This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Writer:
Language:
Form:
Genre:
Published:
  • 04/1861
FREE Audible 30 days

like to be, if the firm consents.”

“Oh!” I said.

I did not like the look of it in the least. Too young,–too young. Has not taken any position yet. No right to ask for the hand of Bilyuns Brothers & Co.’s daughter. Besides, it will spoil him for practice, if he marries a rich girl before he has formed habits of work.

I looked in at his office the next day. A box of white kids was lying open on the table. A three-cornered note, directed in a very delicate lady’s-hand, was distinguishable among a heap of papers. I was just going to call him to account for his proceedings, when he pushed the three-cornered note aside and took up a letter with a great corporation-seal upon it. He had received the offer of a professor’s chair in an ancient and distinguished institution.

“Pretty well for three-and-twenty, my boy,” I said. “I suppose you’ll think you must be married one of these days, if you accept this office.”

Mr. Langdon blushed.–There had been stories about him, he knew. His name had been mentioned in connection with that of a very charming young lady. The current reports were not true. He had met this young lady, and been much pleased with her, in the country, at the house of her grandfather, the Reverend Doctor Honeywood,–you remember Miss Letitia Forester, whom I have mentioned repeatedly? On coming to town, he found his country-acquaintance in a social position which seemed to discourage his continued intimacy. He had discovered, however, that he was a not unwelcome visitor, and had kept up friendly relations with her. But there was no truth in the current reports,–none at all.

Some months had passed, after this visit, when I happened one evening to stroll into a box in one of the principal theatres of the city. A small party sat on the seats before me: a middle-aged gentleman and his lady, in front, and directly behind them my young doctor and the same very handsome young lady I had seen him walking with on the side-walk before the swell-fronts and south-exposures. As Professor Langdon seemed to be very much taken up with his companion, and both of them looked as if they were enjoying themselves, I determined not to make my presence known to my young friend, and to withdraw quietly after feasting my eyes with the sight of them for a few minutes.

“It looks as if something might come of it,” I said to myself.

At that moment the young lady lifted her arm accidentally, in such a way that the light fell upon the clasp of a chain which encircled her wrist. My eyes filled with tears as I read upon the clasp, in sharp-cut Italic letters, _E.V._ They were tears at once of sad remembrance and of joyous anticipation; for the ornament on which I looked was the double pledge of a dead sorrow and a living affection. It was the golden bracelet,–the parting-gift of Elsie Venner.

* * * * *

BUBBLES.

I.

I stood on the brink in childhood,
And watched the bubbles go
From the rock-fretted sunny ripple To the smoother lymph below;

And over the white creek-bottom,
Under them every one,
Went golden stars in the water,
All luminous with the sun.

But the bubbles brake on the surface, And under, the stars of gold
Brake, and the hurrying water
Flowed onward, swift and cold.

II.

I stood on the brink in manhood,
And it came to my weary heart,–
In my breast so dull and heavy,
After the years of smart,–

That every hollowest bubble
Which over my life had passed
Still into its deeper current
Some sky-sweet gleam had cast;

That, however I mocked it gayly,
And guessed at its hollowness,
Still shone, with each bursting bubble, One star in my soul the less.

CITIES AND PARKS:

WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE NEW YORK CENTRAL PARK.

The first murderer was the first city-builder; and a good deal of murdering has been carried on in the interest of city-building ever since Cain’s day. Narrow and crooked streets, want of proper sewerage and ventilation, the absence of forethought in providing open spaces for the recreation of the people, the allowance of intramural burials, and of fetid nuisances, such as slaughter-houses and manufactories of offensive stuffs, have converted cities into pestilential inclosures, and kept Jefferson’s saying–“Great cities are great sores”–true in its most literal and mortifying sense.

There is some excuse for the crowded and irregular character of Old-World cities. They grew, and were not builded. Accumulations of people, who lighted like bees upon a chance branch, they found themselves hived in obdurate brick and mortar before they knew it; and then, to meet the necessities of their cribbed, cabined, and confined condition, they must tear down sacred landmarks, sacrifice invaluable possessions, and trample on prescriptive rights, to provide breathing-room for their gasping population. Besides, air, water, light, and cleanliness are modern innovations. The nose seems to have acquired its sensitiveness within a hundred years,–the lungs their objection to foul air, and the palate its disgust at ditch-water like the Thames, within a more recent period. Honestly dirty, and robustly indifferent to what mortally offends our squeamish senses, our happy ancestors fattened on carbonic acid gas, and took the exhalations of graveyards and gutters with a placidity of stomach that excites our physiological admiration. If they died, it was not for want of air. The pestilence carried, them off,–and that was a providential enemy, whose home-bred origin nobody suspected.

It must seem to foreigners of all things the strangest, that, in a country where land is sold at one dollar and twenty-five cents the acre by the square mile, there should in any considerable part of it be a want of room,–any necessity for crowding the population into pent-up cities,–any narrowness of streets, or want of commons and parks. And yet it is an undeniable truth that our American cities are all suffering the want of ample thoroughfares, destitute of adequate parks and commons, and too much crowded for health, convenience, or beauty. Boston has for its main street a serpentine lane, wide enough to drive the cows home from their pastures, but totally and almost fatally inadequate to be the great artery of a city of two hundred thousand people. Philadelphia is little better off with her narrow Chestnut Street, which purchases what accommodation it affords by admitting the parallel streets to nearly equal use, and thus sacrificing the very idea of a metropolitan thoroughfare, in which the splendor and motion and life of a metropolis ought to be concentrated. New York succeeds in making Broadway what the Toledo, the Strand, the Linden Strasse, the Italian Boulevards are; but the street is notoriously blocked and confused, and occasions more loss of time and temper and life and limb than would amply repay, once in five years, the widening of it to double its present breadth.

It is a great misfortune, that our commercial metropolis, the predestined home of five millions of people, should not have a single street worthy of the population, the wealth, the architectural ambition ready to fill and adorn it. Wholesale trade, bankers, brokers, and lawyers seek narrow streets. There must be swift communication between the opposite sides, and easy recognition of faces across the way. But retail trade requires no such conditions. The passers up and down on opposite sides of Broadway are as if in different streets, and neither expect to recognize each other nor to pass from one to the other without set effort. It took a good while to make Broad and Canal Streets attractive business-streets, and to get the importers and jobbers out of Pearl Street; but the work is now done. The Bowery affords the only remaining chance of building a magnificent metropolitan thoroughfare in New York; and we anticipate the day–when Broadway will surrender its pretensions to that now modest Cheapside. Already, about the confluence of the Third and Fourth Avenues at Eighth Street are congregated some of the chief institutions of the city,–the Bible House, the Cooper Institute, the Astor Library, the Mercantile Library. Farther down, the continuation of Canal Street affords the most commanding sites for future public edifices; while the neighborhoods of Franklin and Chatham Squares ought to be seized upon to embellish the city at imperial points with its finest architectural piles. The capacities of New York, below Union Square, for metropolitan splendor are entirely undeveloped; the best points are still occupied by comparatively worthless buildings, and the future will produce a now unlooked-for change in the whole character of that great district.

The huddling together of our American cities is due to the recentness of the time when space was our greatest enemy and sparseness our chief discouragement. Our founders hated room as much as a backwoods farmer hates trees. The protecting walls, which narrowed the ways and cramped the houses of the Old-World cities, did not put a severer compress upon them, than the disgust of solitude and the craving for “the sweet security of streets” threw about our city-builders. In the Western towns now, they carefully give a city air to their villages by crowding the few stores and houses of which they are composed into the likeliest appearance of an absolute scarcity of space.

They labor unconsciously to look crowded, and would sooner go into a cellar to eat their oysters than have them in the finest saloon above ground. And so, if a peninsula like Boston, or a miniature Mesopotamia like New York, or a basin like Cincinnati, could be found to tuck away a town in, in which there was a decent chance of covering over the nakedness of the land within a thousand years, they rejoiced to seize on it and warm their shivering imaginations in the idea of the possible snugness which their distant posterity might enjoy.

Boston owes its only park worth naming–the celebrated Common–to the necessity of leaving a convenient cow-pasture for the babes and sucklings of that now mature community. Forty acres were certainly never more fortunately situated for their predestined service, nor more providentially rescued for the higher uses of man. May the memory of the weaning babes who pleaded for the spot where their “milky mothers” fed be ever sacred in our Athens, and may the cows of Boston be embalmed with the bulls of Egypt! A white heifer should be perpetually grazing, at her tether, in the shadow of the Great Elm. Would it be wholly unbecoming one born in full view of that lovely inclosure to suggest that the straightness of the lines in which the trees are planted on Boston Common, and the rapidly increasing thickness of their foliage, destroy in the summer season the effect of breadth and liberty, hide both the immediate and the distant landscape, stifle the breeze, and diminish the attractiveness of the spot? Fewer trees, scattered in clumps and paying little regard to paths, would vastly improve the effect. The colonnades of the malls furnish all the shade desirable in so small an inclosure.

For the most part, the proper laying-out of cities is both a matter of greater ease and greater importance in America than anywhere else. We are much in the condition of those old Scriptural worthies, of whom it could be so coolly said, “So he went and built a city,” as if it were a matter of not much greater account than “So be went and built a log-house.” Very likely some of those Biblical cities, extemporized so tersely, were not much more finished than those we now and then encounter in our Western and Southern tours, where a poor shed at four cross-roads is dignified with the title. We believe it was Samuel Dexter, the pattern of Webster, who, on hanging out his shingle in a New England village, where a tavern, a schoolhouse, a church, and a blacksmith’s shop constituted the whole settlement, gave as a reason, that, having to break into the world somewhere, he had chosen the weakest place. He would have tried a new Western city, had they then been in fashion, as a still softer spot in the social crust. But this rage for cities in America is prophetic. The name is a spell; and most of the sites, surveyed and distributed into town-lots with squares and parks staked out, are only a century before their time, and will redound to the future credit, however fatal to the immediate cash of their projectors. Who can doubt that Cairo of Illinois–the standing joke of tourists, (and the standing-water of the Ohio and Mississippi,) though no joke to its founders–will one day rival its Egyptian prototype? America runs to cities, and particularly in its Northern latitudes. As cities have been the nurses of democratic institutions and ideas, democratic nations, for very obvious reasons, tend to produce them. They are the natural fruits of a democracy. And with no people are great cities so important, or likely to be so increasingly populous, as with a great agricultural and commercial nation like our own, covered with a free and equal population. The vast wealth of such a people, evenly distributed, and prevented from over-accumulation in special families by the absence of primogeniture and entail,–their general education and refined tastes,–the intense community of ideas, through the all-pervading influence of a daily press reaching with simultaneous diffusion over thousands of square miles,–the facilities of locomotion,–all inevitably cooperate with commercial necessities to create great cities,–not merely as the homes of the mercantile and wealthy class, but as centres where the leisure, the tastes, the pride, and the wants of the people at large repair more and more for satisfaction. Free populations, educated in public schools and with an open career for all, soon instinctively settle the high economies of life.

Many observers have ascribed the rapid change which for twenty years past has been going on in the relative character of towns and villages on the one hand, and cities on the other, to the mere operation of the railroad-system. But that system itself grew out of higher instincts. Equal communities demand equal privileges and advantages. They tend to produce a common level. The country does not acquiesce in the superiority of the city in manners, comforts, or luxuries. It demands a market at its door,–first-rate men for its advisers in all medical, legal, moral, and political matters. It demands for itself the amusements, the refinements, the privileges of the city. This is to be brought about only by the application, at any cost, of the most immediate methods of communication with the city; and behold our railroad system,–the Briarean shaking of hands which the country gives the city! The growth of this system is a curious commentary on the purely mercenary policy which is ordinarily supposed to govern the investments of capital. The railroads of the United States are as much the products of social rivalries and the fruits of an ineradicable democratic instinct for popularizing all advantages, as of any commercial emulation. The people have willingly bandaged their own eyes, and allowed themselves to believe a profitable investment was made, because their inclinations were so determined to have the roads, profitable or not. Their wives and daughters _would_ shop in the city; the choicest sights and sounds were there; there concentrated themselves the intellectual and moral lights; there were the representative splendors of the state or nation;–and a swift access to them was essential to true equality and self-respect.

One does not need to be a graybeard to recall the time when every county-town in New England had, because it needs must have, its first rate lawyer, its distinguished surgeon, its comprehensive business-man,–and when a fixed and unchanging population gave to our villages a more solid and a more elegant air than they now possess. The Connecticut river-villages, with a considerable increase in population, and a vast improvement in the general character of the dwellings, have nevertheless lost their most characterizing features,–the large and dignified residences of their founders, and the presence of the once able and widely known men that were identified with their local importance and pride. The railroads have concentrated the ability of all the professions in the cities, and carried thither the wealth of all the old families. To them, and not to the county-town, repair the people for advice in all critical matters, for supplies in all important purchases, for all their rarest pleasures, and all their most prized and memorable opportunities.

Cities, and the immediate neighborhood of cities, are rapidly becoming the chosen residences of the enterprising, successful, and intelligent. As might be supposed, the movement works both ways: the locomotive facilities carry citizens into the country, as well as countrymen into the city. But those who have once tasted the city are never wholly weaned from it, and every citizen who moves into a village-community sends two countrymen back to take his place. He infects the country with civic tastes, and acts as a great conductor between the town and the country. It is apparent, too, that the experience of ten years, during which some strong reaction upon the centripetal tendencies of the previous ten years drove many of the wealthy and the self-supposed lovers of quietude and space into the country, has dispersed several very natural prejudices, and returned the larger part of the truants to their original ways. One of these prejudices was, that our ordinary Northern climate was as favorable to the outdoor habits of the leisurely class as the English climate; whereas, besides not having a leisurely class, and never being destined to have any, under our wise wealth-distributing customs, and not having any out-door habits, which grow up only on estates and on hereditary fortunes, experience has convinced most who have tried it that we have only six months when out-of-doors allows any comfort, health, or pleasure away from the city. The roads are sloughs; side-walks are wanting; shelter is gone with the leaves; non-intercourse is proclaimed; companionship cannot be found; leisure is a drug; books grow stupid; the country is a stupendous bore. Another prejudice was the anticipated economy of the country. This has turned out to be, as might have been expected, an economy to those who fall in with its ways, which citizens are wholly inapt and unprepared to do. It is very economical not to want city comforts and conveniences. But it proves more expensive to those who go into the country to want them there than it did to have them where they abound. They are not to be had in the country at any price,–water, gas, fuel, food, attendance, amusement, locomotion in all weathers; but such a moderate measure of them as a city-bred family cannot live without involves so great an expense, that the expected economy of life in the country to those not actually brought up there turns out a delusion. The expensiveness of life in the city comes of the generous and grand scale on which it there proceeds, not from the superior cost of the necessaries or comforts of life. They are undoubtedly cheaper in the city, all things considered, than anywhere in the country. Where everything is to be had, in the smallest or the largest quantities,–where every form of service can be commanded at a moment’s notice,–where the wit, skill, competition of a country are concentrated upon the furnishing of all commodities at the most taking rates,–there prices will, of course, be most reasonable; and the expensiveness of such communities, we repeat, is entirely due to the abundant wealth which makes such enormous demands and secures such various comforts and luxuries;–in short, it is the high standard of living, not the cost of the necessaries of life. This high standard is, of course, an evil to those whose social ambition drives them to a rivalry for which they are not prepared. But no special pity is due to hardships self-imposed by pride and folly. The probability is, that, proportioned to their income from labor, the cost of living in the city, for the bulk of its population, is lighter, their degree of comfort considered, than in the country. And for the wealthy class of society, no doubt, on the whole, economy is served by living in the city. Our most expensive class is that which lives in the country after the manner of the city.

A literary man, of talents and thorough respectability, lately informed us, that, after trying all places, cities, villages, farmhouses, boarding-houses, hotels, taverns, he had discovered that keeping house in New York was the cheapest way to live,–vastly the cheapest, if the amount of convenience and comfort was considered,–and absolutely cheapest in fact. To be sure, being a bachelor, his housekeeping was done in a single room, the back-room of a third-story, in a respectable and convenient house and neighborhood. His rent was ninety-six dollars a year. His expenses of every other kind, (clothing excepted,) one dollar a week. He could not get his chop or steak cooked well enough, nor his coffee made right, until he took them in hand himself,–nor his bed made, nor his room cleaned. His conveniences were incredibly great. He cooked by alcohol, and expected to warm himself the winter through on two gallons of alcohol at seventy-five cents a gallon. This admirable housekeeping is equalled in economy only by that of a millionnaire, a New-Yorker, and a bachelor also, whose accounts, all accurately kept by his own hand, showed, after death, that (1st) his own living, (2d) his support of religion, (3d) his charities, (4th) his gifts to a favorite niece, had not averaged, for twenty years, over five hundred dollars. Truly, the city is a cheap place to live in, for those who know how! And what place is cheap for those who do not?

Contrary to the old notion, the more accurate statistics of recent times have proved the city, as compared with the country, the more healthy, the more moral, and the more religious place. What used to be considered the great superiority of the country–hardship, absence of social excitements and public amusements, simple food, freedom from moral exposure–a better knowledge of the human constitution, considered either physically or morally, has shown to be decidedly opposed to health and virtue. More constitutions are broken down in the hardening process than survive and profit by it. Cold houses, coarse food unskilfully cooked, long winters, harsh springs, however favorable to the heroism of the stomach, the lungs, and the spirits, are not found conducive to longevity. In like manner, monotony, seclusion, lack of variety and of social stimulus lower the tone of humanity, drive to sensual pleasures and secret vices, and nourish a miserable pack of mean and degrading immoralities, of which scandal, gossip, backbiting, tale-bearing are the better examples.

In the Old World, the wealth of states is freely expended in the embellishment of their capitals. It is well understood, not only that loyalty is never more economically secured than by a lavish appeal to the pride of the citizen in the magnificence of the public buildings and grounds which he identifies with his nationality, but that popular restlessness is exhaled and dangerous passions drained off in the roominess which parks and gardens afford the common people. In the New World, it has not yet proved necessary to provide against popular discontents or to bribe popular patriotism with spectacles and state-parade; and if it were so, there is no government with an interest of its own separate from that of the people to adopt this policy. It has therefore been concluded that democratic institutions must necessarily lack splendor and great public provision for the gratification of the aesthetic tastes or the indulgence of the leisure of the common people. The people being, then, our sovereigns, it has not been felt that they would or could have the largeness of view, the foresight, the sympathy with leisure, elegance, and ease, to provide liberally and expensively for their own recreation and refreshment. A bald utility has been the anticipated genius of our public policy. Our national Mercury was to be simply the god of the post-office, or the sprite of the barometer,–our Pan, to keep the crows from the corn-fields,–our Muses, to preside over district-schools. It begins now to appear that the people are not likely to think anything too good for themselves, or to higgle about the expense of whatever ministers largely to their tastes and fancies,–that political freedom, popular education, the circulation of newspapers, books, engravings, pictures, have already created a public which understands that man does not live by bread alone,–which demands leisure, beauty, space, architecture, landscape, music, elegance, with an imperative voice, and is ready to back its demands with the necessary self-taxation. This experience our absolute faith in free institutions enabled us to anticipate as the inevitable result of our political system; but let us confess that the rapidity with which it has developed itself has taken us by surprise. We knew, that, when the people truly realized their sovereignty, they would claim not only the utilitarian, but the artistic and munificent attributes of their throne,–and that all the splendors and decorations, all the provisions for leisure, taste, and recreation, which kings and courts have made, would be found to be mere preludes and rehearsals to the grander arrangements and achievements of the vastly richer and more legitimate sovereign, the People, when he understood his own right and duty. As dynasties and thrones have been predictions of the royalty of the people, so old courts and old capitals, with all their pomp and circumstance, their parks and gardens, galleries and statues, are but dim prefigurings of the glories of architecture, the grandeur of the grounds, the splendor and richness of the museums and conservatories with which the people will finally crown their own self-respect and decorate their own majesty. But we did not expect to see this sure prophecy turning itself into history in our day. We thought the people were too busy with the spade and the quill to care for any other sceptres at present. But it is now plain that they have been dreaming princely dreams and thinking royal thoughts all the while, and are now ready to put them into costly expression.

Passing by all other evidences of this, we come at once to the most majestic and indisputable witness of this fact, the actual existence of the Central Park in New York,–the most striking evidence of the sovereignty of the people yet afforded in the history of free institutions,–the best answer yet given to the doubts and fears which have frowned on the theory of self-government,–the first grand proof that the people do not mean to give up the advantages and victories of aristocratic governments, in maintaining a popular one, but to engraft the energy, foresight, and liberality of concentrated powers upon democratic ideas, and keep all that has adorned and improved the past, while abandoning what has impaired and disgraced it. That the American people appreciate and are ready to support what is most elegant, refined, and beautiful in the greatest capitals of Europe,–that they value and intend to provide the largest and most costly opportunities for the enjoyment of their own leisure, artistic tastes, and rural instincts, is emphatically declared in the history, progress, and manifest destiny of the Central Park; while their competency to use wisely, to enjoy peacefully, to protect sacredly, and to improve industriously the expensive, exposed, and elegant pleasure-ground they have devised, is proved with redundant testimony by the year and more of experience we have had in the use of the Park, under circumstances far less favorable than any that can ever again arise. As a test of the ability of the people to know their own higher wants, of the power of their artistic instincts, their docility to the counsels of their most judicious representatives, their superiority to petty economies, their strength to resist the natural opposition of heavy tax-payers to expensive public works, their gentleness and amenableness to just authority in the pursuit of their pleasures, of their susceptibility to the softening influences of elegance and beauty, of their honest pride and rejoicing in their own splendor, of their superior fondness for what is innocent and elevating over what is base and degrading, when brought within equal reach, the Central Park has already afforded most encouraging, nay, most decisive proof.

The Central Park is an anomaly to those who have not deeply studied the tendencies of popular governments. It is a royal work, undertaken and achieved by the Democracy,–surprising equally themselves and their skeptical friends at home and abroad,–and developing, both in its creation and growth, in its use and application, new and almost incredible tastes, aptitudes, capacities, and powers in the people themselves. That the people should be capable of the magnanimity of laying down their authority, when necessary to concentrate it in the hands of energetic and responsible trustees requiring large powers,–that they should be willing to tax themselves heavily for the benefit of future generations,–that they should be wise enough to distrust their own judgment and defer modestly to the counsels of experts,–that they should be in favor of the most solid and substantial work,–that they should be willing to have the better half of their money under ground and out of sight, invested in drains and foundations of roads,–that they should acquiesce cheerfully in all the restrictions necessary to the achievement of the work, while admitted freely to the use and enjoyment of its inchoate processes,–that their conduct and manners should prove so unexceptionable,–their disposition to trespass upon strict rules so small,–their use and improvement of the work so free, so easy, and so immediately justificatory of all the cost of so generous and grand an enterprise: these things throw light and cheer upon the prospects of popular institutions, at a period when they are seriously clouded from other quarters.

We do not propose to enter into any description of the Central Park. Those who have not already visited it will find a description, accompanying a study for the plan submitted for competition in 1858, by Messrs. Olmsted and Vaux, and published among the Documents of the New York Senate, which will satisfy their utmost expectations. We wish merely to throw out some replies to the leading objections we have met in the papers and other quarters to the plan itself. We need hardly say that the Central Park requires no advocate and no defence. Its great proprietor, the Public, is perfectly satisfied with his purchase and his agents. He thinks himself providentially guided in the choice of his Superintendent, and does not vainly pique himself upon his sagacity in selecting Mr. Frederick Law Olmsted for the post. This gentleman, in his place, offsets at least a thousand square plugs in round holes. He is precisely the man for the place,–and that is precisely the place for the man. Among final causes, it would be difficult not to assign the Central Park as the reason of his existence. To fill the duties of his office as he has filled them,–to prove himself equally competent as original designer, patient executor, potent disciplinarian, and model police-officer,–to enforce a method, precision, and strictness, equally marked in the workmanship, in the accounts, and in the police of the Park,–to be equally studious of the highest possible use and enjoyment of the work by the public of to-day, and of the prospects and privileges of the coming generations,–to sympathize with the outside people, while in the closest fellowship with the inside,–to make himself equally the favorite and friend of the people and of the workmen: this proves an original adaptation, most carefully improved, which we seriously believe not capable of being paralleled in any other public work, of similar magnitude, ever undertaken. The union of prosaic sense with poetical feeling, of democratic sympathies with refined and scholarly tastes, of punctilious respect for facts with tender hospitality for ideas, has enabled him to appreciate and embody, both in the conception and execution of the Park, the beau-ideal of a people’s pleasure-ground. If he had not borne, as an agriculturist, and as the keenest, most candid, and instructive of all our writers on the moral and political economy of our American Slavery, a name to be long remembered, he might safely trust his reputation to the keeping of New York city and all her successive citizens, as the author and achiever of the Central Park,–which, when completed, will prove, we are confident, the most splendid, satisfactory, and popular park in the world.

Two grand assumptions have controlled the design from the inception.

First, That the Park would be the only park deserving the name, for a town of twice or thrice the present population of New York; that this town would be built compactly around it (and in this respect of centrality it would differ from any extant metropolitan park of magnitude); and that it would be a town of greater wealth and more luxurious demands than any now existing.

Second, That, while in harmony with the luxury of the rich, the Park should and would be used more than any existing park by people of moderate wealth and by poor people, and that its use by these people must be made safe, convenient, agreeable; that they must be expected to have a pride and pleasure in using it rightly, in cherishing and protecting it against all causes of injury and dilapidation, and that this is to be provided for and encouraged.

A want of appreciation of the first assumption is the cause of all sincere criticism against the Transverse Roads. Some engineers originally pronounced them impracticable of construction; but all their grounds of apprehension have been removed by the construction of two of them, especially by the completion of the tunnel under Vista Rock, and below the foundation of the Reservoir embankment and wall. They were planned for the future; they are being built solidly, massively, permanently, for the future. Less thoroughly and expensively constructed, they would need to be rebuilt in the future at enormously increased cost, and with great interruption to the use of the Park; and the grounds in their vicinity, losing the advantage of age, would need to be remodelled and remade. An engineer, visiting the Park for the first time, and hearing the criticism to which we refer applied to the walls and bridges of the Transverse Roads, observed,–“People in this country are so unaccustomed to see genuine substantial work, they do not know what it means when they meet with it.” We think he did not do the people justice.

The Transverse Roads passing through the Park will not be seen from it; and although they will not be, when deep in the shadow of the overhanging bridges and groves, without a very grand beauty, this will be the beauty of utility and of permanence, not of imaginative grace. The various bridges and archways of the Park proper, while equally thorough in their mode of construction, and consequently expensive, are in all cases embellished each with special decorations in form and color. These decorations have the same quality of substantiality and thorough good workmanship. Note the clean under-cutting of the leaves, (of which there are more than fifty different forms in the decorations of the Terrace arch,) and their consequent sharp and expressive shadows. Admitting the need of these structures, and the economy of a method of construction which would render them permanent, the additional cost of their permanent decoration in this way could not have been rationally grudged.

Regard for the distant future has likewise controlled the planting; and the Commissioners, in so far as they have resisted the clamor of the day, that the Park must be immediately shaded, have done wisely. Every horticulturist knows that this immediate shade would be purchased at an expense of dwarfed, diseased, and deformed trees, with stinted shade, in the future. No man has planted large and small trees together without regretting the former within twenty years. The same consideration answers an objection which has been made, that the trees are too much arranged in masses of color. Imagine a growth of twenty years, with the proper thinnings, and most of these masses will resolve each into one tree, singled out, as the best individual of its mass, to remain. There is a large scale in the planting, as in everything else.

Regard to the convenience, comfort, and safety of those who cannot afford to visit the Park in carriages has led to an unusual extent and variety of character in the walks, and also to a peculiar arrangement by which they are carried in many instances beneath and across the line of the carriage-roads. Thus access can be had by pedestrians to all parts of the Park at times when the roads are thronged with vehicles, without any delays or dangers in crossing the roads, and without the humiliation to sensitive democrats of being spattered or dusted, or looked down upon from luxurious equipages.

The great irregularity of the surface offers facilities for this purpose,–the walks being carried through the heads of valleys which are crossed by the carriage-ways upon arches of masonry. Now with regard to these archways, if no purposes of convenience were to be served by them, the Park would not, we may admit, be beautified by them. But we assume that the population of New York is to be doubled; that, when it is so, if not sooner, the walks and drives of the Park will often be densely thronged; and, for the comfort of the people, when that shall be the case, we consider that these archways will be absolutely necessary.[A] Assuming further, then, that they are to be built, and, if ever, built now,–since it would involve an entirely new-modelling of the Park to introduce them in the future,–it was necessary to pay some attention to make them agreeable and unmonotonous objects, or the general impression of ease, freedom, and variety would be interfered with very materially. It is not to make the Park architectural, as is commonly supposed, that various and somewhat expensive _design_ is introduced; on the contrary, it is the intention to plant closely in the vicinity of all the arches, so that they may be unnoticed in the general effect, and be seen only just at the time they are being used, when, of course, they must come under notice. The charge is made, that the features of the natural landscape have been disregarded in the plan. To which we answer, that on the ground of the Lower Park there was originally no landscape, in the artistic sense. There were hills, and hillocks, and rocks, and swampy valleys. It would have been easy to flood the swamps into ponds, to clothe the hillocks with grass and the hills with foliage, and leave the rocks each unscathed in its picturesqueness. And this would have been a great improvement; yet there would be no landscape: there would be an unassociated succession of objects,–many nice “bits” of scenery, appropriate to a villa-garden or to an artist’s sketch-book, but no scenery such as an artist arranges for his broad canvas, no composition, no _park-like_ prospect. It would have afforded a good place for loitering; but if this were all that was desirable, forty acres would have done as well as a thousand, as is shown in the Ramble. Space, breadth, objects in the distance, clear in outline, but obscure, mysterious, exciting curiosity, in their detail, were wanting.

[Footnote A: The length of roads, walks, etc., completed, will be found in the last Annual Report, pp. 47-52.

The length of the famous drive in Hyde Park (the King Road) is 2 1/2 miles. There is another road, straight between two gates, 1 1/4 miles in length. “Rotten Bow” (the Ride) is a trifle over a mile in length.

The length of Drive in Central Park will be 9 1/3 miles; the length of Bridle Roads, 5 1/3 miles; the length of Walks, 20 miles.

Ten miles of walk, gravelled and substantially underlaid, are now finished.

Eighteen archways are planned, beside those of the Transverse Roads, equal 1 to 46 acres. When the planting is well-grown, no two of the archways will be visible from the same point.]

To their supply there were hard limitations. On each side, within half a mile of each other, there were to be lines of stone and brick houses, cutting off any great lateral distance. Suppose one to have entered the Park at the south end, and to have moved far enough within it to dispossess his mind of the sentiments of the streets: he will have threaded his way between hillocks and rocks, one after another, differing in magnitude, but never opening a landscape having breadth or distance. He ascends a hill and looks northward: the most distant object is the hard, straight, horizontal line of the stone wall of the Reservoir, flanked on one side by the peak of Vista Rock. It is a little over a mile distant,–but, standing clear out against the horizon, appears much less than that. Hide it with foliage, as well as the houses right and left, and the limitation of distance is a mile in front and a quarter of a mile upon each side. Low hills or ridges of rock in a great degree cut off the intermediate ground from view: cross these, and the same unassociated succession of objects might be visited, but no one of them would have engaged the visitor’s attention and attracted him onward from a distance. The plan has evidently been to make a selection of the natural features to form the leading ideas of the new scenery, to magnify the most important quality of each of these, and to remove or tone down all the irregularities of the ground between them, and by all means to make the limit of vision undefined and obscure. Thus, in the central portion of the Lower Park the low grounds have been generally filled, and the high grounds reduced; but the two largest areas of low ground have been excavated, the excavation being carried laterally into the hills as far as was possible, without extravagant removal of rock, and the earth obtained transferred to higher ground connecting hillocks with hills. Excavations have also been made about the base of all the more remarkable ledges and peaks of rock, while additional material has been conveyed to their sides and summits to increase their size and dignity.

This general rule of the plan was calculated to give, in the first place, breadth, and, in the second, emphasis, to any general prospect of the Park. A want of unity, or rather, if we may use the word, of assemblage, belonged to the ground; and it must have been one of the first problems to establish some one conspicuous, salient idea which should take the lead in the composition, and about which all minor features should seem naturally to group as accessories. The straight, evidently artificial, and hence distinctive and notable, Mall, with its terminating Terrace, was the resolution of this problem. It will be, when the trees are fully grown, a feature of the requisite importance, –and will serve the further purpose of opening the view toward, and, as it were, framing and keeping attention directed upon, Vista Rock, which from the southern end of the Mall is the most distant object that can be brought into view.

For the same purpose, evidently, it was thought desirable to insist, as far as possible, upon a pause at the point where, to the visitor proceeding northward, the whole hill-side and glen before Vista Rock first came under view, and where an effect of distance in that direction was yet attainable. This is provided for by the Terrace, with its several stairs and stages, and temptations to linger and rest. The introduction of the Lake to the northward of the Terrace also obliges a diversion from the direct line of proceeding; the visitor’s attention is henceforth directed laterally, or held by local objects, until at length by a circuitous route he reaches and ascends (if he chooses) the summit of Vista Rock, when a new landscape of entirely different character, and one not within our control, is opened to him. Thus the apparent distance of Vista Rock from the lower part of the Park (which is increased by means which we have not thought it necessary to describe) is not falsified by any experience of the visitor in his subsequent journey to it.

There was a fine and completely natural landscape in the Upper Park. The plan only simplifies it,–removing and modifying those objects which were incongruous with its best predominating character, and here and there adding emphasis or shadow.

The Park (with the extension) is two and three quarter miles in length and nearly half a mile wide. It contains 843 acres, including the Reservoir (136 acres).

Original cost of land to 106th Street, $5,444,369.90 Of this, assessed on adjoining property, 1,657,590.00 ____________
To be paid by corporation direct, 3,786,779.90 Assessed value of extension land, (106th to 110th,) 1,400,000.00 ____________
Total cost of land, $6,800,000.00[B]

[Footnote B: The amount thus far expended in construction and maintenance is nearly $3,000,000. The plan upon which the work is proceeding will require a further expenditure of $1,600,000. The expenditure is not squandered. Much the larger part of it is paid for day-labor. Account with laborers is kept by the hour, the rate of wages being scarcely above the lowest contractor’s rates, and 30 per cent. below the rate of other public works of the city; always paid directly into the laborer’s hands,–in specie, however.

The thorough government of the work, and the general efficiency of its direction, are indicated by the remarkable good order and absence of “accidents” which have characterized it. See p. 64 of Annual Report, 1860. For some particulars of cost, see pp. 61, 62, of same Report.]

In all European parks, there is more or less land the only use of which is to give a greater length to the roads which pass around it,–it being out of sight, and, in American phrase, unimproved. There is not an acre of land in Central Park, which, if not wanted for Park purposes, would not sell for at least as much as the land surrounding the Park and beyond its limits,–that is to say, for at least $60,000, the legal annual interest of which is $4,200. This would be the ratio of the annual waste of property in the case of any land not put to use; but, in elaborating the plan, care has been taken that no part of the Park should be without its special advantages, attractions, or valuable uses, and that these should as far as possible be made immediately available to the public.

The comprehensiveness of purpose and the variety of detail of the plan far exceed those of any other park in the world, and have involved, and continue to involve, a greater amount of study and invention than has ever before been given to a park. A consideration of this should enforce an unusually careful method of maintenance, both in the gardening and police departments. Sweeping with a broom of brush-wood once a week is well enough for a hovel; but the floors of a palace must needs be daily waxed and polished, to justify their original cost. We are unused to thorough gardening in this country. There are not in all the United States a dozen lawns or grass-plots so well kept as the majority of tradesmen’s door-yards in England or Holland. Few of our citizens have ever seen a really well-kept ground. During the last summer, much of the Park was in a state of which the Superintendent professed himself to be ashamed; but it caused not the slightest comment with the public, so far as we heard. As nearly all men in office, who have not a personal taste to satisfy, are well content, if they succeed in satisfying the public, we fear the Superintendent will be forced to “economize” on the keeping of the Park, as he was the past year, to a degree which will be as far from true economy as the cleaning of mosaic floors with birch brooms. The Park is laid out in a manner which assumes and requires cleanly and orderly habits in those who use it; much of its good quality will be lost, if it be not very neatly kept; and such negligence in the keeping will tend to negligence in the using.

In the plan, there is taken for granted a generally good inclination, a cleanly, temperate, orderly disposition, on the part of the public which is to frequent the Park, and finally to be the governors of its keeping, and a good, well-disposed, and well-disciplined police force, who would, in spite of “the inabilities of a republic,” adequately control the cases exceptional to the assumed general good habits of that public,–at the same time neglecting no precaution to facilitate the convenient enforcement of the laws, and reduce the temptation to disorderly practices to a minimum.

How thoroughly justified has been this confidence in the people, taking into account the novelty of a good public ground, of cleanliness in our public places, and indeed the novelty of the whole undertaking, we have already intimated. How much the privileges of the Park in its present incomplete condition are appreciated, and how generally the requirements of order are satisfied, the following summary, compiled from the Park-keeper’s reports of the first summer’s use after the roads of the Lower Park were opened, will inadequately show.

Number of visitors in six months. Foot. Saddle. Carriages. May, 184,450 8,017 26,500 June, 294,300 9,050 31,300 July, 71,035 2,710 4,945 August, 63,800 875 14,905 September, 47,433 2,645 20,708 October, 160,187 3,014 26,813 Usual number of visitors on a
fine summer’s day, 2,000 90 1,200 Usual number of visitors on a
fine Sunday, 35,000 60 1,500 (Men 20,000, Women 13,000, Children 2,000.) Sunday, May 29, entrances counted, 75,000 120 3,200 Usual number of visitors,
fine Concert day, 7,500 180 2,500 Saturday, Sept. 22, (Concert day,)
entrances counted, 13,000 225 4,650

During this time, (six months,) but thirty persons were detected upon the Park tipsy. Of these, twenty-four were sufficiently drunk to justify their arrest,–the remainder going quietly off the grounds, when requested to do so. That is to say, it is not oftener than once a week that a man is observed to be the worse for liquor while on the Park; and this, while three to four thousand laboring men are at work within it, are paid upon it, and grog-shops for their accommodation are all along its boundaries. In other words, about one in thirty thousand of the visitors to the Park has been under the influence of drink when induced to visit it.

On Christmas and New-Year’s Days, it was estimated by many experienced reporters that over 100,000 persons, each day, were on the Park, generally in a frolicksome mood. Of these, but one (a small boy) was observed by the keepers to be drunk; there was not an instance of quarrelling, and no disorderly conduct, except a generally good-natured resistance to the efforts of the police to maintain safety on the ice.

The Bloomingdale Road and Harlem Lane, two famous trotting-courses, where several hundred famously fast horses may be seen at the top of their speed any fine afternoon, both touch an entrance to the Park. The Park roads are, of course, vastly attractive to the trotters, and for a few weeks there were daily instances of fast driving there: as soon, however, as the law and custom of the Park, restricting speed to a moderate rate, could be made generally understood, fast driving became very rare,–more so, probably, than in Hyde Park or the Bois de Boulogne. As far as possible, an arrest has been made in every case of intentionally fast driving observed by the keepers: those arrested number less than one to ten thousand of the vehicles entering the Park for pleasure-driving. In each case a fine (usually three dollars) has been imposed by the magistrate.

In six months there have been sixty-four arrests for all sorts of “disorderly conduct,” including walking on the grass after being requested to quit it, quarrelling, firing crackers, etc.,–one in eighteen thousand visitors. So thoroughly established is the good conduct of people on the Park, that many ladies walk daily in the Ramble without attendance.

A protest, as already intimated, is occasionally made against the completeness of detail to which the Commissioners are disposed to carry their work, on the ground that the habits of the masses of our city-population are ill-calculated for its appreciation, and that loss and damage to expensive work must often be the result. To which we would answer, that, if the authorities of the city hitherto have so far misapprehended or neglected their duty as to allow a large industrious population to continue so long without the opportunity for public recreations that it has grown up ignorant of the rights and duties appertaining to the general use of a well-kept pleasure-ground, any losses of the kind apprehended, which may in consequence occur, should be cheerfully borne as a necessary part of the responsibility of a good government. Experience thus far, however, does not justify these apprehensions.

To collect exact evidence showing that the Park is already exercising a good influence upon the character of the people is not in the nature of the case practicable. It has been observed that rude, noisy fellows, after entering the more advanced or finished parts of the Park, become hushed, moderate, and careful. Observing the generally tranquil and pleased expression, and the quiet, sauntering movement, the frequent exclamations of pleasure in the general view or in the sight of some special object of natural beauty, on the part of the crowds of idlers in the Ramble on a Sunday afternoon, and recollecting the totally opposite character of feeling, thought, purpose, and sentiment which is expressed by a crowd assembled anywhere else, especially in the public streets of the city, the conviction cannot well be avoided that the Park already exercises a beneficent influence of no inconsiderable value, and of a kind which could have been gained in no other way. We speak of Sunday afternoons and of a crowd; but the Park evidently does induce many a poor family, and many a poor seamstress and journeyman, to take a day or a half-day from the working-time of the week, to the end of retaining their youth and their youthful relations with purer Nature, and to their gain in strength, good-humor, safe citizenship, and–if the economists must be satisfied–money-value to the commonwealth. Already, too, there are several thousand men, women, and children who resort to the Park habitually: some daily, before business or after business, and women and children at regular hours during the day; some weekly; and some at irregular, but certain frequent chances of their business. Mr. Astor, when in town, rarely misses his daily ride; nor Mr. Bancroft; Mr. Mayor Harper never his drive. And there are certain working-men with their families equally sure to be met walking on Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon; others on Saturday. The number of these _habitues_ constantly increases. When we meet those who depend on the Park as on the butcher and the omnibus, and the thousands who are again drawn by whatever impulse and suggestion of the hour, we often ask, What would they have done, where would they have been, to what sort of recreation would they have turned, _if to any_, had there been no park? Of one sort the answer is supplied by the keeper of a certain saloon, who came to the Park, as he said, to see his old Sunday customers. The enjoyment of the ice had made them forget their grog.

Six or seven years ago, an opposition brought down the prices and quadrupled the accommodations of the Staten Island ferry-boats. Clifton Park and numerous German gardens were opened; and the consequence was described, in common phrase, as the transformation of a portion of the island, on Sunday, to a Pandemonium. We thought we would, like Dante, have a cool look at it. We had read so much about it, and heard it talked about and preached about so much, that we were greatly surprised to find the throng upon the sidewalks quite as orderly and a great deal more evidently good-natured than any we ever saw before in the United States. We spent some time in what we had been led to suppose the hottest place, Clifton Park, in which there was a band of music and several thousand persons, chiefly Germans, though with a good sprinkling of Irish servant-girls with their lovers and brothers, with beer and ices; but we saw no rudeness, and no more impropriety, no more excitement, no more (week-day) sin, than we had seen at the church in the morning. Every face, however, was foreign. By-and-by came in three Americans, talking loudly, moving rudely, proclaiming contempt for “lager” and yelling for “liquor,” bantering and offering fight, joking coarsely, profane, noisy, demonstrative in any and every way, to the end of attracting attention to themselves, and proclaiming that they were “on a spree” and highly excited. They could not keep it up; they became awkward, ill at ease, and at length silent, standing looking about them in stupid wonder. Evidently they could not understand what it meant: people drinking, smoking in public, on Sunday, and yet not excited, not trying to make it a spree. It was not comprehensible. We ascertained that one of the ferry-boat bars had disposed of an enormous stock of lemonade, ginger-beer, and soda-water before three o’clock,–but, till this was all gone, not half a dozen glasses of intoxicating drinks. We saw no quarrelling, no drunkenness, and nothing like the fearful disorder which had been described,–with a few such exceptions as we have mentioned of native Americans who had no conception of enjoyment free from bodily excitement.

To teach and induce habits of orderly, tranquil, contemplative, or social amusement, moderate exercises and recreation, soothing to the nerves, has been the most needed “mission” for New York. We think we see daily evidence that the Park accomplishes not a little in this way. Unfortunately, the evidence is not of a character to be expressed in Federal currency, else the Commissioners would not be hesitating about taking the ground from One-Hundred-and-Sixth to One-Hundred-and-Tenth Street, because it is to cost half a million more than was anticipated. What the Park is worth to us to-day is, we trust, but a trifle to what it will be worth when the bulk of our hard-working people, of our over-anxious Marthas, and our gutter-skating children shall live nearer to it, and more generally understand what it offers them,–when its play-grounds are ready, its walks more shaded,–when cheap and wholesome meals, to the saving, occasionally, of the dreary housewife’s daily pottering, are to be had upon it,–when its system of cheap cabs shall have been successfully inaugurated,–and when a daily discourse of sweet sounds shall have been made an essential part of its functions in the body-politic.

We shall not probably live to see “the gentility of Sir Philip Sidney made universal,” but we do hope that we shall live to know many residents of towns of ten thousand population who will be ashamed to subscribe for the building of new churches while no public play-ground is being prepared for their people.

LIFE IN THE IRON-MILLS.

“Is this the end?
O Life, as futile, then, as frail! What hope of answer or redress?”

A cloudy day: do you know what that is in a town of iron-works? The sky sank down before dawn, muddy, flat, immovable. The air is thick, clammy with the breath of crowded human beings. It stifles me. I open the window, and, looking out, can scarcely see through the rain the grocer’s shop opposite, where a crowd of drunken Irishmen are puffing Lynchburg tobacco in their pipes. I can detect the scent through all the foul smells ranging loose in the air.

The idiosyncrasy of this town is smoke. It rolls sullenly in slow folds from the great chimneys of the iron-foundries, and settles down in black, slimy pools on the muddy streets. Smoke on the wharves, smoke on the dingy boats, on the yellow river,–clinging in a coating of greasy soot to the house-front, the two faded poplars, the faces of the passers-by. The long train of mules, dragging masses of pig-iron through the narrow street, have a foul vapor hanging to their reeking sides. Here, inside, is a little broken figure of an angel pointing upward from the mantel-shelf; but even its wings are covered with smoke, clotted and black. Smoke everywhere! A dirty canary chirps desolately in a cage beside me. Its dream of green fields and sunshine is a very old dream,–almost worn out, I think.

From the back-window I can see a narrow brick-yard sloping down to the river-side, strewed with rain-butts and tubs. The river, dull and tawny-colored, _(la belle riviere!)_ drags itself sluggishly along, tired of the heavy weight of boats and coal-barges. What wonder? When I was a child, I used to fancy a look of weary, dumb appeal upon the face of the negro-like river slavishly bearing its burden day after day. Something of the same idle notion comes to me to-day, when from the street-window I look on the slow stream of human life creeping past, night and morning, to the great mills. Masses of men, with dull, besotted faces bent to the ground, sharpened here and there by pain or cunning; skin and muscle and flesh begrimed with smoke and ashes; stooping all night over boiling caldrons of metal, laired by day in dens of drunkenness and infamy; breathing from infancy to death an air saturated with fog and grease and soot, vileness for soul and body. What do you make of a case like that, amateur psychologist? You call it an altogether serious thing to be alive: to these men it is a drunken jest, a joke,–horrible to angels perhaps, to them commonplace enough. My fancy about the river was an idle one: it is no type of such a life. What if it be stagnant and slimy here? It knows that beyond there waits for it odorous sunlight,–quaint old gardens, dusky with soft, green foliage of apple-trees, and flushing crimson with roses,–air, and fields, and mountains. The future of the Welsh puddler passing just now is not so pleasant. To be stowed away, after his grimy work is done, in a hole in the muddy graveyard, and after that,–_not_ air, nor green fields, nor curious roses.

Can you see how foggy the day is? As I stand here, idly tapping the window-pane, and looking out through the rain at the dirty back-yard and the coal-boats below, fragments of an old story float up before me,–a story of this old house into which I happened to come to-day. You may think it a tiresome story enough, as foggy as the day, sharpened by no sudden flashes of pain or pleasure.–I know: only the outline of a dull life, that long since, with thousands of dull lives like its own, was vainly lived and lost: thousands of them,–massed, vile, slimy lives, like those of the torpid lizards in yonder stagnant water-butt.–Lost? There is a curious point for you to settle, my friend, who study psychology in a lazy, _dilettante_ way. Stop a moment. I am going to be honest. This is what I want you to do. I want you to hide your disgust, take no heed to your clean clothes, and come right down with me,–here, into the thickest of the fog and mud and foul effluvia. I want you to hear this story. There is a secret down here, in this nightmare fog, that has lain dumb for centuries: I want to make it a real thing to you. You, Egoist, or Pantheist, or Arminian, busy in making straight paths for your feet on the hills, do not see it clearly,–this terrible question which men here have gone mad and died trying to answer. I dare not put this secret into words. I told you it was dumb. These men, going by with drunken faces and brains full of unawakened power, do not ask it of Society or of God. Their lives ask it; their deaths ask it. There is no reply. I will tell you plainly that I have a great hope; and I bring it to you to be tested. It is this: that this terrible dumb question is its own reply; that it is not the sentence of death we think it, but, from the very extremity of its darkness, the most solemn prophecy which the world has known of the Hope to come. I dare make my meaning no clearer, but will only tell my story. It will, perhaps, seem to you as foul and dark as this thick vapor about us, and as pregnant with death; but if your eyes are free as mine are to look deeper, no perfume-tinted dawn will be so fair with promise of the day that shall surely come.

My story is very simple,–only what I remember of the life of one of these men,–a furnace-tender in one of Kirby & John’s rolling-mills,–Hugh Wolfe. You know the mills? They took the great order for the Lower Virginia railroads there last winter; run usually with about a thousand men. I cannot tell why I choose the half-forgotten story of this Wolfe more than that of myriads of these furnace-hands. Perhaps because there is a secret underlying sympathy between that story and this day with its impure fog and thwarted sunshine,–or perhaps simply for the reason that this house is the one where the Wolfes lived. There were the father and son,–both hands, as I said, in one of Kirby & John’s mills for making railroad-iron,–and Deborah, their cousin, a picker in some of the cotton-mills. The house was rented then to half a dozen families. The Wolfes had two of the cellar-rooms. The old man, like many of the puddlers and feeders of the mills, was Welsh,–had spent half of his life in the Cornish tin-mines. You may pick the Welsh emigrants, Cornish miners, out of the throng passing the windows, any day. They are a trifle more filthy; their muscles are not so brawny; they stoop more. When they are drunk, they neither yell, nor shout, nor stagger, but skulk along like beaten hounds. A pure, unmixed blood, I fancy: shows itself in the slight angular bodies and sharply-cut facial lines. It is nearly thirty years since the Wolfes lived here. Their lives were like those of their class: incessant labor, sleeping in kennel-like rooms, eating rank pork and molasses, drinking–God and the distillers only know what; with an occasional night in jail, to atone for some drunken excess. Is that all of their lives?–of the portion given to them and these their duplicates swarming the streets to-day? –nothing beneath?–all? So many a political reformer will tell you,–and many a private reformer, too, who has gone among them with a heart tender with Christ’s charity, and come out outraged, hardened.

One rainy night, about eleven o’clock, a crowd of half-clothed women stopped outside of the cellar-door. They were going home from the cotton-mill.

“Good-night, Deb,” said one, a mulatto, steadying herself against the gas-post. She needed the post to steady her. So did more than one of them.

“Dah’s a ball to Miss Potts’ to-night. Ye’d best come.”

“Inteet, Deb, if hur ‘ll come, hur ‘ll hef fun,” said a shrill Welsh voice in the crowd.

Two or three dirty hands were thrust out to catch the gown of the woman, who was groping for the latch of the door.

“No.”

“No? Where’s Kit Small, then?”

“Begorra! on the spools. Alleys behint, though we helped her, we dud. An wid ye! Let Deb alone! It’s ondacent frettin’ a quite body. Be the powers, an’ we’ll have a night of it! there’ll be lashin’s o’ drink,–the Vargent be blessed and praised for ‘t!”

They went on, the mulatto inclining for a moment to show fight, and drag the woman Wolfe off with them; but, being pacified, she staggered away.

Deborah groped her way into the cellar, and, after considerable stumbling, kindled a match, and lighted a tallow dip, that sent a yellow glimmer over the room. It was low, damp,–the earthen floor covered with a green, slimy moss,–a fetid air smothering the breath. Old Wolfe lay asleep on a heap of straw, wrapped in a torn horse-blanket. He was a pale, meek little man, with a white face and red rabbit-eyes. The woman Deborah was like him; only her face was even more ghastly, her lips bluer, her eyes more watery. She wore a faded cotton gown and a slouching bonnet. When she walked, one could see that she was deformed, almost a hunchback. She trod softly, so as not to waken him, and went through into the room beyond. There she found by the half-extinguished fire an iron saucepan filled with cold boiled potatoes, which she put upon a broken chair with a pint-cup of ale. Placing the old candlestick beside this dainty repast, she untied her bonnet, which hung limp and wet over her face, and prepared to eat her supper. It was the first food that had touched her lips since morning. There was enough of it, however: there is not always. She was hungry,–one could see that easily enough,–and not drunk, as most of her companions would have been found at this hour. She did not drink, this woman,–her face told that, too,–nothing stronger than ale. Perhaps the weak, flaccid wretch had some stimulant in her pale life to keep her up,–some love or hope, it might be, or urgent need. When that stimulant was gone, she would take to whiskey. Man cannot live by work alone. While she was skinning the potatoes, and munching them, a noise behind her made her stop.

“Janey!” she called, lifting the candle and peering into the darkness. “Janey, are you there?”

A heap of ragged coats was heaved up, and the face of a young girl emerged, staring sleepily at the woman.

“Deborah,” she said, at last, “I’m here the night.”

“Yes, child. Hur’s welcome,” she said, quietly eating on.

The girl’s face was haggard and sickly; her eyes were heavy with sleep and hunger: real Milesian eyes they were, dark, delicate blue, glooming out from black shadows with a pitiful fright.

“I was alone,” she said, timidly.

“Where’s the father?” asked Deborah, holding out a potato, which the girl greedily seized.

“He’s beyant,–wid Haley,–in the stone house.” (Did you ever hear the word _jail_ from an Irish mouth?) “I came here. Hugh told me never to stay me-lone.”

“Hugh?”

“Yes.”

A vexed frown crossed her face. The girl saw it, and added quickly,–

“I have not seen Hugh the day, Deb. The old man says his watch lasts till the mornin’.”

The woman sprang up, and hastily began to arrange some bread and flitch in a tin pail, and to pour her own measure of ale into a bottle. Tying on her bonnet, she blew out the candle.

“Lay ye down, Janey dear,” she said, gently, covering her with the old rags. “Hur can eat the potatoes, if hur ‘s hungry.”

“Where are ye goin’, Deb? The rain ‘s sharp.”

“To the mill, with Hugh’s supper.”

“Let him hide till th’ morn. Sit ye down.”

“No, no,”–sharply pushing her off. “The boy’ll starve.”

She hurried from the cellar, while the child wearily coiled herself up for sleep. The rain was falling heavily, as the woman, pail in hand, emerged from the mouth of the alley, and turned down the narrow street, that stretched out, long and black, miles before her. Here and there a flicker of gas lighted an uncertain space of muddy footwalk and gutter; the long rows of houses, except an occasional lager-bier shop, were closed; now and then she met a band of mill-hands skulking to or from their work.

Not many even of the inhabitants of a manufacturing town know the vast machinery of system by which the bodies of workmen are governed, that goes on unceasingly from year to year. The hands of each mill are divided into watches that relieve each other as regularly as the sentinels of an army. By night and day the work goes on, the unsleeping engines groan and shriek, the fiery pools of metal boil and surge. Only for a day in the week, in half-courtesy to public censure, the fires are partially veiled; but as soon as the clock strikes midnight, the great furnaces break forth with renewed fury, the clamor begins with fresh, breathless vigor, the engines sob and shriek like “gods in pain.”

As Deborah hurried down through the heavy rain, the noise of these thousand engines sounded through the sleep and shadow of the city like far-off thunder. The mill to which she was going lay on the river, a mile below the city-limits. It was far, and she was weak, aching from standing twelve hours at the spools. Yet it was her almost nightly walk to take this man his supper, though at every square she sat down to rest, and she knew she should receive small word of thanks.

Perhaps, if she had possessed an artist’s eye, the picturesque oddity of the scene might have made her step stagger less, and the path seem shorter; but to her the mills were only “summat deilish to look at by night.”

The road leading to the mills had been quarried from the solid rock, which rose abrupt and bare on one side of the cinder-covered road, while the river, sluggish and black, crept past on the other. The mills for rolling iron are simply immense tent-like roofs, covering acres of ground, open on every side. Beneath these roofs Deborah looked in on a city of fires, that burned hot and fiercely in the night. Fire in every horrible form: pits of flame waving in the wind; liquid metal-flames writhing in tortuous streams through the sand; wide caldrons filled with boiling fire, over which bent ghastly wretches stirring the strange brewing; and through all, crowds of half-clad men, looking like revengeful ghosts in the red light, hurried, throwing masses of glittering fire. It was like a street in Hell. Even Deborah muttered, as she crept through, “‘T looks like t’ Devil’s place!” It did,–in more ways than one.

She found the man she was looking for, at last, heaping coal on a furnace. He had not time to eat his supper; so she went behind the furnace, and waited. Only a few men were with him, and they noticed her only by a “Hyur comes t’ hunchback, Wolfe.”

Deborah was stupid with sleep; her back pained her sharply; and her teeth chattered with cold, with the rain that soaked her clothes and dripped from her at every step. She stood, however, patiently holding the pail, and waiting.

“Hout, woman! ye look like a drowned cat. Come near to the fire,”–said one of the men, approaching to scrape away the ashes.

She shook her head. Wolfe had forgotten her. He turned, hearing the man, and came closer.

“I did no’ think; gi’ me my supper, woman.”

She watched him eat with a painful eagerness. With a woman’s quick instinct, she saw that he was not hungry,–was eating to please her. Her pale, watery eyes began to gather a strange light.

“Is’t good, Hugh? T’ale was a bit sour, I feared.”

“No, good enough.” He hesitated a moment. “Ye’re tired, poor lass! Bide here till I go. Lay down there on that heap of ash, and go to sleep.”

He threw her an old coat for a pillow, and turned to his work. The heap was the refuse of the burnt iron, and was not a hard bed; the half-smothered warmth, too, penetrated her limbs, dulling their pain and cold shiver.

Miserable enough she looked, lying there on the ashes like a limp, dirty rag,–yet not an unfitting figure to crown the scene of hopeless discomfort and veiled crime: more fitting, if one looked deeper into the heart of things,–at her thwarted woman’s form, her colorless life, her waking stupor that smothered pain and hunger,–even more fit to be a type of her class. Deeper yet if one could look, was there nothing worth reading in this wet, faded thing, half-covered with ashes? no story of a soul filled with groping passionate love, heroic unselfishness, fierce jealousy? of years of weary trying to please the one human being whom she loved, to gain one look of real heart-kindness from him? If anything like this were hidden beneath the pale, bleared eyes, and dull, washed-out-looking face, no one had ever taken the trouble to read its faint signs: not the half-clothed furnace-tender, Wolfe, certainly. Yet he was kind to her: it was his nature to be kind, even to the very rats that swarmed in the cellar: kind to her in just the same way. She knew that. And it might be that very knowledge had given to her face its apathy and vacancy more than her low, torpid life. One sees that dead, vacant look steal sometimes over the rarest, finest of women’s faces,–in the very midst, it may be, of their warmest summer’s day; and then one can guess at the secret of intolerable solitude that lies hid beneath the delicate laces and brilliant smile. There was no warmth, no brilliancy, no summer for this woman; so the stupor and vacancy had time to gnaw into her face perpetually. She was young, too, though no one guessed it; so the gnawing was the fiercer.

She lay quiet in the dark corner, listening, through the monotonous din and uncertain glare of the works, to the dull plash of the rain in the far distance,–shrinking back whenever the man Wolfe happened to look towards her. She knew, in spite of all his kindness, that there was that in her face and form which made him loathe the sight of her. She felt by instinct, although she could not comprehend it, the finer nature of the man, which made him among his fellow-workmen something unique, set apart. She knew, that, down under all the vileness and coarseness of his life, there was a groping passion for whatever was beautiful and pure,–that his soul sickened with disgust at her deformity, even when his words were kindest. Through this dull consciousness, which never left her, came, like a sting, the recollection of the dark blue eyes and lithe figure of the little Irish girl she had left in the cellar. The recollection struck through even her stupid intellect with a vivid glow of beauty and of grace. Little Janey, timid, helpless, clinging to Hugh as her only friend: that was the sharp thought, the bitter thought, that drove into the glazed eyes a fierce light of pain. You laugh at it? Are pain and jealousy less savage realities down here in this place I am taking you to than in your own house or your own heart,–your heart, which they clutch at sometimes? The note is the same, I fancy, be the octave high or low.

If you could go into this mill where Deborah lay, and drag out from the hearts of these men the terrible tragedy of their lives, taking it as a symptom of the disease of their class, no ghost Horror would terrify you more. A reality of soul-starvation, of living death, that meets you every day under the besotted faces on the street,–I can paint nothing of this, only give you the outside outlines of a night, a crisis in the life of one man: whatever muddy depth of soul-history lies beneath you can read according to the eyes God has given you.

Wolfe, while Deborah watched him as a spaniel its master, bent over the furnace with his iron pole, unconscious of her scrutiny, only stopping to receive orders. Physically, Nature had promised the man but little. He had already lost the strength and instinct vigor of a man, his muscles were thin, his nerves weak, his face (a meek, woman’s face) haggard, yellow with consumption. In the mill he was known as one of the girl-men: “Molly Wolfe” was his _sobriquet_. He was never seen, in the cockpit, did not own a terrier, drank but seldom; when he did, desperately. He fought sometimes, but was always thrashed, pommelled to a jelly. The man was game enough, when his blood was up: but he was no favorite in the mill; he had the taint of school-learning on him,–not to a dangerous extent, only a quarter or so in the free-school in fact, but enough to ruin him as a good hand in a fight.

For other reasons, too, he was not popular. Not one of themselves, they felt that, though outwardly as filthy and ash-covered; silent, with foreign thoughts and longings breaking out through his quietness in innumerable curious ways: this one, for instance. In the neighboring furnace-buildings lay great heaps of the refuse from the ore after the pig-metal is run. _Korl_ we call it here: a light, porous substance, of a delicate, waxen, flesh-colored tinge. Out of the blocks of this korl, Wolfe, in his off-hours from the furnace, had a habit of chipping and moulding figures,–hideous, fantastic enough, but sometimes strangely beautiful: even the mill-men saw that, while they jeered at him. It was a curious fancy in the man, almost a passion. The few hours for rest he spent hewing and hacking with his blunt knife, never speaking, until his watch came again,–working at one figure for months, and, when it was finished, breaking it to pieces perhaps, in a fit of disappointment. A morbid, gloomy man, untaught, unled, left to feed his soul in grossness and crime, and hard, grinding labor.

I want you to come down and look at this Wolfe, standing there among the lowest of his kind, and see him just as he is, that you may judge him justly when you hear the story of this night. I want you to look back, as he does every day, at his birth in vice, his starved infancy; to remember the heavy years he has groped through as boy and man,–the slow, heavy years of constant, hot work. So long ago he began, that he thinks sometimes he has worked there for ages. There is no hope that it will ever end. Think that God put into this man’s soul a fierce thirst for beauty,–to know it, to create it; to _be_–something, he knows not what,–other than he is. There are moments when a passing cloud, the sun glinting on the purple thistles, a kindly smile, a child’s face, will rouse him to a passion of pain,–when his nature starts up with a mad cry of rage against God, man, whoever it is that has forced this vile, slimy life upon him. With all this groping, this mad desire, a great blind intellect stumbling through wrong, a loving poet’s heart, the man was by habit only a coarse, vulgar laborer, familiar with sights and words you would blush to name. Be just; when I tell you about this night, see him as he is. Be just,–not like man’s law, which seizes on one isolated fact, but like God’s judging angel, whose clear, sad eye saw all the countless cankering days of this man’s life, all the countless nights, when, sick with starving, his soul fainted in him, before it judged him for this night, the saddest of all.

I called this night the crisis of his life. If it was, it stole on him unawares. These great turning-days of life cast no shadow before, slip by unconsciously. Only a trifle, a little turn of the rudder, and the ship goes to heaven or hell.

Wolfe, while Deborah watched him, dug into the furnace of melting iron with his pole, dully thinking only how many rails the lump would yield. It was late,–nearly Sunday morning; another hour, and the heavy work would be done,–only the furnaces to replenish and cover for the next day. The workmen were growing more noisy, shouting, as they had to do, to be heard over the deep clamor of the mills. Suddenly they grew less boisterous,–at the far end, entirely silent. Something unusual had happened. After a moment, the silence came nearer; the men stopped their jeers and drunken choruses. Deborah, stupidly lifting up her head, saw the cause of the quiet. A group of five or six men were slowly approaching, stopping to examine each furnace as they came. Visitors often came to see the mills after night: except by growing less noisy, the men took no notice of them. The furnace where Wolfe worked was near the bounds of the works; they halted there hot and tired: a walk over one of these great foundries is no trifling task. The woman, drawing out of sight, turned over to sleep. Wolfe, seeing them stop, suddenly roused from his indifferent stupor, and watched them keenly. He knew some of them: the overseer, Clarke,–a son of Kirby, one of the mill-owners,–and a Doctor May, one of the town-physicians. The other two were strangers. Wolfe came closer. He seized eagerly every chance that brought him into contact with this mysterious class that shone down on him perpetually with the glamour of another order of being. What made the difference between them? That was the mystery of his life. He had a vague notion that perhaps to-night he could find it out. One of the strangers sat down on a pile of bricks, and beckoned young Kirby to his side.

“This _is_ hot, with a vengeance. A match, please?”–lighting his cigar. “But the walk is worth the trouble. If it were not that you must have heard it so often, Kirby, I would tell you that your works look like Dante’s Inferno.”

Kirby laughed.

“Yes. Yonder is Farinata himself in the burning tomb,”–pointing to some figure in the shimmering shadows.

“Judging from some of the faces of your men,” said the other, “they bid fair to try the reality of Dante’s vision, some day.”

Young Kirby looked curiously around, as if seeing the faces of his hands for the first time.

“They’re bad enough, that’s true. A desperate set, I fancy. Eh, Clarke?”

The overseer did not hear him. He was talking of net profits just then,–giving, in fact, a schedule of the annual business of the firm to a sharp peering little Yankee, who jotted down notes on a paper laid on the crown of his hat: a reporter for one of the city-papers, getting up a series of reviews of the leading manufactories. The other gentlemen had accompanied them merely for amusement. They were silent until the notes were finished, drying their feet at the furnaces, and sheltering their faces from the intolerable heat. At last the overseer concluded with–“I believe that is a pretty fair estimate, Captain.”

“Here, some of you men!” said Kirby, “bring up those boards. We may as well sit down, gentlemen, until the rain is over. It cannot last much longer at this rate.”

“Pig-metal,”–mumbled the reporter,–“um!–coal facilities,–um!–hands employed, twelve hundred,–bitumen,–um!–‘all right, I believe, Mr. Clarke;–sinking-fund,–what did you say was your sinking-fund?”

“Twelve hundred hands?” said the stranger, the young man who had first spoken. “Do you control their votes, Kirby?”

“Control? No.” The young man smiled complacently. “But my father brought seven hundred votes to the polls for his candidate last November. No force-work, you understand,–only a speech or two, a hint to form themselves into a society, and a bit of red and blue bunting to make them a flag. The Invincible Roughs,–I believe that is their name. I forget the motto: ‘Our country’s hope,’ I think.”

There was a laugh. The young man talking to Kirby sat with an amused light in his cool gray eye, surveying critically the half-clothed figures of the puddlers, and the slow swing of their brawny muscles. He was a stranger in the city,–spending a couple of months in the borders of a Slave State, to study the institutions of the South,–a brother-in-law of Kirby’s,–Mitchell. He was an amateur gymnast,–hence his anatomical eye; a patron, in a _blase_ way, of the prize-ring; a man who sucked the essence out of a science or philosophy in an indifferent, gentlemanly way; who took Kant, Novalis, Humboldt, for what they were worth in his own scales; accepting all, despising nothing, in heaven, earth, or hell, but one-idead men; with a temper yielding and brilliant as summer water, until his Self was touched, when it was ice, though brilliant still. Such men are not rare in the States.

As he knocked the ashes from his cigar, Wolfe caught with a quick pleasure the contour of the white hand, the blood-glow of a red ring he wore. His voice, too, and that of Kirby’s, touched him like music,–low, even, with chording cadences. About this man Mitchell hung the impalpable atmosphere belonging to the thorough-bred gentleman. Wolfe, scraping away the ashes beside him, was conscious of it, did obeisance to it with his artist sense, unconscious that he did so.

The rain did not cease. Clarke and the reporter left the mills; the others, comfortably seated near the furnace, lingered, smoking and talking in a desultory way. Greek would not have been more unintelligible to the furnace-tenders, whose presence they soon forgot entirely. Kirby drew out a newspaper from his pocket and read aloud some article, which they discussed eagerly. At every sentence, Wolfe listened more and more like a dumb, hopeless animal, with a duller, more stolid look creeping over his face, glancing now and then at Mitchell, marking acutely every smallest sign of refinement, then back to himself, seeing as in a mirror his filthy body, his more stained soul.

Never! He had no words for such a thought, but he knew now, in all the sharpness of the bitter certainty, that between them there was a great gulf never to be passed. Never!

The bell of the mills rang for midnight. Sunday morning had dawned. Whatever hidden message lay in the tolling bells floated past these men unknown. Yet it was there. Veiled in the solemn music ushering the risen Saviour was a key-note to solve the darkest secrets of a world gone wrong,–even this social riddle which the brain of the grimy puddler grappled with madly to-night.

The men began to withdraw the metal from the caldrons. The mills were deserted on Sundays, except by the hands who fed the fires, and those who had no lodgings and slept usually on the ash-heaps. The three strangers sat still during the next hour, watching the men cover the furnaces, laughing now and then at some jest of Kirby’s.

“Do you know,” said Mitchell, “I like this view of the works better than when the glare was fiercest? These heavy shadows and the amphitheatre of smothered fires are ghostly, unreal. One could fancy these red smouldering lights to be the half-shut eyes of wild beasts, and the spectral figures their victims in the den.”

Kirby laughed. “You are fanciful. Come, let us get out of the den. The spectral figures, as you call them, are a little too real for me to fancy a close proximity in the darkness,–unarmed, too.”

The others rose, buttoning their overcoats, and lighting cigars.

“Raining, still,” said Doctor May, “and hard. Where did we leave the coach, Mitchell?”

“At the other side of the works.–Kirby, what’s that?”

Mitchell started back, half-frightened, as, suddenly turning a corner, the white figure of a woman faced him in the darkness,–a woman, white, of giant proportions, crouching on the ground, her arms flung out in some wild gesture of warning.

“Stop! Make that fire burn there!” cried Kirby, stopping short.

The flame burst out, flashing the gaunt figure into bold relief.

Mitchell drew a long breath.

“I thought it was alive,” he said, going up curiously.

The others followed.

“Not marble, eh?” asked Kirby, touching it.

One of the lower overseers stopped.

“Korl, Sir.”

“Who did it?”

“Can’t say. Some of the hands; chipped it out in off-hours.”

“Chipped to some purpose, I should say. What a flesh-tint the stuff has! Do you see, Mitchell?”

“I see.”

He had stepped aside where the light fell boldest on the figure, looking at it in silence. There was not one line of beauty or grace in it: a nude woman’s form, muscular, grown coarse with labor, the powerful limbs instinct with some one poignant longing. One idea: there it was in the tense, rigid muscles, the clutching hands, the wild, eager face, like that of a starving wolf’s. Kirby and Doctor May walked around it, critical, curious. Mitchell stood aloof, silent. The figure touched him strangely.

“Not badly done,” said Doctor May. “Where did the fellow learn that sweep of the muscles in the arm and hand? Look at them! They are groping,–do you see?–clutching: the peculiar action of a man dying of thirst.”

“They have ample facilities for studying anatomy,” sneered Kirby, glancing at the half-naked figures.

“Look,” continued the Doctor, “at this bony wrist, and the strained sinews of the instep! A working-woman,–the very type of her class.”

“God forbid!” muttered Mitchell.

“Why?” demanded May. “What does the fellow intend by the figure? I cannot catch the meaning.”

“Ask him,” said the other, dryly. “There he stands,”–pointing to Wolfe, who stood with a group of men, leaning on his ash-rake.

The Doctor beckoned him with the affable smile which kind-hearted men put on, when talking to these people.

“Mr. Mitchell has picked you out as the man who did this,–I’m sure I don’t know why. But what did you mean by it?”

“She be hungry.”

Wolfe’s eyes answered Mitchell, not the Doctor.

“Oh-h! But what a mistake you have made, my fine fellow! You have given no sign of starvation to the body. It is strong,–terribly strong. It has the mad, half-despairing gesture of drowning.”

Wolfe stammered, glanced appealingly at Mitchell, who saw the soul of the thing, he knew. But the cool, probing eyes were turned on himself now,–mocking, cruel, relentless.

“Not hungry for meat,” the furnace-tender said at last.

“What then? Whiskey?” jeered Kirby, with a coarse laugh.

Wolfe was silent a moment, thinking.

“I dunno,” he said, with a bewildered look. “It mebbe. Summat to make her live, I think,–like you. Whiskey ull do it, in a way.”

The young man laughed again. Mitchell flashed a look of disgust somewhere,–not at Wolfe.

“May,” he broke out impatiently, “are you blind? Look at that woman’s face! It asks questions of God, and says, ‘I have a right to know.’ Good God, how hungry it is!”

They looked a moment; then May turned to the mill-owner:–

“Have you many such hands as this? What are you going to do with them? Keep them at puddling iron?”

Kirby shrugged his shoulders. Mitchell’s look had irritated him.

“_Ce n’est pas mon affaire_. I have no fancy for nursing infant geniuses. I suppose there are some stray gleams of mind and soul among these wretches. The Lord will take care of his own; or else they can work out their own salvation. I have heard you call our American system a ladder which any man can scale. Do you doubt it? Or perhaps you want to banish all social ladders, and put us all on a flat table-land,–eh, May?”

The Doctor looked vexed, puzzled. Some terrible problem lay hid in this woman’s face, and troubled these men. Kirby waited for an answer, and, receiving none, went on, warning with his subject.

“I tell you, there’s something wrong that no talk of ‘_Liberte_’ or ‘_Egalite_’ will do away. If I had the making of men, these men who do the lowest part of the world’s work should be machines,–nothing more,–hands. It would be kindness. God help them! What are taste, reason, to creatures who must live such lives as that?” He pointed to Deborah, sleeping on the ash-heap. “So many nerves to sting them to pain. What if God had put your brain, with all its agony of touch, into your fingers, and bid you work and strike with that?”

“You think you could govern the world better?” laughed the Doctor.

“I do not think at all.”

“That is true philosophy. Drift with the stream, because you cannot dive deep enough to find bottom, eh?”

“Exactly,” rejoined Kirby. “I do not think. I wash my hands of all social problems,–slavery, caste, white or black. My duty to my operatives has a narrow limit,–the pay-hour on Saturday night. Outside of that, if they cut korl, or cut each other’s throats, (the more popular amusement of the two,) I am not responsible.”

The Doctor sighed,–a good honest sigh, from the depths of his stomach.

“God help us! Who is responsible?”

“Not I, I tell you,” said Kirby, testily. “What has the man who pays them money to do with their souls’ concerns, more than the grocer or butcher who takes it?”

“And yet,” said Mitchell’s cynical voice, “look at her! How hungry she is!”

Kirby tapped his boot with his cane. No one spoke. Only the dumb face of the rough image looking into their faces with the awful question, “What shall we do to be saved?” Only Wolfe’s face, with its heavy weight of brain, its weak, uncertain mouth, its desperate eyes, out of which looked the soul of his class,–only Wolfe’s face turned towards Kirby’s. Mitchell laughed,–a cool, musical laugh.

“Money has spoken!” he said, seating himself lightly on a stone with the air of an amused spectator at a play. “Are you answered?”–turning to Wolfe his clear, magnetic face.

Bright and deep and cold as Arctic air, the soul of the man lay tranquil beneath. He looked at the furnace-tender as he had looked at a rare mosaic in the morning; only the man was the more amusing study of the two.

“Are you answered? Why, May, look at him! ‘_De profundis clamavi_.’ Or, to quote in English, ‘Hungry and thirsty, his soul faints in him.’ And so Money sends back its answer into the depths through you, Kirby! Very clear the answer, too!–I think I remember reading the same words somewhere:–washing your hands in Eau de Cologne, and saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this man. See ye to it!'”

Kirby flushed angrily.

“You quote Scripture freely.”

“Do I not quote correctly? I think I remember another line, which may amend my meaning: ‘Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these, ye did it unto me.’ Deist? Bless you, man, I was raised on the milk of the Word. Now, Doctor, the pocket of the world having uttered its voice, what has the heart to say? You are a philanthropist, in a small way,–_n’est ce pas_? Here, boy, this gentleman can show you how to cut korl better,–or your destiny. Go on, May!”

“I think a mocking devil possesses you to-night,” rejoined the Doctor, seriously.

He went to Wolfe and put his hand kindly on his arm. Something of a vague idea possessed the Doctor’s brain that much good was to be done here by a friendly word or two: a latent genius to be warmed into life by a waited-for sunbeam. Here it was: he had brought it. So he went on complacently:–

“Do you know, boy, you have it in you to be a great sculptor, a great man?–do you understand?” (talking down to the capacity of his hearer: it is a way people have with children, and men like Wolfe,)–“to live a better, stronger life than I, or Mr. Kirby here? A man may make himself anything he chooses. God has given you stronger powers than many men,–me, for instance.”

May stopped, heated, glowing with his own magnanimity. And it was magnanimous. The puddler had drunk in every word, looking through the Doctor’s flurry, and generous heat, and self-approval, into his will, with those slow, absorbing eyes of his.

“Make yourself what you will. It is your right.”

“I know,” quietly. “Will you help me?”

Mitchell laughed again. The Doctor turned now, in a passion,–

“You know, Mitchell, I have not the means. You know, if I had, it is in my heart to take this boy and educate him for”—-

“The glory of God, and the glory of John May.”

May did not speak for a moment; then, controlled, he said,–

“Why should one be raised, when myriads are left?–I have not the money, boy,” to Wolfe, shortly.

“Money?” He said it over slowly, as one repeals the guessed answer to a riddle, doubtfully. “That is it? Money?”

“Yes, money,–that is it,” said Mitchell, rising, and drawing his furred coat about him. “You’ve found the cure for all the world’s diseases.–Come, May, find your good-humor, and come home. This damp wind chills my very bones. Come and preach your Saint-Simonian doctrines to-morrow to Kirby’s hands. Let them have a clear idea of the rights of the soul, and I’ll venture next week they’ll strike for higher wages. That will be the end of it.”

“Will you send the coach-driver to this side of the mills?” asked Kirby, turning to Wolfe.

He spoke kindly: it was his habit to do so. Deborah, seeing the puddler go, crept after him. The three men waited outside. Doctor May walked up and down, chafed. Suddenly he stopped.

“Go back, Mitchell! You say the pocket and the heart of the world speak without meaning to these people. What has its head to say? Taste, culture, refinement? Go!”

Mitchell was leaning against a brick wall. He turned his head indolently, and looked into the mills. There hung about the place a thick, unclean odor. The slightest motion of his hand marked that he perceived it, and his insufferable disgust. That was all. May said nothing, only quickened his angry tramp.

“Besides,” added Mitchell, giving a corollary to his answer, “it would be of no use. I am not one of them.”

“You do not mean”–said May, facing him.

“Yes, I mean just that. Reform is born of need, not pity. No vital movement of the people’s has worked down, for good or evil; fermented, instead, carried up the heaving, cloggy mass. Think back through history, and you will know it. What will this lowest deep–thieves, Magdalens, negroes–do with the light filtered through ponderous Church creeds, Baconian theories, Goethe schemes? Some day, out of their bitter need will be thrown up their own light-bringer,–their Jean Paul, their Cromwell, their Messiah.”

“Bah!” was the Doctor’s inward criticism. However, in practice, he adopted the theory; for, when, night and morning, afterwards, he prayed that power might be given these degraded souls to rise, he glowed at heart, recognizing an accomplished duty.

Wolfe and the woman had stood in the shadow of the works as the coach drove off. The Doctor had held out his hand in a frank, generous way, telling him to “take care of himself, and to remember it was his right to rise.” Mitchell had simply touched his hat, as to an equal, with a quiet look of thorough recognition. Kirby had thrown Deborah some money, which she found, and clutched eagerly enough. They were gone now, all of them. The man sat down on the cinder-road, looking up into the murky sky.

“‘T be late, Hugh. Wunnot hur come?”

He shook his head doggedly, and the woman crouched out of his sight against the wall. Do you remember rare moments when a sudden light flashed over yourself, your world, God? when you stood on a mountain-peak, seeing your life as it might have been, as it is? one quick instant, when custom lost its force and every-day usage? when your friend, wife, brother, stood in a new light? your soul was bared, and the grave,–a foretaste of the nakedness of the Judgment-Day? So it came before him, his life, that night. The slow tides of pain he had borne gathered themselves up and surged against his soul. His squalid daily life, the brutal coarseness eating into his brain, as the ashes into his skin: before, these things had been a dull aching into his consciousness; to-night, they were reality. He griped the filthy red shirt that clung, stiff with soot, about him, and tore it savagely from his arm. The flesh beneath was muddy with grease and ashes,–and the heart beneath that! And the soul? God knows.

Then flashed before his vivid poetic sense the man who had left him,–the pure face, the delicate, sinewy limbs, in harmony with all he knew of beauty or truth. In his cloudy fancy he had pictured a Something like this. He had found it in this Mitchell, even when he idly scoffed at his pain: a Man all-knowing, all-seeing, crowned by Nature, reigning,–the keen glance of his eye falling like a sceptre on other men. And yet his instinct taught him that he too–He! He looked at himself with sudden loathing, sick, wrung his hands with a cry, and then was silent. With all the phantoms of his heated, ignorant fancy, Wolfe had not been vague in his ambitious. They were practical, slowly built up before him out of his knowledge of what he could do. Through years he had day by day made this hope a real thing to himself,–a clear, projected figure of himself, as he might become.

Able to speak, to know what was best, to raise these men and women working at his side up with him: sometimes he forgot this defined hope in the frantic anguish to escape,–only to escape,–out of the wet, the pain, the ashes, somewhere, anywhere,–only for one moment of free air on a hill-side, to lie down and let his sick soul throb itself out in the sunshine. But to-night he panted for life. The savage strength of his nature was roused; his cry was fierce to God for justice.

“Look at me!” he said to Deborah, with a low, bitter laugh, striking his puny chest savagely. “What am I worth, Deb? Is it my fault that I am no better? My fault? My fault?”

He stopped, stung with a sudden remorse, seeing her hunchback shape writhing with sobs. For Deborah was crying thankless tears, according to the fashion of women.

“God forgi’ me, woman! Things go harder wi’ you nor me. It’s a worse share.”

He got up and helped her to rise; and they went doggedly down the muddy street, side by side.

“It’s all wrong,” he muttered, slowly,–“all wrong! I dunnot understan’. But it’ll end some day.”

“Come home, Hugh!” she said, coaxingly; for he had stopped, looking around bewildered.

“Home,–and back to the mill!” He went on saying this over to himself, as if he would mutter down every pain in this dull despair.

She followed him through the fog, her blue lips chattering with cold. They reached the cellar at last. Old Wolfe had been drinking since she went out, and had crept nearer the door. The girl Janey slept heavily In the corner. He went up to her, touching softly the worn white arm with his fingers. Some bitterer thought stung him, as he stood there. He wiped the drops from his forehead, and went into the room beyond, livid, trembling. A hope, trifling, perhaps, but very dear, had died just then out of the poor puddler’s life, as he looked at the sleeping, innocent girl,–some plan for the future, in which she had borne a part. He gave it up that moment, then and forever. Only a trifle, perhaps, to us: his face grew a shade paler,–that was all. But, somehow, the man’s soul, as God and the angels looked down on it, never was the same afterwards.

Deborah followed him into the inner room. She carried a candle, which she placed on the floor, dosing the door after her. She had seen the look on his face, as he turned away: her own grew deadly. Yet, as she came up to him, her eyes glowed. He was seated on an old chest, quiet, holding his face in his hands.

“Hugh!” she said, softly.

He did not speak.

“Hugh, did hur hear what the man said,–him with the clear voice? Did hur hear? Money, money,–that it wud do all?”

He pushed her away,–gently, but he was worn out; her rasping tone fretted him.

“Hugh!”

The candle flared a pale yellow light over the cobwebbed brick walls, and the woman standing there. He looked at her. She was young, in deadly earnest; her faded eyes, and wet, ragged figure caught from their frantic eagerness a power akin to beauty.

“Hugh, it is true! Money ull do it! Oh, Hugh, boy, listen till me! He said it true! It is money!”

“I know. Go back! I do not want you here.”

“Hugh, it is t’ last time. I ‘II never worrit hur again.”

There were tears in her voice now, but she choked them back.

“Hear till me only to-night! If one of t’ witch people wud come, them we heard of t’ home, and gif hur all hur wants, what then? Say, Hugh!”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean money.”.

Her whisper shrilled through his brain.

“If one of t’ witch dwarfs wud come from t’ lane moors to-night, and gif hur money, to go out,–_out_, I say,–out, lad, where t’ sun shines, and t’ heath grows, and t’ ladies walk in silken gownds, and God stays all t’ time,–where t’ man lives that talked to us to-night,–Hugh knows, –Hugh could walk there like a king!”

He thought the woman mad, tried to check her, but she went on, fierce in her eager haste.

“If _I_ were t’ witch dwarf, if I had f money, wud hur thank me? Wud hur take me out o’ this place wid hur and Janey? I wud not come into the gran’ house hur wud build, to vex hur wid t’ hunch,–only at night, when t’ shadows were dark, stand far off to see hur.”

Mad? Yes! Are many of us mad in this way?

“Poor Deb! poor Deb!” he said, soothingly.

“It is here,” she said, suddenly jerking into his hand a small roll. “I took it! I did it! Me, me!–not hur! I shall be hanged, I shall be burnt in hell, if anybody knows I took it! Out of his pocket, as he leaned against t’ bricks. Hur knows?”

She thrust it into his hand, and then, her errand done, began to gather chips together to make a fire, choking down hysteric sobs.

“Has it come to this?”

That was all he said. The Welsh Wolfe blood was honest. The roll was a small green pocket-book containing one or two gold pieces, and a check for an incredible amount, as it seemed to the poor puddler. He laid it down, hiding his face again in his hands.

“Hugh, don’t be angry wud me! It’s only poor Deb,–hur knows?”

He took the long skinny fingers kindly in his.

“Angry? God help me, no! Let me sleep. I am tired.”

He threw himself heavily down on the wooden bench, stunned with pain and weariness. She brought some old rags to cover him.

It was late on Sunday evening before he awoke. I tell God’s truth, when I say he had then no thought of keeping this money. Deborah had hid it in his pocket. He found it there. She watched him eagerly, as he took it out.

“I must gif it to him,” he said, reading her face.

“Hur knows,” she said with a bitter sigh of disappointment. “But it is hur right to keep it.”

His right! The word struck him. Doctor May had used the same. He washed himself, and went out to find this man Mitchell. His right! Why did this chance word cling to him so obstinately? Do you hear the fierce devils whisper in his ear, as he went slowly down the darkening street?

The evening came on, slow and calm. He seated himself at the end of an alley leading into one of the larger streets. His brain was clear to-night, keen, intent, mastering. It would not start back, cowardly,