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Etexts from Mosses From An Old Manse by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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through some of the cross lanes that make this portion of the
town so intricate, to Ann Street, thence into Dock Square, and so
downward to Drowne's shop, which stood just on the water's edge.
The crowd still followed, gathering volume as it rolled along.
Never had a modern miracle occurred in such broad daylight, nor
in the presence of such a multitude of witnesses. The airy image,
as if conscious that she was the object of the murmurs and
disturbance that swelled behind her, appeared slightly vexed and
flustered, yet still in a manner consistent with the light
vivacity and sportive mischief that were written in her
countenance. She was observed to flutter her fan with such
vehement rapidity that the elaborate delicacy of its workmanship
gave way, and it remained broken in her hand.

Arriving at Drowne's door, while the captain threw it open, the
marvellous apparition paused an instant on the threshold,
assuming the very attitude of the image, and casting over the
crowd that glance of sunny coquetry which all remembered on the
face of the oaken lady. She and her cavalier then disappeared.

"Ah!" murmured the crowd, drawing a deep breath, as with one vast
pair of lungs.

"The world looks darker now that she has vanished," said some of
the young men.

But the aged, whose recollections dated as far back as witch
times, shook their heads, and hinted that our forefathers would
have thought it a pious deed to burn the daughter of the oak with

"If she be other than a bubble of the elements," exclaimed
Copley, "I must look upon her face again."

He accordingly entered the shop; and there, in her usual corner,
stood the image, gazing at him, as it might seem, with the very
same expression of mirthful mischief that had been the farewell
look of the apparition when, but a moment before, she turned her
face towards the crowd. The carver stood beside his creation
mending the beautiful fan, which by some accident was broken in
her hand. But there was no longer any motion in the lifelike
image, nor any real woman in the workshop, nor even the
witchcraft of a sunny shadow, that might have deluded people's
eyes as it flitted along the street. Captain Hunnewell, too, had
vanished. His hoarse sea-breezy tones, however, were audible on
the other side of a door that opened upon the water.

"Sit down in the stern sheets, my lady," said the gallant
captain. "Come, bear a hand, you lubbers, and set us on board in
the turning of a minute-glass."

And then was heard the stroke of oars.

"Drowne," said Copley with a smile of intelligence, "you have
been a truly fortunate man. What painter or statuary ever had
such a subject! No wonder that she inspired a genius into you,
and first created the artist who afterwards created her image."

Drowne looked at him with a visage that bore the traces of tears,
but from which the light of imagination and sensibility, so
recently illuminating it, had departed. He was again the
mechanical carver that he had been known to be all his lifetime.

"I hardly understand what you mean, Mr. Copley," said he, putting
his hand to his brow. "This image! Can it have been my work?
Well, I have wrought it in a kind of dream; and now that I am
broad awake I must set about finishing yonder figure of Admiral

And forthwith he employed himself on the stolid countenance of
one of his wooden progeny, and completed it in his own mechanical
style, from which he was never known afterwards to deviate. He
followed his business industriously for many years, acquired a
competence, and in the latter part of his life attained to a
dignified station in the church, being remembered in records and
traditions as Deacon Drowne, the carver. One of his productions,
an Indian chief, gilded all over, stood during the better part of
a century on the cupola of the Province House, bedazzling the
eyes of those who looked upward, like an angel of the sun.
Another work of the good deacon's hand--a reduced likeness of his
friend Captain Hunnewell, holding a telescope and quadrant--may
be seen to this day, at the corner of Broad and State streets,
serving in the useful capacity of sign to the shop of a nautical
instrument maker. We know not how to account for the inferiority
of this quaint old figure, as compared with the recorded
excellence of the Oaken Lady, unless on the supposition that in
every human spirit there is imagination, sensibility, creative
power, genius, which, according to circumstances, may either be
developed in this world, or shrouded in a mask of dulness until
another state of being. To our friend Drowne there came a brief
season of excitement, kindled by love. It rendered him a genius
for that one occasion, but, quenched in disappointment, left him
again the mechanical carver in wood, without the power even of
appreciating the work that his own hands had wrought. Yet who can
doubt that the very highest state to which a human spirit can
attain, in its loftiest aspirations, is its truest and most
natural state, and that Drowne was more consistent with himself
when he wrought the admirable figure of the mysterious lady, than
when he perpetrated a whole progeny of blockheads?

There was a rumor in Boston, about this period, that a young
Portuguese lady of rank, on some occasion of political or
domestic disquietude, had fled from her home in Fayal and put
herself under the protection of Captain Hunnewell, on board of
whose vessel, and at whose residence, she was sheltered until a
change of affairs. This fair stranger must have been the original
of Drowne's Wooden Image.


One of the few incidents of Indian warfare naturally susceptible
of the moonlight of romance was that expedition undertaken for
the defence of the frontiers in the year 1725, which resulted in
the well-remembered "Lovell's Fight." Imagination, by casting
certain circumstances judicially into the shade, may see much to
admire in the heroism of a little band who gave battle to twice
their number in the heart of the enemy's country. The open
bravery displayed by both parties was in accordance with
civilized ideas of valor; and chivalry itself might not blush to
record the deeds of one or two individuals. The battle, though so
fatal to those who fought, was not unfortunate in its
consequences to the country; for it broke the strength of a tribe
and conduced to the peace which subsisted during several ensuing
years. History and tradition are unusually minute in their
memorials of their affair; and the captain of a scouting party of
frontier men has acquired as actual a military renown as many a
victorious leader of thousands. Some of the incidents contained
in the following pages will be recognized, notwithstanding the
substitution of fictitious names, by such as have heard, from old
men's lips, the fate of the few combatants who were in a
condition to retreat after "Lovell's Fight."

. . . . . . . . .

The early sunbeams hovered cheerfully upon the tree-tops, beneath
which two weary and wounded men had stretched their limbs the
night before. Their bed of withered oak leaves was strewn upon
the small level space, at the foot of a rock, situated near the
summit of one of the gentle swells by which the face of the
country is there diversified. The mass of granite, rearing its
smooth, flat surface fifteen or twenty feet above their heads,
was not unlike a gigantic gravestone, upon which the veins seemed
to form an inscription in forgotten characters. On a tract of
several acres around this rock, oaks and other hard-wood trees
had supplied the place of the pines, which were the usual growth
of the land; and a young and vigorous sapling stood close beside
the travellers.

The severe wound of the elder man had probably deprived him of
sleep; for, so soon as the first ray of sunshine rested on the
top of the highest tree, he reared himself painfully from his
recumbent posture and sat erect. The deep lines of his
countenance and the scattered gray of his hair marked him as past
the middle age; but his muscular frame would, but for the effect
of his wound, have been as capable of sustaining fatigue as in
the early vigor of life. Languor and exhaustion now sat upon his
haggard features; and the despairing glance which he sent forward
through the depths of the forest proved his own conviction that
his pilgrimage was at an end. He next turned his eyes to the
companion who reclined by his side. The youth--for he had
scarcely attained the years of manhood--lay, with his head upon
his arm, in the embrace of an unquiet sleep, which a thrill of
pain from his wounds seemed each moment on the point of breaking.
His right hand grasped a musket; and, to judge from the violent
action of his features, his slumbers were bringing back a vision
of the conflict of which he was one of the few survivors. A
shout deep and loud in his dreaming fancy--found its way in an
imperfect murmur to his lips; and, starting even at the slight
sound of his own voice, he suddenly awoke. The first act of
reviving recollection was to make anxious inquiries respecting
the condition of his wounded fellow-traveller. The latter shook
his head.

"Reuben, my boy," said he, "this rock beneath which we sit will
serve for an old hunter's gravestone. There is many and many a
long mile of howling wilderness before us yet; nor would it avail
me anything if the smoke of my own chimney were but on the other
side of that swell of land. The Indian bullet was deadlier than I

"You are weary with our three days' travel," replied the youth,
"and a little longer rest will recruit you. Sit you here while I
search the woods for the herbs and roots that must be our
sustenance; and, having eaten, you shall lean on me, and we will
turn our faces homeward. I doubt not that, with my help, you can
attain to some one of the frontier garrisons."

"There is not two days' life in me, Reuben," said the other,
calmly, "and I will no longer burden you with my useless body,
when you can scarcely support your own. Your wounds are deep and
your strength is failing fast; yet, if you hasten onward alone,
you may be preserved. For me there is no hope, and I will await
death here."

"If it must be so, I will remain and watch by you," said Reuben,

"No, my son, no," rejoined his companion. "Let the wish of a
dying man have weight with you; give me one grasp of your hand,
and get you hence. Think you that my last moments will be eased
by the thought that I leave you to die a more lingering death? I
have loved you like a father, Reuben; and at a time like this I
should have something of a father's authority. I charge you to be
gone that I may die in peace."

"And because you have been a father to me, should I therefore
leave you to perish and to lie unburied in the wilderness?"
exclaimed the youth. "No; if your end be in truth approaching, I
will watch by you and receive your parting words. I will dig a
grave here by the rock, in which, if my weakness overcome me, we
will rest together; or, if Heaven gives me strength, I will seek
my way home."

"In the cities and wherever men dwell," replied the other, "they
bury their dead in the earth; they hide them from the sight of
the living; but here, where no step may pass perhaps for a
hundred years, wherefore should I not rest beneath the open sky,
covered only by the oak leaves when the autumn winds shall strew
them? And for a monument, here is this gray rock, on which my
dying hand shall carve the name of Roger Malvin, and the
traveller in days to come will know that here sleeps a hunter and
a warrior. Tarry not, then, for a folly like this, but hasten
away, if not for your own sake, for hers who will else be

Malvin spoke the last few words in a faltering voice, and their
effect upon his companion was strongly visible. They reminded him
that there were other and less questionable duties than that of
sharing the fate of a man whom his death could not benefit. Nor
can it be affirmed that no selfish feeling strove to enter
Reuben's heart, though the consciousness made him more earnestly
resist his companion's entreaties.

"How terrible to wait the slow approach of death in this
solitude!" exclaimed he. "A brave man does not shrink in the
battle; and, when friends stand round the bed, even women may die
composedly; but here--"

"I shall not shrink even here, Reuben Bourne," interrupted
Malvin. "I am a man of no weak heart, and, if I were, there is a
surer support than that of earthly friends. You are young, and
life is dear to you. Your last moments will need comfort far more
than mine; and when you have laid me in the earth, and are alone,
and night is settling on the forest, you will feel all the
bitterness of the death that may now be escaped. But I will urge
no selfish motive to your generous nature. Leave me for my sake,
that, having said a prayer for your safety, I may have space to
settle my account undisturbed by worldly sorrows."

"And your daughter,--how shall I dare to meet her eye?" exclaimed
Reuben. "She will ask the fate of her father, whose life I vowed
to defend with my own. Must I tell her that he travelled three
days' march with me from the field of battle and that then I left
him to perish in the wilderness? Were it not better to lie down
and die by your side than to return safe and say this to Dorcas?"

"Tell my daughter," said Roger Malvin, "that, though yourself
sore wounded, and weak, and weary, you led my tottering footsteps
many a mile, and left me only at my earnest entreaty, because I
would not have your blood upon my soul. Tell her that through
pain and danger you were faithful, and that, if your lifeblood
could have saved me, it would have flowed to its last drop; and
tell her that you will be something dearer than a father, and
that my blessing is with you both, and that my dying eyes can see
a long and pleasant path in which you will journey together."

As Malvin spoke he almost raised himself from the ground, and the
energy of his concluding words seemed to fill the wild and lonely
forest with a vision of happiness; but, when he sank exhausted
upon his bed of oak leaves, the light which had kindled in
Reuben's eye was quenched. He felt as if it were both sin and
folly to think of happiness at such a moment. His companion
watched his changing countenance, and sought with generous art to
wile him to his own good.

"Perhaps I deceive myself in regard to the time I have to live,"
he resumed. "It may be that, with speedy assistance, I might
recover of my wound. The foremost fugitives must, ere this, have
carried tidings of our fatal battle to the frontiers, and parties
will be out to succor those in like condition with ourselves.
Should you meet one of these and guide them hither, who can tell
but that I may sit by my own fireside again?"

A mournful smile strayed across the features of the dying man as
he insinuated that unfounded hope,--which, however, was not
without its effect on Reuben. No merely selfish motive, nor even
the desolate condition of Dorcas, could have induced him to
desert his companion at such a moment--but his wishes seized on
the thought that Malvin's life might be preserved, and his
sanguine nature heightened almost to certainty the remote
possibility of procuring human aid.

"Surely there is reason, weighty reason, to hope that friends are
not far distant," he said, half aloud. "There fled one coward,
unwounded, in the beginning of the fight, and most probably he
made good speed. Every true man on the frontier would shoulder
his musket at the news; and, though no party may range so far
into the woods as this, I shall perhaps encounter them in one
day's march. Counsel me faithfully," he added, turning to Malvin,
in distrust of his own motives. "Were your situation mine, would
you desert me while life remained?"

"It is now twenty years," replied Roger Malvin,--sighing,
however, as he secretly acknowledged the wide dissimilarity
between the two cases,-"it is now twenty years since I escaped
with one dear friend from Indian captivity near Montreal. We
journeyed many days through the woods, till at length overcome
with hunger and weariness, my friend lay down and besought me to
leave him; for he knew that, if I remained, we both must perish;
and, with but little hope of obtaining succor, I heaped a pillow
of dry leaves beneath his head and hastened on."

"And did you return in time to save him?" asked Reuben, hanging
on Malvin's words as if they were to be prophetic of his own

"I did," answered the other. "I came upon the camp of a hunting
party before sunset of the same day. I guided them to the spot
where my comrade was expecting death; and he is now a hale and
hearty man upon his own farm, far within the frontiers, while I
lie wounded here in the depths of the wilderness."

This example, powerful in affecting Reuben's decision, was aided,
unconsciously to himself, by the hidden strength of many another
motive. Roger Malvin perceived that the victory was nearly won.

"Now, go, my son, and Heaven prosper you!" he said. "Turn not
back with your friends when you meet them, lest your wounds and
weariness overcome you; but send hitherward two or three, that
may be spared, to search for me; and believe me, Reuben, my heart
will be lighter with every step you take towards home." Yet there
was, perhaps, a change both in his countenance and voice as he
spoke thus; for, after all, it was a ghastly fate to be left
expiring in the wilderness.

Reuben Bourne, but half convinced that he was acting rightly, at
length raised himself from the ground and prepared himself for
his departure. And first, though contrary to Malvin's wishes, he
collected a stock of roots and herbs, which had been their only
food during the last two days. This useless supply he placed
within reach of the dying man, for whom, also, he swept together
a bed of dry oak leaves. Then climbing to the summit of the rock,
which on one side was rough and broken, he bent the oak sapling
downward, and bound his handkerchief to the topmost branch. This
precaution was not unnecessary to direct any who might come in
search of Malvin; for every part of the rock, except its broad,
smooth front, was concealed at a little distance by the dense
undergrowth of the forest. The handkerchief had been the bandage
of a wound upon Reuben's arm; and, as he bound it to the tree, he
vowed by the blood that stained it that he would return, either
to save his companion's life or to lay his body in the grave. He
then descended, and stood, with downcast eyes, to receive Roger
Malvin's parting words.

The experience of the latter suggested much and minute advice
respecting the youth's journey through the trackless forest. Upon
this subject he spoke with calm earnestness, as if he were
sending Reuben to the battle or the chase while he himself
remained secure at home, and not as if the human countenance that
was about to leave him were the last he would ever behold. But
his firmness was shaken before he concluded.

"Carry my blessing to Dorcas, and say that my last prayer shall
be for her and you. Bid her to have no hard thoughts because you
left me here," --Reuben's heart smote him,--"for that your life
would not have weighed with you if its sacrifice could have done
me good. She will marry you after she has mourned a little while
for her father; and Heaven grant you long and happy days, and may
your children's children stand round your death bed! And,
Reuben," added he, as the weakness of mortality made its way at
last, "return, when your wounds are healed and your weariness
refreshed,--return to this wild rock, and lay my bones in the
grave, and say a prayer over them."

An almost superstitious regard, arising perhaps from the customs
of the Indians, whose war was with the dead as well as the
living, was paid by the frontier inhabitants to the rites of
sepulture; and there are many instances of the sacrifice of life
in the attempt to bury those who had fallen by the "sword of the
wilderness." Reuben, therefore, felt the full importance of the
promise which he most solemnly made to return and perform Roger
Malvin's obsequies. It was remarkable that the latter, speaking
his whole heart in his parting words, no longer endeavored to
persuade the youth that even the speediest succor might avail to
the preservation of his life. Reuben was internally convinced
that he should see Malvin's living face no more. His generous
nature would fain have delayed him, at whatever risk, till the
dying scene were past; but the desire of existence and the hope
of happiness had strengthened in his heart, and he was unable to
resist them.

"It is enough," said Roger Malvin, having listened to Reuben's
promise. "Go, and God speed you!"

The youth pressed his hand in silence, turned, and was departing.
His slow and faltering steps, however, had borne him but a little
way before Malvin's voice recalled him.

"Reuben, Reuben," said he, faintly; and Reuben returned and knelt
down by the dying man.

"Raise me, and let me lean against the rock," was his last
request. "My face will be turned towards home, and I shall see
you a moment longer as you pass among the trees."

Reuben, having made the desired alteration in his companion's
posture, again began his solitary pilgrimage. He walked more
hastily at first than was consistent with his strength; for a
sort of guilty feeling, which sometimes torments men in their
most justifiable acts, caused him to seek concealment from
Malvin's eyes; but after he had trodden far upon the rustling
forest leaves he crept back, impelled by a wild and painful
curiosity, and, sheltered by the earthy roots of an uptorn tree,
gazed earnestly at the desolate man. The morning sun was
unclouded, and the trees and shrubs imbibed the sweet air of the
month of May; yet there seemed a gloom on Nature's face, as if
she sympathized with mortal pain and sorrow Roger Malvin's hands
were uplifted in a fervent prayer, some of the words of which
stole through the stillness of the woods and entered Reuben's
heart, torturing it with an unutterable pang. They were the
broken accents of a petition for his own happiness and that of
Dorcas; and, as the youth listened, conscience, or something in
its similitude, pleaded strongly with him to return and lie down
again by the rock. He felt how hard was the doom of the kind and
generous being whom he had deserted in his extremity. Death would
come like the slow approach of a corpse, stealing gradually
towards him through the forest, and showing its ghastly and
motionless features from behind a nearer and yet a nearer tree.
But such must have been Reuben's own fate had he tarried another
sunset; and who shall impute blame to him if he shrink from so
useless a sacrifice? As he gave a parting look, a breeze waved
the little banner upon the sapling oak and reminded Reuben of his

. . . . . . . . . . .

Many circumstances combined to retard the wounded traveller in
his way to the frontiers. On the second day the clouds, gathering
densely over the sky, precluded the possibility of regulating his
course by the position of the sun; and he knew not but that every
effort of his almost exhausted strength was removing him farther
from the home he sought. His scanty sustenance was supplied by
the berries and other spontaneous products of the forest. Herds
of deer, it is true, sometimes bounded past him, and partridges
frequently whirred up before his footsteps; but his ammunition
had been expended in the fight, and he had no means of slaying
them. His wounds, irritated by the constant exertion in which lay
the only hope of life, wore away his strength and at intervals
confused his reason. But, even in the wanderings of intellect,
Reuben's young heart clung strongly to existence; and it was only
through absolute incapacity of motion that he at last sank down
beneath a tree, compelled there to await death.

In this situation he was discovered by a party who, upon the
first intelligence of the fight, had been despatched to the
relief of the survivors. They conveyed him to the nearest
settlement, which chanced to be that of his own residence.

Dorcas, in the simplicity of the olden time, watched by the
bedside of her wounded lover, and administered all those comforts
that are in the sole gift of woman's heart and hand. During
several days Reuben's recollection strayed drowsily among the
perils and hardships through which he had passed, and he was
incapable of returning definite answers to the inquiries with
which many were eager to harass him. No authentic particulars of
the battle had yet been circulated; nor could mothers, wives, and
children tell whether their loved ones were detained by captivity
or by the stronger chain of death. Dorcas nourished her
apprehensions in silence till one afternoon when Reuben awoke
from an unquiet sleep, and seemed to recognize her more perfectly
than at any previous time. She saw that his intellect had become
composed, and she could no longer restrain her filial anxiety.

"My father, Reuben?" she began; but the change in her lover's
countenance made her pause.

The youth shrank as if with a bitter pain, and the blood gushed
vividly into his wan and hollow cheeks. His first impulse was to
cover his face; but, apparently with a desperate effort, he half
raised himself and spoke vehemently, defending himself against an
imaginary accusation.

"Your father was sore wounded in the battle, Dorcas; and he bade
me not burden myself with him, but only to lead him to the
lakeside, that he might quench his thirst and die. But I would
not desert the old man in his extremity, and, though bleeding
myself, I supported him; I gave him half my strength, and led him
away with me. For three days we journeyed on together, and your
father was sustained beyond my hopes, but, awaking at sunrise on
the fourth day, I found him faint and exhausted; he was unable to
proceed; his life had ebbed away fast; and--"

"He died!" exclaimed Dorcas, faintly.

Reuben felt it impossible to acknowledge that his selfish love of
life had hurried him away before her father's fate was decided.
He spoke not; he only bowed his head; and, between shame and
exhaustion, sank back and hid his face in the pillow. Dorcas wept
when her fears were thus confirmed; but the shock, as it had been
long anticipated. was on that account the less violent.

"You dug a grave for my poor father in the wilderness, Reuben?"
was the question by which her filial piety manifested itself.

"My hands were weak; but I did what I could," replied the youth
in a smothered tone. "There stands a noble tombstone above his
head; and I would to Heaven I slept as soundly as he!"

Dorcas, perceiving the wildness of his latter words, inquired no
further at the time; but her heart found ease in the thought that
Roger Malvin had not lacked such funeral rites as it was possible
to bestow. The tale of Reuben's courage and fidelity lost nothing
when she communicated it to her friends; and the poor youth,
tottering from his sick chamber to breathe the sunny air,
experienced from every tongue the miserable and humiliating
torture of unmerited praise. All acknowledged that he might
worthily demand the hand of the fair maiden to whose father he
had been "faithful unto death;" and, as my tale is not of love,
it shall suffice to say that in the space of a few months Reuben
became the husband of Dorcas Malvin. During the marriage ceremony
the bride was covered with blushes, but the bridegroom's face was

There was now in the breast of Reuben Bourne an incommunicable
thought--something which he was to conceal most heedfully from
her whom he most loved and trusted. He regretted, deeply and
bitterly, the moral cowardice that had restrained his words when
he was about to disclose the truth to Dorcas; but pride, the fear
of losing her affection, the dread of universal scorn, forbade
him to rectify this falsehood. He felt that for leaving Roger
Malvin he deserved no censure. His presence, the gratuitous
sacrifice of his own life, would have added only another and a
needless agony to the last moments of the dying man; but
concealment had imparted to a justifiable act much of the secret
effect of guilt; and Reuben, while reason told him that he had
done right, experienced in no small degree the mental horrors
which punish the perpetrator of undiscovered crime. By a certain
association of ideas, he at times almost imagined himself a
murderer. For years, also, a thought would occasionally recur,
which, though he perceived all its folly and extravagance, he had
not power to banish from his mind. It was a haunting and
torturing fancy that his father-in-law was yet sitting at the
foot of the rock, on the withered forest leaves, alive, and
awaiting his pledged assistance. These mental deceptions,
however, came and went, nor did he ever mistake them for
realities: but in the calmest and clearest moods of his mind he
was conscious that he had a deep vow unredeemed, and that an
unburied corpse was calling to him out of the wilderness. Yet
such was the consequence of his prevarication that he could not
obey the call. It was now too late to require the assistance of
Roger Malvin's friends in performing his long-deferred sepulture;
and superstitious fears, of which none were more susceptible than
the people of the outward settlements, forbade Reuben to go
alone. Neither did he know where in the pathless and illimitable
forest to seek that smooth and lettered rock at the base of which
the body lay: his remembrance of every portion of his travel
thence was indistinct, and the latter part had left no impression
upon his mind. There was, however, a continual impulse, a voice
audible only to himself, commanding him to go forth and redeem
his vow; and he had a strange impression that, were he to make
the trial, he would be led straight to Malvin's bones. But year
after year that summons, unheard but felt, was disobeyed. His one
secret thought became like a chain binding down his spirit and
like a serpent gnawing into his heart; and he was transformed
into a sad and downcast yet irritable man.

In the course of a few years after their marriage changes began
to be visible in the external prosperity of Reuben and Dorcas.
The only riches of the former had been his stout heart and strong
arm; but the latter, her father's sole heiress, had made her
husband master of a farm, under older cultivation, larger, and
better stocked than most of the frontier establishments. Reuben
Bourne, however, was a neglectful husbandman; and, while the
lands of the other settlers became annually more fruitful, his
deteriorated in the same proportion. The discouragements to
agriculture were greatly lessened by the cessation of Indian war,
during which men held the plough in one hand and the musket in
the other, and were fortunate if the products of their dangerous
labor were not destroyed, either in the field or in the barn, by
the savage enemy. But Reuben did not profit by the altered
condition of the country; nor can it be denied that his intervals
of industrious attention to his affairs were but scantily
rewarded with success. The irritability by which he had recently
become distinguished was another cause of his declining
prosperity, as it occasioned frequent quarrels in his unavoidable
intercourse with the neighboring settlers. The results of these
were innumerable lawsuits; for the people of New England, in the
earliest stages and wildest circumstances of the country,
adopted, whenever attainable, the legal mode of deciding their
differences. To be brief, the world did not go well with Reuben
Bourne; and, though not till many years after his marriage, he
was finally a ruined man, with but one remaining expedient
against the evil fate that had pursued him. He was to throw
sunlight into some deep recess of the forest, and seek
subsistence from the virgin bosom of the wilderness.

The only child of Reuben and Dorcas was a son, now arrived at the
age of fifteen years, beautiful in youth, and giving promise of a
glorious manhood. He was peculiarly qualified for, and already
began to excel in, the wild accomplishments of frontier life. His
foot was fleet, his aim true, his apprehension quick, his heart
glad and high; and all who anticipated the return of Indian war
spoke of Cyrus Bourne as a future leader in the land. The boy was
loved by his father with a deep and silent strength, as if
whatever was good and happy in his own nature had been
transferred to his child, carrying his affections with it. Even
Dorcas, though loving and beloved, was far less dear to him; for
Reuben's secret thoughts and insulated emotions had gradually
made him a selfish man, and he could no longer love deeply except
where he saw or imagined some reflection or likeness of his own
mind. In Cyrus he recognized what he had himself been in other
days; and at intervals he seemed to partake of the boy's spirit,
and to be revived with a fresh and happy life. Reuben was
accompanied by his son in the expedition, for the purpose of
selecting a tract of land and felling and burning the timber,
which necessarily preceded the removal of the household gods. Two
months of autumn were thus occupied, after which Reuben Bourne
and his young hunter returned to spend their last winter in the

. . . . . . . . . . .

It was early in the month of May that the little family snapped
asunder whatever tendrils of affections had clung to inanimate
objects, and bade farewell to the few who, in the blight of
fortune, called themselves their friends. The sadness of the
parting moment had, to each of the pilgrims, its peculiar
alleviations. Reuben, a moody man, and misanthropic because
unhappy, strode onward with his usual stern brow and downcast
eye, feeling few regrets and disdaining to acknowledge any.
Dorcas, while she wept abundantly over the broken ties by which
her simple and affectionate nature had bound itself to
everything, felt that the inhabitants of her inmost heart moved
on with her, and that all else would be supplied wherever she
might go. And the boy dashed one tear-drop from his eye, and
thought of the adventurous pleasures of the untrodden forest.

Oh, who, in the enthusiasm of a daydream, has not wished that he
were a wanderer in a world of summer wilderness, with one fair
and gentle being hanging lightly on his arm? In youth his free
and exulting step would know no barrier but the rolling ocean or
the snow-topped mountains; calmer manhood would choose a home
where Nature had strewn a double wealth in the vale of some
transparent stream; and when hoary age, after long, long years of
that pure life, stole on and found him there, it would find him
the father of a race, the patriarch of a people, the founder of a
mighty nation yet to be. When death, like the sweet sleep which
we welcome after a day of happiness, came over him, his far
descendants would mourn over the venerated dust. Enveloped by
tradition in mysterious attributes, the men of future generations
would call him godlike; and remote posterity would see him
standing, dimly glorious, far up the valley of a hundred

The tangled and gloomy forest through which the personages of my
tale were wandering differed widely from the dreamer's land of
fantasy; yet there was something in their way of life that Nature
asserted as her own, and the gnawing cares which went with them
from the world were all that now obstructed their happiness. One
stout and shaggy steed, the bearer of all their wealth, did not
shrink from the added weight of Dorcas; although her hardy
breeding sustained her, during the latter part of each day's
journey, by her husband's side. Reuben and his son, their muskets
on their shoulders and their axes slung behind them, kept an
unwearied pace, each watching with a hunter's eye for the game
that supplied their food. When hunger bade, they halted and
prepared their meal on the bank of some unpolluted forest brook,
which, as they knelt down with thirsty lips to drink, murmured a
sweet unwillingness, like a maiden at love's first kiss. They
slept beneath a hut of branches, and awoke at peep of light
refreshed for the toils of another day. Dorcas and the boy went
on joyously, and even Reuben's spirit shone at intervals with an
outward gladness; but inwardly there was a cold cold sorrow,
which he compared to the snowdrifts lying deep in the glens and
hollows of the rivulets while the leaves were brightly green

Cyrus Bourne was sufficiently skilled in the travel of the woods
to observe that his father did not adhere to the course they had
pursued in their expedition of the preceding autumn. They were
now keeping farther to the north, striking out more directly from
the settlements, and into a region of which savage beasts and
savage men were as yet the sole possessors. The boy sometimes
hinted his opinions upon the subject, and Reuben listened
attentively, and once or twice altered the direction of their
march in accordance with his son's counsel; but, having so done,
he seemed ill at ease. His quick and wandering glances were sent
forward apparently in search of enemies lurking behind the tree
trunks, and, seeing nothing there, he would cast his eyes
backwards as if in fear of some pursuer. Cyrus, perceiving that
his father gradually resumed the old direction, forbore to
interfere; nor, though something began to weigh upon his heart,
did his adventurous nature permit him to regret the increased
length and the mystery of their way.

On the afternoon of the fifth day they halted, and made their
simple encampment nearly an hour before sunset. The face of the
country, for the last few miles, had been diversified by swells
of land resembling huge waves of a petrified sea; and in one of
the corresponding hollows, a wild and romantic spot, had the
family reared their hut and kindled their fire. There is
something chilling, and yet heart-warming, in the thought of
these three, united by strong bands of love and insulated from
all that breathe beside. The dark and gloomy pines looked down
upon them, and, as the wind swept through their tops, a pitying
sound was heard in the forest; or did those old trees groan in
fear that men were come to lay the axe to their roots at last?
Reuben and his son, while Dorcas made ready their meal, proposed
to wander out in search of game, of which that day's march had
afforded no supply. The boy, promising not to quit the vicinity
of the encampment, bounded off with a step as light and elastic
as that of the deer he hoped to slay; while his father, feeling a
transient happiness as he gazed after him, was about to pursue an
opposite direction. Dorcas in the meanwhile, had seated herself
near their fire of fallen branches upon the mossgrown and
mouldering trunk of a tree uprooted years before. Her employment,
diversified by an occasional glance at the pot, now beginning to
simmer over the blaze, was the perusal of the current year's
Massachusetts Almanac, which, with the exception of an old
black-letter Bible, comprised all the literary wealth of the
family. None pay a greater regard to arbitrary divisions of time
than those who are excluded from society; and Dorcas mentioned,
as if the information were of importance, that it was now the
twelfth of May. Her husband started.

"The twelfth of May! I should remember it well," muttered he,
while many thoughts occasioned a momentary confusion in his mind.
"Where am I? Whither am I wandering? Where did I leave him?"

Dorcas, too well accustomed to her husband's wayward moods to
note any peculiarity of demeanor, now laid aside the almanac and
addressed him in that mournful tone which the tender hearted
appropriate to griefs long cold and dead.

"It was near this time of the month, eighteen years ago, that my
poor father left this world for a better. He had a kind arm to
hold his head and a kind voice to cheer him, Reuben, in his last
moments; and the thought of the faithful care you took of him has
comforted me many a time since. Oh, death would have been awful
to a solitary man in a wild place like this!"

"Pray Heaven, Dorcas," said Reuben, in a broken voice,--"pray
Heaven that neither of us three dies solitary and lies unburied
in this howling wilderness!" And he hastened away, leaving her to
watch the fire beneath the gloomy pines.

Reuben Bourne's rapid pace gradually slackened as the pang,
unintentionally inflicted by the words of Dorcas, became less
acute. Many strange reflections, however, thronged upon him; and,
straying onward rather like a sleep walker than a hunter, it was
attributable to no care of his own that his devious course kept
him in the vicinity of the encampment. His steps were
imperceptibly led almost in a circle; nor did he observe that he
was on the verge of a tract of land heavily timbered, but not
with pine-trees. The place of the latter was here supplied by
oaks and other of the harder woods; and around their roots
clustered a dense and bushy under-growth, leaving, however,
barren spaces between the trees, thick strewn with withered
leaves. Whenever the rustling of the branches or the creaking of
the trunks made a sound, as if the forest were waking from
slumber, Reuben instinctively raised the musket that rested on
his arm, and cast a quick, sharp glance on every side; but,
convinced by a partial observation that no animal was near, he
would again give himself up to his thoughts. He was musing on the
strange influence that had led him away from his premeditated
course, and so far into the depths of the wilderness. Unable to
penetrate to the secret place of his soul where his motives lay
hidden, he believed that a supernatural voice had called him
onward, and that a supernatural power had obstructed his retreat.
He trusted that it was Heaven's intent to afford him an
opportunity of expiating his sin; he hoped that he might find the
bones so long unburied; and that, having laid the earth over
them, peace would throw its sunlight into the sepulchre of his
heart. From these thoughts he was aroused by a rustling in the
forest at some distance from the spot to which he had wandered.
Perceiving the motion of some object behind a thick veil of
undergrowth, he fired, with the instinct of a hunter and the aim
of a practised marksman. A low moan, which told his success, and
by which even animals cars express their dying agony, was
unheeded by Reuben Bourne. What were the recollections now
breaking upon him?

The thicket into which Reuben had fired was near the summit of a
swell of land, and was clustered around the base of a rock,
which, in the shape and smoothness of one of its surfaces, was
not unlike a gigantic gravestone. As if reflected in a mirror,
its likeness was in Reuben's memory. He even recognized the veins
which seemed to form an inscription in forgotten characters:
everything remained the same, except that a thick covert of
bushes shrouded the lowerpart of the rock, and would have hidden
Roger Malvin had he still been sitting there. Yet in the next
moment Reuben's eye was caught by another change that time had
effected since he last stood where he was now standing again
behind the earthy roots of the uptorn tree. The sapling to which
he had bound the bloodstained symbol of his vow had increased and
strengthened into an oak, far indeed from its maturity, but with
no mean spread of shadowy branches. There was one singularity
observable in this tree which made Reuben tremble. The middle and
lower branches were in luxuriant life, and an excess of
vegetation had fringed the trunk almost to the ground; but a
blight had apparently stricken the upper part of the oak, and the
very topmost bough was withered, sapless, and utterly dead.
Reuben remembered how the little banner had fluttered on that
topmost bough, when it was green and lovely, eighteen years
before. Whose guilt had blasted it?

. . . . . . . . . . .

Dorcas, after the departure of the two hunters, continued her
preparations for their evening repast. Her sylvan table was the
moss-covered trunk of a large fallen tree, on the broadest part
of which she had spread a snow-white cloth and arranged what were
left of the bright pewter vessels that had been her pride in the
settlements. It had a strange aspect that one little spot of
homely comfort in the desolate heart of Nature. The sunshine yet
lingered upon the higher branches of the trees that grew on
rising ground; but the shadows of evening had deepened into the
hollow where the encampment was made, and the firelight began to
redden as it gleamed up the tall trunks of the pines or hovered
on the dense and obscure mass of foliage that circled round the
spot. The heart of Dorcas was not sad; for she felt that it was
better to journey in the wilderness with two whom she loved than
to be a lonely woman in a crowd that cared not for her. As she
busied herself in arranging seats of mouldering wood, covered
with leaves, for Reuben and her son, her voice danced through the
gloomy forest in the measure of a song that she had learned in
youth. The rude melody, the production of a bard who won no name,
was descriptive of a winter evening in a frontier cottage, when,
secured from savage inroad by the high-piled snow-drifts, the
family rejoiced by their own fireside. The whole song possessed
the nameless charm peculiar to unborrowed thought, but four
continually-recurring lines shone out from the rest like the
blaze of the hearth whose joys they celebrated. Into them,
working magic with a few simple words, the poet had instilled the
very essence of domestic love and household happiness, and they
were poetry and picture joined in one. As Dorcas sang, the walls
of her forsaken home seemed to encircle her; she no longer saw
the gloomy pines, nor heard the wind which still, as she began
each verse, sent a heavy breath through the branches, and died
away in a hollow moan from the burden of the song. She was
aroused by the report of a gun in the vicinity of the encampment;
and either the sudden sound, or her loneliness by the glowing
fire, caused her to tremble violently. The next moment she
laughed in the pride of a mother's heart.

"My beautiful young hunter! My boy has slain a deer!" she
exclaimed, recollecting that in the direction whence the shot
proceeded Cyrus had gone to the chase.

She waited a reasonable time to hear her son's light step
bounding over the rustling leaves to tell of his success. But he
did not immediately appear; and she sent her cheerful voice among
the trees in search of him.

"Cyrus! Cyrus!"

His coming was still delayed; and she determined, as the report
had apparently been very near, to seek for him in person. Her
assistance, also, might be necessary in bringing home the venison
which she flattered herself he had obtained. She therefore set
forward, directing her steps by the long-past sound, and singing
as she went, in order that the boy might be aware of her approach
and run to meet her. From behind the trunk of every tree, and
from every hiding-place in the thick foliage of the undergrowth,
she hoped to discover the countenance of her son, laughing with
the sportive mischief that is born of affection. The sun was now
beneath the horizon, and the light that came down among the
leaves was sufficiently dim to create many illusions in her
expecting fancy. Several times she seemed indistinctly to see his
face gazing out from among the leaves; and once she imagined that
he stood beckoning to her at the base of a craggy rock. Keeping
her eyes on this object, however, it proved to be no more than
the trunk of an oak fringed to the very ground with little
branches, one of which, thrust out farther than the rest, was
shaken by the breeze. Making her way round the foot of the rock,
she suddenly found herself close to her husband, who had
approached in another direction. Leaning upon the butt of his
gun, the muzzle of which rested upon the withered leaves, he was
apparently absorbed in the contemplation of some object at his

"How is this, Reuben? Have you slain the deer and fallen asleep
over him?" exclaimed Dorcas, laughing cheerfully, on her first
slight observation of his posture and appearance.

He stirred not, neither did he turn his eyes towards her; and a
cold, shuddering fear, indefinite in its source and object, began
to creep into her blood. She now perceived that her husband's
face was ghastly pale, and his features were rigid, as if
incapable of assuming any other expression than the strong
despair which had hardened upon them. He gave not the slightest
evidence that he was aware of her approach.

"For the love of Heaven, Reuben, speak to me!" cried Dorcas; and
the strange sound of her own voice affrighted her even more than
the dead silence.

Her husband started, stared into her face, drew her to the front
of the rock, and pointed with his finger.

Oh, there lay the boy, asleep, but dreamless, upon the fallen
forest leaves! His cheek rested upon his arm--his curled locks
were thrown back from his brow--his limbs were slightly relaxed.
Had a sudden weariness overcome the youthful hunter? Would his
mother's voice arouse him? She knew that it was death.

"This broad rock is the gravestone of your near kindred, Dorcas,"
said her husband. "Your tears will fall at once over your father
and your son."

She heard him not. With one wild shriek, that seemed to force its
way from the sufferer's inmost soul, she sank insensible by the
side of her dead boy. At that moment the withered topmost bough
of the oak loosened itself in the stilly air, and fell in soft,
light fragments upon the rock, upon the leaves, upon Reuben, upon
his wife and child, and upon Roger Malvin's bones. Then Reuben's
heart was stricken, and the tears gushed out like water from a
rock. The vow that the wounded youth had made the blighted man
had come to redeem. His sin was expiated,--the curse was gone
from him; and in the hour when he had shed blood dearer to him
than his own, a prayer, the first for years, went up to Heaven
from the lips of Reuben Bourne.


An elderly man, with his pretty daughter on his arm, was passing
along the street, and emerged from the gloom of the cloudy
evening into the light that fell across the pavement from the
window of a small shop. It was a projecting window; and on the
inside were suspended a variety of watches, pinchbeck, silver,
and one or two of gold, all with their faces turned from the
streets, as if churlishly disinclined to inform the wayfarers
what o'clock it was. Seated within the shop, sidelong to the
window with his pale face bent earnestly over some delicate piece
of mechanism on which was thrown the concentrated lustre of a
shade lamp, appeared a young man.

"What can Owen Warland be about?" muttered old Peter Hovenden,
himself a retired watchmaker, and the former master of this same
young man whose occupation he was now wondering at. "What can the
fellow be about? These six months past I have never come by his
shop without seeing him just as steadily at work as now. It would
be a flight beyond his usual foolery to seek for the perpetual
motion; and yet I know enough of my old business to be certain
that what he is now so busy with is no part of the machinery of a

"Perhaps, father," said Annie, without showing much interest in
the question, "Owen is inventing a new kind of timekeeper. I am
sure he has ingenuity enough."

"Poh, child! He has not the sort of ingenuity to invent anything
better than a Dutch toy," answered her father, who had formerly
been put to much vexation by Owen Warland's irregular genius. "A
plague on such ingenuity! All the effect that ever I knew of it
was to spoil the accuracy of some of the best watches in my shop.
He would turn the sun out of its orbit and derange the whole
course of time, if, as I said before, his ingenuity could grasp
anything bigger than a child's toy!"

"Hush, father! He hears you!" whispered Annie, pressing the old
man's arm. "His ears are as delicate as his feelings; and you
know how easily disturbed they are. Do let us move on."

So Peter Hovenden and his daughter Annie plodded on without
further conversation, until in a by-street of the town they found
themselves passing the open door of a blacksmith's shop. Within
was seen the forge, now blazing up and illuminating the high and
dusky roof, and now confining its lustre to a narrow precinct of
the coal-strewn floor, according as the breath of the bellows was
puffed forth or again inhaled into its vast leathern lungs. In
the intervals of brightness it was easy to distinguish objects in
remote corners of the shop and the horseshoes that hung upon the
wall; in the momentary gloom the fire seemed to be glimmering
amidst the vagueness of unenclosed space. Moving about in this
red glare and alternate dusk was the figure of the blacksmith,
well worthy to be viewed in so picturesque an aspect of light and
shade, where the bright blaze struggled with the black night, as
if each would have snatched his comely strength from the other.
Anon he drew a white-hot bar of iron from the coals, laid it on
the anvil, uplifted his arm of might, and was soon enveloped in
the myriads of sparks which the strokes of his hammer scattered
into the surrounding gloom.

"Now, that is a pleasant sight," said the old watchmaker. "I know
what it is to work in gold; but give me the worker in iron after
all is said and done. He spends his labor upon a reality. What
say you, daughter Annie?"

"Pray don't speak so loud, father," whispered Annie, "Robert
Danforth will hear you."

"And what if he should hear me?" said Peter Hovenden. "I say
again, it is a good and a wholesome thing to depend upon main
strength and reality, and to earn one's bread with the bare and
brawny arm of a blacksmith. A watchmaker gets his brain puzzled
by his wheels within a wheel, or loses his health or the nicety
of his eyesight, as was my case, and finds himself at middle age,
or a little after, past labor at his own trade and fit for
nothing else, yet too poor to live at his ease. So I say once
again, give me main strength for my money. And then, how it takes
the nonsense out of a man! Did you ever hear of a blacksmith
being such a fool as Owen Warland yonder?"

"Well said, uncle Hovenden!" shouted Robert Danforth from the
forge, in a full, deep, merry voice, that made the roof re-echo.
"And what says Miss Annie to that doctrine? She, I suppose, will
think it a genteeler business to tinker up a lady's watch than to
forge a horseshoe or make a gridiron."

Annie drew her father onward without giving him time for reply.

But we must return to Owen Warland's shop, and spend more
meditation upon his history and character than either Peter
Hovenden, or probably his daughter Annie, or Owen's old
school-fellow, Robert Danforth, would have thought due to so
slight a subject. From the time that his little fingers could
grasp a penknife, Owen had been remarkable for a delicate
ingenuity, which sometimes produced pretty shapes in wood,
principally figures of flowers and birds, and sometimes seemed to
aim at the hidden mysteries of mechanism. But it was always for
purposes of grace, and never with any mockery of the useful. He
did not, like the crowd of school-boy artisans, construct little
windmills on the angle of a barn or watermills across the
neighboring brook. Those who discovered such peculiarity in the
boy as to think it worth their while to observe him closely,
sometimes saw reason to suppose that he was attempting to imitate
the beautiful movements of Nature as exemplified in the flight of
birds or the activity of little animals. It seemed, in fact, a
new development of the love of the beautiful, such as might have
made him a poet, a painter, or a sculptor, and which was as
completely refined from all utilitarian coarseness as it could
have been in either of the fine arts. He looked with singular
distaste at the stiff and regular processes of ordinary
machinery. Being once carried to see a steam-engine, in the
expectation that his intuitive comprehension of mechanical
principles would be gratified, he turned pale and grew sick, as
if something monstrous and unnatural had been presented to him.
This horror was partly owing to the size and terrible energy of
the iron laborer; for the character of Owen's mind was
microscopic, and tended naturally to the minute, in accordance
with his diminutive frame and the marvellous smallness and
delicate power of his fingers. Not that his sense of beauty was
thereby diminished into a sense of prettiness. The beautiful idea
has no relation to size, and may be as perfectly developed in a
space too minute for any but microscopic investigation as within
the ample verge that is measured by the arc of the rainbow. But,
at all events, this characteristic minuteness in his objects and
accomplishments made the world even more incapable than it might
otherwise have been of appreciating Owen Warland's genius. The
boy's relatives saw nothing better to be done--as perhaps there
was not--than to bind him apprentice to a watchmaker, hoping that
his strange ingenuity might thus be regulated and put to
utilitarian purposes.

Peter Hovenden's opinion of his apprentice has already been
expressed. He could make nothing of the lad. Owen's apprehension
of the professional mysteries, it is true, was inconceivably
quick; but he altogether forgot or despised the grand object of a
watchmaker's business, and cared no more for the measurement of
time than if it had been merged into eternity. So long, however,
as he remained under his old master's care, Owen's lack of
sturdiness made it possible, by strict injunctions and sharp
oversight, to restrain his creative eccentricity within bounds;
but when his apprenticeship was served out, and he had taken the
little shop which Peter Hovenden's failing eyesight compelled him
to relinquish, then did people recognize how unfit a person was
Owen Warland to lead old blind Father Time along his daily
course. One of his most rational projects was to connect a
musical operation with the machinery of his watches, so that all
the harsh dissonances of life might be rendered tuneful, and each
flitting moment fall into the abyss of the past in golden drops
of harmony. If a family clock was intrusted to him for
repair,--one of those tall, ancient clocks that have grown nearly
allied to human nature by measuring out the lifetime of many
generations,--he would take upon himself to arrange a dance or
funeral procession of figures across its venerable face,
representing twelve mirthful or melancholy hours. Several freaks
of this kind quite destroyed the young watchmaker's credit with
that steady and matter-of-fact class of people who hold the
opinion that time is not to be trifled with, whether considered
as the medium of advancement and prosperity in this world or
preparation for the next. His custom rapidly diminished--a
misfortune, however, that was probably reckoned among his better
accidents by Owen Warland, who was becoming more and more
absorbed in a secret occupation which drew all his science and
manual dexterity into itself, and likewise gave full employment
to the characteristic tendencies of his genius. This pursuit had
already consumed many months.

After the old watchmaker and his pretty daughter had gazed at him
out of the obscurity of the street, Owen Warland was seized with
a fluttering of the nerves, which made his hand tremble too
violently to proceed with such delicate labor as he was now
engaged upon.

"It was Annie herself!" murmured he. "I should have known it, by
this throbbing of my heart, before I heard her father's voice.
Ah, how it throbs! I shall scarcely be able to work again on this
exquisite mechanism to-night. Annie! dearest Annie! thou shouldst
give firmness to my heart and hand, and not shake them thus; for
if I strive to put the very spirit of beauty into form and give
it motion, it is for thy sake alone. O throbbing heart, be quiet!
If my labor be thus thwarted, there will come vague and
unsatisfied dreams which will leave me spiritless to-morrow."

As he was endeavoring to settle himself again to his task, the
shop door opened and gave admittance to no other than the
stalwart figure which Peter Hovenden had paused to admire, as
seen amid the light and shadow of the blacksmith's shop. Robert
Danforth had brought a little anvil of his own manufacture, and
peculiarly constructed, which the young artist had recently
bespoken. Owen examined the article and pronounced it fashioned
according to his wish.

"Why, yes," said Robert Danforth, his strong voice filling the
shop as with the sound of a bass viol, "I consider myself equal
to anything in the way of my own trade; though I should have made
but a poor figure at yours with such a fist as this," added he,
laughing, as he laid his vast hand beside the delicate one of
Owen. "But what then? I put more main strength into one blow of
my sledge hammer than all that you have expended since you were a
'prentice. Is not that the truth?"

"Very probably," answered the low and slender voice of Owen.
"Strength is an earthly monster. I make no pretensions to it. My
force, whatever there may be of it, is altogether spiritual."

"Well, but, Owen, what are you about?" asked his old
school-fellow, still in such a hearty volume of tone that it made
the artist shrink, especially as the question related to a
subject so sacred as the absorbing dream of his imagination.
"Folks do say that you are trying to discover the perpetual

"The perpetual motion? Nonsense!" replied Owen Warland, with a
movement of disgust; for he was full of little petulances. "It
can never be discovered. It is a dream that may delude men whose
brains are mystified with matter, but not me. Besides, if such a
discovery were possible, it would not be worth my while to make
it only to have the secret turned to such purposes as are now
effected by steam and water power. I am not ambitious to be
honored with the paternity of a new kind of cotton machine."

"That would be droll enough!" cried the blacksmith, breaking out
into such an uproar of laughter that Owen himself and the bell
glasses on his work-board quivered in unison. "No, no, Owen! No
child of yours will have iron joints and sinews. Well, I won't
hinder you any more. Good night, Owen, and success, and if you
need any assistance, so far as a downright blow of hammer upon
anvil will answer the purpose, I'm your man."

And with another laugh the man of main strength left the shop.

"How strange it is," whispered Owen Warland to himself, leaning
his head upon his hand, "that all my musings, my purposes, my
passion for the beautiful, my consciousness of power to create
it,--a finer, more ethereal power, of which this earthly giant
can have no conception,--all, all, look so vain and idle whenever
my path is crossed by Robert Danforth! He would drive me mad were
I to meet him often. His hard, brute force darkens and confuses
the spiritual element within me; but I, too, will be strong in my
own way. I will not yield to him."

He took from beneath a glass a piece of minute machinery, which
he set in the condensed light of his lamp, and, looking intently
at it through a magnifying glass, proceeded to operate with a
delicate instrument of steel. In an instant, however, he fell
back in his chair and clasped his hands, with a look of horror on
his face that made its small features as impressive as those of a
giant would have been.

"Heaven! What have I done?" exclaimed he. "The vapor, the
influence of that brute force,--it has bewildered me and obscured
my perception. I have made the very stroke--the fatal
stroke--that I have dreaded from the first. It is all over--the
toil of months, the object of my life. I am ruined!"

And there he sat, in strange despair, until his lamp flickered in
the socket and left the Artist of the Beautiful in darkness.

Thus it is that ideas, which grow up within the imagination and
appear so lovely to it and of a value beyond whatever men call
valuable, are exposed to be shattered and annihilated by contact
with the practical. It is requisite for the ideal artist to
possess a force of character that seems hardly compatible with
its delicacy; he must keep his faith in himself while the
incredulous world assails him with its utter disbelief; he must
stand up against mankind and be his own sole disciple, both as
respects his genius and the objects to which it is directed.

For a time Owen Warland succumbed to this severe but inevitable
test. He spent a few sluggish weeks with his head so continually
resting in his hands that the towns-people had scarcely an
opportunity to see his countenance. When at last it was again
uplifted to the light of day, a cold, dull, nameless change was
perceptible upon it. In the opinion of Peter Hovenden, however,
and that order of sagacious understandings who think that life
should be regulated, like clockwork, with leaden weights, the
alteration was entirely for the better. Owen now, indeed, applied
himself to business with dogged industry. It was marvellous to
witness the obtuse gravity with which he would inspect the wheels
of a great old silver watch thereby delighting the owner, in
whose fob it had been worn till he deemed it a portion of his own
life, and was accordingly jealous of its treatment. In
consequence of the good report thus acquired, Owen Warland was
invited by the proper authorities to regulate the clock in the
church steeple. He succeeded so admirably in this matter of
public interest that the merchants gruffly acknowledged his
merits on 'Change; the nurse whispered his praises as she gave
the potion in the sick-chamber; the lover blessed him at the hour
of appointed interview; and the town in general thanked Owen for
the punctuality of dinner time. In a word, the heavy weight upon
his spirits kept everything in order, not merely within his own
system, but wheresoever the iron accents of the church clock were
audible. It was a circumstance, though minute, yet characteristic
of his present state, that, when employed to engrave names or
initials on silver spoons, he now wrote the requisite letters in
the plainest possible style, omitting a variety of fanciful
flourishes that had heretofore distinguished his work in this

One day, during the era of this happy transformation, old Peter
Hovenden came to visit his former apprentice.

"Well, Owen," said he, "I am glad to hear such good accounts of
you from all quarters, and especially from the town clock yonder,
which speaks in your commendation every hour of the twenty-four.
Only get rid altogether of your nonsensical trash about the
beautiful, which I nor nobody else, nor yourself to boot, could
ever understand,--only free yourself of that, and your success in
life is as sure as daylight. Why, if you go on in this way, I
should even venture to let you doctor this precious old watch of
mine; though, except my daughter Annie, I have nothing else so
valuable in the world."

"I should hardly dare touch it, sir," replied Owen, in a
depressed tone; for he was weighed down by his old master's

"In time," said the latter,--"In time, you will be capable of

The old watchmaker, with the freedom naturally consequent on his
former authority, went on inspecting the work which Owen had in
hand at the moment, together with other matters that were in
progress. The artist, meanwhile, could scarcely lift his head.
There was nothing so antipodal to his nature as this man's cold,
unimaginative sagacity, by contact with which everything was
converted into a dream except the densest matter of the physical
world. Owen groaned in spirit and prayed fervently to be
delivered from him.

"But what is this?" cried Peter Hovenden abruptly, taking up a
dusty bell glass, beneath which appeared a mechanical something,
as delicate and minute as the system of a butterfly's anatomy.
"What have we here? Owen! Owen! there is witchcraft in these
little chains, and wheels, and paddles. See! with one pinch of my
finger and thumb I am going to deliver you from all future

"For Heaven's sake," screamed Owen Warland, springing up with
wonderful energy, "as you would not drive me mad, do not touch
it! The slightest pressure of your finger would ruin me forever."

"Aha, young man! And is it so?" said the old watchmaker, looking
at him with just enough penetration to torture Owen's soul with
the bitterness of worldly criticism. "Well, take your own course;
but I warn you again that in this small piece of mechanism lives
your evil spirit. Shall I exorcise him?"

"You are my evil spirit," answered Owen, much excited,--"you and
the hard, coarse world! The leaden thoughts and the despondency
that you fling upon me are my clogs, else I should long ago have
achieved the task that I was created for."

Peter Hovenden shook his head, with the mixture of contempt and
indignation which mankind, of whom he was partly a
representative, deem themselves entitled to feel towards all
simpletons who seek other prizes than the dusty one along the
highway. He then took his leave, with an uplifted finger and a
sneer upon his face that haunted the artist's dreams for many a
night afterwards. At the time of his old master's visit, Owen was
probably on the point of taking up the relinquished task; but, by
this sinister event, he was thrown back into the state whence he
had been slowly emerging.

But the innate tendency of his soul had only been accumulating
fresh vigor during its apparent sluggishness. As the summer
advanced he almost totally relinquished his business, and
permitted Father Time, so far as the old gentleman was
represented by the clocks and watches under his control, to stray
at random through human life, making infinite confusion among the
train of bewildered hours. He wasted the sunshine, as people
said, in wandering through the woods and fields and along the
banks of streams. There, like a child, he found amusement in
chasing butterflies or watching the motions of water insects.
There was something truly mysterious in the intentness with which
he contemplated these living playthings as they sported on the
breeze or examined the structure of an imperial insect whom he
had imprisoned. The chase of butterflies was an apt emblem of the
ideal pursuit in which he had spent so many golden hours; but
would the beautiful idea ever be yielded to his hand like the
butterfly that symbolized it? Sweet, doubtless, were these days,
and congenial to the artist's soul. They were full of bright
conceptions, which gleamed through his intellectual world as the
butterflies gleamed through the outward atmosphere, and were real
to him, for the instant, without the toil, and perplexity, and
many disappointments of attempting to make them visible to the
sensual eye. Alas that the artist, whether in poetry, or whatever
other material, may not content himself with the inward enjoyment
of the beautiful, but must chase the flitting mystery beyond the
verge of his ethereal domain, and crush its frail being in
seizing it with a material grasp. Owen Warland felt the impulse
to give external reality to his ideas as irresistibly as any of
the poets or painters who have arrayed the world in a dimmer and
fainter beauty, imperfectly copied from the richness of their

The night was now his time for the slow progress of re-creating
the one idea to which all his intellectual activity referred
itself. Always at the approach of dusk he stole into the town,
locked himself within his shop, and wrought with patient delicacy
of touch for many hours. Sometimes he was startled by the rap of
the watchman, who, when all the world should be asleep, had
caught the gleam of lamplight through the crevices of Owen
Warland's shutters. Daylight, to the morbid sensibility of his
mind, seemed to have an intrusiveness that interfered with his
pursuits. On cloudy and inclement days, therefore, he sat with
his head upon his hands, muffling, as it were, his sensitive
brain in a mist of indefinite musings, for it was a relief to
escape from the sharp distinctness with which he was compelled to
shape out his thoughts during his nightly toil.

From one of these fits of torpor he was aroused by the entrance
of Annie Hovenden, who came into the shop with the freedom of a
customer, and also with something of the familiarity of a
childish friend. She had worn a hole through her silver thimble,
and wanted Owen to repair it.

"But I don't know whether you will condescend to such a task,"
said she, laughing, "now that you are so taken up with the notion
of putting spirit into machinery."

"Where did you get that idea, Annie?" said Owen, starting in

"Oh, out of my own head," answered she, "and from something that
I heard you say, long ago, when you were but a boy and I a little
child. But come, will you mend this poor thimble of mine?"

"Anything for your sake, Annie," said Owen Warland,--"anything,
even were it to work at Robert Danforth's forge."

"And that would be a pretty sight!" retorted Annie, glancing with
imperceptible slightness at the artist's small and slender frame.
"Well; here is the thimble."

"But that is a strange idea of yours," said Owen, "about the
spiritualization of matter."

And then the thought stole into his mind that this young girl
possessed the gift to comprehend him better than all the world
besides. And what a help and strength would it be to him in his
lonely toil if he could gain the sympathy of the only being whom
he loved! To persons whose pursuits are insulated from the common
business of life--who are either in advance of mankind or apart
from it--there often comes a sensation of moral cold that makes
the spirit shiver as if it had reached the frozen solitudes
around the pole. What the prophet, the poet, the reformer, the
criminal, or any other man with human yearnings, but separated
from the multitude by a peculiar lot, might feel, poor Owen felt.

"Annie," cried he, growing pale as death at the thought, "how
gladly would I tell you the secret of my pursuit! You, methinks,
would estimate it rightly. You, I know, would hear it with a
reverence that I must not expect from the harsh, material world."

"Would I not? to be sure I would!" replied Annie Hovenden,
lightly laughing. "Come; explain to me quickly what is the
meaning of this little whirligig, so delicately wrought that it
might be a plaything for Queen Mab. See! I will put it in

"Hold!" exclaimed Owen, "hold!"

Annie had but given the slightest possible touch, with the point
of a needle, to the same minute portion of complicated machinery
which has been more than once mentioned, when the artist seized
her by the wrist with a force that made her scream aloud. She was
affrighted at the convulsion of intense rage and anguish that
writhed across his features. The next instant he let his head
sink upon his hands.

"Go, Annie," murmured he; "I have deceived myself, and must
suffer for it. I yearned for sympathy, and thought, and fancied,
and dreamed that you might give it me; but you lack the talisman,
Annie, that should admit you into my secrets. That touch has
undone the toil of months and the thought of a lifetime! It was
not your fault, Annie; but you have ruined me!"

Poor Owen Warland! He had indeed erred, yet pardonably; for if
any human spirit could have sufficiently reverenced the processes
so sacred in his eyes, it must have been a woman's. Even Annie
Hovenden, possibly might not have disappointed him had she been
enlightened by the deep intelligence of love.

The artist spent the ensuing winter in a way that satisfied any
persons who had hitherto retained a hopeful opinion of him that
he was, in truth, irrevocably doomed to unutility as regarded the
world, and to an evil destiny on his own part. The decease of a
relative had put him in possession of a small inheritance. Thus
freed from the necessity of toil, and having lost the steadfast
influence of a great purpose,--great, at least, to him,--he
abandoned himself to habits from which it might have been
supposed the mere delicacy of his organization would have availed
to secure him. But when the ethereal portion of a man of genius
is obscured the earthly part assumes an influence the more
uncontrollable, because the character is now thrown off the
balance to which Providence had so nicely adjusted it, and which,
in coarser natures, is adjusted by some other method. Owen
Warland made proof of whatever show of bliss may be found in
riot. He looked at the world through the golden medium of wine,
and contemplated the visions that bubble up so gayly around the
brim of the glass, and that people the air with shapes of
pleasant madness, which so soon grow ghostly and forlorn. Even
when this dismal and inevitable change had taken place, the young
man might still have continued to quaff the cup of enchantments,
though its vapor did but shroud life in gloom and fill the gloom
with spectres that mocked at him. There was a certain irksomeness
of spirit, which, being real, and the deepest sensation of which
the artist was now conscious, was more intolerable than any
fantastic miseries and horrors that the abuse of wine could
summon up. In the latter case he could remember, even out of the
midst of his trouble, that all was but a delusion; in the former,
the heavy anguish was his actual life.

From this perilous state he was redeemed by an incident which
more than one person witnessed, but of which the shrewdest could
not explain or conjecture the operation on Owen Warland's mind.
It was very simple. On a warm afternoon of spring, as the artist
sat among his riotous companions with a glass of wine before him,
a splendid butterfly flew in at the open window and fluttered
about his head.

"Ah," exclaimed Owen, who had drank freely, "are you alive again,
child of the sun and playmate of the summer breeze, after your
dismal winter's nap? Then it is time for me to be at work!"

And, leaving his unemptied glass upon the table, he departed and
was never known to sip another drop of wine.

And now, again, he resumed his wanderings in the woods and
fields. It might be fancied that the bright butterfly, which had
come so spirit-like into the window as Owen sat with the rude
revellers, was indeed a spirit commissioned to recall him to the
pure, ideal life that had so etheralized him among men. It might
be fancied that he went forth to seek this spirit in its sunny
haunts; for still, as in the summer time gone by, he was seen to
steal gently up wherever a butterfly had alighted, and lose
himself in contemplation of it. When it took flight his eyes
followed the winged vision, as if its airy track would show the
path to heaven. But what could be the purpose of the unseasonable
toil, which was again resumed, as the watchman knew by the lines
of lamplight through the crevices of Owen Warland's shutters? The
towns-people had one comprehensive explanation of all these
singularities. Owen Warland had gone mad! How universally
efficacious--how satisfactory, too, and soothing to the injured
sensibility of narrowness and dulness--is this easy method of
accounting for whatever lies beyond the world's most ordinary
scope! From St. Paul's days down to our poor little Artist of the
Beautiful, the same talisman had been applied to the elucidation
of all mysteries in the words or deeds of men who spoke or acted
too wisely or too well. In Owen Warland's case the judgment of
his towns-people may have been correct. Perhaps he was mad. The
lack of sympathy--that contrast between himself and his neighbors
which took away the restraint of example--was enough to make him
so. Or possibly he had caught just so much of ethereal radiance
as served to bewilder him, in an earthly sense, by its
intermixture with the common daylight.

One evening, when the artist had returned from a customary ramble
and had just thrown the lustre of his lamp on the delicate piece
of work so often interrupted, but still taken up again, as if his
fate were embodied in its mechanism, he was surprised by the
entrance of old Peter Hovenden. Owen never met this man without a
shrinking of the heart. Of all the world he was most terrible, by
reason of a keen understanding which saw so distinctly what it
did see, and disbelieved so uncompromisingly in what it could not
see. On this occasion the old watchmaker had merely a gracious
word or two to say.

"Owen, my lad," said he, "we must see you at my house to-morrow

The artist began to mutter some excuse.

"Oh, but it must be so," quoth Peter Hovenden, "for the sake of
the days when you were one of the household. What, my boy! don't
you know that my daughter Annie is engaged to Robert Danforth?
We are making an entertainment, in our humble way, to celebrate
the event."

That little monosyllable was all he uttered; its tone seemed cold
and unconcerned to an ear like Peter Hovenden's; and yet there
was in it the stifled outcry of the poor artist's heart, which he
compressed within him like a man holding down an evil spirit. One
slight outbreak. however, imperceptible to the old watchmaker, he
allowed himself. Raising the instrument with which he was about
to begin his work, he let it fall upon the little system of
machinery that had, anew, cost him months of thought and toil. It
was shattered by the stroke!

Owen Warland's story would have been no tolerable representation
of the troubled life of those who strive to create the beautiful,
if, amid all other thwarting influences, love had not interposed
to steal the cunning from his hand. Outwardly he had been no
ardent or enterprising lover; the career of his passion had
confined its tumults and vicissitudes so entirely within the
artist's imagination that Annie herself had scarcely more than a
woman's intuitive perception of it; but, in Owen's view, it
covered the whole field of his life. Forgetful of the time when
she had shown herself incapable of any deep response, he had
persisted in connecting all his dreams of artistical success with
Annie's image; she was the visible shape in which the spiritual
power that he worshipped, and on whose altar he hoped to lay a
not unworthy offering, was made manifest to him. Of course he had
deceived himself; there were no such attributes in Annie Hovenden
as his imagination had endowed her with. She, in the aspect which
she wore to his inward vision, was as much a creature of his own
as the mysterious piece of mechanism would be were it ever
realized. Had he become convinced of his mistake through the
medium of successful love,--had he won Annie to his bosom, and
there beheld her fade from angel into ordinary woman,--the
disappointment might have driven him back, with concentrated
energy, upon his sole remaining object. On the other hand, had he
found Annie what he fancied, his lot would have been so rich in
beauty that out of its mere redundancy he might have wrought the
beautiful into many a worthier type than he had toiled for; but
the guise in which his sorrow came to him, the sense that the
angel of his life had been snatched away and given to a rude man
of earth and iron, who could neither need nor appreciate her
ministrations,--this was the very perversity of fate that makes
human existence appear too absurd and contradictory to be the
scene of one other hope or one other fear. There was nothing left
for Owen Warland but to sit down like a man that had been

He went through a fit of illness. After his recovery his small
and slender frame assumed an obtuser garniture of flesh than it
had ever before worn. His thin cheeks became round; his delicate
little hand, so spiritually fashioned to achieve fairy task-work,
grew plumper than the hand of a thriving infant. His aspect had a
childishness such as might have induced a stranger to pat him on
the head--pausing, however, in the act, to wonder what manner of
child was here. It was as if the spirit had gone out of him,
leaving the body to flourish in a sort of vegetable existence.
Not that Owen Warland was idiotic. He could talk, and not
irrationally. Somewhat of a babbler, indeed, did people begin to
think him; for he was apt to discourse at wearisome length of
marvels of mechanism that he had read about in books, but which
he had learned to consider as absolutely fabulous. Among them he
enumerated the Man of Brass, constructed by Albertus Magnus, and
the Brazen Head of Friar Bacon; and, coming down to later times,
the automata of a little coach and horses, which it was pretended
had been manufactured for the Dauphin of France; together with an
insect that buzzed about the ear like a living fly, and yet was
but a contrivance of minute steel springs. There was a story,
too, of a duck that waddled, and quacked, and ate; though, had
any honest citizen purchased it for dinner, he would have found
himself cheated with the mere mechanical apparition of a duck.

"But all these accounts," said Owen Warland, "I am now satisfied
are mere impositions."

Then, in a mysterious way, he would confess that he once thought
differently. In his idle and dreamy days he had considered it
possible, in a certain sense, to spiritualize machinery, and to
combine with the new species of life and motion thus produced a
beauty that should attain to the ideal which Nature has proposed
to herself in all her creatures, but has never taken pains to
realize. He seemed, however, to retain no very distinct
perception either of the process of achieving this object or of
the design itself.

"I have thrown it all aside now," he would say. "It was a dream
such as young men are always mystifying themselves with. Now that
I have acquired a little common sense, it makes me laugh to think
of it."

Poor, poor and fallen Owen Warland! These were the symptoms that
he had ceased to be an inhabitant of the better sphere that lies
unseen around us. He had lost his faith in the invisible, and now
prided himself, as such unfortunates invariably do, in the wisdom
which rejected much that even his eye could see, and trusted
confidently in nothing but what his hand could touch. This is the
calamity of men whose spiritual part dies out of them and leaves
the grosser understanding to assimilate them more and more to the
things of which alone it can take cognizance; but in Owen Warland
the spirit was not dead nor passed away; it only slept.

How it awoke again is not recorded. Perhaps the torpid slumber
was broken by a convulsive pain. Perhaps, as in a former
instance, the butterfly came and hovered about his head and
reinspired him,--as indeed this creature of the sunshine had
always a mysterious mission for the artist,--reinspired him with
the former purpose of his life. Whether it were pain or happiness
that thrilled through his veins, his first impulse was to thank
Heaven for rendering him again the being of thought, imagination,
and keenest sensibility that he had long ceased to be.

"Now for my task," said he. "Never did I feel such strength for
it as now."

Yet, strong as he felt himself, he was incited to toil the more
diligently by an anxiety lest death should surprise him in the
midst of his labors. This anxiety, perhaps, is common to all men
who set their hearts upon anything so high, in their own view of
it, that life becomes of importance only as conditional to its
accomplishment. So long as we love life for itself, we seldom
dread the losing it. When we desire life for the attainment of an
object, we recognize the frailty of its texture. But, side by
side with this sense of insecurity, there is a vital faith in our
invulnerability to the shaft of death while engaged in any task
that seems assigned by Providence as our proper thing to do, and
which the world would have cause to mourn for should we leave it
unaccomplished. Can the philosopher, big with the inspiration of
an idea that is to reform mankind, believe that he is to be
beckoned from this sensible existence at the very instant when he
is mustering his breath to speak the word of light? Should he
perish so, the weary ages may pass away--the world's, whose life
sand may fall, drop by drop--before another intellect is prepared
to develop the truth that might have been uttered then. But
history affords many an example where the most precious spirit,
at any particular epoch manifested in human shape, has gone hence
untimely, without space allowed him, so far as mortal judgment
could discern, to perform his mission on the earth. The prophet
dies, and the man of torpid heart and sluggish brain lives on.
The poet leaves his song half sung, or finishes it, beyond the
scope of mortal ears, in a celestial choir. The painter--as
Allston did--leaves half his conception on the canvas to sadden
us with its imperfect beauty, and goes to picture forth the
whole, if it be no irreverence to say so, in the hues of heaven.
But rather such incomplete designs of this life will be perfected
nowhere. This so frequent abortion of man's dearest projects must
be taken as a proof that the deeds of earth, however etherealized
by piety or genius, are without value, except as exercises and
manifestations of the spirit. In heaven, all ordinary thought is
higher and more melodious than Milton's song. Then, would he add
another verse to any strain that he had left unfinished here?

But to return to Owen Warland. It was his fortune, good or ill,
to achieve the purpose of his life. Pass we over a long space of
intense thought, yearning effort, minute toil, and wasting
anxiety, succeeded by an instant of solitary triumph: let all
this be imagined; and then behold the artist, on a winter
evening, seeking admittance to Robert Danforth's fireside circle.
There he found the man of iron, with his massive substance
thoroughly warmed and attempered by domestic influences. And
there was Annie, too, now transformed into a matron, with much of
her husband's plain and sturdy nature, but imbued, as Owen
Warland still believed, with a finer grace, that might enable her
to be the interpreter between strength and beauty. It happened,
likewise, that old Peter Hovenden was a guest this evening at his
daughter's fireside, and it was his well-remembered expression of
keen, cold criticism that first encountered the artist's glance.

"My old friend Owen!" cried Robert Danforth, starting up, and
compressing the artist's delicate fingers within a hand that was
accustomed to gripe bars of iron. "This is kind and neighborly to
come to us at last. I was afraid your perpetual motion had
bewitched you out of the remembrance of old times."

"We are glad to see you," said Annie, while a blush reddened her
matronly cheek. "It was not like a friend to stay from us so

"Well, Owen," inquired the old watchmaker, as his first greeting,
"how comes on the beautiful? Have you created it at last?"

The artist did not immediately reply, being startled by the
apparition of a young child of strength that was tumbling about
on the carpet,--a little personage who had come mysteriously out
of the infinite, but with something so sturdy and real in his
composition that he seemed moulded out of the densest substance
which earth could supply. This hopeful infant crawled towards the
new-comer, and setting himself on end, as Robert Danforth
expressed the posture, stared at Owen with a look of such
sagacious observation that the mother could not help exchanging a
proud glance with her husband. But the artist was disturbed by
the child's look, as imagining a resemblance between it and Peter
Hovenden's habitual expression. He could have fancied that the
old watchmaker was compressed into this baby shape, and looking
out of those baby eyes, and repeating, as he now did, the
malicious question: "The beautiful, Owen! How comes on the
beautiful? Have you succeeded in creating the beautiful?"

"I have succeeded," replied the artist, with a momentary light of
triumph in his eyes and a smile of sunshine, yet steeped in such
depth of thought that it was almost sadness. "Yes, my friends, it
is the truth. I have succeeded."

"Indeed!" cried Annie, a look of maiden mirthfulness peeping out
of her face again. "And is it lawful, now, to inquire what the
secret is?"

"Surely; it is to disclose it that I have come," answered Owen
Warland. "You shall know, and see, and touch, and possess the
secret! For, Annie,--if by that name I may still address the
friend of my boyish years,--Annie, it is for your bridal gift
that I have wrought this spiritualized mechanism, this harmony of
motion, this mystery of beauty. It comes late, indeed; but it is
as we go onward in life, when objects begin to lose their
freshness of hue and our souls their delicacy of perception, that
the spirit of beauty is most needed. If,--forgive me, Annie,--if
you know how--to value this gift, it can never come too late."

He produced, as he spoke, what seemed a jewel box. It was carved
richly out of ebony by his own hand, and inlaid with a fanciful
tracery of pearl, representing a boy in pursuit of a butterfly,
which, elsewhere, had become a winged spirit, and was flying
heavenward; while the boy, or youth, had found such efficacy in
his strong desire that he ascended from earth to cloud, and from
cloud to celestial atmosphere, to win the beautiful. This case of
ebony the artist opened, and bade Annie place her fingers on its
edge. She did so, but almost screamed as a butterfly fluttered
forth, and, alighting on her finger's tip, sat waving the ample
magnificence of its purple and gold-speckled wings, as if in
prelude to a flight. It is impossible to express by words the
glory, the splendor, the delicate gorgeousness which were
softened into the beauty of this object. Nature's ideal butterfly
was here realized in all its perfection; not in the pattern of
such faded insects as flit among earthly flowers, but of those
which hover across the meads of paradise for child-angels and the
spirits of departed infants to disport themselves with. The rich
down was visible upon its wings; the lustre of its eyes seemed
instinct with spirit. The firelight glimmered around this
wonder--the candles gleamed upon it; but it glistened apparently
by its own radiance, and illuminated the finger and outstretched
hand on which it rested with a white gleam like that of precious
stones. In its perfect beauty, the consideration of size was
entirely lost. Had its wings overreached the firmament, the mind
could not have been more filled or satisfied.

"Beautiful! beautiful!" exclaimed Annie. "Is it alive? Is it

"Alive? To be sure it is," answered her husband. "Do you suppose
any mortal has skill enough to make a butterfly, or would put
himself to the trouble of making one, when any child may catch a
score of them in a summer's afternoon? Alive? Certainly! But this
pretty box is undoubtedly of our friend Owen's manufacture; and
really it does him credit."

At this moment the butterfly waved its wings anew, with a motion
so absolutely lifelike that Annie was startled, and even
awestricken; for, in spite of her husband's opinion, she could
not satisfy herself whether it was indeed a living creature or a
piece of wondrous mechanism.

"Is it alive?" she repeated, more earnestly than before.

"Judge for yourself," said Owen Warland, who stood gazing in her
face with fixed attention.

The butterfly now flung itself upon the air, fluttered round
Annie's head, and soared into a distant region of the parlor,
still making itself perceptible to sight by the starry gleam in
which the motion of its wings enveloped it. The infant on the
floor followed its course with his sagacious little eyes. After
flying about the room, it returned in a spiral curve and settled
again on Annie's finger.

"But is it alive?" exclaimed she again; and the finger on which
the gorgeous mystery had alighted was so tremulous that the
butterfly was forced to balance himself with his wings. "Tell me
if it be alive, or whether you created it."

"Wherefore ask who created it, so it be beautiful?" replied Owen
Warland. "Alive? Yes, Annie; it may well be said to possess
life, for it has absorbed my own being into itself; and in the
secret of that butterfly, and in its beauty,--which is not merely
outward, but deep as its whole system,--is represented the
intellect, the imagination, the sensibility, the soul of an
Artist of the Beautiful! Yes; I created it. But"--and here his
countenance somewhat changed--"this butterfly is not now to me
what it was when I beheld it afar off in the daydreams of my

"Be it what it may, it is a pretty plaything," said the
blacksmith, grinning with childlike delight. "I wonder whether it
would condescend to alight on such a great clumsy finger as mine?
Hold it hither, Annie."

By the artist's direction, Annie touched her finger's tip to that
of her husband; and, after a momentary delay, the butterfly
fluttered from one to the other. It preluded a second flight by a
similar, yet not precisely the same, waving of wings as in the
first experiment; then, ascending from the blacksmith's stalwart
finger, it rose in a gradually enlarging curve to the ceiling,
made one wide sweep around the room, and returned with an
undulating movement to the point whence it had started.

"Well, that does beat all nature!" cried Robert Danforth,
bestowing the heartiest praise that he could find expression for;
and, indeed, had he paused there, a man of finer words and nicer
perception could not easily have said more. "That goes beyond me,
I confess. But what then? There is more real use in one downright
blow of my sledge hammer than in the whole five years' labor that
our friend Owen has wasted on this butterfly."

Here the child clapped his hands and made a great babble of
indistinct utterance, apparently demanding that the butterfly
should be given him for a plaything.

Owen Warland, meanwhile, glanced sidelong at Annie, to discover
whether she sympathized in her husband's estimate of the
comparative value of the beautiful and the practical. There was,
amid all her kindness towards himself, amid all the wonder and
admiration with which she contemplated the marvellous work of his
hands and incarnation of his idea, a secret scorn--too secret,
perhaps, for her own consciousness, and perceptible only to such
intuitive discernment as that of the artist. But Owen, in the
latter stages of his pursuit, had risen out of the region in
which such a discovery might have been torture. He knew that the
world, and Annie as the representative of the world, whatever
praise might be bestowed, could never say the fitting word nor
feel the fitting sentiment which should be the perfect recompense
of an artist who, symbolizing a lofty moral by a material
trifle,--converting what was earthly to spiritual gold,--had won
the beautiful into his handiwork. Not at this latest moment was
he to learn that the reward of all high performance must be
sought within itself, or sought in vain. There was, however, a
view of the matter which Annie and her husband, and even Peter
Hovenden, might fully have understood, and which would have
satisfied them that the toil of years had here been worthily
bestowed. Owen Warland might have told them that this butterfly,
this plaything, this bridal gift of a poor watchmaker to a
blacksmith's wife, was, in truth, a gem of art that a monarch
would have purchased with honors and abundant wealth, and have
treasured it among the jewels of his kingdom as the most unique
and wondrous of them all. But the artist smiled and kept the
secret to himself .

"Father," said Annie, thinking that a word of praise from the old
watchmaker might gratify his former apprentice, "do come and
admire this pretty butterfly."

"Let us see," said Peter Hovenden, rising from his chair, with a
sneer upon his face that always made people doubt, as he himself
did, in everything but a material existence. "Here is my finger
for it to alight upon. I shall understand it better when once I
have touched it."

But, to the increased astonishment of Annie, when the tip of her
father's finger was pressed against that of her husband, on which
the butterfly still rested, the insect drooped its wings and
seemed on the point of falling to the floor. Even the bright
spots of gold upon its wings and body, unless her eyes deceived
her, grew dim, and the glowing purple took a dusky hue, and the
starry lustre that gleamed around the blacksmith's hand became
faint and vanished.

"It is dying! it is dying!" cried Annie, in alarm.

"It has been delicately wrought," said the artist, calmly. "As I
told you, it has imbibed a spiritual essence--call it magnetism,
or what you will. In an atmosphere of doubt and mockery its
exquisite susceptibility suffers torture, as does the soul of him
who instilled his own life into it. It has already lost its
beauty; in a few moments more its mechanism would be irreparably

"Take away your hand, father!" entreated Annie, turning pale.
"Here is my child; let it rest on his innocent hand. There,
perhaps, its life will revive and its colors grow brighter than

Her father, with an acrid smile, withdrew his finger. The
butterfly then appeared to recover the power of voluntary motion,
while its hues assumed much of their original lustre, and the
gleam of starlight, which was its most ethereal attribute, again
formed a halo round about it. At first, when transferred from
Robert Danforth's hand to the small finger of the child, this
radiance grew so powerful that it positively threw the little
fellow's shadow back against the wall. He, meanwhile, extended
his plump hand as he had seen his father and mother do, and
watched the waving of the insect's wings with infantine delight.
Nevertheless, there was a certain odd expression of sagacity that
made Owen Warland feel as if here were old Pete Hovenden,
partially, and but partially, redeemed from his hard scepticism
into childish faith.

"How wise the little monkey looks!" whispered Robert Danforth to
his wife.

"I never saw such a look on a child's face," answered Annie,
admiring her own infant, and with good reason, far more than the
artistic butterfly. "The darling knows more of the mystery than
we do."

As if the butterfly, like the artist, were conscious of something
not entirely congenial in the child's nature, it alternately
sparkled and grew dim. At length it arose from the small hand of
the infant with an airy motion that seemed to bear it upward
without an effort, as if the ethereal instincts with which its
master's spirit had endowed it impelled this fair vision
involuntarily to a higher sphere. Had there been no obstruction,
it might have soared into the sky and grown immortal. But its
lustre gleamed upon the ceiling; the exquisite texture of its
wings brushed against that earthly medium; and a sparkle or two,
as of stardust, floated downward and lay glimmering on the
carpet. Then the butterfly came fluttering down, and, instead of
returning to the infant, was apparently attracted towards the
artist's hand.

"Not so! not so!" murmured Owen Warland, as if his handiwork
could have understood him. "Thou has gone forth out of thy
master's heart. There is no return for thee."

With a wavering movement, and emitting a tremulous radiance, the
butterfly struggled, as it were, towards the infant, and was
about to alight upon his finger; but while it still hovered in
the air, the little child of strength, with his grandsire's sharp
and shrewd expression in his face, made a snatch at the
marvellous insect and compressed it in his hand. Annie screamed.
Old Peter Hovenden burst into a cold and scornful laugh. The
blacksmith, by main force, unclosed the infant's hand, and found
within the palm a small heap of glittering fragments, whence the
mystery of beauty had fled forever. And as for Owen Warland, he
looked placidly at what seemed the ruin of his life's labor, and
which was yet no ruin. He had caught a far other butterfly than
this. When the artist rose high enough to achieve the beautiful,
the symbol by which he made it perceptible to mortal senses
became of little value in his eyes while his spirit possessed
itself in the enjoyment of the reality.

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