow, erect, and graceful manner; there was no hurry or agitation.
"How quickly," said he, as his moist eyes met mine, "how like a dream,
this glorious vision, this beautiful work, will fade and be forgotten!
Nevertheless, I made it," he added, musingly. "It was I who moulded and
expanded the sluggish millions."
"You will still be what you are, Dalton,--an artist, more than a man of
society. You work with a soft and perishable material."
"A distinction without a difference. Every _man_ is a politician, but only
every artist is a gentleman."
"Denslow, then, is ruined."
"Yes and no;--there is nothing in him to ruin. It is I who am the
"It was I who formed her manners, and guided her perceptions of the
beautiful. It was I who married her to a mass of money, De Vere."
"Did you never love Honoria?"
"Loved? Yes; as Praxiteles may have loved the clay he moulded,--for its
smoothness and ductility under the hand."
"The day has not come for such men as you, Dalton."
"Come, and gone, and coming. It has come in dream-land. Let us follow your
The larger gallery was crowded. The pyramids of glowing fruit had
disappeared; there was a confused murmur of pairs and parties, chatting
and taking wine. The master of the house, his wife, and guest were nowhere
to be seen. Lethal and Adonais stood apart, conversing. As we approached
them unobserved, Dalton checked me. "Hear what these people are saying,"
"My opinion is," said Lethal, holding out his crooked forefinger like a
claw, "that this _soi-disant_ duke--what the deuse is his name?"
"Rosecouleur," interposed Adonais, in a tone of society.
"Right,--Couleur de Rose is an impostor,--an impostor, a sharper.
Everything tends that way. What an utter sell it would be!"
"You were with us at the picture scene?" murmured Adonais.
"Yes. Dalton looked wretchedly cut up, when that devil of a valet, who
must be an accomplice, scraped the new paint off. The picture must have
been got up in New York by Dalton and the Denslows."
"Perhaps the Duke, too, was got up in New York, on the same principle,"
suggested Adonais. "Such things are possible. Society is intrinsically
rotten, you know, and Dalton"----
"Is a fellow of considerable talent," sneered Lethal,--"but has enemies,
who may have planned a duke."
Adonais coughed in his cravat, and hinted,--"How would it do to call him
Adonais appeared shocked at himself, and swallowed a minim of wine to
cleanse his vocal apparatus from the stain of so coarse an illustration.
"Do you hear those creatures?" whispered Dalton. "They are arranging
scandalous paragraphs for the 'Illustration.'"
A moment after, he was gone. I spoke to Lethal and Adonais.
"Gentlemen, you are in error about the picture and the Duke; they are as
they now appear;--the one, an excellent copy, purchased as an original,--
no uncommon mistake; the other, a genuine highness. How does he strike
Lethal cast his eyes around to see who listened.
"The person," said he, "who is announced here to-night as an English duke
seemed to me, of all men I could select, least like one."
"Pray, what is your ideal of an English duke, Mr. Lethal?" asked Adonais,
with the air of a connoisseur, sure of himself, but hating to offend.
"A plain, solid person, well dressed, but simple; mutton-chop whiskers;
and the manners of a--a----"
"Bear!" said a soft female voice.
"Precisely,--the manners of a bear; a kind of gentlemanly bear, perhaps,--
but still, ursine and heavy; while this person, who seems to have walked
out of ----- or a novel, affects me, by his ways and appearance, like a--
"Gambler!" said the same female voice, in a conclusive tone.
There was a general soft laugh. Everybody was pleased. All admired, hated,
and envied the Duke. It was settled beyond a doubt that he was an
impostor,--and that the Denslows were either grossly taken in, or were
"selling" their friends. In either case, it was shocking and delightful.
"The fun of the thing," continued Lethal, raising his voice a little, "is,
that the painter who got up the old picture must have been as much an
admirer of the Hon. Mrs. Denslow as--his--Highness; for, in touching in
the queen, he has unconsciously made it a portrait."
The blow was final. I moved away, grieved and mortified to the soul,
cursing the intrusion of the mysterious personage whose insolent
superiority had overthrown the hopes of my friends.
At the door of the gallery I met G----, the painter, just returned from
London. I drew him with me into the inner gallery, to make a thorough
examination of the picture. I called his attention to the wonderful
resemblance of the queen to Honoria. He did not see it; we looked
together, and I began to think that it might have been a delusion. I told
the Duke's story of the picture to G----. He examined the canvas, tested
the layers of color, and pronounced the work genuine and of immense value.
We looked again and again at the queen's head, viewing it in every light.
The resemblance to Honoria had disappeared; nor was the demon any longer a
figure of the Duke's valet.
"One would think," said G----, laughing, "that you had been mesmerized. If
you have been so deceived in a picture, may you not be equally cheated in
a man? I am loath to offend; but, indeed, the person whom you call
Rosecouleur cannot be the Duke of that title, whom I saw in England. I had
leave to copy a picture in his gallery. He was often present. His manners
were mild and unassuming,--not at all like those of this man, to whom, I
acknowledge, the personal resemblance is surprising. I am afraid our good
friends, the Denslows, and Mr. Dalton,--whom I esteem for their patronage
of art,--have been taken in by an adventurer."
"But the valet, Reve de Noir?"
"The Duke had a valet of that name who attended him, and who may, for
aught I know, have resembled this one; but probability is against
concurrent resemblances. There is also an original of the picture in the
Duke's gallery; in fact, the artist, as was not unusual in those days,
painted two pictures of the same subject. Both, then, are genuine."
Returning my cordial thanks to the good painter for his timely
explanation, I hastened to find Dalton. Drawing him from the midst of a
group whom he was entertaining, I communicated G----'s account of the two
pictures, and his suspicions in regard to the Duke.
His perplexity was great. "Worse and worse, De Vere! To be ruined by a
common adventurer is more disgraceful even than the other misfortune.
Besides, our guests are leaving us. At least a hundred of them have gone
away with the first impression, and the whole city will have it. The
journal reporters have been here. Denslow's principal creditors were among
the guests to-night; they went away soon, just after the affair with the
picture; to-morrow will be our dark day. If it had not been for this demon
of a duke and his familiar, whoever they are, all would have gone well.
Now we are distrusted, and they will crush us. Let us fall facing the
enemy. Within an hour I will have the truth about the Duke. Did I ever
tell you what a price Denslow paid for that picture?"
"No, I do not wish to hear."
"You are right. Come with me."
The novel disrespect excited by the scandal of Honoria and the picture
seemed to have inspired the two hundred people who remained with a
cheerful ease. Eating, drinking excessively of Denslow's costly wines,
dancing to music which grew livelier and more boisterous as the musicians
imbibed more of the inspiriting juice, and, catching scraps of the
scandal, threw out significant airs, the company of young persons,
deserted by their scandalized seniors, had converted the magnificent suite
of drawing-rooms into a carnival theatre. Parties of three and four were
junketing in corners; laughing servants rushed to and fro as in a _cafe_;
the lounges were occupied by reclining beauties or languid fops
overpowered with wine, about whom lovely young women, flushed with
Champagne and mischief, were coquetting and frolicking.
"I warrant you, these people know it is our last night," said Dalton; "and
see what a use they make of us! Denslow's rich wines poured away like
water; everything soiled, smeared, and overturned; our entertainment, at
first stately and gracious as a queen's drawing-room, ending, with the
loss of _prestige_, in the riot of a _bal masque_. So fades ambition! But
to this duke."
Denslow, who had passed into the polite stage of inebriation, evident to
close observers, had arranged a little exclusive circle, which included
three women of fashionable reputation, his wife, the Duke, Jeffrey Lethal,
and Adonais. Reve de Noir officiated as attendant. The _fauteuils_ and
couches were disposed around a pearl table, on which were liquors, coffee,
wines, and a few delicacies for Honoria, who had not supped. They were in
the purple recess adjoining the third drawing-room. Adonais talked with
the Duke about Italy; Lethal criticized; while Honoria, in the full
splendor of her beauty, outshining and overpowering, dropped here and
there a few musical words, like service-notes, to harmonize.
There is no beauty like the newly-enamored. Dalton seemed to forget
himself, as he contemplated her, for a moment. Spaces had been left for
us; the valet placed chairs.
"Dalton," cried Lethal, "you are in time to decide a question of deep
interest;--your friend, De Vere, will assist you. His Highness has given
preference to the women of America over those of Italy. Adonais, the
exquisite and mild, settles his neck-tie against the Duke, and objects in
that bland but firm manner which is his. I am the Duke's bottle-holder;
Denslow and wife accept that function for the chivalrous Adonais."
"I am of the Duke's party," replied Dalton, in his most agreeable manner.
"To be in the daily converse and view of the most beautiful women in
America, as I have been for years, is a privilege in the cultivation of a
pure taste. I saw nothing in Italy, except on canvas, comparable with what
I see at this moment. The Duke is right; but in commending his judgment, I
attribute to him also sagacity. Beauty is like language; its use is to
conceal. One may, under rose-colored commendations, a fine manner, and a
flowing style, conceal, as Nature does with personal advantages in men,
the gross tastes and vulgar cunning of a charlatan."
Dalton, in saying this, with a manner free from suspicion or excitement,
fixed his eyes upon the Duke's.
"You seem to have no faith in either men or women," responded the rich
barytone voice of his Highness, the dark upper lip disclosing, as before,
the row of square, sharp, ivory teeth.
"Little, very little," responded Dalton, with a sigh. "Your Highness will
understand me,--or if not now, presently."
Lethal trod upon Adonais's foot; I saw him do it. Adonais exchanged
glances with a brilliant hawk-faced lady who sat opposite. The lady smiled
and touched her companion. Honoria, who saw everything, opened her
magnificent eyes to their full extent. Denslow was oblivious.
"In fact," continued Dalton, perceiving the electric flash he had excited,
"skepticism is a disease of my intellect. Perhaps the most noticeable and
palpable fact of the moment is the presence and identity of the Duke who
is opposite to me; and yet, doubting as I sometimes do my own existence,
is it not natural, that, philosophically speaking, the presence and
identity of your Highness are at moments a subject of philosophical
"In cases of this kind," replied the Duke, "we rest upon circumstantial
So saying, he drew from his finger a ring and handed it to Dalton, who
went to the light and examined it closely, and passed it to me. It was a
minute cameo, no larger than a grain of wheat, in a ring of plain gold; a
rare and beautiful work of microscopic art.
"I seem to remember presenting the Duke of Rosecouleur with a similar
ring, in Italy," said Dalton, resuming his seat; "but the coincidence does
not resolve my philosophic doubt, excited by the affair of the picture. We
all supposed that we saw a portrait of the Hon. Mrs. Denslow in yon
picture; and we seemed to discover, under the management of your valet,
that Denslow's picture, a genuine duplicate of the original by the author,
was a modern copy. Since your Highness quitted the gallery, those
delusions have ceased. The picture appears now to be genuine. The
likeness to Mrs. Denslow has vanished."
An exclamation of surprise from all present, except the Duke, followed
"And so," continued Dalton, "it may be with this ring, which now seems to
be the one I gave the Duke at Rome, but to-morrow may be different."
As he spoke, Dalton gave back the ring to the Duke, who received it with
his usual grace.
"Who knows," said Lethal, with a deceptive innocence of manner, "whether
aristocracy itself be not founded in mesmerical deceptions?"
"I think, Lethal," observed Adonais, "you push the matter. It would be
impossible, for instance, even for his Highness, to make Honoria Denslow
We all looked at Honoria, to whom the Duke leaned over and said,--
"Would you be willing for a moment to lose that exquisite beauty?"
"For my sake, Honoria," said Dalton, "refuse him."
The request, so simply made, was rewarded by a ravishing smile.
"Edward, do you know that you have not spoken a kind word to me to-night,
Their eyes met, and I saw that Dalton trembled with a deep emotion. "I
will save you yet," he murmured.
A tall, black hound, of the slender breed, rose up near Honoria, and,
placing his fore-paws upon the edge of the pearl table, turned and licked
her face and eyes.
It was the vision of a moment. The dog sprang upon the sofa by the Duke's
side, growling and snapping.
"Reve de Noir," cried Lethal and Adonais, "drive the dog away!"
The valet had disappeared.
"I have no fear of him, gentlemen," said the Duke, patting the head of the
hound; "he is a faithful servant, and has a faculty of reading thoughts.
Go bring my servant, Demon," said the Duke.
The hound sprang away with a great bound, and in an instant Reve de Noir
was standing behind us. The dog did not appear again.
Honoria looked bewildered. "Of what dog were you speaking, Edward?"
"The hound that licked your face."
"You are joking. I saw no hound."
"See, gentlemen," exclaimed Lethal, "his Highness shows us tricks. He is a
The three women gave little shrieks,--half pleasure, half terror.
Denslow, who had fallen back in his chair asleep, awoke and rubbed his
"What is all this, Honoria?"
"That his Highness is a wizard," she said, with a forced laugh, glancing
"Will his Highness do us the honor to lay aside the mask, and appear in
his true colors?" said Dalton, returning Honoria's glance with an
"Gentlemen," said the Duke, haughtily, "I am your guest, and by
hospitality protected from insult"
"Insult, most noble Duke!" exclaimed Lethal, with a sneer,--"impossible,
under the roof of our friend, the Honorable Walter Denslow, in the small
hours of the night, and in the presence of the finest women in the world.
Dalton, pray, reassure his Highness!"
"Edward! Edward!" murmured Honoria, "have a care,--even if it be as you
Dalton remained bland and collected.
"Pardon, my Lord, the effect of a little wine, and of those wonderful
fantasies you have shown us. Your dog, your servant, and yourself interest
us equally; the picture, the ring,--all are wonderful. In supposing that
you had assumed a mask, and one so noble, I was led into an error by these
miracles, expecting no less than a translation of yourself into the person
of some famous wonder-worker. It is, you know, a day of miracles, and even
kings have their salaried seers, and take counsel of the spiritual world.
More!--let us have more!"
The circle were amazed; the spirit of superstitious curiosity seized upon
"Reve de Noir," said the Duke, "a carafe, and less light."
The candelabra became dim. The Duke took the carafe of water from the
valet, and, standing up, poured it upon the air; it broke into flames,
which mounted and floated away, singly or in little crowds. Still the Duke
poured, and dashing up the water with his hand, by and by the ceiling was
illuminated with a thousand miniature tongues of violet-colored fire. We
clapped our hands, and applauded,--"Beautiful I marvellous! wonderful,
Duke!--your Highness is the only magician,"--when, on a sudden, the flames
disappeared and the lights rose again.
"The world is weary of skepticism," remarked Lethal; "there is no
chemistry for that. It is the true magic, doubtless,--recovered from
antiquity by his Highness. Are the wonders exhausted?"
The Duke smiled again. He stretched out his hand toward Honoria, and she
slept. It was the work of an instant.
"I have seen that before," said Dalton.
"Not as we see it," responded his Highness. "Reve de Noir, less light!"
The room was dark in a moment. Over the head of Honoria appeared a cloud,
at first black, and soon in this a nucleus of light, which expanded and
shaped itself into an image and took the form of the sleeper, nude and
spiritual, a belt of rosy mist enveloping and concealing all but a head
and bust of ravishing beauty. The vision gazed with languid and beseeching
eyes upon Dalton, and a sigh seemed to heave the bosom. In scarce a
breathing-time, it was gone. Honoria waked, unconscious of what had
Deep terror and amazement fell upon us all.
"I have seen enough," said Dalton, rising slowly, and drawing a small
riding-whip, "to know now that this person is no duke, but either a
charlatan or a devil. In either case, since he has intruded here, to
desecrate and degrade, I find it proper to apply a magic more material."
At the word, all rose exclaiming,--"For God's sake, Dalton!" He pressed
forward and laid his hand upon the Duke. A cry burst from Reve de Noir
which rent our very souls; and a flash followed, unspeakably bright, which
revealed the demoniacal features of the Duke, who sat motionless,
regarding Dalton's uplifted arm. A darkness followed, profound and
palpable. I listened in terror. There was no sound. Were we transformed?
Silence, darkness, still. I closed my eyes, and opened them again. A pale,
cold light became slowly perceptible, stealing through a crevice, and
revealing the walls and ceiling of my narrow room. The dream still
oppressed me. I went to the window, and let in reality with the morning
light. Yet, for days after, the images of the real Honoria and Dalton, my
friends, remained separated from the creatures of the vision; and the
Denslow Palace of dreamland, the pictures, the revelry, and the magic of
the Demon Duke haunted my memory, and kept with them all their visionary
splendors and regrets.
Since Love within my heart made nest,
With the fond trust of brooding bird,
I find no all-embracing word
To say how deeply I am blest.
Though wintry clouds are in the air
And the dead leaves unburied lie,
Nor open is the violet's eye,
I see new beauty everywhere.
I walk beneath the naked trees,
Where wild streams shiver as they pass,
Yet in the sere and sighing grass
I hear a murmur as of bees,--
The bees that in love's morning rise
From tender eyes and lips to drain,
In ecstasies of blissful pain,
The sweets that bloomed in Paradise.
There twines a joy with every care
That springs within this sacred ground;
But, oh! to give what I have found
Doth thrill me with divine despair.
If distant, thou dost rise a star
Whose beams are with my being wrought,
And curvest all my teeming thought
With sweet attractions from afar.
As a winged ship, in calmest hour,
Still moves upon the mighty sea
To some deep ocean melody,
I feel thy spirit and thy power.
How far men go for the material of their houses! The inhabitants of the
most civilized cities, in all ages, send into far, primitive forests,
beyond the bounds of their civilization, where the moose and bear and
savage dwell, for their pine-boards for ordinary use. And, on the other
hand, the savage soon receives from cities iron arrow-points, hatchets,
and guns to point his savageness with.
The solid and well-defined fir-tops, like sharp and regular spear-heads,
black against the sky, gave a peculiar, dark, and sombre look to the
forest. The spruce-tops have a similar, but more ragged outline,--their
shafts also merely feathered below. The firs were somewhat oftener regular
and dense pyramids. I was struck by this universal spiring upward of the
forest evergreens. The tendency is to slender, spiring tops, while they
are narrower below. Not only the spruce and fir, but even the arbor-vitae
and white pine, unlike the soft, spreading second-growth, of which I saw
none, all spire upwards, lifting a dense spear-head of cones to the light
and air, at any rate, while their branches straggle after as they may; as
Indians lift the ball over the heads of the crowd in their desperate game.
In this they resemble grasses, as also palms somewhat. The hemlock is
commonly a tent-like pyramid from the ground to its summit.
After passing through some long rips and by a large island, we reached an
interesting part of the river called the Pine-Stream Dead-Water, about six
miles below Ragmuff, where the river expanded to thirty rods in width and
had many islands in it, with elms and canoe-birches, now yellowing, along
the shore, and we got our first sight of Katadn.
Here, about two o'clock, we turned up a small branch three or four rods
wide, which comes in on the right from the south, called Pine Stream, to
look for moose signs. We had gone but a few rods before we saw very recent
signs along the water's edge, the mud lifted up by their feet being quite
fresh, and Joe declared that they had gone along there but a short time
before. We soon reached a small meadow on the east side, at an angle in
the stream, which was for the most part densely covered with alders. As we
were advancing along the edge of this, rather more quietly than usual,
perhaps, on account of the freshness of the signs,--the design being to
camp up this stream, if it promised well,--I heard a slight crackling of
twigs deep in the alders, and turned Joe's attention to it; whereupon he
began to push the canoe back rapidly; and we had receded thus half a dozen
rods, when we suddenly spied two moose standing just on the edge of the
open part of the meadow which we had passed, not more than six or seven
rods distant, looking round the alders at us. They made me think of great
frightened rabbits, with their long ears and half-inquisitive, half-
frightened looks; the true denizens of the forest, (I saw at once,)
filling a vacuum which now first I discovered had not been filled for me,
--_moose-_men, _wood-eaters_, the word is said to mean,--clad in a sort of
Vermont gray, or homespun. Our Nimrod, owing to the retrograde movement,
was now the farthest from the game; but being warned of its neighborhood,
he hastily stood up, and, while we ducked, fired over our heads one barrel
at the foremost, which alone he saw, though he did not know what kind of
creature it was; whereupon this one dashed across the meadow and up a high
bank on the north-east, so rapidly as to leave but an indistinct
impression of its outlines on my mind. At the same instant, the other, a
young one, but as tall as a horse, leaped out into the stream, in full
sight, and there stood cowering for a moment, or rather its
disproportionate lowness behind gave it that appearance, and uttering two
or three trumpeting squeaks. I have an indistinct recollection of seeing
the old one pause an instant on the top of the bank in the woods, look
toward its shivering young, and then dash away again. The second barrel
was levelled at the calf, and when we expected to see it drop in the
water, after a little hesitation, it, too, got out of the water, and
dashed up the hill, though in a somewhat different direction. All this was
the work of a few seconds, and our hunter, having never seen a moose
before, did not know but they were deer, for they stood partly in the
water, nor whether he had fired at the same one twice or not. From the
style in which they went off, and the fact that he was not used to
standing up and firing from a canoe, I judged that we should not see
anything more of them. The Indian said that they were a cow and her calf,
--a yearling, or perhaps two years old, for they accompany their dams so
long; but, for my part, I had not noticed much difference in their size.
It was but two or three rods across the meadow to the foot of the bank,
which, like all the world thereabouts, was densely wooded; but I was
surprised to notice, that, as soon as the moose had passed behind the veil
of the woods, there was no sound of foot-steps to be heard from the soft,
damp moss which carpets that forest, and long before we landed, perfect
silence reigned. Joe said, "If you wound 'em moose, me sure get 'em."
We all landed at once. My companion reloaded; the Indian fastened his
birch, threw off his hat, adjusted his waistband, seized the hatchet, and
set out. He told me afterward, casually, that before we landed he had seen
a drop of blood on the bank, when it was two or three rods off. He
proceeded rapidly up the bank and through the woods, with a peculiar,
elastic, noiseless, and stealthy tread, looking to right and left on the
ground, and stepping in the faint tracks of the wounded moose, now and
then pointing in silence to a single drop of blood on the handsome,
shining leaves of the Clintonia Borealis, which, on every side, covered
the ground, or to a dry fern-stem freshly broken, all the while chewing
some leaf or else the spruce gum. I followed, watching his motions more
than the trail of the moose. After following the trail about forty rods in
a pretty direct course, stepping over fallen trees and winding between
standing ones, he at length lost it, for there were many other moose-
tracks there, and, returning once more to the last bloodstain, traced it a
little way and lost it again, and, too soon, I thought, for a good hunter,
gave it up entirely. He traced a few steps, also, the tracks of the calf;
but, seeing no blood, soon relinquished the search.
I observed, while he was tracking the moose, a certain reticence or
moderation in him. He did not communicate several observations of interest
which he made, as a white man would have done, though they may have leaked
out afterward. At another time, when we heard a slight crackling of twigs
and he landed to reconnoitre, he stepped lightly and gracefully, stealing
through the bushes with the least possible noise, in a way in which no
white man does,--as it were, finding a place for his foot each time.
About half an hour after seeing the moose, we pursued our voyage up Pine
Stream, and soon, coming to a part which was very shoal and also rapid, we
took out the baggage, and proceeded to carry it round, while Joe got up
with the canoe alone. We were just completing our portage and I was
absorbed in the plants, admiring the leaves of the aster macrophyllus, ten
inches wide, and plucking the seeds of the great round-leaved orchis, when
Joe exclaimed from the stream that he had killed a moose. He had found the
cow-moose lying dead, but quite warm, in the middle of the stream, which
was so shallow that it rested on the bottom, with hardly a third of its
body above water. It was about an hour after it was shot, and it was
swollen with water. It had run about a hundred rods and sought the stream
again, cutting off a slight bend. No doubt, a better hunter would have
tracked it to this spot at once. I was surprised at its great size, horse-
like, but Joe said it was not a large cow-moose. My companion went in
search of the calf again. I took hold of the ears of the moose, while Joe
pushed his canoe down stream toward a favorable shore, and so we made out,
though with some difficulty, its long nose frequently sticking in the
bottom, to drag it into still shallower water. It was a brownish black, or
perhaps a dark iron-gray, on the back and sides, but lighter beneath and
in front. I took the cord which served for the canoe's painter, and with
Joe's assistance measured it carefully, the greatest distances first,
making a knot each time. The painter being wanted, I reduced these
measures that night with equal care to lengths and fractions of my
umbrella, beginning with the smallest measures, and untying the knots as I
proceeded; and when we arrived at Chesuncook the next day, finding a two-
foot rule there, I reduced the last to feet and inches; and, moreover, I
made myself a two-foot rule of a thin and narrow strip of black ash which
would fold up conveniently to six inches. All this pains I took because I
did not wish to be obliged to say merely that the moose was very large. Of
the various dimensions which I obtained I will mention only two. The
distance from the tips of the hoofs of the fore-feet, stretched out, to
the top of the back between the shoulders, was seven feet and five inches.
I can hardly believe my own measure, for this is about two feet greater
than the height of a tall horse. The extreme length was eight feet and two
inches. Another cow-moose, which I have since measured in those woods with
a tape, was just six feet from the tip of the hoof to the shoulders, and
eight feet long as she lay.
When afterward I asked an Indian at the carry how much taller the male
was, he answered, "Eighteen inches," and made me observe the height of a
cross-stake over the fire, more than four feet from the ground, to give
me some idea of the depth of his chest. Another Indian, at Oldtown, told
me that they were nine feet high to the top of the back, and that one
which he tried weighed eight hundred pounds. The length of the spinal
projections between the shoulders is very great. A white hunter, who was
the beet authority among hunters that I could have, told me that the male
was _not_ eighteen inches taller than the female; yet he agreed that he
was sometimes nine feet high to the top of the back, and weighed a
thousand pounds. Only the male has horns, and they rise two feet or more
above the shoulders,--spreading three or four, and sometimes six feet,--
which would make him in all, sometimes, eleven feet high! According to
this calculation, the moose is as tall, though it may not be as large, as
the great Irish elk, Megaceros Hibernicus, of a former period, of which
Mantell says that it "very far exceeded in magnitude any living species,
the skeleton" being "upward of ten feet high from the ground to the
highest point of the antlers." Joe said, that, though the moose shed the
whole horn annually, each new horn has an additional prong; but I have
noticed that they sometimes have more prongs on one side than on the
other. I was struck with the delicacy and tenderness of the hoofs, which
divide very far up, and the one half could be pressed very much behind the
other, thus probably making the animal surer-footed on the uneven ground
and slippery moss-covered logs of the primitive forest. They were very
unlike the stiff and battered feet of our horses and oxen. The bare, horny
part of the fore-foot was just six inches long, and the two portions could
be separated four inches at the extremities.
The moose is singularly grotesque and awkward to look at. Why should it
stand so high at the shoulders? Why have so long a head? Why have no tail
to speak of? for in my examination I overlooked it entirely. Naturalists
say it is an inch and a half long. It reminded me at once of the
camelopard, high before and low behind,--and no wonder, for, like it, it
is fitted to browse on trees. The upper lip projected two inches beyond
the lower for this purpose. This was the kind of man that was at home
there; for, as near as I can learn, that has never been the residence, but
rather the hunting-ground of the Indian. The moose will perhaps one day
become extinct; but how naturally then, when it exists only as a fossil
relic, and unseen as that, may the poet or sculptor invent a fabulous
animal with similar branching and leafy horns,--a sort of fucus or lichen
in bone,--to be the inhabitant of such a forest as this!
Here, just at the head of the murmuring rapids, Joe now proceeded to skin
the moose with a pocket-knife, while I looked on; and a tragical business
it was,--to see that still warm and palpitating body pierced with a
knife, to see the warm milk stream from the rent udder, and the ghastly
naked red carcass appearing from within its seemly robe, which was made to
hide it. The ball had passed through the shoulder-blade diagonally and
lodged under the skin on the opposite side, and was partially flattened.
My companion keeps it to show to his grandchildren. He has the shanks of
another moose which he has since shot, skinned and stuffed, ready to be
made into boots by putting in a thick leather sole. Joe said, if a moose
stood fronting you, you must not fire, but advance toward him, for he will
turn slowly and give you a fair shot. In the bed of this narrow, wild, and
rocky stream, between two lofty walls of spruce and firs, a mere cleft in
the forest which the stream had made, this work went on. At length Joe had
stripped off the hide and dragged it trailing to the shore, declaring that
it weighed a hundred pounds, though probably fifty would have been nearer
the truth. He cut off a large mass of the meat to carry along, and
another, together with the tongue and nose, he put with the hide on the
shore to lie there all night, or till we returned. I was surprised that he
thought of leaving this meat thus exposed by the side of the carcass, as
the simplest course, not fearing that any creature would touch it; but
nothing did. This could hardly have happened on the bank of one of our
rivers in the eastern part of Massachusetts; but I suspect that fewer
small wild animals are prowling there than with us. Twice, however, in
this excursion I had a glimpse of a species of large mouse.
This stream was so withdrawn, and the moose-tracks were so fresh, that my
companions, still bent on hunting, concluded to go farther up it and camp,
and then hunt up or down at night. Half a mile above this, at a place
where I saw the aster puniceus and the beaked hazel, as we paddled along,
Joe, hearing a slight rustling amid the alders, and seeing something black
about two rods off, jumped up and whispered, "Bear!" but before the hunter
had discharged his piece, he corrected himself to "Beaver!"--"Hedgehog!"
The bullet killed a large hedgehog, more than two feet and eight inches
long. The quills were rayed out and flattened on the hinder part of its
back, even as if it had lain on that part, but were erect and long between
this and the tail. Their points, closely examined, were seen to be finely
bearded or barbed, and shaped like an awl, that is, a little concave, to
give the barbs effect. After about a mile of still water, we prepared our
camp on the right side, just at the foot of a considerable fall. Little
chopping was done that night, for fear of scaring the moose. We had moose-
meat fried for supper. It tasted like tender beef, with perhaps more
flavor,--sometimes like veal.
After supper, the moon having risen, we proceeded to hunt a mile up this
stream, first "carrying" about the falls. We made a picturesque sight,
wending single-file along the shore, climbing over rocks and logs,--Joe,
who brought up the rear, twirling his canoe in his hands as if it were a
feather, in places where it was difficult to get along without a burden.
We launched the canoe again from the ledge over which the stream fell, but
after half a mile of still water, suitable for hunting, it became rapid
again, and we were compelled to make our way along the shore, while Joe
endeavored to get up in the birch alone, though it was still very
difficult for him to pick his way amid the rocks in the night. We on the
shore found the worst of walking, a perfect chaos of fallen and drifted
trees, and of bushes projecting far over the water, and now and then we
made our way across the mouth of a small tributary on a kind of net-work
of alders. So we went tumbling on in the dark, being on the shady side,
effectually scaring all the moose and bears that might be thereabouts. At
length we came to a standstill, and Joe went forward to reconnoitre; but
he reported that it was still a continuous rapid as far as he went, or
half a mile, with no prospect of improvement, as if it were coming down
from a mountain. So we turned about, hunting back to the camp through the
still water. It was a splendid moonlight night, and I, getting sleepy as
it grew late,--for I had nothing to do,--found it difficult to realize
where I was. This stream was much more unfrequented than the main one,
lumbering operations being no longer carried on in this quarter. It was
only three or four rods wide, but the firs and spruce through which it
trickled seemed yet taller by contrast. Being in this dreamy state, which
the moonlight enhanced, I did not clearly discern the shore, but seemed,
most of the time, to be floating through ornamental grounds,--for I
associated the fir-tops with such scenes;--very high up some Broadway, and
beneath or between their tops, I thought I saw an endless succession of
porticos and columns, cornices and facades, verandas and churches. I did
not merely fancy this, but in my drowsy state such was the illusion. I
fairly lost myself in sleep several times, stilt dreaming of that
architecture and the nobility that dwelt behind and might issue from it;
but all at once I would be aroused and brought back to a sense of my
actual position by the sound of Joe's birch horn in the midst of all this
silence calling the moose, _ugh, ugh, oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo_, and I prepared
to hear a furious moose come rushing and crashing through the forest, and
see him burst out on to the little strip of meadow by our side.
But, on more accounts than one, I had had enough of moose-hunting. I had
not come to the woods for this purpose, nor had I foreseen it, though I
had been willing to learn how the Indian manoeuvred; but one moose killed
was as good, if not as bad, as a dozen. The afternoon's tragedy, and my
share in it, as it affected, the innocence, destroyed the pleasure of my
adventure. It is true, I came as near as is possible to come to being a
hunter and miss it, myself; and as it is, I think that I could spend a
year in the woods, fishing and hunting, just enough to sustain myself,
with satisfaction. This would be next to living like a philosopher on the
fruits of the earth which you had raised, which also attracts me. But this
hunting of the moose merely for the satisfaction of killing him,--not even
for the sake of his hide,--without making any extraordinary exertion or
running any risk yourself, is too much like going out by night to some
wood-side pasture and shooting your neighbor's horses. These are God's own
horses, poor, timid creatures, that will run fast enough as soon as they
smell you, though they _are_ nine feet high. Joe told us of some hunters
who a year or two before had shot down several oxen by night, somewhere in
the Maine woods, mistaking them for moose. And so might any of the
hunters; and what is the difference in the sport, but the name? In the
former case, having killed one of God's and _your own_ oxen, you strip off
its hide,--because that is the common trophy, and, moreover, you have
heard that it may be sold for moccasins,--cut a steak from its haunches,
and leave the huge carcass to smell to heaven for you. It is no better, at
least, than to assist at a slaughter-house.
This afternoon's experience suggested to me how base or coarse are the
motives which commonly carry men into the wilderness. The explorers and
lumberers generally are all hirelings, paid so much a day for their labor,
and as such they have no more love for wild nature than wood-sawyers have
for forests. Other white men and Indians who come here are for the most
part hunters, whose object is to slay as many moose and other wild animals
as possible. But, pray, could not one spend some weeks or years in the
solitude of this vast wilderness with other employments than these,--
employments perfectly sweet and innocent and ennobling? For one that comes
with a pencil to sketch or sing, a thousand come with an axe or rifle.
What a coarse and imperfect use Indians and hunters make of Nature! No
wonder that their race is so soon exterminated. I already, and for weeks
afterward, felt my nature the coarser for this part of my woodland
experience, and was reminded that our life should be lived as tenderly and
daintily as one would pluck a flower.
With these thoughts, when we reached our camping-ground, I decided to
leave my companions to continue moose-hunting down the stream, while I
prepared the camp, though they requested me not to chop much nor make a
large fire, for fear I should scare their game. In the midst of the damp
fir-wood, high on the mossy bank, about nine o'clock of this bright
moonlight night, I kindled a fire, when they were gone, and, sitting on
the fir-twigs, within sound of the falls, examined by its light the
botanical specimens which I had collected that afternoon, and wrote down
some of the reflections which I have here expanded; or I walked along the
shore and gazed up the stream, where the whole space above the falls was
filled with mellow light. As I sat before the fire on my fir-twig seat,
without walls above or around me, I remembered how far on every hand that
wilderness stretched, before you came to cleared or cultivated fields, and
wondered if any bear or moose was watching the light of my fire; for
Nature looked sternly upon me on account of the murder of the moose.
Strange that so few ever come to the woods to see how the pine lives and
grows and spires, lifting its evergreen arms to the light,--to see its
perfect success; but most are content to behold it in the shape of many
broad boards brought to market, and deem that its true success! But the
pine is no more lumber than man is, and to be made into boards and houses
is no more its true and highest use than the truest use of a man is to be
cut down and made into manure. There is a higher law affecting our
relation to pines as well as to men. A pine cut down, a dead pine, is no
more a pine than a dead human carcass is a man. Can he who has discovered
only some of the values of whalebone and whale oil be said to have
discovered the true use of the whale? Can he who slays the elephant for
his ivory be said to have "seen the elephant"? These are petty and
accidental uses; just as if a stronger race were to kill us in order to
make buttons and flageolets of our bones; for everything may serve a lower
as well as a higher use. Every creature is better alive than dead, men and
moose and pine-trees, and he who understands it aright will rather
preserve its life than destroy it.
Is it the lumberman, then, who is the friend and lover of the pine, stands
nearest to it, and understands its nature best? Is it the tanner who has
barked it, or he who has boxed it for turpentine, whom posterity will
fable to have been changed into a pine at last? No! no! it is the poet; he
it is who makes the truest use of the pine,--who does not fondle it with
an axe, nor tickle it with a saw, nor stroke it with a plane,--who knows
whether its heart is false without cutting into it,--who has not bought
the stumpage of the township on which it stands. All the pines shudder and
heave a sigh when _that_ man steps, on the forest floor. No, it is the
poet, who loves them as his own shadow in the air, and lets them stand. I
have been into the lumber-yard, and the carpenter's shop, and the tannery,
and the lampblack-factory, and the turpentine clearing; but when at length
I saw the tops of the pines waving and reflecting the light at a distance
high over all the rest of the forest, I realized that the former were not
the highest use of the pine. It is not their bones or hide or tallow that
I love most. It is the living spirit of the tree, not its spirit of
turpentine, with which I sympathize, and which heals my cuts.
Ere long, the hunters returned, not having seen a moose, but, in
consequence of my suggestions, bringing a quarter of the dead one, which,
with ourselves, made quite a load for the canoe.
After breakfasting on moose-meat, we returned down Pine Stream on our way
to Chesuncook Lake, which was about five miles distant. We could see the
red carcass of the moose lying in Pine Stream when nearly half a mile off.
Just below the mouth of this stream were the most considerable rapids
between the two lakes, called Pine-Stream Falls, where were large flat
rocks washed smooth, and at this time you could easily wade across above
them. Joe ran down alone while we walked over the portage, my companion
collecting spruce gum for his friends at home, and I looking for flowers.
Near the lake, which we were approaching with as much expectation as if it
had been a university,--for it is not often that the stream of our life
opens into such expansions,--were islands, and a low and meadowy shore
with scattered trees, birches, white and yellow, slanted over the water,
and maples,--many of the white birches killed, apparently by inundations.
There was considerable native grass; and even a few cattle--whose
movements we heard, though we did not see them, mistaking them at first
for moose--were pastured there.
On entering the lake, where the stream runs southeasterly, and for some
time before, we had a view of the mountains about Katadn,
(_Katahdinauquoh_ one says they are called,) like a cluster of blue fungi
of rank growth, apparently twenty-five or thirty miles distant, in a
southeast direction, their summits concealed by clouds. Joe called some of
them the _Souadneunk_ mountains. This is the name of a stream there, which
another Indian told us meant "Running between mountains." Though some
lower summits were afterward uncovered, we got no more complete view of
Katadn while we were in the woods. The clearing to which we were bound was
on the right of the mouth of the river, and was reached by going round a
low point, where the water was shallow to a great distance from the shore.
Chesuncook Lake extends northwest and southeast, and is called eighteen
miles long and three wide, without an island. We had entered the northwest
corner of it, and when near the shore could see only part way down it. The
principal mountains visible from the land here were those already
mentioned, between southeast and east, and a few summits a little west of
north, but generally the north and northwest horizon about the St. John
and the British boundary was comparatively level.
Ansell Smith's, the oldest and principal clearing about this lake,
appeared to be quite a harbor for _bateaux_ and canoes; seven or eight of
the former were lying about, and there was a small scow for hay, and a
capstan on a platform, now high and dry, ready to be floated and anchored
to tow rafts with. It was a very primitive kind of harbor, where boats
were drawn up amid the stumps,--such a one, methought, as the Argo might
have been launched in. There were five other huts with small clearings on
the opposite side of the lake, all at this end and visible from this
point. One of the Smiths told me that it was so far cleared that they came
here to live and built the present house four years before, though the
family had been here but a few months.
I was interested to see how a pioneer lived on this side of the country.
His life is in some respects more adventurous than that of his brother in
the West; for he contends with winter as well as the wilderness, and there
is a greater interval of time at least between him and the army which is
to follow. Here immigration is a tide which may ebb when it has swept away
the pines; there it is not a tide, but an inundation, and roads and other
improvements come steadily rushing after.
As we approached the log-house, a dozen rods from the lake, and
considerably elevated above it, the projecting ends of the logs lapping
over each other irregularly several feet at the corners gave it a very
rich and picturesque look, far removed from the meanness of weather-
boards. It was a very spacious, low building, about eighty feet long, with
many large apartments. The walls were well clayed between the logs, which
were large and round, except on the upper and under sides, and as visible
inside as out, successive bulging cheeks gradually lessening upwards and
tuned to each other with the axe, like Pandean pipes. Probably the musical
forest-gods had not yet cast them aside; they never do till they are split
or the bark is gone. It was a style of architecture not described by
Vitruvius, I suspect, though possibly hinted at in the biography of
Orpheus; none of your frilled or fluted columns, which have cut such a
false swell, and support nothing but a gable end and their builder's
pretensions,--that is, with the multitude; and as for "ornamentation," one
of those words with a dead tail which architects very properly use to
describe their flourishes, there were the lichens and mosses and fringes
of bark, which nobody troubled himself about. We certainly leave the
handsomest paint and clapboards behind in the woods, when we strip off the
bark and poison ourselves with white-lead in the towns. We get but half
the spoils of the forest. For beauty, give me trees with the fur on. This
house was designed and constructed with the freedom of stroke of a
forester's axe, without other compass and square than Nature uses.
Wherever the logs were cut off by a window or door, that is, were not kept
in place by alternate overlapping, they were held one upon another by very
large pins driven in diagonally on each side, where branches might have
been, and then cut off so close up and down as not to project beyond the
bulge of the log, as if the logs clasped each other in their arms. These
logs were posts, studs, boards, clapboards, laths, plaster, and nails, all
in one. Where the citizen uses a mere sliver or board, the pioneer uses
the whole trunk of a tree. The house had large stone chimneys, and was
roofed with spruce-bark. The windows were imported, all but the casings.
One end was a regular logger's camp, for the boarders, with the usual fir
floor and log benches. Thus this house was but a slight departure from the
hollow tree, which the bear still inhabits,--being a hollow made with
trees piled up, with a coating of bark like its original.
The cellar was a separate building, like an ice-house, and it answered for
a refrigerator at this season, our moose-meat being kept there. It was a
potato-hole with a permanent roof. Each structure and institution here was
so primitive that you could at once refer it to its source; but our
buildings commonly suggest neither their origin nor their purpose. There
was a large, and what farmers would call handsome, barn, part of whose
boards had been sawed by a whip-saw; and the saw-pit, with its great pile
of dust, remained before the house. The long split shingles on a portion
of the barn were laid a foot to the weather, suggesting what kind of
weather they have there. Grant's barn at Caribou Lake was said to be still
larger, the biggest ox-nest in the woods, fifty feet by a hundred. Think
of a monster barn in that primitive forest lifting its gray back above the
tree-tops! Man makes very much such a nest for his domestic animals, of
withered grass and fodder, as the squirrels and many other wild creatures
do for themselves.
There was also a blacksmith's shop, where plainly a good deal of work was
done. The oxen and horses used in lumbering operations were shod, and all
the iron-work of sleds, etc., was repaired or made here. I saw them load a
_bateau_ at the Moosehead carry, the next Tuesday, with about thirteen
hundred weight of bar iron for this shop. This reminded me how primitive
and honorable a trade was Vulcan's. I do not hear that there was any
carpenter or tailor among the gods. The smith seems to have preceded these
and every other mechanic at Chesuncook as well as on Olympus, and his
family is the most widely dispersed, whether he be christened John or
Smith owned two miles down the lake by half a mile in width. There were
about one hundred acres cleared here. He cut seventy tons of English hay
this year on this ground, and twenty more on another clearing, and he uses
it all himself in lumbering operations. The barn was crowded with pressed
hay and a machine to press it. There was a large garden full of roots,
turnips, beets, carrots, potatoes, etc., all of great size. They said that
they were worth as much here as in New York. I suggested some currants for
sauce, especially as they had no apple-trees set out, and showed how
easily they could be obtained.
There was the usual long-handled axe of the primitive woods by the door,
three and a half feet long,--for my new black-ash rule was in constant
use,--and a large, shaggy dog, whose nose, report said, was full of
porcupine quills. I can testify that he looked very sober. This is the
usual fortune of pioneer dogs, for they have to face the brunt of the
battle for their race, and act the part of Arnold Winkelried without
intending it. If he should invite one of his town friends up this way,
suggesting moose-meat and unlimited freedom, the latter might pertinently
inquire, "What is that sticking in your nose?" When a generation or two
have used up all the enemies' darts, their successors lead a comparatively
easy life. We owe to our fathers analogous blessings. Many old people
receive pensions for no other reason, It seems to me, but as a
compensation for having lived a long time ago. No doubt, our town dogs
still talk, in a snuffling way, about the days that tried dogs' noses. How
they got a cat up there I do not know, for they are as shy as my aunt
about entering a canoe. I wondered that she did not run up a tree on the
way; but perhaps she was bewildered by the very crowd of opportunities.
Twenty or thirty lumberers, Yankee and Canadian, were coming and going,--
Aleck among the rest,--and from time to time an Indian touched here. In
the winter there are sometimes a hundred men lodged here at once. The most
interesting piece of news that circulated among them appeared to be, that
four horses belonging to Smith, worth seven hundred dollars, had passed by
further into the woods a week before.
The white-pine-tree was at the bottom or further end of all this. It is a
war against the pines, the only real Aroostook or Penobscot war. I have no
doubt that they lived pretty much the same sort of life in the Homeric
age, for men have always thought more of eating than of fighting; then, as
now, their minds ran chiefly on the "hot bread and sweet cakes"; and the
fur and lumber trade is an old story to Asia and Europe. I doubt if men
ever made a trade of heroism. In the days of Achilles, even, they
delighted in big barns, and perchance in pressed hay, and he who possessed
the most valuable team was the best fellow.
We had designed to go on at evening up the Caucomgomoc, whose mouth was a
mile or two distant, to the lake of the same name, about ten miles off;
but some Indians of Joe's acquaintance, who were making canoes on the
Caucomgomoc, came over from that side, and gave so poor an account of the
moose-hunting, so many had been killed there lately, that my companions
concluded not to go there. Joe spent this Sunday and the night with his
acquaintances. The lumberers told me that there were many moose
hereabouts, but no caribou or deer. A man from Oldtown had killed ten or
twelve moose, within a year, so near the house that they heard all his
guns. His name may have been Hercules, for aught I know, though I should
rather have expected to hear the rattling of his club; but, no doubt, he
keeps pace with the improvements of the age, and uses a Sharpe's rifle
now; probably he gets all his armor made and repaired at Smith's shop. One
moose had been killed and another shot at within sight of the house within
two years. I do not know whether Smith has yet got a poet to look after
the cattle, which, on account of the early breaking up of the ice, are
compelled to summer in the woods, but I would suggest this office to such
of my acquaintances as love to write verses and go a-gunning.
After a dinner, at which apple-sauce was the greatest luxury to me, but
our moose-meat was oftenest called for by the lumberers, I walked across
the clearing into the forest, southward, returning along the shore. For my
dessert, I helped myself to a large slice of the Chesuncook woods, and
took a hearty draught of its waters with all my senses. The woods were as
fresh and full of vegetable life as a lichen in wet weather, and contained
many interesting plants; but unless they are of white pine, they are
treated with as little respect here as a mildew, and in the other case
they are only the more quickly cut down. The shore was of coarse, fiat,
slate rocks, often in slabs, with the surf beating on it. The rocks and
bleached drift-logs, extending some way into the shaggy woods, showed a
rise and fall of six or eight feet, caused partly by the dam at the
outlet. They said that in winter the snow was three feet deep on a level
here, and sometimes four or five,--that the ice on the lake was two feet
thick, clear, and four feet, including the snow-ice. Ice had already
formed in vessels.
We lodged here this Sunday night in a comfortable bed-room, apparently the
best one; and all that I noticed unusual in the night--for I still kept
taking notes, like a spy in the camp--was the creaking of the thin split
boards, when any of our neighbors stirred.
Such were the first rude beginnings of a town. They spoke of the
practicability of a winter-road to the Moosehead carry, which would not
cost much, and would connect them with steam and staging and all the busy
world. I almost doubted if the lake would be there,--the self-same lake,--
preserve its form and identity, when the shores should be cleared and
settled; as if these lakes and streams which explorers report never
awaited the advent of the citizen.
The sight of one of these frontier-houses, built of these great logs,
whose inhabitants have unflinchingly maintained their ground many summers
and winters in the wilderness, reminds me of famous forts, like
Ticonderoga, or Crown Point, which have sustained memorable sieges. They
are especially winter-quarters, and at this season this one had a
partially deserted look, as if the siege were raised a little, the snow-
banks being melted from before it, and its garrison accordingly reduced. I
think of their daily food as rations,--it is called "supplies"; a Bible
and a great coat are munitions of war, and a single man seen about the
premises is a sentinel on duty. You expect that he will require the
countersign, and will perchance take you for Ethan Allen, come to demand
the surrender of his fort in the name of the Continental Congress. It is a
sort of ranger service. Arnold's expedition is a daily experience with
these settlers. They can prove that they were out at almost any time; and
I think that all the first generation of them deserve a pension more than
any that went to the Mexican war.
[To be continued.]
THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST-TABLE.
EVERY MAN HIS OWN BOSWELL.
_Aqui esta encerrada el alma del licenciado
If I should ever make a little book out of these papers, which I hope you
are not getting tired of, I suppose I ought to save the above sentence for
a motto on the title-page. But I want it now, and must use it. I need not
say to you that the words are Spanish, nor that they are to be found in
the short Introduction to "Gil Blas," nor that they mean, "Here lies
buried the soul of the licentiate Pedro Garcias."
I warned all young people off the premises when I began my notes referring
to old age. I must be equally fair with old people now. They are earnestly
requested to leave this paper to young persons from the age of twelve to
that of four-score years and ten, at which latter period of life I am sure
that I shall have at least one youthful reader. You know well enough what
I mean by youth and age;--something in the soul, which has no more to do
with the color of the hair than the vein of gold in a rock has to do with
the grass a thousand feet above it.
I am growing bolder as I write. I think it requires not only youth, but
genius, to read this paper. I don't mean to imply that it required any
whatsoever to talk what I have here written down. It did demand a certain
amount of memory, and such command of the English tongue as is given by a
common school education. So much I do claim. But here I have related, at
length, a string of trivialities. You must have the imagination of a poet
to transfigure them. These little colored patches are stains upon the
windows of a human soul; stand on the outside, they are but dull and
meaningless spots of color; seen from within, they are glorified shapes
with empurpled wings and sunbright aureoles.
My hand trembles when I offer you this. Many times I have come bearing
flowers such as my garden grew; but now I offer you this poor, brown,
homely growth, you may cast it away as worthless. And yet--and yet--it is
something better than flowers; it is a _seed-capsule_. Many a gardener
will cut you a bouquet of his choicest blossoms for small fee, but he does
not love to let the seeds of his rarest varieties go out of his own hands.
It is by little things that we know ourselves; a soul would very probably
mistake itself for another, when once disembodied, were it not for
individual experiences that differed from those of others only in details
seemingly trifling. All of us have been thirsty thousands of times, and
felt, with Pindar, that water was the best of things. I alone, as I think,
of all mankind, remember one particular pailful of water, flavored with
the white-pine of which the pail was made, and the brown mug out of which
one Edmund, a red-faced and curly-haired boy, was averred to have bitten a
fragment in his haste to drink; it being then high summer, and little
full-blooded boys feeling very warm and porous in the low-"studded"
school-room where Dame Prentiss, dead and gone, ruled over young children,
many of whom are old ghosts now, and have known Abraham for twenty or
thirty years of our mortal time.
Thirst belongs to humanity, everywhere, in all ages; but that white-pine
pail and that brown mug belong to me in particular; and just so of my
special relationships with other things and with my race. One could never
remember himself in eternity by the mere fact of having loved or hated any
more than by that of having thirsted; love and hate have no more
individuality in them than single waves in the ocean;--but the accidents
or trivial marks which distinguished those whom we loved or hated make
their memory our own forever, and with it that of our own personality
Therefore, my aged friend of five-and-twenty, or thereabouts, pause at the
threshold of this particular record, and ask yourself seriously whether
you are fit to read such revelations as are to follow. For observe, you
have here no splendid array of petals such as poets offer you,--nothing
but a dry shell, containing, if you will get out what is in it, a few
small seeds of poems. You may laugh at them, if you like. I shall never
tell you what I think of you for so doing. But if you can read into the
heart of these things, in the light of other memories as slight, yet as
dear to your soul, then you are neither more nor less than a POET, and can
afford to write no more verses during the rest of your natural life,--
which abstinence I take to be one of the surest marks of your meriting the
divine name I have just bestowed upon you.
[May I beg of you who have begun this paper, nobly trusting to your own
imagination and sensibilities to give it the significance which it does
not lay claim to without your kind assistance,--may I beg of you, I say,
to pay particular attention to the _brackets_ which enclose certain
paragraphs? I want my "asides," you see, to whisper loud to you who read
my notes, and sometimes I talk a page or two to you without pretending
that I said a word of it to our boarders. You will find a very long
"aside" to you almost as soon as you begin to read. And so, dear young
friend, fall to at once, taking such things as I have provided for you;
and if you turn them, by the aid of your powerful imagination, into a fair
banquet, why, then, peace be with you, and a summer by the still waters of
some quiet river, or by some yellow beach, where, as my friend, the
Professor, says, you can sit with Nature's wrist in your hand and count
I should like to make a few intimate revelations relating especially to my
early life, if I thought you would like to hear them.
[The schoolmistress turned a little in
her chair, and sat with her face directed partly towards me.--Half-
mourning now;--purple ribbon. That breastpin she wears has _gray_ hair in
it; her mother's, no doubt;--I remember our landlady's daughter telling
me, soon after the school-mistress came to board with us, that she had
lately "buried a payrent." That's what made her look so pale,--kept the
poor sick thing alive with her own blood. Ah! long illness is the real
vampyrism; think of living a year or two after one is dead, by sucking the
life-blood out of a frail young creature at one's bedside!--Well, souls
grow white, as well as cheeks, in these holy duties; one that goes in a
nurse may come out an angel.--God bless all good women!--to their soft
hands and pitying hearts we must all come at last!----The schoolmistress
has a better color than when she came.---- ---- Too late!----"It might
----How many thoughts go to a dozen heart-beats, sometimes! There was no
long pause after my remark addressed to the company, but in that time I
had the train of ideas and feelings I have just given flash through my
consciousness sudden and sharp as the crooked red streak that springs out
of its black sheath like the creese of a Malay in his death-rage, and
stabs the earth right and left in its blind rage.
I don't deny that there was a pang in it,--yes, a stab; but there was a
prayer, too,--the "Amen" belonged to that.--Also, a vision of a four-story
brick house, nicely furnished,--I actually saw many specific articles,--
curtains, sofas, tables, and others, and could draw the patterns of them
at this moment,--a brick house, I say, looking out on the water, with a
fair parlor, and books and busts and pots of flowers and bird-cages, all
complete; and at the window, looking on the water, two of us.--"Male and
female created He them."--These two were standing at the window, when a
little boy that was playing near them looked up at me with such a look
that I---- ----poured out a glass of water, drank it all down, and then
I said I should like to tell you some things, such as people commonly
never tell, about my early recollections. Should you like to hear them?
Should we _like_ to hear them?--said the schoolmistress;--no, but we
should _love_ to.
[The voice was a sweet one, naturally, and had something very pleasant in
its tone, just then.--The four-story brick house, which had gone out like
a transparency when the light behind it is quenched, glimmered again for a
moment; parlor, books, busts, flower-pots, bird-cages, all complete,--and
the figures as before.]
We are waiting with eagerness, Sir,--said the divinity-student.
[The transparency went out as if a flash of black lightning had struck
If you want to hear my confessions, the next thing--I said--is to know
whether I can trust you with them. It is only fair to say that there are a
great many people in the world that laugh at such things. _I_ think they
are fools, but perhaps you don't all agree with me.
Here are children of tender age talked to as if they were capable of
understanding Calvin's "Institutes," and nobody has honesty or sense
enough to tell the plain truth about the little wretches: that they are as
superstitious as naked savages, and such miserable spiritual cowards--that
is, if they have any imagination--that they will believe anything which is
taught them, and a great deal more which they teach themselves.
I was born and bred, as I have told you twenty times, among books and
those who knew what was in books. I was carefully instructed in things
temporal and spiritual. But up to a considerable maturity of childhood I
believed Raphael and Michel Angelo to have been super-human beings. The
central doctrine of the prevalent religious faith of Christendom was
utterly confused and neutralized in my mind for years by one of those too
common stories of actual life, which I overheard repeated in a whisper.--
Why did I not ask? you will say.--You don't remember the rosy pudency of
sensitive children. The first instinctive movement of the little creatures
is to make a _cache_, and bury in it beliefs, doubts, dreams, hopes, and
terrors. I am uncovering one of these _caches_. Do you think I was
necessarily a greater fool and coward than another?
I was afraid of ships. Why, I could never tell. The masts looked
frightfully tall,--but they were not so tall as the steeple of our old
yellow meeting-house. At any rate, I used to hide my eyes from the sloops
and schooners that were wont to lie at the end of the bridge, and I
confess that traces of this undefined terror lasted very long.--One other
source of alarm had a still more fearful significance. There was a great
wooden HAND,--a glove-maker's sign, which used to swing and creak in the
blast, as it hung from a pillar before a certain shop a mile or two
outside of the city. Oh, the dreadful hand! Always hanging there ready to
catch up a little boy, who would come home to supper no more, nor yet to
bed,--whose porringer would be laid away empty thenceforth, and his half-
worn shoes wait until his small brother grew to fit them.
As for all manner of superstitious observances, I used once to think I
must have been peculiar in having such a list of them, but I now believe
that half the children of the same age go through the same experiences. No
Roman soothsayer ever had such a catalogue of _omens_ as I found in the
Sibylline leaves of my childhood. That trick of throwing a stone at a tree
and attaching some mighty issue to hitting or missing, which you will find
mentioned in one or more biographies, I well remember. Stepping on or over
certain particular things or spots--Dr. Johnson's especial weakness--I got
the habit of at a very early age.--I won't swear that I have not some
tendency to these not wise practices even at this present date. [How many
of you that read these notes can say the same thing!]
With these follies mingled sweet delusions, which I loved so well I would
not outgrow them, even when it required a voluntary effort to put a
momentary trust in them. Here is one which I cannot help telling you.
The firing of the great guns at the Navy-yard is easily heard at the place
where I was born and lived. "There is a ship of war come in," they used to
say, when they heard them. Of course, I supposed that such vessels came in
unexpectedly, after indefinite years of absence,--suddenly as falling
stones; and that the great guns roared in their astonishment and delight
at the sight of the old warship splitting the bay with her cutwater. Now,
the sloop-of-war the Wasp, Captain Blakely, after gloriously capturing the
Reindeer and the Avon, had disappeared from the face of the ocean, and was
supposed to be lost. But there was no proof of it, and, of course, for a
time, hopes were entertained that she might be heard from. Long after the
last real chance had utterly vanished, I pleased myself with the fond
illusion that somewhere on the waste of waters she was still floating, and
there were _years_ during which I never heard the sound of the great guns
booming inland from the Navy-yard without saying to myself, "The Wasp has
come!" and almost thinking I could see her, as she rolled in, crumpling
the water before her, weather-beaten, barnacled, with shattered spars and
threadbare canvas, welcomed by the shouts and tears of thousands. This was
one of those dreams that I nursed and never told. Let me make a clean
breast of it now, and say, that, so late as to have outgrown childhood,
perhaps to have got far on towards manhood, when the roar of the cannon
has struck suddenly on my ear, I have started with a thrill of vague
expectation and tremulous delight, and the long-unspoken words have
articulated themselves in the mind's dumb whisper, _The Wasp has come!_
----Yes, children believe plenty of queer things. I suppose all of you
have had the pocket-book fever when you were little?--What do I mean? Why,
ripping up old pocket-books in the firm belief that bank-bills to an
immense amount were hidden in them.--So, too, you must all remember some
splendid unfulfilled promise of somebody or other, which fed you with
hopes perhaps for years, and which left a blank in your life which nothing
has ever filled up.--O.T. quitted our household carrying with him the
passionate regrets of the more youthful members. He was an ingenious
youngster; wrote wonderful copies, and carved the two initials given above
with great skill on all available surfaces. I thought, by the way, they
were all gone; but the other day I found them on a certain door which I
will show you some time. How it surprised me to find them so near the
ground! I had thought the boy of no trivial dimensions. Well, O.T. when he
went, made a solemn promise to two of us. I was to have a ship, and the
other a mar_tin_-house (last syllable pronounced as in the word _tin_).
Neither ever came; but, oh, how many and many a time I have stolen to the
corner,--the cars pass close by it at this time,--and looked up that long
avenue, thinking that he must be coming now, almost sure, as I turned to
look northward, that there he would be, trudging toward me, the ship in
one hand and the mar_tin_-house in the other!
[You must not suppose that all I am going to say, as well as all I have
said, was told to the whole company. The young fellow whom they call John
was in the yard, sitting on a barrel and smoking a cheroot, the fumes of
which came in, not ungrateful, through the open window. The divinity-
student disappeared in the midst of our talk. The poor relation in black
bombazine, who looked and moved as if all her articulations were elbow-
joints, had gone off to her chamber, after waiting with a look of soul-
subduing decorum at the foot of the stairs until one of the male sort had
passed her and ascended into the upper regions. This is a famous point of
etiquette in our boarding-house; in fact, between ourselves, they make
such an awful fuss about it, that I, for one, had a great deal rather have
them simple enough not to think of such matters at all. Our land-lady's
daughter said, the other evening, that she was going to "retire"; where-
upon the young fellow called John took up a lamp and insisted on lighting
her to the foot of the staircase. Nothing would induce her to pass by him,
until the schoolmistress, saying in good plain English that it was her
bed-time, walked straight by them both, not seeming to trouble herself
about either of them.
I have been led away from what I meant the portion included in these
brackets to inform my readers about I say, then, most of the boarders had
left the table about the time when I began telling some of these secrets
of mine, all of them, in fact, but the old gentleman opposite and the
schoolmistress. I understand why a young woman should like to hear these
homely but genuine experiences of early life, which are, as I have said,
the little brown seeds of what may yet grow to be poems with leaves of
azure and gold; but when the old gentleman pushed up his chair nearer to
me, and slanted round his best ear, and once, when I was speaking of some
trifling, tender reminiscence, drew a long breath, with such a tremor in
it that a little more and it would have been a sob, why, then I felt there
must be something of nature in them which redeemed their seeming
insignificance. Tell me, man or woman with whom I am whispering, have you
not a small store of recollections, such as these I am uncovering, buried
beneath the dead leaves of many summers, perhaps under the unmelting snows
of fast-returning winters,--a few such recollections, which, if you
should write them all out, would be swept into some careless editor's
drawer, and might cost a scanty half-hour's lazy reading to his
subscribers,--and yet, if Death should cheat you of them, you would not
know yourself in eternity?]
----I made three acquaintances at a
very early period of life, my introduction to whom was never forgotten.
The first unequivocal act of wrong that has left its trace in my memory
was this: it was refusing a small favor asked of me,--nothing more than
telling what had happened at school one morning. No matter who asked it;
but there were circumstances which saddened and awed me. I had no heart to
speak;--I faltered some miserable, perhaps petulant excuse, stole away,
and the first battle of life was lost. What remorse followed I need not
tell. Then and there; to the best of my knowledge, I first consciously
took Sin by the hand and turned my back on Duty. Time has led me to look
upon my offence more leniently; I do not believe it or any other childish
wrong is infinite, as some have pretended, but infinitely finite. Yet, oh
if I had but won that battle!
The great Destroyer, whose awful shadow it was that had silenced me, came
near me,--but never, so as to be distinctly seen and remembered, during my
tender years. There flits dimly before me the image of a little girl,
whose name even I have forgotten, a schoolmate, whom we missed one day,
and were told that she had died. But what death was I never had any very
distinct idea, until one day I climbed the low stone wall of the old
burial-ground and mingled with a group that were looking into a very deep,
long, narrow hole, dug down through the green sod, down through the brown
loam, down through the yellow gravel, and there at the bottom was an
oblong red box, and a still, sharp, white face of a young man seen through
an opening at one end of it, When the lid was closed, and the gravel and
stones rattled down pell-mell, and the woman in black, who was crying and
wringing her hands, went off with the other mourners, and left him, then I
felt that I had seen Death, and should never forget him.
One other acquaintance I made at an earlier period of life than the habit
of romancers authorizes.--Love, of course.--She was a famous beauty
afterwards.--I am satisfied that many children rehearse their parts in the
drama of life before they have shed all their milk-teeth.--I think I won't
tell the story of the golden blonde.--I suppose everybody has had his
childish fancies; but sometimes they are passionate impulses, which
anticipate all the tremulous emotions belonging to a later period. Most
children remember seeing and adoring an angel before they were a dozen
[The old gentleman had left his chair opposite and taken a seat by the
schoolmistress and myself, a little way from the table.--It's true, it's
true,--said the old gentleman.--He took hold of a steel watch-chain, which
carried a large, square gold key at one end and was supposed to have some
kind of timekeeper at the other. With some trouble he dragged up an
ancient-looking, thick, silver, bull's-eye watch. He looked at it for a
moment,--hesitated,--touched the inner corner of his right eye with the
pulp of his middle finger,--looked at the face of the watch,--said it was
getting into the forenoon,--then opened the watch and handed me the loose
outside case without a word.--The watch-paper had been pink once, and had
a faint tinge still, as if all its tender life had not yet quite faded
out. Two little birds, a flower, and, in small school-girl letters, a
date,--17...--no matter.--Before I was thirteen years old,--said the old
gentleman.--I don't know what was in that young schoolmistress's head, nor
why she should have done it; but she took out the watch-paper and put it
softly to her lips, as if she were kissing the poor thing that made it so
long ago. The old gentleman took the watch-paper carefully from her,
replaced it, turned away and walked out, holding the watch in his hand. I
saw him pass the window a moment after with that foolish white hat on his
head; he couldn't have been thinking what he was about when he put it on.
So the schoolmistress and I were left alone. I drew my chair a shade
nearer to her, and continued.]
And since I am talking of early recollections, I don't know why I
shouldn't mention some others that still cling to me,--not that you will
attach any very particular meaning to these same images so full of
significance to me, but that you will find something parallel to them in
your own memory. You remember, perhaps, what I said one day about smells.
There were certain _sounds_ also which had a mysterious suggestiveness to
me,--not so intense, perhaps, as that connected with the other sense, but
yet peculiar, and never to be forgotten.
The first was the creaking of the wood-sleds, bringing their loads of oak
and walnut from the country, as the slow-swinging oxen trailed them along
over the complaining snow, in the cold, brown light of early morning.
Lying in bed and listening to their dreary music had a pleasure in it akin
to that which Lucretius describes in witnessing a ship toiling through the
waves while we sit at ease on shore, or that which Byron speaks of as to
be enjoyed in looking on at a battle by one "who hath no friend, no
There was another sound, in itself so sweet, and so connected with one of
those simple and curious superstitions of childhood of which I have
spoken, that I can never cease to cherish a sad sort of love for it.--Let
me tell the superstitious fancy first The Puritan "Sabbath," as everybody
knows, began at "sundown" on Saturday evening. To such observance of it I
was born and bred. As the large, round disk of day declined, a stillness,
a solemnity, a somewhat melancholy hush came over us all. It was time for
work to cease, and for playthings to be put away. The world of active life
passed into the shadow of an eclipse, not to emerge until the sun should
sink again beneath the horizon.
It was in this stillness of the world without and of the soul within that
the pulsating lullaby of the evening crickets used to make itself most
distinctly heard,--so that I well remember I used to think that the
purring of these little creatures, which mingled with the batrachian hymns
from the neighboring swamp, was peculiar to Saturday evenings. I don't
know that anything could give a clearer idea of the quieting and subduing
effect of the old habit of observance of what was considered holy time,
than this strange, childish fancy.
Yes, and there was still another sound which mingled its solemn cadences
with the waking and sleeping dreams of my boyhood. It was heard only at
times,--a deep, muffled roar, which rose and fell, not loud, but vast,--a
whistling boy would have drowned it for his next neighbor, but it must
have been heard over the space of a hundred square miles. I used to wonder
what this might be. Could it be the roar of the thousand wheels and the
ten thousand footsteps jarring and tramping along the stones of the
neighboring city? That would be continuous; but this, as I have said, rose
and fell in regular rhythm. I remember being told, and I suppose this to
have been the true solution, that it was the sound of the waves, after a
high wind, breaking on the long beaches many miles distant. I should
really like to know whether any observing people living ten miles, more or
less, inland from long beaches,--in such a town, for instance, as
Cantabridge, in the eastern part of the Territory of the Massachusetts,--
have ever observed any such sound, and whether it was rightly accounted
for as above.
Mingling with these inarticulate sounds in the low murmur of memory, are
the echoes of certain voices I have heard at rare intervals. I grieve to
say it, but our people, I think, have not generally agreeable voices. The
marrowy organisms, with skins that shed water like the backs of ducks,
with smooth surfaces neatly padded beneath, and velvet linings to their
singing-pipes, are not so common among us as that other pattern of
humanity with angular outlines and plane surfaces, arid integuments, hair
like the fibrous covering of a cocoa-nut in gloss and suppleness as well
as color, and voices at once thin and strenuous,--acidulous enough to
produce effervescence with alkalis, and stridulous enough to sing duets
with the katydids. I think our conversational soprano, as sometimes
overheard in the cars, arising from a group of young persons, who may have
taken the train at one of our great industrial centres, for instance,--
young persons of the female sex, we will say, who have bustled in full-
dressed, engaged in loud strident speech, and who, after free discussion,
have fixed on two or more double seats, which having secured, they proceed
to eat apples and hand round daguerreotypes,--I say, I think the
conversational soprano, heard under these circumstances, would not be
among the allurements the old Enemy would put in requisition, were he
getting up a new temptation of St. Anthony.
There are sweet voices among us, we all know, and voices not musical, it
may be, to those who hear them for the first time, yet sweeter to us than
any we shall hear until we listen to some warbling angel in the overture
to that eternity of blissful harmonies we hope to enjoy.--But why should I
tell lies? If my friends love me, it is because I try to tell the truth. I
never heard but two voices in my life that frightened me by their
----Frightened you?-said the school-mistress.--Yes, frightened me. They
made me feel as if there might be constituted a creature with such a chord
in her voice to some string in another's soul, that, if she but spoke, he
would leave all and follow her, though it were into the jaws of Erebus.
Our only chance to keep our wits is, that there are so few natural chords
between others' voices and this string in our souls, and that those which
at first may have jarred a little by and by come into harmony with it.--
But I tell you this is no fiction. You may call the story of Ulysses and
the Sirens a fable, but what will you say to Mario and the poor lady who
----Whose were those two voices that bewitched me so?--They both belonged
to German women. One was a chambermaid, not otherwise fascinating. The key
of my room at a certain great hotel was missing, and this Teutonic maiden
was summoned to give information respecting it. The simple soul was
evidently not long from her mother-land, and spoke with sweet uncertainty
of dialect. But to hear her wonder and lament and suggest, with soft,
liquid inflexions, and low, sad murmurs, in tones as full of serious
tenderness for the fate of the lost key as if it had been a child
that had strayed from its mother, was so winning, that, had her features
and figure been as delicious as her accents,--if she had looked like the
marble Clytie, for instance,--why, all I can say is----
[The schoolmistress opened her eyes so wide, that I stopped short.]
I was only going to say that I should have drowned myself. For Lake Erie
was close by, and it is so much better to accept asphyxia, which takes
only three minutes by the watch, than a _mesalliance_, that lasts fifty
years to begin with, and then passes along down the line of descent,
(breaking out in all manner of boorish manifestations of feature and
manner, which, if men were only as short-lived as horses, could be readily
traced back through the square-roots and the cube-roots of the family
stem, on which you have hung the armorial bearings of the De Champignons
or the De la Morues, until one came to beings that ate with knives and
said "Haow?") that no person of right feeling could have hesitated for a
The second of the ravishing voices I have heard was, as I have said, that
of another German woman.--I suppose I shall ruin myself by saying that
such a voice could not have come from any Americanized human being.
----What was there in it?--said the schoolmistress,--and, upon my word,
her tones were so very musical, that I almost wished I had said three
voices instead of two, and not made the unpatriotic remark above
reported.--Oh, I said, it had so much _woman_ in it,--_muliebrity_, as
well as _femineity_;--no self-assertion, such as free suffrage introduces
into every word and movement; large, vigorous nature, running back to
those huge-limbed Germans of Tacitus, but subdued by the reverential
training and tuned by the kindly culture of fifty generations. Sharp
business habits, a lean soil, independence, enterprise, and east winds,
are not the best things for the larynx. Still, you hear noble voices among
us,--I have known families famous for them,--but ask the first person you
meet a question, and ten to one there is a hard, sharp, metallic, matter-
of-business clink in the accents of the answer, that produces the effect
of one of those bells which small trades-people connect with their shop-
doors, and which spring upon your ear with such vivacity, as you enter,
that your first impulse is to retire at once from the precincts.
----Ah, but I must not forget that dear little child I saw and heard in a
French hospital. Between two and three years old. Fell out of her chair
and snapped both thigh-bones. Lying in bed, patient, gentle. Rough
students round her, some in white aprons, looking fearfully business-like;
but the child placid, perfectly still. I spoke to her, and the blessed
little creature answered me in a voice of such heavenly sweetness, with
that reedy thrill in it which you have heard in the thrush's even-song,
that I hear it at this moment, while I am writing, so many, many years
afterwards.--_C'est tout comme un serin_, said the French student at my
These are the voices which struck the key-note of my conceptions as to
what the sounds we are to hear in heaven will be, if we shall enter
through one of the twelve gates of pearl. There must be other things
besides aerolites that wander from their own spheres to ours; and when we
speak of celestial sweetness or beauty, we may be nearer the literal truth
than we dream. If mankind generally are the shipwrecked survivors of some
pre-Adamitic cataclysm, set adrift in these little open boats of humanity
to make one more trial to reach the shore,--as some grave theologians have
maintained,--if, in plain English, men are the ghosts of dead devils who
have "died into life," (to borrow an expression from Keats,) and walk the
earth in a suit of living rags that lasts three or four score summers,--
why, there must have been a few good spirits sent to keep them company,
and these sweet voices I speak of must belong to them.
----I wish you could once hear my sister's voice,--said the
If it is like yours, it must be a pleasant one,--said I.
I never thought mine was anything,--said the schoolmistress.
How should you know?--said I.--People never hear their own voices,--any
more than they see their own faces. There is not even a looking-glass for
the voice. Of course, there is something audible to us when we speak; but
that something is not our own voice as it is known to all our
acquaintances. I think, if an image spoke to us in our own tones, we
should not know them in the least.--How pleasant it would be, if in
another state of being we could have shapes like our former selves for
playthings,--we standing outside or inside of them, as we liked, and they
being to us just what we used to be to others!
----I wonder if there will be nothing like what we call "play," after our
earthly toys are broken,--said the schoolmistress.
Hush,--said I,--what will the divinity-student say?
[I thought she was hit, that time;--but the shot must have gone over her,
or on one side of her; she did not flinch.]
Oh,--said the schoolmistress,--he must look out for my sister's heresies;
I am afraid he will be too busy with them to take care of mine.
Do you mean to say,--said I,--that it is _your sister_ whom that
[The young fellow commonly known as John, who had been sitting on the
barrel, smoking, jumped off just then, kicked over the barrel, gave it a
push with his foot that set it rolling, and stuck his saucy-looking face
in at the window so as to cut my question off in the middle; and the
schoolmistress leaving the room a few minutes afterwards, I did not have a
chance to finish it.
The young fellow came in and sat down in a chair, putting his heels on the
top of another.
Pooty girl,--said he.
A fine young lady,--I replied.
Keeps a fust-rate school, according to accounts,--said he,--teaches all
sorts of things,--Latin and Italian and music. Folks rich once,--smashed
up. She went right ahead as smart as if she'd been born to work. That's
the kind o' girl I go for. I'd marry her, only two or three other girls
would drown themselves, if I did.
I think the above is the longest speech of this young fellow's which I
have put on record. I do not like to change his peculiar expressions, for
this is one of those cases in which the style is the man, as M. de Buffon
says. The fact is, the young fellow is a good-hearted creature enough,
only too fond of his jokes,--and if it were not for those heat-lightning
winks on one side of his face, I should not mind his fun much.]
[Some days after this, when the company were together again, I talked a
----I don't think I have a genuine hatred for anybody. I am well aware
that I differ herein from the sturdy English moralist and the stout
American tragedian. I don't deny that I hate _the sight_ of certain
people; but the qualities which make me tend to hate the man himself are
such as I am so much disposed to pity, that, except under immediate
aggravation, I feel kindly enough to the worst of them. It is such a sad
thing to be born a sneaking fellow, so much worse than to inherit a hump-
back or a couple of club-feet, that I sometimes feel as if we ought to
love the crippled souls, if I may use this expression, with a certain
tenderness which we need not waste on noble natures. One who is born with
such congenital incapacity that nothing can make a gentleman of him is
entitled, not to our wrath, but to our profoundest sympathy. But as we
cannot help hating the sight of these people, just as we do that of
physical deformities, we gradually eliminate them from our society,--we
love them, but open the window and let them go. By the time decent people
reach middle age they have weeded their circle pretty well of these
unfortunates, unless they have a taste for such animals; in which case, no
matter what their position may be, there is something, you may be sure, in
their natures akin to that of their wretched parasites.
----The divinity-student wished to know what I thought of affinities, as
well as of antipathies; did I believe in love at first sight?
Sir,--said I,--all men love all women. That is the _prima-facie_ aspect of
the case. The Court of Nature assumes the law to be, that all men do so;
and the individual man is bound to show cause why he does not love any
particular woman. A man, says one of my old black-letter law-books, may
show divers good reasons, as thus; He hath not seen the person named in
the indictment; she is of tender age, or the reverse of that; she hath
certain personal disqualifications,--as, for instance, she is a
blackamoor, or hath an ill-favored countenance; or, his capacity of loving
being limited, his affections are engrossed by a previous comer; and so of
other conditions. Not the less is it true that he is bound by duty and
inclined by nature to love each and every woman. Therefore it is that each
woman virtually summons every man to show cause why he doth not love her.
This is not by written document, or direct speech, for the most part, but
by certain signs of silk, gold, and other materials, which say to all
men,--Look on me and love, as in duty bound. Then the man pleadeth his
special incapacity, whatsoever that may be,--as, for instance,
impecuniosity, or that he hath one or many wives in his household, or that
he is of mean figure, or small capacity; of which reasons it may be noted,
that the first is, according to late decisions, of chiefest authority.--So
far the old law-book. But there is a note from an older authority, saying
that every woman doth also love each and every man, except there be some
good reason to the contrary; and a very observing friend of mine, a young
unmarried clergyman, tells me, that, so far as his experience goes, he has
reason to think the ancient author had fact to justify his statement.
I'll tell you how it is with the pictures of women we fall in love with at
----We a'n't talking about pictures,--said the landlady's daughter,--
we're talking about women.
I understood that we were speaking of love at sight,--I remarked, mildly.
--Now, as all a man knows about a woman whom he looks at is just what a
picture as big as a copper, or a "nickel," rather, at the bottom of his
eye can teach him, I think I am right in saying we are talking about the
pictures of women.--Well, now, the reason why a man is not desperately in
love with ten thousand women at once is just that which prevents all our
portraits being distinctly seen upon that wall. They all _are_ painted
there by reflection from our faces, but because _all_ of them are painted
on each spot, and each on the same surface, and many other objects at the
same time, no one is seen as a picture. But darken a chamber and let a
single pencil of rays in through a key-hole, then you have a picture on
the wall. We never fall in love with a woman in distinction from women,
until we can get an image of her through a pin-hole; and then we can see
nothing else, and nobody but ourselves can see the image in our mental
----My friend, the Poet, tells me he has to leave town whenever the
anniversaries come round.
What's the difficulty?--Why, they all want him to get up and make
speeches, or songs, or toasts; which is just the very thing he doesn't
want to do. He is an old story, he says, and hates to show on these
occasions. But they tease him, and coax him, and can't do without him, and
feel all over his poor weak head until they get their fingers on the
_fontanelle_, (the Professor will tell you what this means,--he says the
one at the top of the head always remains open in poets,) until, by gentle
pressure on that soft pulsating spot, they stupefy him to the point of
There are times, though, he says, when it is a pleasure, before going to
some agreeable meeting, to rush out into one's garden and clutch up a
handful of what grows there,--weeds and violets together,--not cutting
them off, but pulling them up by the roots with the brown earth they grow
in sticking to them. That's his idea of a post-prandial performance. Look
here, now. These verses I am going to read you, he tells me, were pulled
up by the roots just in that way, the other day.--Beautiful entertainment,
--names there on the plates that flow from all English-speaking tongues as
familiarly as _and_ or _the_; entertainers known wherever good poetry and
fair title-pages are held in esteem; guest a kind-hearted, modest, genial,
hopeful poet, who sings to the hearts of his countrymen, the British
people, the songs of good cheer which the better days to come, as all
honest souls trust and believe, will turn into the prose of common life.
My friend, the Poet, says you must not read such a string of verses too
literally. If he trimmed it nicely below, you wouldn't see the roots, he
says, and he likes to keep them, and a little of the soil clinging to
This is the farewell my friend, the Poet, read to his and our friend, the
A GOOD TIME GOING!
Brave singer of the coming time,
Sweet minstrel of the joyous present,
Crowned with the noblest wreath of rhyme,
The holly-leaf of Ayrshire's peasant,
Good-bye! Good-bye!--Our hearts and hands,
Our lips in honest Saxon phrases,
Cry, God be with him, till he stands
His feet among the English daisies!
'Tis here we part;--for other eyes
The busy deck, the fluttering streamer,
The dripping arms that plunge and rise,
The waves in foam, the ship in tremor,
The kerchiefs waving from the pier,
The cloudy pillar gliding o'er him,
The deep blue desert, lone and drear,
With heaven above and home before him!
His home!--the Western giant smiles,
And twirls the spotty globe to find it;--
This little speck the British Isles?
'Tis but a freckle,--never mind it!--
He laughs, and all his prairies roll,
Each gurgling cataract roars and chuckles,
And ridges stretched from pole to pole
Heave till they crack their iron knuckles!
But Memory blushes at the sneer,
And Honor turns with frown defiant,
And Freedom, leaning on her spear,
Laughs louder than the laughing giant:--
"An islet is a world," she said,
"When glory with its dust has blended,
And Britain keeps her noble dead
Till earth and seas and skies are rended!"
Beneath each swinging forest-bough
Some arm as stout in death reposes,--
From wave-washed foot to heaven-kissed brow
Her valor's life-blood runs in roses;
Nay, let our brothers of the West
Write smiling in their florid pages,
One-half her soil has walked the rest
In poets, heroes, martyrs, sages!
Hugged in the clinging billow's clasp,
From sea-weed fringe to mountain heather,
The British oak with rooted grasp
Her slender handful holds together;--
With cliffs of white and bowers of green,
And Ocean narrowing to caress her,
And hills and threaded streams between,--
Our little mother isle, God bless her!
In earth's broad temple where we stand,
Fanned by the eastern gales that brought us,
We hold the missal in our hand,
Bright with the lines our Mother taught us;
Where'er its blazoned page betrays
The glistening links of gilded fetters,
Behold, the half-turned leaf displays
Her rubric stained in crimson letters!
Enough! To speed a parting friend
'Tis vain alike to speak and listen;--
Yet stay,--these feeble accents blend
With rays of light from eyes that glisten.
Good-bye! once more,--and kindly tell
In words of peace the young world's story,--
And say, besides,--we love too well
Our mother's soil, our fathers' glory!
When my friend, the Professor, found that my friend, the Poet, had been
coming out in this full-blown style, he got a little excited, as you may
have seen a canary, sometimes, when another strikes up. The Professor says
he knows he can lecture, and thinks he can write verses. At any rate, he
has often tried, and now he was determined to try again. So when some
professional friends of his called him up, one day, after a feast of
reason and a regular "freshet" of soul which had lasted two or three
hours, he read them these verses. He introduced them with a few remarks,
he told me, of which the only one he remembered was this: that he had
rather write a single line which one among them should think worth
remembering than set them ail laughing with a string of epigrams. It was
all right, I don't doubt; at any rate, that was his fancy then, and
perhaps another time he may be obstinately hilarious; however, it may be
that he is growing graver, for time is a fact so long as clocks and
watches continue to go, and a cat can't be a kitten always, as the old
gentleman opposite said the other day.
You must listen to this seriously, for I think the Professor was very much
in earnest when he wrote it.
THE TWO ARMIES.
As Life's unending column pours,
Two marshalled hosts are seen,--
Two armies on the trampled shores
That Death flows black between.
One marches to the drum-beat's roll,
The wide-mouthed clarion's bray,
And bears upon a crimson scroll,
"Our glory is to slay."
One moves in silence by the stream,
With sad, yet watchful eyes,
Calm as the patient planet's gleam
That walks the clouded skies.
Along its front no sabres shine,
No blood-red pennons wave;
Its banner bears the single line,
"Our duty is to save."
For those no death-bed's lingering shade;
At Honor's trumpet-call,
With knitted brow and lifted blade
In Glory's arms they fall.
For these no clashing falchions bright,
No stirring battle-cry;
The bloodless stabber calls by night,--