Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Erema by R. D. Blackmore

Part 9 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.0 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

several careful perusals, I thought it my duty to show it to him.
"He calls me a 'worthy old fool,' does he? Well, I call him
something a great deal worse--an unworthy skulk, a lunatic, a
subverter of rank, and a Radical! And because he was a bastard, is
the whole world base? And to come and live like that in a house of
mine, and pay me no rent, and never even let me see him! Your
grandfather was quite right, my dear, in giving him the cold
shoulder. Of course you won't pay him a farthing."

"You forget that he is dead," I answered, "and his poor mother with
him. At least he behaved well to his mother. You called him a
hero--when you knew not who he was. Poor fellow, he is dead! And,
in spite of all, I can not help being very sorry for him."

"Yes, I dare say. Women always are. But you must show a little
common-sense, Erema. Your grandfather seems to have had too much,
and your father far too little. We must keep this matter quiet.
Neither the man nor the woman must we know, or a nice stir we shall
have in all the county papers. There must be an inquest, of
course, upon them both; but none of the fellows read this
direction, for the admirable reason that they can not read. Our
coming forward could do no good, and just now Bruntsea has other
things to think of; and, first and foremost, my ruin, as they say."

"Please not to talk of that," I exclaimed. "I can raise any
quantity of money now, and you shall have it without paying
interest. You wanted the course of the river restored, and now you
have more--you have got the very sea. You could float the Bridal
Veil itself, I do believe, at Bruntsea."

"You have suggested a fine idea," the Major exclaimed, with
emphasis. "You certainly should have been an engineer. It is a
thousand times easier--as every body knows--to keep water in than
to keep it out. Having burst my barricade, the sea shall stop
inside and pay for it. Far less capital will be required. By
Jove, what a fool I must have been not to see the hand of
Providence in all this! Mary, can you spare me a minute, my dear?
The noblest idea has occurred to me. Well, never mind, if you are
busy; perhaps I had better not state it crudely, though it is not
true that it happens every hour. I shall turn it over in my mind
throughout the evening service. I mean to be there, just to let
them see. They think that I am crushed, of course. They will see
their mistake; and, Erema, you may come. The gale is over, and the
evening bright. You sit by the fire, Mary, my dear; I shall not
let you out again; keep the silver kettle boiling. In church I
always think more clearly than where people talk so much. But when
I come home I require something. I see, I see. Instead of an
idle, fashionable lounging-place for nincompoops from London,
instead of flirtation and novel-reading, vulgarity, show, and
indecent attire, and positively immoral bathing, we will now have
industry, commerce, wealth, triumph of mechanism, lofty enterprise,
and international good-will. A harbor has been the great want of
this coast; see what a thing it is at Newport! We will now have a
harbor and floating docks, without any muddy, malarious river--all
blue water from the sea; and our fine cliff range shall be studded
with good houses. And the whole shall be called 'Erema-port.'"

Well, Erema must be getting very near her port, although it was not
at Bruntsea. Enough for this excellent man and that still more
excellent woman that there they are, as busy and as happy as the
day is long--which imposes some limit upon happiness, perhaps,
inasmuch as to the busy every day is short. But Mrs. Hockin,
though as full of fowls as ever, gets no White Sultans nor any
other rarity now from Sir Montague Hockin. That gentleman still is
alive--so far, at least, as we have heard of; but no people owning
any self-respect ever deal with him, to their knowledge. He
gambled away all his father's estates, and the Major bought the
last of them for his youngest son, a very noble Captain Hockin
(according to his mother's judgment), whom I never had the honor of
seeing. Sir Montague lives in a sad plight somewhere, and his
cousin still hopes that he may turn honest.

But as to myself and far greater persons, still there are a few
words to be said. As soon as all necessary things were done at
Bruntsea and at Castlewood, and my father's memory cleared from all
stain, and by simple truth ennobled, in a manner strictly legal and
consistent with heavy expenses, myself having made a long
deposition and received congratulations--as soon as it was
possible, I left them all, and set sail for America.

The rashness of such a plan it is more easy for one to establish
than two to deny. But what was there in it of peril or of
enterprise compared with what I had been through already? I could
not keep myself now from going, and reasoned but little about it.

Meanwhile there had been no further tidings of Colonel Gundry or
Firm, or even Martin of the Mill himself. But one thing I did
which showed some little foresight. As soon as my mind was made
up, and long before ever I could get away, I wrote to Martin
Clogfast, telling him of my intention, and begging him, if he had
any idea of the armies, or the Sawyer, or even Firm, or any thing
whatever of interest, to write (without losing a day) to me,
directing his letter to a house in New York whose address Major
Hockin gave me.

So many things had to be done, and I listened so foolishly to the
Major (who did his very best to stop me), that it came to be May,
1862 (nearly four years after my father's death), before I could
settle all my plans and start. For every body said that I was much
too young to take such a journey all by myself, and "what every
body says must be right," whenever there is no exception to prove
the rule. "Aunt Marys" are not to be found every day, nor even
Major Hockins; and this again helped to throw me back in getting
away from England. And but for his vast engineering ideas, and
another slight touch of rheumatic gout (brought upon herself by
Mrs. Hockin through setting seven hens in one evening), the Major
himself might have come with me, "to observe the new military
tactics," as well as to look for his cousin Sampson.

In recounting this I seem to be as long as the thing itself was in
accomplishing. But at last it was done, and most kindly was I
offered the very thing to suit me--permission to join the party of
a well-known British officer, Colonel Cheriton, of the Engineers.
This gentleman, being of the highest repute as a writer upon
military subjects, had leave from the Federal government to observe
the course of this tremendous war. And perhaps he will publish
some day what seems as yet to be wholly wanting--a calm and
impartial narrative of that unparalleled conflict. At any rate, he
meant to spare no trouble in a matter so instructive, and he took
his wife and two daughters--very nice girls, who did me a world of
good--to establish them in Washington, or wherever the case might

Lucky as this was for me, I could not leave my dear and faithful
friends without deep sorrow; but we all agreed that it should be
only for a very little time. We landed first at New York, and
there I found two letters from Martin of the Mill. In the first he
grumbled much, and told me that nothing was yet known about Uncle
Sam; in the second he grumbled (if possible) more, but gave me some
important news. To wit, he had received a few lines from the
Sawyer, who had failed as yet to find his grandson, and sadly
lamented the misery he saw, and the shocking destruction of God's
good works. He said that he could not bring himself to fight (even
if he were young enough) against his own dear countrymen, one of
whom was his own grandson; at the same time he felt that they must
be put down for trying to have things too much their own way.
About slavery, he had seen too much of niggers to take them at all
for his equals, and no white man with any self-respect would desire
to be their brother. The children of Ham were put down at the
bottom, as their noses and their lips pronounced, according to
Divine revelation; and for sons of Japheth to break up the noblest
nation in the world, on their account, was like rushing in to
inherit their curse. As sure as his name was Sampson Gundry, those
who had done it would get the worst, though as yet they were doing
wonders. And there could be no doubt about one thing--which party
it was that began it. But come what would of it, here he was; and
never would Saw-mills see him again unless he brought Firm Gundry.
But he wanted news of poor Miss 'Rema; and if any came to the
house, they must please to send it to the care of Colonel Baker,
headquarters of the Army of the Potomac.

This was the very thing I wished to know, and I saw now how stupid
I must have been not to have thought of it long ago. For Colonel
Baker was, to my knowledge, an ancient friend of Uncle Sam, and had
joined the national army at the very outbreak of the war. Well
known not only in California, but throughout the States, for
gallantry and conduct, this officer had been a great accession to
the Federal cause, when so many wavered, and so he was appointed to
a good command. But, alas! when I told Colonel Cheriton my news, I
learned from him (who had carefully watched all the incidents of
the struggle) that Uncle Sam's noble friend had fallen in the
battle of Ball's Bluff, while charging at the head of his regiment.

Still, there was hope that some of the officers might know where to
find Uncle Sam, who was not at all a man to be mislaid; and being
allowed to accompany my English friends, I went on to Washington.
We found that city in a highly nervous state, and from time to time
ready to be captured. General Jackson was almost at the gates, and
the President every day was calling out for men. The Army of
Virginia had been beaten back to intrenchments before the capital,
and General Lee was invading Maryland. Battle followed battle,
thick as blows upon a threshing-floor, and though we were always
said to be victorious, the enemy seemed none the more to run away.
In this confusion, what chance had I of discovering even the

Colonel Cheriton (who must have found me a dreadful thorn in the
flank of his strategy) missed no opportunity of inquiry, as he went
from one valley to another. For the war seemed to run along the
course of rivers, though it also passed through the forests and
lakes, and went up into the mountains. Our wonderfully clever and
kind member of the British army was delighted with the movements of
General Lee, who alone showed scientific elegance in slaying his
fellow-countrymen; and the worst of it was that instead of going
after my dear Uncle Sam, Colonel Cheriton was always rushing about
with maps, plans, and telescopes, to follow the tracery of Lee's
campaign. To treat of such matters is far beyond me, as I am most
thankful to confess. Neither will I dare to be sorry for a great
man doing what became his duty. My only complaint against him is
that he kept us in a continual fright.

However, this went by, and so did many other things, though heavily
laden with grief and death; and the one thing we learned was to
disbelieve ninety-nine out of every hundred. Letters for the
Sawyer were dispatched by me to every likely place for him, and
advertisements put into countless newspapers, but none of them
seemed to go near him. Old as he was, he avoided feather-beds, and
roamed like a true Californian. But at last I found him, in a sad,
sad way.

It was after the battle of Chancellorsville, and our army had been
driven back across the Rappahannock. "Our army," I call it,
because (although we belonged to neither party) fortune had brought
us into contact with these, and knowing more about them, we were
bound to take their side. And not only that, but to me it appeared
altogether beyond controversy that a man of large mind and long
experience (such as Uncle Sam had) should know much better than his
grandson which cause was the one to fight for. At the same time
Firm was not at all to be condemned. And if it was true, as Martin
Clogfast said, that trouble of mind at my absence had driven him
into a prejudiced view, nothing could possibly be more ungracious
than for me to make light of his judgment.

Being twenty years old by this time, I was wiser than I used to be,
and now made a practice of thinking twice before rushing into
peril, as I used to do in California, and to some extent also in
England. For though my adventures might not have been as strange
as many I myself have heard of (especially from Suan Isco),
nevertheless they had comprised enough of teaching and suffering
also to make me careful about having any more. And so for a long
time I kept at the furthest distance possible, in such a war, from
the vexing of the air with cannons, till even Colonel Cheriton's
daughters--perfectly soft and peaceful girls--began to despise me
as a coward. Knowing what I had been through, I indulged their
young opinions.

Therefore they were the more startled when I set forth under a
sudden impulse, or perhaps impatience, for a town very near the
head-quarters of the defeated General Hooker. As they were so
brave, I asked them whether they would come with me; but although
their father was known to be there, they turned pale at the thought
of it. This pleased me, and made me more resolute to go; and in
three days' time I was at Falmouth, a town on our side of the

Here I saw most miserable sights that made me ashamed of all
trifling fear. When hundreds and thousands of gallant men were
dying in crippled agony, who or what was I to make any fuss about
my paltry self? Clumsy as I was, some kind and noble ladies taught
me how to give help among the sufferers.

At first I cried so at every body's pain, while asking why ever
they should have it, that I did some good by putting them up to
bear it rather than distress me so. And when I began to command
myself (as custom soon enabled me), I did some little good again by
showing them how I cared for them. Their poor weak eyes, perhaps
never expecting to see a nice thing in the world again, used to
follow me about with a faint, slow roll, and a feeble spark of

That I should have had such a chance of doing good, onefold to
others and a thousandfold to self, at this turn of life, when I was
full of little me, is another of the many most clear indications of
a kind hand over me. Every day there was better than a year of
ordinary life in breaking the mind from its little selfish turns,
and opening the heart to a larger power. And all this discipline
was needed.

For one afternoon, when we all were tired, with great heat upon us
suddenly, and the flies beginning to be dreadful, our chief being
rather unwell and fast asleep, the surgeons away, and our beds as
full as they could be, I was called down to reason with an
applicant who would take no denial. "A rough man, a very rough old
man, and in a most terrible state of mind," said the girl who
brought the message; "and room he would have, or he would know the

"The reason is not far to seek," I answered, more to myself than
her, as I ran down the stairs to discomfit that old man. At the
open door, with the hot wind tossing worn white curls and parching
shriveled cheeks, now wearily raising his battered hat, stood my
dear Uncle Sam, the Sawyer.

"Lor' a massy! young lady, be you altogether daft? In my best of
days, never was I lips for kissing. And the bootifulest creatur--
Come now, I ain't saved your life, have I now?"

"Yes, fifty times over--fifty thousand times. Uncle Sam, don't you
know Erema?"

"My eyes be dashed! And dashed they be, to forget the look of
yours, my dearie. Seven days have I marched without thanking the
Lord; and hot coals of fire has He poured upon me now, for His
mercy endureth forever. To think of you--to think of you--as like
my own child as could be--only of more finer breed--here standing
in front of me, like this here! There! I never dreamed to do that
again, and would scorn a young man at the sight of it."

The Sawyer was too honest to conceal that he was weeping. He
simply turned his tanned and weathered face toward the door-post,
not to hide his tears, but reconcile his pride by feigning it. I
felt that he must be at very low ebb, and all that I had seen of
other people's sorrow had no power to assuage me. Inside the door,
to keep the hot wind out and hide my eyes from the old man's face,
I had some little quiet sobs, until we could both express

"It is poor Firm, the poor, poor lad!--oh, what hath happened him?
That I should see the day!"

Uncle Sam's deep voice broke into a moan, and he bowed his rough
forehead on his arm, and shook. Then I took him by the sleeve and
brought him in.

"Not dead--poor Firm, your only one--not dead?" as soon as words
would come, I asked, and trembled for the opening of his lips.

"Not dead--not quite; but ten times worse. He hath flown into the
face of the Lord, like Saul and his armor-bearer; he hath fallen on
his own sword; and the worst of it is that the darned thing won't
come out again."

"Firm--the last person in the world to do it! Oh, Uncle Sam,
surely they have told you--"

"No lies--no lie at all, my dear. And not only that, but he
wanteth now to die--and won't be long first, I reckon. But no time
to lose, my dear. The Lord hath sent you to make him happy in his
leaving of the world. Can 'e raise a bed and a doctor here? If he
would but groan, I could bear it a bit, instead of bleeding inward.
And for sartin sure, a' would groan nicely, if only by force of
habit, at first sight of a real doctor."

"There are half a dozen here," I said; "or at least close by. He
shall have my own bed. But where is he?"

"We have laid 'un in the sand," he answered, simply, "for to dry
his perspiration. That weak the poor chap is that he streameth
night and day, miss. Never would you know him for our Firm now,
any more than me for Sampson Gundry. Ah me! but the Lord is hard
on us!"

Slowly and heavily he went his way to fetch poor Firm to the
hospital; while, with light feet but a heavy heart, I returned to
arouse our managers. Speedily and well were all things done; and
in half an hour Finn lay upon my bed, with two of the cleverest
surgeons of New York most carefully examining his wasted frame.
These whispered and shook their heads, as in such a case was
indispensable; and listening eagerly, I heard the senior surgeon
say, "No, he could never bear it." The younger man seemed to think
otherwise, but to give way to the longer experience. Then dear
Uncle Sam, having bought a new hat at the corner of the street,
came forward. Knowing too well what excitement is, and how it
changes every one, I lifted my hand for him to go back; but he only
put his great hot web of fingers into mine, and drew me to him
softly, and covered me up with his side. "He heareth nort, nort,
nort," he whispered to me; and then spoke aloud:

"Gentlemen and ladies--or ladies and gentlemen, is the more correct
form nowadays--have I leave to say a word or two? Then if I have,
as your manner to me showeth, and heartily thanking you for that
same, my words shall go into an acorn-cup. This lad, laid out at
your mercy here, was as fine a young fellow as the West hath ever
raised--straight and nimble, and could tell no lie. Family
reasons, as you will excoose of, drew him to the arms of rebellion.
I may have done, and overdone it myself, in arguing cantrips and
convictions, whereof to my knowledge good never came yet. At any
rate, off he went anyhow, and the force of nature drew me after
him. No matter that to you, I dare say; but it would be, if you
was in it.

"Ladies and gentlemen, here he is, and no harm can you make out of
him. Although he hath fought for the wrong side to our thinking,
bravely hath he fought, and made his way to a colonelship, worth
five thousand dollars, if ever they pay their wages. Never did I
think that he would earn so much, having never owned gifts of
machinery; and concerning the handling of the dollars, perhaps,
will carry my opinion out. But where was I wandering of a little
thing like that?

"It hath pleased the Lord, who doeth all things well, when finally
come to look back upon--the Lord hath seen fit to be down on this
young man for going agin his grandfather. From Californy--a free
State, mind you--he come away to fight for slavery. And how hath
he magnified his office? By shooting the biggest man on that side,
the almighty foe of the Union, the foremost captain of Midian--the
general in whom they trusted. No bullets of ours could touch him;
but by his own weapons he hath fallen. And soon as Ephraim Gundry
heard it, he did what you see done to him."

Uncle Sam having said his say--which must have cost him dearly--
withdrew from the bed where his grandson's body lay shrunken, lax,
and grimy. To be sure that it was Firm, I gave one glance--for
Firm had always been straight, tall, and large--and then, in a
miserable mood, I stole to the Sawyer's side to stand with him.
"Am I to blame? Is this my fault? For even this am I to blame?"
I whispered; but he did not heed me, and his hands were like hard

After a long, hot, heavy time, while I was laboring vainly, the
Sawyer also (through exhaustion of excitement) weary, and afraid to
begin again with new bad news, as beaten people expect to do, the
younger surgeon came up to him, and said, "Will you authorize it?"

"To cut 'un up? To show your museums what a Western lad is?
Never. By the Blue River he shall have a good grave. So help me
God, to my own, my man!"

"You misunderstand me. We have more subjects now than we should
want for fifty years. War knocks the whole of their value on the
head. We have fifty bodies as good as this, and are simply obliged
to bury them. What I mean is, shall we pull the blade out?"

"Can he do any thing with that there blade in him? I have heard of
a man in Kentucky once--"

"Yes, yes; we know all those stories, Colonel--suit the newspapers,
not the journals. This fellow has what must kill him inside; he is
worn to a shadow already. If there it is left, die he must, and
quick stick; inflammation is set up already. If we extract it, his
chance of surviving is scarcely one in a hundred."

"Let him have the one, then, the one in the hundred, like the
ninety and nine lost sheep. The Lord can multiply a hundredfold--
some threescore, and some an hundredfold. I will speak to Him,
gentlemen, while you try the job."



All that could be done by skill and care and love, was done for
Firm. Our lady manager and head nurse never left him when she
could be spared, and all the other ladies vied in zeal for this
young soldier, so that I could scarcely get near him. His
grandfather's sad and extraordinary tale was confirmed by a wounded
prisoner. Poor Ephraim Gundry's rare power of sight had been fatal
perhaps to the cause he fought for, or at least to its greatest
captain. Returning from desperate victory, the general, wrapped in
the folds of night, and perhaps in the gloom of his own stern
thoughts, while it seemed quite impossible that he should be seen,
encountered the fire of his own troops; and the order to fire was
given by his favorite officer, Colonel Firm Gundry. When the young
man learned that he had destroyed, by a lingering death, the chief
idol of his heart, he called for a rifle, but all refused him,
knowing too well what his purpose was. Then under the trees,
without a word or sigh, he set the hilt of his sword upon the
earth, and the point to his heart--as well as he could find it.
The blade passed through him, and then snapped off--But I can not
bear to speak of it.

And now, few people might suppose it, but the substance of which he
was made will be clear, when not only his own knowledge of his case
but also the purest scientific reasoning established a truth more
frankly acknowledged in the New World than in the Old one. It was
proved that, with a good constitution, it is safer to receive two
wounds than one, even though they may not be at the same time
taken. Firm had been shot by the captain of Mexican robbers, as
long ago related. He was dreadfully pulled down at the time, and
few people could have survived it. But now that stood him in the
very best stead, not only as a lesson of patience, but also in the
question of cartilage. But not being certain what cartilage is, I
can only refer inquirers to the note-book of the hospital, which
has been printed.

For us it was enough to know that (shattered as he was and must be)
this brave and single-minded warrior struggled for the time
successfully with that great enemy of the human race, to whom the
human race so largely consign one another and themselves. But some
did say, and emphatically Uncle Sam, that Colonel Firm Gundry--for
a colonel he was now, not by courtesy, but commission--would never
have held up his head to do it, but must have gone on with his
ravings for death, if somebody had not arrived in the nick of time,
and cried over him--a female somebody from old England.

And, even after that, they say that he never would have cared to be
a man again, never would have calmed his conscience with the
reflection, so commonplace and yet so high--that having done our
best according to our lights, we must not dwell always on our
darkness--if once again, and for the residue of life, there had not
been some one to console him--a consolation that need not have, and
is better without, pure reason, coming, as that would come, from a
quarter whence it is never quite welcome. Enough for me that he
never laid hand to a weapon of war again, and never shall unless
our own home is invaded.

For after many months--each equal to a year of teaching and of
humbling--there seemed to be a good time for me to get away and
attend to my duties in England. Of these I had been reminded often
by letters, and once by a messenger; but all money matters seemed
dust in the balance where life and death were swinging. But now
Uncle Sam and his grandson, having their love knit afresh by
disaster, were eager to start for the Saw-mill, and trust all
except their own business to Providence.

I had told them that, when they went westward, my time would be
come for starting eastward; and being unlikely to see them again, I
should hope for good news frequently. And then I got dear Uncle
Sam by himself, and begged him, for the sake of Firm's happiness,
to keep him as far as he could from Pennsylvania Sylvester. At the
same time I thought that the very nice young lady who jumped upon
his nose from the window, Miss Annie--I forgot her name, or at any
rate I told him so--would make him a good straightforward wife, so
far as one could tell from having seen her. And that seemed to
have been settled in their infancy. And if he would let me know
when it was to be, I had seen a thing in London I should like to
give them.

When I asked the Sawyer to see to this, instead of being sorry, he
seemed quite pleased, and nodded sagaciously, and put his hat on,
as he generally did, to calculate.

"Both of them gals have married long ago," he said, looking at me
with a fine soft gaze; "and bad handfuls their mates have got of
them. But what made you talk of them, missy--or 'my lady,' as now
you are in old country, I hear--what made you think of them like
that, my dearie?"

"I can't tell what made me think of them. How can I tell why I
think of every thing?"

"Still, it was an odd thing for your ladyship to say."

"Uncle Sam, I am nobody's ladyship, least of all yours. What makes
you speak so? I am your own little wandering child, whose life you
saved, and whose father you loved, and who loses all who love her.
Even from you I am forced to go away. Oh, why is it always my
fate--my fate?"

"Hush!" said the old man; and I stopped my outburst at his whisper.
"To talk of fate, my dearie, shows either one thing or the other--
that we have no will of our own, or else that we know not how to
guide it. I never knew a good man talk of fate. The heathens and
the pagans made it. The Lord in heaven is enough for me; and He
always hath allowed me my own free-will, though I may not have
handled 'un cleverly. And He giveth you your own will now, my
missy--to go from us or to stop with us. And being as you are a
very grand young woman now, owning English land and income paid in
gold instead of greenbacks--the same as our nugget seems likely--to
my ideas it would be wrong if we was so much as to ask you."

"Is that what you are full of, then, and what makes you so
mysterious? I did think that you knew me better, and I had a right
to hope so."

"Concerning of yourself alone is not what we must think of. You
might do this, or you might do that, according to what you was
told, or, even more, according to what was denied you. For poor
honest people, like Firm and me, to deal with such a case is out of
knowledge. For us it is--go by the will of the Lord, and dead agin
your own desires."

"But, dear Uncle Sam," I cried, feeling that now I had him upon his
own tenterhooks, "you rebuked me as sharply as lies in your nature
for daring to talk about fate just now; but to what else comes your
own conduct, if you are bound to go against your own desire? If
you have such a lot of freewill, why must you do what you do not
like to do?"

"Well, well, perhaps I was talking rather large. The will of the
world is upon us as well. And we must have respect for its

"Now let me," I said, with a trembling wish to have every
thing right and maidenly. "I have seen so much harm from
misunderstandings, and they are so simple when it is too late--
let me ask you one or two questions, Uncle Sam. You always answer
every body. And to you a crooked answer is impossible."

"Business is business," the Sawyer said. "My dear, I contract

"Very well. Then, in the first place, what do you wish to have
done with me? Putting aside all the gossip, I mean, of people who
have never even heard of me."

"Why, to take you back to Saw-mill with us, where you always was so

"In the next place, what does your grandson wish?"

"To take you back to Saw-mill with him, and keep you there till
death do you part, as chanceth to all mortal pairs."

"And now, Uncle Sam, what do I wish? You say we all have so much

"It is natural that you should wish, my dear, to go and be a great
lady, and marry a nobleman of your own rank, and have a lot of
little noblemen."

"Then I fly against nature; and the fault is yours for filling me
so with machinery."

The Sawyer was beaten, and he never said again that a woman can not



From all the carnage, havoc, ruin, hatred, and fury of that wicked
war we set our little convoy forth, with passes procured from
either side. According to all rules of war, Firm was no doubt a
prisoner; but having saved his life, and taken his word to serve no
more against them, remembering also that he had done them more
service than ten regiments, the Federal authorities were not sorry
to be quit of him.

He, for his part, being of a deep, retentive nature, bore in his
wounded breast a sorrow which would last his lifetime. To me he
said not a single word about his bitter fortune, and he could not
bring himself to ask me whether I would share it. Only from his
eyes sometimes I knew what he was thinking; and having passed
through so much grief, I was moved with deep compassion. Poor Firm
had been trained by his grandfather to a strong, earnest faith in
Providence, and now this compelled him almost to believe that he
had been specially visited. For flying in the face of his good
grandfather, and selfishly indulging his own stiff neck, his
punishment had been hard, and almost heavier than he could bear.
Whatever might happen to him now, the spring and the flower of his
life were gone; he still might have some calm existence, but never
win another day of cloudless joy. And if he had only said this, or
thought about it, we might have looked at him with less sadness of
our own.

But he never said any thing about himself, nor gave any opening for
our comfort to come to him. Only from day to day he behaved gently
and lovingly to both of us, as if his own trouble must be fought
out by himself, and should dim no other happiness. And this kept
us thinking of his sorrow all the more, so that I could not even
look at him without a flutter of the heart, which was afraid to be
a sigh.

At last, upon the great mountain range, through which we now were
toiling, with the snow little more than a mantle for the peaks, and
a sparkling veil for sunrise, dear Uncle Sam, who had often shown
signs of impatience, drew me apart from the rest. Straightforward
and blunt as he generally was, he did not seem altogether ready to
begin, but pulled off his hat, and then put it on again, the
weather being now cold and hot by turns. And while he did this he
was thinking at his utmost, as every full vein of his forehead
declared. And being at home with his ways, I waited.

"Think you got ahead of me? No, not you," he exclaimed at last, in
reply to some version of his own of my ideas, which I carefully
made a nonentity under the scrutiny of his keen blue eyes. "No,
no, missy; you wait a bit. Uncle Sam was not hatched yesterday,
and it takes fifty young ladies to go round him."

"Is that from your size, Uncle Sam, or your depth?"

"Well, a mixture of both, I do believe. Now the last thing you
ever would think of, if you lived to be older than Washington's
nurse, is the very thing I mean to put to you. Only you must
please to take it well, according to my meaning. You see our Firm
going to a shadow, don't you? Very well; the fault of that is all
yourn. Why not up and speak to him?"

"I speak to him every day, Uncle Sam, and I spare no efforts to
fatten him. I am sure I never dreamed of becoming such a cook.
But soon he will have Suan Isco."

"Old Injun be darned! It's not the stomach, it's the heart as
wants nourishment with yon poor lad. He looketh that pitiful at
you sometimes, my faith, I can hardly tell whether to laugh at his
newings or cry at the lean face that does it."

"You are not talking like yourself, Uncle Sam. And he never does
any thing of the kind. I am sure there is nothing to laugh at."

"No, no; to be sure not. I made a mistake. Heroic is the word, of
course--every thing is heroic."

"It is heroic," I answered, with some vexation at his lightness.
"If you can not see it, I am sorry for you. I like large things;
and I know of nothing larger than the way poor Firm is going on."

"You to stand up for him!" Colonel Gundry answered, as if he could
scarcely look at me. "You to talk large of him, my Lady
Castlewood, while you are doing of his heart into small wittles!
Well, I did believe, if no one else, that you were a straightforward

"And what am I doing that is crooked now?"

"Well, not to say crooked, Miss 'Rema; no, no. Only onconsistent,
when squared up."

"Uncle Sam, you're a puzzle to me to-day. What is inconsistent?
What is there to square up?"

He fetched a long breath, and looked wondrous wise. Then, as if
his main object was to irritate me, he made a long stride, and
said, "Soup's a-bilin now."

"Let it boil over, then. You must say what you mean. Oh, Uncle
Sam, I only want to do the right!"

"I dessay. I dessay. But have you got the pluck, miss? Our
little missy would 'a done more than that. But come to be great
lady--why, they take another tune. With much mind, of course it
might be otherwise. But none of 'em have any much of that to

"Your view is a narrow one," I replied, knowing how that would
astonish him. "You judge by your own experience only; and to do
that shows a sad want of breadth, as the ladies in England express

The Sawyer stared, and then took off his hat, and then felt all
about for his spectacles. The idea of being regarded by a "female"
from a larger and loftier point of view, made a new sensation in
his system.

"Yes," I continued, with some enjoyment, "let us try to look
largely at all things, Uncle Sam. And supposing me capable of
that, what is the proper and the lofty course to take?"

He looked at me with a strange twinkle in his eyes, and with three
words discomfited me--"Pop the question."

Much as I had heard of woman's rights, equality of body and mind
with man, and superiority in morals, it did not appear to me that
her privilege could be driven to this extent. But I shook my head
till all my hair came down; and so if our constitutional right of
voting by color was exercised, on this occasion it claimed the
timid benefit of ballot.

With us a suggestion, for the time discarded, has often double
effect by-and-by; and though it was out of my power to dream of
acting up to such directions, there could be no possible harm in
reviewing such a theory theoretically.

Now nothing beyond this was in my thoughts, nor even so much as
that (safely may I say), when Firm and myself met face to face on
the third day after Uncle Sam's ideas. Our little caravan, of
which the Sawyer was the captain, being bound for Blue River and
its neighborhood, had quitted the Sacramento track by a fork on the
left not a league from the spot where my father had bidden adieu to
mankind. And knowing every twist and turn of rock, our drivers
brought us at the camping-time almost to the verge of chaparral.

I knew not exactly how far we were come, but the dust-cloud of
memory was stirring, and though mountains looked smaller than they
used to look, the things done among them seemed larger. And
wandering forth from the camp to think, when the evening meal was
over, lo! there I stood in that selfsame breach or portal of the
desert in which I stood once by my father's side, with scared and
weary eyes, vainly seeking safety's shattered landmark. The time
of year was different, being the ripe end of October now; but
though the view was changed in tint, it was even more impressive.
Sombre memories, and deep sense of grandeur, which is always sad,
and solemn lights, and stealing shadows, compassed me with
thoughtfulness. In the mouth of the gorge was a gray block of
granite, whereupon I sat down to think.

Old thoughts, dull thoughts, thoughts as common as the clouds that
cross the distant plain, and as vague as the wind that moves them--
they please and they pass, and they may have shed kindly influence,
but what are they? The life that lies before us is, in some way,
too, below us, like yon vast amplitude of plain; but it must be
traversed foot by foot, and laboriously travailed, without the
cloudy vaporing or the high-flown meditation. And all that must be
done by me, alone, with none to love me, and (which for a woman is
so much worse) nobody ever to have for my own, to cherish, love,
and cling to.

Tier upon tier, and peak over peak, the finest mountains of the
world are soaring into the purple firmament. Like northern lights,
they flash, or flush, or fade into a reclining gleam; like ladders
of heaven, they bar themselves with cloudy air; and like heaven
itself, they rank their white procession. Lonely, feeble, puny, I
look up with awe and reverence; the mind pronounces all things
small compared with this magnificence. Yet what will all such
grandeur do--the self-defensive heart inquires--for puny, feeble,
lonely me?

Before another shadow deepened or another light grew pale, a slow,
uncertain step drew near, and by the merest chance it happened to
be Ephraim Gundry's. I was quite surprised, and told him so; and
he said that he also was surprised at meeting me in this way.
Remembering how long I had been here, I thought this most
irrational, but checked myself from saying so, because he looked so
poorly. And more than that, I asked him kindly how he was this
evening, and smoothed my dress to please his eye, and offered him a
chair of rock. But he took no notice of all these things.

I thought of the time when he would have behaved so very
differently from this, and nothing but downright pride enabled me
to repress vexation. However, I resolved to behave as kindly as if
he were his own grandfather.

"How grand these mountains are!" I said. "It must do you good to
see them again. Even to me it is such a delight. And what must it
be to you, a native?"

"Yes, I shall wander from them no more. How I wish that I had
never done so?"

"Have men less courage than women?" I asked, with one glance at his
pale worn face. "I owe you the debt of life; and this is the place
to think and speak of it. I used to talk freely of that, you know.
You used to like to hear me speak; but now you are tired of that,
and tired of all the world as well, I fear."

"No, I am tired of nothing, except my own vile degradation. I am
tired of my want of spirit, that I can not cast my load. I am
tired of my lack of reason, which should always guide a man. What
is the use of mind or intellect, reasoning power, or whatever it is
called, if the whole of them can not enable a man to hold out
against a stupid heart?"

"I think you should be proud," I said, while trembling to approach
the subject which never had been touched between us, "at having a
nature so sensitive. Your evil chance might have been any body's,
and must of course have been somebody's. But nobody else would
have taken it so--so delightfully as you have done!"

"Delightfully! Is that the word you use? May I ask who gets any
delight from it?"

"Why, all who hate the Southern cause," I replied, with a sudden
turn of thought, though I never had meant to use the word. "Surely
that needs no explanation."

"They are delighted, are they? Yes, I can very well believe it.
Narrow-minded bigots! Yes, they are sure to be delighted. They
call it a just visitation, of course, a righteous retribution. And
they hope I may never get over it."

"I pray you to take it more gently," I said; "they are very good
men, and wish you no harm. But they must have their own opinions;
and naturally they think them just."

"Then all their opinions are just wrong. They hope to see me go
down, to my grave. They shall not have that pleasure. I will
outlive every old John Brown of them. I did not care two cents to
live just now. Henceforth I will make a point of it. If I cannot
fight for true freedom any more, having ruined it perhaps already,
the least I can do is to give no more triumph to its bitter
enemies. I will eat and drink, and begin this very night. I
suppose you are one of them, as you put their arguments so neatly.
I suppose you consider me a vile slave-driver?"

"You are very ill," I said, with my heart so full of pity that
anger could not enter; "you are very ill, and very weak. How could
you drive the very best slave now--even such a marvel as Uncle

Firm Gundry smiled; on his lean dry face there shone a little
flicker, which made me think of the time when he bought a jest-
book, published at Cincinnati, to make himself agreeable to my
mind. And little as I meant it, I smiled also, thinking of the way
he used to come out with his hard-fought jokes, and expect it.

"I wish you were at all as you used to be," he said, looking at me
softly through the courage of his smile, "instead of being such a
grand lady."

"And I wish you were a little more like yourself," I answered,
without thinking; "you used to think always there was nobody like

"Suppose that I am of the same opinion still? Tenfold, fiftyfold,
a millionfold?"

"To suppose a thing of that sort is a little too absurd, when you
have shown no sign of it."

"For your own dear sake I have shown no sign. The reason of that
is too clear to explain."

"Then how stupid I must be not to see an atom of it!"

"Why, who would have any thing to say to me--a broken-down man, a
fellow marked out for curses, one who hates even the sight of
himself? The lowest of the low would shun me."

He turned away from me, and gazed back toward the dismal,
miserable, spectral desert; while I stood facing the fruitful,
delicious, flowery Paradise of all the world. I thought of the
difference in our lots, and my heart was in misery about him. Then
I conquered my pride and my littleness and trumpery, and did what
the gentle sweet Eve might have done. And never have I grieved for
that action since.

With tears on my cheeks quite undissembled, and a breast not
ashamed of fluttering, I ran to Firm Gundry, and took his right
hand, and allowed him no refuge from tender wet eyes. Then before
he could come to see the meaning of this haste--because of his very
high discipline--I was out of his distance, and sitting on a rock,
and I lifted my eyes, full of eloquence, to his; then I dropped
them, and pulled my hat forward, and said, as calmly as was
possible, "I have done enough. The rest remains with you, Firm

The rest remained with him. Enough that I was part of that rest;
and if not the foundation or crown of it, something desirous to be
both, and failing (if fail it ever does) from no want of trial.
Uncle Sam says that I never fail at all, and never did fail in any
thing, unless it was when I found that blamed nugget, for which we
got three wagon-loads of greenbacks; which (when prosperity at last
revives) will pay perhaps for greasing all twelve wheels.

Jowler admits not that failure even. As soon as he recovered from
canine dementia, approaching very closely to rabies, at seeing me
in the flesh once more (so that the Sierra Nevada rang with
avalanches of barking), he tugged me to the place where his teeth
were set in gold, and proved that he had no hydrophobia. His teeth
are scanty now, but he still can catch a salmon, and the bright
zeal and loyalty of his soft brown eyes and the sprightly elevation
of his tail are still among dogs as pre-eminent as they are to
mankind inimitable.

Now the war is past, and here we sit by the banks of the soft Blue
River. The early storm and young conflict of a clouded life are
over. Still out of sight there may be yet a sea of troubles to
buffet with; but it is not merely a selfish thought that others
will face it with me. Dark mysteries have been cleared away by
being confronted bravely; and the lesson has been learned that life
(like California flowers) is of infinite variety. This little
river, ten steps wide, on one side has all lupins, on the other
side all larkspurs. Can I tell why? Can any body? Can even
itself, so full of voice and light, unroll the reason?

Behind us tower the stormy crags, before us spread soft tapestry of
earth and sweep of ocean. Below us lies my father's grave, whose
sin was not his own, but fell on him, and found him loyal. To him
was I loyal also, as a daughter should be; and in my lap lies my
reward--for I am no more Erema.


Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest