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  • 02/1862
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He was not conscious how he knew he was in a hospital: but he did know it, vaguely; thought sometimes of the long halls outside of the door with ranges of rooms opening into them, like this, and of very barns of rooms on the other side of the building with rows of white cots where the poor patients lay: a stretch of travel from which his brain came back to his snug fireplace, quite tired, and to Lois sitting knitting by it. He called the little Welsh-woman, “Sister,” too, who used to come in a stuff dress, and white bands about her face, to give his medicine and gossip with Lois in the evening: she had a comical voice, like a cricket chirping. There was another with a real Scotch brogue, who came and listened sometimes, bringing a basket of undarned stockings: the doctor told him one day how fearless and skilful she was, every summer going to New Orleans when the yellow fever came. She died there the next June: but Holmes never, somehow, could realize a martyr in the cheery, freckled-faced woman whom he always remembered darning stockings in the quiet fire-light. It was very quiet; the voices about him were pleasant and low. If he had drifted from any shock of pain into a sleep like death, some of the stillness hung about him yet; but the outer life was homely and fresh and natural.

The doctor used to talk to him a little; and sometimes one or two of the patients from the eye-ward would grow tired of sitting about in the garden-alleys, and would loiter in, if Lois would give them leave; but their talk wearied him, jarred him as strangely as if one had begun on politics and price-currents to the silent souls in Hades. It was enough thought for him to listen to the whispered stories of the sisters in the long evenings, and, half-heard, try and make an end to them; to look drowsily down into the garden, where the afternoon sunshine was still so summer-like that a few hollyhocks persisted in showing their honest red faces along the walls, and the very leaves that filled the paths would not wither, but kept up a wholesome ruddy brown. One of the sisters had a poultry-yard in it, which he could see: the wall around it was of stone covered with a brown feathery lichen, which every rooster in that yard was determined to stand on, or perish in the attempt; and Holmes would watch, through the quiet, bright mornings, the frantic ambition and the uproarious exultation of the successful aspirant with an amused smile.

“One’d thenk,” said Lois, sagely, “a chicken never stood on a wall before, to hear ’em, or a hen laid an egg.”

Nor did Holmes smile once because the chicken burlesqued man: his thought was too single for that yet. It was long before he thought of the people who came in quietly to see him as anything but shadows, or wished for them to come again. Lois, perhaps, was the most real thing in life then to him: growing conscious, day by day, as he watched her, of his old life over the gulf. Very slowly conscious: with a weak groping to comprehend the sudden, awful change that had come on him, and then forgetting his old life, and the change, and the pity he felt for himself, in the vague content of the fire-lit room, and his nurse with her interminable knitting through the long afternoons, while the sky without would thicken and gray and a few still flakes of snow would come drifting down to whiten the brown fields,–with no chilly thought of winter, but only to make the quiet autumn more quiet. Whatever honest, commonplace affection was in the man came out in a simple way to this Lois, who ruled his sick whims and crotchets in such a quiet, sturdy way. Not because she had risked her life to save his; even when he understood that, he recalled it with an uneasy, heavy gratitude; but the drinks she made him, and the plot they laid to smuggle in some oysters in defiance of all rules, and the cheerful pock-marked face he never forgot.

Doctor Knowles came sometimes, but seldom: never talked, when he did come: late in the evening generally: and then would punch his skin, and look at his tongue, and shake the bottles on the mantel-shelf with a grunt that terrified Lois into the belief that the other doctor was a quack, and her patient was totally undone. He would sit, grim enough, with his feet higher than his head, chewing an unlighted cigar, and leave them both thankful when he saw proper to go.

The truth is, Knowles was thoroughly out of place in these little mending-shops called sick-chambers, where bodies are taken to pieces, and souls set right. He had no faith in your slow, impalpable cures: all reforms were to be accomplished by a wrench, from the abolition of slavery to the pulling of a tooth.

He had no especial sympathy with Holmes, either: the men were started in life from opposite poles: and with all the real tenderness under his surly, rugged habit, it would have been hard to touch him with the sudden doom fallen on this man, thrown crippled and penniless upon the world, helpless, it might be, for life. He would have been apt to tell you, savagely, that “he wrought for it.”

Besides, it made him out of temper to meet the sisters. Knowles could have sketched for you with a fine decision of touch the _role_ played by the Papal power in the progress of humanity,–how jar it served as a stepping-stone, and the exact period when it became a wearisome clog. The world was done with it now, utterly. Its breath was only poisoned, with coming death. So the homely live charity of these women, their work, which, no other hands were ready to take, jarred against his abstract theory, and irritated him, as an obstinate fact always does run into the hand of a man who is determined to clutch the very heart of a matter. Truth will not underlie all facts, in this muddle of a world, in spite of the positive philosophers, you know.

Don’t sneer at Knowles. Your own clear, tolerant brain, that reflects all men and creeds alike, like colorless water, drawing the truth from all, is very different, doubtless, from this narrow, solitary soul, who thought the world waited for him to fight down his one evil before it went on its slow way. An intolerant fanatic, of course. But the truth he did know was so terribly real to him, he had suffered from the evil, and there was such sick, throbbing pity in his heart for men who suffered as he had done! And then, fanatics must make history for conservative men to learn from, I suppose.

If Knowles shunned the hospital, there was another place he shunned more,–the place where his communist buildings were to have stood. He went out there once, as one might go alone to bury his dead out of his sight, the day after the mill was burnt,–looking first at the smoking mass of hot bricks and charred shingles, so as clearly to understand how utterly dead his life-long scheme was. He stalked gravely around it, his hands in his pockets; the hodmen who were raking out their winter’s firewood from the ashes remarking, that “old Knowles didn’t seem a bit cut up about it.” Then he went out to the farm he had meant to buy, as I told you, and looked at it in the same stolid way. It was a dull day in October. The Wabash crawled moodily past his feet, the dingy prairie stretched drearily away on the other side, while the heavy-browed Indiana hills stood solemnly looking down the plateau where the buildings were to have risen.

Well, most men have some plan for life, into which all the strength and the keen, fine feeling of their nature enter; but generally they try to make it real in early youth, and, balked then, laugh ever afterwards at their own folly. This poor old Knowles had begun to block out his dream when he was a gaunt, gray-haired man of sixty. I have known men so build their heart’s blood and brains into their work, that, when it tumbled down, their lives went with it. His fell that dull day in October; but if it hurt him, no man knew it. He sat there, looking at the broad plateau, whistling softly to himself, a long time. He had meant that a great many hearts should be made better and happier there; he had dreamed—-God knows what he had dreamed, of which this reality was the foundation,–of how much freedom, or beauty, or kindly life this was the heart or seed. It was all over now. All the afternoon the muddy sky hung low over the hills and dull prairie, while he sat there looking at the dingy gloom: just as you and I have done, perhaps, some time, thwarted in some true hope,–sore and bitter against God, because He did not see how much His universe needed our pet reform.

He got up at last, and without a sigh went slowly away, leaving the courage and self-reliance of his life behind him, buried with that one beautiful, fair dream of life. He never came back again. People said Knowles was quieter since his loss; but I think only God saw the depth of the difference. When he was leaving the plateau, that day, he looked back at it, as if to say good-bye,–not to the dingy fields and river, but to the Something he had nursed so long in his rugged heart, and given up now forever. As he looked, the warm, red sun came out, lighting up with a heartsome warmth the whole gray day. Some blessing power seemed to look at him from the gloomy hills, the prairie, and the river, which he was to see again. His hope accomplished could not have looked at him with surer content and fulfilment. He turned away, ungrateful and moody. Long afterwards he remembered the calm and brightness which his hand had not been raised to make, and understood the meaning of its promise.

He went to work now in earnest: he had to work for his bread-and-butter, you understand? Restless, impatient at first; but we will forgive him that: you yourself were not altogether submissive, perhaps, when the slow-built hope of life was destroyed by some chance, as you called it, no more controllable than this paltry burning of a mill. Yet, now that the great hope was gone on which his brain had worked with rigid, fierce intentness, now that his hands were powerless to redeem a perishing class, he had time to fall into careless, kindly habit: he thought it wasted time, remorsefully, of course. He was seized with a curiosity to know what plan in living these people had who crossed his way on the streets; if they were disappointed, like him. He went sometimes to read the papers to old Tim Poole, who was bed-ridden, and did not pish or pshaw once at his maundering about secession or the misery in his back. Went to church sometimes: the sermons were bigotry, always, to his notion, sitting on a back seat, squirting tobacco-juice about him; but the simple, old-fashioned hymns brought the tears to his eyes:–“They sounded to him like his mother’s voice, singing in paradise: he hoped she could not see how things had gone on here,–how all that was honest and strong in his life had fallen in that infernal mill.” Once or twice he went down Crane Alley, and lumbered up three pair of stairs to the garret where Kitts had his studio,–got him orders, in fact, for two portraits; and when that pale-eyed young man, in a fit of confidence, one night, with a very red face drew back the curtain from his grand “Fall of Chapultepec,” and watched him with a lean and hungry look, Knowles, who knew no more about painting than a gorilla, walked about, looking through his fist at it, saying, “how fine the _chiaroscuro_ was, and that it was a devilish good thing altogether.” “Well, well,” he soothed his conscience, going down-stairs, “maybe that bit of canvas is as much to that poor chap as the phalanstery was once to another fool.” And so went on through the gas-lit streets into his parishes in cellars and alleys, with a sorer heart, but cheerfuller words, now that he had nothing but words to give.

The only place where he hardened his heart was in the hospital with Holmes. After he had wakened to full consciousness, Knowles thought the man a beast to sit there uncomplaining day after day, cold and grave, as if the lifeful warmth of the late autumn were enough for him. Did he understand the iron fate laid on him? Where was the strength of the self-existent soul now? Did he know that it was a balked, defeated life, that waited for him, vacant of the triumphs he had planned? “The self-existent soul! stopped in its growth by chance, this omnipotent deity,–the chance burning of a mill!” Knowles muttered to himself, looking at Holmes. With a dim flash of doubt, as he said it, whether there might not, after all, be a Something,–some deep of calm, of eternal order, where these coarse chances, these wrestling souls, these creeds, Catholic or Humanitarian, even that namby-pamby Kitts and his picture, might be unconsciously working out their part. Looking out of the hospital-window, he saw the deep of the stainless blue, impenetrable, with the stars unconscious in their silence of the maddest raging of the petty world. There was such calm! such infinite love and justice! it was around, above him; it held him, it held the world,–all Wrong, all Right! For an instant the turbid heart of the man cowered, awe-struck, as yours or mine has done when some swift touch of music or human love gave us a cleaving glimpse of the great I AM. The next, he opened the newspaper in his hand. What part in the eternal order could _that_ hold? or slavery, or secession, or civil war? No harmony could be infinite enough to hold such discords, he thought, pushing the whole matter from him in despair. Why, the experiment of self-government, the problem of the ages, was crumbling in ruin! So he despaired just as Tige did the night the mill fell about his ears, in full confidence that the world had come to an end now, without hope of salvation,–crawling out of his cellar in dumb amazement, when the sun rose as usual the next morning.

Knowles sat, peering at Holmes over his paper, watching the languid breath that showed how deep the hurt had been, the maimed body, the face outwardly cool, watchful, reticent as before. He fancied the slough of disappointment into which God had crushed the soul of this man: would he struggle out? Would he take Miss Herne as the first step in his stairway, or be content to be flung down in vigorous manhood to the depth of impotent poverty? He could not tell if the quiet on Holmes’s face were stolid defiance or submission: the dumb kings might have looked thus beneath the feet of Pharaoh. When he walked over the floor, too, weak as he was, it was with the old iron tread. He asked Knowles presently what business he had gone into.

“My old hobby in an humble way,–the House of Refuge.”

They both laughed.

“Yes, it is true. The janitor points me out to visitors as ‘under-superintendent, a philanthropist in decayed circumstances.’ Perhaps it is my life-work,”–growing sad and earnest.

“If you can inoculate these infant beggars and thieves with your theory, it will be practice when you are dead.”

“I think that,” said Knowles, gravely, his eye kindling,–“I think that.”

“As thankless a task as that of Moses,” said the other, watching him curiously. “For _you_ will not see the pleasant land,–_you_ will not go over.”

The old man’s flabby face darkened.

“I know,” he said.

He glanced involuntarily out at the blue, and the clear-shining, eternal stars. If he could but believe in the To-Morrow!

“I suppose,” he said, after a while, cheerfully, “I must content myself with Lois’s creed, here,–‘It’ll come right some time.'”

Lois looked up from the saucepan she was stirring, her face growing quite red, nodding emphatically some half-dozen times.

“Do you find your fallow field easily worked?”

Knowles fidgeted uneasily.

“No. Fact is, I’m beginning to think there’s a good deal of an obstacle in blood. I find difficulty, much difficulty, Sir, in giving the youngest child true ideas of absolute freedom and unselfish heroism.”

“You teach them by reason alone?” said Holmes, gravely.

“Well,–of course,–that is the true theory; but I–I find it necessary to have them whipped, Mr. Holmes.”

Holmes stooped suddenly to pat Tiger, hiding a furtive smile. The old man went on, anxiously,–

“Old Mr. Howth says that is the end of all self-governments: from anarchy to despotism, he says. Old people are apt to be set in their ways, you know. Honestly, we do not find unlimited freedom answer in the House. I hope much from a woman’s assistance: I have destined her for this work always: she has great latent power of sympathy and endurance, such as can bring the Christian teaching home to these wretches.”

“The Christian?” said Holmes.

“Well, yes. I am not a believer myself, you know; but I find that it takes hold of these people more vitally than more abstract faiths: I suppose because of the humanity of Jesus. In Utopia, of course, we shall live from scientific principles; but they do not answer in the House.”

“Who is the woman?” asked Holmes, carelessly.

The other watched him keenly.

“She is coming for five years. Margaret Howth.”

He patted the dog with the same hard, unmoved touch.

“It is a religious duty with her. Besides, she must do something. They have been almost starving since the mill was burnt.”

Holmes’s face was bent; he could not see it. When he looked up, Knowles thought it more rigid, immovable than before.

When Knowles was going away, Holmes said to him,–

“When does Margaret Howth go into that devils’ den?”

“The House? On New-Year’s.” The scorn in him was too savage to be silent. “You will have fulfilled your design by that time,–of marriage?”

Holmes was leaning on the mantel-shelf; his very lips were pale.

“Yes, I shall, I shall,”–in his low, hard tone.

Some sudden dream of warmth and beauty flashed before his gray eyes, lighting them as Knowles never had seen before.

“Miss Herne is beautiful,–let me congratulate you in Western fashion.”

The old man did not hide his sneer.

Holmes bowed.

“I thank you, for her.”

Lois held the candle to light the Doctor out of the long passages.

“Yoh hevn’t seen Barney out ‘t Mr. Howth’s, Doctor? He’s ther’ now.”

“No. When shall you have done waiting on this–man, Lois? God help you, child!”

Lois’s quick instinct answered,–

“He’s very kind. He’s like a woman fur kindness to such as me. When I come to die, I’d like eyes such as his to look at, tender, pitiful.”

“Women are fools alike,” grumbled the Doctor. “Never mind. ‘When you come to die?’ What put that into your head? Look up.”

The child sheltered the flaring candle with her hand.

“I’ve no tho’t o’ dyin’,” she said, laughing.

There was a gray shadow about her eyes, a peaked look to the face, he never saw before, looking at her now with a physician’s eyes.

“Does anything hurt you here?” touching her chest.

“It’s better now. It was that night o’ th’ fire. Th’ breath o’ th’ mill, I thenk,–but it’s nothin’.”

“Burning copperas? Of course it’s better. Oh, that’s nothing!” he said, cheerfully.

When they reached the door, he held out his hand, the first time he ever had done it to her, and then waited, patting her on the head.

“I think it’ll come right, Lois,” he said, dreamily, looking out into the night. “You’re a good girl. I think it’ll all come right. For you and me. Some time. Good night, child.”

After he was a long way down the street, he turned to nod good-night again to the comical little figure in the doorway.

If Knowles hated anybody that night, he hated the man he had left standing there with pale, heavy jaws, and heart of iron; he could have cursed him, standing there. He did not see how, after he was left alone, the man lay with his face to the wall, holding his bony hand to his forehead, with a look in his eyes that if you had seen, you would have thought his soul had entered on that path whose steps take hold on hell.

There was no struggle in his face; whatever was the resolve he had reached in the solitary hours when he had stood so close upon the borders of death, it was unshaken now; but the heart, crushed and stifled before, was taking its dire revenge. If ever it had hungered, through the cold, selfish days, for God’s help, or a woman’s love, it hungered now with a craving like death. If ever he had thought how bare and vacant the years would be, going down to the grave with lips that never had known a true kiss of real affection, he remembered it now, when it was too late, with bitterness such as wrings a man’s heart but once in a lifetime. If ever he had denied to his own soul this Margaret, called her alien or foreign, he called her now, when it was too late, to her rightful place; there was not a thought nor a hope in the darkest depths of his nature that did not cry out for her help that night,–for her, a part of himself,–now, when it was too late. He went over all the years gone, and pictured the years to come; he remembered the money that was to help his divine soul upward; he thought of it with a curse, pacing the floor of the narrow room, slowly and quietly. Looking out into the still starlight and the quaint garden, he tried to fancy this woman as he knew her, after the restless power of her soul should have been chilled and starved into a narrow, lifeless duty. He fancied her old, and stern, and sick of life, she that might have been—-what might they not have been, together? And he had driven her to this for money,–money!

It was of no use to repent of it now. He had frozen the love out of her heart, long ago. He remembered (all that he did remember of the blank night after he was hurt) that he had seen her white, worn-out face looking down at him; that she did not touch him; and that, when, one of the sisters told her she might take her place, and sponge his forehead, she said, bitterly, she had no right to do it, that he was no friend of hers. He saw and heard that, unconscious to all else; he would have known it, if he had been dead, lying there. It was too late now: why need he think of what might have been? Yet he did think of it through the long winter’s night,–each moment his thought of the life to come, or of her, growing more tender and more bitter. Do you wonder at the remorse of this man? Wait, then, until you lie alone, as he had done, through days as slow, revealing as ages, face to face with God and death. Wait until you go down so close to eternity that the life you have lived stands out before you in the dreadful bareness in which God sees it,–as you shall see it some day from heaven or hell: money, and hate, and love will stand in their true light then. Yet, coming back to life again, he held whatever resolve he had reached down there with his old iron will: all the pain he bore in looking back to the false life before, or the ceaseless remembrance that it was too late now to atone for that false life, made him the stronger to abide by that resolve, to go on the path self-chosen, let the end be what it might. Whatever the resolve was, it did not still the gnawing hunger in his heart that night, which every trifle made more fresh and strong.

There was a wicker-basket that Lois had left by the fire, piled up with bits of cloth and leather out of which she was manufacturing Christmas gifts; a pair of great woollen socks, which one of the sisters had told him privately Lois meant for him, lying on top. As with all of her people, Christmas was the great day of the year to her. Holmes could not but smile, looking at them. Poor Lois!–Christmas would be here soon, then? And sitting by the covered fire, he went back to Christmases gone, the thought of all others that brought her nearest and warmest to him: since he was a boy they had been together on that day. With his hand over his eyes he sat quiet by the fire until morning. He heard some boy going by in the gray dawn call to another that they would have holiday on Christmas. It was coming, he thought, rousing himself,–but never as it had been: that could never be again. Yet it was strange how this thought of Christmas took hold of him,–famished his heart. As it approached in the slow-coming winter, the days growing shorter, and the nights longer and more solitary, so Margaret became more real to him,–not rejected and lost, but as the wife she might have been, with the simple passionate love she gave him once. The thought grew intolerable to him; yet there was not a homely pleasure of those years gone, when the old school-master kept high holiday on Christmas, that he did not recall and linger over with a boyish yearning, now that these things were over forever. He chafed under his weakness. If the day would but come when he could go out and conquer his fate, as a man ought to do! On Christmas eve he would put an end to these torturing taunts, his soul should not be balked longer of its rightful food. For I fear that even now Stephen Holmes thought of his own need and his own hunger.

He watched Lois knitting and patching her poor little gifts, with a vague feeling that every stitch made the time a moment shorter until he should be free, with his life in his hand again. She left him at last, sorrowfully enough, but he made her go: he fancied the close air of the hospital was hurting her, seeing at night the strange shadow growing on her face. I do not think he ever said to her that he knew all she had done for him; but no dog or woman that Stephen Holmes loved could look into his eyes and doubt that love. Sad, masterful eyes, such as are seen but once or twice in a lifetime: no woman but would wish, like Lois, for such eyes to be near her when she came to die, for her to remember the world’s love in. She came hobbling back every day to see him after she had gone, and would stay to make his soup, telling him, child-like, how many days it was until Christmas. He knew that, as well as she, waiting through the cold, slow hours, in his solitary room. He thought sometimes she had some eager petition to offer him, when she stood watching him wistfully, twisting her hands together; but she always smothered it with a sigh, and, tying her little woollen cap, went away, walking more slowly, he thought, every day.

Do you remember how Christmas came last year? how there was a waiting pause, when the great States stood still, and from the peoples came the first awful murmurs of the storm that was to shake the earth? how men’s hearts failed them for fear, how women turned pale and held their children closer to their breasts, while they heard a far cry of lamentation for their country that had fallen? Do you remember how, through the fury of men’s anger, the storehouses of God were opened for that land? how the very sunshine gathered new splendors, the rains more fruitful moisture, until the earth poured forth an unknown fulness of life and beauty? Was there no promise there, no prophecy? Do you remember, while the very life of the people hung in doubt before them, while the angel of death came again to pass over the land, and there was no blood on any door-post to keep him from that house, how slowly the old earth folded in her harvest, dead, till it should waken to a stronger life? how quietly, as the time came near for the birth of Christ, this old earth made ready for his coming, heedless of the clamor of men? how the air grew fresher, day by day, and the gray deep silently opened for the snow to go down and screen and whiten and make holy that fouled earth? I think the slow-falling snow did not fail in its quiet warning; for I remember that men, too, in a feeble way tried to make ready for the birth of Christ. There was a healthier glow than terror stirred in their hearts; because of the vague, great dread without, it may be, they drew closer together round household fires, were kindlier in the good old-fashioned way; old friendships were wakened, old times talked over, fathers and mothers and children planned homely ways to show the love in their hearts and to welcome in Christmas. Who knew but it might be the last? Let us be thankful for that happy Christmas-day. What if it were the last? What if, when another comes, and another, some voice, the kindest and cheerfullest then, shall never say “Happy Christmas” to us again? Let us be thankful for that day the more,–accept it the more as a sign of that which will surely come.

Holmes, even, in his dreary room and drearier thought, felt the warmth and expectant stir creeping through the land as the day drew near. Even in the hospital, the sisters were in a busy flutter, decking their little chapel with flowers, and preparing a Christmas _fete_ for their patients. The doctor, as he bandaged his broken arm, hinted at faint rumors in the city of masquerades and concerts. Even Knowles, who had not visited the hospital for weeks, relented and came back, moody and grim. He brought Kitts with him, and started him on talking of how they kept Christmas in Ohio on his mother’s farm; and the poor soul, encouraged by the silence of two of his auditors, and the intense interest of Lois in the background, mazed on about Santa-Claus trees and Virginia reels until the clock struck twelve and Knowles began to snore.

Christmas was coming. As he stood, day after day, looking out of the gray window, he could see the signs of its coming even in the shop-windows glittering with miraculous toys, in the market-carts with their red-faced drivers and heaps of ducks and turkeys, in every stage-coach or omnibus that went by crowded with boys home for the holidays, hallooing for Bell or Lincoln, forgetful that the election was over and Carolina out.

Pike came to see him one day, his arms full of a bundle, which turned out to be an accordion for Sophy.

“Christmas, you know,” he said, taking off the brown paper, while he was cursing the Cotton States the hardest, and gravely kneading at the keys, and stretching it until he made as much discord as five Congressmen. “I think Sophy will like that,” he said, tying it up carefully.

“I am sure she will,” said Holmes,–and did not think the man a fool for one moment.

Always going back, this Holmes, when he was alone, to the certainty that homecomings or children’s kisses or Christmas feasts were not for such as he,–never could be, though he sought for the old time in bitterness of heart; and so, dully remembering his resolve, and waiting for Christmas eve, when, he might end it all. Not one of the myriads of happy children listened more intently to the clock clanging off hour after hour than the silent, stern man who had no hope in that day that was coming.

He learned to watch even for poor Lois coming up the corridor every day,–being the only tie that bound the solitary man to the inner world of love and warmth. The deformed little body was quite alive with Christmas now, and brought its glow with her, in her weak way. Different from the others, he saw with a curious interest. The day was more real to her than to them. Not because, only, the care she had of everybody and everybody had of her seemed to reach its culmination of kindly thought for the Christmas time; not because, as she sat talking slowly, stopping for breath, her great fear seemed to be that she would not have gifts enough to go round; but deeper than that,–the day was real to her. As if it were actually true that the Master in whom she believed was freshly born into the world once a year, to waken all that was genial and noble and pure in the turbid, worn-out hearts; as if new honor and pride and love did come with the breaking of Christmas morn. It was a beautiful faith; he almost wished it were his. (Perhaps in that day when the under-currents of life shall be bared, this man with his self-reliant soul will know the subtile instincts that drew him to true manhood and feeling by the homely practice of poor Lois. He did not see them now.) A beautiful faith! it gave a meaning to the old custom of gifts and kind words. _Love_ coming into the world!–the idea pleased his artistic taste, being simple and sublime. Lois used to tell him, while she feebly tried to set his room in order, of all her plans,–of how Sam Polston was to be married on New-Year’s,–but most of all of the Christmas coming out at the old schoolmaster’s: how the old house had been scrubbed from top to bottom, was fairly glowing with shining paint and hot fires,–how Margaret and her mother worked, in terror lest the old man should find out how poor and bare it was,–how he and Joel had some secret enterprise on foot at the far end of the plantation out in the swamp, and were gone nearly all day.

She ceased coming at last. One of the sisters went out to see her, and told him she was too weak to walk, but meant to be better soon,–quite well by the holidays. He wished the poor thing had told him what she wanted of him,–wished it anxiously, with a dull presentiment of evil.

The days went by, cold and slow. He watched grimly the preparations the hospital physician was silently making in his case, for fever, inflammation.

“I must be strong enough to go out cured on Christmas eve,” he said to him one day, coolly.

The old doctor glanced up shrewdly. He was an old Alsatian, very plain-spoken.

“You say so?” he mumbled. “Chut! Then you will go. There are some–bull-dog men. They do what they please,–they never die unless they choose, begar! We know them in our practice, Herr Holmes!”

Holmes laughed. Some acumen there, he thought, in medicine or mind: as for himself, it was true enough; whatever success he had gained in life had been by no flush of enthusiasm or hope; a dogged persistence of “holding on,” rather.

Christmas eve came at last; bright, still, frosty. “Whatever he had to do, let it be done quickly “; but not till the set hour came. So he laid his watch on the table beside him, waiting until it should mark the time he had chosen: the ruling passion of self-control as strong in this turn of life’s tide as it would be in its ebb, at the last. The old doctor found him alone in the dreary room, coming in with the frosty breath of the eager street about him. A grim, chilling sight enough, as solitary and impenetrable as the Sphinx. He did not like such faces in this genial and gracious time, so hurried over his examination. The eye was cool, the pulse steady, the man’s body, battered though it was, strong in its steely composure. “_Ja wohl!–ja wohl_!” he went on chuffily, summing up: latent fever,–the very lips were blue, dry as husks; “he would go,–_oui_?–then go!”–with a chuckle. “All right, _glueck zu_!” And so shuffled out latent fever? Doubtless, yet hardly from broken bones, the doctor thought,–with no suspicion of the subtile, intolerable passion smouldering in every drop of this man’s phlegmatic blood.

Evening came at last. He stopped until the cracked bell of the chapel had done striking the Angelus, and then put on his overcoat, and went out. The air was cold and pungent. The crowded city seemed wakening to some keen enjoyment; even his own weak, deliberate step rang on the icy pavement as if it wished to rejoice with the rest. I said it was a trading city: so it was, but the very trade to-day had a jolly Christmas face on; the surly old banks and pawnbrokers’ shops had grown ashamed of their doings, and shut their doors, and covered their windows with frosty trees, and cathedrals, and castles; the shops opened their hearts; some child’s angel had touched them, and they flushed out into a magic splendor of Christmas trees, and lights, and toys; Santa Claus might have made his head-quarters in any one of them. As for children, you stumbled over them at every step, quite weighed down with the heaviness of their joy, and the money burning their pockets; the acrid old brokers and pettifoggers, that you met with a chill on other days, had turned into jolly fathers of families, and lounged laughing along with half a dozen little hands pulling them into candy-stores or toy-shops: all the churches whose rules permitted them to show their deep rejoicing in a simple way had covered their cold stone walls with evergreens and wreaths of glowing fire-berries: the child’s angel had touched them too, perhaps,–not unwisely.

He passed crowds of thin-clad women looking in through open doors, with red cheeks and hungry eyes, at red-hot stoves within, and a placard, “Christmas dinners for the poor, gratis”; out of every window on the streets came a ruddy light, and a spicy smell; the very sunset sky had caught the reflection of the countless Christmas fires, and flamed up to the zenith, blood-red as cinnabar.

Holmes turned down one of the back streets: he was going to see Lois, first of all. I hardly know why: the child’s angel may have touched him, too; or his heart, full of a yearning pity for the poor cripple, who, he believed now, had given her own life for his, may have plead for indulgence, as men remember their childish prayers, before going into battle. He came at last, in the quiet lane where she lived, to her little brown frame-shanty, to which you mounted by a flight of wooden steps: there were two narrow windows at the top, hung with red curtains; he could hear her feeble voice singing within. As he turned to go up the steps, he caught sight of something crouched underneath them in the dark, hiding from him: whether a man–or a dog he could not see. He touched it.

“What d’ ye want, Mas’r?” said a stifled voice.

He touched it again with his stick.

The man stood upright, back in the shadow: it was old Yare.

“Had ye any word wi’ me, Mas’r?”

He saw the negro’s face grow gray with fear.

“Come out, Yare,” he said, quietly. “Any word? What word is arson, eh?”

The man did not move. Holmes touched him with the stick.

“Come out,” he said.

He came out, looking gaunt, as with famine.

“I’ll not flurr myself,” he said, crunching his ragged hat in his hands,–“I’ll not.”

He drove the hat down upon his head, and looked up with a sullen fierceness.

“Yoh’ve got me, an’ I’m glad of ‘t. I’m tired, fearin’. I was born for hangin’, they say,” with a laugh. “But I’ll see my girl. I’ve waited hyur, runnin’ the resk,–not darin’ to see her, on ‘count o’ yoh. I thort I was safe on Christmas-day,–but what’s Christmas to yoh or me?”

Holmes’s quiet motion drove him up the steps before him. He stopped at the top, his cowardly nature getting the better of him, and sat down whining on the upper step.

“Be marciful, Mas’r! I wanted to see my girl,–that’s all. She’s all I hev.”

Holmes passed him and went in. Was Christmas nothing to him? How did this foul wretch know that they stood alone, apart from the world?

It was a low, cheerful little room that he came into, stooping his tall head: a tea-kettle humming and singing on the wood-fire, that lighted up the coarse carpet and the gray walls, but spent its warmest heat on the low settee where Lois lay sewing, and singing to herself. She was wrapped up in a shawl, but the hands, he saw, were worn to skin and bone; the gray shadow was heavier on her face, and the brooding brown eyes were like a tired child’s. She tried to jump up when she saw him, and not being able, leaned on one elbow, half-crying as she laughed.

“It’s the best Christmas gift of all I I can hardly b’lieve it!”–touching the strong hand humbly that was held out to her.

Holmes had a gentle touch, I told you, for dogs and children and women: so, sitting quietly by her, he listened with untiring patience to her long story; looked at the heap of worthless trifles she had patched up for gifts, wondering secretly at the delicate sense of color and grace betrayed in the bits of flannel and leather; and took, with a grave look of wonder, his own package, out of which a bit of woollen thread peeped forth.

“Don’t look till to-morrow mornin’,” she said, anxiously, as she lay back trembling and exhausted.

The breath of the mill! The fires of want and crime had finished their work on her life,–so! She caught the meaning of his face quickly.

“It’s nothin’,” she said, eagerly. “I’ll be strong by New-Year’s; it’s only a day or two rest I need. I’ve no tho’t o’ givin’ up.”

And to show how strong she was, she got up and hobbled about to make the tea. He had not the heart to stop her; she did not want to die,–why should she? the world was a great, warm, beautiful nest for the little cripple,–why need he show her the cold without? He saw her at last go near the door where old Yare sat outside, then heard her breathless cry, and a sob. A moment after the old man came into the room, carrying her, and, laying her down on the settee, chafed her hands and misshapen head.

“What ails her?” he said, looking up, bewildered, to Holmes. “We’ve killed her among us.”

She laughed, though the great eyes were growing dim, and drew his coarse gray hair into her hand.

“Yoh wur long comin’,” she said, weakly. “I hunted fur yoh every day,–every day.”

The old man had pushed her hair back, and was reading the sunken face with a wild fear.

“What ails her?” he cried. “Ther’ ‘s somethin’ gone wi’ my girl. Was it my fault? Lo, was it my fault?”

“Be quiet!” said Holmes, sternly.

“Is it _that_?” he gasped, shrilly. “My God! not that! I can’t bear it!”

Lois soothed him, patting his face childishly.

“Am I dyin’?” she asked, with a frightened look at Holmes.

He told her no, cheerfully.

“I’ve no tho’t o’ dyin’. I dunnot thenk o’ dyin’. Don’t mind, dear! Yoh’ll stay with me, fur good?”

The man’s paroxysm of fear for her over, his spite and cowardice came uppermost.

“It’s him,” he yelped, looking fiercely at Holmes. “He’s got my life in his hands. He kin take it. What does he keer fur me or my girl? I’ll not stay wi’ yoh no longer, Lo. Mornin’ he’ll send me t’ th’ lock-up, an’ after”—-

“I care for _you_, child,” said Holmes, stooping suddenly close to the girl’s livid face.

“To-morrow?” she muttered. “My Christmas-day?”

He wet her face while he looked over at the wretch whose life he held in his hands. It was the iron rule of Holmes’s nature to be just; but to-night dim perceptions of a deeper justice than law opened before him,–problems he had no time to solve: the sternest fortress is liable to be taken by assault,–and the dew of the coming morn was on his heart.

“So as I’ve hunted fur him!” she whispered, weakly. “I didn’t think it wud come to this. So as I loved him! Oh, Mr. Holmes, he’s hed a pore chance in livin’,–forgive him this! Him that’ll come to-morrow’d say to forgive him this.”

She caught the old man’s head in her arms with an agony of tears, and held it tight.

“I hev hed a pore chance,” he said, looking up,–“that’s God’s truth, Lo! I dunnot keer fur that: it’s too late goin’ back.–Mas’r,” he mumbled, servilely, “it’s on’y a little time t’ th’ end: let me stay with Lo. She loves me,–Lo does.”

A look of disgust crept over Holmes’s face.

“Stay, then,” he muttered,–“I wash my hands of you, you old scoundrel!”

He bent over Lois with his rare, pitiful smile.

“Have I his life in my hands? I put it into yours,–so, child! Now put it all out of your head, and look up here to wish me good-bye.”

She looked up cheerfully, hardly conscious how deep the danger had been; but the flush had gone from her face, leaving it sad and still.

“I must go to keep Christmas, Lois,” he said, playfully.

“Yoh’re keepin’ it here, Sir.” She held her weak gripe on his hand still, with the vague outlook in her eyes that came there sometimes. “Was it fur me yoh done it?”

“Yes, for you.”

She turned her eyes slowly around, bewildered. The clear evening light fell on Holmes, as he stood there looking down at the dying little lamiter: a powerful figure, with a face supreme, masterful, but tender: you will find no higher type of manhood. Did God make him of the same blood as the vicious, cringing wretch crouching to hide his black face at the other side of the bed? Some such thought came into Lois’s brain, and vexed her, bringing the tears to her eyes: he was her father, you know.

“It’s all wrong,” she muttered,–“oh, it’s far wrong! Ther’ ‘s One could make them ‘like. Not me.”

She stroked her father’s head once, and then let it go. Holmes glanced out, and saw the sun was down.

“Lois,” he said, “I want you to wish me a happy Christmas, as people do.”

Holmes had a curious vein of superstition: he knew no lips so pure as this girl’s, and he wanted them to wish him good-luck that night. She did it, laughing and growing red: riddles of life did not trouble her childish fancy long. And so he left her, with a dull feeling, as I said before, that it was good to say a prayer before the battle came on. For men who believed in prayers: for him, it was the same thing to make one day for Lois happier.



In presenting Classification as the subject of a series of papers in the “Atlantic Monthly,” I am aware that I am drawing largely upon the patience of its readers; since the technical nature of the topic renders many details necessary which cannot be otherwise than dry to any but professional naturalists. Yet believing, as I do, that classification, rightly understood, means simply the creative plan of God as expressed in organic forms, I feel the importance of attempting at least to present it in a popular guise, divested, as far as possible, of technicalities, while I would ask the indulgence of my readers for such scientific terms and details as cannot well be dispensed with, begging them to remember that a long and tedious road may bring us suddenly upon a glorious prospect, and that a clearer mental atmosphere and a new intellectual sensation may well reward us for a little weariness in the outset. Besides, the time has come when scientific truth must cease to be the property of the few, when it must be woven into the common life of the world; for we have reached the point where the results of science touch the very problem of existence, and all men listen for the solving of that mystery. When it will come, and how, none can say; but this much at least is certain, that all our researches are leading up to that question, and mankind will never rest till it is answered. If, then, the results of science are of such general interest for the human race, if they are gradually interpreting the purposes of the Deity in creation, and the relation of man to all the past, then it is well that all should share in its teachings, and that it should not be kept, like the learning of the Egyptians, for an exclusive priesthood who may expound the oracle according to their own theories, but should make a part of all our intellectual culture and of our common educational systems. With this view, I will endeavor to simplify as far as may be my illustrations of the different groups of the Animal Kingdom, beginning with a more careful analysis of those structural features on which classes are founded.

I have said that the Radiates are the lowest type among animals, embodying, under an infinite variety of forms, that plan in which all parts bear definite relations to a vertical central axis. The three classes of Radiates are distinguished from each other by three distinct ways of executing that plan. I dwell upon this point; for we shall never arrive at a clear understanding of the different significance and value of the various divisions of the Animal Kingdom, till we appreciate the distinction between the structural conception and the material means by which it is expressed. A comparison will, perhaps, better explain my meaning. There are certain architectonic types, including edifices of different materials, with an infinite variety of architectural details and external ornaments; but the flat roof and the colonnade are typical of all Grecian temples, whether built of marble or granite or wood, whether Doric or Ionic or Corinthian, whether simple and massive or light and ornamented; and, in like manner, the steep roof and pointed arch are the typical characters of all Gothic cathedrals, whatever be the material or the details. The architectural conception remains the same in all its essential elements, however the more superficial features vary. Such relations as these edifices bear to the architectural idea that includes them all, do classes bear to the primary divisions or branches of the Animal Kingdom.

The three classes of Radiates, beginning with the lowest, and naming them in their relative order, are Polyps, Acalephs or Jelly-Fishes, and Echinoderms or Star-Fishes and Sea-Urchins. In the Polyps the plan is executed in the simplest manner by a sac, the sides of which are folded inward, at regular intervals from top to bottom, so as to divide it by vertical radiating partitions, converging from the periphery toward the centre. These folds or partitions do not meet in the centre, but leave an open space, which is the main cavity of the body. This open space, however, occupies only the lower part of the body; for in the upper there is a second sac hanging to a certain distance within the first. This inner sac has an aperture in the bottom, through which whatever enters it passes into the main cavity of the body. A central opening in the top forms a kind of mouth, around which are radiating tentacles connecting with the open chambers formed by the partitions within. Cutting such an animal across in a transverse section, we shall see the radiation of the partitions from the centre to the circumference, showing still more distinctly the typical structure of the division to which it belongs.

[Illustration: Vertical section of a Sea-Anemone of Actinia: _o_, mouth; _t_, tentacles; _s_, inner sac or stomach; _b_, main cavity; _ff_, reproductive organs; _g_, radiating partition; _eee_, radiating chambers; _cc_, circular openings in the partitions; _aa_, lower floor.]

[Illustration: Transverse section of a Sea-Anemone or Actinia.]

[Illustration: Staurophera seen in profile.]

[Illustration: Hippocrene seen in profile.]

[Illustration: Melicertum seen from above, with the tentacles spreading: _oo_, radiating tubes with ovaries; _m_, mouth; _tttt_, tentacles.]

The second class is that of Jelly-Fishes or Acalephs; and here the same plan is carried out in the form of a hemispherical gelatinous disk, the digestive cavity being hollowed, or, as it were, scooped, out of the substance of the body, which is traversed by tubes that radiate from the centre to the periphery. Cutting it across transversely, or looking through its transparent mass, the same radiation of the internal structure is seen again; only that in this instance the radiating lines are not produced by vertical partition-walls, with open spaces between, as in the Polyps, but by radiating tubes passing through the gelatinous mass of the body. At the periphery is a circular tube connecting them all, and the tentacles, which hang down when the animal is in its natural position, connect at their base with the radiating tubes, while numerous smaller tentacles may form a kind of fringe all round the margin.

The third and highest class includes the Star-Fishes, Sea-Urchins, and Holothurians or Beches-de-Mer. The radiation is equally distinct in each of these; but here again the mode of execution differs from that of the two other classes. The internal cavity and the radiating tubes, instead of being connected with the outer wall of the body as in Polyps, or hollowed out of the substance of the body as in Jelly-Fishes, are here inclosed within independent walls of their own, quite distinct from the wall of the body. But notwithstanding this difference, a transverse section shows in these animals, as distinctly as in all the rest, the radiating structure typical of the whole branch. In these three classes we have no difference of plan, nor even any modification of the same plan,–for either one of them expresses it as clearly as any other,–but simply three different ways of executing one structural idea.

[Illustration: Common Sea-Urchin, Echinus, seen from above]

[Illustration: Echinarachnius, opened by a transverse or horizontal section, and showing the internal arrangement: c, mouth; eeeee, ambulacra, with their ramifications cmcmcm; wwww, interambulacra.]

I have mentioned only three classes of Radiates. Cuvier had five in his classification; for he placed among them the Intestinal Worms and the Infusoria or Animalcules. The Intestinal Worms are much better known now than they were in his day. Their anatomy and embryology have been traced, and it has been shown that the essential features of these parasites are the same as those of all Articulates, their whole body being divided into successive, movable joints or rings. Cuvier was misled by the circular arrangement of certain parts around the mouth, and by the presence of a wreath of feelers around the head of some of these Worms, resembling the tentacles of many Radiates. This is, however, no indication of radiate structure, but a superficial feature in no way related to the internal organization.

We must carefully distinguish between affinity and analogy among animals. The former is founded on identity of plan; the latter only upon external resemblance, produced by similar features, which, when they are intimately connected with the whole internal organization, as in some groups, may be considered as typical characters, but when only grafted, as it were, in a superficial manner on animals of another type, have no relation to the essential elements of structure, and become at once subordinate and unimportant. Such is the difference between the tentacles in a Radiate and the wreath of feelers in a Worm;–the external effect may be much the same; but in the former every tentacle opens into one of the chambers as in a Polyp, or connects with one of the radiating tubes as in Acalephs, or with the locomotive suckers as in Star-Fishes, and is therefore closely linked with the whole internal organization; whereas the feelers in the latter are only external appendages, in no way connected with the essential structural elements. We have a striking illustration of this superficial resemblance in the wings of Birds and Insects. In Birds, wings are a typical feature, corresponding to the front limbs in all Vertebrates, which are constructed in the same way, whether they are arms as in Man, or forelegs as in Quadrupeds, or pectoral fins as in Fishes, or wings as in Birds. The wing in an Insect, on the contrary, is a flattened, dried-up gill, having no structural relation whatever to the wing of a Bird. They are analogous only because they resemble each other in function, being in the same way subservient to flight; but as organs they are entirely different.

In adding Infusoria to the Radiates, Cuvier was false to his own principle of founding all classification on plan. He was influenced by their seeming simplicity of structure, and placed them in the lowest division of the Animal Kingdom on that account. But even this simplicity was only apparent in many of them. At certain seasons of the year myriads of these little Animalcules may be seen in every brook and road-side pool. They are like transparent little globules, without any special organization, apparently; and were it not that they are in constant rotation, exhibiting thus a motion of their own, one would hardly suspect that they were endowed with life. To the superficial observer they all look alike, and it is not strange, that, before they had been more carefully investigated, they should have been associated together as the lowest division of the Animal Kingdom, representing, as it were, a border-land between animal and vegetable life. But since the modern improvements in the microscope, Ehrenberg, the great master in microscopic investigation, has shown that many of these little globules have an extraordinary complication of structure. Subsequent investigations have proved that they include a great variety of beings: some of them belonging to the type of Mollusks; others to the type of Articulates, being in fact little Shrimps; while many others are the locomotive germs of plants, and so far from forming a class by themselves, as a distinct group in the Animal Kingdom, they seem to comprise representatives of all types except Vertebrates, and to belong in part to the Vegetable Kingdom, Siebold, Leuckart, and other modern zooelogists, have considered them as a primary type, and called them Protozoa; but this is as great a mistake as the other. The rotatory motion in them all is produced by an apparatus that exists not only in all animals, but in plants also, and is a most important agent in sustaining the freshness and vitality of their circulating fluids and of the surrounding medium in which they live. It consists of soft fringes, called Vibratile Cilia. Such fringes cover the whole surface of these little living beings, and by their unceasing play they maintain the rotating motion that carries them along in the water.

The Mollusks, the next great division of the Animal Kingdom, also include three classes. With them is introduced that character of bilateral symmetry, or division of parts on either side of a longitudinal axis, that prevails throughout the Animal Kingdom, with the exception of the Radiates. The lowest class of Mollusks has been named Acephala, to signify the absence of any distinct head; for though their whole organization is based upon the principle of bilateral symmetry, it is nevertheless very difficult to determine which is the right side and which the left in these animals, because there is so little prominence in the two ends of the body that the anterior and posterior extremities are hardly to be distinguished. Take the Oyster as an example. It has, like most Acephala, a shell with two valves united by a hinge on the back, one of these valves being thick and swollen, while the other is nearly flat. If we lift the shell, we find beneath a soft lining-skin covering the whole animal and called by naturalists the mantle, from the inner surface of which arise a double row of gills, forming two pendent folds on the sides of the body; but at one end of the body these folds do not meet, but leave an open space, where is the aperture we call the mouth. This is the only indication of an anterior extremity; but it is enough to establish a difference between the front and hind ends of the body, and to serve as a guide in distinguishing the right and left sides. If now we lift the mantle and gills, we find beneath the principal organs: the stomach, with a winding alimentary canal; the heart and liver; the blood-vessels, branching from either side of the heart to join the gills; and a fleshy muscle passing from one valve of the shell to the other, enabling the animal by its dilatation or contraction to open and close its shell at will. A cut across an animal of this class will show us better the bilateral arrangement of the parts. In such a section we see the edge of the two shells on either side; within these the edge of the mantle; then the double rows of gills; and in the middle the alimentary canal, the heart, and the blood-vessels branching right and left. Some of these animals have eye-specks on the edge of the mantle; but this is not a constant feature. This class of Acephala includes all the Oysters, Clams, Mussels, and the like. When named with reference to their double shells, they are called Bivalves; and with them are associated a host of less conspicuous animals, known as Ascidians, Brachiopods, and Bryozoa.

[Illustration: Common Mussel, Unio, cut transversely: _a_, foot; _bb_, gills; _c_, mantle; _d_, shell; _e_, heart; _f_, main cavity, with intestines.]

The second class in this type is that of Gasteropoda, so named from the fleshy muscular expansion on which they move, and which is therefore called a foot: a very inappropriate name; since it has no relation or resemblance to a foot, though it is used as a locomotive organ. This class includes all the Snails, Slugs, Cockles, Conchs, Periwinkles, Whelks, Limpets, and the like. Some of them have no solid covering; but the greater part are protected by a single shell, and on this account they are called Univalves, in contradistinction to the Acephala or Bivalves. These shells, though always single, differ from each other by an endless variety of form and color,–from the flat simple shell of the Limpet to the elaborate spiral and brilliant hues of the Cones and Cowries. Different as is their external covering, however, if we examine the internal structure of a Gasteropod, we find the same general arrangement of parts that prevails in the Acephala, showing that both belong to the same great division of the Animal Kingdom. The mantle envelops the animal, and lines its single shell as it lined the double shell of the Oyster; the gills are placed on either side of it; the stomach, with the winding alimentary canal, is in the centre of the body; the heart and liver are placed in the same relation to it as in the Acephala; and though the so-called foot would seem to be a new feature, it is but a muscular expansion of the ventral side of the body. There is an evident superiority in this class over the preceding one, in the greater prominence of the anterior extremity, where there are two or more feelers, with which eyes more or less developed are connected; and though there is nothing that can be properly called a head, yet there can be no hesitation as to the distinction between the front and hind ends of the body.

[Illustration: Limpet, Patella, cut transversely: _a_, foot; _b_, gills; _c_, mantle; _d_, shell; _e_, heart; _f_, main cavity, with intestines.]

The third and highest class of Mollusks has been called Cephalopoda, in reference again to a special feature of their structure. They have long arms or feelers around the head, serving as organs of locomotion, by which they propel themselves through the water with a velocity that is quite extraordinary, when compared with the sluggishness of the other Mollusks. In these animals the head is distinctly marked,–being separated, by a contraction or depression behind it, from the rest of the body. The feelers, so prominent on the anterior extremity of the Gasteropoda, are suppressed in Cephalopoda, and the eyes are consequently brought immediately on the side of the head, and are very large in proportion to the size of the animal. A skin corresponding to the mantle envelops the body, and the gills are on either side of it;–the stomach with its winding canal, the liver, and heart occupy the centre of the body, as in the two other classes. This class includes all the Cuttle-Fishes, Squids, and Nautili, and has a vast number of fossil representatives. Many of these animals are destitute of any shell; and where they have a shell, it is not coiled from right to left or from left to right as in the spiral of the Gasteropoda, but from behind forwards as in the Nautilus. These shells are usually divided into a number of chambers,–the animal, as it grows, building a wall behind it at regular intervals, and always occupying the external chamber, retaining, however, a connection with his past home by a siphon that runs through the whole succession of chambers. The readers of the “Atlantic Monthly” cannot fail to remember the exquisite poem suggested to the Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table by this singular feature in the structure of the so-called Chambered Shells.

[Illustration: Common Squid, Loligo, cut transversely: _a_, foot or siphon; _b_, gills; _c_, mantle; _d_, shell; _e_, heart; _f_, main cavity, with intestines.]

Cuvier divided the Mollusks also into a larger number of classes than are now admitted. He placed the Barnacles with them on account of their shells; and it is only since an investigation of the germs born from these animals has shown them to be Articulates that their true position is understood. They give birth to little Shrimps that afterwards become attached to the rocks and assume the shelly covering that has misled naturalists about them. Brachiopods formed another of his classes; but these differ from the other Bivalves only in having a net-work of blood-vessels in the place of the free gills, and this is merely a complication of structure, not a difference in the general mode of execution, for their position and relation to the rest of the organization are exactly the same in both. Pteropods constituted another class in his division of the type of Mollusks; but these animals, again, form only an order in the class of Gasteropoda, as Brachiopods form an order in the class of Acephala.

In the third division of the Animal Kingdom, the Articulates, we have again three classes: Worms, Crustacea, and Insects. The lowest of these three classes, the Worms, presents the typical structure of that branch in the most uniform manner, with little individualization of parts. The body is a long cylinder divided through its whole length by movable joints, while the head is indicated only by a difference in the front-joint. There is here no concentration of vitality in special parts of the structure, as in the higher animals, but the nervous force is scattered through the whole body,–every ring having, on its lower side, either two nervous swellings, one on the right, the other on the left side, connected by nervous threads with those that precede and those that follow them, or these swellings being united in the median line. It is this equal distribution of nervous force through the whole system that gives to these animals such an extraordinary power of repairing any injured part, so that, if cut in two, the front part may even reconstruct a tail for itself, while the hind part produces a new head, and both continue to live as distinct animals. This facility of self-repair, after a separation of the parts, which is even a normal mode of multiplication in some of them, does not indicate, as may at first appear, a greater intensity of vital energy, but, on the contrary, arises from an absence of any one nervous centre such as exists in all the higher animals, and is the key to their whole organization. A serious injury to the brain of a Vertebrate destroys vitality at once, for it holds the very essence of its life; whereas in many of the lower animals any part of the body may be destroyed without injury to the rest. The digestive cavity in the Worms runs the whole length of the body; and the respiratory organs, wherever they are specialized, appear as little vesicles or gill-like appendages either along the back or below the sides, connected with the locomotive appendages.

This class includes animals of various degrees of complication of structure, from those with highly developed organizations to the lowest Worms that float like long threads in the water and hardly seem to be animals. Yet even these creatures, so low in the scale of life, are not devoid of some instincts, however dim, of feeling and affection. I remember a case in point that excited my own wonder at the time, and may not be uninteresting to my readers. A gentleman from Detroit had had the kindness to send me one of those long thread-like Worms (_Gordius_) found often in brooks and called Horse-Hairs by the common people. When I first received it, it was coiled up in a close roll at the bottom of the bottle, filled with fresh water, that contained it, and looked more like a little tangle of black sewing-silk than anything else. Wishing to unwind it, that I might examine its entire length, I placed it in a large china basin filled with water, and proceeded very gently to disentangle its coils, when I perceived that the animal had twisted itself around a bundle of its eggs, holding them fast in a close embrace. In the process of unwinding, the eggs dropped away and floated to a little distance. Having finally stretched it out to its full length, perhaps half a yard, I sat watching to see if this singular being that looked like a long black thread in the water would give any signs of life. Almost immediately it moved towards the bundle of eggs, and, having reached it, began to sew itself through and through the little white mass, passing one end of its body through it, and then returning to make another stitch, as it were, till the eggs were at last completely entangled again in an intricate net-work of coils. It seemed to me almost impossible that this care of copying could be the result of any instinct of affection in a creature of so low an organization, and I again separated it from the eggs, and placed them at a greater distance, when the same action was repeated. On trying the experiment a third time, the bundle of eggs had become loosened, and a few of them dropped off singly into the water. The efforts which the animal then made to recover the missing ones, winding itself round and round them, but failing to bring them into the fold with the rest, because they were too small, and evaded all efforts to secure them, when once parted from the first little compact mass, convinced me that there was a definite purpose in its attempts, and that even a being so low in the scale of animal existence has some dim consciousness of a relation to its offspring. I afterwards unwound also the mass of eggs, which, when coiled up as I first saw it, made a roll of white substance about the size of a coffee-bean, and found that it consisted of a string of eggs, measuring more than twelve feet in length, the eggs being held together by some gelatinous substance that cemented them and prevented them from falling apart. Cutting this string across, and placing a small section under the microscope, I counted on one surface of such a cut from seventy to seventy-five eggs; and estimating the entire number of eggs according to the number contained on such a surface, I found that there were not less than eight millions of eggs in the whole string. The fertility of these lower animals is truly amazing, and is no doubt a provision of Nature against the many chances of destruction to which these germs, so delicate and often microscopically small, must be exposed. The higher we rise in the Animal Kingdom, the more limited do we find the number of progeny, and the care bestowed upon them by the parents is in proportion to this diminution.

The next class in the type of Articulates is that of Crustacea, including Lobsters, Crabs, and Shrimps. It may seem at first that nothing can be more unlike a Worm than a Lobster; but a comparison of the class-characters shows that the same general plan controls the organization in both. The body of the Lobster is divided into a succession of joints or rings, like that of the Worm; and the fact that the front rings in the Lobster are soldered together, so as to make a stiff front region of the body, inclosing the head and chest, while only the hind rings remain movable, thus forming a flexible tail, does not alter in the least the general structure, which consists in both of a body built of articulated rings. The nervous swellings, which were evenly distributed through the whole body in the Worm, are more concentrated here, in accordance with the prevalent combination of the rings in two distinct regions of the body, the larger ones corresponding to the more important organs; but their relation to the rest of the organization, and their connection by nervous threads with each other, remain the same. The respiratory organs, which in most of the Worms were mere vesicles on the lower part of the sides of the body, are here more highly organized gills; but their general character and relation to other parts of the structure are unchanged, and in this respect the connection of the gills of Crustacea with their legs is quite significant. The alimentary canal consists of a single digestive cavity passing through the whole body, as in Worms, the anterior part of which is surrounded by a large liver. What is true of the Lobsters is true also, so far as class-characters are concerned, of all the Crustacea.

Highest in this type are the Insects, and among these I include Spiders and Centipedes as well as Winged Insects. It is true that the Centipedes have a long uniform body like Worms, and the Spiders have the body divided into two regions like the Crustacea, while the body in true Insects has three distinct regions, head, chest, and hind body; but notwithstanding this difference, both the former share in the peculiar class-character that places them with the Winged Insects in a separate group, distinct from all the other Articulates. We have seen that in the Worms the respiratory organs are mere vesicles, while in the Crustacea they are more highly organized gills; but in Centipedes, Spiders, and Winged Insects, the breathing-apparatus is aerial, consisting of air-holes on the sides of the body, connected with a system of tubes and vessels extending into the body and admitting air to all parts of it. In the Winged Insects this system is very elaborate, filling the body with air to such a degree as to render it exceedingly light and adapted to easy and rapid flight. The general arrangement of parts is the same in this class as in the two others, the typical character being alike in all.

We come now to the highest branch of the Animal Kingdom, that to which we ourselves belong,–the Vertebrates. This type is usually divided into four classes, Fishes, Reptiles, Birds, and Mammalia; and though many naturalists believe that it includes more, and I am myself of that opinion, I shall allude here only to the four generally admitted classes, as they are sufficient for my present purpose, and will serve to show the characters upon which classes are based. In a former paper I have explained in general terms the plan of structure of this type,–a backbone, with a bony arch above and a bony arch below, forming two cavities that contain all the systems of organs, the whole being surrounded by the flesh and skin. Now whether a body so constructed lie prone in the water, like a Fish,–or be lifted on imperfect legs, like a Reptile,–or be balanced on two legs, while the front limbs become wings, as in Birds,–or be raised upon four strong limbs terminating in paws or feet, as in Quadrupeds,–or stand upright with head erect, while the limbs consist of a pair of arms and a pair of legs, as in Man,–does not in the least affect that structural conception under which they are all included. Every Vertebrate has a backbone; every Vertebrate has a bony arch above that backbone and a bony arch below it, forming two cavities,–no matter whether these arches be of hard bone, or of cartilage, or even of a softer substance; every Vertebrate has the brain, the spinal marrow or spinal cord, and the organs of the senses in the upper cavity, and the organs of digestion, respiration, circulation, and reproduction in the lower one; every Vertebrate has four locomotive appendages built of the same bones and bearing the same relation to the rest of the organization, whether they be called pectoral and ventral fins, or legs, or wings and legs, or arms and legs. Notwithstanding the rudimentary condition of these limbs in some Vertebrates and their difference of external appearance in the different groups, they are all built of the same structural elements. These are the typical characters of the whole branch, and exist in all its representatives.

What now are the different modes of expressing this structural plan that lead us to associate certain Vertebrates together in distinct classes? Beginning with the lowest class,–the Fishes are cold-blooded, they breathe through gills, and they are egg-laying; in other words, though they have the same general structure as the other Vertebrates, they have a special mode of circulation, respiration, and reproduction. The Reptiles are also cold-blooded, though their system of circulation is somewhat more complicated than that of the Fishes; they breathe through lungs, though part of them retain their gills through life; and they lay eggs, but larger and fewer ones than the Fishes, diminishing in number in proportion to their own higher or lower position in their class. They also bestow greater care upon their offspring than most of the Fishes. The Birds are warm-blooded and air-breathing, having a double circulation; they are egg-laying like the two other classes, but their eggs are comparatively few in number, and the young are hatched by the mother and fed by the parent birds till they can provide for themselves.

The Mammalia are also warm-blooded and breathe through lungs; but they differ from all other Vertebrates in their mode of reproduction, bringing forth living young which they nurse with milk. Even in the lowest members of this highest group of the Vertebrates, at the head of which stands Man himself, looking heavenward it is true, but nevertheless rooted deeply in the Animal Kingdom, we have the dawning of those family relations, those intimate ties between parents and children, on which the whole social organization of the human race is based. Man is the crowning work of God on earth; but though so nobly endowed, we must not forget that we are the lofty children of a race whose lowest forms lie prostrate within the water, having no higher aspiration than the desire for food; and we cannot understand the possible degradation and moral wretchedness of Man, without knowing that his physical nature is rooted in all the material characteristics that belong to his type and link him even with the Fish. The moral and intellectual gifts that distinguish him from them are his to use or to abuse; he may, if he will, abjure his better nature and be _Vertebrate_ more than Man. He may sink as low as the lowest of his type, or he may rise to a spiritual height that will make that which distinguishes him from the rest far more the controlling element of his being than that which unites him with them.






The hugging of Wade by the happy pair had to be done metaphorically, since it was done in the sight of all Dunderbunk.

He had divined a happy result, when he missed Bill Tarbox from the arena, and saw him a furlong away, hand in hand with his reconciled sweetheart.

“I envy you, Bill,” said he, “almost too much to put proper fervor into my congratulations.”

“Your time will come,” the foreman rejoined.

And says Belle, “I am sure there is a lady skating somewhere, and only waiting for you to follow her.”

“I don’t see her,” Wade replied, looking with a mock-grave face up and down and athwart the river. “When you’ve all gone to dinner, I’ll prospect ten miles up and down and try to find a good matrimonial claim that’s not taken.”

“You will not come up to dinner?” Belle asked.

“I can hardly afford to make two bites of a holiday,” said Wade. “I’ve sent Perry up for a luncheon. Here he comes with it. So I cede my quarter of your pie, Miss Belle, to a better fellow.”

“Oh!” cries Perry, coming up and bowing elaborately. “Mr. and Mrs. Tarbox, I believe. Ah, yes! Well, I will mention it up at Albany. I am going to take my Guards up to call on the Governor.”

Perry dashed off, followed by a score of Dunderbunk boys, organized by him as the Purtett Guards, and taught to salute him as Generalissimo with military honors.

So many hundreds of turkeys, done to a turn, now began to have an effect upon the atmosphere. Few odors are more subtile and pervading than this, and few more appetizing. Indeed, there is said to be an odd fellow, a strictly American gourmand, in New York, who sits, from noon to dusk on Christmas-Day, up in a tall steeple, merely to catch the aroma of roast-turkey floating over the city,–and much good, it is said, it does him.

Hard skating is nearly as effective to whet hunger as this gentleman’s expedient. When the spicy breezes began to blow soft as those of Ceylon’s isle over the river and every whiff talked Turkey, the population of Dunderbunk listened to the wooing and began to follow its several noses–snubs, beaks, blunts, sharps, piquants, dominants, fines, bulgies, and bifids–on the way to the several households which those noses adorned or defaced. Prosperous Dunderbunk had a Dinner, yes, a DINNER, that day, and Richard Wade was gratefully remembered by many over-fed foundry-men and their over-fed families.

Wade had not had half skating enough.

“I’ll time myself down to Skerrett’s Point,” he thought, “and take my luncheon there among the hemlocks.”

The Point was on the property of Peter Skerrett, Wade’s friend and college comrade of ten years gone. Peter had been an absentee in Europe, and smokes from his chimneys this morning had confirmed to Wade’s eyes the rumor of his return.

Skerrett’s Point was a mile below the Foundry. Our hero did his mile under three minutes. How many seconds under, I will not say. I do not wish to make other fellows unhappy.

The Point was a favorite spot of Wade’s. Many a twilight of last summer, tired with his fagging at the Works to make good the evil of Whiffler’s rule, he had lain there on the rocks under the hemlocks, breathing the spicy methyl they poured into the air. After his day’s hard fight, in the dust and heat of the Foundry, with anarchy and unthrift, he used to take the quiet restoratives of Nature, until the murmur and fragrance of the woods, the cool wind, and the soothing loiter of the shining stream had purged him from the fevers of his task.

To this old haunt he skated, and kindling a little fire, as an old campaigner loves to do, he sat down and lunched heartily on Mrs. Purtett’s cold leg,–cannibal thought!–on the cold leg of Mrs. Purtett’s yesterday’s turkey. Then lighting his weed,–dear ally of the lonely,–the Superintendent began to think of his foreman’s bliss, and to long for something similar on his own plane.

“I hope the wish is father to its fulfilment,” he said. “But I must not stop here and be spooney. Such a halcyon day I may not have again in all my life, and I ought to make the best of it, with my New Skates.”

So he dashed off, and filled the little cove above the Point with a labyrinth of curves and flourishes.

When that bit of crystal tablet was well covered, the podographer sighed for a new sheet to inscribe his intricate rubricas upon. Why not write more stanzas of the poetry of motion on the ice below the Point? Why not?

Braced by his lunch on the brown fibre of good Mrs. Purtett’s cold drumstick and thigh, Wade was now in fine trim. The air was more glittering and electric than ever. It was triumph and victory and paean in action to go flashing along over this footing, smoother than polished marble and sheenier than first-water gems.

Wade felt the high exhilaration of pure blood galloping through a body alive from top to toe. The rhythm of his movement was like music to him.

The Point ended in a sharp promontory. Just before he came abreast of it, Wade under mighty headway flung into his favorite corkscrew spiral on one foot, and went whirling dizzily along, round and round, in a straight line.

At the dizziest moment, he was suddenly aware of a figure, also turning the Point at full speed, and rushing to a collision.

He jerked aside to avoid it. He could not look to his footing. His skate struck a broken oar, imbedded in the ice. He fell violently, and lay like a dead man.

His New Skates, Testimonial of Merit, seem to have served him a shabby trick.



Seeing Wade lie there motionless, the lady—-

Took off her spectacles, blew her great red nose, and stiffly drew near.

Spectacles! Nose! No,–the latter feature of hers had never become acquainted with the former; and there was as little stiffness as nasal redness about her.

A fresh start, then,–and this time accuracy!

Appalled by the loud thump of the stranger’s skull upon the chief river of the State of New York, the lady–it was a young lady whom Wade had tumbled to avoid–turned, saw a human being lying motionless, and swept gracefully toward him, like a Good Samaritan, on the outer edge. It was not her fault, but her destiny, that she had to be graceful even under these tragic circumstances.

“Dead!” she thought. “Is he dead?”

The appalling thump had cracked the ice, and she could not know how well the skull was cushioned inside with brains to resist a blow.

She shuddered, as she swooped about toward this possible corpse. It might be that he was killed, and half the fault hers. No wonder her fine color, shining in the right parts of an admirably drawn face, all disappeared instantly.

But she evidently was not frightened.

She halted, kneeled, looked curiously at the stranger, and then proceeded, in a perfectly cool and self-possessed way, to pick him up.

A solid fellow, heavy to lift in his present lumpish condition of dead-weight! She had to tug mightily to get him up into a sitting position. When he was raised, all the backbone seemed gone from his spine, and it took the whole force of her vigorous arms to sustain him.

The effort was enough to account for the return of her color. It came rushing back splendidly. Cheeks, forehead, everything but nose, blushed. The hard work of lifting so much avoirdupois, and possibly, also, the novelty of supporting so much handsome fellow, intensified all her hues. Her eyes–blue, or that shade even more faithful than blue–deepened; and her pale golden hair grew several carats–not carrots–brighter.

She was repaid for her active sympathy at once by discovering that this big, awkward thing was not a dead, but only a stunned, body. It had an ugly bump and a bleeding cut on its manly skull, but otherwise was quite an agreeable object to contemplate, and plainly on its “unembarrassed brow Nature had written ‘Gentleman.'”

As this young lady had never had a fair, steady stare at a stunned hero before, she seized her advantage. She had hitherto been distant with the other sex. She had no brother. Not one of her male cousins had ever ventured near enough to get those cousinly privileges that timid cousins sigh for and plucky cousins take, if they are worth taking.

Wade’s impressive face, though for the moment blind as a statue’s, also seized its advantage and stared at her intently, with a pained and pleading look, new to those resolute features.

Wade was entirely unconscious of the great hit he had made by his tumble; plump into the arms of this heroine! There were fellows extant who would have suffered any imaginable amputation, any conceivable mauling, any fling from the apex of anything into the lowest deeps of anywhere, for the honor he was now enjoying.

But all he knew was that his skull was a beehive in an uproar, and that one lobe of his brain was struggling to swarm off. His legs and arms felt as if they belonged to another man, and a very limp one at that. A ton of cast-iron seemed to be pressing his eyelids down, and a trickle of red-hot metal flowed from his cut forehead.

“I shall have to scream,” thought the lady, after an instant of anxious waiting, “if he does not revive. I cannot leave him to go for help.”

Not a prude, you see. A prude would have had cheap scruples about compromising herself by taking a man in her arms. Not a vulgar person, who would have required the stranger to be properly recommended by somebody who came over in the Mayflower, before she helped him. Not a feeble-minded damsel, who, if she had not fainted, would have fled away, gasping and in tears. No timidity or prudery or underbred doubts about this thorough creature. She knew she was in her right womanly place, and she meant to stay there.

But she began to need help, possibly a lancet, possibly a pocket-pistol, possibly hot blankets, possibly somebody to knead these lifeless lungs and pommel this flaccid body, until circulation was restored.

Just as she was making up her mind to scream, Wade stirred. He began to tingle as if a familiar of the Inquisition were slapping him all over with fine-toothed curry-combs. He became half-conscious of a woman supporting him. In a stammering and intoxicated voice he murmured,–

“Who ran to catch me when I fell,
And kissed the place to make it well? My”——

He opened his eyes. It was not his mother; for she was long since deceased. Nor was this non-mother kissing the place.

In fact, abashed at the blind eyes suddenly unclosing so near her, she was on the point of letting her burden drop. When dead men come to life in such a position, and begin to talk about “kissing the place,” young ladies, however independent of conventions, may well grow uneasy.

But the stranger, though alive, was evidently in a molluscous, invertebrate condition. He could not sustain himself. She still held him up, a little more at arm’s-length, and all at once the reaction from extreme anxiety brought a gush of tears to her eyes.

“Don’t cry,” says Wade, vaguely, and still only half-conscious. “I promise never to do so again.”

At this, said with a childlike earnestness, the lady smiled.

“Don’t scalp me,” Wade continued, in the same tone. “Squaws never scalp.”

He raised his hand to his bleeding forehead.

She laughed outright at his queer plaintive tone and the new class he had placed her in.

Her laugh and his own movement brought Wade fully to himself. She perceived that his look was transferring her from the order of scalping squaws to her proper place as a beautiful young woman of the highest civilization, not smeared with vermilion, but blushing celestial rosy.

“Thank you,” said Wade. “I can sit up now without assistance.” And he regretted profoundly that good breeding obliged him to say so.

She withdrew her arms. He rested on the ice,–posture of the Dying Gladiator. She made an effort to be cool and distant as usual; but it would not do. This weak mighty man still interested her. It was still her business to be strength to him.

He made a feeble attempt to wipe away the drops of blood from his forehead with his handkerchief.

“Let me be your surgeon!” said she.

She produced her own folded handkerchief,–M. D. were the initials in the corner,–and neatly and tenderly turbaned him.

Wade submitted with delight to this treatment. A tumble with such trimmings was luxury indeed.

“Who would not break his head,” he thought, “to have these delicate fingers plying about him, and this pure, noble face so close to his? What a queenly indifferent manner she has! What a calm brow! What honest eyes! What a firm nose! What equable cheeks! What a grand indignant mouth! Not a bit afraid of me! She feels that I am a gentleman and will not presume.”

“There!” said she, drawing back. “Is that comfortable?”

“Luxury!” he ejaculated with fervor.

“I am afraid I am to blame for your terrible fall.”

“No,–my own clumsiness and that oar-blade are in fault.”

“If you feel well enough to be left alone, I will skate off and call my friends.”

“Please do not leave me quite yet!” says Wade, entirely satisfied with the _tete-a-tete_.

“Ah! here comes Mr. Skerrett round the Point!” she said,–and sprang up, looking a little guilty.



Peter Skerrett came sailing round the purple rocks of his Point, skating like a man who has been in the South of Europe for two winters.

He was decidedly Anglicized in his whiskers, coat, and shoes. Otherwise he in all respects repeated his well-known ancestor, Skerrett of the Revolution; whose two portraits–1. A ruddy hero in regimentals, in Gilbert Stuart’s early brandy-and-water manner; 2. A rosy sage in senatorials, in Stuart’s later claret-and-water manner–hang in his descendant’s dining-room.

Peter’s first look was a provokingly significant one at the confused and blushing young lady. Secondly he inspected the Dying Gladiator on the ice.

“Have you been tilting at this gentleman, Mary?” he asked, in the voice of a cheerful, friendly fellow. “Why! Hullo. Hooray! It’s Wade, Richard Wade, Dick Wade! Don’t look, Miss Mary, while I give him the grips of all the secret societies we belonged to in College.”

Mary, however, did look on, pleased and amused, while Peter plumped down on the ice, shook his friend’s hand, and examined him as if he were fine crockery, spilt and perhaps shattered.

“It’s not a case of trepanning, Dick, my boy?” said he.

“No,” said the other. “I tumbled in trying to dodge this lady. The ice thought my face ought to be scratched, because I had been scratching its face without mercy. My wits were knocked out of me; but they are tired of secession, and pleading to be let in again.”

“Keep some of them out for our sake! We must have you at our commonplace level. Well, Miss Mary, I suppose this is the first time you have had the sensation of breaking a man’s head. You generally hit lower.” Peter tapped his heart.

“I’m all right now, thanks to my surgeon,” says Wade. “Give me a lift, Peter.” He pulled up and clung to his friend.

“You’re the vine and I’m the lamppost,” Skerrett said. “Mary, do you know what a pocket-pistol is?”

“I have seen such weapons concealed about the persons of modern warriors.”

“There’s one in my overcoat-pocket, with a cup at the butt and a cork at the muzzle. Skate off now, like an angel, and get it. Bring Fanny, too. She is restorative.”

“Are you alive enough to admire that, Dick?” he continued, as she skimmed away.

“It would pat a soul under the ribs of Death.”

“I venerate that young woman,” says Peter. “You see what a beauty she is, and just as unspoiled as this ice. Unspoiled beauties are rarer than rocs’ eggs.

“She has a singularly true face,” Wade replied, “and that is the main thing,–the most excellent thing in man or woman.”

“Yes, truth makes that nuisance, beauty, tolerable.”

“You did not do me the honor to present me.”

“I saw you had gone a great way beyond that, my boy. Have you not her initials in cambric on your brow? Not M. T., which wouldn’t apply; but M. D.”



“I like the name,” says Wade, repeating it. “It sounds simple and thoroughbred.”

“Just what she is. One of the nine simple-hearted and thorough-bred girls on this continent.”


“Is that too many? Three, then. That’s one in ten millions. The exact proportion of Poets, Painters, Oratory, Statesmen, and all other Great Artists. Well,–three or nine,–Mary Damer is one of them. She never saw fear or jealousy, or knowingly allowed an ignoble thought or an ungentle word or an ungraceful act in herself. Her atmosphere does not tolerate flirtation. You must find out for yourself how much genius she has and has not. But I will say this,–that I think of puns two a minute faster when I’m with her. Therefore she must be magnetic, and that is the first charm in a woman.”

Wade laughed.

“You have not lost your powers of analysis, Peter. But talking of this heroine, you have not told me anything about yourself, except _apropos_ of punning.”

“Come up and dine, and we’ll fire away personal histories, broadside for broadside! I’ve been looking in vain for a worthy hero to set _vis-a-vis_ to my fair kinswoman. But stop! perhaps you have a Christmas turkey at home, with a wife opposite, and a brace of boys waiting for drumsticks.”

“No,–my boys, like cherubs, await their own drumsticks. They’re not born, and I’m not married.”

“I thought you looked incomplete and abnormal. Well, I will show you a model wife,–and here she comes!”

Here they came, the two ladies, gliding round the Point, with draperies floating as artlessly artful as the robes of Raphael’s Hours, or a Pompeian Bacchante. For want of classic vase or _patera_, Miss Damer brandished Peter Skerrett’s pocket-pistol.

Fanny Skerrett gave her hand cordially to Wade, and looked a little anxiously at his pale face.

“Now, M.D.,” says Peter, “you have been surgeon, you shall be doctor and dose our patient. Now, then,–

“‘Hebe, pour free!
Quicken his eyes with mountain-dew, That Styx, the detested,
No more he may view.'”

“Thanks, Hebe!”

Wade said, continuing the quotation,–

“I quaff it!
Io Paean, I cry!
The whiskey of the Immortals
Forbids me to die.”

“We effeminate women of the nineteenth century are afraid of broken heads,” said Fanny. “But Mary Damer seems quite to enjoy your accident, Mr. Wade, as an adventure.”

Miss Damer certainly did seem gay and exhilarated.

“I enjoy it,” said Wade. “I perceive that I fell on my feet, when I fell on my crown. I tumbled among old friends, and I hope among new ones.”

“I have been waiting to claim my place among your old friends,” Mrs. Skerrett said, “ever since Peter told me you were one of his models.”

She delivered this little speech with a caressing manner which totally fascinated Wade.

Nothing was ever so absolutely pretty as Mrs. Peter Skerrett. Her complete prettiness left nothing to be desired.

“Never,” thought Wade, “did I see such a compact little casket of perfections. Every feature is thoroughly well done and none intrusively superior. Her little nose is a combination of all the amiabilities. Her black eyes sparkle with fun and mischief and wit, all playing over deep tenderness below. Her hair ripples itself full of gleams and shadows. The same coquetry of Nature that rippled her hair has dinted her cheeks with shifting dimples. Every time she smiles–and she smiles as if sixty an hour were not half allowance–a dimple slides into view and vanishes like a dot in a flow of sunny water. And, O Peter Skerrett! if you were not the best fellow in the world, I should envy you that latent kiss of a mouth.”

“You need not say it, Wade,–your broken head exempts you from the business of compliments,” said Peter; “but I see you think my wife perfection. You’ll think so the more, the more you know her.”

“Stop, Peter,” said she, “or I shall have to hide behind the superior charms of Mary Damer.”

Miss Damer certainly was a woman of a grander order. You might pull at the bells or knock at the knockers and be introduced into the boudoirs of all the houses, villas, seats, chateaus, and palaces in Christendom without seeing such another. She belonged distinctly to the Northern races,–the “brave and true and tender” women. There was, indeed, a trace of hauteur and imperiousness in her look and manner; but it did not ill become her distinguished figure and face. Wade, however, remembered her sweet earnestness when she was playing leech to his wound, and chose to take that mood as her dominant one.

“She must have been desperately annoyed with bores and boobies,” he thought. “I do not wonder she protects herself by distance. I am afraid I shall never get within her lines again,–not even if I should try slow and regular approaches, and bombard her with bouquets for a twelvemonth.”

“But, Wade,” says Peter, “all this time you have not told us what good luck sends you here to be wrecked on the hospitable shores of my Point.”

“I live here. I am chief cook and confectioner where you see the smoking top of that tall chimney up-stream.”

“Why, of course! What a dolt I was, not to think of you, when Churm told us an Athlete, a Brave, a Sage, and a Gentleman was the Superintendent of Dunderbunk; but said we must find his name out for ourselves. You remember, Mary. Miss Damer is Mr. Churm’s ward.”

She acknowledged with a cool bow that she did remember her guardian’s character of Wade.

“You do not say, Peter,” says Mrs. Skerrett, with a bright little look at the other lady, “why Mr. Churm was so mysterious about Mr. Wade.”

“Miss Damer shall tell us,” Peter rejoined, repeating his wife’s look of merry significance.

She looked somewhat teased. Wade could divine easily the meaning of this little mischievous talk. His friend Churm had no doubt puffed him furiously.

“All this time,” said Miss Darner, evading a reply, “we are neglecting our skating privileges.”

“Peter and I have a few grains of humanity in our souls,” Fanny said. “We should blush to sail away from Mr. Wade, while he carries the quarantine flag at his pale cheeks.”

“I am almost ruddy again,” says Wade. “Your potion, Miss Damer, has completed the work of your surgery. I can afford to dismiss my lamp-post.”

“Whereupon the post changes to a tee-totum,” Peter said, and spun off in an eccentric, ending in a tumble.

“I must have a share in your restoration, Mr. Wade,” Fanny claimed. “I see you need a second dose of medicine. Hand me the flask, Mary. What shall I pour from this magic bottle? juice of Rhine, blood of Burgundy, fire of Spain, bubble of Rheims, beeswing of Oporto, honey of Cyprus, nectar, or whiskey? Whiskey is vulgar, but the proper thing, on the whole, for these occasions. I prescribe it.” And she gave him another little draught to imbibe.

He took it kindly, for her sake,–and not alone for that, but for its own respectable sake. His recovery was complete. His head, to be sure, sang a little still, and ached not a little. Some fellows would have gone on the sick list with such a wound. Perhaps he would, if he had had a trouble to dodge. But here instead was a pleasure to follow. So he began to move about slowly, watching the ladies.

Fanny was a novice in the Art, and this was her first day this winter. She skated timidly, holding Peter very tightly. She went into the dearest little panics for fear of tumbles, and uttered the most musical screams and laughs. And if she succeeded in taking a few brave strokes and finished with a neat slide, she pleaded for a verdict of “Well done!” with such an appealing smile and such a fine show of dimples that every one was fascinated and applauded heartily.

Miss Damer skated as became her free and vigorous character. She had passed her Little Go as a scholar, and was now steadily winning her way through the list of achievements, before given, toward the Great Go. To-day she was at work at small circles backward. Presently she wound off a series of perfectly neat ones, and, looking up, pleased with her prowess, caught Wade’s admiring eye. At this she smiled and gave an arch little womanly nod of self-approval, which also demanded masculine sympathy before it was quite a perfect emotion.

With this charming gesture, the alert feather in her Amazonian hat nodded, too, as if it admired its lovely mistress.

Wade was thrilled. “Brava!” he cried, in answer to the part of her look which asked sympathy; and then, in reply to the implied challenge, he forgot his hurt and his shock, and struck into the same figure.

He tried not to surpass his fair exemplar too cruelly. But he did his peripheries well enough to get a repetition of the captivating nod and a Bravo! from the lady.

“Bravo!” said she. “But do not tax your strength too soon.”

She began to feel that she was expressing too much interest in the stranger. It was a new sensation for her to care whether men fell or got up. A new sensation. She rather liked it. She was a trifle ashamed of it. In either case, she did not wish to show that it was in her heart. The consciousness of concealment flushed her damask check.

It was a damask cheek. All her hues were cool and pearly; while Wade, Saxon too, had hot golden tints in his hair and moustache, and his color, now returning, was good strong red with plenty of bronze in it.

“Thank you,” he replied. “My force has all come back. You have electrified me.”

A civil nothing; but meaning managed to get into his tone and look, whether he would or not.

Which he perceiving, on his part began to feel guilty.

Of what crime?

Of the very same crime as hers,–the most ancient and most pardonable crime of youth and maiden,–that sweet and guiltless crime of love in the first degree.

So, without troubling themselves to analyze their feelings, they found a piquant pleasure in skating together,–she in admiring his _tours de force_, and he in instructing her.

“Look, Peter!” said Mrs. Skerrett, pointing to the other pair skating, he on the backward roll, she on the forward, with hands crossed and locked;–such contacts are permitted in skating, as in dancing. “Your hero and my heroine have dropped into an intimacy.”

“None but the Plucky deserve the Pretty,” says Peter.

“But he seems to be such a fine fellow,–suppose she shouldn’t”—-

The pretty face looked anxious.

“Suppose _he_ shouldn’t,” Peter on the masculine behalf returned.

“He cannot help it: Mary is so noble,–and so charming, when she does not disdain to be.”

“I do not believe _she_ can help it. She cannot disdain Wade. He carries too many guns for that. He is just as fine as she is. He was a hero when I first knew him. His face does not show an atom of change; and you know