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The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 4, No. 24, Oct. 1859 by Various

Part 2 out of 5

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his power,--but why? Because I adored him as something divine, incapable
of dishonor, incapable of selfishness, incapable of even a thought that
was not perfectly noble and heroic. If he had been all that, I should
have been proud to be even a poor little flower that should exhale away
to give him an hour's pleasure; I would have offered my whole life to
God as a sacrifice for such a glorious soul;--and all this time, what
was he thinking of me?

"He was _using_ my feelings to carry his plans; he was admiring me like
a picture; he was considering what he should do with me; and but for
his interests with my husband, he would have tried his power to make me
sacrifice this world and the next to his pleasure. But he does not know
me. My mother was a Montmorenci, and I have the blood of her house in my
veins; we are princesses;--we can give all; but he must be a god that we
give it for."

Mary's enchanted eye followed the beautiful narrator, as she enacted
before her this poetry and tragedy of real life, so much beyond what
dramatic art can ever furnish. Her eyes grew splendid in their depth
and brilliancy; sometimes they were full of tears, and sometimes they
flashed out like lightnings; her whole form seemed to be a plastic
vehicle which translated every emotion of her soul; and Mary sat and
looked at her with the intense absorption that one gives to the highest
and deepest in Art or Nature.

"_Enfin,--que faire_?" she said at last, suddenly stopping, and drooping
in every limb. "Mary, I have lived on this dream so long!--never thought
of anything else!--now all is gone, and what shall I do? I think,
Mary," she added, pointing to the nest in the tree, "I see my life in
many things. My heart was once still and quiet, like the round little
eggs that were in your nest;--now it has broken out of its shell, and
cries with cold and hunger. I want my dream again,--I wish it all
back,--or that my heart could go back into its shell. If I only could
drop this year out of my life, and care for nothing, as I used to! I
have tried to do that; I can't; I cannot get back where I was before."

"_Would_ you do it, dear Virginie?" said Mary; "would you, if you

"It was very noble and sweet, all that," said Virginie; "it gave me
higher thoughts than ever I had before; I think my feelings were
beautiful;--but now they are like little birds that have no mother; they
kill me with their crying."

"Dear Virginie, there is a real Friend in heaven, who is all you can ask
or think,--nobler, better, purer,--who cannot change, and cannot die,
and who loved you and gave Himself for you."

"You mean Jesus," said Virginie. "Ah, I know it; and I say the offices
to him daily, but my heart is very wild and starts away from my words.
I say, 'My God, I give myself to you!'--and after all, I don't give
myself, and I don't feel comforted. Dear Mary, you must have suffered,
too,--for you loved really,--I saw it;--when we feel a thing ourselves,
we can see very quick the same in others;--and it was a dreadful blow
to come so all at once."

"Yes, it was," said Mary; "I thought I must die; but Christ has given me

These words were spoken with that long-breathed sigh with which
we always speak of peace,--a sigh that told of storms and sorrows
past,--the sighing of the wave that falls spent and broken on the shores
of eternal rest.

There was a little pause in the conversation, and then Virginie raised
her head and spoke in a sprightlier lone.

"Well, my little fairy cat, my white doe, I have come to you. Poor
Virginie wants something to hold to her heart; let me have you," she
said, throwing her arms round Mary.

"Dear, dear Virginie, indeed you shall!" said Mary. "I will love you
dearly, and pray for you. I always have prayed for you, ever since the
first day I knew you."

"I knew it,--I felt your prayers in my heart. Mary, I have many thoughts
that I dare not tell to any one, lately,--but I cannot help feeling that
some are real Christians who are not in the True Church. You are as true
a saint as Saint Catharine; indeed, I always think of you when I think
of our dear Lady; and yet they say there is no salvation out of the

This was a new view of the subject to Mary, who had grown up with the
familiar idea that the Romish Church was Babylon and Antichrist, and
who, during the conversation, had been revolving the same surmises with
regard to her friend. She turned her grave, blue eyes on Madame
de Frontignac with a somewhat surprised look, which melted into a
half-smile. But the latter still went on with a puzzled air, as if
trying to talk herself out of some mental perplexity.

"Now, Burr is a heretic,--and more than that, he is an infidel; he has
no religion in his heart,--I saw that often,--it made me tremble for
him,--it ought to have put me on my guard. But you, dear Mary, you love
Jesus as your life. I think you love him just as much as Sister Agatha,
who was a saint. The Abbe says that there is nothing so dangerous as to
begin to use our reason in religion,--that, if we once begin, we never
know where it may carry us; but I can't help using mine a very little. I
must think there are some saints that are not in the True Church."

"All are one who love Christ," said Mary; "we are one in Him."

"I should not dare to tell the Abbe," said Madame de Frontignac; and
Mary queried in her heart, whether Dr. H. would feel satisfied that she
could bring this wanderer to the fold of Christ without undertaking
to batter down the walls of her creed; and yet, there they were, the
Catholic and the Puritan, each strong in her respective faith, yet
melting together in that embrace of love and sorrow, joined in the
great communion of suffering. Mary took up her Testament, and read the
fourteenth chapter of John:--

"Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have
told you. I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go and prepare a
place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where
I am, there ye may be also."

Mary read on through the chapter,--through the next wonderful prayer;
her face grew solemnly transparent, as of an angel; for her soul was
lifted from earth by the words, and walked with Christ far above all
things, over that starry pavement where each footstep is on a world.

The greatest moral effects are like those of music,--not wrought out by
sharp-sided intellectual propositions, but melted in by a divine fusion,
by words that have mysterious, indefinite fulness of meaning, made
living by sweet voices, which seem to be the out-throbbings of angelic
hearts. So one verse in the Bible read by a mother in some hour of
tender prayer has a significance deeper and higher than the most
elaborate of sermons, the most acute of arguments.

Virginie Frontignac sat as one divinely enchanted, while that sweet
voice read on; and when the silence fell between them, she gave a long
sigh, as we do when sweet music stops. They heard between them the soft
stir of summer leaves, the distant songs of birds, the breezy hum when
the afternoon wind shivered through many branches, and the silver sea
chimed in. Virginie rose at last, and kissed Mary on the forehead.

"That is a beautiful book," she said, "and to read it all by one's self
must be lovely. I cannot understand why it should be dangerous; it has
not injured you.

"Sweet saint," she added, "let me stay with you; you shall read to me
every day. Do you know I came here to get you to take me? I want you to
show me how to find peace where you do; will you let me be your sister?"

"Yes, indeed," said Mary, with a cheek brighter than it had been for
many a day; her heart feeling a throb of more real human pleasure than
for long months.

"Will you get your mamma to let me stay?" said Virginie, with the
bashfulness of a child; "haven't you a little place like yours, with
white curtains and sanded floor, to give to poor little Virginie to
learn to be good in?"

"Why, do you really want to stay here with us," said Mary, "in this
little house?"

"Do I really?" said Virginie, mimicking her voice with a start of her
old playfulness;--"_don't_ I really? Come now, _mimi_, coax the good
mamma for me,--tell her I shall try to be very good. I shall help you
with the spinning,--you know I spin beautifully,--and I shall make
butter, and milk the cow, and set the table. Oh, I will be so useful,
you can't spare me!"

"I should love to have you dearly," said Mary, warmly; "but you would
soon be dull for want of society here."

"_Quelle idee! ma petite drole!_" said the lady,--who, with the mobility
of her nation, had already recovered some of the saucy mocking grace
that was habitual to her, as she began teasing Mary with a thousand
little childish motions. "Indeed, _mimi_, you must keep me hid up here,
or may-be the wolf will find me and eat me up; who knows?"

Mary looked at her with inquiring eyes.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, Mary,--I mean, that, when _he_ comes back to Philadelphia, he
thinks he shall find me there; he thought I should stay while my husband
was gone; and when he finds I am gone, he may come to Newport; and I
never want to see him again without you;--you must let me stay with

"Have you told him," said Mary, "what you think?"

"I wrote to him, Mary,--but, oh, I can't trust my heart! I want so much
to believe him, it kills me so to think evil of him, that it will never
do for me to see him. If he looks at me with those eyes of his, I am all
gone; I shall believe anything he tells me; he will draw me to him as a
great magnet draws a poor little grain of steel."

"But now you know his unworthiness, his baseness," said Mary, "I should
think it would break all his power."

"_Should_ you think so? Ah, Mary, we cannot unlove in a minute; love is
a great while dying. I do not worship him now as I did. I know what he
is. I know he is bad, and I am sorry for it. I should like to cover
it from all the world,--even from you, Mary, since I see it makes you
dislike him; it hurts me to hear any one else blame him. But sometimes I
do so long to think I am mistaken, that I know, if I should see him, I
should catch at anything he might tell me, as a drowning man at straws;
I should shut my eyes, and think, after all, that it was all my fault,
and ask a thousand pardons for all the evil he has done. No,--Mary, you
must keep your blue eyes upon me, or I shall be gone."

At this moment Mrs. Scudder's voice was heard, calling Mary below.

"Go down now, darling, and tell mamma; make a good little talk to her,
_ma reine_! Ah, you are queen here! all do as you say,--even the
good priest there; you have a little hand, but it leads all; so go,

Mrs. Scudder was somewhat flurried and discomposed at the
proposition;--there were the _pros_ and the _cons_ in her nature, such
as we all have. In the first place, Madame de Frontignac belonged to
high society,--and that was _pro_; for Mrs. Scudder prayed daily against
worldly vanities, because she felt a little traitor in her heart that
was ready to open its door to them, if not constantly talked down. In
the second place, Madame de Frontignac was French,--there was a _con_;
for Mrs. Scudder had enough of her father John Bull in her heart to have
a very wary look-out on anything French. But then, in the third place,
she was out of health and unhappy,--and there was a _pro_ again; for
Mrs. Scudder was as kind and motherly a soul as ever breathed. But
then she was a Catholic,--_con_. But the Doctor and Mary might convert
her,--_pro_. And then Mary wanted her,--_pro_. And she was a pretty,
bewitching, lovable creature,--_pro_.--The _pros_ had it; and it was
agreed that Madame de Frontignac should be installed as proprietress of
the spare chamber, and she sat down to the tea-table that evening in the
great kitchen.



The domesticating of Madame de Frontignac as an inmate of the cottage
added a new element of vivacity to that still and unvaried life. One
of the most beautiful traits of French nature is that fine gift of
appreciation, which seizes at once the picturesque side of every
condition of life, and finds in its own varied storehouse something to
assort with it. As compared with the Anglo-Saxon, the French appear to
be gifted with a _naive_ childhood of nature, and to have the power that
children have of gilding every scene of life with some of their own
poetic fancies.

Madame de Frontignac was in raptures with the sanded floor of her little
room, which commanded, through the apple-boughs, a little morsel of a
seaview. She could fancy it was a nymph's cave, she said.

"Yes, _ma Marie_, I will play Calypso, and you shall play Telemachus,
and Dr. H. shall be Mentor. Mentor was so very, very good!--only a
little bit--_dull_," she said, pronouncing the last word with a wicked
accent, and lifting her hands with a whimsical gesture like a naughty
child who expects a correction.

Mary could not but laugh; and as she laughed, more color rose in her
waxen cheeks than for many days before.

Madame de Frontignac looked as triumphant as a child who has made its
mother laugh, and went on laying things out of her trunk into her
drawers with a zeal that was quite amusing to see.

"You see, _ma blanche_, I have left all Madame's clothes at
Philadelphia, and brought only those that belong to Virginie,--no
_tromperie_, no feathers, no gauzes, no diamonds,--only white dresses,
and my straw hat _en bergere_, I brought one string of pearls that was
my mother's; but pearls, you know, belong to the sea-nymphs. I will trim
my hat with seaweed and buttercups together, and we will go out on
the beach to-night and get some gold and silver shells to dress _mon

"Oh, I have ever so many now!" said Mary, running into her room, and
coming back with a little bag.

They both sat on the bed together, and began pouring them out,--Madame
de Frontignac showering childish exclamations of delight.

Suddenly Mary put her hand to her heart as if she had been struck with
something; and Madame de Frontignac heard her say, in a low voice of
sudden pain, "Oh, dear!"

"What is it, _mimi?_" she said, looking up quickly.

"Nothing," said Mary, turning her head.

Madame de Frontignac looked down, and saw among the sea-treasures a
necklace of Venetian shells, that she knew never grew on the shores of
Newport. She held it up.

"Ah, I see," she said. "He gave you this. Ah, _ma pauvrette_" she said,
clasping Mary in her arms, "thy sorrow meets thee everywhere! May I be a
comfort to thee!--just a little one!"

"Dear, dear friend!" said Mary, weeping. "I know not how it is.
Sometimes I think this sorrow is all gone; but then, for a moment, it
comes back again. But I am at peace; it is all right, all right; I would
not have it otherwise. But, oh, if he could have spoken one word to me
before! He gave me this," she added, "when he came home from his first
voyage to the Mediterranean. I did not know it was in this bag. I had
looked for it everywhere."

"Sister Agatha would have told you to make a rosary of it," said Madame
de Frontignac; "but you pray without a rosary. It is all one," she
added; "there will be a prayer for every shell, though you do not count
them. But come, _ma chere_, get your bonnet, and let us go out on the

That evening, before going to bed, Mrs. Scudder came into Mary's room.
Her manner was grave and tender; her eyes had tears in them; and
although her usual habits were not caressing, she came to Mary and put
her arms around her and kissed her. It was an unusual manner, and Mary's
gentle eyes seemed to ask the reason of it.

"My daughter," said her mother, "I have just had a long and very
interesting talk with our dear good friend, the Doctor; ah, Mary, very
few people know how good he is!"

"True, mother," said Mary, warmly; "he is the best, the noblest, and yet
the humblest man in the world."

"You love him very much, do you not?" said her mother.

"Very dearly," said Mary.

"Mary, he has asked me, this evening, if you would be willing to be his

"His _wife_, mother?" said Mary, in the tone of one confused with a new
and strange thought.

"Yes, daughter; I have long seen that he was preparing to make you this

"You have, mother?"

"Yes, daughter; have you never thought of it?"

"Never, mother."

There was a long pause,--Mary standing, just as she had been
interrupted, in her night toilette, with her long, light hair streaming
down over her white dress, and the comb held mechanically in her hand.
She sat down after a moment, and, clasping her hands over her knees,
fixed her eyes intently on the floor; and there fell between the two a
silence so profound, that the tickings of the clock in the next room
seemed to knock upon the door. Mrs. Scudder sat with anxious eyes
watching that silent face, pale as sculptured marble.

"Well, Mary," she said at last.

A deep sigh was the only answer. The violent throbbings of her heart
could be seen undulating the long hair as the moaning sea tosses the

"My daughter," again said Mrs. Scudder.

Mary gave a great sigh, like that of a sleeper awakening from a dream,
and, looking at her mother, said,--

"Do you suppose he really _loves_ me, mother?"

"Indeed he does, Mary, as much as man ever loved woman!"

"Does he indeed?" said Mary, relapsing into thoughtfulness.

"And you love him, do you not?" said her mother.

"Oh, yes, I love him."

"You love him better than any man in the world, don't you?"

"Oh, mother, mother! yes!" said Mary, throwing herself passionately
forward, and bursting into sobs; "yes, there is no one else now that I
love better,--no one!--no one!"

"My darling! my daughter!" said Mrs. Scudder, coming and taking her in
her arms.

"Oh, mother, mother!" she said, sobbing distressfully, "let me cry, just
for a little,--oh, mother, mother, mother!"

What was there hidden under that despairing wail?--It was the parting of
the last strand of the cord of youthful hope.

Mrs. Scudder soothed and caressed her daughter, but maintained still in
her breast a tender pertinacity of purpose, such as mothers will, who
think they are conducting a child through some natural sorrow into a
happier state.

Mary was not one, either, to yield long to emotion of any kind. Her
rigid education had taught her to look upon all such outbursts as a
species of weakness, and she struggled for composure, and soon seemed
entirety calm.

"If he really loves me, mother, it would give him great pain, if I
refused," said Mary, thoughtfully.

"Certainly it would; and, Mary, you have allowed him to act as a very
near friend for a long time; and it is quite natural that he should have
hopes that you loved him."

"I do love him, mother,--better than anybody in the world except you. Do
you think that will do?"

"Will do?" said her mother; "I don't understand you."

"Why, is that loving enough to marry? I shall love him more, perhaps,
after,--shall I, mother?"

"Certainly you will; every one does."

"I wish he did not want to marry me, mother," said Mary, after a pause.
"I liked it a great deal better as we were before."

"All girls feel so, Mary, at first; it is very natural."

"Is that the way you felt about father, mother?"

Mrs. Scudder's heart smote her when she thought of her own early
love,--that great love that asked no questions,--that had no doubts,
no fears, no hesitations,--nothing but one great, outsweeping impulse,
which swallowed her life in that of another. She was silent; and after a
moment, she said,--

"I was of a different disposition from you, Mary. I was of a strong,
wilful, positive nature. I either liked or disliked with all my might.
And besides, Mary, there never was a man like your father."

The matron uttered this first article in the great confession of woman's
faith with the most unconscious simplicity.

"Well, mother, I will do whatever is my duty. I want to be guided. If
I can make that good man happy, and help him to do some good in the
world--After all, life is short, and the great thing is to do for

"I am sure, Mary, if you could have heard how he spoke, you would be
sure you could make him happy. He had not spoken before, because he felt
so unworthy of such a blessing; he said I was to tell you that he
should love and honor you all the same, whether you could be his wife
or not,--but that nothing this side of heaven would be so blessed a
gift,--that it would make up for every trial that could possibly come
upon him. And you know, Mary, he has a great many discouragements
and trials;--people don't appreciate him; his efforts to do good are
misunderstood and misconstrued; they look down on him, and despise him,
and tell all sorts of evil things about him; and sometimes he gets quite

"Yes, mother, I will marry him," said Mary;--"yes, I will."

"My darling daughter!" said Mrs. Scudder,--"this has been the hope of my

"Has it, mother?" said Mary, with a faint smile; "I shall make you
happier, then?"

"Yes, dear, you will. And think what a prospect of usefulness opens
before you! You can take a position, as his wife, which will enable you
to do even more good than you do now; and you will have the happiness
of seeing, everyday, how much you comfort the hearts and encourage the
hands of God's dear people."

"Mother, I ought to be very glad I can do it," said Mary; "and I trust I
am. God orders all things for the best."

"Well, my child, sleep to-night, and to-morrow we will talk more about



Mrs. Scudder kissed her daughter, and left her. After a moment's
thought, Mary gathered the long silky folds of hair around her head, and
knotted them for the night. Then leaning forward on her toilet-table,
she folded her hands together, and stood regarding the reflection of
herself in the mirror.

Nothing is capable of more ghostly effect than such a silent, lonely
contemplation of that mysterious image of ourselves which seems to look
out of an infinite depth in the mirror, as if it were our own soul
beckoning to us visibly from unknown regions. Those eyes look into our
own with an expression sometimes vaguely sad and inquiring. The face
wears weird and tremulous lights and shadows; it asks us mysterious
questions, and troubles us with the suggestions of our relations to some
dim unknown. The sad, blue eyes that gazed into Mary's had that look
of calm initiation, of melancholy comprehension, peculiar to eyes made
clairvoyant by "great and critical" sorrow. They seemed to say to her,
"Fulfil thy mission; life is made for sacrifice; the flower must fall
before fruit can perfect itself." A vague shuddering of mystery gave
intensity to her reverie. It seemed as if those mirror-depths were
another world; she heard the far-off dashing of sea-green waves; she
felt a yearning impulse towards that dear soul gone out into the
infinite unknown.

Her word just passed had in her eyes all the sacred force of the most
solemnly attested vow; and she felt as if that vow had shut some till
then open door between her and him; she had a kind of shadowy sense of a
throbbing and yearning nature that seemed to call on her,--that seemed
surging towards her with an imperative, protesting force that shook her
heart to its depths.

Perhaps it is so, that souls, once intimately related, have ever after
this a strange power of affecting each other,--a power that neither
absence nor death can annul. How else can we interpret those mysterious
hours in which the power of departed love seems to overshadow us, making
our souls vital with such longings, with such wild throbbings, with such
unutterable sighings, that a little more might burst the mortal bond? Is
it not deep calling unto deep? the free soul singing outside the cage to
her mate beating against the bars within?

Mary even, for a moment, fancied that a voice called her name, and
started, shivering. Then the habits of her positive and sensible
education returned at once, and she came out of her reverie as one
breaks from a dream, and lifted all these sad thoughts with one heavy
sigh from her breast; and opening her Bible, she read: "They that trust
in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth
forever. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is
round about his people from henceforth, even forever."

Then she kneeled by her bedside, and offered her whole life a sacrifice
to the loving God who had offered his life a sacrifice for her. She
prayed for grace to be true to her promise,--to be faithful to the new
relation she had accepted. She prayed that all vain regrets for the past
might be taken away, and that her soul might vibrate without discord in
unison with the will of Eternal Love. So praying, she rose calm,
and with that clearness of spirit which follows an act of uttermost
self-sacrifice; and so calmly she laid down and slept, with her two
hands crossed upon her breast, her head slightly turned on the pillow,
her cheek pale as marble, and her long dark lashes lying drooping, with
a sweet expression, as if under that mystic veil of sleep the soul were
seeing things forbidden to the waking eye. Only the gentlest heaving
of the quiet breast told that the heavenly spirit within had not gone
whither it was hourly aspiring to go.

Meanwhile Mrs. Scudder had left Mary's room, and entered the Doctor's
study, holding a candle in her hand. The good man was sitting alone in
the dark, with his head bowed upon his Bible. When Mrs. Scudder entered,
he rose, and regarded her wistfully, but did not speak. He had something
just then in his heart for which he had no words; so he only looked as a
man does who hopes and fears for the answer of a decisive question.

Mrs. Scudder felt some of the natural reserve which becomes a matron
coming charged with a gift in which lies the whole sacredness of her own
existence, and which she puts from her hands with a jealous reverence.
She therefore measured the man with her woman's and mother's eye, and
said, with a little stateliness,--

"My dear Sir, I come to tell you the result of my conversation with

She made a little pause,--and the Doctor stood before her as humbly as
if he had not weighed and measured the universe; because he knew,
that, though he might weigh the mountains in scales and the hills in a
balance, yet it was a far subtiler power which must possess him of one
small woman's heart. In fact, he felt to himself like a great, awkward,
clumsy, mountainous earthite asking of a white-robed angel to help him
up a ladder of cloud. He was perfectly sure for the moment, that he was
going to be refused; and he looked humbly firm,--he would take it like
a man. His large blue eyes, generally so misty in their calm, had a
resolute clearness, rather mournful than otherwise. Of course, no such
celestial experience was going to happen to him.

He cleared his throat, and said,--

"Well, Madam?"

Mrs. Scudder's womanly dignity was appeased; she reached out her hand,
cheerfully, and said,--

"_She has accepted_."

The Doctor drew his hand suddenly away, turned quickly round, and walked
to the window,--although, as it was ten o'clock at night and quite dark,
there was evidently nothing to be seen there. He stood there, quietly,
swallowing very hard, and raising his handkerchief several times to his
eyes. There was enough went on under the black coat just then to make
quite a little figure in a romance, if it had been uttered; but he
belonged to a class who _lived_ romance, but never spoke it. In a few
moments he returned to Mrs. Scudder, and said,--

"I trust, dear Madam, that this very dear friend may never have reason
to think me ungrateful for her wonderful goodness; and whatever sins
my evil heart may lead me into, I _hope_ I may never fall so low as to
forget the undeserved mercy of this hour. If ever I shrink from duty
or murmur at trials, while so sweet a friend is mine, I shall be vile

The Doctor, in general, viewed himself on the discouraging side, and
had berated and snubbed himself all his life as a most flagitious and
evil-disposed individual,--a person to be narrowly watched, and capable
of breaking at any moment into the most flagrant iniquity; and therefore
it was that he received his good fortune in so different a spirit from
many of the lords of creation, in similar circumstances.

"I am sensible," he added, "that a poor minister, without much power of
eloquence, and commissioned of the Lord to speak unpopular truths, and
whose worldly condition, in consequence, is never likely to be very
prosperous,--that such an one could scarcely be deemed a suitable
partner for so very beautiful a young woman, who might expect proposals,
in a temporal point of view, of a much more advantageous nature; and I
am therefore the more struck and overpowered with this blessed result."

These last words caught in the Doctor's throat, as if he were
overpowered in very deed.

"In regard to _her_ happiness," said the Doctor, with a touch of awe in
his voice, "I would not have presumed to become the guardian of it, were
it not that I am persuaded it is assured by a Higher Power; for 'when
he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?' (Job, xxxiv. 29.) But
I trust I may say no effort on my part shall be wanting to secure it."

Mrs. Scudder was a mother, and had come to that stage in life where
mothers always feel tears rising behind their smiles. She pressed the
Doctor's hand silently, and they parted for the night.

We know not how we can acquit ourselves to our friends of the great
world for the details of such an unfashionable courtship, so well as by
giving them, before they retire for the night, a dip into a more modish
view of things.

The Doctor was evidently green,--green in his faith, green in his
simplicity, green in his general belief of the divine in woman, green in
his particular humble faith in one small Puritan maiden, whom a knowing
fellow might at least have maneuvered so skilfully as to break up her
saintly superiority, discompose her, rout her ideas, and lead her up and
down a swamp of hopes and fears and conjectures, till she was wholly
bewildered and ready to take him at last--if he made up his mind to
have her at all--as a great bargain, for which she was to be sensibly

Yes, the Doctor was green,--_immortally_ green, as a cedar of Lebanon,
which, waving its broad archangel wings over some fast-rooted eternal
old solitude, and seeing from its sublime height the vastness of the
universe, veils its kingly head with humility before God's infinite

He has gone to bed now,--simple old soul!--first apologizing to Mrs.
Scudder for having kept her up to so dissipated and unparalleled an hour
as ten o'clock on his personal matters.

Meanwhile our Asmodeus shall transport us to a handsomely furnished
apartment in one of the most fashionable hotels of Philadelphia, where
Colonel Aaron Burr, just returned from his trip to the then aboriginal
wilds of Ohio, is seated before a table covered with maps, letters,
books, and papers. His keen eye runs over the addresses of the letters,
and he eagerly seizes one from Madame de Frontignac, and reads it; and
as no one but ourselves is looking at him now, his face has no need
to wear its habitual mask. First comes an expression of profound
astonishment; then of chagrin and mortification; then of deepening
concern; there were stops where the dark eyelashes flashed together, as
if to brush a tear out of the view of the keen-sighted eyes; and then
a red flush rose even to his forehead, and his delicate lips wore a
sarcastic smile. He laid down the letter, and made one or two turns
through the room.

The man had felt the dashing against his own of a strong, generous,
indignant woman's heart fully awakened, and speaking with that
impassioned vigor with which a French regiment charges in battle. There
were those picturesque, winged words, those condensed expressions, those
subtile piercings of meaning, and, above all, that simple pathos, for
which the French tongue has no superior; and for the moment the woman
had the victory; she shook his heart. But Burr resembled the marvel
with which chemists amuse themselves. His heart was a vase filled with
boiling passions,--while his _will_, a still, cold, unmelted lump of
ice, lay at the bottom.

Self-denial is not peculiar to Christians. He who goes downward often
puts forth as much force to kill a noble nature as another does to
annihilate a sinful one. There was something in this letter so keen, so
searching, so self-revealing, that it brought on one of those interior
crises in which a man is convulsed with the struggle of two natures, the
godlike and the demoniac, and from which he must pass out more wholly to
the dominion of the one or the other.

Nobody knew the true better than Burr. He _knew_ the godlike and the
pure; he had _felt_ its beauty and its force to the very depths of his
being, as the demoniac knew at once the fair Man of Nazareth; and even
now he felt the voice within that said, "What have I to do with thee?"
and the rending of a struggle of heavenly life with fast-coming eternal

That letter had told him what he might be, and what he was. It was as if
his dead mother's hand had held up before him a glass in which he saw
himself white-robed and crowned, and so dazzling in purity that he
loathed his present self.

As he walked up and down the room perturbed, he sometimes wiped tears
from his eyes, and then set his teeth and compressed his lips. At last
his face grew calm and settled in its expression, his mouth wore a
sardonic smile; he came and took the letter, and, folding it leisurely,
laid it on the table, and put a heavy paperweight over it, as if to
hold it down and bury it. Then drawing to himself some maps of new
territories, he set himself vigorously to some columns of arithmetical
calculations on the margin; and thus he worked for an hour or two, till
his mind was as dry and his pulse as calm as a machine; then he drew the
inkstand towards him, and scribbled hastily the following letter to
his most confidential associate,--a letter which told no more of the
conflict that preceded it than do the dry sands and the civil gossip of
the sea-waves to-day of the storm and wreck of last week.

"Dear ------. _Nous voici_--once more in Philadelphia. Our schemes in
Ohio prosper. Frontignac remains there to superintend. He answers our
purpose _passablement_. On the whole, I don't see that we could do
better than retain him; he is, besides, a gentlemanly, agreeable person,
and wholly devoted to me,--a point certainly not to be overlooked.

"As to your railleries about the fair Madame, I must say, in justice
both to her and myself, that any grace with which she has been pleased
to honor me is not to be misconstrued. You are not to imagine any but
the most Platonic of _liaisons_. She is as high-strung as an Arabian
steed,--proud, heroic, romantic, and _French!_ and such must be
permitted to take their own time and way, which we in our _gaucherie_
can only humbly wonder at I have ever professed myself her abject slave,
ready to follow any whim, and obeying the slightest signal of the
jewelled hand. As that is her sacred pleasure, I have been inhabiting
the most abstract realms of heroic sentiment, living on the most diluted
moonshine, and spinning out elaborately all those charming and seraphic
distinctions between tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee with which these
ecstatic creatures delight themselves in certain stages of _affaires du

"The last development, on the part of my goddess, is a fit of celestial
anger, of the cause of which I am in the most innocent ignorance. She
writes me three pages of French sublimities, writing as only a French
woman can,--bids me an eternal adieu, and informs me she is going to

"Of course the affair becomes stimulating. I am not to presume to dispute
her sentence, or doubt a lady's perfect sincerity in wishing never to see
me again; but yet I think I shall try to pacify the 'tantas in animis
coelestibus iras.'

"If a woman hates you, it is only her love turned wrong side out, and you
may turn it back with due care. The pretty creatures know how becoming a
_grande passion_ is, and take care to keep themselves in mind; a quarrel
serves their turn, when all else fails.

"To another point. I wish you to advertise S------, that his
insinuations in regard to me in the 'Aurora' have been observed, and
that I require that they be promptly retracted. He knows me well enough
to attend to this hint. I am in earnest when I speak; if the word does
nothing, the blow will come,--and if I strike once, no second blow will
be needed. Yet I do not wish to get him on my hands needlessly; a duel
and a love affair and hot weather, coming on together, might prove too
much even for me.--N.B. Thermometer stands at 85. I am resolved on
Newport next week.

"Yours ever,


"P.S. I forgot to say, that, oddly enough, my goddess has gone and
placed herself under the wing of the pretty Puritan I saw in Newport.
Fancy the _melange_! Could anything be more piquant?--that cart-load of
goodness, the old Doctor, that sweet little saint, and Madame Faubourg
St. Germain shaken up together! Fancy her listening with well-bred
astonishment to a _critique_ on the doings of the unregenerate, or
flirting that little jewelled fan of hers in Mrs. Scudder's square pew
of a Sunday! Probably they will carry her to the weekly prayer-meeting,
which of course she will contrive some fine French subtilty for
admiring, and find _revissant_. I fancy I see it."

When Burr had finished this letter, he had actually written himself into
a sort of persuasion of its truth. When a finely constituted nature
wishes to go into baseness, it has first to bribe itself. Evil is never
embraced undisguised, as evil, but under some fiction which the mind
accepts and with which it has the singular power of blinding itself
in the face of daylight. The power of imposing on one's self is an
essential preliminary to imposing on others. The man first argues
himself down, and then he is ready to put the whole weight of his nature
to deceiving others. This letter ran so smoothly, so plausibly, that it
produced on the writer of it the effect of a work of fiction, which we
_know_ to be unreal, but _feel_ to be true. Long habits of this kind of
self-delusion in time produce a paralysis in the vital nerves of truth,
so that one becomes habitually unable to see things in their verity, and
realizes the awful words of Scripture,--"He feedeth on ashes; a deceived
heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say,
Is there not a lie in my right hand?"



Between three and four the next morning, the robin in the nest above
Mary's window stretched out his left wing, opened one eye, and gave
a short and rather drowsy chirp, which broke up his night's rest and
restored him to the full consciousness that he was a bird with wings
and feathers, with a large apple-tree to live in, and all heaven for an
estate,--and so, on these fortunate premises, he broke into a gush
of singing, clear and loud, which Mary, without waking, heard in her

Scarcely conscious, she lay in that dim clairvoyant state, when the
half-sleep of the outward senses permits a delicious dewy clearness
of the soul, that perfect ethereal rest and freshness of faculties,
comparable only to what we imagine of the spiritual state,--season
of celestial enchantment, in which the heavy weight "of all this
unintelligible world" drops off, and the soul, divinely charmed, nestles
like a wind-tossed bird in the protecting bosom of the One All-Perfect,
All-Beautiful. What visions then come to the inner eye have often no
words corresponding in mortal vocabularies. The poet, the artist, and
the prophet in such hours become possessed of divine certainties which
all their lives they struggle with pencil or song or burning words to
make evident to their fellows. The world around wonders; but they are
unsatisfied, because they have seen the glory and know how inadequate
the copy.

And not merely to selectest spirits come these hours, but to those
humbler poets, ungifted with utterance, who are among men as fountains
sealed, whose song can be wrought out only by the harmony of deeds, the
patient, pathetic melodies of tender endurance, or the heroic chant of
undiscouraged labor. The poor slave-woman, last night parted from her
only boy, and weary with the cotton-picking,--the captive pining in his
cell,--the patient wife of the drunkard, saddened by a consciousness of
the growing vileness of one so dear to her once,--the delicate spirit
doomed to harsh and uncongenial surroundings,--all in such hours feel
the soothings of a celestial harmony, the tenderness of more than a
mother's love.

It is by such seasons as these, more often than by reasonings or
disputings, that doubts are resolved in the region of religious faith.
The All-Father treats us as the mother does her "infant crying in the
dark"; He does not reason with our fears, or demonstrate their fallacy,
but draws us silently to His bosom, and we are at peace. Nay, there have
been those, undoubtedly, who have known God falsely with the intellect,
yet felt Him truly with the heart,--and there be many, principally among
the unlettered little ones of Christ's flock, who positively know that
much that is dogmatically propounded to them of their Redeemer is cold,
barren, unsatisfying, and utterly false, who yet can give no account of
their certainties better than that of the inspired fisherman, "We know
Him, and have seen Him." It was in such hours as these that Mary's
deadly fears for the soul of her beloved had passed all away,--passed
out of her,--as if some warm, healing nature of tenderest vitality had
drawn out of her heart all pain and coldness, and warmed it with the
breath of an eternal summer.

So, while the purple shadows spread their gauzy veils inwoven with fire
along the sky, and the gloom of the sea broke out here and there into
lines of light, and thousands of birds were answering to each other from
apple-tree and meadow-grass and top of jagged rock, or trooping in bands
hither and thither, like angels on loving messages, Mary lay there with
the flickering light through the leaves fluttering over her face, and
the glow of dawn warming the snow-white draperies of the bed and giving
a tender rose-hue to the calm cheek. She lay half-conscious, smiling the
while, as one who sleeps while the heart waketh, and who hears in dreams
the voice of the One Eternally Beautiful and Beloved.

Mrs. Scudder entered her room, and, thinking that she still slept, stood
and looked down on her. She felt as one does who has parted with some
precious possession, a sudden sense of its value coming over her; she
queried in herself whether any living mortal were worthy of so perfect a
gift; and nothing but a remembrance of the Doctor's prostrate humility
at all reconciled her to the sacrifice she was making.

"Mary, dear!" she said, bending over her, with an unusual infusion of
emotion in her voice,--"darling child!"

The arms moved instinctively, even before the eyes unclosed, and drew
her mother down to her with a warm, clinging embrace. Love in Puritan
families was often like latent caloric,--an all-pervading force, that
affected no visible thermometer, shown chiefly by a noble silent
confidence, a ready helpfulness, but seldom outbreathed in caresses;
yet natures like Mary's always craved these outward demonstrations, and
leaned towards them as a trailing vine sways to the nearest support. It
was delightful for once fully to feel how much her mother loved her, as
well as to know it.

"Dear, precious mother! do you love me so very much?"

"I live and breathe in you, Mary!" said Mrs. Scudder,--giving vent to
herself in one of those trenchant shorthand expressions wherein positive
natures incline to sum up everything, if they must speak at all.

Mary held her mother silently to her breast, her heart shining through
her face with a quiet radiance.

"Do you feel happy this morning?" said Mrs. Scudder.

"Very, very, very happy, mother!"

"I am so glad to hear you say so!" said Mrs. Scudder,--who, to say the
truth, had entertained many doubts on her pillow the night before.

Mary began dressing herself in a state of calm exaltation. Every
trembling leaf on the tree, every sunbeam, was like a living smile of
God,--every fluttering breeze like His voice, full of encouragement and

"Mother, did you tell the Doctor what I said last night?"

"I did, my darling."

"Then, mother, I would like to see him a few moments alone."

"Well, Mary, he is in his study, at his morning devotions."

"That is just the time. I will go to him."

The Doctor was sitting by the window; and the honest-hearted, motherly
lilacs, abloom for the third time since our story began, were filling
the air with their sweetness.

Suddenly the door opened, and Mary entered, in her simple white
short-gown and skirt, her eyes calmly radiant, and her whole manner
having something serious and celestial. She came directly towards
him and put out both her little hands, with a smile half-childlike,
half-angelic; and the Doctor bowed his head and covered his face with
his hands.

"Dear friend," said Mary, kneeling and taking his hands, "if you want
me, I am come. Life is but a moment,--there is an eternal blessedness
just beyond us,--and for the little time between I will be all I can to
you, if you will only show me how."

And the Doctor----

No, young man,--the study-door closed just then, and no one heard those
words from a quaint old Oriental book which told that all the poetry of
that grand old soul had burst into flower, as the aloe blossoms once
in a hundred years. The feelings of that great heart might have fallen
unconsciously into phrases from that one love-poem of the Bible which
such men as he read so purely and devoutly, and which warm the icy
clearness of their intellection with the myrrh and spices of ardent
lands, where earthly and heavenly love meet and blend in one
indistinguishable horizon-line, like sea and sky.

"Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear
as the sun? My dove, my undefiled, is but one; she is the only one of
her mother. Thou art all fair, my love! there is no spot in thee!"

The Doctor might have said all this; we will not say he did, nor will
we say he did not; all we know is, that, when the breakfast-table was
ready, they came out cheerfully together. Madame de Frontignac stood in
a fresh white wrapper, with a few buttercups in her hair, waiting for
the breakfast. She was startled to see the Doctor entering all-radiant,
leading in Mary by the hand, and looking as if he thought she were some
dream-miracle which might dissolve under his eyes, unless he kept fast
hold of her.

The keen eyes shot their arrowy glance, which went at once to the heart
of the matter. Madame de Frontignac knew they were affianced, and
regarded Mary with attention.

The calm, sweet, elevated expression of her face struck her; it struck
her also that _that_ was not the light of any earthly love,--that it had
no thrill, no blush, no tremor, but only the calmness of a soul that
knows itself no more; and she sighed involuntarily.

She looked at the Doctor, and seemed to study attentively a face which
happiness made this morning as genial and attractive as it was generally
strong and fine.

There was little said at the breakfast-table; and yet the loud singing
of the birds, the brightness of the sunshine, the life and vigor of all
things, seemed to make up for the silence of those who were too well
pleased to speak.

"_Eh bien, ma chere_" said Madame, after breakfast, drawing Mary into
her little room,-"_c'est donc fini?_"

"Yes," said Mary, cheerfully.

"Thou art content?" said Madame, passing her arm around her. "Well,
then, I should be. But, Mary, it is like a marriage with the altar, like
taking the veil, is it not?"

"No," said Mary; "it is not taking the veil; it is beginning a cheerful,
reasonable life with a kind, noble friend, who will always love me
truly, and whom I hope to make as happy as he deserves."

"I think well of him, my little cat," said Madame, reflectively; but
she stopped something she was going to say, and kissed Mary's forehead.
After a moment's pause, she added, "One must have love or refuge,
Mary;--this is thy refuge, child; thou wilt have peace in it." She
sighed again. "_Enfin_," she said, resuming her gay tone, "what shall be
_la toilette de noces?_ Thou shalt have Virginia's pearls, my fair one,
and look like a sea-born Venus. _Tiens_, let me try them in thy hair."

And in a few moments she had Mary's long hair down, and was chattering
like a blackbird, wreathing the pearls in and out, and saying a thousand
pretty little nothings,--weaving grace and poetry upon the straight
thread of Puritan life.



The announcement of the definite engagement of two such bright
particular stars in the hemisphere of the Doctor's small parish excited
the interest that such events usually create among the faithful of the

There was a general rustle and flutter, as when a covey of wild pigeons
has been started; and all the little elves who rejoice in the name of
"says he" and "says I" and "do tell" and "have you heard" were speedily
flying through the consecrated air of the parish.

The fact was discussed by matrons and maidens, at the spinning-wheel,
in the green clothes-yard, and at the foamy wash-tub, out of which rose
weekly a new birth of freshness and beauty. Many a rustic Venus of the
foam, as she splashed her dimpled elbows in the rainbow-tinted froth,
talked of what should be done for the forthcoming solemnities, and
wondered what Mary would have on when she was married, and whether she
(the Venus) should get an invitation to the wedding, and whether Ethan
would go,--not, of course, that she cared in the least whether he did or

Grave, elderly matrons talked about the prosperity of Zion, which
they imagined intimately connected with the event of their minister's
marriage; and descending from Zion, speculated on bed-quilts and
table-cloths, and rummaged their own clean, sweet-smelling stores,
fragrant with balm and rose-leaves, to lay out a bureau-cover, or a pair
of sheets, or a dozen napkins for the wedding outfit.

The solemnest of solemn quillings was resolved upon. Miss Prissy
declared that she fairly couldn't sleep nights with the responsibility
of the wedding-dresses on her mind, but yet she must give one day to
getting on that quilt.

The _grand monde_ also was in motion. Mrs. General Wilcox called in her
own particular carriage, bearing present of a Cashmere shawl for the
bride, with the General's best compliments,--also an oak-leaf pattern
for quilting, which had been sent her from England, and which was
authentically established to be that used on a petticoat belonging to
the Princess Royal. And Mrs. Major Seaforth came also, bearing a
scarf of wrought India muslin; and Mrs. Vernon sent a splendid China
punch-bowl. Indeed, to say the truth, the notables high and mighty of
Newport, whom the Doctor had so unceremoniously accused of building
their houses with blood and establishing their city with iniquity,
considering that nobody seemed to take his words to heart, and that they
were making money as fast as old Tyre, rather assumed the magnanimous,
and patted themselves on the shoulder for this opportunity to show the
Doctor that after all they were good fellows, though they did make money
at the expense of thirty _per cent_. on human life.

Simeon Brown was the only exception. He stood aloof, grim and sarcastic,
and informed some good middle-aged ladies who came to see if he would,
as they phrased it, "esteem it a privilege to add his mite" to the
Doctor's outfit, that he would give him a likely negro boy, if he wanted
him, and, if he was too conscientious to keep him, he might sell him at
a fair profit,--a happy stroke of humor which he was fond of relating
many years after.

The quilting was in those days considered the most solemn and important
recognition of a betrothal. And for the benefit of those not to the
manner born, a little preliminary instruction may be necessary.

The good wives of New England, impressed with that thrifty orthodoxy of
economy which forbids to waste the merest trifle, had a habit of saving
every scrap clipped out in the fashioning of household garments, and
these they cut into fanciful patterns and constructed of them rainbow
shapes and quaint traceries, the arrangement of which became one
of their few fine arts. Many a maiden, as she sorted and arranged
fluttering bits of green, yellow, red, and blue, felt rising in her
breast a passion for somewhat vague and unknown, which came out at
length in a new pattern of patchwork. Collections of these tiny
fragments were always ready to fill an hour when there was nothing else
to do; and as the maiden chatted with her beau, her busy flying needle
stitched together those pretty bits, which, little in themselves, were
destined, by gradual unions and accretions, to bring about at last
substantial beauty, warmth, and comfort,--emblems thus of that household
life which is to be brought to stability and beauty by reverent economy
in husbanding and tact in arranging the little useful and agreeable
morsels of daily existence.

When a wedding was forthcoming, there was a solemn review of the stores
of beauty and utility thus provided, and the patchwork-spread best
worthy of such distinction was chosen for the quilting. Thereto, duly
summoned, trooped all intimate female friends of the bride, old and
young; and the quilt being spread on a frame, and wadded with cotton,
each vied with the others in the delicacy of the quilting she could put
upon it. For the quilting also was a fine art, and had its delicacies
and nice points,--which grave elderly matrons discussed with judicious
care. The quilting generally began at an early hour in the afternoon,
and ended at dark with a great supper and general jubilee, at which that
ignorant and incapable sex which could not quilt was allowed to appear
and put in claims for consideration of another nature. It may, perhaps,
be surmised that this expected reinforcement was often alluded to by
the younger maidens, whose wickedly coquettish toilettes exhibited
suspicious marks of that willingness to get a chance to say "No" which
has been slanderously attributed to mischievous maidens.

In consideration of the tremendous responsibilities involved in this
quilting, the reader will not be surprised to learn, that, the evening
before, Miss Prissy made her appearance at the brown cottage, armed with
thimble, scissors, and pin-cushion, in order to relieve her mind by a
little preliminary confabulation.

"You see me, Miss Scudder, run 'most to death," she said; "but I thought
I would just run up to Miss Major Seaforth's, and see her best bed-room
quilt, 'cause I wanted to have all the ideas we possibly could, before I
decided on the pattern. Hers is in shells,--just common shells,--nothing
to be compared with Miss Wilcox's oak-leaves; and I suppose there isn't
the least doubt that Miss Wilcox's sister, in London, did get that from
a lady who had a cousin who was governess in the royal family; and I
just quilted a little bit to-day on an old piece of silk, and it comes
out beautiful; and so I thought I would just come and ask you if you did
not think it was best for us to have the oak-leaves."

"Well, certainly, Miss Prissy, if you think so," said Mrs. Scudder, who
was as pliant to the opinions of this wise woman of the parish as New
England matrons generally are to a reigning dress-maker and _factotum_.

Miss Prissy had the happy consciousness, always, that her early advent
under any roof was considered a matter of especial grace; and therefore
it was with rather a patronizing tone that she announced that she would
stay and spend the night with them.

"I knew," she added, "that your spare chamber was full, with that Madame
de ------, what do you call her?--if I was to die, I could not remember
the woman's name. Well, I thought I could curl in with you, Mary, 'most

"That's right, Miss Prissy," said Mary; "you shall be welcome to half my
bed any time."

"Well, I knew you would say so, Mary; I never saw the thing you
would not give away one half of, since you was that high," said Miss
Prissy,--illustrating her words by placing her hand about two feet from
the floor.

Just at this moment, Madame de Frontignac entered and asked Mary to come
into her room and give her advice as to a piece of embroidery. When she
was gone out, Miss Prissy looked after her and sunk her voice once more
to the confidential whisper which we before described.

"I have heard strange stories about that Frenchwoman," she said; "but as
she is here with you and Mary, I suppose there cannot be any truth in
them. Dear me! the world is so censorious about women! But then, you
know, we don't expect much from French women. I suppose she is a Roman
Catholic, and worships pictures and stone images; but then, after all,
she has got an immortal soul, and I can't help hoping Mary's influence
may be blest to her. They say, when she speaks French, she swears every
few minutes; and if that is the way she was brought up, may-be she isn't
accountable. I think we can't be too charitable for people that a'n't
privileged as we are. Miss Vernon's Polly told me she had seen her sew
Sundays,--sew Sabbath-day! She came into her room sudden, and she was
working on her embroidery there; and she never winked nor blushed, nor
offered to put it away, but sat there just as easy! Polly said she never
was so beat in all her life; she felt kind o' scared, every time she
thought of it. But now she has come here, who knows but she may be

"Mary has not said much about her state of mind," said Mrs. Scudder;
"but something of deep interest has passed between them. Mary is such an
uncommon child, that I trust everything to her."

We will not dwell further on the particulars of this evening,--nor
describe how Madame de Frontignac reconnoitred Miss Prissy with keen,
amused eyes,--nor how Miss Prissy assured Mary, in the confidential
solitude of her chamber, that her fingers just itched to get hold of
that trimming on Madame de Frog--something's dress, because she was
pretty nigh sure she could make some just like it, for she never saw any
trimming she could not make.

The robin that lived in the apple-tree was fairly outgeneralled the next
morning; for Miss Prissy was up before him, tripping about the chamber
on the points of her toes, knocking down all the movable things in the
room, in her efforts to be still, so as not to wake Mary; and it was not
until she had finally upset the stand by the bed, with the candlestick,
snuffers, and Bible on it, that Mary opened her eyes.

"Miss Prissy! dear me! what is it you are doing?"

"Why, I am trying to be still, Mary, so as not to wake you up; and it
seems to me as if everything was possessed, to tumble down so. But it is
only half past three,--so you turn over and go to sleep."

"But, Miss Prissy," said Mary, sitting up in bed, "you are all dressed;
where are you going?"

"Well, to tell the truth, Mary, I am just one of those people that can't
sleep when they have got responsibility on their minds; and I have been
lying awake more than an hour here, thinking about that quilt. There is
a new way of getting it on to the frame that I want to try; 'cause, you
know, when we quilted Cerinthy Stebbins's, it _would_ trouble us in the
rolling; and I have got a new way that I want to try, and I mean just to
get it on to the frame before breakfast. I was in hopes I should get out
without waking any of you. I am in hopes I shall get by your mother's
door without waking her,--'cause I know she works hard and needs her
rest,--but that bed-room door squeaks like a cat, enough to raise the

"Mary," she added, with sudden energy, "if I had the least drop of
oil in a teacup, and a bit of quill, I'd stop that door making such a
noise." And Miss Prissy's eyes glowed with resolution.

"I don't know where you could find any at this time," said Mary.

"Well, never mind; I'll just go and open the door as slow and careful as
I can," said Miss Prissy, as she trotted out of the apartment.

The result of her carefulness was very soon announced to Mary by a
protracted sound resembling the mewing of a hoarse cat, accompanied by
sundry audible grunts from Miss Prissy, terminating in a grand finale
of clatter, occasioned by her knocking down all the pieces of the
quilting-frame that stood in the corner of the room, with a concussion
that roused everybody in the house.

"What is that?" called out Mrs. Scudder, from her bed-room.

She was answered by two streams of laughter,--one from Mary, sitting up
in bed, and the other from Miss Prissy, holding her sides, as she sat
dissolved in merriment on the sanded floor,

[To be continued.]


As who, in idly searching o'er
Some seldom-entered garret-shed,
Might, with strange pity, touch the poor
Moth-eaten garments of the dead,--

Thus (to their wearer once allied)
I lift these weeds of buried woe,--
These relics of a self that died
So sadly and so long ago!
'Tis said that seven short years can change,
Through nerve and bone, this knitted frame,
Cellule by cellule waxing strange,
Till not an atom is the same.

By what more subtile, slow degrees
Thus may the mind transmute its all,
That calmly it should dwell on these,
As on another's fate and fall!

So far remote from joy or bale,
Wherewith each dusky page is rife,
I seem to read some piteous tale
Of strange romance, but true to life.

Too daring thoughts! too idle deeds!
A soul that questioned, loved, and sinned!
And hopes, that stand like last year's weeds,
And shudder in the dead March wind!

Grave of gone dreams!--could such convulse
Youth's fevered trance?--The plot grows thick;--
Was it this cold and even pulse
That thrilled with life so fierce and quick?

Well, I can smile at all this now,--
But cannot smile when I recall
The heart of faith, the open brow,
The trust that once was all in all;--

Nor when--Ah, faded, spectral sheet,
Wraith of long-perished wrong and time,
Forbear! the spirit starts to meet
The resurrection of its crime!

Starts,--from its human world shut out,--
As some detected changeling elf,
Doomed, with strange agony and doubt,
To enter on his former self.

Ill-omened leaves, still rust apart!
No further!--'tis a page turned o'er,
And the long dead and coffined heart
Throbs into wretched life once more.


When, nearly fifty years ago, England was taught one of the bloodiest
lessons her history has to record, before the cotton-bale breastworks
of New Orleans, a lesson, too, which was only the demonstration of a
proposition laid down more than a hundred years ago by one of her own
philosophers,[2] who would have believed that she, aiming to be the
first military power in the world, would have left the first advantage
of that lesson to be gained by her rival, France?

When the troops that had defeated Napoleon stopped, baffled, before a
breast-work defended by raw militiamen; when, finding that the heads of
their columns melted away like wax in fire as they approached the
blaze of those hunters' rifles, they finally recoiled, terribly
defeated,--saved from total destruction, perhaps, only by the fact that
their enemy had not enough of a military organization to enable them to
pursue effectively; when, in brief, a battle with men who never before
had seen a skirmish of regular troops was turned into a slaughter almost
unparalleled for disproportioned losses in the history of civilized
warfare, the English loss being about twelve hundred, the American some
fifteen all told; one would have thought that such a demonstration of
the power of the rifle would have brought Robins's words to the memory
of England,--"will perhaps fall but little short of the wonderful
effects which histories relate to have been formerly produced by the
first inventors of fire-arms." What more astonishing disparity of
military power does the history of fire-arms record? twelve hundred to
fifteen! But this lesson, so terrible and so utterly ignored by English
pride, was simply that of the value of the rifle intelligently used.

They tell a story which makes a capital foot-note to the history of
the battle:--that General Jackson, having invited some of the English
officers to dine with him, had on the table a robin-pie which he
informed the guests contained twelve robins whose heads had all been
shot off by one of his marksmen, who, in shooting the twelve, used but
thirteen balls. The result of the battle must be mainly attributed to
the deadly marksmanship of the hunters who composed the American forces;
but the same men armed with muskets would not only not have shown the
same accuracy in firing, but they would not have felt the moral force
which a complete reliance on their weapons gave,--a certainty that they
held the life of any antagonist in their hands, as soon as enough of him
appeared to "draw a bead on." Put the same men in the open field where a
charge of bayonets was to be met, and they would doubtless have broken and
fled without crossing steel. Nor, on the other hand, could any musketry
have kept the English columns out of the cotton-bale breast-work;--they
had often in the Peninsula stormed stronger works than that,--without
faltering for artillery, musketry, or bayonet. But here they were
literally unable to reach the works; the fatal rifle-bullet drew a line at
which bravery and cowardice, nonchalant veterans and trembling boys, were
equalized in the dust.

[Footnote 1: _Instructions to Young Marksmen_ in all that relates to the
General Construction, Practical Manipulation, etc., etc., as exhibited
in the Improved American Rifle. By John Ratcliffe Chapman, C. E. New
York: D. Appleton &. Co. 1848.

_Rifle-Practice_. By Lieut.-Col. John Jacob, C. B., of the Bombay
Artillery. London: Smith, Elder, & Co. 1857.

_The Rifle; and how to use it_. Comprising a Description of that
Admirable Weapon, etc., etc. By Hans Busk, M.A. First Lieut. Victoria
Rifles. London: J. Routledge & Co. 1858.

_Report of the U. S. Commission on Rifles_. 1856.]

[Footnote 2: Robins {on Projectiles) said in 1748, "Whatever state shall
thoroughly comprehend the nature and advantages of rifle-pieces, and,
having facilitated and completed their construction, shall introduce
into their armies their general use, with a dexterity in the management
of them, will by this means acquire a superiority which will almost
equal anything that has been done at any time by the particular
excellence of any one kind of arms, and will perhaps fall but little
short of the wonderful effects which histories relate to have been
formerly produced by the first inventors of fire-arms." Words, we now
see, how prophetic!]

We remember once to have met an old hunter who was one of the volunteers
at Hattsburg, (another rifle battle, fought by militiamen mainly,) a man
who never spoiled his furs by shooting his game in the body, and who
carried into the battle his hunting-rifle. Being much questioned as to
his share in the day's deeds, he told us that he, with a body of men,
all volunteers, and mainly hunters like himself, was stationed at a ford
on the Saranac, where a British column attempted to cross. Their captain
ordered no one to fire until the enemy were half-way across; "and then,"
said he, "none of 'em ever got across, and not many of them that got
into the water got out again. They found out it wa'n't of any kind of
use to try to get across there, and after a while they give it up and
went farther down the river; and by-and-by an officer come and told
us to go to the other ford, and we went there, and so they didn't get
across there either." We were desirous of getting the estimate of an
expert as to the effect of such firing, and asked him directly how many
men he had killed. "I don't know," said he, modestly; "I rather guess I
killed one fellow, _certain_; but how many more I can't say. I was going
down to the river with another volunteer to get some water, and I heerd
a shot right across the river, and I peeked out of the bushes, and see
a red-coat sticking his head out of the bushes on the other side, and
looking down the river, as if he'd been firing at somebody on our side,
and pretty soon he stuck his head out agin, and took aim at something
in that way; and I thought, of course, it must be some of our folks. I
couldn't stand that, so I just drawed up and fired at him. He dropped
his gun, and pitched head-first into the water. I guess I hit him
amongst the waistcoat-buttons; but then, you know, if I hadn't shot
him, he might have killed somebody on our side." We put the question in
another form, asking how many shots he fired that day. "About sixteen,
I guess, or maybe twenty." "And how far off were the enemy?" "Well, I
should think about twenty rod." We suggested that he did not waste many
of his bullets; to which he replied, that "he didn't often miss a deer
at that distance."

But these were the exploits of fifty years ago; the weapon, the old
heavy-metalled, long-barrelled "Kentucky" rifle; and the missile, the
old round bullet, sent home with a linen patch. It is a form of the
rifled gun not got up by any board of ordnance or theoretic engineers,
but which, as is generally the case with excellent tools, was the result
of the trials and experience of a race of practical men, something which
had grown up to supply the needs of hunters; and with the improvements
which greater mechanical perfection in gun-making has effected, it
stands at this day the king of weapons, unapproached for accuracy by the
work of any nation beside our own, very little surpassed in its range by
any of the newly invented modifications of the rifle. The Kentucky[1]
[Footnote 1: The technical name for the long, heavy, small-calibred
rifle, in which the thickness of the metal outside the bore is about
equal to the diameter of the bore.] rifle is to American mechanism what
the chronometer is to English, a speciality in which rivalry by any
other nation is at this moment out of the question. An English board of
ordnance may make a series of experiments, and in a year or two
contrive an Enfield rifle, which, to men who know of nothing better,
is wonderful; but here we have the result of experiments of nearly a
hundred years, by generations whose daily subsistence depended on the
accuracy and excellence of their rifles, and who all experimented
on the value of an inch in the length of the barrel, an ounce in its
weight, or a grain in the weight of the ball. They tried all methods of
creasing, all variations of the spiral of the groove; every town had
its gunsmith, who experimented in almost every gun he made, and who was
generally one of the best shots and hunters in the neighborhood; and
often the hunter, despairing of getting a gun to suit him in any other
way, went to work himself, and wrought out a clumsy, but unerring gun,
in which, perhaps, was the germ of some of the latest improvements in
scientific gunnery. The different gun-makers had shooting-matches, at
which the excellence of the work of each was put to the severest tests,
and by which their reputations were established. The result is a rifle,
compared with which, as manufactured by a dozen rifle-makers in the
United States, the Minie, the Enfield, the Lancaster, or even the
Sharpe's, and more recent breech-loaders, are bungling muskets. The last
adopted form of missile, the sugar-loaf-shaped, of which the Minie,
Enfieid, Colonel Jacob's, and all the conical forms are partial
adaptations, has been, to our personal knowledge, in use among our
riflemen more than twenty years. In one of our earliest visits to that
most fascinating of _ateliers_ to most American youth, a gunsmith's
shop, a collection of "slugs" was shown to us, in which the varieties of
forms, ovate, conical, elliptical, and all nameless forms in which the
length is greater than the diameter, had been exhausted in the effort to
find that shape which would range farthest; and the shape (very nearly)
which Colonel (late General) Jacob alludes to, writing in 1854, in these
terms, "This shape, after hundreds of thousands of experiments,
proves to be quite perfect," had been adopted by this unorganized
ordnance-board, composed of hundreds of gun-makers, stimulated by the
most powerful incentives to exertion. The experiments by which they
arrived at their conclusion not only anticipated by years the trials
of the European experimenters, but far surpass, in laboriousness and
nicety, all the experiments of Hythe, Vincennes, and Jacobabad. The
resulting curve, which the longitudinal section of the perfect "slug"
shows, is as subtile and incapable of modification, without loss, as
that of the boomerang; no hair's thickness could be taken away or added
without injury to its range. Such a weapon and such a missile, in their
perfection, could never have come into existence except in answer to the
demand of a nation of hunters to whom a shade of greater accuracy is
the means of subsistence. No man who is not a first-rate shot can judge
justly of the value of a rifle; and one of our backwoodsmen would never
use any rifle but the Kentucky _of American manufacture_, if it were
given him. An Adirondack hunter would not thank the best English
rifle-maker for one of his guns any more warmly than a sea-captain in
want of a chronometer would thank his owners for a Swiss lepine watch.

The gun which we thus eulogize we shall describe, and compare the
results which its use shows with those shown by the other known
varieties of rifle, and this without any consideration of the powers of
American marksmen as compared with European. The world is full of fables
of shooting-exploits as absurd as those told of Robin Hood. Cooper tells
of Leatherstocking's driving the nail with unfailing aim at a hundred
paces,--a degree of skill no man out of romance has ever been _reported_
to possess amongst riflemen. We have seen the best marksmen the
continent holds attempt to drive the nail at fifty yards, and take
fifty balls to drive one nail. A story is current of a French rifleman
shooting an Arab chief a mile distant, which, if true, was only a chance
shot; for no human vision will serve the truest rifle ever made and the
steadiest nerves ever strung to perform such a feat with any certainty.
Lieutenant Busk informs us that Captain Minie "will undertake to hit a
man at a distance of 1420 yards three times out of five shots,"--a
feat Captain Minie or any other man will "undertake" many times before
accomplishing, for the simple reason, that, supposing the rifle
_perfect_, at _that_ distance a man is too small a mark to be found in
the sights of a rifle, except by the aid of the telescope.[1] [Footnote
1: A man, five feet ten inches high, at 1450 yards, will, in the
buck-sight of the Minie rifle, at fourteen inches from the eye, appear
1/53 of an inch in height and 1/185 in breadth of shoulders. If the
reader will look at these measures on a finely divided scale, he will
appreciate the absurdity of such a boast. A man at that distance could
hardly be found in the sights.] We could fill a page with marvellous
shots _quos nidi et quorum pars_, etc. We have seen a bird no larger
than a half-grown chicken killed off-hand at eighty rods (nearly
fourteen hundred feet); have known a deer to be killed at a good half
mile; have shot off the skull-cap of a duck at thirty rods; at twenty
rods have shot a loon through the head, putting the ball in at one eye
and out at the other, without breaking the skin;--but such shooting,
ordinarily, is a physical impossibility, as any experienced rifleman
knows. These were chance shots, or so nearly so that they could not be
repeated in a hundred shots. The impossibility lies in the marksman and
in human vision.

In comparing the effects of rifles, then, we shall suppose them, as in
government trials and long-range shooting-matches, to be fired from a
"dead rest,"--the only way in which the absolute power of a rifle can be
shown. First, for the gun itself. There are two laws of gunnery which
must be kept in sight in comparing the results of such trials:--1st,
that the shape and material of two missiles being the same, the heavier
will range the farther, because in proportion to its momentum it meets
less resistance from the atmosphere; 2d, that the less the recoil of the
gun, the greater will be the initial velocity of the ball, since the
motion lost in recoil is taken from the velocity of the ball. Of course,
then, the larger the bore of the rifle, the greater will be its range,
supposing always the best form of missile and a proportionate weight of
gun. As the result of these two laws, we see that of two guns throwing
the same weight and description of missile, the heavier will throw its
missile the farther; while of two guns of the same weight, that one
which throws the smaller missile will give it the greater initial
velocity,--supposing the gun free to recoil, as it must, fired from the
shoulder. But the smaller ball will yield the sooner to the resistance
of the atmosphere, owing to its greater proportional surface presented.
Suppose, then, two balls of different weights to be fired from guns of
the same weight;--the smaller ball will start with the higher rate of
speed, but will finally be overtaken and passed by the larger ball; and
the great problem of rifle-gauge is to ascertain that relation of weight
of gun to weight of projectile which will give the greatest velocity at
the longest range at which the object fired at can be seen distinctly
enough to give a reasonable chance of hitting it. This problem the maker
of the Kentucky rifle solves, by accepting, as a starting-point, the
greatest weight of gun which a man may reasonably be expected to
carry,--say, ten to twelve pounds,--and giving to that weight the
heaviest ball it will throw, without serious recoil,--for no matter what
the proportion, there will be _some_ recoil. This proportion of the
weight of gun to that of projectile, as found by experience, is about
five hundred to one; so that if a gun weigh ten pounds, the ball should
weigh about 19/500 of a pound. Of course, none of these gun-makers have
ever made a mathematical formula expressing this relation; but hundreds
of thousands of shots have pretty well determined it to be the most
effective for all hunting needs (and the best hunting-rifles are the
best for a rifle-corps, acting as sharp-shooters). By putting this
weight of ball into a conical form of good proportions, the calibre
of the gun may be made about ninety gauge. which, for a range of four
hundred yards, cannot be excelled in accuracy with that weight of gun.

But in a rifle the grooving is of the utmost importance; for velocity
without accuracy is useless. To determine the best kind of groove has
been, accordingly, the object of the most laborious investigations. The
ball requires an initial rotary motion sufficient to keep it "spinning"
up to its required range, and is found to gain in accuracy by increasing
this rotatory speed; but if the pitch of the grooves be too great,
the ball will refuse to follow them; but, being driven across them,
"strips,"--that is, the lead in the grooves is torn off, and the ball
goes out without rotation. The English gunsmiths have avoided the
dilemma by giving the requisite pitch and making the grooves very deep,
and even by having wings cast on the ball to keep it in the grooves,
expedients which increase the friction in the barrel and the resistance
of the air enormously.

The American gun-makers have solved the problem by adopting the "gaining
twist," in which the grooves start from the breech nearly parallel to
the axis of the barrel, and gradually increase the spiral, until, at the
muzzle, it has the pitch of one revolution in three to four; _the pitch
being greater as the bore is less_. This gives, as a result, safety from
stripping, and a rapid revolution at the exit, with comparatively little
friction and shallow groove-marks on the ball,--accomplishing what is
demanded of a rifled barrel, to a degree that no other combination of
groove and form of missile ever has.

English makers have experimented somewhat on the rifling of barrels, but
with no results which compare with those shown by the improved Kentucky.
English hunting-rifles, and _all_ military rifles, are made with
complete disregard of the law of relation between the weights of ball
and barrel. The former seems to be determined by dividing the weight of
ammunition a soldier may carry in his cartridge-box by the number of
charges he is required to have, and then the gun is made as light as
will stand the test of firing,--blunders all the way through; for we
never want a rifle-ball to range much farther than it is possible to hit
a single man with it; and a missile of the proper shape from a barrel of
sixty gauge will kill a man at a mile's distance, if it strike a vital
part. The consequence is, that the rifles are so light in proportion to
their load that the recoil seriously diminishes the force of the ball,
and entirely prevents accuracy of aim; and at the same time their
elastic metal springs so much under the pressure of the gas generated
by the explosion of the powder that anything like exactitude becomes
impossible.[1][Footnote 1: Experiments have shown, that, with a barrel
about the thickness of that of our "regulation rifles," the spring will
throw a ball nearly two feet from the aim in a range of six hundred
yards, if the barrel be firmly held in a machine.] This the English
gunsmiths do not seem to have learned, since their best authorities
recommend a gun of sixty-four gauge to have a barrel of four pounds
weight, and that is considered heavy,--while ours, of sixty gauge, would
weigh at least twice that. To get the best possible shooting, we find
not only weight of barrel requisite, but a thickness of the metal nearly
or quite equal to the diameter of the bore.

Mr. Whitworth, of Manchester, revived the old polygonal bore, and, by
a far more perfect boring of barrel than was ever before attained in
England, has succeeded in doing some very accurate shooting; but the
pitch of his grooves requisite to give sufficient rotation to his
polygonal missile to enable it to rotate to the end of its flight is so
great, that the friction and recoil are enormous, and the liability
to burst very great, Mr. Whitworth's missile is a twisted prism,
corresponding to the bore, of two and a half diameters, with a cone at
the front of one half the diameter. Such a gun, in a firing-machine,
with powder enough to overcome all the friction, and heavy enough to
counteract torsion and springing, would give very great accuracy, if
perfectly made, or as well made as American rifles generally; but no
maker in England, not even Mr. Whitworth, has attained _that_ point
yet; and even so made, they would never be available as service--or

The Lancaster rifle avoids grooves (nominally) altogether, and
substitutes an elliptical bore, twisted to Mr. Whitworth's pitch (twenty
inches). General Jacob says, very justly, of this gun: "The mode of
rifling is the _very worst possible. It is only the two-grooved rifle in
disguise_. Let the shoulders of the grooves of a two-grooved rifle be
removed, and you have the Lancaster rifle. But by the removal of
these shoulders, the friction, if the twist be considerable, becomes
enormous." To compare this twist with the rifled bore, one has only to
take a lead tube, made slightly elliptical in its cross-section, and,
fitting a plug to its ellipse, turn the plug round, and he will see that
the result is to enlarge the whole bore to the longest diameter of the
ellipse, which, if it were a gun-barrel, unelastic, would be equivalent
to bursting it. But this is exactly the action which the ball has on the
barrel, so that, to use General Jacob's words, "the heat developed by
the friction must be very great, and the tendency of the gun to burst
also very great." Lieutenant Busk--who seems, if we may judge from the
internal evidence of his book, to know little or nothing of good rifles
or rifle-practice, and to have no greater qualification for writing the
book than the reading of what has been written on the subject and an
acquaintance of great extent with gunsmiths--remarks, in reply to the
veteran of English riflemen: "Having given the matter the very closest
attention, I am enabled confidently to state that the whole of this
supposition [quoted above] is founded in error.... So far from the
friction being enormous, it is less than that generated in any other
kind of rifle. It is also utterly impossible for the bullet to act
destructively on the barrel in the way suggested." Such cool assurance,
in an unsupported contradiction of experience and the dictates of the
simplest mechanical common-sense, would seem to promise little real
value in the book, and promises no less than it really has.

The same objection which lies against the Lancaster rifle (?) applies
to the Whitworth in a less degree. If the reader, having tried the
lead-pipe experiment above, will next hammer the tube hexagonal and try
the plug again, he will find the same result; but if he will try it with
a round bore grooved, and with a plug fitting the grooves, he will see
that the pressure is against the wall of the groove, and acts at right
angles to the radius of the bore, having only a tendency to twist the
barrel in order to straighten the grooves,--a tendency which the barrel
meets in the direction of its greatest stability. We may see, then,
that, in theory at least, there is no way of rifling so secure as that
in which the walls of the grooves are parts of radii of the bore. They
should be numerous, that the hold of the lands (the projection left
between the grooves) may divide the friction and resistance as much as
possible, and so permit the grooves to be as shallow as may be. The

[Illustration: ]

represents, on one side of the dotted line, three grooves, 1, 1, 1, cut
in this way, exaggerated to show more clearly their character. In the
Kentucky rifle this law is followed, except that, for convenience in
cutting, the grooves are made of the same width at the bottom and top,
as shown at 2, 2, 2, which is, for grooves of the depth of which they
are made, practically the same, as the dotted circle will show. Our
gun-makers use from six to ten grooves.

To sum up our conditions,--the model rifle will conform to the following
description:--Its weight will be from ten to twelve pounds; the length
of barrel not less than thirty inches,[1] and of calibre from ninety to
sixty gauge; six to ten freed grooves, about .005 inch deep, angular at
bottom and top, with the lands of the same width as the grooves; twist
increasing from six feet to three feet; barrel, of cast steel,[2] fitted
to the stock with a patent breech, with back action set lock, and open
or hunting and globe and peek sights. Mr. Chapman, whose book is the
most interesting and intelligent, by far, of all hitherto published,
recommends a straighter stock than those generally used by American
hunters. Here we differ;--the Swiss stock, crooking, on an average, two
inches more than ours, is preferable for quick shooting, though in a
_light_ rifle much crook in the stock will throw the muzzle up by the
recoil. With such a gun,--the best for hunting that the ingenuity and
skill of man have ever yet contrived and made,--one may depend on
his shot, if he have skill, as he cannot on the Minie, Enfield, or
Lancaster; and whether he be in the field against a foe, or in the
forest against the deer, he holds the life of man or deer in his power
at the range of rifle-sighting.

[Footnote 1: There is much difference of opinion amongst gun-makers as
to the length of barrel most desirable. We believe in a long barrel, for
the following reasons: 1st, a longer distance between sights is given,
and the back sight can be put farther from the eye, so that finer
sighting is possible; 2d, a long barrel is steadier in off-hand
shooting; 3d, it permits a slower powder to be used, so that the ball
starts more slowly and yet allows the full strength of the powder to be
used before it leaves the barrel, getting a high initial velocity with
little recoil, and without "upsetting" the ball, as we shall explain
farther on. The experiments of the United States government show that
the increasing of the length of the barrel from thirty-three to forty
inches (we speak from memory as to numbers) increased the initial
velocity fifty feet per second; but this will, in long ranges, be no
advantage, except with such a shape of missile as will maintain a high

[Footnote 2: Hunters still dispute as to iron or steel; and we have used
iron barrels made by Amsden, of Saratoga Springs, which for accuracy and
wear were unexceptionable; though gunsmiths generally take less pains
with iron than steel barrels. But give us steel.]

Of all the variations of the rifle, for the sake of obtaining force of
penetration, nothing yet compares with the Accelerating Rifle, invented
some years since by a New York mechanic. In this the ball was started by
an ordinary charge, and at a certain distance down the barrel received
a new charge, by a side chamber, which produced an almost incredible
effect. An ellipsoidal missile of ninety gauge and several diameters
long, made of brass, was driven through thirty-six inches of oak and
twenty-four inches of green spruce timber, or fifty inches of the most
impenetrable of timbers. The same principle of acceleration has, it is
said, been most successfully applied in Boston by the use of a hollow
_tige_ or tube fixed at the bottom of the bore with the inside of which
the cap-fire communicates,--so that, when the gun is charged, part of
the powder falls into the _tige_, and the remainder into the barrel
outside of it. The ball being driven down until it rests on the top of
the _tige_, receives its first impulse from the small charge contained
in it,--after which, the fire, flashing back, communicates to the powder
outside the _tige_, producing an enormous accelerating effect. But it is
doubtful if the gun can be brought into actual service, from being so
difficult to clean.

It is questionable if any greater range in rifles will be found
desirable. With a good Kentucky rifle, we are even now obliged to use
telescope sights to avail ourselves of its full range and accuracy of
fire. The accelerating inventions may be made use of in artillery, for
throwing shells, and for siege trains, but promise nothing for small

Then, as the secondary point, comes the form of projectile, that in
which the greatest weight (and thence momentum) combines with least
resistance from the atmosphere. In the pursuit of this result every
experimenter since the fifteenth century has worked. Lautmann, writing
in 1729, recommends an elliptical missile, hollow behind, from a
notion that the hollow gathered the explosive force, Robins recommends
elongated balls; and they were used in many varieties of form. Theory
would assign, as the shape of highest rapidity, one like that which
would be made by the revolution of the waterline section of a fast
ship on its longitudinal axis; and supposing the force _to have been_
applied, this would doubtless be capable of the greatest speed; but the
rifle-missile must first be fitted to receive the action of the powder
in the most effective way. An ellipsoid cone would leave the air behind
it most smoothly, but it would not receive the pressure of the gas in a
line with its direction of motion; and so of the hollow butt; the gas,
acting and reacting in every way perpendicularly to the surface it acts
on, wastes its force in straining outwardly. The perfectly flat butt
would take as much forward impetus at the edge of the cone base, where
the soft lead would yield slightly. And so we find the best form to be
a base which receives the force of the powder in such a way that the
resultant of the forces acting on each point in the base would be
coincident with the axis of the missile. And this, in practice, was the
shape which the American experiments gave to the butt of the ball, the
condition in which it left the air being found of minor importance,
compared with its capacity of receiving the force of the powder. The
point of the cone was found objectionable in practice, and was gradually
brought to the curve of the now universally used sugar-loaf missile or
flat-ended picket shown in fig. 1.

[Illustration: Figure 1]

This picket has but a single point of bearing, and is driven down with
a greased linen patch, filling up the grooves entirely, and preventing
"leading" of the barrel, as well as keeping the picket firm in
the barrel. This is of vital importance; for no breech-loading or
loose-loading and expanding ball can ever fly so truly as a solid ball
whose position in the barrel is accurately fixed. A longitudinal missile
must rotate with its axis coincident with its line of flight as it
leaves the barrel, or else every rotation will throw the point into
wider circles, until finally it becomes more eccentric than a round
ball. It is a mistaken notion that a conical missile is more accurate in
flight than a round; on the contrary, hunters always prefer the ball for
_short shots_,--and a "slug," as the longer missile is called by them,
is well known to err more than a ball, if put down untruly.

[Illustration: Figure 2]

The improved Minie ball (fig. 2) was intended to obviate the danger of
the missile's turning in flight, by hollowing the butt, and so putting
the centre of gravity in front of the centre of resistance, so that
it flies like a heavy-headed arrow, while at the same time the powder
expands the hollow butt and fills the grooves, securing perfect rotation
with easy loading. But the hollow in the ball diminishes the gravity and
momentum; the liability of the lead to expand unequally, and so throw
the point of the missile out of line, makes a long bearing necessary,
producing enormous friction. This objection obtains equally with all
pickets having expanding butts, and is a sufficient reason for their
inferior accuracy to that of solid pickets fitted to the grooves at the
muzzle with a patch. General Jacob says,--"I have tried every expedient
I could think of as a substitute for the greased patch for rifle-balls,
but had always to return to this"; and every experienced rifleman will
agree with him. Yet both English and American (governmental) experiments
ignore the fact, that the expansible bullets increase friction
enormously; and the Enfield bullet (fig. 3) is as badly contrived as
possible, being round-pointed, expansible, and with very long bearings,
without the bands which in the French and American bullets reduce the
friction somewhat. The Harper's Ferry bullet (fig. 4) is better than
either the English or the French, and is as good as a loose-loading
bullet can be.

[Illustration: Figure 3]

[Illustration: Fig 4]

Besides all the objections we have urged against the bullet with long
bearings, another still remains of a serious nature. No missile that has
two points of bearing can be used with the gaining twist, as the change
in the direction of the ridges on the shot formed by the grooves will
necessarily tend to change the position of the axis of the shot; and
the gaining twist is the greatest improvement made since grooving was
successfully applied;--to reject it is to reject something indispensable
to the _best_ performance of the rifle. The flat-ended picket complies
with all the requisites laid down; and we will venture to say, that,
if any government will give it a thorough trial, side by side with any
loose-loading bullet, it will be found preferable to any other bullet,
despite the disadvantage of slow loading from using a patch and a
tight-fitting ball.

To make the statement conclusive, we give the results of the United
States experiments, and a statement of the European as compared with the
United States firing, and then the results of Kentucky rifle-firing.
With the new trial-rifle at Harper's Ferry, (a target 1 X 216 feet being
put up at two hundred yards,) with the American ball, (fig. 4,) the best
string of twenty-five shots averaged 3.2 inches vertical deviation, 2.4
in. horizontal deviation. At five hundred yards, the best string of
twenty-five shots averaged 10.8 inches vertical deviation, 14 in.
horizontal deviation. At one thousand yards, 26.4 vertical deviation,
16.8 horizontal deviation. In another trial with the new musket-rifle,
the mean deviation at two hundred yards was 4.4 vertical, 3.4

In a comparison of the power of French, English, and American rifles,
it was found that at two hundred yards the American gun averaged 4.8
vertical and 4.5 horizontal deviation. The Enfield rifle gave 7 in.
vertical, 11.3 horizontal; the French rifle _a tige_, 8 vertical, 7.6
horizontal. A Swiss rifle, at the same distance, gave 5.3 vertical and
4.3 horizontal deviation.

At five hundred yards, the following was the result:--

American gun, 13. in. vert. dev. 11.5 hor. dev.
Enfield, " 20.4 " 19.2 "
Rifle _a tige_, 18.5 " 17.1 "

At one thousand yards,--

American gun, 31.5 in. vert. dev. 20.1 hor. dev.
Enfield, " 42 " 52.8 "
Rifle_a tige_(874 yds.),47.2 " 37.4 "

The only detailed reports of General Jacob's practice are at one
thousand yards or over, at which his _shell_ averaged 31.2 in.
horizontal deviation, 55.2 in. vertical; not far from the range of the
Enfield. His bullet is fig. 5.

[Illustration: Fig 5.]

But long ranges test less fairly the _accuracy_ of a rifle than short
ones, because in long flights they are more subject to drift, of the
wind, etc. We shall compare the government reports of shooting at two
hundred yards with that of the Kentucky rifle at two hundred and twenty,
the usual trying distance. At that distance, the American gun gave

4.8 in. vert dev. and 4.5 hor. dev.
Enfield, 7 " 11.3 "
French _a tige_, 8 " 7.6 "
Swiss, 5.3 " 4.3 "
Kentucky, (according to Mr. Chapman,) 1.06 absolute deviation.

At 500 yards, the comparison stands,--

American, (government,) 13 in. vertical deviation, 11.5 in. horizontal.
(About 17 in. absolute.)

Kentucky, (550 yards,) 11 in. absolute deviation

We give cuts of two targets, of which we have duplicates in our
possession, made by rifles manufactured by Morgan James, of Utica, New
York, that the reader may appreciate the marvellous accuracy of this
weapon; the first was made by a rifle of 60 gauge, twenty-five shots
being fired, the average deviation being 1.4 in.; the second by a 90
gauge, the average being [Illustration]


.8 in.; both at two hundred and twenty yards, and better than Mr.
Chapman's report. In the northern part of the State of New York, the
practice at shooting-matches is, at turkeys at one hundred rods, (five
hundred and fifty yards,) and a good marksman is expected to kill one
turkey, on an average, in three shots,--and this with a bullet weighing
from two hundred and forty to one hundred and sixty grains, while the
army bullet weighs five hundred and fifty-seven. The easily fatal range
of the bullet of two hundred and forty grains is a thousand yards; and
farther than that, no bullet can be relied on as against single men.

In breech-loading guns, much must be sacrificed, in point of accuracy,
to mere facility of loading; and here there seems room for doubt whether
a breech-loader offers any advantage compensating for its complication
of mechanism and the danger of its being disabled by accident in hurried
loading. No breech-loading gun is so trustworthy in its execution as a
muzzle-loader; for, in spite of all precautions, the bullets will go
out irregularly. We have cut out too many balls of Sharpe's rifle from
the target, which had entered sidewise, not to be certain on this point;
and we know of no other breech-loader so little likely to err in this
respect, when the ball is crowded down into the grooves, and the powder
poured on the ball,--as we always use it. The government reports on
breech-loaders are adverse to their adoption, mainly because they are so
likely to get out of working order and to get clogged. We have used one
of Sharpe's two years in hunting, and found it, with a round ball at
short shots, perfectly reliable; while with the belted picket perhaps
one shot in five or six would wander. Used with the cartridge, they
are much less reliable. They may be apt to clog, but we have used one
through a day's hunting, and found the oil on the slide at night: and we
are inclined to believe, that, when fitted with gas rings, they will
not clog, if used with good powder. The Maynard rifle is perfectly
unexceptionable in this respect, and an excellent gun, in its way. The
powder does not flash out any more than in a muzzle-loader. Of the other
kinds of breech-loaders we can say nothing from experience, and should
scarcely recommend using one for a hunting-gun. One who has used a
rifle of James, of Lewis (of Troy, New York), Amsden of Saratoga, (and
doubtless others in the West are equally famous in their sections,) will
hardly be willing to use the best breech-loader. There is no time saved,
when the important shot is lost; and the gun that is always true is the
only one for a rifleman, _if it take twice, the time to load_.

In the rifling of cannon, there seems to be no reason why the same rules
should not hold good as in small arms. The gaining twist seems more
important, from the greater tendency of the heavy balls to strip; and
there being less object in extreme lightness, the gun may be made a
large-sized Kentucky rifle on wheels; and there is less difficulty in
loading with the precision that the flat-ended picket requires. In the
cannon, even more than in the rifle for the line, there is no gain in
getting facility of loading at the expense of precision. If, by careful
loading, we hit the given mark twice as often as when we load in haste,
it is clear how much we gain. The breech-loader seems to be useless as a
cannon, because that in which it has the advantage, namely, rapidity of
loading, is useless in a field-piece, where, even now, artillery-men can
load faster than they can fire safely. Napoleon III. has made his rifled
cannon to load at the muzzle, and practical artillerists commend
his decision. The Armstrong gun, of which so much is expected, we
confidently predict, will prove a failure, when tried in field-practice
in the hurry of battle, if it is ever so tried. It is a breech-loader of
the clumsiest kind, taking twice as long to load as a common gun,
and very complicated. Its wonderful range is owing to its great
calibre,--sixty-four pounds; but even at that, it furnishes no results
proportionate to those given by the Napoleon cannon, or by our General
James's recent gun.

The great anticipations raised by the general introduction of the rifle,
and its greater range, of such a change in warfare as to make the
bayonet useless, seem to have met with disappointment in the recent
wars. No matter how perfect the gun, men, in the heat and excitement of
battle, will hardly be deliberate in aim, or effective enough in firing
to stop a charge of determined men; the bayonet, with the most of
mankind, will always be the queen of weapons in a pitched battle; only
for skirmishing, for sharp-shooting, and artillery, will the rifle equal
theoretical expectations. Men, not brought up from boyhood to such
constant use of the rifle as to make sure aim an act of instinct with
them, will never repel with certainty a charge of the bayonet by
rifle-balls. With men whose rifles come to an aim with the instinctive
accuracy with which a hawk strikes his prey, firing is equivalent to
hitting, and excitement only makes the aim surer and more prompt; but
such must have been hunters from youth; and no training of the army can
give this second nature. American volunteers are the only material,
outside the little districts of Switzerland and the Tyrol, who can ever
be trained to this point, because they are the only nation of hunters
beside the Swiss and Tyrolese. The English game-laws, which prevent the
common people from using fire-arms _ad libitum_, have done and are doing
more to injure the efficacy of the individual soldier than all their
militia-training can ever mend. In the hands of an English peasant,
"Brown Bess" is as good as a rifle; for he would only throw the ball of
either at random. Discipline is wonderful and wondrously effective; but,
in the first place, it won't make a man a ready and accurate shot, in
time of excitement; and, in the second place, it won't make his bayonet
a shield for a ball from the rifle of a man who has learned, by the
practice of years, not to throw away a ball or to fire at random;--it
couldn't carry the bravest men in Wellington's army over a cotton-bale
intrenchment, in the face of a double line of Kentucky rifles. It is
very well to sing,

"Riflemen, riflemen, riflemen, form!"

but where are the riflemen? Can Britannia stamp them out of the dust? or
has she a store of "dragon's teeth" to sow? God grant she may never have
to defend those English homes against the guns of Vincennes! but if
she must, it is on a comparatively undisciplined militia she must
depend;--and then she may remember, with bitter self-reproach, the
lesson of New Orleans.



I do not mean to give portraits of the individuals at our hotel. My
chance acquaintance with them confers on me no right to appropriate
their several characteristics for my own convenience and the diversion
of the public. I will give only such general sketches as one may make of
a public body at a respectful distance, marking no features that fix or

Our company is almost entirely composed of two classes,--invalids and
men of business, with or without their families. The former are easily
recognizable by their sad eyes and pallid countenances; even the hectic
of disease does not deceive you,--it has no affinity to the rose of
health. There is the cough, too,--the cruel cough that would not be
left at the North, that breaks out through all the smothering by day,
and shakes the weak frame with uneasy rocking by night.

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